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Category: Opinion & Reader Forum

Thoughts & Views: Let the children live

They’re all nuts. They should be lined up against the wall and shot. With bullets.

Because neither the government nor the insurgents in the awful, prolonged Syrian conflict wants to cooperate with global health authorities to get innocent children vaccinated against an outbreak of the polio virus that, according to international news reports, has reportedly reared its ugly head in the Middle East.

On Sunday, Oct. 27, the British publication, The Independent, reported in its online version that the World Health Organization was investigating 22 cases of suspected polio in children who live in Deir Al-Zour, an eastern province of Syria where combatants are actively engaged.

How the polio virus made its way into Syria isn’t yet clear but if left unchecked, it can spread among those yet to be immunized and, ultimately, the disease can cause irreversible paralysis, The Independent noted.

Members of the Taliban are alleged to have prevented health aides from undertaking a vaccination programs in Pakistan’s Waziristan region in 2012, resulting in more than 200,000 children being left unprotected, according to reports.

 

If all these reports are valid, it is simply unfathomable how these adults can allow children – who have espoused no political or religious dogmas, who have harmed no one – to be sacrificed as political pawns in a game certainly not of their choosing.

The adults found to be responsible for such outrage should be hunted down, apprehended and tried as war criminals before an international tribunal.

Before their executions, they should be confronted with visual evidence of their crimes – images of the children left forever crippled thanks to their willful, wanton behavior.

So in that part of the world, we see how children are likely to be maimed or killed through grown-up indifference and we, sitting here in the “enlightened” USA, wonder how such things can play out.

But we shouldn’t be so smug. The Children’s Defense Fund reminds us that here in America, “A child is killed or injured by a gun every 30 minutes…. More children die every three days in America than died in the Newtown massacre.”

Last week, a 13-year-old boy in Santa Rosa, Calif., was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies after he was spotted carrying what appeared to be an AK-47 but which, the deputies later learned, was a plastic toy. A parent of the dead boy told the cops his son got the toy from a friend. The boy was described as a trumpeter in his middle school band, smart and popular with his peers.

Mind-boggling all around.

But it reminded me of a striking photo published in last Saturday’s New York Times which showed what was described as a group of Chinese kindergarteners dressed in kid-size versions of Chinese Army uniforms and carrying toy weapons as an adult accompanied them on a stroll through a park in Dongyang.

Some cultures figure it’s never too early to start the process of military education. In our country, we have ROTC.

Are guns inherently evil? Should we try to outright ban them? No to both questions. Just consider what Texas would do: Gun enthusiasts recently staged a rally at The Alamo in San Antonio, with special dispensation from local authorities. If we took away their toys, the Lone Star State would, I dare say, be sorely tempted to secede.

But serious thought needs to be given to how we can control the flow of guns – particularly those unregistered, defaced, etc. – into the country, between states, etc., for criminal use. Seems to me we need some type of federal controls to deal with that.

And if guns are going to remain part of American culture – which, given the popularity of electronic war games among teens, they’re likely to be – we need to find a better way to train kids, early on, in their proper use.

And maybe get them interested in, say, fishing or hiking as a healthy outdoor alternative.

A postscript: How can our government manage to cybersnoop so well on our enemies and allies, alike, yet when it comes to setting up a software system to facilitate getting health insurance to those without, it turns into glitch city? So much for domestic priorities.

– Ron Leir

CORRECTION!

A story in last week’s Observer reported incorrectly that the Kearny Recreation Commission voted 4-3 not to rescind a written warning to coach John Leadbeater. The vote was unanimous. The commission voted 4-3 not to rescind a warning to the Little League executive board that it had failed to respond appropriately to parents’ complaint about the coach.

Thoughts & Views: Oh deer, oh deer

Since Halloween is fast approaching, I believe the topic for today’s column is completely acceptable. If you disagree, stop reading now.

The topic for today’s column is: Headless deer.

By this I don’t mean deer unfortunately born without a head (if that ever happens), but rather deer that are beheaded by weirdos after they (the deer, not the weirdos) are hit by cars.

According to news reports, there have been numerous roadkill-deer beheadings in Bergen County in recent weeks. The decapitated carcasses are being found along streets and highways, traumatizing passersby, and the supposition is that the heads are being taken as trophies.

Channel 12 News even interviewed the owner of a taxidermy shop who said, “I think it’s a fascination with antlers.” Okay. T

he sight of a headless deer would traumatize me, but what scares me even more is the thought that there are people driving around carrying in their cars the means (axe? machete? broadsword?) to behead a deer carcass. Can you imagine getting into a road-rage incident with one of these individuals?

And what do they do with the head once they get home? “Hey, kids! Look what Daddy brought you!”

Since it’s illegal (there actually is a law; $500 fine for a first offense) to behead a dead deer in New Jersey, I doubt the headhunters are taking them to professional taxidermists. And amateur taxidermy can stink. Literally.

This is deer-mating season, so the bucks and the does are on the move, seeking true love. Blinded by romance, they tend to wander into the roads, especially at night. Keep your eyes open.

While deer are not a common sight in Observer towns, they have visited. There was one running around Kearny awhile back, at midday, eluding all efforts to catch it and finally disappearing down the old railroad cut off Beech St.

I have seen dead deer on Rt. 21, and a couple of months back, there was a very large deer carcass on Main St. in Belleville, where the power lines are. I have been told that the deer come down the power- line cut from the northern Jersey woods, probably seeking new territory since their habitat is rapidly disappearing. Poor things don’t realize that Belleville, Kearny and surrounding communities are not conducive to any wildlife larger than a groundhog. And that’s pushing it.

Now, although it is against the law to behead a dead deer in Jersey, I have learned it is legal to “harvest” the entire corpse for personal consumption.

According to the N.J. Division of Fish & Wildlife: “Deer accidentally killed by motor vehicles [only deer; no other roadkill] may be possessed only for private consumption by obtaining a free permit from the local police department or from a Fish & Wildlife regional law enforcement office. The permit authorizes only possession of the meat for consumption and is valid only for 90 days. The possession of all other parts such as antlers, under terms of this permit, are expressly prohibited. Wrapped venison packages must be labeled with the permit number.’’

Regarding that permit from local police, I’d suggest calling them first. Such permits may be common in the hinterlands, but when I asked a couple of local law enforcement types about this, they laughed at me.

I’d also suggest trying to find out how to determine if a roadkill deer is still edible. Unless you saw the actual fatal encounter between deer and car, you’ll have no idea how long the thing has been lying there. Not a very appetizing thought.

If you find all this distasteful (I warned you) note the following from wikiHow.com, which states that “for a growing number of freegans, foragers, back-to-nature lifestylers, and for those with budgetary constraints, eating roadkill can be a great source of nourishment . . . .”

I’d prefer the old Kraft Road Kill Gummies, but the company had to stop producing them after animal-rights groups protested. (I am not making this up.) Road Kill Gummies are again available, online, but they all appear to be made in China, and I refuse to consume anything made in China.

As someone (was it Stephen Colbert?) said, “Everything in China is made of lead. Except their lead, which is made of cardboard.”

– Karen Zautyk

Thoughts & Views: Tea Party: How to keep faith with America

Opinion_web

 

Since Congress put in motion the partial government shutdown, many federal civil servants have been furloughed but that hasn’t stopped federal park rangers from volunteering for trail maintenance in Hillsborough, N.C.

That gave me an idea for how members of Congress – who are still drawing their salaries – and particularly Tea Party advocates – can redeem themselves in the eyes of their constituents.

To earn their pay – and to honor the virtues of patriotism – some of our more agile GOP federal lawmakers, say folks like Eric Cantor of Virginia or Marco Rubio of Florida, for example, could venture out to South Dakota and check in at the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.

The memorial – under an agreement between the federal government and South Dakota – remains open to visitors so don’t worry Congress folks, you won’t be breaking your laws by going there.

There, of course, are the images of four of the nation’s greatest (depending on your point of view) presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt – sculpted into the cliff face.

Wouldn’t they be doing the country a great service – and, in the process, saving ‘face’ – if Eric, Marco and company were to rappel down the mountain to give our nation’s former leaders a thorough dusting?

I ask you: What could be more fitting to honor America?

Now I grant you there may be some quibbling over a somewhat muddled party line among the four ex-chiefs: There are only two clear Republicans in the mix – Lincoln and Roosevelt. As a Federalist, Washington clearly favored a strong role for the federal government but the maverick Jefferson – with James Madison – formed the Democratic-Republican Party in 1792 as a sort of early states’ rights advocate.

So, three out of four should be sweet enough for the Tea Party brain trust. Just don’t think about defacing George, OK? Hey, he was the guy who set up the mechanism so you could have a job in the first place.

Now when you’re done with this chore – which should keep you busy for some time – and, thankfully, away from Congress – you should think about visiting Detroit which, you may remember, is broke. GM couldn’t save it. Federal bailout? We know the answer to that one.

So here’s my proposition. Again in the interest of public service – let us recall George H. W. Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light” – why not pitch in and help do those many chores that you guys feel government has no business doing.

You know, stuff like picking up the trash, cleaning the streets, fixing broken street lights, getting kids to school, taking care of the sick and infirm.

Or, do we just write them off as a lost cause? Maybe Sarah Palin has a thought on this? Can she look out her window and see Mt. Rushmore? I hope so.

– Ron Leir

Thoughts & Views: ‘Indomitable courage and unswerving devotion’

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Last Friday evening, a 96-year-old man passed away at Englewood Hospital. Everyone in his immediate family had predeceased him. But he was not alone when he died.

Veterans and active-duty service members from around the country had traveled to New Jersey specifically to ensure someone was with him. There were some two dozen standing watch on Friday. Others had been there every day since he had entered the hospital earlier in the week. And none of them knew him personally.

The gentleman who inspired such devotion from complete strangers was Nicholas Oresko of Cresskill, America’s oldest Medal of Honor recipient.

When Oresko was admitted for an operation to repair a broken leg (he died of complications from the surgery), one friend sent emails to inform others of his condition. They posted notices on social media sites, the word soon spread to other veterans and to U.S. Army bases around the world, and the visitors started arriving in Englewood.

“The kids held his hand and prayed with him,” a friend told reporters. Because of something that happened decades before they were born.

On Jan. 23, 1945, near Tettingen, Germany, during the Battle of the Bulge, Oresko — armed with only his rifle and grenades and despite being seriously wounded — singlehandedly took out two enemy machine-gun nests, saving his platoon.

The official commendation for Oresko’s Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, reads:

“Master Sgt. Oresko was a platoon leader with Company C [302nd Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division] in an attack against strong enemy positions. Deadly automatic fire from the flanks pinned down his unit. Realizing that a machine gun in a nearby bunker must be eliminated, he swiftly worked ahead alone, braving bullets which struck about him, until close enough to throw a grenade into the German position.

“He rushed the bunker and, with point-blank rifle fire, killed all the hostile occupants who [had] survived the grenade blast. Another machine gun opened up on him, knocking him down and seriously wounding him in the hip.

“Refusing to withdraw from the battle, he placed himself at the head of his platoon to continue the assault. As withering machine-gun and rifle fire swept the area, he struck out alone in advance of his men to a second bunker.

“With a grenade, he crippled the dug-in machine gun defending this position and then wiped out the troops manning it with his rifle, completing his second self-imposed, one-man attack.

“Although weak from loss of blood, he refused to be evacuated until assured the mission was successfully accomplished.

“Through quick thinking, indomitable courage and unswerving devotion to the attack in the face of bitter resistance and while wounded, M/Sgt. Oresko killed 12 Germans, prevented a delay in the assault, and made it possible for Company C to obtain its objective with minimum casualties.”

Jan. 23, 1945, was just five days after the Bayonne native’s 28th birthday.

In a 2012 interview published in The Record, Oresko recalled that before launching his solo attack, “I looked up to heaven and I said: ‘Lord, I know I am going to die. Make it fast, please’.”

And of his actions 67 years before, he said, “I think about that incident every day. It never leaves you. When you kill somebody, even though it’s combat, you remember it, or it remembers you.”

A funeral service for the man whom American troops and veterans never forgot is scheduled Thursday at 1 p.m. at Bergen County Community College in Paramus. Interment will be at George Washington Memorial Park, Paramus.

– Karen Zautyk

WE’VE GOT MAIL

To the Editor:

This is in response to an article recently appearing in The Observer: “St Cecilia feeling pastoral gap.” Rev. Yuvan and Rev. Michael certainly deserve the accolades given to them. We were truly blessed to have both priests as our spiritual leaders for so many years. Yes, they did build up our church and helped to make St. Cecilia’s what it is today.

However, we need to go forward and welcome with open arms our new pastor, Father John. His background is extensive, some of which includes working with troubled youths in group homes, serving as a lay missioner in Mexico for six years, and working as a pastor of Holy Rosary – St. Michael’s Church in Elizabeth for 13 years, all very admirable and commendable works.

We have to remember what to be Catholic means – one, whole, universal. If we are truly Catholic, we will come together as one Spanish, Portuguese, English parishioners working as one.

So, we welcome you, Father John! Let us all support each other, and continue to make St. Cecilia’s our wonderful, spiritual, Catholic home.

Rosalie Rivellini

Kearny

Thoughts & Views: Memo to NSA: I’m giving full disclosure

Having boned up on the latest endeavors of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to keep up with the Joneses (and Snowdens, and Mannings, and all overseas points of contact), I wish to offer my assistance.

No need to check my e-mails or cell phone records, fellas.

I’m ready to fully divulge everything so no need to waste taxpayer money on extraordinary rendition to, say, Guantanimo, for water-boarding. What a waste of perfectly good hotel towels, anyway.

As I say, I’m ready to come clean.

OK, guys, here’s the situation. Got your tape recorders running?

I sent four packages to a small town in Israel in early September and the U.S. Postal Service informed me it would take “six to 10 days” for the items to reach their destination, once they were sent to an international sorting facility in New York.

Well, as far as I can determine, from using the USPS’ efficient online tracking system, my merchandise – all wrapped up in official USPS postal boxes – still haven’t gotten to their “sendee” and now it’s early October.

The sendee tells me, via Skype, that one box is reportedly sitting in some postal facility in Tel Aviv but that it could take anywhere up to three weeks to move from there to the sendee’s apartment. The others don’t even show up on their computer.

Now I have nothing bad to say about the staff at the Kearny Post Office. They went out of their way to help me wrap my boxes and make sure they were properly addressed. They can’t control where the mail goes. Thank goodness the USPS – being a semi-autonomous federal agency – won’t be subject to sequestration because then, I’d venture to say, there’d be nobody in the post office to begin with. And then where would I be, right? Couldn’t even buy Forever stamps. And that’s critical since the price of stamps is going up three cents in January, right?

Ah, what the heck, what am I bothering you fellas with this for? You don’t read my mail, anyway, do you? All you’re worried about is my electronic correspondence, right?

Oh, well, back to those overseas-bound packages. I want to set your mind at rest about those shipments. Nothing in those boxes, fellas, but some clothing, a kids’ game and a couple of books.

Alright, so one of the books does deal with the Lincoln conspiracy theory, I grant you, but please don’t get any funny notions that I believe in any of those cockeyed theories. I trust my government explicitly. I firmly believe that there was only the single shooter (Oswald) in the Kennedy assassination, that the U.S. would never foment revolution in another country (unless it would further our national security), or that Bush 2 knew in advance about the WTC attacks.

But I can sense your doubts about my sincerity so I’m going to go further to make you believe that I’m as true blue – or red, if you need me to be – as any of our fervently patriotic Tea Party Congress people.

So, to that end, in order that you be spared the expense of attaching an ankle bracelet to my leg or sending a drone to monitor me, I had planned to provide you with a schedule of my projected whereabouts during the coming week.

Unfortunately, that will be longer be possible.

See, I had planned a trip to Yosemite but, since Congress is shutting down the government this week, all national parks will be closed.

My Plan B is to spend the next week going in and out of The Observer office at 39 Seeley Ave. at 15-minute intervals so if you want to check in with me on any important national security matters, please leave a red flower pot on our windowsill and I’ll be in touch.

– Ron Leir

Thoughts & Views: Alarming info for sleepyheads

Today’s column is prompted by a recurring event in my life: Oversleeping.

I am a night person. Earlier in my journalistic career, I started work at 4 or 5 p.m., which was perfect since I didn’t have to get up until midafternoon. There were times in the dead of winter, when daylight hours are few, when I would not see the sun for days. It was like living in the Yukon without the benefit of the Northern Lights.

(I kept hoping that, just like some nocturnal animal, my eyes would grow bigger, but that didn’t happen.)

Now, however, I must be among the living during the day. And once again, this week I was late for work because I slept through the alarm. Or, more accurately, I kept hitting the snooze button until it got sick of being smacked and turned itself off.

I regret not having bought a clock I saw advertised years ago. It was inside a tennis ball. When the alarm went off, the only way to shut it up was to throw it against the wall. It would remain silent for several minutes and then go off again. But since it was inside a tennis ball, it could have bounced anywhere and you had to get out of bed to hunt it down, and since you were now out of bed anyway, you’d likely stay out.

After my recent snooze-in, I went online to see if I could find this clock. No luck. But I did find some others, even more diabolical.

Consider the Ramos Nixie, which costs $350. But that’s not the only diabolical thing about it. The only way to turn it off is by entering a code on a keypad, located in another room. And you must change the code daily. Plus, it’s battery-operated so you can’t unplug it.

Then I found a website, apartmenttherapy.com, which featured a list of the “most evil” alarm clocks. One appears to be a variant on the tennis-ball idea. It’s called the Clocky, and it’s on wheels. If you don’t turn it off immediately, it rolls off your bedside table and skitters around the room until it finds a hiding place. At $50, it’s less of a monetary nightmare than the Nixie.

My two favorites, though, turned out to be merely conceptual. One is the Shredder. Apparently, you would feed it a dollar bill, or a higher denomination if you’re rich, and each time it goes off, a bit of the bill would be shredded. Keep hitting the snooze, and you’d end up with confetti.

The other, reportedly just a ThinkGeek joke, is called SnuzNLuz. It would be connected to your bank account. Each time you hit the snooze button, $10 would be deducted and sent to a charity you’ve chosen — preferably one you detest, so you are never tempted to grab that extra few minutes of zzzzz.

SnuzNLuz is brilliant, and I wish ThinkGeek would actually market it. I’ve already decided on the “charity” I’d select: Any fund-raising group that thinks Chris Christie should be President.

I’d never oversleep again.

 – Karen Zautyk

We’ll feature home holiday stylings

Time seems to be flying by faster and faster each day. With October right around the corner, and the weather dropping down to the 60s, many people are thinking about the upcoming holidays. Which holiday in particular? Well, Halloween, of course.

It’s every kid’s fantasy and we’re sure every parent is already hearing about it. The candy, the costumes, the spooky houses: the three in conjunction never fail to leave a child in awe.

Well, here at The Observer, we like to thank those who work hard in keeping traditions like these alive for the kids, so in the coming issues, we’ll be introducing our new “Halloween On The Horizon” section that will run until the end of October. Designed with the average reader in mind, the section will feature helpful information such as: costume ideas, recipes, party favors, games, and discounts for all holiday supplies needed.

We will also highlight the best-decorated houses in the area and give them an exclusive feature in the section, applauding them for their spirit and contribution to the community.

As the local newspaper, we understand our readers, and like to provide them with a beneficial read, as well as some holiday spirit.

Thoughts & Views: Game, set & match: the women prevail

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The other week, PBS ran an American Masters documentary on Billie Jean King, a ranking Wimbledon tennis champ in the ‘60s and ‘70s who was a champion of equal pay for women.

Most of us probably remember her best for the “Battle of the Sexes” match pitting her against the male chauvinist Bobby Riggs, played in 1973, in which she firmly put Riggs in his place.

But we should also recognize King for the leadership role she assumed in taking on the world tennis establishment and its old boy network by organizing the Women’s Tennis Association and insisting on pay parity for the ladies, even in the face of several women’s tennis stars aligning with that establishment.

And, after being outed as gay, King found herself standing alone again, after several merchandising firms that had pledged endorsements abruptly dropped her from their radar. But by refusing to shrink away, King made it easier for those following in her giant footsteps like Martina Navratilova to take the court with pride.

King’s experience made me think back to my days as a cub reporter on The Jersey Journal in the late ‘60s when, essentially, another old boy network called the shots.

Females on the staff tended to be relegated to what, in journalistic parlance of the day, was referred to as “the Society Page,” where women reporters wrote about such things as home decorations, recipes, women’s clubs, and the like.

One of the longtime staffers there was Hilda Couch, a graduate of Columbia School of Journalism and a onetime president of the Women’s Press Club of New York, and while I never heard her complain about the clear double standard that existed in the newsroom, now I wonder whether she had ever set out to be the next muckraker like Ida Tarbell, only to be shunted off to “the women’s section” of the newspaper.

Ironically, the woman who presided over our “women’s section” – Lois Fegan – started her career in journalism as a gender pioneer – the only woman in the country covering professional ice hockey games. Starting during World War II, she was assigned to write about the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League for a newspaper in Harrisburg, Pa.

As recounted in her obituary (she died at age 97), published by NJ.com in June 2013, when she went to Cleveland to cover the team playing in the AHL championships in 1945, the men in the press box refused her entry.

“So I took my typewriter in my lap and say my fanny down on the cold concrete steps,” Fegan said.

Ultimately, the men made room for her.

During her 35-year career with the Journal as its women’s and travel editor, ending in 1987, Fegan – who once had a tryout as a Rockette – traveled to New York and Paris to report on world fashion shows. She also interviewed actors of the caliber of Clark Gable and Frank Sinatra, as well as seven U.S. presidents.

Probably the toughest – and best – staff member I knew on the Journal – next to a chain-smoking copyreader named Fritz Bennett – was Rae Downes Koshetz who covered City Hall like nobody’s business.

A bit later, Rae got her law degree and went on to distinguished service as special assistant Attorney General in the New York State Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, Assistant Manhattan District Attorney, Deputy Chief Assistant to New York State Narcotics Prosecutor and Deputy Commissioner/Trials of the NYPD.

Looking to get a job done, efficiently and expediently? Just ask a woman and you’ll likely find a multi-tasker capable of solving any problem at hand.

– Ron Leir