The Week: What Caught Our Eye

December 3, 2022

Photo of Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, NYNature’s work of art, a late-fall sunset over Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, N.Y., as captured by the unerring eye of Nancie Battaglia.

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

Welcome to the holiday season and meteorological winter.

We know you hear those sleigh bells ringin’, and last week some spied snow globe-like flurries dancing tantalizingly in the air. So, naturally, the Vermont Agency of Transportation is readying its fleet of 250 plows and, for the second time, inviting students from around the state to name them. The students have delivered. Roads in Fairfax will be plowed by Unstoppable Jeff. I Told You Snow will be on the job in Brattleboro, Catch My Drift will patrol Westminster, Scooper Duper will keep the streets clear in East Dorset, Plowasaurus Rex has Mount Holly uncovered, Fast and Flurrious will watch over Jericho and Snowbe Bryant has Newport Center. The youngsters in Wilmington showed a knack for branding with Big Maple. The full list is on the agency’s website.

FORCE OF NATURE: September 16, 1620. The date the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, bound for the Americas. Around the same time, in the frigid waters of the Arctic, a female Greenland shark was just beginning her life journey, according to researchers who used radiocarbon dating of eye proteins to estimate the shark was born around 1620. Scientists examined 28 of the species, known as “sleeper sharks” because they move so slowly, and calculated 390 years to be their most likely average life span, making them the longest-living vertebrates.

ALZHEIMER’S ADVANCE: An experimental treatment for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease showed that it is effective in slowing the rate of cognitive decline, though an expert with the National Institute on Aging, which was not part of the study, cautioned that it is “unlikely” that differences would be noticeable in a patient’s everyday life. About 20% of the 1,800 people in the study had some sort of side effect; still, Alzheimer’s patients and their advocates are hopeful the U.S Food and Drug Administration will approve the drug, lecanemab, for sale in the U.S., a decision that is expected by early January. One advance that’s already making a difference — a new blood test that detects whether the pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s are present in the brain. The tests are expensive and rarely used outside of clinical trials, but as the Washington Post reports, “many neurologists say it is a matter of time before the tests are adopted more widely, providing clarity for a disease that is notoriously difficult to diagnose and helping determine which patients should get new treatments.”

CANCER CLUES: Your best friend may someday cure cancer. Dogs live in our world, share many of the same genes, and are exposed to the same potential carcinogens. They are also diagnosed with many of the same cancers as we are – lymphomas, melanomas, and brain, breast and deadly bone cancers. The National Cancer Institute is spending more than $20 million to analyze cancer samples from pet dogs all over the country and oversee comparative oncology trials to improve treatments for both humans and dogs.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: The casual fan — by that, we mean the many like us who pay attention to soccer once every four years — may only now be getting to know Tyler Adams, the dynamic midfielder who, at 23, is the youngest ever to be captain of the U.S. Men’s National Team. But the people of Wappingers Falls, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley south of Poughkeepsie, have watched with pride as Adams zoomed through increasingly challenging ranks of professional soccer, scoring a goal at 16 against English powerhouse Chelsea and earning a place on the New York Red Bulls roster a year later. Now one of the English Premier League’s top defensive midfielders for Leeds United, Adams leads Team USA against the Netherlands on Saturday in the knockout round of the World Cup. The match kicks off at 10 a.m. Eastern time.

PYTHON PREDATOR: One day, Amy Siewe was an Indiana real estate broker. The next, she was among the most skilled and successful python hunters in the Florida Everglades, where the invasive snakes are wreaking havoc on the food chain. If it’s not quite that cut and dried, it’s close. On a vacation in 2019, Siewe accompanied another woman on a python hunt and was hooked, giving up her real estate license, moving to Naples and landing a full-time gig as a python hunter, a job that pays $13 an hour plus bonuses based on length of the captured snakes. She acknowledges the risks of it all — giving up a steady career with no job in hand, moving to a strange place, hunting deadly snakes — but says she knew immediately it’s what she was meant to do. She supplements her hunting income by selling products made from the skins.

Photo of Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center.CHRISTMAS TREE PRAISE: The New York Times had nice things to say about this year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, which was lighted this week. The tree hails from Queensbury, N.Y., the gift of the Lebowitz Family of Glens Falls. “(T)he real star of the night was the tree, an 85- to 90-year-old Norway spruce that stands 82 feet tall and weighs nearly 14 tons,” The Times said on Instagrm. “This year’s tree is from Queensbury, N.Y.” Predictably, The Times’ comment precipitated a social media outcry about cutting down 90-year-old trees. “We should be planting trees,” some said. In fact, we are planting trees in unprecedented numbers. But the real answer is that all trees die at some point. In the forest, the death of an old tree with a large canopy opens up opportunities for younger trees to grow. And: Forests of younger trees grow rapidly, removing much more carbon dioxide than older forests covering the same area.

NATURAL SOLUTION: The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center has developed the first 3-D printed house made entirely from bio-based materials. The prototype, developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, is 600 square feet and features 3-D printed floors, walls and roof. Gov. Janet Mills sees potential to both address the state’s housing shortage and strengthen its forest products industry.

FLOW BUSINESS: Hawaiians on the Big Island got some relief late in the week with news that the lava flowing from Mauna Loa, which erupted on Tuesday for the first time since 1984, had slowed and was spreading out, though acidic gases continue to pose a threat. Officials are also keeping an eye on the main east-west highway across the island, which lies in the path of the flow.

CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP: A decade ago, Hakeem Jefferies was wrapping up his third and final term in the New York State Assembly, preparing to transition to his new role as a freshman congressman from Brooklyn. Today, he is the House Democratic leader, having been unanimously elected by his caucus and without a single challenger emerging. It’s a remarkable outcome and a testament to the relationship-building he has done behind the scenes throughout his time in Congress, buttressed by fundraising prowess and a get-it-done approach to problem solving. His colleague, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan, told Politico he urged Jefferies “a few years ago” to go for the top spot when it became open. “I knew pretty quickly he had a special set of talents.”

STAY A WHILE: Those of us lucky enough to live nearby know and appreciate what the Adirondack Mountains have to offer, but it’s always interesting to see how visitors experience them and what stands out. You can read 10 different travel pieces and find 10 sets of recommendations, and oftentimes tips even lifers don’t know about. The latest is from Vogue, which correctly notes “there are no bad seasons in the Adirondacks. … all that’s required is an affinity for the great outdoors” and finds much to explore and enjoy in “this picturesque pocket of the United States.”

FIGHTING MACHINES: Smart shirts that pinpoint the location of a wound and send an alert to a tactical smart phone. Wristwatches and rings to measure pulse, heart rate, oxygen levels, temperature and exertion. Caps to stimulate metabolic cleansing. Helmets with sensors to warn of dangers a soldier can’t see. As one observer pointed out, the days are long gone when the military’s idea of making better soldiers was to give them better guns. The military is investing millions in wearable technology designed to improve safety, fitness and preparedness, among other benefits.

ROCKED LOBSTERS: A decision by retail grocery giant Whole Foods to stop selling Maine lobster in the wake of concerns raised by environmental organizations drew an immediate response from the state’s governor and its congressional delegation, who accused Whole Foods and other retailers who stopped selling the state’s best-known product of “wrongly and blindly” listening to the recommendations of “misguided environmental groups, rather than science.” The Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch both cited concerns about endangered North Atlantic right whales becoming entangled in fishing gear, a significant threat to whales. 

DIM THE LIGHT: The generally accepted need to slow or stop climate change is leading scientists to examine seriously some ideas that to some may seem farfetched. Take the notion of “solar geoengineering,” which basically involves blasting tiny particles into the atmosphere to shade and cool the surface below. It’s similar in concept to the effect a major volcanic eruption might have, except the effect would be global. “Geoengineering as a possible solution to this catastrophe will definitely become the only option of last resort if we as a global community continue on the path we have been going,” environmentalist Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati, a small island nation that has already been greatly affected by sea level rise, told The New Yorker. The White House has announced a five-year research plan to study it.

AMAZING DISCOVERY: Melissa Highsmith was just 21 months old in 1971 when a woman posing as a babysitter took her and vanished, never to be heard from again. Her family never stopped searching for Baby Melissa, even hiring a private investigator decades later and creating a Facebook group that drew more than 6,500 members. Then, a notification: a DNA match, based on samples submitted to 23andMe, showed Melissa’s biological father had a grandchild he didn’t know about. The family was able to quickly track down and contact Melissa, who now goes by Melanie Walden, but she thought it was a scam, until she asked the woman who raised her who she really was and learned she had been purchased for $500 and was, in fact, Baby Melissa.

HOME OF CONTROVERSY: New York City Mayor Eric Adams this week announced city officials will begin involuntarily committing to hospitals homeless people who are judged to be in “psychiatric crisis.” Addressing the many causes and consequences of homelessness is a tremendously complex challenge. Mayor Adams characterized his effort as a humanitarian effort to secure treatment for people in need who otherwise would “slip through the cracks.” It comes amid discussions about how to help people without homes and stop some from sheltering in subways and other public places not only in New York but in cities coast to coast.  An advocate for the homeless criticized the mayor’s plan, saying, “Homeless people are more likely to be the victims of crimes than the perpetrators, but Mayor Adams has continually scapegoated homeless people and others with mental illness as violent.” The city’s public advocate said the city must invest millions to improve its approach to addressing mental health crises.

THE WILL TO LIVE: A construction worker near Indianapolis was trapped in a collapsed eight-foot trench for more than three hours this week, surviving by covering his face with his arms to create an air pocket as the dirt fell around him. He had begun to have trouble breathing and had lost feeling in his lower body when rescuers were able to get oxygen to him while excavating the trench. Once removed, he was checked out at a local hospital and released.

LIVES

CHRISTINE McVIE was a singer, songwriter and keyboard player for Fleetwood Mac, a group that defined 1970s California pop-rock with hits such as “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Loving Fun,” the latter two written by McVie. The band sold tens of millions of records during its peak in the second half of the 1970s, including “Rumours,” among the best-selling albums of all-time. The band played McVie’s “Say You Love Me” when it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1978. She was the first of the core band members to die, at 79.

JIANG ZEMIN was chosen to lead China after the bloody suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989 led to the ouster of his predecessor, Zhao Ziyang. Jiang helped China rebuild bridges to the West, paving the way for an extended period of growth and economic development in his nation. Under his leadership, China regained sovereignty over Hong Kong, won the rights to host the 2008 Olympics and joined the World Trade Organization. He offered Communist Party membership to entrepreneurs, which reinvigorated the party and boosted China’s thriving private sector, but also was known to look the other way at corruption, especially if done quietly. He remained influential for a time after formally ceding power in 2002, but many of the economic and personal freedoms he espoused have been rolled back under Xi Jinping. He was 96.

GAYLORD PERRY was the first man to win the Cy Young Award as top pitcher in both the American and National leagues, winning for the Cleveland Indians in 1972 and the San Diego Padres in 1978, when he was 40. It’s hard to say which was more legendary, Perry’s spitball, the stories he told about it, or the various touches, wipes and tugs he would go through between pitches, causing batters and umpires alike to wonder just what those fingers were picking up. A five-time all-star with a career record of 314-255, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. He was 84.

JOHN Y. BROWN Jr. was a Kentucky lawyer with a client who needed tax advice. Brown helped Harland Sanders by buying his company. They turned Kentucky Fried Chicken into one of the most successful fast-food franchises in history. He married former Miss America Phyllis George, joined the jet set, ran for governor and won, and at one time became part owner of the Boston Celtics. His other fast-food ventures failed as did three marriages, but he remained positive. Days before his death, on a ventilator in a hospital, he scrawled this message on a white board for his family: “I’ve never been so happy.” He was 88.

 ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“The individual concerned would like to express her profound apologies for the hurt caused and has stepped aside from her honorary role with immediate effect.”
—    Statement from Buckingham Palace on behalf of Lady Susan Hussey, who served as Queen Elizabeth II’s lady-in-waiting for more than 60 years and was given the honorary title “Lady of the Household” by King Charles III, her godson. The move followed an encounter in which she repeatedly asked a Black charity worker from England where she and “your people” were from.

THE SIGNOFF

CHEESED OFF: A consumer in Florida is suing Kraft Heinz, the maker of single-serve microwavable Velveeta Shells & Cheese, alleging the preparation time on the product label is misleading because it doesn’t account for the time required to add water and stir. The lawyers at Smartwater are hereby on notice.

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THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Ryan Moore, John Brodt, Claire P. Tuttle, Emily Behan, Matt Behan, Lisa Fenwick, Leigh Hornbeck, Nancie Battaglia and Tara Hutchins.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

Let’s make it a conversation:   mark.behan@behancom.com

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