SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

July 31, 2011

Medical Devices need Regulation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jan Turner @ 9:14 pm

Experts urge new controls in evaluating medical devices

By  Christine Mai-Duc
McClatchy Newspapers Saturday July 30, 2011

WASHINGTON — Katherine Ayers was 36 years old when she decided that the pain in her hip had become too much to bear. A surgically implanted metal-on-metal hip joint soon made her pain-free.

But a few years later, she was startled to receive a letter saying that the artificial joint was being recalled. “In my mind, recalls were for dishwasher and cars, not body parts,” she told a congressional hearing earlier this year.

Ayers is one of 96,000 patients who received the implant before it was recalled.

It was experiences such as Ayers’ — and that of scores of others with even more serious consequences — that led the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, to call on the government to design a whole new system for evaluating and approving medical devices such as hip joints before they reach the market.

Medical devices range from simple adhesive-strip bandages used for minor cuts to contact lenses and pacemakers. When complex devices fail, they can generate health problems and health-care costs, even imperil lives.

  • Surprising as it might seem, the way the present system works is that thousands of devices are routinely cleared for market without any of the clinical testing for safety or effectiveness that is required for prescription drugs.

“I thought that any medical device that was actually being put into people’s bodies had been extensively tested before it was released to the public,” Ayers said.

Not exactly.

When the FDA was given responsibility for medical devices in 1976, Congress specified that those already on the market could continue to be sold without testing.

  • At the same time, Congress created the so-called 510(k) process under which new devices could be cleared for market if they were “substantially equivalent” to existing products.

More than 90,000 artificial hips were recalled last summer after studies showed that about 1 in 8 recipients needed to have them replaced. The hips, manufactured by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, were found to release small metallic particles into patients’ bloodstreams over time.

In 2009, the Institute of Medicine noted, about 4,000 medical devices were cleared under the expedited 510(k) process — more than 90 percent of all devices subject to FDA clearance.

Critics say the 510(k) process amounts to a loophole for marketing products without adequate attention to safety or effectiveness.

The FDA initiated two internal reviews of the process in 2009. This year, it outlined 25 changes it planned to make, including streamlining the review of lower-risk devices.

My Comment:

How much more proof do we need to fully realize that the FDA is such a major screw-up and is too inept to be able do the job it was assigned to do.  This  “department of government” has never protected us  in assuring that we are safe   from deceitful practices and fraud.  How can it, when all it does is “front” for the big corporations and pharmaceuticals.  One does not even need an elementary school education to fully realize that this practice is so terribly wrong that it should be labeled criminal.

Further proof that their ineptitude and loyalties lie exclusively with big money and power brokers is clearly demonstrated in their intrusion into our reliable, natural supplement industry where we are able to help ourselves to fill in the gaps against the deliberate debilitation and starvation of our population through genetically modified foods including  most all growing flora and/or any animal flesh we might want to ingest.

Chemicals are killing us every which way from the middle.  There is no way I can effectively state the true depth of my frustration over  our  contaminated food supply system in this country.  We are all being poisoned to death in a drip, drip, drip fashion which causes us so many problems,  in turn  forcing us to see a doctor, who then begins a further introduction into our bodies with “pharmaceuticals” – –  the most glorified of all chemicals since it is therein from which the “Power” emanates.  This simply is NOT what medicine is supposed to be about!  Big PhRMA diddles around with symptoms (seemingly unwilling to acknowledge cause area) – – their lab-made chemical formulae are not recognized by the body as food, therefore, are toxic to our body and cannot possibly “heal” anything.  It is good wholesome, organic “FOOD”  which gives the body what it needs in order for it to function properly and ultimately, be able  to  heal itself and then maintain homeostasis.

Some of the more noteworthy modern (20th and 21st century) physicians who really ARE able to help those of us who become too sick to function do not turn to chemicals to heal our broken bodies.  Without exception, they set about to test and determine what the organic problems are and once integrated into an understanding of our total natures have at their disposal an understanding of the herbs and treasures of the planet which gladly yield their (magic) properties in measured quantities and successful protocols able to cope with almost any and all afflictions imaginable.    Of course nothing is ever 100%.  And everything or everyone who is born – – also dies.   So what I am speaking of is NOT how to cheat death, but how to live more abundantly and joyfully – – the way our ancestors of just 100 years ago were free to do.

I have posted frequently on various physicians that I have learned about and there have been quite a few.  My own experience with natural methods of healing truly blossomed when I bought  Dr Clark’s books.  But there have been a lot of good minds who have “practiced outside-the-box”  .  .  Kelly,  Gerson,  Gonzalez. . other ideas from Somer’s book Knockout.  Even someone like Dr McDougall who is not particularly “newager” or alternative, but he councils  people in wholesome foods and getting off meds.  And he is successful – his patients thrive, loose weight,  wean off meds, gain energy and pride – that ain’t bad!

Probably Loren Cordain understands that he has a remarkable following.   All from one simple book “Paleo Diet”.  Amazing.  People revere his every utterance, and he doesn’t even treat patients.   But he has single-handedly  changed the way people think about acne, food, exercise, dairy,  and many of the “carbs” that most of us grew up on and dearly love.  His logic and “science” is so acceptable and impressive.  If he ever decided to hang a shingle out and give up his laboratory – – he would find SRO – a really big practice.  Yes, it is still,  Paleo Rules!

I beg everyone’s indulgence for today’s tirade  – – I’ve been practically outside my body with bristling angst over this debacle called the budget deficit!  Moments ago,   I’m realizing that the leaders of both houses have come to an agreement (tho it has not been voted on until the morrow) to save all our butts.  So I’ll be able to pay rent, bills and yes – EAT comes the 3rd.  I simply cannot believe that there is ANY  good reason to put millions of us thru this. Our troops overseas have experienced the same worries.  I would like to tell you what I truly think of all this Tea-Party stuff, but I seriously MUST  come down from this negativity.   Really need to tap – big time.

If death is what we were after,  it would be far simpler, less painful and much quicker to just do the Japanese  chemical-suicide-routine which so many have spoken about recently.  One whiff and its over!  Easy. . .painless. . and cheap.  Hey – – to his own!  Lets face it – octogenarians can’t get jobs,  and I’m quite sure I couldn’t pick up anything other than a cold on some street corner.   So if one’s way of life were suddenly ‘cut off’  – what’s left?  Too many people in Washington don’t give a thought to things like this.    This is another of my passions and I will no doubt come back to this in due time – count on it.  Meanwhile, don’t worry about me – – I’m one o those weirdos who love life and regard it a blessing, ( but it is really nice to believe that there ARE choices).    Jan

Great Lakes Brewery

Crafting a stout vision

Cleveland brothers’ Great Lakes Brewing has developed a cultlike following by being based on principles they learned as children


Patrick Conway and his brother Dan have turned Great Lakes Brewing Co. into the nation’s 22nd-largest craft brewery, as well as an engine of environmental and civic change for their hometown of Cleveland.

Great Lakes Brewing Co. founder Patrick Conway loves to tell the story of a tipsy patron who wanted to buy some beer at the gift shop.    “I want Christmas Ale,” he slurred, “and I want a lot of it.”    The bartender refused, saying the patron had already had quite enough to drink.    After squabbling, the man finally left — only to come back first thing in the morning, slap $3,000 cash on the bar, and buy out all the Christmas Ale in the shop — 60 cases.

Conway still laughs at the punch line and flashes his impish grin, shaking his head at the lengths to which people will go to get their hands on his family’s Christmas Ale.    Not that he’s complaining.    The cultlike devotion (and occasional hoarding) that the brews have inspired has made Great Lakes Brewing the nation’s 22nd-largest craft brewery in terms of output (91,189 barrels in 2010).

Behind the success is Conway, a 63-year-old Irishman known as a trailblazer and environmentalist, one who learned frugality from Depression-era parents and a taste for better beer from the best brew-pubs in Europe.    Conway came up with the idea of starting his own brewery and brew-pub in the early 1970s, while attending Loyola University’s campus in Rome and soaking up the pub scene in Germany, Belgium and England, and while bartending in Chicago during graduate school.

Today, his nearly 23-yearold company, while facing increasing competition, has just capped off a $7 million expansion in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood that doubled its beer-making capacity to 240 bottles a minute. The company also is hiring for a third shift to keep its bottling line jangling 24/7.  

Both the brewery and restaurant, which he co-owns with his brother Dan, anticipate another year of record sales (up to $30 million this year) and a third straight year of 20 percent growth.

Patrick Francis Conway is the second of nine children and the eldest son of Jack and Marge Conway. His father was a tax lawyer, while his mother was a former stenographer for Eliot Ness, the Cleveland safety director and head of the crime-fighting Untouchables.    Daniel John Conway, 50, co-owner of the brewery and brew-pub, is the youngest of the five brothers.    Being reared by Irish immigrant parents who grew up during the Depression fueled a lifelong habit of saving, scrimping and reusing whatever they had. Pat remembers spending childhood vacations visiting national parks, watching his father pick up other people’s litter, and supplementing their meals with vegetables grown in the backyard of their Rocky River home.    “We didn’t call it ‘sustainability’ back then,” Dan said. “We called it ‘common sense’ and working with nature.”

Wandering through some of the world’s poorest countries after graduate school, Pat was struck by the way people made the most of every scrap, from not wasting food to flattening tin cans to shingle their roofs.    When he returned home to open his own bar, one of the first people he called was Dan, who was then working as a commercial loan officer at Huntington Bank.    Dan not only invested in the company, he also started pitching in at the restaurant and refining the business plan. After a month of juggling both jobs, he joined the enterprise full time.

“We named it ‘Great Lakes Brewing Co.’ because we ultimately wanted it to grow into something that could serve the region,” Dan said. While Pat and Dan are equal owners of the brewery and beer-pub, Pat is the frontman of the company. He’s the one making presentations, shaking hands, working the room and leading tours of the brewery, while Dan is more often backstage, crunching numbers, paying bills and making sure the beer gets where it needs to go.

“Pat is probably better at being the spokesman for the company, and that’s fine by me,” Dan said. “I see what other work needs to be done and focus my work accordingly. I’m the one that deals with the lawyers, bankers and accountants.”

Their parents also instilled in them a deep sense of family and civic pride, which survives in the names of their Conway’s Irish Ale (named after their traffic policeman grandfather, Pat Conway, whose photo adorns the labels), Eliot Ness lager, Burning River pale ale, Edmund Fitzgerald porter, Lake Erie Monster pale ale and Wright Pilsner (named after Wilbur and Orville Wright).

While Great Lakes beer is sold in 13 states, from Minnesota to North Carolina, 90 percent of the Christmas Ale never leaves Ohio. Christmas Ale, available for only eight weeks starting Nov. 1, is the company’s No. 2 seller after Dortmunder Gold.  

As much as people love his beer, Conway craves the status of brands like Harley-Davidson, Nordstrom or Southwest Airlines. “People will do anything they can to support those companies,” he said. “They have almost a cult following, but it’s not just the products, it’s their values and principles that surround the product.”    Sharon Barson, president of Educational Advantage in Chicago, an operations consultant for the company, said: “The absolute passion, energy and dedication with which Pat operates is just as strong if not stronger than it was 16 years ago.”    She said that in the notoriously high-turnover restaurant business, they have an unheard-of level of employee loyalty. “He’s got one server who I think just turned 70,” she said. “They really respect the people who work for them, and it shows.”

A quick look

GREAT LAKES BREWING CO. Business: creates beer, which is also served in the adjacent brewpub Headquarters, restaurant and brewery: 2516 Market Ave., Cleveland                                         Founded: 1988    Co-owners: Brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway                                                                Employees: 160                                                                                                                                                                    2011 revenue: Approaching $30 million (up 20 percent from 2010)                                                               Other locations: The Great Lakes Brewing restaurants at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Akron-Canton Airport are run under licensing agreements that require them to serve only Great Lakes beers and other menu items.

Source: company information

July 30, 2011

Empty-nester selling $15M 200-acre estate

Empty nester looks to downsize a bit

Longaberger CEO asking $15M for 200-acre estate


HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE    Tami Longaberger’s 57,000-square-foot mansion in Nashport in Muskingum County might be the biggest residence in Ohio.

Tami Longaberger

Tami Longaberger, chief executive of the basket-making company that bears her family’s name, is selling her 200-acre estate about 45 miles east of Columbus.    The asking price: $15 million.    The 20-room Georgian brick mansion in Nashport, in western Muskingum County, has seven bedrooms, 10 full bathrooms and three half-baths, a horse barn, three ponds stocked with fish, a six-car garage, a helicopter pad, a pool, a guest wing and a ballroom wing where more than 300 guests can be entertained.
Including the guest wing and ballroom, the home encompasses 57,000 square feet, making the mansion the largest in central Ohio — and perhaps the state.    (The New Albany mansion of Limited founder Leslie H. Wexner spans 22,371 square feet, according to the Franklin County auditor; NBA star LeBron James’ estate outside Akron has been pegged in news accounts at 35,400 square feet.)
“There’s probably not one this size in all of Ohio,” said Howard Hanna IV, president of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services in Cleveland, which is listing the Longaberger property.    “Whether there’s something larger that exists, I can’t be sure. But in the history of our company, since 1957, in the four states we work in, it’s the largest physical property we’ve been involved in.”
Longaberger, who had the home built between 1998 and 2001, said she decided to sell because her two children are now grown and she spends a lot of time traveling for work.    “I’m turning 50 years old this year; my kids are gone; I’m an empty nester,” she said. “It’s a lot of place for one person.  “I also spend three weeks out of the month on the road, and in this economy, that’s not going to change.”
Working with Columbus architects Phil White and George Acock, Longaberger designed the home in part as a showcase of American craftsmanship.    The home is rich with custom details: carved stone mantels, elaborate wood trim, forged-iron staircase railings, and plaster and glass ornamentation, including a stained-glass ceiling in the ballroom.
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE PHOTOS    The mansion’s ballroom wing has a stained-glass ceiling and can be used to entertain 300-plus guests.
“There’s something very honorable to work with your hands, and I knew when I was building the house I was preserving some of that craftsmanship for generations to come,” Longaberger said.    She named the estate Eschman Meadows, employing her mother’s maiden name.    The estate — with its massive ballroom, terrace and formal gardens — has often served as a gathering place for Longaberger company events.
Featuring a terrace and formal gardens, the Eschman Meadows                                                                                                  estate has often been the site of Longaberger company events.
Hanna said he sees four possible types of buyer for the property: an individual, a company for a retreat, a medical or educational institution, or someone interested in turning it into a spa (a la Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in western Pennsylvania).    “The first time I saw the property, I thought of Nemacolin — and there’s nothing close to that in Ohio where you could take 150 people to a retreat,” Hanna said.
The home, on Creamery Road in Nashport, sits near the Longaberger Golf Club. A buyer would have the option of buying up to 150 additional acres around the estate from Longaberger.    Hanna said his company is partnering with luxury real-estate specialists such as Christie’s Great Estates to target the offering to prospective buyers.    He didn’t hazard a guess on how long the property might take to sell, but he said he’s confident it will. “It’s going to be interesting. It will find its buyer; it will find its market.”
Were the home to command $15 million, it would almost triple the highest price paid for a home in central Ohio: Last year, an 18,000-square-foot estate in New Albany fetched $5.2 million .    The home comes with an annual property-tax bill of $130,582, which doesn’t include adjacent parcels that make up Eschman Meadows.   
Longaberger, who is divorced, plans to live in the house until it sells but has begun searching for other homes in central Ohio. She said she is looking between Port Columbus and the Longaberger headquarters in Newark for a home with some land.    “I’m a country girl at heart, so I need some space.”
She’ll miss Eschman Meadows, she said.    “This morning, I got up at 5:30 and took a cup of coffee to watch the sun rise over one of the ponds — and the mist was rising up off the pond, the birds were singing and the deer were grazing.    “I just sat there for 45 minutes and watched.”

July 29, 2011

Doc falls in “pain-clinic” crack-down

Doctor’s license suspended

He is accused of trying to circumvent new ‘pill-mill’ law


A Columbus doctor accused of breaking the law and shirking his ethical obligations at a pain-management practice on the Far West Side can no longer see patients pending a hearing by the State Medical Board.

The board suspended Dr. Daniel H. Brumfield’s license based on allegations that he was trying to circumvent a new state law aimed at shutting down so-called pill mills and inappropriately prescribing a drug used to wean addicts off heroin and other opiates.    Starting last month, Brumfield began trying to reshape the practice at Ohio Medical West, 108 N. Murray Hill Rd., so that no more than half the patients would be seen for pain management, according to the board’s notice.

Brumfield told the Medical Board staff that his office has been telling pain patients they won’t be treated or receive prescriptions unless they bring someone else to the appointment to “serve as a non-pain referral patient” on the same day of service.    “You have further indicated that the existing pain patient must do this at every visit, that it does not matter who they bring as long as it is for non-pain treatment,” the board’s notice says.

Practices with a majority of patients on pain medications are subject to new regulations under Ohio’s pill-mill law.    “I think it’s a bogus charge,” Brumfield said yesterday, declining further comment.    Brumfield is scheduled for a hearing next week, said his attorney, Beth Collis.  She said she was not yet prepared to respond to the board’s specific allegations.    Nobody responded yesterday to a message left at the practice. The owner, Lester Sadler, was indicted last year on federal charges involving a fraudulent pain clinic in Waverly. His wife, Nancy, also was indicted. The Sadlers live in Scioto County.    “No patients will be seen until there’s a physician there to see them,” said Dublin attorney Steven Hillman, who incorporated the Columbus business on Mr. Sadler’s behalf.

Dr. William Cullen, who previously practiced at Ohio Medical West and is on probation with the Medical Board for prescription-drug abuse, no longer works there, Hillman said.    Brumfield, who is 56 and lives in the Dayton area, posed a risk of “serious harm to the public” should he continue to practice, according to the board notice.    It also says he prescribed the drug Subutex for opioid dependence despite not being authorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Brumfield has a history with the Medical Board because of past cocaine use. Before the suspension, he was practicing on probationary terms.

Obama caves over Warren


President caved to GOP with Cordray pick


President Barack Obama wimped out by not nominating Elizabeth Warren to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.    Instead of Warren, whose idea it was to create an independent and powerful federal agency to protect consumers, Obama selected Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general who was the enforcement chief at the bureau.

Obama caved to Republicans. Warren was a player those Republicans couldn’t intimidate. They unfairly characterized her as antibusiness, arguing that she, if left to run the bureau, would encourage the creation of burdensome regulations that would hold our economy back. This made Warren too controversial for Obama.    “Tell me what I did that was controversial?” Warren asked me in a telephone interview.    Not a darn thing.

She was attacked because she dared to call for simplicity in credit-card agreements. She’s advocated creating a single mortgage disclosure form that clearly lets people know how much and under what terms they are borrowing for a home. Yes, that’s the outrageous and contemptible behavior the Republicans couldn’t stand. How dare she actually want people to sign credit agreements and get loans they can understand, written in plain English?

Warren, who has spent the last year setting up the bureau, said she’s leaving with no ill will.    “I’m not disappointed,” she said.                                                                                                                                                      Richard Cordray

“I’m not disappointed at all. We have an agency. We need to move forward.”    She knows this battle can’t just be about her.    “Rich Cordray is good,” Warren said. “I recruited him. He’s the guy I wanted in a senior position in this agency. He’s smart. He’s strong, and he’s tough.”    Both Warren and Obama praised Cordray for his efforts against unscrupulous lending practices.    “He was the first AG out of the box to go after mortgage-servicing fraud,” Warren said. “However, he

has not been as controversial as me. So now, either they are going to let him through or the debate becomes clear:  It becomes about crippling the agency.”    With Warren out of the way and with a nominee who is clearly qualified, we’ll now see where the Republican leadership really stands when it comes to protecting consumers.    After Obama’s announcement about Cordray, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that Republicans haven’t changed their minds about fighting for changes to the bureau.                                                                                                                                                                   Elizabeth Warren

“Republicans have voiced our serious concerns over the creation of the CFPB because it represents a government-driven solution to a problem government helped create,” McConnell said in a statement.    So he’s saying the government shouldn’t be responsible to help fix the problems it let happen because of a lack of oversight? What gobbledygook is that?

  • “We can’t let politics stand in the way of doing the right thing in Washington,” Obama said in announcing Cordray’s nomination.
  • Sorry, Mr. President, this is exactly what has happened. The right thing would have been to pick Warren.

Her nomination might have been blocked, but her confirmation hearings would have put front and center those who are shilling for business and Wall Street interests.    The administration might argue that it’s more important to have someone directing the agency as soon as possible, rather than spending a great deal of time fighting for Warren’s confirmation.  I get that.    So, Warren was sacrificed for the greater good.   I get that, too. But I hope to see the administration fight — and fight hard — against any changes that would diminish the power of this consumer-protection agency.

Michelle Singletary writes for the Washington Post Writers Group.

DuPont admits responsibility on trees

DuPont admits herbicide is responsible for tree damage

 July 28, 2011 By Cecil Angel

Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Chemical giant DuPont acknowledged yesterday that its herbicide Imprelis is responsible for injuring some tree species — primarily Norway spruce and white pines.

In a letter to lawn-care professionals, Michael McDermott, global business leader for DuPont Professional Products, acknowledged that an ongoing review found tree injuries associated with Imprelis.

The reports of problems are concentrated in a geographic area that includes Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Wisconsin, the letter says.

“We sincerely regret any tree injuries that Imprelis may have caused and will work with you to promptly and fairly resolve problems associated with our product,” McDermott wrote.

The letter follows several lawsuits — in which class-action status is being sought — filed across the country in the past two weeks against the Wilmington, Del.-based company. In one lawsuit, an Indiana woman is seeking at least $5 million.

Imprelis, sold only to licensed lawn-care professionals, was approved for use last fall. Some trees experienced curling and browning in the weeks after the herbicide was applied to lawns.

DuPont spokeswoman Kate Childress declined to give details about the scope of the damage that Imprelis has caused. “The vast majority of applications have been successful,” she said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said it will conduct an expedited review, an EPA spokesman said.

DuPont is launching the website imprelis-facts

.com to carry the latest information and make it easier to report problems.

DuPont also is establishing a toll-free hot line, which is to go live on Monday. The number will be made available on the website.

July 28, 2011

The Achilles Heel of Monsanto

Organic Consumers Association

Monsanto Nation: Taking Down Goliath

“If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.” – Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

After two decades of biotech bullying and force-feeding unlabeled and hazardous genetically engineered (GE) foods to animals and humans, it’s time to move beyond defensive measures and go on the offensive.  With organic farming, climate stability, and public health under the gun of the gene engineers and their partners in crime, it’s time to do more than complain. With over 1/3 of U.S. cropland already contaminated with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), with mounting scientific evidence that GMOs cause cancer, birth defects, and serious food allergies  and with new biotech mutants like alfalfa, lawn grass, ethanol-ready corn, 2,4 D-resistant crops, and genetically engineered trees and animals in the pipeline, time is running out.

Living in Monsanto Nation there can be no such thing as “coexistence.” It is impossible to coexist with a reckless industry that endangers public health, bribes public officials, corrupts scientists, manipulates the media, destroys biodiversity, kills the soil, pollutes the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically enslaves the world’s 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers. It’s time to take down the Biotech Behemoth, before the living web of biodiversity is terminated.

But, to bring down Goliath and build an organic future, we need to be strategic, as well as bold. We must take the time to carefully analyze our strengths and weaknesses and critique our previous efforts. Then we must prepare to concentrate our forces where our adversary is weak, like a chess master, moving the field of battle from Monsanto’s currently impregnable territory into more favorable terrain. Given the near-dictatorial control of Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association over the Congress, the White House, regulatory agencies, and state legislators, we have no choice in the present moment but to revert to “asymmetrical” guerrilla tactics, to seek out the Achilles heel or fundamental weakness of the biotech industry.

Consumers’ Right to Know: Monsanto’s Achilles Heel

The Achilles heel of Monsanto and the biotech industry is consumers’ right to know. If GE-tainted foods are labeled in supermarkets and natural food stores, a massive rejection of chemical and GMO foods will take place, transforming the marketplace and supercharging the organic and local foods revolution. The biotech industry has been aware of their tremendous vulnerability in the United States ever since Monsanto forced their controversial recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone on the market in February 1994.  In the wake of nationwide “Frankenfood” protests and milk dumps, industry made sure that no federal labeling or safety testing would be required. As the biotechnocrats understand full well, mandatory GE food labels will cripple the industry: consumers will not buy gene-altered foods, farmers will not plant them, restaurants and food processors will avoid them, and grocery stores will not sell them. How can we be certain about this? By looking at the experience of the European Union, the largest agricultural market in the world. In the EU, there are almost no genetically engineered crops under cultivation or GE consumer food products on supermarket shelves. And why is this? Not because GE crops are automatically banned in Europe. But rather because under EU law, all foods containing genetically engineered ingredients must be labeled.

European consumers have the freedom to choose or not to choose GE foods; while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as these gene-altered are safety-tested and labeled. Of course the EU food industry understands that consumers, for the most part, do not want to consume GE foods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the concept expressed by the Monsanto executive quoted above: “If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”

The biotech and food industry are acutely conscious of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you don’t want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by out-of-control chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or DuPont – the same people who brought you toxic pesticides and industrial chemicals, Agent Orange, carcinogenic food additives, PCBs, and now global warming. Industry leaders are definitely aware of the fact that every poll over the last 20 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on genetically engineered foods. Why do consumers want labels? So that we can avoid buying these mutant foods, gene-spliced with viruses, bacteria, antibiotic-resistant marker genes and foreign DNA. Gene-altered foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from ever getting a public discussion, much less coming to a vote, in Congress.

Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) perennially introduces a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GE foods, don’t hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called “Citizens United” case gave big corporations, millionaires, and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage and elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent.

Perfectly dramatizing the “Revolving Door” between Monsanto and the Federal Government, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly chief counsel for Monsanto, delivered one of the decisive votes in the Citizens United case, in effect giving Monsanto and other biotech bullies the right to buy the votes it needs in the U.S. Congress.

With biotech and industrial agriculture’s big money controlling Congress, the White House, and the corporate mass media, we have little choice but to shift our focus and our campaigning to more favorable terrain: the state level and the marketplace.

Besides boycotting non-organic foods likely containing GMOs (even those marketed as “natural”) and demanding that natural food stores adopt truth-in-labeling practices, we’ve got to push for mandatory GE food labeling laws in the legislatures of those few remaining states like Vermont where Monsanto and corporate agribusiness do not yet have total control. Of the 18 states where GE food labeling legislation has been introduced over the past two years, only in Vermont does our side seem to have the votes to push labeling through, as well as a Governor who will not cave in to Monsanto.

State Ballot Initiatives: Monsanto and Biotech’s Greatest Weakness

Although passing a mandatory GE foods labeling law in Vermont is a distinct possibility, and something we should all support, the most promising strategy for restoring consumers’ right to know lies in utilizing one of the most important remaining tools of direct citizen democracy, state ballot initiatives. A state ballot initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can bring about a public vote on a proposed statute or constitutional amendment, in this case a law requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.  Ballot initiatives are also called, depending on the state, “popular initiatives,” “voter initiatives,” “citizen initiatives” or just “initiatives.”

Twenty-four states, mainly west of the Mississippi, allow ballot initiatives. Each state has its own requirements for how many signatures are required, how many days can be spent collecting the signatures, and when petitions must be turned in. States also vary on the average amount of money spent by initiative committees to support or oppose ballot measures.

The essential advantage of state ballot initiatives is that they enable the grassroots (in our case the 85-95% of consumers who want labels on GE-tainted foods) to bypass corrupt politicians, industry lobbyists, and special interest legislative practices. In addition, the very strategic point to keep in mind is that it will not be necessary to pass GMO labeling ballot initiatives in all 24 of these states. In fact, passage in just one large state, for example, California, where there is tremendous opposition to GE foods as well as a multi-billion dollar organic food industry, will likely have the same impact as a national labeling law.

If Vermont passes a state labeling law though its legislature in 2011, or California voters put a GMO labeling initiative on the ballot in 2012 and pass it, the biotech and food industry will face an intractable dilemma. Will they dare put labels on their branded food products in just one or two states, admitting these products contain genetically engineered ingredients, while still withholding label information in the other states? The answer is very likely no. Withholding important and controversial information in some states, while providing it to consumers in other states, would be a public relations disaster.

A clear precedent for this situation was established in California in 1986 when voters passed, over the strenuous opposition of industry, a ballot initiative called Proposition 65, which required consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredient to bear warning labels. Rather than label their products sold in California as likely carcinogenic, most companies reformulated their product ingredients so as to avoid warning labels altogether, and they did this on a national scale, not just in California.

This same scenario will likely unfold if California voters pass a ballot initiative in 2012 requiring labels on food containing genetically engineered ingredients. Can you imagine Kellogg’s selling Corn Flakes breakfast cereal in California with a label that admits it contains genetically engineered corn? Or labeling their corn flakes as GE in California, but not divulging this same fact to consumers in the other 49 states or Canada? Of course not.  How about Kraft Boca Burgers admitting that their soybean ingredients are genetically modified? How about the entire non-organic food industry (including many so-called “natural” brands) admitting that 75% of their products are GE-tainted?  Once food manufacturers and supermarkets are forced to come clean and label genetically engineered products, they will likely remove all GE ingredients, to avoid the “skull and crossbones” effect, just like the food industry in the EU has done. In the wake of this development American farmers will convert millions of acres of GE crops to non-GMO or organic varieties.

The biotechnocrats and their allies have indeed used their vast resources to buy off Congress, the White House, and most state legislatures with campaign contributions. Monsanto, DuPont, and other corporate giants have used their enormous clout to send their lawyers and scientists through the revolving door into jobs as government regulators. Biotech’s financial power has polluted state and federal governments, along with trade associations, universities, research institutions, philanthropic organizations, and media outlets.

But there are two things Monsanto’s money can’t buy: Our trust, and our votes.

Polls Show Consumers Overwhelmingly Support GE Food Labels

Poll after poll has shown that most consumers want to know whether their food includes engineered ingredients.

The results of a recent MSNBC poll that posed the question, “Do you believe genetically modified foods should be labeled?” indicate that nearly all Americans believe that foods made with genetically modified organisms should indeed be labeled.

Of the more than 45,000 people who participated in the poll, over 96% answered “Yes. It’s an ethical issue – consumers should be informed so they can make a choice.”

It’s not news that most Americans support labeling of GMO foods. Since genetically modified foods were first introduced in mid-1990s, scores of public opinion polls have shown that the vast majority of consumers want mandatory labeling of all genetically modified foods. These include recent polls by CBS News/New York Times, NPR/Thomson Reuters and the Consumers Union. Unfortunately, Congress and the White House have ignored these polls, accepting instead the claims of lobbyists and indentured scientists that genetically engineered foods are perfectly safe, and that uninformed and scientifically illiterate Americans must not be given the choice to buy or not to buy GMOs, because they will reject them.

Monsanto spent more than $1 million on the 2010 election cycle, splitting its contributions evenly between state and federal candidates. It spends much more on lobbying – more than $8 million in each of the last three years. Monsanto’s money has bought it influence and allowed it to move its lawyers and scientists through the revolving door into roles within the regulatory agencies. The USDA, FDA and State Department are full of appointees with connections to Monsanto. Monsanto’s efforts have successfully stifled attempts in Congress and state legislatures to pass GMO labeling legislation.

The Slingshot that Can Bring Down Goliath

The most important advantage or weapon in a ballot initiative (or in a grassroots legislative lobbying campaign) is to have the overwhelming support of the people, especially registered voters. As poll after poll has shown, 85-95% of Americans support mandatory GE food labels. No matter how much money Monsanto and their allies spend to defeat a ballot initiative, it is very difficult to turn back overwhelming public sentiment. Monsanto has become one of the most hated corporations on earth.

The second requirement for a successful ballot initiative is to have the active support of a massive grassroots movement, like the growing anti-GE food movement and OCA’s Millions Against Monsanto campaign. This grassroots movement can gather petition signatures, mobilize public opinion, and get out the vote. No matter how much money Monsanto and their allies spend, it will be very difficult to defeat a volunteer grassroots army of organic consumers who enjoy the massive support of the public.

The third prerequisite for victory is to have the ability to raise significant sums of money. Not only do we have millions of organic consumers in the U.S. who are passionately opposed to GMOs, and willing to donate to a labeling campaign, but we also have a rapidly growing $30 billion organic food industry that depends upon keeping GMO contamination out of the organic sector. We probably won’t be able to raise enough money to outspend Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, but we can raise enough money to defend our popular position and maintain majority support.

Just like everything in U.S. politics, ballot initiatives have a price tag.

According to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center:

  • “The chances of victory are directly correlated with the amount of money raised and are almost always proportional to the amount of money the opposition spends.”
  • “People power is equally important to factor in. Particularly for Citizen-based ballot initiative efforts, it is imperative to have people on the ground across the state that are connected and invested in the initiative.”

Biotechnology or BioDemocracy?

Restoring consumers’ right to know and driving genetically engineered foods off supermarket shelves are not going to solve all of the life and death issues that are currently staring us in the face: the climate crisis, endless wars, economic depression, corporate control over government, and the health crisis. But cutting Monsanto and the biotechnocrats down to size and restoring consumer choice are a good first step to move us toward sustainability and a healthy food and farming system. Just as important, in political terms, by defeating the Biotech Bullies and indentured politicians, we can begin to restore the tattered self-confidence of the American body politic. A resounding victory by the organic community and OCA’s Millions Against Monsanto campaign will prove to ourselves and the currently demoralized public that we can indeed take back control over the institutions and public policies that determine our daily lives. Now is the time to move forward.

To support or join up with the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign, go to:

Donate to support the campaign:

A Look at 3 National Parks

3 Parks have a Lot of Terrain to Cover

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg THE NEW YORK TIMES

I love the national parks. Last summer, I was lucky enough to visit three.    I tried to get off the beaten path — first to the Northeast on the coast of Maine, then later out West with my family.   

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is known for it                                                                                     carriage roads, closed to cars

A century ago, when this mountainous preserve on the rocky shores of Maine was still a private playground for the rich, industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. had a vision for keeping it safe from an emerging threat: the automobile.

That vision produced the historic carriage roads of Mount Desert Island, a 51-mile network of gravel lanes and granite bridges built under Rockefeller’s supervision from 1913 to 1940. He eventually deeded the system to the American people — along with a third of the land in what is now Acadia National Park — and today the carriage roads are a wonderful way to explore its pristine beauty.

Open to joggers, hikers, cyclists and cross-country skiers — as well as horse-drawn carriages — the roads cut through spruce- and hemlock-covered mountains, encircle glacier-formed lakes, cross gurgling streams and offer spectacular ocean views.

My friend Carol and I set out to conquer them on bicycles on a sunny morning.    We began in Bar Harbor, renting cruising bikes from Bar Harbor Bicycle for $24 a day. We pedaled a few blocks over to the village green, where a Bicycle Express shuttle was waiting, part of Acadia’s Island Explorer system, an efficient and free bus service.

The driver dropped us off at the head of Eagle Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Acadia. We set off, with lunch in mind, along the west side. Four miles and one hour later — the roads are hilly — we were on the shores of Jordan Pond and ready to eat.    If you’re hot and sweaty, as we were from our ride, you can enjoy the view of the pond from the air-conditioned Jordan Pond House, the only full-service dining facility in the park. But the lawn, with tables shaded by forest-green umbrellas, is lovely.

The Jordan Pond House is surrounded by hiking trails, including a self-guided nature trail, and there are racks where you can park your bikes. I pedaled out in search of the Cobblestone Bridge, unique among Acadia’s 17 stone bridges because its facing is made of small rounded stones.    It turned out to be on a private road (of the 51 miles, 8 fall outside park boundaries), open to the public but off-limits to bikes. I walked the half-mile to it, then turned around to resume my ride on one of the prettiest carriage roads inside Acadia: the Jordan Stream loop.

The loop was both the most serene and strenuous stretch of my 12-mile bike trip.    I took a different route on the return trip to Eagle Lake, cycling past Bubble Pond, where I spotted a family of kayakers enjoying a lazy afternoon; I made a mental note for next time.

Yellowstone National Park

More than 3 million visitors trek each year to America’s oldest national park, drawn by its wildlife and its iconic geyser, Old Faithful. But there is much more to Yellowstone. The park is a living science lesson; it’s home to more than half the Earth’s geothermal features, 10,000 in all: spouting geysers, sputtering mud pots, hissing steam vents (called fumaroles), colorful hot springs.

FILE PHOTOS    Elk graze in Yellowstone National Park, with Mount Holmes, left, and Mount Dome towering above.

On a hot summer day, we set out to explore a sliver of thermal life in Yellowstone accompanied by Carl Schreier, a wildlife biologist and the author of A Field Guide to Yellowstone’s Geysers, Hot Springs and Fumaroles. We met at the Old Faithful Inn.    We decided to begin where most first-time visitors do: at the granddaddy geyser, a short walk away. On our way there, we were arrested by the sight of Blue Star Spring, a pretty pool with scalloped edges and sapphire-blue water. It looked as inviting as the Caribbean, but Carl told us not to be fooled.    “This is boiling water,” he warned.

Severe burns and scalding deaths in the hot springs are part of the Yellowstone lore, which is one reason why rangers insist that visitors stay on boardwalks and trails. In the winter, Carl told us, bison gather to warm themselves in the springs’ steam. Some slip in, and their bleached bones can be seen in the clear waters.    After witnessing Old Faithful’s eruption — as fierce and dramatic as the postcards would have you believe — we hopped in our car and drove north to Fountain Flat Drive, where a smaller and more erratic collection of geysers can be found. A series of gravel trails took us into a little-traveled area called White Creek. Anyone can come here, but most tourists don’t. A narrow footpath led toward a crystal blue pool, Octopus Spring, whose drainage channels fan out like the tentacles of a sea creature.

The next day, we hiked to Fairy Falls, a 197-foot waterfall. Not long into the easy, relatively flat 5.2-mile trip, we saw some well-worn, if unmarked, dirt trails up a hillside. Scampering up, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Grand Prismatic, the largest hot spring in Yellowstone and the third largest in the world.    With 2.2 million acres to cover, it is impossible to absorb this vast and varied ground in one visit.

Grand Teton National Park

Climbers from all over come to Wyoming to scale the Tetons’ snow-capped peaks. But there is another way to appreciate their beauty: from the water.    There are plenty of opportunities for scenic cruises on the Tetons’ sparkling lakes and lazy raft trips down the Snake River. Or renting a canoe or kayak is easy; there are marinas at the two most popular Teton lakes, Jenny and Jackson. But my family hungered for a more tranquil experience.    We set out for the town of Moose, near the southern entrance of the park.   For $48,   Dornan’s Adventure Sports                     ( rented us a canoe and strapped it to our rental car. Away we went for a day of easy paddling — or so we thought.

A trail in Grand Teton National Park offers a view of Phelps Lake.

From Moose, we headed north to one of the Tetons’ smaller and lesser-known lakes, String Lake, which has a boat launch and connects by a short portage to the larger Leigh Lake. The mountains towered over us as we got the canoe in the water and paddled along the shallow lake, until we reached a small wooden bridge over impassable rapids.    The portage was 400 yards, including a short flight of stairs. That might not sound like much, but when you are lugging a canoe, it can seem like miles. After a fair amount of grunting and grumbling, we got to the other side and paddled out to a little island for a picnic lunch. We spent hours lounging around, with the lake practically to ourselves.

Grand Teton’s peaks in Wyoming are popular with climbers.

The next evening, we opted for a Snake River dinner float trip.    We booked our trip through the Grand Teton Lodge Co., one of a handful of outfits authorized to operate within the park. On a Thursday evening, our guides and fellow floaters gathered at the historic Jackson Lake Lodge for a short bus trip to a secluded riverbank at the spot where Ansel Adams took one of his most famous Teton photographs.

A team of chefs whipped up a meal of steak, breaded trout, mashed potatoes, beans, salad, and corn smothered in butter, with apple and blueberry cobbler for dessert; we ate on picnic tables draped in checkered cloths.    After a brief discussion of safety and the passing out of life jackets, we were afloat. We began at Deadman’s Bar, so named for a triple murder in 1886, and continued on for 10 miles, ending at Menor’s Ferry, where visitors can still see the cabin and general store built by William D. Menor, whose wooden ferry served as a vital river crossing in the early 1900s. Along the way, we spotted bison, moose, elk, beaver and a pair of bald eagles — and a double rainbow.

July 27, 2011

Death a phase – not a curse

Inability to face death is costing us dearly


I hope you had the chance to read and reread Dudley Clendinen’s splendid essay, “The Good Short Life,” in The New York Times’ Sunday Review section last week. Clendinen is dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. If he uses all the available medical technology, it will leave him, in a few years’ time, “a conscious but motionless, mute, withered, incontinent mummy of my former self.”

Instead of choosing that long, dehumanizing, expensive course, Clendinen has decided to face death as one of life’s “most absorbing thrills and challenges.” He concludes: “When the music stops — when I can’t tie my bow tie, tell a funny story, walk my dog, talk with Whitney, kiss someone special, or tap out lines like this — I’ll know that Life is over. It’s time to be gone.”

Clendinen’s article is worth reading for the way he defines what life is. Life is not just breathing and existing as a self-enclosed skin bag. It’s doing the activities with others you were put on Earth to do.

But it’s also valuable as a backdrop to the current budget mess. This fiscal crisis is about many things, but one of them is our inability to face death — our willingness to spend our nation into bankruptcy to extend life for a few more sickly months.

The fiscal crisis is driven largely by health-care costs. We have the illusion that in spending so much on health care we are radically improving the quality of our lives. We have the illusion that through advances in medical research we are in the process of eradicating deadly diseases. We have the barely suppressed hope that someday all this spending and innovation will produce something close to immortality.

But that’s not actually what we are buying.  As Daniel Callahan and Sherwin B. Nuland point out in an essay in The New Republic called “The Quagmire,” our health-care spending and innovation are not leading us toward a limitless extension of a good life.    Callahan, a co-founder of the Hastings Center, the bioethics research institution, and Nuland, a retired clinical professor of surgery at Yale, point out that more than a generation after Richard Nixon declared the “War on Cancer” in 1971, we remain far from a cure. Despite recent gains, there is no cure on the horizon for heart disease or stroke. A panel at the National Institutes of Health recently concluded that little progress had been made toward finding ways to delay Alzheimer’s disease.

Years ago, people hoped that science could delay the onset of morbidity. We would live longer, healthier lives and then die quickly. This is not happening. Most of us will still suffer from chronic diseases for years near the end of life, and then die slowly.

S. Jay Olshansky, one of the leading experts on aging, argues that life expectancy is now leveling off. “We have arrived at a moment,” Callahan and Nuland conclude, “where we are making little headway in defeating various kinds of diseases. Instead, our main achievements today consist of devising ways to marginally extend the lives of the very sick.”

Others disagree with this pessimistic view of medical progress. But that phrase, “marginally extend the lives of the very sick,” should ring in the ears. Many of our budget problems spring from our quest to do that.

The fiscal implications are all around. A large share of our health-care spending is devoted to ill patients in the last phases of life. This sort of spending is growing fast. Americans spent $91 billion caring for Alzheimer’s patients in 2005. By 2015, according to Callahan and Nuland, the cost of Alzheimer’s will rise to $189 billion and by 2050 it is projected to rise to $1 trillion annually — double what Medicare costs right now.    Obviously, we are never going to cut off Alzheimer’s patients and leave them out on a hillside. We are never coercively going to give up on the old and ailing. But it is hard to see us reducing health-care inflation seriously unless people and their families are willing to do what Clendinen is doing: confront death and their obligations to the living.

There are many ways to think about the finitude of life. For years, Callahan has been writing about the social solidarity model, in which death is accepted as a normal part of the human condition and caring is emphasized as much as curing.    My only point today is that we think the budget mess is a squabble between partisans in Washington. But in large measure it’s about our inability to face death and our willingness as a nation to spend whatever it takes to push it just slightly over the horizon.

David Brooks writes for The New York Times.

(I have personally written about this often and take every opportunity to display the well-written articles of others who demonstrate deep thoughtfulness of these matters.   David Brooks is one of my favorite thinkers and I am happy to include him here.
As a species of sentient beings, we should be capable of observing all this and recognizing the right thing to do.  It is in a way akin to the sense of timing a mother feels in her last days of pregnancy – -Lord of Mercy – – let’s just get this over with!   I’m ready, let’s be done with it.   Now is the time.  
No one ever wants to loose a loved one.  It is painful.  When common sense fails us and we are faced with those “keep on trying” decisions, we should endeavor to be aware of our loved one’s needs whose time it is – not our own sense of loss.  If we would allow it,  there IS an inner sense of knowing and our love and caring should dictate a gentle, easy passage, not tubes and/or heroics. .  .  .  not if there is love.              . Been there, done that.      Jan)

Long-lost brothers re-united

Long-lost brothers members of same church


The private investigator Jim Parsons had hired to find his older brother called last month with a loaded question: Are you sitting down?    Parsons, naturally, wondered what would come next.

The day before, Kenna Peterson-Knotts had phoned to tell the 76-yearold Worthington resident that she thought she’d found Jack Parsons.    Her words marked the culmination of a decades-long search for a sibling Jim Parsons never knew because of the fallout from an ugly family separation 72 years ago.

What, then, could she possibly tell him that would top that?    Yes, he’s definitely your brother.  And Jack lives 20 minutes from your house, in Powell.    “It was a true ‘Wow!’ moment,” said Jim’s wife, LeeAnn. “It was like, ‘This couldn’t be! How could this be?’ To find out he was that close.”

COURTNEY HERGESHEIMER DISPATCH Jack, left, and Jim Parsons, brothers separated 72 years,                     discovered they live near each other and both attend Grace Brethren Church.

Jim and LeeAnn Parsons had assumed that Jack was living either in Virginia — their boyhood home — or Tennessee, the last place they knew he’d lived before the trail went cold.    “We were preparing to get off the phone and pack to head to Tennessee,” Jim said.    Another surprise, though, lay ahead.    When Jim and LeeAnn Parsons called their son, Jimmy, to share the news that Jack lived so close, Jimmy reminded them that a Jack Parsons attended their church, Grace Brethren Church of Columbus, where they had been members for 28 years.

LeeAnn went racing for the church directory to compare addresses.  They matched.   Flipping to the photos, she found Jack and his wife, Anna, right next to herself and her husband.    “Over the years, dozens of people had asked if we were related, and I always said, ‘No, my family is all from Virginia and Tennessee,’” Jim said.    Until a month ago, in fact, the couples had not met.

What’s more, Jack Parsons — five years Jim’s senior at 81was unaware that he has a brother. (Actually, he has two: Paul Parsons, who grew up with Jim, lives in Ironton.)

Jack had been raised by his maternal grandmother in Norton, Va., and he had no contact with their mother, Bobbie Lee, after 1935, when Jack was about 4.    “He’s very stoic,” said Jack’s son, Chris, who was with his father when Peterson-Knotts broke the news. “He didn’t register any emotion whatsoever.    “I think his first reaction was, ‘I haven’t had a brother in 81 years; I don’t need one now.’”    Said Jack: “It takes time to settle in.”

A rough beginning

Bobbie Lee Farmer struggled through life.    She had two sons with her first husband, Howard Payne, before Payne died of typhoid at age 24.   She then married Clyde Parsons,  a hard-drinking coal miner. They lived in Pennington Gap, Va., where Jack was born in 1931 and Dorothy May in 1933.    The following year, Dorothy May died, apparently of meningitis — and something changed in Bobbie Lee and Clyde’s marriage.

Not long after his sister’s death, young Jack went to Norton to live with his grandmother , Dora Jane, otherwise known as “Big Mom.”

Amid their ongoing difficulties and Clyde’s increasing alcohol problems, Jim was born in 1935.   Big Mom and Jack lived about 30 miles away, but Jack never knew about Jim.    Four years later, Bobbie Lee — pregnant again with Paul — had had enough; she sold her belongings and bought bus tickets to Pomeroy, Ohio, where her sister lived, arriving with $12 in her pocket.    She told Jim and Paul that they had an older brother in Virginia, but she never talked to Jack again.

“I always hoped his mother would call to touch base with Jack,” said Jack’s wife, Anna. “I would think about it often: As a mom, how could you do that? How could you go off and leave and never try and get in touch with your child?”

Jim explained it this way:  “She hardened (after the move to Ohio).  When she closed a door, she closed it.  It was over.”

Two moves to Columbus

Decades later, the careers of Jack and Jim Parsons eventually led both to the Columbus area — Jack in 1974, in the middle of a long stint as a U.S. Postal Service inspector that included work in Kings-port, Tenn.,   and Jim in 1979, when he helped introduce Hospice of Columbus.    Jack and Anna joined Grace Brethren in 1976, and Jim and LeeAnn in 1983.

At the sprawling complex on Worthington-Galena Road — the church has more than 3,000 members — Jack has been heavily involved in church organizations, but Jim less so until recently.    Consequently, their paths didn’t cross.


Jack and Jim Parsons appeared next to each other with their wives in the year book of Grace Brethern Church of Columbus before learning they were brothers.

“It’s a great emphasis on what we try to tell folks:  that church isn’t where you go, it’s what you do,” said Jim Custer, senior pastor at Grace Brethren from 1968 to 2004 and still on staff as a teaching pastor.

A longtime genealogy buff, LeeAnn Parsons had spent considerable time through the years trying to find more information about her husband’s family.    She and Jim were thwarted by Clyde Parsons’ death in 1946 and Big Mom’s in 1968. Other family members were uncooperative.

On June 13, Jim and LeeAnn hired Peterson-Knotts — a decision that yielded results two days later.    Finding relatives living in the same area isn’t unusual, the investigator said, “but the fact they were from the same church and right next to each other … was awesome.”

Peterson-Knotts, who gravitated to genealogical investigative work after finding her own biological father, relishes the exchanges such reunions typically bring.    “To hear their voices and their first reactions,” she said, “I’m just so blessed to go through these journeys.”

‘Two newlyweds’

The Parsons brothers met for the first time on June 21.    Two weeks later, on July 4, they gathered with a larger group of relatives — including Jim’s two grown children, Jack’s two grown children and the children’s families.    Since his initial reluctance, Jack has warmed to the life-altering development.    “I can’t suddenly in just a day or two come alive about it,” he said. “But I’m perfectly satisfied now learning how to be a brother.”    Added son Chris: “It’s changed him; I can see it.”

The relationship remains so new to both that Jim refers to “Jack’s dad” and “Jack’s grandmother,” even though they were his father and grandmother, too.    Custer, the former pastor who has long known both brothers, enjoys now seeing them together at church.    “It’s almost like two newlyweds,” he said.    There are gaps in the men’s histories and questions that probably won’t ever be answered.    Yet they’re content not to dwell on what they’ve missed.    “I said to (Jack) that the important thing is, we found each other and we love each other,” Jim said.    “Let’s go forward with however many more years we have.”

(This is such a heart-warming story with a magnificent feel-good ending.  Left unsaid is the torment of a family torn apart and the isolation and inner scarring that surely must take place because of it.  All the members of this family including Bobbie Lee, husbands and all her children struggled against terrible odds and extreme difficulties.  Some of our species numb and grow cold with such harshness.  Fortunately, that which we are responds magically when we are given those glimpses which grant us the privilege of seeing the bigger picture – and knowing that we are loved.          What a beautiful story.. . . I wish I had it in me to translate this into a big-screen, very real slice of life

I am so happy for all of you and can almost feel the joy you must be experiencing.   Awesome!       Jan)

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