Jan 252014
 

midway

The United States has only 5% of the world’s population, but houses an astronomical 25% of the world’s criminals. Theories as to why this exists include a politicized response to urban and drug-related crime in the 1970’s, overspending of state funds, and the privatization of prisons.  Whatever the reasons, it’s clear that we simply have too many prisoners for our prisons to safely hold, and the costs are skyrocketing.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons’ 9.5 percent population growth from 2006 to 2011 well exceeded its rated capacity.  As of the time I am penning this chapter, there is a thirty-nine percent overage in our prison system, which is estimated to grow to near 50% by 2018.

How about this.  At 4,575 prisons, the U.S. quadruples second place Russia at just 1,029.  The total prison population in America is just over 2.2 million, which is the population of Houston – America’s fourth largest city.

The ballooning incarcerated population puts a tremendous strain on rehabilitation efforts, while simultaneously putting inmates and guards in danger.  With double and triple bunking in one cell, the crowding and loss of privacy increases the odds that prisoners will lash out at themselves and guards.

There are cases of those wrongly accused, but the vast majority prisoners ARE guilty of heinous and violent crimes such as murder, rape, sodomy, child molestation, human trafficking, espionage, using weapons of mass destruction, and treason.  These felons and death row inmates constitute the country’s 41,000 prisoners serving a term of life without parole (LWOP).

THE COSTS

Duke University researchers estimate that the death penalty costs taxpayers an additional $2.16 million for each case.  Such cases generally take at least twenty years for appeals to go through the courts system!  Moreover, the state of Kansas found that it costs an average of $740,000 to keep someone in prison for life.

According to a California Corrections study, it costs taxpayers up to 300% more to care for prisoners over the age of fifty-five; this is due to chronic conditions inherent with their failing health.  The cost of housing a thirty-seven-year-old prison inmate is about $49,000 per year.  At age fifty-five, the cost…wait for it… increases to $150,000 per year!  If the inmate lives to age seventy-seven, the state could spend as much as $4 million to keep him in prison for life.

Why are we giving criminals without a chance for parole medical treatment and care?  They are afforded healthcare privileges that many millions of uninsured law-abiding Americans can’t afford and do without.

THE SOLUTION

Let me take you into my world…and a solution called the ‘Pacific Prisons’.  It will ease some of the taxpayer burden, free up more money in state budgets, offer a serious deterrent for committing capital crimes, lighten the load on court dockets, and offers the possibility of completely removing the death penalty from all fifty states.

The Pacific Prisons program begins with the ‘lifers’ and only the lifers taking a permanent vacation away from the United States – never to return.  We are talking about the 41,000 convicted male and female felons who have absolutely no chance of parole, or are on death row.  In total, these individuals (39,770 male and 1,230 female) constitute less than 2 percent of all U.S. prisoners.

Naturally, it would be unfair for us to burden another country with our ‘criminal baggage’, so we’ll have to find a few deserted islands, still under control of the United States.  After some research, I came across just the set of little beauties that will do the trick – Midway Island and Palmyra Atoll.

These islands are considered part of the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands.  They are rarely visited, except by military or scientific personnel, and are both considered wildlife refuges under various federal government agencies, such as Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Agriculture.

midwayMidway Island, having an area of 2.4 square miles, would be the prison for the male convicts.  Its location is in the northern Pacific Ocean, sitting about halfway between North America and China’s mainland.  The island was formerly a convenient refueling stop for transpacific flights, and later served as a critical naval air station during World War Two and the Korean War.

In 1993 the then naval air facility was officially decommissioned by the military.  The island still has twenty miles of roads, nearly five miles of pipelines, and a one-and-a-half mile long runway.

Midway Island is approximately 3,200 miles west of California, 2,200 miles east of Japan, 4,300 miles northeast of Australia and 1,300 miles to Honolulu, Hawaii.  That puts it right about…in the middle of nowhere.

The female LWOP convicts will go to Green Island, greenislandas a part of the Kure Atoll, which is about 58 miles northwest of Midway Island.  From 1960 to 1992, this 200 acre island served as a United States Coast Guard LORAN station, complete with a short coral runway.

So we have two islands, under U.S. control, former military bases, having average temperatures of 72 degrees year-round and both are remote.  There would be plenty of high walls and barbed wire fences built.  No doctors, hospitals, teachers, therapists, books, mail or electricity.  Sundown would really be ‘lights-out’.

Food would be in the form of a mixture of protein powder, grains, nuts, powdered vitamins and minerals.  It would contain all the essential nutrients to sustain life.  There would be no packaging, and its dispersal would be through devices similar to small silos, dropping the food down.  Water would be brought in through desalinization and filtration, thereafter delivered to prisoners through numerous tough-built and protected fountains.

Showers and lavatories would be designed with a minimal opportunity for prisoners to break, touch or make usable any parts.  Technology like what we see outdoors at large events – you get the drift.  Living facilities would not need heat or air conditioning, nor would there be bars.  Just cement rooms mattresses.  Anyway, I’ll leave that up to the engineers and security design teams.

The guards would be well-paid and rotate duty perhaps every three to six months.  They would take an approach of being ‘hands-off’ with the prisoners.  That is, they would sit high atop cement guard posts, outside of the high cement walls.  They would not interact with the prisoners, except to shoot, if needed, during escape attempts.  This means that prisoners would in fact, be forming their own communities and policing themselves.

Some may think, “How cruel.  They’re being treated like animals.  They can kill each other.”  Perhaps they may be right.  But if they commit heinous crimes, who speaks for the cruelty to the victims?  Remember, these are people who will never get parole, or be executed anyway.  They have effectively earned the right to be exiled from U.S. society and perhaps its norms, in exchange for a system where they can live among themselves.

ESCAPE?

These prisoners would essentially have their own private remote island with the nearest major life, according to prevailing trade winds, about 1,600 miles in the Marshall Islands.  These are a set of atolls, themselves divided into 1,156 tiny islands.  If one were to get past the guards, he or she would need to have sailing and navigational skills and build a craft worthy enough to combat the harsh conditions of the raging ocean.

Next, would be the issue of food and water.  Assuming tremendous luck and a true, consistent route, the successful escape would require moving at least 50 miles a day (in the correct direction) for 33 straight days.  Getting enough food and water to last for four weeks (per individual escapee) would be quite a trick.

Plus, any time someone tries to escape, and gets off the island, no one on the island knows if the ‘convict castaway’ made it.  Without feedback, they lose hope and cling to the desire to stay safe, secure, and relatively well-fed on the island.  It’s simple behavioral psychology – man desires to stay alive.  He (or she) will seek whatever means necessary to do so.

Allotting $2 billion for the buildings and say $500 million for guards, food, clothing and sanitation each year, at today’s costs of up to $740,000 per prisoner for life, the Pacific Prisons could instantly save up to $20 billion!  Plus billions more each year.  Let’s remember, this is just on 2% of the entire prison population.

This could also provide a window to remove the death penalty in many, if not all states.   This may offer some solace to who oppose it, but only insomuch as they don’t think about the ‘survival of the fittest’ on the prison island.  But it would save tremendously on taxpayer expense for the majority of these cases needlessly tying up the court system.

And what of deterrence?  The criminals or future criminals who understand that “lifer” crimes will lead them to a self-policing island without three square meals, medical care, and electricity, may think at least twice.  Fear is an excellent motivator.  

Cost savings aside, there is the fact that, with less crime, criminal cases and reduced death sentence appeals, there may be less jobs for prosecutors, police departments and state-appointed attorneys.  I think I can live with that.

Jan 192014
 

5373670168_e88553c29bThis is one of my “why hasn’t someone made that yet?” inventions.  It came to me one day when I opened the refrigerator, reached for the one-percent milk, looked at the expiration date, and noticed it was the same day’s date.  

So like any reasonably intelligent person who wants to be sure, I smelled the milk and – yuck…but just for a second. Then it smelled normal!  Hmmm…..

No discoloration, but I couldn’t take the chance.  Plus, I am one of those people who you may call ‘low level-phobic’, as I am inclined to throw away milk or any perishable item on its last quantity-legs, far faster than others.  Does anyone really like to drink the last of the soda?

So what happens when we smell the milk – and it’s a toss-up.  What if you have a cold and can’t do the smell?  Now you really could be out of luck.  

Not to mention, that this printed date on milk has always been a thorn in my mind – errr….side.  Does it mean it’s the “still good” date even after you’ve opened the milk?  Or does it begin from the day it was packaged, even if it stays unopened?  Oh, my mind just swims and swims.  

Here’s a fact.  In the U.S., more than 76 million cases of food-borne illness occur each year.  According to the Food and Drug Administration, such cases have resulted in more than 32,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.  But in the other corner are those who hate to waste.  Because, studies as far back as 1995 point out that retailers lost nearly 17.4 billion pounds of milk per year because consumers assumed it was spoiled.  

Enter the smart guys.  In 2012, scientists from Tufts University created a sticker made of gold and silk fibers that would stick to a food item and determine its edibleness.  But have you seen it commercially?  Additionally, there is currently a product called The Milk Maid, a quart size milk jug in a glass container that plugs into a ‘smart base’ in your fridge.  I think General Electric is testing it now with consumers.

The smart base of the Milkmaid is able to sense if your milk is spoiled or how soon it will spoil by using pH sensors. Milk, which is made up of nearly 90% water, normally has a pH level of near 6.7.  This makes it slightly acidic.  As the pH level drops, bacteria will make milk sour.  Hence, when it takes a drop, the drinking had better stop!  

So the Milk Maid is neat, to be sure.  But why should people have to buy an aftermarket product when something simpler could suffice?  So here goes…

 

THE INVENTION

This invention solves the problem of having to guess whether milk is fresh or not, and at a far cheaper price.  The technology is made by first making all milk caps transparent, instead of colored.  Next, place a small, circular, adhesive bio-sensor with semi-permeable membrane on the inside of the screw-on milk cap.  The inside layer of the sensor, facing the milk inside the carton, would block liquid, but allow gas molecules from the milk to pass through.  

The outside layer, pressing up against the inside of the plastic cap, would have a paper sensor with reagent, much like a dipstick for a urine test at the doctor’s office. This sensor would pick up an increase in carbon dioxide, a known gas offshoot of spoiling milk.  As the CO2 levels begin to increase, it would hit the reagent on the paper tab and change color. 

Perhaps the paper sensor would be colored white when first purchased, and stay white for as long as the milk is fresh. However, once the milk gives off enough carbon dioxide to be ‘freshness-questionable’, the paper would change from white to red.  Anyone picking up the milk could see the color change through the transparent milk cap.  

STOP!  NOT ANOTHER DROP!

Guess what?  You can bring the same concept for deli meat baggies at the grocery store.  Sure cheese turns blue, but do you really know when the roast beef becomes stale meat?

 

 

 

Jan 122014
 

8512557588_f5a4be7b43_oEach year, nearly 90 million Americans are struck with some level of back or neck pain.  Next to the common cold, more people visit doctors for back pain than any other symptomatic condition.  Neck pain alone affects nearly 45% of today’s workers, and is a regular malady for 12% of adults in the U.S.

Though I work largely in the insurance reporting industry, I’m proud to say I’ve also practiced chiropractic over the last twenty years.  During that time, I’ve examined and treated thousands of patients with a variety of health histories and conditions. Spine-related pain, in fact, has many different causes such as muscular, disc, nerve, pathological and congenital.  They each have their own distinct presentation.

Years of selectively sorting such patient findings has delivered a common denominator, which has been greatly overlooked in health provider offices.  I have documented it in nearly one-third of all patient cases. It’s spinal self-manipulation, that is, ‘cracking’ one’s own neck and back regularly.

Have you run into people who do this?  Do you do this?

Extrapolating my findings against the nation’s population, I surmise there are probably millions of teens and adults who regularly pop and twist their necks and backs.  Sometimes it’s done several times a day!  This addictive syndrome, adopted typically in younger years, helps to relieve stress, pain, nervousness, or anxiety. 

You’ve probably seen such individuals putting their hands on their chin and head, slowly twisting and then….snap!   Others roll their neck quickly or overstretch their lower spine to the point at which there is an audible cracking.  I’ve even watched students arching their backs over chairs, in order to obtain temporary stiffness relief.  

Anatomy tells us that our spines are made up of many spinal bones, or vertebra.  The joints of the spine do not have the same amount of motion as do the larger joints, like the shoulders, hips, and knees.  Because the bones of the spine interlock and work jointly, the motion of bending forward or sideways is shared throughout the spinal joints, each moving a little bit and adding to the others. So what’s the big deal here?

Normally, when you turn your neck or twist around, your spinal joints move in what is known as active range of motion.  But when a person forces their spine to go past that range, this commonly leads to overstretching ligaments, which causes the spinal column to become less stable in places.  As a result of the ligaments losing their healthy tension, nearby muscles  compensate to recapture spinal stability, thereby getting tighter and stiffer.  

The increased muscle tension makes the muscle and area around the spine feel tighter. As a result, the individual feels chronic and constant stress or stiffness – so they snap their neck or back over and over again.  It’s a habit that feeds into itself and may be a common contributor to early osteoarthritis in the spine.  

Simply stated, the problem with losing proper tension in the ligaments is that the spine can become hypermobile, or move too much.  According to Dr. Mark Wheaton, a board-certified pain management expert, in his paper, The Ligament Injury Connection to Osteoarthritis, “Disrupting ligaments increases the risk of cartilage injury and arthritis because the joint [ie. Neck/back] is no longer stabilized by the ligament structures”.  Injuries can cause such ligament disruption, but so can the frequent self-manipulation of one’s neck and lower back segments.  

Unlike chiropractic adjustments, in which the patient has his or her joints moved professionally, thereby gaining stability of the joints, the chronic self-manipulator’s habit grows more and more – and the stability lessens and lessens.  It often culminates to a point where the individual can no longer pop their joints because they have so badly overstretched the ligaments and tissues.  Hence, more constant and chronic aches.

This is not a habit easily resolved, because it requires the individual to go through a period of withdrawal, where some nagging pain and stiffness will most likely increase. Self-manipulation is highly addictive, and many people do it without thinking about it.  Proper chiropractic adjustments may offer help, but it is even more important to start strengthening the neck with exercises.  This may allow the muscles to become shorter and stronger, thereby helping to tighten back some of the ligaments.  But the individual DOES have to stop cold turkey for best results.

Cracking one’s knuckles, at least in one study, has shown itself to be a falsity.  I have seen chronic self-manipulators, who having no past injury, show signs of osteoarthritis at a very early age.  Perhaps the spine is different than the knuckles, in that it can move, or become misaligned in many more different directions.  Studies will need to be undertaken, if we are to understand more.  

I have a true passion for helping those, especially when it can stave off larger, future problems.  Having back pain, neck stiffness and osteoarthritis is bad enough for those who acquired it through prior injuries or means they couldn’t control.   In this case, kids and adults are unknowingly inflicting small repetitive stresses, which can possibly become larger problems down the road.  

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.  My intent is to bring this to national attention.  

Jan 042014
 

110859301_5cc01c7ed5_o

Stay positive, man! 

Forgive and forget. 

Have patience. 

Turn the other cheek. 

Let go and let God. 

Nah…Not this week.  Instead, I’m going to let loose my rant on just a few of the most common things I run into that IRK me.  And while you may find this negative, in fact I find the written release quite cathartic and balancing.  

Now that we are all done talking about our New Years’ resolution and plans for successful execution, let’s move into those things for which we will not allow for our absolution.  I invite you to comment on those things that most frustrate or irk you.  

Be mindful that I will delete any comments from amateur therapists who tell me that it’s wrong to vent or ‘sound negative’.  So c’mon and send me your best!

 

#1 LOUD THUMPING MUSIC IN CARS

How many times have you pulled up to a stoplight and either heard the car next to you or behind cranking up the music to window shattering levels?  You want to ignore it, but the thumping bass permeates through that quarter-inch of skull and stays in here.  Damn…how long does a red light stay red anyway?  

I think that deep down inside, some of us would want to roll down the window and yell, “Turn that crap down!” .  Just the same, our eyes slyly drift to find the culprit, if only for a second.  Instantly, we measure him or her up for their potential response.  Would they open the door and walk over to your window?  Give you the single-finger salute? Drive after you with road rage?  Or perhaps honor your wishes?  

Standing up for the goodness of your ears may be even more difficult with those musical offenders having tinted windows, tattoos or wearing the ‘flat-brimmed baseball cap and sunglasses’ tandem.  Multiple passengers in the ‘rolling-jam-session-mobile’ always makes voicing your displeasure seem that much more impossible too.  

However, I have taken a completely new approach.  When I’m alone in my faithful SUV and run into such characters, I will start moving my head side-to-side, throwing up my shoulders and arms – performing the ‘seat dance of death’. Other times, if I am right next to the thumping, I have been known to put MY window down and turn up my music even louder than the next guys. I feel a little like George Costanza in Seinfeld when he says, “We’re gonna’ take it up another notch.”

The new response has generated zero fights or angry outbursts.  Some thumbs up, several laughs from the young crowd for my new dance moves, a few look-aways too.  God, how I wish I could invent a radio stun-gun to temporarily disable the electronics.  Dammit Jim…I’m a blogger, not an advanced electronics engineer from DARPA or MIT.  

 

#2 THE PERSON WHO STAYS PARKED IN THE SPOT YOU WANT

I don’t know about you, but when I go to my local Starbucks (aka ‘Four-Bucks’) for my morning tea, the parking spaces are always filled.  Ah, I just found someone who has come to their car door, gets in, and…and…

Okay, give them a few seconds to get settled.  Wait!  Why aren’t they putting on their seatbelt? Why are they pulling out their cellphone?  Why aren’t they starting up the car?  They…they aren’t pulling out – they’re settling in!  Breakfast in a parking spot?

And don’t even get me started on people who park improperly, filling up two spaces.

 

#3 PEOPLE WHO ALWAYS TALK ABOUT THEIR KIDS 

I have no problem at all when our friends or acquaintances talk about their kids and accomplishments – for a short time.  However, we have a group of friends that do nothing but tell us about their kids’ great accomplishments every time we have a conversation with them.  Every single time!  

Sometimes, my wife and I get lucky and they ask us about our kids.  But when we answer, they get that look in their eye.  You know the look – when they are working very hard to politely listen to your response.  But really, they are not paying attention.  Instead, they are just biting their lip to tell you all about their kids and one-up you.  

Do you know someone like this?  If you happen to mention your child was potty trained at two years old, they’ll reply that their child was potty trained before he or she could even walk.  If your kid can read at a 4th grade level, their child already has a book deal.  

Is it that these parents are looking to live vicariously through their children’s lives?  Do they have an inferiority complex? Insecurity about their job as parents?  Are they pushing their kids to be too perfect, risking the little ones having future depression or a failure complex?  

You know, I don’t need to be reminded about how incredible your kids accomplishments have been, in order to define them as a child, or you as a parent.  Instead of what school your son got into, how gifted he is, or how many touchdown passes he’s thrown for, perhaps these parents might try bragging about their kindness and good nature. For example, how they have chosen, on their own, to help the elderly neighbor with their lawn, or help dish out hot meals to the homeless. 

I’d sure like to see that on Facebook more often than their SAT scores and perpetual honor roll announcements.  

 

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