Category Archives: National Stuff

National stuff and Newburyport, MA

My Opinion — The Worst Website in America, and Hurray for the People who are Standing Up and Speaking Out Against it

Newburyport, Massachusetts, my beloved hometown, got “grazed” by, in my mind, a horrible website called RoadSnacks.  That got me curious and I started looking into it.

The website is run by Christopher (Chris)  Kolmar and his partner Nikolaos (Nick) Johnson, of  Chasing Chains, L.L.C., 210 Strolling Way, Durham, North Carolina  (see previous post).

“Our goal is to show you the real side of places that not everyone wants to hear. We use data to create bite-sized snacks of shareable information about places and cities across the country. We call it the ‘other’ side of regional infotainment.”

Worst Website -- RoadSnacks

The labels that they have put on cities and towns across the country are things like “The Worst Cities in ___ State.”  Or even worse,  “The Most Dangerous Cities in ___ State.”  And this is hurting communities and the people who live in them all across the country.  And people are standing up and speaking out against  Christopher (Chris) Kolmar and his partner Nikolaos (Nick) Johnson of RoadSnacks, and I am wicked proud of them.  Here is a list partial of people who have had the courage to speak up and speak out.

People who have stood up to Christopher (Chris) Kolmar and his partner Nikolaos (Nick) Johnson (yes, “standing up to” implies standing up to bullies).  And these are just some of the many people who spoken out — it is a long, long list.

1)  Dr. Andrew J. Pegoda, Texas,   “An Open Letter to Chris Kolmar and Nick Johnson of RoadSnacks: Please Remember People Have Feelings”

“How would you feel if your hometown or present home came up on a viral list as among the worst places to live? Especially, if you didn’t have the means to relocate or make things “better” (a subjective state)? Imagine the 5 year-old or the 45 year-old sitting in front of the television or computer hearing that their home is among “the worst” places in Texas?”

“Additionally, your list, likely not intentionally but the effect is the same nonetheless, embodies and perpetuates racism. It could cause business to avoid areas where such business could really be needed in terms of jobs and services provided. “

2)  Molly McWilliams Wilkins, Georgia,  “In Defense of Small Towns”

“I’m immensely bothered by these list articles, and I even have to write some for the website I work for but let me tell y’all: I call each of the places I’m writing about, assuming I don’t have first hand knowledge of the sites. I do my research. I don’t hide behind numbers and algorithms and all that other nonsense. You know why? Because I, and the people I work for, realize something very important.

You can’t put a number on heart. You can’t measure the reach of souls.

An algorithm can’t accurately measure the worth of a smile and a heartfelt hug or handshake.”

“But you need to consider the soul, and heart, of the places you write about. And realize that there are some who not only choose to live in them, but cherish their hometowns.”

3)  Mike Parker, North Carolina,  “RoadSnacks’ blast gives me indigestion”

“He also admits that his conclusions are not really scientifically based as much as “opinion-based data” and “not to be taken for fact.” “


“My dad once told me: ‘Son, figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.’ “

“For the record: I am proud of the place I choose to call home.”

4)  Aaron Brown,  Minnesota,  “Warm greetings from Minnesota’s northern hellscape”

“Before you fall over yourselves rushing to see the site, know that it’s click bait. Believe it or not, is not a repository of our century’s finest thinking, but a website that profits when people look at their ads. It lacks the dignity of a site like this one, which has the class and intellectual merit to attract far fewer readers while making almost no profits whatsoever.”

5)  Barry Saunders, North Carolina,  “Rockingham deserves better from RoadSnacks”

“…many wonderful people there who are struggling to turn it around.

The last thing they need is some smarmy hipsters poking fun at it for what they call ‘infotainment.’ ”

“…it’s easier to pick on struggling municipalities in which you’ve probably never et a Vienna sausage than to look into what’s causing the problems you so erroneously and cavalierly catalogue – for infotainment.”

Worst Website Roadsnacks

6)  Brian Blueskye, California, “In Defense of DHS: An ‘Analysis’ Recently Declared That Desert Hot Springs Is the Worst Place to Live in California. Here’s Why We Disagree.”

” ‘The two people who run that website, they do one of those lists on every state,” Betts said. “They’re click-whores. They’re just doing that to build traffic. How can they possibly analyze all 50 states?’ “

“People who know me will vouch for the fact that I’m not much of an optimist. So believe me when I tell you that I see Desert Hot Springs as a decent place to live, that’s filled with people who care about their city, being led by a city government that’s working to solve problems.”

7) North Carolina, “OUR VIEW: Defy, don’t just deny, county’s ‘worst’ labels”

“We questioned the source — a three-month-old website that posts provocative localized listicles meant to serve as cheap clickbait that draws eyeballs to its advertisers.”

“..we reminded ourselves and each other about the natural beauty and local amenities Richmond County has to offer. From Hitchcock Creek, Hinson Lake and the Sandhills Game Lands to Discovery Place Kids, Rockingham Dragway and the Hamlet Depot and Museums, we listed the many things that make our county a truly great place to live.”

“That’s what’s really important, after all. Proving provocateurs like RoadSnacks dead wrong is just the icing on the cake.

Forget denial, Richmond County. This is a challenge that calls for defiance.”

8) Mark Saal, Utah, “Ogden second worst? That couldn’t be worse”

“It simply makes no sense.”

“— henceforth and forever I wasn’t going to report the source of these vacuous helpings of intellectual cotton candy. Mostly because the companies that compile these lists are what we in the business affectionately refer to as “publicity whores.”

“…an attempt to attract as much media attention as possible.”

“And finally, as authoritative as I’d love to consider RoadSnacks (D’oh! Mentioned it again), it’s important to note that the “company” — possibly just some 20-something with a computer, living in his parents’ basement — is headquartered out of Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina, people.”

Worst Website--RoadSnacks

9)  Mark Muckenfuss, California, Who asks the question, “Does Nick Johnson want to become the most hated man in America?”

“What’s wrong with Nick Johnson? Does he really want to become the most hated man in America?”

“I only know (Nick Johnson) because the guy used to work here at The Press-Enterprise. A nice enough fellow. At least he seemed so at the time. But now I’m wondering if he has a death wish.

Johnson has made it his job to tell people they live in terrible places. And that usually doesn’t make them very happy. They tend to get a wee bit sensitive when you say, “Hey! Your home town? That place you love? It’s a toilet.”

Johnson doesn’t actually say that. But he and his company compile lists of the worst cities to live in.”

” ‘I’ve had some really sappy letters sent to me that made me feel sad about doing this and we almost stopped. They said ‘You hurt everyone’s feelings,’ and we said, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t do this.’ ”  “…But then he (Nick Johnson) looks at the traffic on the website.”

10)  Steve Urbon, Massachusetts, “Worst? Buddy, you don’t know the meaning of worst — Mayor Jon Mitchell took the printout I had handed him, made a face and held it up like a soiled diaper”

“Some crackpot website in Durham, North Carolina, had messed around with some statistics…”

“You would think that if you’re going to publish something online that serves as cheap “linkbait,” you could at least get the numbers right.”

“If you’re going to cite four statistics and get at least two of them wrong, that does call into question the seriousness of this enterprise. And a three-year-old Google Maps photo of a deserted Union Street suggests you’ve never been here.”

11)  Tasnim Shamma, Georgia,  “Faulty Data Is Behind Georgia City’s Most Dangerous Ranking”

This article quotes the FBI which urges people not to use their data.  However, Christopher Kolmar and Nick Johnson do use this FBI  data in compiling some of their lists. The FBI warns against using the data, and this is what the FBI has to say:

“UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting) data are sometimes used to compile rankings of individual jurisdictions and institutions of higher learning.  These incomplete analyses have often created misleading perceptions which adversely affect geographic entities and their residents. Despite repeated warnings against these practices, some data users continue to challenge and misunderstand this position.”

“When providing/using agency oriented statistics, the FBI cautions and, in fact, strongly discourages data users against using rankings to evaluate locales or the effectiveness of their law enforcement agencies.”

The article quotes Robert Friedmann, the director of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange at Georgia State.

“…the rankings are irresponsible clickbait. It makes people panic and can affect a city’s local economy if it prevents people from moving there.”

12)  Sam Burnham, Georgia, “A (Real) Georgian’s response to RoadSacks Top 10”

“I have friends that live in some, I have spent nights in some, played high school football games in some. I know these small towns. These are the places that produce the finest watermelons, peaches, pecans, and onions in the world. Many of these towns have storied histories, intricate architecture, even museums.”

“I’ve never felt in danger in Vidalia, Thomaston, Cordele, etc. I can’t say the same for the metro.”

“Give me real Georgia.”

13) The Mayor of Kinston, North Carolina,  “Responding to Crime Ranking Websites”

“Your ranking reports represent misleading marketing strategies that could be considered unscrupulous trade practices that can severely threaten economic development projects for the communities you rank. I am copying the Attorney General to request a review of your ranking methodology, which is designed to scare citizens and even consumers. Some companies have been known to utilize your misleading data to send marketing material soliciting the purchase of home security systems.”

Is Newburyport no Longer a Place where the Middle Class are Welcomed?


Within the last year I’ve had two experiences that I hope, hope, hope are not indicative of a trend.

I need some things done around my reasonably modest dwelling, and I went looking for quotes.

For the first undertaking, I got one quote from a young man, who was highly recommended, it was 7.5 to 5 times higher than other quotes.  This was a young man in his 30s. Apparently he felt that, if I was willing to pay such an exorbitant price, it was gravy for him, otherwise he wasn’t interested.  I said no, and told everyone about him, and everyone I told was pretty shocked.

It happened again, about 10 months later, a completely different sort of task.  Another young man in his 30s. This time it was only 4 times the going rate. And when I asked if the person would accept a lower price, because it was so outrageous (and I was very, very tactful), the reply I got, “It just doesn’t make sense for me to spend anymore time on this so I’m going to pass on the job.” Believe me, as a consumer, I am allowed to asked questions, get quotes. I’ve never before felt as if I’d been “fired” by someone I asked whether or not they might be able to assist me.

If I lived in Salisbury or Amesbury, would I have gotten this same treatment? I’m guessing, probably not. But then again, if I lived in Salisbury or Amesbury, they might not have even bothered to return my phone call, because apparently so much money can be made off of the people who now live in Newburyport, MA.

I was talking to a friend about the “chutzpa” (shameless audacity, impudence) and dismissiveness, and they said, it’s probably because of the kind of people moving into Newburyport now.  There is now a gorgeous multi-million dollar home within sight of where I live (it was not a multi-million dollar property before, see earlier post), a middle class family is not going to buy that one.

It feels as if Newburyport has gone over a tipping point. It feels as if this is not a place for the middle class, i.e. teachers, nurses, accountants, middle class professionals to find a home anymore. There was once a spot where there was a balance of the “old guard/natives” and the new arrivals. The carpetbaggers had come in, but they were teachers, nurses, accountants, people with small businesses, artists, craftsmen, writers, even some doctors and lawyers. It feels as if Newburyport may soon no longer be hospitable to those folks either.

Are we going from gentrification, which has been described as “the conversion of working class areas into a middle-class area,” to an exclusive, luxury municipal location that only the very wealthy can inhabit–what Nantucket has now become? And Stephen Karp hasn’t even started to build yet.

Newburyport, The Stretch Code and Historic Preservation

Rennovation on Lime Street, September 2015

Rennovation on Lime Street, September 2015

Jerry Mullins over at Brick and Tree is on a tear about the city’s Stretch Code.

Jerry is right, the Stretch Code does not apply to historic buildings in Newburyport. This is from the Q&A from the Green Communities Grant Program (page 4):

12. Does the stretch code apply to historic buildings?
Both the stretch code and the base energy code exempt historic buildings listed in state or national registers, or designated as a historic property under local or state designation law or survey, or with an opinion or certification that the property is eligible to be listed.

According to Jerry this information is not being explained in a comprehensive manner by the folks responsible at City Hall. And unlike Jerry, I am unwilling to throw the mayor and the building inspector under the bus, because I think that it is more complicated.

The EPA has a pamphlet on “Energy Advice for Owners of Historic and Older Homes,” in which they give great advice and information, and also talk about “comfort levels.”

When I bought my first home in Newburyport in 1981, a historic home, it never occurred to anyone I knew to take an old historic home down to the studs. We did a lot of things recommended by the pamphlet by the EPA, but we were also willing to live with a lower “comfort level” for the privilege of living in a historic house. Yes, the houses were drafty* but that was just part of the deal, and also the codes are very different today, then they were in 1981.

My impression is that folks who are buying homes today in Newburyport want a 100% “comfort level.” It’s not just what the building inspector may or may not be saying, bottom line, the people moving here now often want a new home inside an old shell, (please see a previous post about other things that folks want, and Alex Dardinski’s very thoughtful reply). How to balance historic preservation, and all the regulations and expectations in the year 2015 in Newburyport?? I do not think that there are easy answers to that question.

Alex Dardinski articulated his point of view, “I don’t want to live in Williamsburg, but in a tapestry of history rather than a single place in time.”

Rennovation on Lime Street, September 2015

Rennovation on Lime Street, September 2015

*This is from “Energy Advice for Owners of Historic and Older Homes”

“Walls: To insulate or not to insulate?
Wall insulation can be problematic in historic structures as it is difficult to install properly due to the unpredictable nature of historic walls.
• There may be old knob and tube wiring in the wall which would present a fire hazard.
• Blocking, fire stops, or forgotten or obsolete chases will result in cold pockets. Anywhere the insulation does not or cannot reach, such as the junction between the exterior wall and the floor joists, can create thermal bridging. These cold pockets and thermal bridges set up areas where moisture can condense. (Imagine a cold glass on a hot day and the beads of water than form on the glass to understand this concept.)
• Any time you have moisture in the wall, the possibility of decay and mold increases.
• Pumping in dense pack cellulose insulation in the walls can cause the keys that attach plaster walls to the supporting lath can be broken, necessitating repairs.

The trouble and expense of insulating historic walls may not be the best bang for your buck. Once you have air sealed and insulated your attic, tuned up (or replaced your furnace), and completed some of the higher priority energy saving techniques you might then consider insulating your walls but get advice from an expert. By undertaking these other energy-saving measures first, you may find that your comfort level goes up and your energy expenses go down significantly without the need to insulate the walls.

If your home dates to the 1850s or earlier and its frame is made of wood, there is a good chance that is has post and beam construction rather than balloon framing. This is an important consideration if you’re thinking about adding insulation in the walls.

Without modern vapor barriers and insulation, air and moisture in the house moved more easily between inside and outside. Adding insulation to the wall cavities without understanding how the house functions as a system and without establishing new ways to circulate air through the home can cause moisture to accumulate. High moisture levels can result in mold and rot, creating serious problems for the homeowner as well as unnecessary expense.”

Mobile Phones and Historic Preservation and Losing Newburyport’s Story

I have this theory that mobile phones are changing our culture in ways that its inventor never would have imagined.  And the cell phone has been amazing in many ways, and, I think that they have had some unintended consequences.

The street artist Bansky had something to say about one of those unintended consequences.

Mobile Lovers, street art by Bansky

Mobile Lovers, street art by Bansky

Mobile Lovers, street art by Bansky

And I’m wondering what the impact of the culture created around mobile phones has on historic preservation.

With a cellphone culture “immediate and superficial gratification” is taken to a whole new level. It’s a Buzzfeed way of getting information.

What turns up when I search my mobile cell phone for “Newburyport” is Tripadvisor, restaurants and places to shop. The Newburyport Daily News used to be in the top two on a desktop computer.  It’s now more difficult to find the Daily News on a mobile device. It’s hard to find  detailed local content. It’s difficult to find real meaningful, thoughtful content.  Mobile devices are not geared for reading profound and thoughtful knowledge. It’s a Buzzfeed, quick bullet-point, mobile world.

And this has to have some “interesting” effects.

It feels in the new mobile world (which is now global) “new” very suddenly, almost wipes out anything “older.” And sometimes I wonder if  people now look at historic homes with the mindset, as something to be replaced, like an old version of an iphone.

If this is remotely true, and the previous post about HGTV and Newburyport losing its patina, is remotely true, historic preservationist need to rethink their approach. They need to adapt.

This is from Bernice Radle  (now part of HGTV), a preservationist in Buffalo, NY.

“Few people understand the changing nature of preservation, because our reactionary language looks backward and is architecture-centric. We’ve too often allowed ourselves to be framed by others as nostalgic – seeking to return to the past because we can’t cope with the reality of life today.”

There are so many people scrambling to preserve not only Newburyport’s historic homes, but Newburyport’s story as well. And I think for so many people, Newburyport’s story feels as if it’s being lost, it is slipping away, and they are puzzled and sometimes slightly panicked about what to do.

Healthcare Insurance and being an Artist and the Affordable Care Act

The Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act

The Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act

I’ve bought my own health insurance, as an artist, before there was such a thing  “managed care,” i.e. HMOs… so we’re talking multiple decades of buying health insurance as an artist.

And in various years, on those often frosty February days, when I might daydream of moving to a warmer climate, even to a “red” state (I am talking daydreaming here–I do love my blue to purplish Massachusetts),  I came to realize, before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that moving to anyplace except Massachusetts, might not be possible.

My father used to say, “Mary, after 40, it’s just patch, patch, patch.” And what he meant by that, is that everyone, if one is lucky,  gets older, no matter who you are.  And when you get older, the parts wear out, and things can go wrong, to slightly misguided, to very amiss (the buzz word for that is “pre-existing conditions”).

And what I began to realize was, that even though I might like to, in a daydreaming sort of way, move to a warmer, less blizzard-prone, red state, because of the “patch, patch, patch” thing, health insurance people might not cover me, really.

So, along comes the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and in 2014, I would/could have the choice, if I wanted to, of living in any state in the United States of America, no matter what condition my health might be–the “patch, patch, patch thing.”

BUT, in November 2014 all of that was put into jeopardy, the Supreme Court decided to take up a case that could send the Affordable Care Act into a death spiral. Now, I probably would like to stay right here in Newburyport, Massachusetts, but you never know.  And no Affordable Care Act (ACA) means that the mobility for artists, like me, would be severely hampered.  And I don’t like that.

But yesterday, on June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled for the Affordable Care Act in a 6-3 decision. And I did a pretty weepy happy dance in the end zone of my choice, because, people like me, artists, now have the choice to live in any state in the United State of America. And I am a very glad about that.

Health Professionals Alarmed about Removing Fluoride from Newburyport’s Water System


I had someone in the medical field call me up last night and they were besides themselves about the possibility of taking fluoride out of Newburyport’s water system, because of what it would do to the health and welfare of our children and residents.

What I told them that it is really, really important for all the pediatricians, family doctors, internists, general practitioners, and yes, even all specialists in Newburyport and the surrounding areas, to speak up ASAP and contact everyone of our Newburyport city councilors. Apparently, dentists no longer count as doctors who have a valid opinion (which is that fluoride is essential to dental health) because they have been marginalized by the anti-fluoride folks for looking out for their own self interest, and being (I’m not kidding here) in the pockets of the chemical companies.

Our doctors have incredibly busy lives (and this is a vast understatement, and who knows if they can take the time to be proactive).  And this is only my opinion, but I am mystified that Daniel Enyink of Dr. Dan’s Natural Healing Center has the time, not only to aid in the mobilization of anti-fluoride folks in Newburyport (see earlier post), but to give testimony at other communities as well. I know how busy my doctors are.

I have read Enyink’s testimony in the minutes of other communities, and it is very convincing, but again this is my opinion, as one local health professional said to me it is “irresponsible,” and in my opinion, just plain old crazy.

An article by Dr. John Colquhoun (now deceased), written in 1997, is one of the pieces of literature that the anti-fluoride folks point to.

There was a response written in 1999 in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, by Dr. Ernest Newbrun and Dr. Herschel Horowitz, a short excerpt is below, and the whole article can be read here.

…”Colquhoun presented no new data. His paper rehashed earlier criticisms of water fluoridation, using selective and highly biased citations of the scientific and nonscientific literature [2-10]”…

…”Opponents of fluoridation like nothing more than to have public debates on the radio, television, or in the press because it makes fluoridation seem a “controversial ” issue and gives them free publicity. In such debates with an equal number of speakers pro and contra, it appears as if the health science community is evenly divided on this issue. In fact, the overwhelming majority, probably well over 90%, of scientists, physicians, dentists, nurses, veterinarians and public health professionals fully support community water fluoridation.”

Again, the entire article which address the issue of how dangerous and crazy it would be to take fluoride out of Newburyport’s drinking water can be read here.

And as a PS, I never knew I would end up thinking about, much less researching and knowing as much as I now know about fluoride. Who knew? Who would have ever imagined?

The First Draft of the 40R District around the Train Station

I’ve seen the first draft of the new 40R Smart Growth District around the train station.

The proposed 40R District (see previous post) would allow for mixed use buildings near the train station, traffic circle, parts of Rt 1 and the area on lower State Street between Lunt and Kelly and the edge of the cemetery. There is a new updated map (see below), the larger area subdistrict B is zoned for 4 story buildings (45 ft), Subdistricts A and C is zoned for 3 story building (35 ft), and the Minco building would be zoned for 5 stories (55 ft).


Four story buildings in Portland Maine, please press image to enlarge.

And I’ve gone on a hunt for some good looking 4 story buildings. I have found only one photo that is in the public domain, it is in Portland Maine.

I’m a little confused about Google’s copyright laws, and WordPress does not allow me to embed Google’s images, so what I’ve done is put links to 4 story buildings in Portland ME, Providence RI and Haverhill MA. Haverhill has, on Washington Street, what I think is a gorgeous, but rundown historic section of 4 story building. I love them.

And when you press on the links for the different cities, you can go on a “Google drive” through the areas and see what you thinks works and what does not work. Interesting stuff. Also, the buildings take a few seconds to show up after you press the links.

Portland Maine’s links can he found here, here, here, here and here.
Providence Rhode Island’s links can be found here, here and here.
Haverhill Mass links can be found here, here and here.


Updated 40R Smart Growth Village District map, please press image to enlarge.

In looking at the initial 40R draft (this is just the beginning of a large process that the city will go through) a couple of things stand out.

1) The design review is outstanding. Yah!! I hope that means that the Minco building will be forced to look awesome.

2) There is extensive input into the affordable housing aspect of the district (I’m sure the affordable housing folks with Phd’s in the subject, will have lots of input). It looked great to me.

3) Parking seems a little “skimpy” to me. A residential unit only gets one parking spot. But there is “shared parking,” with businesses and residents, which use parking at different times during the day and week, the objective being not to have lots of wasted, barren parking lots. There are so many people in this city who have Phd’s in parking, and I am not one of them. I am hoping, and pretty sure that they would figure out the “Goldilocks” version of parking, “not too much, not too little, but just right.”

4) The setbacks of the buildings are puzzling to me. There are “no requirements” on setbacks on front, side and rear yards. The way it was explained to me is that there would be no requirements for setbacks for mid-block buildings, but it might be a good idea to look at the setback requirements for intersections (and there seem to me to be a whole lot of intersections). At this point, we do not have close-up renderings of what buildings would look like in different areas of the proposed 40R District.

This is one of my main questions. I can’t imagine 4 story building around the traffic circle where Dunkin’ Donuts is and where the Bird Watcher is located. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live on that dangerous and noisy area, and being so close to a busy traffic circle. Renderings are definitely needed.

5) Not in the 1st draft, but backup information that would be arriving in the coming weeks that would include:

(1) estimated maximum dwelling units
(2) expected sewer flows (and how to pay for them)
(3) expected traffic impacts
(4) renderings/photo-simulations of new buildings
(5) expected impacts on schools
(6) expected c. 40R and c. 40S payments from the Commonwealth
(7) expected property tax revenues

You Can go to Jail in Florida for Buying Hearing Aides Online

You can go to jail in Florida for buying a hearing aide online. How do I know this obscure and weird piece of information, one might ask? circuitous research that has oddly led me to pass on some very helpful information to other people–so, why not pass this information on, on The Newburyport Blog?


Behind the ear hearing aids are becoming stylish and are the size of a dime.

Back in my 30’s (oh, so long ago) I was told that I had some hearing loss. I was told this along the way by an astute physician. I did nothing for decades. And yes, eventually it became obvious that something needed to be looked into.

Very short version. If you go to an audiologist, hearing aids (and yes, those of us who are “younger” sometimes need them) can cost between $4,000-$6,000 and up for a pair. And insurance doesn’t pay for them. Whoowza. The price of a number of brand spanking new laptops or a used car. Good grief.

However, several things have conspired to help those whom, “You’ve gotta be kidding,” is their fist and final remark.

First, the internet happened. Second, the FDA did something (which I really don’t understand) that makes it possible to sell hearing aids through folks other than audiologists. Third, some very bright young men were horrified that either their family members or patients were forced to do without, or take out a loan to buy hearing aids, and they went and did something about it (creating hearing aids that vary from $500 to $1,400 a pair). Fourth, Costco, of all places, has gotten into the business of selling hearing aids in bulk big time (for around $2,000 for a pair).

What I went looking for was a first step version of a hearing aid. The equivalent of going to CVS and buying a pair of reading glasses, before eventually making the big leap and going for the more expensive prescription version.

After copious amount of research I found a young Otolaryngologist (a hearing doctor) based in Chicago who was upset that so many of his patients couldn’t afford, and therefore didn’t get the hearing aids that they needed. Dr. Cherukuri came up with a generic, “one size fits most,” that are  apparently not cheap in quality, hearing aid for his patients and now for anyone who wants to buy them. MDHearingAids–starting at $360 a pair to $600 a pair to $1,000 a pair, with a 45 day trial period. Unbelievable rave reviews. Sounded good to me.

Reading a New York Times article on this same dilemma, I found out about Audicus. You send in a copy of your hearing test, that insurance does pay for, and then they customize your hearing aide to fit the prescription, and then mail it to you for $1,200-$1,300-$1,400 a pair, with a 45 day trial period. They are also trying to take away the stigma of having a hearing aid by making them look sexier (not your grandpa’s hearing aid any more).

And then there is Costco, rave review everywhere. They do the hearing test right there, they work with major hearing aid manufactures, they have their own line, and pair goes for around $2,000, with a 90 day trial period.

And you can imagine that audiologists all over the place are having a fit about this. And that’s how I found out that some are having such a fit that in a state like Florida, buying a hearing aid online is a second degree misdemeanor and you can get up to 6 months in jail (although apparently that has never happened to anyone). Who knew that the editor of The Newburyport Blog would discover such an amazing tidbit of information. It makes me wish that I had the talents of someone like Carl Hiaasen because, Whowza, what a fun satire on all sorts of things someone could make out of that small little soupcon of information.

In Support of Fluoride

Some research in support of fluoride in Newburyport’s drinking water (see earlier post here).

National and International Organizations That Recognize the Public Health Benefits of Community Water Fluoridation for Preventing Dental Decay

Academy of Dentistry International
Academy of General Dentistry
Academy for Sports Dentistry
Alzheimer’s Association
America’s Health Insurance Plans
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
American Academy of Periodontology
American Academy of Physician Assistants
American Association for Community Dental Programs
American Association for Dental Research
American Association for Health Education
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Endodontists
American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
American Association of Orthodontists
American Association of Public Health Dentistry
American Association of Women Dentists
American Cancer Society
American College of Dentists
American College of Physicians–American Society of Internal Medicine
American College of Preventive Medicine
American College of Prosthodontists
American Council on Science and Health
American Dental Assistants Association
American Dental Association
American Dental Education Association
American Dental Hygienists’ Association
American Dietetic Association
American Federation of Labor and Congress
of Industrial Organizations
American Hospital Association
American Legislative Exchange Council
American Medical Association
American Nurses Association
American Osteopathic Association
American Pharmacists Association
American Public Health Association
American School Health Association
American Society for Clinical Nutrition
American Society for Nutritional Sciences
American Student Dental Association
American Water Works Association
Association for Academic Health Centers
Association of American Medical Colleges
Association of Clinicians for the Underserved
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Association of State and Territorial Public Health
Nutrition Directors
British Fluoridation Society
Canadian Dental Association
Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
Canadian Medical Association
Canadian Nurses Association
Canadian Paediatric Society
Canadian Public Health Association
Child Welfare League of America
Children’s Dental Health Project
Chocolate Manufacturers Association
Consumer Federation of America
Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
Delta Dental Plans Association
FDI World Dental Federation
Federation of American Hospitals
Hispanic Dental Association
Indian Dental Association (U.S.A.)
Institute of Medicine
International Association for Dental Research
International Association for Orthodontics
International College of Dentists
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
National Association of Community Health Centers
National Association of County and City Health Officials
National Association of Dental Assistants
National Association of Local Boards of Health
National Association of Social Workers
National Confectioners Association
National Dental Assistants Association
National Dental Association
National Dental Hygienists’ Association
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Down Syndrome Society
National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped
National Head Start Association
National Health Law Program
National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition
Oral Health America
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Society for Public Health Education
Society of American Indian Dentists
Special Care Dentistry
Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities
American Association of Hospital Dentists
American Society for Geriatric Dentistry
The Children’s Health Fund
The Dental Health Foundation (of California)
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Public Health Service
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
World Federation of Orthodontists
World Health Organization

From  the Society of Toxicology:

“The impact of fluoridated water has been so dramatic that the Centers for Disease Control lists it as one of the 10 great health achievements of the 20th century. Despite this, serious opposition exists against fluoridated water, and attacks by these groups usually ignore the concept of dose. As a result, less than 60% of the U.S. water supply is fluoridated. This discussion can be adapted for people ranging from 80 yrs old to 8 years of age, and possibly younger. Be sure to emphasize the benefits of fluoride and reemphasize this, particularly with younger students, so that they go home understanding that it is okay to use fluoridated toothpaste and drink fluoridated water.”

A link recommended by the American Academy of Diabetes:

“For starters, get rid of plaque by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste”

From the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology:

“I know of no scientifically validated effect of fluoride on food allergy of any sort, including peanut and tree nut allergy. Also, I could not find any reference to such in a search of the medical literature.

Thank you again for your inquiry.


Phil Lieberman, M.D.”

From the American Cancer Society:

“The general consensus among the reviews done to date is that there is no strong evidence of a link between water fluoridation and cancer.”

From the National Kidney Foundation:

“There is no evidence that consumption of optimally fluoridated drinking water increases the risk of developing CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease)”

The Fluoride Wars Come to Newburyport


On Monday night outside Newburyport’s City Hall, there were protesters with anti-fluoride signs and people screaming “poison.”

Inside City Hall were there were a stream of people, from all over the region (a couple who actually lived in Newburyport) speaking about the evils of fluoride in Newburyport’s drinking water.

Daniel Eyink of Dr. Dan’s Natural Healing Center on High Street, is a leader of the anti-fluoride opponents. Dr. Dan worked as an internist and primary care doctor in Newburyport starting in 1998 and started his healing center in 2009.

Dr. Dan probably has the best bedside manner of any doctor around. If all doctors followed his example on his bedside manner, the medical profession would be a far better place. My understanding is that Dr. Dan is often the person of last resort when medical professionals cannot figure out how to help a patient. And Dr. Dan is well loved and respected by many people in the community. However, if my doctor helped lead a movement against something that every world health organization enthusiastically endorses, I wouldn’t even say a peep, I’d just find another doctor.

The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Dental Association (ADA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Family Physicians, and  the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which named the measure one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century–all of these organizations are in agreement that fluoride in the water supply is not only safe, but also extremely effective and important in preventing tooth decay. For the anti-fluoride folks, this does not matter. Fluoride is “poison.” And for me this point of view is not unlike some people not getting vaccinated for measles, mumps and chickenpox, and thereby putting a whole new population at risk.

Newburyport City Councilors Meghan Kinsey and Ari Herzog have put a proposal to the Newburyport City Council to put banning fluoride on this November ballot. If the Newburyport City Council decides to put this issue on the ballot, it will make the 50 year fight over Newburyport’s Waterfront, and the fight over the Local Historic District look positively civilized.

Slate documented what happened in Portland when this issue came to a vote. The anti-fluoride folks went for a black and white, no holds barred approach based on fear, hysteria and faulty science, and successfully persuaded the people of Portland to vote against having fluoride in the water system–fear and doubt, out did reason and good medical science (the article can be read here).

Newburyport City Councilors Meghan Kinsey and Ari Herzog have put the rest of the City Council between a rock and a hard place. Does the City Council let the people of Newburyport vote, democracy and all, or do they say this is absolutely ridiculous, we are not subjecting the city of Newburyport to voting on such nonsense, and dividing the community over hysteria, fear and misguided science.

If they do decide to put it on the ballot, judging by Monday night–Wow.

Market Basket, Update August 8, 2014–“Off With Their Heads”

Market Basket

Market Basket

Well, they went and did it. As I write, roughly 20,000 part time associates at Market Basket–their hours next week have been cut to zero.

As I understand it Market Basket employs 25,000 people.

Market Basket’s new CEOs have claimed that the 8,000 part time associates in New Hampshire and 12,000 associates in Massachusetts, have not been laid off.

It’s a technicality, zero hours = no work, and the attorney generals in New Hampshire and Massachusetts are addressing the issue of associates receiving unemployment benefits.

Oy Veh.

Councilor Colin Van Ostern from New Hampshire writes/tweets, “Cutting 8,000 #MarketBasket part-timers from work next wk is economic equivalent of a natural disaster, that is how state must treat it.”

What is so creepy, is that the new Market Basket CEOs are letting the store managers do all their dirty work. The CEOs claim that no one is being laid off. Again, sort of a technicality.

And part time often is 25-35 hours a week, we are not talking about just a few hours here and there for 20,000 people.

So the workers stuck their necks out, and the CEOs and current Board of Directors said, “Off with their heads.”

“The impact of these cutbacks in hours will be devastating, if not crippling, to the majority of the company’s 25,000 employees. Again, it needs to be made clear, the only people striking are the drivers, warehouse workers and those who work in the offices at HQ. But these draconian cuts will impact the employees at all 71 stores.

Many of these employees are college and high school students, single parents and retirees on fixed incomes. These cuts will be crushing.

Which is exactly why Gooch, Thornton and Arthur S. are doing it. They want to rip the very heart out of this employee rebellion by hurting its most vulnerable participants.

They are intentionally punishing those workers who had the temerity to speak their minds and support Arthur T. and the strikers. These employees had the gall to stand up against what they believed to be a wrong being done to their former boss and their fellow workers. All the while, reporting for work every day and doing their jobs.

Their only “crime” is loyalty, a love of their company and their boss and exercising their First Amendment rights…” From Your Tewksbury Today. The entire article can be read here.

Newburyport, Market Basket, Update August 1, 2014

This morning, before I went to Shaw’s to go grocery shopping, I stopped by Market Basket to see how they were doing.

Empty Parking lot at Market Basket, Newburyport

Empty Parking lot at Market Basket, Newburyport

The parking lot was empty.

The employees at Market Basket are not afraid of the yesterday’s threat by the two new CEOs. They were out protesting again on Storey Avenue, and people were honking like mad in support–a practical symphony.

Employees protesting on Storey Ave, at Newburyport's Market Basket

Employees protesting on Storey Ave, at Newburyport’s Market Basket

There were signs all over Market Basket’s front windows.

Signs on Newburyport's Market Basket's front window

Signs on Newburyport’s Market Basket’s front window

And signs in front of the door.

Signs in front of Market Basket's door

Signs in front of Market Basket’s door

And the front window is now littered with receipts from other grocery stores, put there by customers.

And the front window is now littered with receipts from other stores from put up by customers.

The front window is now littered with receipts from other stores, put there by customers.

There is even a heartfelt letter from a customer taped to the window.

A heartfelt letter from a customer

A heartfelt letter from a customer

The parking lot at Shaw’s was jammed. And inside Shaw’s the aisles were full and there were lines at the checkout counters. Peoples’ carts were full. They were shopping there for the weekend.

And I talked to folks. I talked to one woman who said that she had been shopping at Market Basket since 1968, and she wouldn’t go back until Arthur T was once again in charge.

Customers continue their boycott of Market Basket and employees continue to protest (on their days off and on their breaks).

And again, as for the threat of a job fair, if people are working, who is going to go.

And you can see coverage on this story by MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” here.

Market Basket’s CEOs Scare Tactics and a Misleading and Manipulative PR Statement

Customers grocery slips from other stores on Market Basket's door

Customers grocery slips from other stores on Market Basket’s door and a poster of Arthur T

Late yesterday afternoon, Market Basket’s new CEOs released a PR statement that got a lot of attention all over the world (I’m not kidding). The headline in today’s Daily Mail, UK, “Grocery chain threatens to sack ALL its workers unless they return to work from mass protests to save “It’s a Wonderful Life CEO who lost control of the company.” The article can be read here.

The CEOs’ statement “We want Market Basket associates back to work…” And it states that they are going to hold a job fair to replace workers starting Monday August 4–August 6th. The whole statement can be read here.

The manipulative implication of the PR statement is that no one is working at the Market Basket stores. And it wasn’t only the UK’s Daily Mail that came to that conclusion, papers all over the country and the world came to the same conclusion as well (the PR statement exploded on Twitter and Facebook yesterday afternoon and evening).

My take, the PR statement was designed to cause panic, fear, anger–anger at the Market Basket employees, and to make folks think that the employees aren’t working, when they are.

It could also be a PR ploy to get the word out, that the stores are actually running (although devoid of, as of yesterday, dairy, produce and meat). A test to see if customers actually return.

I only know about our Market Basket in Newburyport. ALL of the employees are working (some of their hours have been cut back). The employees are protesting on their days off and on their breaks. No trucks from the warehouse have been refused. Many Market Basket managers and assistant managers have signed a petition promising to resign unless Arthur T. Demoulas is reinstated as their boss. BUT, they have not resigned because, the Board of Directors (at least as I write this) has not announced any decision, so they are very much on the job.

How do I know this, I’ve gone over to Newburyport’s Market Basket any number of times to see what is going on for myself.

These folks, the new CEOs, are playing real mean, manipulative hardball. And as of last night it has become not only a local and national story, but an international mega story as well.

The “David vs. Goliath story, a ‘Tale of Two Arthurs’ and even the ‘ultimate Greek tragedy,” To quote the UK’s Daily Mail, has now captured the imagination of the world.

A PR set-up by the CEOs, and may it backfire big time.

The anger that I feel is towards the existing Board of Directors and new the CEOs that they hired.

Market Basket Update, Continuing PR Disaster, and Real Time Info from Twitter and Facebook


Outside Newburyport’s Market Basket

On this gorgeous summer day, in the middle of Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming, what am I doing? I’m tracking Twitter for the latest updates on the Market Basket Story, going up to Market Basket, not for groceries, but to find out what’s going on and taking photos.

Customers grocery slips from other stores on Market Basket's door

Customers grocery slips from other stores on Market Basket’s door

And what one of the things that is so fascinating to me, is that this Market Basket story is unfolding in real time on Twitter and Facebook. And many of the sources that I now have, are the same one’s that the news media has. I’m hooked.


Aisles are empty of customers at noon.

So this is what I’ve picked up: Arthur T’s original bid was turned down by the Market Basket’s Board of Director’s (unconfirmed), and then there were 4 other bids that were withdrawn after all the chaos started (unconfirmed), for chaos, see previous posts. That’s all in all likelihood, probably right, but, again, “unconfirmed.”


No produce at Market Basket

What is confirmed is that a major player in the family, Rafaela Evans Demoulas, Arthus S’s sister-in-law, arrived back in Boston yesterday. What is also reported, as I write, on Twitter, and on Save Market Basket’s Facebook page, is that Arthur T’s offer is now the only one on the table, and that both sides are working, “around the clock to hammer out a deal; #MarketBasket losing millions of dollars a day amid turmoil.” (From a Boston Globe tweet that can be read here).


No checkout lines at Market Basket at lunch time.

And at our very own local Newburyport Market Basket, people are out protesting in force on Storey Ave. The door to Market Basket is littered with receipts from other stores put up by customers. Inside, the store is virtually empty of customers. No produce has been delivered to the store since last Tuesday. There has been no delivery of any dairy products except ice-cream. And as you can see from the photos, although there are other things on the shelves, the customers, by and large, have seemed to boycotted Market Basket in favor of other stores. And there are no baked goods, but on the wall behind the empty display cases, there is a picture of Artie T and a sign that says “Artie T We Support You,” (press photo to enlarge).


The bakery, empty, with a picture of Artie T and a sign that says “Artie T. We Support You.” (Press image to enlarge.)

Yes, You Can Buy Food in Newburyport, and Market Basket’s Continued PR Disaster

Market Basket, Newburyport

Still Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

I went to Shaw’s this morning bright and early, 8:45, and it was packed and the shelves were stocked and being continuously restocked.

What I sensed among shoppers, many clearly were Market Basket shoppers, was a sense of bewilderment and a sense of panic, “Will I be able to get groceries,” Will I be able to afford groceries,” “Are the groceries here any good.”

The answer is “Yes,” you will be able to get groceries, do not panic, and Shaw’s grocery store, from my conversation with various folks, is doing its best to welcome customers, be unbelievably gracious to customers, welcome back customers, and to do everything they can to take advantage of the opportunity that has now been given them. I was very impressed. Shaw’s hasn’t been this hop’n in a very, very long time.

Arthur S. Demoulas Interview with Boston's Channel 7

Arthur S. Demoulas Interview with Boston’s Channel 7

Market Basket, Board of Directors, this is a very bad thing for you.

And I went over to Market Basket, to put up my Shaw’s grocery receipt up on the window, which was now crowded with receipts from other grocery stores, and the parking lot was empty.

The one shopper that I saw starting to go in, turned around and left.


And Market Basket employees were out on Storey Ave protesting again with signs and had signs just outside the door and the petition to sign, having had a rally for Arthur T. Demoulas yesterday, with an estimated 10,000 people (the story can be read here.)

And yesterday I watched Boston’s Channel 7, WHDH, trying to get a response from President, Arthur S. Demoulas before yesterday’s board meeting.

I was, excuse me, appalled by his behavior when asked about his customers and loyal employees, to me the arrogance and contempt he displayed was astounding (you can watch that exchange here).

To me this is a continuing PR nightmare for Market Basket, Arthur S. Demoulas, the current management, and the Board of Directors. Wow!! And the emotional and psychological stress that it is putting on the community is palpable.

Market Basket/Demoulas Dysfunctional Family Threatens Jobs, Economy, Food in New England

I went foraging for food today.  I went to Shaw’s. On my way past Market Basket there were employees that I’ve known for a long time out on Storey Avenue protesting with signs. And I honked like mad in support.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

I talked to one of the employees at Shaws.  The grocery store is scrambling to keep up with demand, and the gentleman thanked me for being patient and supportive of their effort to get food on the shelves for the folks in Newburyport. He also said that he fully supported the workers at Market Basket, and I quote:

“Once it’s no longer in the family and it becomes public, it’s all over.”

(And I remember Shaw’s when it went public.  The prices there are now a whole lot higher than at Market Basket. And as I remember it, it didn’t used to be that way.)

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

Then I went over to Market Basket and took photos of the people protesting.  Their spirits seemed to be much better today than they were yesterday.  I think they really appreciate the local support, and the larger support for their effort.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

I put my Shaw’s grocery slip in the window at Market Basket, I hope other folks do the same.

Market Basket

Shaw’s grocery slip taped inside Market Basket by a customer

And one of my favorite photos is of a really sweet young lady holding a sign inside Market Basket, next to the photo or Arthur T, that says, “More for your dollar Family.”

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting inside Market Basket

For an explanation of what’s going on, my favorite is still Buzzfeed, “Mind-Blowing Pictures of Empty Shelves As Employees Protest Corporate Greed,” which can be read here. Yesterday’s post on the Newburyport Blog about Market Basket, “Newburyport, Market Basket, a PR Disaster,”can be read here.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Sign outside Market Basket in Newburyport

Newburyport, Market Basket, a PR Disaster

Today, walking into Market Basket, one of Newburyport’s grocery stores , the one that I have shopped at for decades, it felt as if there had been a local disaster, and the employees were required to do their best, stocking what they could in a very spooky feeling store.


Not many people in Newburyport’s Market Basket, or check-out line.

I walked around, took photos, and asked how the folks who worked there were doing. Some said that they were holding up Ok, some said that they were really scared.

no produce Market Basket

No produce on Newburyport’s Market Basket’s shelves.

Buzzfeed has an article, “Mind-Blowing Pictures of Empty Shelves As Employees Protest Corporate Greed,” which explains what is going on, better than I can.  I’ll quote from that article, which can be read in its entirety here.

Newburyport's Market Basket-empty shelves

Empty Shelves at Newburyport’s Market Basket

“Deliveries from Market Basket’s warehouses were halted on Friday, July 18th as warehouse workers walked out to protest the firing of three top level executives in the company…

Market Basket, a family-owned company founded on principles of quality, low prices, and excellent customer service, fell victim to a long-running family feud last year which resulted in board room shake-ups and the ouster of beloved CEO Arthur T. Demoulas…. He is famous for his hands-on approach to management and frequently visited the chain’s 70+ stores, chatting with managers, associates, and customers…

After the new management team refused to address concerns regarding Artie T’s removal, associates, vendors, customers, and even Massachusetts lawmakers banded together to send the board and the new CEOs a strong message about loyalty to their Market Basket “family” through boycotts, rallies, and petitions…

Stores remain open and fully staffed, but with no deliveries everything from produce and meat to plastic shopping bags is in short supply…

On July 20th, at least eight more high-level associates from the corporate office were fired via a letter delivered to them by courier. The eight highly respected associates lost had a combined 280 years of experience with the company….

Associates maintain that they are fighting not just for themselves and their co-workers, but for customers as well, many of whom have fixed or low incomes and rely on Market Basket’s low prices…”

Market Basket, Newburyport, empty parking lot

Pretty empty parking lot at Market Basket

The complete story on Buzzfeed can be read here.

Another Idea on how to have a Win-Win on Recycling Plastic Bags

An idea. I’m brainstorming here.

RecyleCleanThe plastic bag industry definitely has gotten the memo loud and clear about recycling plastic bags. However, the plastic bag recycling industry wants clean dry thin filmed plastic bags for recycling, not soiled ones. That means they want plastic bags to be returned to participating stores. Neither the plastic industry or the City of Newburyport wants them in the recycling bins (plastic bags reek havoc for our recycling machines). The thin film plastic bags and other clean, dry thin film products are then bailed and shipped to places in the United States or to Canada or China for recycling. Recycling thin clean, dry thin film plastic is a billion dollar business, for real (see earlier entry).

So this might be a way to have small stores to be able to recycle plastic bags, if that is what they would like to do. Maybe the stores downtown, on Storey Avenue and in the Tannery might be able to participate (if they wanted to, along with providing reusable bags and bags made out of paper, I’ve seen some really nice ones from stores downtown). And maybe either Market Basket or Shaw’s might be able to be the “anchor store” (see below).

If the “industry” is involved, (the “bad guys”) in helping the city with a plastic bag recycling program, then the plastic bag industry has a real incentive to not only help us start something effective, but make sure that each year it becomes more and more successful.

So this is a quote from on a “Business-to-Business” (B2B) pilot program.  And the website may look like a non-profit, but the American Chemistry Council is behind it (see the fine print at the bottom).  So yes, I am proposing that environmentalist work with “the bad guys” to come up with a solution instead of an outright ban on plastic bags. Nelson Mandela knew about working with your enemy–he becomes your partner.


This is from “Business-to-Business” (B2B), the entire link can be read here. 

“The B2B recycling program staff facilitated partnerships with large retail “anchor” stores and their smaller neighbor merchants that are located in shopping centers and malls. The anchor stores serve as collection points for clean, used plastic bags and film from their customers and from the neighboring stores. The anchor store is then able to use its existing infrastructure to transfer or “backhaul” the plastic bags and film back centers in delivery trucks that would otherwise return empty to their distribution centers.

The smaller retailers benefit because they are able to take advantage of a recycling opportunity that in most cases would be too expensive or unavailable to them. The anchor store benefits by being able to sell more recyclable material and to promote its environmental efforts by using existing resources and committing to a relatively small increase in labor. The Orange County SWMD benefits in many ways including conservation of landfill space due avoided disposal of tons of plastic bags and film, increased recycling rates, and avoided costs for a commercial recycling program as a result of the successes of the B2B recycling program.”


And to learn about Marine Debris, visit NOAA’s (U.S Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Marine Debris website here, including information on what is sometimes referred to the great garbage patch, or how debris accumulates in the ocean here.

From NOAA: “Our oceans are filled with items that do not belong there. Huge amounts of consumer plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items enter the marine environment every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways…”  “The term “Pacific Garbage Patch” is a popular nickname for an area of marine debris concentration in the North Pacific Ocean, located in between Hawaii and California…” “While higher concentrations of litter items can be found in this area, along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets, much of the debris is small pieces of floating plastic that are not immediately evident to the naked eye…”

And from NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog, which can be read here.

“With all of this information flying around, much of it conflicting, what is actually known about these topics? And what do we believe?

First, the name “garbage patch” is a misnomer. There is no island of trash forming in the middle of the ocean, and it cannot be seen with satellite or aerial photographs. While it’s true that these areas have a higher concentration of plastic than other parts of the ocean, much of the debris found in these areas are small bits of plastic (microplastics) that are suspended throughout the water column.  A comparison I like to use is that the debris is more like flecks of pepper floating throughout a bowl of soup, rather than a skim of fat that accumulates (or sits) on the surface…”

“The bottom line really is that all of this human-made trash simply does not belong in our oceans or waterways…”

All of this is not good.  

Why I Personally Like my Plastic Bags, and NO, I’m Not in the Pocket of the Plastic Bag Industry

Gluten Free

Gluten Free

I just vowed I wouldn’t go there, put people ask me, “Why in the world do you want to have plastic bags so much?” And for anyone thinking or saying that I must be in the pocket of the plastic bag industry (because that seems to be the immediate reaction if you happen to like plastic bags), the answer is “No,” and believe me, I have opinions on stuff, people have accused me of a lot worse (see 7+ years of earlier posts).

I have something called celiac disease.  It has been ruled as a disability under the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA).  Who knew? not me that it was ruled a disability, until all this research on plastic bags last week. See the link on ADA and celiac here.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come out with a ruling saying something cannot be labeled gluten free, unless it is really and truly is gluten free, which they have said is 20 parts per million (20 ppm), in other words–a microscopic amount. You can read all about it here, if you feel like it. (That one I knew about, the FDA ruling thing. The White House actually sent me an email telling me about the new gluten food labeling by the FDA, it made my day, week, month, year.)

When I was diagnosed (and all of that info is on the blog if you want to go look for it) back in 2009, no one knew hardly nada about what celiac was. Now, gluten free, here we come, which as it plays out, is fantastic for people with celiac. I was told is that microscopic amounts would make me sick (as in eventually kills you), so scrub out your kitchen, throw out and replace all sorts of stuff.  I thought they were being hysterical nut cases. It turns out “they” were right. When I got rid of anything that might have microscopic amounts of gluten, I started to get better.

The weird thing about celiac is that if effects everyone differently, it has all kinds of different symptoms, and basically they still know mostly nada.  But I am one of those pesky folks where only digesting microscopic amounts takes me 6 weeks to recover. And am I paranoid about getting “glutened?” you bet I am.

Which brings me to plastic bags at the grocery store. When they open one of those plastic bags, I know that no gluten has ever, never ever, been in there.  I am safe, safe, safe. No need to wonder, did I bring home gluten stuff in this bag?  Do I throw this bag away? Do I throw them all away to be safe?  No, every plastic bag is a safe bag for moi.  And it brings peace of mind and serenity to the ever not wonderful challenge of going to the grocery store as a celiac (where gluten is everywhere and not in everything anymore, but still in tons of stuff). And I take those plastic bags that make me feel safe and never glutened, and recycle them back at the grocery store.

Whether people understand my fondness for plastic bags having celiac disease, is up to them. But for me, it is huge.

The Recycling Plastic Bag Slurping Machine


Fun recycling slurping plastic bag machine

I really like the idea of a single use plastic bag recycling slurping machine. (Please see earlier entry here.)

First of all, the plastic bag industry has a huge PR problem on their hands. The sustainable bag folks are right, plastic bags are wandering around not only our local environment, but all over the place.  And the approach at the moment is to ban them outright, which causes all kinds of friction in communities, all over North America.

And it’s time that the plastic bag folks worked with environmentalists instead of against them, because for the plastic bag industry it comes down to keeping your product which equals = $$ money.

For example, If you had a recycling machine that slurped plastic bags (without slurping in little hands that might feed them) for either a small amount of money, or maybe something like points that could be redeemed for money, you could be a hero to young mothers and fathers everywhere. What little child wouldn’t be mesmerized by machine that slurps plastic bags.

If a young mother or father who needs to go to the grocery store, and young Emma or Aiden is tired and cranky and doesn’t want to go to the grocery store, the young parent can say, “Honey, if we go to the slurping plastic bag machine first, will you help mommy or daddy go grocery shopping, and then we can use the rest of the plastic bags at the slurping machine when we’re done.” It might be a real incentive to a) recycle plastic bags and b) go cooperate with their parents at the grocery store. You, plastic bag company,  become a hero.

On one of those horrible rainy days when kids are stuck inside, a trip to your local supermarket or wherever, where young kids can feed in plastic bags to the plastic bag recycling slurping machine, could be a real godsend for something fun + practical to do.  Been in those parents shoes, know what it’s like.

And if little Emma or Aiden can make some money to boot, they are going to be begging their neighbors, their Nana for their plastic bags to take to this fun plastic bag slurping recycling machine.  Pretty soon, Emma and Aiden, whether they are environmentalists or not, learn about recycling because it’s fun, and they get lots of positive feedback from helping people as well.

Schools could have fundraisers using the plastic bag recycling slurping machine, make a little money, and learn how to help the environment while they are doing it. And you plastic bag industry look great.

The plastic bag recycling slurping machine wouldn’t be good just for Newburyport, it would be good for everyone all over the world.  The plastic bag folks could then help solve a world wide problem, and be heroes instead of the goat.

Recycle_BagThe other thing, is that the production of the plastic bag recycling slurping machine would help create a whole new industry and lots of new jobs (preferably here in Massachusetts).

This also assumes that people know loud and clear where to take those single use plastic bags.  Having great big huge “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” logos on plastic bags, and exactly where to return them, would be real easy to legislate (much easier than an outright ban). And plastic bag industry, why not beat the government to the punch, and do that yourselves. Again, you would be heroes, instead of the people known for causing a major environmental problem.