News of Otsego County


Hometown History: June 1, 2023

Hometown History

June 1, 2023

135 Years Ago
A letter to an editor: Woman’s True Rights – I will take “Woman’s Rights” for my subject. I am in favor of what I call woman’s rights, but am not in favor of voting. Think that woman’s rights is to take proper care of the household; to see that everything is in readiness for her lord and master and for his enjoyment. But as to woman going to the polls on Election Day and casting their votes with rough, burly men, I am greatly opposed to such. And again, if women were allowed to vote, we would have more quarrels, ten times more fussing over one election than we would otherwise have in ten years. What lady is there that would go in a crowd where the rougher men are drinking, swearing, cheering and quarreling over their candidates? I dare say not one. But such is the case at an election. Maggie.

May 1888

Editorial: On Being Polite

On Being Polite

Since the pandemic, and probably a bit before it, our once-comfortable world has been in a constant state of change. For some of us this is a very good thing; for others, possibly those of an older vintage, such changes are at times more difficult to understand. In the end, though, change is a good thing. It means we are learning, growing, improving and, at the very least, thinking, although we may not particularly agree with the particular change at hand.

The Partial Observer: Smart Meters Coming Soon, But Are They Safe?
The Partial Observer by Maureen Dill

Smart Meters Coming Soon, But Are They Safe?

Most homeowners are familiar with the analog meters provided by utility companies, read monthly or bi-monthly by an employee of the company. Smart meters, on the other hand, are two-way communication devices that use technology—radiofrequency waves, a form of electromagnetic radiation energy—to transmit energy consumption data to a central computer at the utility company. According to NYSEG, smart meters will roll out here in our county sometime in 2025.

Global penetration of smart meters has reached an estimated 14 percent. Utility companies—including NYSEG—will undoubtedly state there is no health risk. However, today’s reports from credible sources are troubling, if not conflicting. Smart meters appear to be a way for utility companies to eliminate jobs while giving the utility provider a minute-by-minute picture of how their products are used. They’re not being installed for consumers’ convenience and may, in some cases, have negative health consequences.

News from the Noteworthy: Ongoing Conversation About Substance Use Important
News from the Noteworthy by LEAF

Ongoing Conversation About Substance Use Important

If you are a parent and have had to make a decision about how to have “the talk,” you are certainly not alone. Thankfully, there is good news. In spite of the all of the eyerolls, heavy sighs, and shoulder shrugs, the research tells us that you, the parent, have the biggest voice in the life your child. So much so that kids who hear from their parents early and often about the expectation that drugs will not be used are 50 percent less likely to use them. You guessed it, “the talk” I’m writing about is the one centered on parental expectation when it comes to not using drugs and alcohol.

Whelan: State of Emergency or Xenophobia?
Letter from Mary Anne Whelan

State of Emergency or Xenophobia?

The last two issues of “The Freeman’s Journal” have covered David Bliss’ proposed strategies for, in effect, defending ourselves from any proposed influx of immigrants.

While it is understandable to raise concerns about a housing shortage as a rationale for this, there is also a flavor of Trump-style xenophobia and a lack of any proposed humane solution to an urgent human problem.

Bound Volumes: June 1, 2023.

Bound Volumes

June 1, 2023.

Among the ten provisions of a village ordinance adopted on May 21, 1813 is the following: Be it ordained by the Trustees of the Village of Cooperstown, that one-fifth part of the street on each side thereof be appropriated for sidewalks, and that no person shall lay or deposit, or leave any wood, timber, wagon, cart, sleigh, wheel-barrow, or other obstruction whatever, in or upon the said sidewalks, under the penalty of fifty cents for every offence, and the further sum of fifty cents for every twenty-four hours the said obstruction shall be thereafter suffered to remain on the same.

May 29, 1813

Editorial: Decoration Day 101

Decoration Day 101

In spite of the incessantly confusing and mildly annoying weather patterns we have been confronted with recently around here, we have come to Memorial Day weekend, reputedly the harbinger of summer, though we have hardly seen spring. It’s supposed to be warm and pleasant, a packed weekend filled with family and friends, parades, taps, salutes, speeches, frost-free gardens, canoe races, and tag sales.

Katz: Local Businesses Give in Support of Library

Keith Gulla and John Walker, shown here with Bowie, are among the business owners who supported the Village Library of Cooperstown and Friends of the Village Library during this year’s National Library Lovers’ campaign. (Photo provided)

Letter from Karen Katz

Local Businesses Give
in Support of Library

The Friends of the Village Library would like to extend their thanks to the community and all of the local businesses who supported this year’s National Library Lovers’ campaign in February.

The campaign featured a full month of activities and events designed to bring awareness to and support of the Village Library of Cooperstown. More than 25 local businesses supported this year’s campaign by hanging posters—designed by local artist Peg Donahue—creating promotional items and offering discounts throughout the month.

Falk: No to Exclusion as an ‘Emergency’ Measure
Letter from Cindy Falk

No to Exclusion as an ‘Emergency’ Measure

This year, I had students in my historic preservation class at the Cooperstown Graduate Program do research on businesses in New York in the 1930s to the 1960s that were welcoming to Black travelers as documented in the “Negro Motorist Green Book.” One student, Megan Good, uncovered the story of the Trade Winds Motor Court in Yonkers and its involvement in the United States v. City of Yonkers segregation case.

In 1984, former city council member Michael F. Cipriani admitted to attempting to limit the number of minority patrons to the Trade Winds Motor Court to no more than 15 percent, citing rampant crime. While this was one small part of the overall case, the court found that the City of Yonkers, the Yonkers Board of Education, and the Yonkers Community Development agency had intentionally segregated public schools and housing. That was not only ethically wrong, but it was also illegal.

Bassett at 100: How Bassett Will Survive and Thrive
Bassett at 100 by Dr. Tommy Ibrahim

How Bassett Will Survive and Thrive

Dear Friends, Neighbors and Colleagues,

As you are almost certainly aware, these are difficult times for health systems nationwide. For over a decade there has been a growing shortage of medical caregivers. Due to burnout following the COVID-19 pandemic, even more people have left clinical professions, and this is now a dire situation. The shortage is national and is especially pronounced in rural areas. The need for nurses, in particular, has driven hospitals like ours to rely on traveling nurse agencies to ensure there are enough staff members to cover even a minimal number of beds. Agency nurses are excellent (and we are beyond thankful to have them on our caregiving teams), but they are expensive. Relying on them is not sustainable long-term.

News from the Noteworthy: Ordinances Can Improve Tobacco Retail Environment
News from the Noteworthy by Tobacco-Free Communities: Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie

Ordinances Can Improve Tobacco Retail Environment

Just a few weeks ago, Tobacco Free Communities: Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie did a survey of tobacco retailers in the City of Oneonta. The survey results provide a microcosm of the tobacco industry’s marketing in the retail environment nationwide, which in turn challenges us to consider their impact on residents’ health.

As we have previously written, the tobacco industry spends about 97 percent of its $9+ billion annual marketing budget—$173 million in New York State—on point-of-sale marketing. To recap: In stores that sell tobacco products, especially convenience stores, tobacco products are clearly displayed behind a store’s checkout counter where customers make most of their impulse buys. The tobacco products are wrapped in packages that mimic popular candy and gum products, and located near candy, soda, and toys. These strategic displays and placements attract children’s attention and have them associate tobacco products with sweet, harmless treats.

Citizen Science: The Power of the Placebo Effect, Part I: Magic Feathers and Medical Transparency
Citizen Science by Jamie Zvirzdin

The Power of the Placebo Effect,
Part I: Magic Feathers and Medical Transparency

Dumbo! C’mon, fly! Open them ears! The magic feather was just a gag! You can fly! Honest, you can!”

I can recite many Disney movies almost word for word, but I also recall that the 1941 version of “Dumbo” made me acutely sad and anxious. And no wonder: a poor baby elephant with big ears is mocked by others at the circus, torn away from his mother, given hallucinogenic alcohol by his best friend and a magic feather by horribly stereotyped crows. The magic feather itself is a trick of the mind, a symbol of the powerful psychological phenomenon known as the placebo effect. Knowing more about this phenomenon can help us make more informed medical decisions and improve our mind-body connection and overall health, so grab your popcorn or peanuts and get ready to enjoy—and wince at—the circus of the human mind.

Placebo, a Latin term, literally translates to “I shall be pleasing.” Healers of all stripes have long administered placebo pills or healing treatments that pleased and comforted the patient but had no intrinsic therapeutic value. These wispy, non-medical interventions, like Dumbo’s magic feather or cotton candy at a circus, are all fluff, yet they still harness the power of belief and expectation—for some people—to activate the body’s natural healing mechanisms—sometimes. Even if they’re therapeutically null and void, placebos can still draw out real effects in us, influencing our health outcomes.

Those real effects can linger, too. Dr. Kathryn T. Hall, in her book “Placebos” (MIT Press, 2022), says, “Even though the placebo interventions themselves have no biological qualities that would induce a physiological change, placebo effects can be long-lasting.” Moreover, she adds, those effects compete with clinical benefits of active treatments. That competition has become so fierce, in fact, that pharmaceutical companies struggle to develop treatments that perform better than the placebo effect. It’s far easier and cheaper to market fast-acting, triple-strength, long-lasting miracle cures. Homeopathic Cold Remedies! Advanced Certified Blends! Immune Support! Himalayan Salt Crystals! Healing Crystals! Essential Oils! It is a little wild to walk down the aisle at my local drugstore and see all these products and their claims.

The history of how we discovered the placebo effect is as sad as giving hallucinogenic alcohol to a baby elephant. Around the time “Dumbo” came out, during World War II, an anesthesiologist named Henry K. Beecher ran out of morphine to treat soldiers in pain. He decided to inject a harmless saline solution into his patients, telling them it was a powerful painkiller, and he found that 40 percent of the soldiers reported pain relief. This “pure placebo” did no harm but at least gave relief to 40 percent of soldiers instead of zero percent. The other 60 percent? Out of luck, man.

Intrigued by this phenomenon, however, Beecher continued his research into the placebo effect when he returned home from the war. Despite controversy over Beecher’s methods and findings, his work helped to establish the placebo effect as a legitimate subject of scientific inquiry. Beecher’s work also influenced the design of clinical trials, and now researchers use placebo-controlled trials as a way to test the efficacy of new treatments.

Since then, medical researchers—and enterprising marketers—have learned that the placebo effect can be influenced by a wide variety of factors, from the color and size of a pill to the way a healthcare provider talks to their patients. There are “pure placebos,” like sugar pills or the saline injections Beecher used, and there are “impure placebos,” like low doses of an active treatment (homeopathy), vitamins, or supplements. Worst of all are poisons peddled as miracle cures—including “Morphina-Cura” (1906), a mixture of morphine and heroin to help people overcome their addictions to morphine, and a deadly dose of antifreeze relabeled “Elixir Sulfanilamide” that killed 71 adults and 34 kids in 1937, which led to the creation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1938.

So what happens in our brains when we partake of a placebo? Here’s what we know so far: When we believe a remedy will work, our brains release the “feel-good” neurotransmitters like endorphins and dopamine. Endorphins are natural painkillers and reduce discomfort, while dopamine is associated with reward and pleasure. In effect, our brains reward our positive expectations with feelings of pain relief and happiness. Our brains release their own painkillers, called endogenous opioids. These natural painkillers change how pain is processed in the lower parts of the brain and spine. Activating this part of the brain is like turning down the volume on a painfully loud TV.

Simultaneously, the placebo effect can increase activity in certain areas of the brain closely linked with mood, emotional reactions and self-awareness. These include regions like the prefrontal cortex, which is linked to decision-making and social behavior, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in mood and emotional regulation. When these areas show greater activity, it may lead to an enhanced sense of well-being and a more positive mood, further reinforcing the placebo effect.

Sadly, not all diseases can be improved with a placebo—especially those that aren’t controlled by the thinking parts of our brains. When we choose a placebo treatment instead of seeking better treatments with more robust studies backing them, we’re gambling with our own health. Caretakers who promote placebo treatments for a quick potential fix or to make a quick buck can end up harming their patients.

So I’m against quacks or overly optimistic caretakers who prey on the faith of those who trust easily—especially if patients pay for expensive placebo pills or treatments instead of seeking better and more effective care. That said, I’m all for positive and honest life hacks, MacGyver style. If the placebo effect is a type of health hack that can reduce pain for some people, let’s better understand it and use it—wisely—to our advantage. In fact, recent studies show that even if a caregiver actively identifies a treatment as a placebo, some patients can still experience that reduction of pain. These non-deceptive treatments are called open-label placebos.

In fact, Dr. Kathryn Hall—whose dog, her constant companion, is named Placebo—writes that patients who were given OLPs reported significant benefits in dealing with chronic low back pain, cancer-related fatigue, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and allergic rhinitis. We’re still figuring out what works and what doesn’t, but it seems honesty is still the best policy when it comes to administering placebos ethically. If Dumbo could soar to the heavens after realizing his magic feather was as magical as a rubber chicken, perhaps there’s hope for us yet. In the meantime, we’ll keep our ears open and see you next month when we dive into the fascinating world of the nocebo effect—the evil twin of the placebo. Until then, enjoy the circus of the human psyche and stay away from questionable beverages.

Jamie Zvirzdin researches cosmic rays with the Telescope Array Project, teaches science writing at Johns Hopkins University and is the author of “Subatomic Writing.”

Bound Volumes: May 25, 2023

Bound Volumes

May 25, 2023

The King of Bavaria, with the intention of meeting the extraordinary exigencies of the state without increasing the amount of debt, and without obstructing the payments of the different services, which are made with the greatest regularity, has ordered that the voluntary loan which had been opened through the medium of a lottery, should be converted into a forced loan; in consequence of which all the inhabitants of the kingdom who possess a fortune of more than 2,000 florins, or a salary or pension above 600 florins, are to contribute to this loan according to their fortunes or salaries – so that those who are possessed of a fortune of from 2,000 to 4,000 florins, shall be obliged to purchase a ticket of the value of 10 florins; of from 4,000 to 5,000 florins, a ticket at 25 florins; of 10,000 florins, a ticket at 150 florins; and for every 1,000 above 10,000, an additional ticket at 15 florins.

May 22, 1813

Artillery Regimental Orders, May 7, 1838 – In pursuance of the power vested in me, I Seth H. Chase, Colonel, and commanding officer of the 12th Regiment of Artillery of the Militia of the State of New York, do hereby appoint a Regimental Court Martial, for the trial of all delinquents and deficiencies, in the said Regiment, to consist of three members, viz: Lieut. Colonel Wm. P. Jones, of Exeter, as President thereof; Capt. Barzilla R. Brown, of Decatur and Lieut. Benj. F. Spencer, of Maryland, as members. The said court will convene on the 8th day of October next, at the house of Isaac Lewis, in the Village of Cooperstown, and adjourn from time to time, as shall become necessary for the transaction of business. Seth H. Chase, Colonel.

May 21, 1838

The Coming Disintegration of the Republican Party – There can be no reasonable doubt among calm and well-informed politicians that the Republican Party will be badly beaten this year – and then as a natural result, follows its complete disintegration. It long ago reached its culminating point – it has been going down the western slope for the past decade – and after this year is destined to give place to some other political organization. The Republican Party has held power of late years largely through the ability of its leaders to so work upon the fears of a large class of men that they have simply voted “against changing the federal government.” They have been made to believe that it was dangerous to do so; that to place the Democrats in power was to invite all sorts of political evils. In Congress, the Republican Party is without any policy except to oppose what the Democrats may propose, either in the way of tariff reform or anything else. It is the same in the country at large. All that is heard from that source is the cry: “Let us turn the Democrats out of power.” The people will do nothing of the kind. (Ed. Note: Republican Benjamin Harrison won the presidential election of 1888, defeating incumbent President Grover Cleveland. However, Cleveland returned to the White House in 1892, defeating Harrison’s own bid for a second term)

May 25, 1888

Following the appearance in the Star Theatre last week of the moving picture “Cleopatra,” our fellow townsman, F. Victor Schenck, has been playing daily the part of Marc Anthony. Papa has to lie down on the floor after supper and play dead while Victorine, the wee daughter of the household, shakes him up, pulls his hair, and tries to wake him like Cleopatra did her lover. With all the grace of childish mimicry little Victorine impersonates Cleopatra. The little Queen of the household has become the Queen of Egypt. After the Schenck tot saw Cinderella, the scenes from that play were enacted by herself – all of which serves to illustrate the impressions made by the moving picture upon the mind of a sprightly child, and emphasizes the importance of children being allowed to see only pictures that are good.

May 28, 1913

The Cooperstown Rotary Club made its annual visit to the high school on Tuesday of last week where luncheon was served by the students of the Homemaking Department under the direction of Miss Lucy A. Schempp, the instructor. The repast was cooked and served entirely by the students themselves, and the club men, at its close, gave hearty applause as an expression of their appreciation. Following the luncheon entertainment was provided in the auditorium by instrumental soloists including Fletcher Blanchard, violin; Frederick Robinson, saxophone; Eugene Olmstead, violin; Archie Mogavero, clarinet; Alton G. Dunn, Jr. saxophone; and Leo Potrikus, cornet.

May 25, 1938

The Rt. Rev. Allen W. Brown, S.T.D., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, will bless and dedicate the new youth conference and camping facilities known as Beaver Cross at Springfield Center, Sunday. The estate, formerly known as Ringwood with all buildings and a 38-acre plot was given to the Diocese of Albany by John B. Ryerson of Cooperstown and Springfield Center.

May 22, 1963

David Wilshere has found his niche in a town famous for baseball. Wilshere, 45, is the groundskeeper at Doubleday Field, a job he has held for the last 10 years. His work at the field begins in early April and ends in October. During the off-season he is a member of the village crew. “Basically, I like just being outdoors and on the field. I take pride in it.”

May 25, 1988

Potholes on Main Street are a thing of the past following six months of construction that filled the village’s business district with heavy machinery. The “Main Street Again” celebration, sponsored by the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Cooperstown will be held from 4-5:30 p.m. Friday in Pioneer Park. The smooth street will be feted with street magic, face painting, balloon art and refreshments.

May 23, 2003

Hometown History: May 25, 2023

Hometown History

May 25, 2023

135 Years Ago
The Local News – An order for steel rails for the Oneonta Street Railway Company has been placed with the Johnston Steel Rail Co. of Johnstown, PA. The rails are expected here in about three weeks. The capital stock of the street railroad company is $20,000, not $15,000, as stated last week. Reuben Reynolds and Fred Wilcox are among the largest stockholders.
The Guy Table Company has changed its name to the Oneonta Table Company. This was decided upon some weeks ago but the legal requirements have just been complied with.
Taylor’s “Wizard King” combination opened at The Metropolitan on Tuesday evening and is drawing good house. Mr. Taylor performs many truly wonderful feats of legerdemain, and the exhibition is well worth seeing.

May 1888

Hometown History: May 18, 2023

Hometown History

May 18, 2023

135 Years Ago
Just below the Plains Crossing, near this village, early in the week, the body of a black cat was found upon the track, cut in twain by the cars. “I wouldn’t be in the engineer’s place what run over that cat for all the money the company’s got,” said a railroad employee. “It doesn’t often happen that a cat gets caught, but to run over a black cat means death every time.” Whether he referred to death to the cat or the engineer we did not learn. Subsequent inquiry revealed that it is no uncommon thing for the bodies of small animals, such as cats, dogs, muskrats, woodchucks, and the like, to be found mangled upon the railroad track. Black cats, however, are rarely run over.

May 1888

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