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News of Otsego County

Columns

‘Crisis Of Credibility’ Calls For New Ideas, New Leaders
FOOD FOR THOUGHT

‘Crisis Of Credibility’ Calls

For New Ideas, New Leaders

‘I don’t think globalization is coming to an end. I think the global system is in crisis. I think every major institution in our society is in crisis …

“I think the (World Health Organization) is a discredited organization. I think the White House is a discredited institution.

“I’m sorry to say this because I know it’s your former employer: I think the New York Times does not have the credibility it once had. It reads like the Guardian or the Nation. It doesn’t read like a newspaper.

“There is a crisis of credibility and trust.

“I don’t think that means institutions are going to go away. What it means is those institutions are going to need new leaders who have a different world view.”

MICHAEL SHELLENGER
“Apocaplyse Never” author
Interviewed on C-Span.

STERNBERG: COVID Transforming Calls For Better Understanding
LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG

COVID Transforming Calls

For Better Understanding

erna
Richard Sternberg, retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, is providing his professional perspective weekly during the COVID-19
threat. A village trustee,
he resides in Cooperstown.

There is a large amount of concern about this new strain of COVID that just Monday was confirmed to have reached New York State.

At this time, I keep hearing that it is more contagious than the strain we are familiar with but not more lethal.

What we don’t know, and what we will have to find out, is whether it is as sensitive to the approved vaccines as the strain we are most familiar with.

I am personally concerned that we are losing our focus on standard epidemiologic ways of preventing spread: This is not the time to give up on distancing, masks, and avoiding groups let alone crowds.

In preparing these columns, as I have stated in the past, there is a plethora of new information available every day.

There are at least 50 articles I can choose from, not including original scientific journal articles, that number several hundred each week on all platforms. None of these individual articles can give an overall picture of what is happening and the basic science in an organized fashion.

Interestingly, a close friend, an electrical engineer, turned me onto an online course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this past semester for undergraduates and graduate students. There were 13 lectures, about 45 minutes long, on many aspects of the COVID-19 crisis by experts who are leaders in their fields. The course is available to anyone online at no charge.

While some of the lectures, and lecturers, are a bit esoteric, some were quite easy to follow. Many explain things so simply and well that the average interested person can come away with a fairly complete understanding of the important points of this pandemic and how the biology behind treating it works and is implemented.

I suggest at least taking a look at it and going over some of the lecturers. I admit several of the lecturers, while leaders in their fields, had problems speaking to a non-technical audience but most of them did a good job of educating overall.

To access the course, Google “MIT course 7.00”, then hit the first listing. Individual lectures can also be found through YouTube.

I am over 40 years from studying this material as coursework and much of what we know about viruses and immunology has changed since then but as I said above, some of the lecturers were able to distill out the essence of what they were saying so that anyone with only a high school biology background could follow it.

I particularly found interesting the first lecture, “COVID-19 and the Pandemic,” the second lecture “Corona Virus Pathology” and the fourth lecture, “Insights from the Corona Virus Pandemic” (which is given by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is a wonderful teacher)

Number 10, “Vaccines”, is also among the easiest to understand for non-technical audiences.

It is very important that all of us try to obtain as much factual knowledge as possible.

Only in this way can we make informed decisions for ourselves and our families. Taking a course like this one I describe is as equally important as to gathering information by reading individual articles.

McREYNOLDS:…But I Wasn’t Afraid Of ‘The Troubles’
LETTER from ERNA MORGAN McREYNOLDS

…But I Wasn’t Afraid

Of ‘The Troubles’

Erna Morgan McReynolds, raised in Gilbertsville, is retired managing director/financial adviser at Morgan Stanley’s Oneonta Office, and an inductee in the Barron’s magazine National Adviser Hall of Fame.  She lives in Franklin.

You already know that I have been afraid to do almost everything I ever did, but that never stopped me. But then there were the times when I should have been afraid but wasn’t.

Why did I think I could head off around the world at 21? Emigrate to New Zealand from a small Upstate dairy farm?

From New Zealand there was no easy way to call home if I was in trouble or just homesick. With the primitive system there I had to book calls to the U.S. far in advance. At Halloween I reserved my slot for Christmas Day.

And of course there was no Internet back then. Just handwritten letters on onion skin paper to make them lighter and cheaper to mail. Even an air mail letter could take weeks to get to my family.

There were no credit cards in case of emergency either. I hadn’t even dreamed of seeing ATMs.

So where was my fear when it should have seized me?

Car bombs, like this one depicted in the Irish Times 50 years ago, were common during “The Troubles,” when Erna Morgan McReynolds visited Belfast.

I had booked and paid for my 13,000-mile ticket which would let me see a lot of the world. I could get on and off planes, change airlines and visit as many countries as I wanted as long as I didn’t exceed those 13,000 miles.

I put on nylons, dress, gloves and my sturdy walking shoes. One had to“dress” for airplane travel in those days.

My foreign travel began with a drive from Upstate to the JFK airport. Without a look backward, I boarded a 727 and flew from that iconic TWA terminal.

First stop was Ireland to meet my Dad’s brother — my Uncle Tony, my cousins, Dad’s friends.

Dad left Northern Ireland in 1926. He had never returned. I would be the first to visit his family since 1926!

After my TWA dinner, which was served on china even in steerage, I took a brief nap. I opened my bleary eyes at Shannon Airport in Ireland. Shannon was a world apart then, with donkeys hauling goods and people through

Western Ireland. No tractors. Few cars.

But my uncle and two of my cousins were there to greet me. Their hours-long journey to fetch me took almost as long as my trip from JFK.

In my ignorance, my Upstate travel agent had booked me to the right island but the wrong side of it. The McReynolds lived near Belfast. Hours away from Shannon and often on single-track roads flanked by hedgerows.

My cousin Tommy, who could tell a tale about almost anything, told me those hedges housed the “wee people,” who built fires there and roasted mushrooms.

I have to admit I stared hard into those hedges. I wondered when one of the wee ones would spring out in front of our car.

This cousin never stopped spinning fairy stories. But he had some real stories to tell too. A tough Belfast city bus driver, Tommy had been held up at gun point more than once “in The Troubles.”

My Dad had left half a century before. He assured us that it was a time of “The Troubles” back then. Nothing to worry about.

But there had been plenty to worry about then and when I arrived too.

After our visit to my cousin Iris in a border town in the Irish Republic, we had to go through a checkpoint to get into Ulster.

Soldiers dressed in camouflage wielding machine guns; sand bags to deflect bombs; questioning by sentries before we could pass through.

That was unnerving but with Dad’s reassurances I knew this was just normal life.

A few days later when my cousins and Uncle were giving me a tour of a nearby city, a policeman was stopping the line of traffic in front of us. As we neared the road block suddenly my cousin wheeled the car around and started tearing away.

But before we went more than a few yards, an explosion rocked our little Mini, our eardrums felt like they would break and black smoke plumed in the air. Sirens blared. Children on their lunchtime recess ran about screaming. Parents arrived shouting, looking for their children in the mayhem.

Maybe I should have been afraid? But I took my Dad’s advice and didn’t worry. I stayed in Northern Ireland for my 10 days. We were frisked as we went into Belfast department stores. Stopped at roadblocks. Walked past young soldiers in camouflage. But I still had 9,000 miles to go.

Next stop London.

BOUND VOLUMES: January 7, 2021

BOUND VOLUMES

January 7, 2021

200 YEARS AGO

The Florida Treaty – The Treaty ceding Florida to the United States has been officially communicated to Mr. Rush, the American Minister in London. Don Manuel de Barros, who is attached to the Spanish Legation to the United States, is arriving at the House of the Spanish Consul at Bordeaux, with the Treaty for the Cession of the Floridas which had been ratified by the Cortes. A letter from Bordeaux, received at Paris on November 7, says he will embark immediately in the ship Rapid of New York for Philadelphia.

January 8, 1821

HOMETOWN HISTORY: January 7, 2021

HOMETOWN HISTORY

January 7, 2021

150 Years Ago

Local: Most of the wells in this village are dry. Housewives therefore grumble.
Charley Freiot has just received a large and splendid assortment of stereoscopic views.
N.I. Ford wishes to say that he will sell his house and lot on Centre Street. It is centrally located and will be sold cheap.
More than 70 houses have been built, enlarged and repaired in our village this past year. We hope to herald more than double that number the coming year.
George Bixby has sold his house and lot on Dietz Street near the bridge to H.J. Cummings of Burlington, at $2,000. Mr. C. will come here to reside in Spring. Mr. Thompson, who recently purchased the old M.E. Church, was busy last week moving it on the lot purchase of Bixby. Mr. T. will arrange the building for two families.

January 1871

STERNBERG: From Russia, With Love
LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG

From Russia, With Love

Richard Sternberg, retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, is providing his professional perspective weekly during the COVID-19
threat. A village trustee,
he resides in Cooperstown.

Unintentionally but inevitably, and catastrophically, the Russian National Figure Skating Team has carried out an experiment that lets the rest of the world see what happens when you expose super-elite athletes indiscriminately to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

While not immediately fatal, it is not pretty and suggests what the long-term consequences of contracting the disease may be for other young people.

According to the Dec. 17 edition of The Wall Street Journal, the Russian Women’s National Ice Skating team is regarded as the very best in the world and has such deep reserves of young talent that it was expected to remain the best indefinitely.

They are a very close group, literally and physically. The members of this group have pretty much disdained rules and recommendations regarding avoiding disease spread up to now.

There are social media posts of them partying without spacing or masks, posts of competition venues where very many coaches, athletes, spectators and officials are wearing their masks below their mouth or not at all, while athletes are withdrawing from the national championships because of positive tests or complications from recent positive infection.

2018 Olympic silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva is hospitalized with serious lung damage after testing positive in November.

European Champion Alena Kostornaia missed a competition earlier in December because of a positive test has not recovered sufficiently to compete according to officials.

The National Championship was won by Anna Shcerbakova a teenager. Scherbakova herself withdrew from a late November event citing “pneumonia.” She has now won the event three times but was noted to be having trouble breathing after her programs.

Other skaters performed well below expectation. Former world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva who was expected to finish better came in seventh. She had announced that she had tested positive. She was reported as looking sluggish and exhausted at the Nationals.

Many who did compete had been reported as having had the virus earlier in the season. Coaches, some of who are at high risk because of age alone, have reported positive and ill.

Up until now the Russian National Federation has progressed their season as if the virus didn’t exist. Any attempts at safety protocols seem to have been ignored.

So, what do we learn from this experiment? Young people do get the disease and, when they do, they may not die from it at the same rate as the elderly but they do have medical consequences, sometimes permanently.

Why do these symptoms seem so frequent in these Russian athletes while they have not been reported with the same frequency in our general public?

Part of the answer is that these people are under a publicity magnifying glass – when they can’t perform, it is noticed. The same is evident in our professional athletes.

These are also people who have trained to perform at the extreme limits of physiologic capability, who have increased their capacities beyond normal people and therefore any slight damage to their organs whether lungs, heart, muscle, etc., are readily noticed.

The same damage is most probably occurring in the average person, but the average person does not frequently try to perform at their extreme.

While some of the Russians (and others) will never perform at elite levels again, some will have long-term damage that will affect activities of daily living. Any damage in anyone will have long-term consequences that will have heretofore unknown effects on life expectancy and long-term impairment or disability.

To those who continue to underestimate this disease, stop it. Dying is not the only bad outcome of contracting COVID-19.

I said this in April and I say it again now. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Socially distant. Stay within your pod (and if any one member doesn’t, then you all aren’t). We are getting close to getting vaccinated. Don’t screw up now.

In the NFL the lowest of the low, the New York Jets, beat the previously postseason-bound Cleveland Browns. This gave the Jets a second win and seems to knock them out of the competition for worst record and therefore first pick in the draft, according to another article on the same Journal sports page.

How could this happen?

Well, the Browns lost all their first- and most of their second-string receivers due to contact-tracing protocols for COVID-19.

The fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars, formerly the next-to-worst team in the standings, were noted to be celebrating. Now they get to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

HOMETOWN HISTORY: December 31, 2020

HOMETOWN HISTORY

December 31, 2020

125 Years Ago

Congressman D.F. Wilber of Oneonta did not vote for the Dingley Tariff Bill. Neither did he vote against it. Mr. Wilber’s position on the bill was explained by him as follows: “I represent a district which is strongly protective in its tariff views and I myself am a radical protectionist. As such I could not bring myself around to support the Dingley measure. It is a bill for revenue rather than protection. I cannot endorse a 15 percent increase of Wilson-Gorman duties throughout all the schedules except those devoted to wool and wood and their manufactures. The basis of such action is wrong. I favored a Bill framed along McKinley lines. What I want is a thoroughly protective measure on the lines of the McKinley measure of 1890. Any Democrat who favors tariff duties for revenue only might have voted for the Dingley Bill without violating his principles. I cannot compromise my protective views with Mr. Cleveland to that extent.”

January 1896

80 Years Ago

An Oneonta boy died a hero Friday afternoon of last week in a futile attempt to save the life of a seven-year-old playmate who had plunged into icy Neahwa park pond. Victims of the first tragic accident to occur at the park pond in 12 years were Charles Wood, aged 11, son of Mr. and Mrs. Austin Wood, and Darwin Johnston, aged 7, son of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Johnston of West Harpersfield. Dr. Norman Getman, Otsego County coroner, pronounced both boys dead at 4:50 p.m.

January 1941

25 Years Ago

Citing economic reasons and low ridership, Pine Hill-Adirondack Trailways has decided to eliminate its weekday bus route traveling from Utica, through Cooperstown, to Oneonta on January 10. Weekend runs will continue, however. Paul Provost, vice-president for the Kingston-based company, commented, “It’s a lack of passengers. There are less than six passengers a day on that portion. The majority are between New York City and Oneonta, obviously. Somedays we are leaving Oneonta with two or three people. This is strictly an economic move. Trailways receives a state subsidy of $2.7 million and was asking for an additional $500,000 according to Michael Fleischer a NYSDOT spokesperson. “Adirondack wanted additional state subsidies because the ridership was fairly low,” said Diane Carlton, Director of the Planning Department for Otsego County. The ridership averages are based on total annual numbers which rise during the tourist season.
“I see a lot more people getting off the buses in the summer,” Carlton said.

January 1996

10 Years Ago

In ceremonies at the Otsego County Courthouse, State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, was sworn in for a 13th term, and Otsego County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr. was sworn for his second term. In remarks, Seward noted a lack of “stable and responsible leadership” in Albany in recent years. “I love New York,” he said, “but our state is crumbling.” Drue Quackenbush, an Oneonta High School student, sang the National Anthem and led the audience in “America the beautiful” at the end. Also sworn in was Judge Brian Burns who warned of growing problems with heroin drug addiction.
“Stay-at-home moms are being arrested for selling it and for using it,” said the judge.

January 2011

BOUND VOLUMES: December 31, 2020

BOUND VOLUMES

December 31, 2020

150 YEARS AGO

Quarantine – The experience of the past year has furnished additional evidence of the security afforded to the public health by the proper administration of quarantine laws.
Out of 365 vessels which arrived in the port of New York from ports infected with Yellow Fever, 107 had cases of this disease on board either in the port of departure, or on their passage, or were found on their arrival here to have some of their crew or passengers sick with it. The total number of cases was 170, out of which 112 died.
Twenty-six cases from vessels under quarantine were admitted to the West Bank Hospital, only six of which proved fatal. Thirty vessels have been detained at quarantine on account of small pox, having an aggregate of over 18,000 persons on board from among whom 66 patients, sick with this disease, were sent to the hospital on Blackwell’s Island.
These statistics of disease show the dangers to which we are exposed through our foreign commerce.

January 5, 1871

100 YEARS AGO

Cooperstown has acquired two institutions during the year 1920 which will be recognized by everyone as acquisitions of importance. The opening here in September of the Knox School was the event of the most importance. The purchase of Doubleday Field, the birthplace of baseball, was a Chamber of Commerce accomplishment. It was a Chamber of Commerce project and too much praise cannot be given the committee which had charge of the matter. This project is still a field for much work.

January 5, 1921

75 Years Ago

In Cooperstown – Patrons at Smalley’s Theatre were thrilled with pictures of the National Museum of Baseball and Hall of Fame, which appeared on the regular Paramount Pictures News Reel.
Attorney Theodore P. Feury has purchased of Mrs. Nola G. Warren, her house and lot on Susquehanna Ave. and takes immediate possession.
David J. McGown, a student at Yale University, is at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. F. Hamilton McGown at their home on Pine Blvd. for the holiday vacation.

January 2, 1946

50 YEARS AGO

Donald Scott Tabor, 20, of Cooperstown was killed and Mary Jean Hopkins, his fiancée, was injured early New Year’s morning at 3:45 a.m. when their car rammed a concrete and steel bridge abutment over Red Creek in Bowerstown. Mr. Tabor, an employee of the Victory Supermarket for the last five years, was planning to enter the armed forces on January 14.

January 6, 1971

25 YEARS AGO

A total of 165 students from this area are included in the annual edition of “Who’s Who — Among American High School Students – 1994-1995.” From Cooperstown High School: Garrett Ellsworth, Lauren Groff, Melissa P. Hazzard, Cassandra A. Linn, Reid Nagelschmidt, Lisa N. Senchyshyn, Meghan L. Gallery, Timothy W. Hayes, Erica Hollister, Karen A. Muehl, Alexis Olson, and Laurie Warner.

January 7, 1996

10 YEARS AGO

Three Otsego County people died of heroin overdoses in 2010. “There are hundreds of thousands of dollars of heroin here in Otsego County,” Judge Brian R. Burns told a full house in the Otsego County Courthouse on New Year’s Day, shortly after he was sworn in for a second ten-year term. “I can’t emphasize enough how much that’s changed,” he continued. “Heroin was simply not a problem. It’s going to be the biggest problem in the next ten years.”

January 6, 2011

BOUND VOLUMES: December 24, 2020

BOUND VOLUMES

December 24, 2020

200 YEARS AGO

A New Kind of Bed: These beds are made of the husks of Indian Corn in the following manner – So soon as they are ripe, the husks should be gathered when they are dry and in a clear air. The outer hard husks are to be rejected and the softer inner ones to be fully dried out in the shade. Cut off the hard end formerly attached to the cob and draw the husk through a hatchel, or suitably divide it with a coarse comb. The article is now fit for use. It can be put in an entire sack as straw is, or to be formed into a mattress, as prepared hair is, of any size and thickness you please. This material is sweet, pleasant and durable, lasting from five to ten years. Two invalids, who have used them for eight years past in this
neighborhood, unite in saying that those who have once tried a bed of this kind, will wish no other winter or summer.

December 25, 1820

LEVINE: Now’s Time To Invest In County
LETTER from HARRY LEVINE

Now’s Time To Invest In County

Harry Levine is president of the Community Foundation of Otsego County.

We have only one week left in 2020, a remarkable year that hit us with surprises and painful disease. We lost jobs, got sick, and even died due to COVID-19.

But the year had its bright spots too.

One of them was the extraordinary efforts by all the front-line medical professionals and other essential workers who risked their own health to serve us.

Another is the amazing generosity that poured out from members of our community to help those in need.

A third was the extraordinary efforts of our nonprofit sector that rose to meet many challenges with fewer resources.

As the year draws to a close, there are a few days remaining when you might consider gifts to those very nonprofits which performed so well for us all.

Our tax policy rewards those who make charitable donations by allowing donors to reduce their taxable income and save on taxes.

But there is a hard deadline of Dec. 31 for taking advantage of some good ideas for 2020.

Here are a few of those ideas:

• Taxpayers who do not itemize deductions are entitled to reduce their taxable income by up to $300 by simply making gifts before the end of the year to qualified charities.

• If you do itemize your deductions and want to donate at least $10,000 but are not yet ready to decide which organizations you want to support, you can establish a donor-advised fund and benefit from the tax deduction this year, while deciding later how to allocate your gift.

• Those with IRAs who are at least 70½ can make gifts to charities (up to $100,000) directly from an IRA and the distribution comes out tax-free instead of taxable. Be careful, however, as 2020 is a year in which there is no required minimum distribution and the age for starting RMDs has been extended to 72.

• For 2020 only (thanks to the CARES Act), donors are permitted to deduct charitable gifts equal to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income (compared to the usual 60 percent for cash gifts and 30 percent for gifts of appreciated stock).

• Speaking of appreciated stock, this week may be a good time to donate highly appreciated stock (owned for at least one year) and save having to pay capital gains tax. But you will need to get any transfer in motion quickly as the year is running to its end.

• A charitable gift annuity is another way to generate a tax deduction in 2020 while securing a fixed annual income. At death, the funds in the annuity go to your designated charity. The charitable deduction is relatively high right now as interest rates used to calculate the amount of the deduction are very low.

Please consult your own tax advisers for specifics on these ideas.

Regardless of whether tax considerations are important to you, this is a great time to show your appreciation for those nonprofits in our community that work tirelessly to help us and our neighbors.

Donating today and supporting those organizations would be a very nice way to say thanks for being there for us.

The Community Foundation of Otsego County is here to help you invest in your community. For additional information, contact us a contact@cfotsego.org.

STERNBERG: Vaccines, Part II: They Arrive
LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG

Vaccines, Part II: They Arrive

Richard Sternberg, retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, is providing his professional perspective weekly during the COVID-19
threat. A village trustee,
he resides in Cooperstown.

I wish I had the time, stamina, and column inches to write an article daily. That’s how fast the news is coming.

Since last week, Pfizer has begun distribution and vaccinations around the nation, the Moderna vaccine has been approved and it will start distribution by the time you read this, with inoculations going into arms probably by Thursday the 24th.

The 350 Tier One healthcare workers from Bassett Healthcare will have been inoculated, though they all had to travel to either Utica or Elmira to receive the network’s allotted doses, according to a Bassett spokesman. They will get the Pfizer vaccine.

According to the Governor, we can expect more doses in the weeks ahead.

All I want for Christmas is my two vaccines.

There have been some surprises with the roll out. It seems some five dose vials of the Pfizer vaccine actually contain six doses. On the other hand, the logistics have not gone quite as well as we were told to expect. I guess that’s not a surprise.

In the United States, the priority for the order of who gets the vaccine has been announced.

Tier One-A is front-line healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff.

Tier One-B is essential workers.

Tier One-C is high risk individuals which includes those over 60 or 65 depending on their state of residence and those with other risk factors.

After that I am not sure but it seems to be everyone else lumped together. It is not clear when and if minors will get the vaccinations, since they haven’t been tested in those under 16.

There has been some controversy over the 1-B group, not so much if essential workers should get it next, but who is an essential worker.

Overall, there are probably more than 20-30 million people in this category in the United States: police, fire, EMS, teachers, other healthcare workers who interact with the general public, grocery store workers, food processing plant workers, certain other government employees, and many others.

As someone with eight risk factors and counting, I am willing to wait my turn for most of these, but unfortunately there will be some who get moved up the list but probably don’t deserve it.

For example, an attorney friend of mine in New Jersey says they are classified as essential workers.

Shakespeare would definitely not agree. Neither do I. Some yes, but all of them? Corporate attorneys who haven’t been in a courtroom in decades and only represent clients who can pay them more than $500/hour?

There are other vaccines coming out soon. Janssen/ Johnson & Johnson, AstroZenica/Oxford, and Novavax are among those in stage three testing in the USA that may be able to get FDA approval.

China and Russia have both approved their own vaccines and are inoculating people at home and overseas.

The entire United Arab Emirates’ Tour de France winning cycling team has been inoculated with the Chinese Sinopharma vaccine.

Hopefully the vaccines from outside North America and Europe will also generate honest, reproducible data. We need every dose that can be produced that works. There are seven billion people in the world and frankly most of them would benefit by being vaccinated.

In the meantime, we can decrease deaths and slow down progression of the disease with the same simple methods that I have been advocating for nine months. (Yes, it’s that long.) Wear a mask, socially distance, don’t get lackadaisical just because you know some else well.

My god-daughter and her husband both contracted it from their 11-month-old. All are well. We just lost an Otsego citizen who caught COVID from a group home worker who contracted it at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Small group, known people. But someone died because of it. We are so close, people: Stay the course (and any other cliché you can think of).

Merry Christmas and I wish everyone a New Year that at least begins to approach sanity.

New Home For The Holidays
LETTER from TERRY BERKSON

New Home For The Holidays

A Christmas Story

Terry Berkson, who has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College, lives on a farm outside Richfield Springs. His article have appears in New York magazine, the New York kDaily News Sunday Magazine, Automobile and other publications.

One Brooklyn morning many Decembers past, I heard a scratching behind the wall of my work place in the attic. I glanced out the window and spotted a squirrel emerging from a hole between the rain gutter and the shingles on the roof.

He looked at me with a smug expression as if to say, “I moved in and I’m stayin’.” The intruder jumped to the leafless maple in back of the house and was gone.

I’d heard stories about squirrels destroying houses as they chewed through walls and lead plumbing and electric lines. The thought of a critter storing his acorns under my rafters was too distracting. I shut the computer and descended to the kitchen for coffee.

On the phone an exterminator quoted a painful price to set a Havahart trap that would catch the animal for transport to Prospect Park. “It’s time consuming,” the man explained. “We’re not allowed to kill them.”

When I didn’t jump at his services he offered to sell me a trap for $75, but I thought a bird cage we had in the cellar would serve just as well.

Walter Haskel, my editor, had called the day before to remind me about a deadline on a story. I felt I’d do a better job if I didn’t have that squirrel to think about. Peanut butter for bait worked well for mice, so why not for this guy? In my yard he was a squirrel but in my house he was a big rat.

Squirrel raises Christmas question: Why can’t we all get along?

I used a chopstick with twine attached to it to hold the cage door open and a Ford accelerator spring to slam it shut. I placed the cage near the base of the maple and ran the twine to the door of our back pantry.

The advantage of using the exterminator’s trap was that it would catch the squirrel automatically. But it was expensive and I was sure my bird cage would get this rodent without losing too much time.

When my irascibly pregnant wife Alice came home from work and saw my set-up she asked, “Get much writing done today?”

I explained the gravity of the invasion.

“Should’ve hired the exterminator,” Alice said.

Late the next day the squirrel made his way down the tree and jumped to the ground. He approached the cage and when near pressed against the bars to smell the peanut butter. Then he stuck his head through the door and I was about to pull the string, but a stray cat appeared and frightened him off.

The next day Alice arrived home and was getting out of the car with her arms full of Christmas packages when she spotted me idling at the window. “Told you to get the exterminator!” she called. I obliterated her from view by fogging the glass with my breath.

In the morning, I spotted the squirrel slowly creeping down the maple. I ran down and out to the pantry and took hold of the line as he once again poked his head into the cage – but not his whole body. I wasn’t wearing a jacket and soon began to shiver.

Inside the house the phone on the wall rang. It continued to ring as I shook from the cold. Through the glass in the back door the caller I.D. showed that it was my editor Haskel. I was supposed to be working.

The squirrel entered the cage cautiously, his hind legs holding on to the outside of the bars. I waited as he scooped paws full of peanut butter out of a birdseed cup. The more he ate the more his body advanced. I looked in at the phone which was still ringing. “Remove all distractions,” Haskel had said on another pressing assignment.

When I turned back, the squirrel was completely inside so I yanked on the twine and the door snapped shut. I had him! He was circling his cell in a frenzy. To calm him I covered the cage with an old blanket that Alice had draped over an antique chair in the cellar. Soon fat snowflakes began to fall.

After drinking a celebratory eggnog, I went upstairs and flipped on the computer. My heart sank when the screen came up blank. I checked a backup file but it too was empty. The deadline! How could I face Haskel – or Alice?

My wife showed up just before dark and followed me out to the cage in the backyard. When I removed the snow and lifted the blanket to show her my prisoner, she said, “So, now you’re going to let him loose in the park without his acorns – that he’s been gathering all year. How would you like it if somebody separated you from your work?” The squirrel sat there looking pathetic.

“Yeah,” my wife continued. “He’ll be panhandling, getting chased off by other squirrels.”

“After all this work,” I protested. “You want me to turn him loose?”

“It is Christmas Eve,” she said matter-of-factly.

Later that evening as Alice prodded me on, I walked out to my prisoner with some walnuts and water. Then I replaced the cover. I had a restless night thinking of editor Haskel’s advice, my computer problem, and the squirrel panhandling in the park.

On Christmas morning, I awoke to a cranked up rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Alice was curious to see how the squirrel had fared, so before opening presents I dressed and waded through a snowdrift to the cage.

When I lifted the blanket it was empty. The door was shut tight and there were no breaks in the bars. Two faint snow blown tracks were nearby.

“Well?” my wife called from the window.

“Did you let him loose?” I asked.

“Absolutely not,” she said shaking her head.

That evening, after pushing aside plum pudding, I grabbed my coat and gloves and went outside to shovel the sidewalk. Later, I crawled up to the attic and once again heard rustling behind the wall. That squirrel was back. To add insult, the task of resurrecting my lost work looked impossible.

When I turned on the computer, the mouse seemed curiously warm in my hand. Then the screen lit up and there to my joy and amazement appeared my story! I could hear Alice laboring up the stairs.

“How’s the work going?” she asked as she reached the top step.

“Fine,” I answered suspiciously. There was some chatter behind the wall.

“Well,” Alice said looking towards the noise. “He’s home for Christmas.”

“A good ending,” I imagined editor Haskel saying.

“At least he won’t be panhandling in the park,” Alice murmured while putting her arms around me.”

“I met her embrace and realized, “And neither will I!”

STERNBERG: I’m With Tom Cruise

LIFE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

I’m With Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise on the “Mission: Impossible 7” set in Rome, published in the Irish Times.

By RICHARD STERNBERG • AllOTSEGO.com Columnist

I admit that I was just not a fan of Tom Cruise. I don’t dislike his acting, he’s just an actor that doesn’t get me excited or make me particularly want to see his movies.

Richard Sternberg, retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, is providing his professional perspective weekly during the COVID-19
threat. A village trustee,
he resides in Cooperstown.

My antipathy may include a reaction to some of his off-screen actions in the past. But he just received some negative publicity for an act that I deem priceless and for which he is being publicly criticized.

I, on the other hand, think what he did was great and deserves commendation. I think I’ll watch his movies again (at least on my streaming services).

The headline of the article in Monday’s New York Times by Mike Ives is “Tom Cruise Erupts at ‘Mission: Impossible’ Crew Over COVID -19 Breach. On a film set in Britain, the actor tore into the crew with and expletive-laden rant.”

It seems two crew members had violated COVID -19 precautions while filming in London. The production had previously been delayed by the pandemic with crew members on set testing positive.

HOMETOWN HISTORY: December 17, 2020

HOMETOWN HISTORY

December 17, 2020

150 Years Ago

Home and Vicinity – A singular worm was found in an apple by Sable Hudson which we have seen and examined. It measures 7 inches in length, is nearly white and when taken from the apple its body was about the size of a small knitting needle. How did it get there? The worm will be sent to the State Entomologist at Albany for an examination.
J.W. Carpenter is now pleasantly situated in the fine rooms over the bookstore, opposite the Susquehanna House. He has received a thorough instruction in the
business, and is competent to attend the most difficult cases, in extracting teeth and making of plates.

December 1870

STERNBERG: Vaccines, Part I: Pfizer Into The Fray
LETTER from RICHARD STERNBERG

Vaccines, Part I:

Pfizer Into The Fray

Richard Sternberg, retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, is providing his professional perspective weekly during the COVID-19
threat. A village trustee,
he resides in Cooperstown.

Many people have asked me to explain vaccines to them, and specifically the ones for COVID-19. They are most concerned with how they work, when they will be available, and if they will be safe.

Hopefully, this column will help.

The terms vaccine and vaccination derive from the Latin name Variola vaccinae, which means small pox of the cow. Vacca is Latin for cow.

The term vaccine was first devised by Sir Edward Jenner in 1778 based on the fact that he used an inoculation with cowpox to elicit a protective reaction to smallpox.

In 1881, Louis Pasteur proposed that the term vaccine be used to cover all new protective inoculations that were developed in order to honor Jenner.

There are multiple types of vaccines and at least one of each type has been tried or is being developed for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

The following are the different types of vaccines that are administered to a subject to induce a protective immune response along with examples of each.
►INACTIVATED: a dead copy of the infectant, e.g., polio

►ATTENUATED: A weakened version of the infectant, e.g., yellow fever, measles, mumps

►TOXOID: an inactivated form of the poison made by the infected cell, e.g. tetanus and diphtheria

►SUBUNIT: a portion of the protein of the infectant that cannot cause the disease by itself, e.g., hepatitis B and HPV (human papillomavirus, causes genital warts and cervical cancer).

►CONJUGATE: Weak version of the infectant, coupled with a strong antigen for something benign to increase the immune response to the weakened version, e.g., Hemophylus influenza.

►RECOMBINANT DNA, where a stand of genetic material for part of the infectant is inoculated into the host’s cells and teaches the cells to make an antigen for part of the infectant.

►RNA: This is the approach that right now is the most promising in treating SARS-CoV-2. A portion of messenger RNA is inoculated into the host cells and tells the host to make a portion of the infecting virus. This technique has not been used for human diseases clinically before.

Typically, it takes 15-20 years to bring a new vaccine to market, and less than 5 percent of candidates will succeed. The speed in which the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine has come to be distributed really is warp speed.

The first regular immunizations begin a week ago Monday in Great Britain. This is less than a year from recognition that there was a new disease and 10 months from identifying the genetic code of the virus causing it.

Currently there is only one vaccine approved for use, the one made by Pfizer and BioNTech. This is awaiting approval along with that of Moderna in the United States. Pfizer’s was approved, distributed Sunday, and injection began Monday. Approval for Moderna may come later this week.

Both of these are of the RNA type.

There are several reasons that things have moved with lightning speed.

One, the unprecedented cooperation between pharmaceutical companies and academic and government research labs.

Two, the approval of governments to allow fast-tracking such that steps of the development are done in parallel. In my mind, there is no doubt the government’s Warp Speed initiative helped move the process along.

Three, scientists have been working for 10 years on what they call pandemic preparedness. In this case they had developed a template that would allow the development of vaccines for newly emerging diseases quickly. Essentially as one scientist called it, plug and play.

In my next column I will discuss plans for the roll out and how it has gone up to that point.

Normally, the time from submission of data to approval by a government agency takes two years. In the case of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines it is one week.
After approval, time to distribution takes more than a year while the pharmaceutical companies develop and implement manufacturing plans.

Amazing what we can do when everyone is desperately pulling in the same direction.

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