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Daily Sun letter writers take a lunch break

 

LACONIA — There was not an awkward moment, much less an awkward silence, when nine of the most prolific and outspoken writers of letters to the editor of the Laconia Daily Sun met for lunch yesterday.

The gathering at T-Bones included those from both ends of the political spectrum, from Bob Meade of Laconia, Russ Wiles of Tilton, Steve Earle of Hill, Tony Boutin of Gilford, Gene Danforth and Dave Horvath of Gilford on the right to Jim Ververka of Tilton, Scott Cracraft of Gilford and Dave Pollak of Laconia on the left. All men of experience, their ages ranged from 59 to 80 and they were evenly divided between the retired and employed. Above all, these are the very same guys who routinely castigate and vilify one another's opinions in the letters column.

But, put together at a restaurant table they carry on like longtime members of the chummiest of fraternal organizations.

"I hope I'm not so shallow as to judge someone by their politics," remarked Boutin, who added that throughout his working life he was accustomed to "daily confrontations of interests."

Meade remarked "make an argument, not an enemy."

"They're crazier on-line than they are here," said Jim Veverka, who reports about "Tea Party Tricks" from the "National Center for Study of Absurdity." Veverka passed much of his lunch hour across the table from Earle, who recently charged him with "petty name-calling," which he found "easier then trying to defend the indefensible." Among other things they discussed how much longer Tom Brady would carry the Patriot's offense along with future draft choices for his offensive line.

Introducing himself to Meade, Pollak explained, "I ran for county commissioner and got clobbered," which drew the polite reply "That's a good thing." The pair went on to discuss Meade's forecast of the dire demographic and economic impacts of high abortion and low birth rates in China and Russia, which would leave the first with too few women and the second with too many men. "We're changing the nature of nature, Meade said. "But, we are nature," countered Pollak, taking the conversation off on a philosophical tangent.

At the other end of the table, Cracraft, Boutin and Danforth dueled over healthcare. While none fancied Obamacare, Cracraft's advocacy of a single-payer system drew a sharp but polite reminder from Boutin that every program run by the federal government — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Post Office — was bankrupt.

Much of the political conversation along the table mirrored the seemingly irreconcilable differences so forcefully expressed in their correspondence. Yet Boutin suggested dispensing with the labels of Republican and Democrat, simply branding all elected officials "politicians," and driving them to the center of the spectrum. "Most people consider themselves moderates," he noted, "but in politics the moderates have been vaporized."

Although there was little moderation and even less agreement around the table, there was a great deal of good natured camaraderie. Politically, the only common ground was a shared passion for controversy as opinions were expressed, but not tempered. But, curiously, the rancorous and acrimonious tone that tinges so much of their letters was missing from the conversation, which was not merely civil, but good-natured and good-humored. More than one said, "Let's do this again" and all exchanged names, addresses and phone numbers.

"She called us gentlemen," someone said, as if surprised, when the waitress brought the checks. And she was right.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 December 2014 01:26

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Tanger Donates over $26,000 to LRGHealthcare

LACONIA — Tanger Outlet Center and LRGHealthcare representatives gathered on Friday at Lakes Region General Hospital to celebrate the success of this past October's PinkStyle Program and the 6th Annual Tanger Fit for a Cure 5K. The events raised a total of $26,467.84 to benefit breast cancer initiatives/imaging technology at LRGHealthcare.

Since 2006 Tanger Outlet Centers in Tilton has donated $397,721.67 to support the purchase and maintenance of state-of-the-art imaging technology and upgrades to the Oncology Suite at Lakes Region General Hospital.

The Tanger Fit for a Cure 5K Run/Walk stared in 2009 with 400 participants. Celebrating its sixth year the 2014 5K welcomed 1,002 runners and walkers.

As an added gesture of generosity during this season of giving, Tanger also reached out to LRGH Oncology staff last week asking them to identify two patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer who could use a little uplifting this year. General Manager Eric Proulx gave each patient a very generous Christmas Shopping Spree at the Tanger Outlet Centers in Tilton. The surprised recipients were taken aback by the act of kindness.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 December 2014 12:12

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North Branch wins contract for Fire Station expansion

LACONIA — The Land and Building Committee of the City Council this week confirmed North Branch Construction, Inc. of Concord as the low bidder for the renovation and expansion of the Central Fire Station.

North Branch Construction's bid of $4,032,000 was just $85,000 above the cost of $3,947,000 estimated by Warrenstreet Architects, Inc. to complete the project. Along with the cost of construction, design, engineering and legal fees are estimated to add approximately $226,600 to the total cost of the project for a total in the neighborhood of $4.3-million altogether.

City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that the committee has authorized him to execute the contract and in addition appropriated $115,000 furniture, fixtures and fittings at the station.

Myers said that the contractor expects to begin work at the site within the next two weeks, taking advantage of a weather forecast that indicates unseasonably warm temperatures will persist into January. The project is scheduled to be completed by late October or early November.

The 2014-2015 city budget includes a borrowing of $4.4-million for the project.The plan includes the renovation of 13,167-square-feet of the existing station to serve as an apparatus bay, training area and storage space and the construction of a two-story, 12,964-square-foot addition to house the administrative offices, emergency operations center and dormitory. The building would be reconfigured to provide public access and parking off Tremont Street, instead of off North Main Street.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 December 2014 02:11

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Retired PSU Professor Was Witness to Cuban History


PLYMOUTH — Retired Plymouth State University professor Dr. Manuel Marquez-Sterling says that Cuba's history would have been very different had his father, Carlos Marquez-Sterling, prevailed in the Nov. 3, 1958, election.

''My father should have won. But there was huge electoral fraud by Fulgencio Batista and the Army and Fidel Castro's forces kept many people from voting at all. In some places Batista's forces just filled the ballot boxes with ballots they had filled out,'' says Marquez-Sterling, who was born in Havana and practiced law in Cuba before coming to the United States in 1960.

He has documented the period in a book, "Cuba 1952-1959: The True Story of Castro's Rise to Power," which was published in 2009. He says his book destroys many myths about Cuba and shows that it was a prosperous and progressive country, and in the fast lane to become a First World country with a large middle class, a fine educational system open to all classes, and with high standards of living.

''We had the third-best economy in the Americas. Only the United States and Canada were better, off,'' says Marquez-Sterling, who says that under Castro the economy was transformed from one that had been growing rapidly into that of a Third World country.

He is withholding judgment on President Barak Obama's move to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, but is concerned that Obama wasn't able to gain concessions on human rights from the Castro government. ''Will they continue to control the press as closely as they have? They have to make concessions,'' says Marquez-Sterling, who maintains that the Cuban economy is getting even worse, especially now that oil prices have dropped worldwide and that Venezuela will no longer be able to help prop up the Castro government.

''A cautious observer just has to wait and see. My fear is that the U.S. may end up as an ally of the Castro regime.'' he says.

He is the co-author, along with father, of the "History of the Island of Cuba," and also published his father's memoirs. His father was also the founder of the Manuel Marquez Sterling School of Journalism at the University of Havana.
His father, who had served as president of the Cuban House of Representatives, was detained many times during he 1950s for his opposition to the Batista dictatorship and was placed under house arrest after Castro took over power on Jan. 1, 1959. He later fled the country and came to the United States where he taught at Columbia University.
Marquez-Sterling and his wife, Gloria, left Cuba along with their infant son in June 1960.

''We had $350 and a small suitcase. We thought that we would be going back some day. We came here to oppose Castro and his revolution,'' says Gloria.

He looked for a job and landed one cleaning a supermarket in Miami, a major change from being a lawyer and a probate judge. The couple later moved to the Washington, D.C., area where he found a job selling shoes before landing a job as a Spanish teacher at a prep school.

Marquez-Sterling said that during that time they saved up many boxes, with the intention of using them to take their belongings with them whenever they returned to Cuba. But that all changed during the Cuban Missile crisis in October 1962.

''We watched President Kennedy's speech about the missile crisis and I told my wife, 'Throw all the boxes away. We're not going back. Now we're part of the Cold War.'''

Marquez-Sterling went on to teach at Ricker College in Maine and landed a job teaching history at what was then Plymouth State Teachers College in 1966. Retired from his faculty position, he now holds the title of professor emeritus.

''I told my wife we'd be here two years. Well it turned out to be a lot longer than that. We fell in love with the area and I was doing what I was trained for.'' he says.

A lifelong baseball fan, who remembers seeing Minnie Minoso play in Cuba before he signed with the Chicago White Sox, Marquez-Sterling was featured in the Ken Burns series ''Baseball'' which was released in 1994. Among the items left behind in Cuba were dozens of baseball pictures signed by major league stars.

He and his wife note that there are 2.5 million Cubans who have left the country during Castro's rule and wonder what will be in store for them in the future.
''We're political refugees. Castro ran the island like a plantation and ruined its economy to the point where they now even have to import sugar. The average pay there is like $20 a month. Cuba is gasping for air. Will the refugees even be allowed to go inside Cuba?'' he asks.

Both say they have no interest in ever returning to Cuba as long as the Castro regime still holds power.

''What has changed? I don't want to see my homeland from a hotel.'' says Marquez-Sterling, who says he admires the sense of humor which has helped the Cuban people sustain themselves under Castro.

''You can be arrested if you have meat in your refrigerator or if you kill a milking cow for meat. So it seems that people are saying that their cows are committing suicide by getting hit by cars or trucks. That way they get to eat the meat without fear of being arrested.''

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 December 2014 01:03

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