Howard — What is quality of life?

Mega-cities are literally building into the clouds raising questions around scale and quality of life.  94th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan.

Mega-cities are literally building into the clouds raising questions around scale and quality of life.  94th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan.

By ELIZABETH HOWARD

Two weeks ago I was in London and had an opportunity to attend and participate in a program around building homes, actually desperately needed housing, on land designated as green belts. London is an elegant, gracious city with exquisite parks. The English love their gardens and the exhibition, Painting in the Modern Garden – Monet to Matisse, currently on view at The Royal Academy is sold out on most days. The idea of encroaching on nature is highly controversial, so the conversation was fascinating, particularly for an American.

Then I traveled on to Vienna for a Monocle conference on "Quality of Life." If you are interested you can watch it (monocle.com/film/affairs/urban-provocations/) on the Monocle website.

The world is becoming increasingly urban and the mega-cities are being stretched for more housing, modes of transportation, clean water and green space. The Monocle conference was designed to generate conversation and ideas around these issues. Most of the participants at the conference travel from one major city to another across continents, so their insights represented many cultures and perspectives.

When I returned to New York I kept thinking about the phrase, "quality of life." We hear it often. People move to the country for reasons related to quality of life. Or they move from a cold climate to a warm climate to improve their lifestyle.
It seems to me that much of the political rhetoric that is swirling around and keeping us in a thick fog is essentially about quality of life. Where is community? Where is the desire to work together? Where is the desire to sit down and think about what we can do to boost job opportunities? Together. It isn't just about housing and green space.

Shinola (shinola.com) is a company in Detroit that is producing beautiful products that are manufactured in the United States. It is the creation of jobs for Americans in Detroit that the company is most proud of.

What can we do to stop the bullying and disagreement that seems to be pulling at the fabric of who we are as Americans? On Tuesday evening, 10th of May, Abby Disney's film Armor of Light is being broadcast on PBS. The film follows an evangelical minister and the mother of a child who was murdered in Florida and raises questions around those who are pro-life and pro-gun.

It is a film that plays a role in helping Americans understand how we can break down some of the issues that separate us. Abby invited me to one of the first screenings and I had the opportunity to view it for the second time last week in Harlem. As it ended and a discussion followed, the words quality of life came into my mind again.

People live in a community like Laconia for the lifestyle it offers. Summers on the lake, picturesque winters with opportunities for winter sports. Soon, Laconia will have a new theater, and hopefully this will bring more activity downtown. Yet, I sense there is much that could be done to improve the quality of life. It isn't an individual thought. It is only achieved when people embrace one another. When people accept that we are all different, but somewhere there are threads that link us together. It is what connects us, not what differentiates us that is most important.

Armor of Light begins with the often-cited Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote on the screen.

"Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

Elizabeth Howard's career intersects journalism, marketing and communications. Ned O'Gorman: A Glance Back, a book she edited, will be published in May 2016. She is the author of A Day with Bonefish Joe, a children's book, published by David R. Godine. She lives in New York City and has a home in Laconia. You can send her a note at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Never at a loss for words — Coming out of

by Gayle Lacasse
Bayswater Books

 

Winter: the time for hibernation. Retail businesses and service industries alike know the quiet that befalls our Lakes Region over the winter months. This time can be used as springboard for the upcoming season. Here at Bayswater, we have spent much of the winter excitedly researching hot new books ready for release, searching for new products to introduce this season, and generally gearing up for spring.

One such anticipated novel is Salt to the Sea, a young adult book by acclaimed author Ruta Sepetys. "Salt to the Sea is set in the winter of 1945 and unearths a story of World War II that has been hidden for 70 years," Sepetys explains. It tells of one of the greatest maritime disasters of all times. The luxury liner, Wilhelm Gustloff, refitted to transport thousands of refugees, was tragically sunk in the Baltic Sea. The number of passengers that perished dwarfs both the Titanic and the Lusitania combined.

The story of the massive exodus of Eastern European refugees fleeing from the grip of Germany and Russia is told by four young voices: Joanna, the brave nurse fleeing from the horrors occurring in Lithuania intent on helping as many people as she can; Emilia, whose intellectual father sent her from Poland to East Prussia to keep her safe with a family he thought could be trusted; Alfred, misguided, disliked, and fervently loyal to the Fuhrer; and Florian, a Prussian determined to complete his mission involving the disappearance of the secret Amber Room treasure, despite the odds.

Sepetys' own father had fled Lithuania, having lived in refugee camps for nine years before coming to the United States. A cousin of her father had actually booked passage on the Wilhelm Gustloff, but fate had intervened, preventing her from boarding the ship. The author claims, "...she is the one who begged me to write about it, and she also said even though we weren't on the ship, we could give voice to those who believe that their stories are sunken."

The night I finished Salt to the Sea was a sleepless night for me. I absorbed all of the emotional angst the author poured into the pages, especially the pages describing the panic, turmoil, and commotion when the ship was sinking. Sepetys' target may be young adults, but she wrote a historical fiction that moved this adult to tears.

There are many excellent young adult and middle reader books being published just in time for spring. Spring and summer hats are in, dazzling new jewelry is arriving daily, colorful accessories complement new book releases, and favorite fiction and non-fiction keeps rolling in.

We are shrugging the vestiges of winter off, throwing open the doors, and offering a warm welcome, as always. Bayswater Books is open seven days a week: Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Bob Meade - A man on a mission. . .

Perhaps some of the older readers may remember when God and patriotism were still in vogue, during what has been called the "greatest generation." A member of that generation is the Rev. William (Bill) Atkinson, a man on a mission.

During World War II, after graduating from high school in Lawrence, Mass., Bill joined the Navy and served aboard ship in the Pacific theater, as a signalman. After the war, he attended college and became a high school teacher, coach, and assistant principal, in Suffield, Conn. After retiring, he became ordained as an Episcopal priest, and served as rector of a parish in up-state Vermont. When he retired from that position he moved to Meredith and continued to perform his priestly duties as a supply clergy, substituting when needed at various parishes in central New Hampshire.
Father Bill is a true patriot. His background, and the teaching he received as he grew up, are what cause him to be on his mission . . . that is, to get people to stand and proudly sing our national anthem. He wants people to understand what price has been paid for the freedoms we enjoy. To know that the Revolutionary War did not end our war with England. That the British, during the war of 1812, burned our capital city of Washington and took many prisoners who were put in chains and held in the bowels of their ships. The British fleet then sailed to Baltimore, intent on bombing Fort McHenry and capturing the city.

Francis Scott Key, a young lawyer, was sent to the British flagship to try and strike a bargain for the release of the Americans being held prisoner. A bargain was struck for a one-for-one exchange of British and American prisoners, but the British insisted that the one-for-one exchange would only be honored if the American flag was still flying over Ft. McHenry by dawn's early light.

Please reflect on the eighty words written by Francis Scott Key to describe that battle, and the importance of the flag . . .

O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
He is telling us that in the early morning, we could still see the flag we were so proud of, as the sun set the night before. That meant our soldiers could be freed.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
Here, Francis Scott Key is telling us that the battle raged relentlessly throughout the night and, from the British ship, he could look over the ramparts of Ft. McHenry and, as the bombs and rockets burst, the fire from the bursts provided enough light to see that our flag was still there . . . it had not been replaced by the British union jack, as that would have signaled our defeat and our soldiers would continue to be held prisoner.

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,?
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave
And the poem ends with the recognition of our national symbol, that Star Spangled Banner, is still flying over the home of the free and the land of the brave.

What Key's poem didn't mention, was that Ft. McHenry, and the flag, had been hit with bombs repeatedly and a great many of our soldiers were killed. The only thing that kept the stars and stripes waving in air was that the flag pole which had been struck, was being held up by the bodies of our fallen soldiers.

Since the revolutionary war, brave Americans have continued to pay a heavy price for our freedom. Our Civil War, in an effort to save the union and bring freedom to all, took the lives of about 630,000 citizens. Since that time, approximately 650,000 more brave Americans have paid the ultimate price in other wars to maintain our freedoms here at home, and to help others around the world defeat tyranny and achieve some measure of freedom. Each time a life has been given as a price to be paid for our freedom, it has been a contribution not unlike the ones made by the bodies of the fallen at Ft. McHenry . . . to keep our flag flying, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Our National Anthem is not a ballad. It contains the story about the price that was, and that continues to be paid, for our freedom. Help Father Bill to be successful in his mission . . . always join in and sing the National Anthem to honor those who have made our freedom possible. Do it proudly.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

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Froma Harrop - Our sick Rx business

Sometimes the road to hell is paved with bad intentions. A company adopts a business model so twisted that justice must come clanking down on its executives and bankrollers. Justice is now being served on Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. Evil this blatant is headed for the full Hollywood treatment.

Valeant preys on sick people by acquiring essential drugs and then multiplying their price for a fast profit. Example: upon buying the maker of Cuprimine, a 53-year-old drug that treats a rare genetic disorder, the Canadian company hiked its price 5,787 percent. Example: after obtaining the rights to two heart drugs, Isuprel and Nitropress, Valeant jacked up their prices by 525 percent and 212 percent, respectively.

Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, called Valeant a "sewer" at the conglomerate's recent annual meeting. If the burning fires of hell are not available, a sewer will do.

Get this: Valeant charges Americans almost 100 times more for flucytosine than it does Britons. Used to treat cryptococcal meningitis, flucytosine costs $2,000 a day in the United States, versus $22 a day in Britain.

How could this be? Ask your Congress.

From the Medicare drug benefit on up, it has written laws to enrich drug companies at the expense of American consumers and taxpayers. Valeant's going down not because it was greedy but because it was insanely greedy.

Calling Valeant a "drug company" is problematic because it's not much into researching and developing new medications. "Bet on management, not on science," its outgoing CEO, J. Michael Pearson, was fond of saying.

It takes some doing to provoke the U.S. Senate to hold a hearing on a drug company's pricing. In this, Valeant (and previously Martin Shkreli's Turing Pharmaceuticals) succeeded.

Under the harsh lights, Pearson conceded that his company made "mistakes." His big mistake was not recognizing that even the most pliable champions of America's medical-industrial complex have their limits.

Pearson's description of Valeant's program offering price breaks for hospitals that use some of its drugs didn't glow for long. Hospitals responded that when they tried to obtain those alleged discounts, they got nowhere. Valeant didn't answer their emails. It didn't answer the phone.

What else made Valeant think it could get away with such anti-social behavior? No doubt Wall Street's willingness to invest in its money-raking scheme contributed. Hedge fund giant William Ackman was Valeant's leading pitchman, enticing other big funds to join in the pillage.

Valeant has problems in addition to a business model so repugnant it couldn't be allowed to live. Among them is a high pile of debt. And its accounting practices aren't so hot, either.

Thus, it's no huge surprise that Valeant's stock price has collapsed 85 percent since last summer. Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management and other hedge fund participants have lost billions.

Ackman told the hearing that his fund was not entirely aware of Valeant's drug pricing policy. He was a "passive" investor, he said. Somehow the truth would have seemed less damning. Are we to believe that Pershing Square poured $4 billion into a company without inquiring as to how it made money?

In an almost comical exchange with the senators, Ackman said: "I totally get it. We're going to come up with an appropriate (drug) price based on an appropriate rationale."

All is not forgiven. Investors lost billions, but patients may have lost far more.

One hopes that spotlighting this egregious gouging on drug prices won't deter attention from the lower-level daily gouging that our laws enable. The only remedy for that, frankly, is new lawmakers.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

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Susan Estrich - The lesser of the evils?

It's pretty darn depressing when political writers are essentially writing off the 2016 election as a choice between the lesser of two evils — seven months in advance of the election. It's one thing when, after months of negative ads, we shake our heads in disgust, but we haven't even really started yet.

If this is the way we begin, is there any question where we will end? Alienated, distrustful, angrier than we are now, having elected a president with no mandate at all.

We have to do better than this. If Donald Trump is going to be the nominee of the Republican Party for the most powerful job on the planet, then it's time for him, and us, to start taking his candidacy seriously. He needs to start doing his homework. Enough with the off-the-cuff comments of a television talk show host playing for ratings. If Donald Trump wants to be the president of the United States, he ought to start trying to act the part, and see if he can pull it off. If not, fine. It will be clear.

As for Republican talkers, it's time for them to grow up, too, and stop blaming everyone and anyone for the fact that Republican voters are about to pick one of their competitors for a chance at the top job. To hear the chattering class complaining, you'd think Donald Trump was a three-headed monster who'd been foisted on an otherwise perfect party primed for victory. Not so. The Republicans didn't have a credible candidate who could connect with voters. That's a problem you can't blame on Donald Trump.

I watched some of the early debates with my students. I wanted them to get involved — dare I say, get excited — and the closest anyone ever came to inspiring that energy on the Republican side was Donald Trump. Blame the system all you want, but if you look at the candidates and ask the questions voters always ask ("Does he understand people like me?" "Do I feel like he's on my side?"), it doesn't take rocket science to see why we've gotten Trump. He isn't an aberration; he is the logical conclusion of the anti-government gospel that Ted Cruz has been spouting since he got to the Senate.

And now Cruz is trying to stop him. Why? Because Cruz wants to do all the spouting off, and frankly, when it comes to spouting off — if that's what the contest is — Trump is just a better teapot. (How convenient.)

No one pretends the process is perfect, least of all those of us who had a hand in the compromises that the often inconsistent rules for selecting delegates reflect. But here's the thing: Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee because she is the most popular Democrat running among Democrats. Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee because he's the candidate who most Republicans favor. Strange as it sounds, this is what we call democracy. It does not always produce the results that elites crave, which is actually one of its strong points.

But the results need to be taken seriously. I didn't think Donald Trump could be nominated. I was wrong. I didn't think he could be elected. I'm not saying that anymore. The anger is real. Trump is no joke. Sexism is alive and well, thank you, in both sexes. Democrats can learn a lesson from all those former GOP front-runners sitting on the sidelines while the candidate who could hardly be taken seriously continues his march to the nomination.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

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