Thursday September 20, 2012

Food industry’s
power on display

Editor of the Reformer:

Regarding your Sept. 15-16 editorial ("Don’t ban them, tax them"), NYC Mayor Bloomberg did attempt to tax sugar beverages, but failed as the beverage industry initiated a successful and powerful media blitz to kill that attempt to roll back the obesity and diabetes epidemic in New York. A Brooklynite, I generally disagree with the mayor on most issues, but not on his health campaigns, including his campaign to tax sugar beverages.

The beverage industry spends billions to maintain American addiction to sugar (or High Fructose Corn Syrup), which destroys the health of our people. In fact, Coca-Cola spends some $2 billion a year in public relations and advertising to convince the population that their products are healthy. Over the past few months in NYC, Coca-Cola and Pepsi delivery trucks have carried banners stating that we should not allow bureaucrats to decide what we drink. What they fail to note is the alternative is that the beverage corporations and their lobbyists seeking ever-larger profits are making those decisions.

A book, "Appetite for Profit," by Michele Simon, explains why we cannot trust food corporations to "do the right thing." Simon describes the local battles of going up against the powerful food lobbies and offers a comprehensive guide to the public relations, front groups, and lobbying tactics that food companies employ to trick the American public.

The attempt to tax sugar beverages had to go through the state legislature. Since politicians are often bought-and-sold by the corporations, the measure failed. The decision to limit the size of these beverages was a decision of the NYC Board of Health, appointed by Bloomberg, so politicians had no say in the matter.

And this is not simply a private decision that does not impact the rest of us as healthcare costs are often paid for with public dollars. If you spend an hour in a NYC emergency room, you would see why the decision to clamp down on the food industry is a good one.

Lew Friedman,

Marlboro/Brooklyn, N.Y., Sept. 16

‘Bernie’ remembered
for devoted service

Editor of the Reformer:

The greater Brattleboro area has lost one of its finest funeral directors with the recent passing of Bernard J. Fleming, fondly known by most area families as "Bernie."

A true hometown caregiver, he was born upstairs over the funeral home on Terrace Street during the great hurricane of 1938. He was introduced into the mortuary profession at a young age often assisting his father with many of the important duties of operating a small family funeral firm, from going on death calls, setting up chairs for services or answering the phone when his parents were out of the home.

The Flemings were known as the Catholic funeral directors in the community but following the death of his father Bernie started to serve many other faiths in Brattleboro, expanding his business and increasing the firm’s annual call volume.

In 1965, with his father Bernie, he established the Fleming Ambulance Service, becoming one of Brattleboro’s primary emergency services providers working in conjunction with Rescue Inc. as well as providing convalescent transfer services. He was one of the first in the business to break away from the limousine style ambulances by becoming the first in the community operate a larger van chassis ambulance.

He was dedicated to his profession and in an article published in the Reformer dated June 30, 1988, Bernie recounted how he went many years without taking a vacation because of the nature of the funeral business. That’s commitment.

Bernie was an excellent embalmer, always taking his time with his professional work. In our trade, the tell tail sign of an excellent technician is what condition they leave the prep facility in once finished. At our funeral home, he would leave the room neat as a pin and spotless.

What really made Bernie Fleming the funeral professional he became was the true empathy, sympathy and compassion he showed to every family that he was called to serve. He was quiet, efficient and displayed genuine concern in assisting families during their darkest hours. He had the uncanny ability to remember names of families served from years ago, and small details about each funeral service conducted. Bernie was a wealth of knowledge and local history.

In September of 2001, Bernie joined our staff at Atamaniuk Funeral Home back at his former home on Terrace Street. It was not only a privilege but an honor working side by side with him. Together we were truly Brattleboro’s hometown funeral directors.

Thank you Bernie for your devoted service. You will be missed, not only by myself and our entire staff, but also by so many in the community.

Michael D. Atamaniuk,

Atamaniuk Funeral Home, Inc., Sept 14

Follow the money

Editor of the Reformer:

Thank you for the excellent editorial in Monday’s Reformer, "Government Intervention."

Listed below are just a few of the items in stimulus funds as they are described in Michael Grumwald’s book, "The New New Deal."

The $1.3 Trillion Recovery Act stimulus funds had no earmarks, 0.001 percent fraud, and unprecedented transparency, and have been spread throughout the country on jobs, research, and small and large businesses .

Ed Devaney, who exposed the Jack Abramof dealings, set up new systems to follow all the money. His RAT tracked the results and the money of the tens of thousands of stimulus contractors.

Steven Chu, as head of the energy department, enlisted 4,500 outside experts to peer-review applications, so that the game was clean energy and to make sure that grants were given on merit, and that the government did not pick winners and losers.

Build America Bonds financed over 180 billion worth of school renovations, road improvements and other local infrastructure projects. "They were like a Recovery Act tucked inside a Recovery Act."

Unfortunately, "Republicans flatly refused to continue the wildly popular Build America Bonds, which had been a bipartisan proposal, and had expanded to one fifth of the municipal bond market in two years. They also refused to extend the advanced manufacturing tax credit, which financed 183 factories producing clean-energy components, as well as cash-in-lieu-of-taxes for clean energy projects ..."

In the words of Cisco’s top smart grid executive, Laura Ipsen, "... the smart grid is a tech play ... As a business opportunity, We think it can be way bigger than the internet ... It will also inspire applications that haven’t been dreamed up yet ... Since the Recovery Act passed, the mega-players have created scores of alliances to offer utilities one-stop ‘network solutions.’ Just as they once did for telecom."

Grunwald reminds the reader that our president, "The former community organizer whose rise was assisted by food stamps and student loans will argue that government can be a force for positive change, reining in the excesses of the free market, making strategic investments to help the nation and its people compete."

The Republicans who’ve screamed, "Crony Capitalism," about the Recovery Act are, I think, in need of pushback from those who have not forgotten the real crony capitalism in the Bush administration, when huge amounts of cash were doled out to Halliburton, Blackwater and Brown & Root. Many recall Oliver North during the Reagan "Iran Contra" debacle and many know Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is still on the Court though he forgot to pay the six years of taxes on his wife’s $100,000-per-year salary from the Heritage Foundation.

Go to recovery.gov and you will discover the stimulus contracts by Zip Code, with GIS mapping to show visually where the money is being spent.

Christina Angell,

Townshend, Sept. 18