Posts Tagged ‘Etc’

Keyna Cory: Recycling push coming to Capitol

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Tuesday will be Florida Recycles Day at the Florida Capitol. It’s the third year the Florida Recycling Partnership and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have teamed up to promote recycling. Displays will be on the first floor of the Capitol from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Florida Recycling Partnership is a coalition of top Florida businesses and associations with the mission of educating policy makers and the general public on the benefits of recycling. Our members believe in the symbol – reduce, reuse
and recycle!  They are doing their part to reduce the waste in their day-to-day business, reuse materials whenever possible, and recycle items that can be recycled.
At this year’s event, there will be a “Recycling Pledge Card” for people to sign. The pledge is simple:

Learn. I will find out what materials are collected for recycling in my community;
Act. Reduce my personal waste by recycling.  Within the next month, I will recycle more; and
Share. In the next month, I will encourage one family member or one friend to take the pledge.

It’s the same pledge Keep America Beautiful asks people to sign in conjunction with America Recycles Day scheduled for Nov. 15.
Florida has a goal to recycle 75 percent of its municipal solid waste by 2020. It’s a lofty goal but we can definitely move the needle. The national rate for recycling is about 34.5 percent. Florida is way ahead with a recycling rate of about 50 percent.
But we need everyone’s help to reach our goal.
Florida Recycling Partnership members recycle every day. They are recycling within the confines of their business as well as providing customers recycling opportunities.
Here are a few examples of what can be recycled:

Plastic bottles can be recycled to make new items like carpet and filling for jackets.
Aluminum cans are recycled to become new cans and if you

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Chris Timmons: A champion of the reader takes his leave

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

The first e-mail I received from Gerald Ensley was in reply to one I had sent him.
I wrote something complimentary about a column he wrote, and he wrote something back in compliment about my writing (around this time, circa 2007, I would write occasional letters to the editor or submit an occasional column to the Tallahassee Democrat).
Yet that an established writer took the time to read the immature – I mean craftwise, and otherwise, really – musings of a young man from nowhere, the provinces – whatever you want to call it, was a delight to me.
Nine years going, Gerald and I would make a pair of contrasting regular correspondents: one young, the other a sprightly, youthful middle-age; one liberal, the other playing a bombastic conservative; one part of the establishment of the town, the other quite removed from it.
Yet we hit it off, and when I stopped writing pretentious e-mails, we attained our stride in conversation.
Gerald has retired as a columnist and reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat, where he was an integral part for 35 years. Gerald was a great newspaper writer, something quite difficult to be.
The novelist Tom Wolfe, for instance, declared it impossible to write good copy as a reporter; that one could do “lively,” but the distinction between “lively writing” and “good writing” is as wide as the Atlantic Ocean.
Few have achieved it: say, an H.L. Mencken or a Red Smith. Maybe Murray Kempton. Or a James Kirkpatrick, whom I believe was in Gerald’s private pantheon of favorite writers, which included sports writer Frank DeFord and Nora Ephron.
Otherwise, journalism has an abundance of fair writers: not egregiously bad, but as far as writing goes, or to say, on the strength of style – that most important element of good writing, most do not cut it.
The problem

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Ned Bowman: Reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard would help our business community

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

With only a few remaining days in October, it’s important to highlight that this is National Manufacturing Month. Most of us understand how integral the manufacturing industry is to our city, state and country.
Manufacturing drives our economy, creates products and services we rely on every day, builds infrastructure and generates job growth. We need the manufacturing industry to remain healthy and robust. One way to ensure its success would be to consider reforming a federal regulation that seeks to force ethanol into fuel at an increased rate each year.
While the U.S. is making an effort to regulate our nation’s emissions with the Clean Power Plan, another federal regulation – the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – is counterproductive to those goals as well as our industrial needs.
The RFS mandates increased consumption of ethanol made from corn. It was initially conceived in an attempt to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas and increase investment in biofuels production. Since the RFS was enacted in 2005, ethanol production and corn growth have increased exponentially. Now 90 percent of the U.S. fuel supply contains at least 10 percent ethanol in order to meet the RFS’ corn ethanol mandate. And the ramifications of this policy are already abundantly evident.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study found that an ethanol production plant in Illinois generated emissions higher than 30 times the government’s initial estimates. Further, the federal Environmental Protection Agency found that burning ethanol in vehicles also contributes to an increase in emissions. Specifically, the agency found that fuels containing 10 percent ethanol actually increase nitrogen oxide emissions. As a result, ozone concentrations are increasing in some states that are generating smog levels that put them at risk of violating current ozone standards by 2022.
The damage caused by the RFS does not stop at our air quality.

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Audrey Brown: Support bill to end unfair balance billing

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Far too often medical bills overwhelm families when they’re hit with surprise bills as a result of unexpected emergencies, even families that have purchased health insurance.
The practice of balance billing for emergency services has been detrimental to many, but relief could be on the way thanks to state Rep. Carlos Trujillo. The Miami Republican has filed House Bill 221,  which would effectively end the practice of balance billing PPO policyholders who receive emergency medical care from out-of-network health care providers.
Specifically, the proposal would prohibit hospital emergency departments and providers from billing a consumer the balance difference between the retail charges for emergency health care and what the provider receives in payment from the consumer’s copayment or co-insurance and reimbursement from the consumer’s insurer.
Some have recently claimed that portions of Representative Trujillo’s legislation are lifted straight from the pages of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.” That’s a misrepresentation. The ACA does not prohibit PPO balance billing of consumers or prohibit any form of balance billing for out-of-network services, which is the purpose of Representative Trujillo’s proposal.
Without passage of Representative Trujillo’s HB 221, Floridians with PPO health insurance policies will continue to be balance billed for out-of-network emergency services. Florida law now prohibits balance billing of out-of-network emergency services for patients with HMO health care policies, and those protections were in place long before the ACA came into existence.
Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate recently held a forum focused on surprise balance bills. At that hearing the Consumer Advocate illustrated the real-life effects of PPO balance billing. A Boca Raton woman was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was told that she needed emergency surgery. She went to her in-network hospital for the procedure and was unknowingly treated by an out-of-network neurosurgeon at that hospital, resulting in her receiving a

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Tom Feeney: Raising Florida’s academic bar can result in a more productive workforce

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

There are reforms occurring in Florida’s education system, and we have the opportunity to improve our education system and further advance Florida students’ progress.
Florida’s State Board of Education will soon determine our state’s “cut scores” on state-administered tests, and set the new standard for proficiency, the mastery and in-depth knowledge of core subject areas.
At the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), our mission is to encourage and support businesses and industrial growth in Florida, and to encourage good measures that will lead to economic growth and prosperity in Florida. That’s why AIF encourages Florida to dedicate itself to our students by raising the academic bar to a level that aligns with readiness for students’ success in the workforce or post-secondary education.
As Florida’s representative of the National Association of Manufacturers and the voice of Florida business, our continued job creation and economic development advancements relies on Florida’s graduating students who are prepared and aspire to succeed at their jobs.
Florida’s students are our state’s next generation of economic drivers: our employees, our business owners, our inventors and our investors. The mastery of core subjects is vital if we want to continue to grow and strengthen our economy.
Every year, employers nationwide spend billions of dollars to catch-up new employees on skills taught, but not mastered, in K-12 schools. Such wasted time and money results in slow job growth and loss in income. Florida has the chance to change that and ensure our students are well-prepared, reducing the wasted time and energy that could be spent in a much more productive way.
Florida students must be held to higher standards, and raising the academic bar will do just that. No matter how great our percentage of “proficient” students in Florida looks nationwide, it will not matter if our students are taking exams and tests with point-cushioned

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Catherine Durkin Robinson: I apologize in advance – for all the itching

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

I remember when Sundays were about jazz, yoga and mimosas. Long walks and picnics in the park. A day to relax and reconnect with loved ones.
Then my kids started high school.
Now Sundays are a variety of things, none of them peaceful. Projects suddenly due the next day so we have to haul ass to Walmart for poster board, colored pencils, and something called “multi-purpose spray adhesive” that violates at least 10 environmental laws.
Or we get every teenage boy in the city showing up to watch football. They remember stats about fallbacks and receivers, but can’t remember to put coasters under Big Gulps or properly aim in the bathroom.
One recent Sunday was especially fun. The night before, my 15-year-old son Jacob found “something weird” in his bed. He woke me at 1 a.m. to take a look and, in my sleepy state, I hoped it wasn’t a naked body.
He explained that he had placed the weird thing in a cardboard box top and pointed at it.
I squinted and said, “A sesame seed? You interrupted a dream about Brad Pitt for a sesame seed?”
“I think it’s a bug,” Jacob said.
I squinted again. Still looked like something that belonged on a bagel.
“I’ll check in the morning.”
In the morning, I put on glasses and used the magnifying app on my phone. Gotta love middle age. That seed was, in fact, a bug moving slowly around the box. I took a picture, searched online for dust mites and bed bugs to match it, but no luck.
I typed “lice” and hit enter.
We had a winner.
My husband Marc bought a comb and I ran it through Jacob’s head. Right away, two creatures popped out and proudly said hello. Weren’t even smart enough to run. I think the bigger one stuck his tongue out.
I consider myself a peaceful

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Chris Timmons: John Thrasher’s Florida State presidency: ‘Good job’

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

I hear John Thrasher is doing a good job as president of Florida State University.
Says FSU trustee Allan Bense: “In general, I will tell you 2014 was a rough year. There were days when I had 50 or 60 emails in my inbox. And I will tell you, you know how many I get today? Zero.”
By that vague standard, of course, FSU’s governing board easily reaches the decision to reward Thrasher with a 90K bonus and 7.2 percent raise. Somewhere in the afterlife Allan Bloom is quoting Aristotle (considered the West’s first academic) and throwing Greek-derived expletives at FSU’s Board of Trustees.  Somewhere John Henry Newman weeps. Somewhere Ortega y Gasset pouts.
Sure, Thrasher acquitted himself well when a deranged man caused bloody mayhem at FSU’s Strozier Library. He called a press conference, had the ineffectual Gov. Rick Scott attend, and comforted the university community. His sense of the human dimension during a tense moment for FSU is praiseworthy.
Sure, to use a cliché, the sky has not fallen with Thrasher as FSU’s president. The school is still a well-oiled and percolating machine. The life of the university is still teeming with fresh excitements, from the student union to the National Magnetic Laboratory.
Sure, he gets along well with everyone. For God’s sake, the man was a politician for eons at the highest levels of Florida politics. Add to the equation that it is only human nature that people would gravitate to power, a thing Thrasher has in abundance and wears with confidence and uses with savvy, and he’d doubtless be a popular man.
Sure, FSU’s fundraising totals for its capital campaign are stellar. Naturally, with a national name, a fanatical alumni base, staff dedicated to getting people to give ungodly sums of dough to gratify their egos, $700 million isn’t all that hard

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Terri Susan Fine: You need no special talent to help fight hunger

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

The United Nations itself had not yet been officially established when its Food and Agriculture Organization was formed. The U.N. opened Oct. 24, 1945, eight days after the FAO, and not until 1948 did the international body ratified its Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The way these events unfolded suggests that ahead of individual human rights and world security is one of the most basic human rights: access to food and nutrition. The chronology of events speaks to food security as surpassing all other human rights.
What is the value of other human rights if the most basic goes unfulfilled?
It’s also interesting that the U.N. named Oct. 16 as World Food Day and not World Hunger Day, focusing on the solution although we have no choice but to look at hunger.
Each year millions of people across the world that day focus their attention on world hunger with the intent of eliminating it. Activists focus their attention by taking part in public-awareness campaigns, educating the public about the severity of hunger in local communities and in the world, and otherwise engaging in projects and activities to alleviate hunger.
Recent statistics on malnutrition show that in the United States alone, 49 million people – including 17 million children, live in households with hunger or the risk of hunger. Those numbers represent 11 percent of the U.S. population.
Worldwide, hunger is experienced by 923 million people, while about 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes each day.
Malnutrition of children affects critical life experiences, because preschool and school-age children who suffer severe hunger tend to exhibit higher levels of chronic illness, anxiety, depression and behavioral problems, when compared with children who are fed. Among the poor living in developing countries, 820 million are undernourished: They consume less than the minimum amount of calories and nutrients needed for sound health.

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Sally Schwartz: In this case, hospital clean is filthy

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

A retired licensed practical nurse, who recently spent a week as a patient at Martin Medical Center in Stuart, confirms that I’m not the only one who’s noticed the hospital is dirty — really dirty. It could use a housekeeper like Downton Abbey’s Mrs. Hughes to oversee its cleaning staff.
Two years ago, I complained after an outpatient visit that walls in hallways and rooms needed scrubbing and painting, and that bathrooms had mold in sinks and showers, and caked-on dirt everywhere.
A hospital representative thanked me for my comments and said it’s very difficult to keep older areas of the hospital clean.
A couple of short stays in June showed me the cardiac care unit has at least one aggressive worker who even disinfects door handles. But other areas I saw, particularly the medical center’s emergency room, remain uncomfortably grimy.
So I was not surprised to receive the LPN patient’s emailed photos, showing brown spots she said were blood and feces on the floor of her hospital room at Martin Medical Center. More photos show hydrogen peroxide bubbling furiously over the spots after a friend brought in the disinfectant and used her cellphone to shoot pictures.
“It was so frustrating,” the LPN said, “to complain and as the days went along see that nothing was done.” She points out that a dark brown, wood-look floor isn’t the best choice for a hospital trying to keep patient rooms clean. Spilled body fluids such as blood all but disappear.
She had no complaints about her actual medical care, which she said was excellent. But no one would address her concerns about the unsanitary conditions.
“It’s not like I didn’t mention it. I told the nurse somebody needed to clean the floor and the bathroom.”
The LPN said a worker came daily to mop her room. She tried without success

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Dr. Marc J. Yacht: Continuing hatreds embody true cost of war

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Wars never end.
The bullets may stop but the hatreds continue. Any family that’s lost a son, daughter, wife or husband will never end their anguish or forget those responsible for their loss.
Both sides remember.
That’s why the march to war must be carefully considered with all alternatives on the table. Such was not the case in Iraq, Vietnam, and Korea.
Generations of hatred are triggered by war and last longer than faded photographs. If we all examined conflict through the loss of one soldier or civilian and senses the effect on loved ones, perhaps there would be an end to war.
I was 4 years old when my grandmother’s early-morning visit told of my cousin Eugene’s death in an Air Corps training accident. The year: 1944. I still remember the weeping and wailing of family members devastated at Eugene’s demise. My aunt never recovered from losing her son and spent the remainder of her life in and out of mental institutions. One death!
The Civil War never ended. The battles are over, the bullets stopped flying but be assured, the hatreds and conflicts continue.
Two books are worth reading: “Neo-Confederacy,” edited by Hague, Beirich, and Sebesta  and “Kingdom Coming” by Michelle Goldberg.  Although their emphasis is different, they explore the history and growing influence of the conservative religious right.
The contemporary Neo-Confederacy movement made its mainstream appearance in 1995. The authors Thomas Fleming and Michael Hill, two of the founding members, published the “New Dixie Manifesto” that appeared in The Washington Post. Espoused were, home rule for “Southerners”; states’ rights and devolved political power; local control over schooling, in opposition to federal desegregation decrees; removal of federal funding and initiatives from Southern states; Christian tradition in opposition to modernity; support for Confederate symbols.
The manifest further expressed that Southerners are maligned as “racist” and “anti-immigrant” by hypocritical,

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Catherine Durkin Robinson: It wasn’t easy — just sitting there, allowing sadness to come and go

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

“…and the whole wide world is whistling.” NONONO
For years, I’ve joked that writing is cheaper than therapy. Come to think of it, I’ve said the same thing about wine. Recently, though, writing and enjoying a good glass of Pinot wasn’t helping. I’d need to see a professional.
What exactly was wrong?
I don’t think anyone would blame me for unraveling a bit after 10 years of systematic, targeted hatred from cowards who write letters with sentences ending in prepositions. That would bum anyone out.
Or it could have been the sudden discovery of a missing gene that doubles my risk for cancer, requires invasive detection procedures, involves gifts like an “Inherited Risk Registry” lunch bag and, worst of all, limits the amount of Pinot I can drink.
Surprisingly enough, these weren’t my reasons for therapy. Challenging sure, but nothing too serious. Something else concerned me.
Waves of sadness concerned me.
These almost-suffocating surges arrived at awkward moments – in the carpool line, mile 4 of a 10-mile run, or once while reaching for a bag of cheesy poofs at Costco – and quickly built to a crescendo that left me spent and emotionally drained. Like open water swims at the beach, sometimes I could swim through the waves and arrive at the finish feeling victorious, other times I’d swallow a mouthful, almost drown and then fart sea water for the next two hours.
It’s no fun admitting you’re a cliché, but here I was, a middle-aged woman with everything she’d ever wanted, fighting waves of sadness and in need of professional help. How original. In the 1950s and 1960s, they called women like me “worried wells.” In the 1970s and ‘80s, they called us Woody Allen characters.
Now we’re Lexapro customers.
I tried to solve the problem myself. I mentored troubled kids, started Spanish lessons, took on more responsibility

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Traci Evison: Best leap of my life could be yours, too

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

I recently gave myself a tandem skydiving jump to celebrate my 40th birthday. Jumping out of an airplane is much less expensive than purchasing a flashy new sports car, I reasoned, while tapping the Groupon button on my phone.
Some may be alarmed that I purchased a discount ticket for an activity that could put my life in jeopardy. Does the adage ”You get what you pay for” apply here? Would you want to take that risk?
Surprisingly, I thought less about this decision than I usually do deciding which overpriced coffee to buy at the coffee shop. Why is that? Why would this 40-year-old throw caution to the wind?
One answer to these questions is that by the time you’ve reached 40, you likely have allowed yourself to have moments when you really feel alive by experiencing the full spectrum of human emotions, including uncertainty, angst, love and joy, to name a few. Somehow, jumping out of an airplane seemed like it would usher in a few more moments of this human experience – so I didn’t hesitate.
Now if you feel like you have hit a certain age and missed out on these things, and have an extensive bucket list of ever-growing wishes, then I would suggest to you that jumping out of an airplane may be just the thing you need.
Poet Mary Oliver has a nice way of putting it:

Listen, are you breathing just a little,
and calling it a life?…
For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?
Fall in! Fall in!

The second answer to these questions is that age is not indicative of behavior or mindset, because you are only as old as you feel. Whether or not you decide to have fun, I may have some news for you: You are still going to age.

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Dr. Marc J. Yacht: Another college mass killing and the dilemma remains unsolved

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Oregon’s Umpqua Community College erupted in gunfire leaving 10 dead and 7 wounded. The gunman, Chris Harper Mercer, 26, died in a firefight with Douglas County deputies. Peculiar to this shooting, the gunman murdered people who confirmed they were Christians. Those who said they were not were wounded. The gunman’s connection to the college is unclear.
President Barack Obama quickly arranged a press conference condemning the killings and criticizing those who stand in the way of sensible gun regulation. He further stated that the vast majority of responsible gun owners and remaining citizens favor gun laws. He took to task those who block efforts for gun control and suggested that without congressional efforts he would be standing again in front of the nation expressing sympathy for victims and families in future mass killings.
The president spoke of trillions of dollars spent for security and challenged the media to compare the deaths from U.S. gun violence to terrorism deaths. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that from 2004 to 2013 there were 316,545 deaths from gun violence and during that period 313 deaths from terrorism. He suggests although we fund counterterrorism efforts, no effective efforts are made to curtail gun violence. He encouraged citizens to identify those elected officials blocking needed gun policy and remember their names in the polling booths.
Only an unbalanced citizen would not condemn the killings in this and past shootings. The conflict relates to how to eliminate the danger. Obama mentioned other wealthy nations and their lack of similar tragedies attributed to gun regulation. He expressed his concern that we stand alone in the frequency of these incidents among other nations. There are as many guns as people in the U.S., so it is clear, the President stated, more guns are not the answer.

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Columba Bush: Embrace your Hispanic heritage, expand knowledge of your culture

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

This year marks the 27th anniversary of National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), a month-long recognition of the many contributions Hispanics and Latinos have made to our country.
In honor of the anniversary of Independence Day for five Latin American countries, Sept. 15 was chosen as the official kickoff day for this important month. As an American of Hispanic origin, I am proud to celebrate my heritage and join with each of you as we recognize the tremendous influence of the Hispanic culture on our great nation.
Love of faith, family, friends, and food are often considered the foundation of the Hispanic culture. When I met Jeb 41 years ago, I was moved by his willingness to learn Spanish and his desire to immerse himself completely in the Hispanic culture. I often tell friends that Jeb not only fell in love with me but simultaneously fell in love with our culture and our people. After marrying Jeb and moving to the United States, I quickly realized that the love of faith, family, friends, and food are the cornerstones of the many cultures represented in this diverse country.
In the early ’90s, I had the pleasure of blending my love of art, education, and heritage by assisting with the creation of the Children’s Educational Fund of the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. It provided school-age children in the United States the opportunity to attend dance performances that emphasized local folk culture while combining ballet characteristics. One of the greatest joys of my adulthood was watching those performances as though through the eyes of small children.
While governor and first lady of Florida, Jeb and I recognized National Hispanic Heritage Month each year by holding a reception at the Governor’s Mansion honoring the contributions of Florida’s Hispanic community to the state’s cultural heritage. We

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Dr. Marc J. Yacht: Profiteering, rigid ideologies undermining U.S.

Monday, September 28th, 2015

The welfare system is crashing, healthcare is broken and the politicians are paralyzed by personal attacks and inaction.
Roads, bridges, municipal sewer, water systems, and electrical power capacity need attention. Urban areas are starved for high capacity speed transit and operating transportation systems are in dire need of upgrade and repair. Public schools are underfunded and victimized by ideological fights. A living wage may require two to three jobs should that poorly paid work be available.
Welcome to America!
A fix would require a bipartisan commitment to the nation and trillions of dollars.  The longer the commitment is delayed the more difficult and expensive is the resolution. Does the nation have the will to address its fundamental problems?  Typically, U.S. leaders divert attention abroad.
In January presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders submitted a $1 trillion infrastructure bill dubbed the “Rebuild America Act.” The money would be spent over five years and focus on the nation’s transportation systems.
Sanders said, “A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could support 13 million decent-paying jobs and make our country more efficient, productive and safer.” He suggests that the expenditures would directly benefit Americans and cost less than the misguided Bush/Cheney Iraq war.
Public assistance abuse and the growing number of people on the dole are fodder for conservative groups. Welfare subsidies cost $152.8 billion annually.
There is good reason to be concerned. A new paradigm is needed for how we serve the needy. The cash payout model must be revisited. The abuse costing millions of tax dollars a year must be thwarted. There are many myths about public assistance. Here are some facts (source Cheatsheet, Megan Elliot):

In 2012 more than 20 percent of the U.S. population received public assistance;
Participation in welfare programs grew from 18.6 percent in 2009 to 21.3 percent in 2012;
The average monthly benefit is $400;
Thirty-nine percent of children

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Chris Timmons: Season’s change tempers summer’s disappointment

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Since Wednesday, it’s officially been fall. Fall is my favorite time of the year.
Crisp leaves falling from grand trees, cool but pleasant weather, and the quickening of the daily pace as the lull of summer drops off and families and children come back from their summer vacations.
The beginning of fall is also the end of summer reading.
Such a divide would seem superficial, except that summer reading is generally seen as a somewhat lightweight endeavor, or less than serious.
But summer reading for me is reading at its most ambitious. I tend to take on the heavy-hitting books of literature or history.  Last summer, it was books such as  Trollope’s 900-page “The Way They Live Now.”
This year, I aimed to read George Eliot, Tolstoy, and Marcel Proust, in addition to, slight books of contemporary interest.
But it’s the fat, door-stopping books that test my stamina and reading prowess, and as something of burgeoning highbrow, the only reading I take with more than modicum of seriousness.
Which reminds me to pooh-pooh President Barack Obama’s summer list. Initially, when I read the president’s list, I winced.
He had short books, for example, like Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Lowland” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” – rarely a long, ambitious book, like his choice of Ron Chernow’s “Washington: A Life.”
It says something about the president’s reading priorities, which are expressly and unforgivably political-minded. And it says something about the intellectual toll the presidency can take.
At one point, the president was a sophisticated and dedicated reader of weighty work, say, Derek Walcott’s collected poetry. But that the president was reading, at least one book I read (the Coates), up there at Martha’s Vineyard prevented him from being totally condemned in my eyes.
(Though I still condemn The Washington Post columnist George Will for saying that George Pelacanos [a good

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Blake Dowling: Somewhere more familiar: The 1999-2015 tech revolution

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

I headed to D.C. this summer to attend the wedding of a former colleague of mine, Ryan Newell. Ryan plays guitar in a band called Sister Hazel. They were a local bar band when I was in college and I got to know them as I went to a bar once, just that once, and saw them play. I got to know them even better as I booked them to play the fraternity house a couple of times (part of my grueling job as social chairman).
As fate would have it, right around the time I pried a degree out of the university’s hands, Sister Hazel was hitting the big time with their Universal Records platinum-selling album, “Somewhere More Familiar.” Their team extended me an opportunity to join their management company, which had relocated from Florida to Atlanta, and they were growing (with new clients like Dexter Freebish and others).  I had a great run at what the Hazel guys called “Where’s the Party Management” and to relive those times at the wedding was a blast.
The wedding was great, the W (the old Hotel Washington with rooftop views of the White House) was an ideal if not spectacular place to set up shop. A new group of old friends came in each day. Needless to say, the wine flowed heavily for many minutes, many hours and many days as I got caught up with my old pals.
Sister Hazel’s original manager, Andy Levine, and I got to spend a lot of time talking shop. He morphed his artist management business into a floating music festival company called Sixthman, and when it came to technology he had this to say: “All roads lead through our IT Team.  Whether it’s how to offer our guests more flexibility to pay for their vacations or giving

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Catherine Durkin Robinson: What deadbeat dads taught us: The lessons go deeper than fatherhood

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

“Oh father, maybe someday, when I look back I’ll be able to say you didn’t mean to be cruel…somebody hurt you, too.”
If I can let the above quote settle in my mind, without cringing because it’s a Madonna lyric, so can you.
An overwhelming number of friends and peers from my generation had absent fathers. In fact, the term “deadbeat dad” dates back only to about 1975-1980. Such a phenomenon was practically unheard of before then. What a legacy. The era that gave us sideburns, PTSD, and Disco Duck also popularized absentee-parenting.
If you’re my age, wading through the waters of your mid-40s, this comes as no surprise. Just check out Facebook.
Before abandoning social media, I found fascinating the differences between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day posts.
On Mother’s Day, people posted pictures of their moms from back when perms were as prevalent as second-hand smoke. Touching tributes detailing all the ways in which they loved these important women. Fond memories often included undying gratitude for sacrifices they’d made to ensure a happy life for their children.
Father’s Day? Not so much.
Too many ambivalent, bitter, or downright angry posts about men who left their kids behind to struggle through childhood and adolescence without financial or emotional help. Some expressed gratitude back to mom again, for being both mother and father through hard times.
Now these absent fathers, men we barely know, are growing old, dealing with regret, and dying.
Where does that leave us? We are still their children, whether we like it or not.
Years ago, friends started hearing from estranged dads, and some were thrilled to reject those bastards the way they’d themselves been rejected years earlier.
This troubled me.
We don’t have to welcome returning fathers with open arms, but what’s wrong with forgiveness? When a family member or loved one reaches out, we are

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Shannon Nickinson: What will be our definition of the future?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

It’s easy to tell what a government values.
What it values is what it funds.
Escambia County Commissioners were scheduled Tuesday to talk more about their values – in the form of the $412 million overall budget they have before them. It will be the second public hearing on the document, which includes requests for $11 million in what’s called “outside agency funding.”
Government budgets are full of things that must be paid for. Outside agency funding is the lagniappe: the things that help local governments fulfill not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of it.
Several of those areas are tied to the 16 key metrics in the Studer Community Institute’s Pensacola Metro Dashboard. The dashboard, created with the University of West Florida’s Office of Economic Development and Engagement, is an at-a-glance look at the area’s growth, educational, economic and social well-being.
On Sept. 8, county commissioners talked a lot about that spirit in an epic meeting to review those requests. Every nonprofit entity that wanted money for next year had forms to complete and had the opportunity to pitch their case and answer questions.
Lots of time was spent complimenting those who did a good job filling out the forms. There was tsk-tsking and finger waggling for those whose paperwork left gaps or questions in the commissioners minds.
The lion’s share of those requests – $7.2 million – will go toward supporting and promoting tourism and cultural events.
About $2.7 million will go toward in economic development efforts and nonprofits that aim to improve the quality of life in our community.
The big-ticket items on that list are Escambia Community Clinics, Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County, Pathways for Change, BRACE, and Northwest Florida Comprehensive Services for Children.
The work they do includes providing primary care to low-income people and the uninsured; preparing children

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Dr. Marc J. Yacht: Teen pregnancy rates down – so far

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Teen pregnancy rates for girls 15 to 19 years old have fallen in the United States in direct relation to extensive preventive efforts.
Those efforts include discussions about responsible sexual behavior, birth control pills, IUDs, the patch, abstention, vaginal rings, injectable birth control and the extensive network of family planning and women’s health services. Local health departments have played a large role in stemming teen pregnancy.
Although U.S. rates have dropped, we have a national rate of 57 teen pregnancies per 1,000 people. We have the highest rate among the industrialized nations. Switzerland, for example, has eight, France 25, and England and Wales have 47 teen pregnancies per 1,000. We still have a way to go to catch up to the success of other affluent nations. In Florida 59 percent of all 2010 pregnancies were unintended by adult or teen.
Blacks and Hispanics have significantly higher U.S. teen pregnancy rates that whites. Low-income families are more at risk of teen pregnancy than the affluent.  Intact families are at less risk for teen pregnancy than dysfunctional home environments. Abused girls are at far greater risk for pregnancy than girls living in safe environments.
About 47 percent of teens have sex before their 20th birthday. The vast majority (8 in 10) of all adolescent pregnancies are either unplanned or occurred before the teens were ready to become parents. Teens with babies are unlikely to finish high school, more likely to need welfare services, have poorer cognitive and educational outcomes, and are at risk for delinquency and mental health issues.
Teen moms face personal health risks as do the newborn. Younger teens have smaller wombs and fetal development can be compromised. Nine percent of teens have low-birth-weight babies. The young mother has a greater chance of premature labor, and complications during and after delivery. The young mother is

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Shannon Nickinson: Our children need more than a letter

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet recently voted to write state leaders urging them to prioritize early education and child services for “the first 1,000 days” – from pregnancy to age 3.
Based on data from the Pensacola Metro Dashboard, only 66.2 percent of Escambia County’s 5-year-olds are ready for kindergarten; in Santa Rosa County the number is 81 percent. Kindergarten-ready children have greater success as they move through school, increasing their chances of success in the workplace and thereby improving the quality of life in our community.
That means Escambia’s young children need more than a firmly worded letter to help them.
The Aug, 27 letter notes that research shows 85 percent of a child’s brain growth takes place from to 3. It is the crucial window in setting the path for a child’s future as a student, as a citizen, and as a person.
Cabinet Chairwoman Wansley Walters, according to the News Service of Florida, wanted to stress the importance of making sure Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli  “understand that the first 1,000 days constitute a research-driven, evidence-based coalition of child-centric authorities across the state — because otherwise they’re probably not going to have any clue what we’re talking about.”
That alone ought to stop you cold.
If the three most powerful men in Florida need to be reminded in small words that investing in early education is more than something to do because it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, the children of this state are in trouble.
And given the Pensacola metro area’s ranking as one of the poorest metropolitan areas in the state, that means our children are in more trouble than most.
The News Service of Florida reports that longtime members of the youth cabinet — established in 2007 — saw the letter as a

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Diane Roberts: Marcocito, Secret Service code names and the Gators

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Near the end of the latest televised dork parade billed as a “Republican Debate,” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked each candidate what her or his Secret Service code name should be.
“Secretariat,” whinnied Carly Fiorina.
“Humble,” hollered Donald Trump.
“Gator!” said Marco Rubio.
Sigh. Marcocito received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida after a year at the obscure (and now-defunct) Tarkio College in Missouri, and another year at community college. The miasma from the Swamp seems to have affected his brain.
So he gets on a sports radio show the other day, acting all football-studly, gratuitously dissing Florida State University as an institution for “people that can’t get into Florida.”
The Florida State University (the “The” is critical) President John Thrasher, late of the Florida Legislature, responded, “He’s a nice kid,” then sympathized with Rubio’s rock-bottom poll position, calling it “a reflection of where he got his education.”
Marco Rubio actually played football at South Miami High. But he’s not as sharp in the pocket as he used to be. In Iowa for the state fair, he threw a pass and hit a kid in the face.
This guy wants to be president of the United States.
Now back to the deep weirdness of tangling up college football’s splendidly irrational hatreds with the splendidly irrational hatreds in politics. Marcocito is actually correct that UF outranks FSU academically: The latest US News and World Report puts Florida at #47, tied with Penn State. And Lehigh. Florida State comes in at #96, tied with the University of Alabama.
But, as coach says on “College Game Day,” not so fast, my friend! Marcocito got his JD from Miami. Maybe he couldn’t get into the law schools at FSU or UF, both of which are ranked about 20 places higher than the U’s.
Stick that in your beak and whistle the Fight Song, Sebastian.

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Catherine Durkin Robinson: No more emails or texts – my journey back to the personal

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

“Goodbye yellow brick road…where the dogs of society howl.” – Elton John
My son Zachary had a date last year and she canceled on him twice at the last minute. The first time, he rescheduled without a problem. The second time? He suggested they move on.
Fast forward to the first week of school this year and she revealed she’d been hurt, damn near devastated, by his change of heart.
Ahhh. Tenth grade girls.
Meanwhile, Zach’s completely confused and came to me for some lady learnin’. I did my best.
“When she canceled last year,” I asked, “what exactly did she say?”
“I’ll show you the texts,” he said, grabbing his phone.
Ahhh. There you have it.
I looked at their conversation and pointed at one exchange.
“She’s joking around,” he explained.
“How can you tell? That particular text could be interpreted six different ways.” I acted out variations of what she wrote: sad, angry, dismissive, sarcastic, funny and sincere.
My high school drama classes finally paying off.
I suggested to both my sons that perhaps email and texting shouldn’t be anyone’s primary form of communication. Now that I think of it, I didn’t suggest and I didn’t say perhaps.
I made it clear that relationships are meant to happen in person, with little or no artificial electricity involved.
This was a lesson I learned the hard way.
You’d think a syndicated columnist could seriously rock the written word, no matter the parameters. But you’d be wrong. It’s become quite clear, in my case anyway, the opposite is true.
I do very well in person and long-form essays, but when communicating via text, email, IM, tweets or Facebook messages, I apparently weigh in at the “truly terrible” end of the spectrum. How bad can it be, you ask? When I attempt serious discussions, make jokes, quote movies, or ask existential questions regarding religion, politics, and the

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Blake Dowling: Windows 10 cool, but with caveats

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Blake Dowling
Windows 10 is here and people are jumping all over it like hipsters at Urban Outfitters. It’s estimated 50 million users have upgraded to the new version.
The Start button in all its glory, has returned to the Windows Operating System, and making most users glad. The last version of Windows tried to embrace the touch screen mode a little too tightly, alienating many clients.
The new start button is not your grandmother’s Start button, but very new and cool-looking. They sprinkled in lets of color to liven up your screen.
With most new versions of software you generally need to study the minimum specifications pretty closely. Older machines generally have glitches or slowness with newer software. However, Microsoft aligned 10 with the 7 and 8 specs. So if your upgrade path is from Windows 7 or 8 you should be OK. However, if you’re still running an XP machine it’s time for new hardware.
Windows 10 comes out of the gate with some cool new security features.
Device Guard is among them. It blocks specific hacking attempts and can neutralize malicious software without the user even knowing. Another feature is Windows Hello, which enables fingerprint and iris security technology versus reliance on passwords only.
The auto-update function in 10 should keep all machines in line with the latest patches, but that presents gray areas. This feature already has caused problems across the board because 10 is so new that bugs are still rampant.
Another big factor to consider is privacy experts’ claim that 10  communicates your information back and forth with Microsoft. Check out this language if you are not a fan of big brother watching you: “We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we

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Jac Wilder VerSteeg: Uncertainty lives in the Cone of Death

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

You’ve heard of political gerrymandering. It’s all over the news these days as Florida courts take the Legislature to task for its failure to follow the line-drawing rules.
But now it appears there is – or shortly could be – a practice that could be described as hurricane gerrymandering. If this strangeness comes about, blame the late, not-so-great “Hurricane” Erika.
At one point in August, nearly all of Florida was in Erika’s Cone of Uncertainty (or, as I like to think of it, the Cone of Death!) The National Hurricane Center’s cone/track showed the storm crossing the Atlantic and achieving hurricane status just before making landfall in the vicinity of Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Nothing of the sort happened. The storm died after impaling itself on Hispaniola. The good people of Florida now are miffed that they were led to worry about a storm that didn’t, if fact, hit them.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that the backlash is so great the National Hurricane Center is considering major changes to the way it warns folks that hurricanes might strike.
Oddly, though, the NHC isn’t going to warn fewer people. It’s going to warn more people. Which means, by default, that more people are bound to be disappointed (if that’s the word) when the storm passes them by.
The NHC says the basic problem is that people don’t understand the level of uncertainty inherent in its forecasts. It says the forecast for Erika was particularly uncertain. It blamed the media (of course) for failing to emphasize that the NHC was, y’know, kind of scratching its head over this one.
To correct this problem, according to the Sun Sentinel, “The size of the Cone of Uncertainty, the hurricane center’s most viewed graphic, may be adjusted to reflect the level of confidence in a forecast. The larger the cone,

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Catherine Durkin Robinson: 20 things you can do besides send hate mail, make death threats, and freak out in Publix

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

There are various ways in which people express disappointment with my columns, articles, political views and blog posts. Some readers still mail letters to magazines and newspapers, then editors forward them to me, and I hold my breath when I open them…
Because Anthrax. That’s why.
Some register complaints with a comment underneath the post. Others troll my now-defunct social media accounts.
The classy ones email a properly punctuated, curse-word-free letter to the editor that actually gets published. Two thumbs up for that guy.
Then there are readers so pushed over the edge by what I’ve written that they lose their minds. They send hate mail and texts that swing from mean to insane. They insult my appearance, intellect, and over-reliance on snarky metaphors.
Lots of columnists deal with this every day, especially those of us who dare to express an independent thought while possessing breasts and a vagina. This really seems to bother the unhinged among us.
A few threaten to take it to the next level, hoping for the kind of stardom only insecure people strapped with body cameras and simultaneously uploading to Facebook and Twitter can find.
This kind of creeps me out.
I’ve actually had gasoline-soaked tennis balls fired at my house and verbal attacks from whack-jobs near the frozen food aisle in Publix.
There are better ways to get dates, people.
Before becoming dangerous, and not in a smoldering hot way, but in a rape-y and murder-y way, do these instead (added benefit: none are felonies):
(20) Acquaint yourself with the sun and how the world revolves around it, not you.
(19) Shave your beard, take a shower and get rid of your Wilco collection. Seriously. Your neighbors will thank you.
(18) Stop watching Taxi Driver.
(17) Start watching The Big Lebowski.
(16) See that little “x” in the top corner of every article you hate? CLICK ON IT.
(15) Seek

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Catherine Martinez: If policies stand, teacher shortage will worsen

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Let’s review some of the factors influencing the non-news of a teacher shortage.
On Sept. 1, Alpine Testing Solutions, the company hired to assess the validity of the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), found that the test could be used at the “group level” to evaluate teachers, establish cut scores to measure student achievement and give school grades. Validity in testing means that the test aligns with what it is supposed to measure. The company found that the questions were fair and unbiased and matched the Florida Standards.
Ironically, the company suggested that the FSA scores should not be the sole criteria for keeping a student from passing to the next grade or receiving a high school diploma. However, it suggested that the scores could be used at a group level to assess teachers and schools.
The same report acknowledged that many students had difficulty completing the test because of cyber attacks. Not mentioned was AIR’s admitted mistakes in running an software update the day before students were to log on a take the test.
The situation has to deeply concern any teacher not planning to retire in the next couple of years. The Student Success Act passed in 2010 requires that a portion of each teacher’s evaluation be based on a student’s real progress in relation to predicted process. The law isn’t clear on what should be done about missing scores. Will they count against a teacher’s overall success rate?
The law also has no provision for the complete transformation from the FCAT to the FSA, which is rather like comparing apples to oranges. Also, the protests against excessive testing nixed the plan last year to test every subject every year with a standardized test but left unresolved how to assess a value-added score for a teacher who does not teach reading, language arts, or

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Michael Preston: Want to make it in this world? Learn to collaborate

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Is there any greater struggle between instructor and student than the dreaded “group assignment”?
From the day it’s assigned, students begin the process of passive-aggressive resistance and instructors have the difficult task of grading an assignment they know was likely completed by one overachiever. However, we keep giving these assignments because we realize the value of working in a collaborative environment.
Virtually everything we know about group dynamics tells us as educators that the wisdom of crowds almost always gets a better result than the lone-wolf approach. The reason is simple: When people work together on the same project they all tend to see the same problem with different lenses.That results in added perspective.
But most of us resist collaboration. Why? The answer may be as simple as the American Spirit itself.
In her 2009 book, “Organizing Higher Education for Collaboration,” author Adrianna Kezar posits that “Western philosophies and values celebrate the individual and individual achievement.” She makes the case that generally individuals are rewarded and awarded for their hard work and we, as Americans, value that ethos.
Think of the great American cowboy, driving the herd across the plains, a sprinter hurling herself across the finish line for gold at the Olympics, or the inventor toiling away late at night in the lab, ready to make the next great discovery. But that’s not the way such achievements usually work.
Cowboys had to work together to corral the herd and ensure its safe arrival at market. Before the gold-medal race the sprinter had a series of coaches, nutritionists and supporters creating the perfect environment for athletic glory. And even great inventors such as Thomas Edison were surrounded by dozens of talented people in his Menlo Park Laboratory.
More importantly for all of us, the lone-wolf ethos of American legends is not what business leaders tend to value

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Pat Fowler: We’re all in this together

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Today is the U.S. Labor Day. It’s not, by the way, American Labor Day. People in other countries on the two American continents celebrate workers on other days in other ways.
But today is our Labor Day and I, like many of you, have received from a politician a peppy greeting of Happy Labor Day this morning. “Oh good,” I said to myself. “Let’s see what policies this politician is proposing in order to support workers.”
Oops, no. Just platitudes; things I call Bulworthian bromides of little value.
In the back window of my car there’s a “bumper sticker” that reads “Workers of the world, admit it.” It’s a request for unity across all identities and employment categories of those who work for a living to inadvertently or purposely enrich the most wealthy in our country and the world. It’s a request to acknowledge class politics as being crucial to progress for all of us.
Since the mid-‘70s, the investor class, industry leaders and global corporate executives have organized themselves to successfully dominate the political system. It creates laws and policies facilitating the redistribution of the largest share of gains of the economy to their control.
That wasn’t always so and isn’t some sort of inevitable result of a mythical invisible hand. It’s the result of organized political pressure using extreme wealth to pursue legal bribery in our corrupt political system.
Working people far outnumber those of extreme wealth and the super executive class. Their weakness, though, is caused largely through distraction, willful ignorance, lethargy and an unwillingness to prioritize issues in order to deal with the core problems of our political economic system.
If the oppressive wealthy and various types of bigots have any fear it has always been that people of all races, ethnicities, genders, orientations, ages, education levels and employment categories might organize together

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Catherine Durkin Robinson: If women’s sex drive dips, a pill may not be the solution

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Have you heard? A new drug is set to hit pharmacies in mid-October, called flibanserin, marketed as Addyi, and meant to treat “female sexual dysfunction.” Reports erroneously compare the drug to Viagra. Viagra increases blood flow to the penis and helps about 100 percent of the men who use it. Addyi works more like an anti-depressant, when it works at all.
Some feminists and women’s rights groups hail the FDA’s recent approval as a breakthrough for women. Others raise concerns about Addyi’s side effects, which include dizziness and fainting, especially if women have a blood pressure problem or have had a glass of alcohol.
That’s right. You can’t drink at all if you take Addyi and the drug reportedly only helps about 10 percent of women suffering from a low sex drive.
Whether for or against, columns about this wonder drug are entertaining and a great way to learn new words for Scrabble. But we should all be concerned about yet another disease, that may or may not exist because the science isn’t clear, and yet another pharmaceutical company claiming to treat it.
Society is in love with easy answers from the comfort of our couches. We pop pills to suppress certain appetites, build up others, and feel good instead of adopting healthy eating habits, committing to an exercise regimen, or looking within ourselves for the answers that elude us.
There is evidence to suggest women combat sexual frustration by losing themselves in poorly written books that dangerously misrepresent kinky play like BDSM, and then line up around the block when said books are made into sh**ty movies.
I don’t think there’s a pill that can solve that, so let’s give introspection a go. If you are uninterested in sex with the man you love, answer the following questions:
Do you exercise regularly?
Does he?
Do you eat

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