04:40:59 12/29/2016 Indianapolis, IN
Nope, 2016 is still not done
Hey there. If you’re waking up this morning wondering if this year is done beating up your emotions, the answer is no. In addition to all the news this morning, the National Weather Service has issued a warning for much of central Indiana on the threat of snow squalls between 3-10pm. Snow squalls are like mini-blizzards, popping up all of a sudden with heavy snow and wind, then disappearing. If you need to get out today, doing so this morning is highly recommended. And if you live in the Northeast, look out. You have as much as two feet of snow headed your direction by Friday morning.
Globally, at least there weren’t any mass shootings overnight. However, stocks fell on the Asian markets, Turkey wants Hezbollah out of Syria, and Philippine president Duterte says he’ll throw people out of a helicopter and that he’s done it before. [Yes, Alex, I’ll take ‘Insane Despots’ for 1,000.] The world is busy today so let’s get right to the 5 Things You Should Know.
A Mother and Daughter Together
We are saddened but not too terribly surprised this morning to learn of the passing of actress Debbie Reynolds overnight1. Ms. Reynolds suffered a stroke and was taken to the hospital yesterday afternoon. Having been in poor health for some time, and coming just one day after the loss of her daughter, Carrie Fisher, anyone familiar with the situation was expecting this outcome. We can blame the stroke if we want, but certainly, the stress of broken heart was a factor as well.
Ms. Reynolds was an incredible actress and singer who held her own alongside male leads such as Gene Kelly and Danny Kaye in Singing in the Rain. She received an Oscar nomination for her role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown and was nominated for a Tony award for her role in Irene as well. She even had a number one pop hit with Tammy, the title song from the 1957 movie Tammy and the Bachelor.
Her personal life was often tabloid fodder, though. Her first husband, Eddie Fisher, left her for Elizabeth Taylor. Her next two husbands left her nearly bankrupt by the mid-1970s. Through all that, however, she had her children, Todd and Carrie. Now, after years of struggling with her health, it’s understandable how her daughter’s death might lead to her own. She was an incredible talent who raised an incredible talent. Rest in peace, Ms. Reynolds, and thank you for singing.
Important Notice For Heart Patients
Speaking of health, if you or anyone you know has had heart surgery since 2012, you might want to schedule a visit with your doctor, just to be safe. Both the CDC and the FDA have released warnings that a device used to heat and cool blood during heart surgeries may have caused a life-threatening infection2. Nationwide, this could potentially affect some 600,000 heart patients at hospitals in every major city in the US.
Locally, Community hospitals have said they’ve sent letters to some 600 of their patients and IU Health is sending letters to approximately 6,500 of their patients this week. Neither Eskinazi nor Saint Vincent used the device. VA hospitals around the nation started sending letters to their patients earlier in the month.
Again, if you receive a letter, or if you have had open heart surgery and since moved, you may want to contact your doctor. The pulmonary infection develops slowly, growing over the course of several months or even years. It can take over a year of antibiotic treatment to cure the infection. While it is not expected that many patients have the infection, the only way to be certain is to check with your doctor.
A Two-State Solution
The United States has had a long history of standing by the side of Israel no matter what they did nor how little sense it might make. That tradition has been broken in the past week as the US first refused to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning West Bank settlements. Then, as if Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasn’t pissed off enough, Secretary of State John Kerry spent a full hour in a speech at the State Department yesterday, lambasting the country for preventing peace in the region, saying that a two-state solution was the only reasonable avenue to long-term peace3.
Not surprisingly, a number of people disagree with Secretary Kerry’s position purely on an ideological basis. Israel has been the strongest of US allies in the Middle East since its establishment in 1948. However, much of that allegiance is based on religious sentiments and as Israel has ventured more into the West Bank, occupying land claimed by what we now know as Palestine, that relationship has been strained. Israel’s bombardment of schools and Palestinian neighborhoods has been a frequent point of criticism from the rest of the industrialized world, with the US habitually abstaining from saying anything negative about the country no matter what atrocities it might commit.
Now, not only has Secretary Kerry moved away from that support, but it seems Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t have as much support in his own country as he thought. Israeli media are reporting that the attorney general will soon announce a criminal investigation into Netanyahu4. While the Justice Ministry neither confirms nor denies these reports, Israeli Channel 10 TV says Netanyahu is suspected in two cases, one of which is “grave and supported by evidence.” This entire situation is more complicated than it looks on the surface, so be careful about taking sides.
And The Hits Just Keep Coming
People aren’t the only things dying this year. Sears announced yesterday that it is closing yet another 30 Sears and Kmart stores early next year5. While this news really isn’t surprising, it comes as just another nail in the coffin not only for the once dominant retailer, but for mall-based department stores everywhere. This is in stark contrast to the chain’s heyday back in the 1960s and 70s when going to Sears was a big deal. Even as recently as 2011, Sears had over 3,500 stores. This move takes them below 1,500 stores.
I still remember going to the big Sears store downtown when I was little. The multi-story building was the biggest I’d ever seen. It was the only place my parents would shop for my school clothes because they knew I wouldn’t wear them out before I outgrew them. I remember pneumatic tubes at the checkout registers, whisking away checks for approval or credit cards for processing. Now, in this past quarter alone, Sears’ revenue fell 13%, to $5 billion. Same-store sales dropped 7.4%, including a 10% decrease at Sears stores.
There is a lot of question whether Sears and other department stores like it, such as JCPenney and Macy’s can survive. The last time I was in a local Sears store, the place was practically empty. I wasn’t even accosted by a commission-hungry associate. One has to wonder whether the days of the big department stores have come to an end.
And finally …
There is a little bit of good news in the world. I know many new and expecting mothers have worried about their children’s health even before they’re born. One of the biggest increases in childhood disease over the past decade has been the rate of asthma and other breathing difficulties. Now, there is evidence following an exhaustive study in Denmark that consumption of fish oil in the third trimester of pregnancy significantly reduces the chances of a child developing chronic wheezing problems or asthma by age 56.
The speed at which asthma has been increasing in developed countries is one of those things that has confounded doctors up to this point. The level of omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, has been considered before, but the study groups were too small to be considered authoritative. The Danish study looked at 700 pregnant women and their children in determining that the consumption of fish oil may reduce rates of asthma by as much as one-third.
Of course, there is still some need for caution before you go running to your nearest health food store. The fish oil dose in the study was 15 to 20 times as high as the average amount Americans get from food. That might not be such a huge concern were there not problems with the amount of mercury found in the fish we consume in the US. That issue has caused doctors to recommend pregnant women not consume raw fish at all and cooked fish only once a week. More study is still needed and, as always, consult with your doctor before making any changes.
We have filled our allotted amount of time for this morning. There’s not a bit of telling what might happen over the next 24 hours, so please, whatever you do today, be careful. We like having you around, even if it’s only on the Internet. Stay warm and we’ll see you tomorrow.
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