Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A Five-minute Primer on the History of Vaccinations

This history of vaccinations is explained in this five-minute NBC video

NBC Vaccinations

Monday, September 14, 2020

Eighty-three percent of firefighters are obese

This year’s Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine was a “virtual” one due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Research results were presented online via “Poster Sessions” available for viewing through web browsers. More papers than ever focused on firefighters. I’m going to synthesize the research on my Blog, one study at a time.

From Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio, Dr. Brandy Phipps and Dr. Kathy Carter conducted a study of a cohort of firefighters working in a low-income community.

It’s an established fact that cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the fire service. In this study of 127 firefighters, 83% were obese and at risk for heart disease as evidenced by their blood lipid profiles.

Only 33% of the sample regularly exercised at the suggested minimum frequency of 3-5 times per week. Dietary habits suggest that consumption of fruits and vegetables did not meet dietary recommendations for a healthy diet.

These data may not be representative of your department, but we have a long way to go to change behaviors in the fire service.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

How Long Does the Coronavirus Last on Surfaces?

Researchers looked at how long the virus can survive on cardboard, plastic, and stainless steel, as well as after being aerosolized and suspended in midair.
Gregory Barber03.14.2020 07:00 AM

A transmission-electron microscope image of an isolate from the first US case of Covid-19.Photograph: Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin/CDC

By now, let’s hope you’re safely ensconced at home—going a little stir-crazy, perhaps, but doing your part to “flatten the curve.” But let’s say you’re one of those people who can’t stay in. Maybe you deliver Amazon boxes all day long, or you still need to drive a city bus. Or maybe you’re treating sick people in a hospital while trying not to get sick yourself. Or, for that matter, maybe you just have to go to the grocery store. In that case, you might want to know: How long does SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, last on surfaces we touch every day?

Potentially several hours, or even days, according to a preprint published this week by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, Princeton, and the University of California, Los Angeles. The researchers exposed various materials to the virus in the lab. They found that it remained virulent on surfaces for a lengthy period: from up to 24 hours on cardboard to up to two or three days on plastic and stainless steel. It also remained viable in aerosols—attached to particles that stay aloft in the air—for up to three hours. That’s all basically in line with the stability of SARS, the coronavirus that caused an outbreak in the early 2000s, the researchers note.

The researchers caution that work done in the lab may not directly reflect how long the virus can hang around on surfaces out in the world. But it’s a critical part of understanding the virus—and how to forestall the disease’s spread—all the same. That’s because transmission dynamics are difficult to study in the midst of an epidemic. In hospitals and other public spaces, people are doing their best to disinfect, making it difficult to study how microbes behave in the wild.

And similarly, while the researchers tested how long the virus can survive in aerosols suspended in the air, they didn’t actually sample the air around infected people. Instead, they put the virus into a nebulizer and puffed it into a rotating drum to keep it airborne. Then they tested how long the virus could survive in the air inside the drum. The fact that it could live under these conditions for three hours doesn’t mean it’s “gone airborne”—that it hangs around so long in the air that a person can get it just from sharing airspace with an infected person. “This is not evidence of aerosol transmission,” Neeltje van Doremalen, a researcher at the NIH and a coauthor of the study, cautioned on Twitter.

There’s also a difference between a finer “aerosol,” which can hang suspended in the air for a while, and a larger “droplet,” which is more likely to fall down. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they typically spread the virus via fluid droplets. While the results suggest the virus remains infectious in the air, there’s little evidence so far that infected people are producing aerosols in significant amounts, rather than droplets.

Still, Joseph Allen, a professor of public health at Harvard who wasn’t involved in the study, says the data supports the idea that people should take practical precautions to prevent airborne spread—doing things like ensuring the flow of fresh air and good ventilation. He points out that methods of transmission should be thought of as a spectrum, and that the difference between droplets and aerosols isn’t so stark. “We shouldn’t be waiting to figure out the exact split between transmission modes before we act—we should be taking an ‘all-in’ approach,” he wrote in an email to WIRED.

It’s also still difficult to say how much “fomite” transmission is actually happening—that’s the term for when a bug is left on an object, which is then picked up by others. But this is more evidence to continue playing it safe. While CDC officials have said contaminated surfaces are a less important vector than droplets in person-to-person spread, the agency still advises people to heartily disinfect. The researchers also point out that, in the case of SARS, both fomite and aerosol transmission are thought to have played a role both among super-spreaders—infected people who manage to spread the virus to lots of other people—and in hospital-acquired infections.

Dylan Morris, a researcher at Princeton who co-authored the study, notes that the quick spread of the virus—which is moving faster than those that cause SARS and MERS—means there are additional dynamics at play. A number of studies have suggested significant shedding of the virus early on in the infection, while people are more likely to be going about their normal lives and before they’ve developed the severe symptoms that warn them to stay home.

The researchers now plan to look at how environmental conditions, like temperature and humidity, affect the virus’s ability to stick around. In addition to better understanding of real-world transmission, they also want to know if the spread may slow during warm summers, as it does for the flu.

Read all of our coronavirus coverage here.

Others are also trying to tackle those questions. This week, in another preprint, researchers based in Wuhan published data on aerosols gathered from hospitals and areas around the region. For the most part, the air was clear; places like the hospital intensive care unit they tested were essentially virus-free. But in some areas, they found higher concentrations: in a staff area for example, for example, where doctors and nurses were frequently removing protective gear, and in a mobile toilet for patients. They point to findings in Singapore from a group of researchers at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, in which a small study involving Covid-19 patients in a hospital there found significant viral shedding in patients’ fecal samples. While that study didn’t find an airborne virus, the Wuhan researchers argue it’s plausible that in the Chinese hospital, toilet flushes could have sent particles into the air.

The research is still early. But taken together, the studies suggest health care providers should take precautions as they ramp up to care for increasing numbers of Covid-19 patients, Morris says. “There's currently no evidence that the general public needs to worry about aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2, but there plausibly could exist risks in specialized hospital settings,” he writes in an email.

Others, like Allen, see more reason for caution. “The guidance for hospitals already includes bringing in more fresh air and enhancing filtration,” he writes. “It strikes me as inconsistent that the public is not getting a similar message.” In any case, he points out the core advice for staying healthy remains the same: Get yourself out of crowds. Stay home if you can. And please, please, wash your hands.

More From WIRED on Covid-19
What's social distancing? (And other Covid-19 FAQs, answered)
Don’t go down a coronavirus anxiety spiral
How to make your own hand sanitizer
Singapore was ready for Covid-19—other countries, take note
Is it ethical to order delivery during a pandemic?
Read all of our coronavirus coverage here

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Cheri can use your help

 Jackie Palmer has set up a go fund me page to help Cheri and her family. Not withstanding her bout with Covid, the storm has taken the roof off of her house. 

Check out:

⁠Cheri vs Hurrican, organized by Jacqueline Palmer⁠⁦‪‬⁩

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Intense Rules For U.S. Marines Who Protected Mail From Gangsters

(WE ARE THE MIGHTY 25 AUG 20) ... Blake Stilwell

 "When our Corps goes in as guards over the mail, that mail must be delivered," wrote Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby. "Or there must be a Marine dead at the post of duty. There can be no compromise." It was the Golden Age of the Gangster, when bank robbers were folk heroes, cheered on by citizens who were suffering under the weight of Prohibition and the Great Depression. But when the mail started getting robbed by these hoods, the Postmaster General asked President Harding to send in the Marines.

In October 1921, gangsters hit a mail truck in New York City, making off with $2.4 million in cash, securities, and jewelry – $34 million dollars when adjusted for inflation. That wasn't the only high-stakes robbery. Between April 1920 and April 1921 alone, thieves stole more than six million dollars in U.S. mail robberies – $85 million when adjusted for inflation. So when the Postmaster asked the President for the Marines, the Commander-In-Chief was happy to oblige.

Harding instructed Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby to meet with Commandant of the Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Lejeune to "detail as guards for the United States mails a sufficient number of officers and men of the United States Marine Corps to protect the mails from the depredations by robbers and bandits."
Marines from both coasts were activated and armed with trench guns, M1911 pistols, and the M1903 Springfield rifle to stand watch as high-value mail deliveries were moved between institutions, large cities, banks, and government offices. They rode mail trucks and trains, often seated with the driver and in with the valuable cargo. The Navy Secretary told his new detachment of 50-plus Marines and officers:

"To the Men of the Mail Guard, you must when on guard duty, keep your weapons in hand and, if attacked, shoot and shoot to kill. If two Marines are covered by a robber, neither must put up his hands, but both must immediately go for their guns. One may die, but the other will get the robber, and the mail will get through. When our Corps goes in as guards over the mail, that mail must be delivered, or there must be a Marine dead at the post of duty. There can be no compromise."

That was the spirit of the orders. The orders themselves were just as intense.
1. To prevent the theft or robbery of any United States mails entrusted to my protection.

2. To inform myself as to the persons who are authorized to handle the mails entrusted to my protection and to allow no unauthorized persons to handle such mails or to have access to such mails.

3. To inform myself as to the persons who are authorized to enter the compartment (railway coast, auto truck, wagon, mail room, etc.) where mails entrusted to my protection are placed, and to allow no unauthorized person to enter such compartment.

4. In connection with Special Order No. 3, to prevent unauthorized persons loitering in the vicinity of such compartment or taking any position from which they might enter such compartment by surprise or sudden movement.

5. To keep my rifle, shotgun, or pistol always in my hand (or hands) while on watch.

6. When necessary in order to carry out the foregoing orders, to make the most effective use of my weapons, shooting or otherwise killing or disabling any person engaged in the theft or robbery, or the attempted theft or robbery of the mails entrusted to my protection.

The FAQ section of the Mail Guards' training manual tells you everything you need to know about how Marines would respond to this robbery problem, once the gangster tried to break in:

"Q. Suppose he [the robber] is using a gun or making threats with a gun in trying to escape? 

A. Shoot him.

Q. Suppose the thief was apparently unarmed but was running away?
A. Call halt twice at the top of your voice, and if he does not halt, fire one warning shot; and if he does not obey this, shoot to hit him.

Q. Is it permissible to take off my pistol while on duty; for instance, when in a mail car riding between stations?
A. Never take off your pistol while on duty. Keep it loaded, locked, and cocked while on duty.

Q. Is there a general plan for meeting a robbery?

A. Yes; start shooting and meet developments as they arise thereafter.

Q. If I hear the command 'Hands Up,' am I justified in obeying this order?
A. No; fall to the ground and start shooting.

Q. Is it possible to make a successful mail robbery?
A. Only over a dead Marine."

Robberies stopped entirely. For four months, the Marines guarded the U.S. Mail, and for four months, there were zero successful robberies. After a while, the Post Office was able to muster its own guard forces, and the Marines were withdrawn from mail duty. 


By 1926 robberies shot up again and the Marines were called back.
The second time the Marines were withdrawn, people stopped trying to rob the U.S. mail.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Wrango and Banjo: On the Fireline

Dr. Brent Ruby, a professor at the University of Montana has two dogs, Banjo and Wrango. He’s developed a children's story about these two dogs and their antics as wildland firefighters. 

It’s only a natural extension of his interest in the physiology of wildland firefighters that he took on this Fund Me project. 

If you’d like a copy of the soon to be published book (September), join the kickstarters. I’m getting a copy for my granddaughters. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Defend America’s History—and Retake Its Institutions

The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday Jul7, 2020

That was quick. At the end of the 20th century, the U.S. had won World War II and the Cold War, liberated half the planet from history’s most dehumanizing ideologies, advanced a free-market capitalism that had led more humans out of poverty than any economic system ever devised, and given the world the richest bounty of intellectual, cultural and scientific capital since the Enlightenment. Americans could—and did—look at themselves and the nation they had built with immense pride.

Twenty years later much of the country’s political leadership, almost its entire academic establishment, most of the people who control its news and cultural output, and a good deal of its corporate elite view America as an irredeemably malignant force for enslavement and oppression, a uniquely evil power founded on an ideology of racial supremacy. These Jacobins demand that Americans repudiate most of the nation’s history, tear down the icons of its creation, and engage in a cultural expurgation of its sins.

Only four years ago Sen. Bernie Sanders, a man not noted for a surfeit of patriotic fervor, visited Mount Rushmore and pronounced: “It really does make one very proud to be an American.” On Friday, when President Trump made the pilgrimage, we were told that he was appearing, in the words of a CNN reporter, “in front of a monument of two slave owners and on land wrestled away from Native Americans.”

If the self-image of Americans a generation ago was that of a smiling GI receiving flowers from liberated peoples, today we’re told it’s a police boot stamping on a human face forever. What happened?

We can hope that the present mania is in part one of the baleful consequences of the lockdown lunacy. If you’ve been stuck at home mainlining the distortions of the media for four months, your tolerance threshold for fiction has doubtless been raised.

But the roots of the current insanity are more profound than the inch-deep scholarship of the sophomores now in control of America’s newsrooms.

With hindsight, it’s clear that America in 2020 was ripe for the kind of mindless Maoism that demands fealty to its gospel of ideological cleansing. The nation has reached a combustive moment. The rot in America’s cultural institutions was spread for more than half a century by a self-loathing cultural establishment. Now it has matured amid a public malaise induced by 20 years of elite-driven political and economic failure that has undermined faith in the system that made America great.

The country hasn’t passed from great to evil in 20 years. But elites have failed and betrayed us.

The cultural corrosion has been evident for decades. Perhaps what we should have seen better were its consequences: Generations of students fed a steady diet of critical race theory and postcolonial gender studies—all delivered in safe spaces protected by an intolerance of dissent— poured out of college campuses into the world, waving their white-fragility texts like little red books.

But they graduated into an America that has been convulsed by two decades of unaccustomed failure and loss. In 20 years, wars and foreign- policy failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere; financial breakdown; and now the pandemic have exposed a hollow political leadership.

All the while the capitalism that had produced so much opportunity for so many has become increasingly a vehicle of power for a few. Mega- companies in finance and technology have grown unchecked. The modern woke corporation publicly disdains and derides the values on which the nation—and its profits—were built, even as it pursues global opportunities at the expense of American communities.

It won’t be enough to reassert America’s great historic virtues. It will require weakening the power of the totalitarians on campus, ensuring fair access for all voices on tech platforms, holding to account the lawless mobs defacing and defaming the nation’s legacy. But it will also require addressing the rot in American capitalism, reining in the power of bloated monopolies, and ensuring that corporations prioritize Americans over their globalist, progressive agendas.

This is personal for me. I came to this country as that great American century was closing. Like millions of immigrants I was drawn by the irresistible allure of a nation forged in pursuit of a universal ideal it had actually succeeded in achieving. Of course, we knew there was a sharp tear in America’s vibrant fabric, a legacy of racial prejudice that mocked the ideals of the founding. But the nation’s demonstrated ability to advance beyond that, to mend and improve itself, makes America even more admirable.

This country hasn’t passed from great to evil in two decades. America hasn’t failed. But Americans have been failed—misled by inept and deceitful political leaders, deserted by predatory and mercenary corporate chiefs, and, above all, betrayed by a parasitic cultural elite that exploited American freedom to trash the country. It isn’t America’s history that needs to be repudiated. It’s its present.

Mr. Baker is the Journal’s editor at large and a former editor in chief. His weekly column will appear here Tuesdays.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

$90,000 worth of firefighting gear was almost thrown away in Iowa. Now it's saving lives in Mexico | Nation |

$90,000 worth of firefighting gear was almost thrown away in Iowa. Now it's saving lives in Mexico
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When the Lopez family's crowded SUV pulled into the fire station in the small Mexican town of Degollado this month, the firefighters inside were thrilled.

They had been expecting the family, who traveled almost 2,000 miles from Newton, Iowa, to help save their lives.

Inside the Lopezes' vehicle were boxes and boxes of donated coats, helmets, gloves and boots from fire stations across Iowa -- almost $90,000 worth of protective gear. Due to regulations, US firefighters couldn't use the gear because it was at least 10 years old, even though it was all in good condition.

Until that day, Degollado firefighters had been risking their lives battling blazes without the proper fire gear.

If Kim Lopez and Newton Fire Chief Jarrod Wellik hadn't heard about the situation, the helmets, fire-retardant pants, coats, and boots probably would have ended up in the trash.

How it came together
Earlier this year, Kim Lopez was visiting Degollado, in the state of Jalisco -- known for its mariachi music and tequila -- when she ran into a friend who is a local firefighter.

"I was on vacation in Mexico where my parents are originally from and I was talking to a friend who said they were looking for donations," the 21-year-old said.

After returning home to Newton, she struck up a conversation with the town's state representative, who regularly visits her parents' Mexican restaurant, La Cabaña. She asked if he knew what happens to old fire gear after it's replaced, and he put her in touch with Newton's fire chief.

When Jarrod Wellik told her the equipment would be thrown out, she couldn't believe it.

"This stuff could go to use," she said.

Like Lopez, Wellik had seen firsthand the lack of equipment at fire stations in Mexico. He couldn't imagine going in to fight a fire without protective clothing.

So the two devised a plan.

The fire chief immediately reached out to the Iowa Organization for Professional Fire Chiefs for help.

"Soon as I asked, people responded," Wellik told CNN. "They wanted to give. They said this is a great project."

Within weeks, the fire chief's office was cluttered with stacks of suitable fire equipment from stations across Iowa. He was in shock at the sheer amount of donations.

"That's when you when you think about the love for being a firefighter," Wellik shared.

Lifesaving equipment saved from the landfill
In the United States, the National Fire Protection Association limits equipment use to 10 years for most fire departments. But Wellik said fire gear is seasoned at that mark and, in his opinion, more protective than when it's out of the box.

A complete set of new "fire turnout" gear -- which includes a heavy-duty fire-retardant coat, boots, and helmet -- can cost upwards of $2,500.

After taking inventory of the donations, the estimated worth of all the gear was close to $90,000.

Lopez and Wellik faced one more hurdle: getting all of the heavy equipment from Iowa to Mexico.

Just one set of gear weighed approximately 75 pounds, so the cost of shipping would have been astronomical.

That's when the Lopez family stepped in. They packed their SUV with the donations and drove more than 27 hours to Degollado, arriving to cheers and celebrations on the 4th of July.

With the lifesaving gear saved from the landfill and protecting more lives, Wellik says he hopes the accomplishments of Iowa firefighters and the Lopezes inspires others.

"We're a land of abundance, the US has so much to give, and we're so blessed with what we have," Wellik said. "It's amazing how other countries can use the things we can't use anymore."

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Why Florida isn’t going to work for World Challenge XXIX

Florida invited the nation to its reopening — then it became a new coronavirus epicenter
Lori Rozsa Washington Post
July 7, 2020 at 10:01 p.m. EDT

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As the coronavirus savaged other parts of the country, Florida, buoyed by low infection rates, seemed an ideal location for a nation looking to emerge from isolation. The Republican National Convention moved from Charlotte to Jacksonville, the NBA eyed a season finale at a Disney sports complex near Orlando and millions packed onto once-empty beaches.

Weeks later, the Sunshine State has emerged as a coronavirus epicenter. Nearly 1 out of every 100 residents is infected with the virus, hospital intensive care units are full or filling up, and big-name visitors who chose Florida for their first post-isolation events are now mired in questions and controversies about safety.

Amid escalating infections, Florida, once held up by President Trump as a model for how to manage the novel coronavirus, is faring poorly. Residents worry the situation will get much worse. Florida is now one of a handful of states whose spiking numbers are driving a major resurgence of the virus in the United States, which is approaching 3 million cases.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has downplayed the growing outbreak in Florida, saying expanded testing is responsible for more positive results and emphasizing that many new infections are among younger people less likely to experience the worst effects of the virus.

On Tuesday there were 213,794 cases of the coronavirus in Florida, according to Washington Post data. The state has tallied a record number of cases over the past week, averaging 8,766 a day, according to Post data.

In a sign of intensifying trouble, 52 intensive care units across more than a third of the state’s counties had reached capacity by Tuesday, according to data released by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Another 17 hospitals had also run out of regular beds. The state has “abundant capacity,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday.

Some nurses at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach have been working 18 hours instead of the usual 12 because of overnight staffing shortages, according to a nurse who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing her job. Patients are being treated in an open area cordoned off by curtains that is typically used for quick medical consultations, she said.

“We’re overfilled and understaffed,” she said. “It’s really bad.”

Ryan Lieber, a spokesman for the hospital, denied employees were being asked to work 18-hour shifts, adding in a statement, “Patients are being treated in areas of the hospital which are considered appropriate for their care, and respectful of their privacy at all times.”

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran late Monday ordered that the state’s schools open for in-person instruction next month, igniting fears that a new round of classroom interactions would lead to a new round of infections.

“We want to proceed with caution, but unfortunately the governor continues to deny the science,” said Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association. “The trend over the last 30 days has been astronomical. We’re in regression, we’re going backward. In terms of the amount of cases, we are literally going backward as a state.”

Hospital leaders, lawmakers, physicians, epidemiologists, advocates and others familiar with the state’s response said a false sense of security set in when grim predictions about the virus’s spread in Florida did not come to pass in March and April. DeSantis declared victory, attending a laudatory news conference at the White House with President Trump. The editor of National Review wrote an editorial titled “Where does Ron DeSantis go to get his apology?

But observers maintain the state then failed to prepare for a surge of the virus, which struck as residents were seeking refuge in air-conditioned indoor spaces, where the virus is believed to be most easily transmitted.

Sports leagues that opted to restart their seasons in Florida will now play in a state that is in worse shape than when the pandemic began. Many teams are already in the state, and they face a growing number of critics who believe they should cancel games.

The Republican National Convention, scheduled to take place in Jacksonville next month, faces similar questions about safety. In June, the Republican National Committee announced that it would move its convention from a worried Charlotte to a welcoming Jacksonville. But as cases mount in the city, worries have crept in.

“My concern has grown since a week ago. It has gotten worse,” said Tommy Hazouri, the Democratic president of the city council and a former Jacksonville mayor. Hazouri was initially supportive of his city’s effort to secure the convention.

“It is time to accept reality, and no one can be in denial about what is going on,” he said. “At some point our council and the leaders in this community have to draw a line in the sand on where we need to be going.”

Several hundred doctors have signed a petition that says the convention needs stronger safety measures. Nancy Staats, a retired anesthesiologist who lives in the Jacksonville area, said she hoped a few dozen doctors would sign the petition she helped circulate. Within three days, nearly 500 had added their names.

“We’re really focused on the health and well-being of the citizens of our city and state now. That’s still six or seven weeks off and we’re still climbing scarily, rapidly,” Staats said. “This is about people’s lives, including the attendees of this event.”

NBA and Major League Soccer teams have already landed in Orlando, hoping they play in a coronavirus-free bubble.

A day before resuming summer tournaments, FC Dallas was sent home after a coach and 10 players tested positive for the coronavirus at the same Disney sports complex that will host the NBA later this month. Nashville SC’s first game Wednesday was postponed after five players tested positive for the virus and four tests were inconclusive.

“I am excited to play,” D.C. United midfielder Julian Gressel said. “I’m not excited about the part that obviously puts us at risk.”

At a Fortune magazine virtual forum Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged that Florida’s situation has significantly deteriorated in recent weeks.

“On paper and dealing with our experts, this should work,” he said. “But we shall see. I’m confident — based on the positive cases we’re seeing from our players and the general public around the country — that it will be safer on this campus than off this campus.”

Still, numerous NBA stars have expressed deep concern about the health situation in Florida. More than a dozen players have decided to sit out the restart for various reasons.

Disney World has announced it would begin to allow visitors back into the Magic Kingdom this week. Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., said it would remain closed.

The Actors’ Equity Association, a union that represents more than 700 Disney World stage managers and actors, has locked horns with the amusement park, saying it has failed to provide a coronavirus testing plan that would help prevent performers from passing the coronavirus onto others.

“You certainly can’t wave Mickey’s magic wand and say that Florida isn’t a central hot spot right now,” said Kate Shindle, the union’s president. “Personally, as the president of the organization that is fighting for the safety of these performers, I’m mystified by the fact that Disney is attempting to open the park right now.”

Disney did not return a request for comment.

The new, high-profile risks threaten to compound problems Florida has faced from the beginning of the pandemic.

There has been a rise in cases affecting older Floridians as well as those living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, said Jeff Johnson, Florida director of AARP.

“I don’t see how that doesn’t mushroom at some point,” he said, noting that staff at the facilities live in communities still grappling with the virus, sometimes working second or third jobs that involve interactions with people of diverse age groups.

Testing sites across the state are seeing shortages, and the wait time for results is now as long as 10 days, said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat representing a swath of the coast stretching from Broward County to Palm Beach County. The problems stem, he said, from the apparent failure to produce a testing plan as required by Congress, or at least to unveil any of its details. He has been asking for details, he said, but has been rebuffed by the state health department, whose deadline was extended from June 15 to Friday. The health department did not respond to requests for comment.

There were also acute shortages of the antiviral drug remdesivir in parts of the state, causing Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation to send a letter Tuesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking him to speed the shipment of emergency supplies.

“Staff capacity is strained; the number of available ICU beds are dwindling; and we are running out of remdesivir . . .” the lawmakers wrote, warning that “people will die without replenished stock.”

Amid the array of old and new concerns, teachers across Florida learned they would have to begin preparing their classrooms for an influx of students.

In Palm Beach County, first-grade teacher Cara Conlogue, who teaches at Coral Reef Elementary School west of Lake Worth Beach, said the messages coming from the state are frightening and confusing.

“The science is going in one direction, and conditions are getting worse, and the politicians are going in the opposite direction,” Conlogue said. “I can’t wrap my head around it. If it wasn’t safe for us when there were 100 cases, how can it be safe for us when we have thousands and thousands of cases? I don’t get that logic.”

“I’ve spoken with a lot of my teacher friends, and a lot of them don’t want to go back,” she continued. “We love our students, we miss them, and we love our jobs. But we don’t feel safe.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

We're baaaaak!

In case you just woke up from a CV-19-induced coma, the world as we knew it is not likely to return anytime soon.

Flattening the curve has occurred if you examine the national data. But there are outbursts in varying spots. And for as many states as there are, there are differing protocols.

In an attempt to salvage the season, this memo will describe how we’ll run Challenge events as safely as possible. Canceling the season was not an option.

What we know about the pandemic continues to morph; and yet, we still don’t know for certain a lot about this virus. Testing is not reliable and there’s no vaccine. Wearing a cloth mask of any sort has been determined to be the best and most effective method of avoiding contact along with social distancing.

People with co-morbidity (meaning other unrelated health issues like obesity, CAD, etc.) are at higher risk for contracting the virus, showing symptoms and death. Males seemingly are at greater risk. Kids not so much. Older individuals are at a much higher risk. Physical fitness comes with benefits.

The virus dies in sunlight. And infection outdoors is very unlikely. Close proximity is a risk factor as micro-drops of liquid from speech travel about three feet during normal conversation. Sneezing is the worst as it can propel droplets up to 25-feet.

Historically we have stringently adhered to NIOSH regulations for sanitization of the 3M | Scott Air-Pak. However, it was decided that to completely avoid any appearance of risk, we would wear the Air-Pak but not don the facepiece – until such time as the “All Clear” signal sounded.

In order to get our 15 events in during this calendar year, the finals will be pushed back. We can’t say when the season will end at this time. For individuals who wish their time to count for qualification as a member of the Lion’s Den, you must bring your own 3M | Scott Air-Pak. If you’re prone to falling down at the finish line, we might want to have your own catchers.

It is crucial that the Road Crew take all measures to avoid exposure; this means masks and shields during the event. Also, being compressed into small spaces during this blitzkrieg requires the observance of all of the rules for reducing exposure.

The logistical support for the minimalist tour precludes filling bottles. No merchandise will be sold on-site as well. Venues in most locations will be at fire academies and not open to the public. The economics of this season requires scaling costs way back. In consideration of the reduced overhead, registration fees have been also scaled back to $25 for individuals, $30 for tandems and $50 for relays and $75 for a full team.

The pace at the Challenge will be staggered to avoid the perception of gatherings with a requirement that competitors assist with resetting the course between runs. Times will count towards the GNC award category.

You may run your race without a mask. Clearly, attempting to move >250 liters per minute under heavy exercise while wearing any type of mask is a daunting task. The beauty of the Air-Pak is that it can deliver tidal volumes that support maximal exercise.

A few facts about the Air-Pak and our associated history with the product. Going waaaay back to my role as a backstep firefighter (and yes, we did ride on the tailboard), the cylinders were made of steel and weighed ≈45 pounds. (Yeah; we were real men back then- not). Rarely, these cylinders would explode during filing, sending shrapnel in all directions. Carbon-fiber reduced not only the blast risk but dramatically reduced weight.

But the biggest improvement came with positive pressure- in the mid-1970s. No longer did you have to suck the air out of the bottle; you were no longer “regulated” or “governed” to a submaximal work rate.

The weights of the Air-Pak have changed over time. The backpack frame and accessories have also morphed. What has not changed is the weight of the compressed air gases as a function of the PSI rating. But, more and more air has been compressed as the cylinders have been made more robust and stronger. Nominally, a full tank carries 3.6 pounds of air. Bigger competitors use more air but are out on the course a shorter period of time. Typically, in the 30-minute bottle, half of the air supply is exhausted.

All of this is to say, we have not controlled for, or attempted to standardize the Air-Pak weight over our more than 25 years of association with Scott. You’ll be running in the state-of-the-art system this season. The harness and associated parts will be slightly heavier. It is what it is.

Many of you elect to turn on the by-pass. Never a speed merchant myself, I’ve always felt that the regulator delivered what I needed. No one has run out of air during the six-minute requirement to finish.

I hope that this information is helpful. You’re welcome to ask questions in person, via email or giving me a phone call. I look forward to joining everyone in Florida for World Challenge Championship XXIX. The specifics of an exact date and venue are still in play. You’ll know when we know.

For obvious reasons, this news piece is longer and a lot more detailed than our typical post/email/blog. We’re attempting to predict the unpredictable. So, there may be changes based on new information, regulations, vaccines, testing, or whatever.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Innovative edge-finding AR eyepiece lets firefighters see through smoke

Nobody is at their best in a fire. Firefighters may be a rare breed in terms of their willingness to venture into a deadly blaze, rather than running away from it. However, no matter how brave firefighters may be, there’s no doubt that a fire represents an incredibly physically tough scenario which severely limits mental and physical capabilities. Could cutting-edge technology be used to lend a helping hand?

“When you’re inside a structured fire, it’s difficult to see because there’s smoke everywhere and your senses are impaired,” Sam Cossman, CEO and co-founder of Qwake Technologies, told Digital Trends. “It’s difficult to think because you’re in such a stressful situation, which can cause cognitive function to decline and lead to bad decision-making. And it’s difficult to communicate. If you’ve ever been in a fire you’ll know that it’s like standing next to a freight train. It’s extremely loud and dynamic.”Qwake

To help, Cossman and his colleagues have developed a smart helmet device called C-Thru, a head-up display which fits over one eye within a regular firefighter’s breathing apparatus. This augmented reality feed presents them with a video stream taken from an on-board thermal camera. It then uses some smart artificial intelligence image recognition to show the outlines of objects and people in green; giving the firefighters the ability to see what they’re doing even in the smokiest of rooms. In the process, the team believes that it has created a next-gen first responder tool that harnesses cutting-edge tech to solve a major life-threatening problem.

While firefighters have long carried thermal cameras, these have been handheld devices with small displays that require their users to look away from the scene directly in front of them to be able to use them. That problem would be removed by the use of the hands-free C-Thru device.Sample footage showing the difference between what firefighters see with and without Qwake's C-Thru HUD Qwake

“We’re taking complex information from an environment that could potentially be hazardous or life-threatening, and extending your natural abilities with the use of sensors,” Cossman said. “We then display that sensor information with brain-friendly intuitive cues that could help you get the information you need right when you need it. That is the core underlying goal of our platform.”
A background in extreme exploration

Thirty-eight year old adventurer Cossman said that the impetus for his work at Qwake started half a decade ago.

“My background is in extreme exploration,” he said. “For many years, I’ve been guiding scientific expeditions into remote locations. [In 2015,] we were working with the government in Nicaragua to develop an early-warning system that leveraged A.I. to predict volcanic activity.”

“We started to wonder what would happen if we … [provided] all of them with it — and then connected them.”

The project involved Cossman and others descending 1,200 feet into Masaya, an active volcano in Nicaragua. There, they installed sensors that would allow researchers to measure information such as temperature, humidity, pressure, and carbon dioxide in real-time.

“We couldn’t see where we were going inside this gas-filled crater,” he continued. “I was looking for a tool that would help myself and my team to navigate more effectively in that environment.”

Online, Cossman discovered a concept developed by a Turkish industrial designer named Omer Haciomeroglu. “It was touting the promise of similar functionality to [what we’re creating in 2020], but it wasn’t yet real,” Cossman said. “He and I started looking at what it would take to make it real.”Qwake

Today, Qwake has a team comprised of various researchers from different backgrounds. There’s a neuroscientist, a computer vision expert, a NASA rocket scientist-turned-career firefighter, and more. Cossman says that it is the “art of cross-disciplinary thinking” that has led to the project developing to its current point. It has also seen it expand its ambitions far beyond the limited use-case Cossman originally planned to use the technology for.
First responder tech

The C-Thru system isn’t just about providing firefighters with hands-free thermal vision. The headsets will also make it easier for firefighters to communicate with one another on the job, transmitting data to one another in a way which is far more advanced than the simple push-to-talk radio communication they previously used.

“We started to wonder what would happen if we didn’t just provide one firefighter with this augmented reality tool, but all of them with it — and then connected them,” Cossman said. “That’s when we started realizing that what we were building wasn’t just a vision assistant for one person but an entire visual communication platform, where people would be able to use a whole new visual language to transmit directional cues between parties.”Qwake

Qwake isn’t the only high-tech initiative seeking to help out firefighters. Since 2013, engineers at Italy’s IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia have been working on a robot called Walk-Man, which is designed to serve as a robot emergency responder which could assist human firefighters. Walk-Man can locate the position of fires, walk toward the blaze, and then activate a fire extinguisher. It can also collect images from its environment and send them back to a human emergency team, who can use the data to analyze the situation and guide the robot. Once both this project and Qwake’s C-Thru tech are ready for prime-time, it’s easy to imagine a combination of both being used to transform the way that fires are fought in the 2020s.

When it comes to C-Thru, Sam Cossman said that he is “not at liberty” to yet share all the details about the project, including its exact release date. Nonetheless, he noted that, “We’re looking at 2021 as general availability for this product.” Provided that it lives up to its potential, this could turn out to be a game-changer for the brave men and women firefighters who put their lives at risk on a regular basis.

It won’t come a moment too soon!

Monday, June 1, 2020

A nurse went to New York to work on the front lines — and to find the firefighter who saved her life over 36 years ago

Deirdre Taylor is pictured outside her home in Alexandria, Va., as her family looks on from behind the door. Pugliese, 75, had never had someone track him down to say thank you before, he told The Post on Wednesday.

The former Marine became a New York City police officer for several years before switching over to become a firefighter, working the SoHo neighborhood until he retired in 1996.

For decades, the Daily News front-page article hung in his office, surrounded by all his fire department and Yankees memorabilia.

How could he forget Deirdre? “I’ve had her picture on my wall for 24 years,” he said.

Saving her life was the highlight of his career, he said. He remembers the day clearly. He and his fire company were fixing a broken pipe in SoHo on a frigid December afternoon, when a man came running up Wooster Street, right up to Pugliese, yelling that there was a fire.

Pugliese followed him, taking off at a sprint. The man guided him to the sixth-floor apartment where thick smoke was billowing out, and Pugliese went in. He called out for anyone inside, before finding an artist’s studio engulfed in flames.

Taylor’s mother was crying, “My baby! My baby!” Pugliese remembered. He quickly helped her out of the room before returning on his hands and knees, crawling through the burning studio and blinding smoke for about six feet, when he felt the child.

She was unconscious. He carried her to the living room, where he gave her mouth-to-mouth to bring her back. He rushed down the six flights of stairs to get her to an ambulance, when to Pugliese’s relief, she woke up and started to cry.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Pugliese said, “and thank God we were there.”

Pugliese, who now lives in Spring Lake, N.J., later received a medal of valor for Taylor’s rescue, in a ceremony that is among his most prized memories. He said he dreamed about it as recently as two weeks ago — just as Taylor was trying to track him down.

Taylor’s first two weeks in New York were overwhelming, as she and her colleagues intubated patient after patient struggling to breathe, “something I’ll never forget,” she said. During her time off, she tried on one occasion to go to the firehouse where Pugliese worked, only to find a sign on the door discouraging visitors due to COVID-19.

But finally, last week, Taylor caught a break. A group of firefighters came to the ER to deliver the medical staff pizzas for dinner, to show their appreciation. Taylor followed the group to the ambulance bay, explaining that she was trying to find a likely retired fireman from Ladder No. 20, and did they have any suggestions on how to start?

One of the firemen gave her a phone number to connect her with the fire chief. She called when her shift ended in the morning, explaining her mission to find Eugene Pugliese once more, and bracing herself for bad news.

“Oh, Gene?” the chief told her. “He stops by the firehouse all the time.”

“My heart literally skipped a beat,” Taylor told The Post. “I couldn’t believe it. I really didn’t think he was still going to be around. I really thought I was going to hit a dead end. He said, ‘Yeah, I have his phone number in my cellphone.’ ”

The chief phoned Pugliese right away. Less than an hour later, Taylor’s phone rang.

“It’s Gene Pugliese,” he said. “I’m the firefighter who rescued you that day.”

Finally, Taylor told him what she had been meaning to say.

Taylor said she could only describe the moment as surreal. Pugliese asked if her hair was still blond. It was. He told her the story of the fire, and she told him the story of her life afterward. They learned they had plenty in common. Both were die-hard Yankees fans. Both spent time in the military, Taylor as an Army helicopter pilot in the Connecticut National Guard, Pugliese in Vietnam.

After the call, Pugliese said, “I cried for the rest of the day.”

Pugliese said that learning that the toddler he saved all those years ago is now an emergency room nurse on the front lines of the pandemic has been all the more powerful to him because a former colleague at the firehouse recently died of COVID-19. The battalion chief who died, Al Petrocelli, was the one who nominated Pugliese for the medal of valor award, Pugliese said.

Taylor and Pugliese would have liked to meet in person, but Taylor said it’s too risky given that she is in contact with COVID-19 patients every day. They hope to find a way to meet in the future.

“It’s a shame there’s no baseball,” he said. “I’d love to go to a Yankees game with her, once this has subsided. I’d love to meet her children. I’d love to meet her in the fire station.”

Sunday, May 24, 2020

James Mattis: Let’s honor the fallen by protecting our fragile experiment in democracy

A soldier places a flag in front of a headstone in Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day in Arlington on Thursday.
A soldier places a flag in front of a headstone in Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day in Arlington on Thursday. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
On Memorial Day this year, we may be keeping social distance from one another, but that cannot detract from the sense of closeness, the sense of community and the sense of shared sacrifice that we feel for one another on a day when we come face-to-face with the human cost of freedom.

What do we owe our fallen and their families on this day? Remembrance, for sure, yet we also owe a keen awareness of what they fought to defend: this great big experiment we call America.

The Founders — most of whom were military veterans — knew that the nation they were forming was an experiment, a test of the idea that people could live together and rule themselves, guided by the spirit of cooperation. The Constitution they devised was itself hammered out among those willing to compromise, giving birth to this experiment.

Upon being elected the first U.S. president, Gen. George Washington at his inauguration said, “the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

In his wisdom and humility, Washington saw the daunting challenge of keeping our experiment alive, and the role of American citizens in proving to the world that people didn’t need a king or a tyrant: We, the people, could rule ourselves.

Following the nation’s rugged birth, this radical idea has periodically needed defending by patriots, many of whom have given their lives and whom we honor on this day.

Those include the Union soldiers who gave their last full measure to hold the nation together and cast out the heinous practice of slavery, imported from the Old World, that had been a defect since America’s birth.

In President Abraham Lincoln’s short address dedicating a military cemetery at Gettysburg in 1863, he exhorted his listeners to resolve “that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Lincoln knew he had to say it out loud: This republican form of government could, in fact, perish — unless we fought for it, unless we dedicated our lives to living up to its ideals, unless we were willing to compromise with one another, while working always to improve the fairness of life for every American.

Nearly a century later, President John F. Kennedy — a World War II veteran — echoed that message in his 1961 inaugural address when he said we must be ready to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship . . . to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

Generation after generation of patriots have given their all to keep this precious legacy alive. That is why we gather every year to pay our respects to those who went down swinging to protect and defend our Constitution and our way of life.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines serve a country that, even in its most raucous times, is worth defending. They swear to do so at their personal peril, signing a blank check to all the American people, payable with their lives.

Our veterans have learned the hard way, having lost buddies in battle, that this nation has no ordained right to exist. America’s freedoms do not stand unassailed. Dictators and authoritarians look with fear on our freedom, our experiment, our republican model — a model that has long served as an inspiration to oppressed peoples everywhere.

We are most indebted to our veterans who fell, and their families, for the survival of this experiment. They can never be fully repaid, but we begin to do so by respecting one another in this land of boundless possibilities, because those who faced down danger and paid the price on our behalf deserve no less.

Many of us enjoy America’s freedom by an accident of birth, yet we all live free in this land by our own choice. It is our responsibility to show respect and genuine friendship to each other as fellow citizens — including those with whom we sometimes disagree — by unifying around our radical idea. That is how we can meet our ultimate responsibility: to turn over to the next generation a republic in better shape than we received it.

Those who fell while wearing our nation’s cloth in defense of freedom, and the Gold Star families of their survivors, paid an everlasting price. Every American owes them a commitment to keeping vibrant the experiment for which they died.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Early Challenge Trivia

The very first Challenge was held at the University of Maryland’s Fire Rescue Institute (MFRI). It was a fitting location since the facility served as the site for the original research (1976-6), funded by the predecessor to FEMA, the NFPCA (National Fire Prevention and Control Administration). Blissfully, the name was shortened to NFA and absorbed into FEMA by the time we started the national program, known by its current title.

The year was 1991. Five of the political jurisdictions in the greater Washington, DC SMA (statistical metropolitan area) participated. Montgomery, Prince Georges, Arlington, Prince William counties and the city of Alexandria were represented by five-person teams.

I recruited a bunch of my fire service buddies to serve as resetters and course officials. We used the drill tower and the first Keiser “slammer”- a prototype that was 9’ long with a painted tray. One Stanley shot mallet, in black rubber had to last for the entire duration (barely).

All of the props excepting the Keiser were provided by MFRI. It was an understatement to say that this was a learning experience. For example, there’s a huge difference in the durability of fire hose, by brand.

Competitors were fed into the tower on a shotgun-style of start. When one firefighter exited, another entered, with each followed by an official with a stopwatch. There were no banners, music or announcer. But there was a group of spectators who cheered wildly for their favorites.

About midway into the event, Jimmy Jarboe, a lieutenant from my department, the City of Takoma Park saw the looming problem of a competitor being lapped. The dummy we were using weighed 175 pounds - the same weight as the current Simulaids Rescue Randy®.

Jimmy sprinted to the pickup line for the dummy drag and took the place of the vacant mannequin. Just this past week, Jimmy, now Fire Chief, and I reminisced, with some laughs about the event.

We had coverage from the now-defunct Fire Chief magazine and the CBS affiliate WUSA channel 9 - all of which would be leveraged for DuPont Nomex and Kevlar taking the show on the road for the first two years.

Ben Barksdale, presently the fire chief of Orlando was there, and continued his presence for over 20 years.

Fire Chief James E. Jarboe, Takoma Park Station Montgomery County MD
The Original “Rescue Jimmy”

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Firefighter Combat Challenge: Not Just about Fitness

By Jason Martino
Palm Beach County Fire/Rescue

The Firefighter Combat Challenge is not just about fitness. It’s not just about getting into shape for a competition that revolves around the tasks associated with the fire service. It’s not fake firefighting or firefighting for people who can’t handle the real thing. I heard those words several times over the 7 years, as I competed in the FFCC with my team from Palm Beach County Fire Rescue and Local 2928.

What it is about, is dedication, sacrifice, teamwork, training, brotherhood, and family. It’s about getting the best tricks of the FFCC passed down to you from the ones that competed before. Sound familiar? It should. It’s exactly the same thing that is done in the fire service.

It all came together for me when I attended this year’s Orlando Fire Conference. I was sitting toward the front of the conference room listening to both Chief Bob Hoff, Chicago Fire Dept. (retired), Asst. Chief Carol Stream (IL) FD, published author, Chief Rick Kolomay, and Carol Stream (IL), another published author. All were speaking about how they viewed leadership in the fire service. They spoke about how everyone has a story, and how those stories could and should benefit the people who come after you. They shared personal stories about what happened to them along their careers, and how they learned from one another.

It wasn’t until they showed a video of the 1985 Chicago Bears, (Super Bowl Champs), that something clicked within me. It was a video that portrayed their passion for the game, as well as how they worked together as a team. The hours they spent training, as well as their dedication, sacrifice, and teamwork in addition to the brotherhood and family foundation they had. I’ll ask you again, sound familiar?

All of this started to sink in over the next few days of the conference. It was one of those things that you think and talk about at these conferences, over a couple of beers. The way I approached the FFCC was the same way people approached the fire service. The fire service is set in dedication, sacrifice, teamwork, training, brotherhood and family. The very same values I used to describe the FFCC.

For me it rang true 2010, when the FFCC team I was on won the National title, as well as the World Championship title. It was the first time in the history of the FFCC that that had occurred. It was only possible because of the values mentioned about that ring true in both the FFCC and the fire service. It also happened due to the people that had come before us and passed down their advice and experiences.

My fire department had a team in the early days of the FFCC, and they were good. They had won medal upon medal and accomplished so much. They were doing more than winning in those days, they were laying the foundation and contributing to the history of the Palm Beach County Local 2928 FFCC team. They were making mistakes on the course and learning from them. They would take those mistakes, readjust things and put them into practice. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but all along the way they were laying the tracks for us new guys. Passing down their knowledge and the gold nuggets they learned along the way. As the older guys started to step aside, the young guys took over the team.

Just like in the fire service, when the older guys retire, the young guys take over. Like the fire service, the new guys take what the old guys pass down to them and put it into action. That’s exactly what we did. We took the advice of the old guys and how they took on the FCC, and put it into action.

Not everyone can be a firefighter, as it’s not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. However, if you can cut it, it is the best and most rewarding job in existence. I don’t say this lightly when I say that you should be in shape to do this job. You don’t have to be in FFCC shape, but you need to be in good shape to do the job properly.

The FFCC is the same way, not anyone can do it. You have to be a firefighter to compete. It doesn’t matter if you’re a volunteer, paid, forestry, aircraft, or industrial firefighter. All that matters is that you are a firefighter and you are in good shape.

The first time you run the whole course, you’ll know what kind of shape you are in. Just like the first time you run a fire in full gear, breathing compressed air, pulling a line or hoisting some tools, you’ll know what shape you are in.

The fire service changes over time, and so did the FFCC. As we got closer as a team, we became brothers. We trained, we had dedication, and our families sacrificed time away from us so we could train and compete. We had guys on the team that specialized in some components of the FFCC. We had Mac, the technical guy. He knew where we should place our hands on the rail as we ran up the stairs, and how we should use our weight to come down the stairs faster. We had Lee, who knew about products. He suggested which compression pants we should wear, and had input on our diet. We had Aaron, our logistics guy, who made sure that everything from hotel rooms to the entry fees were taken care of. We had Jacques, he was the old man of the group, (senior Jake). He had been around with the older guys, but stuck around a few extra years. He had advice from earlier experiences in years past, and he was constantly pushing us. So much sometimes, it was aggravating. And then there was me. The liaison between the team, the Department and the Union. I was also the spokesman, (PIO) of the group.

I could go on and on about what each of us put into our FFCC team, but it had the same components of the successful Chicago Bears team of 85, as well as the same components of a successful fire company. A successful fire company has guys that are utilized in the area that they are best in, as well as what is best for the company. A successful company is dedicated, they sacrifice if needed, they understand the need for teamwork and training. They understand and “GET” brotherhood and the importance of family. Not just the family at the firehouse, but the family we leave behind every morning.

Just like I didn’t want to let my brothers on the FFCC team down, I didn’t want to let my brothers down at the firehouse. Just like any successful fire company, times change and people get promoted or take other assignments. The same was true with our team.

Although we don’t compete in the FFCC anymore, we all have moved on to different types of challenges in our life. Some have started a family, some are studying for promotion, and others are off serving our country. As I reflect on our FFCC memories it makes me smile to know what we accomplished together. But just like any successful fire company we all have great memories and have new friends from all over the country. We stay in touch and get together every now and then. If any of us need anything, we are all there for each other. The success of our team is a good example of what a successful fire company is comprised of.

As I see it, my FFCC team had all the components of the successful 85 Bears, as well as a successful fire company.

For those who told me along the way that the FFCC was fake firefighting, I say you are wrong. Dead Wrong. 

Stay safe, train hard, stay dedicated.
Captain Jason Martino

Monday, April 27, 2020

Members of Previous Generations Now Seem Like Giants

Victor Davis Hanson:

Many of the stories about the gods and heroes of Greek mythology were compiled during Greek Dark Ages. Impoverished tribes passed down oral traditions that originated after the fall of the lost palatial civilizations of the Mycenaean Greeks.

Dark Age Greeks tried to make sense of the massive ruins of their forgotten forbearers’ monumental palaces that were still standing around. As illiterates, they were curious about occasional clay tablets they plowed up in their fields with incomprehensible ancient Linear B inscriptions.

We of the 21st century are beginning to look back at our own lost epic times and wonder about these now-nameless giants who left behind monuments that we cannot replicate, but instead merely use or even mock.

Does anyone believe that contemporary Americans could build another transcontinental railroad in six years?

Californians tried to build a high-speed rail line. But after more than a decade of government incompetence, lawsuits, cost overruns and constant bureaucratic squabbling, they have all but given up. The result is a half-built overpass over the skyline of Fresno — and not yet a foot of track laid.

Who were those giants of the 1960s responsible for building our interstate highway system?

California’s roads now are mostly the same as we inherited them, although the state population has tripled. We have added little to our freeway network, either because we forgot how to build good roads or would prefer to spend the money on redistributive entitlements.

When California had to replace a quarter section of the earthquake-damaged San Francisco Bay Bridge, it turned into a near-disaster, with 11 years of acrimony, fighting, cost overruns — and a commentary on our decline into Dark Ages primitivism. Yet 82 years ago, our ancestors built four times the length of our singe replacement span in less than four years It took them just two years to design the entire Bay Bridge and award the contracts.

Our generation required five years just to plan to replace a single section. In inflation-adjusted dollars, we spent six times the money on one quarter of the length of the bridge and required 13 agencies to grant approval. In 1936, just one agency oversaw the entire bridge project.

California has not built a major dam in 40 years. Instead, officials squabble over the water stored and distributed by our ancestors, who designed the California State Water Project and Central Valley Project.

Contemporary Californians would have little food or water without these massive transfers, and yet they often ignore or damn the generation that built the very system that saves us.

America went to the moon in 1969 with supposedly primitive computers and backward engineering. Does anyone believe we could launch a similar moon shot today? No American has set foot on the moon in the last 47 years, and it may not happen in the next 50 years.

Hollywood once gave us blockbuster epics, brilliant Westerns, great film noirs, and classic comedies. Now it endlessly turns out comic-book superhero films or pathetic remakes of prior classics.

Our writers, directors and actors have lost the skills of their ancestors. But they are also cowardly, and in regimented fashion they simply parrot boring race, class and gender bromides that are neither interesting nor funny. Does anyone believe that the Oscar ceremonies are more engaging and dignified than in the past?

We have been fighting in Afghanistan without result for 18 years. Our forefathers helped to win World War II and defeat the Axis Powers in four years.

In terms of learning, does anyone believe that a college graduate in 2020 will know half the information of a 1950 graduate?

In the 1940s, young people read William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pearl Buck and John Steinbeck. Are our current novelists turning out anything comparable? Could today’s high- school graduate even finish “The Good Earth” or “The Grapes of Wrath”?

True, social media is impressive. The internet gives us instant access to global knowledge. We are a more tolerant society, at least in theory. But Facebook is not the Hoover Dam, and Twitter is not the Panama Canal

Our ancestors were builders and pioneers and mostly fearless. We are regulators, auditors, bureaucrats, adjudicators, censors, critics, plaintiffs, defendants, social media junkies and thin-skinned scolds. A distant generation created; we mostly delay, idle and gripe.

As we walk amid the refuse, needles and excrement of the sidewalks of our fetid cities; as we sit motionless on our jammed ancient freeways; and as we shout on Twitter and electronically whine in the porticos of our Ivy League campuses, will we ask: “Who were these people who left these strange monuments that we use but can neither emulate nor understand?”

In comparison to us, they now seem like gods

Victor Davis Hanson:

Monday, April 13, 2020

The debt reckoning has finally arrived

Robert Samuelson, the Washington Post 

We finally have a plausible answer to a question that has haunted U.S. government for more than half a century: Why should we bother balancing the budget?

The answer, as practiced by political leaders of both parties, has been: We shouldn’t. It’s too hard. Spending has to be cut or taxes have to be raised. These steps are unpopular. Meanwhile, the benefits of balancing the budget seemed negligible or nonexistent. Why bother?

This was, we should know now, the wrong answer. The right answer — meaning what we should have been doing since the 1960s — is balancing the budget in good times and tolerating budget deficits when the economy faces a recession, a major war or some unforeseen ­catastrophe.

Instead, we found excuses to justify expedient policies: spending more and taxing less. What we conveniently overlooked was the need to preserve our borrowing power for an unknown crisis that requires a huge infusion of federal cash. Because the amounts are so large and the need so pressing, massive borrowing cannot be avoided.

The reckoning has finally, though inevitably, arrived. Since 1960, the federal budget has been in the black only five years (1969 and 1998-2001), and each of these tiny surpluses arrived courtesy of a fleeting economic boom. The coronavirus pandemic is moving the debt into unknown territory, greater than the borrowing undertaken to fight World War II. In 1946, the federal debt held by the public was 106 percent of gross domestic ­product.

Already, existing deficits would bring that total to nearly 100 percent of GDP by 2030, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, if all costs are covered by borrowing. In 2019, the existing federal debt held by the public was $16.8 trillion. Let’s assume that the total cost of the rescue will be $4 trillion, about half of which has already been approved by Congress. This would add about 18 percent of GDP to the existing federal debt.

Most economists seem to assume that these immense amounts can be easily borrowed. Debt denominated in other currencies (the euro, the yen) is unattractive. And low dollar interest rates will keep down the costs of servicing the debt, say economists.

“Until now, the debt has involved few adverse side effects. Interest rates seemed largely unaffected. Deficits don’t seem to have “crowded out” private investment. There haven’t been crippling runs on the dollar on foreign exchange markets. Just the opposite: The dollar has been “strong,” reflecting its role as the premier global currency, used to conduct trade, make cross-border investments and provide a “safe” asset against political and economic turmoil.

But there was no guarantee that this good fortune would continue indefinitely. It’s the “something for nothing” premise that makes deficits so politically appealing. The most obvious beneficiaries are, of course, politicians. Democrats could promote more social spending. Republicans could pledge more tax cuts. Aside from empty rhetoric about curtailing deficits, hardly anyone felt a need to balance the books.

But blaming politicians is a superficial conclusion. The real agents of budget deficits were academic economists, who destroyed a preexisting political consensus to balance the budget as a matter of sound policy and prudence, as Bill White argues in his highly informative 2014 book, “America’s Fiscal Constitution: Its Triumph and Collapse.”

The old norm was this: If more government was worth having, it was worth paying for with taxes. To this sensible standard, economists — in an act of intellectual and political arrogance — took a sledgehammer. First and foremost came the Democratic Keynesians, disciples of economist John Maynard Keynes. They convinced President John F. Kennedy that the federal budget could be used to stimulate faster economic growth and lower unemployment.

Next came the Republican “supply-siders” and their tax cuts. Inexorably, the old political norm (what should government do and how should it be paid for?) was casually discarded. In its place was a new norm: that federal budgets should be viewed as instruments of economic policy.

Under the old norm, White argues, government borrowing was mostly limited to a few national needs: acquiring land (the Louisiana Purchase), conducting war and cushioning business slumps. But government also had to control spending. Except for the Great Depression, this consensus generally served the country reasonably well.

Once the old norm had been shattered, it couldn’t easily be reestablished because it was no match for the new norm’s political appeal. The growing debt makes it harder to pay for other vital programs, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the FBI to defense. The promise of an improved economy rationalized deficits, though these promises rarely materialized.

The coronavirus pandemic, while unavoidable, has been made worse by our past expedience. The future almost certainly holds similar surprises: a nuclear exchange, a biomedical attack, another financial crisis or something no one has yet imagined. A prudent nation would be saving against this prospect. We aren’t.

Friday, April 10, 2020

World Challenge IX, November 1999, Kissimee Florida

L-R, Jay Staeden, Larry Vandenberg, Kevin Nelson, Daniel Pace, Wanda Davis, Gene Davis, Chuck DeGrandpre, Cedric Guillory, Paul Davis, Ross Lowery, Mark Lowery