A disappointed citizen Dear Editor, As a retired school counselor of thirty years I am sad and angry to experience another school massacre. I wish and hope some senator or representative is willing to stand up on the floor of congress and ask for a vote right now on one or all of the gun bill issues that are just sitting there waiting for a vote to become law. Rick Rasmussen, Watervliet
Upton has repeatedly voted against gun violence prevention measures Dear Editor, Congressman Fred Upton voted to repeal President Obama’s Executive Order blocking gun purchases by mentally ill individuals who were found to be too impaired to manage their Social Security Disability benefits. Upton voted against a bill that required background checks on individuals buying guns at gun shows. This bill also required organizers of gun shows to obtain a registration so they could process background checks on those who purchase guns at their shows. Upton voted against a bill to re-instate the ban on the purchase of semi-automatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines. Since the expiration of this ban, the use of these weapons in mass shootings has greatly increased. Upton and his fellow Congressional Republicans are so afraid of the National Rifle Association that they block every effort to enact any form of gun violence prevention legislation. As a result, nothing is done to stem the epidemic of gun violence in our country. The United States has many times more gun violence than any other developed nation. The reason is clear – each of those nations has much stricter gun violence prevention laws. One example: After a mass shooting in Australia in 1996 the government instituted a variety of gun violence prevention measures, including the banning of automatic and semi-automatic weapons as well as new licensing requirements and the introduction of a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases. Since that time there have been no mass shootings in Australia and the overall rate of gun homicides and suicides has been dramatically reduced. There are many steps that Congressional Republicans could take to prevent gun violence – expanding and strengthening background checks, requiring a longer waiting period for gun purchases to enable more thorough background checks, eliminating the loophole that allows dangerous people to purchase guns at gun shows, eliminating the sale of devices that can allow semi-automatic weapons to function as automatic weapons (“Bump Stocks”), reducing or eliminating the purchase of extra-large ammunition magazines, and limiting or banning the sale of semi-automatic assault rifles and pistols. The time for gun violence prevention legislation is now! Fred Upton and his fellow Congressional Republicans have refused to take action. We the people need to replace them with individuals who will. Lives are depending on it! Larry Feldman, Lakeside
Celebrate Red Cross Month by giving blood in March During Red Cross Month in March, the American Red Cross encourages eligible donors to join in its lifesaving mission by giving blood. Since 1943, every U.S. president has designated March as Red Cross Month to recognize how the Red Cross helps people across the country and around the world. Red Cross Month is a celebration of supporters, who are the face of the Red Cross in their communities and bring hope to people facing emergencies. The Red Cross depends on blood donor heroes across the nation to collect enough blood to meet the needs of patients at approximately 2,600 hospitals nationwide. Donors of all blood types, especially type O, are needed to help those who rely on blood products. Make an appointment to become a hero to patients in need by downloading the free Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). An upcoming blood donation opportunity in Berrien County is Wednesday, Mar. 14, 11:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. at American Red Cross, 3838 Niles Road in St. Joseph.
Learn to live well with heart failure Lakeland Health will offer “Living Well with Heart Failure,” a free class for community members about congestive heart failure (CHF), a chronic condition characterized by the heart’s inability to meet the blood flow needs of the body. The program will take place on Tuesday, March 6, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. in Classroom B at Lakeland Hospital, located at 400 Medical Park Drive in Watervliet. Participants will learn to identify common causes and symptoms of heart failure, as well as new daily routines that can dramatically improve one’s quality of life. Preregistration for the class is required; call (269) 556-2808 or (866) 260-7544. Visit www.lakelandhealth.org or find Lakeland Health on Facebook or Twitter for more classes and events.
United Way teams up with Berrien & Cass County Great Start Collaborative for March Reading Month drive United Way of Southwest Michigan presents the ‘Spring Into Reading’ book drive coming this March 2018 in celebration of National Reading Month. In partnership with Berrien County Great Start Collaborative and Cass County Great Start Collaborative, United Way of Southwest Michigan seeks to collect 5,000 new and gently used books during the month of March. This parent led book drive will collect books to be distributed through home visiting programs in Berrien and Cass counties, area Great Start programs, and ‘reading treasure chests’ placed in Cass County agencies. In addition it will provide book racks at area food pantries for children and add a ‘Read Up’ component to summer ‘Meet up, Eat Up’ sites in Berrien and Cass counties. ‘Meet Up, Eat Up’ sites are part of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) from the USDA that ensures low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Studies show that exposing children to books at a young age, and having books to read at home, is one of the best ways to develop children’s literacy skills. This book drive will get books in the hands of kids who may not have had access before and open a whole new world of words to them. “One of the greatest gifts you can give a child is the love of reading. Encouraging an interest in books at a young age is a proven way to develop a child’s reading comprehension and inspire the self confidence they need to do well in school,” says Anna Murphy, president of United Way of Southwest Michigan. “Reading at home in their free time is vital to developing the early love of books a child needs to succeed in school, and in life.” For more information call Julee Laurent at 269-932-3566 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Book drive boxes will be set up throughout businesses and organizations in Berrien and Cass counties from March 1 to March 22. For a complete list of book drive drop locations, visit www.uwsm.org /bookdrive. Special thanks to UPS, our logistics partner for the ‘Spring into Reading’ book drive.
Biblical investment advice Of all places, would we expect to find financial investment advice in the Bible? Principles of long-term and diversification can be found in Ecclesiastes 11:1&2: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.” While this is good advice, Jesus’ New Testament investment message has a different emphasis. Jesus’ message was much bigger than monetary rates of return. The investments He spoke of were people investments. The principle of caring for the needy, the vulnerable, and the elderly carries throughout the Bible, with motivation always relating to both love and obedience. In Micah 6:8 God challenges His people to understand His expectations for the practical outworking of the Law in their daily lives: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NASB) The vertical relationship with God was to show in horizontal relationships with others. Jesus’ commandment for His followers was similar. John 13:34 states, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Again evidence of right vertical priorities is shown by right horizontal priorities. Kindness is love in action, reflecting obedience to a higher standard. Jesus also describes the diversification that belongs to this kind of investment. It involves spreading our kindness to those outside our own circle of friends; even to those we might consider enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). We can “cast our bread upon the waters” remembering the long-term investment in eternity. Diversify our love and care, committing to good investment priorities for good returns. Good advice.
Your contributions help millions Seeing taxes taken out of your paycheck can be confusing when you get your first paycheck. Understanding how important your contribution is can help. Your taxes are helping millions of Americans — wounded warriors, the chronically ill, and people with disabilities — as well as protecting you and your family for life. You can take pride in knowing you’re making an important impact with each paycheck. By law, employers must withhold Social Security taxes from a worker’s paycheck. While often referred to as “Social Security taxes” on an employee’s pay statement, sometimes the deduction is labeled as “FICA” which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act, a reference to the original Social Security Act. In some cases, you will see “OASDI” which stands for Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance. The taxes you pay now translate to a lifetime of protection — for retirement in old age or in the event of disability. And if you die, your family (or future family) may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work as well. Because you may be a long way from retirement, you might have a tough time seeing the value of benefit payments that could be many decades in the future. Keep in mind that the Social Security taxes you’re paying can provide valuable disability or survivor’s benefits now in the event the unexpected happens. Studies show that of today’s 20-year-olds, about one in four will become disabled, and about one in eight will die before reaching retirement. If you’d like to learn a little more about Social Security and exactly what you’re building up for yourself by paying Social Security taxes, take a look at our online booklet, How You Earn Credits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10072.html. You may know someone who lost a parent when they were a child. They probably received Social Security survivor’s benefits. Social Security helps by providing income for the families of workers who die. In fact, 98 of every 100 children could get benefits if a working parent dies. Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program. You can learn more at www.ssa.gov/benefits/survivors/. Social Security is with you through life’s journey. You can learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.
PARALYZED AND POLARIZED is how a news commentator characterized our Congress when it comes to taking action on the gun control issue. Obviously the slaughter of 17 innocents at a school in Florida last week (on Valentine’s Day) has brought the gun control debate back to the fore. Sadly the one debate that needs to be conducted is on the floor of Congress. Sadly that has little chance of happening. I am not convinced the weapons manufacturers have Congress in their pocket and that they are preventing any meaningful action to help keep guns away from those whose only goal is to kill as many people as possible. By the same token, the ease that many of these killer monsters get their hands on weapons that are used for murder is a crime against us all. I don’t accept that gun control is unconstitutional. We can keep our gun rights and still feel safe that any malcontent can buy an automatic weapon. It makes no sense that certain people claim making the use and ownership of an automatic rifle illegal takes away their second amendment rights (the right to bear arms). An automatic rifle is not a hunting or target weapon. It is a tool that has the single purpose of killing as many “enemy” as possible. Target shooters and hunters have no use for such weapons. Those who claim the automatic rifle is needed to protect themselves should join the army or the police force… the only place such weapons have a valid use. I think we have yet to have a national dialogue on the culture of violence that has grown here in the U.S. There certainly is an increase in the amount of violence in the movies, on television and on the internet. So it stands to reason there is an increase in violence at home and in the public. I believe there are two reasons for the increased violence perpetrated by youths… lax education at home and school for the sanctity of life… the movie Saving Private Ryan is an excellent historical document but it doesn’t belong in the classroom. The other cause is the abandonment of state run mental health facilities to treat and cure the people who need it. There are way too many cases of folks hurting others, when they should have been treated for mental issues. We have the best health system because our government required it. The mental health system is atrophied because government allowed it. There are no simple solutions, but ignoring increased gun violence, and seeking changes to prevent it is not the answer. What do you think? Email me at email@example.com or call 463-6397.
GONE NONE TOO SOON… I was on the banks of the Paw Paw River Sunday afternoon, mostly enjoying the fine sunshine. I was messing around a bit with my fly rod… tossing a green yarn fly into the current. Even though the water was low, I didn’t wade in because I was standing in 8 inches of snow on the bank. I went back to the same spot Monday afternoon… holy crow! The water was ten inches deeper and instead of being clear, it was muddy brown and the current was roaring on by. And most of the snow was gone. But for a few dirty piles around the corners and big drifts on the fields, it had melted away thanks to a whole day of rain and warmer temperatures. By Tuesday morning, most of it had been converted to water and was draining away. I won’t miss the snow one bit, but it sure is prettier than the mud it leaves behind.