July 17, 2014 - July 23, 2014

     

The Economic Challenge Posed by Declining Pollinator Populations

 

By Press Officer
Office of The White House

Pollinators contribute substantially to the economy

of the United States and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets. Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators—including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies—from the environment. The problem is serious and poses a significant challenge that needs to be addressed to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impacts on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.

Economic Importance of Pollinators:

• Insect pollination is integral to food security in the United States. Honey bees enable the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops in North America. Globally, 87 of the leading 115 food crops evaluated are dependent on animal pollinators, contributing 35% of global food production.

• Pollinators contribute more than 24 billion dollars to the United States economy, of which honey bees account for more than 15 billion dollars through their vital role in keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets.

• Native wild pollinators, such as bumble bees and alfalfa leafcutter bees, also contribute substantially to the domestic economy. In 2009, the crop benefits from native insect pollination in the United States were valued at more than 9 billion dollars.

The Challenge of Pollinator Declines:

• The number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States has declined steadily over the past 60 years, from 6 million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. Given the heavy dependence of certain crops on commercial pollination, reduced honey bee populations pose a real threat to domestic agriculture.

• Some crops, such as almonds, are almost exclusively pollinated by honey bees, and many crops rely on honey bees for more than 90% of their pollination. California’s almond industry alone requires the pollination services of approximately 1.4 million beehives annually—60% of all U.S. beehives—yielding 80% of the worldwide almond production worth 4.8 billion dollars each year.

• Since 2006, commercial beekeepers in the United States have seen honey bee colony loss rates increase to an average of 30% each winter, compared to historical loss rates of 10 to 15%. In 2013–14, the overwintering loss rate was 23.2%, down from 30.5% the previous year but still greater than historical averages and the self-reported acceptable winter mortality rate.

• The recent increased loss of honey bee colonies is thought to be caused by a combination of stressors, including loss of natural forage and inadequate diets, mite infestations and diseases, loss of genetic diversity, and exposure to certain pesticides. Contributing to these high loss rates is a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD), in which there is a rapid, unexpected, and catastrophic loss of bees in a hive.

• Beekeepers in the United States have collectively lost an estimated 10 million beehives at an approximate current value of $200 each. These high colony loss rates require beekeepers to rapidly, and at substantial expense, rebuild their colonies, placing commercial beekeeping in jeopardy as a viable industry and threatening the crops dependent on honey bee pollination. The loss rates have driven up the cost of commercial pollination: for instance, the cost of renting honey bee hives for almond pollination rose from about $50 in 2003 to $150-$175 per hive in 2009.

• Some of the viral agents that are impacting honey bee colonies are also now reported to be adversely affecting native pollinators, such as bumble bees, and the pollination services they provide.

• Population declines have also been observed for other contributing pollinator species, such as Monarch butterflies, which migrate from Mexico across the United States to Canada each year, returning to overwinter in the same few forests in Mexico. The Monarch butterfly migration, an iconic natural phenomenon that has an estimated economic value in the billions of dollars, sank to the lowest recorded levels this winter, with an imminent risk of failure.

Administration Actions:

In response to the challenges to commercial bee-keeping, the President’s 2015 Budget recommends approximately $50 million across multiple agencies within USDA to: enhance research at USDA and through public-private grants, strengthen pollinator habitat in core areas, double the number of acres in the Conservation Reserve Program that are dedicated to pollinator health, and increase funding for surveys to determine the impacts on pollinator losses.

Building on this budget initiative, President Obama today issued a Presidential Memorandum on Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators that takes a number of important steps to tackle the problem of pollinator declines, including:

3 Directing the Federal Government to use its research, land management, education, and public/private partnership capacities to broadly advance honey bee and other pollinator health and habitat;

3 Establishing a new Pollinator Health Task Force, co-chaired by United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy. The Strategy will include: a coordinated research action plan to understand, prevent, and recover from pollinator losses, including determining the relative impacts of habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and other stressors; a public education plan to help individuals, businesses, and other organizations address pollinator losses; and recommendations for increasing public-private partnerships to build on Federal efforts to protect pollinators;

3 Directing Task Force agencies to develop plans to enhance pollinator habitat on federal lands and facilities in order to lead by example to significantly expand the acreage and quality of pollinator habitat, consistent with agency missions and public safety; and

3 Directing Task Force agencies to partner with state, tribal, and local governments; farmers and ranchers; corporations and small businesses; and non-governmental organizations to protect pollinators and increase the quality and amount of available habitat and forage.

In line with these efforts, the Federal Government will also work to restore the Monarch butterfly migration using research and habitat improvements that will benefit Monarchs as well as other native pollinators and honey bees. These actions support the February 2014 Joint Statement by President Obama, Prime Minister Harper of Canada, and President Peña Nieto of Mexico to renew and expand collaboration between North American nations to conserve the Monarch butterfly.

 

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Wayne K. Curry, 1951 – 2014

 

Curry was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 6, 1951, and grew up in Cheverly, Maryland, a community in the northwestern portion of Prince George's County. His family was the among the first non-white families to integrate into this community in the 1950s. His father was a school teacher, and his mother was a homemaker and later an office secretary. He and his older brother were the first blacks to attend Cheverly-Tuxedo Elementary School in 1959. Curry earned his high school diploma from Bladensburg High School in 1968.

In 1972, Curry earned his Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from Western Maryland College, where he was president of the freshman class. Following graduation, he worked as a teacher and director of the Child Daycare Center of Prince George's County. In 1974, Curry took a hiatus from the professional area, and traveled across America. He earned money working at truck stops and slept at campsites throughout the country.

From 1975 until 1978, Curry worked in the administration of Prince George's County Executive Winfield Kelly. Kelly was the executive for Prince George's County from 1974 until 1978. Curry's career began as a staffer responsible for writing constituent reply mail. He later went on to serve as community affairs assistant, administrative assistant to the county's Chief Administrative Officer and senior assistant to the executive. While working for Kelly, he also attended law school at night, earning his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1980, graduating with honors.

From 1980 until 1983, Curry worked as a real estate and development lawyer for the "Michael Companies". In 1984, Curry started his own law practice and became a well-known, successful corporate attorney.

From 1984 to 1992, Curry was General Counsel for "Dimensions Health Corporation", a major healthcare business that operates Prince George's General Hospital Center, the Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital, and the Bowie Health Center. Mr. Curry has served as Chairman of the United Way Campaign of Prince Georges County, President of the Prince George's County Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the "School Superintendent's Advisory Committee on Black Male Achievement", Chairman of the "Prince George's County Substance Abuse Advisory Board", a member of the "Board of Directors of the Prince George's County Christmas in April", Director of "United Communities Against Poverty", and Director of the "Bonnie Johns Children's Fund."

In 1994, Curry returned to the county executive's office and made history when he became the first African American to serve in the County's highest elected office. He served two consecutive terms from 1994 to 2002.

Curry served on Governor Robert Ehrlich's 2002 transition team into the Governor's Mansion. Curry was appointed Commissioner to the Maryland Port Commission in 2003 by Gov. Ehrlich, a Republican. He was prominently mentioned in the news media as a speculative candidate for Lieutenant Governor when Ehrlich ran (unsuccessfully) for re-election in 2006, although Kristen Cox was eventually chosen as Ehrlich's running mate.

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Older Drivers Restrict Their Driving to respond to Side-Effects of Medicine

 

By PRESS OFFICER
AAA Mid Atlantic

WASHINGTON, D. C. (Thursday, May 8, 2014) – Rx is the universal symbol for a doctor’s medical prescription or for a pharmacy, as older drivers are especially well aware. But they may not be aware that “rx” in lower case letters or fonts is an abbreviation for a chemical reaction. Today nine-out-of-ten drivers age 65 and older take prescription drugs or medications on a regular basis. However, only a few drivers (18 percent) in that age group had ever received a warning from their physician about the possible dangerous side-effects their medications, including information regarding the impact of the chemical reactions of prescription drugs in the brain, could have on their driving skill set.

Despite this, three out of four drivers ages 65 and older with a medical condition demonstrate an almost innate, or uncanny, if you will, instinct for self-regulating their daily driving. It is a one of the major findings in a new eye-opening report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. That is to say, in layman’s terms: the vast majority of older drivers are reducing or restricting their driving to respond to the side-effects of medication. This is real progress in ensuring the safety of older drivers, underscores the AAA Foundation, especially in light of the fact that older Americans are extending their time behind the wheel compared to previous generations.

“This level of medication use does raise concerns, yet evidence indicates seniors are fairly cautious,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “In fact, these findings show that older drivers using medications are more likely to regulate their driving – reducing daily travel, avoiding driving at night or driving fewer days per week.”

For example, the new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 84 percent of Americans 65 and older held a driver’s license in 2010 compared to barely half in the early 1970s. Today, one in six drivers on U.S. roads are ages 65 and older and this new research shows an increased automobility of older drivers with travel patterns indicating about a 20 percent increase in trips and a 33 increase in miles travelled between 1990 and 2009.

While upward trends indicate greater mobility for the silver tsunami, the Understanding Older Drivers: An Examination of Medical Conditions, Medication Use and Travel Behaviors report reveals that 90 percent of older drivers also use prescription medications with two-thirds taking multiple medications. Previous Foundation research has shown that combinations of medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can result in an impairment in safe driving ability.

“Because they have been driving longer, and are prone to carefully reflect upon their past mistakes, older drivers using medications drive fewer days each week to protect themselves and to safeguard others on the road, this study shows,” commented John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “What’s more, older drivers using medications avoid night driving at double the rate of those 24-64; and roughly one in five male and one in three female drivers 65 and over who take medications report avoiding night driving.”

The report also reveals gender differences when it comes to medication-use behind the wheel. Older women that use medications are

more likely to regulate their driving compared to men and, even without a medical condition, female drivers drive less than their male counterparts with a medical condition. Additional key highlights from the report include:

• 25 percent of men and 18 percent of women remain in the workforce after age 65, resulting in more than double the work-related commutes for drivers 65 and older compared to 20 years ago.

• 68 percent drivers age 85 or older report driving five or more days per week.

• Three-quarters of drivers ages 65 and older with a medical condition report reduced daily driving.

• Self-regulatory behavior, among those taking multiple medications or having a medical condition, declines with increasing income. Female drivers ages 65-69 with an annual income under $13,000 were 62 percent more likely to restrict nighttime driving than women with incomes over $70,000.

Knowing that medication use is very high among senior drivers, the AAA Foundation and AAA developed confidential, educational tools such as Roadwise Rx to help seniors and their families understand common side-effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and foods.

“AAA’s Roadwise Rx is an online tool that generates personalized feedback about how these interactions between prescription and over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements can impact safety behind the wheel,” said AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy, Jake Nelson. “Drivers are encouraged to discuss the confidential results with their doctor or pharmacist to learn how to mitigate possible crash risks.”

To access all the free resources AAA offers to senior drivers, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com.

The Economic Challenge Posed by Declining Pollinator Populations.

 

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Athletic Trainers Absent in Many Md. High Schools

 

By ASHLEY S. WESTERMAN
Capital News Service

COLLEGE PARK - Just four of Maryland’s 24 public school districts have athletic trainers working full-time with student athletes in all high schools, recent calls conducted by Capital News Service reveal.

That means thousands of student athletes throughout the state are participating in practices and games without a licensed healthcare professional on hand for emergency medical situations. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association estimates there are almost 114,000 student-athletes from 199 public schools participating in roughly 24 sports every year.

It’s a case of the “haves and have nots,” said Gina Palermo, Howard County athletic trainer and chairwoman of the Secondary Schools Athletic Trainer Committee of the Maryland Athletic Trainers Association. “You’re saying that this group is okay [for public school districts to spend money on], but this group isn’t,” she said.

Anne Arundel, Caroline, Somerset and Worcester counties have full-time athletic trainers in all high schools for the 2013-2014 school year.

At the other end of the spectrum, Baltimore City Public Schools and the public school districts of Prince George’s, Calvert, Dorchester, Allegany and Washington counties do not employ any athletic trainers in any high schools.

In between are another 14 counties in Maryland that employ part-time athletic trainers in the public high schools, or full-time trainers in some of the high schools.

Tom Hearn, the Bethesda father of a Walt Whitman High School student who sustained a concussion during the 2012 football season, is concerned.

“As the experts say, ‘If you can’t afford to have athletic trainers, you can’t afford to have an athletic program,’ ” said Hearn, who has pressed Montgomery County officials to have athletic trainers in all public high schools.

Montgomery County Public Schools placed part-time athletic trainers in some of its 25 public high schools this school year. While Hearn applauds this effort, he notes those athletic trainers were donated by area medical vendors for just this academic year. Their future in the school system is uncertain.

Overall, about 61 percent of Maryland’s high schools employ athletic trainers, the National Athletic Trainers Association estimates. That number is low compared to surrounding states such as Delaware (96 percent), Pennsylvania (96 percent), Virginia (87 percent) and West Virginia (85 percent).

THE HAVE NOTS

School jurisdictions without any athletic trainers cite lack of money as one of the reasons.

Prince George’s County Public Schools Athletic Supervisor O’Shay Watson said the county hires emergency medical technicians for some events, but budget constraints make it difficult to hire full-time athletic trainers.

“We really do value the safety of the students, which comes first,” he said. “But [you’ve] got to think about health benefits and things like that come with full-time employees, and it’s costly.”

George C. Hall, president of the booster club at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt and the father of two lacrosse players for the school, said the fact that Prince George’s County has no athletic trainers is upsetting.

“I’m really disappointed in that,” said Hall, who is also an assistant coach for the lacrosse team. There are "very few games, if any, that we go without some kind of injury. … It’s quite dangerous to not have someone out there if something happens.”

Certified and licensed athletic trainers are taught to properly respond to a wide range of injuries, from sprained ankles and muscle spasms to more serious ones, such as concussions and spinal injuries.

Hall said if something does happen on the field, “it’s left up to the coaching staff and the parents to assess the injury.”

Charlie Strite, father of a student athlete at Williamsport High School in Washington County, said, “obviously an athletic trainer would enhance or protect” the children more. But, he said, “it does come down to budgets.”

Washington County has budgeted for seven athletic trainers next school year, one for each of its public high schools, according to school officials. Strite said it’s a good move that will not only protect the kids but “also help the coach, who is probably unnecessarily burdened with making decisions that he or she’s not qualified to make when it relates to an injury.”

THE HAVES

School districts with athletic trainers in all or most of their schools cite safety as a primary concern.

“The reason we got full-time athletic trainers was to make sure our students were in athletics and doing so safely,” said Bryan Ashby, supervisor of athletics in Wicomico County. “There is no way the parents would even let us go back to a contractual model. Those people [the athletic trainers] are like members of the community now.”

Wicomico County has had full-time athletic trainers in three of its four high schools for at least 15 years, said supervisor of athletics Bryan Ashby. He said there is a part-time athletic trainer in one of the high schools only because that school doesn’t have as many sports as the others.

Ashby said Wicomico County’s athletic trainers are paid on the same scale as teachers, with annual starting salaries of about $43,000. That’s right in the middle of the national average salary for full-time high school athletic trainers of $38,000 to $48,000, according to the National Athletic Training Association.

This school year is Caroline County’s first year to have full-time athletic trainers in both of its public high schools, said Athletic Director Brett Ireland. They made the change for safety reasons, Ireland said, because "with the amount of sports at both schools, we need a trainer at each school.”

It is Anne Arundel County’s second year to have full-time athletic trainers in all of its 12 public high schools, said Greg LeGrand, the system’s coordinator of athletics.

Somerset and Worcester counties have been fully staffed with athletic trainers for many years, according to school system officials.

Another nine counties – Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Kent and St. Mary’s – have part-time athletic trainers covering most practices and games in each of their public high schools.

Queen Anne’s County has one part-time athletic trainer shared between the two high schools in that county for practices and games, and another athletic trainer who only covers games.

Three counties – Baltimore, Montgomery and Talbot – have part-time athletic trainers in some public high schools.

“Part-time” is the most-used business model throughout Maryland. This typically means the athletic trainer is also either a teacher, or is contracted through a local healthcare vendor. For example, both Charles County and St. Mary’s County public schools contract part-time athletic trainers through the Rehabilitation Center of Southern Maryland.

But these part-time arrangements can be strenuous. Michelle Priddy, a part-time athletic trainer covering the approximately 900 athletes of Queen Anne’s County’s two high schools, said sometimes it’s hard keeping straight which students are at which school.

“That is mentally hard,” Priddy said. “And there’s times when, I do – I’m human – I forget who I saw, and three days later I’m like, ‘I forgot to check on this student to see how they’re doing.’ ”

And although nothing serious has ever happened, Priddy said sometimes athletes get injured when she’s not there and “sometimes the coaches don’t tell me when an athlete is injured.”

“So, it can be hard communication-wise,” she said.

COACHES: NOT ATHLETIC TRAINERS

Howard County’s Palermo said the lack of athletic trainers in some schools can hinder injury reporting and ensuring return-to-play protocol is followed correctly for athletes who have been hurt. She said the Maryland Athletic Trainers Association’s goal is to get athletic trainers in every high school in Maryland.

“That would be our ultimate goal, say, within 10 years,” Palermo said. “But, truthfully, if they don’t mandate it in the state, I don’t ever see it happening.”

She said it’s hard to mandate something when school jurisdictions keep saying there’s not enough money. But having a coach present on the field does not replace an athletic trainer – even if that coach has taken courses on care and prevention, Palermo said.

“I know that some other counties have stated that that’s sufficient enough, which I think is a little ridiculous,” she said. “I mean, most athletic trainers, as you know, have a master’s degree … and to say that a 15-hour course is going to cover something you learn in six years is just ridiculous.”

Michael Higgins, director of Towson University’s Athletic Training Program, said he wouldn’t want a coach performing medicine on an athlete if he or she didn’t know what they were doing.

“If an athlete goes down who has a spinal cord injury and if you don’t treat that spinal cord injury correctly and that athlete becomes paralyzed for the rest of their life, who’s at fault?” said Higgins.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reports that U.S. high school athletes account for 2 million injuries a year, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations.

There have been few studies done on the impact of athletic trainers at high schools. However, one study published in 2012 by the American Academy of Pediatrics looked at national sports injury data on girls’ high school soccer and basketball programs. It found that high schools with athletic trainers had more diagnosed concussions, but fewer overall injuries.

Dr. Ray Kiddy, supervisor of athletics for Allegany County, said the priorities of the school’s budget as a whole must be taken into account.

“I’m not saying that teachers’ salaries are taking [the money]. But it really comes down to priority,” he said.

Kiddy said he has tried to budget for athletic trainers for years but every time he does, his proposal has been cut. For the upcoming 2014-’15 school year, he again proposed a budget for one full-time athletic trainer for the county’s three schools.

“Five or six years ago hiring an athletic trainer wasn’t a priority, and now it’s at the forefront,” he said. “But I also know we’re short $1.2 million, so I hope that’s not on the chopping block.”

CONCERNS ARE REAL

Greg Penczek, an athletic trainer at Towson University and president of the Maryland Athletic Trainers Association, likened an athletic trainer to an insurance policy: something rarely used but when needed, it’s there for you.

Student athletes aren’t “planning to get sick, they’re not planning to get hurt, they’re not planning to have all these things happen to them,” he said. “But when they do, you want to know that something’s going to be in place for them to get the adequate care they’re going to need.”

That care, he said, extends from the athletic field back into the classroom.

George Panor’s son, Greg, plays lacrosse for Queen Anne’s High School, which shares a part-time athletic trainer with the other high school in the county, Kent Island. Panor said even though his son has never been injured badly enough to need attention, it’s important for athletic trainers to be on the sidelines.

“Lacrosse is a rough sport,” he said. “There’s a lot of hitting and checking, and if something happens, there’s somebody there to help them right away.”

CHANGE MOVING FORWARD

Spokesmen for most public school districts in Maryland said they plan to maintain their athletic trainer staffing for fiscal year 2014-’15, but there will be some notable changes.

Allegany County Public Schools, which has no athletic trainers, will budget next

year for one full-time trainer to share among its three high schools, said Kiddy, the supervisor of athletics. He said the superintendent sees athletic trainers as a priority, and the school system hopes to have full-time trainers in each of the high schools in the near future.

Washington County Public Schools, which also has no athletic trainers, has set a goal to have one staffed either part-time or full-time in each of its seven high schools by next year. Eric Michael, the school’s supervisor of athletics, said safety is the reason for the change.

“With more and more emphasis being put on injuries and trying to train coaches to deal with them, if you hire an athletic trainer, they are trained to deal with all those things,” he said. “We just feel that if we have the money to put in the budget to make sure our students are safe, that’s what we’re going to do."

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Supreme Court Changes How Campaigns Are Financed

 

By ANTONIO FRANQUIZ
Capital News Service

WASHINGTON - Campaign finance law prohibits corporations, labor unions and other similar organizations from making direct contributions to candidates or political parties in federal elections. Instead, these groups use PACs to pool members’ donations and contribute them to campaigns and candidates of their choice.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) classifies a PAC as “any organization which is not a political committee but which directly or indirectly establishes, administers, or financially supports a political committee.”

This language allows organizations affiliated with private companies – including those in the defense sector – to give money to federal candidates and the organizations that finance their campaigns.

A series of Supreme Court rulings have significantly expanded the ways corporations can donate to federal elections.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 2010 case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that independent political expenditures by corporations and labor unions are protected under the First Amendment as free speech.

A subsequent Supreme Court ruling on Speechnow.org v. FEC that same year allowed for the creation of independent expenditure-only committees – also known as Super PACs – capable of raising and

spending unlimited sums of money to influence elections, but prohibited from contributing directly to candidates or parties.

While the rulings in Citizens United and Speechnow ignited a firestorm of controversy regarding the campaign finance system, traditional PACs are still subject to per-election limits on campaign spending and per-year limits on contributions from individual members.

The Supreme Court ruling in the case of McCutcheon v. FEC in April further enables individual contributions by removing the previous limit on aggregate contributions – or contributions from one individual to multiple candidates and party committees.

Prior to the 5-4 ruling in the McCutcheon case, aggregate donations given to candidates could not exceed a total of $48,600 – with a limit of  $2,600 per individual candidate per election cycle – and those given to PACs and political parties could not exceed $74,600.  Together, these limitations prohibited any individual from contributing more than $123,200 in aggregate contributions to candidates, PACs and parties combined.

Now, the Supreme Court has declared the aggregate limit to be unconstitutional, allowing individuals to give the maximum legal contributions to as many candidates and parties as they like. The per-candidate and per-party limits still exist, but the aggregate limit has been struck down.

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