After nearly a year, no one is particularly surprised when Donald Trump demonstrates just how stupid he is, but it is sometimes jarring to see how proud he is of it. And on Thursday night Trump provided a perfect example of both his painfully weak grasp of common knowledge, along with a massive dose of callous insensitivity toward the needless suffering of others.

This example came in the form of a thoughtless tweet that served no purpose other than to belittle sincere advocates for the health of the planet and its inhabitants. Trump tweeted:

“In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up”

By wishing for “a little bit of that good old Global Warming,” Trump is in effect wishing that millions of people suffer and die. He clearly doesn’t have even the slightest understanding of Climate Change, and thinks it’s cute to pray for more of it.

Let’s be clear, the record cold temperatures that are blanketing much of the Northeast and Midwest are, in fact, the result of Climate Change. Higher temperatures in arctic regions and oceans push frigid weather patterns farther south than they ordinarily go. And that’s why people from Maine to Minnesota will be shivering and many will be in mortal peril.

Trump and his science-denying ilk still don’t understand that aberrant weather patterns are a product of Climate Change (which is why scientists don’t call it global warming). He doesn’t know the difference between climate and weather. He can’t connect the incidence of extreme temperatures and natural disasters like hurricanes to the climate disruptions caused by human industry and behavior. And even when there are episodes of cold temperatures in one particular locality, in other places it is uncommonly warm. Southern California is in the eighties. Australia is experiencing record highs. So chills in New York don’t negate the fact that the planet’s climate is rising. 2016 was the hottest year ever. 2017 is set to be one of the three hottest years on record.

Trump’s flagrant ignorance is compounded by his brazen lying. Who knows what he’s talking about with regard to the United States spending “trillions of dollars” to protect against climate change. Efforts to mitigate climate disasters were being put into place internationally until Trump petulantly withdrew from the Paris Accords. But the cost never approached trillions. Fortunately, many states, cities and private companies repudiated the President and still intend to implement the initiatives outlined in Paris.

Finally, Trump tagged on a stony and insincere tip to “bundle up.” Really? That’s all he could muster for one of the coldest periods on record. Doesn’t he realize that people die under these circumstances? It was apparently too much trouble to post information on finding shelters for the homeless. Or to help those affected to stay warm in poorly insulated apartments and homes. Or to offer advice on how to prevent pipes from freezing or where to get help if someone is suffering from hypothermia. Just bundle up and mock science by wishing for the problem to get worse.

ALMOST NORMAL by Beth Rankin

ALMOST NORMAL by Beth Rankin

                   BETH RANKIN

ALMOST NORMAL! It’s been about 5.5 weeks since my total knee replacement December 4 and I will see the surgeon on Monday for a post-op appointment. I have some expectations and hopes for that visit. The primary issue is will I get permission to get back into our hot tub?

We purchased an inflatable hot tub almost two years ago. We discovered how helpful sitting in the hot tub could be back in 2007 when Graham was on sabbatical in Pueblo, Colorado and the apartment complex had a hot tub next to the pool. We learned that the heat eased sore muscles and joints and improved nighttime relaxation and better sleeping. Although we were in Colorado from January 1 through June 30, the hot tub was available, even in the winter when the pool was closed. It was about 200 yards from our apartment door. We’d get into our bathing suits, put on our terry cloth bathrobes and some slippers and walk over. Chilly, but bearable. Getting out and back into the warm apartment after the soak was more of a challenge. I discovered that there seemed to be an envelope of warm air around my body for a very short time when I exited the hot tub. Getting the bathrobe on during that time was mandatory! Then put the cover back on the hot tub and high-tail it back home.

Our apartment was in the building on the right side, so not too far, except when it was five degrees.

The photo viewpoint is from the kitchen door, so you see how much shorter the after-tub commute became.

We agreed if we ever should be lucky enough to have a hot tub it would be right by the door to the house. And so, about a year later, we found ourselves building an enclosed screen porch on the back of our house in West Virginia. The tub sat on a concrete pad on the ground and the floor of the porch was built around the tub. We stepped down into the spa and Graham installed a handicap pull bar to help any of us climb back up and out. The walk to the kitchen door was maybe ten feet, very easy even in the winter.

But then, we moved to Oregon where we are renting a house. I was missing the evening soak time. My joints ached more and so, a friend a friend suggested an inflatable. We bought a Coleman hot tub from about $450 the first year but after they replaced one filter/motor, when that failed within a few months, they would not replace it. We searched but could not purchase a new filter alone. So we bought another inflatable for about $250. Watch for sales!!!!

The inflatable works for us. It runs on 110 household current so we did not have to install a new 220 line into the house. That saved us some money for me; I don’t use the jets.

So, the last time I was in the hot tub was the morning before my knee surgery. After that I was restricted from “swimming, hot tubs, saunas” and a few other wet activities. One concern is infection through the suture site. That is well healed now, so should no longer be a factor.

But, and this is a big issue. I need to be able to get myself out of the hot tub safely. First, I need to be able to swing my leg over the height of the wall. It is an inflatable so not rigid, and if I touch it, it will bend. Graham built me a contraption with two posts and a rope so I had something to proper height for practice. That was not difficult to gain the movement I needed.

However, I need to get up off my butt. The inflatable hot tub does not have the molded seats a regular fiberglass hot tub offers; we sit on the padded bottom. So, I need to be able to stand up without the need for a block and tackle. Simple, eh? Well, no. As my knee issue got worse and started involving my pelvis and hips last summer, Graham installed a handicapped handrail on the post holding the roof over the tub. (You thought we sit in the hot water with the cold winter rain falling on us????? Come on!) That rail helped me, but I was able to get on my knees before the surgery. Now, not a comfortable position. So, after think and thinking about it, I tried a few times at home.Now, in order to do a task that is difficult, the easiest way to figure out how to manage the move is to figure out the physics of it to maximize the strength while minimizing effort. I didn’t take physics in high school and until now, I figured the computer science class I took instead was an excellent substitute. But now, more than 45 years after that class decision in high school. I was trying to figure how to fulcrum me up and out…..hmmmm.

Physical therapists are special people. Maybe a tad masochistic as they push their patients through pain to improvement, generally they are upbeat, optimistic and very much enjoy challenges like this. So this morning at Physical Therapy I sat on the floor next to a table that had been lowered to the height I needed and it only took two times to conquer the move. I know I can get up now! No block and tackle needs to be ordered. LOL

On Monday I will go to the surgeon’s appointment prepared to show him I have the safety issue covered. And if I need to wait, I will wait….but I am betting on hot tub Monday evening!!!

[Beth Rankin is an entrepreneur, writer, and raconteur. She lives with her husband Graham (and their hot tub) in McMinnville, Oregon.]




When we were kids in Louisville, Kentucky, we played all kinds of games: hide and seek, kick the can (on Bayly Avenue), jump rope, “Peggy” (with a bat and ball), basketball (with any kind of ball available), stick ball (usually with a tennis ball), to say nothing of neighborhood struggles in football (both touch and tackle). I was later to discover these games were pretty simple, compared to those that had been played in the past in Eastern Kentucky and in other parts of Appalachia.

Traditional games here took many forms: games for large groups and small, games indoors or outdoors, boy’s or girl’s (or both) games for different age groups, noisy or quiet games, games that were slow or vigorous, mentally or physically challenging games, and a game for nearly every occasion and mood.

The names of the games could be as imaginative as the games themselves: Ante Over, Old Granny Hum Bum, Fox and Geese, Hull Gull, and Mumble Peg. The equipment was usually minimal, often simply reflecting what was available. A ball could be “store boughten” or homemade from tightly wound yarn. A bat was often a straight stick. “Make do or do without” was the universal rule. The rules of the games could vary from place to place or even from day to day. Improvisation was the key here, too.

Most older folks remember Ante (“Annie”) Over as one of the most universally played games. A low building and a ball were all that was required. The ball was tossed over, or bounced on, the roof to a team waiting on the other side. If the ball were caught, the person who caught it would try to conceal it, while other team members pretended to have the ball. As each team raced around the building the person with the ball would try to hit members of the other team with the ball and “capture” them. The game continued until one side captured everyone on the other team.

With Fox and Hounds, there were no boundaries or time limits and almost no rules. One layer was the “fox” and the rest “hounds.” The “fox” would run off through the woods leaving a trail of bits of paper or broken twigs. The “hounds” stayed on the trail until the “fox” was in sight. Then the “fox” was allowed to go on its own without leaving a visible trail, trying to make it back to the “den” (the home base), without being caught.

Any number of children could play Red Rover, a schoolyard favorite. Two teams locked hands and lined up facing each other: “Red Rover, Red Rover, send [name] over.” The named player would run and try to break through the hands of two players on the other team. If successful, he “captured” those two players. If not, he had to stay. the team that captured all the other team members but one, won.

Old Granny Wiggins Is Dead was perhaps the silliest game of all, but great fun. Players would stand in a circle while the “lead” person cried: “Old Granny Wiggins is dead.” The next person would say: “How’d she die?” Next person: “She died this way,” and then they would do something like waving a hand up and down continuously. The next person had to start waving in the same fashion. The phrases were repeated for every person in the circle until everyone was waving. Other movements were added until feet, heads and hands were all in motion. The real fun came, when, at a signal, everyone fell over “dead” on top of each other to end the game.

Old Granny Hum Bum was an exercise in pantomime. One player acted like an old woman, while the others would say: “Old Granny Hum Bum, where did you come from?” Answer: “Pretty Girl’s Station.” Reply: “What’s your occupation?” Then “Granny” would act out an occupation, like sewing, which the other players would try to guess.


Horseshoes was an eminently social game in the Appalachian region. A typical layout was a fifty-foot long court with pits about four-feet square, with iron takes int he center of the pits. Players could pitch from either side of the pits and scored one point if they tossed to within six inches of the stake and three points for a “ringer.” “Leaners,” in some locales, earned two points. Stacked ringers cancelled each other out. The winner was the first team to reach an agreed upon number, or the team with the highest score after fifty pitches.

Marbles were played by almost all the school-aged boys, and some of the girls, with Bull Ring the most common version. A circle about eight feet in diameter would be drawn in the dirt. After agreeing on how many marbles to play for, players would roll, “lag,” a marble to a line to determine who went first. Players shot with a “taw,” a large marble, or a “steely,” a steel ball bearing. Players tried to knock marbles out of the ring without physically touching another marble, and without the “taw” leaving the ring.


Men played Mumble (“Mumbly”) Peg. In one version, two players with pocket knives tried to stick a blade upright in a circle drawn on the ground using a sequence of twenty or so positions. The first player to complete the sequence won the game. The loser had to retrieve, with his teeth, a small peg that had been driven into the ground with a couple of licks from the winner’s knife handle.


That certain games persisted for many generations, “tested by time,” seems to indicate that there is something in the human spirit which is satisfied through the continuation of these simple rituals. Videos, computer-generated games, and organized team sports have seriously eroded interest in the games we used to play, and the games I’ve listed here don’t begin to exhaust the list of games we used to play.



[The following article is a collection of information from various periodical sources. The editor has carefully documented the sources and gives full credit to the original authors. The secondary source for this information is from Google.]



“The deal in question involves the sale of a Canadian company, Uranium One, with mining interests in the U.S. to Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear energy agency. The sale occurred in stages, beginning in 2009 when Rosatom purchased a minority stake in Uranium One, and continued in 2010 when the Russian agency took ownership of a 51 percent share of the company. In 2013 a third transaction gave Rosatom full ownership of Uranium One.


“Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week (11/14/2017) raised the possibility that a special counsel may be appointed to investigate potential wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation, specifically suggestions that a U.S. government panel approved the sale of a large uranium firm to Russian interests in exchange for donations to the foundation.

“The so-called Uranium One deal has been a focus of conservative media and President Donald Trump….”

“Controversy surrounding the deal largely pertains to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state in 2010 when the State Department signed off on Rosatom’s purchase of Uranium One. Several of Uranium One’s owners were also donors to the Clinton Foundation, giving $145 million to the charitable foundation, and critics have alleged that Clinton greenlighted the sale to appease donors to her family’s charity.



“Because uranium is considered an asset with national security implications, the 2010 sale to Rosatom was subject to approval by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an intergovernmental agency that includes input from the Departments of State, Treasury, Justice, Energy, Defense, Commerce and Homeland Security, as well as the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

“As Politifact has laid out in great detail, there is no direct evidence of a quid pro quo among Clinton, the State Department, Rosatom and the Clinton Foundation donors with ties to Uranium One. Clinton has repeatedly denied any involvement in the State Department’s approval of the Uranium One sale, insisting that such approval was granted at lower levels of the department and would not have crossed the secretary’s desk.

“Jose Fernandez, who was the assistant secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs when the Uranium One deal was approved, told the Times that Clinton ‘never intervened with me on any [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] matter.'” 

“Beyond the State Department, eight other government agencies approved the Uranium One sale.”

[All of the above comes from Politico, Louis Nelson’s What You Need to Know about Clinton and the Uranium Deal, 11/14/2017]



“Allegations of a ‘quid pro quo’ deal giving Russia ownership of one-fifth of U.S. uranium deposits in exchange for $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation are unsubstantiated.

“CLAIM: ‘Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s approval of a deal to transfer control of 20% of U.S. uranium deposits to a Russian company was a quid pro quo exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation.'”


“Among the ways these accusations stray from the facts is in attributing a power of veto or approval to Secretary Clinton that she simply did not have. Clinton was one of nine cabinet members and department heads that sit on the CFIUS, and the secretary of the treasury is it chairperson. CFIUS members are collectively charged with evaluating proposed foreign acquisitions for potential national security issues, then turning their findings over to the president. By law, the committee can’t veto a transaction; only the president can.

“Of the remaining individuals connected with Uranium One who donated to the Clinton Foundation, only one was found to have contributed during the same time frame that the deal was taking place, according to The New York Times–Ian Telfer (also a Canadian), the company’s chairman: His donations through the Fernwood Foundation included $1 million reported in 2009…. Mr. Telfer said that his donations had nothing to do with his business dealings, and that he had never discussed Uranium One with Mr. or Mrs. Clinton. He said he had given the money because he wanted to support Mr. Giustra’s [the company’s Canadian founder] charitable endeavors with Mr. Clinton.

“…none of these revelations prove that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participate in a quid pro quo agreement to accept payment for approval of the Uranium One deal.”

[All of the above section comes from]


“Periodically, we hear about the so-called ‘Uranium One’ scandal, a conservative fantasy in which Hillary Clinton somehow engineered the sale of nuclear materials to Russia. Strangely, it seems to crop up every time there’s a damaging news report about President Trump’s own ties to Russia.”

“You’d want people to talk about uranium, too. NBC provided a lowdown on what Republicans say the Uranium One scandal is: 

“At issue is a 2010 transaction in which the Obama Administration allowed the sale of U.S. uranium mining facilities to Russia’s state atomic energy company. Hillary Clinton was secretary of state at the time, and the State Department was one of nine agencies that agreed to approve the deal after finding no threat to U.S. national security…As the New York Times reported in April 2015, some of the people associated wth the deal contributed millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. And Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for a Moscow speech by a Russian investment bank with links to the transaction.


“What NBC doesn’t mention up top is that the story was fed to the Times from a book called Clinton Cash, which was written by a Breitbart editor and funded by a political action group tied to Steve Bannon and his billionaire benefactor, Robert Mercer. Essentially, this story is the product o

f a verifiable swamp of Trumpists. It is not real, which NBC lays out farther down.”

“This scandal is not real. It’s a distraction. You know that because, as usual, Donald Trump has made the political machinations of the Republican Party explicit. In his eagerness and his foolishness, he spelled out the plan to reporters….”

[All of the above section comes from Esquire, “What is the Uranium One ‘Scandal?’ Well…by Jack Holmes, December 21, 2017.]

“The mere prospect of Hillary Rodham Clinton running for president again is evidently provoking outrage among old adversaries–from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News to Maureen Dowd — whose appetite for bogus ‘Clinton scandals’ will never be sated. Witt he fizzling of Benghazi after an official State Department probe found no wrongdoing by the former Secretary of State, her critics have moved on, casting a gimlet eye on the charitable foundation built by her husband, the former president, over the past decade.


Although Hillary has mostly been very busy elsewhere, the foundation provides an ample target for speculation and spite–so long as critics ignore what it actually does for people around the world.

—–“But if Dowd and her Times colleagues were honestly interested in what the Clinton Foundation does with its funds, including the millions raised annually by President Clinton himself, all they would have to do is get off their asses and go look at its projects, which can be found all over the world. (Disclosure: This topic interests me so much that I recently visited Clinton Foundation projects in Africa with the former president and his daughter Chelsea.)

“‘That they never bother to do so, because reporting those stories would ruin their preferred narrative, tells us everything we need to know–not about the Clintons, of course, but about themselves.'”

[All of the above section is from author Joe Conason in HUFF - THE BLOG 08/21/2013 Updated 10/21/2013 “Why Reporters Ignore the Real Story of the Clinton Foundation.” Conason is the author of “Lies: The Right Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth” and “The Hunting of the President.”  Conason recently said during an MSNBC interview, “You can’t go broke going after the Clintons.”]





The proximity of Hanukkah (Dec 12-20) and Christmas (Dec 25) this year; plus, reading Bishop John Shelby Spong’s “Liberating the Gospels” made me reflect on just how interrelated Christianity and Judaism are.


I am astounded by the number Protestant church-goers who believe Jesus was a Christian, and Catholics who believe Peter was the first pope. I suppose that it has everything to do with the way we were indoctrinated from early childhood in our Sunday schools. We heard the word “Christian” so often, it was easy to simply assume that Jesus and the disciples were Christians.

They were not! Jesus and his early followers were Jews. Quite frankly, it is virtually impossible to determine precisely when Christianity became a separate faith-system from Judaism. We might accurately date the separation from the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Jewish Temple and the subsequent dispersion of the Jews with the invasion the Roman General Titus in 70 A.D.

After the destruction of their temple, the Jews began to worship in local synagogues. Because of the missionary efforts of Paul and the apostles, autonomous Christian churches established by followers of Jesus were functioning throughout Asia Minor.


According to Acts 11:26, the early followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” in the town of Antioch, but they were still Jews by birth and many of them continued to observe the customs of their ancestors.

The Council of Jerusalem (c.50 A.D.), where a delegation led by Paul met with the apostle James and other church leaders, ruled that Gentile Christians no longer had to keep the Mosaic Law of the Jews. This decision signaled a major change in the practices of the early Jewish-Christians. Previously, converts had to become Jews before they could become Christians.

In any case, for the first hundred years or so of the Christian era, the two faith-systems were closely intertwined and, still today, the Bible Christians revere is a collection of Jewish books!

Except for Luke, possibly, we need to keep in mind that the books of the New Testament were Jewish books written by Jewish authors. Most theologians have assumed that Luke, the author of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, was likely a Gentile, although some scholars believe he was a Hellenized Jew.

I share this bit of church history because I believe it is important to an accurate interpretation of the New Testament. Christians must acknowledge the fundamental role of the Jews during the birthing years of their religion. We have a much better understanding of the writings of Paul and the Gospels when we study them through Jewish-tinted lenses.

The most disgraceful and lamentable periods of human history, in my opinion, have been those stained with the blood of the Jewish people at the hands of so-called Christians, for example, during the Crusades and the Inquisition. And, of course, we must never forget the some six million Jews who were ruthlessly murdered during World War II by Hitler’s Nazi regime in Germany.

THE COLLECTOR by James Merritt

THE COLLECTOR by James Merritt

Long after the apocalypse, the pandemics and zombies had come and gone; the nuclear bombs detonating in their bunkers poisoning the ground and water…humankind survived.

Fifteen years after the last piece of toilet paper went extinct in the deep woods on a dark night, an old man walked into a decaying department store. This was a rare occasion as the human population had dwindled to a mere 42,000 worldwide, and a mere six hundred in the United States…or what it was formerly known as.

The store being raided by both mice and men was a mere shell. Bones of humans and animals alike littered the store from front to back from the battles and the struggles to survive all lost within these walls.

The old man chuckled at the stupidity of it all as the skulls crunched under his feet. He imagined he could tell the difference between the bones of the dead, the undead, and the animal inhabitants of the great walmartian graveyard. Being alone so long, his audible hallucinations made him hear the angry cries of the mad shoppers trying to buy the meaningless trinkets for the pointless holidays.

Climbing over a pile of carts that once held TVS, Furbees, and Tickle Me Elmos, he spotted his prey. The reason he had traveled the wastelands. The speck of humanity no one cared to raid, or horde…the phone cards and gift cards. These were his dearest prizes. He filled his semi- quickly with all the store had. While the sun was visible through the toxic clouds, before the creatures came hunting for him. He shoveled a few bodies into the flames on his steam engine and went off to the next place. Year after year, store after store. Across the country, he collected the plastic prizes. He drove on the power of flame and death until he had fulfilled his quota. A mountain of plastic cards once worth billions, now worthless to all life, save his own. When not on a GC expedition, he build himself a home with real plastic walls.

One night after too much wine drank out of a fairly putrid skull, the formula came to him as if completed by the gods, his eureka moment, given to him during a sex dream. The thing he had been pondering since the troll took office.

The way to escape. He immediately began and finished twelve years later on his eighty-second birthday a ship powered by the greed of man. A ship powered by GCs would take him beyond the stars. Sadly, he died of exhaustion once the shuttle left the atmosphere. But the auto pilot took over, launching itself outside the Milky Way, past the viewable galaxies and to the very edge of space itself. The last GC breaking down into molecular power as the ship crashed into the barrier of flat space into whatever lies beneath and beyond.

[James Merritt writes short material bordering on science fiction–futuristic and the macabre. He lives in Maryland. James is a teacher, caretaker, adventurer and writer. A published collection of his work can be ordered from]