Clearing the air
Commendations are due the State Ports Authority and its CEO, Jim Newsome, for supporting removal of unhealthy air pollution from trucks at the SPA docks by promoting more eco-friendly trucks that haul cargo to and from its terminals. Incentives are given for short-haul drivers who travel back and forth from SPA terminals.
And the SPA's new Clean Truck Certification Program requires trucks serving the container yards to be equipped with engines manufactured in 1994 or later. As a result, 84 trucks were replaced with more efficient ones at a cost of $1 million paid with support from the SPA and state. The goal was reduced diesel air pollution.
However, my commendation is tempered by the SPA's refusal to require shore power for cruise ships which berth at Union Pier, right next to neighborhoods, causing far more air pollution than those trucks.
Why is the SPA not installing shore power to protect the health of Charleston residents and visitors?
And for shame that the City of Charleston is not requiring shore power for the same reasons. Why are Mayor Joe Riley and City Council not supporting shore power?
J. Kirkland Grant
I've just returned from the 7th annual Southern Obesity Summit, hosted by Mayor Karl Dean in Nashville, Tenn. This past year we've heard a lot about the supposed"leveling off" of the obesity epidemic, but the news I have to report isn't good.
The childhood obesity epidemic is not going to go away easily. The "leveling off" we hear about is a smaller percentage from just a few years ago strictly related to kids aged 2 to 4.
Meanwhile, there are still 12.5 million kids under 20 in the United States who are not just overweight, they're obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Louie's Kids has helped over 500 children lose over 5,000 unbelievable pounds these past 13 years. Yet the hardest work is still ahead of us. These kids are like a fast-moving train, headed to the station of adulthood with an 80 percent likeliness they'll be obese the rest of their (shorter) lives.
With the holidays upon us now the challenge is greater for many reasons. For most of us the holidays mean spending time with family and giving thanks for all we have.
At Louie's Kids we know for certain that not everyone has a refrigerator full of good and healthy foods to come home to during the holiday season and sadly throughout the year.
There are many Lowcountry children who not only struggle with hunger, they struggle with nutrition and with obesity, which sadly go hand in hand. Louie's Kids mission these past many years is to serve these and other kids in the community, and nationwide, who are struggling with being overweight or are trying to stay athletic, or become athletic. Through programs like Run Buddies, free local family workouts with trained professional coaches and sometimes, in extreme need, one-on-one behavioral counseling, we are hoping to help kids live a healthier life, maybe healthier than their parents have. But we cannot accomplish this alone. When giving this holiday season consider supporting programs like I've just mentioned, hoping to inspire kids and their families to find fun in fitness.
We did not create a nation of overweight and obese children overnight. It might take a lifetime to turn the tide on the epidemic, but we at Louie's Kids believe it's possible, fighting obesity one child at a time.
As a pre-med student in the Honors College at the College of Charleston, I have been closely following the potential merger between MUSC and C of C. While I understand the trepidation behind some of the staff and students of both schools, I believe that a merger would be beneficial to the Charleston area.
I have heard talk of how the College of Charleston will lose its appeal because the strong focus on undergraduate education will be taken away, but I don't think that is the case. Personally, a large part of the reason that I chose C of C was because of the close relationship with MUSC.
There are great volunteer and research opportunities at the tip of my finger, and a merger would strengthen them. Also, after speaking with students in my dorm, I have concluded that many others feel the same way.
Some fear the liberal arts might disappear from the curriculum with a merger, but if anything, they would be strengthened because the school could offer a Ph.D. in many subject areas, including liberal arts.
The merger would also benefit the Charleston economy by producing individuals with upper-level degrees to fill positions at companies such as Boeing. They would no longer need to draw employees from other parts of the state. Having a research university in the area would also draw other companies to Charleston.
Though talks of a merger between MUSC and C of C have been going on for decades, the recent boom in the Charleston economy allows the perfect backdrop for the merger to actually occur.
It would greatly benefit the city and its residents.
College of Charleston
Having a curious mind, I was surfing the web when I ran across a post dated Nov. 14 on www.news.va, the official Vatican network. The headline was "Pope: the spirit of curiosity distances one from God."
The post reported on Pope Francis having said, "The spirit of curiosity generates confusion and distances a person from the Spirit of wisdom, which brings peace." The pope says that the spirit of curiosity causes us to "want to be the masters of the projects of God, of the future, of things, to know everything. ."
Well, since I have a curious mind, I wonder why no mainstream news service picked up on this. It seems to be a significant insight into the man's mind. If the pope is opposed to curiosity, then he must be opposed to education and learning.
A student who doesn't bring a curious mind to the classroom won't learn much.
What if Newton hadn't been curious about the apple that fell on his head? What if Copernicus had not been curious about the movement of the sun and Earth, or Benjamin Franklin about lightning, or Louis Pasteur about what causes diseases?
Curiosity, the desire to know something, and reason, the capacity for making sense of things, go hand-in-hand in the learning process and the application of that learning in making life better for us all.
I, for one, find nothing wrong or ungodly about being curious about how things work - to know everything and be masters of the universe that God left for us. I don't believe that God would have given us an intellect and the ability to reason if he didn't intend for us to use those gifts.
Pope Francis seems to be veering a little too close to the philosophy of Martin Luther, who said, "Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God."
I am hoping that the pope is not really anti-curiosity, anti-reason, anti-education and anti-technological advancement. Perhaps when speaking against curiosity, he had in mind its secondary meaning - the tendency to pry or an excessive interest in other people's affairs.
If that is the case, his handlers should come forward to clarify his remarks as they have done on other occasions.
A Nov. 27 letter writer questioned whether military veterans make good leaders - especially those who did not see combat.
I did four tours in Vietnam as a Marine (1962-1969). Two tours were inside the relative safety of the wire, and two were outside the wire. In both situations I saw men die or be wounded by combat action.
On Jan. 30, 1968, I was in Phu Bai, inside the wire, when a rocket attack hit us. Three Marines died and six were wounded in the huts next to us. On March 4, 1969, I was in command of the reaction platoon when sappers hit us and 38 marines died and 134 were wounded. Nineteen casualties were inside the wire.
I remember my experiences in the Vietnam War every day, but I have led a productive and enjoyable life without drama or traumatic experience and am now retired.
Lastly, I say this on whether veterans should receive any additional preference: After you have been scared beyond words and still gotten up to face someone trying to kill you, then you deserve some consideration, at least in transiting back to civilian life.
On the value of military leadership: It has been my experience in 43 years of working in the civilian arena that few former military folks were bad supervisors, managers or executives.
Most of the men and women I later led in my civilian career liked my "lead-by-example" leadership style. Moreover, I have had leadership positions inside and outside of the federal government. I have been a group leader, supervisor, manager, vice president and president of my own company.
Tranquil Waters Way
When confronted by the challenge of the Soviets, who launched the first man-made object into outer space, President John F. Kennedy responded with a vision that led to man's first steps on the moon. Fifty years later India, China, Iran and Brazil have active space programs that may conclude with manned flight. Sadly, our great nation must now rely on Russia to ferry our astronauts to the very space station that we conceived. Leadership counts.
In 1989 our region was devastated by Hurricane Hugo. Mayor Joe Riley, along with our hard-working local citizens, rolled up their sleeves and cleaned debris from that terrible storm.
Today Charleston is the world's leading tourist destination. Contrast that with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, where New Orleans' elected leaders failed to live up to their responsibilities. New Orleans may never be the thriving city it once was. Leadership counts.
Now, five years after the economic cataclysm of 2008, America's poverty rate, workforce participation, and the national debt are substantially worse. Janet Yellen, the Fed chair nominee, says she'll keep interest rates near zero until 2017, a sign that our economy is still in terrible shape.
Who can ignore the rollout of the so-called Affordable Care Act? With a full three years to prepare, the website still has serious problems, millions of citizens have lost their coverage, and insurance rates are skyrocketing .
It's becoming clear that the dire predictions of the consequences from this legislation may prove to be correct. Regardless, the blame game in now in full swing.
Now more than ever leadership counts. Who will it be?
Neil G. Whitman