NIPPIES® online magazine
Issue #17: May 18, 2004 to August 31, 2004

Welcome to NIPPIES - since 1999!
We take little "nippies" out of every subject.

VIP = (Very Important Person).

NIP = (Not Important Person) - to some.

Topics include: dentyne ice commercial, childrens hour, audrey hepburn, shirley maclaine, lesbians, lillian hellman, golan cipel, jim mcgreevey, whole body scans, radiation, winnie winkle, comic books, national public radio, npr, newspapers, victoria gotti, old westbury, carmine agnello, frankie agnello, john gotti agnello, john agnello, vicky gotti, gotti old westbury, vitamin e, vitamin e and colds, bird flu vaccine, aviary flu, aviary flu vaccine, christine aguilera, florida hurricanes, hurricane charley, school choice, catholic schools, jimmy stewart, american movie classics, low carb craze, eharmony, nabisco low calorie, keep jobs in america, outsourcing, techneglas, john stossel, american manufacturing jobs, job creation data, job data, martha stewart jail, martha stewart prison sentence, incinerators, britney spears new york post, new york post lawsuit, lawsuit, mci charges, mci bill, phone bills, reality shows, gotti reality show, growing up gotti, da vinci code fiction, teresa heinz kerry, laura bush, heinz kerry bush, family circle cookies, zippo lighters viet nam, zippo lighters phil kline, phil kline viet nam, vietnam, bird flu epidemic, bird flu vaccine, sams club commercial, pennsylvania doctors, medical malpractice, medical malpractice caps, pa medical melpractice logo

August 31, 2004
Dentyne Ice Fascination Continues

We at NIPPIES prefer Eclipse to Dentyne Ice gum. Could be that others, do, too. However, the fascination with the guy, the girl and the music in the Dentyne Ice subway commercial continues.

Today we received information on the background music which plays thoughout the now famous commercial. (Subway station: gorgeous couple makes eye contact, she gets on the subway, he's standing on the platform watching, she frosts the window with her breath, writes her phone number, he's without pencil- and brains - and loses her forever.) The music is, according to an e-mail we received, by Papas Fritas and it's called "Way You Walk".

Thanks, "Z", for that information.

We also got an e-mail, again today, from Robert. Robert wants to know who the guy is. Anyone know? Let US know, and we'll let Robert know.

The Childrens Hour - How things have changed in 43 years

Years ago, when we were quite young, we remember watching the William Wyler (director) film, The Childrens Hour. The film was enjoyable because there were kids in it and we've always liked both Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. But the most of the theme and nuances of the film went right over our very immature ten-year-old or so head.

Not this time, of course.

The film is about two college friends who, together, fulfill their dream: to establish a boarding school for girls. The fledgling school is very small, but there are wealthy patrons who believe in the school and send their children there...and the young teachers are on their way to success.

Karen Wright (Audrey Hepburn) has had a romantic relationship of a few years with Dr. Joe Cardin (James Garner at his handsomest), who is anxious to get married and start a family. Karen wants to wait until the school is fully established.

Martha Dobie (MacLaine) is also dedicated to staying single, but for a different reason. She has a secret passion for Karen Wright. The only person who is even mildly suspicious is Dobie's aunt, an unemployed actress who's loose lips eventually spell doom for both Martha's secret and the school's future. The "unnatural" feelings, as her aunt describes them, and devotion that Martha harbors for her friend are expressed and overheard by a very spiteful and troubled little girl whose aunt has enrolled her in the school. This particular girl has just been punished by the headmasters, and figures out how to use her information to get even with them. Unfortunately, she does more than get even. The little brat's well-meaning but naive aunt spreads the word, children are pulled out immedately, and the school goes belly-up.

Well, that's how the meat and potatoes of the story basically goes with, of course, a lot of gravy and subtle seasoning on the plate, as well. And it is a very good film- even though it's in black and white. (We at NIPPIES don't have a problem with this, but many people do.)

This movie was filmed in 1961. The Kennedy years. White gloves and hats. Stores closed on Sundays. Censorship. For those of you who are old enough to remember that year, you know that this movie, adapted from a play and written for the screen by Lillian Hellman, was very risque for the times. Remember, this was an era when, if you were a Catholic, your parents checked the Catholic newspaper to see if a film was "condemned" or not. We are quite certain this film must have been given the big "C" rating by both the Catholic censors AND parents.

What was really surprising about this film was how things have changed since that time. The biggest change in society is, obviously, how most people openly discuss and accept homosexuality. Very few parents would pull their children out of a school because they suspect the headmasters are homosexual.

What really surprised us had nothing to do with the main theme. It was a single line in the film in which the Shirley MacLaine character speaks about physicians advertising their services. She says something to the effect that "no doctor would advertise...that would be unethical."

Imagine that. Doctors not advertising because it would be unethical. Yes, things have changed quite a bit since 1961.

Golan Cipel Decides Not to Sue

The big news of a few weeks ago was the resignation of New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey. The reason given was his affair with another man, and the violation of his marriage vows, or, as McGreevey himself said, he was resigning because of his "gross and inappropriate misconduct." McGreevey is married with two daughters.

The man involved in the affair was identified as Golan Cipel, an Israeli who worked for Governor McGreeley. Golan Cipel has denied that he is a homosexual. He blamed the affair on sexual harassment.

What really went on is known only to the people involved. But there was much speculation that a lawsuit was on the way. This rumor has been squashed yesterday when Golan Cipel stated he would not persue a lawsuit. McGreevey's resignation was enough. However, one of Cipel's lawyers, Rachel Yosevitz, has not ruled out the possibility that Cipel may sue for slander.

X-Rayted Whole Body Scans

Many catch-the-dust-before-it-falls health enthusiasts have been rushing to have whole body scans to find tumors before they are visible on conventional scans. However, it turns out that the enthusiasm of these folks might become their undoing: radiation from the whole body scan might cause cancer, some researchers claim. (The New York Post ran the story, but didn't name the researchers).

It should be noted that MRIs do NOT expose the body to radiation.

Newspapers Cutting Comics

In an effort to cut back on expenses, many newspapers are cutting out comic strips. And readers are not happy about it.

According to a NPR (National Public Radio) story which ran the other day, newspapers have been taking out the comics- in part or whole- and replacing the strips with news. But complaints from comic lovers have been heard. Many of the dailies are putting the comics back.

We at NIPPIES were, at one time, BIG fans of the "funnies", as we used to call the comics. One of our earliest memories is of listening to "Uncle Jimmy" read us the comics every Sunday. "Brer Rabbit" was one he always read to us. "Dick Tracy" was another.

When we got old enough to read them ourselves, it was "Winnie Winkle" and "Brenda Starr", the comic written by Dale Messick for many years. Brenda was a girl reporter who was down to earth and modest- despite her fluffy flame-red hair, gorgeous figure and face, and signature starry eyes. She always got her story. And every man fell in love with her. But the long-suffering Brenda was always patiently waiting for her true-love: a man as handsome as she was beautiful but who was always off in a jungle somewhere on a quest for a black orchid. We don't remember where he was looking or why he needed black orchids- perhaps it had something to do with a miracle cure? But we wonder now how that comic strip could have held our interest. Were things really that simple for us back then?

"Winnie Winkle" was a gorgeous blonde. Believe it or not, we don't even remember what her line of work was. But she was another independent and successful female. Her best friend was a chubby woman named Birdie. Birdie was, we think, her secretary. If anyone remembers what Winnie did for a living, let us know.

Somewhere between early high school and college we abandoned our comic strip devotion and started living our own lives instead of fantasizing about what life could be through the sagas of Brenda Starr and Winnie Winkle. We continued checking on Winnie and Brenda for years afterward- just to see what they were up to. Their lives continued to be a series of ups and downs. Just like real life.

They never aged...right up until that last ink stroke was drawn. Sorry we can't say the same about ourselves!

Got Gotti Yet?

Finally, after weeks of missing it, we at NIPPIES were able to catch a full episode of Growing Up Gotti. The episode last night was, if you missed it, about Victoria Gotti's choice for a personal assistant (she chose a 24 year old young woman), and about her son's graduation party, which the personal assistant was hired to help her with.

First of all, we have to say that Victoria Gotti comes across entirely different on film or video than she does in a still photograph. Better, actually. Victoria's hair looks cotton-candyish in still photos, we think. On television, it shines and swings and looks great.

What really surprised us was Victoria Gotti Agnello's heavy New Yawk accent. Yes, we know she's lived there all her life. But we didn't expect to hear her to act of sound so New Yawkish. She really does. And so do her kids. One of the funniest parts of last night's episode was when her son, who just graduated from high school, is having a conversation with two of his friends about what college will be like. The kids have such heavy accents that the show's producers used subtitles for the audience to read.

We at NIPPIES also got a real kick out of the segment where she needs to buy a tie for her son (can't remember if it was John, Frankie or Carmine) to wear to the graduation party. It's nearly 5pm- closing time for "The Annex", an upscale store somewhere near Manhattan. Victoria is mulling out loud about needing a tie and it is nearly 5pm. She calls the stores owner/manager and asks him to stay opened. "Five minutes" she is heard saying, as though she has to talk him into it.

It was at this point that my son and I looked at each other. Yeah, right, the look says. Like he's going to turn down both Victoria Gotti AND the million dollars worth of free publicity, right? But we are given the impression that the owner begrudgingly stays open. Victoria Gotti and son arrive at the store where the owner is waiting at the door. Mothaw and son pick out the tie (no solid colors allowed, mother says). They leave. End of segment.

Victoria Gotti Agnello's house is gorgeous and very large. She's a tough boss- losing patience with her new, young (24 years old) personal assistant more than once. She drives a car worth more than the houses that many of us live in. But there is some reality to be found here: the Agnello kids fight over hair gel like it was the last slice of bread during the height of the Great Depression. The argument over the gel felt a bit staged and, perhaps, overdone (as is the use of the hair gel), but it was representative enough of a typical American household.

August 21, 2004
Vitaman E: Fights Colds in Elderly

A new study by Simin Meydani of Tufts University in Boston finds that Vitamin E supplements may help to keep colds at bay.

The study, which involved 617 nursing home patients 65 and over, indicated that those who took Vitamin E daily had a 20 percent overall lower risk of getting a cold, compared to those elderly who took placebos.

So if you are wondering what gift to get for Grampa or Grandma next time you visit, take a little E with you.

Chiron Corporation Gets the Bird...
Bird-flu vaccine contract, that is.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded Chiron Corporation of Emeryville, CA, the contract to develope a vaccine against the avian influenza virus. The contract value is $1.2 billion dollars.

As you know, avian influenza, or bird flu, has been prevalent in poultry farms and across Asia in the past year. You can bet that the bird flu will be all over the news when fall arrives.

And don't forget to get your vaccines early this year to avoid the last minute rush.

Christine Aguilera Hitting the Bottle Again...
The bottle of bleach, that is. Not Clorox®. The kind that makes your hair blond.

After a few years of going black, Christine Aguilera has shown up again as a very light blond. You can catch her between the covers of the September 2004 issue of Jane magazine, which hits the newsstands on August 24th.

If you care.

Shame Shame on Hotel Owners: Charley Victims Scalped
The New York Post reported recently that many hotel owners are being accused of boosting their rates as the killer storm approached. According to the NYPost story, one hotel advertised a $39.99 rate- and charged $109 to $119 for a room.

It's Time for School Choice
As a parent whose child was forced to choose a new Catholic school because the old one closed, I can tell you that it is time for school choice. Unfortunately, only the wealthy have school choice now. Many working class parents simply cannot afford to buy a decent house, pay taxes on it, pay insurance on it, pay for the outrageous utilities, pay for their health insurance- and choose a school. It's public school in your area, or it's nothing.

For those of us who want religion to be a part of their child's education, it's even tougher. We want our child to be educated in a school where she can pray, and where she will be taught about her Catholic religion. And we want her to get a good education, of course. The public school near us offers neither a good education nor prayer.

The public school near us has the lowest SAT average in the entire region. Unbelievably, it also has some of the highest paid school teachers in the entire state of Pennsylvania, thanks to the teachers unions.

Unfortunately, when a school choice bill came before the PA House and Senate in 1999, it was soundly defeated thanks to campaign contributions and an extremely powerful and well-organized campaign by the state education association in Pennsylvania. Catholic parents and school teachers did not have the resources or the funds to compete with the PSEA.

According to Clint Bolick of the New York Post, "economically disadvantaged families always encounter ferocious opposition when they try to secure school choice." Mr. Bolick bases this opinion on the fact that those who are wealthy enough to itemize tax returns get a heftier refund from their mortgage interest and real-estate taxes deductions...which can be used toward education of their choice.

According the the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), "school choice is wide-spread, unless you're poor." In other words, when you are wealthy, you can move to a school system with a good educational track record. When your lower-middle class or poor, you stay put...and take what you get.

Jimmy Stewart on American Movie Classics
We at NIPPIES have been watching AMC all day- inbetween chores and writing, of course. James Stewart is the featured star, and we are loving it.

So far, we've caught portions Rope (the Alfred Hitchcock classic based on the Lowe/Loeb murder case of the 1930s), Vertigo, and several other oldies with Steward that we don't know the name of. We are patiently waiting for our favorite of all, Rear Window, which stars Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr (as the murderer!), and a few other familiar faces.

August 13, 2004
The Low Carb Craze

Everywhere you look, and we mean everywhere, are signs, labels, announcements and advertisements proclaiming that you can get LOW CARB HERE! We at NIPPIES have never, ever seen anything like this low carb craze.

Madison Avenue advertising executives and creative types have been busy for a coupla of years now trying to help their clients jump on the low carb bandwagon. But when we saw a commercial for Bacardi® and Diet Coke®, we knew that the advertising world had hit bottom. When the corporations and ad houses start pushing an alcoholic beverage as a way to lose weight...well, it can't get much worse.

No doubt this Bacardi® and Diet Coke® idea will catch on. After all, prominently displayed on the television screen, plasma or old-fashioned obtuse glass, is the good news: 0 Carbs 0 Sugar 66 Calories. Wow. Now, because of the Atkins Diet, you can have your steak, your alcohol, and not feel guilty.

Ten years ago, fat was the villian. The diet-crazies wouldn't touch the stuff. Everything was low fat, low fat, low fat. Cookies loaded with sugar - but low in fat - were touted as "healthy". Now, those very same cookies would be considered anathema to a trendy dieter. Steak houses which had been in business for years folded. Our favorite, Mr. Steak, was, until the low fat craze appeared on the horizon, a very, very busy restaurant. But things got very bad for them during the low fat days. To survive, the chain even tried changing its name to Finley's and changing their menu to get rid of the steak stigma which had once made them a success. But it was not to be - the public was not convinced. Finley's, at least locally, had to close their doors.

Too bad Mr. Steak/Finley's didn't hang in there for a few years. They could have put a big billboard up announcing that they served nice, juicy, FATTY steaks and Bacardis and Diet Cokes. After a few weeks, the management would have had to add, "RESERVATIONS RECOMMENDED". Commercial Isn't Our Favorite

Everytime that commercial comes on with Dr. Neil Clark Warren, the founder of, we at NIPPIES watch. Not because we like the commercial, or believe the 29 components of compatibility he talks about are so fascinating, but because it's just one of those commercials we love to hate.

One day we were watching yet again. Our little one, who has a way with the words, came into the room and asked if "that man in the commercial is related to Mr. Rogers?". No, we told her, and why do you ask?

"Because, Mommy, he looks like him. He looks like Mr. Rogers if he turned out bad." We aren't sure exactly what she meant by that, but found it amusing.

Nabisco® Fights Back

Well, Nabisco is one smart company. Unable to really compete in the low-carb market (because, after all, cookies are ALL CARB), the cookie/biscuit giant took a different tact. Nabisco has begun to advertise little packets of "thin crisps" versions of their most popular cookies such as Chips Ahoy and Oreo. And NOTHING about carbs is mentioned.

What is mentioned is the calorie content. Brilliant. Because those among us who have been around through several diet crazes over several decades know, when all is said and done, it is the calories which count, after all.

The new packets of Nabisco's Oreo® (20 per packet) and Chips Ahoy® (15 per packet) thin crisps have only 100 calories total. The whole bag.
Great idea.

The Michael Jackson Trial: Something To Do in January

January is always the deadest month of the year. Christmas, New Year's and all the holidays are over. Ice and cold comes to visit instead of Grandma and Poppa and all the relatives. Instead of getting presents, you get the chills and bills. But this January, we have something to look forward to: the Michael Jackson trial.

Last night VH1 had, as part of their Movies That Rock series, the Michael Jackson story. We at NIPPIES forget the official name. Could have been "The Michael Jackson Story". There really was absolutely nothing new on that story that anyone who ever picks up a glossy tabloid didn't already know: that he hung his baby over his hotel room balcony in Germany, that he calls his youngest child "Blanket", that he likes plastic surgery, that he thought Martin Bashir was really his friend, etc. The only surprise was a slight one- if it's true. And that was that his own people were shocked and expressed disapproval, silent and otherwise, at this dangerous antic.

We also learned when the trial was scheduled. According to the little blurb at the end of the movie, the Michael Jackson trial will begin in January. It won't be like the OJ trial, of course, because it won't be televised. But it will be something to read about instead of the after-Christmas sales.

August 12, 2004

Victoria Gotti: Her Life is Reality?

How many of you, dear readers, tuned into A&E for the very first time just to catch Victoria Gotti's new reality show, Growing Up Gotti?

We don't know how many were first-timers, but A&E had over 3.5 million viewers watching the antics of the cotton-candy blond with the genius IQ (she started college, we've heard, at 15) and her three teen-aged sons.

Yessiree, the show's a MONSTER hit. A&E immediately ordered up a batch of new shows. We are so sorry we missed the first episode. But we were otherwise occupied, and, even though we knew Victoria Gotti and family were scheduled for their debut, we just didn't know when and where.

How were we occupied? Well, the maid's bathroom in our mansion sprung a leak, and, well, darling, we had so many social functions to attend that we simply forgot! Translation: MY bathroom sprung a leak, the house is large because it's a double house and we DON'T own the other side. And as for the social functions- they were not held at Le Cirque or whatever other fancy restaurant or trendy spot it is that Victoria visits when she goes out on the town.

Is this a reality show? It is supposed to be, we think. But without even seeing it, there is no doubt that not much of it is based on reality. Not many of us live in mansions, write for national publications, or have several male members of our family over the age of 21 in the Big House.

Our reality is a bit different. First of all, we are NOT Italian-American. We are mostily of Irish heritage. No males, at least on the NIPPIES side of the family, have made it to prison yet. (We do have several relatives who are in law enforcement - including the FBI). But we DO live in an area that is predominantly of Italian/Sicilian descent, with a mixture of German, Polish and Irish making up the rest of the population.

Back to our reality vs. Victoria Gotti's. Victoria is very wealthy. Supposedly, she made much of her money writing romance novels, which she wrote in the wee hours of the night on yellow legal tablets at the kitchen table, or so we read years ago in an article. We don't think Victoria Gotti Agnello has written any novels lately. But she did have a stint writing for the New York Post. Now she writes a column for a gossip tabloid.

We also heard that she has no live-in help. She considered that an invasion of her privacy. That may have changed. We don't know. Someone must be keeping an eye on those kids while she keeps up with her increasingly busy life.

We at NIPPIES, on the other hand, have a totally different reality. Yes, we write, too. But we don't sit at the kitchen table, we sit at an old computer. And we get very little tangible reward. We also don't live in a mansion. Our clothes are getting shabbier by the day as we struggle to pay the ever increasing utilities and health insurance bills, and we don't eat out a lot- at least not where Victoria eats.

Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, we don't even own the other half of our house. That side was sold 50 years ago in a "spite sale" when my greatgrandmother left one half (ours) to her daughter-in-law (my maternal grandmother), and the other to her flesh-and-blood daughter. Daughter-in-law, miffed at not inheriting the whole house, sold her half to a family which does not believe in upkeep. That philosophy has been a constant source of worry for our family: their furnace has spewed black soot over to our site on numerous occasions because they failed to get the chimney cleaned (one time this happened the week after we'd just completed a $20,000 remodeling job...the off-white rugs which touch the shared wall now have a black border). Another time, more recently, when their roof was leaking into the common attic, thus making our walls damp, we asked them to please have their insurance company take care of it. Well, it was a mistake to ask such a thing. An few hours before the claims adjuster was scheduled to come and evaluate the roof and the damage, some fly-by-night roofers showed up in our neighbor's yard. They climbed up on the roof, quickly covered our neighbor's crumbling shingles and rotted wood with new shingles, and then disappeared- but NOT before we heard four very loud, nearly deafening thuds on OUR roof. You guessed it...the next time it rained, the damage those thuds inflicted on our roof was so bad that we had to place 20 gallon buckets in our bedroom closet to catch the flow of water.

This is our reality. This is the reality of many Americans. Leaky roofs, neighbor problems, and lots more. But so many of us share this reality that it isn't very interesting. It's mundane. So we all tune in weekly to watch multi-millionairesses who live in mansions.

Winds of Change - Apathy is OUT
A few years ago, when we began writing NIPPIES, people were very apathetic about the tremendous amount of imports coming into the country, the outsourcing of jobs, the metastasis of Wal-Mart, and the rising cost of health insurance and prescription drugs.

We at NIPPIES, who are a part of a self-employed family, were very aware of the above-mentioned problems. When we would go to a party and talk about how Wal-Mart was growing too large and too powerful, when we'd talk about how our health insurance was going up every year, etc., or when we would ask if hot dogs on Cousin Ruth's grill came from a Sam's Club or the local privately owned grocery store- well, everyone would roll their eyes behind our back and shrug their shoulders in front of us.

Everyone was working for some big company at that time. They were getting health insurance paid for, were making a little (or a lot) of extra cash on the stock market and were, for the most part, very content. Life was good. They didn't see what the fuss was all about.

Now, some of these same people have lost large shares of their retirement funds because their nest egg was- at least partially- invested in the stock market. Some have had to begin paying some or all of their health insurance- or have been forced to change to a policy with less coverage - to save money. Some have been laid off or out of a job altogether because of cheap imports and outsourcing. Suddenly, all these previously apathetic people are very concerned about the state of affairs in America. And, not insignificantly, California is fighting Wal-Mart's plans to put all those HUGE Supercenters into their state. Watch for other states to follow suit.

The question of what is and is NOT made in the USA - 100% made in the USA - is now on the minds on many more Americans than it was in previous years. And we at NIPPIES bet hat this trend has only just begun. There is going to be a backlash towards the cheaply made, highly marked-up imported goods that have forced many of us into either unemployment or low wages. All those prices which were cheap year ago when the importing trend began have been inching up until they are now quite high. The owners of these importing companies - and outsourcing companies - are making all the bucks. They are paying $1 for a tee shirt and charging $15-20. They are paying $5 for an unfinished end-table and charging $60. And so on and so forth.

The furniture industry in the United States is being especially hard hit: American manufacturers just cannot compete with the cheap imports from other countries- especially those made in China. Today, on public radio news, we heard of another furniture manufacturer which has shut its doors. Pennsylvania House in Susquehanna Valley, PA, is closing its doors. This is an alarming trend not only in the furniture industry, but in every industry., the company that sells American-made tee shirts (owned by our family) with the message "Turn America Around" (aciremA IS American backwards) and "Keep Jobs In America" has a cost of $12.00 per tee shirt because the shirts are two-color screened front and back, but mostly because they are made in the USA. The same shirts, if made by HANES® or Fruit of the Loom ®, would have cost several dollars less- perhaps even HALF. That is because Hanes and Fruit of the Loom are ASSEMBLED in foreign countries. (Sometimes the fabric is made in the USA, cut out, and shipped out.) It's tough for aciremA or any company trying to sell American made t-shirts to make a buck.

But things are going to change, we predict. The rumplings have begun, and when that starts, it only gets louder and stronger.


August 9, 2004
John Stossel, author of Give Me A Break

We at NIPPIES haven't read John Stossel's new book, Give Me A Break. And chances are great that we won't because of time factors.On August 3rd, John spoke at the Young America's Foundation Conservative Student Conference, which was held at George Washington University.

We at NIPPIES happened to catch the tail end of the re-broadcast on C-SPAN2. Obviously, John Stossel was at GWU to promote Give Me A Break; the book was prominently displayed as he spoke, and his lecture/talk/speech was liberally peppered with references to the book. The liberal reference-peppering was one of the few liberal points in John Stossel's message, from what we gathered. Again, in all fairness, we only caught the last few minutes of the re-broadcast.

John, who has won 19 Emmy awards for his work on 20/20, and who has been nominated 5 times for awards in consumer reporting by the National Press Converence, seems to have "flipped" over to the side of corporations- and conservatism. He spoke of the evils of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, doctors, hospitals, and corporations in general. He seemed to think that, when lawsuits are brought against these powerful people and corporations, that those who file to protect their rights are, for the most part, standing in the way of the overwhelming good that these professionals and corporations are trying to do.

An example? Well, John Stossel cited the fact that there are now only 4 pharmaceutical companies making vaccines, compared to the previous 22. He attributed the main cause of the vastly decreased number of drug manufacturers willing to make vaccines to the liability factor. This may very well be true. But limiting liability, if that is what he was suggesting, is definitely not the answer, in our opinion. And we think it is very safe to say that pharmaceuticals make more than enough money to underwrite making vaccines and to take the risk against liability. They just choose not to. Remember, drug companies have a team of corporate lawyers working for them that would dwarf many of the larger law firms in the United States. And pharmaceutical companies make drugs such as Enbrel, a psoriasis medication, which lists one of its side effects as LYMPHOMA. (NOTE:Some recent studies suggest that just having psoriasis carries a three-fold risk of developing lymphoma.)

Obviously, pharmaceutical companies are willing to take measured risks when the profits are there.

Mr. Stossell seemed to imply that there is too much government regulation in big business. The natural assumption is that John Stossel thinks that our government should give free reign to the large corporations, including pharmaceutical companies, because, after all, they are only trying ot help us out and too much regulation gets in the way of their humanitarian work.

Sorry, John. We at NIPPIES don't agree. We think that the primary concern of the pharmaceutical companies is to make a profit, and that helping their fellow humans comes second. While we are NOT big fans of lawyers and many of their smarmy tactics, we are bigger fans of the freedom to bring a lawsuit against anyone who brings harm to anyone else. That includes doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, car manufacturers, and the whole shebang.

John Stossel made more than one reference to John Edwards, who, as you know, is John Kerry's running mate for the 2004 presidential election. He made it clear to the conservative audience that Edwards made his fortune by suing corporations on behalf of his clients. He told the audience, comprised of young conservative students, that John Edwards, during his career as an attorney, made $25 million dollars by suing a swimming pool manufacturer. (A little girl had her intestings sucked out by an uncovered swimming pool drain). While he did not make any derogatory remarks about the lawsuit, and even seemed to imply that it was warranted, he also seemed to want to make sure that the listening audience knew exactly HOW John Edwards made his fortune: by suing corporations.

Mr. Stossel displayed an interesting chart during his talk. The chart displayed bar graphs which indicated that the average loss of live, in days, for toxic waste and airline crashes was some cases less than 4 days. That toxic waste really hasn't taken very many lives- unless, for example, a child would be eating the dirt where the toxic waste is present. Hmmm. Interesting. But the figures appeared to be like major number crunching to us. The average loss of life in days, he mentioned, for the victims of airline crashes was, in some cases, less than one. How did this figure come about? Did the preparer of the chart take the average life of eveyone who flies on an airplane, and divide that number by the age and number of people on that particular airplane? And if only ONE child dies as a result of toxic waste- isn't this a tragedy?

John Stossel seemed to have confused the young audiesne when he was asked a question about his stance on abortion. Mr. Stossel stated that he believed that life begins at conception. But that he believe that up to a certain point (not indicated), a woman has the right to terminate that life which lives in her body.

John Stossel, as part of the 20/20 team, has played a large part in consumer protectionism. But he seems to have crossed the invisible boundary over to the side of big business. His first special, when he renegotiated his contract with ABC, was Are We Scaring Ourselves To Death. Well, perhaps we are. But if it's my child who is saved by that scare, it's good enough for me.

August 6, 2004
The "Job Creation" Data...the devil is in the details

We at NIPPIES are watching CNN's Rapid Fire. We won't bother reporting names regarding who said what, because we don't know WHO these people are. Some of you may know who they are, so we will describe them as best we can. The fact is, there are some interesting things being said about job creation in the United States. A blond, white female Republican is making claims that George W. Bush is creating new jobs. Her black, Democratic female opponent is claiming that the jobs created pay an average of about $9000 per year less, with little or no benefits.

We at NIPPIES tend to believe that the second claim is the closest to the truth.

First, let us tell you why we are so interested in job creation this week.

Techneglas Closes After 36 Years... Techneglas, which manufactured glass television screens for 36 years in Jenkins Township, PA, closed its doors the other day- for good. The plant was located in near Pittston Township, a small borough between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. This story is being duplicated across the country daily as factories shut down because they can't compete with cheap foreign labor.

Over 670 people (the plant had, in its hey day, employed thousands) from Techneglas will now be out of a GOOD job. (Nippon Corporation of Japan is the owner of Techneglas) The morning shift had showed up for work as usual. But instead of punching in, they found the doors shut. The ex-workers were sent home with a question and answer sheet. Television reports broadcast later that evening showed grown men and women were crying.

What does all this have to do with Rapid Fire and job creation data and boasts by George W. Bush ("over a million and a half jobs created in the last nine months"), and the current, LOW unemployment rate which hovers around 5%?

Well, first of all, the devil is in the details. We don't doubt that the unemployment rate is very low. How many people can afford NOT to work?? Not the majority of Americans. We know people who are out there slugging away at a job who are not even well enough to work. But they do- every day. These people HAVE to work to survive- and to pay for their outrageously priced health insurance.

As you know, America is now divided into the "Haves" and the "Have Nots". Go to your local shopping mall to see evidence of this. You'll see the brand-new, shiny SUVs parked in front of the Outback. Olive Garden, and Bennigan's. You will see many more beaten up old cars at the Wal-Mart, Target and K-Marts. And even more junkers at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores as people try to get their kids ready for back-to-school.It's never been worse that we can remember. Everyone we know (remember, we at NIPPIES are middle-class people who are rapidly slipping rapidly downward, and so are most of our neighbors) is out there scratching away trying to make a living to pay the over-priced basics of life: electricity, heat, water, health insurance, and food. So, that explains the low unemployment rate.

We at NIPPIES don't doubt that there have been plenty of jobs created. Like the service jobs at the chain restaurants and discount chains, which pay shockingly low wages. And like the ones "they" want to create only a mile or so away from where Techneglas is/was/has been located.

An incinerator, or as the promoters loke to call it, a "waste-to-energy plant", is proposed for the borough of Pittston Township. Pittston Township is a stone's throw from Jenkins Township,which is where Techneglas is located.

Pennesylvania is already known as the "garbage dump" of the United States. Pennsylvania takes garbage from just about every state on the entire eastern seaboard. Most other states' politicians have protected their residents from this. Unfortunately, the members of the PA House of Representatives and Senate, many who have been in office for decades, have not done this for their constituents. Most people in Pennsylvania are not even aware of the fact that we take garbage from so many other states.

Why have our politicians allowed this to happen to PA residents? Why have Pennsylvania voters allowed this to happen by voting the same poiiticians back into office? Most likely they are getting voted back in term after term because of the "let's vote for XXX because he/she will give/gave cousin Sam a job" mentality, or simply because those who WANT change don't take the time to read about the issues and actually cast their VOTE on election day. State politicians are known for sending letters to constituents tooting their own horns about what they have done to help senior citizens, children, etc. But what they DON'T tell you is how they voted on other issues regarding insurance, pollution, consumer rights, etc.

We at NIPPIES happen to think that it is not a good thing for any politician to remain in office for decades. It gives corruption too much of an opportunity to rear its ugly head. One PA Senate member inherited the job from a relative. This member fo the Senate and his family have now filled their seat in the PA Senate longer than Senator Ted Kennedy. We are not implying that this particular politician is corrupt. But if this person IS corrupt...think of how far-reaching the tenacles of corruption could entrench themselves in several decades!

Some of these Pennsylvania politicians, both senate and house of representatives, have allowed garbage to be imported into Pennsylvania by just about every state on the entire East Coast of the U.S., along with allowing other atrocities - too many to name - against the citizens of Pennsylvania.

People who live near the proposed incinerator are up in arms. They have been flocking to council meetings in Pittston Township and in neighboring towns. They do NOT want the incinerator, the dioxins, or the increased cancer risk.

Promotors are pooh-poohing their concerns. The promotors have assured everyone that today's incinerators are different than those of only a few years ago. They are safe! They are clean! ((Haven't we all heard that before! Everything from arsenic to high-dose radiantion x-rays have been touted as "perfectly safe" by promotors when they first hit the scene.)

The promotors are also promising a reduced electric bill for a year- about a 40% reduction. Wow. And let's not forget about the JOB CREATION!! 300 jobs at $10.00 per hour (that's a paltry $20,000.00 per year- the poverty level for a family of 4).

Now that Techneglas has closed, there is a danger that this unfortunate rise in the jobless rate will be used as a tool to convince frightened, now-unemployed workers to push for the incinerator. And, God forbid, they just might go for that desperate straw.

But what is the real problem here? The problem is that Techneglas is going under in the first place. The reason Techneglas is going under is that they cannot compete with the products being made and shipped here from other countries, specifically China. One newspaper reported that China can produce the same television screen for about 5% of the cost that American workers can.

When are our national politicians going to stop making excuses and pass laws that STOP the outsourcing that has destroyed our county? When are our local and state politicians going to start PUSHING Congress to pass laws which will save our American jobs? Some of the members of the House and Senate who allowed the outsourcing trend, by lifting the import bans, are still in office. They have made the rich very, very rich. And they have made the ever dwindling middle-class nearly disappear.

We in American shouldn't have to resort to allowing incinerators into our communities in order to scratch away to make $20,000.00 per year. We should not be pushed into the low-paying service jobs which now seem to be the only jobs available for non-professionals in the United States (especially in Pennsylvania). We should be able to get up every day, go out to work, and labor away at making American made products for a fair and decent wage.

Ask yourself this...why are you buying products made out of our country? And why are you not asking hard questions of your politicians and voting according to yoru con conscience?

July 16, 2004
Martha Stewart - If you love me, buy my magazine and my products...

Well, Martha didn't say those words verbatim, but she might as well have. Martha's first public statement after learning that she was sentenced to 5 months in the slammer - the minimum sentence - was more of a sales pitch than a statement. Martha Stewart bemoaned the fact that all this mess was nothing more than a "personal" matter, and that there was so much "venom and gore" over the whole situation. She also expressed regret that 200 people from her company lost their job due to this personal matter, and pleaded with her fans to buy her magazines. Martha also thanked everyone who supported her, and told her loyalists to not worry about her.

As Jeffrey Toobin said on Paula Zahn Now, Martha did lie to the federal government. It was more than just a little personal matter that earned her a five year sentence in prison that may not begin for quite awhile while Martha persues the appeal process. And he also expressed his opinion that her humble statement and demeanor of late is just "an act."

Be that as it may, there was something Jeffrey Toobin said that we at NIPPIES definitely disagree with: that her products are great. We at NIPPIES have owned three types of Martha Stewart products: coffee mugs whose handles fell of within a year; feather pillows with the sticky-ends of the feathers that poked us every which way and, finally, navy blue flocked pillows that lost so much flocking after the first washing that they were nearly transparent.

Still, we at NIPPIES like Martha Stewart, despite many things. And we watched Nancy Grace's interview of Dominick Dunne (very pro Martha), Susan MacDougal, and two of Martha's attorneys. Nancy told viewers that Martha's sentence is called a "double nickel", which means five months of time and five months of probation (home confinement at her mansion.) And we'll be watching Lary King Live on Monday at 9PM. Martha will give Larry King her first live interview, and will actually take phone calls. Expect the lines to jam.

Britney Spears wants an apology from the New York Post

Yesterday, July 15th, the New York Post ran a front page photo of Britney Spears sipping out of a tiny bottle in front of a liquor store sign. The article which accompanied the photo, implied, but did not state for certain, that the bottle contained alcohol. Throughout most of the article, the phrase "appeared to be" was used when describing the tiny bottles resemblance to a small bottle of booze. Britney was furious when she learned about the photo and story, and has demanded an apology and an retraction from the NY Post. The bottle, she claims, contained ginseng, not booze. And the sales clerk at the liquor store where the bottle was purchased is backing up Britney's story.

Quite frankly, we at NIPPIES doubted the baby-sized bottle was filled with whiskey. It just looked too tiny.

July 13, 2004

Phone Bills, Taxes and Surcharges

We received an e-mail from a reader asking us about a previous entry where we wrote about our MCI Business Unlimited Service. The reader/writer wanted to knonw how our bill came to over $83.00, when the MCI service package was only $59.99. We did a breakdown for the reader, and now will do one for you.

Our latest MCI bill came to $111.24.
Here's the breakdown:

MCI Business Complete Unlimited (6/04 - 7/03)- $59.99
TOTAL: ------------------------------------------------> 59.99

Three-Way Calling - No Charge
Call Forwarding - No Charge
Call Waiting - No Charge
Speed Dial - 8 - No Charge
Caller ID with Name/Number - No Charge
WireSolution (this is the fixit insurance) $4.95
Call Return - 1 Call .75
Local Directory Assistance - I call .95

International Long Distance $13.95
MCI Business Value Extra Int 5.95
Carrier Access Charge .24
TOTAL --------------------------------------------------------->$20.14


Federal Excise Tax - $1.41
State & Local - 2.68
Fed, St. and Local Surcharges - 2.48
Network Access Surcharge - Primary Line - $6.09 (what is this?)
TOTAL--------------------------------------------------> $12.66

Federal Excise Tax $1.66
State/Local Tax $3.16
FED/State/Local Surcharges $3.46
Fed Universal Service Fee $3.52
TOTAL -------------------------------------------------> $ 11.80

TOTAL ALLTAXES AND SURCHARGES ------------------> $24.46

TOTAL OF ENTIRE MCI BILL -------------------------------------------------------> $111.24

This is the monthly phone bill for a very, very small business. As you can see, the taxes and surcharges on this bill are tremendous...and come to approximately 40% of the entire bill. This sort of taxation, dear readers, is just another obstacle faced by the small businessman who is struggling daily to keep his head above water- and out of the biting range of the corporate sharks and, in the case of taxes, the politicians who constantly threaten his existence.

Paddle faster, everyone.

Growing Up Gotti - John Gotti's Daughter and Grandsons Getta Reality Show

A&E has a new Reality: the cameras have been rolling over in Old Westbury, Long Island, and in and around Manhattan, for the past three months filming the first of 20 shows to be aired about the reality of Victoria Gotti and her three sons. The show will be called Growing Up Gotti, and it is the brainchild of Bill Stanton, a private eye turned executive producer. According to an article in the July 11, 2004 New York Daily News, Stanton came up with the idea after watching - what else - The Osbournes.

The show will allow the viewer, according to Vicky Gotti the the NYDN article, to "prove the family isn't a 'one trick pony' and she hopes that after the premiere, the public won't see her boys as Mafia princes".

The A&E photo of Victoria Gotti and her boys, Carmine Jr., 18, John, 17, and Frankie, 14, show them all looking rather heavily made-up and well-coifed, and standing in front of their mother's 14 room mansion. All appear to be dressed in black- Victoria in a strapless gown with long shawl, and the boys in more casual attire. The three boys look good, but the two pictured on the left might want to go a little lighter on the hair gel. But what do we know about what's in style on Long Island or anywhere else with these young kids?Our son shaves his head in the summer. Maybe the Gotti boys will start a new style? Their grandfather was a hair perfectionist: some say he had a trim almost daily.

Victoria seems to be a very caring mother. According to the newspaper reports, she wasn't sure about whether to allow her family to be exposed to the camera crews at first, and even when she did decide, she had to persuade her sons to go along. It sound like a very interesting show, and we at at NIPPIES bet there are a LOT of viewers for the first coupla shows, at least.

Victoria Gotti's ex, Carmine Agnello, won't be in any of the scenes. Victoria divorced Carmine in 2002. Carmine, who is serving a nine-year prison sentence for racketeering and tax evasion, was also caught cheating on Vicky with a female employee who worked for him at one of his shops.

Hey, just to see the inside of that colonaded mansion would be worth an hour or two of our time! Good luck, Vicki and boys.

July 12, 2004

The Da Vince Code - Fact or Fiction?

Like many other people in the United States - and around the world - we at NIPPIES have read Dan Brown's best seller, The Da Vince Code. No one can doubt that the book is entertaining- it remained on The New York Times Best Seller List for months- not an easy feat. It was on other best seller lists, as well.

The book is a page-turner, no doubt. Dan Brown is a very talented, intelligent story teller who knows how to take us by the hand and lead us right through till the end of his book with fascinating characters, intriguing ideas, and wannasee locations. The Louvre, Paris, England, castles, albino monks, cathedrals, ancient churches and pagan rituals- they are all there in the book. And all these tools are used to spin a story with a central massage that Christianity is based on a false truth: Jesus Christ was not the son of God, and Mary Magdalene was his wife and the mother of his child.

The main characters, Robert Langdon, and art historian and symbologist, and his partner, Sophie, a Parisian cryptologist, take us on a search for the Holy Grail. But this Holy Grail is not a cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper. No. It is something completely different.

The Priory of Sion, founded in 1066, is the keeper of secret of the location of the Holy Grail. The last Grand Master of the Priory, who also happens to be Sophie's grandfather and a curator at The Louvre, is murdered in the Louvre at the very beginning of the story. (Leonardo Da Vinci was a past grandmaster, according to the book, and painted secred messages into his most famous paintings, including The Last Supper - thus the title). Sophie, Robert, and Robert's colleague and friend, Sir Leigh Tebing, are on a race against time to solve the puzzling clues that Sophie's grandfather has left behind and which will, supposedly, lead to the location of the Holy Grail. Hot in pursuit are some over-zealous members of a sect within the Catholic Church, called Opus Dei. Opus Dei does NOT want the real secret of the Holy Grail revealed because it will reveal that the Church was founded on false doctrine.

Many Catholics - and Christians - will find this book most disturbing. But one has to read it with the realization that is is fiction. That Dan Brown is not a Church or religious historian. And there are others out there offering books, articles and pamphlets which point out errors in The Da Vinci Code. One such book has been written by Amy Welborn.

Here is a link to an article, written by Amy Welborn, which points out errors in The Da Vinci Code:

Errors in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code - article by Amy Welborn

Link to Amy Welborn's site: AMY WELBORN

NPR Picks: Laura Bush vs Teresa Heinz Kerry - May the Best "Cookie" Win!

The other day, on one of our rides, we at NIPPIES were listening to National Public Radio, (NPR), as we frequently do. Susan Stamberg, who has been with NPR for two decades, had as her guests two political lobbyists. Linda and Rich Tarplin are married, and are also on the opposide side of the political fence.

The subject of the interview with the Tarplins was the Family Circle first-lady cookie poll which will run in the July 13th issue. Since 1992, Family Circle magazine has published a cookie recipe from the wives of each of the presidential candidates. This year, Laura Bush has chosen to submit oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies as her recipe. Terese Heize Kerry submitted her cookie recipe for pumpkin spice cookies.

Readers bake the cookie recipes and then send in a vote for the best cookie. The amazing thing about this benign little contest is that, since the very first poll in 1992, the poll results has uncannily predicted which lady will end up in the East Wing of the White House.

Rich and Linda Tarplin tried the already baked cookies, and gave humorous commentary about why they did or did not like each. Susan Stamberg, their host on Weekend Edition (NPR), had several good laughs over the good-natured opposing opinions. Linda, the conservative Republican, naturally liked the Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk. And her husband, Rich - the Democrat - liked the ketchup heiress's Pumpkin Spice best.

Due to copyright issues, we cannot reprint the cookie recipe. You can find it on the internet. Or, you might want to run out and buy an issue of Family Circle, clip the recipes, try them, and cast your own vote.

Bon Appetit

Also on NPR - Zippo Lighters Set Fire to Music

Composer Phil Kline saw lyrics in the engravings made on cigarette lighters owned by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. He was so inspired by the words he found on these lighters, which, as one of the few personal possessions the soldiers kept with them in their hellish Nam days, that he has compiled the prose and set it to haunting music.

According to Phil Kline, the common sentiment expressed on the lighters was that no one could possibly know what it was like in Viet Nam unless they had been there. That these soldiers know something that we, the non-veterans, will never no. As someone who has known a Viet Nam vet or two, we at NIPPIES have no reason to doubt that.

Viet Nam veteran William Crapser finds memories of a hell on earth on this National Public Radio special segment. Go to NPR.ORG to listen to the show.

July 9, 2004
Study Warns of Possible Bird Flu Epidemic

Remember last winter and the panic over the shortage of flu shots? Well, we at NIPPIES were expecting another panic next year. And it is starting early.

July isn't even half way over, and already people are talking about the bird flu epidemic that they expect this winter. And there are studies and articles coming onto the internet news service front pages, as well.

Study Warns of Possible Bird Flu Epidemic
Read the first paragraph of the AP story below, then click on the link above for the whole story about the bird flu.

By HELEN LUK, Associated Press Writer HONG KONG - The bird flu strain that killed 24 people in east Asia this year and resurfaced in recent weeks has become endemic to the region, and the virus could trigger a global health crisis if it goes unchecked, a new study says.

Pharmaceutical companies have been busy since LAST January preparing batches of flu shots and vaccinations for this years expected flu. And they will most likely be well prepared, as they lost out on billions of dollars last flu season when they ran out.

And getting a flu shot is a good idea if what is predicted by many experts turns out to be true. Stay tuned for more.

For more information, look up your state health department here: State Health Departments

July 6, 2004

Sam's Club Commercial - Have You Heard It?? This past week, we drove to Lake George, NY. It was great, and we will write more about this later. However, a commercial we heard on the ride home is worth mentioning.

The commercial is for Sam's Club. You know, the Wal-Mart Sam's Club. And the commercial's message is that small businesses should shop at Sam's Club. That Sam's Club is trying to help small businesses.


Surely, they jest. Small businesses should shop at Sam's Club, make the Walton's richer, allow them to build MORE Sam's Clubs and more Wal-Mart's, and help them to put even MORE small businesses out of business than they already have.

The commercial struck we at NIPPIES as both insulting and ridiculous. Insulting to the intelligence of the small businessman, and ridiculous because small businesses should be supporting each other, not mega-chains which could, if not stopped, take over the whole world of retailing.

Wal-Mart is getting so large it is just plain scary. Period.

May 18th, 2004

Pennsylvania Doctors Getting a Check-Up...

Finally! After nearly two years of listeningn to stories of how many of Pennsylvania's physicians are fleeing the state because of the "medical malpractice crisis", someone is checking up on the veracity of these claims.

It's about time.

We at NIPPIES have been writing about this subject for as long as the term "Medical Malpractice Crisis" has existed. We never believed that the "crisis" was as dire as presented. And we were of the opinion that it was yet another scheme by the wealthy and powerful where the little guy is the pawn. In this case, it was the patients (all of us) who were the pawns in the ongoing battle between physicians and surgeons AND personal injury lawyers.

Now, the House Democrats of PA are putting together a task force to check into these claims by doctors' groups that so many of them are fleeing the state of Pennsylvania.

House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese (D) and Mhip Mike Veon (D) are plan to introduce a resolution to create this task force. This task force will count how many doctors are in the state, and categorize them by specialty and region. More importantly, it will take an actual count of just how many doctors have left the state in the past two years (the whole "crisis" came to the forefront of the news two years ago) and, we hope, why they left.

Remember, some physicians leave to retire or for other reasons that have NOTHING to do with medical malpractice.

It would be a tragedy to allow caps to be placed on medical malpractice claims. Why on God's good earch should a physician be allowed to be immune from a lawsuit above a certain amount? The rest of os aren't. And the proposed cap of $250.000.00, plus the demand to have another doctor certify the validity of the lawsuit, is almost laughable.

First of all, do you realize, dear readers, how little of a $250.000.00 settlement would be left after the personal injury attorney took his slice of the pie? About $150,000.00. And from that would be deducted expenses- including pricey medical expert witnesses who charge a fortune, court fees, and every other expense involved the the lawsuit. So, the injured party might, with a little luck, be left with less than $50,000.00. To live on for the rest of his live, if he or she was severely injured by a doctor's negligence or incompetency.

We at NIPPIES surely hope that caps are NEVER allowed to be placed on medical malpractice claims. It would be disastrous to give doctors this type of immunity from a lawsuit.

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