Nippies® - an online magazine
May 2005 - Issue #25

Articles & commentary:
the search for a bird flu/ avian flu vaccine; 1938's oldest living twins; impotence drugs and sudden blindness; the passing of beloved Eddie Albert; the demise of home-cooked meals in school lunch programs; the theft of the Neil Diamond impersonator's costumes from a German dressing room.

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NIPPIES®, an online magazine, is written from a working class viewpoint, and especially delights in reporting on the darker sides of Big Business or, to coin a phrase, Cut-and-Paste America

While we at NIPPIES® love to report on celebrity gossip and entertainment news, we also wants to keep you informed on any and every subject that may touch your life: pharmaceutical companies, advertising, rising health insurance, minimum wage and low-paying jobs, lawsuits, fashion, trends, music, and more!

Help NIPPIES® magazine to catch a thief!

We at NIPPIES® don't know if the perp was male or female, or WHY he or she or they would want to steal an American celebrity impersonator's suitcase full of "Neil Diamond" costumes!
A case of international intrique!
Help solve the mystery of the theft of the glittery shirts and belts that took place on 30.4.05 (April 30, 2005) at the Sachsen Anhalt Arena in Dessau, Germany.

Help NIPPIES online magazine catch the thief who stole the Neil Diamond impersonator's costumes from the Sachsen Anhalt Arena in Dessau Germany (Deutschland).

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Avian Flu - For the Birds?
In the past two weeks, we at NIPPIES have come across news pertaining to the bird flu, or avian flu, on more than one occasion. Since it is not flu season, we really didn't pay much attention, and we really didn't know much about this topic.

Then we picked up a paperback at the store and brought it home to read. We did not know that the subplot of this book, a New York Times Bestseller entitled Kiss Me While I Sleep (Linda Howard, Ballantine Books, Inc.) was about a laboratory in Paris which is engaged in, among other less savory things, researching a possible avian flu vaccine. This storyline is not totally fictional. There is a great deal of research going on all across the U.S. and the world in the quest for a bird flu vaccine. And, as you can imagine, there is a big bucks potential for the first laboratory/pharmaceutical company to come up one.

In case you are as ignorant about the avian influenza as we at NIPPIES are, here's what we know so far: there is no documentation that the "bird flu" can be spread from human-to-human and there is, as of this writing, no vaccine to prevent the spread of avian influenza from human-to-human, should it ever come to that (which is has NOT). But scientists are concerned that the virus may eventually mutate and become airborne, thus allowing it to spread easily and become an epidemic or pandemic. So, even though the bird flu has NOT yet mutated so that it can be spread from human-to-human, and even thought there is NO vaccine which can prevent the spread of the avian influenza IF it does mutate, the CDC is taking action. According to an article we found on CNN (dated April 1, 2005), the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia claims to be "ready" in case the bird flu does sprout wings:

CDC: U.S. Ready If Avian Flu Breaks Out

It's important that you read the article carefully before you panic. The flu has been found in ten countries (in the Western Hemisphere) and has been circulating in four: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia. There have been only 50 cases (some sources quote a slightly higher number) of the avian flu in those countries, but the mortality rate has been very high. 40 out the the 50 infected humans have died. That translates to 80% mortality rate.

Many more people, say the experts, have been exposed to the disease in Asian countries than elsewhere.

"There are more pigs, people and poultry in that environment than we've ever seen before," she said. "That is the formula for the emergence of new flu strains," Dr. Julie Gerberding said about the possibility of the flu's mutation to human-to-human infection, which, we stress, has NOT happened yet.

Dr. Klaus Stohr of the World Health ORganization's global influenza program also expressed concern about a public health threat. According to Dr. Stohr, the disease "has never been so widespread at any time during the last century."

Dr. Stohr predicts that when and IF the virus becomes airborne, it would spread around the world in "six to eight months." Again, it is important to remember that the virus is NOT airborne at present.

All the those who have contracted the disease have gotten it from direct contact with either the poultry or the blood of poultry. According to one story we read on the internet, a woman caught it from ingesting "duck's blood" in a pudding.

People traveling to these Asian countries should be very careful about eating and/or coming in contact with poultry markets, according to the CDC's Dr. Gerberding. She named western Asia specifically.

Our non-medical advice: one might also want to consider ordering a vegetarian dish, or at least fish, instead of chicken or duck.

Again, there is no vaccine to protect people from the avian influenza. Both the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia and the W.H.O have stated that they are sending teams to travel throughout Asia to monitor the bird flu's advance.

The U.S. has, according to the CNN story, has already stockpiled 2 million doses of a bird-flu vaccine which is still in the clinical trial stages. Seems like a lot of cash spent, at whatever the cost per dosage (no one has yet said), to lay out for a vaccine that hasn't yet been proven effective for a strain of influenza that hasn't yet mutated, and may never mutate, to the point where it will spread human-to-human.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) seems to take a more conservative stance on the possibility of a pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that the potential for pandemic is low. Asian countries have documented 55 cases in which the avian flu has jumped from birds to humans, and only one in which it was passed from human to human. (Has it been proven that the male nurse we believe Dr. Fauci is referring to got the bird flu from a human? This story has another theory about how the nurse may have contracted the disease, which is also called H5N1.) But he (Dr. Tony Fauci) said that could change if the virus mutates.

"It's still inefficient. It's not something we need to panic about. But it's giving us a big wake-up call,"

Here's another article on the subject of the bird flu and what is going on in China.

2 Epidemics spreading among livestock and birds, China says.

The article, from Knight-Ridder News and authored by Tim Johnson, starts out:
Beijing:- After stonewalling for weeks, China acknowledged Friday that two epidemics had spread among its animal and bird populations, renewing questions about its readiness to provide prompt information about infectious disease."

Another article we found on the avian flu and the rush to stockpile medications which will not prevent the flu but may lessen the severity of the symptoms if taken at the onset of the influenza is found here:

Tamiful (Roche) and Relenza (GlaxoSmithKline)

(Doses of this type of medication are reportedly between $10 and $30 per dose. Read the article for more information and specifics).

We at NIPPIES haven't finished the best-selling Linda Howard novel yet. We are only about half-way through the book, whose main character is a CIA "contract agent", or paid assassin, who takes matters into her own hands when three people she loves (two of them retired assassins, one a child she raised as her own) are murdered by an Italian family (based in Paris) whose main business is organized crime. In the book, the laboratory which had successfully developed a vaccine to halt the spread of the avian virus has also taken steps to create a market in which they can name their price: the "family" has developed, and plans to release, a human-to-human strain of the virus in major cities around the world before announcing that they have the vaccine which will prevent it's spread.

The book is spellbinding, as you can imagine. Murder, greed and the bird flu...what a combination.

Here is one more article (May 25, 2005 - about how concern many scientists have about the possibility of a pandemic: Avian Flu Special: Is this our best shot?

1938 Richmond News: The World's Oldest Living Twins
You never know how you are going to discover an interesting article or fact.

Just a few minutes ago, while rooting in the cupboard (kitchen cabinets to those of you who weren't raised in an old-fashioned household), we at NIPPIES just happened to knock a box of garlic cloves onto the counter. Our little one, standing next to us, remarked about the time her father took a garlic bulb and, after peeling it, chewed it whole.

"He read somewhere that eating raw garlic makes you live long. That's why he did it, honey," I remarked in way of an explanation for her dad's unusual eating habits.

That remark led to a short conversation about longevity and the consumption of garlic. (There does seem to be a strong correlation, according to what I've seen). The the conversation about longevity led me to tell her about the two African-American twins (female) who lived well past 100. Both of these sisters attributed, at least in part, their long and healthy lives to the regular consumption of raw garlic: each swallowed a clove whole before bedtime.

"What were their names?" my daughter asked. And so we at NIPPIES did a search, and came, quite accidentally, upon the following web page.

World's Oldest Living Twins

We are sharing this page with you because the main subject of the article, Mark "Uncle Mark" Thrash, was 117 years old at the time of the newspaper interview. He still was in remarkable health: he still had his own teeth, his hearing was good, and he could read without glasses. Those three physical advantages would be remarkable at any age past seventy (or perhaps younger).

We will continue to do our search for the information about the twin sisters, but for now, have a happy Memorial Day weekend.

Update: We at NIPPIES did our research. And it looks like our memory is not as good as we thought: the Delaney sisters were not twins at all. Sarah Delaney and A. Elizabeth Delaney (Bessie), were sisters of a former African-American slave and a mother who, according to the story linked below, looked white and had mostly white ancestry. The ten children of this couple all went to college during a time when few blacks had the opportunity to attain higher education. Of the Delaney children,

Here's an excerpt from the story on

"As adults, they (the ten children) all enjoyed successful careers. Among them were two dentists, a doctor, two lawyers (one of whom became a judge ) and three teachers. Besides Sadie and Bessie, another sister, 87-year-old Laura Edith Murrell of Oakland, Calif., is also alive."

Theirs is an amazing story, and was turned into a Broadway play called Having Our Say. You can read more about the Delaney sisters here.

Do Impotence Drugs Such as Viagra® Cause Sudden Blindness?
There's a lot of money at stake on this one: there may be a link between sudden blindness and impotence drugs. Over 23 million men worldwide have used impotence drugs such as Viagra®, Cialis® and Levitra® since Viagra® was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and went on the market in 1998.

So what is the connection, if any? According to an Associated Press story* by LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer:
"Federal health officials are probing reports of blindness among dozens of men who used Viagra and other impotence drugs � but at the same time cautioning that the vision loss can be linked to the same illnesses that lead to impotence...".

According to the story, the Federal government is in talks with the makers of the big three impotence drugs about putting a warning on the labels. The makers of Cialis®, Eli Lilly & Co. and Icos Corp., have volunteered to put a one-line warning on their label. There are already warnings on all three drugs about temporary vision changes such as the inability to distinguise between blue and green.

The sudden vision loss due to a blockage of blood flow to the optic nerve is called NAION, or non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. NAION has been reported in 43 men who took the drugs: 38 for Viagra, 4 for Cialis and one for Levitra, according to FDA spokeswoman Susan Cruzan.

However, the number of men who have used impotence drugs in the past seven years is staggering: according to Pfizer, Inc., Viagra has been used by 23 million men worldwide since being approved by the FDA in 1998. There is no proof yet that it is the impotence drugs which are causing the sudden blindness since NAION is a common cause of sudden vision loss in older people. Still, the FDA spokesperson said the Food and Drug Administration are taking the reports of vision loss amongst those using impotence drugs very seriously.

You can bet that the FDA will be serious, but cautious as well about pointing the finger at the drugs without proof: sales of one impotence drug alone was over $438 million dollars for the first three months of 2005.

Dr. Howard Pomeranz of the University of Minnesota was the first to raise concerns about the possible connection between the impotence drugs and sudden vision loss when he reported in an opthalmology journal that seven patients had NAION vision loss within 36 hours of taking Viagra. But, Dr. Pomeranz warned, that no definite cause and effect relationship had been established. Dr. Pomeranz has asked that ophthalomologists question their NAION patients about their use of impotence drugs, and urged these specialists to report their findings.

*NOTE:The AP story is listed as an ADVERTISEMENT. Does this mean that one of the pharmaceutical companies put it out to do damage control? There is a picture of a Viagra® bottle right next to the story.

Eddie Albert - Gone to Greener Acres
We at NIPPIES shouldn't have been surprised at the passing of Eddie Albert . After all, we knew he was well into his ninties. We just didn't know that he was near the end of his ninties, and headed toward age 100. Still, when we saw the announcement on the internet that the star of radio, Broadway stage, film and television had died at his Pacific Palisades home, it jolted us a bit. Eddie Albert seemed to make aging so easy. Take a look at his resume on, and you'll see that time didn't slow him down much. He had many of his most memorable roles well after the age of 50.

Eddie made acting look easy, too. He usually played the trustable and rock steady best friend of the star, as in the role of Austin Mack in The Joker Is Wild. In that role, Eddie played best friend and piano man to Frank Sinatra's, who portrayed Joe E. Lewis. But Mr. Albert could also convincingly play smarmy characters (e.g. the salesman, Ali Hakim, in 1955's Olklahoma) and villians, as well. He played a retired Army general who turned to murder to keep his dark secrets quiet in a 1971 episode of Columbo entitled Dead Weight. (Eddie played Maj. Gen. Martin Hollister). By the way, Peter Falk, the star of the Columbo detective series, is another of our favorite actors.

We were surprised to learn that Eddie Albert was a trapese artist in the years after he graduated from the University of Minnesota. And although he got his start in radio (1936), he easily made the transformation to stage, film and then to television. Green Acres was a hit during its entire run from 1965 - 1971. Nobody could have played the role of Oliver Wendell Holmes, a retired New York lawyer turned farmer, like Eddie Albert did.

When World War II broke out, Eddie Albert served his country. He was well into his late thirties when he joined the U.S. Navy, and he participated in the Battle of Tawara in 1943.

Eddie Albert was married to Maria Marguerita Guadalupe Teresa Estela Bolado Castilla y O'Donnell Albert, an actress born in Mexico City, Mexico. She was his only wife, and the devoted couple were married for nearly 50 years (1937 - her death in 1985). It appears that he was as rock steady in real life as he was in many of the roles he played.

In recent years, Eddie Albert suffered from Alzheimers disease. His son, actor Edward Albert (who is married to actress Katherine Woodville), took time off from his own successful career to care for his father, and was holding his dad's hand when he died, according to reports on the internet. Eddie Albert is also survived by a daughter, Maria Albert Zucht, and two granddaughters.

"He died so beautifully and so gracefully that literally this morning I don't feel grief, I don't feel loss," Edward Albert told The Associated Press. That statement made us feel less sad at the loss of another great human being. We prefer to think that Eddie Albert has not really left us, but has merely gone on tho greener acres.

School lunches: Profit over nutrition?
Just the other day, as we at NIPPIES were making our way back home after dropping our little one off at her school a few towns away, we heard an interesting, but disturbing, report on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. The topic was school lunch programs and nutrition. You can listen to the NPR program by clicking here:
Nutrition, Business at Odds in U.S. School Cafeterias. (Allison Aubrey).

The report was disturbing: the agenda in many school lunchrooms now appears to be profit over nutrition. Sometimes school districts do not make sufficient allowances for the food programs, and government subsidies are not enough to cover the school lunch programs. So the schools, in an effort to make up the difference, need to make money. And in order to keep the lunchroom profitable, students are now allowed to purchase what they want to eat.

More and more schools are doing away with the old way of offering one nutritionally balanced meal - take it or leave it. Gone, said Allison Aubrey, are the days of hair-nets and stockings on aproned lunch ladies who would place a no-choice well-balanced meal on a child's plate. In their place are lunch programs which offer Pizza Hut® pizza, Tyson® chicken, soda, french fries and chips. While there is some nutritional value in all these foods, one had to wonder about the frightening possibility that the children, given the choice, will choose to eat one or the other, or all, of these foods every day.

One school lunch program director from Chesapeake, Virginia commented throughout the report. She recalled her own days as a student when she would stuff peas into her milk carton because otherwise her teachers would force her to eat the peas. Her feeling is that there is no "bad food", and that you cannot make kids eat what they don't want to eat, so allowing them to choose is not all that bad unless, of course, a child chooses to eat french fries every day- and only french fries.

This may be true. But it may also be true that the mid-day meal a child eats at school may be the only full meal they are offered during their entire day. More and more mothers work, some are single mothers with two jobs. It would be very naive to think that there are no school-aged children out there who are also making their own choices at home about what to eat while their moms are out earning a buck.

So what is there to do about this? Well, lawmakers in at least 18 states are considering the passage of nutrition laws. In Connecticut, there will be no junk food. In Kentucky, there will be pizza only one day a week.

Buffalo,NY, is taking a more direct approach. With the assistance of a popular afternoon disc jockey, schools in Buffalo New York are encouraging children to make healthy choices by rewarding kids who eat well via a Power Eating Contest. They are also trying to get younger, and more impressionable kids, into the spirit of making good food choices by using a cute jingle:

"Fruits and veggies rule - less than 5 a day is uncool".

Younger, and perhaps more impressionable, students in Buffalo schools are also taught WHY they should eat fruits, vegetables, and other nutritionally sound foods: eating these foods will stave off obesity, and therefore lessen the likelihood of diseases such as diabetes. The approach in Buffalo schools seems to be one of building better habits and choices rather than going against the grain by trying to break old habits.

Business leaders, aware of the cost of poor health, are also lending support to the nutrition awareness programs in Buffalo's schools.

But back to how we at NIPPIES began the story. While we were listening to the NPR program, we had a contented thought: our daughter's school, and our son's former high school (both private, parochial schools) still had in-school lunch programs and lunch ladies who offered one-meal-take-it-or-leave-it school lunches. Ahh, we thought, how lucky we have been.

Our euphoria was short-lived. The next day we at NIPPIES received an e-mail from a lunch lady friend who works at the private high school our son attended. She had written to tell me that the principal at the school had made the difficult decision to do away with the school-run lunch program. To cover the cost of paying for the food program, the school had no choice but to make it obligatory for all kids to pay for the nutritious lunch they were offered daily. But too many kids simply were choosing not to eat rather than take what was offered. A nationally known institutional catering business, our friend wrote, would be taking over for the 2005-2006 school year. She and her co-workers would be out of jobs. And, sadly, the last home-cooked meal would be served at the school at the end of this school year.

We found this to be disturbing news. Not just because of the fact that the lunch program was going the way of a "for profit" program, but because we thought it appalling that so many students were not eating what was being offered. We checked with our son, who told us that the meals were great and that he ate what was offered in the cafeteria every day. But, he explained, it was true that some kids simply didn't want to eat the meals offered and opted not to do so.

How different things are today from when we at NIPPIES attended the same school. Sure, groans could be heard when "*hit-on-a-shingle", or creamed, chipped beef, was occasionally served. But we ate it anyway. And very few of us were overweight or unhealthy.

Our daughter's school is now the last school in our entire area to serve home-cooked meals offered by traditional lunch ladies. We are keeping our fingers crossed, and a prayer on our lips that we don't get another e-mail from a lunch lady from that school.

Neil Diamond impersonator's luggage stolen from Dessau Germany arena dressing room.

Costumes taken will be very difficult and expensive to replace. Please help us to find them!

Neil Diamond impersonator offers reward for return of costumes taken from German arena.

A few missing sequined shirts and belts may not seem like a big deal to some folks. But to the Neil Diamond impersonator who depends on not only his talent, but his costumes, to make a living- it is no small matter!

While performing onstage at an arena in Germany, a well-known U.S. Neil Diamond impersonator had his luggage stolen from a back stage dressing room at the Sachsen Anhalt Arena in Dessau, Germany on April 30, 2005. Two shirts, including, including a one-of-a-kind red sequined shirt adorned with nearly 100,000 hand-strung beads, were in the luggage. The shirt is a copy of the shirt which the real Neil Diamond wore during his Live Across America tour of the early 1990s. A similar glittery shirt in blue (photo right) was also in the suitcase, as well as two custom-designed belts. The three inch belts were covered with individually-sewn-on small black sequins. The belts alone would take months to remake. You can't just walk into a store and buy Neil Diamond-like belts!

A hand-made black bolero vest, a copy of the one Neil word during his "Love at the Greek" concert of 1976, was spared. The celebrity impersonator had worn the vest during a costume change. It was not in the luggage.

The crime was reported to the local German police. But the costumes have been missing a week already, and there are no leads in the case.

The funny thing about this theft is that stolen suitcase was in a dressing room filled with guitars and other valuable equipment. Why would ANYONE want to steal a suitcase full of "Neil Diamond" costumes? Makes you wonder!

For the first few days, the Neil Diamond impersonator and his friends hopedped that another performer had taken the suitcase by mistake. But we waited nearly 9 days to post this, and no one has contacted the arena to report the missing "Neil Diamond" costumes as having been found. Sadly, we must assume they were taken on purpose.

The snatching of his costumes is, the celebrity impersonator, the only black mark on an otherwise enjoyable stay in Deutschland where, he said, the people are very friendly and hospitable.

So, if you see anyone trying to sell or wearing a Neil Diamond-like belt or red or blue sequined shirt, ask questions, please. And if they are the stolen costumes, and you can get the thief to return the shirts and belts to the proper owner in good condition, you can claim a $200.00 reward.

We have blocked out the face of the performer in the photos because this is NOT a publicity stunt. This entertainer needs these unique costume pieces to perform and fulfill his booking obligations. He is a full-time celebrity impersonator with a family to support, and has become busier than ever with future bookings: with the attention now focused on Neil Diamond because of his Neil Diamond World Tour Live 2005, and the rush for tickets, it is very disturbing that the costumes were taken.

Write to us with any information (sorry, no reward for information!):E-Mail us

Please pass the word through your e-mail or blog, especially if you know any Neil Diamond fans in Deutschland.

Thank you!

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Nothing is sacred here at Nippies, except the sacred.

While we at Nippies love to report on celebrity and entertainment news, Nippies also wants to keep you informed on any and every subject that may touch your life: pharmaceutical ads, rising health insurance, low-paying jobs, lawsuits, fashion, trends, music, and more! Written from a working class viewpoint.

Nippies especially delights in reporting on the darker sides of Cut-and-Paste-America, to coin a phrase, which many call Big Business!

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