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  • Medicare’s five star quality ratings

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rates the relative quality of the private plans that are offered to Medicare beneficiaries through the Medicare Advantage program. CMS rates Medicare Advantage plans on a one to five-star scale, the highest quality being five stars. This star rating provides an overall measure of the plan’s quality and is an indication of the quality of care, access to care, responsiveness, and beneficiary satisfaction provided by the Medicare Advantage plan. This means that the higher the star rating a plan receives, the more likely you are to receive the care you need, when and where you need it - and most of all, you are more likely to be satisfied with your plan.For each years’ star rating, CMS rates Medicare Advantage health plans based on 53 quality measures and 2 improvement measures. The information that is evaluated for the star rating comes from a comprehensive list of sources:◦ Customer surveys done by Medicare (you)◦ Information from clinicians (your doctors)◦ Information submitted by the Medicare Advantage plans◦ Results from Medicare's regular monitoring activities and

  • Miss Arizona collects school supplies at Chandler Dance Center

    When Alexa Rogers was only 5 years old, she met a little girl named Sam who was very similar to herself. Sam was bright, happy and always trying to give back to others. There was only one glaring difference between the two.Rogers had a home. Sam did not.Before leaving the playground that day, Sam gave Rogers a small token — a glass ornament on a red string covered in stickers – that Rogers still hangs on her Christmas tree every year.“(Sam’s) selflessness of giving me a gift when she had nothing changed my life and since then has shaped my life to always be giving to others, especially when I have something that I’m able to give,” Rogers said.Rogers, who recently won the Miss Arizona Scholarship Pageant in June on a platform helping homeless children, was at Chandler Dance Center on Thursday evening hosting a back-to-school drive, collecting school supplies for the roughly 15,000 homeless and impoverished children in Maricopa County through The Real Gift Foundation.Helping homeless and impoverished children has always been a cause that is near and dear to Rogers. She has been volunteering with The Real Gift Foundation for more than a decade, which made choosing her platform a rather obvious proposition.

  • Race for justice of the peace stays peaceful

    The race for justice of the peace in the Kyrene District is, so far, peacefulIn a forum at the East Valley Tribune office on July 15 the two Republican candidates, John McComish and Darryl Jacobson-Barnes, talked about their experience, the role of a justice of the peace and ways they might improve the efficiency of the office. Whoever wins the Republican primary will face Patrick Murphy, who is running as an independent, and one of two Democrats: Elizabeth Rogers or Elvis Richardson, who is running as a write-in candidate.Jacobson-Barnes is a grass-roots activist and owner of All-Star Insurance Agency. She said legal research has kind of been a hobby of hers over the years, and she feels her extensive experience leading different groups in the community makes her a perfect fit for the job.“My experience is all over the map and pretty much fits every aspect of justice of the peace,” she said. “I have the confidence when needed to take charge and the demeanor that people are willing to follow my ability to take charge. I also have very sound judgment and the ability to look at all sides of an issue and understand all the consequences. That’s particularly important in insurance industry. It’s the same thing in the courts whether dealing with domestic violence case or orders of protection or search warrants.”McComish is retiring from a long run in the state Legislature. Most recently, he was in the state Senate representing District 18. He’s also a former small-business owner and had a long career in corporate America. He said he’s running because he was encouraged to but also because he enjoyed watching another justice of the peace as he counseled those who came to him for guidance.“I’ve been in a discernment and decision-making mode for quite a while,” McComish said. “I think making those decisions you have to decide what’s best, right and fair thing to do. That’s a discipline I’ve been involved in.”

  • SD 25 candidate Worsley talks economics, Medicaid

    State Sen. Bob Worsley addressed issues related to education, economics and Medicaid during a forum hosted by the East Valley Tribune on July 16.Worsley, who is running for re-election for Senate District 25, discussed issues that have arisen in his two years as a state senator. Multiple attempts to contact Worsley’s opponent, Ralph Heap, to participate in the event were unsuccessful.The winner of the Republican primary on Aug. 26 will face Democrat Steven Zachary in the general election on Nov. 4 for the seat in District 25, which includes a large portion of Mesa.The reason Worsley said he is running for re-election for similar reasons as to why he ran for office in 2012: to reduce what he considered to be a negative feeling in regards to the state Senate.“I wanted to see if I could change that chemistry,” he said, adding his goal this time is to avoid losing ground he and other senators have made at the state Capitol.Among the topics Worsley discussed was Gov. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid expansion plan, which he voted for in 2013. The plan was contentious at the time and has faced several attempts to block it by opponents.

  • Dial, Morrissey discuss job growth, Common Core at primary forum

    District 18 Republican state senate candidates Jeff Dial and Tom Morrissey discussed Common Core standards, Medicaid, job growth and legislative pay increase during a forum hosted by the East Valley Tribune on July 11.Dial, who currently is a state representative for District 20, said he is running because he is frustrated with the state of affairs in Arizona; he thinks he can do a better job than current senators and wants to make the state a place to grow a family.Morrissey, a former chief deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service, said he considers himself to be an ordinary citizen and an agent of change.“The change that we need to experience, needs to come from the bottom up,” he said.He added, “I know where the bodies are buried,” to describe his knowledge of the inner workings of state government.The candidates were asked to discuss measures aimed to accelerate job growth in Arizona. Morrissey said the state needs to create and maintain a friendly business environment and create a proper tax environment, generate better schools and eliminate the state income tax and corporate tax.

  • Senate District 16 candidates spar over education

    The two Republican candidates facing off in the state Senate District 16 primary discussed topics ranging from job growth to education funding during a forum hosted by the East Valley Tribune on July 9.Current state Sen. David Farnsworth, who was selected in 2013 to serve the rest of Rich Crandall’s term, is running against Taylor McArthur to represent the district that covers much of Mesa and into Apache Junction. The winner of the Aug. 26 primary will advance to face Democrat Scott Prior in the Nov. 4 general election.Farnsworth, who served in the Legislature in the ’90s, said he’s running to retain his seat because of issues he said are facing the state and beyond. “I think our country and our state have major problems on all levels,” he said.McArthur, who works at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce as its director of events, said his motivation is ensuring the future is strong for future generations, and cited a need to work on the economy.While he said Arizona is projected to be among the top states in the country in terms of job growth in coming years, ensuring that happens requires a reduction in government regulations, a reduction in taxes and the input from people capable of incubating economic growth.“We need people with the right background and experience, and I have that background and experience,” he said.

  • Johansson excels in 'Lucy'

    I'm a sucker for a film that shoots for infinity but barely scrapes into the atmosphere. I appreciate the effort and the willingness to do something a little different in order to bring a modicum of ingenuity and interest into a medium that thrives and lives on repetitiveness and creature comfort.Those are in part the reasons I can't stop thinking about “Lucy” – a cripplingly flawed film buoyed by the joy of its extraordinary ambitions and a cold, steady and all-in-all terrific performance by star Scarlett Johansson.Before he aims for whatever ambition is truly on his Kanye West-like mind, writer/director Luc Besson begins with the boyfriend of Johansson's titular Lucy forcing her to transport a briefcase filled with a mysterious new drug to the frightening Jang (Min-sik Choi). Because film logic is insane, the tense confrontation concludes with Choi surgically implanting the bags into Johansson and three other unwilling drug mules to transport to various ports in Europe.The insanity builds up when Johansson is beaten brutally while awaiting transportation to her destination, which causes the bag in her stomach to rip open and unleash the drug into her system. The result is a rapid increase in her brain power and the ensuing incorporation of hyper intelligence, psychic abilities and other superhuman abilities. She uses her newfound skills to seek revenge against Choi and spread her knowledge of the universe to Morgan Freeman, playing Professor Morgan Freeman (the character's real name is immaterial; all that matters is he's Morgan Freeman). She also meets a handsome cop (Amr Waked) during her abbreviated jet-setting adventure.I alluded to “Lucy” as a flawed film, and its blemishes are large and obvious enough to merit noting. The science behind the film's premise is idiotic (although it sounds pretty convincing coming from Freeman's mouth), and the special effects are haggard, sloppy and definitely picked more for their fiscal friendliness than quality. Besson once again displays his tin ear for English dialogue – a trait shared by other Besson films like “The Professional” and “The Fifth Element” – as well as a major lack of subtlety; the first third of “Lucy” plays like an extended stock footage show, one capable of making Ed Wood drool in jealousy.And yet, and yet, and yet. I have to use this refrain for “Lucy” multiple times to emphasize how much I admire Besson for his wonderment and his insouciance for taking an audience wherever he wants to go. It's a risky gambit, as putting Besson's name on a project as a writer, director, producer or any combination of the three creates certain expectations of explosive gun fights (or gun fights that end in explosions), stoic leads who speak only when necessary and economical run times – essentially the prototypical action film.

  • By the scoop: The best ice cream spots in town

    I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Since July is National Ice Cream month, here are the top places to get ice cream in the Valley.Sweet RepublicSweet Republic has been recognized for their unique artisan ice cream by Sunset Magazine, Bon Appétit, the Food Network and many others. You can try their yummy flavors like blue cheese with Medjool dates, salted caramel or Guinness at their original Scottsdale location, in central Phoenix (coming soon) and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.ChurnThis adorable ice cream parlor (5223 N. Central Ave., Phoenix) is located next door to Windsor and serves up many delicious seasonal flavors like vanilla lemon and peanut butter. Our recommendation is to choose two cookies to go along with your favorite flavor of ice cream to make one delicious ice cream sandwich.Melt

  • Waves, slides make Big Surf a classic way to cool off

    Summer gets unbearably hot in the Arizona desert. Even swimming doesn’t beat the heat, but it sure makes it a little easier to take. I grew up hearing my mom’s stories about Big Surf Waterpark in Tempe and loved it when we got to visit the water park ourselves. Big Surf has changed a lot since my mom frequented it in the ’70s, but it still remains an Arizona treasure and a fantastic summer tradition.Big Surf’s main feature is its huge wave pool that unleashes a big wave every 3 minutes. The wave pool is one of the largest in the United States and is open to all, however, swimmers under 48 inches tall must wear a life jacket (Big Surf provides these free of charge). The wave pool was originally sand with a beach. I used to think that was so cool because it was like going to the beach without leaving Arizona. However, being barefoot in 110-degree sand is not exactly fun. Big Surf now has cool decking and a really neat system of paths with streams that keep your feet wet and cool.Big Surf has many slides to choose from, including some for the brave of heart, and an area of baby slides as well. My daughter spent quite a bit of time at the Tahitian Twisters slides. These slides are part of an area for smaller kiddos that is just north of the wave pool. The section even has a covered seating area in the pool facing the kiddie slides so parents can watch the kiddos slide from the comfort of a cool and shady spot.My son prefers a more adrenaline-inducing experience and his Big Surf favorites are the Hurricane Slides. I am not brave enough for this sort of thing, so I just met him at the bottom and snapped his picture. The middle slide is his favorite because it starts off as an almost straight drop down.Big Surf is not as big some other local water parks, but that is a huge plus for me. One thing I really love about Big Surf is that you can conquer the whole park in one day while still feeling relaxed and kicked back. Big Surf has a big and centralized seating area with grass and a great view of the wave pool. Other parks have sacrificed seating areas and open space in favor of cramming in yet another slide. Big Surf is good, old-fashioned family fun on a manageable scale, and it gets a big thumbs-up from my family.• Janice Stenglein shares about recipes, crafts and family activity ideas at Celebrating-Family.com. She also writes about life in the East Valley at EastValleyMomGuide.com.

  • Dierks Bentley performs

    Phoenix’s own Nashville star comes home for a stop on his Riser Tour 2014. Country artist Chris Young also plays.DETAILS >> 7 p.m. Saturday, July 26. Ak-Chin Pavilion, 2121 N. 83rd Ave., Phoenix. $38.25-$68. LiveNation.com.

  • Quick look: New this week at the movies

    >> This information is provided in community partnership with Harkins Theatres. For showtimes, theater locations and tickets, go to HarkinsTheatres.com.A Most Wanted ManPresent-day Hamburg: a tortured and near-dead half-Chechen, half-Russian man on the run arrives in the city’s Islamic community desperate for help and looking to recover his late Russian father’s ill-gotten fortune. Nothing about him seems to add up; is he a victim, thief or, worse still, an extremist intent on destruction? Drawn into this web of intrigue is a British banker and a young female lawyer, determined to defend the defenseless. All the while, they are being watched by the brilliant, roguish chief of a covert German spy unit, who fights to put the pieces together as the clock ticks. Starring: Grigoriy Dobrygin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe. Not RatedAnd So It GoesThere are a million reasons not to like real estate agent Oren Little, and that’s just the way he likes it. Willfully obnoxious to anyone who might cross his path, he wants nothing more than to sell one last house and retire in peace and quiet — until his estranged son suddenly drops off a granddaughter he never knew existed and turns his life upside-down. Clueless about how to care for a sweet, abandoned 9-year-old, he pawns her off on his determined and lovable neighbor, Leah, and tries to resume his life uninterrupted. But little by little, Oren stubbornly learns to open his heart — to his family, to Leah, and to life itself. Starring: Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Sterling Jerins, Paloma Guzmán, Frances Sternhagen, Frankie Valli, David Aaron Baker, Austin Lysy, Barbara Vincent. PG-13Come Back to Me

  • Worth the Trip: 2 reasons to escape the heat this weekend

    Dragoon: Garlic FestivalAn Arizona destination you may recognize from TV’s “Hotel Impossible” plays host to this two-day celebration of the odorous bulb that banishes vampires and bolsters recipes.The Triangle T, a 160-acre ranch given a crash course in creating a good guest experience by Travel Channel personality Anthony Melchiorri, is the site of the festival. Nearby RichCrest Farms supplies a variety of freshly harvested, Arizona-grown garlic and will roast elephant garlic on the spot.Activities include a farmer’s market and craft fair, live music, a saloon, horseback riding, cooking demonstrations, a Wild West shootout, and kids’ attractions like face painting and balloon art.The Triangle T was the site of famous Apache leader Cochise’s winter camp and the place where Japan’s ambassador (and his entourage) were interred after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Numerous films and TV shows, from the original “3:10 to Yuma” to “High Chaparral” have been filmed there, and famous guests include Gen. John J. Pershing, President John F. Kennedy and Johnny Cash.Proceeds from the event benefit Wounded Warrior Project and Make-A-Wish of Arizona.

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  • Medicare’s five star quality ratings

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rates the relative quality of the private plans that are offered to Medicare beneficiaries through the Medicare Advantage program. CMS rates Medicare Advantage plans on a one to five-star scale, the highest quality being five stars. This star rating provides an overall measure of the plan’s quality and is an indication of the quality of care, access to care, responsiveness, and beneficiary satisfaction provided by the Medicare Advantage plan. This means that the higher the star rating a plan receives, the more likely you are to receive the care you need, when and where you need it - and most of all, you are more likely to be satisfied with your plan.For each years’ star rating, CMS rates Medicare Advantage health plans based on 53 quality measures and 2 improvement measures. The information that is evaluated for the star rating comes from a comprehensive list of sources:◦ Customer surveys done by Medicare (you)◦ Information from clinicians (your doctors)◦ Information submitted by the Medicare Advantage plans◦ Results from Medicare's regular monitoring activities and

  • Lucky Break in Tempe donating funds to local charity

    Lucky Break is donating a portion of its sales on two products to a local charity that helps out homeless animals through the rest of the month.Sales of Lagunitas Brewing Company beer and hot dogs will benefit the Lucky Dog Rescue, a nonprofit animal rescue that educates the public on responsible pet ownership and saves homeless animals. The staff is also accepting donations of new or gently used pet items and cash donations for Lucky Dog.More information is available by visiting luckybreakaz.com or www.luckydogrescue.org.

  • Flake to receive award at Gilbert Chamber event

    U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake will receive a national recognition during a Gilbert Chamber of Commerce event on Aug. 5.Flake will receive the U.S. Chamber’s Spirit of Enterprise Award at the Gilbert Chamber’s good government series sponsored by SRP at Val Vista Lakes Clubhouse. Flake will also discuss a multitude of business-related topics at the event.

  • Company offers connection to Tempe businesses, clients

    Game show host Pat Sajak has started a new business to connect Tempe residents to their neighborhood.Called Great American Deals, the company operates a website in which people can link up to area restaurants, shows, shopping, health, wellness and entertainment options while raising funds for community organizations and schools. The company donates $1 to a partner organization in the community for every purchase made on the site.

  • Gilbert Chamber reports almost $3 million in closed business from referrals

    The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce recently reported referrals had accounted for more than $2.9 million for the fiscal year 2013-14.The almost $3 million figure bumps the dollar amount to above $7.5 million since the chamber began tracking closed-business revenue three years ago. Those results also do not include businesses that don’t report to the chamber’s referral groups.

  • Colliers completes sale of medical building in Chandler

    Colliers International recently completed the sale of the Fresenius Medical Care Building in Chandler for $1.725 million.This facility is a dialysis centre serving the Chandler area located at 912 W. Chandler Blvd. The new building sits on a 34, 848-square-foot lot, enclosed in 7,425 square feet.

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  • Engineering for Kids Summer Camp

    Engineering for Kids offering STEM Based Summer Camps at Primavera in Chandler. Announces Summer Camp Open House on May 17thWhat is East Valley Engineering for Kids?Engineering for Kids is an enrichment program that teaches concepts on a variety of engineering fields in classes and camps for kids’ ages 4-14. We want to spark an interest in the kids for science, technology and engineering. The camps are all themes based and require the kids to work in teams to address engineering challenges and problems. All programs meet national education standards for STEM and align with Common Core for math and science. Engineering for Kids has operated since 2009, is in 26 states and 4 countries. When and what is the open house for?The open house on May 17th is an opportunity for parents to come and see the facility, meet the staff from Engineering for Kids, and get their questions answered. The summer camps will be offered at Primavera Blended Learning Center at 2451 N. Arizona Avenue in Chandler. The open house is from 11 am to 3 pm.  From 1-2 pm we’re having our popular robotics workshop where the kids will build, program, test and improve the robots. At the end of the workshop, the kids will compete against each other in a Sumo Bot tournament. An RSVP is highly recommended as seating is limited. Please email your RSVP to eastvalley@engineeringforkids.net. What is Primavera Blended Learning Center?

  • Keeping the Faith: Let go … or be dragged

    A friend who has some experience with rodeo horses sent me a most picturesque proverb: “Let go or be dragged.” Whether this phrase was first spoken by a Zen master who had achieved enlightenment on the mountainside, or by a battered cowboy nursing his shattered bones and pulling cacti from his backside makes no difference. It is the unmistakable truth.Take my friend’s horses as an example. Training such animals requires a great deal of lassoing, roping, and haltering. Incredible strength, patience, and stamina are needed to match a horse. But sometimes, as the proverb goes, the breaker can become the broken. A tipping point is reached where the trainer must regroup, or risk being ground into the corral’s dust. Let go or be dragged.Think of the little one who refuses to leave the playground. Haven’t you seen mothers and fathers, quite literally, hauling the kicking and screaming child to the car? Let go or be dragged. What about the dog that finally catches the school bus he has been chasing for years? Now what does he do; sink his teeth into the bumper? No, let go or be dragged.It’s the single handler left holding a giant Macy’s Day Parade balloon. He’s no match for 10,000 cubic feet of helium! If he hangs on, he will be pummeled against lamp posts, battered along 42nd Street, and become a spectacle in front of 40 million children watching on Thanksgiving morning. Let go or be dragged.This much is certain: We all will face situations, diseases, circumstances, relationships, people, challenges and conditions that are larger, stronger, and longer-lasting than we are. We have two options and only two options in such encounters. We can keep fighting an unwinnable war, and whatever we have dug our claws into will drag us into a bloody pulp (and the longer we remain dug in, the longer it will hurt).Or, we can accept our limitations and admit that we are not omnipotent. We can accept life for how it is, even when life isn’t fair (when is it really fair, anyway?). We can let go. And in this surrender – this little act of dying – we stop our suffering. We get to live again. For this is the counterintuitive way of the cross; the paradoxical power of Christ: We only live once we have died. We only gain by giving up. We only win if we surrender – let go or be dragged.

  • God is always there to help us weather the storm

    I’ve seen it multiple times, but it never fails to amaze me just how fragile our lives, as well as all the stuff of our lives, really are. One of the summer storms bouncing around the Valley at this time of year brought wind and rain ripping through our church campus. It tore up trees and threw around the roof tiles like a 2 year old in full tantrum mode. The storm was all over and done in the space of about 10 minutes, yet restoring some semblance of order took several days. The emotional impact of the scene of devastation, and the physical work also took its toll, even as we give thanks that no one was injured.Other life events, in which we can lose everything from a loved one to our jobs or homes, and all that’s dear to us, are not quite so public or obvious as the damage from a summer storm, but no less shattering. The timing of life’s storms is almost always unpredictable, fast and furious. The hard work of recovery can be long and painful. We all know how tough change can be. But when everything changes so frighteningly fast and with such huge personal cost, we all need help and support from those who love and care about us. Ironically, these can turn out to be the times in our lives when our first instinct is to pull away from God, and the community of faith. Storms are so overwhelming that we’re tempted to draw into a defensive position that’s akin to the primal instinct of a fight for survival.Yet there’s a deeper issue that we need to face, because the truth is we will all need help to cope with one or more of life’s storms along the way. Part of the issue is pride related, and part of it is a stress induced reaction. For many of us who are actively involved in a faith community, we’re so used to giving of ourselves that to actually ask for help, or accept help when we need it, can be a real wake up call. When our pride kicks in, the dramatic role reversal from being a care giver to receiving care is hard to stomach. When our feelings are already drum-tight and pounding us into submission and our stress level is off the charts, it’s hard to admit that we need help.At some level, every loss leaves us shocked and grieving. We can’t help but wonder where God is in all of this. It’s natural to want an outlet for our anger and distress. It’s natural to need an outlet for our feelings of loss and abandonment, for our grief, and for our questions. Deal direct may sound like an advert, but it’s also a healthy way to find peace. Taking our feelings and questions to God in prayer, and to those gifted in counseling is much healthier than taking it out on others struggling through the crisis. We usually regret our angry words and finger pointing. I know it’s easy to say and much harder to do in the moment, but the truth doesn’t change. God is always available to us. Our spiritual family wants to help us when storms wipe us out physically, emotionally, materially or financially. Our resistance to seeking or accepting help is a curious form of upside down thinking. If we fall and sprain an ankle, do we cut off our foot and throw it away because it’s temporarily out of action? Of course not! We seek help from qualified care givers to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on. We wrap up the injury to support it from further harm, and let someone else help us out until we’re strong again. So why are we so hesitant to seek or accept help when a big storm hits us?Let’s remember, it’s foundational to our identity in Christ Jesus to serve one another in every way we can. Accepting help when we need it reminds us that we’re ultimately fragile, dependent creatures, and that we need God and one another. Accepting help honors the spiritual gifts and ministry of our care givers. We’re shaped and formed in the body of Christ to support one another at all times, both good and bad. Don’t ever let misplaced shame become a stumbling block. Instead, give thanks for God’s goodness and grace embodied in His children, and welcome them into your life to do God’s work.• The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is priest-in-charge at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church, 975 E. Warner Road, Tempe. Reach her at rector@stjamestempe.orgor or at (480) 345-2686.

  • Free breast cancer expo in Tempe to provide tips, support for women

    A Gilbert-based organization has organized an event late next month to offer a plethora of resources and support for breast cancer victims.The event, My Hope Bag’s Breast Cancer Resource Expo, will have organizations like the Virginia C. Piper Cancer Center, doctors and surgeons on hand to provide advice to breast cancer victims and their families.“When women are going through their breast cancer, they don’t know the resources available to them,” said My Hope Bag President Sarah Ellery.The expo is an extension of what My Hope Bag provides women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, as the organization provides bags with information and other items. Items include a notebook for journal writing, a pocket calendar, a back scratcher, a poem written specifically for the person and a heart pillow. The bag might also include a stuffed animal, slipper socks, healing oils and other gifts.The back scratcher is an item that has unexpected benefits for women undergoing breast cancer treatment and a tool some people wouldn’t think about during treatment. That idea of the unexpected parts of treatment carries over to the expo, as Ellery said some of the vendors scheduled to attend include air-conditioning companies, wig companies and a company that makes garments with drain tubs for women who have undergone a mastectomy.“There are a lot of things that come up that you don’t think about,” she said.

  • The Constant Traveler: The Oglala Grasslands of Nebraska

    We crossed three ecological zones, hiked over sweeping grasslands, descended deep canyons and went back in time millions of years – all in the course of under four miles. When it was all over, I turned to one of my hiking partners and said, “that was great,” and she responded, “one of the best trails I’ve ever hiked.”My hiking partner was not just any weekend hiker. Mary Berger, a long-distance backpacker, has about 17,000 hiking miles under her walking shoes including the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest trail from Canada to Mexico, so when she says the trail was one of the best she had ever hiked in the United States I listened closely.Where is this fantastic short trail? In the Rocky Mountains? Around Lake Tahoe? Near Moab, Utah? No, not even close. It’s in the panhandle of Nebraska near the small town of Crawford.If you’re thinking Nebraska, one long flat land mass with endless wheat fields, you haven’t really been there, at least not in the western panhandle where the Great Plains begins to break up and huge bluffs, massive rock monuments and canyons formed by ancient rivers scatter across the landscape. When you are in the Nebraska panhandle, you know the Rocky Mountains are not far away.This was Indian country, buffalo lands, where Dull Knife’s Sioux warriors escaped captivity and the place where famed warrior Crazy Horse died with a bayonet in his back while in the hands of treacherous American soldiers.Even before all this, actually thousands and thousands of years before all that happened, ancient, migratory peoples lived across these rugged lands and once a year about 11,000 years ago they gathered to slaughter bison at a deep spring now called Hudson-Meng Bison Kill Bed.

  • Keeping the Faith: Love shines… but not always succeeds

    Love others as much as you love yourself,” Jesus told his followers. These words are considerably more than a sugary Sunday-school story. For those who take these words to heart, “love others” has profound, life-altering implications, not all of which are warm and fuzzy. Consider the life of Bernard Lichtenberg, arrested seven decades ago. His crime: He loved. Lichtenberg was a Catholic priest serving in Berlin before the outbreak of World War 2. When Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power, he recognized the coming terror better than most, and made it his ambition to help the Jewish people and other persecuted groups.Lichtenberg spoke and acted boldly in defense of the Jews, and his repeated protests quickly landed on the ears of government officials. Then, as he knew would be the case, these protests landed him in the crosshairs of a Gestapo investigation. After years of tension, Lichtenberg was finally imprisoned for his opposition. During his interrogation Lichtenberg was given the opportunity to recant his words and change his ways. He would not. Rather, he said: “I reject with my innermost the [deportation of the Jews] with all its side effects, because it is directed against the most important commandment of Christianity, ‘You shall love your neighbor as much as you love yourself’.“However, since I cannot prevent this governmental measure, I have made up my mind to accompany the deported Jews and Christian Jews into exile, in order to give them spiritual aid. I wish to ask the Gestapo to give me this opportunity.” Considered irredeemable by the Third Reich, Lichtenberg’s appeal was granted. He was condemned and consigned to the concentration camp at Dachau. Aged, frail, and in a weakened state, Bernard Lichtenberg died while waiting to be deported in November of 1943.It is hard to say that Father Lichtenberg, almost single-handedly opposing the Nazi war machine, was acting in a reasonable or sensible manner. How could he, as one man, ever hope to achieve “justice” for the oppressed? What could one pulpit minister do to dismantle or otherwise deter such a system of death? Not much, except to be persecuted, imprisoned, or executed. No, Bernard Lichtenberg was not being practical. He was being love. Such love can appear like madness, leading the follower of Jesus into all manner of impracticality. Loving our neighbors as ourselves means we turn the other cheek when we are assaulted, we abandon the selfishness and power-grubbing ways of this world, we refuse to repay evil with evil, and we forgive others rather than retaliate against them.The problem is obvious: Loving and living like this will put us in vulnerable, seemingly defenseless positions. To willingly behave this way, in the “real world,” will only get us abused, maligned, taken advantage of, or worse. These “opportunities,” as Lichtenberg called them, clearly aren’t very pragmatic. Yet, pragmatism doesn’t seem to be Christ’s principal concern. We are instructed to love, following Jesus’ own example, not because it is practical, reasonable, logical, or the safest way to live in the world. We actively participate in this way of Jesus because it gives witness to the good and loving God of heaven.Not for a minute should we think that unselfishly loving our neighbors will save the world from all hate and violence. It won’t make our membership rolls at the church grow, get more people into the pews on Sunday, or achieve justice for all society. None of these are the point. We love our neighbors as ourselves not because it always “works,” but because it witnesses. Love for others is a clear reflection of the love of God – and that is the point.

Forum: Justice of the Peace, Kyrene Precinct

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