American Football Is A Killer! It Needs to Be Tackled. NOW!


tyler sash

Tyler Sash was a very talented football player. A star, and an all-star, during his three-year career as an University of Iowa Hawkeye, a Super Bowl ring winner in the first of his two seasons as a New York Giant, Sash died last September at age 27 – a victim, it was recently revealed, of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is directly linked to the type of repeated brain trauma that is crippling and killing an increasing number of footballers.

It doesn’t have to happen, and shouldn’t be allowed to.

And there’s an amazing simple way to stop that type of injury – which can only be diagnosed after the victim is dead – but chances are, this step won’t be taken.

Why? For the same reason fighting will always remain an inherent part of ice hockey: The fans love to see their football heroes smash so hard into each other that the collisions can be heard, and almost be felt, in the stands, and on couches across the country. And fans love to see hockey players mix it up to the point where bodies are broken and the ice is splattered with blood.

Tyler Sash played only 23 regular season and four post-season games as a Giant. By the time he was released by the Giants, for violating the NFL’s policy against using Adderol, a powerful pain medication he was taking to deal with a serious shoulder injury, he had suffered, during his football career, at least five concussions. There is no way to calculate how many he suffered overall in the 16 years he played the game. (Look at that from a different angle: The fact he played for so many years, in a lifespan of 27 years, he didn’t play for only 11 years.)

When representative from Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation advised members of his family last week that CTE caused his death, they were, while still sad that they lost him so young, nevertheless relieved to know the cause of it. And, in hindsight, the cause of some of the many symptoms he’d manifested in recent years: Memory loss, minor temper issues and bouts of confusion, they told The New York Times.

That same report said that at the time of his death, his mother, Barnetta Sash, told police her son had seemed disoriented, wasn’t sleeping well and had been dealing with allergies. Bouts of disorientation and other symptoms of CTE had been noticed for several years by friends and colleagues.

At the time of his death, Sash was taking – and improperly mixing – two strong pain medications to deal with a shoulder injury and others. The Iowa State Medical Examiner’s office said those drugs were the direct cause of his death, and his history of painful injuries was a contributing factor. But overall, the CTE appears to have been the major contributor in that it interfered with his reasoning and factored into his inability to appropriately monitor his meds.

A 2013 Frontline report compared concussion risks and rates between high school footballers and NFL players. That report showed high schoolers are far more likely to suffer concussions than are the pros, in part because of their inexperience and in part of teens’ ‘nothing can happen to me’ mindset.

Frontline was reporting on a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine and funded by the NFL. It was said to have found that in most cases, concussions symptoms disappear within two weeks. But, they noted, “In 10 to 20 percent of individuals … concussive symptoms persist for a number of weeks, months, or even years.” Right through to unusually early deaths, they could have added.

“With Tyler being so young, it’s very surprising to me,” said linebacker A.J. Edds, who played at Iowa with Sash in 2008 and 2009,  to The (Des Moines) Register. “But when you start looking back and connecting the dots, some of the symptoms and signs were there.

“It’s eye-opening. It tells you about the state and the standing of what football is continuing to do to guys, not just physically but mentally as well.”

CTE is measured on a four-point scale. Sash was said to have been at level two – comparable to that of former NFL hall-of-famer Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 at age 43.

He was far from alone as a fatal victim of CTE: Wikipedia cites some 21 NFL players (including Seau and Sash) who were diagnosed, post mortem, as CTE victims. Another eight players are suspected of having the affliction. And that’s just NFL players.

"Concussion" New York Premiere - Outside Arrivals
NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 16: Dr. Bennet Omalu attends the “Concussion” New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on December 16, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

Last December, Time magazine quoted Bennet Omalu, a Nigeria-born neuropathologist, as saying that, “In my opinion, taking professional football players as a cohort, I think over 90% of American football players suffer from this disease. Over 90% of players who play to the professional level have some degree of this disease. I have not examined any brain of a retired football player that came back negative.”

Dr. Omalu first discovered CTE in an NFL player when he saw the debilitating disease in the brain of Mike Webster, a Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers who died in 2002. This finding sparked a chain of events that ultimately forced the NFL to settle a class-action lawsuit from retired players and raised unprecedented awareness of the dangers of football head trauma, Time said.

A separate Time report provided a more in-depth look at CPE. Watch the video.

Reversing that, so 90% of NFL players are not likely to be suffering from CTE, could be easily accomplished, but it would require a mind re-set on the part of fans and players that, in all likelihood, is unlikely to occur.

What to do? Simple: Take away footballers’ helmets!

Soccer and rugby players are bare-headed, and they don’t have anything like the concussion issue footballers do. They — ‘the big they’ — might also want to consider scaling back the uniforms, not so far that footballers are, like soccer players, wearing shorts (which wouldn’t work at all in our climate!), but something with a lot less padding, reducing the temptations to smash into each other the way they do now.

Soccer is the world’s most popular spectator sport. It attracts millions more fans than American football could ever dream of drawing to its relatively small number of stadiums.

With today’s technology, it is possible to stream ads on TV screens – and even on stadium scoreboards or wherever – so that sport could be as incredibly profitably as American football is.

Without a helmet, or a bit of padding, in sight.

The fact that children – from before high school age – are encouraged to play a game that could, if a surprisingly short number of years, result in their death, is unconscionable. The fact that adults are encouraged, by outrageous payments running to millions of dollars per contract, to put their lives at risk from CTE is equally unconscionable.

Boxing is about as bad: Muhammad Ali, who I had the pleasure of spending two-plus on-on-one hours with 12 days before he became world champion, is a victim of Parkinson’s disease, another brain affliction that can be caused by repetitive head bangs, which Ali absorbed a lot of.

It was about the time he got into the professional boxing ‘game’, in the early 1960’s,  that scientists were pinning down brain chemical causes of Parkinson’s. Much has been learned about Parkinson’s in the interval, including the fact that welders are, because of gases they are exposed to, at much higher risk of developing Parkinson’s than are, say, farmers, carpenters, or bookkeepers.

America needs farmers, carpenters and bookkeepers. It does NOT professional boxers. It does NOT need heavily-suited high school and professional footballers.

America does not need, nor should it permit, the ongoing physical damage to players, the emotional damage to families, and the enormous (often futile) cost to the healthcare system that easily avoidable football injuries cause.

Flag down! Foul on the play!

Enough, already!


FIRE! But Can the Fire Truck Get There?



FIRE! But Can the Fire Truck Get There?



In the late ‘80’s, a workmate who also was a volunteer fireman in his small, Long Island (NY) town, asked if I had any idea why fire departments keep asking for bigger, more versatile trucks. I had no clue.

“It’s for the parades,” he said, referring to the widespread practice in suburban New York (and many other areas) for towns to have parades in which various fire departments from nearby (and sometimes some distance away) towns participate. Naturally enough – common sense and cost issues aside – crews from many of those towns wanted to have ‘bragging rights’ for the biggest and/or noisiest trucks around. Many probably still do.

But for a couple of interesting reasons, it soon may not just practical but necessary for fire trucks to shrink in size. A fascinating comparison of two fire trucks, an American-made KME Kovatch and a Swedish-built Volvo, showed that in one potentially-critical way, the Volvo would be the better choice in the growing number of cities opting for narrower traffic lanes.

The comparison was conducted at RAF Lakenheath, a Royal Air Force station that is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing in Europe. The two trucks’ acceleration, pumping power, noise level, rescue capabilities, and maneuverability in both forward and in reverse were matched against each other.

Obviously, the makeup and training of crews come into play in some of those comparisons, but in both forward and reverse, the Volvo proved to be more maneuverable – meaning, in effect, it can do more in tighter spaces, such as narrow traffic lanes and, presumably, driveways and alleyways. On an airport runway at Lakenheath, traffic cones were used to mark off lanes and areas to be maneuvered through, and the truck knocking over the fewest cones was the winner.

The trucks’ comparative sizes was significant, in a situation where turning radiuses were relatively narrow, in a typical European way, so the bigger American truck was at a disadvantage. It also was at a disadvantage because, in order to increase the driver’s ability to see more, over a broader area, he sits more than 1.6 feet (half a meter) higher than the Volvo’s driver – meaning the KME driver is less able to see what’s close beside, in front of or to the rear of his truck.

(An area where it appeared the crew’s training played an important role was in comparing the trucks’ pumping power – how much water could quickly be directed at a given spot. The test involved attacking with water two brick walls, custom build, identically, of course, for this competition.

(The American team went first, and left a few bricks standing – because, as a British team member noted, the Yanks attacked the center of the wall, causing some knocked-over bricks to fall straight backward, blocking others that might have subsequently been felled. The Brits went at first one then the other end of the wall, and worked inward toward the center. This approach enabled them to knock all the bricks over.)

How large are fire trucks? Amherst, Massachusetts, has very conveniently provided a chart showing the dimensions of the several types their fire department employs. The largest, an aerial platform, is 48 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 12 feet high. The smallest, an ambulance, is 14’ 6” long, 9 feet wide, and 9’ 4” high.

There is a road passage under a rail line near my home with a height clearance of 11 feet and a few inches. To get from one side to the other of that underpass, a fire truck the size of Amherst’s large aerial platform would have to take a detour – a roundabout route adding a few extra miles and a potentially-critical few extra minutes to its trip. And that would be complicated by the fact that, at one point, the truck would have to virtually reverse back on its course as it rounded a switch from one road to another – a heartrendingly slow turn for a driver really really anxious to get to a fire scene. Then, the truck would have to pass over two railroad tracks, via a passage with clear warning signs that uncommonly long vehicles could, because of the steep up and down angles of the crossing, get stuck – probably on one of the tracks that, well over 20 times a day, are traversed by freight trains close to or more than a mile long, each weighing, perhaps, 143 tons  (roughly 22 tons of car and roughly more than 100 tons of freight), for a total of, say, something like 20,000 tons, or 40 million pounds, including three engines, on a 135-car train. (See the two-year-old entry, at the cited web site, by Aurilika.)

Road Widths Vs. Fire Trucks

The website of NACTO, The National Association of City Transportation Officials (who knew?) is a font of seldom-considered (except by that group’s members) issues having to do with road widths and a lot more. Their considerations of lane widths factor in a number of issues, including – hardly surprisingly – the ability of fire trucks to get where they are needed as quickly as possible.

This is not, as we’re all aware, a perfect world, and there is no perfect solution to the lane width issue. But NACTO discussions on the issue have, perhaps, more levels of logic behind them than anyone else’s. They say this:

The relationships between lane widths and vehicle speed is complicated by many factors, including time of day, the amount of traffic present, and even the age of the driver. Narrower streets help promote slower driving speeds which, in turn, reduce the severity of crashes. Narrower streets have other benefits as well, including reduced crossing distances, shorter signal cycles, less storm water, and less construction material to build.

The width allocated to lanes for motorists, buses, trucks, bikes, and parked cars is a sensitive and crucial aspect of street design. Lane widths should be considered within the assemblage of a given street delineating space to serve all needs, including travel lanes, safety islands, bike lanes, and sidewalks.

Each lane width discussion should be informed by an understanding of the goals for traffic calming as well as making adequate space for larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses.

But, the website suggests, “The problem with wider urban streets, as Jeff Speck has argued [in a brilliant and highly information article, with equally interesting embedded links], is that they encourage faster driving and can lead to deadlier collisions. And science backs up his argument: a 2015 study of intersections in Toronto and Tokyo found that lower crash rates were linked to lanes measuring 10- to 10.5-feet wide rather than to 12-feet-wide lanes. As Scott Wiener, a member of San Francisco Board of Supervisors, wrote in 2014: “[Prioritizing] fire truck access in a way that makes streets less safe for pedestrians and other users—and which undermines neighborhood fabric with high-volume, fast-moving traffic—isn’t the right solution.”

An article on the website points out the complexities of this issue. An interesting reference in that article references Todd Nix, apparatus consultant for Unruh Fire, a truck manufacturer, who says his company sees requests from a lot of fire departments for “smaller-size pumpers they can take into areas full-size vehicles wouldn’t fit, to run over small bridges where heavier vehicles couldn’t cross, or under overpasses and overhangs where there are a lot of trees.”

Appropriately, Unruh Fire is on the forefront of offering trucks that significantly smaller than those needed to fight fires but can assist on fire-fighting runs. These are considered to be ‘rescue trucks,’ not to rescue people, a task EMS crews are more suited to handle, but to do a whole lot of other things. (Watch the video. It’s an eye-opener!)

Grady North, product manager for pumpers, tankers and ARFF (airport rescue firefighting) at E-One, another rescue equipment maker, says geography has something to do, so far, with where smaller pumpers are being sold. Sales are stronger in the West and Midwest than in the South or East, he said.

“More people [overall] want to get the customer pumper wheelbase down [to] around 170 inches, which seems to be the magic point for a shorter vehicle with better maneuverability,” he told the magazine.  Than shorter-than-the-traditional wheelbase means, he said, an operation “is able to maneuver well in cul-de-sacs and on narrower streets with tighter turning tighter areas.”

North stressed that, “It takes both numbers {the wheelbase and an overall length of less than 30 feet] to accomplish that maneuverability — shorter and overall length — where you hold the overall length so the swing and drag dimensions are kept in check.”

Tech speak, extending to TMI – too much information.

But you get the point: Subtle changes are occurring in street design and in the design of vehicles able to maneuver through sometimes tighter spaces.

While that might have been said in a couple of hundred words, this 1500+ word version gives you an opportunity to acknowledge that forces are at work, in private industry and government, to make you safer in seldom-considered situations.

FBI OK’d Downloads of Kiddie Porn By 100,000 Users of a Nasty Site

child porn_image

The FBI controlled, and allowed thousands of downloads from,  “the largest remaining known child pornography service in the world” for nearly two weeks last year. Now, they’ve charged some 1,300 individuals with related crimes.

Your tax dollars at work: For 13 days early last year, the FBI controlled one of the largest kiddie porn sites on the internet, providing 100,000 or more registered users access and the ability to download, without restriction, any of more than 23,000 sexually explicit images and videos of children as young as toddlers. At least some of those images depicted a pre-pubescent girl having sexual intercourse with adults, USA Today and others reported this week.

And this wasn’t the first time the FBI has pimped a kiddie porn site: The agency admits it has used similar approaches to the one it used with Playpen, the above cited site, to get down to the ‘short and curlies,’ as it were, of other web pulls for perverts anxious to further exploit children who’d already been taken advantage of as they were photographed in ways no child should be., a web site based in Russia, says the Playpen sting resulted in the arrest of 1,300 individuals, with more, potentially, to come.

The Playpen web site existed on what’s known as the ‘dark web,’ which is only accessible through use of a software program called Tor, which bounces users from one host site to another to shield their true identity. The FBI, though, used a Tor-beating program to blast past the deception and identify the ‘true’ IDs of users’ computers.

Even within the FBI, there have been some who’ve questioned the legality of the agency’s functioning, in effect and fact, as host of a kiddie porn web site – one since described as “the largest remaining known child pornography service in the world,” as put it. The Justice Department was quoted in a USA Today article as saying that “children depicted in such images are harmed each time they are view, and once those images leave the government’s control, agents have no way to prevent them from being copied and re-copied to other parts of the internet.”

Somewhat illogically, an attorney for one of the men caught in the Playpen sting said, “What the government did in this case is comparable to flooding a neighborhood with heroin in the hope of snatching an assortment of low-level drug users.”

Wikipedia says that, with much research having been conducted, “much disagreement persists regarding whether a causal connection has been established” between users of child porn and pedophilia.

But another Wikipedia entry notes that, “ Prepubescent pornography is viewed and collected by pedophiles for a variety of purposes, ranging from private sexual uses, trading with other pedophiles, preparing children for sexual abuse as part of the process known as “child grooming“, or enticement leading to entrapment for sexual exploitation such as production of new child pornography or child prostitution.”

But USA Today noted:  “Lawyers for child pornography victims expressed surprise that the FBI would agree to such tactics – in part because agents had rejected them in the past – but nonetheless said they approved. ‘These are places where people know exactly what they’re getting when they arrive,’ said James Marsh, who represents some of the children depicted in some of the most widely-circulated images. ‘It’s not like they’re blasting it out to the world.”’


Early ‘Warfare’: Battle In Kenya Left 27 Dead – 10,000 Years Ago


Skeleton of a man with club wounds at the site of Nataruk massacre (© Marta Mirazon Lahr, enhanced by Fabio Lahr)


Two fighting boys are asked, “Who started it?” If they’ve been paying attention to the latest news from Cambridge University and Kenya, they could answer, simultaneously, “The hunter-gatherers, about ten thousand years ago!”

A study conducted over the past few years by Cambridge University researchers suggests it was about that long ago that those predecessors of ours, described by Wikipedia as “an early human society,” first engaged in some degree of ‘warfare’. Changes in the landscape at an area called Nataruk in Kenya, near a former lagoon – long since dried up – once near the shore of Lake Turkana (now a fraction of its size 10,000 or so years ago) have revealed the remains of 27 people, age-dated to a point that far back in time. The 21 adults and six children were brutally slain, by blows to the head by blunt objects, arrows and at least one sharp blade – a portion of which was found imbedded in one man’s skull.

The website says that in hunter-gatherer times, violence between groups often resulted in the slaughtering of men, while the losing side’s women and children were absorbed in the winner’s ‘community’. But the Nataruk massacre represented something different: Apparently no one on the losing side survived.

That website notes that one victim in that incident was a women in the late stages of pregnancy who may have been bound when she was brutally murdered.

While there’s no way to determine what that struggle at Nataruk was about, a possible reason could have been a territorial dispute in an area that, 10,000 years ago, “the easy access to water and fishing made it an ideal place to live out a prehistoric life.”


Dental Fillings Could Be Poisoning Your Brain!!



The next time your dentist advises you that you or a child of yours needs a filling, ensure (by asking) he or she is using a material other than a mercury amalgam. If your present dentist is still using that kind of filling material, you might – no, you should – want to find another dentist.

Widely used since the 19th Century, filling materials often said to be ‘silver’ – actually a description of their color, not their make-up – are, in fact, roughly 50% mercury, an extremely topic material. Within the past few years, it’s become known that every time you chew and. among other things, drink hot beverages (such as coffee or tea), small amounts of mercury are freed from the amalgam and passed into your brain. (And you wondered why you don’t like going to the dentist!)

But get this: About the same time, a few years ago, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that mercury poisoning had been linked to skin-care products, it removed from its web site the following statement:

“Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses.”

You say WHAT?

While this is not a new story, it continues to get too little attention in the media – as do available alternatives that can be used to replace existing amalgam fillings. Both composite resin fillings and glass ionomer ones are, however, discussed on another FDA web site!

A Maryland company, Natural Dentist Associates, is probably not alone in offering replacement procedures, but their name is the first that comes up on a Google search of dentistry+alternatives to mercury amalgams. You probably should, if you’ve ever had cavities replaced with ‘silver’ fillings, look into the type of service that practice offers. Chances are, there’s a clued-in dentist not far from you offering something similar.