Lest we forget, Memorial Day is about the living as well as the dead. Americans set aside the last Monday of May to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Yet without surviving family members, comrades and grateful citizens to hold these ceremonies, there would be no one to do the memorializing. And without today's servicemen and servicewomen willing to protect and defend, there would be no United States and no freedom to mark the three-day weekend as we choose.
Do teens you know complain about headaches, nausea and dizziness? If so, don't be too quick to brush it off as the flu. They might actually be "nic sick," i.e. suffering from nicotine poisoning. Minnesota and Wisconsin health agencies recently reported that 1 in 5 highschoolers uses e-cigarettes. That's 20% of teens in our states — a steep and disturbing rise given that usage hovered at 7 or 8% just five years ago.
Keeping roadsides clean of trash and recyclables is a worthy exercise, but certainly not a risk-free one. Remember, just a year ago three Chippewa Falls Girl Scouts and a mother lost their lives participating in this community service endeavor. We join the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in reminding drivers to keep a watchful eye out for Adopt-a-Highway volunteers as they walk near state and local highways to collect a winter's worth of accumulated trash.
Minnesota lawmakers are patting themselves on the back for passing a hands-free cellphone law, which will take effect on Aug. 1. After five years of debate and angst, Minnesota will become the 18th state to have such a driving law. The hands-free movement appears to be gaining traction in Wisconsin, too, where the current ban applies only to motorists traveling through work zones. River Falls Assembly Republican Shannon Zimmerman said on Monday, April 22, that he is exploring whether to introduce broader legislation similar to Minnesota's.
The unofficial start to the motorcycle season is Saturday. Already?! Given last week's snow storm and ongoing high waters, that seems hard to believe. And therein lies the danger this spring: You may simply not be prepared to "start seeing motorcycles." Motorcyclists by the thousands will cruise up, down and around the Mississippi River during the annual Spring Flood Run on April 20. The original run was down Highway 61 to Winona in 1965 to help battle the Great Flood. Today, the loop runs down both sides of the Mississippi River.
Receding flood waters will leave behind an unsightly mess — branches, bottles, plastic wrap, barrels, hazardous materials, you name it. The melting snow in your neighborhood will expose plenty of refuse, too — trash, accumulated junk, rusty bikes, leftover bricks and boards. The first you can blame on Mother Nature. The second you cannot. Unfortunately, some people let their properties reach such a sad state of affairs that their negligence devalues adjacent properties and lowers the overall appeal of a neighborhood and community.
Longtime residents warn that spring 2019 has an ominous feel similar to that of 1965, when the region suffered its greatest flood in recorded history after a series of storms dumped massive precipitation on much of Minnesota as well as western Wisconsin. The blizzards came March 1-2, 10-12, 17-18 and 27-29. The hardest hit areas were the Minnesota, St. Croix and Chippewa river basins all feeding into the Mississippi.
Rain may be falling, but this is Sunshine Week regardless of the weather. Sunshine Week is the nationwide celebration of your access to public information — especially government information — and what this access means for you and your community. The theme for 2019 sums it up nicely: "It's your right to know." That's right, it's your right. You have the same rights to public information that any member of the press has. Some people don't realize that and think they need a journalist to request information.
The forecast calls for another blizzard. What do you do? Head to the grocery store, load up your cart, restock your cupboard and then relax ... content in knowing you can weather the storm. You won't go hungry no matter how long or hard the snow falls. Why do we do this? We know the grocery store is close by. We know the roads will be plowed soon. To paraphrase psychologist Lisa Brateman quoted in the November 2012 article "The Psychology of Stockpiling," this behavior gives us a sense of control in an uncontrollable situation.
The love month wraps up this week. While most of us likely will remember February 2019 for its onslaught of winter, another avalanche of sorts should be on our radar: lack of vaccinations. Ten states, according to federal health records, have reported people contracting measles this year, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting 159 confirmed cases as of Feb. 21. That's right, measles — a disease that was declared eliminated as a major U.S. public health threat nearly 20 years ago.