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DESPITE MISCONCEPTIONS, MARIJUANA STILL HARMFUL

(This article by yours truly, appears in Florida Today Op-Ed page this date.)

Remember when cigarettes were the “in” thing? Teenagers like myself joined millions of kids aiming to be “cool.” Boys carried packs of Lucky Strikes in their t-shirt sleeve. Girls smoked daintily. My mother smoked Kents with the micronite filter because they were “healthier.” She died of cancer at age 55.

Throughout the 1930s to the 1990s, in nearly every scene, movie characters were filmed and photographed with cigarettes dangling from their fingers and lips. Images and billboard ads depicted Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and scores of other stars glorifying cigarettes as a tool for sexiness. Some medical doctors prostituted themselves by promoting the use of nicotine. Magazine ads were common, many portraying physicians holding a cigarettes saying, “More doctors smoke camels than any other cigarette.”

For nearly a century, no one listened to nay-sayers trying to convince us how nicotine was bad for our health, that it was addictive and potentially lethal. We didn’t listen. We didn’t believe nicotine was addictive. Meanwhile, cigarette companies exploded with profits as they enhanced the content of nicotine. Politicians were barraged with warnings and data, but that didn’t matter so long

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WE’VE TAKEN EQUALITY TOO FAR

(This Op-Ed by yours truly appeared in the June 9 issue of Florida Today)

 

Some folks might call me a bigot, or some other neo-expletive, but I feel we’ve carried this “equality” thing a little too far.

Most of us ascribe to the question, “Why fix something if it’s not broken?” Yet the loudest voices within minority groups have managed to create fixes that were not needed to begin with, all in the name of “diversity” and the pandering for bloc votes.

The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, consisting of 2.3 million and 1.8 million members respectively, are wonderful organizations that have thrived for over 100 years. They teach harmony, unity, survival skills and more. Now, the “diversity police” have altered a fully successful program by merging girls into the Boy Scouts.

Perhaps gender-neutral scouts should all be issued bras and jock straps, equally, so as not to discriminate against one sex or the other. Yes, that’s dumb. So is breaking down organizations that work well.

Then there is the discussion about public restrooms. According to a study issued by Pew Research, 3.8 percent of Americans identify as gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. Of that, 0.6 percent identify

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SUICIDES KILL MORE THAN HOMICIDES

(This Op-Ed by yours truly was published in Florida Today, Monday, May 14, 2018.)

Most folks do not realize that homicide detectives spend more than half their time on the job investigating suicides, accidental deaths and even unexplained natural deaths, not just murder cases. That’s because any of those could be a homicide in disguise.

Sometimes, it hits home. As a Miami-Dade County homicide supervisor in the 1970s, I was routinely reviewing a stack of reports when I came across a suicide case where a 65-year-old man shot himself in the head and left a note: “I don’t want to suffer the cancer.” His name was Joe Strauss. My stepfather’s brother, he was “Uncle” Joe to me.

On another occasion, I visited the morgue to consult with the medical examiner, a frequent occurrence. As I passed by the array of bodies wearing nothing but toe-tags, I noticed a small person lying with a bullet hole in her temple. I gasped. I knew this girl, my wife’s niece, age 11. Alone in the house, she found her dad’s pistol, lay on the bed and elected to die.

Nationally, suicides comprise more than double the number of homicides, 44,965 compared to

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MARIJUANA VERSUS NICOTINE: MYTHS AND REALITIES

I am a recovering drug addict. My drug of choice: Nicotine.

     On January 14, I celebrated my 35th anniversary of freedom from the chains of tobacco misery, smoking four packs of Pall Mall’s every day. I smoked constantly and everywhere, in the office, in elevators, movie theaters and yes, even in the shower with a burning butt on the edge of the commode. Every morning I suffered twenty minutes of wretched coughing jags, only to light up after.

     Nicotine is one of the most addictive and destructive drugs in history. For decades, American culture glorified cigarettes as though part of a sophisticated dress code. It was cool. Practically every movie depicted stars puffing on cigarettes; doctors and celebrities received handsome rewards for endorsing the drug; cigarette companies contributed to political parties while they deliberately enhanced the potency of tobacco to keep people hooked.

     My mother smoked Kents with the “micronite” filter, falling for the propaganda they were healthier than unfiltered. She died of cancer, 1966.

     It was all a lie. It was all about money. Cigarettes represented a multi-billion dollar industry. Naysayers and scientists who tried to tell the truth, who tried to warn, were ignored. They were bad

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BULLYING MORE SERIOUS THAN PEOPLE THINK

(This Op-Ed appears in the December 16, 2017 issue of Florida Today newspaper.)

Bullying is a nightmare for many kids, a problem which schools, government officials, and yes, some parents, do not take seriously enough. It can impact a person’s future forever. In some instances, it can cause death and destruction within families.

I know something about bullies. I remember a slightly built boy in seventh grade nicknamed Squidgie who didn’t realize that other kids thought he was a “fairy.” A bigger boy named Stanley and his followers began taunting Squidgie daily in hallways, bathrooms and school yards, belittling, screaming, laughing, pointing and humiliating the child to the point that he began to withdraw into his own world. His mother (widowed) was perplexed, unable to crack through the shell that Squidgie withdrew into.

One day, a gaggle of boys and girls played dodge ball after school with Squidgie as the target in the circle center until he fell. From there, came the pushing, hitting and kicking. The kids took his violin from the case and threw it in the bushes, all laughing and screaming, “Squidgie is a fairy” over and over. The world became a lonely place for that child.

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EXPRESS THOSE LOVING FEELINGS – WHILE YOU CAN

    Have you ever told an old friend, co-worker or supervisor what you really thought of him or her?  Sometimes we wait until it’s too late.

     One of my important police mentors, who guided me through the early days in homicide, became a lifelong friend, long into retirement. Sergeant Ray Beck was a class act, dignified, suave, articulate and smart. He loved his job, I loved working with him.

     Fast-forward to 2002.  Living North Carolina, I hadn’t seen Ray Beck for several years. I knew he had battled on and off with cancer issues. One morning, the phone rang, it was Ray Beck calling from Miami. He struggled to speak, voice raspy, shallow breathing. “Marshall.  (pause-cough) Just wanted you to know (pause) you were like (pause) a son to me.” (pause)

     “Ray? What’s wrong?” 

     In a near whisper, he said, “I…I…(pause-cough)…love you.”

     Dial tone.

     Stunned, I choked up. Then burst into tears. I would have headed to Miami the next day but it was too late. Ray had passed. I never relayed the same message back.

     Ray Beck was the consummate mentor, having taught me another lesson from his death bed. Today, I have no qualms about sharing my true feelings

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WHERE HAVE ALL THE HEROES GONE?

Before reading, please enjoy this 5-minute video/song by Bill Anderson titled: Where Have All the Heroes Gone.”

     Click here: Bill Anderson – Where Have All Our Heroes Gone – YouTube

     I wonder…where have they gone?

     Born in 1939, I grew up through many significant milestones in America; Wars, Political strife, Assassinations, Sports records, Entertainment giants, Economic dilemmas, Segregation, Civil Rights movements, Riots, Crime and more.

     Heroes abounded. As a little boy, I saw every president as a hero, because they stood for America, the greatest country in the history of the world. The first song I ever memorized on violin was the Star Spangled Banner, which I played daily for my second grade class at North Beach Elementary in Miami Beach. I learned early on, that the “Pledge” was a statement of loyalty to the greatest country on the planet, and how lucky I was to be a part of it…despite its flaws.

     The first television screen I ever saw was in New York City, 1948, where my parents were visiting a friend. It was a piece of oak furniture with a six-inch screen in the middle. Through the flickering black-and-white picture, I saw ball players running on a field.

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