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Sunflowers are happy, healthy

18Fitness is not always about what we eat, maintaining a healthy lifestyle or how much we exercise. It is also about things that we love that bring joy. Happiness is a large contributor to our health and leads to many positive behaviors.

Many things in life make us happy. I particularly like sunflowers; their large heads follow the sun from sunrise to sunset. They derived their name from the Greek word Helianthus, Heli means son and Anthus means flower. Some Ancient cultures were known to worship them. There is a mythical story about the Sunflower and a couple called Clytie and Apollo. Apollo did not love Clytie, but she became a sunflower to offer hope, happiness and renewal, and she followed the sun each day spreading warmth and sunshine.

There are more than 70 varieties of sunflowers and an annual plant that comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors. They are native to North America and one of the easiest plants to grow. The rarest sunflower for North and South Carolina is a perennial wildflower. Its common name is Schweitz’s sunflower, one of the rarest species of sunflowers in the U.S.

The tallest sunflower was grown in Germany and reached over thirty-one feet. Sunflowers rotate during the day to pivot their faces towards the sun and can rotate as much as 180 degrees. Once the flower reaches maturity the flower faces east to gather the warmth of the morning sun providing a source for pollinating bees.

Sunflowers have been used for aesthetic, medicinal and aesthetic purposes through the centuries. They are a popular choice for weddings and floral decorations and have been used in many ways. The Cherokee Nation used the leaves to treat kidney problems and the Dakota for pulmonary and chest pains. The oils from the seeds were used as an oil to paint the body. They were used for dermatology, appetite stimulants, sand painting ceremonies and used as suave. They have a rich history as a food plan and are still eaten raw, cooked, ground, dried and used as oil.

Purple and black dywes were extracted by soaking them in water to make color for baskets and body paint. They were worn in the hair for ceremonies and carved wooden discs have been found in prehistoric sites in Arizona. It has been found that they have been used for fuel, food for poultry and livestock. The Chinese have used fibers in the manufacturing of fabrics.

The consumption of sunflower seeds has been linked to lower rates of cholesterol, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. They are the source of vitamins that help to support your immune system and are high in zinc, selenium and boost your energy.

Sunflowers for arrangements are an excellent choice adding a bold and rich color to a striking presence. Proper care can keep your arrangements lasting longer. Hydration is an important step in maintaining the life of your sunflowers. Water is essential in the first step of cutting for immersion and cutting the stems again to have continued water flow to the heads for extended shelf life. Using a preservative can also help with maintaining freshness. Sunflowers cut from the garden should be picked a few hours after dawn for hydration. Sunflowers picked during mid-day may result in the flowers drooping. Place in containers where the heads can be supported and remove all the leaves below the surface to prevent bacteria from growing. Pair your flowers with greenery and flowers with a variety of shapes or a simple cluster.

Live, love life and sunflowers.

Can House Bill 951 keep winter from coming to North Carolina?

6Winter is coming. I know it’s hard to fathom amid a hot, humid North Carolina summer, but it is. Across from our beautiful beaches, The Economist predicts “Europe’s Winter of Discontent.”
Disastrous public policies that increase dependence on unreliable energy sources and hostile foreign regimes have put the free world, including all of us here in North Carolina, in a perilous position. The Wall Street Journal warns, “People even in affluent countries are learning they can no longer take reliable electric power for granted.” If you live in Texas or California, you’ve seen it firsthand.

Not long ago, I worked in the energy policy space in Colorado, ground zero for some of the most absurd public policy surrounding energy. Climate alarmism has been a trendy accessory of the wealthy Aspen-Boulder-

Telluride après ski circuit for decades. Their money and influence changed the pragmatic political climate from purple to progressive green. In North Carolina, it would be the equivalent of having Asheville and Chapel Hill run the state.

The change in Colorado gave rise to Democrats like state Rep. Max Tyler, who successfully championed the doubling and tripling of the state’s original 10% renewable energy mandate. Tyler’s response to critics: “The sun will always shine for free, the winds will always blow for free, and our energy production will be cleaner. Renewable energy, green jobs, and a cleaner future — what’s not to like?”
Colorado ditched its 30% mandate a while ago in favor of 100% renewables by 2040. As a result, electric rates have skyrocketed. It’s an effective way to keep out the peasants.

What Tyler and other renewable zealots don’t tell you is that converting those sources to electricity is wildly expensive. In terms of reliability, the cost is even higher. It also puts us in a subservient position to China, which controls roughly 90% of the global market of rare earth elements needed to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines. To answer Max Tyler’s question — “what’s not to like?” A lot.

Gov. Roy Cooper and the environmental left want a similar path for North Carolina. They want zero carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation, and they want to use industrial wind and utility-scale solar and batteries to meet that goal. Meanwhile, most ratepayers want affordable, reliable, abundant electricity to power their homes, businesses, hospitals, schools — their entire way of life.

Those objectives aren’t compatible. Anyone who tells you they are is lying.
In the words of energy analyst Mitch Rolling, “You can’t have a clean grid without hydro and nuclear. It’s never been done. You can have a clean grid without wind and solar.”

In its recently released scenarios to achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions, Duke Energy is attempting the impossible. The four different scenarios are heavy on wind, including offshore, along with solar, batteries, and eventually hydrogen.
Our latest report from the Center for Food, Power, and Life analyzed each scenario and found the cost will be $140 billion to $160 billion, more than $1,000 per year for residential customers. That’s the decision the Cooper-appointed North Carolina Utilities Commission will make soon on behalf of millions of Tar Heel ratepayers.

Because Duke is a regulated monopoly utility, North Carolinians will assume all the risk by paying hundreds of billions of dollars to build out unproven and unreliable technology. The NCUC sets a rate of return, usually around 9-10%, and Duke is allowed to privatize all the profit. Cooper will be out of office in 2024, long before the pain is fully felt.

Consider yourselves warned; winter is coming. We won’t be able to keep ourselves warm in January unless we insist to the NCUC and Duke to rely upon nuclear to achieve the General Assembly’s policy goal of zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Standing between North Carolinians and reliable power from nuclear are organizations like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the mega-churches of leftist environmentalism. They intentionally conflate clean, reliable nuclear power with nuclear weapons. They’ve filed their own plan heavy on unreliable wind and solar.

There is good news. Ratepayers have state law on their side. Last year’s H.B. 951 directed Duke to comply with a least-cost principle and maintain or improve upon the existing grid reliability when building out the utility’s zero-carbon generation plans. Our analysis shows that none of the regulated monopoly’s four plans maintains the spirit of the law.

It’s likely the same legislators who passed H.B. 951 will have to get involved again to ensure the NCUC and Duke comply with their wishes so ratepayers can expect reliable power at an affordable price.
No one can afford a nasty winter.

Will hospitals kill Medicaid expansion?

4For more than a decade now, advocates of the Affordable Care Act have pressed the North Carolina General Assembly to implement the federal law’s most expansive and expensive element: expanding Medicaid to virtually all low-income adults. Every year, advocates have left the legislature disappointed.

They left disappointed at the end of the 2022 legislative session, too. I wish it was because most lawmakers resolutely rejected Medicaid expansion. I’m no fan of the policy, which would add hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians to the public dole and widen the federal government’s already massive budget deficit.

But lawmakers who once expressed similar concerns, including House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, have switched their positions. Medicaid expansion now enjoys bipartisan support in both chambers, however much I might wish otherwise. (Of course, if I thought wishes could alter reality, I wouldn’t be a conservative.)
So why didn’t expansion happen this summer? Gov. Roy Cooper hit the nail on the head last week when he blamed the intransigence of North Carolina’s hospital executives, whom he urged to “step up and compromise with the state legislature.”

Their lobbying arm, the North Carolina Healthcare Association, quickly responded with letters to Cooper, Moore and Berger as well as full-page ads in many of the state’s largest newspapers that shifted the blame back on lawmakers. Hospital execs “are not elected to office, and therefore we are not the ones standing in the way of passing legislation,” wrote the president of the association, Steve Lawler. “That burden, and opportunity, lies with your branches of government.”

The dispute isn’t really about Medicaid expansion anymore. It’s about an archaic regulatory system called certificate of need, or CON. North Carolina requires hospitals, physician practices and other providers to get a permission slip from the state to add a new location, expand an existing one or make other major investments in equipment or services.

When CON was concocted decades ago, its proponents believed such a regulatory apparatus would keep prices down by discouraging the overutilization of services. Then reality intruded. By limiting competition, CON created monopolies and cartels that tended to drive prices up and quality down, just as they do in most other sectors of the economy.

I’ve written many times about the adverse effects of this wrongheaded policy. During the pandemic, for example, jurisdictions with strict CON laws had a harder time meeting the demand for hospital beds and medical care. Some states, including North Carolina, enacted temporary respites from the regulations — a decision that, according to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Risk and Financial Management, led to a “reduction in mortality resulting from COVID-19, septicemia, diabetes, chronic lower respiratory disease, influenza or pneumonia, and Alzheimer’s Disease.”

In the version of Medicaid expansion passed by the North Carolina Senate, this temporary relaxation would be replaced with permanent decontrol. The House version left out CON reform, though it appears that lawmakers in both chambers would be inclined to work something out in the absence of heavy pressure from hospitals loath to give up their CON-protected fiefdoms.

This is what Cooper is talking about. As a Democratic governor facing a Republican-controlled legislature, he has been unable to get much of his policy agenda enacted into law. His administration has been largely one of executive orders and vetoes, not signing ceremonies.

Still, Medicaid expansion has been a top goal for six years — and now Berger and Moore have walked very far in his direction. With a deal so tantalizingly close, Cooper’s frustration is both unmistakable and understandable. “When pretty much everybody agrees that we ought to expand Medicaid in our state,” he said, “it’s important to go ahead and get it done.”

I don’t agree, but I’m just a lowly scribbler. Steve Lawler and his members could make expansion happen this year if they budge on CON. Or perhaps lawmakers will defy this powerful interest group. I admit it — I’m not sure which side to root for.

Why Democrats should win every election

5Every major program that has improved the lives of Americans over the past 100 years has been created by Democrats.

Read that sentence again. I know it’s a lot to take in, but it’s a fact.

Every major program that families like yours and mine have relied on to improve our health, education, and economic outcomes was proposed, planned, and passed by Democrats.
Social Security (1935)
GI Bill and VA Loans (1944)
Medicare and Medicaid (1965)
Pell Grants (1972)
Affordable Care Act (2010)
American Rescue Plan (2021)

Here’s another fact: not a single person reading this can raise their hand and say, “neither I nor my family has benefited from any of these.” If your family is like mine, you’ve likely benefited from many,
if not all, these programs.

Those monthly payments that started the month after your 62nd or 65th birthday, the ones that never miss a month, whether the economy is in expansion, recession or depression — Democrats instituted those after the Great Depression, so that seniors would be able to retire and enjoy that time of life, rather than working until the day they drop dead, which is how it used to be.
Those grants for low-and moderate-income families to send their kids to college were dreamed up by then-Democratic U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, in response to the soaring cost of college and a realization that a college degree is a gateway to the middle class. Since its inception, 80 million Americans have received Pell grants.

Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare and Medicaid Act into law as part of Democrats’ war on poverty and what a difference it’s made! Currently 145 million Americans are on Medicare or Medicaid - that’s 44% of the country! Nearly five million of those great Americans live right here in NC.

Since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, the rate of uninsured in the U.S. has fallen to its lowest level in history. A full 92% of Americans now have health insurance, due to Democrats’ vision for a nation where people could - gasp! - go to the doctor when they need to, instead of staying home, getting sicker, and dying earlier than they have to. Incredibly, that number would be even higher but for the 12 Republican-led states, including NC, that refuse to expand Medicaid benefits to their working poor.

On Aug. 7, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 passed the U.S. Senate. It’s headed to the U.S. House next, where the Democrat so many people love to hate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will drag it across the finish line (likely without any Republican votes) and deliver it to President Joe Biden’s desk.
Once it goes into effect, it will cap the out-of-pocket costs for those on Medicare to $2,000 per year or $166 per month. That’s it. That’s all anyone on Medicare will pay out of pocket each year, no matter how much the medical bills actually are!

The original bill also included a $35 per month cap on insulin for the seven million Americans who need it and purchase it each month. Republicans in the US Senate (including NC’s Thom Tillis and Richard Burr) objected to that and voted it out of the bill. Now, even if the IRA becomes law, those on employer-sponsored insurance plans or who have private insurance will continue to pay between $350 and $1,000 each month for insulin. Remember, it could have been $35!

Friend, there has only been one party in this country, that, during the past 100 years, has looked at the national landscape and decided that the people’s government should work better for the people.

Only one party has seen the sick, the poor, the uneducated, and the elderly being left out or left behind and said, not on our watch.

Only one party has held fast to the novel yet noble idea, that hardworking taxpayers should see the real, material impact of those tax dollars on their quality of life. That has been the Democrats! And Republicans have opposed this progress every step of the way.

Despite the near-constant media narrative that the country is terribly polarized, with Democrats and Republicans split down the middle, I’d say that many if not most Americans favor Democratic values by a wide margin.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a litmus test.

If you rely on a monthly social security payment, that’s an endorsement of Democratic policies. If you or your child are one of the more than six million Americans using a Pell grant to help fund your college education this year, then you actually like Democratic principles. If your 25-year-old remains on your health insurance, so that even though they’re unemployed they don’t have to be uninsured, then you probably feel really grateful for Obamacare. If you were able to purchase your home with a VA loan, then you too, are a champion of Democratic values.

In November, each voter has an important choice. There are many ways to frame that choice but at its root it comes down to a single decision — elect Democrats or elect Republicans.

The choice is yours, of course, but before I’d go into the ballot booth and elect a Republican, I’d thank my lucky stars that the voters who came before me didn’t do the same. If they had, many of the very programs we rely on for our healthcare, our children’s education, and our economic mobility wouldn’t exist today.

Editor's note: Sen. Ben Clark has served since 2013 in the NC Senate representing Cumberland and Hoke counties. He is running for the NC 9th Congressional District, which consists of all of Chatham, Hoke, Lee, Moore, Randolph and Scotland and parts of Cumberland, Harnett and Richmond counties. The 9th is also home to Fort Bragg.

The silent tragedy of toenail fungus

6 Are you worried? Suffer from chronic anxiety? Are you too pooped to pop as Lucy Ricardo said in her Vitameatavegamins commercial? To quote our old friend, William Wordsworth: “The world is too much with us; late and soon/ Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”

Has buying stuff from China lost its charm? Have you run out of PPP money the feds shoveled out the door during the bad Rona times? Has your ability to change the world powered down? Tired of worrying about big issues you can do nothing about? How about worrying about a small problem that you can do something about? Wouldn’t that be a pleasant change from concerns about Putin? Step right up and keep reading. Today we explore the wonderland of First World Problems.

First World Problems do not involve big things like starvation, wars and rumors of wars, or the curious rise of neighborhood Fascism. Nope, First World Problems are minor annoyances that only people at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy would notice. First World Problems are so minor they don’t even register unless a TV commercial brings them to your attention. Then they can sell you a solution for a problem Big Pharma invented.
Can you recall Hans Christian Andersen’s story of “The Princess and the Pea”? Allow me to mansplain it to you. Princess Karen had a First World Problem — extreme sensitivity to tiny irritants. Like Edgar Allen Poe’s character Annabel Lee, Karen lived “many and many a year ago in a Kingdom by the Sea.” But Karen wasn’t always a princess. She started out as a shivering rain-drenched traveler on a muddy road. Her extreme sensitivity led her to becoming a princess.

Once upon a time there was a prince who needed a wife. He looked far and wide in the kingdom to find a suitable bride. Unfortunately, his Mamma got to decide who the prince would marry. Mamma decreed that the prince could only marry a real princess. When the prince would bring home a maiden to meet the family, Mamma always found something wrong with his date. The date talked too much, ate too much, table manners were bad, wasn’t pretty enough. You get the picture; Mamma was a pill. No woman was going to be good enough for her little boy.

The prince was getting pretty frustrated at the revolving rejections. Then one dark and stormy night, came a knock on the castle door. This was before Ring doorbells with cameras were invented, so the prince answered the door himself. There stood Karen, a bedraggled soaking wet maiden seeking shelter from the storm. Karen claimed to be a princess but she looked more like a peasant. Word was out in the kingdom that the prince was looking for a wife. Lots of fake princesses showed up at the castle door hoping to snag the prince into the coils of matrimony.

To weed out fake princesses, Mamma had a test. It is well known that a real princess would be extremely delicate and hyper sensitive to everything. Karen was sent to a chamber where 20 mattresses and 20 quilts were piled upon a bed. Underneath the bottom mattress Mamma placed a single pea. The next morning Mamma asked how Karen had slept. Karen complained she had not slept all night because something in the bed had hurt her back leaving her bruised. This proved Karen was the real deal as only a real princess could be so sensitive. Karen and the handsome prince were married. They lived happily ever after, remaining friends even after their divorce.

Fast forward to Now. According to TV commercials there is a wide spread problem with the silent tragedy of toe fungus in America. Toe fungus is a major First World Problem. News shows are replete with commercials for products to fight and cure toe fungus. A person with toe fungus is shamed and outcast from polite society. There are numerous potions out there ready, willing, and able to cure your toe fungus so you can be returned to society. One cure features a cute little cartoon toe fungus gremlin who climbs under your big toe nail. He laughs maniacally while he messes you up. The ads are intentionally disgusting. They highlight the gruesome ravages of toe fungus which can infect your entire family unless you buy their product. The message is you are a lousy human being if you don’t purchase their Toe Fungicide.

I prefer Mark Twain’s cure for warts which should also work on toe fungus. Tom Sawyer used spunk water from a rotten tree stump and a bean. Tom says cut your wart to get some blood to put it on the bean. Bury the bean at a crossroads at midnight in the dark of the moon. Chant “Down bean. Off wart; come no more to bother me.” Huck Finn’s cure for warts involved a dead cat. Take the dead cat to a graveyard. The Devil will come to the graveyard to get the body of a newly buried wicked man around midnight. “Then heave your cat after ‘em and say: ‘Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow cat, I’m done with ye!’”

Huzzah! Warts and toe fungus are gone. A First World Problem solved without Big Pharma.

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