Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 12, 2020

When I was a kid, my mother used to start all serious conversations with some remark about “The only certainty in life is death and taxes”. I did not like hearing this, because it was usually followed by some explanation of why some exciting planned trip to the beach was not going to happen. Now I learn she was wrong (one of only a few times, I must admit.) Turns out for an astonishing number of Americans, even having to pay taxes is not certain. The IRS estimates that individuals and corporations fail to pay one dollar out of every six that should have been paid to the federal government.[1] This is enabled by our Congress who cut funding for law enforcement audits and collections. Starting in 2010, Congress has reduced the IRS law enforcement budget by millions of dollars each year. It is now only 80 % of what it was in 2010. The number of employees was also reduced by one fifth. [2] In 2019 the IRS had 8,004 auditors – less than it had back in 1953 when the economy was about one-seventh its current size.[3],[4],[5] As a consequence, three major bad things happened.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: October 4, 2020

Imagine an evening (pre-COVID-19) where you take your family out to dinner and all order a family-sized meal of seafood gumbo full of clams, shrimp, and other delights.  Yous.  You may get more than you bargained for. Turns out that when someone throws a plastic bottle into the ocean, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes invisible to humans – but it does not go away.[1] Most of the plastic made in the world winds up in water where it breaks down into invisible but long-lasting pieces which gets eaten by wildlife.  The bodies of fish, clams, crabs, and other water critters consume these microplastics contain plastic they ate.  Bigger fish eat the little fish, you eat the big fish and when you eat the seafood, you also get a dose of plastic.[2]  No charge will appear on your bill - but you will pay for it in your healthcare bills. If you ordered hot tea with dinner, things could get worse because a surprising number of brands of tea have plastic in the teabag dissolving astounding amounts of invisible microplastics into the hot tea water which wind up in your tummy.[3],[4]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: September 28, 2020

Some years ago I took my son and young grandson fishing on Lake Norman here in North Carolina, near where we live.  Lake Norman had a historic reputation for big record setting fish, and I wanted to give him a chance to make a grand memory.  As I planned the trip, I had a fantasy of him standing with his arms outstretched as he bragged to his buddies about the one he caught. What surprised me as I was planning that trip was learning that the breed of big fish (striped bass) that set all the size records back in the day no longer survives in Lake Norman. Between 2000 and 2010, due to climate change, the lake water got so warm the traditional breed of striped bass could not survive. After they all died out, new breeds of fish had to be transplanted in Lake Norman that can survive these still rising temperatures.[1] Why do I tell this story? Because in my grandson’s lifetime, the same thing that killed off the fish can kill him, and many of his generation.  And it is not rising temperature.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: September 22, 2020

I have bad news, and good news.   The bad news is that if your household does not complete the Census by September 30, you can be fined $100.00.[1]  Why would you be fined?  Because money follows the numbers.  Populated areas get more. if your household does not complete the Census it can cost Cabarrus County $5,100 per year every year for the next 10 years in lost federal dollars that would have funded schools, police and fire, health departments, food stamps, environmental protection and almost 300 other community strengthening programs.  Your own family’s failure to take 10 minutes and answer a few questions would cost Cabarrus County taxpayers $51,000 between now and the next census in 2030.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: September 16, 2020

As a school kid, if I tried and failed at something important to me my dad would usually say “so, what have you learned from this?” I could share some examples, but I will not, thank you very much. If I made the same kind of mistake twice, I assured him I did not need to be reminded of it. Now I am not so sure. As I grew older, I began to realize that making the same mistake over and over was not just a personal problem – countries also repeat mistakes. One good example of our society making the same kind of mistake over again can be seen in our failure to remove lead from drinking water and paint where we live, work, and send our kids to school. The use of lead in plumbing and paint became common around 1900. Children began to eat lead paint flakes and drink lead-contaminated water, and suffer lifelong damage to their brain from it.  As the understanding of the cause and effect of lead on brains grew, the doctors started pushing for the removal of lead from paint and plumbing around 1920 - right about one hundred years ago.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: September 7, 2020

As my youngest grandson’s first birthday approached, and a Zoom birthday party was being planned, I was scrambling around trying to think of something I could order on-line that would make him (and his parents) happy and be small enough I would be willing to pay for express shipping. Yes, I had failed to pay attention when my wife kept reminding me that if I was going to send something, I need to do it last week. Sigh. How about candy? Well, I am not a fan of adding sugar to a kid’s diet, so that was out.   How about chewy vitamins?  They would maybe do some good health-wise, and maybe dodge or reduce the sugar bullet. As a father of four, and grandfather of a growing number, and a retired pediatric healthcare administrator, I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to protect children.  So I went online to try to figure out what kids’ vitamin would be a good choice.  I also looked up safety – and everything I learned was bad.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: August 18, 2020

During the last two “pre-covid” school years, Rowan County was the only county in America where both the K-12 school system and the community college both scored in the top ten in the nation for their on-line teaching capability.  Rowan/Salisbury schools and its 20,000 students is one of the most advanced on-line public school systems in the country, ranked in the digital top 10 large K-12 school systems in America over several years for its digital technical infrastructure and teachers trained in electronic teaching, and because of the school systems success in ensuring that the students have access to the Internet through widespread installation of electronic equipment that allow all students throughout the district to connect to the school system. (1)

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: August 6, 2020

A fierce disorganized debate is raging as our country approaches the time schools traditionally open. Millions of citizens afraid of suffering lifelong damage to their health from the virus are trying to stay home, wearing face masks if they go out, and otherwise avoid being in large groups. There is tension between this group and the folks who desperately want life to go back to something resembling normal with schools in session. Other millions find themselves in the middle, unsure what to do. For many, it feels like the ship is in danger of sinking, and people are looking around for life rafts should they be needed.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: August 6, 2020

We are at war with COVID-19.  What is surprising is that the casualty reports are leaving an entire group out.  When we talk about the war on COVID-19, the casualty reports talk about “infected”, “deaths” and “recovered” – but no “wounded”.   Think back to how the casualties of war are stated. In the Vietnam War, there were 3.4 million United States military in Southeast Asia.  47,434 died in combat, and 303,644 were wounded (1).  In many cases those that were wounded lost arms or legs, or suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and endured lifelong health issues.  To this day the publicly available websites all show them as having been wounded. The same is not true when recording casualties in our war with COVID-19.   As crazy as it sounds, once a patient who was infected with COVID-19 and is added to the state and national data bases, they are automatically moved to the “recovered” column within a month (2). This is terribly misleading to the American public as they try to plan ahead.


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