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Archives for May 28, 2013

Speak Out for May 27, 2013

May 27, 2013 11:28AM

The Chicago Board of Education recently voted to close 50 schools. | File photo

Some failing schools have high absentee rates. You can’t teach kids who don’t show up. The problem with failing schools is kids not trying. It’s not the teachers’ fault and it’s not the school building.

In the light of the massive devastation from the Oklahoma tornado disaster, you don’t know from day to day when your life will end so live life to its fullest and practice love.

BJ from Hazel Crest

How can anyone be against expanding background checks for gun purchases? Well, let’s see. We can enact new laws and then tell the people in charge of processing the background checks to delay them or put a few people in place to process a million requests. That would never happen in the United States, would it?

James S. from Crete

I was driving down the street and I saw three landscaping trailers. I got to wondering if the kids have become so lazy that they don’t even cut the grass anymore. I wouldn’t even suggest using one of those reel-type mowers of my past. That would be asking too much these days.

The Link card police are ineligible for the card because we work. Most of us don’t make a living off of having more babies for bigger checks. We get punished for making an honest living.

Now, more than ever, teens and children are raping and sexually molesting other kids. I wonder what the promoters of graphic sex in the media and porn think. How about the lazy parents who drag their new sex partners through their kids lives or have open porn in their homes? What do they think? Not much I’m sure because they never put their kids’ welfare first. What a sad, disgusting statement on our society!

I know the president has nothing to do with gasoline prices, but isn’t it amazing how gas prices seem to drop during an election year?

While walking the annual Oak Park Avenue benches, I noticed the banners on the posts that say “Experience Tinley.” Overgrown grass and weeds, empty storefronts and boarded windows, trash piled on the side of a business, crumbling parking lots and more than a few dead trees. I don’t think that was the experience they had in mind.

Tinley Park

This is to folks who think they are being clever. They say that knives were used in some attacks so knives should be banned, or that the Boston bombers used remote controls from toys so those should be banned, or we should ban cars because they can kill. They are forgetting an important distinction. All of these aforementioned items’ main function has nothing to do with killing. The only thing a gun is meant to do is kill.


Kevin from Midlothian says I contend that there isn’t any evidence of God answering prayers. He asks, “What evidence is there that God hasn’t answered any prayers?” He could just as well ask what evidence there is that Zeus or Apollo hasn’t answered any prayers. When someone claims something exists, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. If a person claims that the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot exists, it is up to that person to show others that his claim is true. If he cannot, no one should be expected to believe what he says.

Jeff from Orland Hills

As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. This is just like pushing an elevator button that has already been pushed being a waste of time. So is voting to repeal Obamacare 37 times. I think Republicans have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars repeating the vote 36 times. How about this, Republicans? Repeal the sequestration and fully fund Head Start, cancer research and Meals on Wheels.

Why is it OK for a person to leash their dog and walk him out of their yard across the street to do his business on my grass and then they are offended when I ask them to not walk their dog on my grass? I want my grass to look as good as everyone else. Is this a new thing that is socially accepted? When you take your dog for a walk you can let him do his business in your yard. Then you can continue the walk for exercise.

Tom from Frankfort

Prior Grand Knight Hank Montoya, of the Knights of Columbus Council 14553 in Oak Lawn, recently visited the San Patricio Council 14992 in Cancun, Mexico. While on vacation there, Montoya exchanged ideas and resources. He presented a check valued at 1,260 pesos on behalf of Council 14553. The San Patricio Council was grateful for the donation, which was given to a local orphanage.


We are supposed to have the most transparent administration in the history of the United States, according to President Obama, yet this scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative groups has been going on for three years. Why wasn’t this reported a year ago? You don’t think they were holding back instead of reporting this years ago? Oh, no, not President Obama. He wouldn’t do something like that.

While I agree with the ban of magazines that can hold up to 30 bullets, I should let you know that I can change a clip in three seconds and my little brother can change a clip in two seconds. So I don’t see what a difference that would make.

If Gov. Pat Quinn gives in to Chicago or Cook County regarding casinos then that would be like giving an arsonist a flamethrower.

Bob from Oak Forest

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Fringe benefits?

William Palin examines the threat from rising land values to some of London’s most cherished areas

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Greens of your own

As the rains return to Costa Rica, now is the best time to get started planting a home garden.

Ed Bernhardt

Ed Bernhardt

The bright, sunny mornings are ideal for getting outside to do some exercise while tending the garden and landscaping plants around the home. A natural home garden can produce an abundance of nutritious fruits and vegetables, and, as the cost of living rises and rises, the garden can help stretch your income.  

Here’s a mini-list of my favorite vegetables for a natural garden. These plants grow in most regions of the country, and even apartment dwellers can grow these plants in containers on porches and windows. Seeds are available in many nurseries and agricultural supply stores across the country.

Cabbage (repollo) is an ideal choice for mid-elevations to the highland regions, while Chinese cabbage or repollo chino and collards or col produce well in the hotter regions.   

Cherry Tomatoes (tomatillos) are much hardier than the large tomatoes. They resist disease and pests because they are genetically stronger. Tomatillos can also be grown in five-gallon containers around small home sites or apartments. Be sure to tie them up to a pole or trellis.  Choose bright sunny spots for tomatoes with well-drained, fertile soil.

Green beans (vainicas) provide an ample supply of high-quality protein for the family. Ag supply stores offer the variety called Provider or Provenador. Plant the seeds directly in the garden in bright sunny spots with well-drained soil. 

Onions (cebollinas), and particularly the hardy green bunching onions and chives grow well in most regions of the country. These onions are also called dividing onions, because they propagate new shoots from each plant. That means you keep getting new plants for free!

Chives and garlic are also easy to grow at home. Garlic does particularly well as a potted plant in the tropics. Start your seeds in a flat or small pots. Once they become hardy, transplant them to the garden. Harvest mature leaves at the base of each plant for salads and seasonings.

Lettuce (lechuga) is easy to grow, as long as you make sure you’re growing the right kind for the tropics. Hot-weather lettuce varieties, like open-leafed salad bowl or oak leaf, are your best bet. Lettuce is tender and needs sunny to partial shaded areas and well drained, rich soil for good production. During the heavy rains, it’s easier to grow lettuce in containers around the sunny sides of you home under the eve of the roof, out of the heavy downpours that tender lettuce just can’t take.

Mustard (mostaza) is the easiest to grow of the leafy greens. You can plant the seeds directly in the garden or in pots or containers. Find bright, sunny areas for growing mustard with well-drained, even average soil.  You can tame the fiery taste of mustard by steaming it. You can also include it in your favorite omelets, stir-fries or vegetable dishes.

Radish (rabano) is very popular with the locals, and is used in a vinegar and vegetable mix with hot chilies called chilero. Seeds are planted directly in the garden beds with average to fertile soil. This is the fastest growing garden veggie, and you can harvest in less than 45 days! The variety China rose is a favorite amongst gardeners.

Parsley (perejil) grows well in gardens in cooler regions or as a potted plant indoors. Seeds are delicate and do best when planted in a flat or small pots. The seeds take two weeks to germinate. 

Cilantro (cilantro) is a traditional green used for flavoring salads and many dishes, like gallo pinto and ceviche. This queen of the salad greens is hard to beat nutritionally. Its seed can be sown directly in the garden or in pots for kitchen use. It’s also easy to collect seeds for replanting. 

We do hope you join the gardening party here in Costa Rica this year. For more information on tropical gardening, see our newsletter at:

We have books and seeds to share with you. Until next time … life’s a garden!

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For Sale: A Madoff Home With a Pool, and Shadows

In many ways, the house is quite beautiful. But it is also a place full of shadows, a haunting just visible in its empty silver picture frames and in the red, white and blue signs that hang on every door: “United States Marshal,” the signs say. “No Trespassing.”

The shadow behind all that opulence is other people’s money. This was one of the residences of Peter B. Madoff, chief compliance officer at the firm owned by his older brother, Bernard L. Madoff.

Peter Madoff pleaded guilty last year to a host of crimes, including falsifying documents and lying to regulators. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to forfeit all of his and his family’s assets to the government, so they could be sold, piece by piece, and the proceeds distributed to victims of his brother’s Ponzi scheme.

The Marshals Service took possession of the Old Westbury home in January, and late last month it put the property on the market for $4.495 million.

“When dealing with a home this grandiose, the outside world can lose sight of where all these fine things come from,” Kevin Kamrowski, a deputy United States marshal, said in an e-mail. “Everything in this home was obtained on the backs of other people.”

When the Marshals Service takes over a property, a well-practiced process is set in motion. First, the house is secured and the locks are changed; motion-sensing security systems and surveillance cameras might be installed. (In the foyer of the Madoff property, there is a sturdy-looking gray box standing on an ornate little table. Feel free to wave at it.)

Next, contractors are hired to do a bit of maintenance, and a real estate management company brings in a local agent to sell the property. In a high-profile case, the Marshals Service helps to select the sales team.

An important preliminary: Every single piece of property that is not a part of the house itself is indexed, appraised and tagged.

At the house on Pheasant Run, in the 600-square-foot formal living room, a forest of little white tags swing from every surface. They are on gold-color lamps, crystal candlesticks and a delicate wooden coffee table piled high with books, including “Dog Painting: The European Breeds,” “Dog Painting: A Social History of the Dog in Art” and “A Breed Apart.”

Above the fireplace, centered over a mantel of dark wood and darker marble, the dog theme continues, with a painting of what appears to be a chocolate Labrador retriever. Nearby, a painting of a blond toddler playing with another dog — also large, but this time shaggy — hangs in a gilded frame. In the library, two smaller dogs reside together in a frame above a sofa.

And if you were to take them off the wall, you would find a little white tag behind every one. Even the patio furniture, the dog dishes in the kitchen, and bottles of gin and Cognac in a mirrored bar in the corner of the library are tagged and numbered. Once the house is sold, its contents will be auctioned to the public, in what will surely be one of Long Island’s best-attended tag sales.

Despite these little touches, the house generally does not feel like a criminal’s lair. Indeed, like any other high-priced home for sale, it has been carefully staged to show its prettiest face to potential buyers. A bit of landscaping was done here, some robes were hung in an immense bathroom over there, and there was even an elaborate picnic spread arranged in a basket on the kitchen table, complete with checkered napkins and cutlery.

“This was staged with, believe it or not, my recommendations and the hard work of the U.S. Marshals office,” said Shawn Elliott of Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes and Estates, the broker brought in to sell the property. “Every single book in here was actually taken off the shelf, tagged and numbered, and then put back.”

One book, however, was left out, prominently displayed on a table in the library: “A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy,” by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

As a part of the staging, the asset forfeiture division of the Marshals Service tries to remove personal effects, like clothing, that might walk away during a tour, or might remind potential buyers of who once padded down these hallways in his slippers. A small bedroom is stacked high with cardboard boxes full of clothing and other items that will eventually go to auction. Photographs removed from frames are returned to the family.

Even with a name as notorious as “Madoff,” there is no felon discount on a home like this. Bernard Madoff’s Manhattan apartment was sold for $8 million and Peter Madoff’s Park Avenue two-bedroom for $4.6 million, prices in line with the market at the time. Some personal belongings can even fetch inflated prices, like Bernard Madoff’s Mets jacket, which sold at auction in 2009 for $14,500.

Some potential buyers who have come through the Old Westbury house have been curious about the Madoffs, Mr. Elliott said. But for his part, he tries to think about the scandal as little as possible.

“The less I know about a situation, for me, the better,” Mr. Elliott said. “My job as the real estate broker on this is to get the victims as much money as humanly possible.”

Mr. Elliott has received offers on the property, but none has been accepted yet. When the house is finally sold, the proceeds will go to a victims compensation fund administered by the Justice Department, which has so far recovered more than $2.3 billion for Madoff victims. A separate fund for property and proceeds associated with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities is being administered by Irving Picard and has recovered $9.345 billion.

Though Peter and Marion Madoff’s primary residence was in Manhattan, they owned the house in Old Westbury for more than 20 years, and despite best efforts, that amount of history can be difficult to completely scrub away. Last week, there were still a few signs of the lives lived in that house before: a pair of reading glasses on a marble countertop; two jars of marmalade left in a bare refrigerator; and inside a long pearl box in Mrs. Madoff’s bathroom, a single artificial fingernail tip, painted a warm shade of cotton candy pink.

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Earthly delights abound in Getty Museum exhibition on Renaissance gardens

LOS ANGELES, CA.- During the Renaissance, gardens and their flora were used as religious symbols in art, as signs of social status, or simply enjoyed for their aesthetic value. Whether part of a grandiose villa or a feature of a common kitchen yard, gardens were planted and treasured by people at all social levels. In a variety of texts, manuscript artists depicted gardens, and their illustrations attest to the Renaissance spirit for the careful study of the natural world. In Gardens of the Renaissance, on view May 28–August 11, 2013 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, visitors are given a glimpse into how people at the time pictured, used, and enjoyed these idyllic green spaces.

The exhibition features over 20 manuscript illuminations, a painting, a drawing and a photograph from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, as well as loaned works from the Getty Research Institute and private collectors James E. and Elizabeth J. Ferrell. In addition to the exhibition, the Getty’s Central Garden will be planted with flowers and greenery commonly seen during the Renaissance in Europe, with their care overseen by Central Garden supervisor Michael DeHart.

“This exhibition celebrates the Renaissance garden, which inherited the traditions established by the medieval monastic cloister and provided the foundation for the extravagant gardens of the Baroque period, such as Louis XIV’s renowned Versailles,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The exhibition will include a number of exceptional objects from the Museum’s collection that reflect the Renaissance appreciation for magnificent foliage, brilliant color, and landscape design. We are also in a unique position to share with visitors living examples of typical Renaissance plantings through our own garden, which I’m sure will bring the exhibition to life and greatly appeal to the many visitors who come to enjoy our spectacular gardens and landscaping.”

Gardens in Word and Image
During the Renaissance, when gardens were planted in great number, it was only natural that garden imagery permeated the pages of manuscripts and printed books, from popular romances and philosophical treatises to medicinal and devotional texts. As literary settings, gardens were idyllic spaces where lovers met, courtiers retreated from city life, and adventurers sought an earthly paradise. Religious symbolism was common even in floral imagery, as in French artist Jean Bourdichon’s The Adoration of the Magi (about 1480–85), where grapes, roses, blue speedwell, and red anemones all signify some aspect of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Although the garden is already represented in art from the Middle Ages, Renaissance depictions show an increased concern for naturalism and the documentation of new and rare plant species. One of the best-known examples of this is by Flemish artist Joris Hoefngael who—at the bequest of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II—illuminated a book of calligraphy samples with depictions of plants, animals, and insects. In Insect, Tulip, Caterpillar, Spider, Pear (about 1591–96), Hoefnagel painted a pink-and-yellow-striped tulip with spellbinding precision, thus preserving a floral record of species from as far away as modern-day Turkey and Peru.

Gardens of the Bible
The story of Christian salvation is rooted in gardens, from Adam and Eve’s original sin in the Garden of Eden to Christ’s resurrection in the Garden of Gethsemane. Renaissance theologians and adventurers sought to discover the location of Eden, and pilgrims risked the dangers of travel to visit the gardens that Christ had frequented. For most other devout Christians, tranquil manuscript images of Mary in a garden facilitated devotion and prayer. Artists often represented Eden as a verdant orchard with high walls, while the gardens associated with Mary and Christ tend to be smaller and enclosed by a simple wooden fence.

“In a society dominated by the Catholic Church, gardens were integral to a Christian visual tradition,” says Bryan C. Keene, assistant curator in the manuscripts department at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “This exhibition offers religious context for much of the exquisite garden imagery seen in manuscript pages and elsewhere in art of the time.”

A distinctive engagement of religion and nature occurs in the representation of Christ as a gardener. According to the Bible, after the Crucifixion, Christ was buried on a plot of land containing a garden. His follower, Mary Magdalene, initially mistakes Christ for a gardener, but rejoices when she recognizes him. In an image by Flemish artist Lieven van Lathem (about 1469), Mary Magdalene kneels before the resurrected Christ, who is depicted holding a shovel to represent her initial misidentification. In a pen and gray black ink drawing of Christ as the Gardener (about 1470—1490) by the Upper Rhenish Master, Christ is seen again with a shovel amidst some grass, and offers a gesture as if to tell Mary Magdalene (not pictured) not to hold on to him since he must ascend to heaven.

Gardens at Court
What is an Italian villa or French château without a garden? In the Renaissance, gardens complemented the architectural harmony of courtly estates through plantings along a central axis and beds of herbs and flowers arranged in geometric patterns. The combination of sculptures, fountains, and topiaries in gardens not only expressed the patron’s control over nature but also expressed the Renaissance ideal that art is shaped by art.

In manuscripts, a courtly garden could serve as a backdrop that conveyed a ruler’s status or as a stage for activities both reputable and scandalous. In Jean Bourdichon’s Bathsheba Bathing (1498–99), Bathsheba’s sensuous nude figure seduces not only King David at the palace window but likely also the patron of the manuscript that contained this leaf, King Louis XII of France. The biblical story that inspired this image does not mention a garden, but artists often placed Bathsheba in one because a garden traditionally represented female virtue.

Gardens of the Renaissance is on view May 28–August 11, 2013 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Bryan Keene, assistant curator in the manuscripts department.

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Cut corners with lazy gardener’s tips

cairns botanical gardens

With enough good plants, weeds can’t grow / File
Source: Supplied

SO you’d love your garden to look magnificent, but the amount of effort required seems daunting?

Don’t fret – at some stage, we all feel the same way. No matter what those smug, green-thumbed, know-alls say, gardening can be darned hard work. All that weeding, mowing, pruning, spraying, raking and watering can get the best gardeners down.

Yet there are sneaky ways to spare ourselves some toil. I know most of them, because I’ve put a lot of hard work into becoming a lazy gardener. For starters, stop beating yourself up about your lack of garden energy. It’s OK. The world won’t end.

Next, think smarter. Decide what you hate most about gardening and find a way to reduce or eliminate it.

Here are a few suggestions:

* Never plant a lawn that takes more than 20 minutes to mow: life is too short!

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* Replace all your normal pots with self-watering ones. You won’t have as many plant losses.
* Avoid too many plants that die down in winter, avoiding the need for cutting back.
* Don’t plant a rose, no matter how beguiling, unless it’s rated top 10 for disease resistance. Spraying is a real drag.
* Don’t make wide garden beds, they’re hard to work and you’ll do your back in.
* Ignore advice not to plant too thickly. With enough good plants, weeds can’t grow.
* Buy a lightweight tiller to reduce digging.


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Tips to Avoid Injuries While Gardening

(StatePoint) For many people, gardening is one of life’s greatest joys. But exercising your green thumb carries some risk.

In 2012, more than 41,200 people nationwide were injured while gardening, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Don’t let a day of digging, weeding and watering get the best of you. Take steps to prevent and treat common gardening injuries.

Protect Yourself

• Safety goggles and gloves shield your eyes and skin from chemicals and pesticides and protect you from sharp or motorized equipment.

• Spending hours in the sun each day can lead to sunburn and can increase your chance of skin cancer. Sport a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher. Take frequent shady breaks, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is at its highest.

• While watering your plants, don’t forget to water yourself. Drink plenty of liquids, but avoid alcohol or sugary beverages that will dehydrate you. 

• Use lightweight hand tools with rubber handles and ergonomic designs. Tools with offset handles make digging and weeding easier. Or cover your current handles in foam tubing. Sharp, clean tools work better and require less effort, so maintain or replace your equipment often.  Handle extenders and reachers can help you reduce the need for bending, reaching and stretching.

• Stretch and get ready. “Prepare your knees and low back for all that bending and lifting. Before you get out of bed in the morning, lie on your back and pull your knees to your chest. Then drop your legs from side to side five to 10 times. If you begin this now, you’ll be rewarded with greater flexibility and a reduced chance of sprains and strains later in the season,” says Dr. Lauri Grossman, a New York chiropractor who has been practicing homeopathy for over 25 years.

Natural Remedies

• Did you get scraped or cut out there? Treat minor injuries with clove oil or aloe. Aloe also helps relieve sunburn and blisters.

• “Before pain gets in your way, treat it at the first sign with a homeopathic medicine that works with your body to relieve pain rather than mask symptoms,” says Dr. Grossman. She recommends a natural pain reliever like Arnicare Gel.

Try it for neck, back, shoulder and leg muscle pain and stiffness, swelling from injuries, and bruising. Arnicare Gel is unscented, non-greasy and quickly absorbed by the skin, so it’s convenient to apply and easy to use anywhere on your body. More information about muscle pain treatment and a $1 coupon for Arnicare can be found by visiting

• For stings and bug bites, apply honey, baking soda, toothpaste or ice.

By following a few precautions, you can make this gardening season a safe and pleasant one.

Photo Credit: (c) Terry Schmidbauer /

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