A new drug epidemic is threating older Americans. It is not one of the usual suspects: heroin, cocaine, or meth. It is a legal drug which your doctor can prescribe as a painkiller. Maybe you even have some pills in your medicine cabinet now.

According to “The Opioid Menace,” an article in the June 2017 issue of AARP Bulletin, “Almost one-third of all Medicare patients–nearly 12 million people—were prescribed opioid painkillers by their physicians in 2015. That same year, 2.7 million Americans over age 50 abused painkillers, meaning they took them for reasons or in amounts beyond what the doctor prescribed.”

How did this happen? “We overestimated the benefits of opioids and underestimated the risks,” says Deborah Dowell, senior medical adviser at the CDC. “We assumed without adequate evidence that they would work as well long term as they did in the short term.” Pharmaceutical companies marketed aggressively to physicians, and by the late 1990s, doctors innocently wrote prescriptions for OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and other opioid painkillers. Long term use led to higher levels of addiction and an increased number of drug overdoses.

In August of 2016, then Surgeon General Murthy wrote a letter to every doctor in America. The letter read as follows: “Nearly two decades ago, we were encouraged to be more aggressive about treating pain, often without enough training and support to do so safely.”

“This coincided with heavy marketing of opioids to doctors. Many of us were even taught—incorrectly—that opioids are not addictive when used as pain relief. The results have been devastating.”

Last year the CDC issued guidelines recommending that doctors drug-test their patients before and during opioid therapy, to ensure that the medications are taken properly.

What can you do to protect yourself and your family? You have the right to question your doctor about a new drug he is prescribing for you. You even have a right to refuse the drug. Do some research on reputable sites on the internet. For example, did you know that Tramadol, an opioid pain medication for moderate to moderately severe pain, should not be used if a drug addict or alcoholic is living in the home?

Be aware of the connection between legal opioids and the illegal opioid heroin. Over time, opioid users tend to build up a tolerance for their legal drug. In addition, the prescription drug may be harder to obtain. This may lead to use of heroin, a highly addictive illegal drug.



Asian carp, a family of fish native to Asia and parts of Europe, were introduced to the United States in the 1970’s to control weed and parasite growth in aquatic farms in the South. Flooding and human error have allowed the carp to escape the fish farms and to get into the Mississippi River and the Illinois River. Asian carp have become a serious problem here in the Midwest, and many people are concerned that, if Asian carp migrate up the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes, the $7 billion dollar a year fishing industry could be in real trouble.

According to an article published by GLEAM, Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project, Great Lakes commercial fishing harvests have hovered near fifty million round pounds since 2000. Historically, important Great Lakes commercial fish stocks include American eel, blue pike, carp, chub, lake herring, lake sturgeon, lake trout, lake whitefish, round whitefish, walleye, and yellow perch.

The GLEAM article, “Commercial Fishing,” lists the following important facts about commercial fishing in the Great Lakes:

  • Lake Erie currently supports the largest commercial fishery in the Great Lakes. Walleye and yellow perch are the most harvested species and the bulk of the Lake Erie catch is from Canadian waters.
  • Lake Ontario has the smallest commercial fishery. Harvested species include yellow perch, lake whitefish, bullhead, and American eel.
  • Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior each maintain commercial fisheries for lake whitefish, lake trout, and chub.
  • Other targeted species include the following:
  • Lake Superior: lake herring, smelt
  • Lake Huron: channel catfish, carp, Pacific salmon, yellow perch, and walleye
  • Lake Michigan: smelt, yellow perch.

According to a National Wildlife Federation article entitled “Asian Carp Threat to the Great Lakes,” Asian carp females lay approximately half a million eggs each time they spawn. Asian carp have no natural predators in North America. Once established, they are almost impossible to eradicate.

Asian carp are voracious feeders and consume up to 20% of their bodyweight per day in plankton, an organism vital to native fish. If Asian carp were to become established in the Great Lakes, they would likely strip the food web of this vital resource.

The National Wildlife Federation article warns, “The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers maintains three electric barriers to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan. However, these barriers are only temporary impediments and have proven to be penetrable.”

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video about Asian carp, go to Battling the Asian Carp Invasion at



Why would anyone pay $60 to $250 for a pair of worn out looking blue jeans with holes in the thighs, busted knees, shredded fabric, and frayed hems? Why indeed? What used to go into the rag box or the garbage can is now high fashion.

When Levi Strauss, a peddler who sold his goods during the Gold Rush in California in the 1850’s, was asked by the miners for a sturdy pair of work pants, he never could have imagined that his invention would become a fashion statement.

The original design of Levi Strauss blue jeans, Design 501, was influenced by the loose trousers worn by Genoese sailors. The pants featured a flared bottom to fit over work boots. Strauss chose a heavyweight denim, a twill-woven cotton, for the fabric. Because the pants were dyed with indigo, they were named “blue jeans.”

In the early years, Levi jeans were popular with the working class including farmers, cowboys, factory workers, and laborers. They were considered tough, comfortable, and affordable. By the 1930’s, children’s blue jeans were in demand for play clothes and everyday wear for boys. However, few schools allowed children to wear blue jeans to school. Little girls continued to wear dresses at home and at school.

Since the 1960’s, blue jeans have become a fashion statement. There have been bell-bottom jeans, baggy jeans, skin-tight jeans, and low-rise jeans, to name a few. Manufacturers have used different chemicals and techniques to produce stone-wash or acid-wash denim.

During the 1960’s, hippies and wannabe hippies rejected capitalism and current fashion. Instead, some high school boys favored long, stringy hair, tie dyed shirts, worn jeans, and full-length men’s used overcoats.

Beginning in the 1970’s, designer jeans were the latest “must have” clothing item. Teenage girls paid high prices for jeans by Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Ralph Lauren.

By the mid 1980’s, teenagers favored ripped jeans, destroyed jeans, and busted knee jeans. Manufacturers were deliberately processing the denim to make it appear worn, torn, and faded. Brand new blue jeans had holes in the knees and thighs.

Distressed or shredded jeans continue to capture attention despite their high prices. For example, Nordstrom’s currently offers shredded blue jeans for women for prices ranging from $179 to $250. Carson’s features shredded blue jeans for $59 to $100.

If this price is too steep, you or your teenager can transform an old pair of jeans into the newest fashion craze. All you need is a pen, scissors, tweezers, sandpaper, and some imagination.

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video 3 Methods to get DIY Ripped Jeans (Tutorial)—YouTube, go to



During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the formation of the Civil Works Administration in 1933. The federal government hired unemployed men to build parks, repair schools, construct athletic fields and swimming pools. Others tutored the illiterate. At its inception, the program employed 2.5 million in a month’s time. At its peak, it employed 4 million. CWA workers earned $15 a week.

One of the projects was the Phillips Park Lake Excavation Project in Aurora, Illinois. During the digging in a boggy area in 1934, the work crew discovered mastodon bones. On March 7, 1934, the work crew uncovered a massive mastodon skull buried in the swampland. The skull weighed 188 pounds.

Other mastodon bones were also recovered. These include a 92-pound lower jaw, a 6-foot-long tusk, ribs, and vertebrae. The bones are estimated to be 10,000 to 20,000 years old. The mastodon bones are currently on display at the Mastodon Gallery at the Phillips Park Visitors Center.

Since the first discovery of mastodon bones in New York in 1705, mastodon bones have been found across the United States. In 1739 bones were found in Kentucky by French soldiers. Some time later, bones were found in South Carolina. Soon after that, bones and tusks were discovered in Ohio. According to, fossils range from Alaska and New England in the north, to Florida, southern California, and as far south as Honduras.

The name “mastodon” comes from two Greek words and means “breast tooth.” The French naturalist George Cuvier assigned that name in 1817 because of the nipple-like projections on the crowns of its molars.

Mastodons, which are now extinct, are distantly related to elephants. They lived in herds and ate a mixed diet obtained by browsing and grazing. What is the difference between browsing and grazing? Browsing means the animal feeds on leaves, soft shoots, or fruits of high growing, generally woody, plants such as shrubs. Grazing means the animal feeds on grass or other low vegetation.

In the article “Mastodon” on, the author describes the appearance of the mastodon: “The American mastodon resembled a woolly mammoth in appearance, with a thick cost of shaggy hair. It had tusks that sometimes exceeded 5 meters (16 ft.) in length; they curved upwards, but less dramatically than those of the woolly mammoth.” The average body size of a mastodon was around 7 ft. 7 in. in height at the shoulders. However, large males could grow up to 9 ft. 2 in. in height. One mastodon fossil was 10.7 ft. tall.

What caused the mastodon to become extinct between 10,000 and 11,000 years ago? Scientists are not exactly sure why this happened. Paleo-Indians entered the Americas in relatively large numbers 13,000 years ago. Their hunting may have caused a gradual reduction in the numbers of mastodons. Another factor may have been the loss of the mastodon’s habitat due to changing climates.

—By Karen Centowski