Here’s Looking at You, Kid! Army Cadets KID-nap Wrong Goat

If you’ve seen one goat, you’ve seen them all, right? They’re furry creatures who’ll eat about anything. An adult male, a billy, has horns and a goatee and their young are called kids. Nevertheless, goats are not interchangeable. A group of Army cadets recently learned this lesson the hard way through a clandestine operation to KID-nap Navy’s mascot prior to the upcoming traditional Army-Navy football game. Oops! Mission fail as the wrong goat was taken.

So, wait. Navy’s mascot is a GOAT? What on earth (or the sea perhaps) does a goat have to do with naval operations? Well, historically, apparently it was a lot.

Prior to the availability of refrigeration, goats were fixtures on Navy ships serving a variety of functions. They provided a source for fresh dairy products and meat. Since goats will eat pretty much whatever is placed in front of them, the animals also equated to living garbage disposals. Goats take up much less room than cows and are more sure-footed (think rolling seas). And should the worst occur, i.e., goat overboard, they can swim. Goats can still be found on Navy ships today, but their purpose has changed; they are viewed as pets and morale boosters. I’m sure the goats’ morale is boosted knowing that they are no longer seen as a convenient food source.

A live goat first appeared as the Navy mascot way back in 1893 at the fourth ever Army-Navy football game. El Cid, the pet aboard the cruiser New York, bleated on the sidelines to urge the midshipmen on to a 6-3 victory. The win was chalked up to the presence of a goat (as opposed to the great coaching of and playing by the Navy team–sorry, guys!), so the tradition of having a live goat mascot appear at the game was born.

With a permanent mascot in place, a name change was in order. Goodbye, El Cid; hello, Bill–likely Billy to his Navy chums. Most of the over thirty Navy goat mascots since El Cid have been dubbed Bill with a Roman Numeral designation following.

But boys will be boys, and Bill (whatever the number designation happened to be) became the target of “spirit missions” by the rival Army cadets. Those sneaky cadets have stolen Bill at least ten times, producing him at the storied football game between the service academies in an attempt to shame their military opponents on the gridiron.

Over the years, things began to get out of hand. One spirit mission involved the cutting of telephone lines and the typing up of Navy employees to facilitate the goat-napping. Boys! Boys! So the problem was resolved in the early ’90’s in a non-military manner–no weapons, blood, or fighting were involved. Officials from both academies civilly signed a memo of agreement banning the kidnapping of mascots. And while they were at it, they forbid the kidnapping of cadets and midshipmen too.

But a memo is simply a piece of paper with words written on it, right? Despite being told, “No, no!,” the Army cadets decided to conduct a spirit mission this year to prepare for the Army-Navy game set for December 11th. The weekend before Thanksgiving, a group of Army cadets drove four hours to a private farm in Annapolis to carry out their goatnapping operation.

Alas, the mission didn’t turn out as intended. The cadets forget to use their library voices, and the noise they made startled the goats. Yes, goats plural. Not only the current Navy mascot resides at the farm, but Bill has predecessor Bills and a Bill understudy living there with him. The spooked goats started running with the cadets running after them. (Doesn’t this sound like a great children’s book?) In the confusion, only one goat could be grabbed and–you guessed it–it wasn’t the current Bill, Bill XXXVII.

Can you blame the cadets for this error? I mean, they did get a curly-haired Angora goat, it was male, and it was living at the farm for the Navy mascot. HOWEVER, the nabbed goat was an old, arthritic, one-horned Bill who’s been retired since 2015, Bill XXXIV. Hmm. Would reasonable minds conclude the Navy midshipmen revered this goat at their current mascot? (I’m betting no.) But the cadets couldn’t come home empty-handed, could they?

To the embarrassment of Navy, the story leaked to the public. The New York Times reported the botched mission describing it as a “Bay of Pigs-style embarrassment.” Yikes! The (wrong) goat was returned safely and received a clean bill of health after being checked out by a vet. He also now has some great stories to share about Army with his buddies at the goat farm.

In Army’s defense, what do they know about goats? Their mascot, which debuted in 1899, is a mule. Why a mule? Such animals had been used for generations as moving machines, i.e., hauling Army gear. A select few mules serve as mascots for West Point and who are trained by select cadets. Just a thought, but Army may want to form a second training group at the U.S.M.A. to teach the cadets what the Navy mascot looks like.

It should be great fun to watch the Army-Navy game this year. I can just imagine the signs which the Navy fans might be waving for the cameras. “Did getting Bill XXXIV get Army’s goat?” “Army caught napping in goatnapping.” “All goats are not created equal.” “That’s our mascot on the field. The one with TWO horns.” “We always get our mule.”

And who will I be rooting for come December 11th? As an Air Force “dependent” for decades, I don’t have a goat or even a mule in this game. I simply like watching football, enjoy a rivalry, and (per past history) can’t resist a man in uniform (there’ll be a few thousand in attendance.) And I’m expecting everyone to keep their hands to themselves–no mascot mischief, please! (We’ll be looking at you cadets….)

WONDER-ing Woman:

Is mascot stealing simply good fun or a crime? Who are you rooting for in the Army-Navy game? Why? Are you surprised at the choice of mascots for these service academies?

Saga of Chinese Tennis Star Serves Up Concern and Controversy

No one cares where Waldo is anymore. The new buzz phrase is “Where’s Peng Shuai?” Concern about the Chinese tennis player’s whereabouts has been a hot topic in the media since early November. After Peng Shuai posted a #MeToo accusation on social media alleging a sexual assault by a high-ranking Chinese government official, she dropped out of sight. Where was Peng Shuai? Nowhere to be found.

Unless you are a tennis buff (not raising my hand), you may not know who Peng Shuai is much less where she is. The 35 year old was the first ever Chinese tennis player to achieve a #1 ranking. Learning to play tennis at age 8, Peng mastered the game and rose to become a three-time Olympian, a #1 ranked doubles player, and the winner of Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.

Peng’s visibility in the media skyrocketed after a social media post she made November 2nd on Weibo. The tennis star accused Zhang Gaoli, a former Chinese government official with whom she previously had a consensual relationship, of sexually assaulting her at his home in 2018. Her lengthy post stated she was forced to have sex with Zhang despite her repeated refusals as his wife stood guard at the bedroom door. Isn’t that taking the idea of a supportive spouse a tad too far?

Peng’s accusations were the first #MeToo charge ever leveled against a high-ranking Chinese government official. The alleged perpetrator served as one of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the top tier of political power in China. Now 75, Zhang left public life about three years ago.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, within minutes of Peng’s post about Zhang, it was removed from China’s heavily censored internet. The tennis player herself disappeared from the public sphere, and online conversations about what she had alleged were likewise censored in the ensuing days. The Chinese government gave no indication it was investigating these accusations. Perhaps it was too busy ramping up military operations in the South China Sea to bother with claims of wrongdoing made against a long-retired government official.

While the Chinese government seemingly ignored the situation, professional athletes and sports associations were quite concerned. A clamor arose over the plight of the missing tennis player. No one from the World Tennis Association (“WTA”) was able to reach Peng to confirm her status. Stars such as Naomi Osaka, Andy Murray, and Serena Williams spoke publicly about the need to obtain information on Peng’s location and well-being. The hashtag #whereispengshuai trended on Twitter. The women’s professional tennis tour threatened to pull out of events in China unless the safety of the Chinese star was assured.

The Chinese government pushed back on the worldwide hue and cry about Peng Shuai. It characterized concerns about her as being “maliciously hyped up” and “politicized.” But, of course, sports stars and sports associations have nothing better to do than get involved in international politics; they’d be WAY more concerned about that than the safety of a fellow player/tour member.

The situation escalated with calls to boycott the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing set to begin on February 2nd. Money talks, and the Olympic Games are BIG money. All of a sudden China’s state media released an email allegedly from Peng. This email stated her previous allegations about Zhang were false and that she was fine–just “resting at home.” In “Hamlet,” something was rotten in the state of Denmark. However, when it comes to Peng Shuai, chances are good there’s something rotten in the state of China. Why was the government disseminating this message instead of Peng Shuai herself?

As controversy and concern continued to swirl, the Chinese government then posted two videos on Saturday which appeared to show Peng at a restaurant with friends. The next day brought pictures of Peng appearing at a youth tournament in Beijing. So much for resting at home….And why would she be out at a restaurant or at a public event? Wouldn’t this be a good time to lay low to avoid poking the government bear any further after her bombshell allegations?

A 30-minute video call between Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Peng also took place. However, the interview produced little in the way of details and simply gave rise to more questions. Despite the interaction IOC had with Peng, the WTA is still worried about Peng’s well-being and whether she is able to communicate without censorship or coercion. Steve Simon, the WTA Chairman stated, “While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take action on her own without coercion and external influence.”

While the Chinese government posted videos and photos of Peng in order to quell worldwide concern about her location, it has been mum on any action it has taken or will take to investigate Peng’s accusations. The U.N. Human Rights Office has called for a “fully-transparent” investigation into the tennis player’s claims. In contrast, the IOC appears to be pursuing “quiet diplomacy.” The latter certainly doesn’t want to rock the boat before the cash cow Winter Olympics have concluded.

As disturbing as this story is from a human rights perspective, at least it is different from the other news dominating the media. The alleged perpetrator lives in another country–not in the same town or even state as we do. No gun rights issues are involved. Whether or not anyone is vaccinated or has been wearing a face mask is irrelevant. While we can be thankful for a change of pace in news stories, let’s pray that this story of a human rights violation results in positive changes in a repressive country.

WONDER-ing Woman:

What role does the media play in this story–a positive or negative one? What type of future do you envision for Peng since she has made these allegations? Does it matter that Peng previously had a relationship with the alleged perpetrator if relations were forced?

The Incredible Shrinking Nation–Climate Change May Sink Tuvalu

“The Incredible Shrinking Man” was a 1957 American science fiction movie. Unfortunately, some shrinking going on today is fact rather than fiction. This time what is shrinking is not a human being but an entire country in which some 11,000 human beings live. Yes, due to climate change, rising seas may cause the small South Pacific nation of Tuvalu to disappear entirely.

Haven’t heard of Tuvalu? That’s not surprising. It is the fourth smallest country in the world and getting smaller as the days pass. In terms of land, Tuvalu is tiny with only 26 square kilometers comprising the entire nation. Due to its remote location mid-way between Hawaii and Australia, it is one of the least visited countries in the world. Having only one airport and not accepting any credit cards doesn’t help tourism either. But should Tuvalu sink beneath the ocean, it will become even less visited.

Before considering Tuvalu’s shrinking and sinking problem, let’s learn a bit more about this possibly soon to be extinct country. Tuvalu is a volcanic archipelago stretching for 420 miles on the outer western edge of Polynesian. The island chain, located west of the International Date Line just below the equator, consists of three reef islands and six atolls. The country is one of only four atoll nations in the world.

All of the Tuvaluan land is low-lying and narrow; most of the islands are barely three meters above sea level with the highest elevation only about 15 feet. No natural rivers or streams exist in Tuvalu. Residents are entirely reliant on collected rainwater for drinking water and agricultural purposes. Tuvaluans would happily sing “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” under these circumstances.

But while Tuvalu lacks fresh water, salt water is everywhere–literally. Not only is the country surrounded on all sides by the sea, but saltwater has begun intruding into its soil, impeding agricultural production and contaminating underground water supplies. And saltwater is intruding more and more as the seas rise. In 2018, sea levels at the nation’s only port, Funafuti, were rising twice as fast as global averages. As a result, two of the country’s islands are on the verge of being swallowed by the rising sea and coastal erosion. Scientists predict Tuvalu could be uninhabitable in the next 50 to 100 years.

Because the land is so low-lying, any rise in the sea level means that parts of some Tuvaluan islands will be washed away and other parts will become uninhabitable. Even now parts of the runway at the country’s only airport are sometimes under water during storms. Maybe Tuvalu needs to be investing in some sea planes the way things are going.

Sea levels in the country have been rising 0.2 inches per year eroding shorelines, contaminating water supplies, and harming essential subsistence food crops like coconuts, taro, and pulaka. If you haven’t heard of Tuvalu, you likely haven’t heard of pulaka a/k/a swamp taro, a staple in that country, either. [NOTE: Pulaka might taste good, but the name doesn’t sound very enticing.] The salt intruding into the soil has made the ground almost useless for planting as it destroys staple crops and decreasing crop yield. Accordingly, Tuvalu is almost entirely dependent on imports for food.

Scientists have identified the following impacts of climate change in Tuvalu: more intense and frequent storm surges; decreasing rainfall/more frequent droughts; inundation of low-lying coast areas; coral bleaching; acidification of sea water; and ciguatera poisoning. No! Not ciguatera poisoning! Which is…what? Ciguatera poisoning affects reef fish who ingest micro-algae expelled by bleached coral. And when did this poisoning begin to climb? It coincided with when the weather started to go crazy due to climate change.

With all these negative things occurring in Tuvalu due to climate change, the recent Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland was eagerly anticipated by that country. It wanted to show the rest of the world what was happening to it and spur fellow countries to take action against further manmade actions negatively affecting the environment. Tuvaluan Foreign Minister filmed a picture is worth a thousand words message for the climate conference; he stood in a suit and tie knee-deep in sea water where there was once solid Tuvaluan ground to illustrate the immediate and dire threat to his nation. (Check out this video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EkSrtlapZQ.) Kofe’s “wet suit” is a real eye-opener.

Sadly, Minister Kofe and citizens of Tuvalu cannot afford to sit back and wait for others to take action. They are already considering what future action may be required if climate change cannot be controlled. Their last resort is to evacuate the islands these people have called home for untold generations and years. Such action would be a real life example of the new phrase “climate mobility,” meaning a movement of people forced out of their homes or livelihood because of the effects of global warming.

Minister Kofe’s video debunks any thought that Tuvaluans are being Chicken Littles claiming the sky is falling. While the sky isn’t falling, for them the sea is rising and Tuvalu is sinking. Doesn’t it give you a sinking feeling to know what man has done to the planet we call home? Let’s hope the real life drama of the incredible sinking nation has a happy ending.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Did you follow the events at the Climate Change Conference in Scotland? Should the loss to the sea of a small and insignificant country be of concern to Americans? Why or why not? How would you feel about traveling to a remote place with only one airport and no use of credit cards? Is that a dream or a nightmare?

Switched Before And After Birth–Embryo Mix-ups

Every scientific development has an Achilles’ heel attached. The problem is humans must carry out whatever the new process or technique is. But humans are inherently imperfect and prone to error. Some errors, like mixing up embryos in a lab, cause deep and permanent harm. Sadly, such mistakes during IVF treatment are wreaking havoc in people’s lives.

Exactly what is going wrong in fertility clinics resulting in the highly technical term of “mix-up?” The wrong embryos are transferred to the wrong uterus, i.e., a woman may be carrying a child that is not hers biologically. A pregnancy has been created that was not intended. It isn’t a true unplanned pregnancy, because pregnancy was indeed the ultimate goal; however, it wasn’t the pregnancy aimed for. A baby and heartbreak results.

Consider this unfortunately true story. Alexander and Daphna Cardinale, unsuccessfully tried to have a second child for several years. Ultimately, they decided to pursue IVF to achieve their dream of having another baby. But their dream took a nightmarish turn when Daphna gave birth to a baby girl in a Los Angeles hospital in September 2019. Alexander, who was in the delivery room, knew something was wrong the moment he laid eyes on the newborn. The child looked nothing like him or his wife. But they fell in love with the baby as did their 5 year old daughter.

For awhile the couple tried to brush the difference in looks off. Perhaps the child looked like some (distant) relative rather than them. But nagging doubts continued, so Daphna brought home a DNA test kit in November 2019. She and her husband learned their baby, then around two months old, was not genetically related to either of them. OOPS! The couple’s embryos had been mixed up with those of another couple. Daphna carried, gave birth to, and cared for a child who was not hers. That child’s embryo had mistakenly been switched prior to her birth.

So whose baby did this couple have? Additional DNA testing was conducted after investigation by the fertility clinic. (Not sure why anyone would trust a clinic who couldn’t even keep up with embryos to investigate, but I digress.) The Cardinales found out on Christmas Eve 2019 that they had given birth to the child of another couple who in turn had given birth to the Cardinales’ biological daughter. The embryos of the two couples had been switched. Not so Merry Christmas!

What do you do when you are raising a baby you have birthed and fallen in love with but she’s not your biological child and your own biological daughter is being raised by a non-related couple? The situation was an emotional nightmare, particularly for the Cardinales’ older daughter who, smitten with her baby sister, begged her parents not to switch babies with the other couple. Could anyone possibly win in this horrifying situation? A second switch then occurred in the lives of these baby girls. In January 2020, a few months after their birth, they were switched to the custody of their biological parents.

Kudos to the two couples who rose above unimaginable emotional hell to create a loving plan. They blended families and bonded. These families spend holidays and birthdays together. While neither is raising the child they birthed, each is still involved in that child’s life in a consistent and cooperative way.

Nevertheless, emotional scars and issues remain. In an effort to prevent anything similar happening to other couples already struggling with childbearing issues, Alexander and Daphna sued the fertility clinic, the California Center for Reproductive Health, and its owner, Dr. Eliran Mor. No amount of money recovered will ever heal the broken hearts experienced by both couples in this sad story. But if being careful simply because human lives are literally hanging in the balance isn’t sufficient for clinic personnel, then the threat of economic consequences should spur them to pay more attention.

While no embryo mix-up situation can ever be said to end “happily,” at least the Cardinales made the best of a bad situation and connected with the other family. The same cannot be said of an earlier case in New York. In 1998, a white woman gave birth to twins, one white and one black. To no one’s surprise, the black child was not related to this woman or her husband. Instead, he was related to a black couple, also clients of the fertility clinic; the clinic (oops!) had made a mistake. Both couples sued for custody of the child in a contentious case. In the end, the judge sided with the genetic parents. A decision like King Solomon might have issued was apparently not utilized.

In another New York case, an Asian couple ended up with empty arms as well as an empty womb. The wife gave birth to another couple’s twin boys (who were clearly not Asian) and were required to return them to their biological parents. No one has any idea what happened to the Asian couple’s embryos. Consequently, the bereft couple sued the co-owners of CHA Fertility Center for this “unimaginable mishap.” (Just me, but “mishap” seems pretty innocuous. How about screw-up?)

With over 1 million babies having been born in the U.S. from IVF or similar technologies, the danger of “mix-ups” is real and scary. The painstaking IVF process involves some 200 steps to grow embryos, which are developing humans in the very early stages after fertilization. That lengthy process provides ample opportunity for mistakes to be made.

The personal cost of embryo mix-ups is bad enough, but the IVF process also opens the door for difficult legal issues to be addressed. With in vitro fertilization (commonly referred to as “IVF”), eggs are extracted, sperm is retrieved, eggs and sperm are manually combined in a lab dish, and embryos are transferred to a woman’s uterus. This process allows motherly functions to be divided between two different women, i.e., one supplies the egg (the genetic material) while the other carries the child. Who is the mother for legal purposes when a woman is implanted with another woman’s fertilized egg?

Clearly, scientific progress can be a double-edged sword as illustrated by embryo mix-up stories. Things can be wonderful if IVF treatment results in a baby for the right couple. It can be hell on earth if embryos are lost or given to the wrong couple. And we thought the biggest question people need to ask when a baby is born is “It is a boy or a girl?” Perhaps we should start with the question, “Is it your child?”

WONDER-ing Woman:

Would stricter regulation of fertility clinics overcome the possibility of human error in the IVF process? How do you define a mother? Is she the carrier of the baby or the genetic source? Do you know anyone who has utilized the IVF process? What was their assessment of its risks and benefits?


Royal Wedding With A Common(er) Ending–Japanese Princess’ Marriage Terminates Her Royal Status

When a woman marries, her single status terminates. But for a Japanese princess, an October 26th marriage to her long-time boyfriend ended not only her status as a single woman but also as a member of the royal household. Sadly, for Princess Mako to marry her non-royal Prince Charming, she had to give up being a princess. The two may live happily ever after, but it will be as commoners.

Princess Mako, age 30, is the niece of Emperor Naruhito, and the oldest child of the emperor’s younger brother. Her father is first in line to succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne. And where is (oops, was) Princess Mako in the line of succession? Nowhere, that’s where. What? Japan’s Imperial Household Law, in effect since 1947, recognizes only male heirs descended from a male line. Apparently the Japanese royal womenfolk are only good for birthing babies, hopefully males who can get in line to take the throne.

On the bright side, Japanese royal women are allowed to get an education. (Former) Princess Mako graduated from International Christian University in Tokyo with a B.A. in Art and Cultural Heritage. She then obtained an M.A. in Art Museum Gallery Studies at the U.K.’s University of Leicester.

Her college education was the beginning of the end of royal status for (Former) Her Imperial Highness Princess Mako. In 2012, she met her now husband, Kei Komuro, a fellow ICU student. Love blossomed like a Japanese cherry tree, and the two began dating. The relationship continued strong, and an engagement was announced in May 2017.

The planned marriage was met with disapproval by her family, the Japanese public, and the media. Why? Because, Mako’s beloved was a (GASP!) commoner–and one raised by a single parent at that. [Brief pause while I check my calendar. Yup! It is 2021.] Mr. Komuro would probably meet with approval from most families. He is a well-educated young man, also age 30, who in May 2021 attained a law degree from Fordham University and is now working at a NYC law firm. He should, thus, be able to provide more than adequately for a wife. But the sentiment in Japan is that he is “unworthy” of a Japanese princess.

Drama in the fiance’s family delayed the nuptials originally planned for 2017. A financial dispute arose about funds Mr. Komuro’s mother used to pay his college tuition. The money had been received from a then fiance of hers. Was it a loan? A gift? Controversy swirled. Mr. Komuro gallantly stepped up to the plate to defend his mother and offer to repay the money which they believed had been a gift. Still wondering why what Komuro’s mother did or didn’t do in her personal life has to do with Mako and Kei. Guess I’m just slow. But the imperial family, the media, and the Japanese public disapproved of the match even more.

As if a delayed wedding and overwhelming disapproval of the marriage weren’t bad enough, Kei then left Japan for three years to pursue his law degree in the U.S. His 2018 departure kept him out of the country until the end of September 2021 when he returned to marry the love of his life. The lovebirds were separated by thousands of miles, but their love for and commitment to each other was undiminished.

Life without Kei in Japan was no picnic for Princess Mako. The relentless, strong criticism of her marital plans took its toll on her. Several weeks before her October 26th wedding, it was announced she’d been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. Perhaps she and Meghan Markle could form a mental health support group; it seems they both experienced family drama, media intrusion, and royal family disputes.

Further drama arose when Kei returned to Japan for the marriage. He sported a ponytail, causing a media frenzy. Apparently suitors of a Japanese princess don’t look suitable with their hair in that style. Overlooked was the fact Kei was wearing a suit jacket and button down shirt, not torn jeans and a t-shirt displaying some crass statement.

So controversial was the marriage between Princess Mako and Kei Komuro that the couple decided to forgo a formal wedding ceremony or any reception. Instead, the two merely went to a local government office and registered their union. Thereafter, they held a press conference at a hotel, a venue they paid for to avoid criticism of tax dollars being spent on anything to do with their marriage. And…surprise, surprise. Kei had cut off his ponytail for the big event.

As a result of the marriage, Princess Mako is now simply (and probably more happily) Mrs. Kei Komuro. Her royal status was terminated; now she is “just” a commoner. According to Japan’s Imperial Household law, an imperial daughter’s marriage to a man outside the royal family demotes her to her husband’s status. But the Japanese government is not totally heartless. It provides a dowry of $1.3 million dollars to royal women leaving the imperial family. Princess Mako admirably turned down this generous offer.

After a relationship lasting almost a decade (an accomplishment in and of itself these days), Kei and Mako are FINALLY married. What now? The couple will again be separated, but just temporarily. Kei will return to New York to work as a law clerk in the corporate and tech groups of Lowenstein Sandler, LLP. while he awaits the results (expected in December) of the bar exam he took in July. Mako has basically been kicked out of the palace (she’s no longer a royal you know) and has moved into her own apartment while she awaits the processing of her visa. She will move to N.Y. to join her husband as the couple plans to make their home in the U.S.

Will Mako and Kei live happily ever after? After all they’ve been through together, let’s hope so. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they had a daughter born in the U.S. who grew up to be president? Being a princess is nice, but being a U.S. President would be a way for any woman to make a statement about women’s capabilities. They can produce heirs AND run countries.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Why was there so little U.S. media attention to Princess Mako’s story when we were saturated with the details of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s relationship and marriage? How do you feel about Princess Mako choosing her private life over her public life? Does Prince Charming actually have to be a prince to be “worthy” of a real princess?

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Helping Hands in Haiti Kidnapped

Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde is credited with voicing that “No good deed goes unpunished.” Proof of his saying is playing out, not in Ireland, but in Haiti right now. A ruthless Haitian gang has kidnapped a group of 17 missionaries, including women and children, who were returning from rebuilding work at an orphanage. Not what most of us would deem a fitting reward for those actively helping their fellow man. Sadly, this crime is not an isolated incident in Haiti.

If you are planning a Caribbean vacation, cross Haiti off of your list. Why? It may be a tropical location, but Haiti is better described as the wild, wild west currently. It’s the kidnapping capital of the world, and the country is in general is plagued by lawlessness. Gangs are believed to control over two-thirds of Haiti. The situation is so bad in the Caribbean’s most populous country that the U.S. government has urged U.S. citizens not to travel there. You don’t have to tell me twice!

In case you are leery of anything the U.S. government advises, let’s consider some facts. At least 629 kidnappings were reported in Haiti since January. Of the victims, 29 were foreigners. Well, at least the criminals aren’t biased; they’ll take their fellow countrymen as well as hapless foreigners. A 300% increase in kidnappings has occurred since July. And these criminals aren’t taking any kind of a fall break. During the first half of October, at least 119 kidnappings were carried out.

What in the world is happening to result in such rampant crime in Haiti? The country is dealing with a number of daunting issues such as political instability, civil unrest, severe poverty, and natural disasters among others. Just this year the country’s president was shot and killed at his residence in early July, and a 7.2 strength earthquake killed over 2,200 people the following month. Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country; over 40% of the population is food insecure. The bottom line is that the country is a hot mess.

The continuing lack of opportunity in Haiti is a breeding ground for the rise of gangs. Some 165 factions are thought to operate in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Even scarier than the number of gangs is that many of them are better armed than the country’s police force. Food may be hard to come by, but weapons are apparently a commodity which can be secured.

The high profile gang of the moment is 400 Mawozo. The gang’s name roughly translates to 400 “inexperienced men.” I’m not sure what they are inexperienced at, but it isn’t kidnapping. Once notorious for stealing cars, gang members now focus on kidnapping. This gang has pioneered and perfected kidnappings of large groups of victims from cars and buses. Why kidnapping? Holding the victims for ransom provides a healthy, albeit illegal, source of income and is a hallmark of the gang’s activity. In addition to kidnappings, 400 Mawozo dabbles in carjackings and extortion of business owners. They might be lawless but they are certainly industrious.

To no one’s surprise, the surge in kidnappings has people afraid to go into the streets. The Haitian transportation union called for an indefinite strike starting Monday to protest the spike in kidnappings. The transportation sector, of course, is an easy and frequent target of the gangs.

The great increase in abductions this year is indicative of the growing power of violent criminal gangs in Haiti. Mawozo 400 has essentially taken control of Croix des Bouquets, a northeast suburb of Port-au-Prince, and the location of the orphanage Maison La Providence de Dieu. To this orphanage a group of missionaries with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries traveled to assist with rebuilding efforts from damage in the August earthquake. Despite the knowledge of the dangerous conditions in Haiti, these missionaries willingly took risks to travel to this needy country to show love and to help their fellow man. But the gangs are no respecters of people of faith. Earlier this year they kidnapped 5 priests and 2 nuns. These gang members sure have a lot of actions to confess….

While traveling back to their in-country base of operations on October 16, the Ohio missionary group ran into some trouble. (OK, a LOT of trouble.) The 400 Mawozo stopped their van, and all 17 group members were taken hostage. In the group were 16 Americans and 1 Canadian–5 men, 7 women, and 5 children. The adults ranged in age from 18 to 48, and the children were 8 months, 3, 6, 13, and 15. With the children, I’m rooting for a “The Ransom of Red Chief” situation to occur.

How did the locals react to this rude treatment of people who came to Haiti to help people they did not even know? They were less than pleased. On October 19th, a peaceful demonstration was staged in Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, to protest the kidnappings. Participants held aloft signs saying “No to Kidnapping!” Protestors pointed out that the victims had helped them; they had built roads and schools and assisted with bills. These Haitians, unlike the gang members. recognized the missionaries did not deserve to be treated in this fashion given their unselfish acts.

But these protestations have fallen on deaf ears. The gang is holding firm to its demand of $1 million for EACH hostage. U.S. policy, however, is that it won’t negotiate with hostage takers. Wilson Joseph, the gang’s leader, has indicated that if the ransom is not paid, “I’ll put a bullet in each of their heads.” Despite the gang’s barbaric actions and statements, the missionary organization made a statement advising hat family members of the hostages had forgiven the perpetrators.

How this outrageous criminal incident will conclude is unknown. Hopefully, it will result in gang members cooling their heels in a hot jail cell for a lengthy time during which they can contemplate their selfishness and depravity. As for the hostages, I personally believe their good deeds will eventually be rewarded; unfortunately, that may not occur in this life. Nevertheless, they have provided a worthy example of putting the good of others before oneself. I, for one, am appreciative of their efforts to show love and to care for their fellow man.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Do you agree with the U.S. policy not to negotiate with kidnappers? Why or why not? If given the opportunity, would you travel to Haiti on a humanitarian or mission trip? Should the U.S. be concerned about the unstable condition in Haiti?

Jewelry A Hit On The Baseball Diamond: Are Pearls A Player’s Best Friend?

It’s October, which can only mean one thing. Well, perhaps two. Halloween, when everyone enjoys dressing up, comes at the end of the month. October’s also MLB playoff time. Baseball players are getting all spiffed up to go to the ball park so they can slide around in the dirt and grass to try to win a championship. While they must wear a regulation uniform, players can show off some individual style with their impressive jewelry. Yes, diamonds, as well as gold and pearls, can be spotted on the baseball diamond.

Why on earth would a ball player need to wear expensive jewelry while on the field? And sometimes players are literally on the field if they slide or try to make a diving catch. Three reasons have been suggested for this head-scratching behavior. First, a religious conviction may prompt the wearing of jewelry. Cross necklaces, for example, can be worn to express one’s faith. This accessory is often accompanied by chest pounding and pointing skyward after a great play or crossing oneself before batting.

Style is a second reason to wear expensive, perhaps even gaudy, jewelry while engaging in athletics. A player wants to make a fashion statement. His uniform looks exactly like that of all the other members of the team, but he can stand out by being bedecked with bling.

Superstition could be the third reason for putting on glitzy jewelry for a game. Baseball players are well-known for being superstitious. Some won’t change socks or shave while they have a hitting or winning streak going; former Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs would only eat chicken before a game. Athletes may view a necklace as a good luck charm. Fans in the stands, however, are more likely to equate fancy jewelry with dollar signs and could be blinded by the light reflecting off that rope hanging around Mr. Pro Athlete’s neck.

The 2021 Official Rules of Major League Baseball are extremely detailed; yet, jewelry wearing by players is not addressed in Rule 3 about Equipment and Uniforms. While I did read Rule 3, I confess I had neither the time nor the inclination to read all 191 pages of the Official Rules; however, a quick review of the table of contents failed to reveal a section on diamonds on the diamond, pearls on the playing field, or gold behind the glove.

Since jewelry apparently isn’t banned, high profile baseball players often display shiny accessories. Take Los Angeles Dodgers’ right fielder Mookie Betts (whose initials spell MLB), for example. As if the nickname “Mookie” (short for Markus) didn’t make him stand out, Betts wears a sizeable gold chain to catch your eye. So the story goes, he got the necklace from a fan during a spring training game for the Boston Red Sox, his former team, in 2018. What a well-heeled fan!

But wearing expensive jewelry during a game comes with perils. The accessory can break right there on the field. In 2018 N.Y. Mets player Yoenis Cespedes broke his diamond necklace while sliding into second base. Umpires and players alike were finding diamonds in the infield (not the sky) as the game continued at Citi Field in New York. During a 2017 ALCS game between Houston and the Yankees, Astros pitcher Lance McCullers, Jr. broke his black diamond necklace requiring him to dig around in the dirt on the mound to locate the pieces.

But in 2021, the big news regarding baseball players wearing jewelry comes during the playoffs and involves Joc Pederson of the Atlanta Braves. Although just traded to the Braves from the Cubs back in July, Joc has endeared himself to Braves fans who are enjoying what they have dubbed “Joctober.” Aside from his hot bat, Joc is attracting attention for the string of pearls he first sported during a pinch hitting appearance on September 29th. Previously having worn black and gold chains, Joc probably figured something more elegant was required at this elite and elevated playing level.

What’s the reaction to Joc’s accessory? His fashion choice has hit it out of the park. When his solo homer provided the only run scored by the Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Brewers, social media attributed Joc’s success to his wearing the pearls. Joc, of course, continued to wear the pearls and tweeted a photo of himself wearing them in Game 3 of that series where he hit the go-ahead homer. He captioned his picture “pearl JAM.” When the Braves clinched a NLCS spot, Joc celebrated by spraying champagne, holding a cigar in his mouth, and wearing his pearls, which he has confirmed to reporters are real.

It’s pearl pandemonium for Braves fans who were seen at Truist Field in Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS wearing replica pearls. Hey, if it’s good enough for Joc to wear to the game, it’s good enough for them to wear while cheering Atlanta on. The ever astute Braves marketing team arranged for $5 replica pearls to be available for fans to purchase at the park. To absolutely no one’s surprise, all 5,000 on hand were sold out after Sunday’s game. Yes, Joc is not only a major league ball player, but a jewelry trendsetter as well.

Why does Joc wear pearls? Is he superstitious? Is he making a style statement? Joc answered the question simply: “I like it. It looks good.” But Joc and his fellow Braves will need to do more than look good for him to sport the pearls during the World Series. They must also play well to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and advance. Even if Joc’s team goes down in defeat, he’ll look smashing as the Braves’ hopes of winning the World Series are smashed.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Have you been watching the MLB playoffs? Should athletes be allowed to wear jewelry of any kind while on the playing field? Does Joc’s wearing a string of pearls detract from the game or add to the fun?

Celebration Controversy–To Observe Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day?

People can’t seem to agree on anything these days, including what they were to celebrate on October 11, 2021. My calendar designated that day as “Indigenous People’s Day/Christopher Columbus Day.” In digenous People are referenced first because, of course, they were here first. Unfortunately, you cannot celebrate both occasions; it’s like trying to mix oil and water. Indigenous People believe Christopher Columbus did them wrong, so if someone honors Columbus, they’re basically thumbing their noses at the Indigenous People. You can’t be Switzerland; you must choose a side with whom to celebrate.

Indigenous People’s Day is actually the newest U.S. holiday. On October 8, 2021, President Biden signed a presidential proclamation formally recognizing it and declaring it a national holiday. Of course, that didn’t leave his countrymen much time to prepare for that event. Three days’ notice? But forget preparing. First you have to figure out the appropriate thing to do on such a holiday. The newspaper in my area was bereft of information about how you could observe the event.

The purpose for Indigenous People’s Day is to celebrate and honor Native American peoples and their histories and cultures. As President Biden’s proclamation noted, “On Indigenous People’s Day, we honor America’s first inhabitants and the Tribal Nations that continue to thrive today.” So, literally, Indigenous People can truly say, “We’re #1” since they were the first ones here, not that Johnny-come-lately, Christopher Columbus.

Biden’s proclamation earlier this month was the first time a U.S. president has officially recognized Indigenous People’s Day. Nevertheless, the day has been recognized and celebrated for several years. The impetus for it came from an international conference on discrimination that the United Nations sponsored in 1977. Berkeley, California instituted Indigenous People’s Day in 1992, the year marking the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Remember learning in school, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”?

Marking Indigenous People’s Day on the same day as Columbus Day arose as a counter-celebration to honoring the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Although hailed as an explorer and discoverer by history books, he has been denounced by some, including Native Americans, as representing the violent history of colonization of the New World in the Western Hemisphere. South Dakota, in fact, went so far as to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day in 1989.

But those opposed to celebrating Columbus Day probably have no idea of the history behind how that holiday came into existence. Ironically, both Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day arose from the mistreatment of minorities. Although named for Christopher Columbus, the day wasn’t so much about him as it was about Italian Americans.

Back in 1892, on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage (still counting from the sailing of the ocean blue in 1492), President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day a one-time national celebration. The impetus for this announcement? Why, the lynching in New Orleans of 11 Italian immigrants. The president’s proclamation was seen as a means to appease Italian Americans and to ease tensions with Italy.

Fast forward to 1934 when the Knights of Columbus and a New York City Italian leader lobbied for a national proclamation of October 12th as Columbus Day. Nevertheless, it took until 1971 before the day became a recognized federal holiday. Many Italian Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage as opposed to idolizing or glorifying Christopher Columbus.

While Biden’s proclamation formalized the new holiday of Indigenous People’s Day, it gave no guidelines or even suggestions for observing it. How should you appreciate those the day seeks to honor? One way to do so is to learn more about the honorees. With the internet, that activity is literally right at your fingertips. You can go to http://www.sacredspaceonlinelearning.com/ssol-categories/native-american-first-nations-and-indigenous-peoples-nafni/ to check out public online resources and webinars offered by NAFNI (Native American, First Nations and Indigenous People) to bring awareness to their ways of life and traditions.

A second way to actively enjoy the day would be to make and enjoy some Native American food. Indigenous recipes can be found at https://www.powwows.com/25-favorite-native-american-recipes/. Three Sisters Soup sounds delicious and highlights the prevalence of three ingredients in the native diet: corn, beans, and squash. Fry Bread is a familiar food of Native Americans, but making it the traditional way fried in lard may not be the healthiest choice.

Columbus Day can certainly be celebrated as a tip of the hat to Italian Americans. Columbus was, undisputedly, a famous Italian who had an impact on America. His explorations are a part of history and need to be recognized. BUT, perhaps a better way to treat the holiday is to learn ALL of the story about his discovery of the New World, including, and especially, his treatment of the Indigenous People he encountered there. While history cannot be changed, our perspective of it might if we consider the entire story. Perhaps everyone could learn from the mistakes made in the past when it comes to human relations.

As for me, I prefer not to have to choose between the two holidays. I suggest we “accentuate the positive” and honor BOTH Indigenous People and Italian Americans. Nevertheless, I have a confession to make. I didn’t have the day off, so it was a day like all days to me. No celebrating or honoring was done–just working. I’ll do better next year and recognize these two groups, of which I belong to neither. Isn’t that what makes America great though? We are not all the same. By the way, you can kiss me because I’m Irish. You don’t even have to wait until St. Patrick’s Day, which isn’t a federal holiday….

WONDER-ing Woman:

Did you celebrate either Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day this week? If so, how? Were you aware of how Columbus Day initially came to be recognized? Is it possible to honor both Italian American heritage and Indigenous People at the same time?

“No Time To Die”–It’s Time To Find Diamonds!

Excitement is at a fever pitch for the U.S. release tomorrow of the latest James Bond movie, “No Time To Die.” Apparently the British spy refuses to die as this is his 25th film spanning many decades. As an avid fan of 007, I hope the latest release is a sparkling success, with the word “sparkling” evoking memories of the 1971 Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever.” Diamonds play a role in another success, this time in real life, with the recent discovery of a diamond over 4 carats in an Arkansas state park.

Actor Daniel Craig, appearing in his final James Bond silver screen saga, had a rough and lengthy journey having “No Time To Die” see the light of day–or at least the darkness of the movie theater. Set to come out in 2019, setbacks with a change in director and the pandemic greatly delayed the movie’s release. One would think getting a James Bond movie out would be much easier than an average Jane Q. Citizen finding a large diamond in a field. But you’d be wrong!

Just as October 8th will be a red letter day for James Bond fans in the U.S., September 23rd was an epic day for a California woman traveling in Arkansas. While on the road, she decided it would be great fun to visit Crater of Diamonds, an Arkansas state park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas she’d read about. This park, located in southwest Arkansas, is the only public diamond mine in the world. Visitors to the park can search for diamonds there with a “finders, keepers” policy in effect.

Within an hour of arriving and starting her hunt for “ice,” Noreen Wredberg found a clean and shiny object sitting on top of the ground. So, she picked it up. Taking her find to the park’s Diamond Discovery Center, she learned she was the new owner of a 4.38 carat yellow diamond, the largest diamond found at the state park in the last year. The gem is described as being the size of jellybean with a pear shape and a lemonade color. (But don’t drink it!)

How could such a stunning discovery so easily and quickly have been made? Well, as they say, timing is everything. Noreen went to the park a couple of days after it had rained. Rain can uncover a larger diamond, and with the sun out, rays were hitting the gem’s reflective surface making it more noticeable.

While visiting a state park evokes visions of hiking trails, canoeing on a lake, and picnicking, searching for diamonds is unlikely to come to mind. And getting rich during a visit to a state park is even more unbelievable. But that’s what can happen at Crater of Diamonds State Park. On an average day, park visitor find one or two diamonds. During 2021, 258 diamonds have been registered at the park, together totaling around 46 carats. Since the park opened in 1972, park visitors have discovered over 33,100 diamonds. Holy Bling, Batman!

Noreen named her new bauble “Lucy’s Diamond” despite the gem having been found on the ground rather than in the sky. But “Lucy” isn’t the biggest diamond discovered at Crater of Diamonds. On Labor Day 2020, an Arkansas man came across a 9.07 carat diamond. But the MOAD (“Mother Of All Diamonds”) unearthed at the site was a 40.23 carat pink diamond located in 1924 prior to the area becoming a state park.

But what are diamonds doing in Arkansas of all places? That state is known for razorbacks, not gems. Aren’t diamonds from mines in South Africa? Well, yes. Arkansas is the first place outside of South Africa where diamonds can be found at their original volcanic source. Visitors to Crater of Diamonds State Park search a 37.5 acre plowed field which is the eroded surface of a volcanic crater. The park is situated over an eroded lamprocite volcanic pipe which formed as the result of violent eruptions of “deep-origin” volcanoes.

Not being a geology whiz, this explanation sounds like Greek to me. But in simpler terms, in order for diamonds to form, they require extremely high pressures and temperatures which can only be found deep in the earth’s mantle, the mostly solid bulk of Earth’s interior. Diamonds are brought to the surface during eruptions through relatively rare pipes which provide a conduit from down below to up above. These pipes are well known as the primary source of diamonds. I don’t know about pipes and carbon, but I am amazed at what beauty results from heat, pressure, and an eruption.

The diamonds produced from these extreme conditions and upheaval come in all colors of the rainbow. The three colors which have been found at Crater of Diamonds State Park are white, brown, and yellow. A gem’s color is dependent on trace elements captured in the diamond as it is being formed. Talk about being a product of your environment, even diamonds are in this category.

Dreaming of hitting it rich by coming across a diamond lying on the ground in a public park seems as likely to occur as James Bond not getting the girl, not bringing down the villain, and not ordering a martini “shaken, not stirred.” But 007 may experience some twists and turns accomplishing these things. I’m counting the hours until I can see the new Bond flick this weekend, but I’ll have to sit through 163 minutes, the longest Bond movie yet, to find how he manages to find success in his latest endeavors. In contrast, one lucky California women took only an hour to find a diamond to change her life forever.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Are you a James Bond fan? Were you aware diamonds can be found in the U.S.? Would you like to go to Arkansas and search for a diamond at Crater of Diamonds? Why or why not?

World Issues Mean Trouble’s Brewing For Coffee Drinkers

Even before the pandemic hit, many could only face the day with the help of caffeine in a cup or two (or more) of coffee. But perking up this way may be more difficult soon with declining supplies of coffee beans and rising prices for what is available. Trouble is brewing for coffee drinkers.

Don’t think issues with access to coffee would be a big problem in the United States? Well, think again. Seven out of ten Americans drink coffee at least once a week; approximately 64% of Americans consume the beverage daily. Americans drink around 146 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) cups of coffee annually. According to therobusttrader.com, the commodity has provided1.6 million jobs in the U.S. Clearly, American demand for coffee is high.

But unless you’ve got lots of bucks, it may become cost prohibitive to drink coffee at home much less purchase your favorite coffee drink at Starbucks. Why? The cost of coffee beans has risen more than 40% so far this year. Coffee futures DOUBLED in late July to prices not seen since 2014. For years, the price per pound was around $1, but the figure is now closer to $2. That price increase should stimulate your curiosity like caffeine does your body in the morning.

We all get prices going up, but what’s a coffee future? For those of us who are not commodities traders (raising my hand since, yes, I did have to look up the term), a coffee future is a standardized contract to buy or sell a specific quantity of an item at a presently agreed price for delivery at a specified future date. If prices are skyrocketing for such contracts for coffee, the intel must be solid that costs are going nowhere but up.

So what’s causing the cost of coffee beans to rise higher than the weight you gain imbibing a few calorie-laden Starbucks’ offerings? As is often the case, more than one factor can be blamed. Let’s start with the weather. Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, has experienced a sustained drought followed by two July frosts decreasing its coffee output. The Brazilian crop loss is estimated at between 2 million and 6 million bags of coffee, about 12% of its usual output. The frosts will significantly affect the 2022-2023 harvest because the damaged crops are about a year out from harvest.

But Brazil is just one of over 70 countries which grows coffee. The world’s coffee belt circles the globe along the equator with cultivation occurring in North America, Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Can’t the other countries make up the harvest deficit? Unfortunately, they are also experiencing production problems due to climate change. Apparently, the coffee belt is tightening.

Climate change has contributed to coffee growing difficulties because of climate variability, extreme weather events, and drought. Changing temperatures and rainfall could reduce the size of coffee-growing areas. All these factors decrease yields causing supply problems. But the problem extends far beyond simply not enough beans for the coffee grinder. Recent studies show up to 60% of high-quality coffee species are at risk of extinction because of the adverse effect of climate change.

Even the coffee which is produced is negatively impacted. Higher temperatures can lead to accelerated fruit development and ripening which degrades the quality of the coffee beans. That’s a bitter pill and a bitter cup of joe to have to swallow. A warmer climate also is more conducive to pest problems. A 2011 study showed the dread hypothenemus hampei, more commonly known as the coffee berry borer, tends to thrive in warmer conditions. But wait! There’s more! Additionally, coffee is vulnerable to fungal infections called rust. Rising temperatures and extreme rainfall are blamed for a severe rust outbreak in Central America. Yuk! Keep bugs and rust away from the beans used in my coffee.

And it’s not just coffee consumers taking a blow from production problems. Coffee is important to the economies of many tropical countries. Inability to produce as much of or as good of a coffee crop as in the past will be devastating financially.

Climate change, though, is not the only cause of rising coffee prices. While half the cost of a bag of coffee is the beans themselves, production and transportation expenses play a part in the remaining cost. With supply chain issues, labor shortages, and lack of shipping containers, is it any wonder that the cost of buying beans for our breakfast beverage is bigger?

An interesting development from these coffee problems is a new growing area. While coffee is traditionally grown in tropical, humid climates, climate change has resulted in the trend for California farmers, with a Mediterranean climate, to try growing coffee. California’s drier climate makes it immune from the destructive coffee rust fungus. The state’s location further from the equator means it takes the beans longer to ripen leading to a more defined tasted.

How did farmers in the Golden State, known more for crops like almonds and avocados, decide to grow coffee? A University of California Cooperative Extension advisor looking for a crop to replace the declining production of aging avocado trees came up with the idea. And what a good idea it was. Coffee grows well in the shade of avocado trees. To date more than 100,000 coffee trees have been planted on over 70 farms in the state, mostly specialty Arabica varieties. FRINJ, a business focused on coffee production there, has as its goal to make Southern California the next specialty coffee capital of the world.

Whether coffee growers in California, an industry still in the early stages of development, will be successful remains to be seen. Climate change has negatively effected that state too as it is currently dealing with water scarcity. Due to reduced rainfall, coffee growers must rely on irrigation, and coffee is a water intensive crop, requiring almost double what it takes to grow almonds. Let’s not even get into the need for consumers to have water to make their coffee to drink.

World issues such as climate change, supply chain problems, and labor shortages, are combining to threaten the simple pleasure of enjoying a cup of coffee. Coffee prices are going up and the taste is going down. Growing areas are declining and shifting. Hopefully, California farmers will soon be able to say, “Our bottom line is in the black, so we can provide you with a cup of black coffee to drink as you please.” I’ll take mine reasonably-priced, tasty, and enhanced with half and half and sweetener. A shot of salted caramel syrup would be nice too.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Do you drink coffee? Have you noticed a rise in coffee prices? How high would prices have to go before you’d reduce your coffee-drinking?