Commentary

Wed
25
May

New food labels take sugar out of hiding

The food and beverage industries have had a sweet deal in being allowed to hide how much sugar is contained in each product.

Ridiculously, where we could see where a can of Coca Cola provided two percent of our recommended daily allowance of sodium, the RDA for sugar was conspicuously absent. We knew that a 12-ounce can of soda had 50 grams of sugar, but unless we researched it, we wouldn’t know that the snack-time drink makes up 138 percent of our sugar RDA.

That is one way they have insidiously hidden and inserted added sugars into almost everything we eat, from canned and processed foods, to even things seemingly healthy, such as bread, applesauce or a green tea drink.

Wed
25
May

Jobs, innovation leave small towns behind

Before our eighth-grade promotion, nearly every boy in Rockdale, Texas (not quite three hours northeast of here) went down to Hodges Man Shop to buy a suit. In the late 1970s, we looked sharp in our three-piece suits and our dads showed us how to fasten a tie.

What was the last small town you drove around in that had a “man’s shop”? (Fredericksburg’s tourist-driven inducements notwithstanding.) Small town retail around the country, unless there is a huge visitor base like ours, is struggling.

On Sunday, the Washington Post published an article about how Americans in small towns are much less likely to start new businesses. This is a trend that is bad for huge swaths of our country.

Our small town of Rockdale relied too much on one industry for its economic welfare. When Alcoa’s smelter closed in 2008, a lot of good jobs left along with it.

Thu
19
May

Big thinkers needed to solve school finance

By Ken Esten Cooke

Last week’s decision by the Texas Supreme Court – which ruled the state’s financing of public education constitutional – gave our state legislators some breathing room. But it also meant they can continue to take a “pass” on doing anything about Texas’ problem-filled system.

It’s a big task to adequately fund all districts without disproportionately taking from those with higher property tax values. FISD is considered a property rich district, so we send about $6 million per year to the state.

But the school finance system also should be generous to those that have far less than we do here in Gillespie County.

The state constitution guarantees more than an educational system that covers the basics. As Texas leads the nation in many categories – energy, technology, health and construction, to name a few – so should its education system.

Wed
18
May

Lineage test to reveal clues, more stories

Soon, my sisters and I will know more about ourselves. My mother, as part of her lifelong pursuit in genealogy, bought kits to have her and my father’s DNA tested so they can see what percentage they are of what ethnicities. Results will arrive in June. For years, my mother would tell us we were “Heinz 57s,” but I’ve always been curious about exactly what our composition is. I know the Zowie family originated from Germany as the Zahnweh family, and I also know much of my mother’s family is from the United Kingdom. Some of her family originated from Kent, England and immigrated during the Colonial Days. There’s some Irish and possibly even Scottish ancestry. My natural hair color is dark brown, but my facial hair is mostly blond and red, leading me to believe I had ancestors with those hair colors. On my father’s side, there’s some Irish and Native American.

Wed
11
May

Other towns would take our 'problems'

By Ken Esten Cooke

Last week, Penny McBride’s bleak picture of life without tourism in Fredericksburg presented a “Walking Dead”-type scenario.

There would be plenty of downtown parking, but also lots of layoffs, closed store fronts and far less philanthropy. One has to only drive around Texas to see struggling small towns and realize how grateful we should be to live here.

The Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau released its annual report during National Tourism Week. Fredericksburg wouldn’t be near the envy of other Texas towns without this industry.

Wed
11
May

Pocket ledger was the Google of its day

Like nearly everyone these days, I’ve become spoiled when I need to find some particular piece of information.

All I have to do is jump on the internet, type a word or two into the search engine line, hit the “Go” button and within seconds, I have hundreds of possible entries to check to find an answer.

Things weren’t so easy years ago. People had to rely on their memory, keep notes, check The Farmers Almanac and old record books or check the feed house wall, since there was a good chance that what they were wondering about might be penciled inside, next to the door.

Back in 1933, my Opa Welgehausen was at Krauskopf Brothers, the local John Deere dealership, one day and they gave him a copy of The Farmer’s Pocket Ledger in which to keep records of his farming operations for that year.

Wed
04
May

State ignores own role in tuition rise

By Ken Esten Cooke

In this recess year, the Texas Legislature is studying many things in interim committees: public notices, property tax relief and college tuition.

Yet there seems to be a disconnect in lawmakers’ minds between rising costs for some goods and services and the state’s own trimming of its own budget session after session.

Where college tuition is concerned, there is surely some low-hanging fruit to address. Administrative costs have also risen sharply along with tuition. Some lawmakers have suggested colleges stop holding back 15 percent of tuition for financial aid programs, and making colleges prove that they deserve to hike tuition rates.

But a study by the Dallas Morning News saw that since 2002 — the year the state gave authority to set tuition rates back to the universities — tuition has risen 147 percent. Tuition and fees together have risen a staggering 300 percent during that time.

Wed
04
May

Growing old is a pain in the neck, back, hip...

Sometimes growing older can be the pits, but as my daddy used to say, “it’s better than the alternative.”

Obviously, there’s wisdom in his words. But, still, getting longer in the tooth can be a hassle of the highest order.

Biologists will tell you that there are 206 bones in the average human body. (According to my sources, you are born with about 270 bones but some of those fuse together as we get into adulthood.) We also have approximately 640 muscles throughout our complex machine.

I give you these facts as a way of illustrating how many opportunities there are for things to hurt, especially when all of those parts start getting some age on them.

Forrest Gump may have told Jennie that sometimes there aren’t enough rocks; well, sometimes there’s not enough Tylenol or Aspercreme to make things feel better.

Wed
27
Apr

The ethics of (in)action

Conflicts in morality and ethical responsibility at the highest levels of government make for a gripping drama in the political thriller, “Eye in the Sky,” now in wide release.

Oscar winner Helen Mirren headlines an elite cast as a British colonel leading a mission to capture international terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya. When the mission changes from capture to kill by drone strike, the legal and political stakes get elevated to extreme levels as a young Kenyan girl sells bread on a street corner within the target zone.

Officials from three different nations, military experts, legal minds and spies working on the ground, all must make difficult decisions in short order.

The film works thanks in large part to Mirren’s commanding presence on camera. While the role of military leader isn’t a typical role for her, Mirren blasts through dialogue with ruthless efficiency and insists viewers take notice.

Wed
27
Apr

The ethics of (in)action

Conflicts in morality and ethical responsibility at the highest levels of government make for a gripping drama in the political thriller, “Eye in the Sky,” now in wide release.

Oscar winner Helen Mirren headlines an elite cast as a British colonel leading a mission to capture international terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya. When the mission changes from capture to kill by drone strike, the legal and political stakes get elevated to extreme levels as a young Kenyan girl sells bread on a street corner within the target zone.

Officials from three different nations, military experts, legal minds and spies working on the ground, all must make difficult decisions in short order.

The film works thanks in large part to Mirren’s commanding presence on camera. While the role of military leader isn’t a typical role for her, Mirren blasts through dialogue with ruthless efficiency and insists viewers take notice.

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