2020 for Good — or Not?


Click to learn more about Rabbi Kravitz

By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

As you read this column, the newest year 2020 has already arrived. It’s the year we will refer to in the phrase “hindsight is 2020.” So, if this newest year does grant us the opportunity to reflect on the past, what do we see?

2019 was a year of amazing pain and conflict in the United States, not just in the streets of our cities, our schools, our houses of worship, but even in the halls of our government. It was 12 months filled with murder, rancor, swearing, bullying, harassment and mis-statements or lies. No matter the side of the aisle where you sit, 2019 presented itself as the opportunity to challenge and argue, besmirch and belittle anyone and everyone who is different. Hardly a day went by without someone using public or social media to verbally spit in the eye of someone else, without apology.

Seldom did we hear or read of people doing good for each other, except the occasional tribute to America’s military or vets. All the rest of us were fair game for targeting. We sent our “thoughts and prayers” to millions around the world who became cannon fodder for monarchs and oligarchs. Many praised ill-informed leaders. Thousands attempted to bury — online, sometimes in person — those who did not uphold their “values.” We felt the derision of those who saw human beings differently, and who made us the objects of their lunacy, the focus of their fury. Compassion and truth evaporated.

2019 was not a good year. True, we had some successes in medicine to heal the hurting; we saw advances in communication to connect us; and we responded with millions of dollars to care for victims of man-made and climate-made disasters. Nevertheless, 2019 now is over. How many hundreds of thousands remain hostages to war and displacement, seeking freedoms no longer offered, because of squandered resources.

Ours now is the responsibility to make 2020 a year where we can proudly say next year at this time — in hindsight — 2020 was better, because we worked together to make it so.

Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.

Photo by Andrew Zuber; courtesy of Scopio.

Blue Light: The Visible Danger

By Stephen Cohen, O.D.

Over the past decade, our lives have been transformed due to smart phones, tablets and other handheld devices. These devices are backlit by LED light. Also, legislation has been implemented that require that incandescent light bulbs be replaced by more energy efficient LED bulbs. Unfortunately, this change in technology has come with a price tag: these devices emit high levels of “blue light.”

Think about the colors of the rainbow. On the spectrum, blue light is right next to ultraviolet radiation (UV). We know that UV (which we cannot see) can be damaging to our skin and to our eyes. Its neighbor, blue light, has been found to cause numerous problems in higher and extended doses.

Although the sun is the major source of all wavelengths of light, including blue light, we have experienced a tremendous increase in blue light exposure in other settings, such as in our office, on our laptop and even in our beds when we tend to use our smart phones and tablets before going to sleep.

Here are some of the challenges we now face. Blue light suppresses melatonin, which helps us fall asleep. Using a smart phone in bed for a short time in anticipation of sleep actually wakes us up. Apple, for example, has come up with an adjustment to turn down the blue light at night in an attempt to counteract this problem for its iPhone users. Blue light also causes significant eyestrain. This can affect visual comfort, moods and behavior, whether for adults in an office, or, more significantly, for children in a classroom.

Blue light (which has been found to penetrate deeper into our eyes) has been implicated as a contributing factor to developing Macular Degeneration later in life. Protecting your eyes now will not only help to improve your quality of life today, it can also help in the future. There are now coatings that can be applied to lens surfaces of eyeglasses that block UV, glare, and blue light. This can enhance clarity (since the “blue” end of the visible spectrum tends to be more distorting), reduce strain and protect your eyes. Special filters on computer/tablet screens can reduce blue light exposure. Using the adjustment settings on your smart phone can also reduce exposure to higher levels of blue light.

We are familiar with the term “unintended consequences,” where some advances in technology provides benefits but can also cause unanticipated challenges. Such is the case with lighting changes that were made for environmental benefits, as well as digital device technology. So, while we help to protect our environment, let’s protect our eye health and visual comfort as well.

Photo credit: Japanexperterna.se via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Cartel Coffee Lab Heads North with Two New Phoenix Locations

The longstanding Tempe-based coffee purveyor, Cartel Coffee Lab, known for sourcing and roasting some of the best coffee from around the world is launching new locations in Paradise Valley and Uptown Phoenix. Located at the northeast intersection of Tatum and Shea, the Paradise Valley location is scheduled for a grand opening Dec. 20 . (Open holiday hours 7am–3pm through Christmas Eve; 6am–8pm regular hours.) Visitors can look forward to free coffee all day and a chance for one winner to receive free coffee for a year. The 1,200 square foot Paradise Valley location features a state of the art La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine, draft cold brew and Chemex pour overs of rotating single origin coffees.

As a part of its continuing partnership with boutique hospitality brand ARRIVE Hotels, Cartel will be opening inside ARRIVE’s upcoming hotel at Fourth Avenue and Camelback in Uptown Phoenix in 2020. This will be the third in a series of successful cafe/hotel partnerships after locations in Palm Springs and Austin.

“We’ve always been cautious when it comes to choosing locations or partners; both of these new cafes represent a lot of consideration and these are two communities we are excited to grow with,” said Jason Silberschlag, owner and co-founder of Cartel.

Husband and wife Jason and Amy Silberschlag began Cartel 12 years ago with a mobile cart, which will now have expanded into 10 retail locations across three states supported by their two Arizona roasteries in Tempe and Tucson. “From day one, it’s been about neighborhood cafe culture first and foremost,” said Amy. “We can’t wait to make new friends in North Phoenix!”

It isn’t just the Silberschlags who are excited.

“I’m personally thrilled that they’ll be just across the street from me,” says Woo Jonathon, general manager of neighboring restaurant The Covenant. “I’m always up for more local business in Paradise Valley.”

The name Cartel Coffee Lab was inspired by oil cartels; instead of stifling competition, Cartel has an ambitious goal to band together like-minded coffee producers and professionals to drive customer appreciation for hard work and quality. To date, Cartel partners with 110 rotating coffee farms spread across the globe who are guaranteed to be paid 30 percent to 150 percent above their costs, far above pricing set by Fair Trade.

Through the years, Cartel has received recognition from the likes of Alton Brown, Vogue and Food & Wine as a gold standard in specialty coffee craft and service. The secret is in their 90 percent retail focus, which has allowed them to prioritize the experience of the end user in all their decisions.

For additional information, visit www.cartelcoffeelab.com or find Cartel Coffee Lab on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Photos courtesy of Cartel Coffee Lab

World Hunger on the Rise — Causes, Consequences and Solutions

A map of all the countries Feed My Starving Children has partners in and is sending food to. The black dot on the far right is the country the volunteers were packing for at the facility in Mesa, Arizona, when the reporter visited. Photo: Jeff Rosenfield

—By Jeff Rosenfield

From 2005 to 2015, world hunger was decreasing, but it is once again on the rise.

Over two billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, and in the past three years the number of people suffering from hunger has slowly increased, according to 2019 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SFSNW) report.

This report was authored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.

The report measured the percentage of undernourished people in the world to represent global hunger. Undernourished people may have access to food that is not nutrient-rich.

While hunger is a physical discomfort due to not eating food for a time, undernutrition is a condition resulting from lack of necessary nutrients, usually obtained from food, according to World Hunger Education.

Hunger and undernutrition are results of food insecurity, when one has limited or unreliable access to healthy and nutritious foods.

“About two billion people in the world experience moderate to severe food insecurity,” according to the 2019 SFSNW report.

“The lack of regular access to nutritious and sufficient food that these people experience puts them at greater risk of malnutrition and poor health,” according to the 2019 SFSNW report, in which maternal and child undernutrition reportedly contributed to 45 percent of deaths in children under 5 years old.

“These nutrient deficiencies lead to a lack of function,” registered dietitian and lecturer for the Nutrition Program at the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University (ASU), Jessica Lehmann said.

The immune system can be suppressed if the “body doesn’t have enough protein to build antibodies,” Lehmann said.

Some examples of vital nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fats and water.

“If there’s not enough protein and not enough calories, then the body starts basically cannibalizing itself and its own proteins, in order to create enough energy to live,” Lehmann said.

The body will start by consuming the glycogen — or stored carbohydrates — and will ultimately consume its own skeletal muscles, Lehmann said.

Some other vital nutrients are vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, iron and zinc.

Vitamin A deficiency can result in blindness in children, according to Christy Alexon, a clinical associate professor at the College of Health Solutions at ASU.

“It’s completely heartbreaking,” Alexon said about the “number one preventable cause of childhood blindness.”

Vitamin A deficiency is preventable because there is enough nutritional food in the world.

According to Concern Worldwide U.S., Inc., “the world produces enough food to feed all 7.5 billion people.”

“Despite this, 1 in 9 people around the world go hungry each day,” according to Concern Worldwide U.S., a statistic confirmed in the 2019 SFSNW report.

“If you want to talk about why people are hungry, a lot of it is access to food,” Lehmann said.

Time and money are scarce, and people will often choose the cheaper meal, even if it is lacking nutrients, Lehmann said.

“Poverty is a huge reason,” Lehmann said.

In countries with greater income inequality, people with lower incomes spend a larger percentage of their income on food, according to the 2019 SFSNW report.

While enough food is produced worldwide, it is not readily available worldwide. As such, countries need to find a way to secure their own food source.

Countries lacking the necessary land and water resources to produce crops are forced to import, Mark Manfredo, a director and professor at the Morrison School of Agribusiness at the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU, said.

Even if a country can afford importing food, it may not be able to afford importing nutritious food, which is typically more expensive.

Any nutritious food that is imported will be more expensive than non-nutritious foods in the domestic markets, according to the 2019 SFSNW report.

A country that produces its own food is not necessarily better off, either.

Prices may fluctuate due to weather and natural disasters destroying crops. Food safety scares can also create a lot of volatility, Manfredo said.

Additionally, poorer countries have fewer incentives to offer farmers to increase production, Clifford Shultz, a professor at the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University, said.

Cambodia, as a previously communist country, used a model that “didn’t have incentives for farmers so they underperformed,” Shultz said.

Underperforming farmers hurt the economy, which also undermines efforts to end hunger and malnutrition, according to the 2019 SFSNW report.

“After they switched to a more market-oriented economies they were able to produce more food,” Shultz said.

Still, some countries have underperforming economies.

“In 2018, more than 96 million people in 33 countries suffering from acute food insecurity lived in places where economy had rising unemployment, lack of regular work, currency depreciation and high food prices,” according to the 2019 SFSNW report.

Another reason people have unequal access to food is war and violence.

Food waste and insecurity are greatly increased in times of war and violence.

“Food is a weapon,” Shultz said.

In war, “One of the first things you do is cut off the supply chain of your adversary,” Shultz said.

Destroying food supply chains causes crop failure and reduces the supply of food, and when the demand remains the same or increases, the result is an increase in food prices.

For example, South Sudan’s civil war has led to mass displacement and abandoned fields, resulting in crop failure. Combined with a soaring inflation rate, imported foods are unaffordable, leaving six million people food-insecure, according to Concern Worldwide U.S.

Many countries with food insecurity also face an increasing number of overweight people. This is not a result of well-nourished people overindulging.

“The most recent data show that obesity is contributing to 4 million deaths globally and is increasing the risk of morbidity for people in all age groups,” according to the 2019 SFSNW report.

“People are growing up and they’re just not sure where their next meal is coming from,” Lehmann said.

“It can create a very real need to make sure that someone has extra calories,” Lehmann said.

“Whenever food does appear they’re going to be much more likely to get as much as possible because they don’t know when their next meal is gonna arrive or be there,” Lehmann said.

Whether or not this food is nutritious is of little concern to the hungry person.

Countries around the world are food insecure and suffer from undernutrition, even though the world produces enough food to feed them all.

So, where does the excess food go?

It is wasted.

“Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted,” according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States.

That is the equivalent of roughly 680 billion United States dollars being wasted annually.

“Food waste occurs at all points of the supply chain,” Manfredo said.

“Researchers and scientists and economists are all trying to address this problem,” he continued.

“There is a lot of agricultural investment right now, in new technologies, in land, in infrastructures and equipment, all of this to create more efficiency in food production.”

One example Manfredo gave was investments in robotics. Having a robot that can remove weeds from a farmer’s field could potentially remove the need for spraying chemicals and herbicides.

Another example was using data analytics to build models and predict how much fertilizer is needed for a field.

However, as Manfredo said earlier, “Food waste occurs at all points of the supply chain.”

Manfredo said waste occurs in fresh produce, in particular, as produce is not put on the market if it does not meet industry standards.

“Maybe it’s bruised or imperfect,” Manfredo said, “That’s the word they often use is imperfect.”

Imperfect Foods is a Public Benefit Corporation that sells groceries online and delivers them.

Imperfect Foods lists several reasons why a product may be classified as imperfect, including a product not being visually appealing or being outside the size parameter given by the buyer.

Usually, imperfect foods in the United States are discarded before they reach the market, not because they are unsafe to eat, but because they are significantly less marketable, meaning they are less likely to be bought by customers.

“People are demanding higher quality food,” Manfredo said.

Americans are particularly picky eaters, as Brian Hetzer from Feed My Starving Children, (FMSC) discovered.

FMSC has tried sending their Manapack bags to the Red Cross for disaster relief, such as hurricanes and flooding.

“The bottom line is most people in the U.S. won’t eat this,” Hetzer said.

Most people in the U.S. are used to high-quality food that tastes better.

In the U.S., “More times than not, the food ends up going to waste,” Hetzer said.

Because U.S. citizens are so particular, vendors must be very cautious about only using marketable foods.

Just because U.S. citizens do not want to eat imperfect food, does not mean hungry people around the world will not. So why is this excess food thrown away instead of being sent to those who need it?

Because it is cheaper.

“Getting it into the hands of someone to eat it isn’t free,” Harold McClarty, the owner of HMC Farms, said in a video clip used in the episode Food Waste (12:53) of “Last Week Tonight.”

“It’s a lot easier and cheaper to just throw it away,” McClarty said.

This behavior is not unique to the United States; it is practiced throughout the world.

Every year, consumers in rich countries waste about 222 million tonnes of food, according to the FAO.

Though much of the world’s food goes to waste, there are many organizations actively sending food and supplies to people in need.

Feed My Starving Children is one of these organizations.

They send Manapack rice to various countries in need.

“We pack 1 million meals a week,” Hetzer said, adding “there is still tremendous need.”

Feed My Starving Children has partner organizations around the globe in over 50 countries.

“There are other organizations that are willing to partner with us that we have to say no to because we can’t pack enough food to meet the additional need,” Hetzer said.

Moving food around the world is expensive, but FMSC does not charge its partner organizations for the food. They only pay for the shipping, Hetzer said.

Currently, FMSC cannot accept additional food partners because it does not have the money to purchase more food, beyond its commitments to its current partners.

FMSC said 999,110 children are fed each year because of volunteers and donors. The solution to world hunger is neither inexpensive nor easy, but it is more than a lack of food and resources.

The “problem is really one more of will rather than a lack of technology or resources,” Shultz said.

Jeff Rosenfield is a student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Arizona Responds to Maternal Mortality Rates

—By Jeff Rosenfield

UA College of Medicine-Phoenix held an event last night to address the rising maternal mortality rates in the United States and how Arizona is combating the crisis.

Dr. Kendra Gray poses for a photo before giving a presentation on maternal mortality rates in the United States and how Arizona is combating it. Gray gave her presentation at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Education Building in Phoenix, Arizona, Dec. 4. Photo: Jeff Rosenfield

Dr. Kendra Gray, a clinical instructor and maternal fetal medicine fellow of the UA College of Obstetrics and Gynecology discuss the trends in maternal mortality and what can be done about it. 

“In the United States there’s an estimated 700 women a year who will die from pregnancy or birth related causes,” Gray said. “That number is absolutely crazy to me.”

Every one of those numbers is a person, is a mom. Heart disease and stroke cause one in three deaths, she said.

Other causes of death during pregnancy can include hemorrhage, infection, blood clots in the lungs, anesthetic complications, cardiomyopathy, substance abuse and obesity, she said.

“More than 80 percent of all maternal deaths in Arizona are believed to have been preventable. Not all of them are preventable, but 80 percent is really, really high and so we have to figure out what we can do to fix that,” she said.

Gray cited findings by the CDC, including roughly one-third maternal mortalities happen while pregnant, one-third occur within one week of delivery and one-third occur within a year after delivery.

“There has been no improvement [of the U.S. maternal mortality rate] in roughly 25 years,” she said. “We’re still doing worse than many of our comparative first-world countries.”

According to Gray, Arizona has made some positive changes.

Arizona is one of nine states to receive $2.1 million grant per year for five years from the Health Resources and Services Administration at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will be used to collect more data in a “more timely fashion,” Gray said.

Gov. Doug Ducey established an advisory committee to combat maternal mortality, in April.

The 13-member advisory committee provides recommendations for enhancing data collection and reporting on maternal mortality, according to a press release.

“We’re one of 25 states to receive an award for $450,000 per year, for a five-year period from the CDC, related to preventing maternal deaths,” Gray said. “We’ve had Medicaid expansion, we report our maternal mortality rate by race.”

The state of Arizona has been cited in multiple American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists practice bulletins and is being looked at as a model for other states to start to mimic some of what we’re doing, Gray said.

According to Gray, Arizona decided to join the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health, which provides packages with “checklists” on how to manage various hypertensive disorders and emergencies systematically in hospitals.

“In the states that these bundles have been tried out in, the mortality and morbidity have decreased dramatically,” Gray said.

The University of Arizona and Banner University also run many simulations of medical emergencies, including maternal mortality related issues, so future nurses and doctors will be prepared, Gray said.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists American also has its own initiatives to reduce maternal mortality rates, including optimizing postpartum, designating levels of maternal care and advocating more for maternal mortality, Gray said.

Dr. Shirley Savai specializes in Gynecology and Maternal and Fetal Medicine, and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Banner Health.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Savai said. “Compared to European women, our women get twice as many chronic illnesses during pregnancies.” 

Bryce Munter, a third-year medical student at the college and audience member, said she knew maternal mortality was a problem, but she did not know the severity of it.

Philip Maykowski, a third-year medical student at the college and audience member, said Gray’s lecture reinforced how behind we are on maternal mortality, in terms of understanding and preventing it, and that one can focus on it more when going into training.

“We need to give better care to women in general in our country, in particular reproductive age women,” Gray said. “Losing just one mom at all is really, really devastating.”

Jeff Rosenfield is a student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Christmas ‘Miracle’ Pop-Up Bar Returns to Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

The holiday season is here and amid the hustle and bustle those who are looking for delicious craft cocktails, festive décor and maybe a place to hide from the in-laws are in luck. The holiday-themed pop-up cocktail bar “Miracle” is returning to Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails for the second year.

Through Christmas Day, holiday revelers around the Valley can descend on the Downtown Phoenix hotspot as this year’s pop-up extends beyond the bar and transforms the entire restaurant into an over-the-top winter wonderland. Miracle at Blue Hound will feature a new menu of seasonally themed cocktails and dishes served in a festive setting of nostalgic vintage Christmas decor. Think thousands of twinkling lights, ceilings swirling with icicles, colorful garland and ribbon and other holiday-themed knickknacks. Bartenders and staff will don ugly sweaters and festive holiday attire as well.

“This year, we’re dialing it up even more by creating a fully immersive holiday experience throughout the entire restaurant. Whether you’re looking to host a festive luncheon with colleagues in the dining room, grab a cocktail in the bar with friends or enjoy an unforgettable date night on our patio overlooking the ice rink, Miracle at Blue Hound really serves as the holiday headquarters in Downtown Phoenix,” said Wade Gruenewald, general manager, restaurants and bars at Blue Hound. “You never know how people will respond when you introduce a brand-new concept to the market and we were blown away by the 5,000 locals and hotel guests that visited Miracle at Blue Hound last year.”

This year’s cocktail menu will feature nine Christmas concoctions, including a number of favorites from last year’s menu including:

  • Snowball Old Fashioned ($16): Caramelized pecan bourbon, spiced molasses syrup, wormwood bitters and orange essence.
  • Bad Santa ($14): Rum, Batavia Arrack, black chai tea, date-infused oat milk and vanilla syrup. Served hot.
  • Koala-La La La, La La La La ($16): Gin, pine tea cordial, grapefruit oleo and Eucalyptus bitters.
  • Gingerbread Flip ($16): Rye whiskey, gingerbread syrup, tiki bitters, whole egg and ginger snap cookie crumbs.
  • Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! ($16): Barbados rum, Cachaça, Trinidad Overproof Rum, purple yam, coconut orgeat and pineapple.
  • Jingle Balls Nog ($14): Brown butter and cinnamon fat-washed cognac, Amontillado Sherry, almond milk, cream, sugar, egg, vanilla and nutmeg.
  • Christmas Carol Barrel ($16): Blanco Tequila, coffee liqueur, coco-nib infused orange and cognac liqueur, iced hot chocolate and Mexican spices.

In addition to the cocktails, Executive Chef Dushyant Singh is also getting into the spirit by debuting five new dishes that will be added to the regular lunch and dinner menus throughout the season. These include the Baa, No Humbug ($18) with three lamb chops, curry pickled shallots, quince squash puree and house mint jelly; Holiday Fries ($9) with sweet potato frites, house spice dust and white barbecue sauce; Soup for You ($9) with roasted heirloom carrots, honey crisp apple soup, ginger espuma and apple chips. The popular Hammy Sammy from last year’s menu will also be making a comeback as the Bringing Hammy Back ($13) with black forest ham, speck, Havarti, Tillamook cheddar, brie poblano spread and Noble bread.

For those who feel one night of Miracle just won’t be enough, Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix is also offering the “Miracle Experience” stay package with best flexible rates starting from $179 per night. Available to book through Tuesday, Dec. 24, the package includes overnight accommodations in a Deluxe Guestroom, a $50 dining credit at Blue Hound, two tickets to CitySkate at CityScape Phoenix with skate rentals included and two Miracle holiday mugs. To book a stay, visit www.hotelpalomar-phoenix.com.

Miracle at Blue Hound will be open Sunday to Thursday from 11am to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 11am to 1am. For more information about Miracle at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails, visit www.bluehoundkitchen.com or call 602.258.0231. For more information about the Miracle pop-up, visit www.miraclepopup.com.

Sell One, Give One — Scottsdale Company Supports Area Animal Rescues

—By Jeff Rosenfield

Max and Neo, a for-profit online dog accessory store with a warehouse based in Scottsdale Airpark in North Scottsdale that donates weekly to 3,500 rescues around the United States, will be donating an extra “Christmas” box of pet supplies — each box worth about $275 — for the second year in a row.

Kenric Hwang stands next to three towers of Max and Neo Christmas donation boxes at the Max and Neo warehouse in the Scottsdale Airpark. Max and Neo will donate 3,500 boxes like these this December.

Since being founded by Kenric Hwang in September 2015, Max and Neo has made weekly donations to all the animal rescues on their list, over 100 of which are Arizona-based. For every one product they sell, they donate one item to an animal rescue.

Hwang said Max and Neo donates because he wanted to find a way to help rescues and customers both benefit from donations; the rescues receiving free items for their animals and customers buying an item and knowing another item will be donated too.

“At the end of the month we add up all the collars we sold and then we donate that many collars out and spread it amongst the rescues on our donation list,” Hwang said.

By the end of the year, Max and Neo will have donated over 180,000 pet products — worth nearly $3 million in retail — to rescues around Arizona and the United States in 2019, owner Hwang said.

On average, Max and Neo donates about 125 boxes of supplies — worth $47,000 in retail — per week to rescues, Hwang said.

Max and Neo keeps a list of 3,500 rescues it donates products to, which is available on the business website. They give to between 125 and 150 rescues each week, according to Hwang.

“We try and make it fair so that every rescue gets at least three boxes a year from us,” Hwang said.

These donated boxes — each worth between $350 and $400 — contain eight leashes and 12 collars of varying size, supplements, toys and other items, Hwang said.

Max and Neo asks each rescue to choose from 10 different boxes to best suit their needs.

“Some rescues only use harnesses; some rescues are really particular about their collars,” Hwang said.

For those rescues, Max and Neo will donate a box with only leashes upon request, Hwang said.

There are four boxes that contain all sizes of collars and leashes, for rescues working with more than one size dogs. Five boxes contain collars and leashes in the sizes: extra-small, small, medium, large or extra-large for rescues specializing in one size of dogs, Hwang said.

“A chihuahua rescue is not getting any collars larger than a small. They’re not getting dog toys that only a big dog can chew up.”

Hwang said he feels “fulfilled” for donating to rescues and that he is sure they are making an impact.

Liz Stegmeir, the founder of the AARF Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, based in Mayer, north of Phoenix, agreed.

“They’re helping a lot,” she said. “There’s $300 worth of items here. That helps us not having to go out and buy collars for the dogs.”

“That’s just in one box. They’ve sent us three different boxes. That’s almost $1,000 worth savings for us,” Stegmeir said.

A Christmas donation box, including a chew toy, a bag of holiday-themed leashes, a bottle of fish oil and more at the Max and Neo warehouse in Scottsdale Airpark.

Hwang said that the Christmas boxes are smaller than Max and Neo’s standard donation box, containing 18 holiday-themed items instead of 25 regular items because their donation list increased more than sales did.

“The collars are green and red and there’s a custom dog toy in there for Christmas,” Hwang said.

Hwang said the holiday-themed items were made by Max and Neo staff uniquely for the Christmas box.

“You couldn’t find the same leash or dog toy in our store,” Hwang said.  “They were only made for the donation boxes.”

Stegmeir said she was excited when she received an email from Max and Neo saying their Christmas box would arrive.

“We just got one less than a month ago, so I was shocked we’re getting another one so soon, and I think it’s great,” she said.

Karen Franklin is the founder of the Arizona animal rescue 2DaRescue, based in Gilbert.

Joining Max and Neo’s donation list a year ago, her group has received three small boxes with pet toys, leashes and collars, Franklin said.

“Their products are really good quality and we appreciate their help,” she said.

Last year was the first time Max and Neo tried donating to every rescue on their list during the holiday season. They only had about 2,000 rescues on their list and the boxes were brown instead of green with shapes such as bells, reindeer, snowflakes, presents and socks on the side.

“It gets harder as more and more rescues get on the list,” Hwang said.

“We just gotta get our sales to catch up to the number of rescues that are on the list.”

Jeff Rosenfield is a student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Whiskey and Popcorn Reviews… Shia LaBeouf’s HONEY BOY is a Cathartic Journey for the Troubled Actor

Tuesday Mahrle and Kaely Monahan

Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

—By Kaely Monahan and Tuesday Mahrle

Shia LaBeouf explores his own childhood in the highly meta and cathartic film Honey Boy. In this film, the child star is 12-year-old Otis. His father is an ex-rodeo clown and convict who now acts as his guardian. We come to discover that Otis, and by extension LaBeouf, experiences intense trauma, resulting in the star coming to his lowest point.
Emotional, humorous and very intense, Honey Boy is one of the highlights of the year.

Listen to Whiskey and Popcorn’s full Honey Boy review online now.

Whiskey and Popcorn is a movie podcast by local film critics Kaely Monahan and Tuesday Mahrle. You can hear their full movie reviews on whiskeyandpopcorn.org.

Light Up Your Home to Light Up Your Life

Click to read more about Barbara.

By Barbara Kaplan –

“What to do about lighting?” is the question every client asks me. They want to know: “Do I buy lamps, install track lighting, have recessed cans put in the ceiling, use up-lights, indirect lights or cable lights? What’s the difference between halogen bulbs and incandescent bulbs and now LED?”

Lighting, magically, makes everything in a room come alive, so it’s important to place lights strategically. Proper lighting makes the difference! Because all color is affected by light, the kind of lighting, will make a huge difference in the feel of your rooms. Lighting affects mood and brings style and personality to any environment. You can have tranquility or excitement with a flick of a switch.

There is no one answer. Decide on the effect you want to create in your home. Builders understand the importance of lighting and provide recessed canned lights, flush with the ceiling; however, they don’t provide very many. Add more cans in strategic areas where lighting is beneficial and to create the effect you want to achieve.

Bulbs: LED is replacing incandescent and halogen. Incandescent bulbs give off a yellow light. Halogen bulbs throw off a white light. The new LED lighting now comes in a variety light that resembles these traditional bulbs. They have to be chosen carefully for the affect you want to achieve. “Lumen” is a measurement of the light output. The color temperature of the light source is measured in Kelvins. White light doesn’t change the true color of fabrics, wall coverings and flooring. Yellow light adds warmth. It is very important to question the differences based on your preference. Lenses can also be changed to control the spread of the light.

LED is now widely used for chandeliers and pendant fixtures. The decorative covering will change the lighting color based on its design and color.

Switches: I’m a great believer in using as many as possible and practical — it’s a great way to save money in the long run. Particularly if you have installed several ceiling lights over different areas in the room. Switching lights individually gives versatility and is energy efficient. The more you separate the lights and give them their own switches, the greater the choice you have in putting light where it is needed or wanted.

Lighting can be glaring so you might want to include dimmer switches. They control the amount of light you want in a room and often add a wonderful mood.

Lamps: When choosing a lamp, consider design, size and proportion, as well as color and material. Shades come in many colors and with trims such as beads or glass. Ask yourself: Is the lamp making a fashion statement or is it an art object? Of course, whatever you choose has to accent the style of the room.

Up-lights: Up-lights on timers can be used to highlight plants and artwork. The drama of up-lights is also a surprise feature. Because people don’t customarily expect lighting on the floor, it adds a new dimension to the room. It also creates designs on your ceiling. I have up-lights on timers in every room of my home, so I always have subtle illumination until bedtime.

Create lighting for your lifestyle and to highlight the beauty in your home.

Remember, rooms have no feelings, YOU do! So light up your life!

Barbara Kaplan, IFDA, Allied ASID is a Phoenix-based interior design consultant, specializing in designed environments to create healing energy while living beautifully.

Photo by tanakawho on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Male Call: Five Strikes and Yer Out!


Click to read more about James Roberts.

 By James Roberts –

The woman, about 60 I’d say, had quite a tale of tribulation that you may find instructive. (Warning: names and locations have been adjusted for purposes of privacy.)

The husband, let’s call him Simon, is a psychiatrist. The woman, let’s call her Simone, had a well-paying job. They’re not millionaires but quite well to do…as you’ll see.

It seems that Simon went through these five-year spin cycles, almost to the month. After five years of marriage, they had their first child, a boy. After 10 years, a girl. Five years later he announced that he was joining a men’s group for meditation and getaways from society. They would gather in a sweat lodge, chew peyote (she wasn’t entirely clear what drug but since she wasn’t invited and it was a sweat lodge thing, presumably it wasn’t just marijuana) and…do whatever they do.

After a couple of these getaways he announced that he’d had a “spirit vision,” which also gave him a new name: “Speaking Falcon.” Her kids thought this was a bit odd since Simon hardly ever spoke, except to use typical psychiatrist phrases like, “So, how did that make you feel?” Simon declared that not only she, but the kids would henceforth use his new spirit name. She put her foot down: Okay in the bedroom “but I’m not going to inflict that on the kids and I’m not doing it in public with our friends.”

Five years later he’s at a professional conference in Lake Tahoe, which would last through Sunday. Would she like to bring the kids and join him then for a couple days of vacay? She would! Except he wanted them to actually drive up on the Friday…and bring their special joint checkbook. He had a surprise for her! Now, their marital deal was that either of them could buy stuff on their own whim as long as it was under $500. The big-ticket joint checkbook required both of them to co-sign. She figured, “What the heck” and did as asked. Arriving in Tahoe she discovered that the big surprise was a new car…for him. An Audi S4. He had seen one of his conference-mates with one and wanted one for himself. She agreed, not enthusiastically, but, after all, they had the money.

Five years later, his men’s group is off to meditate and study astrology at a vortex. When he returns, he announces that he is no longer “Speaking Falcon.” Whew! She thinks. Glad that’s over.

Except now he’s “Saffron Warrior.”

Ready for more?

Five years later he declares that he’d like to learn how to play piano. Great…how much harm can that be? Except he wants to buy the piano before taking the lessons. Hmm, OK, I guess he needs something to learn on. Maybe a nice Yamaha keyboard. She figures they can pick one up for $500-800 and if it doesn’t work out, well, they can put it on eBay or just give it away.

Nope. It’s got to be a grand piano. Not a “baby grand,” mind you (which my saintly departed mother played every day for 60 years, and which I was privileged to use for two years until my piano teacher fired me). The piano set them back $15,000…but they had the money. Six months later, when the lessons stopped, they were able to get $13K for it.

Five years later he announces that he’d like to travel to Nepal for about three months to further his spiritual development…with his <ahem> guru. Would she be kind enough to co-sign for the $50,000 it would cost?

Had enough? Well, so did she. She flatly refuses. He can go if he wants but she’s not helping him finance the trip…with the guru or otherwise. He pouts and stomps around for about a month and then, happily, seems to have put that dream aside.

Except…she notices his practice is losing money, month after month. It’s not like they can’t afford things, but it’s so odd that all of a sudden, the thriving medical business is going downhill, little by little.

Enough already. She hires a forensic accountant (whatever that is) who manages to find the proverbial back door to Simon’s computer. There seem to be a lot of unexplained transfers here and there, including one for $12,000. A few days later she visits him in his study and says she’d like to explore her astrological sign and she know he has some info stored about her “astrological nadir” (whatever that is) on his system. He agrees readily and opens up the file. Ooops…the kettle’s boiling downstairs for their tea! Would he mind taking care of the tea while she explores the birth sign material? He goes and gets the tea and returns to find a very stern and unhappy wife. (Of course, the tea kettle was a setup and she had already poked around on the computer days before; now she’s ready to confront.)

Would he like to explain what the $12K is doing in a secret account? He would not.

But she knew. He had been siphoning off his income all the while when she wouldn’t pony up the 50 G’s.

He asks for a divorce. She says, “OK, go ahead.” He gets them a high-power corporate lawyer he knows to split things up — but even this lawyer thinks things are fishy, despite the fact that he’s Simon’s friend. So, while Simon is on a bathroom break, the lawyer takes her aside privately and suggests the name of what Simone learns is called a “junkyard dog.” The “jd” is too busy to take her on…until she mentions the name of the corporate lawyer. Then, it’s game on.

Frankly, I’ve lost track of the strike count here, but let’s call it five.

Which one would’ve broken you? The spirit vision names? The pointless piano? The vanity car? The guru? Or does it take actual money shenanigans?

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at jrobertpenn@aol.com. For more words, ideas and whimsy, visit jveeds.wordpress.com.

Photo by mark6mauno on Foter.com / CC BY

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