I really love my job. It’s rewarding to help individuals deal with their cardiac health, sometimes with operations, always with advice and lifestyle adjustments to focus on wellness. Given my responsibilities for overseeing cardiac care for the entire Geisinger system, I’m so proud to help hundreds of remarkably skilled and committed professionals apply their talents for so many of our neighbors’ benefit.

Among the tools we have to help with cardiovascular wellness are things you’ve read about here over the years including exercise, not smoking, awareness of and management of blood pressure, regular checkups and reliably taking carefully chosen medicines under a professional’s watchful eye. One of the most common recommendations we make though, concerns diet.

But a new study shows not all effects of recently trendy diets are beneficial, and one metabolic result might actually be linked to heart complications.

The Paleolithic diet —commonly referred to as the Paleo diet, which is also known as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet — is based on the theory that obesity and related diseases have proliferated at alarming rates because of humanity’s reliance on foods that are rooted in the farming age that began roughly 10,000 years ago.

Therefore, the theory goes, consuming foods that were only available in the Paleolithic era, which spanned approximately 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago, should be more naturally suitable to the human physiology and metabolism. The diet is comprised of lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables and avoids dairy products, grains and legumes.

Basically, if you would hunt for or gather it, you can eat it, but nothing that emerged from agriculture or domesticating animals is fair game.

But now this widely adopted diet, lauded for its improvement of gut health, is coming under the clinical microscope.

Research, published in July in the European Journal of Nutrition, suggests Paleo eaters, in comparison to folks who ate according to the typical dietary recommendations of their country, showed a lower intake of “resistant starch” (which functions like soluble fiber, feeding good gut bacteria), showed different microorganisms in their gut, and had a higher blood levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO).

TMAO is of concern because of its association with cardiovascular disease. High TMAO levels contribute to elevated risk of clot-induced heart attack and stroke and have also been linked to higher risk of dying among patients with stable coronary artery disease.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed people with high TMAO levels had a 62 percent higher risk of developing major adverse cardiovascular disease events than participants with low TMAO levels, and a 63 percent higher risk of dying from all causes in the same period of time.

The “a-ha” moment in the Paleo study came when researches realized that the association with negative health outcomes couldn’t be completely blamed on the abundance of meat consumed in the Paleo diet. The lack of whole grains, it turns out, is just as worrisome.

Now, let’s not just worry about the Paleo diet, other popular diets that emphasize low carbohydrate intake, like the ketogenic, or “keto,” diet are likely to lead to similar risks.

In providing resistant starch and similar fermentable fibers, whole grains are a key ingredient in good gastrointestinal health. In turn, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart attack and stroke risk can be reduced by keeping these fibrous good-bacteria feeders in your diet.

Fiber deficiency in the United States is not an issue specific to people following low-carb diets; it’s a problem that touches 95 percent of Americans who fail to meet the recommended daily minimum of 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams a day for men.

The easiest way to combat fiber deficiency, high TMAO levels, poor gut health and the potential for heart attack, stroke and premature death, be sure to eat your suggested daily doses of whole grains, fruits and vegetables … it’s also delicious when so many great summer fruits and vegetables are fresh and available.

Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is associate chief medical officer for Geisinger and chair of the Geisinger Heart Institute. Readers may write to him via [email protected] For a free heart risk assessment, visit geisinger.org/heartrisk.

Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is associate chief medical officer for Geisinger and chair of the Geisinger Heart Institute. Readers may write to him via [email protected] For a free heart risk assessment, visit geisinger.org/heartrisk.

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As all local municipalities prepare to go about the business of making their communities better, now is not the time for raucous, disrespectful, adversarial confrontations between elected officials and members of the taxpaying public.

Actually, no time should be spent on those public displays of irreverent name-calling and accusatory assaults.

Political differences aside, public meetings should be focused exclusively on “the good of the order.” Everybody, despite their particular political differences — and there are plenty out there today — who attends meetings of borough councils, board of supervisors/commissioners and all others needs to behave with decorum.

If you have questions about what is or isn’t happening in your town, do your homework. Then go to the meeting and ask your questions and then allow the elected officials to respond. Perhaps a couple of follow-up questions and responses and you will have an interaction aimed at getting whatever the issue is resolved.

Most residents don’t attend meetings. Even fewer dare to ask questions. The media tries to cover as many places as possible, but there are just too many.

Enter social media. In Plymouth, for example, one resident — Mary Jarrett — attends the meetings and transcribes all that happens at her town’s council meetings. She then posts it on Facebook so that others can read it and, perhaps, not just get informed, but maybe get involved.

Jarrett is to be commended for what she does. Her example should be emulated in all towns. She has found a way to let her fellow residents know what is going on and what the elected officials are saying and voting on every month.

And that is good. We live in a technologically-connected world, yet it seems we remain somewhat uniformed about what goes on in the places where we live.

The easy approach is to just sit back and exist in a vacuum and not care about what is happening next door, down the street, in our schools, or beyond. Or, you can get involved. Attend meetings, even if you just go to hear and see what is going on. Join community groups, listen to the discussion and don’t be afraid to express yourself — your opinion does matter.

And to all those elected officials out there, be receptive to constructive criticism. Be willing to answer questions from the public. Make every effort to explain why decisions are being made. Everybody can learn a lot just by listening and taking the time to weigh all matters before deciding. Let the sun shine in and be “transparent.”

It’s not a perfect world, but it has been proven that progress can be found when debate is welcome. Just ask our Founding Fathers. Opposing views can sometimes lead to better results. Rubber-stamping everything is not the best way to operate.

Ignorance and apathy have plagued our political process for years now — the “I don’t know and I don’t care” attitude. Yet we go about election after election voting for candidates we know little, if anything, about. What makes matters worse, is we don’t really know where we can go to get accurate information on the candidates — it’s that whole “fake news” thing.

Yes, the media is to be partially to blame here. There is way too much bias in just about every news story, electronic or print, that inflicts opinion on the listener/reader. Most people are quite capable of forming their own opinions if given accurate information to weigh. Social media, especially, is an open forum for people to post “information” that is not only less than accurate, it’s many times manufactured.

So how do we wade through this murky sea of misinformation? We get involved. We attend meetings. We listen. We ask. We ponder. And we decide.

And that simple process must be allowed to exist — to be welcome — every time we walk into a council chamber, or a board room, or a municipal town hall.

KINGSTON — Commonwealth Health First Hospital CEO Gregory Shannon stepped down from his position on Jan. 3, according to a statement released by Commonwealth Health.

“We extend a sincere thank you to Greg for the leadership provided during his tenure,” the statement read. “Members of the Board of Trustees, medical staff and administration will be involved in the process to select a new CEO.”

Shannon joined the organization in January 2018, serving as CEO of First Hospital, Community Counseling Services and CHOICES.

According to his LinkedIn page, Shannon previously was COO and then CEO of Two Rivers Behavioral Health System, and before that clinical director of Pyramid Healthcare in the Pittsburgh area.

He’s a cardiologist in our Geisinger Heart Institute who specializes in using catheter procedures in the cardiac catheterization laboratory to treat not only the coronary arteries (the heart’s fuel lines) but also the structural elements of the heart such as its valves, walls and various mechanical defects.

One of the most exciting techniques he and a team of other Geisinger cardiologists, surgeons and anesthesiologists, supported by a bevy of skilled nurses, technicians and advanced practitioners, have brought to the Northeast and Central regions of Pennsylvania is TAVR. I’ve written about this Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement procedure in this column before. You may recall that it’s the procedure Mick Jagger underwent to deal with his tightly narrowed aortic heart valve.

Remember that the aortic valve separates the heart’s high-pressure pumping chamber, the left ventricle, from the body’s blood distribution network of arteries. The valve opens and closes with each heartbeat and prevents blood from rushing backwards into the pumping chamber from whence it was just ejected, thus allowing the heart to refill, reload and prepare for the next squeeze.

When this critical valve becomes affected by a variety of diseases and injuries, it can scar down and harden, restricting its ability to open and freezing it with a narrowed orifice.

In the past, the conventional treatment for aortic valve stenosis, once severe enough to cause symptoms, was a surgical open-heart operation to cut out the old damaged valve and replace it with a substitute. This generally successful and quite well refined procedure requires general anesthesia, a generous chest incision, use of a heart lung machine to take over the heart’s function for a time and a brief period during which the heart is stopped to allow opening the “water main” and replacing the valve.

In the usually less stressful TAVR procedure however, the replacement valve is folded up onto a catheter, passed through the groin arteries, across the narrowed valve and unfurled within the narrowed area, stretching it, pushing the diseased leaflets out of the way and, now opened, functioning just like the original normal valve … all without a major incision.

These procedures have been shown to be at least as good for many patients as the previous conventional open operations and for some, safer.

Nevertheless, most of the teams throughout the country continue to do the TAVR procedures with the patient under full general anesthesia. Although this too has been generally safe and quite perfected, it does introduce its own risks and potential pitfalls.

The stress of general anesthesia in these often quite fragile and tenuous patients can be significant and may complicate their recovery.

Dr. Harjai and his colleagues reasoned that if they could avoid the risks of general anesthesia and instead sedate their TAVR patients deeply as is often the case with other catheterization procedures, endoscopies and many medical tests and operations, their patients might recover quicker.

They found that by analyzing about 500 patients’ courses following TAVR both ways, that there were many benefits to sedation instead of general anesthesia.

Over the weekend he learned that a very prestigious national journal in cardiology has accepted his team’s report of their findings and will publish it in April.

I’m not allowed to “spill the beans” before then but wanted to let you all know that this remarkable work is only one of MANY important contributions to medical knowledge that our regional medical colleagues have made and continue to make. After the paper is published, I’ll give you the details … but for now let’s celebrate the innovative, insightful, skilled and overall excellent care our medical community is capable of. We are indeed fortunate to live here.

Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is chief medical officer for surgical services for Geisinger and chair of the Geisinger Heart Institute. Readers may write to him via ae@timesleader.com. For information on alternative treatment for atrial fibrillation, visit https://geisinger.cc/2E2N8n8

WILKES-BARRE — Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin last week provided an update on the investments made by the department over the course of the past year in communities across Pennsylvania.

“The Department of Community and Economic Development is working to make communities stronger, to help businesses create jobs and ensure that workers have the skills they need to secure good jobs that enable them to provide for their families,” Davin said. “We’re working to reduce poverty and homelessness and to bring hope to those who need it most. All of these investments represent our commitment to making life better for all Pennsylvanians, no matter which city or town they call home.”

Investments in our communities helped ensure that the department can achieve its mission of making Pennsylvania a place where people can work smart and live happy. Nearly 80 Keystone Communities projects and more than 200 Neighborhood Assistance Program projects were approved over the past fiscal year, improving the quality of life for communities across the commonwealth.

Job creation remained a priority for the department this year through its economic development and business expansion programs. During fiscal year 18-19, DCED pledged to create more than 11,000 jobs and retained more than 27,000. The department supported nearly 5,000 projects for a total of nearly $1 billion invested through grants, loans, and tax credits. This investment leveraged an additional $1.9 billion in public and private funding.

Consistent with the Wolf Administration’s commitment to building the workforce of the future, investing in training Pennsylvania’s workers was another area of focus this year. Through the department’s many programs offered to employers, nearly 25,000 businesses received assistance, and training was provided to almost 94,000 Pennsylvania workers.

In February 2019, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order creating the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center. The Command Center brings an innovative approach to addressing the critical issue of training qualified workers for the jobs Pennsylvania companies need to fill. By bringing commonwealth, labor, and business leaders together, the Command Center creates an opportunity to address real-time workforce issues with real-time solutions. The Command Center will also further expand the ongoing collaboration occurring between state agencies, as well as between the administration and the private sector.

In November, Wolf announced the creation of Pennsylvania’s Business One-Stop Shop Registration Checklist. This tool helps small business owners and entrepreneurs more easily access necessary licenses, permits, forms, and contact information personalized for the needs of their company in just a few minutes. Since its inception in 2018, the One-Stop Shop has generated more than 174,000 unique visits to the website and has received critical buy-in and support from partners across the commonwealth like Small Business Development Centers.

DCED also continued to invest in Pennsylvania’s manufacturing sector through the Manufacturing PA initiative, which launched in 2018. Since then, more than $11 million in funding has been provided to train more than 1,840 Pennsylvanians in 81 new training programs across the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania continued to raise its profile throughout the world, exporting more than $650 million in goods, bringing 19 businesses to Pennsylvania, supporting more than 6,000 jobs, and bringing in about $46 million in tax revenue. Additionally, the Office of International Business Development successfully obtained a $500,000 Small Business Administration grant to support the international business development activities of small- and medium-sized Pennsylvania companies.

Finally, Pennsylvania tourism continued to grow, with more than 33 million hotel rooms being booked throughout the commonwealth, bringing in $4.7 billion in tax revenue and more than $44 billion being spent by visitors.

As the decade draws to a close and millions of Pennsylvanians’ thoughts turn toward the positive changes they want to see in their lives, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Randy Padfield is encouraging citizens to “Resolve to be Ready” in 2020 by creating family emergency plans and emergency kits.

“The single, most effective way to ensure the safety of your loved ones during an emergency situation is to have a plan,” Padfield said. “Being prepared and knowing ahead of time how to react are critical elements of emergency response training. You can do the same by practicing your plan and having a basic emergency kit.”

• Have hard copies of lists of phone numbers and other important information such as doctor’s offices as well as copies of important documents.

A basic emergency kit should include enough basic supplies to support your loved ones for several days. Padfield said it should include:

• Vital medical supplies, hearing aid batteries or other medical equipment and mobility devices you may need.

Additional resources, including emergency plan templates and emergency kit checklists, are available on the ReadyPA website. Padfield also encourages social media users to follow PEMA on Facebook and Twitter for timely emergency preparedness information. It’s important to note that you do not need to have a Facebook or Twitter account to access the information.

Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak is reminding employees and businesses about a new federal law that will make 61,000 workers in Pennsylvania newly eligible for overtime pay of time and a half that went into effect Jan. 1.

Oleksiak is also urging Pennsylvania lawmakers to do more for workers, who will continue to earn an embarrassingly low minimum wage of $7.25 in the new year.

“This new federal law means some of our workers can begin earning the overtime pay they deserve, but far too many are struggling to make ends meet because of Pennsylvania’s stagnant minimum wage,” Oleksiak said. “It is time for the commonwealth’s lawmakers to recognize the value of our hardworking men and women and increase their wage. Every one of our neighboring states has invested in their workers by boosting the minimum wage. It is unconscionable that Pennsylvania has not done the same in more than a decade.”

Oleksiak added that Senate Bill 79 would give nearly 400,000 Pennsylvanians a much needed first step towards a more secure financial future. He said the bill had overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate, but the House failed to consider this compromise legislation prior to leaving for the holiday break.

Oleksiak said an increase in the minimum wage will give working Pennsylvania families a better livelihood, save tax dollars by reducing the number of individuals and families receiving public assistance, and strengthen local economies by increasing workers’ paychecks. The increase in earning thresholds under the new federal overtime regulations is a step in this direction, ensuring that more employees who work overtime are fairly and fully compensated for their labor.

The new federal overtime rules, under the U.S. Department of Labor, went into effect on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2020.

• Most salaried employees who work more than 40 hours per week and earn less than $684 per week/$35,568 per year are eligible for overtime, regardless of their job duties.

• Most salaried employees who are not engaged in an executive, administrative, or professional capacity, regardless of how much they are paid.

• Salaried employees who are engaged in an executive, administrative, or professional capacity and make more than $35,568 per year.

For more information on the new overtime rule, call 1-800-932-0665 (L&I’s Bureau of Labor Law Compliance), email RA-LI-SLMR-LLC@pa.gov or visit dli.pa.gov.

Some of us have remembered those less fortunate and we have made donations to charities, or individuals in need.

Humanity is defined by Webster as “compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition; the quality or state of being human — joined together by their common humanity.”

I read a story online that talked about America today, “where almost all discourse is uncivil, whether online, on cable television or on the debate stage, and the utter lack of empathy becomes apparent.

“Nobody cares to calm down, to consider what it’s like to walk in the other person’s shoes, to entertain the notion that others may feel the way they do for reasons that are understandable and valid.

“Instead, today’s America, from our presidential candidates to our blogosphere and major media, more often thrives on outrage, emotion, and personal attacks.”

Are we seeing the erosion of humanity and goodwill toward our fellow humans? Are we nearing the very bottom? Has America dumbed down to the max?

The 1960s certainly opened the door to discourse and protest — challenging authority became cool — “There’s something happening here,” Buffalo Springfield sang.

And change — much of it positive — came as a result of the activism of the sixties. But more than 50 years later, have we come too far?

We must continue to help where we can. The number of families in need is growing every day. Non-profit agencies — all with worthy missions — are seeing growing demand for their services and dwindling revenue from all sources.

Not only must those of us continue to donate money where we can, regardless of the amount — round up your bill at the grocery store, for example —we must volunteer more. We need to pitch in and work those events that raise money that is so desperately needed to not just stay the course, but to provide the services for those additional people in need.

Just look around you. You can see what is going on. People in need are right in front of our eyes. I’m not just talking about the homeless population — which is growing as well. I’m talking about people who are finding it more and more difficult to provide for their families and themselves.

The very fabric of this country is its people. We can’t allow the quality of life to continue on this road of deterioration. Life is difficult and it’s not always because of a lack of will on the part of these fellow human beings. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that contribute to people falling on hard times.

We have to build, or rebuild, our strength. We have to help people who need help. We have to take all necessary steps to reverse this disturbing trend where we have failed our people and rather than fix the problems, we prefer to just discard them.

Twelve months later, on Dec. 25, 3-year-old Walter MacNeal of Nanticoke suffered fatal injuries when he fell into scalding hot water at home.

They were the first and last of 125 people in the Wilkes-Barre area in 1919 who were killed in accidents. Some were the kind of accidents that could occur today. Others, like that of the MacNeal child, seem bizarre when looked at from our vantage point a century later.

Genealogists like ourselves feel bad when we uncover stories of ancestors who passed away before what we consider “their time.” That happens a lot because many people of a century and more ago came to the end of their lives by means pretty much unknown today.

Just last month Luzerne County released its annual mortality report. It was heavy on drug overdose deaths (107 with more pending) and suicides (45). The 1919 totals did not even have these categories.

The chief killer was the anthracite coal mining industry. By 1919, the Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac was no longer listing the embarrassingly numerous annual coal mining deaths in the county. But it couldn’t avoid noting that 92 men had died in the June 5 Baltimore Tunnel disaster at Wilkes-Barre’s East End.

There were probably a lot more. In 1916, the last year for the almanac’s mine listings, it reported 201 fatalities in the mines countywide. Railroading was apparently the second deadliest occupation, with 18 people killed, both employees and others struck by trains, often at road crossings.

Other causes abounded a century ago, also largely foreign to us today. The lingering Spanish flu, which was considered to produce fatal pneumonia, was suspected in nearly all of 120 people’s deaths. At least 127 babies were stillborn.

Home life must have been deadly for our ancestors in those days. Eighteen people were burned to death, less by house fires than by such causes as lamps exploding or stoves igniting their clothing. Three were electrocuted by touching live wires.

Drownings took another 18 lives a century ago, mostly those of younger people swimming in the Susquehanna River or in local “holes.” A few more perished while ice fishing when the ice broke or in boating accidents.

Then there were the deaths difficult to envision today, one of which was babies or very young children somehow falling into tubs of boiling wash water, or the 6-year-old boy fatally kicked by a horse.

DNA News: The Pentagon has warned members of the military to avoid taking the home DNA tests so beloved of genealogists. In a memo last month, top officials say health information obtained via the tests has not been sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration. Also, the Pentagon said, unauthorized third parties might get their hands on the DNA results and use them to track people.

Resources: FamilySearch checks in this week with lots of interesting free records. The biggest trove is more than 4 million from France. Other sizable batches are from various South American nations (hundreds of thousands) and from England. They’re all available at www.familysearch.com, the online data base sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).

As we dismantle our Christmas trees and put away the decorations, we vow to get in good enough shape to fut into all those nice clothes in our closets that we used to fit into not that long ago.

As we devour our pork and sauerkraut today, we look ahead to a bright 2020. Spring will soon arrive, flowers will bloom and the Democratic Party will choose its sacrificial lamb to take on President Donald Trump.

The days and months will again fly by, the snow will have melted, the heat and humidity will return, the leaves will change in the fall and my rescued Santa Claus toilet seat cover will again grace my front door in December.

Gov. Tom Wolf: “In the new year, I am hopeful we can do more to invest in infrastructure, raise the minimum wage, tackle poverty, reform our probation system, expand gun safety laws, and even more to improve education, reduce health care costs, and enhance the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians. I wish, as well, that Pennsylvanians will continue to reach out to their neighbors and lend a helping hand.”

Wico Van Genderen, CEO of Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber: “There are going to be many market headwind and tailwind dynamics for 2020. Knowing that you make your best sea captains in a storm, here’s wishing that our captains of industry and community can navigate the swirling waters.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh: “Unemployment is at a 50-year low, wage growth is accelerating for low-income Americans, and for the first time in our nation’s history, there are more jobs than people seeking work. In 2020, Congress should resume work on pro-growth policies that will build upon the economic progress made over the past three years. I wish everyone across our great commonwealth a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton: “We must continue the fight to protect access to quality, affordable health care in 2020. My wish for the new year is for Republicans to get serious and work with Democrats to support middle class families and people with preexisting conditions by strengthening the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I will keeping fighting like hell against GOP efforts to sabotage access to health care.”

Gerry O’Donnell: “My best wishes to all in our community for a safe and healthy New Year while remembering the New Year is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts that also comes with a time of reflection.”

Harold E Flack II, Dallas: “At 58.7 cents per gallon, Pennsylvania had the highest gas tax in the U.S., until we were nudged back to second place by California in July of 2019. Pennsylvania’s gas tax remains 22 cents higher than the national average. We spend our winters trying not to get another flat tire or break another wheel with potholes and craters everywhere on back roads and main roads alike. My wish is for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to make a serious effort to upgrade our roads, and to stop diverting gas tax revenue into other black holes of State Government.”

Sen. John Yudichak: “I’ll go with the state motto, I wish for everyone a year filled with virtue, liberty, and independence.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser: “As we close out the year and decade and enter into our own ‘Roaring Twenties,’ I look forward to working together to keep the American Dream alive and well for all.”

Master Sgt. JP Karpovich, U.S. Army: “I would like to wish all military, police, firefighters, first responders, nurses and doctors, as well as teachers, a Happy and Healthy 2020.”

Teri Ooms, executive director of The Institute: “My wish for 2020 is that we all find a way to work towards innovative solutions collaboratively. The parochialism and divisiveness that has engulfed nearly every aspect our lives does nothing to improve or sustain anything positive. We have so much potential as a region, state, and nation and we need to work together to harness that greatness so that it benefits everyone. Personal or political party agendas, geographical and political boundaries, and traditional political party ideology should not drive decision making — that only benefits a few.”

Will Beekman, general manager of ASM Global, Mohegan Sun Arena: “My wish is for Wilkes-Barre to build a downtown skate park, and for Christian Wielage and crew to continue fighting the good fight on saving the Irem Temple.”

Paul Keating, Kingston administrator: “Happy New Year and best wishes to our great community and all of Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Incoming Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown: Rebuild a working relationship between the Mayor of Wilkes-Barre and all members of Wilkes-Barre City Council based on mutual respect and the common goal of working hard for the betterment of the residents of Wilkes-Barre.

Create a 2020 Wilkes-Barre City budget that is based on sound fiscal management rather than hypothetical revenue sources that may or may not come to fruition in the coming year.

Promote safe, clean neighborhoods, work to address the homeless population, and increase revenue productivity within the city on a daily basis.

Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta: “Looking at the start of the New Year my wish for 2020 is that the politicians down in DC end the impeachment sham that is doing nothing but wasting taxpayer’s money. I wish that they will remember the voters that elected them also elected President Trump and that they will work with him to continue growing the greatest economy we’ve seen in decades allowing everyone a chance at the American Dream.

“In 2020, my resolution is to build the Jordan’s Army Foundation. My family and I have been so touched by the prayers and support for my grandson Jordan and want to give back. We will be working on growing the foundation to support research for Rhabdomyosarcoma and to help families that are battling this awful disease like our Jordan.”

C. David Pedri, Luzerne County manager: “I’m wishing for all Luzerne County citizens to have a positive experience with the County’s new voting machines. Also, I’m wishing for a great turnout for July’s Rockin’ The River concert series.”

Wilkes University interim President Paul S. Adams: “First and foremost, we wish every success to the more than 1,100 students in the Wilkes Class of 2020. May your every wish come to be! Second, we wish for continued success under the leadership of our seventh president, Dr. Greg Cant. Dr. Cant will begin in June and we look forward to the ways in which he will continue to advance Wilkes as a small doctoral university like no other. And finally, our University has long enjoyed a productive partnership with Wilkes-Barre’s leaders. We look forward to continuing this tradition under the leadership of Mayor George Brown as he officially takes office.”

John L. Augustine III, President/CEO Penn’s Northeast: “Our new year goal is to add one more County to our regional partnership. We also hope to close on project Dempko, bringing hundreds of jobs to our area. And finally, a happy and healthy year for all in NEPA.”

Anne E. Rodella, artistic director of F.M. Kirby Center: “My wishes for 2020 are to continue to bring quality arts and entertainment to the F.M. Kirby Center, to make the arts accessible to all, to read more/create more/dance more, and to book Tom Waits at the F.M. Kirby Center.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic: “I wish everyone in Northeastern Pennsylvania a happy and healthy New Year. In 2020, I’m planning to continue to use my increasing seniority on the House Appropriations Committee to bring our fair share of federal money to Northeastern Pennsylvania, attract more federal contractors to open shop in our area, and provide more and better-paying jobs.”

State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township: “My New Year’s wish for our community is that our seniors (through legislative action) receive more property tax relief in 2020 so some of their burdens are lifted. For our children to have an increasingly innovative education so that they can bring in the next generation of family sustaining jobs to our region and to Pennsylvania. I also hope that more families will consider becoming emergency foster families for brief periods of time in order to meet our increased child protection needs in the Commonwealth.”

State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township: “That the joy, grace, and meaning of this holiday season carry into 2020 and guide our public policy-making toward constructive and productive results. That we are able to more deeply realize that the diversities in heritage and belief among us distinguish and strengthen Pennsylvania.”

Larry Newman, executive director of Diamond City Partnership: “My wishes for the new year are to continue making progress toward the goal of a vibrant Downtown Wilkes-Barre, with more historic preservation “wins” and more local businesses choosing to invest in the economic engine that is our center city.

“And, from a personal perspective: health, happiness, and more time spent enjoying the outdoors with my family.”

State Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston: “I wish that we could build enough support in the legislature and from the governor to get property tax elimination done. Our area needs it.”

State Rep. Karen Boback, R-Dallas: “Wishing everyone a healthy, happy new year filled with love, peace and prosperity!”

Plymouth Borough Council: “Members would like to extend warm wishes of a happy and healthy New Year to the residents, businesses, local organizations and all who have helped in providing support and services to improve our community. Community support provided much success in 2019 and Council looks forward to continue to work with the community and organizations in making 2020 even better.”

Joe Nardone Sr., Gallery of Sound/Magnus Productions: “Stay young in mind and spirit and never get old. And remember to ‘Shake A Hand.’”

Over the last two weeks, we’ve discussed both arrhythmia in general and its most common form, atrial fibrillation, or A-fib. In doing so, we’ve laid the groundwork to discuss the wide spectrum of options available to treat this irregular heartbeat.

Affecting between 2.7 and 6.1 million Americans, A-fib doesn’t always present severe symptoms, but it does always increase risk of stoke and heart failure. So, treatment is necessary, and that treatment is focused on achieving a healthy heart rhythm and rate and preventing stroke-causing blood clots and heart failure.

Treatment begins with identifying and managing any inciting issues, improving overall wellness and then starting appropriate medications. The majority of people living with A-fib can manage their condition this way, by altering their lifestyles and using medicines to regulate their arrhythmia and avoid its potential complications.

Traditionally, heart rate has been controlled by medications like beta blockers that slow the heart rate, and clotting has been addressed using blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) or other, newer oral anticoagulants.

New A-fib treatment guidelines published by the American Heart Association in January indicate that these novel oral anticoagulants, also known as non-vitamin K anticoagulants and NAOCs, are the recommended medical intervention to prevent stroke over the traditionally championed warfarin, except in patients with artificial heart valves or moderate-to-severe narrowing of the mitral valve. The NAOC class includes dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), apixaban (Eliquis), and edoxaban (Savaysa.) How’s that for a mouthful!

NAOCs are the new standard, because there is evidence that they present less of a risk of severe bleeding and may be more effective in preventing clots than warfarin. Also, unlike warfarin, there is no need for constant testing to make sure there is enough of the drug in a patient’s bloodstream.

The guidelines also indicate that weight loss for overweight or obese patients lowers blood pressure, reduces risks associated with A-fib and can even reverse the condition.

For those who need intervention beyond exercise, healthy diet and medication, several procedures can improve quality of life.

Cardioversion restores a regular heartbeat. It can be done using medication, called pharmacologic cardioversion, or it can be accomplished electrically, by placing patches on the outside of the chest and sending a controlled electrical shock to the heart. Sometimes this is all that’s needed, especially if some cause of the A-fib has been identified and eliminated before the arrhythmia has become settled for more than a few months.

If A-fib recurs, has been in place for too long, or if medication is ineffective or causes severe side-effects, a procedure called A-fib ablation can be done in the cardiac catheterization laboratory with narrow catheters passed through the blood vessels accessed through the groin. Using these thin catheters, specially trained cardiologists known as electrophysiologists can use microwaves to heat or extreme cold to freeze heart tissue. These induced scars cause interruptions in the abnormal electrical pathways which lead to irregular heartbeat. Ablation has few risks and is precise and generally well tolerated.

Special imaging and mapping equipment have made these procedures quite successful in identifying and eliminating the culprit areas.

For some folks, clot formation cannot safely be prevented with blood thinners, and implantation of the Watchman device is an option for those patients. Again, using catheters and imaging to guide the device, the small umbrella-like Watchman is opened in the left atrial appendage, the smallish outpouching in the heart’s upper chamber where blood tends to stagnate and clot. The Watchman procedure is suitable for A-fib patients who do not have heart-valve disease.

Pacing is another valuable tool in the treatment of other abnormalities of the heart’s electrical rhythm.

Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are surgically implanted devices that are safely wired to the heart to manage rhythms that are too fast or too slow.

Pacemakers send electrical signals to the heart and are typically used to treat slow heartbeat (bradycardia). ICDs monitor heart rhythm and can deliver a small electric shock to the heart if its lower chambers, the ventricles, begin to beat dangerously fast or erratically.

State-of-the-art electrophysiology labs in Geisinger hospitals feature cutting-edge diagnostic and surgical equipment to perform these and other procedures.

For some patients, open-heart surgery is the best option to treat A-fib. When medications and less invasive procedures cannot improve a patient’s quality of life or are not an option because of other medical conditions, A-fib surgery with an experienced cardiac surgeon can be a life-changing therapy.

Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is chief medical officer for surgical services for Geisinger and chair of the Geisinger Heart Institute. Readers may write to him via ae@timesleader.com. For information on alternative treatment for atrial fibrillation, visit https://geisinger.cc/2E2N8n8

If you live in the United States and watch TV, listen to the radio or read a magazine, you’ve certainly heard of A-fib. Commercials are EVERYWHERE … marketing drugs that treat the condition. And for good reason, A-fib is common, growing and an important public health issue in our aging population.

Atrial fibrillation, A-fib or AF for short, is an irregular heartbeat and the most common type of arrhythmia, affecting between 2.7 and 6.1 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2009, a study titled “Out of Sync: The State of A-fib in America” suggested only 33 percent of people living with A-fib thought it was a serious condition and that less than half of those patients believed they were at higher risk of dangerous conditions or death as a result of their heart-rhythm disorder. Wrong.

When your heart beats normally, it contracts and relaxes in a regular pattern, moving blood from the upper chambers of the heart, the atria, to the lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles. During normal operation, the sinoatrial (SA) node, the heart’s “natural pacemaker,” sends electrical signals regularly, to the atrioventricular (AV) node, the heart’s “gatekeeper,” and the heart muscle contracts and relaxes in an orderly fashion.

But when either the SA node fires erratically or when other areas in the atria “highjack” the pacemaker’s function, the heart’s atria begin to quiver (fibrillate); the resulting pattern is chaotic and inefficient; and the top and bottom chambers of the heart no longer beat in coordination. The most immediate effect of this uncoordinated beating is a marked reduction in the heart’s pumping efficiency of around 15%.

Some people with A-fib don’t have any symptoms, so without diagnostic tests like electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, and Holter monitoring, these folks might not know they’re living with A-fib. Among those with noticeable symptoms, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pains are common.

The risk of developing A-fib increases with age. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, European ancestry, diabetes, heart failure, ischemic heart disease, hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease, heavy alcohol use, and enlargement of the heart’s left side chambers.

While A-fib can lead to chronic fatigue, additional heart-rhythm issues, and decreased blood supply to other organs; the most concerning complications are stroke and heart failure.

The CDC reports that A-fib increases a person’s risk of stroke by 4 to 5 times. In addition, A-fib causes 15 to 20 percent of ischemic strokes, those resulting from interruption of blood flow to the brain because a blood vessel is blocked by a clot (in A-fib) or fatty deposit (atherosclerosis.)

When A-fib causes inconsistent blood flow from the atria to the ventricles, blood pools in nooks and crannies within the atria like leaves and debris collect in the backwaters of streams. The blood that puddles often clots. When clots break loose and travel throughout the circulatory system, they often wind up clogging brain arteries, causing a stroke. If not treated quickly, ischemic stroke will do lasting damage to the brain and can be deadly.

Another problem arises when A-fib causes the heart to beat so fast and erratically that it cannot fill with enough blood to pump adequately to meet the body’s needs. When the heart cannot provide the other parts of the body with a sufficient blood supply, heart failure develops. Heart failure leads to fluid buildup in the lungs and throughout the body and can make everyday physical activity difficult. The condition can be managed but is very serious.

The spectrum of treatments for A-fib begins with healthy lifestyle changes and medications that can regulate heart beat or prevent blood clotting. It includes heart-rate monitoring and may require invasive procedures that include the implantation of pacemakers, destruction (ablation) of abnormal heart tissue that is negatively influencing electrical pathways, and implantation of devices that ward off ischemic stroke.

Next week, we’ll take a closer look at these therapies, and how the whole spectrum can improve quality of life for people with A-fib.

Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is associate chief medical officer for Geisinger and chair of the Geisinger Heart Institute. Readers may write to him via ae@timesleader.com. For a free heart risk assessment, visit geisinger.org/heartrisk.

The beginning of a new year is a fine time to take stock of things, especially your overall well-being.

It’s true that taking care of yourself doesn’t need to coincide with a grand event, like the start of another of our planet’s annual trip around the sun. Starting that exercise regimen you’ve been putting off can begin on any day, no matter how arbitrary.

But encouraging people to seize each day is not the same as discouraging new hope in the new year. In fact, we should all begin each year by making time for reflection, prioritization and making changes that will positively affect us and those to whom we are close.

Life can be hard, and any given year can be extremely difficult, which is why there is inherent value in beginning anew. There is opportunity to leave the troubles of a tough year behind and embrace better days.

By the same token, there is opportunity to build on a good year and, in the new year, amplify those things that made it successful. The new year can be a time to expand aspects of your professional endeavors and strengthen personal relationships.

But since health is my area of expertise and the reason for this column, we’ll stick to tips for a healthy start to 2020.

The road to regular exercise, managed weight and cardiovascular health doesn’t have to begin with buying an expensive piece of home-exercise equipment or joining your local gym. If you’re a former athlete who understands the commitment and rigors of training at that level or just someone who’s seeking the best shape of a lifetime, by all means, go for it.

But for most of us, adopting a more active lifestyle begins with realizing just how little we move on a daily basis. Start by taking 30-minute walks around your neighborhood or in the area of your place of employment during your lunch period. When walks begin to make you feel better—and they will— increase your pace or duration. After time, consider graduating to a jog if you’re able and incorporating mild muscle-toning activities.

If you despise exercising alone, explore group activities, like hiking clubs or beginner yoga classes, environments where people can encourage one another without the intensity of more advanced practitioners. Whatever you do, keep moving. You’ll see that physical activity has a delightfully addictive quality.

With the wealth of research-based information available today, keeping a diet that benefits your health is becoming easier than its been in the past.

Eat mostly plants. I know this isn’t the mouth-watering advice you wanted to hear, but it’s been made increasingly clear that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is the best option for cardiovascular health, immune system strength and general wellness.

Have your juicy steak occasionally, but keep your daily proteins to lean meats, fatty fishes high in Omega-3 fatty acids, nuts and other plant-based proteins. And make sure the fats you’re consuming are heart healthy, such as those found in good olive oils and avocados.

Now for the broken-record portion of the column, I’ll remind you again that smoking is the single worst thing you can do for your health. The moment you quit, you’ll begin the journey back to a healthier you.

Breaking from the chains in which cigarettes have had you fettered almost immediately lowers blood pressure, heart rate and carbon monoxide level in your blood. Soon after, you’ll have improved circulation and lung function. Within in a year, you’ll have an easier time breathing and lose that pesky cough, and as the years roll on, you’ll significantly reduce your chances of having a major cardiovascular event or getting cancer.

Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Listen to your breath as it’s drawn slowly in through your nose and exhaled slowly out of your mouth. Do this repeatedly until you feel an unmistakable calm rush over you.

This is what it feels like to be present in a moment, to tune it all out and just be. Find more of these moments this year. Find a quiet space to practice this simple method of meditation regularly and take the time you need to reset your mind and body and appreciate what it is to be alive.

I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year’s celebration and that your journey to a better, healthier and happier you starts now.

Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is chief medical officer for surgical services for Geisinger and chair of the Geisinger Heart Institute. Readers may write to him via ae@timesleader.com. For information on alternative treatment for atrial fibrillation, visit https://geisinger.cc/2E2N8n8

WILKES-BARRE — From the largest expansion of voting rights in 80 years to establishing a state-based marketplace to reduce health care costs to a sweeping executive order targeting gun violence, Pennsylvania “continued its comeback” in the first year of Gov. Tom Wolf’s second term, including the implementation of many of his top priorities and expansions of his key initiatives.

In 2020, Wolf said he will continue to fight to invest in infrastructure, reduce climate change, raise the minimum wage, tackle poverty, reform our probation system, expand gun safety laws, and even more to improve education, reduce health care costs, and enhance the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.

Voting: Signed the most significant reforms to Pennsylvania’s election law since it was established more than 80 years ago. Pennsylvanians can now vote by mail, and they have more time to register and submit mail-in and absentee ballots.

Climate Change: Took action against climate change by signing an executive order that begins the steps necessary for Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a regional cap-and-trade program that limits carbon dioxide emission. He also acted to reduce air pollution, including methane, from natural gas wells and pipelines with the approval of changes to the state’s air quality regulations that are part of his Methane Reduction Strategy.

Criminal Justice Reforms: Building off Pennsylvania’s nationally recognized criminal justice reforms like the Clean Slate Law, Wolf signed two Justice Reinvestment Initiative bills that make major reforms to probation and other areas that will save money by cutting red tape and investing in programs proven to reduce recidivism.

Supporting Military Families: Introduced the PA GI Bill, a first-of-its-kind program that provides family of military members with assistance paying for college, which he signed into law in June. Pennsylvania National Guard members can now apply for the program.

Boosting PA Agriculture: Made historic investments in Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry through his PA Farm Bill. The program is based on the governor’s six-point plan to protect the longevity of agriculture, and the rollout of its grant programs is already underway.

Licensure Reform: Signed legislation that cuts bureaucratic red tape to make it easier for new Pennsylvanians, including military spouses, with an out-of-state occupational license to work.

Rainy Day Fund: Announced a $317 million deposit into the commonwealth’s Rainy Day Fund, the largest transfer in nearly two decades.

State-Based Exchange/Reinsurance: Signed a historic reform that will move the online health insurance marketplace from the federally hosted HealthCare.gov to a state-based exchange, as well as create a reinsurance program. The new programs will save money for people purchasing plans through the Affordable Care Act while increasing access to health insurance.

Rural Health: Continued to work to ensure Pennsylvanians in every part of the state have access to health care within a reasonable distance by signing a bill establishing the Rural Health Redesign Center Authority and the Pennsylvania Rural Health Redesign Center Fund, which support the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model.

Youth Tobacco Use: Signed legislation raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and expanded tobacco laws to include e-cigarettes and other vaping products.

Vulnerable Populations: Moved to overhaul the commonwealth’s programs to protect vulnerable populations by signing an executive order directing state agencies to work together to identify areas of improvement and create a plan to ensure all Pennsylvanians have access to the care and services they need. The executive order established the Council on Reform, which delivered recommendations on changes that should be made so the commonwealth is better serving vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

Childhood Sex Abuse: Signed three bills that mirror the Grand Jury’s recommendations after its investigation into child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. The new laws abolish Pennsylvania’s criminal statute of limitations on childhood sex abuse and extend the timeline victims have to file civil action against their abusers, as well as increase penalties for failing to report child abuse by a mandated reporter and make conversations with law enforcement agents exempt from non-disclosure agreements.

Campus Sexual Assault: Has been a steadfast supporter of campus safety and nearly three years ago established “It’s On Us PA,” the nation’s first statewide campaign, and this year enacted two major legislative changes sought for years. One encourages students to report sexual assault by providing them immunity for violating drug, alcohol, and other minor student conduct policies. The other change requires post-secondary institutions to offer students online, anonymous options to report a sexual assault or misconduct.

Rape Kit Backlog: In April, the Pennsylvania State Police announced they cleared the backlog of forensic rape kits. Pennsylvania also made improvements to the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act, including establishing time lines for submitting, testing, and storing rape kits.

Public School Funding: Since taking office in 2015, Gov. Wolf has made good on his promise to fight for our schools and now secured more than $1.2 billion in public education funding since taking office. With this year’s funding increase, Pennsylvania has doubled investments in early childhood education during Gov. Wolf’s time in office.

PAsmart: Pennsylvania continued to build Gov. Wolf’s STEM and career readiness initiative, PAsmart, and the governor secured a $10 million increase to $40 million for PAsmart, where the governor secured a $10 million increase for a total $40 million investment in 2019. In the inaugural year, the administration awarded nearly $10 million in PAsmart grants to 765 schools to expand computer science classes and teacher training. The administration has added thousands of registered apprenticeships and increased CTE students earning industry certifications by 50%.

Reform: Kids in Pennsylvania will stay in school longer because the legislature approved Gov. Wolf’s plan to raise the school dropout age from 17 to 18 and lower the required age to start school from 8 to 6.

Higher Education: Over the past five years, funding for higher education has increased by $188 million. Pennsylvania foster kids can also now attend college tuition-free, thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Wolf.

Gun Violence Reduction: Continues to fight to combat gun violence in communities across Pennsylvania. A law signed by Gov. Wolf that requires domestic abusers to turn in their guns took effect in April. In August, he signed an executive order calling upon state agencies to target the public health crisis of gun violence. The governor continues to fight for increased gun violence reduction measures, including universal background checks, safe storage legislation and Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

Anti-Choice Legislation: Continued to uphold the rights of Pennsylvanian women by vetoing anti-choice legislation, following through on a steadfast vow to support women and their ability to decide the healthcare that is best for them. He also fought back against federal anti-choice legislation, denouncing national efforts to take away the right for women to make their own healthcare choices.

Equality: Continued to push for equality for all Pennsylvanians. He called for the legislature to expand non-discrimination laws to include LGBTQ citizens. He spoke out against decisions by the White House to reduce transgender and LGBTQ protections.

Also advocated for immigrants and refugees, repeatedly reminding Pennsylvanians that our commonwealth was founded on inclusivity.

Pennsylvania officially recognized Juneteenth, the day honoring the announcement of the abolition of slavery reaching the furthest point of Texas. “Juneteenth National Freedom Day” will now be held June 19th each year in Pennsylvania.

Recreational Marijuana: Supported Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman as he embarked on a listening tour to gather opinions on recreational marijuana legalization. Lt. Gov. Fetterman produced a report on the feedback he heard while visiting all 67 counties. In response to the lieutenant governor’s report, Gov. Wolf called for several actions, including for the General Assembly to seriously debate and consider the legalization of adult-use, recreational marijuana.

Acts of Kindness: Encouraged Pennsylvanians to participate in “1-4-3 Day” by committing acts of kindness in honor of Fred Rogers, who used the numbers 1-4-3 to represent the letters in the words “I love you.” Across the state, Pennsylvanians heeded the call and filled the day with kind words and good deeds.

PLYMOUTH — At Midnight Mass, a young man arrived with his family and I noticed he was wearing two red socks.

Very festive, I thought, so I stopped him and told him it was good to see him in the Christmas spirit.

“I know what you mean,” he said. “I should be wearing one red sock and one green sock, right?”

The young man said he would purchase a pair of green socks between now and next Christmas and he will mix and match.

Joy to the world, I thought. A tradition will continue. I have been wearing my red and green socks on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for more than 40 years now — and yes, they are the very same socks all these years. They are worn only on those two days, then washed and put away.

That got me to thinking about other Christmas traditions, so I took a drive after Midnight Mass to my old Plymouth neighborhood. I pulled up Reynolds Street and parked across from my old homestead. It looks different now, so I stared and imagined all those Christmases of my childhood.

I recalled all the decorations, the food, the cookies, the tree and train and I could see my front door opening and closing as family and friends visited. I remembered how I would go to bed early in anticipation of Santa Claus arriving. And when I awoke — always around 3:30 a.m. or so — I would dash from my room, bang into the telephone stand — (we all had them) — flip on the living room lights and I would take in the scene — gifts aplenty and the cookies and milk were gone.

We all have those memories and it’s always good, somewhat comforting, to keep them close to appreciate everything our parents did for us when we were kids.

Well, as the song goes, a guy named Yashu, or Yaschel, found the kishka — pronounced “KEESH-ka” — and brought it back to the butcher shop.

But as far as who stole it, that has never been resolved — an unsolved case that may never be closed.

Now, the song is a traditional polka tune, written by Walter Dana and Walter Solek in 1946 — Solek penned the lyrics. Perhaps the most popular version of the song was a 1963 recording by Grammy award-winning polka artist Frankie Yankovic.

According to Solek’s obituary, the kishka song always got the crowd going at polka dances. Well, it sure livened up our house and many others.

And for those of you who don’t know, kishka is a type of sausage or stuffed intestine with a filling made from a combination of meat and meal, often a grain.

Makes you wonder, perhaps, why anybody would steal the kishka, but it certainly explains why Yashu brought it back.

My concern here: Will we ever know who stole the kishka from that butcher shop? Should we care? And why did Yashu bring it back? What was he doing with the stolen kishka anyway? Where did he find it? And how did he know where to return it to?

I also must ask why this unknown culprit would only steal the kishka? Why not kielbasa, or pierogi, or potato pancakes, or piggies? Seems a bit odd, don’t you think?

I think I tasted kishka once, why I don’t know. But I do know I did not like it at all. Certainly not something I would steal. Why risk getting in trouble for kishka?

If you know anything about this — maybe some clues have been handed down in your family over the years, please come forward. Contact the authorities.

Let’s get to the bottom of this. I don’t think many people even make kishka these days. Maybe it’s because of a fear of larceny?

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at boboyle@timesleader.com.

WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was up two-tenths of a percentage point over the past month to 4.5 percent in December.

WILKES-BARRE — If you’ve ever been to the Westmoreland Club, you may have noticed the historical portraits lining the walls. During a self-guided tour Thursday night, attendees got the chance to learn about the figures depicted therein along with their storied pasts.

DALLAS TWP. — Tom Botzman, who has been overseeing some of the biggest fund raising and campus expansion in Misericordia University’s history, is leaving his post as president and heading back to his Ohio roots, accepting the job as president of the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio.

WILKES-BARRE — The Keystone Mission has helped homeless veterans and low-income families for years and they are now adding another group to help — grandparents raising their grandchildren.

SWOYERSVILLE — Standing before a huge culm bank at the Harry E. Colliery, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright on Thursday said Congress must reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund, which allows states to collect small fees from active coal mine operators in order to pay for abandoned mine reclamation.

NANTICOKE — City police arrested Nicholas Jamilowski for his alleged role in ransacking a residence on Enterprise Street earlier this month.

PITTSBURGH — Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai will not run for reelection, the Republican announced Thursday, ending the career of a conservative force in state government in a critical year when Democrats are aiming to take control of the chamber.

WILKES-BARRE — Former Trump Administration appointee Jim Bognet on Thursday announced his candidacy for the 8th Congressional District seat. He is running as a Republican.

WILKES-BARRE — “We need you,” Brianna Rowland said in remarks at a Martin Luther King Jr. event Thursday. “We need allies to point out injustice to those who will not listen to the ones suffering, but will listen to you.”

WILKES-BARRE — The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services on Thursday responded to the findings of a report of the federal Office of Inspector General that found fault with the monitoring of people with developmental disabilities and reporting of incidents in community-based setttings.

Mr. Peanut, the dapper legume who served as the instantly recognizable ambassador for Planters Peanuts for more than a century, has died, the company reported this week.

I am frustrated that so many supports of President Trump think the he is pro- life. He is not; he is anti- abortion.

WASHINGTON — If you were a juror in a trial and the judge said there would be no evidence and no witnesses because the defendant didn’t want them, you would be nonplussed.

In a recent letter to the editor, the writer offered a few “facts” about the wars the United States has been in.

For most of my life, I’ve been a model of good health. At 17, I became a certified firefighter, and, at 20, I biked from Texas to Alaska. But last month, at 25, I spent a week in bed recovering from surgery, with fresh incision holes in my abdomen, because I made an unusual choice. I donated my left kidney to someone who dearly needed one — someone whom I don’t know and have never met.

Work-zone speed cameras are part of an enforcement-for-profit scheme adopted by the Pennsylvania Legislature to furnish a reliable, constant stream of driver’s money into special interests’ and government coffers. The only “studies” showing that speed camera enforcement adds to safety are paid for by camera proponents, who profit from cameras, and their “studies” suffer from improper methodology.

It could almost have been “Saturday Night Live,” satire intended for giggles instead of what was hypocritically intended. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a speech about impeaching President Trump and cited a Longfellow poem, saying, “Listen my children and you will hear/ Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.”

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It’s been exciting to be a cardiac surgeon these last few decades during which the mortality and disability from heart disease has dropped so much. The combination of community focus on health-promoting behaviors, earlier and precise diagnostic tools, effective new drugs and remarkable operative capabilities have all helped dramatically reduce the impact of heart disease. Now, I’m delighted to be able to call your attention to similar progress in the battle against another major class of disease.

On Jan. 20, Geisinger joins the nation in honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his courageous, inspiring crusade for civil rights and equality — including the right to accessible, quality healthcare for all.

You almost felt sorry for them, the six Democratic presidential candidates having their last debate before the Iowa caucuses. The subject of President Donald Trump’s razzle-dazzle, historically stunning economy came up. What were they to do? Concede its accomplishments? Demonstrate ignorance? Mouth falsehoods? Or respectably indulge in fine-tuned analysis granting the obvious while pointing to shortcomings and possible improvements?

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