Trump Proposes Cutting Planned Parenthood Funds. What Does That Mean?

The planned revival of a policy dating to Ronald Reagan’s presidency may finally present a way for President Donald Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to “defund” Planned Parenthood. Or at least to evict it from the federal family planning program, where it provides care to more than 40 percent of that program’s 4 million patients.

Congress last year failed to wipe out funding for Planned Parenthood, because the bill faced overwhelming Democratic objections and would not have received the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate.

But the imposition of a slightly retooled version of a regulation, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1991 after a five-year fight, could potentially accomplish what Congress could not.

The rules now under review, according to Trump administration officials, would require facilities receiving federal family planning funds to be physically separate from those that perform abortion; would eliminate the requirement that women with unintended pregnancies be counseled on their full range of reproductive options; and would ban abortion referrals.

All those changes would particularly affect Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood, which provides a broad array of reproductive health services to women and men, also provides abortion services using non-federal funds. Cutting off funding has been the top priority for anti-abortion groups, which supported candidate Trump.

“A win like this would immediately disentangle taxpayers from the abortion business and energize the grassroots as we head into the critical midterm elections,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement.

In a conference call with reporters, Planned Parenthood officials said they would fight the new rules.

“We’ve been very clear, Planned Parenthood has an unwavering commitment to ensuring everyone has access to the full range of reproductive health care, and that includes abortion,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Here is a guide to what the proposal could do and what it could mean for Planned Parenthood and the family planning program:

What Is Title X?

The federal family planning program, known as “Title Ten,” is named for its section in the federal Public Health Service Act. It became law in 1970, three years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v Wade.

The original bill was sponsored by then Rep. George H.W. Bush (R-Texas) and signed into law by President Richard Nixon.

The program provides wellness exams and comprehensive contraceptive services, as well as screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases for both women and men.

In 2016, the most recent year for which statistics have been published, Title X served 4 million patients at just under 4,000 sites.

Title X patients are overwhelmingly young, female and low-income. An estimated 11 percent of Title X patients in 2016 were male; two-thirds of patients were under age 30; and nearly two-thirds had income below the federal poverty line.

What Is Planned Parenthood’s Relationship To Title X And Medicaid?

Planned Parenthood affiliates account for about 13 percent of total Title X sites but serve an estimated 40 percent of its patients. Only about half of Planned Parenthood affiliates perform abortions, although the organization in its entirety is the nation’s leading abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood also gets much more federal funding for services provided to patients on the Medicaid program (although not for abortion) than it does through Title X.

Eliminating Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood has proven more difficult for lawmakers opposed to the organization because the federal Medicaid law includes the right for patients to select their providers. Changing that also would require a 60-vote majority in the Senate. So that particular line of funding is likely not at risk.

While opponents of federal funding for Planned Parenthood have said that other safety-net clinics could make up the difference if Planned Parenthood no longer participates in Title X, several studies have suggested that in many remote areas Planned Parenthood is the only provider of family planning services and the only provider that regularly stocks all methods of birth control.

Texas, Iowa and Missouri in recent years have stopped offering family planning services through a special Medicaid program to keep from funding Planned Parenthood. Texas is seeking a waiver from the Trump administration so that its program banning abortion providers could still receive federal funding. No decision has been made yet, federal officials said.

Why Is Planned Parenthood’s Involvement With Title X Controversial?

Even though Planned Parenthood cannot use federal funding for abortions, anti-abortion groups claim that federal funding is “fungible” and there is no way to ensure that some of the funding provided for other services does not cross-subsidize abortion services.

Planned Parenthood has also been a longtime public target for anti-abortion forces because it is such a visible provider and vocal proponent of legal abortion services.

In the early 1980s, the Reagan administration tried to separate the program from its federal funding by requiring parental permission for teens to obtain birth control. That was followed by efforts to eliminate abortion counseling.

Starting in 2011, undercover groups accused the organization of ignoring sex traffickers and selling fetal body parts in an effort to get the organization defunded. Planned Parenthood denies the allegations.

What Happened The Last Time An Administration Tried To Move Planned Parenthood Out Of Title X?

In 1987, the Reagan administration proposed what came to be known as the “gag rule.” Though the administration’s new proposal is not yet public, because the details are still under review by the Office of Management and Budget, the White House released a summary, saying the new rule will be similar although not identical to the Reagan-era proposal.

The original gag rule would have forbidden Title X providers from abortion counseling or referring patients for abortions, required physical separation of Title X and abortion-providing facilities and forbidden recipients from using nonfederal funds for lobbying, distributing information or in any way advocating or encouraging abortion. (The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the umbrella group for local affiliates, has a separate political and advocacy arm, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.)

Those rules were the subject of heated congressional debate through most of the George H.W. Bush administration and were upheld in a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 1991, Rust v. Sullivan.

Even then, the gag rule did not go into effect because subsequent efforts to relax the rules somewhat to allow doctors (but not other health professionals) to counsel patients on the availability of abortion created another round of legal fights.

Eventually the rule was in effect for only about a month before it was again blocked by a U.S. appeals court. President Bill Clinton canceled the rules by executive order on his second day in office, and no other president tried to revive them until now.

How Is The Trump Administration’s Proposal Different From Earlier Rules?

According to the summary of the new proposal, released Friday, it will require physical separation of family planning and abortion facilities, repeal current counseling requirements, and ban abortion referrals.

One of the biggest differences, however, is that the new rules will not explicitly forbid abortion counseling by Title X providers.

But Planned Parenthood officials say that allowing counseling while banning referrals is a distinction without a difference.

Kashif Syed, a senior policy analyst for the organization said: “Blocking doctors from telling a patient where they can get safe and legal care in this country is the definition of a gag rule.”

What Happens Next?

All proposed rules are reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget. Sometimes they emerge and are published in a few days; sometimes they are rewritten, and it takes months.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood officials said they will not know if they will take legal action until they see the final language of the rule. But they say they do plan to use the regulatory process to fight the changes that have been made public so far.

KHN’s coverage of women’s health care issues is supported in part by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

7 tips for success with New Year’s resolutions you may have given up on.

The date is January 17, and statistically most people have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions. In fact, research suggests that January 12 is the date in which most people have given up their resolutions. This date is nicknamed “Quitters day” and conveniently happens just in time to order Girl scout cookies for most parts of the United States.

A list of setting and achieving goals Courtesy of Aaron Davis via Flickr

Whether you’ve stuck to your goals or you threw in the towel on January 2, this list is for anyone who wants to focus on keeping long term goals or wants to give their resolutions another try. After all, any day of the year is a good day to make changes and pursue goals.

According to this article from Forbes.com,Three Surefire Ways To Succeed With Your New Year’s Resolutions, there are three surefire ways to succeed with your resolutions.

  1. Be specific about your goals. The Forbes article uses “Getting more organized” as an example for an ambiguous goal. According to the article, you should define what this means to you. Does it mean fewer piles around the home or office? Does it mean not having a clutter catching area? Perhaps “organized” means having laundry put away or only having toys that your children play with. Whatever your goal means to you, define it. Knowing what your exact goal is will make accomplishing it much easier.
  2. Make your goals more doable. The Forbes article suggests that many people make their goals “overly ambitious.” While it is always great to dream big, breaking those dreams down to smaller goals you can actually accomplish can help a person reap the sweet feeling of success much easier. Say you’d like to lose 80 lbs, perhaps set a smaller goal to let you know you’re making progress. 80 lbs feels daunting, 10 lbs seems doable with small changes. Once you hit your first goal, you can always set another and another until you reach the bigger one.
  3. Create a strategy to reach your goal. The Forbes article suggests that many people lack a direction to take when they set their goal. You want to eat healthier but you really didn’t think about “how” you were going to do that. Just like finding an address on a GPS and following the steps, resolutions and goals need a strategy in order to reach your destination. How do you plan to start eating healthy? Will you change one meal a day? Will you cut out soda or sugar? Will you limit carbohydrates or just add a green vegetable with every meal? Consider how you define success in this process. What do you consider progress? Even if you’re not a ‘list maker’ and your outline is rough and vague, it is still a map to your dreams. Consider it as such.
  4. Set doable deadlines. According to this article in the NY times and this article on Entrepreneur.com, successful individuals set a date to achieve certain parts of their goal. Be sure it is a realistic time frame. “I’d like to have lost 10 lbs by February 14,” or “I’d like to be practicing Italian for five minutes a day every day for two weeks.” Remember that strategy listed above? Give yourself a timeline for those. Having deadlines can keep you on track for your bigger goals.
  5. Declare your goal publicly and have a support system in place to hold you accountable. Even if it’s your mom checking to make sure you walked scruffy this morning to get your exercise or it’s your best friend making sure you haven’t had a cigarette since the last time you said you did. Having someone you’re checking in with increases your chances of success. It’s easy to let yourself down. It’s much more difficult to let down someone you care about.
  6. Celebrate small victories. It’s okay to brag about the 10 lbs you just lost, even if it took you three months longer than you had hoped. It may not sound like a lot compared to the 40 lbs more you need to lose, but losing any weight is hard. Especially if you worked hard to earn that small goal. Focus on the behavior changes that are getting you closer to your goal. Maybe you organized your pantry. Maybe you cleaned one room of your house a day. Whatever your small victory is, celebrate it!
  7. Get back up after you fail. Oh no! Your birthday came up and your “low carb diet” went out the window. You got sick one week and didn’t jog. You let the laundry pile up. You stopped being “the nicer person” you were working hard to be. You were late to work after a long streak of early days, or you went a whole week without reading when you set a goal of six books a year! Guess what? You’re human. It happens. Just as we were children, we all fall down, scrape our knee, we might despair for a moment but we get back up and start playing again. So brush off the failure. Acknowledge that it happened and start over. Chances are, if you’ve come so far along with your goals already, bouncing back will be easier than you expected.

So pick up the pieces and start again. You may have failed in the past but that doesn’t mean you should give up. Just because the New Year has come and gone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Every day is a great day to focus on becoming a better version of yourself.

5 Podcasts to Add to Your Listening List

Are you addicted to Podcasts? Whether you’re new to listening to podcasts or you’re just looking for something different, this list is for you. There is a podcast for every kind of person. Whether you prefer stories, bizarre news, science, technology, or other specific interests, podcasts can be a great way to stay informed or learn.

The amount of hard work and dedication that goes into making each and every podcast is evident in the episodes you explore. Though there are tons and tons of podcasts that exist, here are five worth checking out.

Courtesy of Phillipe Put
  1. Affirmation Pod– Do you like affirmations? Do you like discovering the motivation within yourself to succeed with daily tasks? This podcast is perfect for the person who needs a little extra daily nudge to accomplish goals and feel better inside. There are affirmations from mindful eating, self acceptance, getting through the day, to falling asleep. Josie puts together the perfect mantras to help you with whatever you may struggling with. Her voice is soothing and the background tones are very fitting and non-intrusive on the ears. The episodes vary in length and there are many to choose from. Give your mind the nourishment and motivation it craves.
  2. And That’s why we drink  Em and Christine like to hang out and talk about Ghosts and Serial Killers. One of them will indulge in alcohol, the other in milkshakes. Both ladies have fascinating tales to share in every episode. Grab your drinks and get ready to giggle. Some of their talks are hilarious, some of the information is unnerving but that’s why they drink.
  3. Lore – Speaking of unnerving information, Lore discusses nonfiction scary stories in a spooky tone. Each episode explores historical events that show the dark side of human nature. Just the right kind of podcast to listen to with the lights out. The information is fascinating. The story weaving is harrowing. This is a great podcast for anyone who likes to feel afraid of real life.
  4. You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes  Pete Holmes from the Nerdist network interviews comedians and hilarity ensues. His lighthearted conversation coupled with individual comedians create an interesting combination every week guaranteed to entertain the listener. If you’re looking for comedy podcasts, then let Pete Holmes make things weird for you.
  5. Happier:  Best-selling author Gretchen Rubin likes to write about habits, happiness, and human nature. On her podcast, Rubin and her screenwriter sister, Elizabeth Craft, tackle a subject many modern human beings struggle with: how to be happier. With mental exercises, useful quotes, personal anecdotes from her and guests, and plenty of psychological research, Gretchen and Elizabeth are sure to help you feel just a little bit happier.

We love to hear what our readers think! If you have a favorite podcast you would like to share, please comment in the DISQUS box below or on our Facebook page. The Pacific Tribune is also eager to hear your ideas for topics and articles. Don’t be shy! Send us your thoughts.

Patient Reports Repeat and Intense Prostate Orgasms After UTI Treatment

A medical journal was recently released that contained findings on a male patient in his late sixties who developed a urinary tract infection which was then treated by a strict regimen of Cialis and prostate massage via a butt plug. The side effects were quite sensational for the patient who reported multiple prostate orgasms.

The orgasms were so intense that the patient was able to feel them in his penis, his anus, his pelvis, and his perineum. The man was reportedly stimulating himself so frequently, that he apparently rewired his brain to experience them without physical stimulation.

“There have been no published laboratory-conducted investigations of the orgasms induced by prostate stimulation alone,” RJ Levin of the University of Sheffield, wrote in the report. He’s hoping this study will lead to more research on the phenomenon.

webMD

The prostate gland is a male reproductive organ whose main function is to secrete prostate fluid, one of the components of semen. The muscles of the gland also help propel this seminal fluid into the urethra during ejaculation. Yet it is highly ignored by most men who believe any type of anal pleasure to be taboo, wrong, or too gay for them to take part in and still be considered manly by their partner.

The prostate gland, also known as the P-spot, is 3-4 inches (7.5-10cm) from the beginning of the anal canal, and it’s about 1 inch (2.5 cm) across. It’s just behind and above the deepest portion of the penis, and it’s right below the bladder. The urethra (the tube running from the bladder and out the penis) runs right through the center of the gland. The prostate is on the other side of the rectum (the last portion of the digestive system). During sexual arousal, it begins to fill up with fluid that it releases during ejaculation.

Of course, it is well known among the types of men who regularly participate in anal sex, such as gay men, that the prostate orgasm is a vital part of a man’s sexual health. Some men do not feel content with a sexual encounter until they have reached that ever coveted anal orgasm.

Some men would even go as far to say that when they experience this sensation, the feel it from their head to their toes, and it can last up to twenty minutes before the rush subsides.

Regardless, we will keep a sharp eye on this study and be sure to update our readers to any news in this area. Until then, here is a very detailed guide in how you can achieve this phenomenon.

HIV Faces Extinction Thanks to Potential Cure Found in Cancer Treatment

As the Pacific Tribune reported last year, the “shock-and-kill” approach to curing HIV may be the end to the search for the cure of the virus. And on this World AIDS Day, more news has broken of a potential cure being on the horizon for HIV and AIDS. The revolutionary cancer drug class responsible is known as checkpoint inhibitors. Although, these drugs have not been applied in cases when a person does not currently have cancer, a large-scale clinical trial is currently being done by the National Cancer Institute on the results these drugs have on cells of the virus. That study is set to end in the year 2020.

Checkpoint inhibitors are essentially designed to virtually unmask tumors that are covered in proteins which send messages to immune cells, telling the cell they are safe for the body. These drugs are also able to stop the messages from being sent by the tumor, as well as stop the immune cells from accepting the messages. Regardless of the action, these checkpoint inhibitors are able to make the cancer seen and eradicated by immune system.

The breakthrough was found when a patient who was living with both HIV and lung cancer was given the drug called Nivolumab, a checkpoint inhibitor also known as Opdivo. It is believed that through a process called “shock-and-kill” this drug awakened the virus cells within the immune cells causing it to replicate, allowing other immune cells to identify and kill the infected ones. Essentially, eradicating the HIV cells in the same manner it would cancer cells.

Nearly 1 in 6 men who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV in the lifetime. While 22% of Transgender women are currently living with HIV and/or AIDS. As well, places such as Washington D.C. are facing numbers more than thirteen times higher than the national of average of people living there with the virus. This is why news of any potential breakthroughs in the search for a cure is highly welcomed by those communities and areas where so many are affected.

People living with HIV around the world

Despite the fact we have seen scientific and technological advancements since the first HIV case was reported, stigma and discrimination have kept individuals living with HIV from receiving appropriate care and treatment in health care services. However, knowing your status is one of the easiest ways to combat this disease and to help raise awareness while fighting stigma.

Click here to find testing locations in your area. Take a friend, a spouse, sibling, or even take your children and use the opportunity to teach them about healthcare and proper protection from infections.

Sign up for information on the virus and how to help find a cure, here.

Challenging Hikes In The Hawaiian Islands

Challenge yourself to get out of the hotel room and into the wild with a memorable hike in Hawaii. A few things you can look forward to: waterfall pools, lush rainforests, native plants, or breathtaking ocean panoramas. If you’re ready for a more difficult hike, here are a few worth considering.

Waahila Ridge. Photo: sweet + savory. Click to read more.

Waahila Ridge (Oahu) – After a short walk, jog or hike up St. Louis Drive, the Waahila Ridge trailhead awaits. This 2.4-mile hike spans up the ridge of Manoa and Palolo Valleys, alternately passing through a thick forest of ironwood and guava trees and open ridges. Native Hawaiian plants, such as ohi‘a lehua and koa, are viewed easily along this trail. Whether you’re headed for the highest peak or just escaping from the busy surroundings of Waikiki, this hike provides a few hours of worthwhile distraction.

Ala Kahakai Trail. Photo: National Park Service

Ala Kahakai Trail (Hawaii Island) – This 15.4 mile coastal loop hike can be accessed from Hapuna State Recreation Area. The moderate trail follows coastline over ancient fishermen trails, past nearby resorts, and connects to some of the state’s most pristine beaches and shoreline.

Piilani Trail (Maui) – Toward the end of the Road to Hana, find solace in the Piilani Trail. This rugged, three mile coastal trail takes visitors across barren lava, offering spectacular views of the Slopes of Haleakala and Hana coastline. Enter through Waianapanapa State Park.

Kilohana Overlook of Hanalei Bay – Kauai. Photo: Hawaii Savvy

Pihea Trail/Alakai Swamp (Kauai) – If you don’t mind getting dirty, Pihea Trail on the island of Kauai might just be the perfect hike for you. Pass through mud and fog through brush and rainforest to enjoy spectacular views of the Wainiha and Hanalei Valleys. This 3.5-mile hike can take four to five hours and is often wet, slippery, and muddy, so use caution and wear appropriate clothing.

For more information on hiking trails in Hawaii, visit Hawaii State Parks (www.hawaiistateparks.org/hiking), Na Ala Hele – Hawaii Trail & Access System (http://www.hawaiitrails.ehawaii.gov/) or Unreal Hawaii (www.unrealhawaii.com).

Power Through With Hawaii’s Super Foods

Feel the need for energy and a boost to your immune system and overall health? Hawaii is home to a variety of super foods, all with essential nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants to kick start a healthier lifestyle. Enjoy the “feel good” benefits of these unprocessed natural foods, all found in the Hawaiian Islands. You are what you eat!

KonaRed

The red fruit surrounding the coffee bean is gaining popularity as an antioxidant. KonaRed, based on Hawaii Island, has developed a juice supplement to delay aging, prevent disease, and provide a mood boost. The concoction of antioxidants and acids results in a juice that is immediately absorbed at the cellular level. For more information, visit KonaRed.com.

Noni Juice

This light green fruit has been used to treat a wide range of medical conditions including menstrual cramps, asthma, tumors, broken bones, skin conditions, and inflammation. Its juice contains high levels of phytochemicals, macronutients, and micronutrients to strengthen the immune system and regulate cell functions. Find noni juice at health food stores throughout Hawaii, including Whole Foods Market (WholeFoodsMarket.com), Umeke Market (UmekeMarket.com), and Down to Earth (DownToEarth.org).

Breadfruit

Considered a staple in the diets of ancient Hawaiians, ulu (breadfruit) provides sustained energy from carbohydrates and its low fat content. It is an excellent source essential minerals such as fiber, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, thiamine, and niacin. For more information, visit NTBG.org/breadfruit.

Kukui Nut Oil

Indulge in moisture-rich kukui nut oil, high in Vitamins A, C, and E. This moisture-rich oil is high in Vitamins A, C and E, and provides antioxidants that rejuvenate and protect skin and hair without leaving a greasy residue. Added in creams, lotions, and massage oils, the kukui nut is said to be good to provide relief from burns, eczema, dry skin, psoriasis, acne, scares and lesions. A few retailers that specialize in kukui nut oil include Hawaiian Bath & Body (HawaiianBathBody.com), Oils of Aloha (OilsOfAloha.com), and Island Lotions & Gifts (IslandLotions.com).

This New Paleo-Friendly Chocolate Drink is Taking The World By Storm

Those of us who live the paleo lifestyle know how hard it can be to find foods that fit within the diet. Because of it’s refined sugar and being dairy, many of us mark chocolate drinks off of our shopping list – but not anymore!! Say hello to Rau Chocolates!

I’ll be honest, I was a little leary when I first heard about this new chocolate drink that didn’t include refined sugars, gluten, dairy, or GMOs. It’s not often that you come across a product that don’t include any of those things, but this little company out of San Diego, California has really done it – and it tastes great!

Rau Chocolate’s process starts with hand picking single origin, fair trade, organic, cacao beans straight from the tree, infusing them with pure organic ingredients; creating clean/healthy blends inspired by the Mayans. Their organic, cold-pressured drinking chocolate is packed with healthy fats and antioxidants that offer up mental clarity, metabolic support and sustained energy.

“Many people are unaware of the health benefits of chocolate, and we are setting out to redefine the origins and nutritional importance of life’s most indulgent food,” – Rau Chocolate co-founder Daren Myers.

Rau Chocolate comes in six delicious flavors that are sure to tantalize your taste buds! These flavors include: Salted Caramel for the perfect blend of sweet/salty, Bold Original which balances bitter and sweet, Cold Brew Mocha which contains small batch organic coffee cold brewed over 18 hours, Mint with refreshing organic mint leaf, Coconut crafted with organic virgin coconut oil, and Semi-Sweet with unrefined organic/fair trade coconut palm sugar. Shake vigorously and indulge in a healthy pleasure like no other.

My favorites are the mint, coconut, and the cold brew mocha. Try ’em all and I’m sure you’ll find your own favorites!

A Company Cooked Up In a College Apartment

As college roommates, Daren and Brian crafted flavorful drinks from organic cacao infused with clean ingredients and Rau Chocolate was born. These beverages not only tasted delicious, but also gave them natural energy that kept them revitalized and feeling great all day long. Soon the word got out and Rau Chocolate was in high demand from neighbors and co-workers. To keep up with the growing requests, their San Diego beach apartment transformed into a chocolate wonderland and the duo became the makers of the first organic cold-pressured drinking chocolate that’s full of life and true integrity.

Co-founder Brian Watrous says that “It’s crucial we understand the importance of organic, fair trade sourcing to ensure the transparency and epic nutrition of our drinking chocolates…bean to bottle.”

Join the RAUvolution and treat your taste buds to pure happiness!

US Virgin Islands – Exploring Paradise Without a Passport

Good Afternoon! As some of our readers may have noticed, we have a few stories written about the US Virgin Islands and that is for two simple reasons– the USVI is beautiful and needs to be seen by everyone! After spending four weeks on the Island of St. Croix and learning about the culture, food, relaxing, and discovering that I am allergic to fresh mangoes, I would like to share some recommendations for what to do when coming to the Island. There are so many fun adventures to be had in the US Virgin Islands; it isn’t hard to see why residents and visitors alike continue to flock to this underrated paradise.

Airfare was less than $300 with Delta, including checked luggage, drinks, and lunch at the airport. The fact this is a United States territory means you do not need a passport to travel here and can make the trip simply using a state issued ID card and/or driver’s license. Altogether, I paid around $800 which included a one-way ticket, a new wardrobe, and miscellaneous items for the trip itself. Leaving from most destinations, the airfare would be less than $1,000 round-trip, with hotels running you about $150-$300 a night.

Touring the Culture of US Virgin Islands

sunset at The Palms of Pelican Cove

Although the US Virgin Islands is a territory of the United States, you will find it to be rich with a history and culture all its own. Each place you visit, you will be expected to greet locals by saying, “Good Morning!, “Good Afternoon!”, or “Good Night!”. Here, “Good Night!” is considered a salutation instead of a goodbye, and you are considered rude if you do not use these greetings.

Try visiting Columbus Landing, the spot where Christopher Columbus mistakenly believed he had found India. In 1493, on his second visit to the New World, Christopher Columbus sent a party of men ashore to the area now known as Columbus Landing. You can visit the spot where this historical event took place and learn about the Columbus expedition landing, the native Carib and Taino tribes, and much more at the Salt River Bay Visitor’s Center.

The last of the native people to inhabit St. Croix were the Carib. Originally from the Guiana region of South America, the Carib people had gained a dominant presence of the islands from the Tainos (or Arawaks) in the early 1400’s. It was, however, the Carib that greeted Columbus on his second voyage through the islands. On that fateful day of November 14, 1493, Columbus sent a landing party of about two dozen men ashore to St. Croix, which he had named Santa Cruz (or ‘Holy Cross’). Upon entering a deserted Carib village, the Spanish found a small group of Taino captives who agreed to accompany them back to their ship. While returning to their ship, the Spanish encountered a Carib war party. In the ensuing fight, one of Columbus’ men was wounded by an arrow; he died several days later. This altercation was the first documented conflict between Europeans and Native Americans.

The Boabab Tree planted by slaves to remember their homeland

Over 600 years later, Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve is a blend of history, sea, and land that holds some of the largest remaining mangrove forests in the Virgin Islands, as well as coral reefs and a submarine canyon. This area has been witness to thousands of years of human endeavor and every major period of human habitation in the US Virgin Islands is represented, from several South American Indian cultures to attempts at colonization by a succession of European nations, along with enslaved West Africans and their descendants.

Also on the Island, you will find the 300-year-old Baobab tree. This tree is believed to have been planted from seeds brought over from Africa by slaves. Common in Africa, Madagascar, and Australia, the baobab–also called the cream of tartar tree–briefly grows leaves in the wet season and produces large, white fragrant flowers that develop into oval gourds. The kernels are eaten raw or roasted and are highly nutritious. Leaves and roots are used for medicine, the bark is made into string, rope, and twine, and the gum can be used as glue. In African tribes, the tree has many meanings; its trunk was used to hold the bodies of deceased elders, it is a conduit for fertility, but on the US Virgin Islands it stands as a reminder of the landscape and the people of Africa.

Hummingbird, our trusty tour Jeep

One of the best ways to enjoy the US Virgin Island of St. Croix is to sign up for a Tan Tan Tour. A local resident will take you and up to six others on a jeep tour of the Island to see sights that the average vacationer will never see on their own. A truly adventurous trip filled with history and culture that you will never forget taking you to old sugar mills and tidal pools far off the beaten path. The cost for a four hour excursion is $120 per person, while an eight hour tour is only $160, including lunch.

Touring the US Virgin Islands Food Scene

Once on the Island, you’ll find food and drinks to be very fairly priced, depending on your tastes. After one trip to the local grocery store, you may learn that eating out on a budget would be the wiser choice.

When a bag of Doritos is $5.99 while a burger and fries would be fresh made and under $10 with a seat on the boardwalk the choice is easy for some. Although, if planning to live here, you will soon grow accustomed to paying quite a bit at the checkout counter for that home cooked meal. Don’t worry, though. Liquor and cigarettes prices here are cheaper than nearly anywhere in the states for those who don’t travel for the food.

St. Croix is filled with so many great choices for eating out that you could plan to eat at three different places each day of the week and spend an entire vacation trying new places while living unforgettable memories.

Start your day off at Toast Diner for the best brunch in town. The Bloody Mary menu is to die for, (try it with everything) or just order up some mimosas and see what the day brings. No matter what you order at Toast, know you are in for some good food and friendly service.

If you can still walk that after that meal you know you ordered in your Bloody Mary, head down to Shupe’s on the Boardwalk for a handmade burger dressed how you like it, and some fresh cut fries. All served “to-go style” in a brown paper bag, for your convenience. While you wait, enjoy some tasty Cruzan rum and watch the boats in the marina. Don’t forget to tip your bartenders.

Once dinner time rolls around, make your way down to Savant for a fine dining experience USVI style. Whether you choose to eat inside with the quaint New York bistro style decor or outside on the romantic terrace, you will find the staff to be well trained and the food to be something you will likely never forget. Try the rack of lamb with horseradish mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus, you’ll be glad you did.

Touring the Beaches and Resorts

view of Cane Bay from lookout

Cane Bay Beach was the first beach where local resident and University of the Virgin Islands student Jared Beagles brought me to show off the island. Jared was born and raised on St. Croix, and was a perfect guide for the island. Within moments of leaving my condo, we were riding on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Upon arriving, you’ll see the Cane Bay Dive Shop where you can be scuba certified and go out to The Wall. While you wait for the ones ahead of you, go ahead and grab a drink at Eat @ Cane Bay then go for a walk on the beach. From here, you can see both ends of the island, and on a clear day, St. Thomas and St. John can also be seen. Locals say that sometimes you can even see the headlights of the cars from other islands.

Buccaneer Beach is by far the most beautiful. The Beach at the Palms at Pelican Cove has an amazing view of Buck Island. Chey Bay is superb for night swimming.

You will find that almost any resort on the island will let you take advantage of their amenities, but not one beach in the US Virgin Islands is privately owned, and therefore all beaches are open to the public. Each resort offers different views and atmosphere, as well as eclectic menus, and courteous staff.

Sandcastle on the Beach Hotel

LGBTQ travelers can take a ride to Fredriksted where they will find Sandcastle on the Beach Hotel, St. Croix’s premiere gay resort. Owned by Chris Richardson and his husband Ted Bedwell, Sandcastle on the Beach offers an amazing atmosphere where the staff makes you feel like you are at home. Enjoy a fantastic meal prepared by Chef Shawn Riley at Beach Side Cafe as you watch the sun set over the Caribbean or simply spend an afternoon getting to know your fellow guests. During my stay, I had the pleasure of meeting four different couples who have been coming to this resort for years. Many LGBTQ couples have used the Caribbean backdrop of the US Virgin Islands at Sandcastle as their wedding, honeymoon, and anniversary destination. Regardless of what you decide to do at Sandcastle, you will find Southern hospitality at its finest.

Taking Time to Enjoy the View

A natural part of waking up in the U.S. Virgin Islands is being able to see the sunrise. Often you can do this without even getting out of bed. At King Christian Hotel, located right in downtown Christiansted, you can do just that. Originally, I had planned on staying at Company House in downtown Christiansted for this piece, however, upon arriving I was told their wifi was out that night. The kind young lady behind the desk walked me over to their sister hotel by the bay.

view from my Oceanside room at King Christian Hotel

I soon found that “taking the time to enjoy The View” was no longer about making sure I caught Whoopie’s opinion today, but that each and every day from now forward will always have the most picturesque view to ensure any troubles melt away. That is what St. Croix does for people who visit or live here.

It makes you forget your cares and learn to breathe during your life. As 12 year St. Croix resident Peter Skrivanos says, “It is 85 degrees ev’ryday and da ting is, how can you be mad at that?”

My answer: You can’t.

McDonald’s New Uniforms: A Depressing Expression of Our Dystopian Future

McDonald’s has unveiled their newest uniform change and left the public wondering if Katniss Everdeen has now taken a job designing fast food employee attire. The fast-food giant will soon roll out two new uniform collections. Some of the new uniforms feature the upgraded logo T-shirts that would be expected, but the gray-on-gray apron designs received more attention for their dystopian style than anything else.

According to a press release by the company, these uniforms were designed collaboratively by Bindu Rivas and Waraire Boswell. Boswell is a former employee of McDonald’s who now is a designer to the stars, while Rivas is a designer for Dimensions Corporatewear The new look will debut in April at all 14,000 restaurants. Updating the restaurant uniforms is just one of the many ways McDonald’s and its independent franchisees continue to focus on restaurant employees, the company also said in its release.

“Our new collections focus on comfort, fit, functionality and contemporary professionalism, delivering a uniform that crew and managers will feel comfortable to work in and proud to wear,” Jez Langhorn, McDonald’s Senior Director of HR, said in the release. “Beyond that, it’s another step in the company’s continuous effort to raise the bar by investing in people and improving the restaurant experience with a focus on hospitality.”

The hamburger chain also said in the press release that “individuality is important to McDonald’s employees”, which seems a bit laughable when one understands their employees are expected to don matching cement colored outfits.

The uniforms at McDonald’s have changed many times over the years, but never have they been anything close to fashionable or even pleasant to either look at or wear. This writer recalls his teenage years working at a Mississippi McDonald’s and being forced to wear either a bright teal or neon pink pullover shirt that truly made him grow to hate those colors for years to come. However, this was during the 1990’s when our country wasn’t facing war and was living with a national surplus.

Could these new uniforms be a commentary on the belief by many that we are facing the fall of our civilization due to the current political climate, or is “cinder block” an appetizing look for those from whom the public buys their McNuggets?