District Awards

The Durham Rotary Club garnered several awards at the District Conference in New Bern. The biggest honor went to Past President and Past District Governor Newman Aguiar. As President Seth noted Newman has long been our go to guy on all things Rotary. He might also have noted that Newman is a perpetual competitor for the smile of the year award as illustrated above.

The Club was recognized as the 1st Runner Up for the Best Club in the District among 42 clubs in competition.

The Education Committee’s and Mimi O’Brian’s Books on Break was named the 3rd Most Outstanding  Project without funding.

Our CART donations were also noted as the third highest in the District.

We also received two Difference Maker Awards the first as an individual was Past President and current Asst. District Governor Susan Ross and the was for the Club.

Three Durham Rotarians were recognized for Outstanding Foundation Service, Dallas Stallings, BC Dash and Ann Evans.

See the video on the Club Facebook page with the story behind the contribution that got Ann the tie pictured below.

Special recognition was also given to District Secretary/Conference Planner, Sharon Lassiter, who is, of course, our Club Executive Secretary as well.

Her enthusiasm in the acceptance of this honor was as great as the contribution itself.  All three of these honorees are great spokespeople for the Rotary Foundation. She appears below with Club Foundation Chair Andy Esser, who is challenging Newman for the best Rotary Smile.

New Member: Rebecca Newton

Please introduce yourself and welcome new member Rebecca Newton. Rebecca was sponsored by Gloria Ann Evans.

Perhaps best known in the Triangle as the leader of the 30 year group, “Rebecca & the Hi-Tones”, Rebecca Newton is the CEO & President of Carolina Theatre of Durham, Inc.  Prior to joining CTD, Rebecca spent 25 years as an expert in online child safety, community and gaming, working for major companies such as Disney, Mind Candy, and AOL.  She spent 16 years with RTI International before joining AOL. In 1980, Rebecca was the first Executive Director at what is now The Hayti Heritage Center.

She publicly speaks on online child safety and gaming, internationally, and has worked extensively with the FTC, US Senate, EU Commission, Parliament (UK) and Scotland Yard. She has served on many boards including The ArtsCenter (vice chair), GirlsRockNC (chair) The Durham Citizens Advisory Committee (chair), the NSPCC (UK Natl Center for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), and was appointed by the UK government to various government task forces serving the rights of children. She is currently a board member of DitchTheLabel.org and PrivacyCheq.  Rebecca has 2 children and 5 grandchildren, all residing in Durham.

Rotary Minute: John Staddon

John Staddon delivered the following Rotary Minute about research he had participated in while in Africa. Coincidentally, in attendance were Rotarian Rebecca Johnson and her boss at FHI 360 and prospective Rotarian, Ted FitzGerald. FHI 360’s headquarters are visible across the field from the meeting room and was formed in 2011 when Family Health International joined forces with Academy for Educational Development. Among other things they do research in Africa and both were there during the Ebola crisis. What an interesting group we have.

John’s Minute:

An ecology lesson?

Some years ago I found myself, a college dropout, in Fort Rosebery (Mansa) in N. Rhodesia (Zambia) looking for a job.  Fort Rosebery was tiny: about 20 British families, a few hundred Bemba people, a handful of Indians and no electricity.

After many tries I got a job with something called the Health and Nutrition Scheme, run by the colonial government.  Health and Nutrition studied disease – malaria and bilharzia (schistosomiasis) especially – and nutrition, especially kwashiorkor a protein deficiency that stunts development and leaves kids with skinny limbs and bloated bellies.

The scheme had three study sites.  The main site was Fort Rosebery, which had a laboratory and a small hospital.  The other two sites were Bemba villages at Matanda on the Luapula River and Shikamushile on Lake Bangweulu – a river site and a lake site.  Each was a one-hour or so bone-rattling drive from FR on dirt roads.

The senior researcher on the scheme was Fergus McCullough, an Irish expert on tropical diseases.  The medical chap was a recently arrived Danish pediatrician, Bent Friis Hansen.  Both these guys were supported by WHO.

I worked both in the lab and as a note-taker for Friis Hansen as he examined children.

Malaria and bilharzia were the main diseases affecting the Bemba people.  I will talk just about one interesting thing about bilharzia that came up again recently.

Bilharzia is a nasty affliction with a bizarre life-cycle – not really an appropriate pre-prandial topic, but hey, this is Rotary!  It is caused by a parasitic trematode worm about 1 cm long that lives in your veins and subsists on red blood cells and other things essential to life.  The worms are monogamous.  They come in pairs and reproduce as busily as they can in the victim’s body.  Since the worms don’t multiply in the body, the amount of sickness depends on the patient’s fixed ‘worm load’.  The eggs, when they don’t get lodged in an organ and cause trouble that way, are excreted in urine and feces.

Lucky eggs end up in water – a river or lake – where they hatch into tiny larvae, which go looking for a particular kind of snail.  When they find the snail, they bore into it and after a few weeks produce sporocysts which each produce thousands of cercaria.  These little darlings then swim about looking for bathers into whose skin they can burrow. There they turn into the trematode worms and repeat their sorry cycle.  (How this strange life cycle evolved I leave to someone more imaginative than I.)

Fergus and Bent never understood why bilharzia was so much more common at the Luapula river site compared to lake Bangweulu: 

What is so different about the river compared to the lake?

A possible answer appeared just recently.  The African rift-valley lakes – Malawi, Kivu, Victoria, Bangweulu and many others – sport the world’s most varied set of freshwater fish, hundreds of species, each adapted to its own special niche.  A tasty cichlid Trematocranus placodon, was once common in Lake Malawi.  The incidence of bilharzia was then also relatively low, just as it was in Lake Bangweulu.

The reason for the low incidence in Malawi was that T. placodon  feeds on the snails that transmit the disease.  More placodon means fewer snails, hence less bilharzia.   BUT, when overfishing caused a decline in the Malawi placodon population, snail numbers increased and so did bilharzia.

Possibly, therefore, it was the relative lack of snail-eating cichlids in the little Luapula streams that allowed the snails, and thus the bilharzia, to flourish in Zambia’s Northern Province.

I wonder if anyone has tested this hypothesis in modern Zambia?

Program Report: Mac McCorkle

Pundit Says NC Politics Hard to Figure Out

He’s a seasoned political consultant turned Duke associate professor who pairs impressive professional chops with the candid admission that figuring out how North Carolina will behave politically “is a daunting task.”

In fact, Pope “Mac” McCorkle of the Sanford School of Public Policy traced the state’s baffling political ethos to a declaration by Thomas Jefferson’s that North Carolina’s “political mind is mysterious to us.” A NYT bestseller by two Harvard academics, How Democracies Die, includes a proposition that the United States may lapse into paralyzed politics and “be like North Carolina,” McCorkle said. A recent piece in The New York Times Magazine asked in its headline whether North Carolina “is the future” of U.S. politics.

Today, the state is paralyzed politically – witness the embarrassing birth of HB2 and its untidy cleanup. In the recent past, North Carolina has been a fickle battleground of no durable loyalty to either major party. Think Helms, Edwards, Dole, Hagan. Think Barber in Raleigh, and five consecutive Democratic gubernatorial wins as the Southeast, Virginia excepted, moved largely Republican.

“You have these flips that are very hard to make sense of,” McCorkle said.

[Read more…]

Rotary Tree Planting

We started on a bitter cold day in January with two Durham Rotary Club planters (Jenny Levine and Peter Jacobi), but our Club did it!

Durham Rotary Club met the challenge of Rotary International President Ian Riseley to plant a tree for every Rotarian worldwide. 72 Rotarians, family and friends of Durham Rotary planted 441 trees surpassing our goal of 249 – one tree for every active, honorary  and on leave member of our Club. Six donors funded $1650 for trees. Our Tree Planting Challenge Work Team led this project advocated by our Presidents Seth Jernigan, Brady Surles, and our own ESRAG secretary Melissa Mills.

Planting trees in our community helped Durham Rotary Club form longterm tree planting partnerships with the City of Durham Urban Forestry; Trees Durham; Keep Durham Beautiful; Triangle Land Conservancy; Durham Central Park; North Carolina School of Science and Math; Durham Public Schools; StudentU; and our fellow Rotary Clubs in Chapel Hill/Carrboro and Hillsborough.

View our brief Earth Day celebration video: https://vimeo.com/266618169 Use the password trees (all lower case.)

Submitted by Peter Jacobi

Program Report: Chas Pippitt – Baseball Rebellion

I was the worst high school baseball player…ever. After starting the first five games my senior season without a hit, I spent the rest of the season doing duty as the first base coach and ended the season hitless. It wasn’t until many years later that it dawned on my that use of readily available technology even way back in the early 60’s might have made a big difference in my performance.

For that reason I was very interested in the program that was billed to be about using technology to coach baseball.  Rotarian Rory Gillis of Durham Magazine fame, introduced her friend Chas Pippitt, the founder of Baseball Rebellion, a business based in Durham that provides individualized coaching designed for baseball players who want to improve their hitting.

Rory prefaced the more formal introduction with the story of how they met at UNC Asheville. Chas had gone to NC State as a baseball player but realized he was in over his head there and went to UNC Asheville where he was able to play more. A friend of Rory’s became Chas’s wife Megan, who was a guest of Rory at the meeting as was Chris Gennaro, the business manager for Baseball Rebellion. Rory told this story with a hint of mischief in her tone that matched Chas’s light tone as he told of the ups and down of getting to play regularly and then getting his business off the ground and growing it.

So, we got kind of a twofer here.  If you were interested in baseball, there was some fascinating information about how technology is helping players of all ages with their games. One insight that he shared was that most effective players it flyballs. Many of their training efforts are to help their clients get the ball up in the air and even how to place it where the fielders are not. They employ a lot of technology to make better hitters. In this case they invented a tee to help hitters adjust their swing to get their hits in the air.

One of the more interesting tidbits came in response to a question from Don Stanger about what they could possibly teach about hitting to some of the major leaguers who are clients of Baseball Rebellion? The answer has to do with improving body mechanics speeding up the swing and hitting the ball harder with adjustments to technique and practice, practice, practice.

The second part of the twofer was an interesting tale of building a unique entrepreneurial company using all kinds of advanced technology to create a “rebellion” in the way players of the National Pastime learn to hit the ball. He talked about renting barns in multiple locations, working around the livestock in poor lighting to help kids play the game. Today they have set the bar for a modern training facility and have players all over they world using their resources, many coming to Durham and others doing it remotely using recorded or live video. Cal Ripkin, Jr. sent his two sons and Manny Ramirez, a major leaguer for 19 years and still playing at 45 years old in Japan, was a client. Chas also mentioned that one measure of their success is the value of the college scholarships earned by their clients.

The company’s website, www.baseballrebellion.com, seems to be a bit of a work in progress but it has many posts with instructions and links to videos that could be quite helpful to coaches or anyone trying to learn the game.

So what was the technology that might have helped me. At the time I was mildly myopic and had glasses that I didn’t wear while playing any sport. It didn’t make any difference as a lineman playing football or during endless hours of pickup basketball.  Why it didn’t occur to me that they might be helpful tracking an 80 mph fastball or following a hard hit ground ball, I’ll never know. When I was even younger than that I had a taste of what it felt to meet the ball solidly and see it fly over everyone’s head so my ineptitude was very frustrating. Congratulations to Chas and his associates for making that thrill possible for so many boys and girls.