Render Unto Man

The PA House of Representatives passed H.R. 535, a resolution declaring 2012 the “Year of the Bible”. Derek Gittler argues this misuse of Civil Government is an Affront to, and a Violation of, the Conscience of every Christian, Non-Christian, and Non-Theist alike.

On 24 January the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously approved a “noncontroversial resolution” declaring 2012 as the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania. In its brief twenty-eight lines H.R. 535 manages to pass off vague statement as historical fact, use undefined fear as a rallying cry, tug at the heartstrings of a pathetic patriotism, and provide overly simplistic solutions to self-suggested and non-existent problems. All in all, it is a masterpiece of modern government.

And it would be completely laughable if it were not also offensive to every Christian, every non-Christian, and every non-theist alike. In passing this resolution 193-0 nearly every member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has shown a complete lack of understanding of the absolute necessity for private matters of religion to be always and forever separate from any civil authority for religion’s and liberty’s sake.

This is not to say one’s religious sentiments may not inform a Representative’s character or influence their conscience. Those sentiments most certainly will. What the Representatives may not do is use the power of civil government to promote religion or a specific religion, but that is precisely what the House has done.

Much has been written about Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists, that famous letter which introduced the phrase “a wall of separation between Church & State” into our political discussion. But what of the Danbury Baptists? What of their initial letter? Why would a Christian denomination in a supposedly Christian nation write to the President for understanding and reassurance in the first place?

The authority of State and Federal power were delineated differently when the Danbury Baptists wrote their original letter in 1801. While the First Amendment of the United States Constitution prevented the Federal government from establishing a national religion, the Danbury Baptists were concerned that their own State of Connecticut was under no such constraint. They feared that the establishment of a State church in Connecticut would compromise their own liberty and personal safety. This was a very real fear considering that in their recent history their own State and neighboring Rhode Island were each founded to escape religious persecution in Christian Massachusetts.

The danger they saw, rightly so, was not in religion, but in the combination of religion and government and the power that combination holds. They feared those “who seek after power & gain under the pretense of government & Religion should reproach their fellow men — should reproach their chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion Law & good order”. Those seeking power would use the cloak of religion, and the moral respect people naturally give it, to decry those with whom they disagree for their own political advantage. In this election year, the evening news is only too full of examples.

It is for the protection of religion, especially for any sect in minority, and for the protection of conscience that in these matters government must have no say and no authority, legal or moral. It is for your own religion’s sake that a separation must be jealously guarded from temporal governmental power.

In matters of private conscience, the Danbury Baptists saw these limits very clearly, that a government must have no voice, “… That Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals … That the legitimate Power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor …”

The resolution of the Pennsylvania House flies in the face of this principle, explicitly acknowledging “the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures.”

“But what is wrong with this?” you may ask. “It doesn’t prevent others from worshiping as they choose.” The problem is not only protection from majority power. The problem is also that for those who do not believe as such, our convictions “we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights: and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen.”

Ultimately this resolution of the PA House of Representatives is ridiculous. No government authority can dictate the private conscience of any person. At best this is shallow politics, intended to consolidate power and position by conjuring some vague feeling of goodwill on the part of the people toward their elected Representatives with some mealy-mouthed, insincere appeal to their deepest, most private convictions. How insulting! At worst it shows the Representatives’ blatant disregard and contempt for the varied sources of morality of each individual, whether that person relies on spiritual revelation or daily experience.

Government has not the authority nor the power to determine the mind of the individual. Its only proper use is the protection of the person and property of each, limited in power such that the government itself is not a violator of those rights. That the Pennsylvania House of Representatives took it upon itself to issue H.R. 535 and declare 2012 as the “Year of the Bible” is a gross insult to the private convictions of every Pennsylvanian and every American.

The Christian scriptures instruct us to, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When our government learns that in matters of conscience they have no authority, that they have no right, that in these matters the Government must render unto man, we shall marvel at them.

Photograph by Wyoming_Jackrabbit. Used under a CreativeCommons license

Complete Transcript: Dan Knorr’s Speech Announcing Candidacy for PA Rep.

Good evening, everyone, and thank you so much for attending tonight. I have invited you all here – family, friends, colleagues, leaders of our community, and businesspeople – because I have a very special announcement.

For the past six years, I have been given the opportunity to lead the Town of Bloomsburg in a way few people have. In 2005, the people of this community – open-minded, hungry for a new direction – took a chance on a young man who thought he had the slightest idea of what he was getting into. I learned from some great mentors, I lost a friend when “Chip” Coffman passed away, and in 2007, I was entrusted with the position he had left behind, that of mayor. I cannot express to you how amazing, fun, challenging, exhausting, frustrating, and wonderful this opportunity has been. I have found myself stuck in the middle of heated neighbor disputes…and I have shaken hands with the third most powerful man in the United States government. I have cherished every day of these past six years.

By 2011, I thought I pretty much had it down. We had had two, consecutive surpluses, were investing in our parks and local businesses, and completed a comprehensive blueprint for the next decade. I had my share of parking complaints, of course, but that goes with the territory.

But in the fall of 2011, the lives of people across our region were upended in the flooding of Tropical Storm Lee. That flood spared my home, but it changed my life.

Politicians are often tempted to think we have power. We levy taxes, we enact laws, we settle disputes, and we grant permits. But in September of 2011, I was humbled by real power. There are no words for how helpless I felt when a third of the town I have a duty to protect and serve was covered, swiftly and silently, by our waterways. I was helpless as people were driven from their homes. I was helpless as people lost everything.

As the flood crested, I began to think about what would come next. What could I possibly say to give any hope to the community? How could I even think to inspire our town, or to get them back on their feet? It seemed an impossible thing. As it turns out, it was also unnecessary. As the waters receded, it was this community that inspired me.

I was inspired by the bravery of people who faced the destruction, shed their tears, and started mucking out. I was inspired by the legions of volunteers, residents and students, who selflessly helped their neighbors. I was inspired by organizations that we take for granted in better times – the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the YMCA, AGAPE, and so many others. I was inspired by an entire county that, while deeply wounded, came together and built hope for the future.

That flood changed me. It changed how I see our community – its strength is far deeper than anyone could have imagined. It changed, for me, what it means to be a public servant; that we aren’t here just to answer the occasional complaint or to pose presenting checks but to harness and lead the incredible, positive potential of our communities and the lives that make them up.

It changed what my expectation is of our leaders. The people of this county are resilient, enduring, and hard-working. They deserve leaders who honor that by bringing their best to bear, as well. They deserve leaders who want more, who are energized, and who will not slack in their drive to make our county better. They deserve leaders who are not late in arriving to the call for action.

And that brings me back to tonight.

Today, we have a State Representative who is not giving his all. After 8 years, he has grown complacent, he has grown comfortable, and he has lost what little fight he started with. I have seen what the people of our county are capable of. They deserve better, and I’m here to say, it’s not good enough.

In 1995, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a law granting automatic raises. The salary for a lawmaker at that time was $47,000. This year, it will top $80,000, an increase of over 74%. Over the same period of time, the state’s median household income has only seen a 40% increase. No votes are required for this raise, there is no discussion, no yes, no or abstention is heard. An automatic raise is given to lawmakers again and again and again regardless of performance and regardless of economic conditions. It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to have a State Representative who makes a show of giving back some money while never making any serious attempt to repeal this ridiculous statute at the heart of the problem. We need a State Representative who will not rest until the exponential growth in legislative pay is halted and, once more, accountable to a vote. We need a State Representative who isn’t afraid to stand on the floor of the House and tell his colleagues that they are being greedy and that they are wrong.

At 9.9% on every single dollar earned, Pennsylvania’s corporate tax income rate is the highest – not close to the highest, not in the top five, but the very highest – in the nation. We are not competitive with other states. We are not attracting opportunity or encouraging investment, and we are losing people to other parts of the country that are. It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to have a State Representative who is not actively seeking ways to increase Pennsylvania’s competitive advantage. We need a State Representative who will fight to bring our taxes in line with those of other states so that we can have a future that is not held back by the government and not stunted by a regressive level of taxation. We need a State Representative who recognizes that being first in the nation in prosperity is not compatible with being first in the nation in taxes.

Columbia County’s largest employer is Bloomsburg University. The continued health of the State System of Higher Education is central to our local economy and a lynchpin to our success. Yet despite this importance, there exists no legislative caucus for representatives of host districts. It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to have a State Representative who is not working, cooperating and coordinating with other PASSHE representatives on our common interests. We need a State Representative who is willing to go that extra mile, to reach out and build these necessary partnerships, who knows that we can’t go it alone. We need a State Representative who knows how to build relationships and is willing and able to find consensus.

The Marcellus Shale formation, and the ability to successfully extract natural gas from it, has rightly been described as an economic game-changer. With it, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to be a serious provider of this precious resource that we use in our homes, in our businesses, and for electricity generation. But we have to be careful, and we have to be smart. The environmental ruins of our state’s coal heyday are all around us. The companies, the industry and the wealth are gone, but our mistakes are with us still. This history cannot be allowed to hold us back, but we do have to learn from it. But our State Representative is ignoring those lessons, and it’s not good enough. We need a State Representative who will fight for measures like financial bonding that would actually cover the true potential costs of plugging, reclaiming, cleaning up and restoring gas drilling sites. We need a State Representative who will make sure that Pennsylvania taxpayers reap the benefits of this resource and not just the unmitigated costs. We need a State Representative who understands that the opportunities of the present need not require the sacrificing of our future.

These are just a few examples, but they speak to what is a larger problem. Our State Representative is coasting. In 8 years he hasn’t authored a single piece of notable legislation. He’s collecting his salary, he’s staying safe, he’s keeping his sword clean, and he’s not rocking the boat. Moving inexorably and with the utmost care toward his pension, the status quo is his friend.

But my friends, it’s not good enough. You deserve energy, you deserve passion, and you deserve effort. You deserve better representation!

So tonight, I am here to tell State Representative Millard that it’s just not good enough. Tonight, with my friends and family around me, I am announcing my candidacy for State Representative of the 109th Legislative District.

In the weeks and months to come, this campaign will be taken to every corner of our district, partnering with citizens and organizations throughout Columbia County, reaching voters with our message that they deserve better, more vigorous representation, and that there is an alternative. We don’t have to settle. Our district can have a representative who leads on the issues that matter to us, a representative who wants to do more than just show up, and a representative with a proven track record of fiscal conservatism, open and fair government, and a willingness to find common ground.

I want to be that representative, and I am so excited to be embarking on this experience. But I cannot do it alone, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to do it alone. I would love to have you all be a part of this. So tonight, please feel free to stay to enjoy some wine and company, and before you leave, let us know how you would like to participate in this effort. If you would, take a moment to see John Karas, our Finance Director, to fill out a campaign support form. It’s very straight-forward, and it will let us know who you are and how you would like to be included. Maybe you’re able to participate through volunteering your time – there’s a box to check for that. There are also boxes for levels of financial participation if you’re able. Or perhaps you’re willing to have a sign placed in your yard – there’s a box for that, too. There are several ways to be a part of this, and we’re going to need them all.

So finally, let me again thank you so much for taking the time to come this evening. It absolutely means the world to me. I truly believe that we can change this district and this state for the better, and I hope you’re looking forward to doing so as much as I am.

Thank you!

Mayor Knorr Declares PA State Rep Candidacy; Criticizes Rep Millard as “Complacent”

Last night, among a group of forty-five to fifty family members, friends, and supporters, Bloomsburg Mayor Dan Knorr announced his intent to stand for election and represent Columbia County and the 109th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Speaking at Balzano’s Corner Gathering in Bloomsburg, Mayor Knorr spoke of his experience as a Bloomsburg Town Council Member, as Mayor, and the events and reflections that led him to declare his candidacy for State Representative.

“In 2005 the people of this community … took a chance on a young man who thought he had the slightest idea of what he was getting into,” said Mayor Knorr of his past experiences. “I learned from some great mentors. … By 2011 I thought I pretty much had it down. [Bloomsburg] had two consecutive surpluses … and [we] completed a comprehensive blueprint for the next decade.”

Past accomplishments, however, were not the focus of Mayor Knorr’s decision to run for State Representative. Instead he reflected on the devastation wrought by Tropical Storm Lee and how the community’s reaction affected him. “But in the fall of 2011 the lives of people across our region were upended in the flooding of Tropical Storm Lee. That flood spared my home, but it changed my life.”

“It changed how I see our community – its strength is far deeper than anyone could have imagined. It changed, for me, what it means to be a public servant; that we aren’t here just to answer the occasional complaint or to pose presenting checks but to harness and lead the incredible, positive potential of our communities and the lives that make them up.”

Continuing with this theme, Mayor Knorr reserved harsh criticism for Mr. David Millard, the current PA Representative for the 109th District and Columbia County. “Today, we have a State Representative who is not giving his all. After 8 years, he has grown complacent, he has grown comfortable, and he has lost what little fight he started with.”

In his candidacy speech, Mayor Knorr cited several areas in which he sees Representative Millard as not adequately representing Columbia County, including salaries for elected representatives, high corporate tax rates which Mayor Knorr blames for holding back economic growth, a lack of partnership among the State Representatives and their communities which host the Universities of the PA State System of Higher Education, and responsibly developing the natural gas resources of the Marcellus Shale formation.

“In 8 years he hasn’t authored a single piece of notable legislation,” said Mayor Knorr of Rep. Millard. “He’s collecting his salary, he’s staying safe, he’s keeping his sword clean, and he’s not rocking the boat. Moving inexorably and with the utmost care toward his pension, the status quo is his friend.”

After making his prepared remarks, Mayor Knorr spoke with members of the local media including the Press Enterprise, WHLM, and The Bloomsburg Daily. At that time Mayor Knorr was asked about what impact he thought he would have as a Freshman Representative as opposed to Rep. Millard who has the experience of serving Columbia County for eight years. “When you’re in a political position, you are your own boss,” said Mayor Knorr continuing his theme of active representation. “If you really want to push the envelope you can do a lot. If you want to sit back, not be controversial, you can do that. It is up to the individual how active you want to be. You have to choose to be active. Rep. Millard is not choosing to be active.”

[box type=”shadow”]A complete transcript of Mayor Knorr’s speech and candidacy announcement can be found here.[/box]

Bloomsburg High School Drama Prepares “Beauty” for Caldwell

As 2012 begins, the Bloomsburg High School Drama department is once again beginning preparations for its Spring Musical.

As 2012 begins, the Bloomsburg High School Drama department is once again beginning preparations for its Spring Musical, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The March production however, in addition to maintaining the high standards for which the students are well-known,faces additional challenges this year. The September 2011 flooding caused extensive damage to the high school’s auditorium. All 705 seats were lost along with all the flooring. The school district is in the process of cleaning and repairing the auditorium, but unfortunately due to the time needed for set construction and rehearsal, repairs to the facility will not be completed early enough for the drama department to present their production in their traditional home.

All the world might be a stage, but Bloomsburg High School Drama needed a place to perform. After much discussion and planning Assistant Director Kate Levan reported that the students have found a welcoming, if temporary home. “This year the Bloomsburg High School Drama Department will host our spring musical at the Caldwell Consistory,” said Mrs. Levan. “For those of you that just know it was the large building near our beautiful fountain, let me enlighten you. The Caldwell is a massive square footage piece of Bloomsburg history that encompasses a 600 seat auditorium complete with stage and lights.”

“With the total support and enthusiasm from the men of the Caldwell as well as the Superintendent of Bloomsburg School District, we are in full planning for our March presentation of Beauty and the Beast. This timeless tale of love will come to life in the setting of Caldwell, which I think is a perfect venue.”

Caldwell Consistory Theater
Caldwell Consistory Theater

Unfortunately this change of location does come at additional cost to the drama department, specifically the rental of Caldwell’s facilities. “We are looking for support from our community as well. We are forever grateful for what our community has given to us in the past and are hoping for that same showing of help for this year’s production,” said Mrs. Levan. “Mainly we would love to cover our rental cost for Caldwell, which is very reasonable for the amount of time we will be calling their space our home.”

“As we strive for our usual standard of top quality musical productions, our student cast of 75 is excited and ready to perform for their town and outlining areas. Many of our own students have endured their own loss in some way with the flood, but they are ready to come together as a cast and classmates to entertain our community.”

The production is planned for Thursday through Friday, March 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, with a “Beast Feast” dinner in character planned before the Friday evening show and Saturday matinee.

The production of Beauty and the Beast will be directed by Tim Latsha.

Ticket Prices are being determined and will be released soon. Look for news and updates here in The Bloomsburg Daily as preparations move forward.

[box type=”shadow”]If you would like further information on how to make a donation, or how you can help please contact Assistant Director Kate Levan at 570-784-1151, or by email at[/box]

O’Brien Announces Several Members of Nittany Lion Coaching Staff

Penn State head football coach Bill O’Brien today announced six members of his first coaching staff.

Penn State head football coach Bill O’Brien today announced six members of his first coaching staff, bringing together a unit with extensive collegiate and National Football League experience.

O’Brien’s staff includes two coaches who have helped LSU and Texas win the BCS National Championship during the past 10 years. The new Penn State staff also has significant coaching experience and recruiting ties in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast and Southwest regions of the United States.

During his introductory press conference last Saturday, O’Brien announced that long-time Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson would remain on the staff and he will continue to coach the defensive line. Ron Vanderlinden, the Nittany Lions’ linebackers coach since 2001, also has been retained by O’Brien and will continue to coach the linebackers.

Stan Hixon has been named Penn State’s Assistant Head Coach and will coach the wide receivers. Charles London (running backs), Mac McWhorter (offensive line) and John Strollo (tight ends) also are joining the Nittany Lions’ staff. O’Brien is finalizing the quarterbacks coach.

O’Brien is in the process of finalizing the defensive coordinator and secondary coach to join Johnson and Vanderlinden on the defensive staff.

O’Brien, the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, is bringing several coaches to Happy Valley that he worked with during his 14 years as a collegiate assistant coach. O’Brien has previously worked with Hixon (1995-99), McWhorter (2000-01), London (2005-06) and Strollo (2005-06) at Georgia Tech or Duke prior to joining the Patriots’ coaching staff in 2007.

“I said last weekend we were going to put together the best staff for Penn State and I firmly believe we have done that,” said O’Brien. “It was crucial to get an experienced, passionate and enthusiastic staff together quickly so they can hit the ground running. All of these coaches have varied and successful backgrounds coaching in the NFL, college and high school across the country. They have developed extensive relationships with coaches that will be vital in our recruiting efforts. They are excited to meet our current players, get on the road and become part of the Penn State Football family.”
Below are brief biographies on the six members of O’Brien’s coaching staff announced today:

Hixon’s coaching career spans 32 years in the collegiate and professional ranks. The past two seasons, he has served as wide receivers coach with the Buffalo Bills and he coached wide receivers for the Washington Redskins from 2004-09. Stevie Johnson, Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El are among the NFL players Hixon has helped develop. From Lakeland, Fla., Hixon served as associate head coach/wide receivers coach at LSU from 2000-03. Hixon contributed to the Tigers winning the 2003 BCS National Championship and coached three first-team All-SEC receivers, including Josh Reed, the 2001 Biletnikoff Award winner, who made 94 catches for an SEC-record 1,740 yards that year. He also helped develop Michael Clayton, whose 21 career touchdown catches broke the LSU record. Hixon coached the wide receivers at Georgia Tech from 1995-99, where he worked with O’Brien, as they helped the Yellow Jackets capture the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference championship. He also has coached at Wake Forest (1993-94), South Carolina (1989-92), Appalachian State (1983-88), and Morehead State (1980-82). Hixon is a graduate of Iowa State, where he played wide receiver, and earned his master’s degree from Morehead State.

Johnson is entering his 17th season on the Penn State staff and 13th year coaching the defensive line. He has been instrumental in the development of seven first-team All-Americans in the past 12 years, including consensus first-team tackle Devon Still in 2011. Still also was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman and Defensive Player-of-the-Year. Jared Odrick (2009), Aaron Maybin (2008), All-Pro Tamba Hali (2005), Michael Haynes (2002) and Jimmy Kennedy (2002) were first-team All-Americans and NFL first-round draft choices under Johnson’s tutelage. His efforts with Courtney Brown helped him earn All-America honors in 1999 and become the No. 1 selection in the 2000 NFL Draft. Johnson also has coached 13 first-team All-Big Ten performers and has had a large role in the success of the defense, punting and recruiting efforts during his tenure. A highly successful high school head coach in the Washington, D.C. area for more than 20 years, Johnson is a graduate of Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University, earning NAIA All-America honors at linebacker.

London comes to Penn State after serving one season as the offensive assistant/quality control coach with the Tennessee Titans under former Nittany Lion standout and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Mike Munchak. During the 2011 season, London helped the Titans to a 9-7 record and 245.2 passing yards per game, missing out on an AFC playoff berth via a tiebreaker. His NFL resume also includes one season as a pro scout for the Philadelphia Eagles (2010) and three years as an offensive assistant with the Chicago Bears (2007-09). He coached for three years at his alma mater, Duke, serving as a graduate assistant (2004-05) and running backs coach (2006). London was a running back and sprinter on the Blue Devils’ track and field team as an undergraduate. In 2005, he completed a coaching internship with the New England Patriots as part of the NFL’s Minority Internship program. He also earned a master’s degree from Duke.

McWhorter joins the Penn State staff after serving as Texas associate head coach and offensive line coach from 2005-10. He joined the Longhorns’ staff as tackles and tight ends coach in 2002 and played a large role in helping Texas capture the 2005 BCS National Championship and play in the 2009 BCS title game. During the Longhorns’ title season, McWhorter’s offensive line was critical in Texas setting an NCAA record with 652 points and a school record with 6,657 yards, finishing No. 2 in the nation in rushing (274.9 ypg). A native of Atlanta and a Georgia graduate, McWhorter was selected the 2008 Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association. He was the assistant head coach and offensive line coach at Georgia Tech, working with O’Brien, in 2000-01. McWhorter began his career as a high school coach in Georgia and moved into the collegiate ranks at Georgia Tech from 1980-86. He was head coach at West Georgia in 1989 and also has been an assistant coach at Georgia (1991-95), Alabama (1987-88), Duke (1990), Clemson (1996-98) and Memphis (1999). Entering his 32nd season as a college coach, McWhorter was an All-SEC lineman at Georgia under coach Vince Dooley.

A 31-year coaching veteran, Strollo joins the Penn State staff after one year as the offensive line coach at Ball State. A native of Long Branch, N.J., Strollo went to Ball State with head coach Peter Lembo after serving in the same role under him at Elon (2008-10). He was the tight ends coach at Duke in 2005 and the offensive line coach during the 2006 and ’07 seasons. A Boston College graduate, Strollo began his coaching career at Middletown South (N.J.) High School and he was a graduate assistant at Springfield College, earning his master’s degree. His coaching resume also includes stints at Maine (2004), Cornell (2001-03), Lafayette (1996-2000), Massachusetts (1991-95), Northeastern (1984-90 and 1981-1982) and Washburn (1983). Strollo served as the offensive coordinator at Cornell and Northeastern.

Vanderlinden is entering in his 12th year as linebackers coach and has been the primary force in helping restore the “Linebacker U.” tradition. Vanderlinden directed junior Gerald Hodges to first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2011 and was instrumental in the development of Cameron Wake, who earned 2010 All-Pro honors. All three 2009 starting linebackers earned All-Big Ten honors and are on NFL rosters, with San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman being named to the 2011 AP All-Pro Team and Sean Lee a rising star with the Dallas Cowboys. In 2007, All-American Dan Connor became the school’s career tackle leader and won the Bednarik Award. Vanderlinden also worked with Paul Posluszny, the 2005 Butkus Award recipient and two-time first-team All-American and Bednarik Award winner. Vanderlinden was head coach at Maryland (1997-2000), defensive coordinator at Northwestern (1992-96) and a defensive assistant coach at Colorado (1983-91). His defensive pupils at Northwestern included two-time Bednarik Award winner Pat Fitzgerald. He also coached at Michigan and Ball State after graduating from Albion College, where he twice earned all-conference honors at center.

The Nittany Lions shared the Big Ten Leaders Division title with Wisconsin and finished with a 9-4 mark during the 2011 season. Penn State played in its fourth consecutive New Year’s bowl game and 44th overall. The Nittany Lions’ 827 all-time victories rank No. 5 in the nation and their 27 bowl wins are third-highest.

Penn State opens its 126th season on Sept. 1, hosting Ohio University. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Indiana, Navy and Temple also will visit Beaver Stadium this fall. For season ticket information, fans should call 1-800-NITTANY weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

[box type=”shadow”]This story originally appeared in Penn State Live. Photo via Flickr.[/box]

The View from Here: BMS Geography Bee

The Bloomsburg Daily’s, Bob Rush was on hand to see Matthew Lee take home the championship of the Bloomsburg Middle School’s Geography Bee. He is the only the second sixth grader to win the prize according to sources. Each year thousands of schools in the United States participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The contest is designed to encourage teachers to include geography in their classrooms, spark student interest in the subject, and increase public awareness about geography. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging test of geographic knowledge. From Bloomsburg Middle School teacher, Jen Flook:

I am so impressed with the participants this year. They did an excellent job. For only the second time, in the 25 plus years our school has participated in the National Geographic Bee, we have a 6th grade School Champion, Matt Lee! It is amazing that a student who has yet to take 7th grade World Geography won the competition. I am so proud of him!

Bloomsburg Middle School Students to Participate in Geo Bee

The competition will take place at Bloomsburg Middle School’s cafeteria on January 12th.

Each year thousands of schools in the United States participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The contest is designed to encourage teachers to include geography in their classrooms, spark student interest in the subject, and increase public awareness about geography. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging test of geographic knowledge.

According to Jen Flook, Bloomsburg Middle School teacher, “We have participated for at least as long as I have taught here (6 years) but I am sure our participation goes back much further. Every student (6th-8th) in our middle school takes the oral test in his/her social studies class and the top 10 students in the school compete for first place. The winner is then given a written test in an attempt to reach the state competition. About three years ago we had a student who scored high enough to make it to states.”

Any school can participate in the competition by registering and requesting materials directly from National Geographic. In early September, principals must write a letter on school letterhead and enclose the early registration fee of $90.00, requesting that their school receive the contest materials. Each local school participating can then notify National Geographic of their winner to potentially be featured on their website.

The competition will take place at Bloomsburg Middle School’s gymnasium on January 12th at approximately 8:40 AM. You will need to sign in at the front office when entering the building. The students participating this year are:

  • Jared Diehl 8th
  • Coty Kashner 8th
  • Noah Bella 8th
  • Karl Gengler 8th
  • Kevin Diehl 8th
  • Madeline Polhill 7th
  • Braydon Quintrell 7th
  • Kevin DuBartell 7th
  • Shannon Lavelle 6th
  • Matt Lee 6th

Check back on Friday for “The View from Here” photos from our own Bob Rush!

[box type=”shadow”]Photo via Flickr.[/box]

Local Getaway: The Ledges Hotel

Now that the Holidays are behind us, we thought it might be nice to start sharing some ideas on how to get through the remainder of the winter months with a little excitement — or at least with a few things to look forward to. With that in mind, The Bloomsburg Daily is starting a new series, Local Getaway, to help point out some amazing places all within an easy drive of our area.

First up is a quiet stunner in Hawley, PA aptly called, The Ledges. This eco-friendly, contemporary hotel is surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery one can hope for in a small out of the way location. It is a new hotel tucked into the lower portion of the historic Hawley Silk Mill complex. Only about a two hour drive from Bloomsburg, The Ledges provides an escape that you can’t imagine exists so close to home. Approaching the property you may not expect much from the nondescript grey stone building, but walk into the lobby and you can instantly tell you are in for a treat.

You are greeted by a sparse, but well designed entry area that houses the receptionist desk and a series of glass doors leading out to an observation deck. It is when you walk through those doors that you discover why this is such a special destination.

The hotel is built into the rock at the base of a series of absolutely amazing waterfalls that cascade from well above.The sound of the water is enough of a rush, but the views push it over the top. The prices aren’t cheap, but if you are like us, you’ll have no need to leave the property for the duration of the visit. Room rates vary throughout the year, but don’t expect something for under $100.00 a night. The standard hotel rooms are a bargain, but it is in the one and two bedroom suites that you are able to really enjoy what this boutique hotel has to offer — the sight and sounds of the falls!

Our one bedroom suite was a two story unit with a spiral staircase connecting the two spaces. The ceilings were no less than 12 feet and the suite could have easily slept two couples or more. The giant windows opened onto the rushing waters below and opening them provided the most splendid view and sounds. The hotel also boasts free wifi, wonderful marble and granite bathrooms, kitchens, flat panel televisions, and room service.

The attached Glass Wine Bar and Bistro serves mostly American fare, but it is the setting that is most special. Grab a seat on the covered porch, order a couple of small plates, and a glass of wine to really take advantage of your visit. If you want to save a little money we would recommend you ask for a room with a view of the falls, pack a bottle of wine, and some things to eat and just stay in your room with the windows open. You’ll be happy you decided to come as you sit, relax, and enjoy the roar of the rushing waters below.

Ledges Hotel
A Pocono Mountains Boutique Hotel
120 Falls Avenue
Hawley, PA 18428

Photo Credit
Lobby, Image One 
Courtesy: The Ledges Hotel 

Remaining Photo Credits
Copyright: Kristin Camplese 

The Medical Minute: Hand Hygiene

Learn simple ways to promote health in your home.

Our hands are one of the chief ways we interact with our environment. Think about what you touch daily – doors, desks, food, other people, pets. Hundreds or thousands of other people have often touched the things we touch, and most of them have hands that are not sterile. People with colds or sore throats touch their mouth and nose, picking up the infectious agents on their hands. Then they transfer the infectious bacteria or virus to the surfaces they touch. Next we come along and get the germs on our own hands, touch our eyes, nose or mouth and soon are infected ourselves.

Making dinner, we handle raw meat and then make the salad, perhaps placing E. coli bacteria on the lettuce and potentially infecting the family. A server in a restaurant coming down with hepatitis could give the virus to dozens of customers if he or she uses improper hygiene.

Health care workers should be well aware of hand hygiene; it’s one of the national patient safety goals for the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). Hospitals are ground zero for potential infections. Doctors, nurses and other health care personnel are supposed to sanitize their hands before and after a patient contact, but with multiple contacts throughout the day, it can easily be missed. Although patients are most susceptible to infectious agents, visitors can both bring them in and take them out.

It’s really fairly simple to keep one’s hands clean; the hard part is remembering to do it. Alcohol gel sanitizers are effective at killing bacteria and viruses, but they work best for hands that are not visibly dirty. Visible dirt should be washed off. Proper hand washing includes soap, but anti-bacterial soap is not recommended. For antibacterial soap to work, the hands must be scrubbed for 10 minutes with a stiff brush like a surgeon before operating. We do not require sterile skin, just clean skin. There is increasing evidence that using antibacterial soap has lead to resistance to the antiseptics in the soaps.

The purpose of soap is not to kill germs; it is to dissolve dirt and float it away with the germs. Hot water is not necessary to be effective, but heat helps the soap to dissolve so it can work. The most important part is time – to work, hands should be lathered together for at least 15 seconds, longer if possible – long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

Here are some simple rules to reduce the risk to you and your family:

  1. Wash hands before food preparation and after handling raw meat or fish.
  2. Wash hands after using the bathroom.
  3. Wash or sanitize hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth in case you have infectious agents on your hands.
  4. Wash hands after handling garbage, dirty diapers, dirty laundry.
  5. Wash or sanitize hands before and after any medical contact, such as, cleaning a wound or changing a dressing or caring for a sick child.
  6. If you have a cough or cold, wash or sanitize your hands after sneezing or coughing or blowing your nose to reduce the spread of germs to surfaces where others can pick them up. Ideally, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm, not your hands.

It’s important to keep these admonitions toward cleanliness in perspective, lest we become fearful of our environment. Intact skin is a good barrier. Although tiny breaks in the skin can be a huge portal of entry for bacteria, it takes a while for an infection to set in. If you are working in your yard, or tinkering with the car, or playing contact sports or other activities where you may pick up germs, it’s OK to wait to wash up when you are finished. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth until your hands are clean and chances are, you will be fine.

Your children will get an average of eight colds per year for their first several years, and that may be a good thing. Some experts think it helps their immune systems learn to work properly. Teach them to wash up after outside play, before eating, after using the bathroom. But perfect cleanliness is neither possible nor desirable.

Keeping our hands clean is a good habit to develop. It’s not necessary to avoid dirt entirely, but it is important to keep it on the outside where it can’t hurt us.

[box type=”shadow”]This post originally appeared at Penn State Live. John Messmer is an associate professor of family and community medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and a staff physician at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Photo via Flickr.[/box]

BTE Offers Student Specials

BTE is offering special matinees of Julius Caesar for area students.

Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble is proud to continue its tradition of offering special matinees for area students in this, its 34th season. BTE begins the new year with its fourteenth Shakespeare play, Julius Caesar. Three special school matinees are scheduled on January 25, 26, and 27 at 10:00 a.m.

Like the highly acclaimed Hamlet and Macbeth before it, Julius Caesar is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts Shakespeare In American Communities Grant. For an unprecedented third year, BTE has received this grant as part of the Shakespeare For A New Generation program.

What better Shakespeare play than Julius Caesar to initiate discussion among high school students about leadership, enfranchisement, freedom, tyranny, citizen outrage, and political opportunity. According to Syreeta CombsCannaday, BTE Communications Director,

Seventeen schools are experiencing Julius Caesar this year, either through the matinees at the AKT or on tour at their school, thanks to the Shakespeare in American Communities grant. Their experience includes one or two workshops conducted by our professional actors, a fully researched study guide (available online), and of course, the performance of Julius Caesar, featuring five members of the Ensemble! The students get really into it; they loved last year’s Macbeth. Maybe it’s the fast-paced cutting; maybe it’s seeing just how seriously the cast takes this show. Maybe it’s the post-performance talkback where they get to interact with the performers. Whatever it is, Page to Stage is succeeding in its goal to bring Shakespeare to life for local high school students.

BTE’s production, directed by Ensemble member James Goode, tells in a compelling way Shakespeare’s version of a war hero whose rise to power threatens a ruling class, the convergence of the threatened class’s diverse motives for his assassination, and the destructive fallout from their conspiracy.

Ticket price for these special student matinees is $9.00 per person for all audience members.

Julius Caesar is part of BTE’s Page To Stage Program which includes the full production of Julius Caesar and a “TalkBack” with the cast following the performance. A Study Guide, play script, and play synopsis are all available as downloads from BTE’s website: In addition to the performance, schools may book a Julius Caesar workshop in their school at no additional charge. Workshop descriptions are also available on the website.

All matinees are held at the Alvina Krause Theatre in downtown Bloomsburg. Matinees for Julius Caesar are filling fast; school representatives are urged to book soon. For more information about all of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble’s programs for students, contact Paula Henry, BTE’s School Programs Director at (570) 458-4075, email or visit