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Glenwood prosecutor wins award for welfare fraud trial

Glenwood Springs native Zachary Parsons was recently awarded the 2019 State of Colorado Welfare Fraud Council Prosecutor of the Year for his work with the 9th District Attorney’s Office. 

According to a press release from the DA’s Office, Parsons received the award for his work on a complex Medicaid fraud prosecution case, in which a jury found the accused guilty of theft between $20,000 and $100,000.

The Garfield County Department of Human Services nominated Parsons for the award, noting his diligence and close working relationship with fraud investigators.

“Parsons and the Department of Human Services investigator’s excellent teamwork leading up to and during a five-day jury trial resulted in successful prosecution of the crimes of theft of limited and valuable hard-earned tax payer funds,” according to the release.

Parsons is a deputy district attorney in District Court for the 9th Judicial District. He grew up in Glenwood Springs. 

“Parsons is an integral member of the District Attorney’s Office and a valuable member of our local community as a volunteer coach for the Glenwood Spring High School’s Mock Trial Team, and a local rafter,” according to the release.

The Colorado Welfare Fraud Council is a nonprofit organization of public employees that works to detect and prevent fraud in public assistance programs.

Sen. Gardner announces move of largest U.S. land agency to Grand Junction

DENVER (AP) — The Trump administration will move the headquarters of the U.S. government’s largest land agency from Washington to western Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, said Monday.

Gardner said the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters will move to Grand Junction, but he did not say when the move would occur.

An agency spokeswoman in Washington said she couldn’t confirm or deny the move. She declined to give her name.

Moving the headquarters to a Western state is a key part of the Trump administration’s plan to reorganize the Interior Department, the parent agency of the Bureau of Land Management.

Interior Department officials have said they were considering Grand Junction as well as Denver; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boise, Idaho; and Salt Lake City for the new headquarters.

Grand Junction, located 87 miles west of Glenwood Springs, has a population of about 63,000 people.

The Bureau of Land Management oversees nearly 388,000 square miles of public land, and 99% is in 12 Western states.

Gardner and other Western politicians have long argued the agency headquarters should be closer to the land it manages.

“The problem with Washington is too many policy makers are far removed from the people they are there to serve,” Gardner said in a news release. “This is a victory for local communities, advocates for public lands and proponents for a more responsible and accountable federal government.”

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, attacked the move and noted that Grand Junction is not far from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s hometown of Rifle, Colorado.

“Putting BLM headquarters down the road from Secretary Bernhardt’s home town just makes it easier for special interests to walk in the door demanding favors without congressional oversight or accountability,” Grijalva said. “The BLM officials based in Washington are here to work directly with Congress and their federal colleagues, and that function is going to take a permanent hit if this move goes forward.”

About 400 of the bureau’s 9,000 employees are in Washington. The rest are scattered among 140 state, district or field offices.

Grijalva said he suspects the bureau’s true motive is to force out some employees who would not be willing to move.

The Interior Department has previously denied that was a reason for the move.

Most serious drug count dropped against Lipseys

An Aspen prosecutor dropped a bombshell in court Monday morning in the case against two Aspen parents accused of giving cocaine to a 17-year-old.

Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham said he would drop the most serious charge of distribution of cocaine to a minor filed against both Joseph Lipsey III, 56, and his wife, Shira Lipsey, 44, because there’s not enough evidence to support it. The charge would have carried a mandatory minimum prison term of eight years upon conviction and a maximum of 32 years.

“(The) investigation has been somewhat stymied,” Nottingham said. “At this moment, there’s not a reasonable chance of success at trial with the details we now have on that count.”

Nottingham said he will file a motion to dismiss the cocaine distribution charges against the Lipseys by next week. Charges filed against the couple’s son, Joseph Lipsey IV, 19, did not change Monday, though he was not facing the severe penalties his parents faced. 

Shira Lipsey and and son Joseph Lipsey IV.
File photos

“When this case broke all over the media was that the Lipseys are drug dealers,” said Yale Galanter, Joseph Lipsey III’s lawyer and the lead attorney in the case against the family. “Today …  (the prosecutor) agreed to dismiss (the cocaine distribution charge) indicating they are not.”

The development “totally changes the complexion of the case,” Galanter said. 

“They were looking at a minimum mandatory eight years in prison,” he said. “Now they’re looking at probation. It’s huge.”

Galanter praised Nottingham for taking a close look at the case and making an honest assessment of the facts Monday. He also said he’d like to revisit the $100,000 in cash each Lipsey posted as bond in order to be released from the Pitkin County Jail in March. 

Joseph Lipsey III and Shira Lipsey still each face three felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and three misdemeanor counts of serving alcohol to minors.

Joseph Lipsey IV, who was also in court with his parents Monday, has been charged with two counts of felony distribution of drugs, felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor, four counts of possession of a controlled substance and other misdemeanor charges. He also is facing two counts of felony vehicular assault after crashing his parents’ Tesla with four other teenagers in the car in November. 

At least 13 people have died on Colorado’s rivers and reservoirs this year amid fierce runoff

At least 13 people have died on Colorado’s streams, rivers and waterways amid this year’s fierce runoff season.

Authorities and weather forecasters have been warning the public to use extra caution when traversing swollen waterways. Three people have died on the Arkansas River, making it the deadliest stretch of water in the state to date.

Three more people are missing after accidents on rivers.

“Rivers and streams will continue to run high,” the National Weather Service said in a Western Slope bulletin released Monday.

The Colorado Sun is tracking the deaths to better understand where and how they happen.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Suspects in Edwards bank robberies announced engagement before alleged crime binge

The FBI didn’t have much trouble finding the woman suspected of trying to rob two banks in the Edwards Riverwalk on May 1.

Karen Sophia Hyatt, 33, was in the Adams County jail for drug possession and ID theft. When she posted her $2,500 bond on June 25, FBI agents grabbed her on bank robbery charges, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office said.

The FBI says Hyatt and Craig “Lucky” Dickson, the other suspect in the Edwards incidents, announced their engagement on April 8, 2019, in a Facebook post, then took part in five bank robberies in the next 30 days.

The FBI checked Hyatt’s and Dickson’s cell phone records and found that they were together — as engaged people like to be — at the scene when banks were robbed in Denver, Boulder, Centennial and on May 1 in Edwards, where Hyatt is suspected of asking tellers at Wells Fargo and US Bank for money with a hand-written note, according to an FBI arrest affidavit.

Photo from the bank security footage.
Courtesy Eagle County Sheriff Office

“Based on their intimate relationship and past associations, it is reasonable to believe they would be traveling in each other’s company,” the FBI’s arrest affidavit said.

Bank security photos matched photos on their Facebook pages, as well as their criminal mugshots, the FBI said.

Then there were the eyewitnesses. Metro Denver Crimestoppers received three anonymous calls from witnesses all independently naming Karen Sophia Hyatt as the Edwards bank robber, the FBI said.

As for the Edwards bank robberies, Hyatt got away with $9,734 in cash from Wells Fargo, the FBI said.

The tellers in the Edwards US Bank branch did not understand what Hyatt wanted. When they took longer to respond than she wanted, Hyatt snatched back the note and left the bank with nothing, the FBI said.

If convicted, Hyatt faces 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

Crime spree started at 4:20

The alleged spree started at 4:20 p.m. Friday, April 12, when Denver police officers were called to the TCF Bank on Broadway for a bank robbery in progress.

The teller told officers a man was waiting in line. When it was his turn he did not speak, but handed over a note saying, “Give me all the money in your drawer, I need all the $50s and $100s. No GPS,” according to the FBI.

The teller was frightened and handed over all the money in her drawer, which included a covert tracking bundle, the FBI said.

The robber again told the teller, “I need the $50s and $100s.”

When the teller told the robber that was all the money, he more forcefully repeated, “I need all the $50s and $100s.” The teller opened a bottom drawer, took out some large-bill currency and handed it over, the FBI said.

The robber quickly left the bank and fled on foot with $1,304 in cash … and the covert GPS tracker. The robber apparently disabled the tracker, but hung onto it, and was picked up by an accomplice driving a dark blue Chevy Malibu.

A witness showed police a phone the robber might have dropped while fleeing the scene. When the FBI searched it, agents found several selfie photos, which Denver police checked against their criminal mug shots and social media.

Another quick check found that the phone had been used for web searches about “bank robbery,” the FBI said.

That phone was used to contact Dickson and a female the FBI later determined was Hyatt. Communications on that phone continued up to the minutes prior to that April 12 robbery in Denver, the FBI said. Among them are indications that Dickson is a member of the 211 Gang, a white supremacist prison gang, and had spent some time in a Colorado prison. Dickson’s criminal history includes drug distribution, robbery, kidnapping, motor vehicle theft, eluding police and burglary.

The FBI says security photos from a Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Boulder bank robbery indicate that that the perpetrator was likely Dickson, and that he might have used makeup to cover his neck tattoos.

Two Edwards bank jobs

The FBI says it appears Hyatt and Dickson ventured away from the Denver Metro area and into the mountains on May 1 for the two bank robberies in the Edwards Riverwalk at Wells Fargo and the US Bank.

A female, whom the FBI says was Hyatt, entered both banks about three minutes apart and handed tellers a robbery note demanding cash.

The Wells Fargo robbery was successful and Hyatt left with $9,734 in cash, the FBI said.

The US Bank robbery was not, the FBI affidavit said. The tellers were confused, so Hyatt snatched back the note and fled on foot.

Hyatt appears on the Wells Fargo security camera footage at 9:02 a.m. May 1, and on the US Bank security camera at 9:05 a.m.

“Hyatt’s most recent mug photo, taken March 3, 2019, bears a strong resemblance to the robber in the Wells Fargo Bank photographs,” the FBI said.

The FBI says Hyatt is a multi-state offender with arrests for things like possession of burglary tools, motor vehicle theft, vehicular eluding and drug possession.

Her attorney, Richard Stuckey, appointed in June to represent Hyatt, did not respond to requests for comment.


Safety videos by Colorado Fourteeners Initiative focuses on Aspen-area peaks

Colorado Fourteeners Initiative has come up with an eye-catching way to warn climbers and hikers that poor decisions on the state’s highest peaks can kill them.

A new series of mountain safety videos was released this month with a heavy dose of information on navigating the big peaks surrounding Aspen.

Colorado Fourteeners Initiative produced the series in an effort to inspire climbers and hikers to be prepared before tackling some of the most difficult of the 54 peaks over 14,000 feet.

“I had been aware of this issue for years. I thought this is something Colorado Fourteeners Initiative should be doing,” executive director Lloyd Athearn said.

The deadly climbing season in 2017 emphasized the need. Nine people died in the Elk Mountains near Aspen during the spring and summer. Five died on 14,130-foot Capitol Peak.

“That really caused a groundswell — what are we doing about this?” Athearn said.

His organization shot footage for the safety videos last summer and produced them over the winter and into spring. In broad terms, the videos try to inform people who come from around the world to climb and hike Colorado’s peaks about what they will encounter.

“Every fourteener has some level of inherent risk,” Athearn said.

Therefore, hikers need to wear proper clothing, carry proper gear and get up and down before afternoon lightning storms roll in.

The series also makes it clear that 10 or so of the 14ers are in a different league and are particularly hazardous. They cannot be tackled via a hike on an established, clear-cut route. The more difficult peaks include Capitol Peak, North Maroon Peak, Maroon Peak, Pyramid Peak and Snowmass Mountain in the Elk Mountain Range outside of Aspen.

The first fatality on an Aspen-area peak this summer occurred last week.

Aspen sources

Three of the new videos posted to CFI’s YouTube channel are titled: “The Deadliest Colorado 14ers,” “No Shortcuts on the 14ers” and “What Makes the Elk Mountains 14ers So Dangerous?”

“No Shortcuts on the 14ers” uses Capitol Peak to drive home the point. After reaching the summit in a journey that includes extensive exposure, some climbers have made the mistake of thinking they could shave time off or avoid repeating crossing nerve-racking terrain by heading toward Capitol Lake.

They feature Aspen sources such as Ute Mountaineer owner and avid outdoorsman Bob Wade, Mountain Rescue Aspen President Justin Hood, mountaineer Ted Mahon and Aspen Expeditions Worldwide guide Sammy Podhurst.

Watch:

No Shortcuts on the 14ers

Hood said in the video that the terrain people thought would be easier turns into a nightmare.

“It progressively gets worse and worse and all of a sudden you’re sliding on loose dirt and talus. You get to a 300-foot cliff ban that is totally unavoidable. There’s no way around it,” Hood said in the video.

Podhurst said, “There is no shortcut off the mountain. You have to go back the way you came up.”

“What Makes the Elk Mountains 14ers So Dangerous?” stresses that the crumbly rock on the Maroon Bells poses special challenges, as does the difficulty of route finding throughout the fourteeners in the Elks.

Watch:

What Makes the Elk Mountains 14ers So Dangerous?

Additional videos will be released in coming weeks by CFI specifically on Capitol, Maroon Bells and on whether a person should hire a guide.

The videos are all about four minutes or less. Athearn, a longtime climber, said it is his impression that “the mental process” of preparing to hike or climb a fourteener has changed over time. Although the number of resources available in guidebooks and online forums is greater than ever, he feels fewer people are thoroughly researching their objective. It also appears that the attention span of society at-large is getting shorter, he said. Therefore, CFI decided to make videos on mountain safety in hopes of capturing attention for that short time and inspiring people to seek more information.

The videos were made possible with funding from multiple sources, including the Aspen Skiing Co. Employee Environment Foundation and the Colorado Office of Tourism.

This latest round of mountain safety videos augments what CFI previously offered.

“We released 10 videos last summer — six of them focused on gear,” Athearn said.

The release of the videos is timely. A heavy snowpack lingered well into summer and snowfields will likely blanket parts of some high peaks into August. That delayed the hiking and climbing season for most people.

“There seems to be pent up demand for people to get out,” Athearn said.

He has special concerns about whether people are equipped to stay safe on ice and snow.

scondon@aspentimes.com


HealthView column: Injury prevention for cyclists

The Roaring Fork Valley really comes to life this time of year. While winter activities attract people from near and far, the summer is why people stay.

Located in the depths of our beautiful rolling hills to the roaring rivers, the valley is filled with activities from the water to the land. It is no surprise that the nature of the injuries we see coincide with the changing of the seasons.

One of the most common summer activities available here is cycling/biking.

Whether you are a mountain biker, a road biker or a commuter, this valley has an abundance of opportunities for beginners up through expert trails both on and off the pavement. The rise in e-bikes has also introduced more users to the trails.

The most common types of injury seen in bikers are head and face trauma, and fractures to the upper extremity, such as wrist, forearm and hands. As a shoulder specialist, the injuries I treat most often are fractured clavicles, otherwise known as the collarbone.

Your clavicle is a long bone between your shoulder blade and sternum that is easily identifiable by the bump it can create visible under the skin. It is a unique bone, highly susceptible to trauma. When an accident occurs, causing the participant to fall on their shoulder, or with their arm outstretched, the clavicle often takes on the impact of that fall. Because of this, the clavicle is considered to be the most fractured of our bones.

There is always a chance of injury, even to the most experienced of riders on the easiest of trails. However, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of injury and have a safe, enjoyable ride.

Below are some of the tips I share with my patients:

• Practicing good trail etiquette, such as yielding to uphill riders and riding within your ability level can make sudden stops more infrequent, and decrease your risk of falling. Work your way up in mileage and make sure your bike is tuned, clean and running well.

• Replace your helmet every three to five years. Glues and resins used in helmets can affect the materials over time. Hair oil, body fluids and normal wear-and-tear all contribute to helmet degradation.

• Stretch muscle groups such as your hip flexors and hamstrings both before and after you ride. After vigorous activity, blood can pool in the large muscles in the legs and cause fainting or dizziness — stretching helps to alleviate that and any lactic acid buildup that occurs.

• Cross training with core exercises and activities that work adjacent muscle groups is helpful for balance and coordination.

• Staying hydrated throughout your ride fends off muscle cramping and fatigue, especially in hot weather. Even in cooler weather, dehydration is possible if you don’t drink enough fluids while riding.

While we encourage a safe and active lifestyle here. We also understand some accidents are unavoidable. Many injuries that occur while riding may be easily treated at home.

However, knowing when to seek professional medical advice is also a key to a successful recovery. If there is persistent swelling around a joint, painful “pops,” recurring instability, consistent pain during or after an activity, or pain that does not respond after a period of rest, it may be time to see a physician.

Since 1994, Dr. Ferdinand “Tito” Liotta, MD, has helped restore the health of athletes and adults of all ability levels in the Roaring Fork community as part of the Glenwood Orthopaedic Center at Valley View Hospital team.

Parker Column: Nobody eats wolf

From Little Red Riding Hood’s terrifying encounter with the Big Bad Wolf to Kevin Costner’s balletic romance with some kindred, four-legged spirit in “Dances With Wolves,” Americans have long had a love-hate relationship with the ancestral predecessor of our favorite family pet.

Some want to hunt and kill as many wolves as they can; others want to keep them defended, as they have been since the federal government included the gray wolf in the list of protected animals under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. In 2011, Congress voted to remove those protections for wolves in the upper Rockies, resulting in thousands of wolf kills through trapping or hunting.

Soon the same fate may befall the 5,000 or so remaining gray wolves in the lower 48 states, if a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services proposal to lift protections goes through. The public-comment period on the proposal ends July 15, though comments can still be made after that date and the agency is obligated to review them all.

I confess to being a resolute lover of anything with a heartbeat, excluding a few Homo sapiens here and there. I’m not, however, a Pollyanna about hunting. Though the allure of hunting has eluded me, many friends and family members are outdoorsmen and view hunting as a natural way to put food on the table.

Many hunters are also conservationists, whose dedication to hunting corresponds to a commensurate dedication to preserving wilderness and wetland areas. In many cases, their efforts have led to increased animal and fowl populations.

But the wolf is also highly effective at managing deer and elk populations, which upsets the hunters who prefer the same prey. Do hunters have a greater right to eat elk than wolves do? Perhaps the better question is: Are hunters more effective at balancing fragile ecosystems than are the animals who’ve evolved to do just that?

If you hunt without poison, traps or from the air with sniper rifles — it is actually extremely difficult to kill a wolf. Randy Newberg, who hosts an online show on hunting, says that “wolves just might be America’s most challenging big game.” He described hiking through rough mountain terrain for five days with heavy packs, 8-12 miles per day, and seeing only the tails of a few running wolves. After his partner finally killed a single wolf, Newberg wrote of his great respect for this “beautiful” animal, as well as his hope that more hunters would start killing more wolves soon. For him, it was a childhood dream come true.

For many other Americans, seeing a beautiful, noble animal does not inspire the need to destroy it. This is especially true of elephants, lions, giraffes and other endangered species around the globe that trophy hunters slaughter for body parts. Between 2005 and 2014, 1.26 million “trophies” were imported into the U.S.

In a 2017 tweet, President Trump, whose sons are big-game hunters, referred to trophy hunting as a “horror show,” suggesting that he would continue the Obama-era ban on trophies being brought into the U.S. Nonetheless, the ban has been lifted on some animals on a nation-by-nation basis.

An American president’s words matter, and Trump, who recently touted his administration’s commitment to conservation, could prove it by speaking up for wolves. There are other ways to manage wolves without killing them, though, admittedly they’re more difficult. Thus, the essential question comes down to whether we want to ensure that wild areas remain wild, with limited exceptions — perhaps granted to ranchers when their livestock is under consistent predation by wolves. Surely such accommodations would be preferable to rubber-stamping a massive wolf slaughter.

This isn’t to romanticize the wolf or to diminish the concerns already expressed but to offer a balance to the pressures being exerted by powerful lobbies. Wolves have no voice and it is too soon to lift protections, which are the only reason we still have wolves at all. Once delisted, it wouldn’t take long to eliminate the wolf altogether — to the detriment of the environment as well as our collective heritage.

Wolves are neither good nor bad. They don’t pretend to be grandma and they don’t dance with disenchanted soldiers. They are much like our dogs, emotionally, and, like the best hunters, kill only for food. If Trump doesn’t speak up soon, the howl we hear in the night won’t belong to the predator but to the last lonely wolf crying out for all that an inhumane world has lost.

Kathleen Parker’s email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

Post Independent’s Summer Fun photo contest continues

Here are few of the entries so far in this year’s Post Independent Summer Fun Photo Contest, sponsored by Grand River Health. There are 10 more days left to submit photos online. Voting begins Aug. 1.

To participate, submit your photos here.

Doctor’s Tip column: Diet and blood pressure

When scientists study large populations of people and look at what diseases they get and what they die from, it becomes apparent that ideal blood pressure is 110/70 or below. As blood pressure rises above that level — especially 140/90 or above — the incidence rises for heart attacks; strokes; damage to blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys, and brain; aortic and brain aneurysms; dementia; and heart failure.

In countries on a Western diet — high in animal products, refined food, salt, sugar and fat/oil — blood pressure tends to rise as people age, and the majority of people eventually develop hypertension (high blood pressure).

Although this scenario is common, it is not normal. In populations such as rural Africa and rural China, where people eat unprocessed, plant-based food low in salt (sodium), blood pressures remain in the 110/70 range, even in people in their 90s.

In the 1940s, before effective blood pressure medications had been developed, people with severe hypertension — such as FDR — usually died. Walter Kempner, M.D., at Duke University, put these severe hypertensives on a strict fruit and white rice diet with no added salt. Blood pressures in the 240/150 range came down to the 105/80 range.

Obviously, this diet was monotonous and lacked many important nutrients, but Dr. Kempner proved that hypertension is caused by what people eat, and can be treated with dietary changes.

In spite of what the Salt Institute would like us to believe, salt clearly causes hypertension, although some people respond to salt more than others. Salt causes water retention, and your body responds to this by increasing your blood pressure, in order to eliminate the excess water and salt. Your blood pressure rises soon after eating a salty meal, and if you eat too much salt on a regular basis you will likely end up with sustained hypertension.

During most of the millions of years of human evolution, humans were eating just a few hundred milligrams of salt, through their plant-based diet. We now eat about 10 times that amount. The maximum safe amount of salt for adults is 1,500 mg.

Cheese and processed foods have particularly high salt content. The primary source of salt in kids and teenagers is pizza. In young adults the main source is chicken — the poultry industry commonly injects chicken carcasses with salt water to artificially inflate their weight. In older adults, the main source of salt is bread.

People who eat animal products are more apt to be overweight, which is a major cause of hypertension. Furthermore, they are more apt to develop stiffening and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which cause their blood pressure to rise as they age.

Vegetables, fruit and whole grains on the other hand, cause the endothelium to produce nitric oxide, which makes arteries dilate. Nitric oxide also makes arteries healthier, and more resistant to atherosclerosis. Organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and the Center of Disease Control recommend that patients with hypertension first try weight reduction, limiting sodium and alcohol, exercising and eating a healthier diet.

However, what they recommend as a healthy diet is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. This diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat diet — some meat is also allowed, and it does lower blood pressure somewhat.

Dr. Sachs, of Harvard, was chairman of the committee that developed the DASH diet. His investigation found that the people in industrialized countries with the lowest blood pressures were vegetarians — and vegans even more so. His committee recommended the DASH diet because their goal was to create eating patterns “that would have the blood pressure lowering benefits of a vegetarian diet yet contain enough animal products to make them palatable to nonvegetarians.”

In his book “How Not to Die,” Dr. Michael Greger notes that “instead of simply telling you what the science shows and then letting you make up your own mind, experts patronize the population by advocating what they think is practical rather than ideal.”

Unfortunately, not everyone with high blood pressure is willing to change their lifestyle enough to impact it significantly. Next week’s column will discuss common blood pressure medications.

Retired physician Greg Feinsinger, MD, is author of the new book “Enjoy Optimal Health, 98 Health Tips From a Family Doctor,” available on Amazon and in local bookstores. Profits go towards an endowment to the University of Colorado School of Medicine to add prevention and nutrition to the curriculum. For questions about his column, email gfeinsinger@comcast.net.