Former N.Y. detective got Lions involved in disaster relief

by: April Cunningham

leftAl Brandel was a police detective working on missing persons cases in New York City after 9-11 when he realized his work as a Lions Club member could help first responders in need.

Retired New York police detective Al Brandel was guest speaker at the Lions International conference in Saint John.

“I was sort of decompressing for a day or two, and I got calls from Lions Club members in our areas, and they said ‘You’re the leader in this area for Lions. We’ve got to do something,’ ” he said.

“That was the first time we got involved in disaster relief.”

He mobilized his club to build shelters for police and fire personnel, providing food, water and resting places at Ground Zero, as the search for missing people continued into the colder months.

Since then, Brandel – the former president of Lions Clubs International – has worked on first-response in countries around the world, including Haiti and China. The retired detective has visited 60 of the 206 countries where the Lions operate.

“We wrote the book, pretty much, on disaster relief, then after that, the book was used to help me when some of these natural or man-made disasters came along.”

Brandel, who has won prestigious awards for his work in Haiti, was the keynote speaker at the Atlantic Canadian district conference for Lions Clubs International on Saturday. More than 150 people from across the Maritimes, Newfoundland and Maine attended the conference at the Delta Brunswick in Saint John.

Brandel said he wanted to share some of his international experiences with local volunteers, and encourage them to continue helping out their communities.

“I’m here to say thank you to them for what they do in their own communities,” Brandel said in an interview Saturday. “I want to make them feel good about being members of our organization.”

George Mitton, the council chair of the local district – called Multiple District N – said he heard Brandel speak at a Lions conference in Saskatchewan in 2007 and knew it would be worthwhile to bring him to New Brunswick.

The conference also works to train leaders and provide information they can bring back to their clubs. There are 242 Lions clubs in Atlantic Canada, with about 5,700 members.

“It’s also a great opportunity for the Lions to get together, share new ideas and new strategies to provide more community service, and that’s what it’s all about,” Mitton said.

The Lions Club is a leading provider of humanitarian service worldwide, Mitton said. It has also helped local disaster relief in the flooding along the St. John River in 2008, and in Newfoundland after Hurricane Igor last year.

The club is also a strong supporter of youth programs, including its Lions Quest Canada educational program, which provides resources for teachers to provide social and emotional learning.

The aim is to prevent such issues as bullying, and give children tools for better conflict management.

Ohio’s bear (and other wild beasts) markets driven by curiosity, profits and, occasionally, sex

By Michael Scott, The Plain Dealer

Ohio's bear (and other wild beasts) markets driven by curiosity, profits and, occasionally, sexIt’s a bear market in Ohio.

It’s also a raccoon market, a fox market and a bobcat market.

Hundreds of Ohioans own, sell or buy wild animals – from skunks in Cleveland to wolverines in Lodi to bobcats in Parma.

Mostly, the wild things end up in cages in suburban back yards, on big farms or even in back-room apartments, your neighbor’s idea of exotic pets.

Some of those animals can bring profits. Wildlife experts and animal dealers say a market exists in Ohio and across the globe for exotic pets, and for their parts.

Marketable products include meat, pelts, paws for decor, urine for hunters and trappers to mask human scent and even gall bladders, thought by some to have aphrodisiac powers.

“Some people raise ’em to shoot ’em and skin ’em, and others just because they’re crazy and want a large carnivore in their house,” said Jeff Illium, 54, a Medina County exotic- animal lover who once owned 130 different wild beasts. “All sorts of people have wild animals, but not everybody knows they’re there.”

Ohio’s wild menagerie was flushed from cover last week in two incidents.

On May 22, a bear in Ashtabula County broke from its cage and mauled a neighbor in her home. Two days later, a fire in Copley Township killed a black bear cub and two tiger cubs at the home of a wild- animal breeder.

The bear owner, Mark Gutman, whose Grand River Fur Exchange in Hartsgrove Township has 700 other animals, is licensed by the state to breed and sell game and fur-bearing animals indigenous to Ohio.

Copley animal owner Lorenza Pearson, whose son was killed by Pearson’s Bengal tiger in 1983, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, accused of violations of the Animal Welfare Act between 1998 and 2001. A hearing on the suspected violations, which include inadequate housing for animals, is set for next month in Akron.

The Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is investigating Gutman’s operation to determine whether it requires a federal license. Gutman breeds and sells wild animals. The state renewed his license in March.

Gutman and Pearson are but two among hundreds of Ohio’s exotic- animal owners and breeders who try to make money selling the animals as pets or for their fur, organs, urine and meat.

Buyers have varied motivations

Many breeders sell their animals to pet stores. Doug Miller, a law enforcement supervisor with the Ohio pision of Wildlife, said Gutman keeps animals to breed them and sell their urine.

“There’s pretty big money in this,” he said. “They get $200 for a baby raccoon or fox.” State law prohibits taking animals from the wild as pets, so they must be purchased from dealers.

“Some people, rather than a Persian cat, they like a raccoon or a skunk,” said Ron Ollis, who oversees enforcement for the Ohio pision of Wildlife.

Selling furs also can be a big business. Ohio, one of the nation’s top pelt producers, had 72 licensed dealers in 2004-05. They bought more than 159,000 pelts from hunters, trappers and people who raise the animals for profit, according to the pision of Wildlife.

Then, there’s the unusual — and potentially lucrative — trade in bear gall bladders.

Washington state officials arrested a Vancouver man for poaching bears and selling their gall bladders in 1999. Officials said that the price was $400 in North America and more than $25,000 in parts of Asia.

Ohio wildlife administrator Dave Risley and others have heard of the gall bladders being dried, pulverized and used as aphrodisiacs. State officials are not aware of anyone in Ohio raising bears for gall bladders.

Bear bile has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat intestinal, liver and bacterial infections and to dissolve gall stones. A synthetic version is available.

“Bear bladders can help for everything from headaches to hemorrhoids — but not in the bedroom,” said Tony Nette, wildlife resources manager for the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

Parts show up on retail shelves

Making money by raising wildlife can be tough. Selling pelts, urine and other byproducts is generally profitable only in volume.

For example, dealers paid an average of $6.28 per raccoon pelt in 2004-05, said Chris Dwyer, a biologist at Ohio’s Crane Creek Wildlife Research Station. Russia, China and Greece are major pelt markets.

Tink’s, a Covington, Ga.-based outdoors store, sells deer urine to hunters to attract deer, and fox urine to mask human scent.

Tink’s buys mostly from small dealers, said Scott Yates, the company president. He would not disclose prices.

But Cabela’s, which bills itself as the world’s foremost sportsman outfitter , sells 4-ounce pump-spray bottles of fox or raccoon urine for $7.99.

Gander Mountain, with stores in Mentor, Sheffield Lake and Twinsburg, sells deer urine, as does Dick’s Sporting Goods, which has nine stores in the Cleveland area.

No other animal part has the mystical hype of the bear gall bladder.

“I knew guys out there who sold bear claws and entire bear paws,” said Ed Speece of Bucyrus, a private owner raising his 10th bear in the last 25 years. People use them as decorations.

White-tailed deer are the most popular game animals kept in Ohio. Some deer owners keep them as pets; others sell the venison to restaurants.

Deer are also sold to private hunting preserves. Affluent outdoorsmen pay more than $10,000 to hunt bucks with large antlers , wildlife officials say.

Last week’s incident in Ashtabula pushed Ohio’s relatively lax laws on ownership of exotic animals, especially bears, to the forefront. Ohio has 57 bear breeders with 130 bears.

Ohio law governs the sale and breeding of species native to the state, such as bears and deer. Any Ohioan can own native wildlife as pets, but raising them them as a hobby requires a permit. People who raise them for profit need a commercial permit.

State wildlife officials have unsuccessfully sought broader authority from the legislators, but they expect another push.

“We would like to strengthen our authority,” Risley said. “We don’t want to put legitimate people out of business. We want to take reasonable measures to protect Ohio’s wildlife and protect Ohio’s citizens.”


Lions project to aid city park


After receiving word that the new president of Lions Clubs International had established a goal of planting 1 million trees worldwide within one year and that District Lion officials were encouraging local Lions to participate, Urbana Lions contacted the city’s Shade Tree Commission, which is intent on replacing ash trees that have been and will be removed due to the Emerald Ash Borer’ destruction.

“So far, worldwide, 302,000 trees have been planted,” Urbana Lions President Barb Keller said. The goal of International President Wing-Kun Tam of China is off to a good start, considering his one-year time line started in July.

To do their part, Urbana Lions talked to Doug Crabill, member of the Shade Tree Commission and assistant to the city director and learned that about 45 ash trees need to be removed from Melvin Miller Park. Planting replacement trees at the park seemed a worthy goal.

A challenge first went out to Urbana Lions. When a member purchases a tree at a cost of $75, the club will donate funds for another tree. Keller said the club will be able to match members’ donations for trees until club donations reach $800. She said that should buy about 10 trees.

Keller said that while the club only will be able to match club members’ donations, she and her fellow Lions hope Urbana residents, businesses and service clubs join the effort and send $75 donations to the club for more trees. Those donations will be turned over to the city, which will purchase trees this year and plant them this year and next spring.

Crabill said the estimated 45 ash trees to be removed and replaced at the park are in the frequently used areas.

He said there are more ash trees in the park’s upland woods that are not scheduled for removal at this time.

He said if the project goes extremely well and more than 45 trees can be purchased, they all will be planted in the park. “There’s plenty of land out there for them,” he said.

Asked whether the city will purchase any particular kind of tree, Crabill said a diverse selection is important.

“We’re always trying to increase the diversity of trees,” he said. “Some cities lost whole streets of trees because they only planted ash. You need diversity in case something else happens.”

Rights of way

Urbana’s rights of way along city streets will lose about 110 ash trees, and the city will be able to replace 75-100 of these trees thanks to a $10,500 Ash Removal-Canopy Restoration grant from the Ohio Division of Natural Resources. The city is financially responsible for the removal part of the project and is advertising for bids for that work. The grant will pay for replacement trees.

Crabill said he expects trees in the rights of way to be removed in October and replacements to be planted in October and November.

Want to buy a tree?

Knowing many people are familiar with Lions’ interest in helping people who are visually impaired, Keller said Lions also have been involved in environmental projects for several decades.

“That’s why we are doing our part to reach the goal of 1 million trees throughout the world,” she said. Other club projects have included providing eye exams and glasses for people, providing annual school scholarships, collecting and recycling used eye glasses and sponsoring eyeglass education for elementary students.

Japan Crisis hits Akron: The pain of a forced transformation

By Ruth Walker | The Buchtelite

The University of Akron is currently home to three Japanese students, two of which appeared on Channel 3 News last week to discuss how recent events are affecting their families back home in Japan.

Nozomi Kiuchi spoke about her parents’ concern over radiation exposure from the compromised Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. She explained that they have already purchased masks to cover their faces as a barrier.

This echoes the concerns heard by Catherine Kenngott, History and Modern Languages senior lecturer, who has several friends currently living in Japan. Kenngott lived in Japan from 1984-1987 and has been teaching World Civilization: Japan for 23 years at The University of Akron. Friends have mentioned a mild panic caused by the fear of radiation. Kenngott explained that this fear is compounded by foreign countries pulling their people out and discouraging travel as well as ambiguous information being given to the Japanese people.

As someone who feels homesick for the life and culture in Japan, Kenngott does not marvel at the cooperation of the Japanese people in the face of such circumstances because she intrinsically knows that is just the kind of people they are. She explained that they are an admirable, homogenous nation with a group consciousness that fosters cooperation.

Kenngott spoke about how in Japanese culture, the individual divides into a private and a public self. The private self, Honne, is a person’s true feelings and desires that are shared amongst close friends and family. The public self, Tatemae, is the behavior that is displayed in public and adheres to society’s expectations of their position and circumstances. This division does not lend itself to the public outbursts of emotion that we typically see in the United States and other countries, but rather lends itself to a group focus on setting emotions aside in public and working toward a common goal – which is desperately needed with the amount of work to be done in Japan at this stage.

Gregory Moore, Ph.D., History Department senior lecturer, has been at The University of Akron for over 30 years teaching World Civilization: Japan and China. Dr. Moore believes Japan will recover quite successfully, as they have a history of transforming their society. He explained that the western world arrived in Japan in 1900 and within a century, Japan transformed from a feudal society into a modern western-style society. He went on to explain that Japan recovered from serious levels of devastation during WWII caused by raids and the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The question is not whether or not Japan will recover; the question is how long recovery will take. While both Kenngott and Moore agree the government and people are more than capable of recovering, it will take extensive time and money to do so.

Lions Clubs International Recognizes Peace Prize Poster Winner

Raj Phairembam, an 11-year-old boy from Manipur, India, will be recognized today at Lions Day with the United Nations in New York City for winning this year’s grand prize in the Lions International Peace Poster Contest.

“We live in different continents but our feelings are the same. We want to be where there is peace. We don’t want to be where there is violence and war,” said Phairembam. “We want a kingdom of peace where love prevails and where we can enjoy the freedom to play fearlessly with our friends – be it an American, an African, a European, an Australian or an Asian.”

An estimated 350,000 children, ages 11 to 13 in 70 countries around the world, participated in this year’s contest. His poster was chosen for its originality, artistic merit and portrayal of this year’s contest theme, “Vision of Peace.” Lions created the Peace Poster Contest to foster a spirit of peace and international understanding in young people worldwide.

Lions Clubs International President Sid L. Scruggs III said, “I commend Raj and all these young people for sharing their personal visions of peace with the world around them. They are truly beacons of hope for us all.”

At the event today, Phairembam will receive an award and $5,000.

In addition to the grand prizewinner, 23 merit award winners have been announced. This year’s merit winners are from Argentina, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Malta, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, New Zealand, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the United States (California, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Virginia) and Uruguay. The merit winners will each receive $500 and a certificate of achievement.

Dr. Wing-Kun Tam Named to Pediatric Cataract Initiative’s Global Advisory Council

OAK BROOK, ILL. — Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has appointed Dr. Wing-Kun Tam to the global advisory council of the Pediatric Cataract Initiative (

The newly founded Initiative is utilizing the resources of the Bausch + Lomb Early Vision Institute and LCIF to identify, fund and promote innovative methods of overcoming pediatric cataract — a debilitating childhood eye condition — for the long-term benefit of children, their families and their communities.

Dr. Tam was recently elected as the first vice president of Lions Clubs International at its International Convention in Sydney, Australia. He will become president of Lions Clubs International in June 2011.

Dr. Tam was instrumental in launching the “SightFirst China Action” program in 1990 between LCIF’s SightFirst Program and the People’s Republic of China. This partnership paired Lions Clubs blindness prevention mobilization efforts with financial support for SightFirst China Action, and was matched by US$200 million from the Chinese government. Since the program’s launch, SightFirst China Action has restored sight by providing cataract surgeries to more than five million people in China and strengthening the eye care infrastructure by creating secondary eye care units at hospitals in 200 counties with under developed eye care within China’s provinces and in Tibet.

He is a member and/or chairperson of numerous boards and committees of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government. He has been the Hong Kong Convention Ambassador since 1995. Prior to the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR, he served as a Hong Kong district affairs advisor.

Dr. Tam is a justice of the peace in the Hong Kong SAR. He was appointed honorary consul of the Republic of Kenya in the Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR of the People’s Republic of China as well as commissioner for the Kenya Tourist Board – Far East.

His vast experience with LCIF’s worldwide blindness prevention efforts and LCIF’s collaboration for initiatives within China will add to the Pediatric Cataract Initiative’s global advisory council’s expertise. The PCI Advisory Council is comprised of renowned eye health experts from around the world, including:

Gullapalli “Nag” Rao, M.D. (Board Chairman). Dr. Rao is founder of the LV Prasad Eye Institute (Hyderabad, India), and he is known worldwide for his humanitarian efforts to prevent blindness.
Joseph Barr, O.D., MS, FAAO. Dr. Barr is vice president of Global Clinical & Medical Affairs and Professional Services (Vision Care) for Bausch + Lomb (Rochester, N.Y.). He is an emeritus professor of Optometry and Vision Science at Ohio State University, and the emeritus editor of Contact Lens Spectrum.
Sean P. Donahue, Ph.D., M.D. Dr. Donahue is professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Nashville, Tenn.).
Clare Gilbert, M.D., MSc. Dr. Gilbert is professor of International Eye Health at the International Centre for Eye Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London University (U.K.), and a global authority on childhood blindness.
Scott Lambert, M.D. Dr. Lambert is professor of Ophthalmology and Pediatrics at Emory University (Atlanta, Ga.).
Lipika Roy, M.D., MBA. Dr. Roy is head of Asia-Pacific Medical Affairs for Bausch + Lomb (Singapore). A pediatric ophthalmologist, she was formerly the assistant director of research, ophthalmology, for Singapore’s National Health Care Group.

Pediatric Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Causes include intrauterine infections such as pregnancy rubella, metabolic disorders and genetically transmitted syndromes.

For additional information, visit or follow the Initiative at and

Lions Club leaders challenge members to charge ahead

Sun Journal

Dana Biggs, the Lions International directorDuring the current economic recession, Lions Club members should push to help the community more, several of the organization’s international leaders said Saturday.

About 400 Lions Club members from Burlington to Southport were in New Bern for the organization’s annual midwinter convention. On Saturday afternoon, almost 100 members had a chance to ask Dana Biggs, the club’s international director, questions during a “town hall” meeting at the Sheraton New Bern Hotel.

Warren Schmidt from Cary and Donna Gavette from Mount Olive listened well and took notes. Other Lions asked how to find membership pins and register for conventions on the Internet. Lions from Cape Fear, North Raleigh, New Bern and other clubs participated.

Biggs’ husband, Bill, told the members that they should find more money during the recession because communities need more help than ever.

“It’s not a time to pull our horns in,” he said. “If you have 10 projects, don’t say you can fund five and can’t find money for the other five. Find a way to fund all 10 projects.”

Dana Biggs said almost 1.4 million people in one of 206 countries belong to Lions clubs. Almost 70 people belong to the two Lions clubs in New Bern. Biggs is from the Fresno, Calif., area and joined the club because she saw a lot of women were joining the formerly all-male organization.

She said she also liked that the Lions participate in a lot of different projects.

“You could build a gazebo in a handicapped park or help a cancer society,” she said. “It’s just anything the community needs. That’s what makes this club so unique.”

Theresa Matthews of Denton said many Lions in North Carolina help blind people get jobs. She said some companies manufacture products like brooms, and 75 percent of the employees must be blind. Lions clubs sell the products the blind people make to help pay for community projects.

Tom Behm of Wilmington asked Biggs how his club could find brooms for a fund-raiser. He said several of the manufacturing companies have recently closed, which has made it hard to find the products.

“Some people seem to think brooms are synonymous with Lions,” Behm said. “So the brooms are very important to what we do.”

Biggs told Behm to talk to other people during the convention to find places to buy the brooms. She said Lions in California do not sell the brooms. Lions members from other clubs told Behm several organizations in Western North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia sell the brooms.

Biggs told Behm and the other Lions to support new clubs and members. She said the organization’s membership is rapidly expanding in Eastern Europe and China.

“There’s a place for everyone here,” she said. “Especially right now.”