Welcome to the Silver Standard News
As a central element of the outreach work of the Elder Abuse Reform Now (EARN) Project, it is our goal to bring you the latest news on developments in the fight to end financial elder abuse, as well as a wide range of other information to assist senior citizens and their loved ones. From detailing the progress of legislation aimed at ending the practice of financial elder abuse in each of the 50 states to telling the stories of those who have suffered from the effects of this practice, the Silver Standard News is dedicated to making sure that no senior citizen in this country is denied the right to control the assets and property that are rightfully theirs.
To achieve this goal, we will be working on several different fronts; whether it be unraveling legal terminology for our readers or giving them a way to connect with each other, we will work to improve the lives of America's senior citizens by giving them a voice that reflects their concerns and ensures that they are part of a larger community that has their interests at heart.
We will shine a cold light into the darkness of financial elder abuse and the involuntary guardianship that is the favorite tool of the financial abuser. Scrutinize every state, every city, and every court to make sure the citizens of each state understand precisely where their state, and each legislator, stands on financial elder abuse, and how well existing laws protect their elders and punish the abusers.
We will remind every politician that senior citizens control the largest block of money and the largest block of votes. We will apply our motto, taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying." For we will be watching and reporting on the actions of those powerful Americans who, while enjoying the salaries and perks of office provided by the American tax payers, have failed the greatest generation and are now failing their baby boomer children.
In addition, we will give our readers. a look at the human faces behind every aspect of this struggle--not just victims but politicians, legislators, home care administrators, professional guardians, businesses. We will tell the personal stories of the people who have lost their money, homes and dignity due to unscrupulous individuals who are often allowed to act under the cloak of legality. But we will also tell the stories of those who have fought back, who have refused to take the existing state of affairs lying down, and who are winning their battles. We will tell you about those officeholders who are, and have been, their champions. Our aim is to empower our readers, to make them aware that they do not have to simply accept the way things are. Though they may be past the age of lying down on courthouse steps or participating in noisy demonstrations, we will encourage them to put their voice, their votes and their money to good use on the elder abuse front. Collectively, especially when joined by those who love them and younger people who don't want this evil to invade their "Golden Years"—they can create a mighty roar.
Though our principle focus is to inform and make elder abuse a sin of the past, we also hope we will amuse and entertain. Tell us what you want, what your concerns are, how you feel we can do a better job to make the Silver Standard News a vital source for all seniors and their adult children. We look forward to hearing from you.
On November 23, 2019, Philadelphia's senior citizens lost a great friend and defender when Noel Ann De Santis lost her battle with brain cancer at the young age of 45.
Noel, a member of the district attorney's elder abuse and exploitation unit, was known for her caring attention to elder victims: “She really knew how to connect with elder people,” said District Attorney Lynne M. Abrahams. Her father said, “Noel was more interested in justice than in winning.”
Long after trials had ended, Noel retain her friendship with many of the victims, making sure they were protected and received the services they needed, such as taking homemade sandwiches to one victim and staying overnight in the hospital with another who had suffered an emergency until the family arrived the next day.
Noel Ann De Santis’ passing is unquestionably a great loss to her family, but it is also a great loss to a society that is in dire need of more people of her quality
Do Unto Others is Alive and Well in the Spedowske Family
By Mary West
Every once in a while you hear a story that brings you to a complete stop in your busy day and reminds you of what is truly important in life, of the value of kindness. This is not about political haggling, very wealthy people putting their wealth to work in a selfish self-dealing manner, or men of power indulging in abusive behavior—it is about Love and two people, Shelley and Jim Spedowske, who remembered and that no one is ever too old to have a dream come true.
For most of her life Helen Sharp had longed to ride a motorcycle. She enjoyed bike riding as a young woman, and she and her husband Arnold had hoped to acquire a motorcycle one day. However, due to the financial needs of raising a family and running a farm, they never felt they could afford the purchase. Even after the death of Arnold, Helen’s desire to ride a motorcycle never dimmed.
Early in 2019, ninety-six-year-old Helen entered the Spectrum Health Hospice and Palliative Care program suffering from congestive heart failure and macular degeneration. Her family was concerned that she would decline in hospice, but with new medications and the loss of 47 pounds, Helen’s health improved and she was thriving. Social workers, looking for ways to bring more enjoyment into her daily routine, asked Helen if she had a bucket list. Indeed she did, and the first thing on it was that lifelong yearning for a motorcycle ride.
Hospice employees reached out to former staff member Shelley Spedowske and her husband Jim, who ride three-wheeled motorcycles. The couple, who were always up for doing anything that would bring pleasure to patients in the program, readily volunteered to help. When first told, Helen hesitated, fearing that she had waited too long; but a little encouragement from her daughter gave her the mettle to agree.
On the big day of the ride, she dressed for the occasion, sporting a spiffy Route 66 bandana under her helmet and a black Harley Davidson jacket. Her big moment had arrived, and as she sat behind Jim Spedowske, clutching him tightly as they rode past fields and forest, she had one more request: May we go faster?
Helen said that during the glorious twenty-minute ride, she felt the presence of her beloved husband Arnold right there riding with her. The memory of this simple act of kindness never left Helen, and the joy of that beautiful experience left her awash in wonder that her dream had finally come true.
When you think of a ninety-six-year-old, the image that comes to mind likely includes a rocking chair, a shawl, or arthritis medications—not a motorcycle, a black bomber jacket, and a Route 66 bandana. But it was Helen Sharp’s ideal image of her ninety-six-year-old self, and it reminds us that regardless of your age or how impossible a dream seems, you should pursue it—and those who care about you should help.
While we may not be able to offer someone a ride on a motorcycle, we can bring joy to others through simple act of kindness. All of us certainly have something to give that will brighten a person’s day. Even the so-called “small things”—a friendly smile, a sincere complement, a listening ear—can mean so much. Moreover, something about doing a good deed for another frequently brings even more joy to the giver than to the receiver.
The world is a better place because people like Shelley and Jim Spedowske are in it.
In June 2019, Attorney General William Barr met with the general counsel of several major banks to discuss what financial institutions can do to slow the growth of financial elder exploitation. He has demonstrated a real interest in working with the financial industry to establish successful programs and protocols that identify and prevent not just national but also international criminals from targeting American seniors.
Senior financial abuse is an ever-growing problem and, after years of disinterest by the federal government, AG Sessions demonstrated a sincere interest in protecting America’s senior citizens. We are very happy to see that our new Attorney General Barr has placed America’s seniors high on his list of priorities, including establishing the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. This is made up of prosecutors and data analysts from the Consumer Protection Branch, FBI special agents, and postal inspectors, along with prosecutors from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Central District of California, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Eastern District of New York, and Southern District of Texas and other law enforcement personnel to focus on investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors. These include telemarketing, mass-mailing, and tech-support fraud schemes.
“Fraud against the elderly is on the rise,” said Attorney General Barr. “One of the most significant and pernicious causes for this increase is foreign-based fraud schemes. The new Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force will bring together the expertise and resources of our prosecutors, federal and international law enforcement partners, and other government agencies to better target, investigate, and prosecute criminals abroad who prey on our elderly at home. The Department of Justice is committed to ending the victimization of elders across the country.”
In addition, the Strike Force will collaborate with the Federal Trade Commission and industry partners, who have pledged to engage with the DOJ to help obliterate elder fraud. It will also receive help from elder justice coordinators now assigned in every U.S. Attorney’s Office.
With the protective arm of the justice department now stretching out across the country, we hope it will wrap itself around the nursing home industry and do something about their lack of reporting. The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study showed that cases of abuse of elderly nursing home patients on Medicare are frequently not reported to state inspection agencies, even though nursing homes are required to report allegations of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment "promptly" so they may be tracked and recorded, in accordance with federal requirements.
David Really Can Slay Goliath
But First He Must Show Up
Marti Oakley, host of T.S. Radio and author of The PPJ Gazette Blog, has devoted herself for many years to educating the public on the dangers and pitfalls of elderly guardianship. This term refers to the legal relationship formed when a court appoints someone to care for a senior who is ill or infirmed. In theory, guardianship meets the needs of people who can no longer care for themselves. However, in reality, it is fraught with perils resulting from the callous devaluation of the elderly and the desire of predators to gain control over their assets. Tragically, many seniors experience abuse, neglect, and, in some cases, premature death caused by a guardian.
Guardianships are a lucrative business, and they’ve become one of the fastest-growing cottage industries. Unfortunately, in some cases, an unholy alliance exists between guardians, nursing homes, the lawyers representing nursing homes and guardians, professional organizations, probate judges, and other stakeholders. In other words, there exists a network of corrupt colluders. Consequently, an elderly person is deprived of any fair representation or evaluation in a court where the judge has the power to put a total stranger in charge of their “care.” According to Oakley, “These relationships and networks are clear racketeering.”
Oakley’s Elder Advocacy Journey
How did seniors acquire the valiant spokesperson they have in Oakley? Her journey to elder abuse activism began more than 11 years ago. She had always been involved with various issues affecting public health such as pollution, GMOs, and fluoridated water. After doing numerous radio interviews, a friend in New York City told her that she should seriously consider doing a show that would bring these topics, which often flourish in shadow, into the light of day. She initially resisted the idea, but later, realizing how ill-informed the American people were on these matters, she understood that such a show would create the informed public necessary to create a demand for changes in laws to reduce the number of abused citizens.
Oakley traces her interest in elderly guardianship to an interview with Sara Harvey, a woman whose husband, Gary, had a nightmarish experience. Two years after experiencing a traumatic brain injury, Gary’s guardian asked the court to remove his feeding tube and starve him to death. Sara struggled to get Gary proper care, but the guardian had been given all the power, and he passed away.
Oakley researched guardianships and found that Gary Harvey’s story wasn’t an aberration: instead, it was a relatively common occurrence happening to seniors across the country. The problem haunted her. “I was appalled at what was being done to people whose only crime was aging with assets,” and she took up the cause.
Sara directed Oakley to the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA), and the dam was open—vast numbers of people came out of the woodwork to tell their horror stories on her show. These accounts have a common thread—the victims became prey to predators masquerading as guardians, who rob them of everything, including their dignity.
Aside from giving family members of victims a voice on her show, Oakley has interviewed doctors, lawyers, and whistleblowers to examine factors that have a bearing on this national plague. Her life is now dedicated to making phone calls, writing articles, and speaking with lawmakers.
Cash Incentivization of Federal Programs
In discussing various aspects of the guardianship problem, Oakley reports that federal programs can be cash incentivized, and hospice care, which can be a Godsend to many suffering the excruciating pain of late-stage cancer and other diseases, can also offer an opportunity to an abuser, becoming “nothing but a killing machine…. to amass funds, corrupt doctors misdiagnose patients as terminal to enter them into the hospice program. Since food and water have been redefined as medical treatment, patients are denied these essential elements for life. After three days without them, their organs start to shut down,” she explains.
In addition, some hospices and nursing homes withhold medications that could extend life. To illustrate, under “comfort care only” directives, antibiotics, normally given to treat an infection, may not be prescribed even to a patient who, if given these curative drugs, might live a perfectly good life for many months or years to come. “Comfort care only” is a convenient an often-used tool by guardians and family members who have a financial interest hastening the patient’s death. This is evident in the audio and video recordings of Mercedes Kibbee in the Silver Standard documentary “The Unforgivable Truth”.
Oakley notes that the federal government owes Social Security about $4 trillion, which has been taken from surplus funds to support other causes. “They have no way to pay it back, so they reduce the amount of income that claimants get, as well as try to decrease the number of claimants. Under Obamacare, many hospices morphed from acting as Good Samaritan to assuming the role of Grim Reaper. We estimate hospice is ending the lives of 300,000 to 500,000 people per year,” she adds.
Broadening the Scope of the Problem
Heartbreakingly, the scope of the problem is broadening. Efforts to reduce the population aren’t limited to rushing the deaths of the elderly: the disabled and chronically ill, as in the case of Gary Harvey, are now being targeted as well.
Furthermore, while 10 years ago wealthy seniors were the primary victims, now predators have expanded their targets to include non-wealthy seniors. Social security benefits can provide a hefty income for any guardian who has taken charge of a large volume of seniors and is the designated assigned payee of those payments.
Oakley cites the example of Rebecca Fierle, a professional guardian in Florida who went from being bankrupt to a millionaire within three years after gaining control over the estates of many seniors. Fortunately, Fierle is now under criminal investigation, but in most cases the guardian’s bank account continues to grow as the victim continues to suffer.
Lack of Federal and State Oversight
What can be done? “The federal government absolves itself of any responsibility, claiming that guardianships are under the jurisdiction of the states,” continues Oakley. Due to conflicts of interest affecting state legislators, they fail to assume an oversight role. Why? Nursing home and guardianship associations are among the major contributors to their election campaigns, and to keep money coming in, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep their donors happy. Compounding the situation, in recent years, nursing homes, guardianships, and—believe it or not—lawyers are increasingly lobbying lawmakers in a manner that suits their own interests rather than the interests of the elderly.
Consequently, legislators refuse to introduce bills that would stop the abuse, veto those that do come up for vote or, as in Rhode Island, the governor vetoes the Bill just passed (unanimously). Because of the lack of government oversight, it’s not surprising that within Oakley’s 11 years of advocacy, she hasn’t seen any substantial progress.
In Oakley’s opinion, the solution to elderly guardianship abuse lies in revamping laws. “The first thing to do is to get rid of probate courts. They are an administrative court based on statues and codes rather than laws. Under this system, people don’t have rights. No evidence is required to back up charges levied, nor is anyone given the opportunity to refute allegations. Due process is not afforded to the persons they’re targeting. It’s the ultimate in identity theft. The person suffers a civil death equal in consequences to a physical death….Conversely, declaring someone incompetent should be handled in state courts. Here, evidence is produced to prove claims, and targets are allowed to speak. I believe that a person’s will and legal directives should stand. Seniors shouldn’t be stripped of their constitutionally endowed protection at any time. We need a guardianship protection bill,” she says.
Opposition and Obstacles
In the course of Oakley’s work, she has encountered indifference from people who don’t care about elderly guardianship abuse because it doesn’t affect them personally. Sometimes the young can’t fathom a time when they will become old and infirmed. Yet aging is a universal experience, and anyone enjoying vibrant health now will someday reach the point where he or she needs care and protection from wrongdoers.
Another obstacle Oakley has met is the failure of people to grasp the magnitude of the problem. Since it has fallen well under the radar of news outlets, the public is largely unaware of it. Most states have passed outreach programs to educate the public, but they are not implemented—most states claim it is because of lack of available funding. This is one reason for the founding of the EARN Project, which provides informative materials, free of charge, to any individual, organization, or government entity willing to conduct a workshop to aid in the education of their local citizens.
In addition, Oakley’s efforts have ignited the ire of predators whose vile deeds she is trying to stop. This has gone so far as to manifesting itself in threats of physical harm and death. Despite the opposition, she is undeterred and perseveres fearlessly “to do something about the human traffickers who are targeting the most vulnerable among us.”
Although Oakley is uninterested in accolades, she has earned the deep gratitude of those whom she is attempting to help. On behalf of people of all ages, The Silver Standard News wishes to express our gratitude to Oakley and others involved in the quest to ensure that Americans enjoy truly golden Golden Years.
The hotline formerly in place could only maintain a maximum of four callers on hold, which was far from adequate to handle the growing number of calls that were coming through. The end result was a very high number of dropped calls, resulting in multiple calls made by the same individuals, thus spiking the number of unanswered calls.
According to state data, in 2017 65.9% of calls were handled but, just a year later, only 50.6% were handled, and in 2019 it was down to 38.7% from January through April. According to Jessica Bax, Director of the Division of Senior and Disability Services, “That was at a level that was unacceptable and we needed to make some changes." Happily, they have made those changes. Their new adult abuse and neglect online reporting system is for non-emergency reporting. It has a staff monitoring online reports from 7 a.m. to midnight: https://apps4.mo.gov/APS_Portal/.
In addition, in order to free the line and make sure callers receive the help they need for true emergencies, they are decreasing hotline call time by implementing a script-based interviewing system to assist callers who are seeking resources or information but do not wish to make a report. Their November numbers showed a positive improvement, with 77.4% of the calls answered
The hotline number is 1-800-392-0210.
Missouri is one of the few states that has shown a real determination to protect its senior citizens. Their elder abuse laws encompass all Missourians over the age of 60—unlike many states, where they protect only those they deem “vulnerable” (meaning infirmed in some way). They define abuse as being achieved through deception, undue influence, and intimidation and clearly define those terms in order to prevent slippery lawyers from making end runs around the law. They also do not allow the defense to justify their actions by claiming the abuser “reasonably believed that the victim was not an elderly or disabled person,” and the penalties are strong enough to deter abusers:
A Class A Felony for property of $50,000 or more, carries a penalty of 10 to 30 years in prison or life in prison.
A Class B Felony for property of $1,000 or more, but less than $50,000, carries a penalty of 5 to 15 years in prison.
A Class C Felony for property of $500 or more, but less than $1,000, carries a penalty of 1 to 7 years in prison or a fine of $5,000 or both.
A Class D Felony for property of $50 or more, but less than $500, carries a penalty of 1 to 4 years in prison or a fine of $5,000 or both.
A Class A Misdemeanor for property that is worth less than $50 carries a penalty of 1 year or a fine of $1,000 or both.
There are no laws concerning a duty to report or any penalty for not reporting.
People may be surprised to hear that we at the EARN project do not support laws enforcing a duty to report or penalties for not reporting. While we certainly hope that individuals and businesses feel they have a moral obligation to report abuse of a senior citizen, we believe the judgment call aspect of one’s suspicions creates a problematic situation for businesses (banks in particular). We believe a law with penalties will create a situation where every suspicion, no matter how unlikely, will be reported. This high volume of reports—many incorrect—coming into senior services and then passed over to an already overburdened District Attorney's office, will result, we fear, in few getting any attention.
What we would like to see in the law is a requirement for banks to inform clients if they have trained tellers to watch for elder abuse. We would also like to see a requirement for a document from each client naming a person they wish to have contacted should the bank suspect financial abuse; this document would specify if that person allows or denies the bank the right to withhold funds until that contact has been made and a resolution reached.
While governmental and judicial attention is very encouraging, the public has lagged behind in playing their part. Public awareness is very important to eradicating elder abuse. Workshops are an easy tool that can be used by any club, senior centers, religious organization, and local library or sheriff’s office. Many businesses are now holding workshops for their clients—hairdressers are a good example. If the public is not made to understand that, rich or poor, they are a target and that they must take steps to make themselves and their aging parents safe, all the laws in the world won’t stop the abuse.
Most Missouri residents probably don’t have any idea what the words “financial elder abuse” represent to their community. According to a research report (https://www.comparitech.com/blog/vpn-privacy/elder-fraud-by-state/) published in April 2019 by Paul Bischoff, tech journalist, privacy advocate, and VPN expert, there are 1,405,879 seniors in Missouri. In 2018 there were 9,920 reports of financial elder abuse made, representing a loss of $34,046,925. Using the generally accepted data that 1 in 23.5 cases of elder abuse is reported, that would indicate that the actual number of senior citizens in Missouri who were financially abused in 2018 was 233,128—representing a loss of $800,102,758.65. The reported cases would indicate that 0.71% of Missouri’s seniors were financially abused in 2018. But, if you factor in the generally accepted 1 in 23.5 figure, in fact, 16.58% of Missouri’s seniors were financially abused in 2018.
The EARN Projects provides, free of charge, a full workshop package that includes a very enlightening documentary film and a brochure for each attendee providing information on all of Missouri’s laws concerning financial elder abuse and guardianship—the favorite tool of the financial abuser—as well as all contact information for reporting as well as help. Use it, hold a workshop, and protect yourself, your loved ones, and your fellow citizens.
I Was Just Thinking...
by Joan Hunt
Do We Have Another Revolution in Us?
I started reading a book the other day by one of my favorite writers, Marianne Williamson, called A Politics of Love. You’ve got to admire this woman because she lies her own soul bare and shares both her foibles and her successes with equal aplomb. She believes that average people can do whatever they set their minds to and that love conquers all things, given time and opportunity. When I say things like that, people call me idealistic; when she says it, they pay her tons of money and offer her speaking engagements.
Marianne grabbed me decades ago with the book A Woman’s Worth, which I used to give every girl I knew as part of their high school graduation gift. I reread it myself when I need to be reminded that I am a valuable person, no matter what others may think of me. A common thread that runs through all this author’s work is that love cannot exist in the same place as hate, fear, or conflict. Think about that a minute.
So, it is no wonder that she has come out with this new book, subtitled A Handbook for a New American Revolution. As if we needed them, there are daily reminders on the way to the supermarket, in our public schools, our legislatures, and our local communities that hate, fear and conflict thrives in America. News and social media proliferate some of our most shameful activities because it catches people’s attention and it is very low hanging fruit.
It is easier to rehash the day’s upsetting headlines than it is to do something about them. And I must admit, I have never thought of love as a tool with which to fight violence, racism, corruption, or inequality. But Marianne is way ahead of me on this one. She has lived it. Working with friends and groups who were victims of AIDs, the Vietnam War, and violence during the 1960s, she has seen how love can change not only one person’s life but also the lives of groups of people.
The big question is: how? Whining and blaming others for our current problems isn’t working. And frankly I am a little sick of hearing it. We weren’t napping and eating bonbons when our government separated refugee children from their parents on our southern border. Most of us have been glued to our televisions when police officers gunned down young black men who they “thought” were carrying weapons. We’ve watched public figures say the most outrageous things, and we’ve thrown up our hands as sex scandals continue to be ignored because it seems as though everyone is doing it.
It may be a “thing” today to isolate ourselves from the bad stuff that “they” are doing, but reality dictates that we are all in this together and we had better start acting like it. As Williamson says, “We the people have a problem…we the people got ourselves into this ditch…and only we the people can get ourselves out of it.” Rather than fearing one another because of our differences, we need to come together for the common good. That’s how our country was formed. We have fought wars for freedom and equality, but we have stopped guaranteeing those rights for some of our own citizens.
Revolutions are usually mounted against a visual enemy, but in this case, the enemy is ideological and therefore harder to identify. Prejudice, privilege, and intolerance used to be bad words. Injustice got our dander up. Suddenly, these things are accepted again, and I cannot figure out why. It is still okay to love our country, but not all its people.
I am not convinced that love can change what is wrong with this country, but I believe it can help. A firm believer in the power of words, I also think we tend to hide behind them. It is time to support what we say with our actions. If we each use our diverse talents to right the wrongs we can, positive change will spread. Love is investing our time and attention in those who share our planet. It is offering a hand or a kind word to neighbors in need. It is trying to find humane solutions to social and economic problems. And it is being blind to color, religion, net worth, gender and all the other categories that threaten to separate us.
By Bill Wine
Movie Review: Knives Out
The glossy remake of “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017) was a stimulating reminder of just how much cerebral fun was to be had in the mystery thrillers of Agatha Christie.
Now “Knives Out,” after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, takes another delightful stab at it.
Although writer-director Rian Johnson pays tribute to the genre by including all the cherished staples we’ve responded to all these years— the secluded setting, the despised antagonist, the delicious putdowns, the murder most foul, the myriad suspects, the witty banter, and the uncanny sleuth—he makes it all seem and feel freshly observed.
His ace in the hole is the central performance of Daniel Craig, who shows off the range we weren’t sure he had as the investigating detective and thrives despite our vivid memories of Christie’s Belgian gumshoe, Hercule Poirot, as delivered by the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Albert Finney, and Peter Ustinov.
Craig, coming down the home stretch as the sixth British Secret Service agent 007 in the James Bond franchise, here offers up a virtual comedic turn and seems to be having the time of his life as world-famous detective and Poirot riff Benoit Blanc.
And, thanks to him and his game castmates playing all sorts of despicable people, so might we.
Johnson (“Brick,” “The Brothers,” “Looper,” “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi”) delivers this confidently entertaining who-dun-it-of-sorts as both a tribute to and a tweak of the murder mystery genre.
The springboard for the narrative is the apparent suicide of a best-selling mystery writer (Christopher Plummer) who, on the evening of his 85th birthday, is found with his throat slit and a knife still in his hand.
Wait a second: a suicide? Who slits his own throat?
Somebody get us a good detective.
And away we go, working our way through all the red herrings and prime suspects and seeming motives.
This is a crowded movie, to be sure, so not all the characters get sufficient screen time to really establish themselves. Perhaps that’s why there is occasional overacting, which has apparently been encouraged—or at least permitted—and admittedly does little or no harm.
But this is nonetheless a smooth ensemble that also includes Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Frank Oz, Katherine Langford, and M. Emmet Walsh.
As cleverly constructed as it is, Johnson’s script still manages to embed a dash or two of commentary on sociopolitical class and financial inequality, but without getting preachy or pretentious about it.
And even though director Johnson opts to divulge one of the film’s biggest secrets early on, he nonetheless conjures sufficiently impactful suspense.
That, along with rich, chewy dialogue and just enough surprises to satisfy us without overstaying its welcome, “Knives Out” should find you tucking your critical knives in your back pocket for the film’s duration.
Rather than making us misty for Christie, this contemporary variation of the mystery genre triggers our fond recall of her specialty and reminds us that there’s plenty of room for talented imitators.
“Knives Out” is a lavish, ingenious, playful all-star who-dun-it, a smart, intricate puzzle so likable and audience-friendly that even the scenery-chewing makes us smile.
Winter isn’t coming—it’s here. It’s cold outside. If you live in the Midwest or on the East Coast, you’ve already had mild snow flurries and freezing temperatures. You might even be experiencing that numbing Arctic blast that turns your morning commute into a polar expedition or you might be grappling with the first cold/flu of the season. The warmth of summer and the balmy feeling of the gentle sun on your face are distant memories. But they don’t have to be.
This may be the perfect time to plan a tropical escape and leave the cold far behind. Here’s a list of nine tropical travel destinations, near and far, to give you warm thoughts.
Hawaii is America’s own tropical island state. After flying to the middle of the Pacific, you’re rewarded by arguably the best beaches anywhere, world-class surfing, whale watching, Volcanoes National Park, Pearl Harbor, nature preserves, the iconic Waikiki Beach, spectacular waterfalls, the scenic Hana Highway, and more. Plus, you don’t need to exchange money or get a tourist visa. Go Hawaii is the state’s official tourism website and a good place to start deciding which island suits you best.
Costa Rica has coasts on both the Caribbean and Pacific, giving it miles of sandy beaches and great surf breaks. This tiny Central American country suits a more adventurous tropic seeker: it’s known for having hikeable volcanoes, hot springs, white water rafting, and jungles (and world renowned coffee). In fact, almost 25% of Costa Rica is made up of protected jungle, rich in biodiversity. Lonely Planet has some good advice for first-timers to Costa Rica.
Mexico is an inexpensive tropical destination close to home. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Acapulco all conjure up images of sun, beach, and great nightlife. If you want to escape the crowds, you can venture further down the Yucatan Peninsula to explore Mayan ruins, archeological sites, natural parks, cenotes, and Yucatecan cuisine. TripSavvy blog has a good list of places to explore.
Turks & Caicos Islands
The Turks & Caicos Islands in the Caribbean—once a haunt for pirates—is a growing tourist destination with scenic beaches, a pristine marine environment for snorkeling and diving, as well as secluded coastlines and sheltered bays. The famous Grace Bay offers travelers crystal-clear turquoise water and a white-sand beach. All international flights arrive into Providenciales, the main island. Check out the Turks & Caicos Islands tourism site or Trip Savvy's blog post on top-rated hotels.
Bora Bora and Tahiti
Known as the Pearl of the Pacific, Bora Bora and the larger island of Tahiti are part of French Polynesia in the South Pacific. Painter Paul Gauguin made these islands famous as an “untouched paradise” in the 19th century. With spectacular sunsets, picture-postcard lagoons, crystal-clear blue ocean waters, coral atolls, and volcanic cones covered in jungle rising up in the background, these islands are the model against which other tropical paradises are measured, and they are certainly on many travelers bucket lists. Tourism Tahiti’s website is full of places to stay and things to do in the islands.
The Maldives is a country of over 1,200 islands and atolls lying in the Indian Ocean. Northern winter is the best time to visit, as the weather will be dry, warm, and sunny. The Maldives is known for its world-class diving and snorkeling, with clear blue water, coral reefs teeming with fish, beautiful white sand beaches, and a wide range of water sports. Travel Triangle has a good list of 30 pristine places to visit in the Maldives.
Fiji is a small chain of Pacific islands that offers a range of activities from trekking through jungle-covered mountains to diving the Great Astrolabe Reef, famous for underwater caverns, manta rays, and diverse fish life. The country is a popular destination for divers, it has marine reserves and protected forest, and it offers rustic coastal walks that wind through small villages and along both white- and black-sand beaches. From private guest-only whole-island luxury resorts to backpacker stays, Fiji has a range of options for every budget. Travel blogger Santorini Dave has a good list of places to stay and things to do in Fiji.
The Philippines is an inexpensive destination that offers everything from white-sand beaches and turquoise lagoons to trekking into remote mountain regions where you can stay in a traditional stilt house with views out over terraced rice fields. For divers, Coron, in Palawan, is called the shipwreck capital of the world. You can take an island-hopping tour or camp on a secluded beach, go cliff-diving, or snorkel some of the clearest ocean you will find anywhere. Travel blogger Be My Travel Muse has a good list of places to visit and things to do.
Thailand is popular in the winter months—with good reason. The days by the coast are hot and sunny, but the central and northern areas, like Chang Mai, have cooler weather, perfect for discovering Thailand’s national parks, mountains, and remote jungle areas. Beach lovers can stay by the coast and explore some of Thailand’s famous resort areas, such as Krabi, Phuket, Surat Thani, or the lesser known, quieter Trang in the south. Culture Trip has some good suggestions for going off-the-grid in Thailand.
On the EARN website under “State Info,” There is a drop-down list where you can find all the legal information about Financial Elder Abuse and involuntary Guardianship for your state.
As we researched each state, a question arose—though the public chooses those who will represent their interests and safety and, through one manner of taxation or another, pay the salaries of those representatives as well as Attorney Generals, Judges, and District Attorneys, why is there so little concern shown for the senior citizens in so many states? It is particularly perplexing given the fact that those very senior citizens are, more often than not, paying the largest share of the taxes and casting the largest share of the votes.
Over the next year, we will compare all 50 states, each month we will carry forward the state that was the best in the previous month’s comparisons, to see...
WHO IS DOING THEIR JOB.
|Financial Exploitation of Elders||Comparison of State laws protecting Elders against Financial Exploitation|
|Does the State define an elder?||Yes. Person 60 years or older||Yes. A person 62 yrs of age or older||No. Vulnerable person||60 years of age or older|
|State laws protect elders against financial exploitation?||Yes||Yes||No. Vulnerable person||Yes|
|Are there penalties for financial exploitation of elders?||Yes. Divided into Classes of Felony||Yes||No||Yes|
|Is there a duty to report financial exploitation of elders||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Is there a penalty for failure to report?||No||Yes||No||No|
|Does the State law define financial exploitation?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Does the State's Elder law define the following:|
|b) Undue Influence||Yes||No||No||No|
|How does the State define|
|a) Financial Exploitation||Financial Exploitation means the use of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat of force to obtain or exert unauthorized control over an elderly person's property with the intent to deprive the elderly person of his or her property or the breach of a fiduciary duty to an elderly person by the person's guardian, conservator, or agent under a power of attorney which results in an unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of the elderly person's property||Financial
Knowingly, by deception or intimidation, obtaining or using, or endeavoring to obtain or use, an elderly person's or disabled adult's funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult, by a person who:
a. stands in a position of trust and confidence with the elderly person or disabled adult, or
b. has a business relationship with the elderly person or disabled adult, or
Obtaining or using, endeavoring to obtain or use, or conspiring with another to obtain or use an elderly person's or disabled adult's funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult, by a person who knows or reasonably should know that the elderly person or disabled adult lacks the capacity to consent.
|Financial Exploitation means:
(a) Wrongfully taking the assets, funds or property belonging to or intended for the use of a person with a developmental disability.
(b) Alarming a person with a developmental disability by conveying a threat to wrongfully take or appropriate money or property of the person if the person would reasonably believe that the threat conveyed would be carried out.
(c) Misappropriating, misusing or transferring without authorization any money from any account held jointly or singly by a person with a developmental disability.
(d) Failing to use the income or assets of a person with a developmental disability effectively for the support and maintenance of the person.
|Exploitation: an act or course of conduct by a caretaker or other person
against an older adult
or an older adult's resources, without the informed consent of the older adult or
with consent obtained through misrepresentation, coercion or threats of force, that
results in monetary, personal or other benefit, gain or profit for the perpetrator or
monetary or personal loss to the older adult.
|b) Deception||Deception occurs when a person knowingly: a) Creates or confirms a false impression b) Fails to correct a false impression the defendant created or confirmed; c) Fails to correct a false impression when the defendant is under a duty to do so; d) Prevents another from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of the property involved; e). Sells or otherwise transfers or encumbers property, fails to disclose a lien, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property.||None||None|
|c) Intimidation||Intimidation is a threat of physical or emotional harm to an elderly person, or the communication to an elderly person that he or she will be deprived of food and nutrition, shelter, property, prescribed medication, or medical care or treatment||None||Intimidation: An act or omission by any person or entity toward
another person which is intended to, or with knowledge that the act or
omission will, obstruct, impede,
impair, prevent or interfere with the administration of this act or any law intended to protect older adults from mistreatment. Intimidation; penalty --Any person, including the victim, with knowledge
sufficient to justify making a report or cooperating with the agency, including possibly
providing testimony in any administrative or judicial proceeding, shall be free from any
intimidation by an employer or by any other person or entity. Any person who violates
this subsection is subject to civil lawsuit by the person intimidated or the victim wherein
the person intimidated or the victim shall recover treble compensatory damages,
compensatory and punitive damages or $5,000, whichever is greater.
|d) Undue Influence||Undue Influence means domination, coercion, manipulation, or any other act exercised by another person to the extent that an elderly person is prevented from exercising free judgment and choice.||None||None|
Letters to the Editor
As we have just begun, we have not yet received any letters. I certainly hope that you will write to us: tell us about your experience with Financial Elder Abuse or Involuntary Guardianship. We will also be looking for people to interview for our monthly video and lovely photographs for our cover.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving demonstrated how much change can be accomplished when we all speak as one and insist on change. Now, it is time for Americans to again speak as one—create a roar so loud we cannot be ignored--no longer tolerating the abuse of our senior citizens.
Join The EARN Project. The membership is free. It will provide you with notifications when your Senate or House have a Bill, concerning Financial Elder Abuse and Involuntary Guardianship, coming up. It will provide a contact to all pertinent officials, through the EARN Project for you to make sure your concerns are heard and addressed. It also gives you access to information on all the laws in your state and an emergency contact list for your state which, at this time, are open to all on our website but, will soon be for members only.
Earn has picked up the baton, won't you please join the chorus —without you there is no roar and no change.
Looking forward to seeing what you send us
Sharon de Lobo
please send your letters through the EARN Contact Form or directly to email@example.com