Harriet Tubman Travel Package Offered by Dorchester County Tourism

Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is offering an educational and experiential travel package for those interested in a powerful and inspiring opportunity to explore the scenic landscapes of where Harriet Tubman and other freedom seekers worked, lived and escaped slavery.

Dorchester County hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and local businesses are teaming up to offer discount rates and exclusive perks only to Tubman travelers. The offers are available through October 2018.

The Tubman Travel Package includes:

– Two night’s accommodation with five different lodging choices in Cambridge: Cambridge House B &B, Comfort Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort and Mill Street Inn. Prices range based accommodation choice and availability.

– $100 worth of vouchers to use as desired for select dining, outdoor adventures, tours or shopping. Participants are:

Adventures & Experiences:  Blackwater Adventures Chesapeake Bay (kayak, bike, boat rentals and tours), Harriet Tubman Museum & Education Center, Harriet Tubman Tours

Restaurants, Food & Drink: Bistro Poplar, Black Water Bakery, Blue Point Provision Co., Emily’s Produce, High Spot Gastropub, Jimmie & Sook’s Raw Bar and Grill, Layton’s Chance Vineyard & Winery, Palm Beach Willie’s, Portside Seafood Restaurant, Rock Lobstah, Stoked, Suicide Bridge Restaurant, and The Wine Bar

Shopping: Butterfly Boutique, Calista Boutique, Eagle’s Nest Book & Gift Shop (at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge), Thomas’s Fine Jewelry, and The Wine Bar

In addition to visiting the tour partners, all Tubman travelers are encouraged to see the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, a National and Maryland park service attraction, and the nearby Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. There is no admission for both facilities.

To reserve a Tubman Travel Package, guests can make a reservation at one of the five lodging partners. They will receive the vouchers when they check in. For more information, go to www.visitdorchester.org/the-tubman-travel-package.

Upcoming Programming at the Library December 27 & 28

St. Michaels Library to Host Bay Hundred Chess

On Wednesdays, December 27, January 10 & 24, and February 14 & 28, from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., the St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Free Library invites patrons to come in to learn and play the time-honored strategic game of chess.  Beginners welcome.  All library programs are free and open to the public.  Patrons do not need to pre-register to participate in this program.  For more information, please call the library at 410-745-5877, or visit www.tcfl.org.

Contact: Shauna Beulah, telephone: 410-745-5877

St. Michaels Library to Host Memoir Writers

On Thursdays, December 28, January 11 & 25, and February 8 & 22, from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., the St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Free Library invites patrons to record and share their memories of life and family with a group of friendly, like-minded people.  Participants are welcome to bring their lunch.  All library programs are free and open to the public, but patrons are asked to pre-register for this program.  For more information, please call the library at 410-745-5877, or visit www.tcfl.org.

Contact: Shauna Beulah, telephone: 410-745-5877

Oyster Shell Recycling: Bay to Table and Back Again

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At 7:30 a.m., outside of the Oyster Recovery Partnership office and by the trunk of his 2008 Toyota Corolla, Wayne Witzke traded his slides for a pair of brown rubber boots.

The bearded man hopped into a Ford F-550, fired up the truck — covered with oyster-camouflage — and shifted it into gear. Time to pick up smelly barrels of shells from roughly 30 restaurants in Annapolis.

“Just me individually,” Witzke said, “I pick up 100-150 restaurants” per week.

Witzke works for the Shell Recycling Alliance, an Oyster Recovery Partnership program that collects discarded shell from restaurants and seafood distributors in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and parts of Virginia.

Witzke grew up near Salisbury, Maryland, “always going to tributaries of the bay, specifically the Nanticoke and living near the Wicomico,” he said. “I’ve always gotten to see how life on the bay is.”

He’s also seen the Chesapeake’s condition change.

“We’ve also had moments where we can’t necessarily go swimming in some of those tributaries because of bacteria and other things,” he said. “Loving to fish and crab and even eat some of the seafood that we get from it has opened my eyes to the plight of the bay and how, consequently, there are efforts out there to bring it back.”

While Witzke picks up, transports and unloads shell, he keeps the bigger picture in mind.

“Sure I’m just dumping the shells,” he said, “but each one will become a home for 10 baby oysters.”

He added: “It comes down to believing in the mission.”

Some of the shells are used for the Marylanders Grow Oysters program, which equips willing waterfront households with cages of oysters to hang from their docks.

The effort protects baby oysters in their most vulnerable stages. After a year, the homeowners return the oysters and the bivalves are planted in oyster sanctuaries to improve water quality, among other benefits.

The recycled shell is also used to bolster state and federally sponsored oyster restoration in Chesapeake Bay tributaries on the Eastern Shore of Maryland — the largest oyster restoration project in the country.

The shell Witzke and his colleagues recycle is delivered to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Oyster Hatchery in Cambridge, Maryland.

It is aged for a year “to get rid of any organic material,” washed with high-pressure hoses, and placed in metal cages containers, Hatchery Manager Stephanie Alexander told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service.

The containers of shell are then added to outdoor setting tanks. The larvae are introduced to the tank and regulated closely by hatchery staff, who take samples to measure how many attached to shells, Alexander said.

“If the numbers look good,” she said, “we’ll go ahead and turn the water on” and then schedule planting. The tanks are connected by an elaborate network of pipes, which pump phytoplankton-rich river water through the cages, providing a food source for the young bivalves.

Ready for deployment, the spat — baby oysters once they’ve attached to shell — are loaded onto a vessel and dumped onto oyster beds in the country’s largest oyster restoration project in and around the Choptank River.

Oyster planting can’t happen without hatchery-grown larvae. And hatchery-grown larvae need shells to survive, which highlights the importance of Witzke and his colleagues’ work.

Shell recycled by the alliance accounts for about a third of hatchery operations’ total demand of approximately 100,000 bushels per year, according to Tom Price, Shell Recycling Alliance operations manager.

The shell recycling program began in 2010 with 22 restaurants. Today, the alliance boasts over 336 members regionwide and counting, Price said.

This year, Price said, the shell alliance is on track to collect 34,000 bushels, with its grand total set to eclipse 140,000 bushels since the program’s inception in 2010.

On Nov. 9 — as he does almost every Thursday — Witzke set off to pick up shell from restaurants on the alliance’s Annapolis route. He’s refined his collection practice down to labeling certain cans with zip ties and has developed a walking route among the downtown restaurants. Each time he picks up a restaurant’s container of shell, he replaces it with a fresh can.

The aroma of a full can of old shucked oyster shells is nauseating. The containers stored inside are bad, the ones stored outside — open to the elements and subject to filling with water — are noxious.

Witzke’s used to it, though, and didn’t skip a beat.

Cans with zip-ties have holes in them to let water drain as they sit outside of restaurants. Witzke knows he can’t use those cans for restaurants that store shell indoors, because the rancid liquid inside would drip out.

As he approached the first, and newest, stop — Azure at the Park Place Plaza — Witzke squeezed the truck beside two moving vans, grabbed a rope he uses to drag full cans and took off into a dark loading dock.

“Let’s see if we can find this can,” he said.

The three-year shell recycling veteran has also noticed trends. Some restaurants, the “dink and dunks” as Witzke calls them, produce little shell, while others, the “heavy hitters”, consistently have multiple cans to recycle.

His downtown Annapolis route, which he does on foot, pulling cans on a dolly, began at the Market House by Ego Alley on the town’s renowned waterfront. He picked up at popular restaurants like Middleton Tavern and McGarvey’s Saloon & Oyster Bar, and then headed toward the State House and Galway Bay Irish Restaurant and Pub on Maryland Avenue.

To get to Galway Bay’s cooler, Witzke had to maneuver through an elaborate and narrow alley system. On this particular Thursday, the Irish pub, which prides itself on reducing waste, produced little more than a bucket of shell.

“It’s our mission to be good stewards of our planet,” said Gary Brown, assistant general manager at Galway Bay. Brown found out about the recycling alliance at a festival. The Recovery Partnership attends many festivals to spread the word about the program.

“I spoke with one of the ladies from the recovery partnership and decided to say, ‘Hey we’re going through all these oysters and there’s no way to recycle them,’” Brown said.

“It’s been a bit of a learning curve,” Brown said, “because they smell.”

If they leave the oysters outside, Brown added, they’ll attract flies, maggots and rodents, “which obviously as a restaurant we don’t want.”

So Galway Bay settled on buckets with a screw-on lid to negate the smell.

It’s not only about environmental stewardship for restaurants. The initiative provides free waste removal — the recycling alliance picks up their shell for free — and a tax break.

Each time they pick up shell from a restaurant, Witzke and the alliance record the amounts. At the end of the year, the alliance totals the amount of bushels each restaurant collected, creates a certificate and delivers it to the restaurant. For up to 150 bushels, the restaurant can earn $5 per bushel against its state income tax.

After loading the shell from the Irish pub onto his dolly, Witzke wheeled the oysters back to the truck.

On to the heavy hitters in the Eastport neighborhood.

Boatyard Bar & Grill recycled the most shell Nov. 9, with over six cans.

“We sell a huge amount of oysters,” said Dick Franyo, the owner of Boatyard, who outlined his restaurant’s “Buck to Shuck” promotion, which offers $1 oysters at happy hour and on Sundays.

Franyo, a self-proclaimed “bay rat,” said he grew up fishing and sailing around the bay. As such, he’s grown to understand the importance of cleaning it — and the oysters’ impact on the estuary.

“If you’re in the Chesapeake Bay region, your business is driven by the health of the bay,” he said. “People come here to eat local” oysters, crabs and rockfish (striped bass).

He added: “So goes the health of the bay, so goes our business.”

To get to the back of Boatyard, Witzke had to reverse the bulky truck down a narrow alley.

“All the other trucks scrape the walls,” Franyo said.

Witzke then retrieved the cans from an outdoor closet attached to the restaurant. The room was packed with full cans stacked on top of each other. He had to heft the heavy cans onto the ground before dragging them to the back of the truck. At the truck, Witzke heaved four cans onto a hydraulic lift,repeating until he’d collected all of them.

By about 1 p.m., Witzke had collected all of his shell. He got back on the road and headed for the Bay Bridge.

“This is the part of the job that drives me nuts,” he said, pointing to the pickup truck in front of him on Eastbound Route 50, “sitting in traffic behind someone that’s just moseying along.”

“I just want to dump or pick up my shell.”

Upon arrival at the Grasonville Solid Waste Transfer Station in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, Witzke steered the truck to the back corner of the facility. He turned and reversed toward the alliance’s mountainous shell piles.

As Witzke exited the truck, the rancid smell of of rotting seafood was startling.

Witze stacked each of the empty cans left at the transfer station from the previous trip. He maintains a rotation, giving the cans a few days to air out before exchanging them for full containers at restaurants.

Witzke swung open the Ford’s rear corral gates and slid containers to the edge of the truck bed before tipping them over, one at a time, pouring the contents onto the shell pile.

It had rained overnight and many of the cans had filled with water. Each time he turned over a container of shells, water splashed up.

And each time the pungent smell of rotten seafood slush pierced the air.

After about an hour, Witzke had cleared the truck bed and switched out the cans. Time to head back to the Annapolis office, a long day of smelly work on the books.

He climbed into the truck, leaving the putrid smell behind, and turned the ignition.

“Does the AC smell weird to you?”

By Alex Mann

YMCA Turkey Trot Charity 5-Ks Span the Eastern Shore

On Thanksgiving morning as turkeys were loaded into ovens and tables were set, people from Queen Anne County, MD down to Chincoteague, VA ran or walked in the YMCA Turkey Trot Charity 5-K which took place at six different locations. The Easton Family Y had 703 of those 1,535 participants. The money raised from this event will benefit those in the community that are living at or below the poverty level so that they can attend Y programs that keep them safe and engaged.

The Easton, Caroline, Queen Anne, Richard A. Henson, Lower Shore and Chincoteague Island YMCAs sponsored the 5-Ks to raise money for those in need in their communities. The Y serves thousands of children and families in the region and each year the demand for financial aid for Y programs grows.

And of course, the health benefits of exercise on Thanksgiving morning cannot be beat. There were serious runners, family teams, dogs, babies and costumes. This annual event promises to become a Thanksgiving tradition almost as good as the turkey, side dishes and pumpkin pie.

About the Y

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits and the largest Human Service organization on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the Shore Ys engage over 35,000 members; men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the shore’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors.  In 2016, the YMCA of the Chesapeake provided over $1,226,000 in assistance to over 12,422 community members, turning no one away due to inability to pay. www.ymcachesapeake.org

Two Historic Militia Units to March in St. Michaels Christmas Parade

When the Christmas Parade kicks off on Talbot Street Saturday morning Santa and Mrs. Claus will be accompanied by more than reindeer.  There will be infantry. Lots of infantry.

For the first time this year, two historic militia units dedicated to telling the story of the War of 1812 in Maryland, will be marching together in the St. Michael’s Parade. Both the Chesapeake Independent Blues and the Fort McHenry Guard will be representing the militias who once protected St. Michaels from British attacks, helping it become “The Town that Fooled the British”.

The Chesapeake Independent Blues were formed in 2012 as part of State of Maryland grant given to five counties, including Talbot, to create living history representation of the Maryland citizen-soldiers who served during the War of 1812. The focus of the organization is on public education, and the group refers to its volunteer members as interpreters rather than re-enactors. The unit’s first program was held in Queenstown in April of 2013, says one of the group’s founders, Mark Dubin. Since then, the group has provided ceremonial and living history programs at public and private schools across the State, at national and state parks, and private historical sites as far south as Louisiana and as far west as Ohio.

Maryland suffered deeply during the War of 1812.  The State itself saw more action and devastation than many other parts of the Mid-Atlantic region.  The British blockaded the Bay in the Spring of 1813 and then systematically destroyed towns, vessels, warehouses and homes throughout the region.  Local militias, like the Blues, were essential to helping communities fend off British attacks.

“St. Michaels was one of the few communities to successfully fight off the British,” said Dubin, a Maryland Park Service Historic Weapons Safety Officer.

On Saturday, 17 members of the Chesapeake Independent Blues along with the Fort McHenry Guard from Baltimore, will provide a glimpse into that past and perhaps a chance to give a silent thanks to those who fought to protect this town so many years ago. Dressed in historically accurate military uniforms with reproduction smoothbore muskets and other common military items, the militia will be accompanied by the Fort McHenry Guard Fife and Drum Corpsa 6-pounder field artillery piece, and, a brand new flag.

The large silk “Colour” the Blues will be carrying  for the first time is a hand-painted reproduction of an original Maryland Militia flag from the War with an emblem that harkens back to its historical roots.  Emblazed across the top of the flag is the original Latin phrase “Non Sibi Sed Patriae” which translates as “Not for Self but Country”. As patriotic a statement as the men who carried it over 200 hundred years ago.

“We based the reproduction on a printed image first published on the War in 1868,” said Dubin.  “It’s probably the first time anyone has seen this Maryland flag in nearly 150 years, since the whereabouts of the original is now unknown.”

From the flag to the infantry, there will be several firsts when the Christmas in St. Michaels parade kicks off at 10:30 am. on Talbot Street, Saturday, Dec. 9th. Don’t miss the Home Tour immediately following the parade.  Tickets are required. For more information about these events and many others, please visit christmasinstmichaels.org.  Proceeds from all Christmas in St. Michael’s events go to support local non-profits providing important services to residents.

Marylanders Deadline to Enroll in ACA Health Coverage Nears

A series of “last chance” events are scheduled for this weekend to help Marylanders enroll in Affordable Care Act health care coverage for 2018 before the Dec 15. deadline.

Free events are planned at 18 locations throughout the state Dec. 8-10. At these events, trained “navigators” will be available to assist people enroll in health coverage.

Despite the growth in ACA health care rates in Maryland in recent years, racial disparities in health coverage remain. The rates of minority groups’ participation still remain below the rates of the general population, according to the the Maryland Health Care for All! Coalition, an advocacy group aiming to educate Marylanders about effective and affordable ways for consumers to access health care.

“It’s a focus for us, the groups that have been underinsured for years. We’re making progress, but there is more to be done,” Andrew Ratner, chief of staff of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service.

Minority enrollments are lagging compared to one year ago: African-American numbers are down 2,745, and Hispanic registration is down by 858, according to Betsy Plunkett, deputy director of marketing and web strategies at the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

“The NAACP strongly urges Marylanders to go take advantage of these enrollment events this weekend to get health care coverage,” said Gerald Stansbury, president of the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches. “We have all fought very hard to enact and protect the ACA and health care coverage so let’s make it work for everyone.”

“The ACA is really important to us,” Stansbury added. “We need to make sure that all the ministers, churches and pastors make this a priority in their congregations….Get out and do what you can do for your family and your friends.”

According to Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, the Affordable Care Act has already proved successful in the state with over 400,000 Marylanders enrolled.

Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Mike Busch, D-Anne Arundel, a large supporter of “getting health care right in Maryland” and “protecting against rate-shock” to consumers, according to Busch’s website, spoke in favor of these events at the meeting.

“With the Affordable Care Act, the state of Maryland came down to having less than 6 percent of its population with no insurance. When you have more than 95 percent of people of the population insured it brings down everyone’s premiums,” Busch said.

It’s important for Marylanders to understand that they still have time to enroll, added Busch, and the hope is that 100,000 or more people will sign up.

Along with Busch, Michele Eberle, incoming executive director for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, spoke in support of the initiative.

For help this weekend and in the enrollment process, Eberle advises consumers to visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov or to download the Maryland Health Connection free mobile app.

“It’s a must that you download this app, the neatest feature is that you can click, get help and find the closest-to-you broker, a navigator, a call center, and there is all sorts of free help to help you and your family find your best plan,” Eberle said.

DeMarco said that Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative hopes to propose legislation in the upcoming session to continue support for the ACA.

President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have pushed to repeal and replace the health care law, known as “Obamacare.” One version of a tax bill making its way through Congress would repeal the law’s individual mandate.

“Our message to Washington is simple: The ACA is here to stay in Maryland….For those who are trying to undermine the ACA, despite these threats, enrollment is going up and Maryland is not scared,” DeMarco said.

By Georgia Slater

MSCF Honors Award Recipients and Celebrates 25 Successful Years

More than 200 guests attended the Mid-Shore Community Foundation’s November 17th celebration – the annual event that honors award recipients and celebrates the good work of the community.

This year’s Annual Report to the Community and Awards Luncheon was held at the Milestone in Easton, Maryland.  The Awards Luncheon was attended by not-for-profit representatives, community leaders, volunteers and elected officials.

Award recipients

The luncheon opened with remarks from Moorhead Vermilye, one of the founders of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation and the current Chair of the Board of Directors.  Vermilye noted, “Twenty-five years ago I had the good fortune to be involved in the founding of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.  Thanks to a generous bequest of $236,000 from Colonel Edgar Linthicum and his wife Catherine in 1992, a regional community foundation was created to serve the five Mid-Shore counties of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot.  From that initial investment, the Foundation now has more than $70 million in assets.”  In FY 2017, the Foundation awarded over $3.4 million in grants and related charitable expenses, of which over $550,000 was awarded to Mid-Shore students for scholarships.

This year’s guest speaker was Dr. James Wilson, a corporate and nonprofit consultant who works with clients on strategic planning and leadership.  Wilson spoke about the importance of nonprofit support services and nonprofit governance.

The highlight of the event was the presentation of awards.  The awards recognize individuals and organizations that help enhance the quality of life in the Mid-Shore Region.  This year’s awards were presented as follows.

The Town Watch Award, which honors individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and service in the Mid-Shore Community, was presented to Molly Judge, one of the visionaries and founders of Radcliffe Creek School in Chestertown, a k-8 school for bright children who learn differently. Today’s students travel from seven different counties in Maryland and Delaware to attend Radcliffe.  Molly Judge and Radcliffe Creek School have changed the educational landscape in the mid shore and beyond.

Duncan, Jarmon & Guests

The J. McKenny Willis, Jr. Award was given to Tilghman Area Youth Association (TAYA) for outstanding community service and was presented to Ginny Cornwell.  As the founder of TAYA, Ginny provided the personal resources of time, talent and monetary support for the Tilghman Area Youth Programs.  Ginny has built a fiscally sound, exciting and educational organization that has very positive effects on the Bay Hundred Youth, their families and the community at large.

Special Recognition was awarded to Rebuilding Together Caroline County and was presented to Patrice Morrison and Homan Hallock.  Rebuilding Together volunteers provide free home repair services to low-income Caroline County homeowners who are facing necessary but unaffordable home repairs.  The organization has completed 204 projects for Caroline County residents since its founding 10 years ago.

Special Recognition was awarded to Dorchester County native Bill Jarmon for his notable achievements in the Mid-Shore Community.  Mr. Jarmon is a retired educator and was one of the most influential volunteers in the years-long effort to make the Harriett Tubman Underground Railroad National Park a reality.  Bill has touched many organizations in positive ways and is active with the Dorchester Historical Society, Dorchester NAACP, the Mace’s Lane Alumni Association, among others.

The final award was given in memory of Herbert Andrew and was presented to his wife, Della.  The Mid-Shore Community lost an extraordinary community leader this past year with the tragic death of Herb Andrew.  Herb was a quintessential Eastern-Shore-Man, a lifelong farmer and he was constantly giving back to the community through service on numerous boards, commissions, and organizations.  Herb Andrew will be sorely missed in the community.

In addition to honoring the award recipients, the Mid-Shore Community Foundation presented nearly $380,000.00 in grant funding to not-for-profit organizations serving the residents of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties.

Duncan & Andrew Family

The event was generously sponsored by: The Peoples Bank; CBIZ MHM, LLC; Nagel Farm Service, Inc.; Avon-Dixon Insurance Agency; Shore United Bank; Wye Financial & Trust; The Hill Group at Morgan Stanley; James M. Vermilye, CFP; Robert W. Baird & Co.; 1880 Bank; TGM Group, LLC; Valliant & Associates, LLC; Preston Automotive Group and The Wilford Nagel Group at Morgan Stanley.

“This annual event ratifies the work of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation and is evidence to the generosity and good will that exist throughout the Community,” says Buck Duncan, Mid-Shore Community Foundation President.  “We see continued expansion of permanent funds, new partnerships with area nonprofits and a host of new community initiatives under the sponsorship of the Foundation.  The work of the Foundation is truly a collaborative effort.  Together with the exceptional work of our staff, our donors and the volunteers who help ensure the success of the Foundation, your Community Foundation will continue to expand its charitable support throughout the Mid-Shore.”

Established in 1992, the Mid-Shore Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity that connects private resources with public needs in order to enhance the quality of life throughout the Mid-Shore Region – Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Inc., The Bullitt House, 102 East Dover Street, Easton, MD 21601, 410.820.8175, MSCF.ORG.

Two Boomer Babes Program at Library Canceled Due to Illness

The Talbot County Free Library announced today that the program Radio’s Two Boomer Babes, Kathy Bernard and Barbara Kline, were scheduled to give on Thursday, December 14, in the library’s Easton branch has been canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.  Bernard and Kline regret having to make this change and hope to reschedule their program about their new novel, “Perfectly Seasoned,” soon.

Contact: Sabine Simonson, telephone: 410-822-1626

Upcoming Programming at the Library December 18 to 21

Easton Library Book Group Asks for Help Selecting Titles for 2018

On Monday, December 18, at 6:30 p.m., in the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library, the Easton library book group invites patrons to join them for some holiday treats and to help them choose titles to be discussed in 2018.  This event (and this group), like all library programs, is free and open to the public.  Patrons do not need to pre-register to attend this program.  For more information, please call the library at 410-822-1626, or visit www.tcfl.org.

Contact: Bill Peak, telephone: 410-822-1626

Lunch & Learn: Online at Your Library!

On Thursday, December 21, at noon, the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library will offer an informational program for patrons on the library’s database services, including online classes, free tutoring, genealogy resources, language learning with Rosetta Stone, magazines, and more.  These service are offered free of charge, 24/7, to all Talbot County Free Library cardholders.  Patrons are invited to bring their lunch.  Coffee and dessert will be provided.  This program is sponsored by the Friends of the Library.  All library programs are free and open to the public.  Patrons do not need to pre-register to attend this program.  For more information, please call the library at 410-822-1626, or visit www.tcfl.org.

Contact: Scotti Oliver, telephone: 410-822-1626

St. Michaels Library to Offer Family Crafts

On Thursday, December 21, at 3:30 p.m., the St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Free Library will offer a craft program in which children will make a yarn scarf.  All library programs are free and open to the public.  Patrons do not need to pre-register to attend this program.  For more information, please call the library at 410-745-5877, or visit www.tcfl.org.

Contact: Diana Hastings, telephone: 410-745-5877

Easton Library to Hold Board Game Nights for Teens

On Thursday, December 21, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library will host a board game night for teens.  Teens are invited to bring their own tabletop card and board games or use the library’s Catan, Ticket to Ride, Chess, and more!  This program is for grades 6 – 12.  Light refreshments will be served.  All library programs are free and open to the public.  Patrons do not need to pre-register to participate in this program.  For more information, please call the library at 410-822-1626, or visit www.tcfl.org.

Contact: Laura Powell, telephone: 410-822-1626

Proposed MD Legislation Aims to Stop Online Sex Trafficking

Last year, Maryland had the 13th-most sex trafficking cases in the country with 161, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

This year, the hotline reported 61 sex trafficking cases in this the state as of June 30. Half of the incidents involved a minor, and about 84 percent included a female victim.

A House Energy and Commerce hearing Thursday examined legislation that would close loopholes in federal law that critics fear has allowed pervasive online sex trafficking.

Under current law, the Communications Decency Act does not hold online services liable for content that secondary users publish. Sites such as Reddit, Facebook and YouTube are not responsible for vile material that its commenters post in a thread or comment section.

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri, introduced the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” earlier this year to make it easier for states to prosecute websites that facilitate sex trafficking. The measure also would give victims the right to sue such sites.

The bipartisan measure has 171 House co-sponsors, including Maryland Reps. Andy Harris, R- Cockeysville, and Anthony Brown, D-Largo.

A member of the committee, Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, said in a statement that human trafficking inside and beyond the United States “is a scourge on society that preys on our most vulnerable. We must do everything we can to curb trafficking in all its forms, including sex trafficking online.”

“If Congress establishes a real tool to ensure that businesses cannot commit crimes online that they could never commit offline, fewer businesses will enter the sex trade, and fewer victims will ever be sold and raped,” Wagner said in her testimony.

Yiota Souras, senior vice president for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said that over the past five years, 88 percent of the center’s reports concerned online sex trafficking. He said roughly 74 percent of the center’s reports came from Backpage.com, a website that offers advertisements for dating, services and jobs, among other resources.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Michael Doyle of Pennsylvania, citing a Senate report, asserted that Backpage’s owners were aware of the sex trafficking taking place, and even encouraged sex-trafficking advertisers to falsify their postings to hide their true intentions.

Souras added that children online may be seeking attention that they are not receiving at home, and are vulnerable to false promises made by predators online.

“That’s probably how they are lured, they’re seeking the smallest remnant of kindness from someone,” Souras said. Online predators are manipulative and know how to extend that branch of kindness to their victims, she added.

Still, Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, said in his testimony that Wagner’s measure would “reinstate the moderator’s dilemma,” which forces websites to decide whether to exercise full editorial discretion, or none at all.

Goldman added that leaving this discretion to websites could inadvertently increase online sex trafficking because it may be more favorable to leave users’ content entirely unchecked.

Goldman also expressed concern that punishing these sites differently at the federal and state levels could damage the integrity of the Communications Decency Act, which he dubbed “one of the most important policy achievements of the past quarter-century.”

Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, said he saw firsthand the lasting impact sex trafficking can have on victims.

While in South Africa, his daughter was rushed by three men – one of whom brandished a pistol – but she was saved when one of the men yanked her backpack from her shoulder instead of grabbing her, he said.

The congressman’s voice quivered as he recounted her experience.

Although she escaped, Olson said, she “has not been the same.”

“(Sex traffickers) are devils, absolute evil devils,” he added. “This has to stop.”

Even if the law is changed, Souras said she knows that an online marketplace for sex trafficking will likely remain. But she said she believes that the issue is rectifiable.

“It’s important that there be a professional approach to this,” Souras said. “Sex trafficking is a multifaceted problem, it requires a multifaceted solution.”

 

By Conner Hoyt And Michael Brice-Saddler