Mailbag: Our Note From Iraq

We just opened our email to quite a treat.

A good friend sent us a story about a gun trade-in program.

But this Long Island boondoggle isn’t like most gun buybacks. City officials weren’t looking to pull potential murder weapons off the street. Oh no. They did something that feels far better… and has even less effect on reality.

They lined up school-aged kids and traded their toy guns for “safe” toys.

That’s right… It’s a toy gun trade-in program.

“The purpose is to offer a safe alternative to toy guns,” said a Hempstead Village trustee. “We don’t want the kids playing with guns. Guns are dangerous.”

Officials say they want to teach kids an important lesson.

We say they’re teaching them a grand lesson… about government waste.

But here’s the craziest part of this whole deal. Not all kids are so lucky to have gotten toy guns for Christmas. After all, many families have fallen on hard times.

That’s okay, says the local mayor. Town officials handed those poor kids toy guns that they could then trade in for another toy. We just hope no kids got hurt or influenced in the interim.

Meanwhile in Baltimore… city officials spent $500 worth of taxpayer cash on a so-called rocket launcher.

It made for some great PR for the city’s much-debated gun buyback program. But what the mayor refused to tell the media and what the reporters failed to uncover on their own is that the rocket launcher isn’t much of a launcher.

It’s a once-and-done tube (most likely a training tool) that’s already been fired and can never be fired again.

In other words, Baltimore just spent $500 on the equivalent of an empty bullet casing.

It’s amazing how a bit of Know-How changes the story.

With that, let’s see what else is in the mailbag these days.

Flu Fix

Lots of readers enjoyed Dr. Roberts’ tips on avoiding the flu last week. Some folks – including some docs – even wrote in with their own tips and tricks.

Another excellent treatment for the flu is elderberry extract – also known as sambucus. – Reader L.E., MD

Thanks, doc. Like most natural remedies, there haven’t been a whole lot of studies done on elderberries. Big Pharma would rather focus on the big moneymakers… not the natural stuff growing in our own backyard.

But the few studies done on the plentiful berry are quite promising. One bit of research from 2016, for instance, showed folks who used elderberry extract had shorter cold durations and less severe symptoms versus those who took a placebo.

The same appears to be true for the flu, too. A study of 60 flu sufferers showed that the folks who consumed healthy doses of elderberry extract for five days saw their flu symptoms subside a full four days earlier than folks who took nothing.

Of course, many folks turn to a different type of fruit for a different kind of benefit. It’s no wonder our guide to wine was quite a hit.

Lots of readers wrote us with their favorite varieties…

Andy, I agree with you totally. I have a keen sense when it comes to choosing between a $6 bottle and an $18 bottle of wine. But I’ll be damned if I can tell a difference between an $18 bottle and $200 bottle. My go-to bottle is Coppola pinot noir. It costs $17 and drinks just fine!

Cheers!! Merry Christmas!! – Reader V.G.

Oh boy… our readers are costing us money again. If it’s not book recommendations, it’s bottles of wine they’re getting us to buy.

We’ll add this one to our list. But out of fairness… it means you’ve got to try our favorite.

Here’s a link to our preferred malbec maker.

Christmas Heroes

On a much deeper – and far more important – topic, we had an email conversation with a reader recently that we thought we’d share part of.

We were talking about Christmas and the pain and joy of the holiday season.

The conversation concluded with this…

You know, Andy, the men and women who volunteer at our nation’s suicide prevention hotlines are big unsung heroes. I think it would be great to send out a note of gratitude to all of them; this is quite a busy time of year for them. Thanks. – Reader R.B.

It’s a great idea. Few Americans, if any, are untouched by the immense pain of suicide. We’ll talk about cures for cancer, the spread of AIDS and even the deadly effects of the flu. But the surging rate of suicide in America remains taboo.

Each year, tens of thousands of folks die at their own hand. We bury them, say a few prayers and move on… never raising our voices above a whisper to explain why and how they died.

But that’s not everybody. Of course not.

As R.B. says, there are unsung heroes among us that not only have the courage to admit there’s a huge and growing problem… but also have the wisdom and guts to do something about it.

As you read this, there’s a bill languishing in Washington that would jumpstart the creation of a national three-digit number that would tie directly to a suicide hotline. It would work similarly to the nation’s 911 system.

It’s certainly worth bugging your local lawmakers about (if they’re not too busy planning a used rocket launcher buyback).

Until they get their act together, anybody in need can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK.

Turning from one set of heroes to another, we got a nice note from Iraq recently…

Andy & Manward team,

Merry Christmas from Lovely Iraq! Just wanted to say thanks so much for the Christmas greetings and also for all you do to educate an old-school retired Air Force guy/contractor like myself. I really do appreciate it.

 Here’s looking forward to a healthy and prosperous 2019. – Reader W.W. (Balad Air Base, Iraq)

Ah, yes, our little passion project is affecting lives across the globe. That sort of news is the best gift we could ever ask for.

Thanks so much for your service, W.W.

It’s a pleasure to go to bed each night knowing that our citizens are being protected by heroes from both sides of our border.

Keep the comments and questions coming. Email us at

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