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As the political ranting on television, radio and the letters pages of newspapers reaches new heights, or depths, while Election Day draws ever nearer, an oasis of civility might be a welcome respite later this month at Leonardtown High School.

The League of Women Voters of St. Mary’s County will present a talk and discussion by linguist Kathryn Ruud at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27. Her topic, “Protecting Our Democracy: Understanding American Political Talk in the Age of Infotainment” will probe the tactics used by both extremes in United States politics, and offer personal strategies to counter them.

Ruud, a Frederick County resident and Georgetown University masters graduate, studied and experienced extremists’ use of language in Germany, before she saw that same unsettling conduct taking place in American political discourse, increasingly by both sides of the political spectrum.

Ruud said this week that it might not be too late to tone down the national conversation, and without muffling opinion.

“I wouldn’t be doing this unless I had some hope,” she said. “I’m not being paid for what I’m doing. I’m motivated by my concern as a citizen.”

Ruud said her audiences increasingly share in that concern, and she suggested that change can begin with the words people use in Internet blogs and when talking to their coworkers.

When confronted with hyperbole, she suggested, “You don’t want to get down to that level yourself.”

Ruud cautioned that corrective measures must not diminish the sharing of different ideas, but hopefully remove some of the anger deployed in their expression.

“It’s a group-versus-group kind of rage. That’s very dangerous,” she said. “We have to learn in our interaction how to push this back, without censoring.”

The program is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of St. Mary’s County, the College of Southern Maryland, St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s Center for the Study of Democracy and the NAACP of St. Mary’s County.

Flesh-eating bacteria to be discussed

Dr. Rita R. Colwell, global infectious disease specialist, will speak on Vibrio vulnificus, a flesh-eating bacteria found in the Chesapeake Bay, estuaries, brackish ponds or coastal waters. Learn the facts at 2 p.m. in the Calvert Marine Museum auditorium. Colwell received the Stockholm Water Prize in 2010 for her contributions to solving water-related public health problems and is a recipient of the National Medal of Science. The event is free. For more information call the office of Sen Roy Dyson at 301-994-2826.

DonkeyBall kicks in Saturday at park

Buckeye DonkeyBall, billed as the “Craziest Show On Earth,” will pit the Mechanicsville Volunteer Rescue Squad against the Hollywood and Lexington Park rescue volunteers at 3 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 15, at John V. Baggett Park off Route 235 in Laurel Grove, south of Mechanicsville. Seating will begin at 1:30 p.m. Bring lawn chairs, as there will be limited bleacher seating available. Food and beverages will be sold at the event. No video cameras or coolers will be permitted. The halftime entertainment will feature musical donkeys. For more information or tickets, call 301-884-2900.

Fire investigator wins police chiefs’ award

A Maryland deputy state fire marshal was honored this week by the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association for her work as a law enforcement officer.

The 2011 Exceptional Police Professional Performance Award was presented to Deputy State Fire Marshal Caryn McMahon of the agency’s Southern Regional Office. McMahon was selected for the award from a host of nominees. She was chosen from among her peers as the officer who, through her dedication to duty and service, best exemplified the ideals of the award. The award was presented during opening ceremonies on Monday of the MCPA Annual Conference in Ocean City.

Get child car seats checked next Monday

Child Passenger Safety Week will include free child safety seat checks and installations provided by the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office and MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, from 3 to 7 p.m. next Monday, Sept. 17, in the back parking lot of the new outpatient building at Health Connections at the hospital in Leonardtown.

Certified child passenger safety technicians will be on hand to check car seats for proper installation and advise parents and caregivers how to choose the right car seats and install them properly in their vehicles.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. St. Mary’s Sheriff Tim Cameron said is a statement that while parents cannot control the weather or how other drivers operate their vehicles, they can protect their children by putting them in the right car seats, assuring that the seats are correctly installed and using car seats every time they travel with children.

For more information on car seat safety, Child Passenger Safety Week and to find other seat check events, call sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Butler at 301-475-4200, ext. 9006, or go online to www.safercar.gov/therightseat.com.

Nature Time goes on at Greenwell

Enjoy the wonders of nature at Greenwell State Park in Hollywood through games, crafts, stories, movement and exploration that all are included in the Nature Time program for children and their families or caregivers.

Recreation, education and conservation play a part in the activities of the sessions, including one to be held next Tuesday, Sept. 18, with the theme of “Goodbye Summer - Hello Fall.” Next month, youngsters can take part on Thursday, Oct. 4, in a “Discovery Day,” and on Friday, Oct. 18, they can have “Autumn Fun.” Each session runs from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For registration information, go online to www.greenwellfoundation.org.

Be swine flu aware at the fair, everywhere

Most of the cases of people coming down with the new variant of swine flu this summer have been linked to being around pigs at agricultural events, according to a recent online report by Carol Boehm, training officer of the St. Mary’s Advanced Life Support unit.

Attendees at next week’s St. Mary’s County Fair can avail themselves of enhanced safety measures to lessen the risk of exposure to the illness.

Since July 2012, infections with influenza A (H3N2) variant (H3N2v) virus have been identified in multiple states, Boehm wrote, and the majority of the cases are linked to attendance at the agricultural events and exposure to swine. There is no evidence of sustained community-wide transmission. Confirmed cases have been identified primarily among children, under the age of 18, and limited data indicates that children, primarily those younger than 9 years of age, have increased susceptibility to these variant influenza viruses. There have been some adult H3N2v cases identified.

People who are at high risk — such as those who are chronically ill, have underlying chronic medical conditions, are pregnant, are under 5 or older than 65, or have weakened immune systems — should consider avoiding exposure to pigs and swine barns this summer, especially if ill pigs have been identified. People engaged in activities that may involve swine contact should wash their hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to the animals, avoid eating or drinking in animal areas and avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill. People who experience influenza-like symptoms following direct or close contact with pigs and who seek medical care should inform their health care provider about the exposure.

The influenza viruses have not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork or other products derived from pigs.

Organizers of the St. Mary’s County Fair have increased the number of hand sanitizer stations, especially in the swine areas. Boehm noted that good hand washing is always the best defense. For more information on H3N2v, go online to cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v.

Eat steak, shrimp on Sept. 21 in Avenue

American Legion Post No. 221 at 21690 Colton Point Road in Avenue will hold its monthly steak and shrimp dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21, featuring New York strip steak, steamed shrimp and burgers. Platters and sandwiches both will be available, for eat-in or carryout service. For more information, call Mike Barbour at 301-769-4569, or at 301-769-4346 on the day of the event.

Eat steak, for Crime Solvers sake

St. Mary's County Crime Solvers will benefit from a fundraiser that will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant located at 45255 Abell House Lane in California. Texas Roadhouse will support Crime Solvers by donating 10 percent of the total food purchase that day from customers who have a copy of the event’s invitation flier. Call Crime Solvers member Pat Myers at 301-884-8714 to obtain a copy of the invitation flier via email. The Crime Solvers program assists law enforcement in solving open investigations through an offer of a reward for information leading to an arrest or indictment in criminal cases.

Play and sing in Chaptico

The Southern Maryland Traditional Music and Dance HomeSpun Coffee House will sponsor an “open mike” event at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, at Christ Episcopal Church’s parish hall, located at 37497 Zach Fowler Road in Chaptico. Performers will be admitted free of charge. Light refreshments will be provided. For more information, or to sign up to perform, contact John Garner by sending email to carthagena@wildblue.net or calling 301-904-4987. Go online to www.smtmd.org for directions to the church hall.

Bingo planned to help nursing center

A super Longaberger basket bingo to benefit the St. Mary’s Nursing Center will be held on Saturday, Oct. 13, at Father Andrew White School in Leonardtown. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the games begin at 7 p.m. Reserve a seat to be included in the drawing for a special basket set. The group leader with the most reservations also will win a prize. To be included in the drawing or to make reservations for 6 or more people, call Shirley Mattingly at 240-298-3885 or 301-884-5669.

Crop Hop will bike though farms

The Crop Hop, a cycling tour of Southern Maryland farms, will take place beginning at 7 a.m. on Oct. 14, with a starting point and finish line of the Home Grown Farm Market in Lexington Park.

The Crop Hop is a fundraiser cycling tour designed to highlight the connection between farms, fresh food and good health, and to help provide fresh farm foods to low-income families in Southern Maryland. The event caters to all levels of riders and offers four routes, including a metric century 63-mile route, a 29-mile route, a 13-mile route and a family friendly five-mile route.

The rides will feature six farms all located in southern St. Mary's County. Riders will stop periodically to tour farms and have refreshments, made with local farm products, and will also receive a meal prepared with locally grown ingredients upon completing their routes.

The Crop Hop is an initiative of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission. One of the commission’s objectives is to help increase the availability of healthy, locally grown foods to under-served markets and low-income communities in a manner that is sustainable to farmers. The commission also is committed to improving overall community health through education and enhancing the role of farms in providing good nutrition and exercise.

All Crop Hop proceeds, after expenses, will be used to purchase fresh farm foods for low-income families through the Southern Maryland Food Bank. To register, and for volunteer and sponsor information, go online to www.thecrophop.com, or call the commission at 301- 274-1922, ext. 1.

Play bingo to support mediation

A baskets and bags super bingo to benefit the Community Mediation Center of St. Mary’s County will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3, at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center, located at 44219 Airport Road in California. For more information, go online to www.southernmarylandbingo.com.

jwharton@somdnews.com