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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

That is how long the audience at a recent Nationals game acknowledged the wounded from Walter Reed that were in the audience, according to the Washington Post.  Sixty three seconds.   One whole minute.   That is the extent of the “thanks of a grateful nation.:  “thanks for your service”  in the grocery store, which usually embarrasses the service member; or the ubiquitous yellow ribbon magnet on the back of the car  and poof, that’s probably the extent of the troop support that the military sees in this time of budget cuts and unemployment.

Troops often question why more have not answered the call to duty and why their sacrifices are so poorly understood by the people they serve.

For most Americans, the wars remain an abstraction,then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last year. “A distant, unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally.”

Distant unpleasant series of news items .  Those news items are not distant to me.  One of those news items was my friend M’s husband who lost his lower leg to an IED in Afghanistan; one of those news items was the KIA notification of  two young men from another friend’s unit; a few years ago, nine of those news items were those of the young men whose funerals I attended.

Those news items make me run to the map I have up to figure out how far that incident, that action may have been from where my husband is currently stationed. That gut check is common to all of us who are in deployment mode.

I was talking to a civilian friend about the article while we cleaned the cages at the cat shelter and she said something that gave me pause at first.  She asked why I was so surprised by the article, by the seeming lack of compassion by civilians.  My initial reaction was “Are you kidding?” We are AT WAR;  people are DYING and being WOUNDED!  But as she reminded me, the attention span of most people is the latest tweet they read, or the 30 second headline news “story”.

We’ve all heard about compassion fatigue, the news is always bad and we become immune to it, we can look at the pictures of dying children or wounded soldiers without flinching.  But thank goodness, there are still people who will change the channel when the ASPCA commercials come on, who weep when they see the pictures of children in refugee camps and send money to charities; these are the men and women who volunteer at the local VA hospital, the USO and pack care packages for Operation Gratitude.

In this same article, a great deal of print space is devoted to the latest commercial from Budweiser devoted to a returning servicemember  – now I have a HUGE problem with this.   I detest this type of “reunion porn” and what I see as exploitation, knee jerk reaction used for monetary gain.  The person who wrote this commercial came up with the idea after witnessing a reunion in an airport. Here’s a little fact that  almost surprised me.

Five days after President Obama announced his plan to pull 30,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, Byrne had no idea how many troops the United States had in the country and little sense of Obama’s plan to reduce their numbers. He acknowledged that he did not know much about the war

Did not know much about the war. And that, THAT  I don’t understand.  When your country is at war, when the military forces that wear YOUR country’s uniform are coming home in caskets, or on stretchers and swamping the hospitals; when the Army’s suicide rate is climbing every month;  or if your attention is glued to the budget battles when the cost of these wars has to be added to the budget,   how do you not “know much” about  one of the two wars your country is currently engaged in.  But you’ll feel free to use that story to sell lousy beer.

The final part of this piece in the Post is the most heartbreaking  A wounded soldier who has gone back to college, who is seeing this disconnection first hand.  A meeting held by a group of veterans in the school”  was designed to give students who knew little of the military or the wars a sense of what life was like for deployed service members. It provoked a genuine exchange,  more than 10 seconds, more than 60 seconds, more than 63 seconds, between the former service members and the student body.”  The reactions of the students  are mystifying to me .

I don’t think I realized that the soldiers over there were in that much danger, said [a student], who like many students was opposed to the war.  I didn’t understand the magnitude of risks that they were taking.

A young person who is at an institution like Georgetown didn’t understand, didn’t realize? This is a smart person, an educated person.   Obviously, more education is necessary ; obviously more understanding is needed of the reality of 10 years of war.

You may not agree with war, you may not agree with why we are fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, but isn’t it important to know, learn, understand?

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The answer to that question depends on where you are.  In my community, it also depends on where your soldier was stationed.  I happen to know people who were in and around  Mosul, so this article  in Military.com really made me sit up and take notice.   A recent article published  in the New England Journal of Medicine about cases of Constrictive Bronchiolitis was sobering.  The physicians at Vanderbilt who decided to do this study  did so because:

Epidemiologic studies in the United States, England, and Australia have documented an increased incidence of respiratory disorders in soldiers who served in the Middle East, as compared with soldiers who were deployed elsewhere.2-5 A 2009 study of 46,000 military personnel showed an association between the development of respiratory symptoms and service in Iraq, as well as an association with service inland versus at sea.

The group that was followed in this study had been exposed to fumes from a sulfur mine fire outside Mosul.  This isn’t even related to those who are coming home with pulmonary problems from the infamous burn pits that I discussed in my last piece on Military Lungs.  There are more and more questions being asked, including by Congress, Veterans Groups and other writers.

I keep wondering what else will come up.  And I’m worried, because my husband is going downrange; we have good friends who are in Afghanistan, in Kuwait – and exposed to the blowing dust that contains who knows what; exposed to the burn pits that are still being used in Afghanistan; exposed to the building materials used by the “lowest bid” contractor to construct their living quarters.

When they come home with compromised lung capacity, they are hoping to come home to Clean Air, to being able to breath without worrying about what they might be breathing in.  The air outside may not have that stench, may not have the smell of soot and burnt plastic; but is it safe?  It’s depressing to realize that this question may only be answered with “it depends”.  It depends where you are living!  Downwind from a power plant – it depends.  Downwind from a large manufacturer – it depends.

It depends on you and I taking a stand; it depends on us telling Congress we won’t allow the Clean Air Act to be stripped of it’s provisions; it depends on us telling Congress that the EPA is there to protect  all of us from those who decide their short term profits supersede the need to be able to take a deep SAFE breath.  Join Mom’s Clean AirForce, add your voice to ours!

Photograph by octal available on Flickr

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President Obama is holding a twitter town hall meeting – an interesting way to get those of us who use social media more involved and asking questions.  Here’s an article about it, the moderator is the co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey.   I’ve got a few questions, many of them are military family related, of course. But then I’ve got some about other matters that concern me, that concern all of us. Like the budget. Like the Clean Air Act. Like what we can do to help the EPA get the message out to everyone – that clean air, clean water are the right of all citizens.

We at #MCAF will be asking him questions about the Clean Air Act, the EPA. Won’t you join us? use the hashtag #MCAF – we’d like to get the word out about this group of moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles who are concerned about the air we breathe.

See you online!

KESF

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AEP is American Electric Power – EPA is the Environmental Protection Agency.  Now recently AEP decided to make an announcement that because of the Clean Air Act rules – they are going to be “forced” to shut down some plants.. setting off some concerns that their customers are going to suffer.  As an op-ed in the New York Times with the title of AEP Protests Too Much says,

This is a deceptive and particularly cynical claim. The utility is making a business decision that has little to do with the rules.

These plants were already scheduled to be closed!  Some of them because of prior violations of the Clean Air Act.

Many had long been slated for retirement, in part to comply with a 2007 settlement with the George W. Bush administration in which the company agreed to settle violations of the Clean Air Act by spending $4.7 billion to retire or retrofit aging units.

According to the op ed, some of these plants were 55 years old, and some only at 5% of capacity.  They are often only used for overloads/for peak power.

AEP also whimpers that the rules timetable is much too soon, making it sound like they are being forced to retrofit in a hurry.  Well.. is in a hurry over 10 years???  These “new rules” have been contemplated since the Clinton Administration!

So – other companies have retrofitted, have made improvements.. and they are doing just fine, thank you very much.

As for the utility’s claims of undue haste, they don’t stand up to even minimal review. Both rules have been in the works since the Clinton administration, and companies that have made their plants more efficient or invested in cleaner-burning fuels or up-to-date pollution control technologies are by now well prepared to deal with them.

Their stockholders might want to ask AEP’s board why they have done nothing other than spend money on lawyers and lobbyists to stop, delay, obfuscate and generally hinder the Clean Air Act since the 1970s; instead of taking the high road and making sure their emissions are cleaner?

Mom’s Clean Air Force is having a blog radio discussion – based on a recent study by Dr. Sande Okelo of Johns Hopkins Children Center.   We’ll be discussing morbidity disparities between black and white children referred to asthma specialist care.   It is Monday, June 27 at 10:00 am.   This should be a great discussion!

Here’s the registration link with program details. http://momscleanairforce3.eventbrite.com/

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Last week, while driving down the toll road in Denver, I crested the hill and started down into Parker. I looked up to the horizon, where I should have seen the mountains. Instead of the magnificence of the Rockies with the snow on them, there was a haze with some darker smudges and lighter drifts.

I’d heard that the pollution from California was affecting the Denver area – but that was such a visible reminder it was shocking. A week later, driving back down that same piece of road, the magnificence of a nighttime thunderstorm revealed the glory of the mountains, the air washed clean. The next day, we could still see the mountains clearly, and for me at least, the sight was awesome! My 5 year old granddaughter, born in the shadow of those peaks, wondered why I kept pulling over and staring at them, she’s so used to them. I want her to be used to seeing them clearly, not having to squint to see them through the haze of pollution.

If something as magnificent, as timeless as the Rocky Mountains range is being affected, one has to wonder at what else is being impacted, the lungs of our children? The Clean Air Act is not just here to aggravate big business, contrary to the very vocal critics’ opinions. It was promulgated for US. For you, me and our kids; for the generations that come after us, who deserve to see those mountains without a dirty haze on them.

Last week there was a Senate hearing on the Clean Air Act. What we need now is to contact our Senators and Representatives, and encourage them to support the Act, to support clean air for your child and mine.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D.RI) who is the chair of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee on oversight wrote a piece for Moms Clean Air Force .  You should read this – it’s important.

Take a look, then make some calls; write some letters.  Only by talking, only by making our voices heard can we hope to make a difference.  Please join us at Mom’s Clean Air Force.   With enough noise, with enough voices, even the Senate has to hear us over the noise of the lobbyists from the energy companies and coal companies.

KESF

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Actually, here in Florida – it’s smoke in your nose, the patio furniture, the wet bathing suits hanging by the pool. Visiting my parents in Florida, the wild fires in the area are permeating the air with the smell of smoke, the haze in the air. I asked where the fires were, thinking that the local national forest might be burning again. Her nonchalant answer – oh over in the Flagler area, which is over 70 miles away reminded me that the wind does carry more than the scent of cut grass from the green outside their back yard; the sweetness of the jasmine hedge, or the good healthy barn smells when you pass the horse farm down the road. This threat is palpable, the elderly are told to stay indoors and those with compromised breathing should also stay indoors, or take their inhaler with them.

How would I feel if this area wasn’t downwind of a forest fire, but of a coal fired power plant? If the smell of smoke wasn’t the pollutant, but the particulate matter laden with mercury that drifts downwind of a power plant. The thin coating of soot that smears the patio furniture is from burning trees, and grasses; not laden with arsenic or mercury or other heavy metals, but what if it was? The phosphate problem in their pool is caused by the drift of fertilizers from the area, deposited on the screen enclosure and then deposited in the pool when it rains. What if it was mercury, as is happening to the Great Lakes and other lakes in the US?

Think about it, in many areas of the country, rain is bringing not only lifesaving water, but also deadly toxins into our water. The fish in these lakes are unsafe for pregnant women and small children – even though fish is commonly perceived as good for us.

There is a hearing:

– WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 2011
Hearing on air quality and children’s health  Senate Environment and Public Works
10:00 AM, 406 Dirksen
Witnesses: James Ginda, supervisor of respiratory care, Kent Hospital; Julie Goodman, principal, Gradient; Patty Resnik, corporate director, Christiana Care Health System; Margo Thorning, senior vice president, American Council for Capital Formation; and Dona Upson, board member, American Lung Association of New Mexico.

Call your Senator or send them an email.  Moms Clean Air Force has a quick and easy one for you to copy and send.

Dear Sen. So-and-So
Thank you for holding a hearing on Air Quality and Children’s Health. As a parent, this is a very important issue to me. I joined the Moms Clean Air Force because I was worried about the harm that toxic air pollution might be doing to my children’s health and well-being. I look forward to watching the hearing and learning more about this issue, and about your position.
Sincerely,
Your Name Here
Can you do this for our kids?  for their continuing health.   Thanks!
KESF

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This can only happen in America – a serious matter like air quality, given a twist!  The EPA is hosting hearings in Atlanta on Thursday, May 26, 2011 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. about Mercury and the effect on pregnant women, women of child bearing age and children. The Sierra Club is asking Atlanta area citizens to come to the meetings, and has a few incentives to help you make up your mind.  Find out your mercury level with a quick snip – See below for the link to register to get tested.  There will be a fish fry and after hearing social.  so, go hangout with like minded folks, and make sure your voice is heard.  There will even be activities for the kids, so bring them along.

**************************************

* What: EPA public hearing
* When: Thursday, May 26, 2011 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
* Where: 61 Forsyth Street, SW Atlanta, GA 30303 (Directly across from the Five Points MARTA train station)
* Who: You–and hundreds of other Georgia residents

For more information & to sign up, visit http://action.sierraclub.org/AtlantaHearing

Special events include: Free Mercury Hair Testing from 12Noon-1P.M. at the Vintage Barber Shop in the Healey Building (57 Forsyth Street Atlanta, GA 30303); a 5:30 p.m. fish fry hosted with resources provided by the Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI); and a rooftop social at the Glenn Hotel following the hearing.

Contact erin.glynn@sierraclub.org or (404) 607-1262 x233 and follow us on Twitter @gasierraclub

Details on the noon hair testing are here:

Mercury Hair Testing Invitation

One in six women of childbearing age in the United States has enough mercury in her body to hamper her child’s ability to walk, talk, read and write should she become pregnant. The EPA has issued a draft rule that would cut mercury pollution (along with other pollutants like arsenic and lead) from power plants. One of three hearings about the rule will be held in Atlanta on May 26th.

At 12pm on May 26th Sierra Club and Environment Georgia are hosting an event in a hair salon down the street from the EPA hearing to test the mercury contamination in Atlanta area women. During the testing speakers—from decision makers to impacted mothers will speak to the importance of limiting mercury pollution.

Testing slots are limited so please email erin.glynn@sierraclub.org if you’ll be able to attend

Details on the hair testing:

* What: Find out how much mercury you have in your body by getting your free mercury hair test in conjunction with the new EPA Mercury Rule and May 26 public hearing.
* When: Thursday, May 26th, 12-1pm
* Where: Vintage Hair Gallery, 57 Forsyth St NW Atlanta, GA 30303

After the hair testing, attend the afternoon session of the EPA Mercury Public Hearing at USEPA, 61 Forsyth Street, Atlanta 30303. Moms will be given special pink corsages at the public hearing. Bring your kids as there will be a place in the hearing room for a children’s activity.

Contact: erin.glynn@sierraclub.org or (404) 607-1262 x233 desk or (770) 598-6814 cell.

For more information, don’t forget to go to Mom’s Clean Air Force

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