West Virginia is one of the poorest – and most beautiful – of the 50 United States, green with forests and uninhabited spaces. It also has pockets of some of the poorest people in the United States. It is a state which accepts that which other states might find unacceptable. And when the chemical spill poisoned the water of thousands of people, Freedom Industries, the responsible company, declared bankruptcy.
Even today, while their water has been declared OK, people say it tastes funny, and chemists have found unacceptable traces of chemicals that other tests were not even measuring. Today, we have this report that the spill was much worse that the company originally reported.
Its sad, and it is disheartening.
In Florida, there are constant proposals for land use restrictions being lifted. The military, the companies – they all promise that this (whatever) will have no impact on the environment. Why, no one could be more environmentally responsible than (_______) fill in the blank with whatever the requestor is.
My guess is that if the true cost of the BP oil spill in the Gulf were known, it would bankrupt BP.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued an update on Monday evening indicating that the Elk River spill in West Virginia earlier this month involved more gallons of chemicals than previously reported.
Freedom Industries, which owned the tank that leaked into a river supplying water in the state, now says that approximately 10,000 gallons of the chemicals 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (also known as MCHM) and PPH were released. The company initially said 7,500 gallons spilled, and failed to disclose the presence of the second chemical until last week. The leak, first reported on Jan. 9, left hundreds of thousands in the capital region without access to tap water for days. Though the formal advisory on the water has been lifted, some in the region say they are still concerned about the safety of their water.
The DEP’s press release provides Freedom Industries’ newest estimate, but notes, “It is not known how much material spilled into the Elk River and shut down the drinking water supply for citizens across nine West Virginia counties.”
“We are not making any judgment about its accuracy,” DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said in a statement, referring to the company’s latest spill figure. “We felt it was important to provide to the public what the company has provided the WVDEP in writing. We are still reviewing the calculation, and this is something that will be researched further during the course of this investigation.”
“This is the first calculation that has been provided concerning the amount of materials that spilled on Jan. 9,” Huffman said. “This new calculation does not change any of our protocols in dealing with this spill, nor does it affect the ongoing remediation efforts. Our actions have never been dependent on what Freedom has reported to us. From the start, we have acted aggressively to contain the spill and remediate the site.”
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) has called for the storage facility to be torn down, and for a full remediation of the site.
“You have to read this!” said my book friend, “You’re from Alaska! It’s about a woman who lives in some small town and writes obituaries!”
I grinned politely and put the book in my bag. Some books sound more interesting than other books – I’ve always loved adventures and mysteries and murders – add a little drama to the day-to-day-ness of everyday life. A woman who writes obituaries? Hmmm, not so much.
But spending my afternoons tending to my sweet little 3-month-old granddaughter means I often sit, anchored by the soundly sleeping baby who I don’t want to disturb, even by twitching. I have one hand free – and you can only play so much iPhone Sudoku.
An Alaskan friend had also recommended this book, so early this week I picked it up and started reading.
Oh. my. goodness. Yes, Haines is a small town, but oh the drama of writing obituaries. Oh, the things you learn about your neighbors and the surprises you get learning about their earlier lives. I love the way Heather Lende weaves the writing of the town obituaries with the current ongoing dramas in her own life and in the lives of her friends and makes it work.
It’s not unlike where I grew up, although my hometown had a hospital. We also had moose and bear and elk in our back yards, and learned to treat wildlife with respect, and that the best option was to back away slowly. There are the same senseless deaths from auto accidents, fishing boat accidents and unexpected changes in weather. There is the same feeling of wonder, almost every day of your life, knowing how very lucky you are to live in the midst of such awe-inspiring beauty. It’s hard for me to imagine being an unbeliever living in Alaska.
It’s also a great book to read before going to bed. Some of the books I read are too exciting or too disturbing to read before bed; books that infiltrate your dreams with images and situations that give you a restless night. While Lende deals with death and sadness and drama, there is an underlying message of hope in the neighborliness of your neighbors, the security of living in a town where everybody knows everybody else, in the civility even of people who strongly disagree with one another. If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name gives you peaceful sleep. She ties it all together with an ending that rips your heart out; you will never forget this book once you read it. After reading, you will feel like you have lived in Haines, Alaska.
The paperback version is available from Amazon.com for $9.73. No, I no longer own stock in Amazon.com.
Qatar expats shocked after UK teacher’s suspected murder
By Yolande KnellBBC News, Doha, Qatar
The suspected murder of a young primary school teacher from south-east London has deeply upset British expatriates living in the Gulf state of Qatar.
However, two weeks after Lauren Patterson disappeared following a night out in the capital, Doha, officials have given few details about her disappearance.
DNA tests have been carried out on the remains of a body found in a remote area of desert but the results have not yet been released.
At the Newton British School, where Ms Patterson worked, one mother paid tribute to a talented teacher who she said had been a favourite of her little son.
However, staff refused to comment, saying they had been advised not to.
“We’re a small, close-knit community and we’re all in deep shock,” explained headteacher Katherine Dixon. “We are dealing with small children here.”
Security camerasWhen 24-year-old Ms Patterson went out on 11 October she had just returned from a trip home to the UK for her grandmother’s funeral.
She and a female friend decided to go to Club 7 on the seventh floor of the luxury La Cigale Hotel.
It is a popular venue where all nationalities mingle on the dance floor as DJs play ambient house music.
Groups sip cocktails around low tables decorated with colourful, illuminated ice buckets.
Everyone entering the club has their ID checked and they are watched by burly bouncers and security cameras.
It is believed that in the early hours of the morning, the two women left with two local men they knew who had offered to drive them home.
Ms Patterson’s companion was dropped off safely but she went missing.
The alarm was raised by her friend who called the police the next day.
Reports say a falconer found a badly burnt corpse shortly afterwards. Two suspects were detained although no details about them have been confirmed.
The case has been referred to the attorney general.
“Violent crime is very rare in Qatar,” public prosecutor, Mohammed Rashed al-Binali told me in his smart office surrounded by shining skyscrapers in central Doha.
“We are continuing to investigate the case. We cannot give more details at the moment but the Ministry of Interior did arrest the suspects within 24 hours.”
Alison Patterson has flown to Doha and is awaiting further news about her daughter.
She told the BBC she would only make a statement “when I feel the time is right and I have received all the information concerning Lauren”.
Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office says it is providing the family with consular assistance.
Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup, is generally considered one of the safest places in the Middle East for Westerners.
The tiny, but very wealthy Gulf state, which is the biggest exporter of natural gas in the world, relies heavily on its growing foreign workforce.
It now has some 17,500 British residents. Most are attracted by the high living standards and high tax-free salaries.
Yet work permits can be easily revoked and this makes employees from overseas very wary of upsetting the authorities.
While Qatar has recently supported opposition movements pushing for greater freedom across the Arab world, the nation itself remains very conservative and tightly controlled.
A fascinating – if long – article on how our meat is farmed and the high cost of ‘cheap’ meat:
‘Healthy’ Cows, Sick Consumers: CDC Warns of a High Cost in Cheap Meat
by Bruce Watson Sep 25th 2013 6:00AM
On the surface, it’s hard to question the cost-effectiveness of factory-farmed meat. After all, the math is pretty simple: You start with inexpensive animals, raise them at relatively minimal cost, butcher them in the cheapest way possible, and sell them for low, low prices.
But the math gets a little more complicated when you look at the long-term health impact of all that cheap meat. Of course, there are the obvious things that everyone’s already worried about — issues like cholesterol and high blood pressure and gout and whatnot — but the biggest downside comes from something that you probably haven’t considered: antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In a recent report, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that 2 million Americans are hit with antibiotic-resistant infections every year — and 23,000 people die from them.
So what causes all these outbreaks? In part, it’s our overreliance on antibiotics. Every time your doctor prescribes antibiotics to you, the bacteria in your body grow more able to tolerate them. Those antibiotic-resistant germs can then get passed on to other people, leading to the spread of harder-to-kill infections, which leads to more doctor visits, and so on, in a vicious cycle.
So, obviously, the first solution to our antibiotic-resistant bug problem is to stop overprescribing antibiotics. We should, many health experts argue, save the antibiotics for the times when we really need them.
This Little Piggie Had Penicillin …
But our overuse of erythromycin and amoxicillin is just a small part of the problem. Even if you never fill your antibiotic prescriptions — even if your doctor never writes them — chances are that you’re still consuming a huge amount of antibiotics in your food. More specifically, in your meat.
When factory farms look for ways to cut costs, space is one of the first things to go: Factory owners often crowd animals together in cramped pens. But when cows, pigs and chickens live in such cramped conditions, often with open wounds and amid ever-growing piles of feces, the barns become a breeding ground for bacterial infections. One way to cut back on this is to give the animals more space. Another way is to pump them full of antibiotics.
Not surprisingly, most factory farm operations go for the latter. In fact, the meat industry currently uses 80 percent of all antibiotics that are consumed in the US. All those drugs keep the animals relatively disease-free — and help keep meat cheap. But it’s not exactly an impressive price cut for the customer: According to one estimate, the use of antibiotics on farms saves the average meat-eating consumer $5 to $10 a year.
And those minor savings may come at a huge cost. Sloppy slaughtering methods often contaminate meat with antibiotic-resistant bacteria from the animals’ colons and stomachs. And, even if factory-farmed meat makes it to your grocery store without becoming contaminated, there are other ways animal waste enters the food cycle: Water and manure that are left over from factory animals often get used on crops, further spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
So What Can You Do?
As I’ve pointed out in the past, there are a few ways to protect yourself. To begin with, you can ensure that your meat is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F — both at your home, and in any restaurants that you visit. Unfortunately, while this will kill any bacteria hiding inside your burger, it will also transform it into a well-done hockey puck.
Maybe you should just stick to the brisket.
You can also try looking for organic meat. While a little more expensive, it is produced without antibiotics, which lowers your chance of encountering antibiotic-resistant bacteria. For that matter, you may want to think about using organic vegetables — or, at least, carefully washing your fresh produce.
Another option is to get involved. Last week, I wrote about new USDA procedures would cut inspections on chicken and pork, and would allow Chinese poultry to be sold in American markets. Since these plans also reduce the number of USDA inspectors — among the few barriers between you and food poisoning — they could directly affect your health. If you get a chance, you may want to tell your congressman or senator that you’ve got some problems with this.
Given the huge lobbying efforts behind the USDA’s inspector cuts and opening the U.S. to Chinese chicken imports, chances are that both policy changes will happen. Even if they don’t, however, it never hurts to be safer with your food.
Bruce Watson is DailyFinance’s Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.