July 16, 2017

“Invariably over 50% of the population ... go down to the sea to watch the tsunami,”

Survival is less about heroic actions than avoiding mindless mistakes.

What not to do in a disaster

“Survival training isn’t so much about training people what to do – you’re mostly training them not to do certain things that they would normally think to do,” says John Leach, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth who survived the King’s Cross fire disaster in 1987. He estimates that in a crisis, 80-90% of people respond inappropriately. Footage of the Japanese earthquake in 2011 showed people risking their lives while rushing to save bottles of alcohol from smashing in a supermarket. And when a plane caught fire at an airport in Denver earlier this year, evacuating passengers lingered by the plane to watch the flames and take selfies.

If faced with a life-threatening scenario, what behaviors should you do your best to avoid?
1. Freezing.  When we’re paralyzed with fear the brain is actively putting on the brakes. As adrenaline surges through the body and our muscles tense, the primitive “little brain” at the base of our necks sends a signal to keep us rooted to the spot....
2. Inability to think. Even at the best of times, our brains are disconcertingly slow – while disasters are rapid. ...
3. Tunnel vision....  A typical response to disaster is so-called “perseveration” – attempting to solve a problem in a single way, again and again and again, regardless of the results.
4. Staying stuck in a routine....“The number of people who have been killed going back to get their wallet from their house, or checking if they’ve left the oven on…”
5. Denial...“Invariably over 50% of the population do it, they go down to the sea to watch the tsunami,”...Denial usually happens for two reasons; either because they fail to interpret the situation as dangerous, or because they simply don’t want to. The latter is extremely common in the event of a wildfire, since often evacuating your home means consigning it to ruin.

What you SHOULD do in a disaster
Surviving a natural disaster is about having a plan. “If you know what you’re doing in advance and you start early, you can usually get away from a tsunami".....  Preparation, acting fast, busting routines and avoiding denial may all be ways to live a bit longer in worst-case scenarios – but as Larson’s experiences suggests, sometimes you need a good dose of luck too.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2015

We are not protected against the 'electromagnetic-pulse barbarians of the 21st century'

The Threat to Melt the Electric Grid  An electromagnetic-pulse attack from North Korea or another U.S. enemy would cause staggering devastation.

The Pentagon was wise to move Norad communications back into Cheyenne Mountain and to take measures elsewhere to survive an EMP attack. But how are the American people to survive? In the event of a yearlong nationwide blackout, tens of millions of Americans would perish from starvation and societal chaos, according to members of the Congressional EMP Commission, which published its last unclassified report in 2008.
Yet President Obama has not acted on the EMP Commission’s draft executive order to protect national infrastructure that is essential to provide for the common defense. Hardening the national electric grid would cost a few billion dollars, a trivial amount compared with the loss of electricity and lives following an EMP attack.

Congress also has failed to act on the plans of its own EMP commission to protect the electric grid and other civilian infrastructure that depends on a viable electric grid—such as communications, transportation, banking—that are essential to the economy. In recent years, the GRID Act, the Shield Act, and the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act have gained bipartisan and even unanimous support in the House, yet they died in the Senate.
When ancient Rome could no longer protect its empire from barbarians, cities tried to protect themselves by building walls. Now Washington, unable or unwilling to protect its people, is making it necessary for states to build their own defenses against the electromagnetic-pulse barbarians of the 21st century.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:29 PM | Permalink

October 15, 2014

The Unpreparedness of the CDC and NIH and Ebola Czar

16 Members of Doctors Without Borders Infected with Ebola, Nine Dead

Where is WHO Africa? Where is the African Union?" said Ekambaram who worked in Sierra Leone from August to September. "We've all heard their promises in the media but have seen very little on the ground."

Ebola cases could hit 10,000 a week by December, WHO states, fatality rate now estimated at 70 per cent

Ebola Preparation ‘Will bankrupt my hospital!’ Director Reacts to CDC Prep Call

“Treating one Ebola patient requires, full time, 20 medical staff. Mostly ICU (intensive care unit) people. So that would wipe out an ICU in an average-sized hospital….doctors and nurses are not ready for the challenge of using this personal protective equipment even if you see them with the helmet, the respirator, the full suits, as the CDC said on the call today, even all that equipment is not enough to guarantee the safety of health care workers because it is so perilous to put it on and particularly to remove it once it’s become contaminated.”

Embattled Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director, Dr. Tom Frieden, laid out a new game plan to counter further contamination of health care workers dealing with Ebola patients – including sending rapid response teams to any hospital where a new case is confirmed.  >

Where is Dr. Nicole Lure, Obama's Ebola Czar?   

the federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. The woman who heads that office, and reports directly to the HHS secretary, has been mysteriously invisible from the public handling of this threat. And she’s still on the job even though three years ago she was embroiled in a huge scandal of funneling a major stream of funding to a company with ties to a Democratic donor—and away from a company that was developing a treatment now being used on Ebola patients.

In Wired, What Would Keep Ebola from Spreading in the US? Investing in Simple Research Years Ago Instead.The CDC's emergency preparedness budget has fallen by half since 2006 from $1091 million in 2007 to $585 million in 2013. None of the money spent for pandemic preparedness involved investing in health systems at the front line of epidemics: hospitals.

Dr Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health  decried the budget 'cuts' over the past 10 years ' which he said  prevented the development of an Ebola vaccine.  But that's not true.

According to data compiled by the Cato Institute from the non-partisan Office of Management and Budget, the NIH’s inflation-adjusted outlays skyrocketed between 1996 and 2005, more than doubling from $14.8 to $32.4 billion while the CDC's budget " catapulting from $3.1 billion in 1996 to $5.8 billion in 2003. From there the budget kept rising, soaring to $7.5 billion in 2010 before gently declining to $6.8 billion in 2014."

So what did they spend all this money on?

Well, first a fancy new headquarters and fitness center for their employees at a cost of $110 million, including $10 million for new furniture (about $12,000 per employee).
$517.3 million on "community transformation" -better sidewalks, more bike lanes and farmers' markets.
* $1.7 million on a Hollywood liaison to make sure medical portrayals in TV shows were accurate
$386,000 to study the appropriate length of massage sessions for rabbits,
$2.4 million for a new origami condom design whose inventor is now being investigated for fraud
$592,000 to determine that chimpanzees with the best poop-flinging skills are also the best communicators, and another $117,000 to learn that most chimps are right-handed
$257,000 went to create a companion website for first lady Michelle Obama's White House garden
$939,000 to find out that male fruit flies prefer to romance younger females because the girl-flies' hormone levels drop over time.
• Part of a $666,000 NIH grant supported a University of Buffalo researcher who determined that watching sitcom reruns like 'Seinfeld' or re-watching old movies helps older people feel re-connected with pseudo-friends from their past.
$181,000 went to University of Kentucky researchers who studied how cocaine use 'enhanced' the sex drive of the Japanese quail
$548,000 to a University of Missouri team to find out if 30-something partiers feel immature after they binge drink while people in their mid-20s don't.
$832,000 went to learn if it was possible to get uncircumcised South African tribesmen into the habit of washing their genitals after having sex.
$1.1 million funded research into how athletes perceive their in-game surroundings,
•  $484,000 for a study to determine if hypnosis can reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women
• a $702,558 grant for the study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam.
• $55,382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan.
$509,840  to pay for a study that will send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads.
•  NIH has spent about $3 million to date to study why lesbians are fatter than straight women or gay men
* $385,005 to survey what bus riders thought of HIV videos

Apparently, there is a $12.5 billion slush fund created by the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores.  Surely, that could be used to better effect.

Ebola and the great forgetting: the best of times, the worst of times

WHO director Margaret Chan said yesterday that the current ebola epidemic is “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.”….But if Chan actually considers “modern times” to include the WWI era, and is ignorant of the scope and course of the great flu pandemic towards the end of that war, it would be exceptionally troubling, since she is speaking in her role as director of one of the most influential worldwide institutions tasked with dealing with epidemics.
Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The epidemic killed, at a very, very conservative estimate, 550,000 Americans in 10 months, that’s more Americans than died in combat in all the wars of this century, and the epidemic killed at least 30 million in the world and infected the majority of the human species.

Was Ebola Behind the Black Death?

Controversial new research suggests that contrary to the history books, the "Black Death" that devastated medieval Europe was not the bubonic plague, but rather an Ebola-like virus.

History books have long taught the Black Death, which wiped out a quarter of Europe's population in the Middle Ages, was caused by bubonic plague, spread by infected fleas that lived on black rats. But new research in England suggests the killer was actually an Ebola-like virus transmitted directly from person to person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 AM | Permalink

October 8, 2014

Another problem with open borders

General: If Ebola Reaches Central America, 'There Will Be Mass Migration into the U.S.

There’s Just ONE CDC Quarantine Station Along Entire U.S.-Mexico Border

The CDC’s El Paso Quarantine station is single-handedly responsible for monitoring the ENTIRE border

According to a CDC report, the lone El Paso Quarantine Station has just “one medical officer and one public health advisor who are responsible for responding to these public health threats at 29 POEs [Points of Entry] spread over 1,200 miles of the U.S.–Mexico border.”
The responsibility for screening arriving immigrants falls on Border Patrol officers who are required to report signs of infectious disease to CDC Quarantine Stations maintained along U.S. borders
The report noted that screening and reporting of public health threats on the U.S.-Mexico border may be “limited” by Customs & Border Patrol’s “need for rapid processing of travelers” and “The large volume of travelers crossing at international POEs makes identification and reporting of infectious diseases difficult.”
“CBP officers are responsible for observing all travelers for obvious signs and symptoms of quarantinable and communicable diseases… However, CBP officers are not medically trained or qualified to physically examine or diagnose illness among arriving travelers.”

The CDC also expressed concerns about Border Patrol agents’ “competing priorities” and “limited public health training.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink

August 19, 2014

An electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, is "the most significant threat" to the U.S. and our allies in the world.

In the Wall Street Journal, James Woolsey former director of the CIA warns us of  The Growing Threat From an EMP Attack  A nuclear device detonated above the U.S. could kill millions, and we've done almost nothing to prepare.

In a recent letter to investors, billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Singer warned that an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, is "the most significant threat" to the U.S. and our allies in the world. He's right. Our food and water supplies, communications, banking, hospitals, law enforcement, etc., all depend on the electric grid. Yet until recently little attention has been paid to the ease of generating EMPs by detonating a nuclear weapon in orbit above the U.S., and thus bringing our civilization to a cold, dark halt……

What would a successful EMP attack look like? The EMP Commission, in 2008, estimated that within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown.
What to do?

Surge arrestors, faraday cages and other devices that prevent EMP from damaging electronics, as well micro-grids that are inherently less susceptible to EMP, have been used by the Defense Department for more than 50 years to protect crucial military installations and strategic forces. These can be adapted to protect civilian infrastructure as well. The cost of protecting the national electric grid, according to a 2008 EMP Commission estimate, would be about $2 billion—roughly what the U.S. gives each year in foreign aid to Pakistan.

When the lights go out forever…

It is ironic that, in just a handful of generations, America’s dependence on electricity and computer technology is absolute. Its disappearance would lead to the collapse of civilization, a prospect which must look quite enticing to those actors who wish to do America harm.
Can this dark future be prevented? Of course, but the will to address this threat in Washington apparently does not exist.

Tech companies and influencers seek to prevent EMP damage

Concern over the destruction inflicted by an EMP attack from North Korea has heightened since Congress created the first Congressional EMP Commission in 2001, but the electric grid’s vulnerability to disruptions associated with solar flares has been known for more than 150 years.

Industry watchers attribute the grid’s poor security to turf wars involving the federal government’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the international nonprofit North American Electric Reliability Corporation, as well as a lack of urgency by both organizations

The Foundation for Resilient Societies, in a July op-ed in the Capitol Hill publication The Hill, for example, blasted NERC and FERC for a May 2013 vote against improving the physical security standards for the grid after six men with AK-47 machine guns shot up a substation in California.

Only after FERC report about leaked almost a year later did the agency pressure NERC to improve physical security

Sifma: Terrorist Attack Could Temporarily Drain Account Balances

Wall Street’s biggest trade group has proposed a government-industry cyber war council to stave off terrorist attacks that could trigger financial panic by temporarily wiping out account balances, according to an internal document.

The proposal by the Securities Industry and Financial Market Association calls for a committee of executives and deputy-level representatives from at least eight U.S. agencies including the Treasury Department, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security….

“The systemic consequences could well be devastating for the economy as the resulting loss of confidence in the security of individual and corporate savings and assets could trigger widespread runs on financial institutions that likely would extend well beyond the directly impacted banks, securities firms and asset managers,” Sifma wrote in the document, dated June 27.

The cost of protecting our electrical infrastructure is so small - $2 billion - and the devastating impacts of an EMP attack so horrendous and immediate, there should be not a single Congressman who is opposed to it, no matter what their political persuasion.  I urge you to demand that your Congressman or candidate for Congress go on record as to the urgent need for legislation and immediate action to protect this country's electrical grid. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:39 PM | Permalink

August 18, 2014

Ebola: "Everybody left with their own thing. What are they carrying to their homes? They are carrying their deaths.”

Ebola is running away from us and we do not know the true scale of deaths

International doctors have admitted they don't know the true scale of deaths from the deadly Ebola virus warning the disease is spreading faster than the response.
The group Doctors Without Borders (Medecin Sans Frontieres) have likened the outbreak in west Africa to a state of war and said that the epidemic could last another six months.
Meanwhile, a medical worker on the frontline of tackling the disease in Liberia says response teams are unable to document all the cases erupting as many of the sick are being hidden at home rather than taken to Ebola treatment centres.

Tarnue Karbbar, who works for the aid group Plan International in northern Liberia says in the last several days, up to 75 new cases a day are emerging in single districts.
He also added that those who have succumbed to the deadly virus are buried before teams can get to the area.  He said: 'Our challenge now is to quarantine the area to successfully break the transmission.'  It comes as Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders told reporters in Geneva on Friday that there is no sign of stopping the disease.  She said: 'We're running behind a train that is going forward. 'And it literally is faster than what we're bringing in terms of a response.'
The doctors' warnings come as a World Health Organisation official claimed that Ebola treatment centres are filling up faster than they can be provided in west Africa.
WHO spokesman in Geneva Gregory Hartl said: 'The flood of patients into every newly opened treatment center is evidence that the numbers aren't keeping up.'…..

Earlier the UN organisation had said the epidemic had been 'vastly' underestimated and that extraordinary measures are needed to contain the disease.
The Geneva-based organisation said in a statement that it was co-ordinating a 'massive scale-up of the international response' in a bid to tackle the spread of the Ebola.

So far, 2,127 cases of the disease and 1,145 deaths have been reported in four nations — Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone — the W.H.O announced Friday

NY Times With Aid Doctors Gone, Ebola Fight Grows Harder

The departure of many Western development workers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the West African countries hit hardest by Ebola, has further weakened the region’s understaffed health systems at the very moment they are facing one of the most volatile public health crises ever. Liberia, population four million, has fewer than 250 doctors left in the entire country, according to the Liberia Medical and Dental Council. Seven doctors there have contracted Ebola, and two of them have died.

“The locals’ seeing this mass exodus of expatriates has contributed to the sense that there’s an apocalypse happening and they’re in it on their own,”
On Saturday afternoon, several hundred people in an area of Monrovia known as the West Point slum broke through the gates of a former school that had been converted days earlier into a holding center for people with suspected Ebola.

Samuel Tarplah, 48, a nurse running the center, said Saturday evening that the protesters wanted to shut it down. “They told us that we don’t want an Ebola holding center in our community.” He said the intruders stole mattresses, personal protective equipment, even buckets of chlorine that had just been delivered. “They took everything.”

Fear is complicating the huge increase in aid that is needed: food for people in areas that have been cordoned off; laboratory supplies to test for the disease; gloves, face masks and gowns to protect health workers; body bags for the dead; bedsheets to replace those that must be burned. Airlines have canceled flights that could have carried in such supplies, despite assurances from the W.H.O. that properly screened passengers pose little risk. Positions on aid teams remain unfilled.

Mob Destroys Ebola Center In Liberia Two Days After It Opens  Fear and denial of the deadly virus are pervasive in Liberia. The mob exponentially increased the risk in one of the country’s biggest Ebola hot spots.

A mob descended on the center at around 5:30 p.m., chanting, “No Ebola in West Point! No Ebola in West Point!” They stormed the front gate and pushed into the holding center. They stole the few gloves someone had donated this morning, and the chlorine sprayers used to disinfect the bodies of those who die here, all the while hollering that Ebola is a hoax.

They ransacked the protective suits, the goggles, the masks. They destroyed part of Tarplah’s car as he was fleeing the crowd.    Jemimah Kargbo, a health care worker at a clinic next door, said they took mattresses and bedding, utensils and plastic chairs. Everybody left with their own thing,” she said. “What are they carrying to their homes? They are carrying their deaths.”

She said the police showed up but the crowd intimidated them. “The police were there but they couldn’t contain them. They started threatening the police, so the police just looked at them,” she said.
And then mob left with all of the patients.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:36 PM | Permalink

August 4, 2014

"It would be lawless, reckless, a leap into the antidemocratic dark"

Ross Douthat in Obama's Impeachment Game

SOMETHING rather dangerous is happening in American politics right now, all the more so for being taken for granted by many of the people watching it unfold….. the president is contemplating — indeed, all but promising — an extraordinary abuse of office: the granting of temporary legal status, by executive fiat, to up to half the country’s population of illegal immigrants.
It would be lawless, reckless, a leap into the antidemocratic dark.  And an American political class that lets this Rubicon be crossed without demurral will deserve to live with the consequences for the republic, in what remains of this presidency and in presidencies yet to come.

Attorney John Hinderaker: Is Barack Obama Plotting a Coup?

That seems like an awfully strong word, but it is the term that distinguished law professor Glenn Reynolds, no hysteric, uses to describe the Obama administration’s oft-reported plan to issue executive amnesty to five or six million illegal immigrants in violation of federal law. Glenn’s characterization is a fair one. When a tyrant asserts the right to rule by decree in a state that has formerly been subject to the rule of law, he is commonly described as carrying out a coup d’etat.

That is just what the Obama administration has done, and reportedly will continue to do. ….

When Obama changed the Affordable Care Act by decree–to name just one example, substituting “2014″ for “2013″ in a critical provision of the statute–he acted as a tyrant. In his refusal to enforce the immigration laws, contrary to the Constitution which requires him to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he has acted like a tinpot dictator, asserting the right to change or ignore the law by fiat. If he now directly nullifies Section 274(a) of the Immigration and Nationalities Act by legalizing, and issuing work permits to, five or six million illegal immigrants, thereby repealing federal law by decree, how else can we describe his action but as a coup? The Obama administration openly takes the position that the rule of law no longer applies.

The Washington Post admits that Immigration has emerged as perhaps President Obama's worst issue -- definitely for today, and maybe of his entire presidency -- when it comes to public perception.  Three to one Americans are opposed to his immigration policies in general.

And no wonder given the border stories reported in the past weeks about human trafficking, drug cartels, terrorists, children used as pawns and unknown health risks.  For me to begin to realize that this crisis was planned leaves me gobsmacked.  In what sane or rational world would a government plan chaos? 

Report: Obama Administration Ignored Border Crisis to Win Re-Election and Push Amnesty Bill

According to a report in the Washington Post, "top officials at the White House and the State Department had repeatedly been warned of the potential for a further explosion in the number of migrant children since the crisis began escalating two years ago," and the White House was reportedly even "directly involved in efforts in early 2012 to care for the children when it helped negotiate a temporary shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio."

In 2013, "a team from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) raised alarms about the federal government’s capacity to manage a situation that was expected to grow worse" and "the researchers’ observations were among the warning signs conveyed to the Obama administration over the past two years." A "former senior federal law enforcement official" told the outlet that immigration, law enforcement, and border patrol officials were raising "red flags" and "ringing alarm bells" for years. Texas Governor Rick Perry even wrote a letter to Obama in 2011, which Perry has repeatedly been mentioning during the crisis….Was the White House told there were huge flows of Central Americans coming? Of course they were told. A lot of times,’’ a person involved in the planning told the Post.
The Obama administration also increased funding for resettlement programs, signaling they had anticipated a much greater number of illegal immigrants than the administration made public. For instance, the Health and Human Services Department's $149 Office of Refugee Resettlement budget increased to $376 million in 2013, "and the Obama administration requested $495 million in its fiscal 2014 budget proposal," as the Post noted. This year, "the line-item for the refugee office had increased significantly from Obama’s initial request of $495 million to $868 million — based on the larger projections of minors."

Border Tsunami

There is a single simple cause behind the human tragedy at the border: Obama’s refusal to enforce the immigration laws. The steady flow became a tsunami after Obama implemented childhood amnesty (DACA) in 2012. This lawless immigration policy gave legal status to young illegal aliens by Obama edict. But Obama’s lawless leniency went even further. The president publicly and proudly announced that he will not enforce other immigration laws. His presidential invitation spread like wildfire throughout Central and South America, and the lawless invasion grew worse.

White House Hid Huge Spike Of Families Crossing Border

New data shows the White House has painted a false picture of the Central American migration by hiding a huge spike in “family units” who are illegally crossing the Texas border. The data, which was dumped by the U.S. border patrol late Friday afternoon, shows that inflow of youths and children traveling without parents has doubled since 2013, to 57,525 in the nine months up to July 2014.  But the number of migrants who cross the border in so-called “family units” has spiked five-fold to 55,420, according to the border patrol’s data, which came out amid a storm of news about the shoot-down of a Malaysian aircraft in Ukraine, delays in failed U.S. nuke talks with Iran, and on Hamas’ continued war against Israel.

In the Rio Grande area where most of the migrants are crossing the border, the number of so-called “unaccompanied children” was actually outnumbered by the inflow by adults, parents and children in “family units,” according to the data. The much-faster growth in “family units” has been hidden by White House and agency officials, who have tried to portray the influx as a wave of children fleeing abuse and violence.

The border invasion was, by all evidence,  been planned by the Obama administration.  Make no mistake, the president has instigated the present influx of illegal aliens.
writes Andrew McCarthy in  An Obama-Caused Border Disaster

The president has spent nearly six years giving effective legal immunity to millions of illegal aliens already here. His administration, meanwhile, hooks them on the government gravy train and fights state efforts to detain them, deny social services to them, and prevent them from fraudulently voting. Under those circumstances, the rolling out of a federal red carpet for teeming masses of illegal aliens must be understood as intentional.
Make no mistake: President Obama has instigated this crisis — a two-fer that advances the project of remaking the country while crowding the IRS, the VA, Benghazi, Bergdahl, the Taliban, ISIS, Hamas, the EPA, Obamacare, Ukraine, and other debacles out of the public’s finite attention span. The invasion was invited by a systematic campaign to gut the immigration laws.
Judge Hannen went on to recount that this was the fourth case in as many weeks that followed this fact pattern. In each case, illegal-alien parents funded criminal conspiracies to smuggle their illegal-alien children into the country; in each case, Obama’s DHS stopped the smugglers and the children at the border, yet — instead of arresting the illegal-alien parents behind the scheme — willfully perfected the conspiracy by doing what the smuggler had been illegally recruited to do: deliver the children to their illegal alien parents. “The DHS,” the court concluded, “has simply chosen not to enforce the United States’ border security laws.”

Business is booming! Child migrant smugglers tell how they make $4,000 profit per person on treacherous clandestine journey from Central America to the US

Vast majority of migrants who enter the U.S. illegally do so with the help of a network of smugglers known as 'coyotes'. Business generates $6.6 billion a year for smugglers along Latin America's routes to the U.S.. Migrants pay anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 each for the illegal journey across thousands of miles in the care of smuggling networks. Some of the money is used to pay off government officials, gangs operating on trains and drug cartels controlling the routes north. The profit made by the coyotes can be as much as $4,000 per person

Human Smuggler: ‘Business Is Very Good’

Casillas, the migration expert, said the migrant smuggling business is a complex corporate structure. Guides at the border usually work for honchos who run the operation from afar and only pocket a fraction of the price charged to the migrants. One of the most important coyotes moving immigrants from El Salvador lives in Texas, he said.  “It’s a criminal chain that has two segments. The invisible segment … is dedicated to administration, organization and finances,” he said. “They don’t necessarily even see the migrants.”  The guides often don’t know who they are working for, he added. The big guys rarely get caught. While federal officials along the U.S. border seem to roll out cases against human smugglers almost on a weekly basis, the targets are largely drivers and stash house operators.

Former Border Patrol Deputy Chief: ‘All of the Good That Was Done after 9/11 Up to Now Has Been Reversed Singlehandedly’

Colburn, who spent more than 30 years working for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says the resulting national-security risk has to do with the “clutter” of people at the border. He says all of the gains made since 9/11 came as a result of reducing the number of people crossing the border. The Border Patrol’s task is to sort through the haystack of people as they come across, he says. “What this situation on the border is doing is growing the haystack, is adding clutter, so that those dangerous needles get through because we’re tied up capturing, instead, juvenile children from Guatemala and El Salvador,” he says. “When you see the cartels — the Zetas and MS-13 and the Gulf Cartel — laughing about this on the Internet, you know what’s behind it.”

BORDER PATROL: "We need help!"; Cartels lay down .50-cal suppressing fire to help illegals invade U.S.

Shots rang out Friday night in Rincon Peninsula, Texas, forcing U.S. border patrol agents to take cover. The shots originated from south of the Rio Grande River and according to Border Patrol sources they came from a high-powered .50 caliber rifle. Based on what agents witnessed next, according to Texas State Representative Louie Gohmert, this wasn’t just random fire.

“When the shooting stopped, about 40 to 50 people came out on the U.S. side and turned themselves in. So clearly the rounds were being fired to suppress every effort to stop anybody intervening with anyone or anything coming across,” Gohmert added. “We have no idea what or how many or whom came across with the other illegal immigrants.”

Sources said they believe the gunfire came from members of Mexican drug cartels, which include former military members trained in shooting that type of weaponry.
Border Patrol sources said the rounds were clearly identifiable because .50- caliber weapons make a distinctive noise when fired. Sources said they also believe this is the first time that Border Patrol agents have taken direct fi

Judicial Watch Mexican Cartels Help Hezbollah Infiltrate U.S.

Hezbollah’s business relationship with Mexican drug cartels is a driving force behind this phenomenon, according to the analysis that quotes alarming excerpts from the book. For instance in 2009, a former Chief of Operations for the DEA said that Hezbollah uses “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels.”

A year later a man (Jamal Yousef) arrested in New York admitted stealing weapons from Iraq for Hezbollah and told authorities of a Hezbollah stockpile in Mexico that included 100 M-16 assault rifles, 100 AR-15 rifles, 2500 hand grenades, C4 explosives and anti-tank weapons. That same year a Hezbollah terrorist was captured in Tijuana and a senior Mexican military officer confirmed the group was conducting explosives training for members of Mexican drug cartels.

In the U.S., law enforcement officials across the nation’s Southwest region report a rise in imprisoned gang members with Farsi tattoos that experts say express loyalty to Hezbollah, the book analysis reveals. One U.S. law enforcement official is quoted as saying this: “You could almost pick your city and you would probably have a [Hezbollah] presence.”

This is not surprising considering that for years a number of reports have exposed the connection between Mexico and Middle Eastern terrorists. In 2010 a veteran federal agent in the U.S. immigration system exposed a government cover-up of Middle Eastern terrorists entering the country through Mexico. The 30-year agent confirmed that thousands of SIAs (Special Interest Aliens) from terrorist nations like Yemen, Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan—classified as OTM (Other Than Mexican)—were captured along the southern border.

Leaked report from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), marked sensitive shows the entire world is exploiting open southern US border with individuals from  Syria, Pakistan, Albania, China , Egypt, Yemen, Somalia  and the small nations currently suffering from the largest Ebola crossing the border.

'A lot of people die out here' and 'all this blood…is on Obama's hands': Shocking images show corpses of illegal immigrants left to die after border crossings

Rancher shares grotesque photos with MailOnline, saying Obama bears the blame for a rising death toll among illegal immigrants
Volunteer patrol network in south Texas has found 259 bodies in one county alone, maybe 20 percent of the actual body count
Border Patrol source concedes the agency has no idea how many are perishing between the border and official government checkpoints

‘Potential for a Public Health Disaster’: Illegal Immigrant Surge Leaves Officials With ‘No Idea’ Which Diseases Are Coming Across

“There is really no hard stop at the border, and we have no idea health-wise what diseases are coming across,” a health official who works in the McAllen border area told TheBlaze. ”There’s no real medical screening either. Basically if [an illegal immigrant] tells a Border Patrol agent or law enforcement official they feel sick, or if they look sick, then they’re checked. If they don’t say anything, that’s it, they’re cleared.”
“It’s a rough situation for the Border Patrol agents and the illegals immigrants as well,” Cabrera said. “We can only do so much and we’re not doctors. We can’t be sure that some of the people who’ve already left our facility aren’t carrying something contagious. This is a situation the federal government should have already prepared for but they didn’t.”

Former Border Patrol Agent Warns What’s Coming

Zach Taylor is a 27 year veteran Border Patrol agent with supervisory experience. He has testified before Congress as an expert witness on criminal activity in wilderness areas. His message is credible. He accuses the federal government in a coverup that is deliberately shielding critical information from the public.

Taylor says that whoever is perpetrating the border crisis is engaged in a perfect asymmetrical military tactic. While the American people focus on “the children,” he points out that they are actually only a tiny proportion of the people crossing the border. That we are apprehending about 10 percent of the illegal border crossers, and that the other 90 percent are not children. Since only 10 – 15 percent of those apprehended are children, that means we are focused on about 1 percent of the problem. The adults that we are missing are bringing in weapons, personnel and supplies while our attention is diverted by the needs of the children.

How to Think About Immigration writes  Kevin Williamson. The U.S. government is generally expected to act in the interest of the people of the United States.

1. Borders are a fundamental aspect of national sovereignty. They are, in part, what defines a country —
2. Where the national government acts to establish rules and standards for immigration, it must first establish the controlling criterion, answering the question of what it intends to accomplish through its immigration policies.
4. Immigrants often serve our national economic interests by bringing skills and resources to the service of the U.S. economy.
5. Immigration from nearby countries — and, to some extent, all modern immigration — presents absorption problems that were not present with, say, European immigrants in the late 18th and early 19th century.
6. The United States of America is not the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federal Register. It is not a legal entity, and it is not an abstraction. It is a particular people, with a particular culture and particular institutions.
7. We write our laws down for a reason. The point of having general, enforceable rules is that they are generally enforced. There is, as Andrew C. McCarthy likes to point out, room for prosecutorial discretion. There is not room for refusing to enforce the law in tens of millions of cases, and then creating a post facto regime of non-enforcement. That is simple chaos.

Even  in the Ellis Island days the US never accepted unaccompanied children as legal immigrants.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:16 PM | Permalink

June 24, 2013

Families and communities are the most helpful sources of assistance and support in disasters

Six months after Hurricane Sandy, an AP survey assessed the impact and recovery of the superstorm

• Only 16% of those affected contacted the federal government and of those only 19% said they were helpful.  Twice as many said FEMA was no help at all.
• 19% contacted their insurance companies for assistance; about half said they were helpful.
• 63% of three percent of those in the affected areas who turned to friends, family or neighbors within a mile of their homes, and
• 60 percent who sought help from first responders, said they helped quite a bit or a great deal.

In their hour of greatest need, families and communities — not the government— were the most helpful sources of assistance and support.

People overwhelmingly said the Oct. 29 storm brought out the best in their neighbors, who shared generators, food, water and other supplies. Far fewer said they found help from federal or state governments.

Stranded in her darkened 20th-floor apartment in Brooklyn's Coney Island with two small children, Irina Medvinskaya was feeling desperate in the bleak days after the storm. The elevators stopped working. The food in her refrigerator spoiled.

Without the help of friends and family — particularly her boyfriend, who lugged full water-cooler bottles up the stairs — she doesn't know how she would have survived.

"People who can bring you food and water, and walk up 20 floors?" she said. "That's family, not FEMA."
In neighborhoods hit hardest by the storm, sharing of resources was even more common, with 67 percent saying their neighbors shared food or water, 63 percent taking in neighbors, and 59 percent sharing access to power.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:19 PM | Permalink

May 22, 2013

A Woman of Valor and Courage

In the horrific beheading today of a British soldier in London, a Mum talked down Woolwich terrorists who told her: 'We want to start a war in London tonight'


A mother-of-two described tonight how she put her own life on the line by trying to persuade the soldier’s murderers to hand over their weapons.
Cub scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett selflessly engaged the terrorists in conversation and kept her nerve as one of them told her: “We want to start a war in London tonight.”

Mrs Loyau-Kennett, 48, from Cornwall, was one of the first people on the scene after the two Islamic extremists butchered a soldier in Woolwich, south east London.  She was photographed by onlookers confronting one of the attackers who was holding a bloodied knife.

Mrs Loyau-Kennett was a passenger on a number 53 bus which was travelling past the scene, and jumped off to check the soldier’s pulse.
“Being a cub leader I have my first aid so when I saw this guy on the floor I thought it was an accident then I saw the guy was dead and I could not feel any pulse.

“And then when I went up there was this black guy with a revolver and a kitchen knife, he had what looked like butcher’s tools and he had a little axe, to cut the bones, and two large knives and he said 'move off the body’.

“So I thought 'OK, I don’t know what is going on here’ and he was covered with blood. I thought I had better start talking to him before he starts attacking somebody else. I thought these people usually have a message so I said 'what do you want?’

“I asked him if he did it and he said yes and I said why? And he said because he has killed Muslim people in Muslim countries, he said he was a British soldier and I said really and he said 'I killed him because he killed Muslims and I am fed up with people killing Muslims in Afghanistan they have nothing to do there.”

Moments earlier, the killers had hacked at the soldier “like a piece of meat”, and when Mrs Loyau-Kennett arrived on the scene they were roaming John Wilson Street waiting for police to arrive so they could stage a final confrontation with them.

She said: “I started to talk to him and I started to notice more weapons and the guy behind him with more weapons as well. By then, people had started to gather around. So I thought OK, I should keep him talking to me before he noticed everything around him.

“He was not high, he was not on drugs, he was not an alcoholic or drunk, he was just distressed, upset. He was in full control of his decisions and ready to everything he wanted to do.

I said 'right now it is only you versus many people, you are going to lose, what would you like to do?’ and he said I would like to stay and fight.”
The suspect in the black hat then went to speak to someone else and Mrs Loyau-Kennett tried to engage with the other man in the light coat.
She said: “The other one was much shier and I went to him and I said 'well, what about you? Would you like to give me what you have in your hands?’ I did not want to say weapons but I thought it was better having them aimed on one person like me rather than everybody there, children were starting to leave school as well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:00 PM | Permalink

A respite for wonderful news

From Slashdot Cell Phones As a Dirty Bomb Detection Network

"The Idaho National Laboratory has built a dirty bomb detection network out of cell phones. Camera phones operate by detecting photons and storing them as a picture. The INL discovered that high energy photons from radiological sources distort the image in ways detectable through image processing. KSL TV reports that the INL's mobile app detects radiation sources and then reports positive 'hits' to a central server. Terrorists deploying a dirty bomb will inevitably pass by people carrying cell phones. By crowdsourcing cell phones, the INL has created a potentially very large, inexpensive, and randomly mobile radiation detection grid."

First Responders Rescued Over 100 Survivors in Moore, Oklahoma in the Midnight Hours (Video)

The faith and resiliency of Oklahomans

On Tuesday morning, a helicopter was circling overhead and thunder rumbled from a new storm as 35-year-old Moore resident Juan Dills and his family rummaged through the remains of what was once his mother’s home. The foundation was laid bare, the roof ripped away and only one wall was still standing. They found a few family photo albums, but little else.
We are still in shock,” he said. “But we will come through. We’re from Oklahoma.”

 Girl-Rescued-From Rubble Okl

The Inspiring Story of What an Arizona Cop Did to a Teen She Found Walking 9 Miles

An Arizona teenager working at a fast food restaurant had to walk nine miles home if he missed the last bus of the evening.

Christian Felix still had several miles to go when Phoenix Sgt. Natalie Simonick spotted him around 11 p.m. last month. When she pulled over thinking he was breaking curfew, she learned he was 18 years old and thus not in violation, but she also learned a few other things about the young adult, ABC News reported.

At a press conference last week she said she saw a strong work ethic in Felix, the local ABC affiliate KNXV reported. She also found Felix had never learned to ride a bike nor had he ever driven a car.

“He never had a father in his life, so he had no one to teach him,” Simonick said.

That’s when Simonick took it upon herself, asking her husband if they could give the teen their extra bike so he would have a more reliable form of transportation. Last month, she and other officers even gave him a lesson.

Helen Mirren takes the Queen's place to grant a dying boy with Down's syndrome his fondest wish to have tea with the Queen of England

After the show, Mirren, still dressed as the Queen and in character, invited the 10-year-old backstage to have tea and cakes served by footmen. She also introduced Burton to her corgis.

“She stayed in character for the whole thing. Oliver thought she was the real Queen, and well, that’s good enough for us,” the boy’s father, James Browne, said, according to the Daily Mail.

Mirren also knighted 10-year-old Oliver, giving him the official title of “Sir.”

 Helen Mirren Dying Down'ssyn Boy
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 AM | Permalink

May 21, 2013

Operation BBQ heads out to Oklahoma

Unlike hurricanes, floods, blizzards, there is no warning for tornadoes. Which makes them so terrifying.  You have only minutes to find a safe spot

It is impossible for me to imagine the scale of the tragedy in Oklahoma.  At least 24 confirmed dead with 50 reported dead among them 20 children in an elementary school reduced to rubble by the tornado packing winds of up to 200 mph.

So many parents searching for their children in desperation with communications down. So many homes destroyed and buildings and businesses.

What can we do right now but pray for them all.

I could see nothing but tragedy until I read about Operation BBQ Relief via Instapundit.

Born in the aftermath of the terrific tornadoes that hit Joplin, Mo, Operation BBQ Relief served and delivered over 120,000 barbecue meals to residents in two weeks.   

Headed off now to the ravaged areas of Oklahoma, OPeration BBQ relief is a 501© 3 charitable organization.  From its website:

The mission of Operation BBQ Relief is to provide compassion and to offer hope and friendship to those whose lives have been affected by natural disasters across the United States through our expertise in cooking and catering barbecue meals and our ability to quickly mobilize our teams into any area where nature disrupts and tears apart the lives of Americans.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 AM | Permalink

April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombings, Evil Met by Goodness

It was a lovely, sunny day showing the promise of Spring.  Daffodils were coming out and the very tips of the trees had begun to green.  Yesterday promised to be special Patriots Day here in Massachusetts, every year celebrated as a state holiday, this year, the first day of April school vacation. In Lexington, the colonial and British re-enactors were out  at 5:30 am, acting out the first skirmishes of the American revolution on the Lexington Green to the excited and appreciative crowds,  the first event of the day to Lexington's 300th birthday.

The Boston Marathon is always a grand event, even for those like me who no longer go to watch the runners who come from all parts of the world to compete in this most prestigious running  event.  There are hundreds and hundreds of volunteers to make sure the event goes smoothly and thousands and thousands who gather to cheer the runners along the 26 mile course.  The runners had worked hard for months, if not years, to get themselves in shape to run the grueling race.  Friends, families and strangers come out to applaud them,  cheer them on, and offer  water to exhausted runners at Heartbreak Hill. several miles from the end.

How stunned and bewildered the runners must have been at mile 25 when a policeman told them, “Race is over, folks,” “There is no finish line.”

Those at home watching the marathon on television knew, long before most of the runners,  of the bombs.  And those at the finish line saw the terror unleashed on the streets of Boston.

Eight-year-old Martin Richard  from Dorchester, Massachusetts, was killed as he was standing at the finishing line waiting to give his father, Bill, who was competing in the Boston Marathon, a hug. His six-year-old sister, Jane, lost a leg in the blast and his mother Denise is in hospital after undergoing brain surgery, while his 12-year-old brother, Henry, escaped without injury.

 Martin Richard +Family Marathon

The horror was unimaginable.  Evil exploded in Boston with ball bearings designed to kill, maim and lacerate human bodies. 

'These runners just finished and they don’t have legs now': Witnesses recount war zone at Boston Marathon as bombs left 26th mile littered with disembodied limbs and 'shoes with flesh still in them'

Competitors and race organizers were crying as they fled the chaos. A man was pictured with his lower leg blown off, while children were seen being wheeled away in chairs with burned limbs.

Blood and broken glass was strewn across the sidewalks, while a emergency worker was seen checking the pulses of young women lying on the ground.  A trauma nurse told ABC that the race's medical tent has become a makeshift morgue and that staff are dealing with injuries including severed limbs, shrapnel wounds and children with severe burns.
David Abel, a reporter for the Boston Globe who was standing just feet from the finish line to record runners, recounted the scene of horror he witnessed.

'I saw just a pile of bodies,' he said. 'It was the worst thing I've ever seen in my life… mangled limbs, people not breathing. Within minutes, police, medical staff, marathon staff [arrived] and were just trying to carry people off as quickly as possible.'

Brothers watching Boston Marathon each lose a leg  "Ma, I'm hurt real bad"

People understood immediately that the bombs were the acts of terrorists.  Whether the terrorists were foreign or domestic, amateur or professional, acting alone or in concert, there is no doubt the explosions were intended to kill or maim as many innocent civilians as possible. 

How incomprehensible is this evil.  How moving, inspiring and encouraging was the response of the first responders, the police and medical personnel and so so many others  who ran to help the victims.

-Fallen Runner 3 Cops
Bill Ifring, 78, from Washington state collapsed in the force of the blast, then got up and finished the race.

 2 Men Help Woman Boston Bombing

"Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping…I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world,"  Mr. Rogers.

 Man-Comforts-Woman Boston Bombings
Man comforts injured woman at site of first explosion

 Cowboyhat-Rescuer Boston Bombings

Carlos Arredondo, the man in the cowboy hat, tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire when he learned his Marine son was  killed in Iraq.    He was saved by the Marines who brought him the news, treated for his severe burns, and emerging from his deep grief, he became a peace activist.  He was handing out  American flags at the finish line when the bombs exploded.  After applying a tourniquet to the man's leg in the picture above, he rushed with the EMT and the woman to bring the victim to the medical tent and then into an ambulance saying, "You're going to be fine."

Confusion for marathoners leavened by kindness

As chaos unfolded at the Boston Marathon Monday, bewildered runners were redirected without explanation. It was the beginning of an hours-long odyssey for the competitors, many of whom were without their cellphones, or money, or anything but thin singlets and shorts. Dazed out-of-towners struggled to find designated gathering spots or their hotels, asking passersby for directions or a call on a cellphone. Many were unable to retrieve their belongings. Most of all, they were cold and exhausted.

Yet many were met with kindness from locals; offered blankets and jackets, cash and food, and a free place to sleep. “People in this city have been unbelievable,” said Glenn Sheehan, 50, a runner born in Wakefield and now lives in South Carolina. “ ‘Let me give you food, let me give you water’ — it’s been like that all afternoon.”
A Google Docs form was quickly set up to allow Boston residents to open their homes to marathon runners from outside the area who had no place to stay in the aftermath of the tragedy.

'Anyone wanting to get out of the back bay come over plenty of tables and calm here and don't worry you don't have to buy a thing,' tweeted a local restaurant called El Pelon Taqueria. 'open wifi, place to charge cell, or just don't want to be alone, food and drinks,- pay only if you can #bostonhelp.'

Pictures of heroism and humanity flooded Twitter, from police officers carrying injured young children to the residents who left their warm homes to greet runners stranded by the emergency and offer them comfort.

When so many have been so senselessly killed or maimed, it's all to easy to succumb to fear and despair.  Yet, even as I look at these terrible pictures,  I find myself encouraged by the goodness of so many people.  I always knew Bostonians
were tough, smart and resilient.  Yesterday, I realized how kind and good they are when evil strikes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

December 10, 2012

Unused FEMA trailers yet many Sandy victims are still homeless

Sandy victims still struggling to find warm housing

Six weeks after Sandy hit the New Jersey and New York coast, residents are still struggling and in desperate need of shelter. Many hard-hit victims are not getting help despite President Barack Obama’s pledge of the full support of the federal government, and they are dealing with red tape the president said would not be tolerated.

In the Red Hook community of Brooklyn, N.Y., many residents are still living in their unheated, powerless homes in freezing temperatures. Help from the government for residents has not come.

One victim from the Midland Beach section of Staten Island is living out of his car, going from one house to another each day in search of a warm bed. Dozens of residents are living in their sewer-flooded homes without heat or power in Gerritsen Beach.

Thousands living in hotels courtesy of FEMA are about to lose their rooms. Hotel stays for victims are set to expire on Dec. 13. That would force tens of thousands into the cold, which could prove a public relations disaster for the Obama administration and FEMA.
Staten Island resident Billy Stout said he is living out of his car and jumping from one house to another.

“It’s tough,” he said.

Stout went to FEMA for assistance and was told he should apply for a SBA loan. He asked why he would apply for a loan as he is disabled and on Social Security disability. He said FEMA told him that once he’s denied for the loan they could give him assistance. That assistance came after three weeks in the amount of $2,400. He cannot find a rental unless he travels two hours away.

“I don’t think the government has done enough. They could be doing more,” said Stout, suggesting FEMA “could put up trailers at the closed Arthur Kill Correctional Facility or at Miller’s Field. There is so much space there. Then people would have a warm place to stay. I don’t know why they don’t do that.”

Neither do I since there are at least 92 unused FEMA trailers in Pennsylvania  and 520 in Missouri and who knows how many elsewhere are lying unused.

Does FEMA even keep track of their trailers that could be moved to places in great need?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

December 8, 2012

Insult to Injury

New York City Hits Sandy Victims With ‘Failure To Maintain’ Property Citation

And What's More, The Tree Causing All The Fuss Was City's Responsibility

The Department of Buildings said the citation is a mere formality. It’s a way to keep track of all downed trees.

But for people in this neighborhood…it’s a permanent mark on their property that they want removed from the records.

“They’re not only upset, but they’re insulted. And they’re nervous! They don’t know what’s going to happen as a result of having this violation,” said Elaine Young of the local neighborhood association.

Jersey shore home vanishes

"The township didn't know what happened. I called the governor's office and asked the assistant what happened. She said to me, 'Are you sure your house is gone? 'I said 'Miss, you misplace your pen or pencil. You don't misplace your house.'"

He said he was never told that his home would be demolished and all his possessions thrown away.

"I just want to know where my house went, why was it removed, and why wasn't I afforded the opportunity to get my personal belongings," he said.

The culprit?  The Department of Transportation

In a statement, the department said: "The structure in question… was pushed off its foundation and jammed against another house that had come to rest in the middle of the street. The two houses had sandwiched a utility pole. Our crews did not take down any structure unless it was deemed to be unsafe…"

FEMA teams told to 'sightsee' as Sandy victims suffered

A FEMA worker who spoke to FoxNews.com described a chaotic scene at New Jersey's Fort Dix, where emergency workers arrived as the storm bore down on the Atlantic Coast. The worker said officials at the staging area were unprepared and told the incoming responders there was nothing for them to do for nearly four days.

“They told us to hurry, hurry, hurry," the worker, who works at the agency's headquarters in Washington and volunteered to deploy for the storm recovery effort. "We rushed to Fort Dix, only to find out that our liaison didn’t even know we were coming.”

“The regional coordinator even said to us, ‘I don’t know why you were rushed here because we don’t need you,'” said the worker, who spoke out of frustration with the lack of planning and coordination following the devastating storm.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:52 PM | Permalink

December 4, 2012

Sandy aftermath: cold, sick, living without power and FEMA trailers sit unused 145 miles away

Cold, mold loom as hazards in Sandy disaster zones

City officials estimate at least 12,000 New Yorkers are trying to survive in unheated, flood-damaged homes, despite warnings that dropping temperatures could pose a health risk. Many families have returned to coastal homes contaminated with mold or filled with construction dust.

Workers who are sent into mold-infested, storm-damaged basements lack proper equipment, gear or training

The Housing Authority first asked its union partners to help with the cleaning — but union officials refused, citing the lack of training or protective clothing. So the city hired Belchor, an outside company, to do the work.

Sandy Cough Plagues Homeowners Cleaning Up

"Every morning I wake up coughing," says one Staten Island homeowner

Flailing FEMA

Dozens of residents are still living without heat, hot water, or electricity in condemned structures flooded by both sea and sewer water in the Gerritsen Beach community of Brooklyn after a request to FEMA for temporary housing after Hurricane Sandy was denied.

“We need structures and housing. It is truly desperate,” said Jameson Wells, executive assistant to the director of GB Cares Sandy Relief, a volunteer relief organization. FEMA has said they did not have appropriate trailers.

However, around 92 FEMA trailers are sitting idle and unused 145 miles away in Pennsylvania, the Free Beacon has found…. All of the units are equipped with heat pumps.

The Reward For Surviving Hurricane Sandy May Be Higher Taxes

The math is simple and cruel. The storm left fewer properties standing, often wrecking waterfront communities that paid the highest taxes because of the desirability of living near the water.
Unless shore towns from Rhode Island to New Jersey get a big influx of aid from the state and federal governments, which are themselves strapped for cash, they will have no choice but to raise taxes on homes and businesses that survived to make up for the loss.

Why  Kafka Would Like FEMA

Yesterday I spoke to, let’s see, eight, maybe nine different FEMA agents. Each one was there to help. Each was polite, sympathetic. Oodles of sympathy. Almost all had a form for me to fill out, a web site to visit. Each of the long, long line of people who came to see these agents went away with forms to fill out, web sites to visit…

All the agents were huddled in a suite of offices down a long corridor inside Town Hall. There was the Cerberus outside the sanctum sanctorum that made sure you had “registered with FEMA.” That done, he provided you with a routing slip that detailed the services you might be eligible for. Then you sat for an hour or two, as if you were a patient at an NHS facility in Britain, or an Obamacare facility in America in the near future. You then talked to one nice person after the next. There was this form, and that form, and a web site you could visit, and handbook you could read. At one stop I was given, for free!, a longish pamphlet explaining what I could do to make my property less liable to flood damage: “Mitigation Ideas For Reducing Flood Loss” it said on its cover. After a flood, it told me, a house needs to be dried out and cleaned. “Move things you want to save to a safe dry place.” Noted. “The longer they sit in water, the more damaged they become.” I was glad to know that.
I used to think that Franz Kafka exaggerated things. I see now that he was not so much a novelist or fantasist as he was a documentary artist.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

November 26, 2012

Sandy aftermath made even more gruesome after abysmal failure of FEMA

Proving once again that the aftermath of disasters is almost always worse than the disasters themselves, Thieves strike storm-damaged Breezy Point homes over Thanksgiving holiday

Adding insult to injury,  Sandy victims are charged for full month of power despite blackouts that in some places lasted more than 2 weeks.

Worst of all, murderers find in the storm wreckage inviting spots to dump bodies    In Storm’s Debris, the Macabre

Long Island Residents Dealing With Sandy-Related Garbage Nightmare

Plagued by filth, health concerns are mounting on Long Island’s South Shore.Streets in one local community are still buried in more than two weeks of trash build-up and another is pumping out rivers of raw sewage.t.
“Every day I go home, I take a shower for an hour and I throw out the shoes I had on. I just don’t know how to protect myself from this mess. This is how cholera started,” Bay Park resident Randee Gerry said.

Sewage on their streets and in their homes, backing up through toilets and bathtubs. The storm surge ruptured sewage mains.

Preliminary estimate from Governor Chrisite's office:  Sandy cost New Jersey $30 billion in damages to homes, businesses and tourism.

 Sandy Half-House-1

Some of that no doubt because the New Jersey railway parked much of its trains in the flood zone despite warnings, resulting in damage to one third of its locomotives and a quarter of its passenger cars, damage that will cost tens of millions of dollars to repair.

All of which makes even more disheartening reports of the abysmal failure of FEMA.  The report below makes the federal government's response sound completely inept.  Dan Greenfield says the recovery effort was "criminally botched." 

I asked, ‘Why haven’t you been sent out?’” he says. “Then he just lays the story on me, tells me about all the personnel they have out there, more than 100 ambulances, two paramedics per ambulance, everybody waiting for marching orders.”

Horrified, the logistical worker offered to help transport them to a place where they could be useful.

He said they couldn’t do it because FEMA had them all under contract, and they couldn’t go out without FEMA’s say-so.

In the first rush after the storm, these emergency medical responders were frantically busy with the evacuation of NYU Langone and Bellevue, transporting patients out of the damaged hospitals to safer facilities.

But after that burst of activity, the orders suddenly stopped coming. EMT crews idled for days on end, waiting for direction, growing increasingly exasperated as the hours and days ticked by.
“I called my contact back for clarification,” the logistics worker tells the Voice. “He says to me: ‘We’re firefighters and EMTs and nurses. We’ve been here for days, and they haven’t let us off the compound, they haven’t given us marching orders, they haven’t even given us our equipment. We’ve been sleeping on plastic chairs since we got here.’”

The motorcycle club, the Hallowed Sons, proved far more .

By Tuesday morning, the waters had receded, and the Hallowed Sons had set up camp in the Oceanside Park, serving food and sending teams out with residents to their small, single-family homes to remove wreckage and junk out of the ruined basements and first floors. On a bedsheet they spray-painted the words “Hallowed Sons MC, Just Ask for Help.” Aside from the shell-shocked residents, they were the only people on the scene.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2012

Sandy Aftermath worsens in Coney Island and Long Island

Occupy Sandy Volunteer Sounds Alarm on 'Humanitarian Crisis,' Near-Complete Absence of Government Aid in Coney Island Projects

Moed says all of the supermarkets on Coney Island have been flooded or looted.

The result is what Moed describes as a "humanitarian crisis." Sick or older people may be vulnerable to death without heat, or food and water.

Moed routinely meets elderly residents who have been trapped alone in their dark, cold apartments since the storm hit. The elevators often do not work, and residents willing to brave the stairwells face darkness, human waste, and even crime.

"Just three hours ago I was speaking with seniors for whom I was the first person they talked to since the storm," Moed says. "I asked someone if I could use their bathroom and they told me they were going in a bucket. It was a 70-80 year-old woman. And not only do they have to shit in a bucket, they have to bring it down the stairs themselves."

Moed also describes meeting children who had gone several days without food, and a mother who ran out of her asthma medication.

Mormon Volunteers Outperform the Government in New England Sandy Aid

In Milford, Connecticut, for example, where entire expanses of beach homes have been destroyed by the storm, one family member reports to us that FEMA and the Red Cross were nowhere to be seen. What she did see, however, were “dozens of people in yellow vests helping to gather up all the debris that residents were putting out in the road.” Our observer tells us that these individuals assisted homeowners in clean-up, helping to load town trucks to remove destroyed decks, furniture, siding, and other debris.

Recalling that she saw the same group of people “in yellow vests” helping out after Hurricane Irene last year, she later discovered that the helpers were Mormon Helping Hands volunteers.

Toxic mess in hard-hit communities causing serious health effects

The waterfront neighborhoods of Lindenhurst on Long Island have become a toxic wasteland since Hurricane Sandy hit.
Toxic fumes hang in the air, the ground is covered in mud and oil. Homes are gutted and the streets are barely visible; garbage is strewn about.

Jill Vaneck, who lives on Arctic Street, said she has been coughing since the storm hit, and she’s had a constant headache. " I’m concerned over mold, but definitely the oil – it’s everywhere, in the streets, in our homes,” Vaneck said. “The smell of oil has given me a headache every day, and I have this bad cough. So, yes, I’m concerned. I’m worried about the water . . .not only for the plumbing in my house, but there is water all around us. It’s toxic down here.”

Over on Staten Island, residents are concerned about hypothermia, frost bite, dysentery and respiratory infections, said Mike Hoffman, 33, a volunteer relief coordinator in the New Dorp area.

“Volunteers are getting sick, spitting up black mucous, getting respiratory infections – some just after two to three days,” Hoffman said. “Victims have been exposed much longer.”
One resident said, “Is this going to plague us for years to come?”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:54 PM | Permalink

November 12, 2012

The Aftermath of Sandy: “You are only as good as the knots you make”

It is always true that the best help you will receive in a disaster is from neighbors, churches, and volunteer groups.  Never depend on the government to help you in  the immediate aftermath.

Highlands, the New Jersey town that Sandy wiped off the map, destroying all but 300 homes and 150,000 STILL without power

 Edith Perez Hurricane Sandy

A majority of the tight-knit town's residents are now taking shelter in the local high school, including Highlands Mayor Frank Nolan, who said he and his family 'lost everything.'

The gymnasium has become sleeping quarters and volunteers have been making three meals a day for everyone in need. In the meantime, Nolan is trying to obtain temporary shelters from the federal government so the school can reopen.
Though New York and New Jersey bore the brunt of the destruction, at its peak, the storm reached 1,000 miles across, killed more than 100 people in 10 states, knocked out power to 8.5 million and canceled nearly 20,000 flights. More than 12 inches of rain fell in Easton, Md., and 34 inches of snow fell in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Damage has been estimated $50 billion, making Sandy the second most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Katrina.

The Anchoress highlights the work of Team Rubicon with a moving video, showing combat veterans responding to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and saving themselves in service to others. 

"Disaster is chaos….what combat veterans do best is chaos management, personnel management and logistical management…This is war…full out combat on the front lines without the violence."

Donate to TeamRubiconUSA.org

A fine rant and a Featured Comment at small dead animals

FEMA, while it is a clusterfrig of titanic proportions, could not cause this much misery on its own. Although they FAILED to have emergency generators at key fuel distribution points (read gas stations) and although they FAILED to have any kind of plan to move food and fuel to the affected areas, and although they FAILED to even have a forward based supply of bottled water and ran out last Friday
SIX YEARS AGO, which found that Long Island Power Authority had not done the basic maintenance required to secure the power grid from weather damage. The maintenance they're talking about here is tree cutting mostly, and replacing bad power poles.
Its because every time they go to cut down a tree, some local Greenies get up a petition or a court order to make them stop. So they stop. So the trees break and knock down the power lines.
But don't get me wrong, there's a ton of corruption and scamming going on too. Paying off inspectors, hockey tickets for town council, that sort of thing. That's why all those flooded switching stations were within reach of a flood in the first place, because the money to move them was skimmed off by graft.
now that there's been a disaster the LIPA wankers are screaming for crews. And they aren't getting them. You know why Davenport? Because volunteer crews from as far away as Florida showed up Monday -before- the storm and cooled their heels until Friday, didn't get any assignments because they WERE NOT UNION, and then those volunteer crews went the hell back home.

Some of the people displaced by the flooding are still in tents. FEMA is supposed to find or make housing for these people, its been a week and a half now, and they are in tents. Looked out the window today? Its cold. People are going to -die- in tents this time of year. It is reported today that some of these cold tent dwelling people started calling the news media, and the FEMA types running the camps started confiscating cameras and refusing to charge up cell phones. No power, they said.
The only organizations in this whole farce that showed up like they meant it have been churches. Not seeing much of that covered in the MSM are we?

Fisherman, who saved lives with knot-tying in Rockaways during Hurricane Sandy, to teach youngsters survival skills

With just four minutes and a series of well-tied knots, Michael McDonnell saved himself and his Belle Harbor neighbors the night Hurricane Sandy hit.

The experienced fisherman and surfer from the Rockaways fashioned a lifeline from electrical wire and twine to ferry a half-dozen people to safety from raging waters and fire.

“You are only as good as the knots you make,” he said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:26 PM | Permalink

November 10, 2012

No gas, no heat, no food within 6 miles, the aftermath of Sandy

"A lot of us out here are fighting for our lives,” said Feliciano, 51. “A lot of people are desperate. They don't know where they are getting their next meal.

After traveling six miles by foot and by bus to bring food home to her five children in Brooklyn’s Coney Island neighborhood, Cherry Barnett broke down in tears.

"I've had it,” she said. “I don't want to live here anymore. We can't live like this."

Gas rationing begins in New York City

 Gas Rationing Nyc

No Heat Until Christmas

When I called Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office to ask why so much of the relief effort had been left to volunteers, I got immense pushback.
Before the storm hit, Mayor Bloomberg said that New York City didn’t need FEMA’s help because the city had “everything under control.” You don’t have to spend much time in Queens to realize that New York City needs all the help it can get. It is extremely fortunate that it is getting so much help from volunteers.
When I asked one FEMA official what his workers were doing, he said they were mainly trying to make sure that residents applied for assistance. That is not insignificant, of course, but it’s not exactly leading the charge.

What do we know about how older adults fare, emotionally, in a disaster like that devastating storm, which destroyed homes and businesses and isolated older adults in darkened apartment buildings, walk-ups and houses?

“They’re afraid of being alone,” she said in a telephone interview a few days after the storm. “They’re worried that if anything happens to them, no one is going to know. They feel that they’ve lost their connection with the world.”

“In geriatrics, we have this idea of the ‘geriatric cascade’ that refers to how a seemingly minor thing can set in motion a functional, cognitive and psychological downward spiral” in vulnerable older adults, said Dr. Mark Lachs, chief of the division of geriatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College. “Well, the storm was a major thing — a very large disequilibrating event — and its impact is an enormous concern.”
Be mindful of worrisome signs like unusual listlessness, apathy, unresponsiveness, agitation or confusion. These may signal that an older adult has developed delirium, which can be extremely dangerous if not addressed quickly, Dr. Nathanson said.

After Sandy, parish unites to save a couple’s wedding

The damage was so severe and so universal there can be little doubt plans for scores of weddings scheduled for the first weekend in November unraveled including Amanda and Michael’s.

On Nov. 1, Amanda and her mom, Stephanie, turned to their pastor, Msgr. Sam A. Sirianni, telling him that even though the wedding reception was cancelled by the venue because of the hurricane, the couple very much wanted their Church wedding. Despite the fact that the church was without light or heat, Msgr. Sirianni quickly agreed.

And, when Mrs. Santoro asked Msgr. Sirianni if it would be alright to bring in a sheet cake for a very small reception after the wedding, it set off a chain of events that soon escalated into a full-scale parish effort to give the young couple the closest thing they could to the reception of their dreams.

Walter Russell Mead, Hurricane Sandy and the Perils of Nanny State Governance

Here in New York we have a very busy government. It’s worried about the kinds of fats we eat and the size of the soft drinks we buy, and there is no shortage of regulations affecting businesses, street vendors, and individuals. But in all this exciting fine tuning, nobody seems to have bothered to think about the much greater task of keeping floodwaters out of the subway system. Admittedly, getting public support and finding the money for flood protection would be hard, but it is exactly that kind of hard job that governments are supposed to do. Leadership is getting the important things done, not looking busy on secondary tasks while the real needs of the city go quietly unmet.

William McGurn, Sandy and the Failures of Blue-Statism

The irony is that modern American liberalism has become a movement grounded less in practical politics than a sort of religious fervor—and often requiring the same strong faith in the face of disappointment and failure. The difference, of course, is that while religions often promise to deliver in the next world, government is supposed to do it in this one.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

Katrina on the Hudson

Forgotten by FEMA: Staten Island's Sandy Victims vent over lack of aid

Already without power for more than a week in the wake of Sandy, hard-hit residents of the borough's South Shore braved a winter storm Wednesday night, with many -- perhaps hundreds -- huddling in condemned homes and ignoring orders to evacuate out of fear looters would take what little Mother Nature has left them.

"FEMA packed up everything yesterday and left the area," said MaryLou Wong, whose home in the Midland Beach neighborhood was destroyed. "They haven't come back."
One group of residents, calling themselves the "Brown Cross," is patrolling the devastated streets, armed with walkie-talkies, and helping residents clear debris and pump water from their flooded homes.

“We’ve done more for our community than FEMA, the Red Cross and the National Guard combined, directly hitting houses and people in need,” Frank Recce, the 24-year-old longshoreman and Iraq Army veteran who organized the group, told FoxNews.com.
Green and yellow placards signify the home is safe to re-enter, but for homes with red placards, the city advises residents to “hire a New York State-licensed professional (Registered Architect or Professional Engineer) to file plans with the department and a hire a contractor to make the necessary repairs.

Hiring an architect was not on the immediate horizon for residents who were simply trying to survive.

11 days without power, Sandy victims want answers

On Friday LIPA reported 163,029 customers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and the Rockaway Peninsula were still without power. That figure includes thousands who had lost power in this week's nor'easter, many of whom have had service restored. Families, the elderly and the disabled have no heat or electricity.
"It's a nightmare, and I'm just living each minute. We don't know what's gonna happen the next minute," Schwartz said.

Homeowner Richard Feldman called the recovery effort a failure. "There are tens of thousands of people out there, like me, with no home," Feldman said.

Disaster doesn't protect against the bitter cold

Brian Sotelo is a man who finally has reached his breaking point.

Anger drips from every word as he peers at the tops of white tents rising over the trees in the distance. The depth of despair in his eyes is difficult to fathom.
The Seaside Heights, N.J., resident was at a Toms River, N.J., arena with his wife and three kids a half hour before the shelter opened as superstore Sandy approached last week. On Wednesday, Sotelo was part of a contingent shifted to this makeshift tent city in a parking lot across the road from a racetrack about 30 miles north.

"Sitting there last night you could see your breath," Sotelo said. Outside temperatures hovered below freezing, in the upper 20s and low 30s. "At (the arena) the Red Cross made an announcement that they were sending us to permanent structures up here that had just been redone, that had washing machines and hot showers and steady electric, and they sent us to tent city. We got (expletive).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 AM | Permalink

November 5, 2012

Pulling together in Sandy's aftermath and Get up and Go

 Composite Sandy Comingtogether

The Kindness of Strangers:  Pulling together in Sandy's aftermath

A heart-warming collection of photographs and tweets has captured the myriad acts of kindness from the past week, as the hardships of Hurricane Sandy brought devastated communities across the tri-state area together.

From the Mayor of Newark inviting constituents into his home to charge their phones and watch DVDs to an East Village doctor offering free treatments and kids selling cookies to raise money for the relief effort, the stories encapsulate how, in their time of need, people were helping each other.
There have been so many altruistic acts during the storm and its aftermath that a Facebook page called 'Hurricane Sandy Acts of Kindness' has been set up, giving those who received help the opportunity to thank their saviors and share their stories.
One image shows Staten Island resident Emily Ellington on Friday as she handed out one of 40 pizzas to locals devastated by the storm.

Scores of restaurants including The Dutch in Manhattan and Lonestar Taco served up free food to the many residents who were left for five days without power, food or fresh water, tweeting the news to their followers.
Many of those who still had electricity offered up their power plugs so passers by could charge their phones and contact loved ones.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker used Twitter to invite Hurricane Sandy victims to his house to charge their electronics, watch movies, and even get a free lunch, warming the hearts of his constituents.

East Village doctor Dave Ores offered his services to anyone in need of help, posting on his tumblr, 'I'm open today if I can help anyone. Until 6pm Spread the word. Thanks. 189 east 2nd street btw A and B.'

And then there's just plain Get up and Go

Today, my husband witnessed a wondrous act of resourcefulness. A man with a horse trailer hitched to his truck was filling up individual 5 gallon jugs of gas in order to transport them back to New Jersey.

He went out into the wide world of American plenty that lies just beyond disaster. He didn't wait like a hopeless fool in a line of idling cars for gasoline that is rationed by the spoonful. His neighbors hired him because he had a big, gas eating truck, and gave him money and jugs and sent him to Lancaster County to go shopping. He brought back not only gasoline, but food, water, clothing, blankets, batteries, and other things they might need. Those people are heroes, because they used their God-given talents and brains and didn't go crying to the cameras, asking for the government to come and help.

Volunteers Flock to Disaster Areas, Overwhelming City Relief Centers

Surfers with shovels fanned out in the Rockaways in Queens, helping residents clear their homes of mud and sand. An army of cyclists strapped packages of toilet paper to their backs and rode into Belle Harbor, Queens. Children broke open piggy banks, bought batteries and brought them to the parking lot of the Aqueduct Racetrack and Resorts World Casino, where a police inspector and his family set up a donation center for blankets, bottled water and other goods.

Many New Yorkers graced with power and heat in their homes on Sunday found it difficult to sit still as images of homeless and desolate city residents filled their television screens. They streamed into the hardest-hit sections of the city, at times nearly colliding with other would-be volunteers and overwhelming city relief centers.

“It feels like we all had the same impulse: This is my city and I want to do something to help it,” said Esther Pan Sloane, of Roosevelt Island, who drove a carload of supplies from Jackson Heights to a post office on Rockaway Beach where food and clothing were being handed out.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

November 3, 2012


Those of us on  the East Coast  were warned for days about the coming "Frankenstorm" so it is beyond my understanding how FEMA didn't hear about it.

How else can you explain the fact the Federal Emergency Management Agency ran out of water for the storm victims?

In contrast to its stated policy, FEMA failed to have any meaningful supplies of bottled water -- or any other supplies, for that matter -- stored in nearby facilities as it had proclaimed it would on its website. This was the case despite several days advance warning of the impending storm.

Why didn't they stockpile water, food and gasoline ?

FEMA only began to solicit bids for vendors to provide bottled water for distribution to Hurricane Sandy victims on Friday - 4 days after the storm -  for delivery on Monday.

Meanwhile, Nestle Waters donates more than 775,000 bottles of water and looks as it was awarded the FEMA contract for 5 million bottles of water.

 New-York-Magazine-Cover Sandy

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:03 PM | Permalink

November 2, 2012

Generators for Marathons, Not Victims; It's worse than you think

 Nypost Abusepower

Michael Bloomberg Wants People To Run Over The Dead Bodies Of Sandy's Victims

"We're gonna die! We're gonna freeze! We've got 90-year-old people!"-A Staten Island resident who doesn't appreciate how important the NYC Marathon is.

There are no words to describe Michael Bloomberg's decision to allow the NYC Marathon to be run as scheduled this Sunday. If there were they would include, callous, despicable, contemptible and criminal. But those words do not convey the level of stupidity and cruelty involved.

Each year the NYC Marathon starts its five borough tour of the city on Staten Island. Right now Staten Island is a disaster area in every sense of the term. The majority of the deaths in NYC from Sandy happened on Staten Island and vast swaths of the Island (which is essentially a barrier island for Manhattan) are still flooded, homes have been destroyed, people are missing (door to door searches for the dead haven't begun yet) and survivors have been left with out food, water and shelter.

Just yesterday the bodies of two young boys who were ripped from their mother's arms by raging floodwater were discovered.

It's much worse than we knew in NYC.  Outrage In The Powerless Zone: A Dispatch From Downtown Manhattan

I just returned from Manhattan. I ran for 5 hours with stops, covering 12 miles in total, scoping the island from west to east. You will not hear these stories from the Mayor or Governor; these are my observations, informed by discussions with real people who live in lower Manhattan:

1) Virtually every retailer, restaurant and grocery store south of 38th street is CLOSED. This is in an area covering 8 square miles. I only observed a handful of bodegas in Soho and the East Village, along with Ben’s Pizza on W3rd and MacDougal serving customers. Whole Foods Union Square had a sign reading “because there is no electricity, we cannot open.” There is no food, other than what you have in your refrigerator.

2) To that point, there are close to 400,000 people living below 38th street without power. The mayor earlier said it could be 3 days without power; some Con Ed guys I spoke with in the East Village think it could be longer. Nobody knows.
4) For now, this is an economic crisis - hourly workers cannot be paid, freelancers have no clients, small businesses have no sales, office buildings are shuttered. In my estimate, the lost output is $1 billion dollars EVERY SINGLE DAY that goes by without power for lower Manhattan. Included in this number is the shutdown of our major airports and transportation system. (Note that NYC’s economy generates $2.8 bn daily and over $1 trillion annually - which makes it the world’s 17th largest economy, if it was a country).

5) There is no running water or flushing toilets for people living in the Jacob Riis Houses and surrounding NYCHA buildings on the Lower East Side. In my estimate, this is roughly 20,000 people. One family I spoke with is packing their bags and moving to Brooklyn until services are restored. But it did not appear that all residents were evacuating, even as their toilets did not flush.

6) I did not witness a single Red Cross Truck or FEMA Vehicle or in lower Manhattan. Recall the assistance these agencies provided after 9/11 - this is NOT HAPPENING. There are bound to be hundreds of elderly people, rich and poor, who live on the upper floors of buildings with elevators that are now disabled. IF POWER IS NOT RESTORED, THIS WILL MOVE FROM BEING AN ECONOMIC DISASTER TO A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER.

7) If you think Chinatown normally has an unpleasant odor, imagine what it smells like 24 hours following no refrigeration. Street vendors were trying to unload perishables at bargain prices. I saw a fish weighing roughly 20 pounds and spanning 3 feet from head to tail go to a buyer for $1 dollar. $1 dollar!!!!!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2012

Superstorm Sandy

I have been at a loss of words as I try to process the enormous amount of destruction that Hurricane Sandy wrought.  I've found that the Daily Mail has been the best for coverage and photos though I am laid low by some of the stories.  It is impossible to imagine the devastation brought to so many lives.

Mother whose two boys were swept out of her arms in superstore was left screaming on street for 12 hours by neighbors who refused to help her

Police find bodies of Glenda Moore's sons Connor, 4, and Brandon, 2.

'Even momma got outta house to loot new shirt': Looters brag on Twitter

The tragic faces of Sandy's young victims.

• Off-duty NYPD officer Artur Kasprzak drowned saving seven family members, including 15-month-old son .
• Two friends in Brooklyn, Jessie Streich-Kest, 24, and Jacob Vogelman, 23, struck by tree while walking their dog - but bodies were not discovered until next day.
• Two-year-old and four-year-old feared dead after mother's SUV flipped, while at least three children killed by falling trees.
• Elderly residents also succumbed to storm's strength including Herminia St John, 75, who died when her respirator stopped during power cut.
• Lauren Abraham, 23, was electrocuted by a downed power cable having gone out to take photographs.
• Tony Laino, 29, was killed in his bed when a tree crashed through his house.
• Richard Everett, 54, and his wife Elizabeth killed in their car by falling tree in Mendham, New Jersey as their children looked on.

On Staten Island, Where is the Red Cross?

Whenever there’s a drive in Staten Island, we give openly and honestly. Where are they? Where are they? I was at the South Shore yesterday, people were buried in their homes. There the dogs are trying to find bodies. The people there, the neighbors who had no electricity, were making soup. Making soup. It’s very emotional because the lack of a response. The lack of a response. They’re supposed to be here….They should be on the front lines fighting, and helping the people.”
We’re talking about getting water of the tunnel. Let’s get the water out of the tunnel tomorrow, let’s get the people out of the water today. There’ve been thousands of people who have been displaced. There are people who are cold, who are hungry, who are without a place to go, and looking for warmth. There are people still trapped. Yet we’re talking about marathons and tunnels. I walked on the rooftop of a house yesterday, I stepped on it because the debris that surrounded it was level with the rooftop. That’s what happened here on Staten Island.”

I leave it to Walter Russell Mead in Nature and Nature's God

While the lights went out across Manhattan tonight, and the city that calls itself the capital of the world was cut off from the mainland as flood waters thundered through its streets, many people around the world watched the spectacle and were reminded just how fragile the busy world we humans build around us really is.
Into this busy, self involved world Hurricane Sandy has burst. Sharks have been photographed (or at least photo shopped) swimming in the streets of New Jersey towns; waves sweep across the Lower East Side; transformers explode on both sides of the Hudson as salt water surges into the tunnels and subways. For a little while at least, New Yorkers are reminded that we live in a world shaped by forces that are bigger than we are…
The strongest walls, the sturdiest retirement plans stuffed with stocks and CDs, the best doctors cannot protect us from that final encounter with the force that made and will someday unmake us.  Coming to terms with that reality is the most important thing that any of us can do. A storm like this one is an opportunity to do exactly that. It reminds us that what we like to call ‘normal life’ is fragile and must someday break apart. If we are wise, we will take advantage of this smaller, passing storm to think seriously about the greater storm that is coming for us all.
That is something we all need to do. It involves a recognition of our helplessness and insufficiency before the mysteries and limits of life. Like the First Step in the Twelve Step programs, it begins with an acknowledgment of failure and defeat. We each try to build a self-sufficient world, a sturdy little life that is proof against storms and disasters — but none of us can really get that done.  Strangely, that admission of weakness opens the door to a new kind of strength. To acknowledge and accept weakness is to ground our lives more firmly in truth, and it turns out that to be grounded in reality is to become more able and more alive. Denial is hard work; those who try to stifle their awareness of the limits of human life and ambition in the busy rounds of daily life never reach their full potential.
To open your eyes to the fragility of life and to our dependence on that which is infinitely greater than ourselves is to enter more deeply into life. To come to terms with the radical insecurity in which we all live is to find a different and more reliable kind of security. The joys and occupations of ordinary life aren’t all there is to existence, but neither are the great and all-destroying storms. There is a calm beyond the storm, and the same force that sends these storms into our lives offers a peace and security that no storm can destroy. As another one of the psalms puts it, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Accepting your limits and your dependence on things you can’t control is the first step on the road toward finding that joy.

Mead again on the Perils of Nanny State Governance

The New York Times notes that scientists and flood experts have been warning about the risks of flooding in New York for years and have suggested everything from levees to floodgates in New York Harbor to minimize potential damage. Yet neither the city nor the state government has taken serious steps to act on these suggestions:
The problem with nanny state governance isn’t just that it’s intrusive. It isn’t just that it stifles business with over-regulation, and it isn’t just that it empowers busybodies and costs money. It’s that it distracts government from the really big jobs that it ought to be doing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:26 PM | Permalink

March 5, 2012

Disaster Junkies

I had never heard of disaster junkies before this report.  How wonderful that they exist and do such good work.

'Disaster junkies' are reconstructing America's backbone during highest reported wave of natural disasters.

Taking a break from laying sod in a tornado-torn neighborhood, volunteer David Elliott cocked his head to the left. He was trying to remember all the trips he's made to help rebuild after disasters.

Elliott went to New Orleans seven times after Hurricane Katrina swamped the city in 2005, or was it eight? He was in Nashville, Tenn., after floodwaters inundated the city in 2010.

He's been to Alabama three times since tornadoes killed about 250 people statewide in April. Wait: that was just last year?

'I've lost track,' said Elliott, of Sacramento, Calif..
Rebuilding after storms is becoming a growth industry as the United States is slammed by more natural disasters, and leaders of the response efforts say the nation's recovery network functions as well as it does because of a backbone of volunteers nicknamed 'disaster junkies.'

The small group of people like Elliott travel from tragedy to tragedy shoveling mud out of flooded houses and rebuilding neighborhoods laid waste by busted levees, tornadoes and wildfires. Often, they bring more helpers with them.
No one knows exactly how many disaster junkies are active in the United States, but the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster says a core group of around 300 people travel the country at least six months out of each year performing such work.
Based in Arlington, Va., the nonprofit group estimates several thousand more people are like Elliott and make several trips each year helping out after disasters.

Often associated with churches or other religious groups and traveling at their own expense, these volunteers sleep in churches or mobile homes and frequently eat food provided by other volunteers.

While volunteers and others provided labor worth some $147 million and donated another $200 million toward relief aid in 2008, the last year for which figures are available, some recovery projects still can't get off the ground because of the sheer number of disasters that struck the country in recent months, said James McGowan, associate executive director with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
Thousands of people volunteer regularly without approaching 'junkie' status. The American Red Cross, which is part of McGowan's organization, said 24,236 of its volunteers helped out after 137 disasters in 46 states last year, but most went to only one or two sites.
The devastation of Katrina compelled Julie Davis to help more than six years ago, and she and her husband Ken have been repeat volunteers ever since. They once were 'snowbirds,' or retirees who visited the South in search of warm weather each year, but now they spend weeks at a time each winter performing volunteer work in disaster-torn areas like Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Chatting with displaced homeowner Deloris Mack as her husband worked on the woman's rebuilt house, Davis said volunteering is addictive.

'We are definitely junkies because you get it in your blood and just can't quit,' said Davis, of Girard, Penn. '(It's) just the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping someone, that they aren't expecting anything and you just come up.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:26 AM | Permalink

January 17, 2012

Captain Coward

 Capt Francesco Schettino
Francesco Schettino, Captain of the Costa Concordia

Stricken cruise liner captain DID abandon ship 'half an hour before passengers' AND refused to go back when ordered

Francesco Schettino to appear before judge today on charges of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship.  He ignored orders from the Italian coastguard to return to his ship and the hundreds of passengers he abandoned to fend for themselves.

Officials say that during those chaotic minutes, the bungling skipper had tried to palm them off and minimise the dangerous situation it was facing - and that it was his juniors who realised the impending disaster and ordered passengers and crew to the lifeboats.

From a translation of the phone communications between the coast guard and the captain  

Coast Guard: "Tell me the reason why you are not going back on board."

Schettino: "There is another life boat ... "

Coast Guard: "You go back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the 'abandon ship.' Now I am giving the orders. Go back on board. Is that clear? Don't you hear me?"

The captain did not go back and that is why he is now  the most hated man in Italy and dubbed "Captain Coward"

Facebook anger at skipper of doomed cruise liner who 'abandoned ship hours before passengers'

Thousands have taken to the web to vent their fury at the so-called ‘Captain Coward’, who is now claimed to have ‘skimmed’ past the Tuscan isle of Giglio not just to salute a retired officer but also to impress his head waiter’s family on shore.

Many scorned his decision not to remain with his stricken ship.

Even with the order to abandon ship, many of the crew were also cowardly.  One survivor reported

that men pushed past children who were screaming 'I don't want to die' as the young and elderly were 'abandoned by the crew'.

What others said about  the Cowardly crew on cruise

“No one was giving directions, saying older people and kids should get into the boats first,’’ said Karen Camacho, of Homestead, Fla.

“Instead of letting passengers get into lifeboats, the crew went in first and [was] saying not to let [passengers] in,’’ she told USA Today.

Some compared the wreck to the Titantic, but in that disaster when people realized there were not enough lifeboats, men willingly gave up the chance to save their lives so that women and children could be saved first.  By so doing, they proved themselves to be real men.  The natural duty and responsibility of men is to protect life, especially women and children,  and if necessary give up their lives to do so.    Children have a long life ahead of them; women can create new life.  And that is why they are naturally given preference and rescued first.  More life is rescued if women and children are rescued first. 

I would even say this is true in all cultures and is probably hard-wired into our human nature.  Fathers and mothers naturally would sacrifice themselves to save their children.  Men who flee disaster to save their own skins and abandon women and children are cowards.  They fail to achieve humanness. And for that reason, they are shamed.

Cicero said long ago, Courage is the first virtue enabling all others. 

'My husband gave me his lifejacket as we jumped off sinking cruise ship... I never saw him again,' says French survivor

A Costa Concordia survivor has told how her husband saved her life before drowning - because there was 'nobody there' to save him.

Frenchwoman Nicole Servel, 61, said Francis Servel, 71, gave her his lifejacket before they leapt off the sinking cruise ship.
She said: 'I owe my life to my husband – it’s obvious he saved me.' She managed to swim for shore, while Mr Servel was swept underwater and drowned.'

Captain Coward is in court today

Schettino, who faces up to 12 years in jail for manslaughter, will appear in court today after his company chiefs accused him of an ‘unauthorised and unapproved’ decision to sail so close to the eastern side of the island of Giglio.

The £400million liner, with 4,200 passengers and crew, was sailing just 300 yards from the island’s rocky coast when it should have been at least four miles out to sea. It came to grief on Friday night after sustaining a 160ft gash in the port-side hull.

After swiftly escaping from the listing liner, Schettino – the Concordia’s skipper for six years – was arrested along with first officer Ciro Ambrosio.

The captain was spotted wrapped in a blanket on his way to the shore at around 11.30pm – more than four hours before the evacuation of the vessel was completed - and breaking the maritime tradition of remaining with his ship.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink

November 9, 2011

Don't get stuck on stupid

Are you smart enough to know you are stupid?

David Dunning, for whom the “Dunning-Kruger effect” is known, claims that we are simply not very good at knowing that we don’t know things.
What makes people “stupid” is often a matter of what we don’t know and of what we assume to actually know. 

There is willful stupidity, crowd stupidity and media-induced stupidity.

Laurence Gonzales, a journalist and student of clinical psychology, notes the difference between those who survive and those who die in a time of crisis: "Survivors are often those who think deliberately under pressure, while deliberation is what helps people avoid stupid mistakes."

We often follow a mental script when facing harrowing or unfamiliar situations. How have others acted in the past? What do our instincts tell us? People say to follow your gut, so instincts should be the way to go, right? Probably not.
Realistically considering and addressing the situation is the real life-saver here; although routines and scripts are useful for everyday tasks like getting dressed and negotiating public transportation, more complicated situations call for more serious thinking. Deliberation, paying attention, and using common sense can make all the difference between a stupid person and a smart one—and between a dead person and a live one.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

September 23, 2011

Mega-Mega Death

The toll of  humans killed by China over the course of its one-child policy now dwarfs the number killed  by Stalin 20 million , the number killed in World War II 66 million and the number killed by Mao Tse Tung 40 million.

China's One Child Policy Toll Reaches 400 Million

During a meeting yesterday with members of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Huelskamp asked Gao Qiang, who served for two years as the Party Secretary for the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China, about the country’s population control policy.

Through an interpreter, Party Secretary Gao responded that the population of China is 400 million less than it would have been had the Party not adopted and enforced a one-child policy. He went on to say that China had prevented more births than the population of the United States, which currently stands at 312 million.

But it also reveals a fundamental disconnect with the demographic reality that they themselves have created, namely, a rapidly aging population that is disproportionately male. Thanks to family planning run amuck, China is a country where unborn baby girls are selectively aborted, where young men cannot find brides and where young women are trafficked across borders to meet this demand.

According to advance testimony, today The House Subcommittee on Health and Human Rights will hear of Explosive new evidence of torture, murder and pillage related to China's brutal one-child policy.

I’ve received an advance copy of the testimony to be given by Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, and it is heartbreaking and infuriating. How can China be getting away with this as the world stands by?

Littlejohn’s report, which includes photos, contains 13 new documented cases of “family planning” coercion, including the forced abortion of 8-1/2 month old twins; Family Planning Police; Family Planning jail cells; the demolition of homes (even by relatives, for missing a pregnancy check); the use of “implication” (detention, torture and fining of relatives of “violators”); a couple brutally tortured for missing a pregnancy check by one day; a man whose head was smashed and who is now permanently disabled because his wife had a second child; and a father who was beaten to death because his son was suspected of having a second child.

Last month in China, Vice President Biden said

Your policy has been one which I fully understand – I’m not second-guessing – of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people.  Not sustainable.

They would have had enough people if they hadn't killed all the babies.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

September 11, 2011

The spiritual impact of 9/11

 Wtccross Rubble

The Meaning of the Cross at Ground Zero by Father Brian Jordan who celebrated most of the Sunday Masses at Ground Zero.

I must say this: "We saw evil at its worst and goodness at its best."
Christmas Eve was the coldest night recorded during the 10-month recovery period at Ground Zero. Nevertheless, more than 150 worshippers came for midnight Mass. We sang Christmas carols and prayed for all who died on 9/11. One hour before the Mass, a firefighter's body was recovered, and I joined the Honor Guard from the pit to the top road to accompany the body to be transported by a FDNY fire truck. The Honor Guard participated in the Mass as tears streamed from their eyes in memory of their fallen brothers.

One of the most powerful Masses I ever experienced was not planned or even anticipated. Sunday, May 12, was Mother's Day, and we expected a great number of mothers who lost loved ones on 9/11 — husbands, children, siblings, etc. to participate in the Mass. During the homily, unexpectedly, two units of U.S. Special Forces soldiers joined in the Mass.  One unit just came back from a tour in Afghanistan; the other was about to be dispatched there. During the sign of peace, I asked all the mothers to first embrace those coming back from their first experience of war and then the second unit who would experience war for the first time due to 9/11.

 Cross Firefighters

New York's Cardinal Egan remembers 9/11 very well

The first person to appear on a gurney was a woman who had died and was completely burned. I anointed her from head to toe.
Standing with me were two doctors. One was trembling and weeping. I went over to him and asked what was wrong. He told me, “My father was on one of the highest floors of the tower.” I asked him if he’d like to sit down and have a cup of coffee.
He said, “No, Your Eminence, I am a doctor, and this is my place.”

Soon after, I told Pope John Paul II about that young man. He asked me, “Has he finished his education?” I said he still faced years of training. The Holy Father asked whether the doctor would have to cover the costs himself, and I said, “Yes.” The Pope said he would like to help him. Later on, Cardinal [Leonardo] Sandri, prefect for the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, delivered a check to the young man.
President [George W.] Bush visited Ground Zero and from the stage shouted down to me to say an opening prayer. I shouted my prayer in the sky. Afterwards, the president said, “Isn’t it a shame we don’t always pray with that intensity?”

There were many funerals in the wake of the attacks. There were two or three funerals a day. They were for firefighters, police and emergency workers. The mayor went to almost every one. He was outstanding and gave great leadership. The same was true for those who worked with him. At one Mass, there was a woman, the widow of the deceased. She was pregnant and had a baby in her arms. Her sons were serving at the altar. You would have to be a stone not to be touched.
It was a time of great tragedy, but also of great heroes. New York and the world saw examples of self-sacrifice that I don’t think have ever been matched in our time. People worked around the clock, with dust and sand from above or below. No one was thinking about themselves. Police officers, firefighters, emergency workers poured themselves out for others. You couldn’t help but be inspired by that. We saw heroism and self-sacrifice — expressions of great holiness.

Brian Williams, the anchorman and a friend for many years, asked me, “What has been the spiritual impact of the attacks?

It had an amazing effect.

 Wtccross Memorial

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

June 2, 2011

"You never know that it will be the most important day of your life until the day is over. "

This personal account is the best description I have read of what it was like during the Joplin tornado

45 Seconds: Memoirs of an ER Doctor on duty during the Joplin tornadoes

My name is Dr. Kevin Kikta, and I was one of two emergency room doctors who were on duty at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, MO on Sunday, May 22, 2011.

You never know that it will be the most important day of your life until the day is over.  The day started like any other day for me: waking up, eating, going to the gym, showering, and going to my 4:00 pm ER shift.
The whole process took about 45 seconds, but seemed like eternity. The hospital had just taken a direct hit from a category EF5 tornado.

Then it was over.  Just 45 seconds.  45 long seconds.  We looked at each other, terrified, and thanked God that we were alive.  We didn’t know, but hoped that it was safe enough to go back out to the ED, find the rest of the staff and patients, and assess our losses.

“Like a bomb went off. ”  That’s the only way that I can describe what we saw next.

He goes on with the help of those who came to volunteer and help,

Tragedy has a way of revealing human goodness.  As I worked, surrounded by devastation and suffering, I realized I was not alone.  The people of the community of Joplin were absolutely incredible.  Within minutes of the horrific event, local residents showed up in pickups and sport utility vehicles, all offering to help transport the wounded to other facilities, including Freeman, the trauma center literally across the street.  Ironically, it had sustained only minimal damage and was functioning (although I’m sure overwhelmed).  I carried on, grateful for the help of the community.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 AM | Permalink

March 25, 2011

Roundup Japan - “I could cry. We’re truly grateful, America!”

Japan crisis: 'There’s no food, tell people there is no food’ Japan’s survivors scavenge for food in aftermath of tsunami

I have a place in a rescue centre in the Aka’i Elementary School, but the food they are giving us is not enough,” Mr Takahashi says. “My parents are in their 70s and we receive a tiny bowl of plain rice twice a day, with nothing else, just a pinch of salt. We are hungry, so have come to look for food.”

Mr Takahashi is not alone. Over his shoulder, a small legion of “tramps”, their feet wrapped in plastic bags, can be seen trawling the muddy aisles of a smashed-up supermarket, hoping to find other edible treasures that might supplement rescue centre rations.

A nation bears the unbearable, Aftershocks in The New Yorker.

On a hilltop overlooking the ruined city of Rikuzentakata, Jimbo met a semi-retired man in his sixties, who had heard the tsunami siren and packed his mother and dog into his truck and driven two miles inland, the waves churning in his rearview mirror. “He lost his house, and it’s not covered by insurance,” Jimbo said. “His family, fortunately, survived. I said, ‘What will you do next?’ He said he would like to think there will be some assistance from the local government. But all he could think was: The city-assembly office is gone. The mayor could be dead. The only thing he can turn to is the government. But his local government is gone.”

For all the tragedies––immediate and myriad on the day of the quake—and the looming sense of nuclear dread that persisted, it was remarkable to observe firsthand, and through the Japanese media, the almost complete sense of national coöperation and purpose: little observable looting or undue panic, and almost no acts of political exploitatio

Have you heard about Operation Tomodachi?

It's been a few weeks since Japan was devastated by a 9 point earthquake and huge tidal wave, and the recovery process has been difficult. Radiation fears still plague the country, and the count of the dead still is not complete. Through it all, the US military has been working hard to help the stricken country, particularly its eastern coast.

The USS Ronald Reagan has been a major player in this effort, showcasing again the value and versatility of aircraft carriers around the world. Packed with tons of supplies, aircraft carriers can help an area like nothing else can, essentially floating a fully functional city to the location to lend aid.

Notoriously anti-American and often foul and obscene internet site 2Chan in Japan was moved, here are some comments:

“As expected of our friends!”

“They seriously look too cool! USA!! USA!! USA!! USA!!”

“I could cry. We’re truly grateful, America!”

“Sorry we were so hard-hearted. It seems America was our only friend after all.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2011

A Real Hero in Japan

A remarkable man is Hideaki Akaiwa and his rescue of his wife and mother will go down in the annals of history as an example of remarkable courage and determination.

For one quake survivor,  self help in the face of seeming helplessness

Hideaki Akaiwa, in Miyagi prefecture, has decided not to wait for rescue workers. With a scuba suit on, he waded through flooded streets to rescue his wife, and later his mother. He continues to look for more survivors.

Most of the dozens of tsunami-battered towns along Japan's northeastern coast remain mired in mud, but the situation in Ishinomaki is a bit different. Nearly a week after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the city of 162,000, large portions remain underwater, an instant lake clearly visible on NASA satellite photographs.

Amid the aqueous landscape looms Hideaki Akaiwa, 43, in full battle gear.

-Hideaki Akaiwa

The best account that I've read is at Badass of the Week (warning strong language)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 PM | Permalink

March 17, 2011

Subsidiarity : more survivable, more adaptable and more sustainable in times of disconnection

You never know what you had until you've lost it all. 

We're closer to the knife's edge than we realize because of The Fragility of Complex Societies.

There is no more ordered, successful and humane urban society than found in Japan. Like most Americans, these last few days I have been moved as never before by the courage and calm of the Japanese people amid such horrific conditions, as one of the most sophisticated and complex urbanized cultures on the planet in a split second is nearly paralyzed.
While a disaster comparable to Tokyo is certainly possible here in California, Americans are by nature less prone to rely on centrally provided resources, and are still uneasy with high urban densities.
We forget that the suburbanite — ranch house, three cars in the garage, and distance from the urban center — is not just an energy waster in comparison with his Euro apartment-dwelling, single Smart-car-driving, train-commuting counterpart, but a far more independent-minded, free, and self-reliant citizen as well. Again, I hope our technological future is not in grand mass transit projects thought up and operated by a huge federal government, but in cleaner, more fuel-efficient, private cars; not in massive power plants, but smaller, more dispersed local generators, be they powered by nuclear, solar, wind, or fossil fuels; and not in vast agricultural hydraulic regimes, but in family-operated, more intensively worked farms that are the anchors of rural communities — as idealistic and naive as that may sound.

           Japanese Aroundcampfire

Desperate families left to forage for scraps in the snow in world's third richest country

Homeless, desperate people clambered over snow-covered debris where their villages had once stood, gathering armloads of firewood as Japan's humanitarian crisis escalated yesterday.

In scenes more befitting a poverty-stricken Third World country than the world's third-richest nation, hungry people wrapped themselves in odd scraps of clothing in a futile attempt to keep out the cold in temperatures only just above freezing.

They foraged for food, crying out with delight when they found an undamaged can of food here, a still-edible packet of noodles there.

They carried their pickings back to refugee centres, set up in buildings which survived the dual assault of earthquake and tsunami on the north east coast of Honshu island, where women had joined together to add the findings to pots of boiled rice.

Richard Fernandez What could go wrong?

But catastrophe has a way of killing ants in ant-heaps more easily than when they are spread out over the ground. Then all the supposed disadvantages of unsophisticated America vis a vis “planned systems” become reversed for two reasons.  The first is that subsidiarity — the ability to addresses some needs at an individual or local level — is more survivable than centralized systems. Dispersed housing,  individual transportation, armed citizens and a tradition of community stop becoming “urban sprawl”, “wasteful driving”, “gun-toting” and “bigotry” and become objects of envy to helpless people cowering in their high rise, foodless apartments. Subsidiary forms of social organization are sustainable at greater levels of national disconnection. They can work, if need be, by themselves.  It is an argument which Leo Linbeck III has been making about governance and health-care, but that is another story.

The second reason is that subsidiary systems are more adaptable.  Complex societies are often locked into their adaptation. They can function only when enabled by a larger system. An Ipod is just a paperweight without a network and a power source.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2011

Tears and prayers for the Japanese

-Japanese Woman Tears
A woman reacts to the news of the death of a loved one as thousands flee in an Exodus from a nuclear nightmare.

‘I can’t believe them now. Not at all  We can see the damage to our houses, but radiation? We have no idea what is happening. I am so scared.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:48 AM | Permalink

March 15, 2011

Solidarity within Japan and with the Japanese

At first I didn't write about Japan because the enormity of the earthquake and tsunami was so stunning, then,  I  couldn't write as I was lost in imagining the terror being experienced by so many people and the horror of so many lives lost, whole towns disappeared.    What could I do but pray for the suffering Japanese?

Yet, who could fail to notice how well-prepared for earthquakes the nation was with stringent building codes that no doubt saved many thousands of lives.    You can see the character of people in a disaster.  And what I have seen in Japan as only increased my admiration for the Japanese people. The world is beginning to notice that there is no looting in Japan

And solidarity seems especially strong in Japan itself. Perhaps even more impressive than Japan’s technological power is its social strength, with supermarkets cutting prices and vending machine owners giving out free drinks as people work together to survive. Most noticeably of all, there has been no looting,

Japan's Saving Grace Its People

But it's that very element of this disaster that shows that the most important aspect of the Japanese isn't their brilliance or their wealth, but their character. 

They showed dignity and courage against nature's hardest blow, pulling together as a nation. The unaffected reached out to help, and victims refrained from mayhem and looting.

Little things tell stories: Store owners gave away bottled water and citizens lined up patiently and peacefully instead of fighting for advantage. Citizens shared their gasoline rations with the needy.
Japan may be dealing with an unimaginable disaster, but its people aren't acting as if they have lost hope.

That is one thing nature cannot mock. Japan's response can only be praised for that.

I will not write about the impending nuclear disaster because it's clear I don't know anything, neither does much of the media.  I don't want to engage in disaster porn, nor do I want to engage in fear-filled, apocalyptic imaginings.

I am confident the Japanese will rebuild bigger and better.

Throughout the history of Japan, its wooden cities have been destroyed again and again by war, fire and earthquake. In the civil war of the 1860s, culminating in the Meiji Restoration, the north of the country, which has suffered the brunt of the earthquake, was virtually flattened. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 reduced Tokyo to a sea of ash and rubble, and in the Second World War, American firebombing flattened the entire country, sparing only the cultural capital of Kyoto. Then came the Kobe earthquake of 1995.
Each time, the Japanese have rebuilt, bigger and better. One hopes and expects that they will do the same again.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 PM | Permalink

October 16, 2010

Viva Chile

To watch these men each enter the capsule Phoenix and then be tugged slowly to the sky and there released embrace family and officials whose efforts made their new lives possible was one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen on television.

I'm with Peggy Noonan who writes Viva Chile!  They Left No Man Behind

the saving of those men gave us something we don't see enough, a brilliant example of human excellence—of cohesion, of united and committed action, of planning and execution, of caring. They used the human brain and spirit to save life. All we get all day every day is scandal. But this inspired.

Viva Chile. They left no man behind.That is what our U.S. Army Rangers say, and our Marines: We leave no man behind. It has a meaning, this military motto, this way of operating. It means you are not alone, you are part of something. Your brothers are with you, here they come. Chile, in leaving no man behind, in insisting that the San José mine was a disaster area but not a tomb, showed itself to be a huge example of that little thing that is at the core of every society: a fully functioning family. A cohering unit that can make its way through the world.
So many nations and leaders have grown gifted at talk. .... But Chile this week moved the world not by talking but by doing, not by mouthing sympathy for the miners, but by saving them. The whole country—the engineers and technicians, the president, the government, the rescue workers, other miners, medics—set itself to doing something hard, specific, physical, demanding of commitment, precision and expertise. And they did it.

For two weeks they were entombed deep in the earth and no one knew they were alive.  They had almost no food and no water.    What kept them from descending even further into despair?    I can only think it was their strong faith.  Growing up in a strongly Christian culture gave them the resources that enabled them to survive a disastrous, hellish situation in such a splendid manner. 

It was surely praying at their 'makeshift shrine' that kept the Chilean miners sane.

What nobody has done so far – that I have seen (I may be wrong of course, there has been vast international coverage of this story) – is to give a convincing account of what it is that has kept the men sane and united and undespairing, what has sustained their hope of deliverance from this truly appalling ordeal. And I have no doubt at all that it was their religion and that that there weren’t that many Adventists or Evangelicals down there.

Consider the following CNA report from Santiago, which appeared on August 27: “The 33 miners trapped in the San Jose mine in Atacama, Chile, have requested that statues and religious pictures be sent down to them as they wait to be rescued… Chilean officials say the rescue could take months but that they hope to reach the miners by Christmas… A small passageway has already been put in place so messages and supplies can be sent to the trapped miners.

“Although a crucifix has already been sent down, the miners are continuing to request more statues of Mary and the saints… to construct a makeshift chapel. ‘The miners want to set up a section of the chamber they are in as a shrine,

"God won" writes Deacon Greg

Aren't we supposed to be unfazed by this sort of thing?

Aren't we supposed to shrug it all off, attribute it to science and engineering and the sheer grit of the human psyche? 

Isn't it supposed to have more to do with willpower than wonder? We live in a post-Christian world now, don't we?  To paraphrase Tina Turner: what's God got to do with it?

Well, it seems, everything.

We sit here in our living rooms and offices, sipping coffee and checking e-mails, and hour after hour, another one emerges, up a long dark hole, to a shaft of daylight, and there are cheers and tears -- and then something more.  Something that moves even the most hardened heart.  The world is blinking back tears as we see it, again and again.  One man, breathing his first fresh air in months, falls to his knees and prays. Another makes the sign of the cross. And in the media-saturated aftermath, one of the miners is interviewed on camera, still wearing his dark glasses, still numbed by it all, and he puts it in terms we can all understand. It sounds so simple -- to some, I'm sure, simplistic -- but it all makes perfect sense.

"I've been near God, but I've also been near the devil," he says through a translator. "God won."


Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:30 AM | Permalink

October 8, 2010

Trauma Surgeon

It's astonishing to contemplate how much we depend on people we do not know.  Trauma surgeons  are a good example.    Imagine working 100 hours a week for 20 years in the midst of "blood, guts, death and chaos" with such responsibility for the lives of so many people.

A night in a Detroit trauma ward

My old friend from journalism school Charlie LeDuff, who writes for the Detroit News, spent the night hanging around one of the city hospital's trauma wards. His host was chief surgeon Dr. Pat Patton, 46. Among patients with stab and gunshot wounds, Charlie gains some insight into the consequences of a crap economy, health insurance, and a routine evening for a surgeon who has regularly worked 100 hours per week in the ward... for the last twenty years.

From the
Detroit News
The trauma surgeon — perhaps the most knowledgeable about the workings of the entire human body — is considered something of a butcher among the cutting class: a brute who is the jack of all trades, the master of none. A general surgeon like Patton may not understand the intricacies of neurosurgery, but he is able to cobble together the shattered pieces of a gunshot victim in a late-night marathon of surgery.

Patton’s most important tool appears to be his right index finger. That digit acts as his probe, his periscope, his divining rod, his cork. He can remember on more than one occasion saving the life of a gunshot victim who arrived at the hospital in the back of a sedan. He simply plugged the hole with his finger.

Hats off for Dr. Patton. 

 Dr. Patton Traumasurgeon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2010

The immediate aftermath of 9/11

I was quite effected on the 9th anniversary of 9/11 in particular by this article by Vincent Druding, Ground Zero: A Journal, originally published in the December 2001 edition of First Things which captures better than anything else I've read the aftermath of the first few days and  the self-organizing community of hundreds of people from across the country hard at work to recover bodies.

When the President finally grabbed a bullhorn and began to speak, it was hard to hear him at first. When someone in the crowd shouted, “We can’t hear you!” the president proclaimed loudly, “But I can hear you! And the rest of the country hears you! And soon, the people who did this . . . are going to hear from all of us!” At that moment, a shot of electricity surged through the crowd. Cheers erupted and echoed off the surrounding buildings, each draped with a tattered American flag. “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” It went on and on.

Then—at the corner of West and Vesey streets in New York City, on the edge of a mass grave, at the feet of the commander-in-chief of the world’s mightiest nation—I was overwhelmed with an unexpected sense of fraternity and love of country. Not fifty feet away lay the remains of five thousand innocent people, and here, at their side, a band of their brothers stood before their leader, united in an unconditional love of justice. I really do think that is what it was.

One night at 2 a.m. I was on my way through the rain to pick up supplies in the AMEX building, which, among other things, was being used as a transfer station for the bodies and parts of bodies we had recovered from the site. From there, they were packed onto trucks to be taken to the morgue at Bellevue Hospital. As I entered the atrium of the building I saw scores of workers holding their hard hats over their chests. Fifty yards away a dozen firefighters proceeded slowly in my direction carrying a body bag. I removed my hard hat and stepped to the side. As they approached, I could read their red, swollen eyes. Their uniforms were dark with mud and soot. Raindrops dripped from everyone’s gear. A priest wearing a raincoat, a hard hat, goggles, a respirator, and a headlamp came forward with a book and oils. The men carrying their fallen friend cried quietly as the priest rolled back the bag and anointed the body, administering Last Rites. In the atrium, heads bowed and no one moved. I don’t remember how long we stood there, but time seemed to stop as profane space became as sacred as a shrine. Eventually, the priest stepped away, and the firemen walked slowly forward, out the doors and into the truck waiting outside. Without a word, we went back out into the dark rain to work.

Also, Victor Davis Hanson, What Made Them Do Their Duty?, from the Autumn 2001 edition of City Journal who reminds us that 30,000 were saved because of the bravery of the firefighters.

So many of them disappeared—at least 388 firefighters—because in a heartbeat they chose to race into the flames and smoke rather than to hesitate and accept the obvious: that the towers were already death traps. In the tradition of all great American armies in battle, officers—47 lieutenants, 20 captains, and 21 chiefs—died alongside the rank and file, heroic death requiring no prerequisite of class or color. Indeed, the magnitude of the terrorist-inflicted disaster rivaled that of a fierce battle, where the enemy overruns and annihilates an entire military unit—paramedics, a fire marshal, even the fire department's chaplain were engulfed. Remarkably, moments after the buildings collapsed, there were even more rescue workers on the scene than before. It is human to flee from a place of death; the firemen and the police were almost inhuman in mounting so quickly the rubble that buried their brethren.

As terrible as their loss was, however, we must never forget how successful the rescuers actually were. Nearly 30,000 people escaped before the towers fell, in large part because the omnipresent cops and firefighters made sure that their own sense of calm and order guided the evacuation. Some of the saved made it out just seconds before thousands of tons buried their saviors on stairs and in hallways.
The existence of these virtuous men and women, however, also owes much to the universal genius of American—Western—civilization. We are seeing in this tragedy and in these firemen and police, alive and dead, the flesh and bones of our entire culture laid bare: what it means to be both American and Western at the moment of our peril and need.
The rescuers are also free men and women, exhibiting all the associational skills that have made civil society so vibrant in Western history. The rescue workers do not first look to central government authority before plunging into their daily toil. Ingenuity, improvisation, and spontaneity are everywhere—the wonderful fruits of a free society. In addition, the police who ring the site owe allegiance to civilians and elected officials, not self-proclaimed authorities who hang and hector as they see fit
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

June 29, 2010

"Thanks but no thanks"

Read it and weep.  The Avertible Catastrophe

Some are attuned to the possibility of looming catastrophe and know how to head it off. Others are unprepared for risk and even unable to get their priorities straight when risk turns to reality.

The Dutch fall into the first group.  Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway....
To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn't capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana's marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks.
The U.S. government responded with "Thanks but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer --the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment --unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 AM | Permalink

June 23, 2010

Incompetence in clean-up

Does it seem to you that the Administration doesn't want to encourage in any way the clean-up of oil in the Gulf

Louisiana was constructing sand berms to protect its coastline from the encroaching oil

Federal government Halts Sand Berm construction

The federal government is shutting down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The berms are meant to protect the Louisiana coastline from oil. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has concerns about where the dredging is being done.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who was one of the most vocal advocates of the dredging plan, has sent a letter to President Barack Obama, pleading for the work to continue.

Nungesser said the government has asked crews to move the dredging site two more miles farther off the coastline.
"Once again, our government resource agencies, which are intended to protect us, are now leaving us vulnerable to the destruction of our coastline and marshes by the impending oil," Nungesser wrote to Obama. "Furthermore, with the threat of hurricanes or tropical storms, we are being put at an increased risk for devastation to our area from the intrusion of oil.

The Federal government refused foreign offers of oil skimmers

“Three days after the Gulf oil rig explosion, the Netherlands offered to send in oil skimmers to pump oil off of the surface of the ocean. The Obama Administration turned them down because they were not 100% efficient and small amounts of oil would be pumped back into the Gulf with the excess water. EPA regulations do not allow for residue water to contain any oil. So rather than use equipment that was not 100% efficient the Obama Administration chose to let all of the oil run into the Gulf.
They didn’t accept the British help because they didn’t have the proper paperwork.

If the Administration doesn't want to waive the Jones Act so foreign oil skimmers can enter U.S. territorial waters, you would think that every oil skimmer in the country would be commandeered to protect the coastline.

Obama Says Oil Spill Is Like 9-11… But Sends Only 20 of 2,000 US Oil Skimmer Boats to Florida Coast

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

May 9, 2010

Make hay on the water

Via American Digest, comes this brilliant way to clean up the oil before it reaches shore and sand.

It's totally amazing.    Nothing could be simpler, greener or cheaper.   

But it has to be done before the oil hits the shore.

Hire them now!

Make hay on the water now! 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

May 8, 2010

"The Self Help Disaster"

The deadly flood that soaked Nashville, including iconic music dives like the Grand Ole Opry, may become the worst disaster to hit the state since the Civil War, and one of the worst non-hurricane disasters in US history.

Nashville flood: The South's self-help disaster

While the Nashville, Tennessee, flood will bring federal aid, some complain the area became the nation's hidden disaster. But many Tennesseans are happy to clean up the mess on their own.

So where was the 24-hour blitzkrieg news coverage of a major US city under water?

With the Gulf oil spill and the Times Square bombing attempt dominating the news cycle, maybe the relative lack of coverage and attention can be chalked up to disaster overload or the lack of a broader political and social narrative of the kind that drove hurricane Katrina coverage.

"A large part of the reason that we are being ignored is because of who we are," writes Patten Fuqua on the hockey blog Section 303. "Did you hear about crime sprees? No … you didn't. You saw a group of people trying to move two horses to higher ground. [We] weren't doing anything to draw attention to ourselves. We were handling it on our own."

Alison  writes Here in Nashville, God is With Us in Our Deepest Need

Here in Nashville, people sought shelter and comfort from neighbors, and churches, and schools. Areas all around Nashville were affected in one way or another as every river and creek overflowed. The Cumberland River finally spilled over into downtown Monday, causing major damage to our businesses. Story after story began pouring in to the bookstore. Four employees were displaced from their homes by the flood. Everywhere people were gathering to help and everyone has played a part, be it by corporal or spiritual acts of mercy.

Those who can, tear out, and dig out, and clean. People work extra shifts for the families who need to stay home. Food and clothing and other necessities were donated in huge quantities. We attended funerals and buried our dead. Priests still are celebrating Masses despite the massive energy they are using to attend to the spiritual needs of our communities. Many took in families or took care of children so others could go work. Moms are substituting for our teachers and our principals.

You may be on your own for a long time so your neighbors and the people you know around town are your most important resource.  Just how faith-filled communities can inspire the others around them in time of great need while creating great deeper social bonds is just remarkable.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 16, 2010

The Scream of the Iceland volcano

 Iceland Volcano

A photograph of the ash spewing from the Iceland volcano that's now causing havoc in Europe.  Eyjafjallajökull is its name.

Health chiefs in Europe say 'Stay inside' especially if one has breathing problems.  For the second day, the vast ash cloud has shut down all airports in Britain and all flights in or out, stranding tens of thousands of travelers.

Below is the radar image showing the crater of the volcano

 2 Radarimage Iceland Volcano

One reporter saw the resemblance to the famous Edvard Munch painting, 'The Scream'.

Coincidentally, it is thought that the masterpiece was inspired by the blood red skies caused by the powerful volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883.

In his diary Mr Munch wrote: 'I was walking along a path with two friends - the sun was setting - suddenly the sky turned blood red - I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence - there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city - my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety - and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.'

The picture was taken by the ELTA radar from an Icelandic Coast Guard airplane.

 Radar-Image  Iceland Volcano

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:56 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 16, 2010

Some say 2012 will see the world's end; Da Vinci says 4006

2012, Junk Bond Avalanche Looms
When the Mayans envisioned the world coming to an end in 2012 — at least in the Hollywood telling — they didn’t count junk bonds among the perils that would lead to worldwide disaster.

Maybe they should have, because 2012 also is the beginning of a three-year period in which more than $700 billion in risky, high-yield corporate debt begins to come due, an extraordinary surge that some analysts fear could overload the debt markets.

With huge bills about to hit corporations and the federal government around the same time, the worry is that some companies will have trouble getting new loans, spurring defaults and a wave of bankruptcies.

The United States government alone will need to borrow nearly $2 trillion in 2012, to bridge the projected budget deficit for that year and to refinance existing debt.

Indeed, worries about the growth of national, or sovereign, debt prompted Moody’s Investors Service to warn on Monday that the United States and other Western nations were moving “substantially” closer to losing their top-notch Aaa credit rating.

Da Vinci ‘predicted world would end in 4006’ says Vatican researcher

Sabrina Sforza Galitzia said the clues were to be found in da Vinci’s Last Supper mural. The central half-moon window, or lunette, above his painting of Christ with his disciples before the Crucifixion contains a “mathematical and astrological” puzzle which she has deciphered, she said.

She claimed to have worked out that da Vinci foresaw the end of the world in a “universal flood” which would begin on March 21, 4006 and end on November 1 the same year. Documents showed that he believed that this would mark “a new start for humanity”, Ms Sforza Galitzia said.

“There is a da Vinci code — it is just not the one made popular by Dan Brown,” she said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

February 26, 2010

The Grateful Dead in the "fields of less then nothing"

Caring for orphans, ransoming hostages, burying the dead - it's all in a day's work for Father Rick Frechette

The best - and the most horrifying -article I've read this  year, Love Among the Ruins by Matt Labash

Though it’s taking me a while to reach the land of newly minted loss (in 40 seconds’ time, at least 230,000 Haitians were killed on January 12, one in every 50), I’ve come to Hartford to collect a man who, no matter where he goes, can’t seem to escape the dead. Father Rick, as most call him, has lived in Haiti for 22 years. He is founder and director of the Haitian branch of the international children’s organization Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (“Our Little Brothers and Sisters”).

In the Tabarre section of Port-au-Prince, Frechette runs St. Damien Hospital, Haiti’s only free pediatric hospital. He also oversees an orphanage and the sprawling St. Luke missions, a boots-on-the-ground enterprise responsible for everything from its 18 simple street-schools in a country where fewer than 75 percent of children attend school, to running water and food to the city’s most ferocious slums.

Additionally, every Thursday—since long before the earthquake—Frechette and a band of Haitian volunteers trek to the city morgue and claim the nameless dead, who lie naked in bloated heaps on a blood-streaked concrete floor. “You’ve heard of Tuesdays with Morrie,” Frechette smiles, “this is Thursdays with the Krokmo” (a Creole pejorative term for undertaker. It translates as the “death hook,” meaning the show is over). The place is jammed and the dead often piled seven or eight high. The workers there are so inured to the stench and spectacle, that Frechette has seen a morgue attendant slaloming on roller blades around the bodies and workers eating their lunch while sitting on stacks of cadavers as though on breaktime in the office kitchenette.

In Haiti, even before the quake, dead bodies were nothing more than background music—as commonplace as they are unnoticed. If they didn’t end up in the stark death-cave that is the general hospital morgue, they were burned in the streets on the spot where they died (a pragmatic hygiene concern). The decency and sentimentality that a better-developed society affords are luxuries here. Father Rick and his men gather the bodies themselves, packing them into makeshift coffins fashioned from supermarket cardboard boxes. They then truck them outside the city, up a sun-bleached highway that runs alongside the Caribbean Sea, to the rolling wastelands of Titanyen, which translates from Creole as the “fields of less than nothing.” A New Orleans-style Haitian jazz-funeral band—all horns and drums—plays graveside. Father Rick, an irreverent sort, calls them “The Grateful Dead.” Then he and his men plant the cardboard coffins in large holes dug by their own gravediggers, endowing their cargo in death with a tiny modicum of the dignity that eluded them in life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink

January 13, 2010

Total Chaos in Haiti

With the 7.2 earthquake, Haiti, already the poorest country is the world is the scene of unimaginable devastation, like some degree of hell.

Bodies piled up on the streets, maybe thousands of bodies on the streets, as buildings and houses collapse among them the UN headquarters, the main hospital and the cathedral.

Haitian president Rene Preval described the scene in Port-au Prince as 'unimaginable.'

'Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed,' he said.
Among the fatalities were up to 100 UN staff, including Hedi Annabi, the Secretary General's special envoy, who were working inside its five-storey headquarters when it collapsed.

The Roman Catholic Arcbishop of Port-au-Prince Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot also died. His body was found in the ruins of the archdiocese office.


With continuing aftershocks, the only safe place to sleep is the street.

The Anchoress has eyewitness reports from Haiti and a good list of charities that will take your money to help the survivors right away. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink

June 25, 2009

In the Field of Faith and Health

Reading Body, mind and Chinese medicine, I was struck by what Dr. David Eisenberg of Harvard Medical School had to say in 1993 about the Chinese medical system because it's so similar to what I believe.

The whole Chinese medical system is based on the notion that the way you relate to other people, the way you think, and your emotions govern your health and illness -- what kind of life you'll have and what kind of death you'll have...  I think the entire Chinese culture is based on the notion that there is a correct way to live, and that how you live ultimately influences your health. It's not just diet or exercise, it's also a spiritual or emotional balance that comes from the way you treat other people and the way you treat yourself. That has always been the highest goal of living in all the Taoist and Confucian traditions. And since that's the basis of their culture, it spills over into their medicine.

 Stacked Rocks

In a quick search to find what is going in these days in Western medicine, I came across Dr. Harold Koenig.    A pioneer in the field of faith and health, Dr Koenig is co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center where he also serves on the faculty as Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Associate Professor of Medicine.

In this interview with Beliefnet, Dr Koenig talks about how prayer and attending church can have a powerful effect on our mental and physical well-being.

Putting aside the ability to be able to prove it or not, do you believe that prayer can heal—specifically help someone, for example, recover from cancer?

Absolutely. I believe that on faith and I also believe it because I've seen that happen with people, including personal friends. Of course they knew they were being prayed for, by their families and their churches, and those people have had remarkable recoveries. ...*** So there's no doubt in my mind that prayers help people—those who are prayed for and those saying the prayer.
Beyond the effects of prayer, do you believe religious practice can lead to other health benefits? What are they?

Bear in mind that these benefits are not intended, they're kind of a consequence of going to church or praying or reading the Bible or being religiously committed. They're kind of a side effect of being religious for more valid, more intrinsic reasons.

The benefits of devout religious practice, particularly involvement in a faith community and religious commitment, are that people cope better. In general, they cope with stress better, they experience greater well-being because they have more hope, they're more optimistic, they experience less depression, less anxiety, and they commit suicide less often. They don't drink alcohol as much, they don't use drugs as much, they don't smoke cigarettes as much, and they have healthier lifestyles. They have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, probably better cardiovascular functioning, and probably a healthier hormonal environment physiologically—particularly with respect to cortisol and adrenaline [stress hormones]. And they live longer.

The same benefits do not accrue to those who profess a vague spirituality.
I think the word "spirituality" is much more inviting and it includes religion. But from a research perspective, it's really religion that's studied and been shown to benefit health— not the less definable, more vague, and individualized spirituality.

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey

In a 2005 interview with Bob Abernethy of PBS,  Koenig remarked on the exploding research on the relationship between religion and health since 2000.
In the past two and a half years, there have been over 1,800 articles written -- research studies, discussions on the topic of religion and health. Comparing the three-year periods 20 years apart, there has been, literally, an 18-fold increase in the amount of attention this subject is being paid.

Having faith and being optimistic can definitely influence one's outcome. However, what this research shows is that having faith specifically in religion helps people more than having faith in other things. That's what we're studying. We're comparing people with faith in religion versus faith in family or work or hobbies, and the religious people seem to do better.

If you lived a healthy lifestyle, if you had a strong family and lots of friends, if you had a belief system that helped you cope with death and life and suffering and religion had no part of it, you'd have the same health benefits. The problem is, most people aren't in that situation. Most people don't have a worldview that makes sense of death and suffering and loss, don't have a ton of friends that are supportive or a family that encourages and supports them, and don't live a healthy lifestyle because they're simply human and are pulled to these various kinds of temptations that affect our health. So religion is a package of things that brings together all of those different areas in a person's life.

Cologne Cathedral Sunset Fire

Cologne Cathedral at sunset

Now in the London Times, God will save you - believe in him or not.

Interviewing survivors around the world, I have noticed a remarkable pattern. Overwhelmingly, they share a belief that God and faith sustained them through their trials. As many as 75% or 80% cite a higher power as an important reason for their survival. Either they face their crisis with strong faith or they discover it in the crucible, believing God had a plan for them and gave them the strength to overcome.

In trying to find out what this all means, Ben Sherwood interviewed Dr. Koening:
Koenig replies that belief is the most powerful survival tool in the world. Faith and religion, he says, empower you with “the kind of strength that nothing else that I’ve ever seen can give”.

Dr. Harold Koenig is the author of several books including "The Healing Power of Faith: How Belief and Prayer Can Help You Triumph Over Disease" and  "Faith and Mental Health: Religious Resources for Healing" and "Faith In The Future: Healthcare, Aging and the Role of Religion"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:31 PM | Permalink

April 29, 2009

Swine Flu

The swine flu (H1N1) is transmitted from person to person like this. 

 Visible Cough

I'm late to post on the swine flu because I've spent much of my time trying to figure out how serious it is and what the average person can do about it aside from washing their hands a lot and postponing any vacation to Mexico.    Apart from the baby who died in Texas, swine flu in the U.S. seems to be quite mild.    In Mexico, the crisis is severe with 149 deaths; the government is going all out to stem the spread canceling public events, closing schools and restaurants in Mexico City.

One of the most alarming bits of new was that Obama in Mexico earlier this month was showed around the city's anthropology museum by Dr. Felipe Solis who died the next day from "flu-like" symptoms, making the President coming closer to almost anyone in the country to contracting the virus.  We did learn later that the President was fine and that Dr. Solis has died of pneumonia.

There's no question that one of the consequences of a flat world, interconnected in ways unimaginable, that fears of a global pandemic will characterize our future.   

Contagion on a Small Planet
An urbanizing planet  knitted by transportation is an extraordinarily welcoming world for infectious disease, particularly easily transmitted viruses like the flu. That’s why it wasn’t surprising Saturday when the World Health Organization concluded that the outbreaks of swine flu focused in central Mexico as well as a school in New York City and several other places around the United States officially constituted “a public health emergency of international concern".

My brother works for the WHO in Geneva and yesterday sent me this graph after WHO raised the global alert level to phase 4.  Click for larger image.

 Who Graph

The good news is that the U.S. government is far better prepared to deal with a pandemic than it was a few years ago.  After the avian flu scare, President George Bush issued a pandemic flu preparedness plan.  Since 2006, $6.2 billion has been appropriated to stockpile antivirals, step up surveillance and improve vaccine-making and technology.

How Not to Battle Flu - Lessons from the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918
CDC tips for individuals

What should you do?

1. Don't panic.  Eat pork if you want.
2. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
3. Have antibacterial handwash in your car so you can use it wherever you are.
4. If you are sick, stay home.  If you have flu symptoms, stay home unless you have difficulty in breathing, dizziness, pain in the chest or vomiting.  Then see a doctor.  The anti-viral drugs Tamiflu and Reflenza are only available with a doctor's prescription.
5. You might want a mask if you come into close contact with flu-infected people, either a disposable surgical mask or a painter's mask.  The most effective are N95 respirators but make sure they are approved by the CDC.
5. Check your own state of preparedness.

Do you have two weeks worth of food and water and necessary medications? 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink

April 7, 2009

Quake in Italy

The earthquake in L'Aquila and the surrounding villages hit at around 3 am when people slept.

Stefania, mother to seven-year-old Sara, said: "My husband managed to get out of bed but I was completely covered in rubble and I couldn't move and I heard my daughter calling from her bed: 'Mamma, mamma'. I was going crazy, trying to get all the debris off me but I couldn't, and I was thinking: 'If she dies, I want to die with her'." The family was eventually rescued and taken to hospital.

Latest estimates are 235 dead, 50,000 homeless, 15 missing and 13,000 buildings damaged or destroyed.

 L'aquila Map

The deadliest quake to hit Italy in decades left onlookers weeping and every one  afraid as aftershocks continue to rumble.

Rescuers combed piles of rubble with their hands, searching frantically for survivors, but in Onna, a village of mostly elderly residents, the houses made of heavy stone walls that had lasted for centuries crumpled into piles of toppled stones.  The town's physician said

"I ran from house to house, but there were just mountains of stones and screams

Some of the unaccounted for were students at the university in the medieval town of L'Aquila
A fireman from the port of Pescara who came to help rescue efforts collapsed in tears after unearthing the body of his stepdaughter, who was studying there.

Working by floodlight, rescuers used a crane to gradually dismantle a ruined university dormitory in the hope of finding survivors. As darkness fell, workers dragged out the bodies of two of the four students still missing.

Some 7000 emergency rescuers worked through a second night under powerful lamps rescuing several young people and one 98-year-old woman who said that she spent 30 hours knitting as she waited to be freed from her ruined home.

"I worked, I knitted," said Mrs D'Antuono, from the village of Tempera, close to L'Aquila. The redoubtable nonagenarian told rescuers that she was in good health when she was found this morning,

As she was carried out by firefighters, she pleaded with them: "At least let me comb my hair."

After rehousing the homeless, the rescue work will extend to artwork

 Church-Of Conception Paganica Earthquake

Before and after pictures here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 PM | Permalink

April 5, 2009

Come Hell or High Water in Fargo

I just want to say how much I admire the people of Fargo, North Dakota, who came to together in the face of the rising Red River that threatened to destroy their town, to sandbag day after exhausting day. 

The most vulnerable were evacuated; the others stayed to fill more sandbags.  The river crested at 43 feet.

To most those crest numbers mean nothing, but to the residents of Fargo, a few precious feet represent the difference between staying dry and losing a home to the muddy, murky river.

The skies above Fargo are consistently humming as Army helicopters and Coast Guard choppers circle the area using infrared cameras to survey the dikes in search of the slightest leak, or worse, a total breach.

Non-essential businesses are closed, except hardware stores, which have extended their hours—some to 24 hours—to give the people of Fargo a chance to stock up on generators, pumps, rubber boots and other essentials.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker revealed in the morning flood meeting that federal officials had urged him to evacuate the entire city, but he resisted. If the people of Fargo were not here to fight the water, the city would have been lost.

But those manmade levees and sump pumps worked. 

Maybe you have to have lived in the Fargo area to fully understand the tenacity of a people who, faced with two blizzards during the course of record flooding, still shrug and say, "It could always be worse."

A Fargo pastor summed it up well: "This will be one of those markers that we will all talk about for the rest of our lives — how people helped each other out."

Big Picture has lots of the Red River flooding

 Fargo 1-1

Steven Browne, a new transplant to Fargo, was there

So I go up to the volunteer fireman who's coordinating efforts on the floor.

“What should I do?” I ask.

“Grab a shovel and start filling,” he answers quite logically. “Three full shovels in each bag.”
Jeez, will you look at that girl! You can see the exhaustion in her face, but she doesn't complain.

Come to think of it, nobody's complaining. These kids are having a ball. They're doing meaningful work to help save their town, and they're doing a durn good job of it too, without supervision and without slacking an inch.

There's an old guy over there working alongside kids who look like they could be his grandchildren. There's a woman with a grade-school kid working together, filling bags.

 Fargo 3

Some 6000 volunteers endured temperatures below 20 degrees in the race to save their city and their homes.  What a remarkable community.  God bless them all.

As one citizen said in the comments to the photos at The Big Picture , "I  bagged, my back hurts, my neck hurts, my hands hurt. But God, I've never felt so good!"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:51 AM | Permalink

March 26, 2009

Disaster from the sun

Oh good, another thing to worry about.  Our electrical grid can not handle solar outbursts.

According to the NAS report, a severe space weather event in the US could induce ground currents that would knock out 300 key transformers within about 90 seconds, cutting off the power for more than 130 million people.

  Space storm  alert: 90 seconds from catastrophe

Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.

The projections of just how catastrophic make chilling reading. "We're moving closer and closer to the edge of a possible disaster," says Daniel Baker, a space weather expert based at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and chair of the NAS committee responsible for the report.
First to go - immediately for some people - is drinkable water.
there is simply no electrically powered transport: no trains, underground or overground. Our just-in-time culture for delivery networks may represent the pinnacle of efficiency, but it means that supermarket shelves would empty very quickly -
Back-up generators would run at pivotal sites - but only until their fuel ran out. For hospitals, that would mean about 72 hours of running a bare-bones, essential care only, service. After that, no more modern healthcare.

Worse than Katrina with 4-10 years to recover.

"I don't think the NAS report is scaremongering," says Mike Hapgood, who chairs the European Space Agency's space weather team. Green agrees. "Scientists are conservative by nature and this group is really thoughtful," he says. "This is a fair and balanced report."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:01 PM | Permalink

February 12, 2009

Hell Down Under

-Bushfire In Victoria

"Everybody's gone. Everybody's gone. Everybody. Their houses are gone. They're all dead in the houses there. Everybody's dead," cried survivor Christopher Harvey as he walked through the town of Kinglake, where most people were killed.

-- One massive bushfire tore through several towns in the southern state of Victoria on Saturday night, destroying everything in its path. Many people died in cars trying to flee and others were killed huddled in their homes, yet some escaped by jumping into swimming pools or farm reservoirs.

The exploding bushfires in Victoria are Australia's worst natural disaster in more than a century.    The death toll stands at 181 and will no doubt rise as more bodies are discovered.    It is impossible to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster.

One father. a journalist who escaped with his family  wrote
They warn you that it comes fast, but the word fast doesn't come anywhere near describing it. It comes at you like a runaway train. One minute you are preparing. The next you are fighting for your home. Then you are fighting for your life.

But it is not minutes that come between; it's more like seconds. The firestorm moves faster than you can think, let alone react.

Police suspect the fires may have been deliberately set.
a source said it appeared the Victorian blazes had been started in accordance with a plan. They appear to have been set in a semi-circle, the individual parts of which would join up to form a huge wall of flame.

Marysville, the 'ground zero' of destruction has been declared "one huge crime scene".

Prime minister Kevin Rudd described the arsonists as 'mass murderers' and has said the arsonists should 'rot in jail'.


One firefighter described the horror and the awful decision to save themselves knowing they were leaving people to die.

"We had people banging on the sides of our tanker begging us to go back to houses where they knew there were people trapped, but we couldn't because if we had, we'd all be dead too," Mr Munday said.

"There were children running down the streets with flames behind them. It was hell. I never want to go back to that place, never.

 Australian Fire Photo

A graphic of the path of destruction.    Photos at The Big Picture.

Many bodies were burned beyond recognition and may never be identified.

-Covered Body Australia

One man climbed onto a pub roof to save 400 people
ARMED with only a garden hose, tradie Peter Thorneycroft didn't hesitate before climbing on to the roof of Kinglake's National Park Hotel.

With dozens of children sheltered in the hotel's cool room, he knew it was the only way to put out embers threatening to ignite the building.  Despite struggling with an arm injury, the 43-year-old also fought the embers with buckets of water handed up by brave locals.
"It was like a cyclone, like a tornado," Mr Thorneycroft said yesterday.    "The ground was constantly shaking. It was absolutely deafening. It was just complete darkness. I never panic . . . (but) I was s......g myself.
Eleven years after losing his Kinglake home in a fire, Mr Thorneycroft left his new home to defend the pub. Miraculously the house survived.  Wife Jodie, 41, had left the area but kept in constant phone contact during the drama.  "Everyone was just in hysterics," she said.

"He just kept going, 'Everyone's dead, everyone's dead' and I just said, 'Shut up and do what you've got to do'."

 Hero Australian Bushfire

Greens also get some of the blame
The fire experts said not enough had been done to thin out forest areas that posed a danger to small communities in the heart of the bush.  The green lobby is against forests being thinned out because they say clearing bracken, logs and fallen leaves upsets the balance of nature.

In Strathewen, a town ravaged by the fires, resident John Murphy was more terse.

'I was told by the Greenies that I mustn't touch this twig or that stick because a mouse might want to live under it,' he said. 'Well to hell with the mice. People are dead - and so's the mouse.'

One man who lost his mother and brother in the fires criticized the town council's failure to give property owners permission to clean up around their properties in preparation for bushfire season.

We've lost two people in my family because you dickheads won't cut trees down.  We wanted trees cut down on the side of the road … and you can't even cut the grass for God's sake."

Millions of animals feared dead
Kangaroos, wombats, native birds and reptiles stood little chance against the swiftly advancing blazes that devastated more than 400,000 hectares in the state of Victoria.
Corpses of dead wallabies and kangaroos still lined roads in the worst-hit areas, with rescue crews were too busy to clear them from sight. There were also reports of birds and bats falling out of the sky during the fires. One turtle was found with its shell fused together.

One koala was saved, now called Survivor Sam.  YouTube video here.

 Koala Saved-1

Donations to the Victorian bushfire appeal at the Australian Red Cross.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

January 20, 2009

Surviving a Plane Crash with 'Deliberate Calm"

One in ninety million.  That's your odds of dying in a plane crash.  Even if you are in a plane crash, your chance of survival is 95.7%.

Yet many people believe "if this plane goes down, we're all dead and there's nothing we can do about it."

Why do people perceive the danger to be so great? Barnett studied the front page of The New York Times and found the answer. Page-one coverage of airplane accidents was sixty times greater than reporting on HIV/AIDs; fifteen hundred times greater than auto hazards; and six thousand times greater than cancer, the second leading killer in America after heart disease.

Ben Sherwood explains in The Great Plane Crash Myth.

One dangerous consequence of the Myth of Hopelessness is that when people believe there’s nothing they can do to save themselves, they put themselves in even greater peril.

The crew of the US Airways Flight 1549 behaved quite differently

'Deliberate calm' guided crew

In recent years, neuroscientists have been able to see what happens inside the brain when people, like Sullenberger, are forced to make decisions under pressure. Though the typical assumption is that some people don't feel fear -- that they are somehow less scared than the rest of us -- that assumption turns out to be false. The fear circuits in the brain, such as the amygdala, generate their response automatically; it's almost certain that everyone on board Flight 1549 was terrified.

What, then, allows people like Sullenberger to make effective decisions in harrowing circumstances? How do they keep their fear from turning into panic? Scientists have found that the crucial variable is the ability to balance visceral emotions against a more rational and deliberate thought process, which is centered in the prefrontal cortex. This balancing act is known as metacognition -- a sort of thinking about thinking.

Pilots have a different name for this skill: They call it "deliberate calm," because staying calm under fraught circumstances requires both conscious effort and regular practice.

The important lesson of US Airways Flight 1549, however, is that no matter how difficult or unprecedented the problem, we have the ability to look past our primal emotions and carefully think about how we need to think. Metacognition allows a person to remain calm when every bone in his body is telling him to panic. It

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink

November 29, 2008

Working Class Men with the Traits of Heroes

Dr. Helen writes about The Traits of Heroes

Stopped. Cold turkey. North Carolina authorities say a shopper clubbed an alleged carjacker with a frozen turkey as he tried to steal a woman's car in a grocery store parking lot Sunday.

I am in the middle of reading an incredible book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why that explains why it is that some people are prepared for disaster and others are not. One of the chapters in the book is on heroism and it found that those who are heroes like the above turkey clubber have confidence in their abilities.
They tend to have an "internal locus of control"--that is, a sense that they shape their own destiny rather than looking to someone else.

Bystanders, on the other hand, tend to feel buffeted by forces beyond their control. 'They pay scant attention to other people's problems. They will concentrate on their own need for survival,'...

According to the book,
some common traits of heroes in a study of 450 acts of heroism found a whopping 91 percent of them performed by males. The author notes that this could be a bias of the sample used.... but anyway, the heroes in the study also tended to be working class men. They tended to be truck drivers, laborers, welders, or factory workers--physical jobs that required some risk, just like rescuing. A high number of the rescues were in rural or small-town America and 80% of the rescues happened in places with less than one hundred thousand people. The author opines that this might be because in small towns, people know one another and acts of kindness are recognized and remembered. A strong sense of duty to help others was also mentioned

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:54 PM | Permalink

October 31, 2008

What have we learned since the Depression?

FDR's policies prolonged Depression by 7 years, UCLA economists calculate

Two UCLA economists say they have figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect previously thought to be beyond reproach: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that
New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."

In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy,
Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 PM | Permalink

September 10, 2008

The World Didn't End

I must admit that when I first heard of the possible consequences of the Hadron particle collider in Geneva, I was a little worried.

 End Of World

Thankfully, the first experiment was successful and the world didn't end. 

The London Times has 30 other dates when the world was due to end.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 AM | Permalink

September 8, 2008

"Clear command and control, clear coordination, clear communication."

According to the New Orleans Times Picayune, Governor Bobby Jindal took full command during the crisis by pushing the bureaucracy aside and making people accountable especially in  evacuating more than 1000 critical care patients  the day before Hurricane Oscar hit.

Jindal knew the storm's initial high winds would ground aircraft by 9 p.m., so he had less than 20 hours to mobilize a key part of one of the largest medical evacuations in the nation's history, without sufficient resources in hand. Otherwise, the patients, along with the nurses and doctors attending them, could risk remaining in Gustav's path.

"You could see it in his eye," said Alan Levine, the state's health secretary. "He didn't want any bureaucracy to get in the way."

At the center of this reinvented decision-making system, according to interviews with those in the middle of the process, was Jindal, 37, who was leading a brand new team of aides and Cabinet members with a little more than seven months of experience in office. Adding to the pressure, Gustav drew the media's spotlight during the Republican National Convention, putting Jindal and his GOP administration's performance on a national stage even though he had never in his career faced any crisis so serious.

"I'd give him an A-plus," said Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who sat beside Jindal at the state command group meetings. "He managed it very, very, very well."

After so many failures in the wake of Katrina, it's great to hear how much better the coordinated response has been this time around - and the lack of partisan rancor.

Landrieu, who witnessed Katrina at the emergency center and on the ground, played an adviser role to Jindal. He has experience with emergencies on local, state and national levels of government. His sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., was at the emergency center on the day of the storm. As a leading Democrat in the state who often opposes Republican politicians, Mitch Landrieu is keenly aware of the deep partisanship and mistrust that built up between Democrat Blanco and President Bush's Republican administration during Katrina.

This time, "there were no partisan walls, there was no paranoia," he said.

Instead, there was "clear command and control, clear coordination, clear communication," Landrieu said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 AM | Permalink

March 28, 2008

Wal-Mart's feats of heroism

A new study says Wal-Mart did the most to help the victims of Katrina In Wal-Mart We Trust.

Shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast on the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, Lee Scott, gathered his subordinates and ordered a memorandum sent to every single regional and store manager in the imperiled area. His words were not especially exalted, but they ought to be mounted and framed on the wall of every chain retailer -- and remembered as American business's answer to the pre-battle oratory of George S. Patton or Henry V.

"A lot of you are going to have to make decisions above your level," was Scott's message to his people. "Make the best decision that you can with the information that's available to you at the time, and above all, do the right thing."

This extraordinary delegation of authority -- essentially promising unlimited support for the decision-making of employees who were earning, in many cases, less than $100,000 a year -- saved countless lives in the ensuing chaos. The results are recounted in a new paper on the disaster written by Steven Horwitz, an Austrian-school economist at St. Lawrence University in New York. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency fumbled about, doing almost as much to prevent essential supplies from reaching Louisiana and Mississippi as it could to facilitate it, Wal-Mart managers performed feats of heroism

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

January 23, 2008

The Tongue Sucker

Straight from Davos, via Jeff Jarvis, comes news that first aid kits, which haven't been overhauled since the First World War, are now changing in Britain with the addition of a tongue sucker.

Designed by four young students from the Royal College of Art after the 2005 London tube bombings, tongue suckers are designed to avoid blocked airways and suffocation.

"If you don't open the airway before the paramedics arrive there is no point in them arriving anyway," 
said  one of the inventors, after winning a prestigious 2007 design award.

It looks like a turkey baster, but will keep the airways open of an unconscious person and can be applied by anyone.

Video and demonstration here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2007

Arm the Women in the Congo

I read something like the report from Africa where the rape epidemic in the Congo war worsens.

Eastern Congo is going through another one of its convulsions of violence, and this time it seems that women are being systematically attacked on a scale never before seen here. According to the United Nations, 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, and that may be just a fraction of the total number across the country.

“The sexual violence in Congo is the worst in the world,” said John Holmes, the United Nations under secretary general for humanitarian affairs.

My thought is -  the women.  Smuggle in small arms so that the women can defend themselves against the sadistic rapists.  The United States has expedited arms to insurgent groups various times; we have not limited such aid to nations. 
According to victims, one of the newest groups to emerge is called the Rastas, a mysterious gang of dreadlocked fugitives who live deep in the forest, wear shiny tracksuits and Los Angeles Lakers jerseys and are notorious for burning babies, kidnapping women and literally chopping up anybody who gets in their way.

United Nations officials said the so-called Rastas were once part of the Hutu militias who fled Rwanda after committing genocide there in 1994, but now it seems they have split off on their own and specialize in freelance cruelty.

According to victims, one of the newest groups to emerge is called the Rastas, a mysterious gang of dreadlocked fugitives who live deep in the forest, wear shiny tracksuits and Los Angeles Lakers jerseys and are notorious for burning babies, kidnapping women and literally chopping up anybody who gets in their way.

United Nations officials said the so-called Rastas were once part of the Hutu militias who fled Rwanda after committing genocide there in 1994, but now it seems they have split off on their own and specialize in freelance cruelty.

The cruelty to women is beyond all bonds.  One woman said brutality to women is "almost normal."    If some women were covertly trained in self-defense and organizational tactics and equipped with guns, they might have a fighting chance of thwarting some of these savage attacks, killing some of these men, and even, if killed themselves, going down fighting.

i have very little faith in the government groups or the U.N peacekeepers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:45 PM | Permalink

July 26, 2007

Good news from GM goats

Using biotechnology, scientists have genetically modified goats to produce milk containing chemicals that protect against deadly nerve agents such as sarin and VX.

Goats make milk to protect from nerve gas.

If the work is successful the drug could be used to protect troops against exposure to nerve agents on battlefields, or stockpiled for use in the event of a chemical weapon attack on a city.

The drug will still have to go through safety trials and gain US government approval.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:30 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 16, 2007

Lessons from Disaster Drill

What would happen if a nuclear bomb went off in an American city?  How prepared are our first responders, national guard, and army for such a dire large-scale emergency scenario?

Last week in Indianapolis, we got a look see.

Many Lessons in Disaster Drill

The Army National Guard has only half the equipment it needs, there were communications gaps, and response times were slow.

Remember, these people knew about the drill ahead of time.

You won't.

It is impossible to imagine the shock, confusion and chaos that would follow such a terrible event.  What you don't know is that you will probably survive a nuclear bomb in a major city if you are several miles away from impact.  What you have to worry about is the cloud of radioactive dust floating in the air for several days.  That  you can survive if you stay inside and seal off windows with plastic sheeting and duct tape.  Both should part of your emergency supplies kit along with food, water, flashlights, radio and emergency first aid.

First responders will be dealing with the severely injured.  You and your family will be on your own.  Prepare for it.  Put a kit together and then stop worrying about it.

UPDATE.  While most school districts have plans to deal with emergencies like terrorist attacks or pandemics, most plans fall short.  The WSJ reports how schools fall short.

About half of school districts don't have plans for continuing to educate students in the event of a long closure and school districts generally aren't working with first responders or other community officials on how to implement emergency plans.

What's more, 28% of school districts with emergency plans lack specific provisions for evacuating students with disabilities. And two-thirds of districts reported a lack of expertise and equipment, such as two-way radios and adequate locks for school buildings.

UPDATE 2  Amazon has a whole page on how to survive a nuclear war and thrive in the ruins.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 10, 2007

Preparing for Siberia

Tom McMahon reports what preparedness meant when the Soviet Union had Eastern Europe under its iron grip.

The Bundle of Warm Clothing by the Door

Skirmante was telling me that, during the Russian times, her parents kept a bundle of warm clothing next to the door so that they could grab it if they were arrested in the night and deported to Siberia. They never knew, from one day to the next, if the secret police would burst in and exile them for life.

Then asks why classroom doors aren't equipped with dead-bolt locks on the inside that could be used to prevent another school massacre.  Hey, it works for planes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 5, 2007

Get Your Masks for Your Security Kits

While there's not much scientific data, common sense tells us that masks give us some protection against contagion.

The federal government already stockpiles about 150 million masks in case of a flu epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines on Use of Face Masks in Flu Outbreak

If a flu pandemic ever emerges, surgical masks “should be considered” by anyone entering a crowd, and thicker industrial masks “should be considered” for anyone taking care of the sick, federal health officials said yesterday as they finally released guidelines for mask use.

The guidelines released yesterday re-emphasized earlier suggestions that in a pandemic, people should shun crowds, avoid close contact with anyone at work or school, and stay home if they are sick, or anyone in their household is sick.

They should also wash their hands frequently, use hand sanitizers and cover their noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing.

Masks are most useful, said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the disease control centers, when placed on people who are already sick — to keep in droplets from their sneezes and coughs. They are also important for health care workers or family members tending anyone with flu, especially during potentially dangerous procedures like giving nebulizer treatment to an asthmatic child or suctioning a patient with a chronic breathing problem.
Masks come in two types. Surgical masks are the thin disposable or washable cloth or paper ones worn by surgeons and dentists, costing a few cents each. N-95 respirators are thicker fiber masks, often round or duck-billed in shape, worn by construction workers to keep out dust or paint, and by hospital nurses working with infectious patients. They are certified to keep out 95 percent of all particles and usually cost $1 or more.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:21 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 18, 2007

Blasting Emergency Warnings

The Wall St Journal reports today that state-of-the-art systems can blast mass warnings to cellphones and PCs, Texting When There's Trouble.

With administrators at Virginia Tech facing hard questions about how long it took them to notify students after the first killings in Monday's shooting rampage there, emergency communication is sure to become a pressing issue nationwide.

The ubiquity of relatively new technologies allows electronic alerts to reach more people faster than ever before. In the aftermath of several recent disasters -- including the tsunami in South Asia, Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, and the terrorist attacks in New York, London and Madrid -- a growing number of governments, communities, school systems and universities have begun using automated electronic-alert systems that can send voice, email or text messages to residents and students, in addition to traditional broadcast emergency messages. The services mean that people no longer need to be listening to radio, watching TV, logged on to their email or near a home phone to be warned of trouble.

That is precisely what I was speaking of in Why Weren't Students Notified  Colleges, cities and towns should be investigating, choosing and implementing such a system as quickly as possible.    The costs are minimal, the benefits great.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:37 PM | Permalink

April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre. Why weren't students notified?

Back from being way all day and far from the Internet, I just learned about the horrific killings at Virginia Tech.  How terrified the students must have been.  How awful for the victims' families.  I can't imagine the shock their parents must feel after thinking their children were safe at college.  I can't imagine the shock and pain their friends and fellow students are going through.   

I join everyone in sorrow at this tragedy and in prayers for those touched by the shootings.

32 killed!  I don't understand the 2 hour lag between the first murder and the classroom murders. 

How  a heavily armed man could walk around campus without people noticing and calling security is beyond me. 

Why after bomb scares last week and a double murder at about 7:15, did it take 2 hours for school officials to warn students to "be cautious".

Two people killed and the gunman at large seems to me to warrant more than a "be cautious."    What was campus security doing?

We've seen Columbine.  We've been horrified at the Bestlan massacre.  Now we're seeing Virginia Tech.

How many more?

In an emergency being connected is more important than ever.  Why wasn't there an emergency communications plan for all  the students? The elements are all in place.  All students have phones and computers.  Why weren't all the students on a email, phone text message alert?

Any plan could have saved lives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 10, 2007

Good News from Caterpillars

Caterpillar grows 'safe' flu vaccine.

A flu vaccine grown in caterpillar cells instead of the usual risky and uncertain method based on chicken eggs is not only safe but effective in people, US researchers reported.

They said their findings suggest a possible short-cut to making flu vaccines, focusing on a single protein in the flu virus.

Now, flu vaccines are reformulated every year to match the three most common strains of circulating flu virus.

The virus must be taken from people, purified, and grown in fertilized chicken eggs.

The process takes months and can easily go wrong.

Cell-culture methods can slice one or two months off the production process, Dr Treanor said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:16 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 25, 2007

Beckoning Disaster

Why Russia need lawyers and lawsuits.

It would be wrong to stereotype, to say that Russians are fatalistic or heartless. They are, however, not only resigned to tragedy but inured to it in a way that to many raises alarms about the country’s future. They’re not just helpless in the face of disaster; they could be called complicit, ever beckoning the next one by their actions or lack of.
Disasters, natural and man-made, occur everywhere, but unnatural death occurs in Russia with unnatural frequency and in unnatural quantity.

Russia's Stages of Grief Begin and End with Acceptance

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:57 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 15, 2007

Too many dead bodies

He was brought in to take over one of the worst state medical examiner's offices in the country, but the increase in autopsies has brought its own problems now that there is only one fully staffed office in the state. 

Too few body bags, an overwhelmed plumbing system, long delays in picking up bodies at scenes of crimes  and too little space with some bodies being stored in refrigerated trucks parked behind the building is causing a "review of the situation" in Boston.

Autopsies overwhelm medical examiner staff says the Boston Globe.

The Boston Herald has by far the more vivid report.  Morgue backlog 'nightmare'.

One morgue technician walked off the job and flung his badge at his supervisor.  Now on administrative leave while the office processes his complaint, he emails the Herald that:

• Bodies stacked three high on shelves and gurneys in the main cooler, many decomposing and dripping fluids onto others through leaky body bags.
• At least five infants have remained in the cooler for upwards of two years because the office has not been able to arrange burials.
• Poor ventilation leading to a constant stench of decomposition and the routine presence of flies in the autopsy areas.
•  Several cases in which improper drainage and a heavy caseload have caused blood and bodily fluids to back up and pool onto the floor of the autopsy suite.

“These bodies all have names. They are just lying there decomposing with mold forming on them,” said Kelley, a father of four. “It shows a total disregard for human remains.

One shudders to think what would happen in a disaster.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:27 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 9, 2006

The Right Shoes

Sneakers, the one item every woman should keep at the office just in case. 

Right Shoes may be key to mass evacuation.

a study of the Sept. 11 evacuations showed women's shoes had an impact on getting people out of the World Trade Center in a timely manner.

"Just walking four, five, six flights of stairs, you better have the right shoes," the mayor said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:33 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 7, 2006

"Poison Antidote"

Reminyl and Razadyne are the names of a drug that's given to Alzheimer patients to help slow brain damage. 

Researchers experimenting with animals found that the drug completely protected guinea pigs against high doses of the nerve agents soman and sarin, as well as toxic amounts of pesticides.

Alheimer's drug a 'poison antidote'.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr Albuquerque and colleagues at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defence and the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, both in Maryland, said their research could benefit farm workers and soldiers.

This simple and safe antidotal therapy could be added to the arsenal of medications carried by all military members and first responders, who could easily administer it to themselves should they suspect that they've been exposed to a nerve agent," Dr Albuquerque said.

"I think maybe we have something that can protect us against bad terrorists," he said in a telephone interview, adding that the next step was to test female guinea pigs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:03 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 4, 2006

Gutting a Katrina House

Empty and Fulfilled

What's really unnerving are those acrid objects you're standing among -- slimy, plastic-wrapped bundles of bed linens and Christmas decorations and rotting rhinestone shoes; powdery photo albums with peeling pictures of parents and grandchildren; anniversary mementos, rosaries, china figurines and hemorrhoid medication: all the heartbreaking and very private detritus of somebody's shattered life. You're eerily reminded constantly that it's none of your business. But if you're gutting houses in New Orleans, it becomes not only your business, but your daily life.

You feel like a mortician washing a corpse. You try to do it with both efficiency and respect.

Gutting a Katrina house -- which costs at least $6,000 if you have to pay for it -- is the first step toward rebuilding it.

But it's not the government who's doing the work, although if you don't start taking first steps by the first year anniversary of that devastating hurricane, the city may well bull-doze it. 

So who's helping the unfortunate homeowners?  Not the government, but church groups. 

Plenty of other church groups, of course, are laboring on behalf of Katrina survivors as well. Indeed, the stressed-out homeowners will tell you churches are the only ones doing anything, that they themselves will never again look with confidence for help from any government agency at any level.

Most of the volunteers are young. 

But these young and veteran gutters are superb team leaders, gentle and empathetic with homeowners, firm but politely patient should some of the older volunteers patronize them and try to take over.

They party off-duty like any college kids, and are noticeably devoid of political posturing, save-the-world-itis or the far too common arrogance of the self-righteous. In fact they don't talk much about their beliefs at all. But they shake your heart with their untiring sense of purpose.
"We're not just gutting their house, we're helping them hold a funeral for their former life."

Said one elderly woman

"God sent you all to me. You are my miracle," Ward told the grimy workers, smiling through tears in her white church outfit as she left for yet another funeral. "You can't know how much you've done for me. I feel so blessed."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Bird Flu Vaccine

GlaxoSmithKline reports a bird flu 'breakthrough'. 

Glaxo believes that it has developed a vaccine effective against the H5N1 bird flu virus that's effective in small doses.  Governments can order the vaccine for stockpiling in early 2007.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 24, 2006

A daily pleasure is Lileks

"Say what you will about the past, at least it had a future."

James Lileks

I am not susceptible to disaster scenarios. I do not believe we have ten years to prevent the inevitable collapse of civilization. As long as I can remember I have been fed end-times scenarios – death by ice, death by fire, death by famine, death by smothering from heaps of clambering humans scrabbling for purchase on an overpopulated world, death by full-scale nuclear exchange, death by unstoppable global AIDS, death by a two-degree rise in temperatures, death by radon, death by alar, death by inadvertent Audi acceleration, death by juju. Doesn’t mean we won’t die of juju. But somehow we survive. The only thing I take away is a vague wistful wonder what it would be like to live in an era when things were generally so bad that the futurists spent their time assuring us it would be better. Say what you will about the past, but at least they had a future. All I’ve ever had, according to the experts, is a grim narrow window of heedless ignorance bliss followed by a dystopian irradiated world characterized by scarcity, mutation, and quite possibly intelligent chimps. You have no future. Oh, and don’t smoke!


Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 AM | Permalink

June 15, 2006

Disaster Planning for Day Care

The National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies, a non-proft group of 800 child-care agencies, will release a report next month of disaster preparedness for child care agencies reports the Wall St Journal's Sue Shellenbarger.

Participants had hands-on experience in catastrophes ranging from hurricanes in the South and Southeast, to terror attacks in New York City and Oklahoma, to earthquakes and wildfires in California. By compiling their collective wisdom, "we're trying to not let what we learned fade into the abyss," says Linda Smith, executive director of Naccrra.

The 2001 terrorist strike on New York City, for example, spotlighted the value of staff training. Thanks to planning and practice, teachers at a 5 World Trade Center child-care facility grabbed emergency records after the first plane hit and evacuated quickly with the children, leaving their purses and even shoes behind.
The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and Hurricane Katrina pointed up the need for another measure: emergency identification tags or bracelets for small children. After the federal-building bombing, wounded children from a child-care facility on an adjacent street were swept away so quickly for medical treatment that officials temporarily lost track of them. Similarly, some children and their parents were separated in mass evacuations after Hurricane Katrina. Now, child-care officials in Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi are recommending that child-care centers be equipped with name badges or hospital-type identification bracelets that can be placed on children during emergencies.

Elements of a child-care emergency plan
• Emergency and parent contact information
Evacuation kit with medical supplies, information
• Emergency cellphone and source of cash
• Back-up contact plans for phone outages
• Plans for evacuation destinations.
• Back-up plan for teachers' or nannies' own families.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:11 PM | Permalink

May 31, 2006

You're on your own

People are still blase about hurricanes so

As Hurricane Season Looms, States Aim to Scare

Convinced that tough tactics are needed, officials in hurricane-prone states are trumpeting dire warnings about the storm season that starts on Thursday, preaching self-reliance and prodding the public to prepare early and well.

Cities are circulating storm-preparation checklists, counties are holding hurricane expositions at shopping malls and states are dangling carrots like free home inspections and tax-free storm supplies in hopes of conquering complacency.

Speaking of the tactics, Craig Fugate, Florida's emergency management director, said last week at a news conference in Tallahassee, "We're going to use a sledgehammer."

This save-yourselves approach comes after government agencies were overwhelmed by pleas for help after last year's storms and strongly criticized as not responding swiftly or thoroughly enough to the public need. Now, officials have said repeatedly,
only the elderly, the poor and the disabled should count on the government to help them escape a hurricane or endure its immediate aftermath.

Some communities are coaxing the public to prepare in a piecemeal way, like saving old milk jugs as emergency water containers and buying one extra can of food on every grocery trip. Escambia County, Fla., is publishing weekly shopping lists to try to get residents to stock up little by little. Martiza Vazquez of Miami said that approach had made preparing more manageable.

Only the elderly, the poor and the disabled should count on the government for help in enduring the aftermath of a hurricane. Everyone else can take care of themselves and should get ready to do so.

You're on your own.

At least you get to sleep in your own bed and eat your own food.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

Global Seed Vault

A backup vault is being built on a remote island off Norway to store the world's seeds from cataclysm.

Arctic vault to protect world's seeds.
Construction of the Global Seed Vault, in a mountainside on the island of Svalbard 1000km from the North Pole, would start in June with completion due in September 2007.

"Norway will by this contribute to the global system for ensuring the diversity of food plants. A Noah's Ark on Svalbard if you will," Norwegian Agriculture and Food Minister Terje Riis-Johansen said in a statement.

It would be a remote Arctic back-up for scores of other seed banks around the world, which may be more vulnerable to risks ranging from nuclear war to mundane power failures.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 AM | Permalink

May 28, 2006

Another Quake in Indonesia

The Indonesian earthquake registering 6.2 on the Richter scale has killed more than 4000 people. near the royal city of Yogyakarta.

This is the third major earthquake in the densely populated country in 18 months that began with the terrible tsunami.   Indonesia Quake May 2006

The photo above is from the Washington Post which reports that the U.S. government is on standby to help the quake victims.

So much suffering for such gentle people. It's now a race against time to save those buried under rubble.

WHEN he chose to become a doctor, Azman Ibrahim never counted on having a day like yesterday — seeing 30 patients die before his eyes and racing against the clock to keep the number of dead from increasing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:32 PM | Permalink

May 17, 2006

The American Talent

Sissy Willis posts today about Bringing people together for the common good.

You've heard about the New England flood of 2006, the worst in 70 years with towns flooded, people evacuated, and old dams strained to the bursting point. and sewage running raw into the river every day.

Well, Sissy applauded our local cable channel (New England Cable News) for its coverage that has completely outstripped the local broadcast stations and now brings news of their Help Your Neighbor campaign. NECN is hosting free and discounted offers to help people clean up on its Help Your Neighbor blog.

She quotes a speech by the President last year on America's talent, "In a free society, the public good depends on private character" citing de Tocqueville's notion that the secret to America's success was our talent of bringing people together for the common good.

I often noted this talent in the past and of course I quoted de Tocqueville who remarked in 1983 that at the head of any new undertaking, you would find the government in France, a great lord in England and an association in America in Working Together on Borrowed Time.

In the end, everything is local and helping neighbors is the way to reinforce and practice our very American talent.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 PM | Permalink

May 9, 2006

ABC's Bird Flu movie

Some experts say ABC's made-for-television movie tonight - Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America - could cause panic.

Being a movie -ABC calls it the "thinking man's disaster movie." - of course, it takes the worst case scenario, what with 2 million dead in the U.S. and 40% work absenteeism.

Tom Shales in The Washington Post says

Plagues, of course, are not something to be made light of, but the movie is so brutally relentless in depicting the effects of the disease -- replete with shots of mass graves, blood-soaked human organs and "CSI''-like close-ups of germs -- that it becomes more numbing than alarming. It's a cautionary tale with no recommendations on what precautions to take.

No surprise that it's showing during May "sweeps."

Still, it may inspire people to prepare themselves and their loved ones for the days, even weeks, they may have to spend at home if a pandemic breaks out.

Do you have enough food, water, medicines and other essentials to last for a good period of time?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 PM | Permalink

April 25, 2006

Grace Under Fire

The very best article I've seen on the San Francisco is Grace Under Fire by Michael Castleman in the Smithsonian magazine.

Even as the city burned a "hardy band of men worked feverishly to save the city's mint - and with it the U.S. economy."

When martial law ended, the Granite Lady became a centerpiece of San Francisco's rebirth. Residents returning to the charred ruins of their homes found that the mint had the only potable water in the area. Leach installed pipelines from the mint's well to distribute water to residents until the mains could be repaired. Because of the people lined up for water, the neighborhood's first businesses to reopen after the fire set up in tents around the building. The mint also functioned as a bank for the federally sanctioned wire transfers that poured in from around the country—$40 million in the first two weeks alone, about $900 million in today's dollars.

For his efforts, Frank Leach earned a promotion to director of the mint in Washington, D.C. and the undying loyalty of his men. "Through his coolness and ability," Joe Hammill later wrote, "the men under him worked to the best advantage. He took his turn at the hose with the others, and did not ask his men to go where he would not go himself. It is remarkable how he stood the strain of the fire." The same could be said of the brave men who stood beside him, and saved not only the mint but perhaps also the U.S. economy itself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 PM | Permalink

April 18, 2006

Prepare yourself, rely on yourself

Nearly half of public health employees unlikely to work during pandemic.

Over 40 percent of public health employees surveyed said they are unlikely to report to work during an influenza pandemic, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel

In case you didn't get the message with Katrina, here's another reason to prepare yourself to rely on yourself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

April 2, 2006

Doctor Doom

What can anyone possibly say about this man who advocates killing 5 billion people and the people in this room who gave him a standing ovation? In Texas of all places!

Meeting Doctor Doom

But there was a gravely disturbing side to that otherwise scientifically significant meeting, for I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola. The speech was given by Dr. Eric R. Pianka (Fig. 1), the University of Texas evolutionary ecologist and lizard expert who the Academy named the 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist.

The depravity is staggering.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 PM | Permalink

March 22, 2006

No disabled in North Korea

There are no people with physical disabilities in North Korea says a defector.

Anyone born disabled is killed as a way of "purifying the masses" and eliminating people who might be "different".

Refugees returning to North Korea face forced abortions in the prison camps in a drive by Kim Jong-Il to keep his people 'ethnically pure'.

Infanticides are common, as is slave labor, political prisoners and torture. Stories of mass starvation include "accounts of desperate people eating bark, weeds, pig feed -- and humans, sometimes by people who have gone insane." An estimated 3 million people have starved to death under the leadership of Kim Jong II.

Report from our State Department .

North Korea is a horrific disaster in slow motion.

I'm beginning to believe that the more disabled people one sees in public, the more humane the society.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2006

Rough and Tumble in NO

So what is it like living in New Orleans these days?

Chris Rose describes in the Times-Picayune.
I live in a neighborhood where you can't get a loaf of bread after 8 p.m. but where there are six or seven restaurants within walking distance serving lamb shank with rosemary grillades.

This is the strangest place on the planet. Our skin is made of leather and our hearts are hard. Welcome to the baptism of fire.

This town is rough-and-tumble now, hardscrabble and off-the-hook. We have hardened hearts, set minds, dirty clothes and bad breath here at the dawn of our dire straits.

Which explains why everyone cusses.

The Meffert Theory, as told to me, is thus: "If you were circumspect before Katrina, now you are candid. If you were candid, now you are frank. If you were frank, now you are blunt. And if you were blunt, now you are an asshole."

Thanks to Will Collier at Vodkapundit for pointing to Chris in Living On in the Aftermath

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:29 PM | Permalink

Lessons of Katrina

What Popular Mechanics has to say about the Katrina disaster.

Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors. In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall.

Dozens of National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters flew rescue operations that first day--some just 2 hours after Katrina hit the coast. Hoistless Army helicopters improvised rescues, carefully hovering on rooftops to pick up survivors. On the ground, "guardsmen had to chop their way through, moving trees and recreating roadways," says Jack Harrison of the National Guard. By the end of the week, 50,000 National Guard troops in the Gulf Coast region had saved 17,000 people; 4000 Coast Guard personnel saved more than 33,000.

These units had help from local, state and national responders, including five helicopters from the Navy ship Bataan and choppers from the Air Force and police. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries dispatched 250 agents in boats. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state police and sheriffs' departments launched rescue flotillas. By Wednesday morning, volunteers and national teams joined the effort, including eight units from California's Swift Water Rescue. By Sept. 8, the waterborne operation had rescued 20,000.

While the press focused on FEMA's shortcomings, this broad array of local, state and national responders pulled off an extraordinary success--especially given the huge area devastated by the storm. Computer simulations of a Katrina-strength hurricane had estimated a worst-case-scenario death toll of more than 60,000 people in Louisiana. The actual number was 1077 in that state.

Not exactly what we were led to believe by the mainstream media.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

February 15, 2006

Icky stuff

Shopping trolley handles are the most bacteria-infested items we use on a regular basis, worse than the door handles to public bathrooms.

Other icky things you should know.

Toilet water in fast food restaurants is cleaner than their ice. A 12 year old girl won a top prize in a science project proving that very fact.

Let's not forget that the typical desk has 100 times as much bacteria as the typical kitchen table.

When a pandemic arrives, we'll all be wearing disposable gloves and doing the elbow bump instead of shaking hands.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 PM | Permalink

January 27, 2006

Elderberry extract effective against bird flu and Oprah

(I just posted this at Estate Legacy Vaults and decided it should go here too)

Now that Oprah has devoted an entire show to avian flu, the need for preparedness has finally hit home. You can hear the "untold story" here.
Her tips

• Stock your cabinets with enough canned goods to last four to five weeks.
• Stockpile your prescription drugs, if possible.
• Speak with city officials to make sure your community has enough chlorine on hand to purify the water, in case shipments stop coming. Many cities only keep enough chlorine on hand to last five to seven days.

Her guest was Dr. Michael Osterholm who said we can learn a lot from the lessons of Katrina. He said we need to be prepared to live without modern luxuries. He also said communities need to have a plan to bury their dead in a timely, respectful way. Nothing got people more upset during Katrina than the dead bodies that lay on the streets for days, sometimes weeks.

Your best all around resource is CIDRAP, the Center for infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota.

For me, the idea that elderberry extract may be effective against the bird flu is the best news I've heard all week. Elderberries were always an old folk remedy against flu and often called the "medicine chest" of the country people.

Now it turns out that an Israeli grandmother Dr. Madeline Mumcuoglu, a world-renowned virologist, has been working on an elderberry extract cure for the past 12 years.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if this "comfortable and grandmotherly" woman has developed the cure for one of humanity's biggest threats?

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:06 AM | Permalink

December 4, 2005

The $300 billion mistake

The largest civil engineering disaster in the history of the United States caused $300 billion in damages, half a million people out of their homes, and more than a thousand lives lost.

The National Science Foundation investigated the levee failures in New Orleans and found that the Army Corps of Engineers approved the design of the levees and said it would withstand 14 feet of water.

In fact, using data available from the Army Corps, forensic analysts concluded that the levees would fail at a water level between 11 and12 feet which is just what happened in Hurricane Katrina.

The Army Corp mis-underestimated the weak soil layers 10 to 25 feet below the levee and didn't extend the pilings deep enough.

"It kind of boggles the mind that they missed this because it's so basic and there were so many qualified engineers working on this"

You can expect a flood of lawyers and litigation to be filed against the Army Corps in the months and years to come.

17th Street Canal levee was doomed. Report blames corps: Soil could never hold. The Times-Picayune.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:30 PM | Permalink

November 2, 2005

The Interdependence of Preparedness

Because I've written a lot about Being Prepared, I was delighted to hear "Stockpiling supplies and developing family response plans in case disaster strikes not only might save lives — it's also a civic duty," coming from no one less than the Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in an interview with The Associated Press.

Two months of hurricanes ravaging the Gulf Coast should prove that people need to make preparations so emergency officials can focus on those who are poor, elderly or otherwise can't help themselves, Chertoff said.

"For those people who say, 'Well, I can take care of myself no matter what, I don't have to prepare,' there is an altruistic element — that to the extent that they are a burden on government services, that takes away from what's available to help those who can't help themselves," Chertoff said. "That is a matter of civic virtue."

Chertoff's comments mark a new stage in Homeland Security's "Ready" campaign — which was widely ridiculed two years ago for urging homeowners to stock up on duct tape and plastic sheeting to safeguard their homes against a chemical or biological attack.

Now, Chertoff said, the department plans to reach out to school students to carry the preparedness messages home to their parents. Additionally, Homeland Security and the Ad Council launched a newspaper and radio campaign Monday pitched at small businesses to develop disaster plans for workplaces.

Chertoff's plans are an optimistic and pragmatic mix.

If gas stations keep power generators on hand, Chertoff argues, they can pump fuel for commuters to drive to work. If utility company employees can get to work, they can provide power to grocery stores. Once grocery stores are open, households can restock food, water and first aid needs while emergency responders focus on people who can't get their own.

"The great lesson of all of these events is interdependence," Chertoff said. "We're all dependent on everybody else. Everybody has their role to play, and if people fail in their role, it's going to have a cascading effect."

DHS "Ready" campaign: http://www.ready.gov/

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:04 AM | Permalink

October 25, 2005

Katrina leaves scientific research in ruins.

Some New Orleans-based scientists lost their life's work in the storm.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that some 300 federally funded projects, representing about $150 million, suffered serious damage as a result of Katrina.

Katrina leaves scientific research in ruins.

One example is the Bogalusa Heart Study, which was tracking the diets, lifestyles and blood chemistry of 16,000 people in Bogalusa, La., with an eye to pinpointing risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Thirty to 40 years' worth of biological samples were stored in minus-70-degree freezers. After three or four days without power, those freezers rose to room temperature and two generations' worth of knowledge went with them. Genetic analysis is still possible, as DNA can withstand such changes, but other tests are now out of the question, Whelton said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 AM | Permalink

October 12, 2005

Contents of My Mom's Life

The beautiful lotus that grows from the mud of the swamp is in itself clean and pure. A very important symbol in India and of Buddhism, the lotus
refers to many aspects of the path, as it grows from the mud (samsara), up through clean water (purification), and arising from the deep produces a beautiful flower (enlightenment). The white blossom represents purity, the stem stands for the practice of Buddhist teachings which raise the mind above the (mud of) worldly existence, and gives rise to purity of mind.

The photographer Clayton James Cubbitt, in trying to find beauty in destruction, has some extraordinary images in the aftermath of Katrina as he captures "the contents of my Mom's Life." Very much like the lotus.

Thanks to Jeremy Hiebert of lifestylsm who writes about creating the lives we want for the link.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:59 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2005

Next Five Disasters

You wouldn't believe that I'm a whole-hearted optimist when I keep writing about disasters, but I am squarely in the "expect the best, prepare for the worst" school.

So what will be The Next Five Disasters post Katrina? Chris Bushnell in Wave magazine explores potential disasters in the continental US that scientists agree 100% that they will eventually happen. Bet you never worried before about a Tsunami coming at us from the Canary Islands.

Pacific Northwest: Mount Rainier Awakens

A big chunk of this western flank will just one day suddenly let go. And this would be totally without warning,” says Pierson. “There would be no precursor that we could pick up on and [the collapse] has the potential for sending a massive lahar down to populated valleys where upwards of 60,000 people now live. … This will definitely happen someday, we just don’t know when.”

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas: Downtown Tornado Cluster

“The objective was to determine, if we had a major tornado outbreak like that in North Texas, what sort of impact we would see. The numbers were quite staggering. We saw anywhere from 17,000 to 18,000 homes impacted, between 3,000 to 9,000 apartment units that were impacted, and damages anywhere from $811 million up to $2.8 billion, depending on what areas the tornados hit.”

Eastern Seaboard:
Mega-Landslide / Tsunami

Ward’s prediction is dire. A mega-landslide off the Canary Islands, which Ward calls “one of the steepest places on earth,” would result in a wave that is still more than 100 feet tall when it hits the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Boulder, Colorado: Flash Flood

On May 30, 1894, the then-fledgling city of Boulder, Colorado was nearly wiped out by a massive flash flood. It took only two days of rain – about six inches in all – to mix with that year’s snow melt to produce a sudden, enormous river that ripped through the city, wiping out bridges, buildings, trees and anything else in its path. Miraculously, no one was killed. Today, however, Boulder is a growing metropolis – and the threat of a repeat flood is always one big storm away.

Entire United States: Avian Flu Pandemic
Last month, eyebrows were raised when Dr. Hitoshi Oshitani, a communicable disease expert for the World Health Organization and a frontline warrior in the battle against H5N1 (a.k.a. The Hong Kong Bird Flu), said that it was only a matter of time before avian flu becomes communicable between humans and a worldwide pandemic erupts. Oshitani, who successfully led the effort to contain SARS in 2003, added that “it would take four to six months to develop and produce a vaccine and that might not be fast enough.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

September 29, 2005

Rescuing Sacred Scrolls

People, pets and now word of Torahs rescued from the floods in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from the Houston Chronicle.

At least 27 Torahs were rescued from three synagogues and a Jewish day school last weekend by 15 people from the New Orleans and Baton Rogue Jewish communities,

Rabbi Issac Leider who's spent years performing sacramental cleanup duties at bus bombings in Israel was brought in for one rescue.

  Torah 1.

The rabbi waded to the front of the hall and opened the ark that held six Torah scrolls. He also found a white prayer shawl and the silver adornments for the scrolls. He cradled them in his arms and made his way toward the rafts. "Out of six, only two are restorable," Leider said. "I'm glad that we did this, but I'm disappointed. It's bad to see them in this condition.

   Torah 2

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 PM | Permalink

Compare and contrast

 Medal Of Valor

This is the Medal of Valor awarded by President Bush to the 9/11 Heroes, 442 public safety officers who gave their lives and performed their jobs with extraordinary distinction in the face of unspeakable terror.

By contrast, 249 police officers in New Orleans left their posts, nearly 15% of the force, all of whom could be facing a special tribunal. The Police Chief Eddie Compass resigns and at least 2 officers including his spokesman committed suicide,

Image shamelessly copied from HyScience who says.

Somethings wrong with this picture, and I think I know what it is. I believe that the difference is in both leadership and character - leadership throughout the city's administration and the character of a city and a large segment of it's people, steeped in corruption, crime, and a lack of both morals and moral fiber.

Mike Green knows about New Orleans. He and his family suffered from
the seedy, menacing underbelly of that wonderfully eclectic mixture of cultures and peoples in a city most noted for its music and wild revelry.

This black man's indictment is the most damning I read to date.

Last week, the nation was provided a glimpse of what many of our leaders have known for a long time. There is a cesspool of problems percolating beneath the surface of the music, Cajun cuisine, revelry and laughter that masked the pain of that place. It has remained that way for many years. And as long as those forgotten people, living in secret squalor, maintained their rancid way of life without disturbing the tourists, from time to time the city would toss a bone or two their way from the table of plenty.

But today, it is the nation that is now saddled with determining how best to accommodate thousands of the poor, who had little before and now have nothing. Today, the nation is reeling from the impact of massive devastation it has witnessed in epic proportions. Moreover, it is taken aback by the massive amount of dirt New Orleans had been sweeping under its streets that surfaced as the wealthy and elite found refuge from the rising tide of vengeful malevolence.

If you have trouble keeping track of what's true and what's not, a good round-up can be found at Katrina Folklore vs Fact at Gateway Pundit.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:29 AM | Permalink

September 24, 2005

Third Age Blog

I'm one voice in a group of talented people each with a distinctive voice, experience and expertise: Connie Goldman, Jacqueline Marcell, Jed Diamond, Lisa Haneberg, Rinatte Paries, Ronni Bennett, Sharon Whiteley, Susan Anderson, Susan Mitchell, Tom Blake and Yvonne Divita.

I write about many of the same things I do on Business of Life and Legacy Matters but often in a more personal way.

Until I can get me on of those doohickies that signifies a new post on another blog, I'm just going to periodically round-up a group of posts and link them here in reverse chronological order.

Rules of Life
Responding to Suffering
Make Haste for a Neighborhood Barbecue
Lessons of Katrina
Afraid to Get Prepared?
Intensely Alive While Dying
Why Can't We Talk About the Important Things?
A Gift of Stories
Good enough is good enough
Learning from Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2005

Storm Tracker

To track the progress of Rita and to see the differences in response having learned some lessons of Katrina, click on over to the Wall Street Journal's storm tracker, free and open to all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:03 AM | Permalink

September 20, 2005

Preparedness for everything

If you're prepared for one disaster, you're pretty much prepared for all of them.

If Katrina didn't motivate you to assemble your personal disaster kit and supplies to get you through 3-7 days of a natural disaster, consider two other distinct possibilities on the horizon.

avian flu
The World Health Organization said last week that the world has a slim chance to stop an avian flu pandemic that may kill millions because the potentially catastrophic infection may not be detected until it has already spread to several countries.

terrorist chemical attack
Al Qaeda is actively creating and using chemical weapons. Fortunately, two of its planned chemical attacks against France and Britain and against Jordan were thwarted. Last week in Iraq, a house filled with chemicals and rigged for demolition was found by U.S. troops. Bill Roggio has the details in Chemical games.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:10 PM | Permalink

Celebrity photos and printer for Katrina relief

If you're a celebrity fan, you should know about the eBay auction, Hewlitt-Packard is doing to benefit the victims of Katrina with its partner, the American Red Cross.

Place the winning bid and get an autographed photo AND an autographed HP photo printer.

First auction September 12-22. Second auction September 19-29. Here's the auction page.

Thanks to Susan Getgood of Marketing Roadmaps who is doing the viral marketing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 AM | Permalink

September 19, 2005


Can the blogosphere help cut some of the pork in the federal budget to support Katrina relief? To date I think so and so does the Blogfather, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit who tells you how to do it.

Go to N.Z. Bear's new PorkBusters page and list the pork, and add a link to your post.

Then call your Senators and Representative and ask them if they're willing to support having that program cut or -- failing that -- what else they're willing to cut in order to fund Katrina relief. (Be polite, identify yourself as a local blogger and let them know you're going to post the response on your blog). Post the results. Then go back to NZ Bear's page and post a link to your followup blog post.


In one day, some $13 billion has been identified. Can you add more? If we can put pressure on all our Congressmen to cut the pork, especially the obscenely over-loaden transportation bill, it will be easier to pay for the necessary infrastructure in the Gulf states.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 PM | Permalink

Katrina: What Went Right

We've heard so much about what went wrong, time to learn what went right

Some 25,000 - 50,000 people pulled from harm's way - not by FEMA, not by the state, not by the city, but an adhoc network of the Coast Guard, the Air Force, the Navy, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and volunteer rescuers who fielded their own boats.

An ad-hoc distributed network responded on its own. Big Government didn't work. Odds and ends of little government did.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:01 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2005

Tough Old Birds

A large and growing body of evidence is showing what some of us know instinctively - younger people are more physically resilient, but older people are far more resilient emotionally. 

That's why they are often called "tough old birds."

From With Age Comes Resilience, Storm's Aftermath Proves  in today's Washington Post.

"Study after study has shown that for older people, negative emotions have less of an effect than with young people -- and for the elderly those effects dissipate faster," said Gene D. Cohen, a geriatric psychiatrist at George Washington University who for 20 years directed research on aging at the National Institutes of Health.
"You don't live to 80 without being tough," said Robert E. Reichlin, a clinical psychologist and specialist on early onset Alzheimer's disease at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He treated elderly evacuees at the Astrodome. "Older adults do bounce back well because they have seen a lot and they have lived through a lot. Psychologically, they can take a lot more in stride than young people."
"Most people would intuitively think that older people would not be able to handle adversity," Cohen said. "But they have survived the death of a significant other, loss of prestigious work, loss of health. They are very high on the scale of creatively adapting to adversity."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

September 10, 2005

First person accounts Katrina

Watch this slideshow Five Days with Katrina - Alvaro

Notes from Under Water by Matt Labash is a must-read

In the parking lot outside the hangar sits George Lainart, a police officer from Georgia, who has led a flotilla of nine airboats over land to try to pitch in with the rescue. But his crew has been on the bench for two days, waiting for FEMA to assign them a mission. After making serial inquiries, Lainart is climbing out of his skin, and I later find out that his team circumvented FEMA altogether, got down to New Orleans, and stayed busy for five days straight. Though he shredded his hull by running over asphalt, cars, fire hydrants, and other debris, his crew saved nearly 800 people.

Disaster Medicine via The Doctor is In

Dispatches from New Orleans #1

9/2 I don't know about the psychological and societal root causes of what's going on here. But I can tell you that the two overriding emotions I see are:
- terror. Lots of people are thinking they're going to die here. And lots of them are probably right.
- a sense that all rules have been dispensed with I saw a smaller version of this on 9-11, but this is on a far grander scale. This is Hobbesian in its magnitude.

Dispatches from New Orleans #2

i have meet so many people while down here. people who were at ground zero at 9-11, people who have done tusanmi relief, tours in iraq and every one of them has said this is the worst thing they have ever seen. its unaminous and these are some battle worn veterans of every kind of disaster you can imagine.

From Grunt Doc, Tulane Hospitals CEO's account -

so we hatched a plan and I tried to stay out of the way and let our physicians and nurses triage patients; others determined what vital supplies we needed replenishing; HCA was working frantically to coordinate a transportation effort to pick up patients and eventually, our staff.  How many people?  Good question. At least 1200 which included a total of 160 patients, employees and physicians and their families and 76 dogs and cats that I didn't know about at the time.

and Doctors emerging as heroes

Disasters always spawn heroes.  On Sept. 11, 2001, many of them wore dark blue uniforms that said FDNY.  On Sept. 1, 2005, many wore hospital scrubs that said MD, RN and EMT. Thousands of health care workers stayed with patients in devastated hospitals after the storm struck. Thousands more rushed in to help.

John from Texas, a man with a plan, loads up to find his army buddy, travels to Mississippi, then New Orleans  From LoneStar MVPA via American Digest

Have you ever seen any of the zombie horror movies like Dawn of the Dead?  That's what these people looked like. They were filthy, standing around in two's and three's and I have never seen so much blank confusion in people's eyes.  Still, they thanked us and went about whatever it was they were doing.  When we got to the remains of Joe's house, he was sitting on the ground where his front door had been.  He was cradling his dead dog in his arms and weeping.  When the ocean began to rise, Joe took his wife and children across the street to the only two story house in the neighborhood.  He did not have time to go back and save the dog.  Tracy found a shovel amongst the debris and buried the dog in the soggy lawn.

I was trying to untangle some of the two by fours in the street when my back gave up on me.  At this point, I had better clarify my medical condition.  During one of my many overseas vacations with Uncle Sam, I suffered multiple explosive impact traumas against my spine. T his left me with multiple broken vertebrae and a lifetime of prescription painkillers.  After years of poking and prodding by the Veterans Administration, the federal government declared me 100% disabled and I now became an official burden to society.  Whatever you say, Doc.  Driving, standing and sitting is painful, but walking is agony.  Bending and lifting is torture beyond belief.  Tracy knows all this and bitched at me until I took double my dose of happy pills.  Five minutes later I was unconscious next to the dog's grave.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:43 PM | Permalink

September 8, 2005

Good News after Katrina

If everyone saying, If only they did more, were doing more, asked instead what more cando, we'd be a lot better off.  UPDATE.  A forgotten  quote goes here.  Be the change you wish to see in the world - Gandhi

Here's some good news.
The Six-Year-Old Hero and his band of toddlers reunited with their good parents.
Victims of Katrina to get $2000 debit cards, starting today at the Astrodome.
Snowball is Safe!    Volunteers hope to reunite boy and dog.  Go to katrinafoundpets here for information and listing of  rescued pets from Hurricane Katrina and here to snowball's chance for the latest.


From Norm Geras, a great round-up of after disaster stories both sad and great.
Did Geraldo Rivera make a poor elderly woman, stranded in her home for six days, walk twice from the news van to the heliport so he could get a better shot of himself carrying her little white dog?

  Geraldo Rivera-1

Meanwhile, we just keep giving. Donations to Katrina Relief this morning $494,883,408, thanks to Chuck Simmons who's keeping count.
The portal of Katrina Web Relief Projects is up at truthlaidbear.  Congratulations on a good job, quickly done.
Jeff Jarvis looks at ways we can use the internet to better -

1. share information,
2. report and act on calls for help,
3. coordinate relief,
4. connect the missing,
5. provide connections for such necessities as housing and jobs,
6. match charitable assets to needs,
7. get people connected to this and the world sooner.

Jarvis calls it Recovery 2.0.  A wiki for Recovery 2.0 has been set up, so you can pitch right in here.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2005

Sheepdogs and Tribes

There is no one who can re-frame the way you look at things better than Bill Whittle.  Who else could write that the divisions among us are not political, racial or even economic ones, but tribal ones.  The Tribes are Pink and Grey and  you're a member of one or the other depending on your philosophy.   

Whittle also quotes extensively from Lt. Colonel Grossman and his  sheep, sheepdog, wolf metaphor.  Playing off that, Neo-neo con, goes on a brilliant riff bringing in Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly from High Noon. From sheep to sheepdog.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:17 PM | Permalink

September 6, 2005

What happened and when

The timeline of emergency response, local, state and federal.

What happened and when.    Katrina Response Timeline.

To make this resource to all as valuable as can be, send corrections and additions to Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House. 

I commend him for laying out a groundwork of facts  and opening it up for corrections.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 PM | Permalink

Michael Homan's story

Michael Homan's story of evacuating New Orleans and his escape from a refugee camp in I-10 to save his dogs and cat. 

I survived Hurricane Katrina, but it transformed me. I am a different person. I feel more loved than I did a week ago, and I very much appreciate all of the friends and family and even strangers who both helped me directly and who contacted me to say they were concerned and thinking about me and my family.
Much of the heroism affected me directly. Strangers actually risked their lives to save mine, and friends and family did so much to help.
I have witnessed and experienced some pretty awful things over the past week. I saw dozens of dead bodies floating in toxic waters. I heard about invalid elderly humans dying in attics and hospitals believing that the world did not care as they gradually ran out of medication and oxygen while the politicians gave press conferences about how well Democrats and Republicans were cooperating. I saw sick babies and paraplegics living for five days outside in 100 degree weather, while gangs of armed youths roamed, raped, and terrorized in filthy refugee camps of 20,000 of society's most afflicted and abandoned.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 PM | Permalink

Pink and Grey

One of the best essayists on the Web is Bill Whittle.  Today, he writes Tribes.    Not race, not class, but Tribes.  Pink and Grey.  Here's a taste.

A person of some modest education might have remembered that the worship and adulation fostered after 9/11 was for the NYPD and the FDNY. No one was buying FEMA hats after 9/11, because FEMA is essentially a mop-up agency. It's the first responders, the local governments, that will determine if a city will live or die. The State -- that means, the "governor"-- has the sole authority to mobilize the National Guard, and the governor of the state of Louisana was not only slow to do that, she turned down NG assistance from several OTHER states as well.
Here is the Grey philosophy I try to live by:
Sometimes, Bad Things Happen. Some things are beyond my control, beyond the control of the smartest and best people we have, even beyond the awesome, subtle and unlimited control of the simpering, sub-human village idiot from Texas.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 AM | Permalink

September 5, 2005

"It was the gangs"

Here's a report from inside the Astrodome from those who were inside the Superdome. 

As you might imagine I wanted to hear what it was like being in the Superdome. One teenage girl told me that it was terrifying when the shooting started. "It was the gangs," she said. Her mother said, "The people found the guy who was shooting and beat his ass and his ass needed beating." I found over and over again that people were as disgusted with the behavior of the thugs as the rest of us. I asked them if they were angry at the government. Not one I spoke to said they were. They were angry at the people who behaved badly. They were angry at the thugs with guns. They were angry with the people who threw trash everywhere and went to bathroom in public places.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 PM | Permalink

United Websites for Katrina

At last, the United Websites of America for Katrina relief, aggregating all resources.

To see the outpouring of support in Houston, take a look at Domeblog - what's going on at the Astrodome, how wonderfully the volunteers are acting, even clapping as new evacuees to make them feel welcome.


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Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:38 PM | Permalink

Getting things done

Katrina Relief Projects
Are you a developer interested in creating web projects to aid in Hurricane Katrina, go  here, at Truth-Laid Bear.

Katrina Relief Volunteers
Also at Truth-Laid Bear, a mailing list to help web-skilled volunteers with web-based relief projects needing assistance.

Some web research is needed by Truth Laid Bear

If you've got some time on your hands and are willing to help, here's what I'd ask you do:
- Search the web for Katrina relief projects - When you find one, identify a contact responsible for the effort and e-mail them a link to this post with a brief explanation (feel free to cut and paste from the post)
- Post a comment here with the URL of the project and indicate who you contacted. DO NOT POST THE ACTUAL EMAIL ADDRESS, because this will expose that e-mail to spam-bots, and that's rude.

Michelle Catalano is collecting school supplies for the kids of Katrina

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

Snowball's Chance

Thanks to an alert reader, I learned about a new website called Snowball's Chance, "created with love by convergent animal rescue volunteers for the victims and pets of Hurricane Katrina."

UPDATE:  Noah's Wish is also reporting on the animal rescue effort across the Gulf states.  If you love animals, you may want to contribute

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink

September 3, 2005

Webs of Support

Yesterday, I wrote about the best idea for Katrina recovery yet in  A Brilliant Idea, Independent of Government over on my ELV corporate blog.

Today, it's taking shape.  Amazing.

Take a look at the comments at the Blog Relief update at Truth Laid Bear.

John Oberele has set up an information site, 

being a list of martial arts schools harmed by Katrina and those martial arts schools that wish to help. There is also a list for those schools wanting to offer temporary "instruction refuge" for displaced martial artists.

And Julia Annis says

A group of people from NYC,Chicago and Miami,Florida are organizing as we speak(through churches,synagogues,community centers) to arrange  for families of four to live for one year. There will  be a lead mentor and volunteers to help the family assimilate during that time. We need help on the New Orleans end to help us find families that want to live that far away. Within three weeks, we will have caravans from those three
cities to pick up families with doctors on boar to help. We need point people in LA,MS,AL,TX to help with picking families.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 PM | Permalink

Elegy for New Orleans

Sobek lived in New Orleans until he moved to Las Vegas three months ago.

He just got around to organizing and posting his photos of New Orleans.  They are beautiful and indeed an elegy to a city that will never be the same again.

Part One
Part Two

Their beauty, a respite from the horrific images we've been seeing this week.    A reminder too of the impermanence of all things. 

   Cafe Du Monde

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:44 AM | Permalink

September 2, 2005

Passing Judgment

Katrina has devastated an area roughly the size of Great Britain.  Federal disaster declarations cover 90,000 square miles (234,000 square kilometers)

Varifrank points out some things to keep in mind. 

Katrina has devastated an area roughly the size of Great Britain.  Federal disaster declarations cover 90,000 square miles (234,000 square kilometers)

Too many on the left are blaming the President, the people who voted for Bush and the "bible-thumpers".    Too many on the right are blaming the Governor, the Mayor and some "Christians" are blaming the gays and Mardi Gras.  And the effect of the blame-throwing and partisanship is deeply corrosive on our society and country as a whole.

We all sit miles away from the disaster ready to pass judgment, but can any of us have any idea what it must be like to be a low paid civil servant reporting to work, knowing that your house is underwater and your family is missing and there’s 100,000 angry, wet and hungry people staring at you for answers?

The forces of nature can have the impact of an atom bomb and we are not in control of nature despite all our technological achievements.  Katrina  is possibly the greatest natural disaster in our history.

All we can do now is help each other and support all those in the area, public officials and private citizens, doing all they can. 

And learn every lesson we can from this horrific tragedy.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

It Gets Even Worse

My God.  I thought I understood to some degree anyway the extent of the Katrina aftermath because I'd been following it so closely.
But I knew nothing. 

Where is the help?  Why aren't the helicopters at least dropping food and water?

Evacuations are being halted as policemen, firemen, rescue workers and helicopters are being shot at.
Donate to the Red Cross.

I'm reading the NOLA Weblog and there is story after unbelievable story.

People trapped in apartments, trapped in warehouses,  trapped in churches, trapped in University Hospital, stranded on highways, trapped in hotel on Tulane, trapped in restaurants, trapped at St. Charles Hospital.

Are we going to leave them there to die?
Whole families missing.

Doctors barricaded at Charity Hospital where gunmen are threatening them.
More armed thugs at Tulane University Medical Center, doctors on roof awaiting rescue.

Over 300 at Mary Queen of VN Church, stranded in sewage water up to their necks.  Over 400 students trapped at Xavier University in a dormitory with no food or water.

Deputies from the Sheriff Department stranded without food or water.

In nursing homes, in hospitals, people are dying all around.

70 students and priests trapped at St. Mary of the Angels school.

Who among them will live to survive another day and night without rescue?

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:18 AM | Permalink

"Snowball, snowball"

Finally, Superdome refugees get water as they hopped on buses bound for Texas.

But ....

Pets were not allowed on the bus, and when a police officer confiscated a little boy's dog, the child cried until he vomited. "Snowball, snowball," he cried.

Why is this so touching?  That poor little losing everything and then his dog.  Did anyone else reading this story think of Rosebud?

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:30 AM | Permalink

"I have nobody and nothing left."

From the American Scene

the only lessons of Katrina are that life is dark and death is everywhere, that nature isn't our friend and that Americans, too, can behave like savages under duress, and that all the blessings of liberalism and democracy and capitalism can't protect us from the worst. There's nothing we can do, except give money and pray, and there's no lesson to be learned - except, perhaps, be careful where and how you build your cities.

    Highway Bridge, 2 Men In Boat

One commenter adds that every city is just one mega disaster away from descending into the chaos that is New Orleans.

I shudder to think what could happen if a pandemic of avian flu strikes the U.S. this winter.

Thank you Michelle for Blogging the Good News, Part IV.  I needed that.

Sheila O' Malley marvels at the goodness in the listings offering rooms for Katrina refugees.

From LSU,  a first person account

We met Coach [Les] Miles and Coach [Tommy] Moffitt in the PMAC to see all the survivors and it was the view of a hospital. Stretchers rolled in constantly, and for the first time in my life, I saw someone die right in front of me.

A man rolled in from New Orleans and was badly injured on his head. Five minutes later he was dead. And that was the scene all night.

What did we do? We started hauling in supplies, and thousands of boxes of supplies. The CDC from Atlanta arrived directing us what to do.

One of the U.S. Marshalls was on hand so the supplies could not become loot. I asked him what his primary job was. He serves on the committee of counter terrorism, but once he saw of the disaster, he donated his forces to come help. He said the death toll could be nearing 10,000. It was sickening to hear that.

After unloading supplies, I started putting together baby cribs and then IV poles. Several of our football players and Big Baby (Glen Davis) and Tasmin Mitchell helped us.

At the same time, families and people strolled in. Mothers were giving birth in the locker rooms. The auxiliary gym "Dungeon" was being used as a morgue. I couldn't take myself down there to see it.

I worked from 8 p.m., until 2:45 a.m. Before I left, three more buses rolled in and they were almost out of room. People were standing outside. The smells, the sights were hard to take.

A man lying down on a cot asked me to come see him.

He said, "I just need someone to talk to, to tell my story because I have nobody and nothing left."

He turned out to be a retired military veteran. His story was what everybody was saying. He thought he survived the worst, woke up this morning and the levees broke. Within minutes water rushed into his house.

He climbed to the attic, smashed his way through the roof and sat there for hours. He was completely sunburned and exhausted. Nearly 12 hours later a chopper rescued him and here he was.

We finished the night hauling boxes of body bags and more were on the way. As we left, a man was strolled in on a stretcher and scarily enough he suffered gunshots. The paramedic said he was shot several times because a looter or a convict needed his boat and he wouldn't give it to him.

Another man with him said it was "an uncivilized society no better than Iraq down there right now." A few minutes later, he was unconscious and later pronounced dead. I then left as they were strolling a 3-year old kid in on a stretcher. I couldn't take it anymore.

Mary Madigan at Exit Zero recalls New York in the late 70's and the social breakdown in the South Bronx and says, New York rebuilt.  So can New Orleans.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:37 AM | Permalink

Where are the Leaflets

Donald Sensing asks a very simple question.  Why aren't we dropping leaflets?

It may be the only form of communication that can work in New Orleans and on the devastated Gulf coast to reach people who have no idea when help is coming or what's going on.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 AM | Permalink

September 1, 2005

Hurricane Survival Guide

It's the start of the Hurricane season for the entire East Coast. 

Everyone has the responsibility to take care of themselves and their families for at least 3 days.

Confederate Yankee has a terrific hurricane survival guide

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 PM | Permalink

Protecting Precious Art

The New Orleans Museum of Art survived without significant damage, but staffers are reluctant to leave the precious artworks unprotected.

The director was on vacation, the assistant director left to evacuate a disabled brother.  Six security and maintenance employees remain on duty. 

Bless them.  If you haven't already, donate to the American Red Cross

NOMA link

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:06 PM | Permalink

A Reason to Hope

Right now as New Orleans looks terminal and people leave a beloved city that's become uninhabitable, it's very hard to imagine a future, even a reason to hope that New New Orleans can rise again.

  Lost City-1      Help Us Ny Post

In this darkest of hours when search and rescue is the priority mission, as people climb one by one out of the water to walk onto an abandoned highway where there's no water, food or shelter, it's hard to think beyond the short term.

The best we can do right is support those charities that are the first responders.  That's why I urge you to donate to the American Red Cross.

  Red Cross Network For Good -1

One evacuee thanks the Red Cross and the Arkadelphia Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas.

these organizations got together and arranged a shelter for evacuees and also arranged a luncheon for us, offered us food, clothing, toiletries, blankets, and lots of kind words. They really thought of everything. Many of us are travelling light, having thought we'd be back in New Orleans after a few days. Others, like me, were given little notice of evacuation and packed quickly and haphazardly. For me the extra clothes were not just welcome, they were an absolute necessity

We find ourselves getting more and more addled. We aren't thinking clearly. We are forgetful, and we find it difficult to make the simplest decisions, or complete the simplest tasks. We've discussed it, and we are aware that the shock is catching up with us. We're being inundated with the most horrific images...It so much, so much to take in at once. The rescues, the suffering, the deaths, the grief for our neighbors and the fears for our homes, and the water. So much water.

For Ruvella Casmere, an evacuee from New Orleans said her dealings with the American Red Cross has renewed her faith in people.

I just never knew people were so sweet, so loving," says Casmere.
"Because every time you see on the news it's bad, it's bad, it's bad.  And then you get to thinking, well, there's just no good.  No it's not.  No, they got people in this world got a heart as big as Texas.

These angels, as Casmere calls them, are a sign of hope -- a signal they can bounce back.  "I never seen such love, such help, never.  I'm 62 years old and I'm full.  I just don't know how to say thank you.  I really don't.  And we most probably don't have anything at home.  But as long as I live, I will never forget you all."

Brendan Loy, prompted by Mike Barnes are among the first to look at the Big Picture

Josh Britton reports on a Operation Share Your Home, a new non-profit dedicated to finding temporary housing for those displaced by Katrina.
We need lots of this types of imaginative solutions from businesses and charities.

A pathologist holed up in the Ritz Carlton reports on a makeshift medical clinic set up by physicians in town for a convention on HIV and how they scooped up all the drugs in a nearby Walgreen's under police escort who held back looters.  From a small victory who's reporting on the good news and small victories in New Orleans.

Did a hospital collapse in Slidell killing every one in it?  One commenter at Electric Mist said yes as reported by those in search and rescue.

Is there such a thing as "orderly looting?"  What should the national guard and the NO police do as looters arm themselves with stolen weapons?  Joe B. at metro blogging new orleans wants looters shot on sight now the city is under martial law and raises a host of comments.

Virginia Postrel reports that other Texas cities besides Houston are turning their stadiums into refugee camps for refugees.  Their schools too.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:19 PM | Permalink

August 31, 2005

Descending into Chaos

The Mayor of New Orleans says Katrina probably killed thousands.

There are a significant number of dead bodies in the water.  Coffins are broken loose from above ground mausoleums and are floating free.

The city has to be totally evacuated as it will not be functional for months.  The challenge of the fixing the levees under rising water is an engineering nightmare.

There will be a diaspora of refugees and evacuees in the South.

New Orleans is descending into chaos.  Shelters have to be evacuated.  Emergency generators in hospitals have run out of fuel.

Looting is out of control.  Policemen who have been stranded on the roof of a motel said they were being shot at overnight.

The damage report in Mississippi is horrific.  Communications are almost completely down.  Looters are breaking into private homes.

Will the National Guard and the Pentagon's "unprecedented rescue and relief" efforts military get there soon enough?

The fraudsters never sleep.  Here's a report of Katrina scams.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:06 PM | Permalink