Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I know that there have been other stories that have captured the interest of the media and the public but this is an important story. The fact that millions of pounds of toxic waste have been dumped into East Tennessee demonstrates the danger of coal and its usage. When those that come in contact with this stuff and inevitably develop cancer and other ailments, they will have to manage alone through private healthcare and sit through years of legal wranglings.
Pathetic. We need clean energy.
This is but one reason why.

From the New York Times
December 30, 2008
At Plant in Coal Ash Spill, Toxic Deposits by the Ton
In a single year, a coal-fired electric plant deposited more than 2.2 million pounds of toxic materials in a holding pond that failed last week, flooding 300 acres in East Tennessee, according to a 2007 inventory filed with the Environmental Protection Agency.
The inventory, disclosed by the Tennessee Valley Authority on Monday at the request of The New York Times, showed that in just one year, the plant’s byproducts included 45,000 pounds of arsenic, 49,000 pounds of lead, 1.4 million pounds of barium, 91,000 pounds of chromium and 140,000 pounds of manganese. Those metals can cause cancer, liver damage and neurological complications, among other health problems.
And the holding pond, at the Kingston Fossil Plant, a T.V.A. plant 40 miles west of Knoxville, contained many decades’ worth of these deposits.
For days, authority officials have maintained that the sludge released in the spill is not toxic, though coal ash has long been known to contain dangerous concentrations of heavy metals. On Monday, a week after the spill, the authority issued a joint statement with the E.P.A. and other agencies recommending that direct contact with the ash be avoided and that pets and children should be kept away from affected areas.
Residents complained that the authority had been slow to issue information about the contents of the ash and the water, soil and sediment samples taken in and around the spill.
“They think that the public is stupid, that they can’t put two and two together,” said Sandy Gupton, a registered nurse who hired an independent firm to test the spring water on her family’s 300-acre farm, now sullied by sludge from the spill. “It took five days for the T.V.A. to respond to us.”
Richard W. Moore, the inspector general of the authority, said he would open an investigation into the cause of the spill, the adequacy of the response, and how to prevent spills from similar landfills at other authority plants, according to a report in The Knoxville News Sentinel.
Elevated levels of lead and thallium and what the Environmental Protection Agency called “very high” levels of arsenic have been found in water samples taken near the site of the spill.
Though the E.P.A., the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the authority have spoken daily about their efforts to monitor air, soil and water quality, complete results have been released for only two samples, both taken from a drinking water intake site that is upstream of the spill. The water there met drinking standards.
A test for heavy metals in water, soil or sediment should take two to eight hours, said Peter Schulert, the chief executive of the Environmental Science Corporation, an environmental laboratory near Nashville. “There’s no reason why you couldn’t have the results within a day,” Mr. Schulert said.
The data on the toxic compounds produced by the plant was filed with the E.P.A. this year, said Barbara Martocci, a spokeswoman for the power authority. It was posted on the authority’s Web site only in a section labeled “air quality.”
At full strength, the plant uses 14,000 tons of coal a day and supplies enough electricity for 670,000 households. Its refuse, the ash, rose 55 feet above the banks of the Emory River, which flows into the Clinch River and then the Tennessee.
Early last Monday, after a period of heavy rain, the earthen dike that contained the ash breached and 5.4 million cubic yards slid away, covering 300 acres in muck and knocking a nearby home off its foundation, according to the T.V.A.’s estimates. Mike Farmer, the Roane County executive, said three houses were left uninhabitable and 36 more residential properties had sustained damage.
The authority has been using backhoes and heavy equipment to clean up the ash and is building weirs, or underwater dams, to try to keep it from traveling downstream. Officials do not have an estimate of the cost of the cleanup or how long it will take, said a spokeswoman, Catherine Mackey.
The spill has reignited a debate over whether coal ash should be regulated as a hazardous waste. In 2000, the E.P.A. backed away from its recommendation to do so in the face of industry opposition, promising instead to issue national guidelines for proper ash disposal, though it never did.
Stephen Smith, the executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a nonprofit policy group based in Knoxville, criticized the T.V.A. for not providing more information to residents, including the sample results.
Mr. Smith also criticized the agency for increasing the flow of the Tennessee River to keep the ash from approaching the drinking water intake for Kingston, a town a half-mile up from the confluence of the Clinch and the Tennessee.
“They’re actually moving the stuff further downstream, in order to protect the drinking supply at Kingston,” he said.
I have a deep love for animals..I guess that really goes without saying. But I have favorites. One is the elephant. I suppose their massive size, their intellect and their strong sense of family and community has something to do with it as well as the horrific abuse they have endured. Circuses that use exotic animals have to be a thing of the past. Period. There is no way to train the largest land mammal on the planet without violence. Please support the actions below:

Federal Lawsuit against Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus for Elephant Abuse goes to Trial

More than eight years ago, the Animal Welfare Institute, former Ringling Bros. employee, Tom Rider, and three other national animal welfare organizations first filed suit against Ringling Bros. and its parent company, Feld Entertainment, for the mistreatment of Asian elephants under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Following countless legal challenges by the defendants, this groundbreaking lawsuit is finally going to trial on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 in federal court for the District of Columbia.
The ESA prohibits any activity that "takes" a species listed as endangered. This includes any acts that "harm, wound, injure, harass, or kill" an endangered species—both those in the wild and in captivity.
Asian elephants, the only elephant species used by Ringling Bros., are currently listed by the ESA as endangered. Our lawsuit alleges that a number of routine practices by Ringling Bros. violate the Act, including: (1) the forceful use of bull hooks to control, train and "discipline" the elephants and (2) the chaining of the elephants for most of the day and night.
We have amassed a wealth of evidence to support our claims, including video footage, photographs, eyewitness accounts, internal Ringling Bros. documents and investigative reports from the United States Department of Agriculture. Three former Ringling Bros. employees will testify at trial about the elephant abuse they observed firsthand while working for the circus, and top experts in the field of elephant behavior from around the world will be on hand to testify on our behalf as well.
In addition to demonstrating how Ringling Bros. mistreats its Asian elephants, we will also present evidence involving the deaths of at least four baby elephants who have died in the care of Ringling Bros. over the past few years: Two-year-old Benjamin died when his trainer came after him with a bull hook, four-year-old Kenny was made to perform in three shows when he was extremely ill, eight-month-old Riccardo mysteriously broke both of his hind legs while "climbing on a round platform 19 inches high," and eleven-day-old Bertha died in the summer of 2005, her birth and death never even announced by Ringling Bros.

Bull Hook
A "bull hook" or "ankus" is a two- to three-foot-long club or stick with a sharp metal or steel hook attached to the top. Ringling Bros. uses the bull hook repeatedly to beat, hit, stab and poke the elephants—especially when they are young—to control and "break" them so they perform as required. Although elephants are thought to have strong hides, their skin is extremely sensitive, particularly around the ears, face, trunk and head—places where they are most often struck with the bull hook. Elephant skin is so sensitive that these animals often throw dust or mud on their backs in the wild to protect themselves from sunburn. Once the elephants have been repeatedly abused with the bull hook for long periods of time, just showing them the instrument often causes them enough distress to make them perform as desired.
We have substantial evidence establishing that Ringling Bros. abuses its elephants with bull hooks, including eye-witness accounts of former Ringling Bros. employees who have witnessed vicious bull hook beatings of elephants and the daily hitting and hooking of these animals to make them stay in line, move in a particular direction or perform on cue. We also have hours of video footage showing Ringling Bros. handlers hitting and hooking elephants with bull hooks, not to mention internal Ringling Bros. documents illustrating the abuse. In one such document, a Ringling Bros. animal behaviorist reported "an elephant dripping blood all over the arena floor during the show from being hooked."

Ringling Bros. keeps the elephants in large, heavy-duty chains for most of their lives. One of the only times the elephants are not in chains is when they are displayed to the public, such as during the "Open House" and the actual performances. This has been confirmed by several former Ringling Bros. employees who say the elephants are not only chained continuously, but spend much of this time standing in their own feces and urine.
Internal Ringling Bros. train records show that the elephants are chained in boxcars for an average of more than 26 consecutive hours. When the circus travels from city to city, elephants are often chained for 60 to 70 hours at a time, with records showing some cases where the duration reaches 90 to 100 hours.

Should you wish to make a donation to help us with our mounting legal bills, please send a check made payable to the Animal Welfare Institute and mail it to:
Animal Welfare Institute
P.O. Box 3650
Washington, D.C. 20027
Note on check: Ringling Bros. Lawsuit

They also accept donations made by credit card (Visa or MasterCard). Should you wish to make a donation in this manner, please call the Animal Welfare Institute at 703-836-4300 and ask for Tracy Silverman

Friday, December 19, 2008

Animal Rights Musings

It appears that Britney has made a comeback with an album titled circus that came in at number one. I have nothing against Britney, in fact, I wanted her to get her life together as I know how much two little guys desperately need their mom. 
But then I see the video.
I know the innocent, clueless demeanor is her "thing" but using wild animals in a video? Really? 
For all the information out there, there is no excuse to not know what is going on. Reports have come out now that show documented evidence that elephants in captivity - zoos, circuses and other places - live 1/3 as long as elephants in the wild. That's accounting FOR poaching. Why?
I guess it might have something to do with torture and stress. Every facility that harbors elephants uses some form of punishment - bullhooks, electrocution, etc. - as these are the largest land mammals on the planet and it is hard to get them to stand on those little tiny stools or do other unnatural acts without the presence of fear. 
And that is what it is all about. 
When one lives with that sort of stress, the constant threat of violence as well as being taken from their normal and necessary family structures, it is inevitable that it would take it's toll. 
How do you think they get those animals to do those things? 
I suppose it is just human nature to overlook the background of things, the inner workings and just look at the end result. 
It's easier. 
Once we know that these huge animals that form complex social hierarchies and relationships that migrate in the wild hundreds of miles are systematically beaten bloody with baton-like clubs with metal hooks on the end until they scream, the fact that they are balancing on two front legs and their trunk doesn't seem all that appealing anymore. 
Who wants to see the result of torture? 
Because that's what it is. 
Animals that are used to moving, being chained in one place for hours, days on end. Sensitive skin ripped by abuse for tricks to show a paying audience. Have you ever heard an elephant scream? It will pull your heart out of your chest. Especially, ESPECIALLY, when it is a baby.

And then we move to the buyer beware portion of our animal awareness diatribe. If you wear fur, leather, sheered wool, or other animal products, then you owe it to the animals to watch what they endure to bring you those products. And if you wear "faux" fur, you need to be very, VERY careful because fur from China and other places is not labeled as being fur. Tests have proven repeatedly that the fur from dogs usually stolen from homes are labeled as faux. There is some loophole that allows any material under a certain percentage of the entire product to be labeled as faux or not labeled at all. Go to "Youtube" and then search "who's skin are you in?". It is a comprehensive look at all the different products that we use. 
Did you know that most fur bearing animals are anally electrocuted to maintain the coat?
Did you know that dogs and cats are stolen habitually from homes, shoved into wire cages until they literally cannot move, loaded onto trucks, tossed from the trucks and one by one removed, hung upside down on a crude wire, and while they struggle the knife rips into their skin and is torn from their bodies as they scream. Once it is removed, they are dropped from the wire and tossed into a pile of writhing, living animals until they die an excruciating death of exposure. Can you fathom that sort of inhumanity? 
I know we all want to believe that little bunnies are kept in a happy place and are gently euthanized as their little heads are stroked. It is in our nature that we want to believe that the animals that die for us are humanely treated. But it simply is not the case. It is NEVER the case. If you are wearing fur, you are wearing the skin of an animal that was kept in a filthy, tiny wire cage, stacked on top of other cages to the ceiling. It was given water and minimal food and left in an ammonia filled building standing on wire with no exposure to the outdoors. It was cage crazy - circling endlessly, chewing their legs down to the bone out of sheer boredom. It was terrified by the noise, the sound of the people that offer nothing but fear. Day and night, 24/7/365 they are in those cages, in the dark, choking on the smell of excrement and urine, in pain, in fear. Until the end of their miserable lives when they are pulled from their filth by the scruff of their neck and an anal device is inserted and they are electrocuted to death. 
That's what your fur coat is. Fear, torture and death.

Watch the video. I know it's hard to watch. But you don't know what you are contributing to when you buy leather, fur, and other animal products. I understand that ignorance is bliss but it's not just the dying. It's the way these animals are treated day in day out that will change your mind. It is the cruelty with which these animals are handled that will break your heart. Sure, we have all seen the baby seals being bashed over the head by the sealer (yeah, that's STILL going on). But what you don't see is the single bash, and then the sinking of the spike into the body of the live two month old pup as the sealer drags the pup across the ice to the pile and leaves it there...suffering....still alive. Seeing that pup desperately trying to drag its little body to safety will make you realize how cruel the entire industry is. Seeing these dogs stuffed into a wire cage like sardines, dogs that look like anyone's pet, some with collars, knowing that they will suffer one of the most horrendous acts of physical violence a man can inflict on an animal. It has to change you. 
It has to inform you. 
It has to enlighten you to the fact that your idea of the reality is just that - an idea. 
It has no basis in fact. 
The dog that you brush, pamper, feed and walk, love and nurture has a cousin that is being tortured for trim on a jacket. Or boots. Or gloves. There are so many alternatives out there. Please PLEASE watch the video. 
If you can't bring yourself to watch, then stop wearing animal products until you do. 
It's the least you can do for the animals that are suffering for fashion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cody Homecoming 08
Josh Senior Year

Pretty happy this morning for reasons I will explain later. Got to work and put my lunch in the frig. Went to the ladies room.
Something that I have started doing is covering the toilet seat. Not sure why, I just do. If there aren't covers, I'll lay toilet paper in strips around the seat.
Anyway, did that whole o/c ritual, washed hands and left.
Grabbed my tea and as I was headed back to my office someone came up and said there was someone outside who had a meeting with our director at 7:30. It was now quarter to eight so I thought the least I could do was get him in out of the cold and have him sit inside. I went and fetched him, led him to the kitchen for a cup o'java because that's how I roll. Led him to a seat in the foyer as he strode behind me talking about being an engineer for some unfamiliar firm. I sat him down, turned and went into my office. The admin asst, Grace, came in and told the guy (and me) that the meeting was in a different place. I led him again to the kitchen for a travel cup and sent him on his way.
I stopped by Grace's desk to chat a bit and as I walked away she said 'what is that sticking out of your shirt in the back?" I did the dance of the foolish trying to see what she was talking about and grasped the offending intruder.
A piece of toilet paper.
Draped over the band of my pants like a tail.
That engineer will never forget me.

Yesterday after going through the torture that is jury duty, I ran around getting groceries, making dinner, picking up wayward soccer players from practice, delivering ConLaw and Interp performers at school, the usual stuff.
Lance and I left Cody to do his homework at home and we went to watch Josh perform his duet piece for Interp. This was the first time in the two years that he has been truly involved in Speech and Debate that I have ever seen him perform as he usually only allows others to see at tournaments. He tried to get me to abandon the notion of coming but there was no hope in Hades of THAT happening.
Sometimes my kids take my breath away. I know Josh is smart and creative. A true out of the box thinker. But his performance went so far beyond my expectations. It was fantastic.
We watched the others and left for home around 9, stopping to check mail. In it, a letter from a college.
Josh has been accepted to St. John's University in Queens New York on a Presidential Scholarship, four year, full ride. Holy CRAP! What a relief that is He still wants to go to UT but we will be visiting the SJ campus to see if it's a possibility.
I of course called everyone that would pick up their phone.
Cody came down and handed me an essay. It was a character and theme analysis of Lord of the Flies with a sprinkling of symbolism evaluation. Now Cody is a smart kid. Really smart. But his focus has always been on the social and athletic angle of school as opposed to the academic. I read the essay spellbound not just by the insight but also by the fact that that kid has spent the past two hours working on a two page, single spaced, typed essay that was really spectacular instead of watching MTV Cribs, playing Halo and texting..all...at...the...same.....time :/.
Like I said, sometimes, they take my breath away.
It was a phenomenal day.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

There's something amazing about satisfaction. I am finding that cool, calm, balanced place is a wonderful residence. There's the euphoria of joy, the exhilaration of falling in love, the sweeping blackness of sadness. Those ups and downs have always been a place I haven't minded residing. But I have found a wonderful place called satisfaction. Where I feel an overwhelming sense that all is right with my world. Normally this would be a temporary time, a day where all that I wanted to accomplish, do, see, be would come together. That, in the past, is how that has always been. But recently I have found that what I have accomplished in a day, is as much as I wanted to accomplish. What I have seen, what I have done, what I have been has been enough. I love my job. I love my family. My husband is my best friend and the love of my life. My children are the light of my life. My best girl friend has found love. That had been an obstacle to the destination of satisfaction for me that I didn't fully realize. I couldn't be truly happy until the important people in my life had what I have. And now she has it, and I am awash in a warmth and peace that was always been fleeting. 
It's a good place. 
It's a place I think I have been searching for all my life. 
Whatever situation. 
Whatever substance. 
Whatever person. 
Whatever brought that beautiful place into my realm brought it temporarily, leading me to believe that it was only achievable by external intervention.  
Now I realize that is not the truth. 
The truth is that it is inside me. 
Inside you. 
It is achievable by finding what makes you tick. 
What makes you happy. 
What the things are inside of you that you need to fulfill. 
It's different for everyone. 
The little things. 
The big things. 
The easy things. 
The difficult things. 
The seemingly unattainable things. 
It really seems that since my brother died, my life has taken a dramatic turn. I believe to the core of my being that my brother has been guiding my life. He hated to see me struggle. He wanted to see my life ease. I know that. He saw me constantly battling, constantly treading water while more and more was heaped onto my shoulders while I struggled to stay afloat. I watch programs about orphans in Africa and think that even at the worst periods in my life I have been so very blessed. But we all have our struggles that are enough to make us feel that we are on the verge of complete destitution. There is no minimizing that. I feel my brother has helped me, has guided me, has made things happen for me that have changed my life. 
Changed me. 
And I am grateful.