Hot Topic #19: The Water Crisis in Flint, and Others

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Image Credit: Michigan Radio

This particular issue has been running through my veins for a good while now – No pun intended.

The purpose of this post is to review the events of what’s happened with the water in Flint, Michigan. In addition, I want to highlight other cities that have or have had their own water crises.


In my humble opinion, this is simply unacceptable. Everyone needs water to survive!

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a person can live about a month without food. However, one can only survive about a week without water.

Lack of clean, safe water leads to further illness and disease, and ultimately, death.


Flint, Michigan

One of the most recently updated articles about the crisis in Flint comes from CNN:

In a nutshell, the city officially switched water sources in 2014. At that time, Flint’s water supply fund was $9 million in the hole. Flint has gotten its water from Lake Huron since 1967. But, nearly three years ago, the source was switched to the Flint River while a new pipeline was under construction.

The Flint River was not being treated with an anti-corrosive agent, which violates federal law. Because this agent was not added, when the supply was switched over, lead from old pipes started to contaminate the water.

Lead exposure is known to cause adverse health effects, particularly in children and pregnant women. There are medicines that reduce the amount of lead in the blood, but further treatments have not been developed.

Since then, it’s been disaster after disaster. Finger-pointing back and forth, multiple lawsuits, and tons of bureaucratic red tape. All the while, the residents have been holding the bag – All they want is to be able to use their tap water again.

Among other things, tests have come back positive for horrifying things over the last few years, such as Legionnaire’s disease, total coliform bacteria, disinfectant byproducts, and bacteria buildup. Even Flint’s General Motors plant stopped using the city water because high levels of chlorine were corroding engine parts.

Flint has been in the spotlight for another reason – About 40 percent of its residents are African-American. There have been multiple claims / allegations that race has been a factor in the crisis, as well.

Here’s some more information. The timelines were immensely eye-opening.


Other Cities in the U.S.

After the Flint crisis broke loose, other cities in the U.S. started reporting elevated levels of lead in their water supplies.

A simple Google search of “water crisis in America” immediately hits upon an article, dated March 2016, from CNBC, titled, “America’s water crisis goes beyond Flint, Michigan.”

Another startling article, titled, “America Is Suffering From A Very Real Water Crisis That Few Are Acknowledging,” is more recent. This was published just a few months ago, in January. It cites several sources, but most striking is one report from Reuters that states shocking statistics. There are 3,000 localities in the U.S. alone that have lead levels at least double the amount in Flint.

That’s just insane.

Like Flint, many of these communities have what’s referred to as “legacy lead,” meaning that most are former industrial hubs that have crumbling paint, old plumbing, and industrial waste.

However, many of these localities have not been in the national spotlight. Most of these areas have had to fight the poison on their own.

With that said, there are multiple problems here. There is data showing contamination, but funding has not been increased or allocated to fix the plumbing, pipes, or water supplies. While recent focus has been on lead, there are water supplies all over this country that are tainted with numerous hazardous metals and elements (mercury, arsenic, chlorine, etc.), bacteria, and other things that are far from safe.


Around the World

It’s no secret that other cities and countries on our planet don’t have regular access to clean, safe drinking water.

A quick Google search lists numbers of at least 1.1 billion people on our planet that have scarce water.

Here’s several links that illustrate the worldwide water shortage:


What Can We Do?

At this point, you may be feeling helpless, or confused, or sad. So, what can we do?

  • There are multiple charities that are dedicated to providing safe, clean water to water-scarce areas.
  • Educating others about these issues.
  • Spreading awareness.
  • Harvesting rainwater.
  • Researching and advocating new technologies.
  • Decreasing the effects of climate change.
  • Pursuing cleaner means of energy.
  • Consuming products that use less water.

Source: Conserve Energy Future

We may not be able to change the world right now, but educating others goes a long way!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #18: What’s Up With Washington?

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Image Credit: InspirationSeek.com

Disclaimer: This post contains strong language.


Sigh.

I’ll admit, I’ve put off writing a post like this. I try to be an optimistic, positive, and enthusiastic person. I also try to bring those qualities to my writing, and the blog. There’s so much doom and gloom and bad news!

However, I cannot be silent anymore.

My shock has finally lessened, and I’ve accepted that Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States.

Does “accepted” that mean that I agree with it? Does that mean I’m okay with it?

Absolutely fucking not.


What I mean (or what I’m trying to say) is that I know / understand that Trump is our President now, and we all have to deal with it.

As I’ve attempted to write this post in a coherent manner for a great many days, I’m just stunned at how literally everything has changed since November.

Nearly four months ago, our country was preparing for / bracing itself to find out whether a billionaire businessman, or a powerful woman, would be elected to lead our great nation.

When I woke up on Wednesday, November 9th, my greatest fears were realized. I immediately felt sick. No, scratch that. I felt like shit. I could barely process the barrage of CNN News Alerts on my iPhone. I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to curl up in a ball, terrified of what just happened and scared as hell for whatever was going to come next.

But, through it all, I held my head high.

I’ve had several fascinating, informative, and civil discussions with my husband, my dad, my manager, and a handful of others. I’ve attempted to swim through all the media coverage and social media discourse, and come to my own conclusions.


I want to share what I think.

Bear with me, this may get a bit lengthy.

Yeesh, you guys. I can’t even number this list – I just have no clue where to even start.

Okay.

Deep breath.

Here we go.

  • Healthcare: It’s maddening to think that they think they can simply “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. It took SIX YEARS – Yes, that long – to enact what’s currently in place. I want evidence of their so-called solution. For more, see Hot Topic #17.
  • Jobs / The Economy: It’s nice that certain companies have said, “Yes, we’ll keep our plants / facilities in the U.S.” Will that actually happen? Who knows.
  • Immigration: His immigration ban already failed once. We shouldn’t be focusing on the countries he’s listed. The U.S. has its own problems! Plus, there are millions of refugees trying to escape terrible wars, famine, and more. Shouldn’t the U.S. government be a bit more compassionate? The FBI and the military have been focusing on terrorism since September 11, 2001 – We shouldn’t be stopping immigration based solely on fear.
  • “The Wall”: I roll my eyes and snicker every time I hear about this. This is not the answer. This is not the solution!
  • LGBTQ Rights: I’m going to borrow a quote I’ve seen on social media in the last couple of days: “It’s not about bathrooms, just like it was never about water fountains.” More to come about this, in a future blog post, or two.
  • The Dakota Access Pipeline: Everything else in Washington seems to be pushing this issue to the back burner, which makes me mad! For more, see Hot Topic #16.
  • Crime: Trump needs to get over himself, attend his daily briefings like all other Presidents in the history of our country have done, and stop using alternative facts and/or fake news. The inflated crime statistics, the 45-year-high murder rate – Nope. Try again. FALSE.
  • Relations with Russia: Once again, John Oliver is fucking brilliant. Check out his most recent episode of Last Week Tonight: Putin.
  • The Media: I lead you to John Oliver again: Trump vs. Truth. Also, the most recent frightening development – Yesterday, when several news organizations (CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, and the BBC) were outright BANNED from the White House press briefing? Yep, that’s absolutely terrifying. In that same article, Trump was quoted as saying that “… much of the press represents ‘the enemy of the people.'”
  • Planned Parenthood: Voting to de-fund Planned Parenthood because they perform abortions? Oh, my God. Give me a break! ZERO federal funds are used for abortions – Not one penny. Here’s the simplest explanation I could find: How Federal Funding Works at Planned Parenthood. For more, see Hot Topic #12.

Well, readers, this is all I can muster to write, for now. Thanks for reading / listening. You all mean the world to me.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #17: The Affordable Care Act

There’s been a lot of chatter online recently regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

I started writing this post about two weeks before Election Day. It’s only been 17 days since that day, but the whole world has now changed.

Like many people, I was stunned at the outcome. I know that the ACA is now under a stronger microscope now, more than ever.


Full disclosure: I work for a health system in Virginia. For the last four years, I have been immersed in the world of healthcare and the insurance companies. My department helps negotiate the contracts between the health insurance companies, and our health system.

As with all of my blog posts that involve research and sources, I try my best to be well-read and as well-informed as possible.


The official name for the ACA is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). It was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010.

There were three main goals with enacting the PPACA:

  1. Increase health insurance quality and affordability
  2. Lower the uninsured rate by expanding insurance coverage
  3. Reduce the costs of healthcare

The law requires health insurance companies to accept all applicants, cover a specific list of conditions, and charge the same rates regardless of pre-existing conditions or sex.


On a positive note, the law has appeared to help reduce the number of Americans without health insurance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of people without health insurance was 16.0 percent in 2010.

Between the period of January-June 2016, the percentage of people without health insurance was down to 8.9 percent.

That breaks down to a 7.1 percent reduction. Dividing that by six years, it’s been roughly a 1.18 percent reduction since the law was enacted.


In March 2016, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that 23 million people now have insurance due to the law.

Those 23 million people break down as follows:

  • 12 million people covered by the exchanges (10 million of those received subsidies to help pay for their insurance).
  • 11 million made eligible for Medicaid.

I’m going to stop for a second and try to answer some questions that may have arisen with what you just read.

What are the exchanges?

  • They are regulated marketplaces, mostly online, where individuals and small businesses can purchase private insurance plans.
  • They are in all 50 states.
  • They are administered by either the federal or state government.

What are subsidies?

  • Subsidies are money, in the form of a refundable tax credit, made available to certain households. The U.S. has a federal poverty level (FPL), and households that have incomes that equal a certain percentage of the FPL can get help to purchase insurance on the exchanges.
  • For example, in 2014, the FPL was $11,800 for a single person, and $24,000 for a family of four people. Households with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the FPL were eligible.
  • $24,000 x 133 percent (1.33) = $31,920 per year income. The maximum insurance premium that family would pay was $992 for that year. The family could also be eligible for a little over $5,000 in subsidies.

What is Medicaid?

  • Medicaid is a government program that helps provide health insurance for people with low income, such as adults, children, and people with certain disabilities.
  • One caveat of the PPACA is that Medicaid expansion was left up to the individual states. Virginia, for example, is one of the states that chose to not expand Medicaid.

It’s tough to wade through all of this information. I can see why there have been numerous challenges and criticisms of the ACA. It’s been six years since it’s been enacted. Even though I work for a health system and I work with the health insurance companies on an almost-daily basis, it’s difficult for me to try to explain all of this.

I feel extremely fortunate that my employer offers health insurance that covers almost all of my needs. The premium is taken directly out of my paycheck, and my out-of-pocket costs are relatively low. There are certain things, such as my chiropractor visits and dermatology procedures, that are not always covered, but I’m fortunate to have a good job that allows me to pay those bills. I feel at peace, knowing that if I had to go the emergency room or be admitted to the hospital any time soon, that my insurance would be able to cover me.

Because of my job, I’ve tried really hard to immerse myself in learning about the ACA and how it works, or how it’s supposed to work. By educating myself, I’m able to think and speak more intelligently about it, and try to think ahead. The world of healthcare is constantly changing, nearly every day.


I’ll leave you with a list of resources that I used while constructing this post. I hope this post was educational, informative, and helpful.

I certainly don’t know everything, but I definitely like to learn.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #16: The Fight Over The Dakota Access Pipeline

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Image Credit: heavy.com

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Image Credit: vanityfair.com

There’s been a huge fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

I’ve seen a bit of chatter about it on Facebook, but I wanted to address it here.


The image below is a map of the proposed pipeline, running from North Dakota to Illinois.

Here’s the facts from Energy Transfer: DAPL Pipeline Facts

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Image Credit: thejournal-news.net

It’s been a mix of stop and go, for a while now.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed an injunction, but a federal judge rejected it.

Then, the U.S. Army, Department of Justice, and Department of Interior announced they would stop work – temporarily – under a lake that is considered a crucial source of water for the tribe.

Several news agencies have covered this issue, but I don’t think it’s been nearly enough!

What I can’t understand is how this issue has not received national coverage, up until recently. I’m glad that news outlets are starting to give it attention, but it’s tough to swallow that nearly four whole months went by (roughly May 10th to September 3rd) between coverage of the efforts to stop this pipeline and more protests.

Here’s a caption from the Political Junkie News Media Facebook page from September 12th:

 

A temporary halt on 3% of the pipeline is not a victory. Arrest warrants issued for Amy Goodman and Jill Stein is not justice. Hiring private mercenaries to combat peaceful protestors is not protecting their 1st amendment.

It’s terrorism. Don’t let this story die. #nodapl #rezpectourwater

While searching for more information on Facebook, I stumbled on the US Uncut page.

I then found this link:

 

That headline, alone, convinces me that this story needs to be explored, investigated, and told, not ignored.

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Image Credit: overpasslightbrigade.org

People Over Pipelines.

#NoDAPL


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #15: Thoughts On The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro

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Image Credit: geckoandfly.com

It’s hard to believe that the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in just two days, on August 5th.

Originally, I wasn’t super excited about this year’s Games, much less wanting to support them.

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Image Credit: pinterest.com

I knew my thoughts and feelings were a direct result of watching / seeing / scrolling through the constant news coverage.

The Zika virus.

The state of Brazil – Its government, etc.

All the criticisms of Rio – Delayed construction of Olympic facilities, raw sewage, etc.

Protests.

Those athletes deciding not to compete.


But, as the opening day has drawn closer, more and more commercials showcasing Olympic athletes have sprung up, everywhere, and my thoughts and feelings have shifted, ever so slightly.

I’ve always been excited to watch the gymnastics teams compete at the Summer Games. It started with my mom recording them on our VCR, and it’s continued to grow.

Over the years, I’ve grown to enjoy watching beach volleyball, softball,  swimming, diving, and a handful of other sports.

Despite all the negativity and criticism over the last several years, I’m proud to be an American and support all of the athletes who represent Team USA.

I plan to eagerly watch athletes Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Kerri Walsh Jennings, Missy Franklin, and Dana Vollmer, compete for our great nation.

I know I have a bit of bias towards women, but I’m cheering for Team USA as a whole. Competing at the Olympics is symbolic of so many things, including hard work, dedication, determination, perseverance, and more.

I’m certainly not a world-class athlete, but I’m excited that so many of them are representing Team USA, as well as other countries around this little blue planet of ours.


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Image Credit: youtube.com

What’s your opinion of the 2016 Olympic Games?

Has the news coverage affected your opinion at all?

Do you plan to watch the Olympic Games?

Do you have a favorite Olympic sport?

I’d love to hear about it!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #14: The Brock Turner Case

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Image Credit: victims2survivors.co.uk

The case of Brock Turner has lit up every aspect of social media and news/media outlets in the last eight days.

I first caught wind of the story from Facebook. I sat on the living room couch, mesmerized by the survivor’s impact statement that she gave in court. Tears came to my eyes. I felt sick the entire time.

Even before I knew Brock Turner’s name, I immediately wanted to sucker punch him.

I wanted him to experience a taste of his own medicine – How would it feel for him to be unconscious, digitally penetrated, groped, and assaulted for 20 minutes behind a dumpster?

Would he feel like he wanted to shed his body “like a jacket and leave it behind in the hospital with everything else?”


Then, on Thursday, I found this link on Facebook:

I’m a Dad of 3 Boys. I Married a Rape Victim – & I Have Something to Say to Brock Turner’s Father

I read it, and one section resonated with me immediately:

Trauma has a way of blocking the logic centers of the brain and reducing its survivors to their most primitive survival instincts. When I touch my wife, nearly 13 years after her rape, she can be triggered into an immediate fight or flight response. We never know when, or if, it will happen because Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often has no rhyme or reason. Her body remembers what her mind can’t. Sexual desire was non-existent for years, and is just now only slowly coming back. For years I couldn’t understand why she didn’t have the same desire for me that I do for her. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to, it’s that she can’t. The trauma she experienced has caused her primitive brain to associate sex with danger.

That exact scenario has happened to me, with Al, more times than I wish to count. It’s been tough, having been together for nearly six years now, and married for nearly seven months.


Let me stop for a second and clarify:

I was not raped, but I nearly was in 2009 by my ex-boyfriend, John Ivey. At the time, I was able to stop him, but only by screaming at the absolute top of my lungs, proclaiming, over and over and over, “Stop. No. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I’m not ready.”

Sadly, many rape survivors are overpowered by their rapists. I’m talking about men, women, and children.

Over the years, I’ve read countless articles about other survivors.

Here are a few that have stuck with me.

I’ve also re-posted the impact statement from Brock Turner’s survivor, first published by BuzzFeed on June 3rd.

If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so. It’s already impacted my life.


I feel grateful that my situation wasn’t worse. I was abused from late 2006 through Friday, July 17, 2010, when I finally gathered the courage to break up with John, to tell him to his face that I wasn’t happy, that I had changed into a person that I didn’t recognize, that it was over.

I felt liberated.

Sadly, there are so many in this world that don’t, can’t, feel that way.

My heart breaks for them.

I never was molested by a family member, abused before middle school, assaulted by a coach or a priest that a survivor trusted. The list is endless.

Writing this post brought back some of my memories and experiences, but I know I am strong.

I survived.

I’m able to tell my story freely.

It isn’t easy. I haven’t shared my story with everyone that I know.

My parents don’t know the entire story, the entire 3 1/2 years, although they were two of the first to recognize that I was being manipulated and taken advantage of.

However, I’m grateful for their undying support, along with Al, several friends, professors, counselors, and therapists. I’m also thankful that I was raised as a strong Christian. I say that because I relied heavily on my faith during my experiences, although I may not have realized it at the time.

I only have hazy memories of my freshman, sophomore, and junior years of college, which makes me sad. College is supposed to be one of the best times of someone’s life.

But, at the same time, I think of the survivors who have hazy memories of their entire childhood, or not have any memories at all.

I feel humbled, knowing that I was able to escape from John.

Many people have never escaped at all.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #12: Planned Parenthood

This photo was taken in December 2013. Faye Wattleton is the first African-American and youngest president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Image Credit: advocatesaz.org

This photo was taken in December 2013. Faye Wattleton was the first African-American and youngest president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Image Credit: advocatesaz.org

This has been brewing inside my head, inside my whole body, for a while now.

As you read this, please know that I’m trying to be as factual and objective as possible here. I have put hours upon hours of research into this post. I hope you find this informative.

Your comments are appreciated!


First and foremost, I encourage everyone who reads this to educate themselves about Planned Parenthood (PP, or PPFA) straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

This is the international organization’s website: Planned Parenthood.

Before starting to write this post, I took a lot of time to review their site. Doing this helped a lot, learning exactly what they do, and how they work every single day to help people in need. And, being naturally curious, I immediately wanted to explore deeper into their history and their work.


I enjoy history and research, so I wanted to share a bit of a historical look into PP first thing.

PP began as a birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. It was established by Margaret Sanger, her sister Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell in October 1916.

From there, the Brooklyn clinic became the American Birth Control League, and then the name officially changed to the PPFA in 1942.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) began in 1952.

PP has certainly experienced its share of protests, violence, and other attacks.

On the same day as the Colorado Springs PP shooting, U.S. News and World Report published a well-informed and researched Q&A on PP and its experiences with violence:


Not all articles or interviews related to PP are negative, however.

While reading one of the more recent issues of Glamour magazine on the plane ride to my honeymoon, I discovered it was their annual “Women Of The Year” issue. They featured what turned out to be an excellent profile of Cecile Richards, the current president of the PPFA.

I say that because I originally intended to gloss over her profile, but I’m glad I didn’t. I learned so much about her and her rise to her current position. She’s been president of the PPFA since 2006.

Re-reading that profile for this post was refreshing. Re-reading it solidified my belief in Richards’ leadership, as well as my own position/opinion on PP.


As with many of my Commentary posts, I attempt to thoroughly research the subject at hand, reading as much as I can to solidly form my own opinions, and then share my knowledge with you, my readers.

I started writing this post shortly after the November 27, 2015 attack on a Colorado Springs, Colorado PP clinic. I wanted to feature some coverage of that event here.

My intent in my research was to use a variety of sources and news outlets.


In addition to the coverage of the Colorado Springs clinic attack, I wanted to go deeper and look for other recent information/coverage about PP. I was most interested in researching the controversy that has brewed throughout 2015 over supposed undercover videos, along with the calls to eliminate federal funding for PP.

Please note: Several of these links are opinions or editorials, but I included them due to their overall value.

I hope you found these links to be informative.


My position/opinion is that PP should, basically, be left alone. The clinics should remain open. They shouldn’t be attacked. They do much more public service than I think many people realize, but the square focus has been on abortion for some time now. I wish people would take the time to understand that PP does perform abortions, but they also provide birth control, and also work very hard to educate people about reproductive health.

However, I realize that abortion has been a hot topic for decades in both the United States and around the world. There have been calls for changes, but unfortunately, the controversy will likely never end. Everyone is absolutely entitled to their own opinions and positions, but I wish innocent people didn’t have to be injured, or killed.

I have extensively researched both the pro-life and pro-choice movements, and tried to understand and educate myself on the history of abortion in both the United States and around the world.

Personally, I believe that a woman has a right to choose. This is especially true if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, or if the pregnancy is endangering the mother’s health in any way.

I’m glad that abortion is legal in the United States, along with a handful of other countries in this world.

Many women around the world simply do not have this freedom.

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

The map above was captioned as follows:
  • International status of abortion law
  • UN 2013 report on abortion law
Legend (The colors wouldn’t copy over):
  • Blue – Legal on request.
  • Green – Illegal with exceptions for maternal life, mental health, health, rape, fetal defects, and/or socioeconomic factors.
  • Yellow – Illegal with exceptions for maternal life, mental health, health, rape, and/or fetal defects.
  • Brown – Illegal with exceptions for maternal life, mental health, health, and/or rape.
  • Orange – Illegal with exceptions for maternal life, mental health, and/or health.
  • Red – Illegal with no exceptions.
  • Dark Grey/Black – Varies.
  • Light Grey – No information.

Thanks for reading.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂