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Ebola MEDEVAC and the State Department’s Emergency Aeromedical Evacuation Services Contract

3:08 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

The two humanitarian aid workers who were transported from Africa to Emory Hospital via Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia in August flew in one of only three airplanes of its kind in the world. The air ambulance is a modified Gulfstream III, owned by Phoenix Air Group. Savannah Now explains:

In addition to previously installed extensive aeromedical equipment, this GIII is outfitted with a biological containment system specifically designed for patients with highly contagious diseases.

“We’re contracted by both the CDC and the Defense Department to provide transport and in-air medical services for people coming back into the country infected with such things as tuberculosis, SARS, Bird Flu and now Ebola,” Dent said.

To do that, the interior of the GIII has a tent-like, clear plastic structure that has negative air pressure to keep pathogens from entering the cabin.

“It’s what we call an ABC – or Aeromedical Biological Containment – system,” Dent said.

It’s essentially a room within the interior cabin with an outer, airlock chamber that allows our medical people to be in and out during the entire flight.”

Savannah News is describing a flying Level Four Hot Zone, basically, but the problems do not begin and end with the interior of a sealed plane, and approval for evacuation of a health care worker who gets sick in Africa is not automatic. In fact, today unfortunately, there is a tragic headline titled, Ebola outbreak: WHO denies request from Sierra Leone to evacuate infected doctor. On the given reason there is only this:

“WHO is unable to organize evacuation of this doctor to (Germany)

How is this possible? Please turn your attention to the video in the post titled “CDC Expects to MEDEVAC 3 Ebola Scientists per Month,” where Potrblog analyzes the US State Department’s urgent contract with Phoenix Air Group for the use of the only two planes to evacuate an expected three CDC workers per month. If you look at the analysis of the contract carefully, it is literally an unworkable hot mess in the end, giving the CDC a false sense of security when they would otherwise perhaps not deploy.

The problems do not come from the outfitting of the specialized Gulfstream III airplane. The issues arise in where the plane can fly, what countries it can fly over, how sick the patients can be, where the plane can land and refuel, whether or not the patients can receive basic water or IVs or care during any stop on the ground or not.

For example, based on the video, evacuation to Germany is impossible because no European country will allow an air ambulance to fly through European airspace and no airport will allow the jet to land and refuel.

The air ambulance was permitted to refuel at a military airport in the Azores when it transported the Americans.

Given the severe limitations on where the air ambulance can fly and land and how much it will cost, there appears to be little likelihood that any non-American afflicted with Ebola will be transported out of Africa for treatment.

Related:

Emergency Aeromedical Evacuation Services
Solicitation Number: SAQMMA14C0155
Agency: Department of State
Office: Office of Acquisitions

CDC: Three Scientists Per Month Expected To Catch Ebola As A result of US Surge Into Africa
Location: INL Support

Over Easy: Public Schools in New Orleans 1958-1959

3:25 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Old Kenner High School

Letty Owings, age 89 and the author of this post, recalls moving to New Orleans and teaching in a public elementary school in 1958.

New Orleans, 1958

Cultural experiences abound in this land of ours, but none can surpass living in New Orleans for just one year. The mockingbirds singing in the magnolias were left behind in Atlanta, along with red dirt and Stone Mountain. Ray went ahead of the six of us to begin his year of duty in the New Orleans Public Health Service Hospital. He got established and rented a house before the kids and I loaded the car and followed to what we found to be a strange locale.

As we drew up the drive to the hospital, moisture dripped from the huge vine-covered trees. A big crab inched his way across the street. Ray was sweating bullets because his “room” had no air conditioning to tame the heat and humidity. I remember his coming to the car and saying, “I don’t think you should have come here.”

Our rented house proved to be nicer than we expected. It did have its moments, however. An alligator came to the carport to lounge around, and the neighbors whose house practically touched ours fought half the night. That could be entertaining in the days before TV if they had only known when to shut it off. Our house, built on a concrete slab, sweated the floors sopping wet at night. Walking around could be precarious. Clothes that touched the floor or shoes left in the closet turned green with mold.

The quarreling neighbors told me to stay out of the yard during the day for fear of heat stroke. I blew off that advice since a veteran of the Midwest dust bowl could not possibly have a heat stroke. I did not have the stroke, but I did get mighty sick when I gardened in midday—only once. That once was all it took to pay attention to the natives. I never made my peace with the heat and humidity, but we did build immunity to mosquitoes.

School in Jefferson Parish where we lived came as an impressive challenge. One day right before enrollment time, the neighbor lady—not the battling one—asked me where the kids were going to school. Considering that a question with an obvious answer, I told her they would go wherever the local school was located. She was quick to inform me that nobody that was anybody sent kids to public school, and, in fact, it was unthinkable. Without either money for private school, which meant Catholic in New Orleans, or a desire to try to change plans in a strange location, we forged ahead with public education. Our oldest was ready for high school. When enrollment day came, we found the high school, if it could be dignified by that name.

The school building, completely buried in a summer’s growth of tall weeds, appeared as though it had been a long time condemned and given over to hopelessness and rot. The principal, a hefty Italian sweating profusely and flailing his arms around, trying to impose order on the chaos, hardly seemed to notice our inquiry about enrolling a student. In fact, students appeared to be the least of his worries. The attendees chiefly consisted of those who had been disciplinary cases thrown out of Catholic school or sons and daughters of the dock and levy crews. The kids that slept on the levy were called “levy kids.”
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Iceland’s Bárðarbunga Volcano Eruption Begins

11:22 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

The National Icelandic Broadcasting Service, Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV), is reporting that a small eruption has begun in Iceland’s Bárðarbunga volcano. The Icelandic Meteorologic Office (IMO) has raised the civil aviation alert color code from orange to red, and airspace over the volcano is now restricted. IMO defines this alert: “RED: Eruption is imminent or in progress – significant emission of ash into atmosphere likely.”

There is a Live Stream of the volcano on YouTube here.

Related:

Seismic Activity in 3-D updated every 60 seconds. Shows location and depth. Super cool site!

Small eruption believed to have started

Iceland’s volcano has started erupting

Over Easy: Orange Alert Issued for Iceland’s Bárðarbunga Volcano

3:29 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

An icy mountain under a sunny blue sky

Another volcano in Iceland may be preparing to erupt.

Following a swarm of 2600 earthquakes on Saturday in and around Iceland’s Bárðarbunga Volcano, the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) reports that the Bárðarbunga civil aviation color code has been raised to “Orange.” IMO defines this alert: “ORANGE: Volcano shows heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption.” IMO reports:

The intense seismic activity that started on 16 of August at Bárðarbunga persists. Very strong indications of ongoing magma movement, in connection with dyke intrusion, is corroborated by GPS measurements. There are currently two swarms: one to the E of Bárðarbunga caldera and one at the edge of Dyngjujökull just E of Kistufell. At 2.37 am on the 18th a strong earthquake (M4) was located in the Kistufell swarm.

This is the strongest earthquake measured in the region since 1996. As evidence of magma movement shallower than 10 km implies increased potential of a volcanic eruption, the Bárðarbunga aviation color code has been changed to orange.

Yesterday, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police (NCIP) reported that evacuations are beginning, in preparation for the volcano’s eruption.

The Bárðarbunga volcano system is about 700 meters beneath the ice. Bárðarbunga is a stratovolcano. Also known as a composite volcano, the stratovolcano:

is a conical volcano built up by many layers (strata) of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic explosive eruptions and quiet eruptions, although some have collapsed craters called calderas.

A stratovolcano is not a supervolcano. By way of historic comparison, two notable stratovolcanoes include Krakatoa (1883) and Vesuvius (79 AD), whereas a notable historic supervolcano includes Yellowstone. Mount Saint Helens is a stratovolcano.

The alert levels are a type of early warning system, and they are issued in cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull Volcano eruption in 2010, for example, interrupted large portions of European airspace until atmosperic ash returned to safe levels for air travel.

International Business Times reports:

Intense seismic activity observed at Iceland’s Bardarbunga on Saturday has prompted the country’s Met Office to issue a warning for airlines about a potential eruption at the volcano, which is located beneath Vatnajokull, Europe’s biggest glacier. Officials said they have noticed very strong signs of magma movement through underground fractures.

On Monday, the Met Office changed the Bardarbunga aviation color to orange, which is the fourth level on a five-grade scale and indicates “heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption.”

Related:

How to Pronounce Bárðarbunga Volcano

It’ll be time for some Bárðarbunga, if Iceland’s latest volcano threat erupts

Alert: Area North of Bárðarbunga Volcano Evacuated

Another Unpronounceable Icelandic Volcano Is Getting Ready to Explode

At Over Easy, we welcome all topics, and we encourage lurkers to unlurk and join in the discussion. See you in the comments!

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Freak Shows and Patent Medicines During the Great Depression

3:35 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Letty and Ray Owings, ages 89 and 91, share their memories of freak shows, patent medicine salesmen, and minstrel shows, during the mid-1930s, in rural Missouri.

Freak Shows and Patent Medicines During the Great Depression

“What would you like to have cured?”

Letty shares:

Imagine a world without newspapers, electricity or central heat. Imagine a world without television. If you can think of a world where all communication was by word of mouth, that was our world, during the Great Depression in the small farming community in Missouri.

In the mid-1930s, people with genetic deformities or other physical issues such as being morbidly obese were considered to be ‘freaks of nature.’ People without arms, or maybe with a leg off from the knee down would be featured at the State Fair in Sedalia, Missouri. Also, the shows would travel and come through a series of towns, to show the freaks, and sell patent medicines all in the same venue. These events would often take place in a town park.

Since no one had any money for real doctors to come and make house calls, nearly all doctoring was done with patent medicines. The salesmen would pose the question, “What would you like to have cured?” They had bottled cures for everything from bad sex to diarrhea. The McNess man, who was the same man for years, would come around in his horse-drawn buggy, and sell his medicines, but he also sold vanilla and red sugar for cookies. The medicines were always red-colored liquid in bottles, never pills.

We had two things in our closet from the patent medicine man. While many consider all things from that time to be snake oil, one of the things we had in our closet is still available today. At that time, we called it “horse salve.” Today we call it “Bag Balm.” We used the salve for everything, including its original intended use, which was to soften cow teats.

We also had “blackberry balsam” for diarrhea and stomach upset. The horse salve and the blackberry balsam were inside the house, in the closet.

If you were outside, and you were cutting the grass in the chicken yard, and you got cut, or in the alternative, if you cut your finger (nearly off) in the sawbuck, you headed to the tractor and unscrewed the cap on the carburetor, and allowed gasoline to flow over the cut. Gasoline was used to prevent infection, and it did prevent infection. These items, the two on the inside, and the gasoline on the outside, made up the whole of our medicine cabinet.

That wasn’t totally true, because my dad would also collect certain plants and weeds that he knew to have medicinal use. Certain plants, for example, would help with menstrual cramps. Also, lots of people ate dandelions, and they were not too bad if you threw in some lambs quarter, and maybe a few potatoes, to cut the strong taste of the dandelions.

As my dad would collect and point out medicinal and edible plants and weeds to me, we did come across what he named at that time, “wild hemp” and he told me, “It makes people kind of crazy.” We left the wild hemp alone but there was one woman in the small community who everyone knew was, in fact, kind of crazy, and she was a large woman, big-boned. She lived alone, and everyone called her “Big Annie.”

Like everyone else in the community, Big Annie had examined the plants and weeds in the fields and in the woods to determine what was fit to eat and what was fit for medicine, and when she came across the wild hemp, she made an agricultural decision to use it, to shade her chickens. She didn’t know what it was, and as far as she was concerned, it was simply an excellent plant for shade use, for her hens. So, the wild hemp plants grew tall and provided excellent shade, and the chickens were happy, and Big Annie was happy and everything was going reasonably well, until one day, when the sheriff drove by.

Upon noticing a very large and obvious outdoor marijuana grow operation in plain view of the road he was driving on, the sheriff reportedly stopped and chopped down the plants. Big Annie was furious. She ran up and down the road, hollering at the sheriff, yelling at the neighbors, “They’re cutting down my chicken shade!”

On rare occasion and only when someone was very sick, did we call for Doc Martin to come around and make a house call. He would always leave with his chicken, for payment.

Ray adds on blackface minstrel shows:

Patent medicines were often sold in the same venue as minstrel shows in our town. Sometimes, a minstrel show would come to town on its own, and set up a big tent on an empty lot. Using shoe polish, white people would pose theatrically as black people. Although these shows stopped sometime in the 1930s in our area, the idea was to make make jokes through a questioning character called “Mr. Interlocutor.” At that time, blackface minstrelsy was so accepted that the obvious bigotry we see today was completely missed then.

Author’s end note: If you have not seen The Butterfly Circus, which I have posted before, I recommend that you find 20 minutes to see this inspirational film.

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Over Easy: Ruthie Gets New Felony Charges

4:12 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

High prison walls with a guard tower

Not just walls keep prisoners in jail.

Note: This is a re-post from 2011. As I explained briefly just recently, we are dealing with a criminal cyber-stalker who is also a burglar and a vandal. The person/persons/ have stolen everything that we have ever written, and had also stolen bank information, computer passwords, router passwords, virus protection passwords, medical information, social security information, credit card numbers, and debit card passwords, even cards and letters and pictures from family, as well as other person files. The person made copies off everything, left us with the copies, and stole the originals, including a family heirloom German script book, from the 1700s. The home invaders are over-focused on my legal case, and with each home invasion, I am left with nothing except ever-more altered and self-serving copies of bogus notes from my trial lawyer.

So, this is a re-post, as we try to deal with this crisis is our lives.

Ruthie Gets New Felony Charges

Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a depiction of daily life in jails and in prison, during the years 2008 and 2009, in Kentucky, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Names are changed, except for mine, which is Rachel (This post is from jail, before I was known as Bird Lady. I never saw a bird when I was in jail.) ‘Twin Oaks Road’ is a changed name of a real road.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

McCracken County Jail, Cell 107, April, 2008

Ruthie’s 49-year-old mother just died. She was obese, like Ruthie, and she chain-smoked. She lived alone in a trailer. No one checked on her the entire weekend. She was found Monday, sitting next to the air conditioner, with an inhaler in her hand. The air conditioner was off, so the skin on the body split open and turned colors; the funeral will not be open casket.

Ruthie sits next to me at a steel table with a no-shank pen and paper. She starts to write a letter to a treatment center:

I’m writeing to see if I could get into your program
Im really own drugs bad especily crack cocane I started using when I was 12 years old and it was pot then I started dranking at 16 then started snorting cocane at age 17 then about 19…

“How do you spell snortin’?” asks Ruthie.

“s-n-o-r-t-i-n-g,” I reply.

She thanks me and continues:

…then about 19 crack cocane I stop using drugs there for awhile when I found out I was pregnet I had 2 little girls did good for awhile unlike the father of my kids, my old man, went to jail for about 2 years at first I stayed clean about 4 months after he got locked up.

This is the first and only period in the letter so far. She continues:

then things got hard for me, like paying bills, supporting my kids, just life in general, and everyone around almost did crack cocane, so I look for that for an axcuse, to start back smoking crack-cocane, I started smoking crack-cocane for about the first 6 months then started doing it all almost, But I never really been addicted to pills, like I’ll have a crack pipe and a meth pipe goin at the same time and my old man wuz sellin dope and doin weekins in jail…

Ruthie giggles and says, “A crack pipe and a meth pipe at the same time, that is high, don’t you thank that’s high?”

She continues writing:

…my reasons I looked up to my sister when I wuz a child is my sister took care of me when my mom wuz in and out of jail and on drugs.”

Ruthie never knew her real mother, the one that just died, until Ruthie was 18, and they met each other here in this jail.

Until that time, Ruthie had a last name and a social security number given to her by her foster parents. Then, her real mother gave her a name and a social security number, since the foster parents had been sexually abusive.

I ask, “What about your father?”

“Oh, he was murdered,” replies Ruthie. “I got a tattoo of him right here, on my arm. Yeah, he was murdered. It was in the news.”

“What happened to him?” I ask.

“Oh, it was over money. They done hung him with his own belt buckle. This man and this lady.”

Terry says, “Well fuck me runnin’.”

“They tried to stuff him into the trunk of a car, but he was too big, so they done drug him back into the house. I saw his body. He’d been dead for a week. He was split open, and there was maggots everywhere. Seein’ that changes you. I ain’t been right after seein’ that. Don’t you think it changes you, Rachel?”

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Over Easy: Scientists Re-Visit Mount St. Helens

3:12 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

A group of 75 scientists led by Alan Levander of Rice University in Houston visited Mount St. Helens this week, to create seismic waves by controlled explosions, that will enable them to study the mountain with a new method that is akin to an “ultrasound and a CAT scan” of the volcano’s “internal plumbing.”

Mount St. Helens erupted at 8:32 AM PDT on May 18, 1980 killing 57 people and destroying 250 homes. A second eruption occurred 34 years ago yesterday, on July 22, 1980.

If there were such a thing as reincarnation for a day, May 18, 1980, as a witness to the Mount St. Helens eruption from the Portland area would certainly be an interesting choice. I happened to be home from college for a few days, where several people gathered on our family deck, to watch and take pictures. It was morning but it was dark. Amateur photographs from that distance were difficult to obtain with any resolution, because of the amount of ash that filled the atmosphere.

Although Forest Service and USGS scientists expected Mount St Helens to erupt, based on a spike in seismic activity at the end of March that year, prompting authorities to warn residents to evacuate, no one knew exactly when the mountain would blow. Some skeptical area residents refused to leave, including 83-year-old Spirit Lake Lodge owner Harry Randall Truman, who perished on May 18, during the eruption.

The scientists had been incredibly accurate in their predictions at that time, as it turns out, even if no one really took them seriously, and even if roadside attraction souvenir stands were instantly popular. The predicted eruption that actually happened prompted a common query and reply among residents observing from afar, that went something like, “What’s happened?” followed by, “The mountain just blew up.” No one really expected the first eruption; likewise the second eruption took people completely by surprise.

On the television news we saw police cars lining the roads near Mount St. Helens during the volcanic event, and they all had the hoods of their cars up- officers had to try and cover the automobile engines, to prevent the ash from inflicting permanent damage. People in the area covered their faces with t-shirts. It looked like a black snowstorm. Deer and wildlife ran, and birds tried to find a wire to sit on. For a while, it was hard to conceive of the idea that we would have a world again. The event was very upsetting to nature.

It is good to know that scientists today continue to monitor activity and assess potential risk to human life, by using new methods to look at Mount St. Helens and other peaks in the volcanically active Cascade Range. Active mountains in the Cascade Range include Mounts: Rainier, Baker, St. Helens, Adams, Hood, Three SistersMcLoughlin, and Mount Shasta.

Mount St. Helens’s pre-historic human residents were a collection of tribes. Each had a unique language and name for the mountain, as well a legend known as “Keeper of the Fire.” Although there are many versions of many legends, a prominent one that relates to Mount St. Helens is the story of the Bridge of the Gods, and the creation of the Columbia Gorge.

Author Chuck Williams writes:

In most versions, Mount Hood and Mount Adams, sons of the Great Spirit, fought over a beautiful female mountain. The brothers shook the earth, blocked the sunlight, threw fire at each other, burned the forests, drove off the animals and covered the plants needed by people with ash. The fight cracked the Cascade Range, forming a canyon and a tunnel which emptied the huge lake east of the mountains. The Great Spirit returned and was furious. He left the Bridge of the Gods, the stone arch over the Columbia River, as a monument to peace and placed an elderly, weathered female mountain, Loo-wit, at the bridge as a peacemaker- and as a reminder to the brothers of how transient youthful beauty is. Loo-wit was the keeper of the fire, which had been stolen from atop Wy-east (Mount Hood) by Coyote the Trickster.

Related:

Mount St. Helens eruption: Rare aerial photos never seen before, shot during 1980 eruption

Scientists Plan Explosions Under Mount St. Helens

Electricity And Seismic Waves Give New View Of Mount Rainier’s Volcanic Plumbing

Bibliographic reference for Keeper of the Fire legend:
Mount St. Helens A Changing Landscape
text by Chuck Williams
Introduction by Ray Atkeson
1980: Graphic Arts center Publishing Company PO Box 10306 Portland, Oregon 97210 ISBN 0-912856-63-7
page 19.

Vimeo- Remembering Harry Truman

We welcome off-topic to the Over Easy discussion, and we encourage lurkers to join in as well.

Frog Gravy: An Evening Spades Game

6:14 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Author’s note: Frog Gravy has been around for quite a while. It is a non-fiction incarceration experience in Kentucky, in jails and in prison, during 2008 and 2009. Frog Gravy is reconstructed from voluminous notes that I took, during the time I was locked up. Three of the essays are published. I will seek to publish all of it; however, there has been an unfortunate delay because during the course of a home invasion at some point, the original hand-written notes were stolen by someone unknown to me. This stalker is also an identity thief and a cyber stalker/hacker.

Frog Gravy has graphic language and the inmate names are changed.

This is a new essay. While thieves may steal my identity and everything that I have written or scribbled over the last 30 years (because they did), my sincere wish is, that the voices of the women in Frog Gravy can be read by many who are interested in this subject.

Frog Gravy: An Evening Spades Game, KCIW ‘PeWee Valley’ women’s state prison, near Louisville, sometime in 2009.

I am seated at a steel table for four in Ridgeview Dormitory, in the ‘day room,’ only it is evening. The room is packed and loud, with the television blaring, the microwaves going, the washers and dryers going. Inmates are talking on the inmate phone in succession, near our table. Since our table is near the stairwell, people are constantly walking by.

My hillbilly friend in the wheelchair, Sandy, is my Spades game partner. We are playing against Suzy and Erica. We have been dealt a mediocre hand, and we will lose. But we are having fun. And my morning did not begin with the belief that the entire world was out to fuck me over. After all, the birds greeted me and escorted me during my walk to school.

We are discussing various reasons that inmates get sent to cell block, which is the jail within the prison, and serves as a euphemism for the ‘hole.’ Erica says, “Up in Shelby they was making dildos out of rubber gloves and pads and they was getting away with it.”

I say, “Yeah but that’s jail. Rules are different everywhere you go. I’ve heard that here, you get more time in the hole for getting caught with tobacco, than just about anything, right?”

Suzy says, “You remember Amy? That white girl? She had “cocksucker” tattooed onto the inside of her lip? She went home.”

I say, “But she didn’t get that tattoo while she was here.”

Sandy says, “Fuckin’ Sheila got ninety-for-one-hundred-and-eighty twice, for fuckin’ tattoos.”

I realize that I don’t have any idea what a 90-for-180 is, and I decide that, I actually don’t want to know. On the news, there is some sort of a headline story that our country is nearly broke, or something to that effect. An inmate news-watcher and card player at the table beside us poses two questions, relating to the news story: “Where did all the money go, are they smoking crack in the White House? Can’t Obama go suck some dick, and get it back?”

Meanwhile, near the phone, two inmates are conversing, and I only catch the last of one of them saying, “…murderer. Over dope. He burnt ‘em up in their trailer.” She adds, “Did I do anything to turn you off?”

“And, you can go to the hole for cussing someone here, I’ve heard,” I say.

Alecia, the inmate with horrific OCD, pauses as she walks by our table and says, “Well. At least if I go to the hole, I’ll go to the hole with a clean pussy.”

As she is leaving, I say, “Better not. Once you get there, there is no such thing as having the water cut on all the time.”

Your internal clock gets acclimated to a prison routine, in any given setting. We are losing the spades game, and I begin to keep a closer eye on the phone, wishing for some phone time with my family. The inmate on the phone hangs up and says, “Foster care just took her kids. It’s just a misdemeanor, so her dad’ll go pick her up from jail. So I told her sister, you know what, just don’t worry about it. And she didn’t.”

“How does that all work, foster care taking the kids and all?” I ask Sandy.

“The way Kentucky works is that it doesn’t,” she says. “You can murder your parents and then get on with your life. Just don’t get caught with weed.”

“Give me one saying you learned growing up, Sandy, please? It doesn’t have to be true hillbilly, you know, just a saying.”

“Well, slap my ass and call me a whore, I’ll call you Daddy and ask for more,” offers Sandy.

“Sandy. Not all the detail, and information.”

“Oh all right: He’ll tell a lie, and the other one’ll swear to it.”

It is nearly time to leave, and go to a night class. Tory, my classmate, is waiting for me to get up and walk to class with her. She asks me, for no particular reason, as we begin our walk, “Bird Lady, what do you think your plans will be, later this summer?”

I think about how to answer the question. I do not know what my plans are. What could they be? I say, “Maybe I’ll move to Pine Bluff Dormitory. What’s Pine Bluff like?”

Tory says, “They have lives. They cook. They have dogs.”

We walk to our evening class.

Over Easy: The McCluskey Room

2:59 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

On August 30, 1976, as Harold McCluskey and his wife Ella celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary before he reported to his night shift at Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant as a chemical worker, neither of them knew that on that night, Harold would be involved in a spectacular, record-setting traumatic radiation accident so severe that he would be historically called “The Atomic Man,” nor did they know that the room where the accident would occur would be named “The McCluskey Room.” Indeed, they were unaware that Harold would be the subject of a Seattle Times article describing how his body in the room was “too hot to handle,” so he was “removed by remote control” and “put in a steel and concrete isolation chamber.”

The accident involved the explosion of an ion-exchange column containing about 100 g of 241 Americium, which is used (ironically) in smoke detectors. According to various reports, this amounts to 500 times the occupational standards lifetime limits.

Harold not only survived, due to miraculous or otherwise experimental interventional medicine, he lived another eleven years.

Earlier this month, Hanford and the government announced plans to go into the McCluskey Room and decontaminate it as part of their overall plan to clean and demolish the Plutonium Finishing Plant area of Hanford (see video). This is a hazardous endeavor requiring specialized suits, respirators and monitoring equipment, and the workers will have to exercise great care, planning, and training for their safety, as the McCluskey Room is one of the most hazardous sites under the Department of Energy’s purview.

In 1984, eight years after Mr. McCluskey’s accident, Margaret Mahar wrote an article for People that contained some direct quotes from Mr. McCluskey regarding what happened that night. He was performing an extraction process, to produce americium 241 that would be used in ionization smoke detectors. He realized that there would be an explosion, if he did so, so he called his boss and warned him.

Hanford workers had recently ended a strike and returned to work. McCluskey was concerned about the condition of the chemicals, given how they had been stored during the strike. Margaret Mahar wrote:

Americium, which is used in ionization smoke detectors, was extracted within an airtight steel ‘glove box,’ with McCluskey manipulating the controls from the outside. However, the vessel containing the active ingredient for the extraction process, americium-soaked resin, had remained in the cabinet throughout the strike.

McCluskey was uneasy about adding nitric acid to begin the extraction process. ‘They warned us when they built the plant,’ he recalls. ‘If we tried the process when the resin was even three months old, it would blow up.’ He called his boss and protested. ‘But when the boss called the powers that be, they said, “Go ahead.”‘ McCluskey, a soft-spoken, thoughtful man, did not walk out the door. ‘I’m not a gambler. When you’ve only got a 12th-grade education and you’ve put nearly 30 years in a job, and you’re facing retirement….’

That Mr. McCluskey was put in a position where he was forced to make a decision to risk his life because he fears he will lose his job if he doesn’t, as he nears retirement, is so egregious it shocks the conscience. The article goes into the horrendous and quoted details of the accident that make you feel as if you have picked up and science fiction book. It also describes what life was really like for this man and his wife in the aftermath. His own neighbors no longer want to come to his home. He must to go to different barbers, because he is ruining their business. His life is in ruins. His health is in constant spiraling decline. Experimental medicine. Heart attacks. He can no longer hunt or fish. He is losing his eyesight. He listens to the Bible on tape.

If you read the cleaned up articles today, you would think that Mr. McCluskey was injured on the job due to an unforeseeable accident and he recovered to live a full and happy life eventually dying of natural causes.

The truth is quite different, and all that you can imagine about the government’s behavior at that time getting worse is most certainly true. Mrs. Ella McClusky was reduced to declining the government an autopsy report on her husband when he died, because they were trying to balk at paying up for medical expenses, for being in the wrong. This is as surreal as it gets:

An investigation into the explosion confirmed that the resin mixture had become unstable exactly as McCluskey had warned. He sued the Energy Research and Development Administration for $975,000, settling in 1977 for $275,000 plus lifetime medical expenses. Even then, according to Ella, the government balked at paying up. A feisty former teacher and nurse, she took over: ‘I told them they wouldn’t be able to do an autopsy when he died. They said that wasn’t fair. Then they paid.’

and:

The atomic man doesn’t express anger, but Ella sometimes does. ‘The Hanford and Department of Energy spokespeople tried to make it seem as though it was just an industrial accident, like someone falling in a sawmill,’ she says. ‘It was a catastrophe that ruined Harold’s life.’

As you ponder what you might do if you were in Mr. McCluskey’s situation, remember that Donna Busche was the second Hanford whistleblower firing. What would you do?

To Ella and to Harold McCluskey, Thank you so much, for taking a stand for safety, integrity and grace, and never backing down.

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Over Easy: Bioprospecting in Panama

4:02 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

In Gamboa, Panama, medical researchers who oppose deforestation are looking at ways to fight deadly disease like malaria and others by examining the fur of sloths, observing ant colonies and studying other rainforest plants and animals. The researchers in Panama are speaking of ‘biological hot spots’ in the rainforest, that serve as stable reservoirs for otherwise undisturbed diseases — until, that is, the human practice of deforestation which displaces otherwise stable reservoirs.

Yesterday in the Washington Post, in an article titled “How deforestation shares the blame for the Ebola epidemic,” Terrence McCoy discusses the commonality of the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa with deforestation, a practice unprecedented in this area. The article explains:

Such a conclusion is particularly troublesome for West Africa, which has never before experienced an Ebola outbreak like this one, and is reported to have one of the world’s highest rates of regional deforestation.

-snip-

‘There are no longer any frontier forests in West Africa for future generations to exploit,’ researcher Jim Gockowski, who co-authored a study tracking Guinea’s deforestation, said in a statement.

What does that mean for Ebola? Quite a lot. For one, it brings people and wildlife into closer contact than before. And it also means a lot more bats, thought to carry Ebola, which increasingly pervade some forested communities.

Unbridled deforestation for profit must stop. The practice began with too many unknowns. The other issue of great concern is antibiotic resistance. Some of the answers may be in the rainforest, but unfortunately, and this is only an opinion, Big Contracts, Big Hospital Buying Groups coupled with Big Pharma are interested not in the least in investing in collecting sloth firs to investigate reduction in non-Big-Selling Diseases. Two thousand people die each day from malaria. But that’s someplace else. Same with Ebola. Rather, developers would much rather cut down the rainforests and replace them with developments.