Mother Earth Catastrophically Ill. Humans; Cause and Cure?

Mother Earth

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Mother Earth is catastrophically ill.  Our Mother is warm with fever.  Scientists at the National Research Council report the  temperature on the Earth’s surface has increased one degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) during the last century.  The consensus is her children gave rise to the heat that now harms her.  

The carelessness of her youngest brood, people, may kill the benevolent parent.  All the progeny inherited is endangered by their presence. For centuries, Mother Earth provided the best for her young.  For eons, her offspring were appreciative.   She asked for noting in return.  Reciprocal reverence was the only rule.  Somehow, this standard was lost when people began to populate the planet.

Scientists strongly suggest human activity altered what was once a vibrant balance in “Mom’s” home.  People put the planet is in peril.  Mother Nature gave humans life, and mankind has progressively destroyed hers.  

What two-legged creatures classify as “growth,” generates greater amounts of greenhouse gases.  Currently, there is a high concentration of toxic chemicals in the air.  It is difficult to breathe, or be when the heavens are not healthy.

As people passionately produce the natural world suffers.  Earth, once a comfortable home for man and beast, plant and plankton, is no longer cozy.

Since the dawn of the Industrial Age, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 35 percent greater, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The presence of methane in the air is now 151 percent above pre-industrial levels.  Noxious nitrous oxide is more plentiful in our skies than it was two hundred years earlier.  The amount of this colorless, nonflammable, sweet-smelling gas, is more 18 percent higher than it was only two centuries ago.

Many researchers and experts who have studied global warming believe people are the likely culprits for change.  The burning of fossil fuels, emissions from vehicles, and the clearing of forests has placed this astronomical body, its inhabitants, and all other beings in jeopardy.

More than seventy species vanish from the planet Earth each day.  Deforestation is one of the many obvious causes for the extinction of life. Climate change is another result.  

As the rates of rainfall, increase and decrease throughout the globe, residents worldwide and within America can no longer simply hold onto our hats and hope that hurricanes and hailstorms will pass.  People must find a way to hang on to their roofs.  The removal of plants and trees devastates all forms of life.

Overpopulation taxes our resources.  Yet, each day egocentric humans consume and consume.  People, their vehicles, and the factories that belch out the bile obliterate the Mother who gave birth to us all.

Today, on Earth Day, April 22, 2008, might we, every one of us consider we were the ailment that hurt our Mother, and only we can provide the cure?

Resources, the Environment, The Rape and Mother Earth . . .

Where Is the Beef? Where Are the Bees? Planet in Peril

Slaughterhouse Investigation: Cruel and Unhealthy Practices

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

You may wish to review an earlier reflection, California Slaughterhouse; Human Cruelty Exposed

Late in January 2008, Americans read the startling news, Video Reveals Violations of Laws, Abuse of Cows at Slaughterhouse.  Tears were shed by some; most turned away.  The footage was too graphic.  Countless wished to remain removed from a reality they do not wish to witness.  Reports, of brutal treatment towards beefy cattle, were received by many as is steak on a plate.  Those who eat the meat think it  sad that a cow must be sacrificed in order to fill a human stomach.  Nonetheless, numerous persons believe man kills “lower” forms of life; that is the natural order.  

After the revelation, not much changed.  Throughout the nation people continued as they had.  Weeks passed.  Those categorized as the highly intelligent, and humane, had greater concerns than cattle or the cruelty inflicted upon these beast.  Matters of consequence were and are far more critical than fallen cows.  Decision-makers at the morally condemned abattoir understood the more crucial issue would be public relations.  If earnings are to be maintained and profits sustained some action must be taken.  The reputation of the business was at stake [steak].  Embarrassed by the audio-visual documentation of doings within the plant, Chief Executives at the Westland – Hallmark Meat Company, ordered the  Largest Recall of Ground Beef ever.

The meat packaging plant issued a warning.  Consumers were asked to return a full 143 million pounds plus, of beef.  Meat produced over the last two years was included in the cautionary measures.  

More than a third of the 143 million pounds of California beef recalled this week went to school lunch programs, with at least 20 million pounds consumed, Agriculture Department officials said Thursday.

About 50 million pounds of the meat went to schools, said Eric Steiner, deputy administrator of special nutrition programs for the department’s Food and Nutrition Service.

Of that amount, about 20 million pounds has been eaten, 15 million pounds is on hold at storage facilities and 15 million pounds is still being traced, he said.

Conceivably, the scope was too broad.  Consumers became frightened.  The public panicked  Parents feared for the children.  Schools worried; as recipients and distributors of large quantities of the beef would they be liable.  

As awareness increased for the possibly tainted beef, an anxious public cried, “How many people need to get sick, or die, before Congress starts to repair and modernize the nation’s food safety system?”  Americans remembered other recent recalls and clamored, someone must be held accountable.  People blamed the Bush Administration for this “turn” of events.  Periodicals offer resounding criticisms.  No one spoke of the duplicity.  Why is it considered cruel to abuse the animal you are prepared to kill?

Instead of strengthening the government’s regulatory systems, the Bush administration has spent years cutting budgets and filling top jobs with industry favorites.  The evidence of their failures keep mounting: contaminated spinach, poisoned pet food, tainted fish.

There was and is much to speak of, more to scrutinize.  Infected food can cause death.  Yet, no one places the onus on those who passively accept food industry standards, the American people.  The official word of the Federal Food and Drug Administration, which relaxed regulations decades ago, escapes censure as well.  Citizens no longer recall that this branch of government loosened standards, and allowed the industry to define what might be acceptable fodder.

[In] 1958, the definition of pantry goods had changed substantially.  New food products and a newly competitive refrigerated and frozen goods industry that developed in the domestic marketplace after World War II had literally redefined the household pantry.  As the number of new processed and fabricated foods grew, the government spent less time issuing refined standards for products such as raisin bread and egg bread, and more time establishing new standards for products such as frozen orange juice, frozen “TV” dinners, frozen breaded shrimp, freeze dried coffee, and “instant chocolate drinks.”  As soon as the Food Additives Amendment was in place, FDA began to experiment with less restrictive food standards than the strict “recipe standards” that had predominated in the standards program.  

In 1961, FDA first deviated from the recipe approach when it issued standards for “frozen raw breaded shrimp” which simply provided for the use of “safe and suitable” batter and breading ingredients, rather than listing all optional ingredients individually.  A legal definition of “safe and suitable” was later codified and used to allow “safe and suitable preservatives” or “safe and suitable emulsifiers.”

This action was taken at the bequest of businesses.  Food producers found the shift necessary.  Congress never challenged the move or the measure.  Communities nationwide did not question the wisdom of this action.  Just as Americans accept that we must kill animals and eat them in order to survive, we also understand that when definitions or circumstances make our daily life more convenient, that cannot be all bad.  Even the skeptical among us have faith no business or government agency would intentionally harm patrons, the people, or the planet.

Hence, as long as industry is regulated, and the government classifies food, or chemical substitutes as safe, there is no reason to question what appears on American plates.  Events such as the one at this particular slaughterhouse are an anomaly.  

Americans trust they system and did as they characteristically do.  They heard the warnings and worried not.  Authorities would take care of the situation.  We will survive.  The world is a wondrous place.

Humans rather not reflect on the possibility the treatment of cows relates to a broader reality.  The planet is in peril.  Downer cows lifted so that they might be butchered for food, speaks of more than a single slaughterhouse or situation.  Yet, Americans and other world inhabitants do not wish to discuss what is.

This story is not merely about how humans murder another mammal with malice, or how the master of the universe, man, with his magnificent mind rationalizes what he knows to be morally wrong.  This tale offers a reflection too long ignored.  Humans hungry, and habitual in nature, do not chew on the thought . . .

The food chain is a complex balance of life.  If one animals source of food disappears, such as from over fishing or hunting, many other animals in the food chain are impacted and may die.

Man in his infinite wisdom has altered the balance of nature.  People do not consider, what they have done to the animals, insects, all the inhabitants they classify as lesser beings.  Humans do not wish to acknowledge they have killed off many species.  One extinction leads to another, then another, and finally, if we follow the chain, to total inhalation.  A productive planet can die just and its inhabitants without insight might perish sooner than later.

Perchance, nature will remind those hard of heart.  Kill fellow organisms, murder the mortal, and Mother Nature will politely, slowly, and subtly punish you for your selfish aggressions.  

The lovely lady who breathes life into man and beast tries to tell man-kind [sic], be cautious.  Earth, in all her elegance gives humans brains enough to realize life on this planet is pained.  The treatment of cattle helps to explain how man threatens Earth.

Humans brutally slaughter the cattle and the cows return the favor.  Life is cyclical.  Relationships are symbiotic.  Try as man might to control Mother Nature, he cannot combat the fluid energy that created him.

The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.

Livestock’s long shadow, a report released by the Livestock, Environmental, and Development [LEAD] initiative tells a tale of woe that is worrisome.  Worldwide, man, in his zeal to eat the flesh of cattle, degrades the land, changes the climate, pollutes the air and water, causes water shortage, and engenders loss of biodiversity.  ? The adage, ‘kill or be killed’ might be better stated, ‘slay and be slain.’

The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land.  The total area occupied by grazing is equivalent to 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet. In addition, the total area dedicated to feedcrop production amounts to 33 percent of total arable land.

In all, livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet. ?Expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring – 70 percent of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder.

About 20 percent of the world’s pastures and rangelands, with 73 percent of rangelands in dry areas, have been degraded to some extent, mostly through overgrazing, compaction, and erosion created by livestock action. The dry lands in particular are affected by these trends, as livestock are often the only source of livelihoods for the people living in these areas.

A society dependent on meat production destroys the delicate balance that sustains life on this globe. Yet, to look at cows in the field, one would never know.  Most who see cattle graze feel a sense of serenity.  Few of us consider cows in the countryside a problem.  After all, we were raised to appreciate these animals for what they provide.

Americans, carnivores and omnivores that we are, can claim, ‘Look at all that life.’  Few satiated humans whose stomach bulge, state, ‘Look at all that death and destruction.’  Climate change, as it slowly creeps into consciousness, does not startle us as it might.  Humans barely notice the nuances.  

With rising temperatures, rising sea levels, melting icecaps and glaciers, shifting ocean currents and weather patterns, climate change is the most serious challenge facing the human race.  ?The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport. ?

The livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The largest share of this derives from land-use changes – especially deforestation – caused by expansion of pastures and arable land for feedcrops. . . .

It is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance, and many others.  The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feedcrops, and sediments from eroded pastures.

Global figures are not available but in the United States, with the world’s fourth largest land area, livestock are responsible for an estimated 55 percent of erosion and sediment, 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the loads of nitrogen and phosphorus into freshwater resources.

The brown-eyed beauties are not the problem.  It is man who has chosen to cultivate a crop of beef that destroys the planet.  Humans, intent on self-service kill the cattle brutally, and will ultimately kill themselves if they continue to ignore the signs.  Currently, the extinction of bee colonies throughout the planet is not considered a priority; yet, it is more evidence that something has gone wrong.  As absurd as it may seem some researchers claim cell telephones emit radiation and this effects the honeybees ability to navigate.  Others argue, that theory is preposterous.  Numerous refute claims they deem science fiction.  

Nevertheless, honeybees are the most important insects in the human food chain.  Little buzzers are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and nuts. In the last three scores years, or more, the number of bee colonies has declined.  In October 2007, as honey bee colonies collapsed, a study by the National Academy of Sciences, Colony Collapse Disorder and Pollinator Decline, suggests American agriculture may place too great a reliance on one type of pollinator, the honeybee.  Other investigations focus on the reason for the threat of  an apparent bee colony collapse.

Genetic testing at Columbia University has revealed the presence of multiple micro-organisms in bees from hives or colonies that are in decline, suggesting that something is weakening their immune system.  The researchers have found some fungi in the affected bees that are found in humans whose immune systems have been suppressed by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or cancer.

“That is extremely unusual,” Dr. Cox-Foster said.

Meanwhile, samples were sent to an Agriculture Department laboratory in North Carolina this month to screen for 117 chemicals. Particular suspicion falls on a pesticide that France banned out of concern that it may have been decimating bee colonies. Concern has also mounted among public officials.

“There are so many of our crops that require pollinators,” said Representative Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat whose district includes that state’s central agricultural valley, and who presided last month at a Congressional hearing on the bee issue. “We need an urgent call to arms to try to ascertain what is really going on here with the bees, and bring as much science as we possibly can to bear on the problem.”

Science is endorsed as the solution. However, the discipline remains part of the problem.  Man cannot study as quickly as Mother Nature moves.  Anthropoids do not understand that nature is fluid, chaotic, and not easily categorized.  It cannot be controlled, but it can be corrupted.  What humans have yet to comprehend is the effect they have on what they have and have not discovered.

Life on Earth is in the early stages of the worst mass extinction since the end of the Cretaceous.  Many species are likely go extinct before they are even discovered and named by biologists.  Of the estimated 10 to 20 million species living on Earth, only 10 percent have been described in the past 250 years. Dr. Edward O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, proposes that the remaining 90 percent must be described in one-tenth that time to save millions of species from extinction.

According to Doctor Wilson, a renowned expert on biodiversity, megafauna are dying out.  The tuatara, the lizard-like reptile on New Zealand, the kagu, a crane-like bird with a big plume of feathers in New Caledonia an island in the south Pacific, the Sumatran rhino and the hairy rhinoceros of Europe “were wiped out before humans even had a conscience.”  If we continue to consume or ‘control’ as we do, complete extinction may be inevitable, with thanks or no thanks to the knowledge gained by the study of the physical world.

The statistics are staggering.  Annihilation in the animal kingdom is ample.  If we were only assess to what is observable among the insect community, we might realize there is reason to be startled.  A known fact is, in America alone, 27 states have experienced bee colony collapse.  Countries abroad document the same disorder.

Bee Alert Technology Inc., a company monitoring the problem.  A recent survey of 13 states by the Apiary Inspectors of America showed that 26 percent of beekeepers had lost half of their bee colonies between September and March. . . .

These bees may suffer from a diet that includes artificial supplements, concoctions akin to energy drinks and power bars. In several states, suburban sprawl has limited the bees’ natural forage areas.

So far, the researchers have discounted the possibility that poor diet alone could be responsible for the widespread losses. They have also set aside for now the possibility that the cause could be bees feeding from a commonly used genetically modified crop, Bt corn, because the symptoms typically associated with toxins, such as blood poisoning, are not showing up in the affected bees.  But researchers emphasized today that feeding supplements produced from genetically modified crops, such as high-fructose corn syrup, need to be studied.

The food now available to the honey bees harms them.  The fodder that humans ingest is arguably not healthy.  The analysis absent in each of these scenarios, stories of beef and bees, is how humans destroy the gift of life.  In our fervor to fulfill self, we sacrifice our souls.  Man, in his infinite desire to control and consume, alters crops, raises cattle only to satisfy a stomach too large, and gratify a spirit too small.  Humans hurt honeybees, the helpers of every man, woman, and child.  All suffer at the hands of those beings who pride themselves on having a brain; yet have forgotten what it might mean to have a heart.

Devour The Earth (Good Documentary)(PART 2)

The Beef, The Bees, The Brutality . . .

The Sacrifice; Children’s Health Insurance Program [SCHIP] Costs

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Each evening I go to sleep and hope that in the morning when I awake, the nightmare will be over.  I am unsure whether it has been days, weeks, months, or years since I felt as though there was reason to expect all would be well.  I contemplate the plight of many, and my heart bleeds.  I wonder; can we say we live for the Seventh Generation or must we accept that our progeny will not survive. 

When I consider the circumstances of children I weep.  Their health and welfare do not seem to fit into our adult plans or our budget.  I am concerned when I hear whispers and discussions; the State Children’s Health Insurance Program [SCHIP] costs too much.  I am more anxious since I learned the Bush Administration imposed stipulations; now the program will not cover many offspring in need.  Each of these distressing dilemmas, I think is symptomatic of an endemic problem.  We, the elders focus on financial matters more than physical realities. 

In America, adults believe a healthy economy equates to profits, not authentic assets.  Mature minds act as though people are worth less than a pocket full of coins.  Yet, individuals of age whose priorities are askew, determine what is best for the beloved young.  Frequently, those old enough to support themselves think of little but their individual survival.  Rarely, do working stiffs realize they are part of a community.  In America, until there is a time of crisis, it is every man or woman for his or herself.

It seems we, as a society, do not recognize that in each moment, we are part of a whole.  Each and every one of us belongs to a community.  Americans feel isolated, insulated from their neighbors.  As inhabitants of Earth, we are one.  What any of us does, will affect another.  Yet, we ignore this truth.  We disregard much.  We allow for what occurs, as long as we do not think it will harm us directly. 

This week, the Bush Administration took advantage of our apathy.  The Administration altered the regulations of the State Children’s Health insurance Program [SCHIP.]   Few Americans will blink an eye.  Most people are focused on providing for their families in the only way they know how.  They work.  Parents of the millions of children without insurance have learned to accommodate.  Some never knew they could apply for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan.

Residents of this country think themselves too busy, too stressed, too overwhelmed to worry about those outside their circle.  They go about their day doing what they know needs to be done, and do not realize what they overlook.  What occurs, even to the offspring they say they love is often too much to bear.  To ideate our intention, then ruminate on our reality is painful.

Many Eligible for Child Health Plan Have No Idea
By Kevin Sack
The New York Times
August 22, 2007

Greensboro, N.C. – During the four years that her children were uninsured, Cassie O. Hall used the emergency room as their pediatrician.  When Tayana had an asthma attack or Darren developed a stubborn rash, they would head to the hospital and settle in for a long wait.

The children never got physical exams or booster shots.  And as the unpaid hospital bills stacked up, the threshold for a visit grew higher.  “They would have to be half-dead before I would take them,” said Ms. Hall, a day care operator who could not afford private insurance.

It was only in May that Ms. Hall learned that her family qualified for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides subsidized insurance to children of the working poor.  That she had never heard of the joint state and federal program made her typical of countless parents of the estimated eight million uninsured children.

Despite a decade of marketing efforts by governments and private foundations, nearly 30 percent of children who are eligible for the health insurance program and are not covered by private plans have yet to enroll, according to a new government study.

The reasons for this are ample.  In America, families are in flux.  People move.  Households split.  One parent or another might think they are not responsible for the health care coverage of their child.  Those without often hide.  They are embarrassed by their circumstances. 

If a mother or father changes jobs, insurance may come or go.  Transitions may initially be thought temporary.  Perhaps, what occurs is merely characteristic of our culture.  People are busy.  They wait for a catastrophe before they act.

Possibly, the public will not express their concern because they do not recognize the depth of the dilemma.  Director of the Congressional Budget Office, Peter R. Orszag understands the reasons for this.  In a letter addressed to  United States Senator, Max Baucus, Chairman of the Committee on Finance he offers some insight into the information regarding uninsured children.

In response to your letter of July 10, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has examined available estimates of the number of children who lack health insurance, but are eligible for Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance program (SCHIP). Some empirical studies have found that there are between 5 million and 6 million such children. In contrast to those studies, the Administration recently estimated that a much smaller number, 1.1 million children, lack health insurance but are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP.

In an August 2005 report prepared for the  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and completed by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) and the Urban Institute using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) researchers stated, in 2003, 8.4 million children are uninsured.  As noted, there is ample reason to believe the number is now much higher.  However, it is difficult to know what is valid.  Unfortunately, few care.  They have no time for such technicalities.

All around the nation, for adults, life goes on; day-to-day perceived “necessities” overwhelm them,.  Mature and “civilized” persons “must” consume petroleum products.  Grown-ups are required to ravage the terrain in an attempt to supply for our infinite “needs.”  We fight for freedom so that we might incinerate more oil.  We spoil the soil with waste from our factories.  Waterways are boulevards for gas-guzzling boats.  American citizens devour foods contaminated with chemicals. 

In the meantime, roads crack.  Rivers fill with filth.  The ozone layer deteriorates, as does the health of the planet.  Our children may feel the burden of our lifestyle more than we do.  Their little bodies are more susceptible to environmental influences.  Healthy habitats seem a thing of the past.

While we wallow in war and work for our individual riches, we ignore what matters most.  The quality of our shared existence; the importance of our common well-being, the children, their health, and ours.

Currently, young persons, those older and the elderly acquire chronic respiratory illnesses at a rate not thought possible.  The weight of the world settles in the bellies of a population grown fat.  We trust that someone, somewhere, will do what we dare not, consciously choose to care about more than the moment.  We seek a quick fix to all that ails us.  Perhaps, drugs will reduce the pain; however, who can afford a prescription.  Parents struggle to pay their own bills.  Children dependent on the care of a mother, father, guardian, or two parents often realize that unless they are severely ill, medical procedures must be postponed.

Many parents of uninsured children say they cannot afford unexpected medical bills and emergency room visits.  They report that they avoid medical costs whenever they can by treating illnesses at home with over-the-counter medications and home remedies.  Almost all say they postpone medical care for their children and put off buying prescription drugs when they can.  A parent of an uninsured child in Miami said, “We try not to get sick.  I try not to think about it too much.”

Americans avoid much in word and deed.  Citizens feel powerless.  They perceive the government is separate from them.  Senators, Congressmen, and women, even the President does not represent the common folk.  The conventional wisdom is “‘Politicians are crooks.”  The public, for the most part sees no reason to be politically active; apathy is rampant in the United States.

We do not understand that we “the people” are the authority.  Democracy defines ‘government’ as of, by, and for the people.  Our vote counts.  Yet, in a nation where the Administration implements regulations that conflict with the intent of the law, citizens forget, they have the clout.  In recent decades, Americans are reluctant to go to the polls. 

When the populace does vote, and embrace their authentic power, image, or electability, govern most decisions.  Candidates are sold to the people.  Pretty or popular persons are thought profound.  Yes, money moves much, perhaps all.  Certainly, the power of wealth is influencing the state Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Consider the Bush proposal.

[President Bush] He has proposed about $5 billion in new funding for children’s health insurance over five years, for a total of $30 billion — an amount that the Congressional Budget Office says would be too little to keep covering even just the number of children enrolled in the program now.

George W. Bush is not alone in his desire to under-fund the needs of the nation and its residents.  Most Americans want to keep their earned income in their personal pocket.  Residents in my region proclaim property taxes are too high; they must be cut.  The possibility alone has caused massive layoffs in this community.  City workers were awarded pink slips.  Immediately vandalism rose in public facilities.

Weeks ago, the nation heard of the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis and discovered there are thousands more troubled structures throughout the States.  As we, the people, spend billions, trillions on defense, our infrastructure crumbles beneath us.  Our progeny fall to pieces before our eyes, and we do little to help them.  Indeed, the rules are changed so that less of the littlest people will be cared for.

Rules May Limit Health Program Aiding Children
By Robert Pear
The New York Times
August 21, 2007

The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for New York, California and others to extend coverage to children in middle-income families.

Administration officials outlined the new standards in a letter sent to state health officials on Friday evening, in the middle of a month-long Congressional recess.  In interviews, they said the changes were intended to return the Children’s Health Insurance Program to its original focus on low-income children and to make sure the program did not become a substitute for private health coverage.

After learning of the new policy, some state officials said yesterday that it could cripple their efforts to cover more children and would impose standards that could not be met.

“We are horrified at the new federal policy,” said Ann Clemency Kohler, deputy commissioner of human services in New Jersey. “It will cause havoc with our program and could jeopardize coverage for thousands of children.”

Stan Rosenstein, the Medicaid director in California, said the new policy was “highly restrictive, much more restrictive than what we want to do.”

The poverty level for a family of four is set by the federal government at $20,650 in annual income. Many states have received federal permission to cover children with family incomes exceeding twice the poverty level – $41,300 for a family of four.  In New York, which covers children up to 250 percent of the poverty level, the Legislature has passed a bill that would raise the limit to 400 percent- $82,600 for a family of four – but the change is subject to federal approval.

California wants to increase its income limit to 300 percent of the poverty level, from 250 percent. Pennsylvania recently raised its limit to 300 percent, from 200 percent. New Jersey has had a limit of 350 percent for more than five years.

As with issues like immigration, the White House is taking action on its own to advance policies that have not been embraced by Congress.

Immigration is not the only issue of import that calls the White House to action.  Frequently, the Bush Administration wields its power to protect entrepreneurs and discounts the value of employees.  The Executive Branch plans to do so again and again, much to the detriment of everyday folk.  Only weeks ago, workers died in mines notably too dangerous for man.  Wealthy businessmen or women, such as the colliery owner prefer to pay fines when “government” imposed industry standards [laws enacted for the good of the greater community] are not meet.

Mattingly: Robert Murray bought the Crandall Canyon mine only a year ago and, until the accident, it was one of his safest mines.  But “Keeping Them Honest,” we checked government records, and found they list Murray as the head of 19 mining operations in five states.  Only seven are active underground mines, and four of them have injury rates above the national average.  At the Galatia mine in southern Illinois, the rate of injuries has exceeded the national average every year since Murray bought the mine in 1998. The rate of injuries was almost cut in half from 2003 to 2006, but the mine has also racked up over 3,400 citations in the last 2 1/2 years, 968 so far this year, with nearly a quarter considered significant and substantial. 

Ellen Smith, Mine Safety & Health News:  You wonder how that many violations can build up in that little amount of time.  Now, you have to remember he’s challenging a lot of the citations, but when you look, he’s also paid a lot in fines. 

Mattingly: He paid almost $700,000 in fines from 2005 and 2006. So far, this year Galatia has been hit with 31 major citations, each exceeding $10,000. That’s more violations than any other mine in the country and second in total fines.  (on camera) And Galatia wasn’t Murray’s first big problem. In 2003 managers at his mining company in Kentucky were found guilty of violating safety standards and attempting to cover it up. The company was ordered to pay a $306,000 fine.

  (voice-over) Requests for comments from officials at Murray Energy were not answered. CNN asked Murray about safety records of his other underground mines at a news conference Monday.  Murray said he would only talk about Crandall Canyon.

Mine owner Robert Murray apparently recognizes that he, just as George W. Bush can control the conversation.  People will not protest loudly or for long.  It is [usually] safer to talk about the weather.  Let us discuss our current climate conditions.

Citizens in the Midwest experienced rains such as they have never seen.  Cities built on concrete cannot absorb the deluge.  The few trees that budgets maintain are toppled.  No matter. 

We have come to expect and accept global warming as a fact.  We do little or nothing to change the course nature now takes.  We discount the health of the planet, just as we disregard the well being of our babies or our own bodies.  Man does not seem to recognize a need for the oxygen foliage and flora provide, evident by deforestation and the lack of tree-lined streets.  Nor does he or she realize the health of our children correlates to the physical and moral condition of our broader communities.

Today, winds gust at speeds not recorded in year’s prior.  Hurricane Dean in Mexico, is now on people’s radar.  I am reminded of how, during the 2005 hurricane season, people in the plains expressed their resentment for the possibility that they may need to supplement the effort to rebuild with Federal funds.  Some thought those that live in areas such as Louisiana and Florida silly to request financial aid from those that reside in other areas of the country.  The cry was, “It is not my concern.”  Followed by “Why should I care?”

Perhaps, I can respond to that query in a meaningful manner.  When we do not care for others or their needs; ultimately, we will likely realize we did not care for ourselves.  We are indeed, all connected.

Children’s Healthcare Is a No-Brainer
By Amy Goodman
Truth Dig
July 24, 2007

Deamonte Driver had a toothache. He was 12 years old. He had no insurance, and his mother couldn’t afford the $80 to have the decayed tooth removed. He might have gotten it taken care of through Medicaid, but his mother couldn’t find a dentist who accepted the low reimbursements. Instead, Deamonte got some minimal attention from an emergency room, his condition worsened and he died.  Deamonte was one of 9 million children in the U.S. without health insurance.

Congress is considering bipartisan legislation that will cover poor children in the U.S.

The major obstacle? President Bush is vowing to veto the bill, even though Republican and Democratic senators reached bipartisan agreement on it. The bill adds $35 billion to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program over the next five years by increasing federal taxes on cigarettes.

The conservative Heritage Foundation is against the tobacco tax to fund SCHIP, saying that it “disproportionately burdens low-income smokers” as well as “young adults.” No mention is made of any adverse impact on Heritage-funder Altria Group, the cigarette giant formerly known as Philip Morris.

According to the American Association for Respiratory Care, with every 10 percent rise in the cigarette tax, youth smoking drops by 7 percent and overall smoking declines by 4 percent. Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, says: “It is a public health good in and of itself and will save lives to increase the tobacco tax.  Cigarettes kill and cigarettes provoke lung cancer, and every child and every [other] human being we can, by increasing the cigarette tax, stop from smoking or slow down from smoking is going to have a public health benefit, save taxpayers money from the cost of the effects of smoking and tobacco.”

Two programs serve as the health safety net for poor and working-class children: Medicaid and SCHIP (pronounced “s-chip”).  SCHIP is a federal grant program that allows states to provide health coverage to children who belong to working families earning too much to be eligible for Medicaid but not enough to afford private health insurance when their employers do not provide it.  It’s the SCHIP funding that is now being debated in Congress.

The Children’s Defense Fund has published scores of stories similar to Deamonte’s. Children like Devante Johnson of Houston. At 13, Devante was fighting advanced kidney cancer.  His mother tried to renew his Medicaid coverage, but bureaucratic red tape tied up the process.  By the time Devante got access to the care he needed, his fate was sealed. He died at the age of 14, in Bush’s home state, only miles from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, one of the world’s leading cancer treatment and research facilities.

Our children depend on us and we ignore their pleas and their plight.  Possibly, we are as we remember. Our parents counted the available cash, they pinched pennies, or saved for the rainy day.  Perhaps, we are far worse.  We are not the providers our mothers and fathers were, and there in lies the problem. 

The percentage of children under 18 who are uninsured rose from 10.8 percent in 2004 to 11.2 percent in 2005, while the number of uninsured children climbed from 7.9 million in 2004 to 8.3 million in 2005, an increase of 360,000.

  We cannot be certain these numbers are accurate.  As stated earlier, the current Administration tweaked the accounts.  Thus, what we believe to be true may be as dependent as our children are.  Nonetheless, we must understand that uninsured children will suffer even if Congress can override an expected Presidential veto. 

As of late August 2007, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program Bill [SCHIP] is not the healthy plan it was intended to be.  For months, the White House wrangled with members of the House and Senate; they argued over the finer points of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, The cost and the conditions necessary for application were in question.  Lawmakers see a need to expand the program.  The Bush Administration favors cuts.  While Congress was in recess, during the quiet days of summer, the Executive Branch stepped in and stripped the law.  The effectiveness of a popular children’s health insurance program is now lost.  In its current form, the Bill is but a skeleton, bare to the bone.  New rules mandate States . .

– Establish that the child
has been without health insurance for at least one year.

– Assure the federal government that at least 95 percent of children currently eligible for S-CHIP or Medicaid are enrolled in one of those programs.

– Make sure that an S-CHIP family’s contribution to its health care costs (premiums, co-pays and deductibles) is only slightly less than the family would pay for a comparable private insurance plan.

One can only sigh as Ann Kohler, New Jersey Deputy Commissioner of Human Services does.  She shrugs and states this part of the law is unfair.  “I cannot imagine any state being able to comply with that.”

Judith Solomon, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, used to run the outreach program for Connecticut’s S-CHIP program. She says you couldn’t get that enrollment rate up to 95 percent even if you knocked on every door in the state looking for eligible kids. There are language barriers – people who just don’t want public assistance – and it’s a population that’s always in flux.

“Children are born, children age out, they reach age 19 and are no longer eligible,” Solomon says. “Family income goes up, family income goes down; it’s a very dynamic situation.”

Once again, we are reminded, the elders focus on financial matters more than physical realities.  In this nation, people are not the priority.  Political gestures, those that favor friends, take precedence.  For the President, insurance companies are more likely to fill his pockets than the poor and impoverished will.  For we, the people, particularly those whose purses are empty, might we stop and consider what brings us greater fulfillment.  Is it our children, our community, or our self-imposed ignorance.  Might we embrace empathy, love our neighbors more than the almighty buck, endow our children with quality health care services, and enjoy what truly matters, people and the profound affect we have on the life of our community.

Sources for State Children’s Health Insurance Program . . .

  • State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  U.S. Department of Health.
  • The Number of Uninsured Americans At An All time High.  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. August 29, 2006
  • Who’s uninsured in 2007? It’s more than just the poor, By Julie Appleby.  USA Today.
  • Going Without; America’s Uninsured Children. Covering Kids and Families. August 2005
  • Bush Administration Outlines New SCHIP Standards That Would Keep Program Limited to Low-Income Children. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. August 21, 2007
  • Surveillance for Asthma — United States, 1980-1999. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Updated 2002
  • Americans Relying More on Prescription Drugs, Report Says, By Robert Pear.  The New York Times. December 3, 2004
  • pdf Americans Relying More on Prescription Drugs, Report Says, By Robert Pear.  The New York Times. December 3, 2004
  • PrescriptionDrugTrends. Kaiser Family Foundation. May 2007
  • Americans see fat as normal as weights rise: study. Reuters. August 7, 2007
  • Global Warming Fast Facts. National Geographic News. Updated June 14, 2007
  • Forest Holocaust.  National Geographic News.
  • Setting Urban Tree Canopy Goals. American forest.
  • Bush Is Prepared to Veto Bill to Expand Child Insurance, By Robert Pear.  The New York Times. July 15, 2007
  • Letter to The Honorable Max Baucus, Chairman of the Committee on Finance.
  • Belief that Iraq Had Weapons of Mass Destruction Has Increased Substantially. The Harris Poll® #57. July 21, 2006
  • Many Eligible for Child Health Plan Have No Idea, By Kevin Sack.  The New York Times. August 22, 2007
  • pdf Many Eligible for Child Health Plan Have No Idea, By Kevin Sack.  The New York Times. August 22, 2007
  • Air Pollution and Children’s Health.  Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment .
  • Child Health Insurance Stalls in Congress, Plans to Renew Program Bog Down as Lawmakers Debate Funding, Philosophy. By Christopher Lee.  Washington Post. Sunday, July 15, 2007; Page A04
  • pdf Child Health Insurance Stalls in Congress, Plans to Renew Program Bog Down as Lawmakers Debate Funding, Philosophy. By Christopher Lee.  Washington Post. Sunday, July 15, 2007; Page A04
  • Enrolling Children in Medicaid and SCHIP: Insights from Focus Groups with Low-Income Parents. Prepared by:  Michael Perry and Julia Paradise.  Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. May 2007
  • Rules May Limit Health Program Aiding Children By Robert Pear.  The New York TimesAugust 21, 2007
  • Anderson Cooper; 360 Degrees.  Transcripts. August 22, 2007
  • 25 dead as storms collide in Midwest, Plains Cable News Network August 23, 2007
  • Dean Likely To Return To Mexico.  CBS News. August 22, 2007
  • Children’s Healthcare Is a No-Brainer By Amy Goodman.  Truth Dig. July 24, 2007
  • New Bush Policies Limit Reach of Child Insurance Plan, By Christopher Lee. Washington Post. Tuesday, August 21, 2007; Page A04
  • pdf New Bush Policies Limit Reach of Child Insurance Plan, By Christopher Lee. Washington Post. Tuesday, August 21, 2007; Page A04