Friday, June 16, 2017

Smoke Meets Fire

In the downtime while everyone is pretending to care about the shooting on the baseball field and burying the hatchet in whomevers' head is closest to the nearest camera, there was a massive fire in London at Grenfell Towers, a public housing unit that burned so rapidly that fire crews had to use dogs and  drones to search for victims as it is that hazardous of an environment.  The issues surrounding this building was with regards to the improvements that may have actually contributed to it being literally a tinder box - including the cladding used, the lack of fire sprinklers, doors blocked and other fire safety protections that may have enabled more to survive.

The similarities to the Ghost Warehouse in Oakland last year which led this last week to two of the building managers being charged with 'involuntary manslaughter'  for their role in contributing to the deaths cannot be overlooked.   And true this was not housing by design but many alternative or optional housing for the  poor or displaced in cities are often alternative as housing costs in many cities - Nashville included - have become to expensive.  And as we have come to learn it is a contradiction to build affordable housing due to costs - from construction to maintenance - that has led many of these units to become so dilapidated  to the point that many basic building and safety codes are overlooked.  In other words - third rate people get third rate shit.

**I use the word third as it is what we used to decry about "third world" countries but we have just the same qualities and standards only masked in plastic and we call it fiberglass.**

Nowhere is that clearer than the water crisis in Flint.  This week led to many of the public officials to be charged with their role of covering up or failing to act upon their knowledge that the drinking water was killing people.

5 Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter in Flint Water Crisis


FLINT, Mich. — By the time Robert Skidmore, an 85-year-old former auto industry worker, died in late 2015, officials had seen signs for months that Flint was wrestling with outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, prosecutors say. Yet despite a wave of such cases in 2014 and 2015, no public warning was issued until early 2016.

By then, it was too late for Mr. Skidmore and 11 others: a failing so egregious, prosecutors say, that it amounted to involuntary manslaughter.

Five officials in Michigan, including the head of the state’s health department, were charged on Wednesday. It is the closest investigators have come to directly blaming officials for the deaths and illnesses that occurred when a water contamination crisis enveloped this city.

The tainted water has been tied to lead poisoning in children and prompted officials to begin a costly, yearslong process of replacing pipes all over the city. Even now, officials recommend that only filtered tap water be consumed, and many residents say they can trust only bottled water, given false assurances they once received from state and local officials.

The latest charges reached farther than before into Michigan’s state government, affecting two cabinet-level officials in the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder and leaving open the possibility that the investigation would go higher still.

Nick Lyon, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office, felonies that could lead to as much as 20 years in prison. Dr. Eden V. Wells, the chief medical executive for the department, was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a peace officer, and could face up to seven years if convicted. They are among 15 current and former state and local officials facing criminal charges as a 17-month investigation into Flint’s tainted water supply continues.

Before Wednesday, the criminal charges had focused mainly on the lead contamination and, in counts like misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty, on ways that state and city workers had failed to do their jobs.

“The Flint water crisis was and is a failure of leadership,” said an investigative report issued on Wednesday by Bill Schuette, Michigan’s attorney general. “A cause of the breakdown in state governmental management was a fixation, a preoccupation, with data, finances and costs, instead of placing the health, safety and welfare of citizens first.”

Besides, the report found, a solution for Flint’s essential water problem was maddeningly simple, and cheap: The addition of common anti-corrosion chemicals could have cost the financially struggling city only $200 a day.

But officials failed to take that step when they switched the city’s water supply in early 2014, the investigators said, partly to save money. Residents began complaining of puzzling colors, putrid odors and an array of rashes and illnesses, which eventually included Legionnaires’ disease.

In charging Mr. Lyon, and four others who already faced other charges in the water case, with involuntary manslaughter, Mr. Schuette said they had failed to properly alert the public about increases in Legionnaires’ cases, allowing the problem to continue and withholding crucial information from residents, who might have avoided the water had they known.

An examination of government emails from 2014, 2015 and 2016 revealed that officials were aware of the pattern of Legionnaires’ cases, but that they failed to act swiftly on the revelations and tended to become mired in jurisdictional battles over protocol and responsibility.

Mr. Lyon knew of the Legionnaires’ outbreak by late January 2015, court documents claim, but did not notify the public for another year. At one point, the documents allege, he said that “he can’t save everyone” and that “everyone has to die of something.”

The charging documents pointed in particular to the death of Mr. Skidmore, the former autoworker, on Dec. 13, 2015. Mr. Schuette said that Mr. Skidmore had been tending to his ailing wife in mid-2015 when he grew ill, apparently from the water.

According to the charges, Mr. Lyon’s “acts and failure to act resulted in the death of at least one person,” Mr. Skidmore. The documents asserted that Mr. Lyon “willfully disregarded the deadly nature” of the Legionnaires’ outbreak and “exhibited gross negligence when he failed to alert the public about the deadly outbreak and by taking steps to suppress information illustrating obvious and apparent harms that were likely to result in serious injury.”

Defense lawyers for Mr. Lyon called the claims baseless and said they were confident in their client’s case. One challenge for prosecutors may be proving a direct link between Flint’s corroding water pipes and Legionnaires’ disease, legal experts said. Some scientists have suggested that the corrosion may have allowed Legionella bacteria to thrive in the water supply during warm summer months.

“The true facts simply do not support the prosecution’s claims,” the defense lawyers, Chip Chamberlain and Larry Willey, said in a statement. “This case appears to be a misguided theory looking for facts that do not exist.”

Governor Snyder, too, issued a statement of support for Mr. Lyon and Dr. Wells, and appeared to criticize the legal process, noting that other state employees had been charged more than a year ago but had yet to be tried in court.

“That is not justice for Flint, nor for those who have been charged,” Mr. Snyder said. “Director Lyon and Dr. Wells have been and continue to be instrumental in Flint’s recovery. They have my full faith and confidence, and will remain on duty at D.H.H.S.”

Mr. Schuette, a Republican, is widely seen as a possible candidate for governor in 2018. He declined to say whether the investigation might lead to charges against Mr. Snyder, though he emphasized that it was continuing and that the investigative report issued on Wednesday was an “interim” look at the Flint case. He said investigators had tried unsuccessfully to interview Mr. Snyder, who is barred by term limits from running for re-election, but he would not elaborate.

“We only file criminal charges when evidence of probable cause to commit a crime has been established, and we are not filing charges at this time,” Mr. Schuette said.

Mr. Snyder’s lawyer said that the governor has always been willing to be interviewed — but under oath, like other witnesses, to avoid any appearance of special treatment.

“We have repeatedly told the Office of Special Counsel that when they provide an investigative subpoena the governor will provide additional testimony under oath,” the lawyer, Brian Lennon, said in a written statement.

Mr. Skidmore, whose death is at the center of the five counts of involuntary manslaughter issued on Wednesday, was found to have Legionnaires’ disease in June 2015, after he went to a hospital with pneumonialike symptoms.

“It’s a very tragic story,” Mr. Schuette said, adding later, “The family had to bury their mother and their father.”

Mr. Skidmore’s wife of more than six decades died only weeks after he became ill, and Mr. Skidmore continued to fight his symptoms on top of grief, his family said.

“Grandma died. Six months later, after bouncing between the hospital, home care and back, he passed away,” said Megan Skidmore Cuttitta, his granddaughter. “Each time he went to the hospital, he’d get better, but each time he came home, he got worse.”

We are moving back in time. We have an Administration determined to remove any and all regulations, laws or guidelines that govern, mandate or encourage States and local entities from following well established science or data that has demonstrated danger with regards to safety towards the health and welfare of the citizenry. While meanwhile professing to "make America great again" leaving that concept and definition of great to the beholder.

I am sure many thought America was great in 1872 with Slavery. In 1911 with the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire killed hundreds. With the Flu Pandemic of 1918 that killed more than those who died in World War I. Or the crisis around Asbestos that was once thought magical yet later found to be deadly and leading to 50 country's banning the product (irony not in the US). Or we can discuss the addiction to Nicotine which was largely due to the Tobacco Industry or the Great Depression that led to the Glass-Steagall Act. I could go on and on with numerous laws and acts that were done in the name of protecting Americans from being harmed and in turn contributed to making America "great" but in today's America they are apparently not so great.

The current Administration of crackpots, liars and frauds are determined to eliminate even the most rudimentary of laws including vaccines that have truly saved millions of lives but no let's have a go at seeing how that works out. Oh wait we have a pretty good idea.

Then we have larger safety regulations with regards to OSHA and worker's safety which too has already proven that lives are disposable but one cannot overlook the fact that many of those on building sites are often undocumented workers and in turn the lack of communication and knowledge of rules and guidelines have enabled many to skirt those laws meant to ensure safety. And the same goes with regards to our food production and in turn contributed to other outbreaks of disease and illness for the population at large.

So what defines "greatness?"  I have no idea but I start with wellness, health, the opportunity to work and make an living wage.  To both live and work in a community and participate in its wellness - meaning clean air, clean water, mass transit, safe streets, libraries, community services and businesses that serve a multitude of people and reasonable guidelines and policies in which to do so. Which does mean reviewing laws and policies that man in fact inhibit those or need to be changed to accommodate new information and technology. 

Funny when a Politician wants to show how "tough they are" on a matter of import - usually crime but it can be other safety issues such as helmets to protect young brains - they are all about standing in front of cameras and writing legislation to do so. And they do so regardless that many laws or policies are already on the books.  There are often redundant criminal and civil laws that simply double down the confusion and adherence to policy by the layman but the Lawyers make out and not in a fun way.

We are a country of laws and some of them are just plain outdated/stupid/redundant and some are vital, vested in knowledge, science and that messy thing called "FACTS."   As my Mother used to say where there is smoke there is likely fire and that is good place to start when making a decision that is about safety and well being.    Shame we have a Government who fails to see that when starting a baseball game around a prayer circle.  Did any of them pray for gun control? I doubt it.  Two strikes and we know what the third brings.  **remember what I said about the word third?**

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