Federal health officials have confirmed that high levels of formaldehyde gas pose health risks to hurricane victims housed in 38,000 government trailers on the Gulf Coast, and will recommend that occupants be moved before temperatures rise this spring and summer, Bush administration officials disclosed yesterday. . . .
The findings cap nearly two years of internal government deliberation over the housing of hurricane Katrina and Rita survivors in the trailers, and come 23 months after FEMA first received reports of health problems and test results showing formaldehyde levels at 75 times the U.S.-recommended workplace safety threshold.
And this a day after FEMA announced that unused trailers — purchased via no-bid contracts following the 2005 disaster — would be offered to people whose homes were obliterated by last week’s tornadoes. Isn’t there some spoiled milk, rancid meat, and expired pharmaceuticals we could send them as well?
Meantime, FEMA is still offering 1000 mobile homes to Indian tribal governments. Though FEMA insists that the mobile homes have stricter standards on formaldehyde than the trailers, there’s reason to believe that levels are still high enough to cause respiratory and throat problems in some residents.
There are a lot of reasons why RU-486 (or mifepristone or the abortion pill) is a good thing. For women who wish to abort a pregnancy in its early stages, the pill can offer a non-invasive method that ensures the woman’s privacy and allows her to avoid the long waits and big waiting rooms at clinics. This we anticipated.
But an interesting, and (at least for me) unforeseen side effect of RU-486′s availability is that it stymies clinic protesters. As Sara Robinson put it, they’re all dressed up with no one to terrorize. Which clinic can they stand in front of and at whom can they scream obscenities if there’s no place that we can point to as an old-fashioned “abortion clinic”? What if, instead, women seeking abortions can just go to their gynecologist’s office, take a pill, go home, and wait it out?
This may increasingly be the way that abortions take place. RU-486 use has been rising steadily since it became available in the US in 2000. Its availability, again according to Robinson, has seriously slowed clinic violence and, relatedly, stopped the attrition of abortion providers, an issue that was plaguing the profession and reducing access to abortion, particularly for women in poor and/or rural areas. RU-486 allows women to bypass moralizing pharmacists and to terminate their pregnancies with dignity.
Robinson argues that increased reliance on RU-486 will spell the end for the wingnut part of the anti-abortion movement. I’m not quite that optimistic. But a few less women harassed is a damn good start.
I saw these folks with The Jesus Lizard and Sonic Youth in 1991, and to my surprise they were just about the loudest thing I’d ever heard. At the end of “You Made Me Realise,” they descended into a 15 minute chasm of noise that was more or less what I suspect the interior of a jet engine would sound like. It was awesome. A friend of mine observed later that “after ten minutes, the thought of the sound not ending stopped bothering me.” Shame they stopped after Loveless, though I understand a reunion might be in the works.
Anyhow, Valentine’s Day is an idiotic load of tripe, but this makes it a little more endurable.
Shorter Mark Penn,Union Buster (TM): “The states that vote for Obama are insignificant. In fact, the only states that count are our home state, California, Texas, and states that held straw polls we can retrospectively claim to be primaries, preferably with the candidate who would be soundly beating us if any of his victories counted excluded from the ballot.”
I can’t say that the thought of having this strategic mastermind in charge of a general election campaign fills me with great hope. It also seems to me that it would have been better for Clinton to take some of the 5 million smackers she’s paying to get advice from idiots and use that to actually advertise and/or organize in the “insignificant” states.
Via AmericaBlog, there’s a story of St. Marys, a Catholic boy’s high school in Kansas that refused to allow a woman to referee one of its basketball games because [a woman] could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy’s beliefs. I kid you not.
In fairness to the state’s athletic association, it will consider removing St. Mary’s from the list of approved schools and refuse to allow it to compete against other schools in the association (most of the state’s high schools).
But still. Nice to see that An American Catholic school is doing such a good job raising the fine young misogynists of tomorrow. [edited]
I’m not even going to pretend to be surprised that St. McCain “is now facilitating the CIA’s use of techniques that are unlawful, including some that are torture even by Senator McCain’s own lights.” McCain’s public opposition to torture has been nominal when it comes to actually preventing (at least Republican) presidents from doing it for a while now. And since none of this will stop the media from almost uniformly lauding him as a principled opponent of torture with 100% more maverickitude, there’s no political (as opposed to moral) downside!
British activists called for a ban on “ultra-sonic dispersal devices.” The devices drive away teenagers by delivering unpleasant noise at high frequencies that can be heard only by people under 25. Activists say 3,500 of them are in use. Merchants’ rationale: We use them to drive away “anti-social gangs” that “deter customers, intimidate staff and can commit vandalism and violence.” Objections: 1) The devices “target all children and young people, including babies, regardless of whether they are … misbehaving.” 2) “Young people have a right to assemble … without being treated as criminals.” 3) “Imagine the outcry if a device was introduced that caused blanket discomfort to people of one race or gender.” Device inventor’s solution: I’ll “introduce a contract which stipulates to shopkeepers how it can be used.”
Odd; ten years ago I would have been strongly in favor of such a ban. Now, for some reason, I don’t have a problem with it. On the other hand, would anyone be surprised to find the McCain campaign installing such devices outside polling places in November?
Lanny Davis argues that the superdelegates were intended to be an “independent” check on the whims of those meddling voters. I’m sure this will convince Clarence Thomas, but since I’m not an originalist it seems to me that delegates are free to vote by whatever criteria they choose, which includes doing what’s best for the party, and which would therefore include ratifying a clear choice by the party’s voters. I’m also confident that this will, in fact, happen.
For comic value, though, Sirota notes this gem in Davis’s historical argument:
We were also reminded that before these reforms, the “smoke-filled rooms” of Democratic Party leaders had led to the nomination and election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy.