Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hillary Clinton's impassioned speech on securing equal opportunity and justice for all (video)

Please watch this video of Hillary Clinton's inspiring speech given at Columbia University. Our country needs this woman as president in 2016. Watch and let Katalusis know if you agree:

Friday, April 24, 2015

The use of drones and after many other civilian deaths, the killing of two hostages

And Malala told the President to stop using drones.

It’s the stuff of nightmares that President Barack Obama, honored early on with a Nobel Peace Prize for good intentions, developed a personal kill list and authorized drone weaponry in the U.S. arsenal. I was as shocked by Obama’s decision to use drones as I was by Dubya’s approval of the CIA’s use of torture under his regime.

In A Brief History of Drones, John Sifton concludes that the “unique technology” of drones “allows the mundane and regular violence of military force to be separated further from human emotion. Drones foreshadow the idea that brutality could become detached from humanity—and yield violence that is, as it were, unconscious.”

Unconscious violence? I guess Sifton was referring to the possibility that a U.S. drone might miss its mark and take out a couple of Western hostages in northern Pakistan; I watched President Obama, our drone master, offer a personal apology for the deaths this morning, and I hope his words ease the pain of the grieving families of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto. Obama said:

“As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations,” the grim-faced president told reporters as television cameras broadcast his words. “I profoundly regret what happened,” he added. “On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”

Lest we forget – lest we forget – Juan Cole at Informed Comment reminds us:

Contrary to assurances given by President Obama a couple of years ago, the US government admits that it had no idea who it was targeting when it hit that building. Indiscriminate fire is a recognized war crime, and it seems to characterize the US drone program.

These are the figures for the US drone assassination program in Pakistan, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Total strikes: 415
Obama strikes: 364
Total killed: 2,449-3,949
Civilians killed: 423-962
Children killed: 172-207
Injured: 1,144-1,722

That is, as many as a fourth of those killed by US drone assassinations are non-combatants.

Cole continues:

Death by drone is inherently lawless. There is no constitutional or legal framework within which the US government can blow people away at will. For a while in the 1970s through 1990s, assassination was outlawed.

Now it is back, but has taken this freakish form where bureaucrats thousands of miles away fire missiles from large toy airplanes. The US is not at war with Pakistan, so this action is not part of a war effort. You can’t be at war with an organization– a state of war has a technical legal definition.

It took Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, a teenager and also the youngest Nobel Prize winner, to stand up to President Obama about his use of drones. The young social activist said:

"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," she said in the statement. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."

It would seem, however, that President Obama continues to use drones to pursue those terrorists unfortunate enough to make his secret kill list, plus any civilians who get in the way. What was it that historian John Sifton said about drones – “Drones foreshadow the idea that brutality could become detached from humanity—and yield violence that is, as it were, unconscious.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The GOP - "The Party of the Rich" - attacks the Clintons for being well off

Is the GOP jealous of the Clintons? Is that why “the Party of the Rich” in the US of A keeps trying to shame Bill and Hillary Clinton for being well off and for having established a successful charitable foundation over the years that has benefited thousands around the globe? (See Peter Schweitzer.)

I mean, what else could be the motive? Oh, I get it. The Repubs haven't been able to seriously damage the Clintons with any of their previously contrived scandals. What's a scandalmonger to do, especially since Hillary is the frontrunner for the Dems in 2016?

And now the word is out, and we all know what an outstanding secretary of state Hillary Clinton was: 1) Following W's administration, she patched up the nation's tattered relationships with most other nations; 2) She laid the foundation for the Iran Nuclear Treaty, which until the truth surfaced, Obama was given credit for finally earning his Nobel prize; 3) She spoke out for women and girls wherever she traveled during her tenure; 4) and more.

Darn! What's the Party of the Rich to do with a candidate like Hillary? Here's a suggestion: smarten up and start working on behalf of the people who elected you instead of the one percent - like the Koch Brothers - whose feet you kiss every morning, noon, and night.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015: more wildlife habitat or more shopping malls?

Wild Lands for Sale?
As I recall, I took a walk on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. As I passed the local high school, I paused to pick up a pop can and after I got home, I deposited it in the trash. Forty-five years later, I'm pleased that we continue to celebrate Earth Day, even though much remains to be done to preserve and protect this small planet, including our wildlife and the environment.

So it is this morning that Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife, emailed me and posed a critical question.

Dear Virginia,
What would you rather have: More wildlife habitat and wilderness or more shopping malls and clear-cut forests?
Hmm, I thought, I don't need more shopping malls or clear-cut forests.
Then Jamie informed me:

A move is afoot to potentially give away massive chunks of our national public lands (parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, etc.) to the states. The states will then be free to sell off these lands to the highest bidders.
Special interest lobbyists are currently using the annual budget process as a cover to open up our most precious places to the frackers, drillers, clear cutters, developers and other profiteers.
In late March, Senator Murkowski pressed through an Amendment to the annual budget resolution that specifically authorizes the sale, transfer or exchange of federal public lands to state and local governments, potentially for resale to private interests.
If this Amendment is adopted in the final budget resolution, it could set the stage for future land disposal legislation, resulting in widespread destruction of some of our most beloved and most fragile landscapes. Wildlife will lose critical habitat. Future generations will never experience the wide-open spaces and unspoiled places that you and I cherish so much.

Most Americans wholeheartedly want to keep our public lands in public hands.

Thanks for all you do.

Jaime Rappaport Clark
Jamie Rappaport Clark President, Defenders of Wildlife

I say friends, we're fortunate on Earth Day 2015 to have Jamie Rappaport Clark and the organization she represents, Defenders of Wildlife, continue the battle to preserve and protect the environment and life on this small planet. In turn, let's thank Jamie and Defenders of Wildlife for all they do!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

N. H.: Hillary takes the high ground in response to Republican attacks

Hillary obviously has her opponents' number as reported in the NY Times First Draft:

KEENE, N.H. — Questions about her personal use of email at the State Department? Controversy about foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation? Accusations that her campaign events are overly staged?

Hillary Rodham Clinton says they’re all just partisan distractions. 

“We’re back into the political season, and therefore we get subjected to all kinds of distractions and attacks, and I’m ready for that,” she told reporters on Monday in response to a question about a coming book that scrutinizes donations made to her family’s philanthropy.

“It is worth noting, I think, that Republicans seem to be talking only about me,” Mrs. Clinton added. “I don’t know what they’d talk about if I weren’t in the race, but I am in the race and hopefully we’ll get onto the issues, and I look forward to that.”


Monday, April 20, 2015

Most of the effective members of Congress wear skirts

Image via Cosmopolitan.

Cosmopolitan article asks: "Why Aren't the Extra-Effective Women of the U.S. Senate Getting the Credit They Deserve?"

"About that do-nothing Congress: There are actually some members who are doing something, and most of them wear skirts to work."


Elizabeth Warren is a big name in the U.S. Senate today, but she almost didn't run at all.
Before her election in 2012, Warren was one of the legal world's most-cited scholars, an expert in bankruptcy, and a law professor at Harvard. After the economic crash of 2008, she came to Washington, D.C., to champion the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Warren was a leading candidate to run the agency until Congressional Republicans objected. So Warren packed up to leave Capitol Hill and return to Harvard.

Warren, a Democrat, raised $39 million for her campaign, more than any other Senate candidate that year, and became Massachusetts's first female senator. Her career, she says, was made by "one woman helping another."

What's it like to be a woman in the Senate in 2015? Cosmopolitan invited the 20 sitting female senators to talk about that, and 16 of them took us up on the offer. In a series of interviews in Washington, D.C., they told us stories similar to Warren's. But they didn't describe a soft-focus sisterhood that propels them to work together. Instead, many of them said they've tapped into a style of collaborative leadership for one simple reason: It works.

 Although they're a minority on Capitol Hill, the women of the Senate are among the country's most effective elected officials, working across the aisle more often than the Senate's men and keeping an increasingly fractured Congress creaking along ... even when, as they admit themselves, they don't always get the credit.

Read more:

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hillary rises again

Note: This post has been updated to include in Item 2. Secretary Clinton's role in laying the groundwork for the Iran nuclear treaty.
Scanning the online news coverage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign launch has given me pause. Of course, several of the favorite sexist critiques of her from back when have emerged once again:

  1. Hillary is too ambitious: Has any male candidate for the presidency ever been accused of being too ambitious? I can’t think of one. And obviously, it would take considerable ambition to run for the presidency, would it not?
  1. Secretary of State Clinton did not accomplish anything: Our current Secretary of State John Kerry points out, the G.W. Bush Administration successfully alienated most of the countries around the globe. During her tenure, Secretary Clinton traveled hundreds of miles to visit foreign leaders and re-establish positive relationships.  For those who continue to label her a hawk while ignoring  her many peace-making efforts, Kerry also noted that Secretary Clinton helped lay the groundwork for the Iran nuclear treaty.

  1. Hillary is too polarizing: Her critics overlook her outstanding record for working across the aisle as a U.S. Senator from New York, and they also seem to ignore how polarizing G.W. Bush was throughout his administration and well, take a look at Barack Obama’s record…

  1. Hillary is inauthentic: What does that mean? She’s a mature woman who continues to fill different roles, including political leader, wife, mother, and grandmother. Kudos to Hillary for her years of public service while simultaneously keeping her marriage and family together and maintaining several long-term friendships. Like all political leaders, her positions on some issues have evolved over the years, and she recognizes the necessity to appeal to various constituencies. Has any prominent male political leader been repeatedly accused of being inauthentic? For example, George W. Bush, the “compassionate conservative,” or Barack Obama who lunged to the right immediately after receiving the Democratic nomination in 2008?

  1. And another thing: I’ve noticed since the 2008 Democratic primary that leading female journalists, including Maureen Dowd, Arianna Huffington, and lately, Ruth Marcus, appear compelled to denigrate Hillary, most likely to show their male colleagues that they aren’t biased in favor of a female presidential candidate. Leading male journalists don’t seem to have any compunctions about supporting their favorite male political leaders.

  1. Lastly, Hillary is accused of having a testy relationship with the media; however, the media is never held accountable for its part in this relationship. I would ask her critics if Hillary is to blame for the media’s relentless sexist attacks against her over the years?

What Hillary’s critics have been most troubled by over the years is that this accomplished woman continues undaunted as she successfully maintains both her personal and professional life. And despite their attacks, Hillary rises yet again!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hillary doesn't need Wall Street or the extreme left of the Democratic Party

Hillary Clinton
Gary Gensler
There’s something wrong in the first place with a supposed democratic political system in which the most important qualification of a political candidate is his or her fundraising ability. 

President Obama had the edge in both 2008 and 2012 as he continued to be bankrolled by the financial sector.

What was okay for President Obama, however, is considered bad form for Hillary Clinton. Figures, doesn’t it? The guy can get all the money he needs from Wall Street, but a female presidential candidate faces criticism for accepting funds from major financial institutions. 

Maybe the real story here is that Hillary Clinton doesn't need Wall Street, or for that matter the extreme left of the Democratic Party that trashed her in 08.

In the meantime, Bloomberg just published a breathless "exclusive" that 2016 presidential candidate “Hillary Clinton is planning to name Gary Gensler, a former top federal financial regulator and strong advocate for strict Wall Street rules, as the chief financial officer of her campaign, according to a Democrat familiar with the decision.” 

Gensler, in his role as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was a leading player in the drafting and then implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial rules that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Gensler also served in President Bill Clinton's Treasury Department. 

There’s that left flank again:

For Clinton, who has been fighting her left flank’s concern that she is too cozy with Wall Street, Gensler is a notable hire. He became known as someone with sharp elbows —even during his negotiations within the Obama administration—in his push for tighter regulation.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Where do 2016 presidential candidates stand on protecting our wildlife?

Take Action

Just got this email, which prompted me to wonder where our leading 2016 presidential candidates stand on protecting our nation's wildlife.  Just asking...
Help Save Red Wolves!
red wolf (captive) (c) B. Crawford/USFWS
Only about 100 wild red wolves survive in the United States!
Take Action
Dear Virginia,
No animal should have to endure this fate.
Red wolves are on the brink of extinction with fewer than 100 animals surviving in a small part of eastern North Carolina. Despite this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the agency in charge of ensuring this wolf’s survival, appears to be quietly walking away from their red wolf recovery program, dooming these wolves to extinction in the wild.
After being hunted to the brink of extinction, FWS was entrusted to help save these shy wolves. Yet last year, 10 percent of the red wolf population was killed, and another five percent lay dead so far this year.
What’s worse, key staff vacancies are going unfilled at the FWS Red Wolf Recovery Program, critical field work is being skipped, and most telling of all – there has not been a single red wolf released into the wild in years.
Under pressure from North Carolina special interests, FWS appears to be walking away from this recovery program and all red wolf recovery efforts. You may recall Defenders went to court last year to successfully stop night hunting of coyotes in red wolf habitat. The two animals are strikingly similar in appearance which has led to dozens of “accidental” red wolf shootings.
Defenders will take whatever action is necessary to stop this tragedy.
We’ve simply come too far to give up on these magnificent creatures - there is no excuse for walking away now.
Thanks for all you do.
Jaime Rappaport Clark
Jamie Rappaport Clark
President, Defenders of Wildlife

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It's happening in St. Paul: You're invited for tasty treats and tales about the melting Arctic

Alaskan Stellar sea lions – Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service (public domain)

Mention of Alaska always reminds me of a friend I made during tech school in Amarillo, Texas. She was from Alaska and very proud of it. She loved to sing this song while off duty in the WAF (Women in the Air Force) barracks:

 I like humpback salmon
Good ole humpback salmon
Caught by Alaska Fishermen
 I don't like T-bone steak
from steers they raise in Texas
Just give me fish
An' I don't give a darn
If I do pay taxes
I like humpback salmon
Good ole humpback Salmon...

I heard my friend sing that song back in 1959, the year Alaska became a state. Today, U.S. citizens in Alaska sure don't need the oil industry to endanger Alaska's wildlife and its fishing industry. That's why I'm pleased to publish at Katalusis this invitation from Lois Norrgard, Alaska Wilderness League:

Hi Virginia,

Join the League for an inspiring event!
Where: UMN St. Paul Campus, 2017 Buford Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108
When: Monday, April 27, Reception- 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Presentations – 6:30- 8:30 p.m.
The oil industry doesn’t like to acknowledge climate change. It also denies the additional risks posed by drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean. But we’re working with two expert explorers that tell a different story.

Explorers David Thoreson and Joseph Robertson are eager to share their stories and inspire you. Together we can keep up the fight to protect this amazing and globally important region.

Come join us for tasty treats and tantalizing tales on Monday, April 27!
David Thoreson is the first American to sail the Northwest Passage from both directions. His striking work has appeared in a broad spectrum of media, from PBS and the Smithsonian, to a recent TED Talk. He’s witnessed firsthand the Arctic’s melting ice and the dramatic toll exacted by climate change in the region. He’s going to share stories of his exciting adventures with all of us.
Joseph Robertson travels to the far corners of the world to persuade peoples far and wide to curb their climate-upsetting greenhouse-gas emissions by actively reducing their fossil-fuel consumption, boosting their economies in the process.

After your fill of stories and solutions, you’ll feel so good about fighting the good fight for the Arctic Ocean and our planet. Join us! 

RSVP here.

Hope to see you soon,
Upper Midwest Region Field Staff

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Using biblical texts to "trump Jesus"

As a liberal Christian, I've long focused on Jesus' life and teachings rather than his barbaric crucifixion by the Romans. I suspect that theologically I'm within a very small minority of Christians, but thanks to Drew G.I. Hart's recent post at the Christian Century, I don't feel quite so alone and outnumbered this morning. Hart describes how those afflicted by "Jesus allergies" cherry pick biblical texts to "trump" the teachings of Jesus.

Hart writes:

Most American Christians would probably say that at the center of the Christian life is the Bible, and being biblical. Most are convinced that being biblical separates the sheep from the goats, but this is not so. The problem with this framing is not that a ‘biblical orientation’ demands too much but that in reality it demands too little. It is too vague rather than too specific. It still remains a wide path rather than the narrow one. Merely using the term biblical does not necessarily call one to the concrete and particular life set free by our Creator. In fact, people have used the Bible to justify almost every way of life. Rarely in the Church in the West has what has been considered ‘biblical’ aligned very well with a life formed after the birth, ministry, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Too often, claims of living biblically has left those unwilling to accept the costs of following Jesus with creative theological justifications for having discipleship to Jesus allergies.

Hart continues (emphasis in bold is mine):

So in that way the term Biblical has the potential to mask all sorts of behaviors that don’t look anything like Jesus, but claim them to somehow to be “Christian”. Truth is we all have those particular areas in our lives that we are more than willing to deny Jesus’ lordship while looking for some kind of biblical faith as an avoidance technique to Christ who holds all things together in himself. In our country, the easiest example is the 250 years of formal and legalized slavery. At the time, Christians were divided. The Disciples of Christ that argued for the abolition of slavery, among other ways, did so by appealing to Jesus’ life and teachings. On the other hand, those that wanted to uphold slavery went searching for biblical texts they could use to trump Jesus so that he would not have the last word on the subject. They, strangely enough, put the Old Testament and Paul’s letters against Jesus rather than understanding Jesus as the fulfillment of them all.

How do we compare? Unfortunately, while almost everyone would disdain the practice of slavery now in the Church, very few have questioned this approach of marginalizing Jesus when convenient, so that being Christian (which means being like Christ) very rarely looks much like Christ anymore. We still have refused to take seriously Jesus’ engagement with the people in his society. His prophetic stance in relationship to the sociopolitical and religious establishment, his identification with the most vulnerable, his refusal to engage in retaliatory violence but instead pursuing peace and people’s restoration through deliverance or repentance. Certainly our understanding today around what God is up to today is shaped more by conservative or liberal ideologies that white dominant culture norms than by the kind of life Jesus embodies in our holy scripture.

Read Hart's post in its entirety here:

Drew G. I. Hart is a Ph.D. candidate in theology and ethics. His blog Taking Jesus Seriously is hosted by the Century.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hillary poised to shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!

Courtesy of Huffington Post

In the video below released on her new campaign website, Clinton said that she was running.

Paige Lavender at the Huffington Post nicely covers Hillary Clinton's launch of her 2016 campaign with poll averages and in-depth background. And you can bet I'm looking forward to reconnecting with blogging friends from 08 to help elect our first woman president and shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 on Sunday.

In a video released on her new campaign website, Clinton said that she was running.

"I'm running for president," Clinton says in the video. "Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion so you can do more than just get by. You can get ahead and stay ahead. Because when families are strong, America is strong."

"So I'm hitting the road to earn your vote. Because it's your time and I hope you'll join me on this journey."

John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman, sent an email to supporters Sunday afternoon telling them that Clinton was running. Podesta said that Clinton was heading to Iowa to meet voters and that there would be a formal kickoff event next month.

Chelsea Clinton also tweeted her support shortly after the announcement: "Very proud of you, Mom!"

Clinton made history when she ran for president in 2008, becoming the first woman to win presidential primary races and nabbing a total of about 18 million votes. She suspended her campaign in June 2008 and urged voters to get behind now-President Barack Obama.

 Read more:

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Since I'm giong to die anyway, I might as well smoke...

Not this. (the Guardian)
Choose this.
A former smoker, I apologize for becoming a little snarky in a couple of earlier posts regarding nicotine addicts and the perils of secondhand smoke. And yes, I recall in the bad old days how the ridicule and ill treatment by non-smokers mostly triggered my wrath and made me even more determined to continue smoking.  In fact, I was unable to stop smoking until I participated in the Clean Break program held on that occasion at Abbot-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. I explained to Peter Holmes, the program's founder and lead counselor, that I'd smoked for over 35 years, and I wondered whether or not I would be able to break that longtime habit. He replied, "My mom quit, and you can, too."

Peter was right: I've not smoked for over 10 years.

One reason Clean Break worked for me was that I was consistently treated with respect by Mr. Holmes and the other participants, who, by the way, included several doctors and nurses. During the first of five successive evening sessions, I learned the difference between the rationalizations usually practiced by smokers and thinking quoted below from the handout I've kept from that evening:

I’m going to die anyway, so I might as well

I want to live as long as I can, so I’ll stop


The government needs my tobacco taxes. It’s my
duty as a citizen to go on smoking.

I can simply donate money to the government.


I hate all those self-righteous non-smokers. No
one’s going to tell me what to do!


What other people want doesn’t matter. What’s
more important to me?
 A key concept in the Clean Break program for me was the instruction in how to deal with cravings. Holmes taught us former addicts to embrace our cravings rather than try to push them away.  A couple years later, I began practicing mindfulness, which teaches practitioners to lead non-dualistic lives - embracing our fears, angers, cravings, etc. - whatever concerns that have been distracting us from living fully in the present moment. That's when I fully realized how enlightened the Clean Break's teachings in dealing with nicotine addiction- or any addiction, for that  matter - really are.

Mindfulness also encourages compassion for all beings, even those who continue to park themselves nearby and direct secondhand smoke into our paths. 

P.S. The Clean Break program is available online here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Coming Sunday: Hillary Clinton to announce her second run for the presidency

Banner headlines across the internet this afternoon offer a heads up on Hillary Clinton's expected announcement this Sunday of her second presidential run. In the International NY Times,  Amy Chozick and Maggie Haberman - with only a trace of cattiness here and there - have the story:

The prolonged prologue to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s second run for the White House will reach its suspenseless conclusion on Sunday: the former secretary of state, senator and first lady is to announce that she will indeed seek the Democratic nomination for president.

But for all the attention paid to how Mrs. Clinton would reveal her 2016 candidacy, little has been said about her reasons for mounting another presidential bid. Her campaign rollout is expected to provide voters, particularly users of Twitter, Facebook and other social media, a succinct rationale that she is best positioned to address an American electorate that has seen virtually stagnant wages for middle-income earners over the last 15 years.

A fresh epilogue to Mrs. Clinton’s 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices,” posted on The Huffington Post Friday morning, signaled a number of elements of what is very likely to be a familiar feature of her fresh campaign message: evoking her new status as a grandmother to talk about creating opportunities for all Americans.

Read more:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Mayo Clinic on secondhand smoke: dangers in the air!

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned a nicotine addict who forced me to inhale her second-hand smoke in order to get to the entrance of my favorite café. Seated on an outdoor bench, the addict was spewing smoke directly into my path. In an example of synchronicity that would’ve made C. G. Jung smile, today’s Mayo Clinic e-newsletter, Housecall, included an article on the hazards of second-hand smoke. We would all do well to check this out, especially those of us who live in rental facilities that have not as yet banned smoking. It  might also be a good idea for the Walgreens board to peruse the article. As we all know, Walgreens is a wealthy and powerful ally of smokers. Here’s the article:

Secondhand smoke: Avoid dangers in the air

Exposure to the toxins in secondhand smoke can cause asthma, cancer and other serious problems. Know what you're breathing — and consider practical steps for clearing the air.

You don't smoke because you understand the dangers — but what about smoke you inhale involuntarily? Secondhand smoke causes or contributes to various health problems, including heart disease and lung cancer. Understand what's in secondhand smoke, and consider ways to protect yourself and those you love from it.

What's in secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke — also known as environmental tobacco smoke — includes the smoke that a smoker exhales (mainstream smoke) and the smoke that comes directly from the burning tobacco product (sidestream smoke). Secondhand smoke contains toxic chemicals, including:
  • Ammonia, used in cleaning products
  • Butane, used in lighter fluid
  • Carbon monoxide, found in car exhaust
  • Chromium, used to make steel
  • Cyanide, used in chemical weapons
  • Formaldehyde, an industrial chemical
  • Lead, a toxic metal
  • Polonium, a radioactive substance
The dangerous particles in secondhand smoke can linger in the air for hours or even longer. It isn't just the smoke that's a concern, though. The residue that clings to a smoker's hair and clothing, as well as cushions, carpeting and other goods — sometimes referred to as thirdhand smoke — also can pose risks, especially for children.

How risky is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke causes or contributes to serious health problems, including:
  • Cancer. Secondhand smoke is a known risk factor for lung cancer. In addition, secondhand smoke contains benzene — which increases the risk of leukemia.
  • Heart disease. Secondhand smoke damages blood vessels and interferes with circulation, which increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Recent research suggests that secondhand smoke also increases the risk of sudden cardiac death.
  • Lung disease. Exposure to secondhand smoke can aggravate respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Secondhand smoke poses additional risks for children, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke. Problems include:
  • Low birth weight. Exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy increases the risk of low birth weight.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS.
  • Asthma and respiratory illness. Secondhand smoke increases the risk — and severity — of childhood asthma. Secondhand smoke also causes chronic coughing, phlegm and wheezing.
  • Infections. Children who live with people who smoke are more likely to develop bronchitis and pneumonia.
While further study is needed, limited research suggests that electronic cigarettes also expose bystanders to significant concentrations of aerosolized nicotine.

How can secondhand smoke be avoided?

With planning, you can reduce or eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. Start with these simple steps:
  • Don't allow smoking in your home. If family members or guests want to smoke, ask them to step outside. Air conditioners and ventilation systems don't effectively remove secondhand smoke from the air.
  • Don't allow smoking in your vehicle. If a passenger must smoke while you're traveling, stop as needed for smoke breaks outside the car.
  • Insist that smoking restrictions be enforced at work. Many states have laws against smoking in the workplace.
  • Choose smoke-free care facilities. This applies to child care facilities as well as facilities for older adults.
  • Patronize businesses with no-smoking policies. Choose smoke-free restaurants. When you travel, request nonsmoking hotel rooms.
If you have a partner or other loved one who smokes, offer support and encouragement to stop smoking. The entire family will reap the benefits.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Drugstores or convenience stores filling prescriptions as a sideline

Where else would the pharmacy be?

The sky was overcast, but a rather pleasant day last week when I pulled into the parking lot at my favorite cafe and headed for the entrance. Seconds later, I noticed the well-dressed older woman seated on a bench where she contentedly puffed smoke directly into my path. Except for the smoking, she appeared calm and sophisticated. The elegant way she held her cigarette reminded me of ads in the old days promoting Kools, Newports, Pall Malls, or whatever. She seemed oblivious to society’s increasing disapproval of nicotine addicts. I caught a whiff of her second-hand smoke as I walked past her and hastened inside.

The above smoker reminded me of my recent experience when looking for over-the-counter cold medication. I don’t often go to “drugstores” as I’m a military veteran and get my prescriptions from the local VA pharmacy, which is several miles from my home. I felt weak that day, and my nose was dripping from a cold, so I decided to go to the nearby Walgreens. Covering my nose with a tissue, I stepped inside and looked around. Just as I remembered, tobacco products were directly behind the counter near the entrance, and candy was in the first aisle. The pharmacy and over-the-counter meds were located at the back of the store in the furthest aisle.

My consciousness raised since I started using a cane, I asked a couple of employees why their store's layout made it difficult for customers suffering from various illnesses and the disabled. They had no explanation, and I left without buying anything.

Next time I needed something from a drugstore, I tried CVS and true to its word, CVS does not sell tobacco products. But like Walgreens, the pharmacy and over-the-counter medications are located as far away from the entrance as possible. On that occasion, it occurred to me that “drugstores” are little more than convenience stores - out to make a buck - with the added lure of a pharmacy tucked away in the back of the store. One can only conjecture that the location of the pharmacy in these so-called drugstores is a marketing ploy designed to entice sick or handicapped people to buy things on their way there.

The older woman, smoking contentedly in front of the cafe that day, can likely rest assured that Walgreens will continue to supply her with cigarettes. In the future, if she needs medication to treat her lung or throat cancer, maybe her favorite drugstore will provide wheelchairs to enable its ailing customers to get to the pharmacy located in the rear.

Wonder if Walgreens has ever glimpsed the irony over the years in calling itself a drugstore while selling tobacco products up front and filling prescriptions in the back?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Anti-Wildlife Proposals Flood Capitol Hill

Feature image
Take heed: Congressional attacks on endangered
species conservation efforts.
Think about it: elected officials from the same party determined to gut programs to aid the elderly, the poor, and the disabled among the human population are determined as well to undermine programs to protect our endangered wildlife. Jamie Rappaport Clark, President, Defenders of Wildlife, reports what Republican Senators Lee, Utah; Heller, Nevada; and Daines, Montana are up to:

Dear Virginia,

Anti-wildlife Senators showed their true colors last week as they unleashed a torrent of proposals that if adopted, could cripple endangered species conservation efforts for years to come.

Proposals ranged from delaying the listing of highly imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to restricting access to the courts to enforce the ESA, to creating loopholes in restrictions on the elephant ivory trade for special interests.

Tell your elected officials to uphold the nation’s commitment to protecting imperiled wildlife!

The proposals came as part of the shameless free-for-all in the Senate known in Washington as “vote-o-rama.” Technically, it’s part of the Congressional budget process, but in practice it’s little more than a special interest stampede to raid the federal budget and advance extreme ideological agendas.

Here’s just a sampling of what was proposed:

Amendment #759 by Senator Mike Lee (Republican, Utah) would ban federal protection for any endangered species whose range falls entirely within one state. Roughly half of all endangered species would fall under this exception and lose federal protection.

Amendment #452 by Senator Dean Heller (Republican, Nevada) would indefinitely delay a listing decision on the dwindling population of greater sage-grouse under the ESA, making it all but impossible to provide federal protection for this imperiled species.

Amendment #606 by Senator Steve Daines (Republican, Montana) would relax restrictions on trade in elephant ivory, creating further enforcement loopholes that would aggravate the poaching crisis that these magnificent creatures face.

While these proposals never made it to an actual vote, their Senate sponsors have tipped their hands and identified their anti-ESA agendas - and many of these proposals are likely to be reintroduced in the Senate in the months ahead.

Tell your elected officials the future of imperiled wildlife conservation depends on stopping these deplorable attacks.

Thanks for all you do.

Jaime Rappaport Clark  

Jamie Rappaport Clark
President, Defenders of Wildlife