When it comes to environmental toxins, many of us conjure images of industrial smokestacks, but unfortunately, they aren’t in just the most obvious places, but they’re everywhere in our daily lives – in the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the products we use on our body, in our homes and our gardens. These toxins with enough concentration can wreak havoc on our health with major threats that include cancer-causing carcinogens, and other substances that upend cardiovascular, endocrine, and respiratory functions, as well as, lead to chronic illness. As scientists and healthcare workers are understanding more and more about the effects of these toxins and not only how they affect us, but how they may trigger other problems within our bodies, the need for us to figure out how to limit our exposure is becoming more important.
Sandra Arzola was relaxing in her West Chicago home one weekend in 1995, when she heard a knock at the door. Recently married, she shared the gray duplex with her husband, mom and sister, and family members were constantly coming and going. But when Sandra answered the door that day, what she learned would change how she looked at her home and suburban community forever. At the door was a woman representing Envirocon, an environmental cleanup company. There was thorium on the family’s property, the woman said, and if it was OK with them, workers were coming to remove it. It was the first time Sandra had heard of thorium. “It took me by left field,” she said. “But [the representative] made it sound like everything was going to be fine.”
July 30 will be the 57th anniversary of the passage of Medicare, widely celebrated as Medicare's birthday. People are taking action across the country this week in support of a National Improved Medicare for All single payer healthcare system culminating in a national march and rally in Washington, DC on Saturday (find info at M4M4All.org). Clearing the FOG speaks with Dr. Ana Malinow, a leader of the group National Single Payer, about the growing privatization and corporatization of the US healthcare system and how people are organizing to fight back and win a system in which everyone in the US will have the care they need without fear of financial ruin. She also discusses how American Exceptionalism is an obstacle to changing the system.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will dole out $3.5 billion to clean up the most hazardous contaminated sites in the country, but so far, no Arizona sites are set to receive funding. And some of the most polluted locations in the state, the hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on Indigenous lands, are likely ineligible for the money. The funding comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law, which passed last November and is considered the Biden administration’s top legislative achievement. The first round of money will allocate $1 billion to clear the backlog of so-called orphaned sites on the National Priorities List. That list, part of the Superfund program, includes what the U.S. government considers the most contaminated sites in the country. The sites are nicknamed orphans because they haven't received any money for cleanup yet.
The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. In this moment, it's more important than ever to support the people who will continue to provide abortion care in the South. The court gutted the 1973 ruling that made abortion a federally protected choice in this country, but reproductive justice oriented community care will never fail us. Abortion providers in the South have long been warning of and preparing for this moment as they've navigated a landscape in which safe and legal abortion access was already heavily restricted, where Black and brown pregnancies have long been criminalized, and where traveling long distances for care has been the norm for those in rural communities.
In March, President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a joint task force with the goal of getting Europe off Russian gas and onto more of America’s fracked gas. Most Russian gas reaches Europe via pipeline, so getting U.S. gas to Europe will involve liquifying it and then shipping it across the Atlantic. And as shipments of liquified natural gas (LNG) from the United States increase, so too do the threats from an unwelcome intruder inherently part of America’s natural gas mix — radioactivity. That’s because government figures indicate that much of the gas that will be shipped to Europe may come from the Marcellus and Utica, black shale formations in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Nakani is a word that comes from the Tlingit language. Nakani is defined as a person, or entity, which serves as a connector and/ or go between for different people, places, and cultures. This is the role each member of Nakani’s Native Program tries to embody as they help bring together all tribal communities to learn from and about one another. This word is a perfect descriptor for its members and leadership. This description is also a perfect introduction to each of the members I interviewed for this article. Nakani Native Program has undergone many changes since it began as an offshoot of American Friends Service Committee, AFSC. AFSC, is a non-profit Quaker organization founded by the Religious Society of Friends.
In an effort to pressure President Joe Biden’s administration to enact stronger oil and gas regulations, national environmental advocacy groups have released a new map that shows where people’s health is threatened by extraction. Earthworks and FracTrack Alliance coordinated to create the map using publicly-available data and peer-reviewed science. The map is available online and people can type in their address to see how many production facilities are located within half a mile of their house. According to the map, more than 144,000 New Mexicans live within half a mile of an oil or gas production site. More than 28,000 students attend school or day care within half a mile of a site.
The ‘Texas Two-Step’ is the name given to a highly controversial legal strategy that some of the biggest companies are now using to shield their assets from accountability. It allows massively wealthy corporations whose products caused harm to avoid paying damages to the victims of that harm and it denies the victims their right to make their case in court and be judged by a jury of their peers. Earlier this year, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee highlighted the story of Kimberly Naranjo, a mesothelioma victim who testified about Johnson & Johnson’s actions. Naranjo has been denied her right to hold Johnson & Johnson accountable in court. “There’s a justice system for rich people and powerful corporations – and there’s the system for everyone else,” said Durbin.
The decriminalization which is sweeping across the US carries with it the obvious facts that (a) pot is not and never has been a dangerous drug, and (b) criminalizing drugs has never brought anything positive. This suggests that those who have been victimized were done so wrongfully and therefore should be compensated for the wrongs done to them. However, victims have been predominantly people of color and American racism reappears during the decriminalization phase in the form of trivializing harms done and offering restitution that barely scratch the surface of what is needed. Prior to addressing the shortcomings for wrongful damages for marijuana laws, the US should publicly apologize for the wrongheaded and thoroughly racist “War on Drugs” and pledge to compensate those who have suffered from it in ways that are comparable to cannabis-related issues below.
Almost everyone on Earth breathes unhealthy air. That’s the alarming conclusion from the latest update of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality database, which drew on data from more than 6,000 cities in 117 countries. The organization argued that the figures were another argument in favor of phasing out the use of fossil fuels. “Current energy concerns highlight the importance of speeding up the transition to cleaner, healthier energy systems,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press release. “High fossil fuel prices, energy security, and the urgency of addressing the twin health challenges of air pollution and climate change, underscore the pressing need to move faster towards a world that is much less dependent on fossil fuels.”
Soon after the first pandemic wave subsided, COVID-19 turned from the “great equalizer” to a poor people’s pandemic in the United States, shows a recent report published by the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC). The report brings a detailed analysis of how the pandemic affected poor and low income communities in the US, asking if their experiences are being taken into consideration at all, regardless of whether we are looking at pandemic response or post-pandemic re-building. The Poor People’s Pandemic Report is focused on the data and lived experience of people in the 1,000 poorest counties in the US, shining a light on the intersections between poverty and the pandemic. Some of the counties highlighted in the report have a very small population, which means they are not included in the official Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion calling gender-affirming care for trans young people “child abuse.” The state’s governor, Greg Abbott, doubled down, directing the Texas Department of Family and Planning Services to investigate parents who support their trans children in accessing care as child abusers. Abbott also suggested that teachers, doctors, nurses—anyone, really—could face criminal penalties if they don’t report parents and providers who support trans kids. It’s frustrating to read media accounts that say “LGBTQ advocates” disagreed with or were concerned about this event, because, actually, pretty much every relevant medical and legal authority weighed in immediately to say not only do those statements not reflect the legal understanding of child abuse, but they fly in the face of the fact that support for gender-affirming medical procedures comes from, for instance, the American Medical Association, which states that not only is gender-affirming care appropriate, but that the absence of it leads to poor mental health outcomes.
As the summit between the African Union and European Union (EU-AU summit) came to a close on February 18, the EU’s dedication to ensuring equitable access to Covid-19 products remained murky. While Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, stated that the two unions had a very constructive discussion on the TRIPS waiver, the meeting resulted in little more than a tepid statement and a new deadline for reaching an agreement on intellectual property rights during the pandemic. Von der Leyen also stated, “We share the same goal. We have different ways to reach that goal.” In reality, it would seem the AU and the EU have very different goals. While delegates from different African countries made a point of supporting a suspension of intellectual property rights on key Covid-19 products, EU politicians continue to focus their energies on postponing the TRIPS waiver as much as possible and protecting the profits of pharmaceutical companies based in the Global North.
When a Canadian company started drilling for oil and gas near Jim and Sue Franklin’s ranch in a small Permian Basin town called Verhalen, Texas, it didn’t bother the couple too much at first. But Sue suspects that it was the third well that started causing problems. “They put up these big signs that said, ‘H2S gas, danger, keep out, blah blah blah,’” she says. The well was being drilled in what’s called a sour-gas field, an oil field that naturally has a high concentration of a deadly gas called hydrogen sulfide (H2S). The company promised the Franklins that the gas — which can cause headaches, irritate respiratory systems, and even be fatal in high concentrations — would never get into their home, despite the fact that it was barely a mile away.