Tuesday, August 31, 2010

BP can't get enough!

Creating the largest environmental disaster in U.S. History is not enough for BP. While the Gulf Oil spill raged out of control for months, ruining an entire eecosystem was not enough for them. In their belching & spewing sloppy corporate manner, the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, their refinery had a little emissions problem. Two weeks before the Gulf explosion & blowout, they had already been busy mucking up the air inland. 
From ProPublica:

The release from the BP facility here began April 6 and lasted 40 days. It stemmed from the company's decision to keep producing and selling gasoline while it attempted repairs on a key piece of equipment, according to BP officials and Texas regulators.
BP says it failed to detect the extent of the emissions for several weeks. It discovered the scope of the problem only after analyzing data from a monitor that measures emissions from a flare 300 feet above the ground that was supposed to incinerate the toxic chemicals.
The company now estimates that 538,000 pounds of chemicals escaped from the refinery while it was replacing the equipment. These included 17,000 pounds of benzene, a known carcinogen; 37,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, which contribute to respiratory problems; and 186,000 pounds of carbon monoxide.
It is unclear whether the pollutants harmed the health of Texas City residents, but the amount of chemicals far exceeds the limits set by Texas and other states.
For years, the BP refinery in this town of 44,000 has been among the company's most dangerous and pollution-prone operations. A 2005 explosion killed 15 workers; four more workers have died in accidents since then. Last year, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company $87 million for failing to address safety problems that caused the 2005 blast.
A look at BP's record in running the Texas City refinery adds to the mounting evidence that the company's corporate culture favors production and profit margins over safety and the environment. The 40-day release echoes in several notable ways the runaway spill in the Gulf. BP officials initially underestimated the problem and took steps in the days leading up to the incident to reduce costs and keep the refinery online.
Former workers and industry experts say BP's handling of the recent release of chemicals was typical of the plant's and company's operating practices.
The 40-day emissions were initially reported by the Daily News of Galveston, Texas, but received little national attention.
The unit was never completely shut down, and if it would have been, the event probably would have received more attention. Any reduction in production for even as little as 24 hours is considered sufficiently important to be reported in the financial press to investors and others.
Marr said BP initially monitored the emissions using a method approved by Texas regulators. It did not show any release in "excess of regulatory exposure limits to workers or the community during anytime." Using what Marr described as a method that "enables us to better understand the unit's emissions," BP found the much higher rate of release and notified Texas regulators on June 4.
Environmental experts say the amount of chemicals released was one of the largest in recent Texas history.
"This was a giant release over that 40-day period," said Neil Carman, who worked for the regulators for 12 years before joining the Sierra Club. "Even 50,000 pounds is big."
Carman said a study he performed showed the BP Texas City Refinery was already releasing more benzene into the atmosphere than any other place in the U.S. from 1997 to 2007.
BP spokesman Marr says the refinery's 2009 emissions dropped 20 percent from 2008, including a 50 percent drop in benzene emissions. BP had also invested in onsite chemical treatment to reduce emissions, Marr said.
"I would already argue that there's too much benzene in the air in Texas City," Carman said, "and then you add this release over 40 days, and it's just unconscionable that BP would do this."
Marr said the incident began on April 6 when a component of the refinery's ultracracker went offline. The ultracracker, an integral part of the plant's processing of crude oil into gasoline and other petroleum products, processes 65,000 barrels of oil per day. A financial analyst who follows the industry said that each barrel should earn BP $5 to $10 in profits.
Industry experts say BP had reason to believe from the outset that emissions from the flare would be substantial.
Widely circulated industry guidelines assume that at least 2 percent of what is sent to a flare goes unburned and passes into the atmosphere. Because such large quantities of gas move through a refinery, this can amount to tens of thousands of pounds.
Carman of the Sierra Club says that flares also may be substantially less efficient than the industry believes. He said studies have shown that as much as 20 percent of what is sent to flares is released into the atmosphere.
"A 20 percent release from the flare would equal 5 million pounds and the benzene would have been 170,000 pounds," said Carman.
California regulators said that couldn't happen there. In Contra Costa County, home to several refineries, flares are to be used to handle chemical releases only in emergency situations, not regular operations.
"Refineries aren't allowed to do that in the Bay Area," said Randy Sawyer, the director of the hazardous materials programs in Contra Costa County. "If you have an upset and you need to get rid of gases in a hurry, you can send it to a flare. But if you continue to operate and dump a lot of stuff to a flare, that's not what they were designed for and it adds to pollution." California requires refineries to keep backup hydrogen compressors on hand and it stations regulators at the plants who are alert for any unscheduled flaring.
Last year, the Texas Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit against BP for “poor operating and maintenance practices’’ that caused an “egregious amount of emissions.”
That case cited 53 separate incidents that, taken together, are roughly equal to the 538,000 pounds BP calculates it released over the 40 days this year."

So the lawsuits are flying.... but lawsuit settlements don't cure cancer & disease from their sloppy chemical overflow. 

Honestly, we really should kick BP out of the US re drilling & oil refineries. 

Meanwhile the latest tallies of the toll on wildlife from the Gulf Oil Spill:
Collected Dead
• 5362 birds
• 553 Sea Turtles
• 80 Mammals, Including Dolphins

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Full Code

What is Full Code?
It's a term for a medical directive.

Full code means, if a patient has a cardiac or respiratory arrest, medical personnel are ethically and legally obliged to perform life-saving measures. They go full tilt. Rib cracking compressions, intubation, defibrillation, various push medications and infusions to prolong life.

If you asked patients whether they would want to be subjected to pain and suffering before succumbing to their death, you'd find that most would kindly decline your offer. If you asked them if they would rather die a natural and peaceful death, most would rally behind that thought.
Physicians frequently deal with life-and-death decisions, and increasingly with discussions about the quality of death as well. What is a "quality death"? Who defines it?  Does the patient want everything possible done to prolong his life—"full code" in hospital parlance—or does he want to let death happen without interference—a "do not resuscitate" order? 
Full code is permission for a doctor to insert a tube into failing lungs, shock a fibrillating heart, and unleash a plethora of punctures, dissections, and exsanguinations on the human body. These interventions save lives and restore functioning for a small number of people. For many others, they take their final hours of pain, suffering, and death and stretch them into weeks, even months of agony as organs fail one by one while the brain can still experience anger, depression, and pain. Yet to give the lucky few patients a chance to recover, all patients are granted full-code status until their wishes can be verified though documents or conversation. In the emergency department, if a patient says they want "everything done," and the admitting resident documents a presumptive full code.

So just because we have whiz bang medical techno equipment and capabilities, does not make it ethically correct.  More people live longer lives--- but is it quality of life?

One of the first things my Mom said, when she was told she has to move into a care center, was that she would "rather go to the cemetery." OK that sounded dramatic and reactionary, but she felt that being in a care facility was equal to death, without the peace & closure. 
Of course if she know how much it cost per month (in memory care), she might have died! 
$7000 a month, plus laundry services & meds. 

For an active, vibrant person being laid up in a care facility, it feels like a prison. No matter how kind the staff is, there is still this feeling of being locked in to their routines & schedules. 
My Mom can no longer decide to go anywhere on her own. 
Another relative is unstable and needs a belt & an assistant if he wants to walk. He has fallen, and one fall caused a hip break. Once in a care facility, you are exposed to Noro Virus (hellish flu), MRSA the super bug infection, and C- diff an intestinal superbug. 
It is a slippery slope. 

On one hand they have nursing staff available, and deliver all needs- meals & medical attention are covered. Meds & care are on tap 24/7. But it is institutional care, and I don't know if you have spent any time in a Senior care facility lately-- it is depressing. Not as bad as in the old days, but still people with health problems, in various degrees of decline, it is a very hard place to visit, let alone live in. 
When we tried to ease my Mom into it, and said we need to just have you try it & see how it goes- she argued-- oh no--people go into these facilities & never get out. 
She was right, in her case. As hard as that transition was, she needed to be in a facility. 
She could no longer keep up the house, and it was not practical to do in home care because it still involves the home maintenance, as well as all the other everyday stuff. Meds, food, 24/7 care. 

But as Dorothy put it, there's no place like home. 

So we learned that Grandpa's medical directive is listed as Full Code- take every measure to sustain life. We know he requested DNR @ one of his last ER hospital stints, so we figured he probably did not know that is what his current directive is set up as. 

It was important that the discussion was had while his immediate next of kin family was in town for the memorial of his wife's recent passing.  Of course it is a delicate topic, but Grandpa immediately said OH NO! I do NOT want that. He just did not know that was how the directive was set up. 
He did not even need to have what it is explained. There was no hesitation, and no uncertainty. No way! Change it - now!

So that will get changed today- with the Care Facility, and his Doctor's and the hospital. 
He has endured Chemo, radiation, multiple surgeries, has been in a care facility for 10 months & no end in sight. He's also been in the hospital about a dozen times this year alone, in several near death situations. 
Also currently facing a 3rd hip surgery within 1 year's time. 
The Full Code directive may have made sense last year when he first broke his hip, but it does not make sense now. 

At some point this endless heroic saving simply prolongs agony. The patient "lives", but the quality of life is absent. 

I even have that in place for myself. Should something major happen, I do not want to "live" sustained on feeding tubes & breathing machines. Make medical efforts if there is reasonable hope for recovery, but do not sustain life without quality of life. 
DNR with pain management for me, should there be a catastrophic situation. 
That's do not resuscitate.  At some point one can choose to be in harmony with Nature & the spiritual aspects of the circle of life. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Salem World Rhythm festival

Finally got around to these photos taken... this year they had an honorary faction from Bhutan.
There are many booths @ this venue, and a portion of the proceeds go to support various people & causes.  I noticed this colorful booth.

I came upon this Buddhist Monk, making a sand mandala. 

I've seen this art done by Monks a few times, tedious art form carefully tapping grains of colored sand to create an intricate & meditative Mandala. 

Usually, they use a metal "straw" with a narrow pen pointed end to tap the grains of sand precisely into the pattern, but this Monk was doing the design all by hand alone. A much more difficult task. 
After working for many hours & days on the Mandala, it is then scooped up, and often taken to a river & poured in, to affirm the impermanence of everything.

It was interesting to observe festival goers stop in  their tracks to stop & watch this ancient art form take place right before their eyes.  Enlightening!

Did  I mention they do Dragon Boat races there too?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rest in Peace

Grandma Naida passed away Monday night, in her sleep. 
She was 87 years old, and the last time I talked with her, she said she had "no regrets" about 
how she lived her life, and the times she had special celebrations- for their anniversary, 
a big get together for Grandpa's 80 th birthday, the cross country family visits, travel etc. 
She really did seize the day. She also spent the last few years caring for Grandpa. 

Rest in Peace, Grandma Naida

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Baby!

My baby is turning 22 years old today!!!!  Here is a previous montage I made for him a few years ago.
Part of it is a trip to Alaska... a first for us all.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The nerve

Chimpy, The Shrub, The Decider, Worst President Ever-- yes George W Bush & his sidekick, wife showed up at the Dallas Fort Worth airport to surprise 145 returning troops from Iraq & Afghanistan for a 2 week break.
That's a lot of nerve-- he probably had heavy security detail... I'm sure more than a few soldiers had to refrain from going after the bastard responsible for starting these wars- and making their lives a living hell.
 The story was reported by CNN. 

Draft dodging swine, whose administration is responsible for the war of choice, Mr. Mission Accomplished- the guy who never went to war, but liked playing dress up, had the gaul to show up for this photo op. The guy who refused to let the caskets of returning soldiers be photographed, wants to relieve his conscience & come off as some nice guy who respects the troops? If he respected the troops, he would never have put them in harms way in the first place. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

get real

The media seems to be content that the BP well head that spewed oil for 100 days into the Gulf is now under control. Some are even asking did we overreact?

Not so fast! The chemical dispersant & oil remnants have become silent killers.
I've been watching the Fish & Wildlife web site.... up till now they have posted daily numbers which include "Collected Dead" statistics. These are the numbers of documented deceased animals, but there are some that die out at sea & have not been accounted for.

So all this week, we hear the spill is under control & "history"- they had a 5 day gap in updates, but just this week here is the update:

                                 8/8 Numbers--------- 8/13 Numbers------- Increased by:
BIRDS-  -----------    3839--------------------4080---------------------Plus 241
SEA TURTLES-----  516-------------------- 525----------------------Plus  9
MAMMALS---------- 70----------------------72------------------------Plus 2
(includes Dolphins)

Even though the oil has stopped flowing, the toxic destruction has not.
Not hearing this on mainstream news, we need to know the damage continues.

The Obama family is doing a short jaunt to Panama City Florida, and the press is abuzz asking if the president will go swim in the gulf. I hope he is not stupid enough to swim in chemical dispersant for a photo op. If he does- it will likely be a "Mission Accomplished" presidential moment- something he will regret having done for a very long time.

 Asked & answered- Obama & Sasha bask in chemical dispersant.
I have a haunting feeling what BP has done to foul the Gulf Waters will have long term health effects for both humans & wildlife.

BP has it's eyes set on drilling up in Alaska next.

BP is making this claim to ease the way for approval of its massive ultra-extended-range oil project on the North Slope of Alaska, in Prudhoe Bay.  BP's original design for the project had the drilling starting from a drilling rig offshore, in the waters of Prudhoe Bay.  BP conducted an environmental review of sorts and obtained approval from the Minerals Management Service (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement).  Then BP changed the design from a drilling rig in the ocean to one located on an artificial island that is connected to the shore by a long causeway.  BP did not conduct any additional environmental review, nor was it asked to by MMS.  After the Deepwater Horizon blowout in April, 2010, when talk of a moratorium on offshore drilling began, BP took the view that this project was not offshore.  Amusing, no? 
Is the newly named  "Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement" drinking the same Kool Aid the Minerals Management Service served up?
I think there should be a moratorium on BP doing anything but Solar in the US. They should not be allowed to even think about more drilling of any kind until the Gulf issue is resolved. Court cases over. All environmental fees & fines resolved. "Small people" given financial restitution for the losses they suffered as a direct result of BP's gross negligence. 
If they Government can;t outright make a formal ban, they can bury them in additional required studies & denials as a matter of principal. 
The government has *asked*, yes asked BP to fund a study on the long term effects of the food chain as it is effected by their oil spill. To date BP has refused. They should not be asking BP they should make it a legal requirement, a part of their fine/fee as a consequence for their nasty spill. 
If you need some comic relief from the heavy crude oil reality-- go to Liberality's blog... she's got some singing mermaid video posted, who has a little something to say about BP. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thanks for the invite

"The politicians must find other ways to fill the void after 2011... If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the U.S. army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020," the BBC reported.
Under the Obama administration's plans, U.S. forces are due to start withdrawing from Iraq at the end of August, apart from 50,000 troops who will support and train Iraqi forces before leaving the country by the end of 2011.
Here's why, a glimpse of the timetable:

American Military Casualties in Iraq 
In Combat
American Deaths
Since war began (3/19/03):44143492
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03) (the list)


Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03):39533186
Since Handover (6/29/04):35552859
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09):18687
American WoundedOfficialEstimated
Total Wounded:31902Over 100000

* From the Anti War website
Each step, from the declaration of "Mission Accomplished", to the remarks like "the insurgents are in the last throes", we just need to rid Iraq of the brutal dictator (7 years have passed), since the handover to Iraqi troops, 6 years ago.  Another 10 years of fighting, dying, billions of dollars we desperately need, in a war of choice. 
Our Commander in Chief, President Obama, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, needs to understand that we can ill afford another decade of war for oil. I'm not particularly happy 50,000 troops remain in Iraq, and certainly not the surged escalation of war in Afghanistan. 
Another 20 years mired in war in Iraq?  NO. 

Meanwhile Gen. Petraeus is saying they just don't know if they can leave Afghanistan by July 2011- basically, maybe 10 years there is not quite enough?