Hot Reads 8/24/14

It’s a hot, humid Sunday so sit back and take a look at what we read this week while you sip your beverage of choice. All this and more can be found on our Hot Reads From NOLAFemmes.com Pinterest board.
Have a great reading week, y’all!

Onaja Waki (left) is about to start college in California, but she and her mother, Oneida Cordova, have been talking openly for years about the dangers of sexual assault.  Photo credit: Teresa Chin

Onaja Waki (left) is about to start college in California, but she and her mother, Oneida Cordova, have been talking openly for years about the dangers of sexual assault.
Photo credit: Teresa Chin

From NPR: “As Kids Head To Campus, Parents Broach The Subject Of Sexual Assault”
Favorite Quote: “And he may hear all kinds of justifications while at school, she tells him. “I think what concerns me the most is not falling into that group mentality,” she says, “Like, ‘Oh, she’s a slut,’ or, ‘She came wearing a short skirt,’ or, ‘[She] already had sex with one of the guys, therefore it’s OK if everybody does.'”
Least favorite quote: “”That’s one thing I might be relying more on the college orientation helping them through, and giving them some guidelines and things to look out for,” says Gail.”
Note: It’s called sticking your head in the sand syndrome.

From Bloomberg: Hook-Up Culture at Harvard, Stanford Wanes Amid Assault Alarm
Favorite quote: ““This is the only crime where people blame the victim,” said Annie E. Clark, co-founder of End Rape on Campus, based in Los Angeles. “Regardless of what you do, you don’t ask for a crime to be committed.” “

From the U.K.’s Mirror: Crack unit of female soldiers hunting Islamic State kidnappers.
Tagline: Heavily armed women from the Turkish PKK have gone into Iraq to tackle the jihadists.
Favorite quote: ““Our support is just as important for the peshmerga as these US strikes – bombings alone cannot get rid of guerrilla groups,” said Sedar Botan, a female PKK veteran commander.”

And, on a lighter note, from Slate: Musical nostalgia: Why do we love the music we heard as teenagers?
Favorite quote: “The period between 12 and 22, in other words, is the time when you become you. It makes sense, then, that the memories that contribute to this process become uncommonly important throughout the rest of your life. They didn’t just contribute to the development of your self-image; they became part of your self-image—an integral part of your sense of self.”

Book list of the week: Awkward Paper Cut 2014 summer book list – “Summer is synonymous with reading. Wherever you may find yourself, the books below will take you to new places, teach you new things, nudge you to see the world in a different way. Brief, but well-culled, a mix of new work and work that we believe should find a larger audience.”

And our poem for the week is by Luci Tapahonso, This is How They Were Placed for Us.
Note: The audio of this is beautifully read by the poet.

Photo Credit: One.org

Photo Credit: One.org

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Amir’s Vote

On this Election Day, I will tell my daughter to get ready, gather up my things, make sure I have my ID in my purse, and travel to my closest polling station to cast my vote.

For some, it will seem like something that we automatically do — without much thought — every four years. For others, particularly first time voters, there will be a certain pride felt in exercising this right that so many people in the history of America have fought to have, keeping in mind that many people have fought for us to have this right, too.

For me, however, I will think about Amir Hekmati.

Amir Hekmati was born in Arizona. He grew up in Nebraska and Michigan. He served in the US Marines. And now he is languishing away in Ward 209 of Iran’s notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Last January, he was sentenced to death by an Iranian court for being a spy, a claim that his family and the US government denies. They also charged him with Corruption of the Earth and Waging War Against  God –charges that are hard to understand, particularly from a Western point-of-view. The death sentence was the first for an American in 33 years, since the Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Fortunately, in March, his death sentence was overturned and a new trial was ordered. Unfortunately, since then, there has been no retrial. In fact, there has been very little movement at all, leaving Amir in solitary confinement without contact with his family in Michigan. Even letters sent to Amir do not reach him.

His attorney in Iran, one appointed and approved by an Iranian court, has been given little or access to Amir. Diplomats acting on behalf of United States interest have been denied visits. His relatives in Iran have also been turned away.

Today, when I vote, I will also think about history. I will think about the hostages taken 33 years ago, held for 444 days. Amir has been held for 436.

I will think of Amir, who only wanted to visit his aging grandmother. I will think back to my own grandparents, all residing in different countries while I was growing up. I will try to imagine what it must be like, being a citizen of America, and being arrested simply for wanting to see my Nan before she would pass from this world to the next. I will think of other people held as political prisoners, past and present, with their human rights stripped from them for no reason at all.

I don’t know who Amir would vote for today, if given the opportunity. I am certain, however, that Amir would vote. So, today, when I cast my vote, it won’t only be my vote. It will be Amir’s vote, too. It will be a vote I make in hopes of bringing Amir home. Soon.

For more information on Amir, please visit www.freeamir.org.

dinner conversation

Last night I was at dinner in someone’s home and the following is the abridged version of a portion of dinner conversation. I say abridged because I was so mad that one, the guest had the audacity to discuss politics in a room of people this person had never met, save one, and two I didn’t want to go ballistic and embarrass the host so I left.

Guest: I was at the VA hospital today for (some random event) and was able to see the blueprint of the new hospital.

Me: Oh really, tell me about it…

Guest: Well on Banks street, the old oak trees were saved, and some of the buildings will be built around the oaks, so there will be a corridor down the middle – a shaded promenade with benches and such.

Me: That sounds nice!

Guest: While I was there today, some of the (nameless) dignitaries were discussing how the Charity Hospitals were being dismantled and they were looking at private corporations to take over the care of the patients.

Me: Oh really? Well after Katrina, when Charity hospital was closed down, all the patients had to go somewhere so they were seen at Ochsner, East Jefferson – it didn’t work well and those hospitals lost a lot of money…

Guest: Yeah, one of the doctors at (nameless hospital) was telling me how after the storm, a gun shot wound patient broke into some pharmacy storage area to take medicine, so that didn’t work out too well with “those” (emphasis guest) patients at the private hospitals. So its going to be difficult for “those” (emphasis guest) patients to find somewhere to go.

Me: I honestly don’t see how the state could possibly shut down the Charity Hospitals? What are they going to do with the new hospital? Sell it?

Guest: Well there will be no more Charity system, they are doing everything right now to close all the hospitals. It won’t be an issue especially if Obamacare is defeated in November when Romney wins.

Me: Its called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Plus there is no guarantee Romney will win.

Guest: Well if Obama is re-elected, there are ways to defeat the health care bill.

Me: Oh Really? You know, we really shouldn’t be going there (having political discussion with strangers) at dinner…

Guest: Well how do you think Obamacare is going to be funded? The federal government will need to put up $50 billion dollars they don’t have to pay for it…

At this point I excused myself and helped clear the table and began washing dishes. The guest continued carrying on political discussion with the others remaining at the table which I could hear from the kitchen. I did as much as I could to assist the host –  but very soon after when another guest excused themselves it was my cue to leave too.

I find it extraordinarily disturbing that there is a subversive political process going on which is hell bent on obliterating health care for the poor and uninsured in Louisiana. There has already been a loss of thousands of state jobs, and this current round will result in 1500 more people out of work. How does this contribute to the tax base, the spend and growth economy, putting people out of work, regardless of the fact that these are hard working and dedicated state employees?  Where are all the students of health care, physicians, nurses, allied health, going to go for training? Not to mention all of the sick, sick patients and not just the victims of and perpetrators of violent trauma: there is no plan in the foreseeable future for the state to pony up through Bayou Health or any other fee schedule to reimburse the private hospitals that will wind up caring for the uninsured poor. And once these private hospitals begin to see red, what will happen to the patients? Will they just start dying in the streets? Where is the social justice in that?

There is a call to action out there, let your voice be heard. Representative Jerome Richard from Thibodaux has called to convene a special session to address the recent bulldozing of healthcare, among other things. Contact your state legislators and senators, and demand they go to special session in November to reverse the evisceration of health care in this state. You the citizens elected the legislators and they answer to you, compel them to do their job and do what’s right by their constituents and not the special interests.

*****UPDATE***** This link will take you to an online petition through Change dot org requesting the legislature to convene a special session to find out what in God’s name is going on with the railroading of health care in Louisiana – please consider signing it – thanks

Assault on Local Home Health Nurse Precipitates Fundraiser/Outreach Program

The HALO Foundation
Holistic Healing for Violent Crime Victims in Healthcare

On Thursday, January 26, 2012 the crime that persists in the City of New Orleans shocked us again. And this time it hit very close to home. One of our own, a home health nurse, who has dedicated her life to home care service, became another Victim of Violent Crime, another statistic in the long list that pervades our community. At 3:30 p.m., in the middle of a beautiful Thursday afternoon, while arriving at a patient’s home, she was robbed at gunpoint, abducted and assaulted.

We all heard the blip on television that Thursday evening and perhaps even a bit through the weekend. But just how many of us paid attention? Just another crime, we all think. And then more information is revealed. The woman is a home health nurse. Uneasiness settles in as she begins to have a face. We realize she is a mother, a daughter, a friend, a caregiver, one like us and the ripple effect begins. For those in the home care and hospice industries, this is a daily fear. For those in healthcare, we recognize we can sometimes be a target. And all of us in the healthcare industry know the unique needs of a Victim of Violence. We are too acutely aware of the long-term effects these acts can have not only on the Victim, but on their families. We know how long and how difficult the road to healing can be.

We call her “Angel” because she needs and wants to be anonymous at this time. She is surrounded by a strong support group of family, friends and mental health professionals. She is comforted, yet gives comfort. Her strength amazes us. She has many needs that encompass the physical, the psychological, the emotional and even the practicality of financial and legal needs. She must process this, begin a path to healing, deal with the stress of the legal aspects and must have a means of support.

She recognizes she needs help, and is willing to accept. She also realizes how this tragic event has affected the home health and hospice community. As a dedicated caregiver who has experienced violence, she seeks a way to care for colleagues who may in the future also become a Victim, and to also work towards better safety systems and policies.

Through this desire, and her need for anonymity, The Healthcare Angels Lifeline Outreach Foundation a/k/a The HALO Foundation was formed on February 15, 2012. A dedicated fund for “Angel” has been established at Regions Bank for donations directed to her. Donations can be made at any Regions Bank to the account of “The HALO Foundation.” 100% of donations made to this account go directly to “Angel.”

We Need Your Help!

Request for Volunteers: We are currently seeking individuals who want to proactively be involved. Our needs are many and we need volunteers and leaders. We have established the following Committees needing volunteers – Program Development, Financial, Fundraising, Public Relations, Information Technology and a Nominating Committee for the Board of Directors. If you or someone you know would like to be involved, please contact any one of us listed at the bottom of this page.

Fundraising: In an effort to help “Angel” concentrate on healing we would like to assist her financially by sponsoring a series of fundraisers. Currently, we are announcing that The HALO Foundation is sponsoring a fundraising event for Angel’s benefit to be held at Mid-City Rock’nBowl on Sunday, June 10, 2012 from 1:00p.m. to 4:00pm. We are in the preliminary planning stages at this time and are working on entertainment and a Silent Auction. We need volunteers and humbly ask that you consider giving us your TIME to help us plan and execute this event, to assist with planning the entertainment or helping to collect donations for the Silent Auction. Please help us in having a successful and fun-filled event by donating your time.

Please share this with your staff, colleagues, family and friends. For More Information:

Mary Kathryn Nichols
President
504-339-9802
MaryKYoung@att.net mail to: MaryKYoung@att.net

Michele Schellhaas, R.N.
Vice-President
504-296-9001
Mds0919@yahoo.com mail to: Mds0919@yahoo.com

Jane Fountain
Secretary/Treasurer
504-236-9925
Tillytoo@aol.com mail to: Tillytoo@aol.com

The Healthcare Angels Lifeline Outreach Foundation
a/k/a The HALO Foundation
Holistic Healing for Violent Crime Victims in Healthcare

Mission Statement
The mission of The HALO Foundation is to provide support, resources and a pathway for holistic healing addressing the physical, psychological, emotional, financial and legal needs for members of the healthcare community who become victims of violent crime while in the service of administering care to others.

Vision Statement
Our medical community will feel free to administer necessary care to others without fearing for their own safety.

Our Goals
Our goal is simple, yet two fold. We want to provide support and comfort to our colleagues and their families who become victims of violence and to give them a sense of empowerment so they may recover to their full life potential. In addition, we want to be proactive in addressing the safety concerns of healthcare workers in our community. To address these goals we have issued a 7-point plan:

• To provide financial assistance to allow victims and their families to concentrate on recovery;
• To provide a peer support network;
• To provide a network of medical and legal professionals to ensure advocacy through law enforcement, judicial, and healthcare systems;
• To offer in partnership, safety, self-awareness and self-defense presentations, seminars and other professional trainings to healthcare workers;
• To promote community awareness of the daily dangers faced by home care professionals in an effort to promote collaborative community action efforts to stop victimization;
• To work to improve policies and procedures of the medical and legal professions in the treatment of victims of violence throughout the crisis;
• To collaborate with law enforcement and healthcare associations/organizations in an effort to affect the Safety Policy and Procedures and Safety Performance Improvement Plans to better protect healthcare providers working in field positions.

Guest Blogger: Bayou Creole on A New Nursing Home Trend

The hands of an elderly resident at a nursing home (John Stillwell/PA Wire)

The hands of an elderly resident at a nursing home (John Stillwell/PA Wire)

New Nursing Home Trend

Many moons ago, the only people  living in nursing homes were the elderly.  If your parents or grandparents needed 24 hour care, you could put them in a home where there would be nurses and aids there 24-7  to assist them. But, there’s a new trend going on( here in Louisiana for sure).

Facilities that previously only had elderly people are now getting young folks,folks in their 20′s-50′s…way too young to be in a facility with the elderly.Not only that, a lot of these young people have mental health problemsor drugs and alcohol problems. Some of the young people who end up in these facilities are helpful to the elderly. But a lot of times, they intimidate the elderly to the point where the elderly are afraid to say anything against them. Then, there’s the abuse and the situation of having young, sexual men in a place with females who are either elderly or mentally challenged. I received a phone call today informing me that an elderly female in one such facility was raped by a male living there. That’s a hard pill for a family member to handle. You think you’re doing the right thing by your loved one, putting her somewhere medical care is available, meals are being served, she can no longer wander out of the home so, she’s supposedly safe. Then, you get a call saying someone raped her there.

The nursing game has changed. It’s sad but, it’s true. I’ve heard horror stories over and over again. I’ve witnessed horror stories too. Since there aren’t any place for the mentally ill to go anymore, it seems the new trend is to put them into nursing facilities. But what happens to the poor elderly people who have to be there… with a paranoid schizophrenic, who refuses to take his medication? Who’s  really protecting them? Folks call the state all the time and nothing ever changes.

If anyone is thinking about putting their loved one in a nursing care facility, do your research first. Don’t believe what they tell you. Visit there at different hours of the day. Walk every single hall in the facility. Take note of the mental capacity and age of everyone you see, employees included. Let your senses be your guide. What do you see, hear,smell? Hang around for lunch and order a plate, how does it taste? Do you see residents wandering around aimlessly or are they engaged in activities? What is the work environment like? Happy employees take better care of people. Visit as many places as humanly possible before making a decision about where you’ll put your loved one because, the game has changed.Healthcare has changed… and the elderly are suffering because of it.
~~~
Bio:
I’m a registered nurse born,raised and living in the fabulous city of New Orleans. I’m married to a man who’s way too good for me and have two kids who keep me young and zany. My passions are for all things NOLA, Elder Rights and Animal Rights.
~~~
This piece was previously published on Bayou Creole’s blog of the same name.

Guest Blogger Laura Bergerol on Planned Parenthood

Why this is personal; I stand with Planned Parenthood!
Congressional leaders and President Obama headed off a shutdown of the government with less than two hours to spare Friday night under a tentative budget deal that would cut $38 billion from federal spending this year. I am grateful that they figured out a way to avert government shutdown and not hurt Planned Parenthood in the process. But I AM REALISTIC; this battle is not over; this was simply the first skirmish in the war on women’s health.  So I ask you to please support Planned Parenthood and women’s health issues; it has never been so needed especially in a time where there is an all out assault on women’s health.  Please read the post that follows; it was written yesterday and it is my personal story on why this matters!

====================================

Friday April 8, 2011; Today I received emails from Planned Parenthood that actually make me sick; due to the stupid GOP who have decided that Planned Parenthood is a bad thing, so they plan to shut down the government and hold the Democrats and all women hostage in order to prove their point because they have decided that Planned Parenthood is ONLY about abortion.  The truth could not be farther from this!

I will cite articles, but what I want to do is to relate my own experience with abortion and a woman’s right to choose.  The beautiful girl that you see below in the photo is my sister Brenda; I lost her when she was twenty seven years old and the world lost a great crusader for the underdog.  It is because I was lucky enough to have her in my life, that I have the strength to speak out against what the GOP is doing; it is fundamentally wrong and it has to be overturned.  Here is her story (and mine.)

When Brenda was 25, she found out that she was pregnant.  It should have been a moment that most women who are in love and engaged to be married would cherish; the chance to have a child with the man that they love. Instead it was a time of terror for Brenda; you see, Brenda had severe epilepsy, and she could not be taken off of the medicines that kept her safe, in order to carry a child to term, and the medicines that already caused her significant side effects would have caused severe side effects to a child.  If she was taken off the anti-convulsive medicines, it was highly probable that she would have died from a seizure.

Additionally, she had a hard time taking birth control, since the pill caused her to have seizures. So after much heartache, pain, and discussion with her fiance to make her decision, she chose to have an abortion, and asked me to accompany her to Planned Parenthood in Santa Clara, California.  The year was 1982, and thank goodness, we had good facilities at that time that performed safe abortions. This had NOT always been the case as I was growing up, and indeed many deaths were attributed to back street abortion clinics.  When they called her back for the procedure, they had her talk to several counselors before taking her back to the room.  She explained over and over why she had no choice and I could see she was getting more and more upset; why couldn’t they just understand was written across her face.  Finally they began the procedure; it seemed an interminably long time, though in reality, it probably was over in less than a half hour.  BUT not before, my beloved sister suffered a Grand Mal seizure;  I stayed with her, never leaving her side and I tried to protect her from the seizure, and to simply be there for her.  She was terrified, as she always was when she had a seizure, and once the procedure was finally over, I took her home and put her to bed where she slept for 14 hours straight. She often felt guilt about that act, but I know in my heart that she would not have survived pregnancy, and that she had made the right decision.  If the GOP gets their way, the Brenda’s of the world, will have no where to turn.  Please do not let this happen!

To finish my story, about two summers later, Brenda married her sweetheart in June of 1984.  They began their married life together, but it was to be short-lived. On October 4, 1984, my sister had a Grand Mal seizure while driving and was killed instantly when her car ran into the piling for an overpass on Highway 101 in Santa Clara, CA.

The one thing that I know about my sister Brenda, is that she would not mind me telling you this story; indeed knowing Brenda, she would be on the picket lines in DC marching with Planned Parenthood.  Please do not force women to go back to a terrible time where contraception, family planning, and abortions are difficult to obtain.  Please stand with Brenda and me; we support and stand with Planned Parenthood and we believe in the rights of all women to get the medical help they need, no matter their financial situation.

————————————-

Links;

Today’s (4/9/11)  New York Times; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/us/politics/09fiscal.html?_r=1&hp

From the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/what-planned-parenthood-a… “Though the fight over Planned Parenthood might be about abortion, Planned Parenthood itself isn’t about abortion. It’s primarily about contraception and reproductive health. And if Planned Parenthood loses funding, what will mainly happen is that cancer screenings and contraception and STD testing will become less available to poorer people. Folks with more money, of course, have many other ways to receive all these services, and tend to get them elsewhere already. The fight also isn’t about cutting spending. The services Planned Parenthood provides save the federal government a lot of money. It’s somewhat cold to put it in these terms, but taxpayers end up bearing a lot of the expense for unintended pregnancies among people without the means to care for their children. The same goes for preventable cancers and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.”

From Planned Parenthood; I stand with Planned Parenthood; https://secure.ppaction.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=pp_ppol_urgent

From US Dept of Health and Human Services; http://www.hhs.gov/opa/familyplanning/index.html

From the New York Times; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/us/politics/09fiscal.html?_r=1&hp

Shutdown Near, No Sign of Compromise; After the nightlong negotiations that ended before dawn on Friday yielded no agreement, Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, went on the offensive. He told reporters and said on the Senate floor that Mr. Boehner, the Senate Democrats and President Obama had essentially settled on $38 billion in cuts from current spending. But he said that Republicans were refusing to abandon a policy provision that would withhold federal financing for family planning and other health services for poor women from Planned Parenthood and other providers.“This is indefensible, and everyone should be outraged,” Mr. Reid said on the Senate floor. “The Republican House leadership have only a couple of hours to look in the mirror, snap out of it and realize how truly shameful they have been.”

______________________________

Laura Bergerol is a professional photographer in New Orleans and blogs on Posterous and at Time Captured.net. Laura also was a major contributor to our Katrina Photo Project for the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. This essay was cross-posted from her personal blog.

Misadventures with BP: Claims

My husband works in an industry that has been directly impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the slow environmental homicide that has been taking place now for nearly ninety days. We are fortunate that my husband is still able to work, but as June came we saw business trail off. So far in July, business has trailed off more. My husband is searching for a new job, afraid each night when he goes into work it is going to be the night that he is told his hours have been drastically cut or for him to take a couple of days off. 

It is an uncomfortable situation that causes high anxiety and many sleepless nights.

Last month we filed our claim with BP and were approved for $1000. While I am thankful for the $1000.00, it did not cover our loss and some creative financing on my part was required of me.

When we took in a letter from my husband’s employer, our 2009 tax return and my husband’s check stubs, we were told that each month our claim would “renew” automatically and from thirty days from our last payment we should receive the next payment. At the BP Claim center, a check was written and we were on our way home.

And then I read a press release that stated that there would now be a formula taking into account actual loss compared to estimated loss, that claims were going to be looked upon more closely and an advance would not simply be given as was previous done and that starting in August, this new process would come into play. This confused me, as it completely contradicted the information that we have been given by the auditor at the time of our claim filing.

I called the 800 number provided by BP for any questions regarding already filed claims and I spoke with one BP phone agent that told me that what we received was a one-time  payment and we would not receive another.

Ok, great. That’s fine. I am thankful that we received what we did when we did, because it really helped us adjust to the rather large dip in our income.

Then I read another press release from BP, which prompting me to call the 800 number again, this time reaching a young man that seemed to actually know what he was talking about. I was on hold for thirty minutes before I finally was connected to a human voice, but when I did the guy was nice and didn’t get annoyed when I asked a thousand questions, asking for clarification on clauses and statements that appear in the BP claims process handbook and made sure I was getting the correct information.

I was informed that we would get the checks automatically sometime between thirty and forty days and that no more paper work would be required of me and I wouldn’t have to go to a claims office again to re-file.

Great. That really cleared things up for me and sounded more on point with what the most recent press release had stated.

An 800 number was left on our voicemail by BP and we called back. This time, it was our auditor, a man in the local office who was met with when the claim was initially filed.

He told us that we had to bring in documentation (pay stubs for us) every month at the end of the month, because there is no way that BP could give us an advance payment, but would have to pay us our loss after the fact. Ok, I think I get that, especially if they are trying to streamline the claims process, which is the impression that I am getting from all that I have read and the individuals I have spoken to.  BUT we were told that now we need to meet with him every month and essentially file our claim on a claim that was already open. My husband informed him that he would not be receiving any more paychecks for July, so perhaps my husband could just bring them in.

It wouldn’t matter; it won’t be looked at until August, even though they are trying to process these during the current month.

Tails are still heads to me and heads are still tales.

I would like to say that all of the individuals we have dealt with, with one exception, have been extremely kind. This does illustrate, however, the disjointed communication of policy going throughout the company from the national office for claims to the local offices to what BP is releasing to the press.

Despite promises by BP to the press to release claim money thirty days after June payments, we are now finding out that a continue stream of documentation is going to be required, given that the information that we received today (since all three people have told us very different things) and this automatic program that BP had spoken about really isn’t an automatic program at all. It has been released in the press recently that most claims are rejected because of lack of documentation. BP doesn’t make filing for the claims any easier when apparently they are changing policy every day. Instead of taking their disorganization into account for many people really struggling financially, a big, fat NO is given instead.

BP needs to get on the same page and stop jumping around like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.

For some people, their claim check is all they have.

It’s Day 86 and I’m Not Okay.

I don’t deal with death well. At thirty-four years old, I have seen death take my parents, a child and many very good friends from me.  When dealing with death, I grieve out loud. I weep. I cry. I question. I scream and then I weep once more.

Living in Southeastern Louisiana lately, death surrounds us, creeping into all aspects of our lives. Work is no longer work; it is working while we can. Cooking no longer means going to the grocery store and getting what is cheapest, but stocking up on local seafood before our seafood ceases to exist. It is saying good-bye to the memories we would make on the beaches, because the beaches are closed off. Watching the television means watching local news or Anderson Cooper 360 since those seem to be the only outlets really reporting what is happening here. It means becoming the ‘them’ again,  the ‘them’ that is stupid enough to live there, stupid enough to have a state that depends on oil to run, the ‘them’ that is getting what they deserve. We are the ‘them’ who are hurting but the ‘them’ not being listened to. We are the ‘them’ being held hostage by a foreign corporation, the Federal government and the Coast Guard.

Armed security guards in pastel t-shirts and camo pants guard the beaches, not allowing passage, particularly if you have a camera or pen and paper. In your community, you become the outsider, the enemy, the background music that no one really listens to but is just sort of there. Except we aren’t there, because they won’t let us be.

What was once familiar has become foreign, unrecognizable. The spot on the beach, my spot, where I have written so many words and have contemplated so important life decisions is not longer there, now only an oil-covered mess exists, tainted by negligence, blanketed in betrayal and marked with corruption. The calm has been strangled from it, possibly never to return, a victim the no one heard scream in the middle of the night.

Even harder to bear is the defeated looks on the faces of those all around, whether it be the fisherman who no longer has an income or the bartender that has had his hours cut and watched his tip amounts disappear or the children that know what is happening in the Gulf, wondering why this had to happen, mourning their own things in their own way. They are left confused, seeing the adults in their life struggle with the rhyme and reason, unable to feel really secure after seeing the hopelessness enter the lives of the adults that they trust.

So many adults want to help, but we are held back. If adults, who wield the real power, are unable to help, what can children do?

Culture is dying. The days of the familial fishing business is gone, leaving, well, nothing for those who have dedicated their whole lives to the industry, the sport. No longer can one get on a boat and hitchhike from shrimper to crabber down through the bayou and back up again, offering to help chip in for fuel or work off your ride. Gone are the days of the catch, coming home and celebrating with your family a particular bountiful day. The only thing left to celebrate is what once was and no one likes reliving what we have lost.

We plead for answers from our government, the body we should turn to in an event of a disaster of this size. The government looks the other way, pointing to the criminal that is responsible for this crime, telling us to ask them. When we do ask, because all other rational options have been exercised, we are not given answers but press releases.  We then receive information contradictory to what was just released to the national press when we call to speak with individuals for clarification. BP is not even in the same genre of book, let alone on the same page, yet, we are expected to put faith in these people that our loss will be accounted for and trust that they will do the right thing and help us make it through this preventable homicide against nature.

Is there anyone there? Is anyone listening to us? Our voices are being muffled by politics, by serious covering of asses, by a system that has been allowed to become an outlaw, doing as it pleases with no consequences for bad behavior. Mainstream media attempt to distract us, trying to fill us with ‘developments’ that aren’t developments but recycled news stories they didn’t bother paying attention to the first time. No one is looking out for us. No one is being our voice. It feels like we live in our own third world country.

It is for these reasons, and many more that cannot adequately be described with words but must be experienced to fully understand, that I’m not okay. The death. The desperation. The hopelessness. The abandon. The shame of it all. I’m not okay.

I’m not okay.

Despite New Found Outrage, Libyan/BP Link Not New News

Blair and Gaddafi May 2007

I have a habit of watching CNN on the television, while having BBC or Al-Jazeera English running on my computer through Live Station while I read newspapers online, check out my Google alerts and have my morning coffee. This morning when I turned CNN on,extended reporting  aired about  a link between the release of the Lockerbie bomber,  Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, and deals made in regards to BP. Annoyed, I turned to MSNBC and what was being discussed on The Morning Joe? A connection between BP and the release of al- Megrahi. Fox News? You guessed it, the possible connection between BP and al-Megrahi release.

What’s all the noise about?

Politicians in the United States are now calling for an investigation into a possible connection that exchanged al-Megrahi release for big oil contracts in Libya for BP.

My question is why, after eighty-some days of obscene negligence, dishonesty that cannot be described any other way than profane, irresponsibility and fleecing of Louisiana’s working class, is this now becoming an issue being reported on the mainstream American media and receiving attention by those powers that be in the US when this information has been available for some time? Like a few years.

In 2007, the rumblings of a BP-influenced deal with Libya began making rumblings shortly after images of Tony Blair and Muammar al-Gaddafi shaking hands (see above photo) appeared in the media. Shortly after this photo-op, it was announced  on  May 29, 2007 that BP would be going into Libya after a 33 year absence.  This was a 900 million dollar deal that gave BP rights to oil exploration and prospecting. United States publications like the New York Times also briefly covered this story. (As well as endless British mainstream publications such as The Telegraph, The Times,  The Guardian and The Independent)Is one to believe that the US was just made aware of the information connecting BP with the Lockerbie trade? Heck no! The Washington Post published this article on August 31, 2009 on the connection. MSNBC published this report on August 29, 2009. There are many others.

So, why is it now that US politicians are calling for an investigation into the connection between these two entities? Was it easier to look the other way when Big Oil was filling politicians pockets without consequence or possibility of guilt by association?  Is it because we still live in a society fueled by Bush Administration fear of the elusive boogeyman – the terrorist and for a company to have made a trade for a terrorist is just not acceptable?  Is it because now it is trendy to speak ill of BP? Or is it because it is a slow news week, with stalled progress  on domestic or foreign policy, not to mention the clusterfuck between BP and the Feds in dealing with the oil spill and the mainstream media clan are puppets and report only what each other are reporting, without doing any sort of research or looking for ledes in important stories such as the oil spill? Or perhaps it is because finally we have caught another country red-handed and just as guilty as the US for allowing oil to influence our domestic and foreign policies?

Whatever the reason, this isn’t a new development, folks.  This isn’t a new discovered secret deal uncovered by intelligence agencies or leaked documents. This has been there, right under most of our noses, hidden on the back pages of newspapers for at least three years. Don’t fall for the hype. Demand more.

This is just another example of our suffering and tragedy in the Gulf being hijacked by politics to help build someone’s career.

NOLA’s Vietnamese Community on PBS

Photo by New Orleans Lady

*Tonight on PBS’ Independent Lens is the story of New Orleans’ Vietnamese community, entitled A Village Called Versailles, and their struggle to  rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The largest Vietnamese community in the United States, Versailles was the first community in New Orleans to rebuild and most of it was done with no outside help. In January of 2006 Mayor Ray Nagin authorized a landfill within miles of the community to dump toxic waste, left behind by The Federal Flood, without an environmental impact study. This is their story, a story I followed & wrote about on my old blog and an example of what can be accomplished when a community comes together to say  “hell no, we won’t take it!”

Now the Vietnamese community is facing another challenge with the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf. One-third of the area fishers are Vietnamese who suffer the added problem of a language barrier.

John Nquyen, Environmental Justice for Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans Rally re BP Deepwater Horizon Lafayette Square New Orleans, Louisiana

Photo by New Orleans Lady

*Programing Note: Original air date was 5/25/10 on WYES – this program airs again at 2 am on June 1. Sorry for the misinformation. Air dates for your area can be found by clicking the link above.