My residence is a funeral home in West Virginia. I live among the dead.

Night and day, I witness the arrival of dead West Virginians from my apartment atop the funeral home garage. I hear the sobs of loved ones who bid farewell in the chapel down below. Sad songs echo in my home place, Christian anthems once reserved mostly for natural deaths now performed often for the overdosed, the suicides and those killed by coal.

For me, death by misused drugs is not theoretical. Suicides are no rumor. And coalfield departures are not left to my imagination. The unnaturally deceased arrive, in mounting numbers, at my doorstep without fanfare on stretchers for me to see, firsthand. Such blatancy is injurious to my soul. Not to mention my civility.

Many of my neighbors are in disbelief when I tell them that deaths from cancer, black lung, suicide and drug addiction are outpacing natural causes for the first time in our written history. To them, such deaths are simply statistics to be denied. From my funereal vantage point, such deaths cannot be refuted.

How difficult must it be for someone not as profoundly acquainted with death as I am to understand what it means when I tell you that, in mountaintop removal mining counties in central Appalachia, an additional 60,000 cases of cancer are directly linked to federally sanctioned strip mining. Not until you see, personally, a withered body made so by deadly particulate blown by strip miners into our mountain air can you appreciate, fully, just how toxic and lethal our land has become.

I am dismayed by what I observe, constantly, in my house of horror. I stare at young faces frozen by death and wonder how it is that so many youngsters are being laid to rest. Once brimming with life and hope, they lie here motionless, without any expression. I want to grab them and shake them back to life. I want to erase the poisons that laid them low. I want their skin to be radiant, their eyes bright and sparkling and not dulled by the drugs that, finally, put out their lights. Then, I remember another statistic. Life expectancy for men in my sorry neck-of-the-woods is 18 years less than for men in affluent Northern Virginia.

I am saddened by how the perished here are blamed for their own demise. I rebel on behalf of the dead downstairs in the morgue when a coalfield politician proclaims that, save for President Obama and his so-called war on coal, these dead shall not have died. I know as surely as do the dead that Obama did not kill coal. Nor has he taken their jobs and, thus, in their despair, their lives. To say otherwise is a lie.

I hoped Obama’s recent visit here to help our state cope with its drug problem–number one in the nation–would mean, eventually, fewer bodies will be brought here to my place. But until we shift from the mono-economy that is killing us to sustainable economies that will save us, those dead of unnatural causes will be visiting me in numbers greater than ever before.

Ed Rabel is an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and author who lives in Lincoln County, West Virginia. He has recently joined the Peace Corps for an assignment in Uganda, East Africa.  This article first appeared on December 30, 2015 in the Charleston WV Gazette-Mail and has been reprinted on-line. This editor, recalling Rabel from his early days in radio in Charleston, West Virginia, has followed his career through the years.






Most thinking people are surely concerned with the trash along the roads of America. IT IS EVERYWHERE! I am especially concerned with litter in the part of Kentucky where I live. The question is, what can be done about it? Some would suggest heavier fines and stricter enforcement of existing laws. My view is that such laws are almost impossible to enforce and crate a great deal of hostility and resentment as well. I would hope, too, that we could enlist the chief offenders in any litter abatement program that we might devise. Any such program ought to be easy to administer, inexpensive, and involve most of the community.

Here is my suggestion:

Designate the first Tuesday of every month as “TRASH TWOesday” when everyone would be encouraged to pick up at least TWO Pieces of litter. It would be the one day each month when all of us would zero in on litter removal and would thus involve many in the community.

To make the day a bit more visible, lawn signs and bumper stickers could be printed announcing the day:  “Today is Trash TWOesday, etc.” Schools, churches, and businesses would be enlisted to see that their property would be litter free on that day. Five interested people in your town or county would be given twenty dollars in one dollar bills to be passed out in TWO dollar token rewards to the first person or group of people seen picking up trash.

A bank might provide seldom-used $2 bills to make this even more interesting.

In addition, people picking up trash would give the TWO-finger sign to passing motorists and pedestrians to show they are part of the program. Friends, family, and paid workers would not be eligible. I’m sure some nice person would supply the money for the first several months, and I am optimistic enough to think that in a few months, there would be no more litter, and that because of widespread community involvement, even the litterers would see the error of their ways!

This simple, inexpensive plan could work for towns and counties all over the state–my state, your state–all over the United States!!!! Wouldn’t it be nice if our state became the most litter-free in America? How about if America became the most litter-free country in the whole world? I like that idea. Soon, people all over the world would be saying, “When you visit the United States, you never see any litter. It’s the cleanest country I’ve ever been to.” Now, that really would be nice!

Ernie Tucker is a long-time resident of Ashland, Kentucky.  He is a retired History professor from the Ashland Community Technical College (ACTC). Ernie is a raconteur, collector, writer and notable character around the state of Kentucky.



Most folks like you and me don’t give much thought to “science” per se. After all, we’re not scientists and we are not inclined to contemplate the importance of science in our daily lives.

Because of our lackadaisical attitude toward science and how it affects our everyday lives, many of us (not including this writer) are unaware that the present administration is stripping various agencies of the federal government of its scientists.


For example, a May 8, 2017 Associated Press article in the Los Angeles Times’ headline read “Trump’s EPA dismisses half of the scientists on its advisory board.” According to Science Magazine (2015), the EPA published “a controversial regulation aimed at improving protection for wetlands and small streams” in a “400-page technical tome assembled by agency researchers as the rule’s scientific foundation and justification.” In March, 2017, President Trump “signed an executive order aimed at gutting the rule.”


Although Peter Thiel, a biomedical research investor, is surprisingly one of Trump’s few supporters in Silicon Valley, he is an outspoken advocate for government-fostered science. He says, “Voters are tired of hearing conservative politicians say that government never works. They know the government wasn’t always this broken. The Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System, and the Apollo Program–whatever you think of these ventures, you cannot doubt the competence of the government that got them done. But we have fallen very far from that standard, and we cannot let free market ideology serve as an excuse for decline.”

The budget that Trump has sent to Congress “whacks 18 percent from N.I.H.’s [National Institute of Health] budget, and even more from the Department of Energy and the E.P.A.’s [Environmental Protection Agency] science programs.

According to the Editorial Board of the New York Times (March 17, 2017) a “$250 million annual grant program administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ‘supporting coastal and marine management, research and education’ would be killed [in Trump’s budget], including programs that provide important resources to help coastal states prepare for the coming effects of climate change.”

The above paragraphs document my theory that the Trump administration is anti-science. It should come as no shock, especially in the last example, since President Trump admittedly does NOT subscribe to climate change.


And, keep in mind, he appointed former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head up the Department of Energy, which is rich with scientists and thrives on scientific knowledge and input. Perry, you’ll recall, when running for the presidency, although he botched remembering the name of the agency in debate (Oops!), was FOR abolishing the Department of Energy…which he now heads!

Science is literally the backbone of technological development and underscores all of the advancements we have made in all of the areas for which the Trump administration apparently has little respect.

The decline of first-rate science and mathematical training in our primary and secondary schools, coupled with the growing disenchantment for these subjects at the highest levels of our government is frightening.

That the current administration is gutting national agencies of scientists is calamitous!



The U.S. Senate is reportedly considering a healthcare bill, although few will admit to seeing it or knowing its contents. Rumors indicate it will not, as hoped, be a “kinder, gentler” version of the House bill. There’s been a great deal of criticism of the direct effects of the House bill including, but not limited to, tens of millions without insurance, astronomical cost increases for seniors and those with pre-existing conditions, inability to get coverage for preexisting conditions, watered-down coverage (with many standard situations not covered) and loss of support for those in nursing homes. However, I’ve heard little regarding the effects on those not included above.

Please note the following is not deeply researched, but largely the product of my own logical process and as such could be far from accurate. I’d love feedback from those more deeply-informed than I.

Let’s imagine an employed head of family with a spouse and two children. Insurance for this family is provided by his/her employer and deducted from his/her paycheck. In fact, both spouses enjoy this benefit, so if one loses his/her job, there’s a back-up plan. This happy family is probably laboring under the illusion that they have nothing to fear. I believe this is far from the truth!

The disappearance of billions of dollars from medical payments will impact clinics and hospitals. Personnel will be laid off and programs will be cut. Wait-time for all services will be longer and some “frills” will disappear. If you need a class on dealing with your child’s juvenile diabetes, for instance, it may no longer be offered as often or not at all. If it takes you a month to get an appointment with your doctor now, that wait may double. If you child falls off the playground equipment and breaks an arm, the emergency room visit may stretch to eight hours as opposed to four.


Ted Chan, founder of Care Dash, an online site for feedback on doctors, (yeah, I did some research!) was quoted in Becker’s Hospital Review on March 9, 2017, as saying: 

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without clear guidelines for replacing coverage will drive up costs across the board for patients, employers, and hospitals. Without requiring all to be insured, hospitals will be the insurers of last resort and will absorb the costs of uninsured patients seeking care. One recent study found that half of hospital bills go unpaid and that will only likely increase without an individual mandate….

When hospital bills go unpaid, taxpayers and local governments are often forced to pick up the tab. The question is not whether healthcare coverage should be paid for, it’s who pays.”


If you live in a rural area, the impact may be even greater, as rural medical services are economically tenuous. With fewer patients to serve and more low-income individuals, tight budgets are a constant. Under the ACA, there were supposed to be provisions to help rural medical programs, but many of these provisions were revised or never implemented.

Our happy fictional family may find their medical costs increase despite their insured status. When a family isn’t insured, that doesn’t mean they don’t get sick! They do, however, wait longer to seek treatment, present as sicker when they do go to the doctor, and their treatment is therefore more expensive. Since the bill is less likely to be paid, the hospital must recoup as much as possible in the form of increased costs for those WITH insurance. When insurance companies pay more, they’re going to raise the cost of their policies. Our fictional family will pay in increased insurance costs.

People who don’t have insurance are more costly employees. Since they can’t afford preventive care, they’re more likely to be sicker and miss additional time at work. (I’d prefer they NOT work, since someone coughing over my fast-food order is not something I relish!) I suspect this was one original motivation for employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.

Therefore, Fictional Family will be affected directly by the proposed healthcare bill. The medical services they need may well become harder to access, their health insurance costs increase, and their communities become a less pleasant and welcoming place to live.


Deborah G. Hankins is a retired “worker” who lives with her husband Milt and their little chihuahua Jose in Ashland, Kentucky. She is a leader in the local “Indivisible” group and is seriously concerned about our future under the present administration.  




As little tykes we were told the stork brings babies. It never entered our minds to look for storks in our neighborhood. We also believed Santa Claus brought presents on Christmas morning, and the Easter Bunny laid colorful eggs for us to find on Easter Sunday. It never dawned on us to question the veracity of these traditional celebrations and their strange explanations.

Most of us were taken to some kind of religious Sunday school, where we heard how Baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem, how the sky opened up and an angel choir announced his birth to shepherds. And, wise men followed a star in the east, first to Jerusalem and, then, to the stable in Bethlehem where the newborn king lay.

Now, at some point, we raised questions about the stork, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny until our parents, no doubt in exasperation, admitted Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were not really real. As to the stork, well, they hemmed and hawed and pretty much let the subject ramble around in our brains until we discovered from “someone” how babies were made and how they were delivered.

As implausible as it seems, for perfectly obvious reasons, the story of the Baby Jesus, the angels, the shepherds and the wise men was continually reinforced while, at the same time, we were informed it all took place exactly like it says in the Bible.

We were taught to ignore alternative possibilities and the implausibility of certain parts of the ancient accounts. Even if, considering all of the indoctrination, we had given a single thought to asking questions about what we had been read to from infancy, heard about constantly from imperious leaders in majestic attire, and sat through annual dramatizations until we were old enough to “take a part” in them ourselves, we would have entertained no more than that single, fleeting thought.

Taken altogether, the aforesaid makes me wonder, at my advanced age, what and, perhaps more importantly, who do we believe? And, this invites an even more important question–whom shall we trust?

What are we being told is undeniably true by authority figures–people we have put in powerful leadership positions–which is, frankly, absolutely NOT true?

Recently, I read and highly recommend a book about the rise of Nazism in late-Thirties Germany (Timothy Snyder’s Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning). Snyder is a Yale University professor of history. He is a permanent fellow at Vienna’s Institute for Human Sciences. A 1997 graduate of the University of Oxford, he was a British Marshall Scholar.

It is startling that the German people literally soaked up the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler’s vicious diatribes and, in time, carried out his grand illusions–at the cost of millions of lives!


Could this sort of atrocity happen in the United States of America? Have we been predisposed as little children to believe the incredible and unbelievable? Could we actually be “taken in” by fake stories like we were “taken in” as little children? Do we believe what we are told simply because we were taught to believe what our leaders–our teachers, our pastors, our political leaders–have said is so? 

Every American needs to think about these questions and ask him/herself how they will respond when the time comes to separate fact from fiction. What is the right thing to do when doing the wrong thing becomes commonplace?





[Editor’s Note:  The following article was sent to me by a reliable source. It first appeared at AlterNet. Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.  We decided to re-print it because of the large number of sources from which the material is drawn. And, it is now in the public domain. Some of the material has been annotated by other sources.]

The most egregious parts of Donald Trump’s personality–his racism, his misogyny and his lack of scruples or ethics–have been on display for more than four decades. All of those traits have long been part of Trump’s unapologetic public persona. But in recent years, Trump has become an even more extreme version of himself. The behaviors that accompany that shift could be closely correlated with dementia and a general cognitive decline.

The blogger behind the Neurocritic laid out what he sees as proof of Trump’s mental deterioration. He notes that President Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 83, though he began to manifest symptoms far earlier.


Researchers have combed through records of off-the-cuff speeches Reagan delivered and found significant declines in his mastery of language. By his second term, Reagan’s speech showed a deep drop-off in the use of unique words, a marked increase in the use of non-specific nouns (thing, something, anything); an uptick in filler words (well, so, basically, actually, literally, um, ah); and a greater use of low-imageability, high frequency verbs (get, give, go, have, do).

Trump seems to have parallels in all these areas. He has become notorious for his word salads, incomprehensible soliloquies delivered at the speaking level of a fourth-grader. He frequently falls back on words like “tremendous” and often drags on without using specifics. Trump often speaks at length while saying nothing.

Alex Leo of the Daily Beast transcribed one sentence Trump delivered at a campaign stop in South Carolina, a series of dead ends, unfinished thoughts and ramblings:

Look, having nuclear–my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer. Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart–you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world–it’s true!–but when you’re a conservative Republican they try–oh, do they do a number–that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune–you know I have to give my, like, credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged–but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me–it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right–who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners–now it used to be three, now it’s four–but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger, fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years–but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.

In the clip below, David Pakman shows how typical Trump bluster could actually be indicative of something more problematic. He compares old footage of Trump to the Trump of today, and looks at how Trump’s physical problems may also be linked to Alzheimer’s:

At 70 years old, Trump is the oldest person to be elected president. His father Fred was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six years before his death. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “age, family history and heredity” are the most important risk factors in developing the disease. Most sufferers start to show signs of the illness at age 65.

Remember when Trump forgot which country he’d just bombed? When it just slipped his mind to sign a pair of executive orders during an event created for that explicit purpose? When he couldn’t locate Rudy Giuliani, who was sitting directly across from him at a media briefing? Thos ethings don’t seem like innocuous senior moments.

Trump also seems to exhibit other signs of Alzheimer’s listed by health organizations. Moodiness, paranoia, belligerence and erratic behavior are all key indicators of the onset of dementia. Trump’s inappropriate tweets, his belief that his phones are tapped and his quickness to anger, as described by his staff, all fit the bill.


“I’m not saying that Donald Trump has dementia,” Joe Scarborough said during a recent segment on Trump’s mental state, “but my mother has dementia. She lives in the moment. She forgets what she said a day ago, a week ago. We can’t have presidents that do that. And I’m not saying that he has dementia. I will leave that to his physician to figure that out.”

“Donald Trump is the poster boy for Alzheimer’s disease,” former NFL player and medical marijuana proponent Kyle Turley said weeks after Trump’s inauguration. “He has early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. And it is starting to show.”

“What he’s doing is totally erratic,” Turley added. “His decisions and the way he talks and the way he speaks is not presidential. And I want more than anything for him to do that.”