CONTEMPORARY ISSUES

Stay In The Know!
WATCHING THE DEAD AT MY FUNERAL HOME by Ed Rabel

WATCHING THE DEAD AT MY FUNERAL HOME by Ed Rabel

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... read more
DON’T BE A DAMN LITTERBUG! by Ernie Tucker

DON’T BE A DAMN LITTERBUG! by Ernie Tucker

A SIMPLE, PRACTICAL LITTER-ABATEMENT PLAN 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... read more
TRUMP ADMIN DISSES SCIENCE, DISMISSES SCIENTISTS by L. Milton Hankins

TRUMP ADMIN DISSES SCIENCE, DISMISSES SCIENTISTS by L. Milton Hankins

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... read more
WHY MEDICAL INSURANCE MATTERS TO YOU! by Deborah G. Hankins

WHY MEDICAL INSURANCE MATTERS TO YOU! by Deborah G. Hankins

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... read more
ARE WE PREDISPOSED TO BELIEVE FAKE NEWS? by L. Milton Hankins

ARE WE PREDISPOSED TO BELIEVE FAKE NEWS? by L. Milton Hankins

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... read more
VIDEO SUGGESTS TRUMP IS SUFFERING FROM ALZHEIMER’S by Kali Holloway

VIDEO SUGGESTS TRUMP IS SUFFERING FROM ALZHEIMER’S by Kali Holloway

  [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... read more