A Disaster Overlooked …

The Washington Post and New York Times both carried multiple stories about the ‘end’ of the government shutdown, about Roger Stone’s arrest, about Venezuela’s current presidency conundrum, and about the Trump ego-wall.  Neither carried, at least not in the major news sections, this story I found in bold headlines in The Guardian:

Hundreds Feared dead as Brazil dam collapse releases mud tide

Are we so wrapped up in our own detritus, in any story that carries the words ‘Trump’, ‘republicans’, ‘corruption’, ‘scandal’, or ‘immigrant’ that we simply don’t care about people in other places?  I don’t know, but apparently our two most credible media outlets think so.  Sure, I understand that we are interested in our own situation which is, unarguably dire, but can we not take a few minutes to care about people in other countries?

Here’s the story as of 2:00 p.m. this afternoon …

Hundreds of people are feared dead after a dam operated by the mining company Vale collapsed in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, releasing a wave of red iron ore waste and causing the worst environmental catastrophe in the country’s recent history.

Ten bodies have already been found and more than 300 people remain missing, according to the company. The disaster comes only three years after a similar failure of the Fundão tailings dam near Mariana – co-owned by Vale – which killed 19 people.

Take a quick look …

Brazil’s new right-wing populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, has frequently attacked environmentalists who predicted this very thing and who have been calling for tighter regulations at the mine.

Most of the victims of the disaster were Vale employees or subcontractors, around 100 of whom were having lunch in a canteen on the mine complex when the torrent of mud swept over them. A busload of workers was also killed, it was reported.

It cost billions to clean up after the Mariana disaster in 2015, which polluted the drinking water of hundreds of thousands. Yet no individual was ever held responsible.

I notice that CNN did do a piece on this catastrophe, and undoubtedly other media outlets in the U.S. covered it as well, but WHY wasn’t it headline news?  Because the majority of the media outlets thought people would rather read the same news they saw yesterday about the shutdown, about Roger Stone, and about Donald Trump. brazil-4

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Good People Doing Good Things — Acts of Kindness

A friend and reader, Ellen, pointed me in the direction of a new source of ‘good news’ stories, and one of the first things I saw last evening when I visited the site in search of ‘good people’, was this headline:

The Most Inspiring Everyday People of 2018 Showered the World With Kindness: Our Top 10 Favorites

I visited and found some awesome stories of everyday people doing small kindnesses for others.  Two of the ten turned out to be stories I had previously included in my ‘good people’ posts, but I want to share a few of the others with you today.


The first one is just a small thing, really, but I found it touching.  It happened at LAX airport last February.  A young mom, pregnant and with a toddler in tow, was trying to board her flight, but the toddler apparently had other ideas and was having a meltdown, running from the mother, crying uncontrollably.  Been there, done that, and I could feel that mother’s frustration as I read this story.

Finally, the young mother simply sat down on the floor of the airport, placed her hands over her face and joined her son in having a good cry.  As if by some unseen, unheard signal, suddenly 6 or 7 women came to the pair and worked their magic.  One sang The Itsy Bitsy Spider to the young boy, another peeled an orange for mother and son, another pulled a toy from her bag, while yet another offered the mom a bottle of water and words of comfort.  Within a few short minutes, both mother and son were calm and able to board their flight.  It is said that the women did not speak of what was being done or what needed to be done, and yet acted as a team, as if it were a well-coordinated effort.  According to one of the women …

“After they went through the door we all went back to our separate seats and didn’t talk about it… we were strangers, gathering to solve something. It occurred to me that a circle of women, with a mission, can save the world. I will never forget that moment.” 

Solidarity.  Empathy.  Compassion.  Kindness.


Adarsh Shrivastava was on a train that was traveling through Uttar Pradesh in northern India in July when he noticed something strange about his fellow passengers. His train cabin was filled with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 – and almost all of them were visibly distressed. Some of the youngsters were even crying.

Sensing that something was afoot, Shrivastava pulled out his phone, created a new Twitter account, and sent several messages detailing the situation to railway and law enforcement authorities, saying that he suspected the girls to be victims of human trafficking.trafficking.jpgUpon writing out his cabin and train number, the Good Samaritan only had to wait thirty minutes before the Ministry of Railways Twitter account responded to the message. A few stops later, several police officers boarded the train and arrested two men who had been transporting the girls for a human trafficking scheme.

“Their parents have been informed and the men have been taken into custody,” a statement from the Railway Protection Force said.

Many social media users are calling Shrivastava a hero and asking the Prime Minister of India to honor him for his actions – however, Shrivastava has simply responded by saying: “Thanks, but as a citizen of India, it’s our responsibility to help people.”

Humility.  Courage.  Responsibility.  Empathy.


It was on a routine flight to Jamaica that an elderly woman suddenly went into cardiac arrest.  Luckily there was a nurse onboard, but she was unable to relieve the woman’s breathing distress.  However, there were two very inventive anesthesiologists aboard the flight, Matthew Stevenson and John Flanagan.  After determining that the plane was not equipped with a hand-operated, manual resuscitator, the two men leapt into action.  Dr. Stevenson performed CPR on the woman while Dr. Flanagan concocted a makeshift ventilator using tubing and an airbag from one of the plane’s emergency masks and connecting the device to the onboard oxygen tank.oxygen deviceThe two doctors worked to keep oxygen flowing to the woman’s lungs with the makeshift device for 45 minutes, until the plane was able to make an emergency landing in Fort Lauderdale.  Passengers pitched in, too, holding the doctors steady during the bumpy landing.  When medics rushed onto the plane to take over, the passengers gave a cheering round of applause to the two doctors.docsIn this, the day of frivolous lawsuits, many doctors will not step into such a situation, for their malpractice carriers caution them against touching a person in distress without a liability waiver.  These two men put a human being first.

Caring.  Humanity.  Courage.  Responsibility.


Randy HeissRandy Heiss had been out on a walk with his dog in Patagonia, Arizona when he saw a deflated red balloon trapped in some shrubs. More peculiarly, there was a little note attached to the string. The note, which was written in Spanish, was a Christmas list that was addressed to Santa from a little girl named Dayami. The sweet youngster simply said that she wanted some paints and new clothes for Christmas.balloon-noteHeiss was moved by the letter, not just because of its innocence, but also because he used to send letters to Santa the very same way – so he became dedicated to fulfilling the child’s Christmas wish.  But … how to find the child?

“It really touched my heart to find it and I said well how in the heck am I going to be able to figure out how to make contact with this little girl and make her wishes come true.”

He took to social media, hoping to find someone who could put him in contact with the family. With Christmas looming ever closer, Heiss eventually approached a Mexican radio station for help, and within one hour of them broadcasting his story, he was connected with Dayami’s family in Nogales, Sonora.

Delighted for an opportunity to bring some holiday magic to the family, Heiss ditched work to go shopping for Dayami’s gifts at Walmart and bring them down to Nogales.Dayami.pngDayami’s family was extremely grateful for the gesture, and Heiss and his wife were careful about telling the kids that the gifts were from Santa.  Heiss gained even more joy from his gesture, though …

“We lost our son nine years ago. So, we don’t have grandchildren in our future and so really getting to share Christmas with kids was something that’s been missing in our lives.”

Heiss has stayed in touch with Dayami’s parents through social media, and they are quickly becoming extensions of each other’s families – all thanks to his act of Christmas compassion.

Generosity.  Sharing.  Kindness. Love.


I end this post with a quote from English writer John Bunyan:

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Let’s all try to be ‘good people’ this year, shall we?  Remember, it isn’t the size of what you do, but the spirit with which you do it.

Let Them Eat Trump Steaks

Paul Krugman is an economist who has taught Economics at MIT, Yale, and the London School of Economics.  In 2008, he won a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. This man obviously knows of what he speaks. He is also a columnist for the New York Times.  His column today, titled Let Them Eat Trump Steaks, is about the current administration’s efforts to rob low income people of any and all benefits. His words grabbed me and I felt it was something worth sharing. cognitive dissonance

In general, Donald Trump is notoriously uninterested in policy details. It has long been obvious, for example, that he never bothered to find out what his one major legislative victory, the 2017 tax cut, actually did. Similarly, it’s pretty clear that he had no idea what was actually in the Iran agreement he just repudiated.

In each case, it was about ego rather than substance: scoring a “win,” undoing his predecessor’s achievement.

But there are some policy issues he really does care about. By all accounts, he really hates the idea of people receiving “welfare,” by which he means any government program that helps people with low income, and he wants to eliminate such programs wherever possible.

Most recently, he has reportedly threatened to veto the upcoming farm bill unless it imposes stringent new work requirements on recipients of SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, still commonly referred to as food stamps.

Let me be upfront here: There’s something fundamentally obscene about this spectacle. Here we have a man who inherited great wealth, then built a business career largely around duping the gullible — whether they were naïve investors in his business ventures left holding the bag when those ventures went bankrupt, or students who wasted time and money on worthless degrees from Trump University. Yet he’s determined to snatch food from the mouths of the truly desperate, because he’s sure that somehow or other they’re getting away with something, having it too easy.

But however petty Trump’s motives, this is a big deal from the other side. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that new work requirements plus other restrictions proposed by House Republicans would end up denying or reducing nutritional aid to around two million people, mostly in families with children.

Why would anyone want to do that? The thing is, it’s not just Trump: Conservative hatred for food stamps is pervasive. What’s behind it?

The more respectable, supposedly intellectual side of conservative opinion portrays food stamps as reducing incentives by making life too pleasant for the poor. As Paul Ryan put it, SNAP and other programs create a “hammock” that “lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.”

But this is a problem that exists only in the right’s imagination. Able-bodied SNAP recipients who should be working but aren’t are very hard to find: A vast majority of the program’s beneficiaries either are working — but at unstable jobs that pay low wages — or are children, elderly, disabled or essential family caregivers.

Oh, and there’s strong evidence that children in low-income families that receive food stamps become more productive and healthier adults, which means that the program is actually good for long-run economic growth.

Is it about the money? The enactment of the budget-busting 2017 tax cut proved once and for all, for anyone who had doubts, that Republicans don’t actually care about deficits.

But even if they did care about deficits, the C.B.O. estimates that the proposed cuts to food stamps would save less than one percent, that’s right, one percent, of the revenue lost due to that tax cut. In fact, over the next decade the entire SNAP program, which helps 40 million Americans, will cost only about a third as much as the tax cut. No, it’s not about the money.

What about racism? Historically, attacks on food stamps have often involved a barely disguised racial element — for example, when Ronald Reagan imagined a “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks. And I suspect that Trump himself still thinks of food stamps as a program for urban black people.

But while many urban blacks do get food stamps, so do many rural whites. Nationally, significantly more whites than blacks receive food stamps, and participation in SNAP is higher in rural than in urban counties. Food stamps are especially important in depressed regions like Appalachia that have lost jobs in coal and other traditional sectors.

And yes, this means that some of the biggest victims of Trump’s obsession with cutting “welfare” will be the very people who put him in office.

Consider Owsley County, Ky., at the epicenter of Appalachia’s regional crisis. More than half the county’s population receives food stamps; 84 percent of its voters supported Trump in 2016. Did they know what they were voting for?

In the end, I don’t believe there’s any policy justification for the attack on food stamps: It’s not about the incentives, and it’s not about the money. And even the racial animus that traditionally underlies attacks on U.S. social programs has receded partially into the background.

No, this is about petty cruelty turned into a principle of government. It’s about privileged people who look at the less fortunate and don’t think, “There but for the grace of God go I”; they just see a bunch of losers. They don’t want to help the less fortunate; in fact, they get angry at the very idea of public aid that makes those losers a bit less miserable.

And these are the people now running America.

These, folks, are the facts.  Just one more reason we need to ensure some changes happen on 06 November.