Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Death Toll Grows as The Page Is Turned on Iraq by President Obama

August 31, 2010, Obama declared it is "time to turn the page" on Iraq, yet he didn't declare the war is over. The page may be turned but the story is not over. A visit to Arlington West illustrates the open book as more causalities are added to the records, and more markers are added in the sand.

Week ending August 22, the week the last combat troops were pulled out of Iraq, more soldiers were killed in Iraq.The war in Iraq is over for some, but not for the remaining 50,000 troops still deployed in Iraq. Or the first soldier killed after the last combat troops were pulled out.

Arlington West: Every Sunday in Santa Monica a group of volunteers organized by Veterans For Peace puts out markers to memorialize American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each white marker represents one dead soldier; each red one, ten. The blue markers signify soldiers killed the in the last week. Visitors add messages and mementoes to the markers. Symbolic coffins for each of the weeks dead are carried out onto the beach. The week ending August 22, 16 coffins repressing the three soldiers killed in Iraq and 13 killed in Afghanistan were placed among the markers. Members of Veterans for Peace are on hand to help veterans and family members memorialize the dead and educate people passing by about the cost of the wars.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

It's Not Over Til It's Over!

While the end may be near for the rogue BP oil well, the damage to Louisiana's wetlandscontinues. More oil is washing up, oil that has sunk into the ground is resurfacing and tropical storms push it deeper into the marshes. Scientists are concerned about the long term effects on the Gulf of Mexico's wildlife and fish from the toxic combination of dispersants and oil. Click here to see some of the oil being recovered from the water.

Admiral Thad Allen reports seeing little to no oil on recent flyovers. Plaquemines ParishPresident Billy Nungesser disagrees. On a trip out to Barataria Bay, Nungesser assessed the damage first hand. A low tide coupled with Northern winds made it possible to see oil washed deep into the wetlands. Fiddler crabs covered in oil scurried along the banks, while gulls fished the polluted waters.

Booms, skimmers and jack-up barges have been removed despite the protestation of parish presidents. Though a total environmental catastrophe appears to have been averted, it is too early to assess the long term damage to Louisiana's wetlands. It is unclear how much of the oil-saturated marsh grass will die, but any such loss will speed up coastal erosion. Click here to see footage of the Damage to the Marsh as seen from an airboat.

There is a growing concern among locals that the oil disaster story is being whitewashed. BP's pr team seems eager to call the disaster a wrap. Doug Suttles,Chief Operating Officer of BP Exploration and Production, reminisces about his first flight over the disaster in a July 20th BP video. He gushes about the extraordinary effort that he says has worked extraordinarily well. "There is just not a lot of oil out there, " he says . Nunngesser begs to differ. I sat down and talked to him after a trip to Barataria Bay. Listen to what he has to say here.

For images of the oil that is still out there click here. If this is what the 25% of the remaining oil looks like, the wetlands are still in trouble. Bob Cesca's article "The BP Disaster Continues Despite Cheerful Happy Talk" will make you question most major media sources' willingness to accept the Joint Information Center's pr. Who's doing the talking, the Coast Guard or BP or have they become one and the same? Who is allowing BP to pull up their assets, the booms andskimmers and barges, and run? Hurricane season has yet to peak. Kudos to Billy who speaks his mind when no one else will. As a sign on Route 23 that takes you through the heart of Plaquemines Parish says, "God Bless Billy."