Thursday, September 27, 2018
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Friday, February 23, 2018
Dear Representative Griffith,
Yes, this e-mail was prompted by a form that's being circulated...but it's a real message from a real live Gate City voter.
I developed celiac sprue in 1995. The gene runs in my family, but celiac sprue used to develop in those who had the gene only in old age, and I was only about 30. Furthermore, several neighbors and relatives had similar symptoms but different diagnoses, and the local beekeeper burned his hives that year. At the time I thought it might be something in the water.
Over the years, I've become good at avoiding wheat gluten, staying active and healthy, "breaking the family curse" of unexplained disabilities...except when some (insert worst words you ever use) has sprayed glyphosate or other poison in the neighborhood.
Last summer, after utility workers repaired a damaged power line and mindlessly sprayed poison on the ground below, I lost a wren, a whole colony of threatened insects, and a pet kitten, while I myself was too sick to do yard work around my own home for several days.
Glyphosate has not been confirmed as a primary cause of a specific type of cancer. Big whoop. I frequently see glyphosate exposure affecting four or five members of one family in four or five different ways. Celiacs bleed heavily into the toilet after exposure, and may have other symptoms like hayfever or asthma. Other people exposed to glyphosate may suffer from general debility. Mental problems, mood disorders, or learning problems may be noticeably aggravated. People recovering from diseases or injuries may noticeably lose ground. I know a woman who really didn't want to notice a connection between using Roundup on her lawn and continuing to suffer from vertigo, sometimes even vomiting, months after having had that as a symptom of flu. Glyphosate has been passed off as harmless because it is, in fact, so insidious that it's hard to document exactly how much harm it does do humans--but it does a lot of harm.
Monsanto's most rich and famous stockholder happens to be a well-known genius of cybertechnology, and there's no reason why he's not leading his company to focus on non-poisonous micro-robot weeders instead of poisons that harm humans, pets, and wildlife.
I’m not pleased by the hearing the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology held to “examine” the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) classification of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. For ONE thing, I should have been invited to testify! Now, from reports of the hearing, it appears the committee used the opportunity to attack independent scientists.
Holding this hearing and attacking IARC indicated that Congress is following the direction of Monsanto, the manufacturer of glyphosate. Recent ligation revealed that a plan to question the International Agency for Research on Cancer was started three years ago after Monsanto predicted international cancer scientists would find its toxic pesticide is a probable carcinogen. Additional documents demonstrate that a month before the International Agency for Research released its determination, Monsanto took extensive measures to manipulate public perception about the agency and discredit IARC's scientists.
I’m concerned by these reports and the actions of the Committee because this indicates that Monsanto is doing whatever it takes to keep its toxic pesticide on the market -- and that Congress may be prioritizing the interests of the company over protecting the health and safety of the American public and our environment.
The impacts of glyphosate are clear. In early 2015, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) -- the cancer evaluation arm of the World Health Organization -- convened a meeting of 17 scientific experts from 11 countries to review the cancer data regarding glyphosate. The IARC experts unanimously voted to classify glyphosate as a probable (Group 2A) human carcinogen.
IARC is specifically qualified to conduct chemical cancer assessments like this one. IARC has been conducting such reviews for forty years, and has evaluated hundreds of chemicals. IARC is considered an authoritative body by governments around the world, and non-industry experts testify as to its integrity and scientific credibility, often in the face of harsh criticism from the industries whose products are being reviewed. Nonetheless, Monsanto and its sponsored consultants have relentlessly argued with IARC’s assessment since then.
Glyphosate is used in over 750 herbicide products and applied to fields in the U.S. at over 250 million pounds annually. Apart from significant risks to human health, the U.S. Geological Survey routinely finds glyphosate in U.S. waterways. Ecological data also reports that glyphosate and glyphosate-formulated products are toxic to aquatic organisms and are extremely lethal to amphibians. Independent studies have found concentrations of glyphosate in human urine and breast milk. Recent studies even indicate glyphosate has the potential to be even more harmful in combination with other chemicals.
In the past 19 years, glyphosate use in U.S. agriculture has increased 20-fold. Glyphosate’s long term impacts are just starting to be apparent, with monarch decline serving as just one example. Glyphosate is widely used along the monarch’s migration route -- virtually wiping out milkweed, the only food young monarchs eat. A recent report found monarch butterflies would need a 5-fold increase to recover from risk of quasi-extinction.
Monsanto's glyphosate is harming the environment we depend on for sustainable food production -- and it’s likely also harming our health.
The science is clear -- we need action now. I urge you to work with other members of Congress to protect independent scientists that are investigating the harms of this pesticide, not attack them. Congress should be holding the pesticide industry and EPA accountable by working to take glyphosate off the market, not serving as the mouthpiece for Monsanto.
Monsanto can do much better than this. And they should. And if they drag their feet when they could be making real progress, then Congress should apply a sharp stick to them.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Serving the Ninth at Energy and Commerce
Committees are the engines that drive Congress. At the committee level, Members of Congress learn about issues, carefully consider legislation, and conduct oversight to see what works in the Federal Government and what doesn’t.
Serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as I do, means a busy schedule. We have a broad jurisdiction that covers policy areas of great importance to average families. In my work on the committee, I look for ways to improve the lives and livelihoods of Southwest Virginians and Americans across the country.
For example, a February 15 Subcommittee on Health hearing with new Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar provided a forum to encourage the Trump Administration on priorities for health care in the Ninth District.
These hearings to oversee the executive branch are vital to our system of checks and balances. Americans need to know that their laws are being faithfully executed, and whether they need to be changed. But these hearings are also venues to seek cooperation.
Many from both sides of the aisle probed Secretary Azar’s intent on dealing with the opioid crisis, and I made it clear to the Secretary that we must solve this problem working together.
I further asked Secretary Azar about telehealth, a valuable tool in rural communities. It can make a huge difference for people, and I have introduced bills that would increase its accessibility. Outdated reimbursement policies, however, are preventing telehealth from expanding. Secretary Azar pledged his cooperation with Congress in identifying barriers to access in the law that can be removed.
I followed up with questions about neonatal abstinence syndrome in newborns. HHS and states have worked together to address this problem, and I encouraged him to continue looking for ways to cooperate with the states to deal with this problem.
We’ve heard from a durable medical equipment supplier in Southwest Virginia who has problems with reimbursement rates in rural areas. Delivery of these important services and equipment obviously is more difficult in rural areas than in urban cities, and reimbursement should not be the same if we expect our rural citizens to be properly served. A rule is pending at HHS that would improve this situation and help people like this supplier, who provides valuable services, and I urged the Secretary to release the rule quickly.
I was also encouraged by a hearing of the Subcommittee on Environment on February 14. While I am not a member of this subcommittee, I attended and asked questions because the topic, New Source Review (NSR) permitting, affects many businesses in Southwest Virginia.
NSR developed from the Clean Air Act, which required permission for owners looking to build or modify emissions sources such as factories or power plants. The intent is to protect air quality, something no one opposes. However, the process has become so lengthy and burdensome that it deters some facility owners from updating their properties in ways that would actually increase efficiency and reduce emissions.
At a factory I toured in Southwest Virginia several years ago, there was a ramp up and over one part of a conveyor belt and another part with a loop in between. The head honcho asked if I was curious about the conveyor belt loop to nowhere, and I said yes. He responded that because the conveyor belt also was a part of their Environmental Protection Agency-covered emission system, they couldn’t change the conveyor belt without a lot of hoopla from the bureaucracy, so they just worked around it instead of making their system more efficient.
When such a facility isn’t growing in efficiency, it loses competitiveness, which is bad for competition.
When a facility is a power generator, those inefficiencies mean higher rates for consumers. This state of affairs doesn’t truly guard air quality or treat people fairly.
I’ve heard from people in the Ninth District affected in this way by NSR, and I introduced two bills to streamline the permitting process. I came away from the Subcommittee on Environment hearing even more certain that we must act in a thoughtful, narrow way to improve permitting while protecting the environment.
As you can see, E&C has a lot on its plate. We have more coming, such as hearings on legislation to address the opioid crisis. Some of these challenges are formidable, but I think we can work together to produce solutions that will be good for people in Southwest Virginia and beyond.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.
Title: The Gettin Place
Author: Susan Straight
Author's web site: www.susanstraight.com
Length: 488 pages
Quote: “The wafting smell must have been the dream again, the dream of Tulsa burning, the same ashen days he’d been seeing in his sleep for...Seventy years.”
Hosea Thompson survived race riots as a boy in Tulsa. As the riots in Los Angeles start waves of violence through the small towns nearby, he’s not always sure whether he's seeing current reality or post-traumatic-stress flashbacks. He and his wife have bought a small farm in southern California, kept it going, and brought up children and grandchildren. Some of those descendants will die in the course of this novel; some are already dead, and one who’ been missing will come home. Only together will the three generations of Thompsons solve the murder mystery. (The Gettin Place is a novel, but at the center of its plot is a murder mystery.)
The Gettin Place received good reviews. Washington Post’s David Nicholson called it “a triumph,” reading it as “a portrait of a young [B]lack man trying to find his way...with...acceptance of responsibility.” That would presumably be Hosea Thompson’s son Marcus, although he’s not all that young. Marcus’s nephew and student, Mortrice, is also trying to find his way; just because he's a teenager he helps the adults solve the mystery, but his story is hardly triumphant. The story begins and ends with Hosea, but if readers prefer to identify with Marcus and read it as his story, they can. They might even identify with one or more of the women in the family: the Thompson women are as stalwart as their men. The drug culture has reached the Thompsons, leaving one man and one woman with drastic brain damage, but even they are memorable survivors.
One of them has survived a real horror story, which Straight mercifully keeps offstage. The part of the story we read is more than enough. The Ariel Castro news report shows that, yes, hatecrimes against women still occur at this magnitude.
Some of this web site’s readers may like The Gettin Place because the notion of “eminent domain” comes into it, and although Straight wasn't able to give that plot element a really satisfactory ending, at least she shows us a greedhead land-grabber getting what all greedhead land-grabbers deserve.
Some local readers might ask whether this novel about southern California was a nostalgia trip for me. It wasn’t. I have no sense of nostalgia about any part of California, and don’t remember the southern part well enough to say how well Straight brings that landscape to life—although she certainly brings a landscape to life, and convinces me that she’s writing about a place where she’s actually lived and known people. The story, however, strikes lots of ideological resonances with me. Strong women seek freedom from oppression beside, and together with, their men. One of those men even overtly separates himself from “landless boys” who’ve failed to learn responsibility. Land should be passed down through a family, not bought up and “redeveloped” by greedheads. Natural beauty and honest work do more than psychology or psychiatry to help people with traumatic stress. Teenagers who reject family ties in favor of “peer-group relationships get stabbed in the back—in Mortrice’s case, literally shot in the back (he survives, that time).
This is an “adult,” in the sense of “adolescent-mentality-bait,” or R-rated, novel with lots of violence, digusting language, at least three offstage rapes, and an onstage relationship that includes premarital sexual intercourse. Gritty contemporary reality, here. We’re not told whether the Thompsons consider themselves christian but there’s little evidence of specifically religious influence on their lives. nevertheless, the healthier Thompsons do take a good solid stand for traditional values, including sobriety—and loyalty to the family members who fail to uphold those values. If you like either Ishmael Reed or Alice Walker, you’ll consider The Gettin Place a feel-good book.
Still undecided? Check out her web site, and consider buying her new books as new books, by all means. This web site's Fair Trade Books program promotes older books and sends 10% of their price to the writers or their favorite charities, as a gesture of encouragement...but buying writers' new books is even more encouraging. Anyway, The Gettin Place is A Fair Trade Book: when you send $5 per book, $5 per package, plus $1 per online payment, via U.S. postal money order to Boxholder, P.O. Box 322, or via Paypal to the address you get from Salolianigodagewi, as shown at the very bottom the screen (whew!), we send $1 to Straight or the charity of her choice. One more book of similar size will fit into the $5 package; if it's Been in Sorrow's Kitchen we'll send $2 to Straight or her charity.
Monday, February 19, 2018
I only wish it weren't too late for this one to be a Fair Trade Book. Lots of editions have been worn out. What I physically own is another first library edition, discarded, not even showing on Amazon any more (the Japanese translation below has the familiar-to-me cover art). You can buy The Farthest Shore here for $5 per book, $5 per package, $1 per online payment, if you're willing to take a pocket-size paperback in which case all six volumes of what was originally the Earthsea Trilogy will fit into one $5 package.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
A Fair Trade Book
(This is the original edition, reviewed below. There are a children's edition and a revised-and-expanded edition, which may be better...I hope so.)
Title: The Light and the Glory
I now wish I'd read the revised edition, which is probably a better book for students...anyway, the first edition is not terribly cheap or obscure, and can be purchased here for $5 per book, $5 per package, plus $1 per online payment. Two books of this size, plus maybe one or two more really thin books, will fit into one $5 package, and since Bing reports that Marshall is still living in retirement, for each book of his you add to the package we'll send $1 to him or the charity of his choice (which I'm guessing would be his church--he became an Anglican priest).