Home sales may be rising, but homeownership in the United States is heading down once again.
After gains in the second half of 2015, the homeownership rate fell to just 63.6 percent, seasonally adjusted, in the first quarter of this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Homeownership hit a high of 69.4 percent in 2004, during one of the biggest housing booms in history. That was also when mortgage lending was arguably at its loosest level in history. The homeownership rate is now just one-tenth of 1 basis point higher than its all-time low in the second quarter of 2015.
Economists continue to point to a recovering job market as fuel for growth in the housing market, but for young Americans, just having a job does not translate to homeownership. High levels of student loan debt, tight mortgage underwriting standards and overheating home prices are all contributing to very low homeownership rates among the nation’s youngest workers. Homeownership among those aged 25-34 today is nearly 10 percentage points lower than it was a decade ago. First-time homebuyers are still barely 30 percent of today’s buyers; traditionally, they comprise 40 percent of
“Rental affordability remains a big problem in many places, and that makes it harder to save for a down payment,” said Jed Kolko, an independent economist and senior fellow at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at University of California, Berkeley. “We’re still seeing relatively few first-time homebuyers because young people are buying homes later than they used to. Some of this is a long-term shift toward marrying and having children later in life. Some of this is that the recovery has been slow among young adults.”
Most millennials are still on the young side for homeownership. In contrast, homeownership has actually increased among older Americans. This may be because renting is so expensive, and because the expected migration of baby boomers from their larger houses in the suburbs to rental homes has been slow to take off, due to the recent recession and historic crash in home prices.
Household formation is now increasing, but two-thirds of it is on the renter side. Just one-third of new households were owner-occupied homes. Homeownership is highest in the Midwest, where houses are cheapest and lowest in the West where homes are most pricey.
Women will have to register with the Selective Service and would be eligible to be drafted in the military, under a provision narrowly approved by a House panel on Wednesday.
The proposal passed the House Armed Services Committee without support from its sponsor, Iraq War veteran Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who introduced the measure as a way to force congressional conversation about the role of women in the military.
But several Republicans broke ranks with their committee counterparts to support the idea of drafting women for military service, until now a possibility solely reserved for men.
Congress takes its first step toward killing the military draft
Under current law, all men ages 18 to 26 are required to register for possible involuntary military service with the Selective Service System. Women have always been exempt, and past legal challenges have pointed to restrictions placed on their military service as a reason for their exclusion.
But earlier this year, Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened all military jobs to women, negating that argument.
Hunter said the move made the Selective Service setup “sexist” and said he was unwilling to leave the draft issue up to the White House or Pentagon. But he also made clear he opposed the idea of adding women to draft lists.
Meet the Army’s first female infantry officer
Others disagreed, including Nevada’s Rep. Joe Heck, New York Rep. Chris Gibson and Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, fellow Republicans and Iraq War veterans. McSally argued that if a draft was needed, women could serve any number of military roles, including but not exclusive to infantry jobs.
The vote came the same day Army officials announced that Capt. Kristen Griest, one of the first women to earn a Ranger tab, will becoming the Army’s first female infantry officer.
Defense Department leaders have already backed the idea of adding women to the draft, while also emphasizing they do not see any scenario where a draft will actually happen. No Americans have been pressed into involuntary military service since the last draft ended in 1973.
Lawmakers have also included in the legislative language requiring a full review of the Selective Service System and possible “alternatives” to the current system.
The agency’s activities cost taxpayers roughly $23 million each year, and a 2012 Government Accountability Office report questioned whether the system could even provide a list of draftees to the Defense Department if called upon to do so.
Senate lawmakers must sign off on the draft review and changes before they can be sent to the president to become law. The authorization bill isn’t expected to be finalized by Congress until this fall.
Despair and violence is taking over Venezuela. The economic crisis sweeping the nation means people have to withstand widespread shortages of staple products, medicine, and food.
So when the Maduro administration began rationing electricity this week, leaving entire cities in the dark for up to 4 hours every day, discontent gave way to social unrest.
Maracaibo, in the western state of Zulia, is the epicenter of thefts: on Tuesday alone, Venezuelans raided pharmacies, shopping malls, supermarkets, and even trucks with food in seven different areas of the city.
Although at least nine people were arrested, and 2,000 security officers were deployed in the state, Zulia’s Secretary of Government Giovanny Villalobos asked citizens not to leave their homes. “There are violent people out there that can harm you,” he warned.
In Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, citizens reported looting in at least three areas of the city. Twitter users reported that thefts occurred throughout the night in the industrial zone of La California, Campo Rico, and Buena Vista.
They assured that several locals were robbed and that there were people on the street shouting “we are hungry!”
The same happened in Carabobo, a state in central Venezuela. Through Twitter, a journalist from Valencia reported the looting of a deli.
The crime took place on Tuesday evening amid a wave of protests against prolonged power rationing and outages in multiple parts of the country.
Food for 15 Days
Supermarkets employees from Valencia told the PanAm Post that besides no longer receiving the same amount of food as before, they must deal with angry Venezuelans who come to the stores only to find out there’s little to buy.
Purchases in supermarkets are rationed through a fingerprint system that does not allow Venezuelans to acquire the same regulated food for two weeks.
Due to the country’s mangled economy, millions must stand in long lines for hours just to purchase basic products, which many resell for extra income as the country’s minimum wage is far from enough to cover a family’s needs.
On Wednesday, the Venezuelan Chamber of Food (Cavidea) said in a statement that most companies only have 15 days worth of stocked food.
According to the union, the production of food will continue to dwindle because raw materials as well as local and foreign inputs are depleted.
In the statement, Cavidea reported that they are 300 days overdue on payments to suppliers and it’s been 200 days since the national government last authorized the purchase of dollars under the foreign currency control system.
Venezuelans Are Eating less
The latest Survey of Living Conditions (Encovi) showed that more than 3 million Venezuelans eat only twice a day or less. The rampart inflation and low wages make it increasingly more difficult for people to afford food.
“Fruits and vegetables have disappeared from shopping lists. What you buy is what fills your stomach more: 40 percent of the basic groceries is made up of corn flour, rice, pasta, and fat”.
But not even that incomplete diet Venezuelans can live on because those food products are hard to come by. Since their prices are controlled by the government, they are scarce and more people demand them.
The survey also notes the rise of diseases such as gastritis, with an increase of 25 percent in 2015, followed by poisoning (24.11 percent), parasites (17.86 percent), and bacteria (10.71 percent).
The results of this study are consistent with the testimony of Venezuelan women, who told the PanAm Post that because “everything is so expensive” that they prefer to eat twice a day and leave lunch for their children. That way they can make do with the little portions they can afford.
Andrea Gutiérrez, for instance, explained that meals at home are becoming smaller. She also buys overpriced milk, which she prefers to give to her children to help them grow healthy.
Since chicken is so expensive, Rosa Morales told the PanAm Post, she only eats breakfast and dinner. She saves the meat for her children’s lunch.
If you’re like two-thirds of Americans, fluoride is added to your tap water for the purpose of reducing cavities. But the scientific rationale for putting it there may be outdated, and no longer as clear-cut as was once thought.
Water fluoridation, which first began in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and expanded nationwide over the years, has always been controversial. Those opposed to the process have argued—and a growing number of studies have suggested—that the chemical may present a number of health risks, for example interfering with the endocrine system and increasing the risk of impaired brain function; two studies in the last few months, for example, have linked fluoridation to ADHD and underactive thyroid. Others argue against water fluoridation on ethical grounds, saying the process forces people to consume a substance they may not know is there—or that they’d rather avoid.
Despite concerns about safety and ethics, many are content to continue fluoridation because of its purported benefit: that it reduces tooth decay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Oral Health, the main government body responsible for the process, says it’s “safe and effective.”
You might think, then, that fluoridated water’s efficacy as a cavity preventer would be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But new research suggests that assumption is dramatically misguided; while using fluoridated toothpaste has been proven to be good for oral health, consuming fluoridated water may have no positive impact.
The Cochrane Collaboration, a group of doctors and researchers known for their comprehensive reviews—which are widely regarded as the gold standard of scientific rigor in assessing effectiveness of public health policies—recently set out to find out if fluoridation reduces cavities. They reviewed every study done on fluoridation that they could find, and then winnowed down the collection to only the most comprehensive, well-designed and reliable papers. Then they analyzed these studies’ results, and published their conclusion in a review earlier this month.
The review identified only three studies since 1975—of sufficient quality to be included—that addressed the effectiveness of fluoridation on tooth decay in the population at large. These papers determined that fluoridation does not reduce cavities to a statistically significant degree in permanent teeth, says study co-author Anne-Marie Glenny, a health science researcher at Manchester University in the United Kingdom. The authors found only seven other studies worthy of inclusion dating prior to 1975.
The authors also found only two studies since 1975 that looked at the effectiveness of reducing cavities in baby teeth, and found fluoridation to have no statistically significant impact here, either.
The scientists also found “insufficient evidence” that fluoridation reduces tooth decay in adults (children excluded).
“From the review, we’re unable to determine whether water fluoridation has an impact on caries levels in adults,” Glenny says. (“Tooth decay,” “cavities” and “caries” all mean the same thing: breakdown of enamel by mouth-dwelling microbes.)
“Frankly, this is pretty shocking,” says Thomas Zoeller, a scientist at UMass-Amherst uninvolved in the work. “This study does not support the use of fluoride in drinking water.” Trevor Sheldon concurred. Sheldon is the dean of the Hull York Medical School in the United Kingdom who led the advisory board that conducted a systematic review of water fluoridation in 2000, that came to similar conclusions as the Cochrane review. The lack of good evidence of effectiveness has shocked him. “I had assumed because of everything I’d heard that water fluoridation reduces cavities but I was completely amazed by the lack of evidence,” he says. “My prior view was completely reversed.”
“There’s really hardly any evidence” the practice works, Sheldon adds. “And if anything there may be some evidence the other way.” One 2001 study covered in the Cochrane review of two neighboring British Columbia communities found that when fluoridation was stopped in one city, cavity prevalence actually went down slightly amongst schoolchildren, while cavity rates in the fluoridated community remained stable.
Overall the review suggests that stopping fluoridation would be unlikely to increase the risk of tooth decay, says Kathleen Thiessen, a senior scientist at the Oak Ridge Center for Risk Analysis, which does human health risk assessments of environmental contaminants.
“The sad story is that very little has been done in recent years to ensure that fluoridation is still needed [or] to ensure that adverse effects do not happen,” says Dr. Philippe Grandjean, an environmental health researcher and physician at Harvard University.
The scientists also couldn’t find enough evidence to support the oft-repeated notion that fluoridation reduces dental health disparities among different socioeconomic groups, which the CDC and others use as a rationale for fluoridating water.
“The fact that there is insufficient information to determine whether fluoridation reduces social inequalities in dental health is troublesome given that this is often cited as a reason for fluoridating water,” say Christine Till and Ashley Malin, researchers at Toronto’s York University.
Studies that attest to the effectiveness of fluoridation were generally done before the widespread usage of fluoride-containing dental products like rinses and toothpastes in the 1970s and later, according to the recent Cochrane study. So while it may have once made sense to add fluoride to water, it no longer appears to be necessary or useful, Thiessen says.
It has also become clear in the last 15 years that fluoride primarily acts topically, according to the CDC. It reacts with the surface of the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acids excreted by bacteria. Thus, there’s no good reason to swallow fluoride and subject every tissue of your body to it, Thiessen says.
Another 2009 review by the Cochrane group clearly shows that fluoride toothpaste prevents cavities, serving as a useful counterpoint to fluoridation’s uncertain benefits. Another study that year which tracked the fluoride consumption of more than 600 schoolchildren in Iowa showed there was no significant link between fluoride ingestion and tooth decay.
Across all nine studies included in the review looking at caries reductions in children’s permanent choppers, there was evidence linking fluoridation to 26 percent decline in the prevalence of decayed, missing or filled permanent teeth. But the researchers say they have serious doubts about the validity of this number. They write: “We have limited confidence in the size of this effect due to the high risk of bias within the studies and the lack of contemporary evidence.” Six of the nine studies were from before 1975, before fluoride toothpaste was widely available.
The review also found fluoridation was associated with a 14 percent increase in the number of children without any cavities. But more than two-thirds percent of the studies showing this took place more than 40 years ago, and are not of high quality.
Nearly all these papers were flawed in significant ways. For example, 70 percent of the cavity-reducing studies made no effort to control for important confounding factors such as dietary sources of fluoride other than tap water, diet in general (like how much sugar they consumed) or ethnicity.
When it comes to fluoridation research, even the best studies are not high quality. Although this was already well-established, it doesn’t seem to be well-known.
“I couldn’t believe the low quality of the research” on fluoridation, Sheldon says.
The data suggest that toothpaste, besides other preventative measures like dental sealants, flossing and avoiding sugar, are the real drivers in the decline of tooth decay in the past few decades, Thiessen says. Indeed, cavity rates have declined by similar amounts in countries with and without fluoridation.
Rates of cavities have declined by similar amounts in countries with and without fluoridation.
Meanwhile, dental health leaves much to be desired in widely fluoridated America: About 60 percent of American teenagers have had cavities, and 15 percent have untreated tooth decay.
One thing the review definitively concluded: Fluoridation causes fluorosis.
This condition occurs when fluoride interferes with the cells that produce enamel, creating white flecks on the teeth. On average, about 12 percent of people in fluoridated areas have fluorosis bad enough that it qualifies as an “aesthetic concern,” according to the review. According to Sheldon, that’s a “huge number.” A total of 40 percent of people in fluoridated areas have some level of fluorosis, though the majority of these cases are likely unnoticeable to the average person.
In a smaller percentage of cases, fluorosis can be severe enough to cause structural damage, brown stains and mottling to the tooth.
Sheldon says that if fluoridation were to be submitted anew for approval today, “nobody would even think about it” due to the shoddy evidence of effectiveness and obvious downside of fluorosis.
There is also a definite issue of inequality when it comes to fluorosis. Blacks and Mexican-Americans have higher rates of both moderate and severe forms of the condition. Blacks also have higher levels. As of 2004, 58 percent of African-Americans had fluorosis, compared to 36 percent of whites, and the condition is becoming more common.
The Cochrane review concerned itself only with oral health. It didn’t address other health problems associated with fluoride, which Grandjean says need to be researched.
Many of the Cochrane study’s conclusions conflict with statements by the CDC, the American Dental Association and others that maintain fluoridation is safe and effective. The ADA, for example, maintains on its website that “thousands of studies” support fluoridation’s effectiveness—which is directly contradicted by the Cochrane findings. The ADA didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The CDC remains undeterred. “Nothing in the Cochrane review” reduces the government’s “confidence in water fluoridation as a valuable tool to prevent tooth decay in children as well as adults,” says Barbara Gooch, a dental researcher with CDC’s Division of Oral Health.
The CDC and others “are somehow suspending disbelief,” Sheldon says. They are “all in the mindset that this is a really good thing, and just not accepting that they might be wrong.” Sheldon and others suggest pro-fluoridation beliefs are entrenched and will not easily change, despite the poor data quality and lack of evidence from the past 40 years.
Derek Richards, the editor of the journal Evidence-Based Dentistry (published by the prestigious Nature group) concedes that “we haven’t got any current evidence” that fluoridation reduces cavities, “so we don’t know how much it’s reducing tooth decay at the moment,” he says. “But I have no qualms about that.” Richards reasons that because fluoridation may help reduce cavities in those who don’t use toothpaste or take other preventative measures, including many in lower socioeconomic groups, it’s likely still useful. He also argues that there’s no conclusive evidence of harm from fluoridation (other than fluorosis), so he doesn’t see a large downside.
But most scientists interviewed for this article don’t necessarily think fluoridation’s uncertain benefits justify its continuation without more stringent evidence, and argue for more research into the matter.
“When you have a public health intervention that’s applied to everybody, the burden of evidence to know that people are likely to benefit and not to be harmed is much higher, since people can’t choose,” Sheldon says. Everybody drinks water, after all, mostly from the tap. “Public health bodies need to have the courage to look at this review,” says Sheldon, “and be honest enough to say that this needs to be reconsidered.”
The UN started with good intentions. In 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco to draw up the United Nations charter, which was signed on June 26, 1945 and came to exist on October 24, 1945. The charter was ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. The purpose was to promote international cooperation. It started with 51 members and now has 193. The United States pays 22% of the U.N.’s annual costs, which are over 1 Billion dollars. Initially, it was an ally to Israel and the United States. Unfortunately, over time, Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has been chastised three times as often as all other countries combined.
The Arab state members have turned the UN into an organization which seems dedicated to the eradication of the state of Israel. There are constant resolutions against Israel in a variety of areas. The ones accusing Israel of human rights violations are the very ones that are committing human rights violations, and no one is chastising them! In addition, there is ongoing corruption, mismanagement, bribes, and a variety of other unseemly activities going on. There is no accountability and fraud, waste, and abuse of resources is ever-present. It has become a bloated bureaucracy which started out with 1500 employees and has now ballooned to 50,000 worldwide.
Let’s look at current UN behavior, which should give every American citizen the impetus to scream for the US to get out of the UN, and get the UN out of the US. For starters, most Americans do not know or seem to care about Agenda 21. This is best explained by Rosa Koire, who is the executive director of Democrats Against UN Agenda 21. She writes,
UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development is the action plan implemented world-wide to inventory and control all land, all water, all minerals, all plants, all animals, all construction, all means of production, all energy, all education, all information, and all human beings in the world. Inventory and control is what it’s all about.
There is no congressional approval, or no citizen approval. This is an elaborate plan to ultimately initiate The New World Order. It will take away freedoms that many have fought and died for, while decimating the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Americans will cease to have any control over their lives or property. Elitists at the head of governments will make all the decisions.
This has been in the works since the 1970’s, but really got underway in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro when President Bush signed on to it. Subsequent presidents have gone along with it and promoted this global plan of the conquest of human spirit and dignity. It is definitely designed to significantly change the economic and social structure of our country, and not for the better.
Next, let’s look at the UN Human Rights Council, which met last month in Geneva. Their work and resolutions are laughable. There were four resolutions against Israel on human rights; one for North Korea; one for Syria; and one for Iran. No mention of violations for China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Qatar, and others. They even accused Israel of abusing women’s rights. How ludicrous is this?
All of us should be concerned that the UN is engineering the so-called “refugee” relocations to Europe and the United States. Why are we relinquishing our sovereignty to the UN? This is our country and we must control it…not UN bureaucrats. We do not want what they are peddling, so it is imperative that we get out of the UN and get them out of the US.
This organization clearly is not fulfilling its initial goals, and the US is funding a group which is promoting the terrorists, helping to defeat whatever “good guys” there are, and has layers of corruption. Since we have an economy which is rather stagnant, I don’t think that we should be funding this ineffective organization. Perhaps the UN should be moved to one of the Middle Eastern countries and let them support this bunch who appears to be carrying their water. Besides, I bet they can afford it a heck of a lot more than we can. In no other country that I can think of, would their “diplomats” be able to thumb their noses at the law, and escape back to their homeland while serious crimes had been committed, because they all have diplomatic immunity.
Let’s get the USA out of the UN and the UN out of the USA, and we will be saving a bunch of taxpayer money, which could be put to much better uses.
The Flint Water Treatment Plant Foreman (an important part of the investigation) and a woman leading the Flint lead poisoning lawsuit were both found dead in less than a week.
Everything about the Flint water crisis is as toxic and disgusting as the water that is being pumped into Flint homes. From the crass negligence that allowed such an insidious thing to happen, to the lack of will to fix it in timely fashion – not to mention the obvious attempts at covering up the truth: The situation is poisonous. And that poison could easily spread across America.
This is not simply a water cleanliness issue. It is about allowing parts of America to devolve into toxic cesspools, where problems are “solved” with underhanded police-state tactics. In the span of a few weeks, crucial files mysteriously disappeared from the Flint city hall, the Water Treatment Plant Foreman died suddenly at age 43 and a woman leading the lawsuit against Flint was murdered in her home.
Flint tap water in dated bottles.
Flint tap water in dated bottles.
The Flint water crisis began exactly two years ago, on April 2014, when Flint changed its water source from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water to the Flint River – to which officials had failed to apply corrosion inhibitors. Almost immediately, Flint residents complained about the water’s color, taste and odor. In the following months, numerous water issues arose, with little to no governmental action to fix them.
August and September 2014 boil-water advisories were issued by the city due to coliform bacteria detection
On August 21, 2014 test showed the city’s water tested high for THMs, a chlorine byproduct of disinfecting water, with which long term exposure has been linked to cancer and other diseases.
Though the city stated that the water was safe, the employees of the Flint Public Library declared the water undrinkable after noticing that the water from the faucets and toilets was discolored.
On March 2, 2016, it was reported that the state of Michigan blocked Flint from returning to Lake Huron water from the Detroit water system when it agreed to grant the city an emergency loan of $7 million in April 2015
It was discovered that the high levels of lead were due to orthophosphate being omitted from the water treatment process, while using a pH of 7.4 and that the orange water was due to the high concentration of chloride in the Flint River water, which caused excessive corrosion of the cast iron mains pipes.
Far from taking decisive action, governments denied that the water was toxic.
While the local outcry about Flint water quality was growing in early 2015, Flint water officials filed papers with state regulators purporting to show that “tests at Flint’s water treatment plant had detected no lead and testing in homes had registered lead at acceptable levels.” The documents falsely claimed that the city had tested tap water from homes with lead service lines, and therefore the highest lead-poisoning risks; in reality; the city does not know the locations of lead service lines, which city officials acknowledged in November 2015 after the Flint Journal/MLive published an article revealing the practice after obtaining documents through the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
– Robin Erb, Flint doctor makes state see light about lead in water
The net result is that over 10,000 children (mostly Black) were exposed to water contaminated with lead. Lead poisoning has devastating effects on the brain:
Childhood lead exposure causes a reduction in intellectual functioning and IQ, academic performance, and problem-solving skills, and an increased risk of attention deficit disorder, aggression, and hyperactivity. According to studies, children with elevated levels of lead in the blood are more likely as adults to commit crimes, be imprisoned, be unemployed or underemployed, or be dependent on government services.
– Julie Mack, Lead levels elevated for thousands of Michigan children outside of Flint
A massive investigation is now underway and lawsuits are being filed. And things are turning uglier.
Now that the federal government opened an investigation on the issue, news emerging from Flint are downright sordid.
First, in March, important documents went missing, the police openly admits that it was an inside job, and that the crime will most likely remain unresolved.
Days before the federal government opened an investigation into the Flint water crisis, someone broke into a vacant City Hall office full of documents related to the embattled Michigan city’s water system.
Nearly three months later, officials have confirmed that a TV went missing, but little else is known, according to the Flint Journal.
Without suspects or a firm handle on what else may have been swiped, authorities told the paper last week that the crime may remain unsolved.
No warrants have been issued in the case, but officials don’t shy away from speculative statements that stop just short of conspiracy theories.
“It was definitely an inside job,” police chief Tim Johnson told the Journal. “The power cord (to the TV) wasn’t even taken. The average drug user knows that you’d need the power cord to be able to pawn it.”
“It was somebody that had knowledge of those documents that really wanted to keep them out of the right hands, out of the hands of someone who was going to tell the real story of what’s going on with Flint water.”
Days before the federal government opened an investigation into the Flint water crisis, someone broke into a vacant City Hall office full of documents related to the embattled Michigan city’s water system.
– Washington Post, The mystery surrounding missing water files at Flint City Hall: ‘It was definitely an inside job’
On April 16th, Water Treatment Plant Foreman Matthew McFarland (who had been interviewed regarding the water crisis) was found dead at the young age of 43. Cause of death? Unknown.
Already reeling from the news of criminal charges against one of its workers in the wake of the Flint water crisis, city workers are now dealing with the sudden death of a foreman at the plant.
Water Treatment Plant Foreman Matthew McFarland, 43, of Otter Lake died suddenly on on Saturday, April 16, according to his obituary.
The Lapeer County Sheriff’s Department said a friend found McFarland unresponsive at a home in Otter Lake. There were no signs of foul play.
An autopsy did not determine a cause of death and police are awaiting toxicology reports. The investigation remains open.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to Matt’s co-workers, his family and especially his children,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. “He worked for the City of Flint for more than 18 years and we thank him for his devotion and service.”
“We all have been brought together by this water crisis and we are all mourning his death,” Weaver said in a statement. “In lieu of flowers, the family has expressed they would appreciate donations to establish a fund for (his children) Vance and Ella’s college expenses.”
McFarland’s death comes as Flint’s water plant deals with news that Flint Utilities Manager Michael Glasgow is one of three men facing criminal charges in connection with the city’s water crisis.
Glasgow is accused of tampering with evidence when he allegedly changed testing results to show there was less lead in city water than there actually was. He is also charged with willful neglect of office.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby are charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, tampering with evidence and violations of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office confirmed that McFarland was previously interviewed as part of its ongoing investigation into the city’s water crisis.
– mlive, Flint water plant continues to reel with sudden death of foreman
A few days later, a 19-year old woman leading the Flint water crisis lawsuit was found shot dead in her home. A culprit was arrested. Was he a patsy?
Sasha Avonna Bell
Sasha Avonna Bell
A woman at the center of a bellwether Flint water crisis lawsuit was one of two women who were shot to death inside a townhouse earlier this week.
Sasha Avonna Bell was one of the first of a growing number of people to file a lawsuit in connection to the Flint water crisis after she claimed that her child had been lead poisoned.
Bell was found dead April 19 in the 2600 block of Ridgecrest Drive at the Ridgecrest Village Townhouses. Sacorya Renee Reed was also found shot to death in the home.
An unharmed 1-year-old child was also found inside of the Ridgecrest home when Bell’s body was discovered and was taken into custody by child protective services. Police declined to confirm if it was Bell’s child discovered in the home.
“Sasha was a lovely young woman who cared deeply for her family, and especially for her young child,” said her attorney Corey M. Stern. “Her tragic and senseless death has created a void in the lives of so many people that loved her. Hopefully, her child will be lifted up by the love and support from everyone who cared deeply for Sasha.”
Bell’s case was one of 64 lawsuits filed on behalf of 144 children by Stern’s firm, New York-based Levy Konigsberg, and Flint-based Robinson Carter & Crawford.
The lawsuit named six companies that had various responsibilities with respect to the treatment, monitoring, and safety of the Flint water prior to and during the Flint water crisis, according to her attorneys. The case also named three individual government, or former government, employees who played significant roles in the alleged misconduct that led to the alleged poisoning of thousands of children in Flint, her attorneys claim.
The Bell case, however, played an important role in determining the future of the more than five dozen other lawsuits that were filed.
– mlive, Woman in leading Flint water crisis lawsuit slain in twin killing
Everything about this story is revolting and dirty facts are emerging from everywhere. However, mass media largely ignores this story. Those that do are flooded with comments about “tin foil hats” and “conspiracy nutters”. It is as if shills are paid kill that story online … or maybe that poisonous lead has already done its debilitating, mind-numbing job.
While initial reports from last night suggested only a handful of deaths in the airstrike against a hospital in the rebel-held part of the Syrian city of Aleppo, as more and more bodies were recovered from the ruins the toll continued to rise.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has now put the death toll at 27, while other local groups have suggested it was even higher. Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which supports the hospital, says it was more or less completely destroyed in a direct air strike.
The Syrian military denied involvement in the strike, insisting they had no warplanes in the area at the time. Russia has yet to comment on the matter. The district attacked is held by rebels including al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which has made it a target in recent days.
Likewise, the Nusra Front has been shelling and firing rockets at a western Aleppo district controlled by the government. Much as with the airstrikes, the casualties appear to be almost exclusively civilians, with at least 11 killed yesterday in government districts, and the Syrian state media reporting it could be as many as 14.
By Penny Ray
Prosecutors say complaints from the community regarding constant foot traffic in and out of Ed Forchion’s businesses sparked a two-month investigation that resulted in his property being raided Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors also say they received information from multiple sources that Forchion, a pot legalization activist known as NJ Weedman, was distributing marijuana from out of the premises.
The Mercer County Narcotics Task Force raided Forchion’s businesses, which includes a restaurant, religious sanctuary and tobacco shop, on East State Street and allegedly seized more than $19,000 in marijuana.
During the raid, 11 people, including Forchion, were arrested for various offenses. Some were apprehended in connection with outstanding warrants, and others were charged with new drug offenses.
When police searched the building, they allegedly found 56 grams of marijuana and 32 grams of edible marijuana candy in the sanctuary, more than a pound of marijuana butter in the kitchen, as well as ten grams of marijuana and a large amount of drug paraphernalia in the tobacco shop.
Police also seized $85 that was in a jar that read, “Nothing is free donate.”
Prosecutors say police also found 1,055 grams of marijuana, five grams of hashish, five ounces of promethazine, digital scales and drug packaging materials in an office, where they also found $60 in cash, which was seized.
Police allegedly found an additional 28 grams of marijuana in the rear yard of the property.
Prosecutors say Shawn Hurley was arrested after police saw him toss a deck of heroin off of the roof when the raid began, and that Tomas Geronimo was arrested for distributing marijuana during the course of the investigation.
Police also seized a Toyota Matrix and two other vehicles that were parked outside of the premises during the raid, along with $330 that Forchion had on his person.
Prosecutors say police also raided a South Olden Avenue home in Hamilton in connection to the investigation and found seven grams of marijuana in the garage and additional drug paraphernalia throughout the residence. The homeowner, 52-year-old Sharon Shelton, was arrested when she arrived home during the search.
Police say the estimated street value of the seized drugs is $19,270.
Forchion, 51, is charged with several drug possession and distribution offenses; his bail was set at $50,000 cash or bond.
Geronimo, 27, is charged with marijuana possession and distribution.
Hurley, 45, is charged with heroin possession.
Shelton is charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Meanwhile, Nhuygel Green, 52, Gregory Peterson, 20, Philippe Dume, 28, Alfonso Clark, 35, Brian Jones, 46, Roderick McKinney, 39, and Timothy Williams, 27, were all arrested in connection with outstanding warrants.
The raid was not the first time local authorities enforced the law at NJWeedman’s Joint. On March 5, police shut down the Joint around 2:10 a.m, for violation of city code. During that incident, more than a dozen Trenton police officers arrived at Liberty Bell Temple III asking the congregants inside the sanctuary to vacate the premises. Forchion later said the incident violated his First Amendment rights.
Courageous. Noble. Honorable. Just some of the adjectives used to describe military men. In most parts of the United States, being a soldier comes with a guarantee of respect. Americans seem to thank soldiers at every opportunity for “defending our freedom.” The story goes like this:
Young men and women risk their lives to defend the United States. They are willing to die for their country, which is a reflection of their noble character. Without them, we wouldn’t be free. Therefore, they deserve respect.
I disagree with this narrative. In fact, I’d say nearly the opposite is true: in most cases, being in the military is nothing admirable; it’s dishonorable. Pitiful, even. I mean this quite precisely, not as an insult. Allow me to make my case.
The central point is this: fighting for your country is insufficient reason for respect. What matters is why the country is fighting. Since most military action in the last half-century has been for illegitimate purposes, most soldiers are fighting for an illegitimate cause. Therefore, they are not honorable; they are dishonorable and dangerous.
A Simple Example
The first point is easy to make. Merely risking your life in the military cannot be respectable by itself. Take the simplest, most extreme case: Nazi soldiers. They were young men, fighting for their country and family, until the point of death. Yet, we view Nazi soldiers as not only dishonorable, but downright evil. Why? The cause for which they fought. Nazism was immoral. Therefore every single soldier was promoting and defending an immoral cause. In fact, it’s precisely the soldiers who deserve the most blame. They were the ultimate enforcers of Nazism, not Hitler.
Note: consider the young Nazi soldier who doesn’t actively hate Jews. He doesn’t desire world domination. He’s “just doing his job” – just making a paycheck for his family. Does he deserve respect? Of course not. His labor still contributes to an evil organization; his paycheck comes from despicable thugs.
Consider the Nazi who even disagrees with Hitler. He doesn’t support the war. He even complains to his superiors and becomes disillusioned. But, he is still employed by them and reluctantly gathers their military intelligence. He begrudgingly contributes to their cause. Is he innocent? No. Even if he thought, “Well, I don’t really agree with the cause, but my job isn’t to make the big decisions,” that’s not a sufficient excuse – any more than the soldier who imprisons a Jew but grumbles “Sorry, I don’t really want to do this.”
If Nazi soldiers do not deserve admiration, though they were willing to die for their homeland, then we need some further justification for the American soldier.
But America is Special
Perhaps it’s because the United States is a morally superior country to Nazi Germany? Well, let’s scrutinize the idea. We can call this the “intrinsically moral country” argument. First of all, it’s clear that this argument cannot apply universally, as people from different countries could all claim their country is “morally superior” to the others. The patriotic American and the patriotic Russian (or German, or Saudi Arabian) could say identical things about their homeland, but their conclusions would be mutually exclusive – i.e. America is morally superior to Russia, and Russian is morally superior to America.
What about the values of America in particular? Supposedly, this country is morally exceptional, because it’s founded on the virtues of individual freedom, rule of law, etc. If American soldiers are fighting for American values, does that make them respectable?
Again, the answer is no. Stated values are an insufficient reason to fight for a country. What matters is the actual mission. Merely saying, “We’re fighting a war in Iraq for the cause of freedom!” doesn’t mean that’s the actual mission, nor an accomplished result. The Soviet Union claimed they existed to help improve the life of the common man. So did Maoist China. But rhetoric aside, those governments ended up killing hundreds of millions of innocent people. Their language didn’t matter; their actions did.
So, unless we are willing to defend the Soviet soldier, who dutifully executed the orders of Stalin, we cannot pardon the American soldier, just because of the stated values of America. What matters, in every case, is the actual cause for which they fight.
Thus, we’re left with the question: are American military operations justified around the world? If we discover that they are unjustified, then we must conclude that the soldiers are acting immorally. They are contributing to an unjust cause.
I will not make the case against the actions of the US military – that’s for each person to research. Though, for starters, I will note that over half a million children died in Iraq due to political sanctions. Hundreds of thousands of innocents have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Soldiers have been caught murdering civilians overseas, then keeping their dismembered body parts as trophies. The list is lengthy of American soldier atrocities overseas, but that’s not the point of this article.
Rather than condemn the actions of individual soldiers, I want to focus on the bigger issue: the very idea of enacting the vision of political leaders – enforcing their commands. Or, what I believe is the most accurate way of phrasing it: being a pawn in a political chess game.
Consider the structure of the military. It is notoriously hierarchical. Rank-and-file soldiers are – first and foremost – to obey orders. Their position is not to be philosophers; if the sergeant says “Jump!”, you jump. If he says “Open fire!”, you squeeze the trigger. The military is not a playground for skeptical inquiry. An armed platoon will not operate smoothly if each member is questioning why they are there – if they are challenging their officers on principle.
The soldier’s role is not to understand the motivation for a mission. It’s not to see or agree with the big picture. It’s to do what he’s told.
And the officers, too, find themselves in a hierarchy. They are not to be autonomous actors. Their orders come from their superiors, and refusing to obey orders will ultimately lead to ejection from the hierarchy. This chain of command goes all the way to the top – perhaps a group of military officials, perhaps the President, perhaps an army general. At some point, a person or group of people, not the rank-and-file soldier, is calling the shots.
So I ask you: is submitting to the commands of other men respectable? Is doing what you’re told – even if you don’t understand or agree with it – honorable? Or, is the opposite true: it’s a sign of weakness. It’s reflective of a lack of character – a missing backbone. Those military men who enforce the orders of autocrats, who act as the armed muscle of politicians – they concretely demonstrate their lack of autonomy.
Then Why Join?
Without meaning to insult anyone, I must confess: this theory has been validated by nearly every soldier I’ve met. From my conversations and experiences, I honestly think I see why most people join the military. One of two reasons:
Insecurity or confusion.
The desire to be honored, to be respected – or perhaps to be financially secure – appears to be a large motivator for the average soldier. I’d guess it’s precisely because young men and women are insecure, the military seeks to recruit them. Malleability is a desirable trait in an organization based on hierarchy.
Look at the advertisements for the military. They look like scenes from Star Wars, complete with zapping lasers and hi-tech button pushing. Other ads craft an emotional story: the noble teenager wanting to protect his neighbors and countrymen from attack. They portray the military as “a key” to success and honor. The young all-American seeking to “make something” of his life; the romantic, dangerous sacrifice reserved only for selfless, courageous soldiers. “The few, the proud, the Marines”: a select group of tough guys, protecting civilians from foreign evil.
Though it will undoubtedly anger military men and families, the truth hurts: the romance surrounding the military is only propaganda. Intentional propaganda, designed to persuade the right people for the job. And the right people are impressionable, submissive, and will allow their own moral and intellectual compass to be turned off, if ordered to do so.
In fact, I’d say it is precisely the weak who are willing to enforce the commands of others – the Nazi soldier with a weak moral compass; the Soviet soldier who was dependent on the paycheck; the Afghani terrorist who gets whipped into a frenzy by Islamic radicals.
If the military recruiters are compelling enough – if they can sufficiently obfuscate, confuse, and manipulate the good intentions of an impressionable youth – then they are rewarded with obedience: an enthusiastic pledge of their own mortality to the cause.
And here’s the unfortunate reality: almost universally, their peers do end up giving them respect. Military propaganda is incredibly successful. Nazi culture worshipped the noble young soldier. The Jihadists are seen as doing God’s work. The American soldier is portrayed as the very definition of the word “hero”, and they are also frequently put into a religious narrative. Their employment is portrayed as essential for civilized life.
But it isn’t true. American soldiers (and country X’s soldiers) are only essential to the political and military agenda – to expand the power of a small group of people. They are essential for anyone who desires to control the lives of others. And in most circumstances, their work causes far more harm than good.
The death and destruction caused in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. – none of it was necessary to protect American civilians. It was necessary to advance political power.
I do not think it’s coincidental that so many soldiers retire from the military with PTSD. I don’t think it’s inexplicable that the suicide rate of veterans is extraordinarily high. Those poor individuals have been used. They were tools – pawns manipulated for violence; convinced their jobs were important – no different than any other soldier on any side in virtually any other war.
Humans are not meant to kill each other, much less when commanded by others. The shock of war can paralyze men; the shame of war can kill them.
How must one feel after killing a man you’ve never met? You’ve been told he’s a target, and it’s your duty to put a bullet through his skull. But what about his family? Will you be responsible for a child’s fatherless upbringing, and a wife’s torment? Yes, if you squeeze the trigger.
And what if he’s innocent – what if your superiors made a mistake? What if – heaven forbid – he’s the one trying to defend his family, and you’re the foreign invader? Alas, it isn’t your duty to think about such things. You are to accomplish the mission and trust your leaders made the right evaluation.
Perhaps there’s an escape: he’s shooting at you. It’s kill or be killed, right? I’m sorry, but here’s the tragic truth:
You had another option. You put yourself into the battle. You decided to join; you obeyed the commands. You submitted to the hierarchy.
Make no mistake: you could be home, employed in a peaceful line of work. You could be sitting in chair, evaluating the merits of the mission for yourself.
But now, because of a series of choices – all of which you are responsible for – violence and death is the inevitable result. Persuasion and cooperation has been rejected in favor of physical violence, at the ultimate command of men you’ve never met.
And this is honorable? Of course it isn’t. The circumstance is awful, and I deeply pity any soul tormented by these ideas after-the-fact.
Exceptions to the Rule
I have painted a bleak picture of the soldier; are there exceptions? Certainly, and let me explain them.
First, and most obviously, we’ve established that what determines the respectability of a soldier is the cause for which he fights. Thus, if a war is inevitable – if you are a Pole waiting for the Nazis to invade – and you haven’t a peaceful way out, then it’s no longer a clear sign of weakness to join the military. Voluntarily “submitting” to the orders of a military commander – because you sincerely believe in the cause – is not dishonorable. Enforcing the plan of the military leader – because you and your families’ lives actually depend on it – is not a function of insecurity. It’s not for gaining the appearance of nobility, and it isn’t for the pension. And crucially:
It isn’t a blank check.
Every single action by a soldier must be analyzed and evaluated as sensible or just. Outsourcing your critical thinking is not justified simply because you support the cause. Say what you will about the justness of WWII, but imagine you are an Allied soldier and agree with your mission. If a commander orders you to kill an innocent, you mustn’t do it. You are equally liable as if it were in cold blood.
If the mission ever changes – if instead of defense, the Allied forces were bent on their own domination – you must quit. If, for example, the President tells you to drop two atomic bombs and incinerate a hundred thousand innocent civilians (even though there’s another option) you’re morally condemnable if you obey.
The only way to remain respectable is to always evaluate the big picture – good intentions are not sufficient. You must always have a concrete answer to the question, “What am I doing and why?” And if any action rubs against your conscious, or if any mission is corrupt, the soldier must refuse orders.
In other words, the honorable man always takes commands as suggestions. If he disagrees, he disobeys.
But from my experience, I’ve rarely encountered such an anti-authoritarian soldier.
So, there is an exception: the soldier fighting a defensive battle – no different than the father defending his home from invasion – might be respected. The naïve young man who believes the propaganda for a time – he too might be absolved of joining the military by awakening to the corruption and immorality within it. And, of course, by quitting immediately.
But since the vast majority of military battles are fought for political reasons – for conquest, economic plunder, or national glory – and since most soldiers are unwilling or uninterested in scrutinizing the justification for their mission, they do not meet the criteria for respectability. As upsetting as it sounds, most soldiers are how they’ve been used: as disposable pawns for ambitious men.
We’ve established a few things: simply fighting for a country is not sufficient to be honorable. The same is true for having a dangerous job – we don’t see lumberjacks and fisherman as universally noble. The “our country is unique” argument also fails; every country states lofty principles.
The military is intrinsically hierarchical – obeying commands (from other men) is an essential part of the job. This attracts the wayward and weak, who seek an easy path towards respectability and a paycheck – or, even worse, the simple adrenaline rush of combat.
The military is also the ultimate enforcement of political power; without the threat of violent force, politicians are impotent. Militaries are inextricably linked with government and governance. If the government is unethical, so are the soldiers. Therefore, the question of honor, courage, and respectability is entirely dependent on the mission at hand and the demonstration of insubordination at the first sign of error.
In short, the honorable soldier is an exception to the rule in the 21th century. The desire for respect or security leads too many people to foolishly believe their countries’ military propaganda. While soldiers will certainly garner affection from fellow civilians, it’s ultimately because the general population, too, is tricked by the same government lies. Being used as a political tool – even if it’s popular – is not courageous.
I know these ideas will upset people – military families in particular. But too much death is caused by this particular organization to remain silent. I realize many young soldiers risk their lives on a daily basis and that they don’t intend to cause harm. But the stakes are too high. “They mean well” is not sufficient justification to overlook institutionalized, aggressive violence.
So, to anybody considering joining the military, please don’t. Do not get caught up in nationalist romance. If you have already joined, you are responsible to learn about your employer and your mission – if you haven’t yet discovered their corruptness and immorality, it’s because you aren’t looking hard enough.
And, if you start to doubt the judgement of your superiors, immediately stop obeying their commands. Even if you aren’t involved in active combat, don’t contribute your labor to an evil organization. Do the honorable thing: refuse orders and quit.
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