Friday Reads

Good Morning!!

So, we’re getting close to yet another election year.  Our challenges are fairly clear but our choices are limited.  I only wish the opposite were true.

This Bronx factory turned school has evidently been in the news for a few months.  It’s just one horrifying story after another.  What would possess a school district to use a factory to house kids without testing it for toxic chemicals? A teacher is now suing the district after she had to terminate a pregnancy due to a horrible brain defect.

A TEACHER WHO worked at a toxic Bronx school lost her baby to birth defects linked to the contamination, she charged Wednesday in legal papers.

In October, five months into her pregnancy, Nancy Tomassi, a fifthgrade teacher at the shuttered Public School 51, learned her baby had a malformed brain, a condition called anencephaly, and would not survive.

The tests done in January showed that the sick school was laden with the carcinogen trichloroethylene, a toxin linked to defects, but failed to warn students or teachers until July.

“The whole tragic nature of the situation was made worse by the fact it could have been avoided if the Department of Education had acted properly,” said Tomassi’s lawyer Jeff Schietzelt, with the firm Silverson, Pareres & Lombardi. He notified the city of her intent to sue on Wednesday.

“How could they have known since January and not have told us?” said Mike Tomassi, Nancy’s husband. “You’re heartbroken and at some point you’re angry.”

For Tomassi, the diagnosis meant she had to end the pregnancy.

When researching possible causes, she found information to suggest the toxic chemical found at the sick school was responsible for her tragedy.

“If wed known about this, things could have been different,” said Tomassi, who worked at the school for five years.

A diligent nurse has evidently been documenting and reporting student illnesses since 2005.  She even took the steps to write a superior about possible immune deficiencies in students which she thought might be due to a faulty heating/ac system.  The reports of sick children number in the hundreds.

Students at a Bronx elementary school that relocated in September due to toxic contamination had for years complained of headaches, dizziness and other illnesses.

Records obtained by the Daily News under the Freedom of Information Law show that since 2005 nurses at the Bronx New School logged cases of kids suffering headaches, vomiting, abnormal gaits or even seizures nearly every month.

In May 2007, 16 students vomited at the Jerome Ave. school, records show. During one spell in November 2010, nurses listed five cases of students with heart “palpitations.” And in the late 1990s, one student suddenly died of kidney failure.

Toxic levels of TCE–in industrial degreaser–were found in the building. The school was closed in the fall but the report came in around January.  This is just one of those stories you think would’ve gone away after all of the work done in the 1970s to make buildings and the environment safer.  What do you want to bet that the PLUBS are more upset about the abortion of a nonviable fetus than the rest of the living sick children?

I’ve been calling Ron Paul a neoconfederate for years now.  It looks like White supremicist group Stormfront–with whom Paul has taken pictures with the leaders–thought  he was one of them too.  Paul’s been distancing himself from the newsletters since he developed presidential aspirations.

Ron Paul was a hot topic this week on the talk radio show hosted by prominent white supremacist Don Black and his son Derek. Mr. Black said he received Mr. Paul’s controversial newsletters when they were first published about two decades ago and described how the publications were perceived by members of the white supremacist movement. Former KKK Grand Wizard and Louisiana Congressman David Duke also phoned in to explain why he’s voting for Mr. Paul.

“Everybody, all of us back in the 80′s and 90′s, felt Ron Paul was, you know, unusual in that he had actually been a Congressman, that he was one of us and now, of course, that he has this broad demographic–broad base of support,” Mr. Black said on his broadcast yesterday.

Mr. Black is a former Klansman and member of the American Nazi Party who founded the “white nationalist” website Stormfront in 1995. He donated to Mr. Paul in 2007 and has been photographed with the candidate. Mr. Paul has vocal supporters in Stormfront’s online forum. Mr. Black has repeatedly said he doesn’t currently think Mr. Paul is a “white nationalist.

Mr. Paul’s newsletters contained threats of a “coming race war,” worries about America’s “disappearing white majority and warning against “the federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS.” He has since denied writing the newsletters, which appeared under his own name.

“I didn’t write them, I disavow them, that’s it,” Mr. Paul said in a tense CNN interview.

On Monday, Mr. Black said he originally believed the newsletters were written by Mr. Paul.

“They went out under his name in the first person and most people receiving these newsletters, including me, thought he really did write them,” Mr. Black said.

Paul continues to play down the newsletters and asserts his version of state’s rights isn’t that of the old confederacy.

Ron Paul on Thursday downplayed the fringe aspects of his old newsletters, saying on an Iowa radio program that the most offensive passages were probably only a small portion of the overall content.

“There were many times I did not edit the entire letter and other things were put in,” he told a caller on the Jan Mickelson radio show. “I was not aware of the details until many years later. These were sentences that were put in, eight or 10 sentences. It wasn’t a reflection of my views at all. It got in the letter and I thought it was terrible.”

He added that the newsletter content in question was “probably ten sentences out of 10,000 pages,” and that he only focused on producing the “economics” part of the publication.

But the promotional materials advertising the newsletter from the time indicate that the most out-there racist and homophobic lines were far from a rare sideshow.

One 1993 direct mail piece aimed at attracting potential subscribers name-checked “the coming race war,” “the federal-homosexual cover up on AIDS,” “the Israeli lobby that plays Congress like a cheap harmonica,” and described an elaborate conspiracy theory in which US officials would use newly introduced currency to impose martial law. All in just eight pages specifically devoted to summarizing the newsletter’s broader themes for new readers. That’s a pretty high density of fringe.

Jamie Kirchick, who compiled the newsletters four years ago, told TPM that the most incendiary parts were hardly stray cases.

“Ron Paul’s characterization of the newsletters as only containing ‘eight to ten sentences’ that can be characterized as ‘offending’ is preposterous,” he said in an e-mail. “As anyone can see from the scans of the newsletters available on the TNR website or posted elsewhere, the documents contain pages upon pages of bigoted statements and outright paranoia.”

Maybe we should send him some white sheets and see if he wants to make a fashion statement out of them.

Redistricing in Ohio will pit Democratic representatives Marcy Kaptur against Dennis Kucinich. Both are 65 years old and have served for some time.

U.S. Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur, both Democrats, will run against each other for their party’s nomination next year to represent a reconfigured Ohio congressional district.

Kaptur’s current district includes Toledo and extends east toward Cleveland. Kucinich represents parts of Cleveland and its suburbs. Both filed papers today with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland to run in the March 6 primary to be the Democratic nominee in the redrawn district, the election board said.

Ohio’s number of House seats was reduced to 16 from 18 following the 2010 U.S. Census.

Kucinich, 65, said he would try to avoid attacks on his fellow Democrat.

Economist Jared Bernstein has a great set of wonky graphs up that he’s called “Guideposts on the Road back to Factville”. He has a large number of them that demonstrate that the US is a low tax country, has extremely high income inequality, and that Dubya’s policies caused the huge federal deficit. Included is this advice as well as some interesting links. My favorite one is this one that shows how good the one percent have it here compared to the other developed nations.  Too bad our middle and working class Americans don’t have similar blessings.

Arm yourselves with the knowledge herein, and you’ll be immune to the fact-free hand-waving that too often passes for debate these daze.  Think of them not as wonky graphs, but as guideposts on the road back to the land where facts matter.

So, that’s my contributions this morning to get the conversations started off right.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?