Category Archives: environment

WHY NANDAN CANNOT FIND INDIA ON A MAP

I have not had any urge to write all these days, and I can’t say I am in the best of mindsets to do a good job. However, here is a small essay written, with my active help, by my son. I hope you tolerate me for this. You cannot find a drier piece than this, I am sure.

I live in the city of Kolkata, surrounded by dusty buildings, most of them made of bricks, and some of them of a mix of thatch, wood, mud and plastic. The latter type of building makes for the shanties that freely thrive in my neighborhood.
In one such shanty lives Nandan. I have been seeing him for the last two years. Nandan does not study in my school. He works in a garage next door, by the side of the street.
At those times when the ball flies out of the building walls and lands in the garage (whenever we play cricket in our compound), Nandan is found ready with it, handing it over to us reluctantly. I have sometimes heard him being rebuked by his master for wasting time looking for the ball beneath some damaged car or the other.
Nandan looks like a grease monkey. Really. He works on his back, lying on the rough muddy ground and hands over tools to the car mechanic who is his teacher and mentor. As the day goes by, the muddied lubricants from the spare parts of the cars find their way from his hands to his face and neck. The only thing the black paint cannot hide is his brilliant smile. But that is something I have seldom seen.
Nandan does not play with us, as he is busy at work. When we are at school, he is at the workshop, and when we are playing, he is right there. We got talking sometimes, but not much.
While me and my friends are getting plumper watching TV and playing on the computer, he is thin as a rail. He cannot even find his country on a map, I found! He told me one day that he wanted to learn English and maths, and asked about how my school looked. I don’t know whether he believed me when I told him how grand and old my school was.
At home, Nandan gets to eat with his brothers (while I have none), but his mother is too busy with household work to talk to him or put him to sleep. Or else she is too busy fighting with other ladies in the shanties over whose turn it was at the toilet or the water pump. I have seen this many times from my verandah, high up in my building.
I am sure he must be getting bitten all over at night by bugs, while I sleep in comfort a few storeys above him. I sometimes wonder whether I deserve being better off than him, but then, this is not the age when I need to handle tough questions!

A MODERN JUNGLE STORY

Disclaimer: The following is a true story, and any resemblance to any real person, place or event is purely coincidental.
If you are one of those dial-up losers, please go hunt a whale and come back while the page finishes loading. The exercise will hopefully be worthwhile. For fuller details, click on each picture. And bring your kids! Here goes…

Not so long ago, far away from Hopeful Capes,

and a few hundred miles away from the surreally beautiful, jacaranda-lined streets of the city named after Andries Pretorius,

an African sun was slowly setting in the breathtaking bleakness of a long-awaited spring in the jungle.

A black princess named Hopeful was heading in the direction of Wall Street for a long drink with her friends.

She strayed away from her more conservative friends while chatting up a flirting Prince Subprime, the latter clad in a dapper, striped suit. “Come on, in vest with me, heheh”, the suit smirked.

Suddenly, Princess Hopeful was attacked by a violent group of blood-thirsty animals. Prince Subprime ran away in fear. He had only heard of a bear run, but what was this?

In a few minutes, Princess Hopeful was dead meat.

The world watched by, ostrich-like.

“No one was willing to stick his neck out for the princess”, she cried.

No, not even the heavyweights.

The big cat was sated, having had the lion’s share of the killing,

but his cohorts were behaving like Lehmann executives. In no time, the vultures flew in to take stock, and then waited patiently for payday.

Watching all this, an obscure Indian celebrity turned away indifferently, eager for relief from the heat and dust of jungle politics.

He was tired of the constant sale sell-offs. Every dip is a buying opportunity, the stock market pundits used to say. He was tired of buying.

By next day, he heard someone say, “The bulls are finished”, and wondered what it meant.

Want more stories? There is a Buffett ready!

(Pictures: all mine, taken with a simple Sony Cybershot 7.2 MP camera)

HURRICANE IKE DISASTER MANAGER REPORTS

(Readers, I present the first guest blog here. Dr. Kenneth L Mattox is a world-renowned leader of trauma and cardiothoracic surgery and a key coordinator of disaster management in hospitals. He is one of the editors of a leading textbook of surgery (Sabiston’s Textbook of Surgery). His laurels are far too many to detail now. Here is his perspective, as a leader of Disaster Management at Ben Taub General Hospital, the referral center for Hurricane Ike victims at Houston, Texas. Note that his attention is largely on the disaster management aspect of the event, based on his experience with Hurricane Katrina.)

Houston is the 4th largest city in the US. The Houston/Galveston greater area has upwards of 4.5 million people, depending on just where you draw the line. It is safe to say that NO ONE in this area is untouched by this storm. NO ONE. Galveston was totally under water from both the gulf and the bay. UTMB and its famous burn center was evacuated. Bolivar Island is still “off limits” to anyone visiting it. The beach houses of West Galveston Island were under water and many destroyed. The famous Balinese Room of Galveston is GONE. The Galveston Sea Wall is 17 feet above sea level and the sea ran over it. This was a wind and SEA SURGE storm, not particularly a wet storm.


(pic: National Geographic)

From Galveston to Houston one travels Interstate 45, and that is the route that IKE took. The areas of NASA, Kemah, Seabrook, are yet to be fully assessed.

Over 95% of the area lost electrical power in the entire greater Houston area, and most are still without electricity. NO HOME or yard is without some sort of damage, either shingles, an entire roof, glass broken, fences down, or trees fallen and limbs broken. I do not mean just any tree. Many huge Oak trees over 100 years old are broken like match sticks or up rooted. The many faithful health workers were at work despite their homes being blown apart.


(pic: BBC)

First, I must give tremendous credit and recognition to thousands of individual health heroes who were here at the Ben Taub General Hospital and many other hospitals for many hours straight. They gave and gave and then gave more of themselves so that others would have a place to receive health related attention.

Second, I was impressed by the leadership of the State Government both during Gustav and IKE in the days before the storms hit, in creating a 5000+ person 2-3 times a day conference call to address known course of storm, local needs, evacuation, gas, search & rescue (SAR), and recovery. Both State, County, Local governments were on this conference call as well as other assets such as hospitals, EMS agencies, etc. It appeared that most items were covered and addressed. It was obvious that jurisdictional turfs existed.

At the LOCAL area, different jurisdictions set up in different locations: Galveston, Transtar (Harris County), HEC (City of Houston) and assets of the State, such as Texas Task Force 1 set up in several different locations. Ownership of various assets was under different, but communicating agencies. What we did not have during IKE, but did have during Katrina was a region wide JOINT UNIFIED COMMAND. We really needed that during and for the first 2 days after IKE hit.

At the hospital and emergency room level, every hospital in the area did their part, but all entered the hours of the storm with full ICUs. We (and everyone else) had patients ready to be dismissed from the hospital, but we would have sent them to an area of high risk of flooding. That would not have been good, but we did need their bed for new ER patients. No local “medical” home health care type shelters were set up in the Greater Houston area. We must address this next time. In my view, this would be an excellent role for DMAT teams, to be both up front for some few minor problems and to establish an up-to 500 bed “medical” observation shelter as opposed to a “clinic” or hospital. We really do not need mobile hospitals, what we need is the intermediate “medical” shelter to unload the existing local hospitals.


(pic: Huffington Post/AP)

By 12 hours after the storm had cleared the area, the mass property destruction was noted and people began to clear their property (including using chain saws they had never read the instructions on) and climbing ladders. We had lots of falls. Also many hospitals wanted to “evacuate” merely because their rooms were warm and humid as they were only on emergency generators. The water for the entire community was feared to be contaminated due to low water pressure. Therefore, we were requested to receive patients with relatively minor conditions, such as a need for a lower-temperatured room and nasal oxygen in an elderly patient. Some such patients came by outside the area contracted private ambulances who knew nothing about the working of the local EOCs (Emergency Operations Center?- Ed.), although those were multiple. We really needed the DMAT type run medical holding area shelter for these type of patients, who never needed to come to the hospital to use the hospital as a shelter. One of more DMATs were set up in the Greater Houston area, but initially coordination with existing Trauma Center facilities was sparse. If there was coordination, it was with one of the many supervisory silos.

It became interesting to me that within 24 hours after the storm cleared, many of the persons in each of the silos (including representatives and press people, who by now were very tired) began to point fingers and to try to get credit for what was done right and dodge when there was a criticism for what went wrong. I could write a book on this subject.

In the 5 state area around Texas there is a fantastic trauma network among the trauma centers and trauma surgeons, headed up by Dr. Ron Stewart in San Antonio. This excellent integrated disaster network is as sophisticated as ANYTHING I have seen from the well funded federal programs, and it costs NOTHING. The doctors and nurses on this network and the network itself are well known to each of the federal, state, regional, county, and city EOS silos in the 5 state region. However, neither for planning, implementation, evacuation, or recovery do these silos utilize this very mature sophisticated trauma network. It is almost as if the hands on trauma personnel who in at least 6 of the cities of the network (Houston, Galveston, San Antonio, New Orleans, Oklahoma City), who have a composite experience of active involvement in more disasters than any group that I know about in the country are purposefully omitted from the government run silos. In my humble opinion, this disconnect between the governmental mandated EOS silos and the JCAHO (Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) mandated trauma center communications led by the American College of Surgeons and their trauma center and disaster committee MUST somehow get together as has happened in the state of Connecticut.

We are approaching 48 hours since it has been able to move around after the storm. There is lots of frustration and depression. Criticism that the government did not move fast enough to clear the roads, turn back on the power, “bring me water”, etc. is distressing. Even by FEMA rules, such response is not required until 72 hours. If there is gas available, and if the electricity is back on, many complaints will disappear.

I have tried to write concurrently with my frank feelings and observations of the real time. Sometimes I was more frustrated than others. On the whole I have been very proud of my local community, proud of the citizens, and so very proud of the FANTASTIC TEAM OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AT THE BEN TAUB GENERAL HOSPITAL. This team could put a man on Mars in a week. This team seeks to be a resource to take care of the sickest of the sick, that no one else wants, especially during a crisis. This team could reach the illusive peace in the Middle East in 5 days. Congratulations to the many many unsung heroes at every unit level of this team.

WEAKLY HUMERUS NEWS 08-16-08

TOP QUOTES OF THE WEEK

The Chinese government says that’s not smog you see on your TV when you watch the Olympics. They say your TV screen needs dusting. (Tom’s Lake Humor Co.)

When President Bush was informed Russia attacked Georgia, there was an awkward moment when Bush yelled; “We must save Atlanta.” (Alex Kaseberg)

Seeing that the book, “Obama Nation” has become an instant best-seller based on the word play in its title, the publisher plans a sequel entitled, “McCain Is Not Abel.” (Scott Witt)

Well, according to a new study, coffee can improve your memory, that’s what they say, drinking coffee improves your memory. Which is good news for both Barack Obama and John McCain. If we can get them to have some coffee before their first debate, maybe they can remember what their original positions were. (Jay Leno)

You know, he really is adorable. He shouldn’t be our president. He should be our mascot. (Jon Stewart, watching Bush at the Olympics)

Strange how everyone is blasting John Edwards for having an affair, but nobody mentions John McCain’s affair with with his current younger, wealthier wife before he dumped Carol McCain. Fortunately, McCain and his supporters can’t remember anything that far back. Except maybe a prison camp or two. (Joe Hickman)

Look at the latest issue (of the National Enquirer)… about Eva Longoria gaining weight in her attempts to get pregnant? Confidential to Miss Longoria, if you’re trying to get pregnant, I recommend making webisodes for John Edwards. (Stephen Colbert)

Russian troops captured Josef Stalin’s birthplace in Georgia Monday. Nostalgia for the Thirties is sweeping the world. Russian troops captured Stalin’s hometown, China is staging Hitler’s Olympics and the United States is reliving the Hoover years. (Argus Hamilton)

Paris Hilton urged offshore drilling and tax breaks for electric cars in a mock campaign ad which drew raves. You know where this is going. The last presidential debate will be hosted by Jeff Foxworthy and titled, Are You Smarter than Paris Hilton? (Argus Hamilton)

China said Tuesday it distributed one hundred thousand condoms to the athletes in Beijing. It works out to two hundred condoms per athlete for the two-week stay. It’s just another example that the breakage rate with Chinese products is pretty high. (Argus Hamilton)

Paris Hilton won praise Thursday for her mock campaign ad calling for offshore drilling and tax breaks for electric car makers. The candidates are just lucky she’s not old enough to run. She combines the most electable qualities of both Clintons. (Argus Hamilton)

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WEAKLY HUMERUS NEWS 06-28-08

TOP QUOTES OF THE WEEK

If the Democratic candidate is elected president, we’ll have an Obama nation. If the Republican candidate is elected, he’ll bomb a nation. (Richard Lederer)

Former President Bill Clinton now says he is willing to do whatever he can to help Barack Obama become president, so the Obama team is asking him to campaign for John McCain. (Jake Novak)

Do you like good news? President Bush has ordered now — it’s official — has ordered his troops now to find Osama Bin Laden. Yep boy, he really jumped on that one, didn’t he? (David Letterman)

Los Angeles City Hall reported Tuesday it has issued seven thousand oil drilling permits this year. The city sits on a huge oil pool. Between the price of gold and the price of oil we’re lucky that people aren’t digging up the roads with their bare hands. (Argus Hamilton)

According to the Pentagon, at least 1,000 nuclear missiles or components in the U. S. arsenal are lost or cannot be located. We can’t even find our own weapons of mass destruction. (Jay Leno)

President Bush went to Iowa today. … Of course, people from Iowa were a little confused. They weren’t sure which disaster President Bush was talking about – the floods or his presidency. (Jay Leno)

By casting the key vote in the Supreme Court’s gun decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy proved again that he’s the court’s swinger who can go either way. Interns of both sexes are getting nervous. (Scott Witt)

Al Gore has endorsed Barack Obama for president. How about that? Political experts say this is great, because it gives the Obama campaign a much-needed shot of boredom. (David Letterman)

Saudi Arabia hosted a summit to find ways to reduce prices from the oil well to the pump. Gas station owners are looking for ways to make gasoline more affordable. Across the nation they’re converting all their mini-marts into pawn shops. (Argus Hamilton)

Australian police have charged a man for drunk driving in a motorized wheelchair after he was found to be six times over the legal alcohol limit. Police said they might have overlooked the incident if he hadn’t been doing 45 in a school zone. With gas prices rising, folks are souping up their chairs. (Joe Hickman)

Business at Nevada’s Brothels is down 45% because of gas high prices. Not so much because truckers find it hard to find money to drive to the bordellos, but rather because the price of gas is so high, the trucker’s wives are the ones working in the brothels. (Pedro Bartes)

George Carlin was remembered this week for his classic comedy routine listing the seven dirty words you can’t say on television. Not much has changed in the ensuing thirty years. You still can’t say those seven words on the air, but you can show them. (Argus Hamilton)

The Midwest floods are being called the biggest economic disaster in decades. Aside from the Bush Administration. (Jim Barach)

Belgium released a study Tuesday proving men make bad judgments about alcohol and money whenever they see a woman in a bikini. It could be worse. Seeing women covered from head to toe causes men to fly planes into buildings, so take your choice. (Argus Hamilton)

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WEAKLY HUMERUS NEWS 05-03-08

TOP QUOTES OF THE WEEK

On the alleged sexual affair with country singer Mindy McCready starting when she was 15 years old: “Apparently, Roger Clemens has been playing in the minors.” (Jay Leno)

This week is the fifth year anniversary of the infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner. Oil companies are planning to celebrate with a huge party and have asked Bush to lend them the banner for the night..(Pedro Bartes)

Prince William’s image may be hurt by his recent antics with a military helicopter. A rich young man born into privilege who is destined for the throne because of his bloodlines, who is not taking his stint in the military seriously? Thank goodness that could never happen here in America. (Jim Barach)

Hillary Clinton announced today she’ll appear on ‘The O’Reilly Factor.’ That should be a great confrontation. On one side, a loudmouthed bully who wants to tear apart the Democratic Party and on the other side, there’s Bill O’Reilly. (Craig Ferguson)

The first stimulus checks are being deposited in the accounts of taxpayers who were smart enough to sign up for direct deposit with the IRS. But the really smart tax payers are just having their checks deposited directly to their local gas station. (Jake Novak)

Boy, it is hard to keep up with all these crises we have in America. Remember last week, when everybody in America was obese? Remember that? This week there’s a food shortage. What happened over the weekend? Did we pig out and eat all the food? (Jay Leno)

The Automobile Club on Friday forecast record Memorial Day weekend highway travel despite gasoline prices nearing four dollars per gallon. The fact that it’s so expensive just makes it all the more exciting. This was Eliot Spitzer’s point all along. (Argus Hamilton)

Due to a worldwide fertilizer shortage, a utility company in Southwest Florida is on the forefront of developing a new environmentally friendly fertilizer: human waste. Apparently they are thinking of using all the members of Congress. (Pedro Bartes)

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WEAKLY HUMERUS NEWS 03-15-08

TOP QUOTES OF THE WEEK

That shows you how the whole world is backwards. I mean you’ve got Democrats, who are supposed to be poor, paying $5,000 an hour for sex, and you’ve got Republicans, who are supposed to be rich, cruising airport bathrooms trying to get it for free. (Jay Leno)

I have heard that Eliot Spitzer engaged in some kinky things. When a reporter asked him what his favorite form of weird sex was with these professionals, he looked puzzled and replied “Beats me!” And supposedly, his wife tracked him to the hotel one night and called his room from the reception desk below. He said “I can’t talk to you now. I’m tied up at the moment.” (Charles Wukasch)

Do you know what the highest paid government position in this country is? Anybody know? It is working under New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. It pays like $5,000 an hour. (Jay Leno)

Governor Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a call girl in a famous Washington D.C. hotel. It’s not unusual. The number of women who came over on the Mayflower will never equal the number of women who came across at the Mayflower. (Argus Hamilton)

A word has been added to the dictionary. Spitzer, n., a person who spits in other peoples’ faces only to have it blow back in his own. (Scott Witt)

Prescription medications have been discovered in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. Or, as President Bush calls that, the Republican health care plan. You drink eight glasses of water a day, you get all your drugs. You see, again, I don’t think President Bush understands this problem. Like today, he said, he read the report and was shocked to learn our tap water contains the chemical H2O. (Jay Leno)

Voters in two Vermont towns have called for the arrest of President Bush and Vice President Cheney should they ever visit. When President Bush was told the law was non-binding and symbolic, he said “Oh, you mean like the Constitution?” (Jim Barach)

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