In Oklahoma’s tornado alley, some better prepared than others

shelters save lives

The mayor of Moore, Oklahoma, a municipality twice devastated by tornados in the past 15 years, is fixated on garage doors, knowing they are a key to protecting the city from even more damage during this year’s tornado season.

Moore, in the heart of “Tornado Alley,” where twisters frequently hit, will be operating this year under new building codes, arguably some of the most stringent in the nation, to protect people and structures from deadly winds…

“Garage doors are the first to come off during a tornado. Once the garage door comes off, the roof comes off,” Mayor Glenn Lewis said in an interview last week…

In May 2013, twenty-four people were killed and 240 injured when a top-rated tornado devastated Moore, a city of about 55,000 south of Oklahoma City. Some 2,400 buildings were damaged or destroyed, including Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children were killed.

It was even worse in 1999 when one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded, with wind speeds of 300 mph, struck Moore, killing 44 and leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

“The new building codes are great, but I wish they were approved sooner,” said Lewis, who was mayor when both tornadoes hit.

Moore, Oklahoma City and other cities began operating this year under building codes offering more protection, but inadequate structures and a dearth of shelters persist in large parts of the state.

One hold-up appears to be in the state legislature, where lawmakers have been bickering over funding tornado protection.

One Democratic lawmaker proposed using funds from the state’s franchise tax, a levy suspended in 2011, to pay for tornado and storm shelters for the majority of schools in the state without them. Republican lawmakers, who dominate the legislature, have balked at the proposal, saying they want to eliminate the tax altogether.

There’s the point of it all. Republicans, Tea Party Brown Shirts and Blue Dog Democrats care more about tax cuts and money in their wallets than the lives of school children.

I have nothing but contempt for corrupt human beings who value greed over need. They do not advance society. They care little or nothing for those who stand beside them on this planet. Self-centered, egregious, nothing counts more in their mean little lives than money and personal power.

Tularosa downwinders fight for justice from first nuclear bomb test

Trinity Tularosa
Tularosa survivors demonstrated for the first time at access to the Trinity Test Site
permitted by our government one day a year

Photo by Natalie Guillén/The New Mexican

Residents of the tranquil Tularosa Basin in the 1940s feasted on figs, apples, peaches and plums grown in their irrigated orchards. They ate eggs from their own chickens. Meat came from the cows and pigs they raised and the elk and turkey they hunted. Three dairies in the area supplied fresh milk. Rainwater was caught in cisterns for gardening.

But everything changed when the first atomic bomb was unleashed without warning at the Trinity Site, about 40 miles upwind from the town of Tularosa, on July 16, 1945.

No one knew just how much things had changed. No one had considered what effect the bomb’s significant radiation might have on the 19,000 people living in the shadow of the mushroom cloud, how that radiation might have seeped into the rainwater, the soil, the vegetation, the blood, the bone.

No one thought fresh milk might be poison.

“People down here started to get sick, started to die at alarming rates,” said Tina Cordova, an Albuquerque businesswoman born and raised in Tularosa. “And we knew it had to have been the bomb.”

We met Cordova in 2010 when her efforts to connect the 1945 atomic bomb test to the abnormally high rate of cancer she discovered among the residents downwind of the Trinity Site seemed close to bringing relief, recognition and a long-overdue apology from the U.S. government.

Three years later, relief, recognition and apology have yet to materialize…

Back in 2010, Cordova said it was hard to find anyone living within a 40-mile radius of the Trinity site who hadn’t known someone stricken with cancer. Six members of her own family had either died of or fought cancer, including herself and her father, who was 3 when the bomb turned the dark skies white and radioactive ash fell from the skies like snow.

Today, Cordova is a 16-year survivor of thyroid cancer. Her father successfully battled two forms of cancer in the past decade but lost his third bout last spring at age 71. As a child, he had loved milk and drank ample quantities, never imagining what it might contain, Cordova said…

Cordova can no longer quickly calculate how many family members have died of cancer, how many in the Tularosa Basin have suffered. There have been so many.

The National Cancer Institute is adding folks from the Tularosa Basin to their study of New Mexicans who may have been affected by the nuclear weapons programs so beloved of our government for decades. The Feds say it never occurred to them to check on radiation from that first and following atomic bomb tests. That’s probably a lie. There’s no doubt they wanted to have some idea what would follow use of these weapons on the wider population they were preparing to use the weapons on – in Japan.

All of this is part of the larger refusal to accept responsibility for contamination and poisoning of Americans associated often by virtue of where they lived – near mining, production and testing of nuclear weapons – in addition to direct employees of our rollout of weapons of mass destruction.

There is no legitimate reason for special laws having to be passed to include the healthcare of ordinary citizens affected by the radiation of our bigger and better bombs. There is no legitimate reason for Congress dragging their feet, turning their collective backs on American citizens damaged individually and generationally by the poisons and death visited upon them by our military death-industry.

We are a nation run by imperial thugs, represented by cowards and flunkies afraid to challenge official powers on behalf of the people who elected them to office. There are few exceptions. There is a greater number sharing guilt for the suffering that became part of the lives of the farmers of the Tularosa Basin after July 16, 1945.

Addict guilty of killing infant with morphine in her breast milk

A former nurse was sentenced Friday to 20 years in a South Carolina prison for killing her 6-week-old daughter with breast milk containing high levels of morphine.

Stephanie Greene, 39, of Campobello was convicted Thursday after a three-week trial. She was given 20 years for homicide by child abuse and a total of 10 years on other charges to run concurrently.

Alexis Catherine Greene died in 2010 when she was only 46 days old. A coroner found potentially fatal morphine levels in her system.

Barry Barnette, a prosecutor, said Greene has 39 charges of obtaining prescription drugs fraudulently…

During his closing statement, Barnette told jurors Greene “knew how to work the system” to obtain prescriptions. He said she did not tell the doctors who prescribed her morphine that she was nursing.

She loved her drugs more than she loved her child,” Barnette said.

Jurors deliberated for less than four hours Thursday before returning a guilty verdict. Greene was jailed immediately.

Greene’s defense attorney made what might have been a compelling plea for accidental death saying there are no documented cases of morphine in a nursing mother killing an infant – morphine being available by prescription for nursing mothers. There may be elements of truth in that defense – something any good defense lawyer knows about.

The fact remains Greene was not just relying on prescribed doses from her good old family doctor. She functioned, as far as I’ve been able to learn, like any junkie accumulating her drugs via phony prescriptions and under false pretenses. As a nurse, she knew doctors needed to know she was nursing – and didn’t say a word.