Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Prepare for Industry Backlash Hysteria in 3 . . 2 . .

Fun with Chemistry, 1944But we didn't EAT THEM then. Image by Chemical Heritage Foundation via Flickr

Wow. The Feds might commit some truthtelling. Monsanto and Dow aren't going to be happy.

UPDATE: Sad, but no surprise that industry is having its favorite sock-puppet organization mouth the attacks on the report. The American Cancer Society is the epitome of the co-opted group that learns to lick and never to bite the generous corporations that feed its ravenous budgetary maw. ACS is the tip of the spear in the ongoing campaign to blame cancer on the victims, never on the polluters.
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Post-Peak-Oil Elder Housing Piloted in Another Salem

America's future involves a lot more multi-generational housing and caring for each other, and a lot less of having families dispersed all over the continent flying back and forth for holidays. A lot of states are likely to follow Virginia's lead here, particularly states like Oregon where our population is poorer than average and older than average.
Va. launching portable housing for aging relatives

SALEM, VA. The Rev. Kenneth Dupin, who leads a small Methodist church here, has a vision: As America grows older, its aging adults could avoid a jarring move to the nursing home by living in small, specially equipped, temporary shelters close to relatives.

So he invented the MEDcottage, a portable high-tech dwelling that could be trucked to a family's back yard and used to shelter a loved one in need of special care.

Skeptics, however, have a different name for Dupin's product: the granny pod.

Protective of zoning laws, some local officials warn that Dupin's dwellings -- which have been authorized by Virginia's state government -- will spring up in subdivisions all over the state, creating not-in-my-back-yard tensions with neighbors and perhaps being misused.

Look at how people despise PODS, those ubiquitous big white storage boxes, critics say. Imagine, they add, if you had people living inside.

"Is it a good idea to throw people into a storage container and put them in your back yard?" said Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee). "This is the granny pod. What's next? The college dropout pod?"

Such temporary shelters might work in rural and sparsely developed parts of the state, McKay said, but the impact could be enormous in crowded urban and suburban areas.

"This basically sets up an opportunity to do something legally which, prior to this, had been illegal -- which is to set up a second residence on a single-family property. It turns our zoning ordinance upside down," McKay said.

The idea, Dupin said, came to him after years of leading humanitarian missions to developing countries, and it was encouraged by a growing sense of his own mortality. But he also said it just might make a lot of money, especially since the nation's elderly population is set to double in just 10 years as more and more baby boomers hit retirement age. Surveys by AARP and others also show that large majorities prefer to live in their own homes or with loved ones rather than in retirement communities. . . .

It was just such a story that got Dupin thinking about the MEDcottage. As senior minister at what was then Aldersgate Wesleyan Church in Falls Church, Dupin visited a shut-in named Katie. Her husband had served in the Eisenhower administration, and she liked to show off photographs of them dancing at a White House ball.

On one visit, Dupin found Katie in tears. Her adult children had arranged for her to go into a nursing home. Workmen were busy fixing up her home for sale. When he later visited her at the nursing home, she was miserable.

"When I got there, she was absolutely devastated, and she asked me if I could take her home. That stuck in my head -- the patheticness of it," Dupin said. And it stayed with him as he toured the world studying international business development or conducting humanitarian trips to Haiti and Guatemala.

So Dupin, who studied for the ministry at Southern Wesleyan University, hit on the idea of the remote-care pod.

The MEDcottage would be equipped with the latest technology to monitor vital signs, filter the air for contaminants and communicate with the outside world via high-tech video. Sensors could alert caregivers to an occupant's fall, and a computer could remind the occupant to take medications. Technology could also provide entertainment, offering a selection of music, reading material and movies.

The dwelling would take up about as much room as a large shed and, like an RV, could connect to a single-family house's electrical and water supplies. It could be leased for about $2,000 a month, a cost Dupin hopes will be borne by health insurers.

To build it, Dupin has assembled an unusual team: an eighth-grade Spanish teacher, two college professors, a health-care administrator, a medical school instructor, an architect, a physician and the president of a company that makes modular housing.

The new company, N2Care, has won $100,000 in public grants, although the Blacksburg-based venture is still searching for private investors and has no full-time employees. In any case, N2Care appears to be on its way.

Idea gets boost

Without even building a prototype or hiring lobbyists, Dupin and his team managed to persuade the Virginia General Assembly to pass legislation almost unanimously this year that supersedes local zoning laws in the state and allows families to install such a dwelling on their property with a doctor's order. The first of two prototypes is expected to be rolled out in June. Dupin said the first will be named "Katie," in honor of the woman he met long ago in Northern Virginia.

The enterprise has received backing from the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, a collaborative effort between the university and 140 companies to develop commercial technologies. The university is helping with high-tech applications, such as computer technology to create a "virtual companion" -- named Sydney, after Dupin's granddaughter -- who would appear on a screen and remind the occupant to take medications.

"Personally, I believe it really potentially could have a huge impact on revolutionizing health care," said Janis P. Terpenny, a Virginia engineering professor who is working with Dupin.

The Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, whose mission is to create jobs using national tobacco settlement money, gave its blessing to the venture Feb. 16 with a $50,000 dollar-for-dollar grant. The money is to be matched by Charlotte County, where the manufacturing is to be done, with the expectation that the company will build enough models to create jobs in a place where unemployment reached 10.4 percent in February.

But the biggest boost came from the state government. Unable to pay for lobbyists, Dupin and others worked the state Capitol themselves, using templates found online to draft the bill's language. They promised no campaign contributions. Anyway, they said, they could not afford to contribute to political causes. The Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit group that tracks campaign giving and expenditures, affirmed the assertion that no donations were made.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), who sponsored HB 1307, clearing the way for the dwellings, said he thinks the legislation will prove to be one of the most significant measures enacted this year. "The only thing I regret is that I don't have money to invest in the company," Griffith said.

The law defines the MEDcottages as "temporary family healthcare structures" that can be placed only on the properties of single-family homes and occupied only by a relative who is physically or mentally impaired, as certified by a physician. The structures must be less than 300 square feet and conform to local regulations governing sheds or garages. They must be removed within 30 days after the occupant dies, moves or no longer needs to receive care in the dwelling.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who signed the bill April 14, will travel to Salem for a ceremonial signing. The law takes effect July 1.

May 8 = National Train Day

Press Release

House Approves National Train Day Resolution

Partisan vote by House Republicans failed to defeat resolution

May 5, 2010


By Contact Mary Kerr (202)225-6260

WASHINGTON – House Democrats overcame Republican opposition to pass a resolution commemorating the 141st anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad's inception and supporting the goals and ideals of National Train Day. H. Res. 1301, which recognizes the important contributions that trains make to the national transportation system, was approved by a vote of 296 to 119.

Amtrak has designated May 8 as National Train Day and will hold family-friendly celebrations in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

"'The Party of No' tried -- but failed -- to defeat this non-controversial resolution, which honors the vital role that trains play in the nation's transportation system," said Rep. James L. Oberstar (Minn.), Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. "This resolution is neither Democratic nor Republican – it is an American resolution. I am pleased that House Republican leaders' attempt to abuse the legislative process for partisan purposes did not succeed today."

It appears Republicans opposed H. Res. 1301 because the preamble mentions the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The preamble cites facts regarding high-speed rail and Amtrak investments in the Recovery Act, such as the funding levels that were appropriated.

"Rail in America is experiencing a renaissance we haven't seen in 50 years. All forms of passenger rail, including Amtrak are seeing increased ridership numbers. In fact, in 2009 Amtrak welcomed aboard over 27.1 million passengers, the second largest annual total in Amtrak history. An average of more than 74,000 passengers rides on more than 300 Amtrak trains per day," said Rep. Corrine Brown (Fla.), Chairwoman of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee and original sponsor of H.Res. 1301. "For me, as the Chair of the Rail subcommittee, the eventual goal is to have high-speed, intercity passenger, and commuter rail lines connecting nationwide to serve as an enhancement to our current systems of transportation. Moreover, if a nationwide high-speed and intercity passenger rail system is realized, it will not only serve as a tremendous benefit to our nation's transportation needs, but will also be a superb asset towards getting people back to work by creating quality jobs in our economy's manufacturing sector."

"The Bush administration twice submitted bankruptcy budgets for Amtrak, but today we are shaping a new future for Amtrak. President Obama made a commitment by investing $8 billion in passenger rail, and that is just a down payment. We have seen improvements to rail infrastructure with funding allocated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and the T&I Committee will continue to hold oversight hearings to ensure that those stimulus dollars are invested wisely," said Oberstar. "National Train Day recognizes 141 years of passenger rail service in the United States and commemorates the day that the first transcontinental railroad was created. We have seen a revival of interest in the United States in intercity passenger rail across the land, and through much-needed investment, new high-speed rail corridors will become a reality. The European Union has shown a visionary commitment to passenger rail, and so must we."

Floor Statement of Chairman James L. Oberstar

Floor Statement of Corrine Brown, Subcommittee Chair, Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials