Goldman Sachs gave him plenty of$
resident Barack Obama traveled to Flint, Michigan to talk to city leaders and residents about the city’s water contamination crisis. He said a “corrosive attitude in our politics” is partly to blame. (May 4) AP
WASHINGTON — Visiting a Michigan city where thousands of children were poisoned by lead in their drinking water, President Obama blamed the crisis in Flint on a mindset that “less government is the highest good,” which he said has led to disinvestment in poor communities.
In a speech to a restless audience at a high school gymnasium, Obama also urged parents of those children to get them tested — but also to have faith in their resilience and not to use the poisoned water as an excuse not to expect great things from them.”That attitude is just as corrosive to democracy as that stuff that put lead in your water,” he said. “It’s not enough to fix the water. We need to fix the culture of neglect.”
Obama’s visit to the eastern Michigan city of 100,000 people came three months after he declared a state of emergency to help the city deal with the fallout from a drinking water crisis. In addition to the poisoning from corroding lead pipes, the switch to under-treated water from the Flint River in 2014 is suspected in the deaths of 10 people from Legionnaires’ disease.
But Obama reassured Flint residents that the water is safe now — as long as it’s properly filtered.
“I really did need a glass of water. This is not a stunt,” he said as he asked for water during a bout of coughing. “If you’re using a filter, if you’re installing it, then Flint water at this point is drinkable.”
Obama didn’t assign any specific blame for the water crisis, which has already led to the indictments of three water officials. Obama said only that “some very poor decisions were made.”
“This was a man-made disaster. This was avoidable. This was preventable,” he said. “I do not believe that anybody consciously wanted to hurt the people of flint, and this is not the place to sort out every screw-up that resulted in contaminated water.”
He said the good news is that the Americans from all over the country have rallied around Flint, and the federal response is now in full swing. The president promised free water and filters, expanded Medicaid to treat children who may have been exposed, and job training programs.
“I came here to tell you directly that I see you, I hear you, and I want to hear directly from you about how this public health crisis has affected your lives,” he said. “I know you’re scared. A lot of you feel let down. I also came here to tell you that I’ve got your back.”
Even as he spoke directly to the people of Flint, Obama said he hoped to use that city to spark a “national conversation” about what he called a “pipeline of neglect” in American cities.
“The problems of water were a symptom of a broader issue, and that is a city that had lost a lot of resources, lost a lot of its tax base, was cutting a lot of services, and increasingly, didn’t have capacity,” he said at the end of a meeting with state and federal officials.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder greeted Air Force One at Bishop International Airport in Flint, ending days of speculation about whether the governor would participate. He was later booed by Flint residents as he tried to apologize for the state’s handling of the crisis.
When the crowd booed Snyder again as Obama recognized him, Obama calmed the crowd: “No, no, no, he’s here. We’re doing some business here.”
Also on board Air Force One for the half-day visit: Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.
Reposted from USA Today
It’s the birthday of novelist and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis (books by this author ), born Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast, Ireland (1898). He grew up in a big house out in the country. He said: “I am the product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books.” He was particularly fascinated by Norse myths and old Scandinavian epics.
Lewis became an atheist after his mother died, and his atheism deepened after he fought on the front lines in France during WWI. He studied at Oxford University, and then became a professor there. After he had been teaching for about a year, he went to an Oxford faculty meeting and met a young professor of Anglo-Saxon named J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis described Tolkien in his diary: “He is a smooth, pale, fluent little chap […] thinks all literature is written for the amusement of men between 30 and 40 […] No harm in him: only needs a smack or two.” Despite his initial misgivings, Lewis and Tolkien became good friends when Lewis joined Tolkien’s newly formed Icelandic Society. Lewis wrote to his best friend from childhood: “You will be able to imagine what a delight this is to me, and how, even in turning over the pages of my Icelandic Dictionary, the mere name of a god or giant catching my eye will sometimes throw me back 15 years into a wild dream of northern skies and Valkyrie music.”
In 1929, Lewis converted from atheism to theism (but still not to Christianity). He described how for months he felt God’s presence in his room each night, and finally, he gave in. He described himself as “perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” Two years later, he invited Tolkien and another friend to dinner, and afterward they spent hours walking along the river on the Oxford campus and discussing Christianity and myth. A few days later, Lewis officially converted to Christianity, riding on a motorcycle on the way to the Whipsnade zoo with his brother. He said, “When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”
It was around that time that Lewis and Tolkien began meeting regularly with a group of friends who became known as “The Inklings.” The Inklings met for 16 years. Each week they gathered midday in a back room at the Eagle and Child pub (which they called the Bird and Baby) for food, cider, and informal conversation. The serious literary events occurred each Thursday evening in Lewis’s apartment, which was not particularly clean. Lewis flicked his cigarette ashes directly on the carpet, and as one member pointed out, it was impossible to tell whether his gray chairs and sofa were gray originally or were just dirty. The Inklings would arrive slowly between 9 and 10:30 p.m., someone would make a pot of strong black tea, and they would take turns reading aloud from whatever they were writing. Over the years, Tolkien read The Lord of the Rings, and Lewis The Screwtape Letters (1942), his book of fictional advice letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood.
One day Lewis sat down to write a story for his goddaughter, Lucy. He said it “began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. The picture had been in my mind since I was about 16. Then one day when I was about 40, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.'” That was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), which Lewis followed with six sequels, known collectively as The Chronicles of Narnia.
Lewis’s other books include Mere Christianity (1952) and Surprised by Joy (1955).
Reposted from Writer’s Almanac.
On this day in 1986, Attorney General Edwin Meese revealed that proceeds from secret arms sales to Iran were illegally diverted to support Contra rebels in Nicaragua . Three weeks earlier, a Lebanese magazine had broken the story that the United States — in violation of its own arms embargo — had sold weapons to Iran in an attempt to gain freedom for American hostages being held in Lebanon. Because President Reagan had publicly stated that he would never negotiate with terrorists, it came as a shock to the American public when his administration admitted to doing just that.
To make things even worse, in 1982 Congress had passed the Boland Amendment, which specifically prohibited sending federal money to the Contra rebels for the purpose of overthrowing the Nicaraguan government. Meese’s revelation that the money from the arms sales was used to support a guerilla war against the leftist Nicaraguan government infuriated Congress. The day that the news broke, Reagan’s National Security Advisor, John Poindexter, resigned. His aide, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, was fired.
The following summer, Congress held hearings on what had become known as “the Iran-Contra affair.” Eleven administration officials were found guilty of a number of charges ranging from perjury to conspiracy. Reagan accepted responsibility for the arms sales, but denied any knowledge of the Nicaragua piece, and it has never been established exactly what his role was in the conspiracy. Notes from 1985, taken by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, recorded that Reagan said that he could answer charges of illegality, but not the charge that “big strong President Reagan passed up a chance to free hostages.”
Reposted from Writer’s Almanac
Born in Marshfield, Missouri (1889). He was a gifted athlete, and for a while, it looked as if he might make a name for himself that way. He ran track and played baseball, football, and basketball. And — with the exception of spelling — he was a bright student as well. At his high school graduation in 1906, the principal said, “Edwin Hubble, I have watched you for four years and I have never seen you study for 10 minutes.” He paused, and then said, “Here is a scholarship for the University of Chicago.” In 1907, he led his college basketball team to their first conference title. Three years later, he earned his degree in mathematics and astronomy.
He was one of Oxford University’s first Rhodes Scholars, but he didn’t study astronomy there — he studied law, to please his father. He came home in 1913 and passed the bar, but his heart wasn’t in the law practice and he quit after a year. He taught high school Spanish, math, and physics, and coached the basketball team, and the students loved him. But when the term ended, Hubble went back to school himself: this time to earn his Ph.D. in astronomy at Chicago University.
After World War I, Hubble joined the staff of the Mount Wilson Observatory, where he studied nebulae. During his work, he discovered that the Andromeda Nebula was actually another galaxy, far away from our own Milky Way, which scientists had long believed was the only galaxy in the universe. He discovered 22 more galaxies, and he also proved that the universe was actually expanding, which supported the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. Stephen Hawking called Hubble’s discovery “one of the great intellectual revolutions of the 20th century.”
Taken from Writewr’s Almanac.
It was on this day in 1558 that Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the English throne. Her father, King Henry VIII, had broken with the Catholic Church to divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boleyn in hopes of producing a male heir. But when Elizabeth was born, he had Anne Boleyn beheaded and declared Elizabeth an illegitimate child. She grew up in a world of conspiracies and assassinations. Because she was a potential heir to the throne, her life was constantly in danger.
England almost broke out in civil war when Elizabeth’s half-sister, Mary Tudor, came to power and tried to turn England back into a Catholic nation. But Mary died just five years after becoming queen, leaving behind a debt-ridden, divided country. Elizabeth took the throne on this day in 1558. She was 25 years old. One of her first acts as queen was to restore England to Protestantism. Militant Protestants wanted her to seek out secret Catholics and prosecute them, but Elizabeth decided that she wasn’t going to police anyone’s private beliefs. She required everyone to go to the Church of England on Sunday and that they all use the same prayer book; but aside from that, they could believe whatever they wanted.
She also eased the restrictions on the legal operation of theaters, and the result was a new career for writers such as Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson, and William Shakespeare. Part of the reason so many great writers came out of the Elizabethan era was simply that it was a time of relative peace and prosperity, in which people had the luxury to read books and go to the theater. But Elizabeth also helped encourage the English to have pride in themselves, in their history, and especially their language.
She reigned for 45 years, one of the great eras in English history. Near the end of her reign, she said to her subjects: “Though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my crown: that I have reigned with your loves. And though you have had, and may have, many mightier and wiser princes sitting in this seat; yet you never had, nor shall have any that will love you better.”
Reposted from Writer’s Almanac
Today is the birthday of British novelist and feminist icon Doris Lessing (books by this author), born Doris May Tayler in Kermanshah (now Persia), Iran (1919). Lessing is best known for her novel The Golden Notebook (1962), which became a kind of handbook for the feminist movement of the 1960s and ’70s.
Lessing wrote most often about women’s struggles with motherhood, sex and sexuality, depression, and conflict. She published The Golden Notebook in 1962. The story of a would-be writer named Anna Wulf who tries to live as freely as a man, the book became an international best-seller. Vogue called it “dismal, drab, embarrassing, sodden with a particularly useless form of self-pity …” but it caught on and became a bible for the feminist movement, which frustrated Lessing, who thought the book was more about mental disintegration. She said: “It’s stupid. I mean, there’s nothing feminist about The Golden Notebook. The second line is ‘As far as I can see, everything is cracking up.’ That is what The Golden Notebook is about!”