How building new homes is rebuilding lives

How building new homes is rebuilding lives

After spending his teenage years in and out of jail, Robert Clark turned his life around. Now he’s committed himself to helping the at-risk youth of Newark do the same, by leading them in building homes for poor families.

Upstanders is a collection of short stories celebrating ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities. These stories of humanity remind us that we all have the power to make a difference.

Learn more and see all the Upstander videos here

What we know about how 9/11 has affected New Yorkers' health, 15 years later

What we know about how 9/11 has affected New Yorkers' health, 15 years later

Within days of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, then-EPA chief Christine Whitman infamously encouraged New Yorkers to head back to Lower Manhattan. “The good news continues to be that air samples we have taken have all been at levels that cause us no concern,” she told reporters. A week later, she again assured the public that the air was “safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink.” Her claims were echoed by then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who, in his apparent eagerness to get the Financial District up and running again, told everyone “to go back to normal.” He also called the air around Ground Zero “safe as far as we can tell, with respect to chemical and biological agents,” even as experts warned that it was not. “You won’t see any immediate problems,” Mount Sinai’s Dr. Philip Landrigan told the New York Daily Newson September 13, describing the risks of exposure to the wreckage of the Twin Towers. “It will take 25 to 30 years to develop.”

Rescue and cleanup crews were permitted to dig through Ground Zero without respirators and neighborhood residents and workers attempted to return to their daily lives as poison was being released all around them. As Newsweek explained earlier this week:

By the time Whitman and Giuliani received significant criticism (Whitman was sued in 2006, and finally apologized this week; Giuliani faced protests during his 2007 presidential campaign), the damage was done, though its scope still isn’t fully clear. Fifteen years after 9/11, here’s some of what we know about how the destruction of the Twin Towers has affected New Yorkers’ health:

Lots of people might not be getting treatment
According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 400,000 people – including “rescue and recovery workers, residents, students and school staff, building occupants, and passersby” – were exposed to “the immense cloud of dust and debris, the indoor dust, the fumes from persistent fires, and the mental trauma” of the Twin Towers’ collapse. As of June 2016, only 74,968 were enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program. (The program, established by the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2011, provides federally-funded monitoring and treatment of health problems stemming from 9/11.) 56,580 of enrollees were FDNY or other responders – people who, at this point, know quite well that they are at risk of falling ill.

Meanwhile, only 8,881 civilians have enrolled: “I don’t know, really, what the psychology is behind it all,” WTC Environmental Health Center executive director Terry Miles told WYNC several years ago. “I believe people just don’t want to be sick from 9/11. They just don’t. And they don’t want their kids to be sick from 9/11, either. But the fact is people are sick because of the fallout.” Either way, as Newsweek noted, that means that hundreds of thousands of people susceptible to 9/11-related illnesses “remain untreated and unaccounted for.”

The dust hung around for way longer than it should have
According to analysis published in 2002, the aforementioned dust that settled on the area around Ground Zero contained, among other things, “construction materials, soot, paint (leaded and unleaded), and glass fibers (mineral wool and fiberglass),” metals, and asbestos. The study concluded that, “These results support the need to have the interior of residences, buildings, and their respective HVAC systems professionally cleaned to reduce long-term residential risks before rehabitation.” In many cases, that didn’t happen. Cleanups involving asbestos are generally handled by specialists, but, as Discover reported:

Without clear guidance, the landlords were “free, if you will, to do whatever they wanted, or to do nothing,” the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health’s David Newman told the LA Times. “It was kind of a Wild West.” A Tribeca resident who spoke to Discoversaid that she received a letter from the NYCDOH instructing her to clean her apartment herself using “a wet rag and use a High Efficiency Particulate Airfilter vacuum.” A man who was living in a Brooklyn Heights dorm said that nobody ever told him that the dust he found in his vents and air conditioner was potentially dangerous. “When we turned it on, the dust would blast into the room,” he said, explaining that he and his roommate repeatedly cleaned it up themselves. In 2007, the superintendent of a building located a couple blocks from Ground Zero told the New York Timesthat he was still finding the dust in the ceilings and walls. Meanwhile, much of the “professional” dust removal was performed by cleaners – many of them immigrants – who weren’t properly trained or equipped for the task. Two such workers told the LA Timesthat they wore paper masks only “30% of the time” they spent vacuuming dust from air vents. All of those people subsequently developed respiratory problems.

See photos of the dust and ash:

Survivors suffer from alarming rates of asthma, gastroesophageal disease, PTSD, cancer, and other illnesses
In 2009, a study of World Trade Center Health Registry enrollees showed that 10.2 percent had received a new diagnosis of asthma in the five to six years following the attack. Rescue and recovery workers were the exposed group most likely to develop asthma (12.2 percent did), followed by passersby (8.6 percent). “Intense dust cloud exposure on September 11 was a major contributor to new asthma diagnoses for all eligibility groups: for example, 19.1% vs 9.6% in those without exposure among rescue/recovery workers. … Asthma risk was highest among rescue/recovery workers on the WTC pile on September 11.” Other “persistent risks” included “not evacuating homes, and experiencing a heavy layer of dust in home or office.” A study conducted from 2011 to 2012 found that of 2,500 people diagnosed with asthma in the two years after 9/11, two-thirds reported continued symptoms “that interfered with their usual activities.”

A 2011 study of the same population found a significant number of post-9/11 gastroesophageal reflux symptoms (GERS). (The symptoms are associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD], which can lead to esophageal cancer.) Twenty percent of those surveyed reported GERS two to three years after the attack, while 13 percent said that the symptoms persisted for five or more years. Of the people who developed symptoms right after the attack, 46.5 percent still had them 10 years later. As with asthma, the illness was most common among responders (41 percent), but people exposed to the initial dust cloud and those who didn’t evacuate their homes were also at an elevated risk.

These and other studies also noted that both asthma and GERS occurred more frequently in patients who also had PTSD (which affected at least 15 percent of people in the vicinity of the attack), though plenty of people without the psychological condition developed one (or both) of the physical illnesses.

The 2011 Annual Report on 9/11 Health also pointed to continuing cases of sarcoidosis (inflammatory cells on the lungs, skin, eyes, and lymph nodes) among responders, residents, and passersby. It also noted a host of ongoing respiratory sickness among exposed firefighters, including sinus inflammation (17.2 percent), bronchitis (13.2 percent), and COPD/emphysema (1.5 percent).

Technically, researchers have yet to definitively link Ground Zero exposure and cancer, but the connection has become obvious. Earlier this week, Newsweek reported that, “As of June, 5,441 of the 75,000 people enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program have been diagnosed with at least one case of 9/11-related cancer. … And many of them have multiple cancers, with the total number of cancers certified at 6,378 as of June.” The FDNY told the magazine that cancer rates among firefighters and EMTs who worked at Ground Zero are now “19 to 30 percent higher” than they were before 2001.

Meanwhile, from the NYC Health Department:

Unfortunately, the worst is probably yet to come. As former NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley pointed out during the 2012 battle to make funds from the James Zadroga Act available for cancer treatment, “Cancers take 20 years to develop…and we might see something different 20 years down the line.” (Ultimately, nearly 60 types of cancer were added the list of illnesses eligible for coverage.) Other doctors who have worked with 9/11 survivors have said that they expect to see an increase in cancer in the coming years.

Fourteen dogs die in Canada kennel's heating malfunction

Fourteen dogs die in Canada kennel's heating malfunction

TORONTO, Sept 10 (Reuters) – Fourteen dogs in a western Canadian pet daycare and boarding facility died on Saturday after a mechanical malfunction caused heat to continuously enter their kennels, the organization said.

The Playful Paws Pet Center in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, said on Saturday in a Facebook post a “travesty of life” happened, and its staff are reaching out to the dogs’ owners.

“We love our dogs and each of our team is trying to personally cope with this terrible loss,” Playful Paws said on its Facebook page.

The center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is not immediately clear how long the heat was on before the dogs died or whether the center would compensate the owners.

Local police said the incident does not warrant the involvement of law enforcement.

(Reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto; Editing by Diane Craft)

A Chinese billionaire may have hidden 6 percent of the world's aluminum in the Mexican desert

A Chinese billionaire may have hidden 6 percent of the world's aluminum in the Mexican desert

It’s not every day that Mr. Bean makes an appearance on the Wall Street Journal’s commodities coverage.

And that might not even be the strangest finding in the Journal’s investigation into a massive pile of aluminum that allegedly just sat there, unused, in the Mexican desert for years.

To start, some background: China’s growing industrial sector has been hard on the aluminum producers in the United States. In 2000 there were 23 smelters operating nationwide, now there are only five.

So when an aluminum executive named Jeff Henderson got wind of a giant stockpile of Chinese aluminum just below the U.S border with Mexico, he decided to commission a plane to check it out.

What did they find?

Six percent of the world’s aluminum, worth some $2 billion and enough to make 77 billion beer cans, according to the Journal‘s fascinating report.

A Chinese billionaire may have hidden 6% of the world's aluminum in the Mexican desert
Liu Zhongtian toasting his company’s IPO in 2009.
Source: Anonymous/AP

The revelation led to tensions between U.S. trade authorities and China, as U.S. industry executives insist that the metal is linked to Liu Zhongtian, who runs China Zhongwang Holdings, an enormous industrial aluminum company.

U.S. industry officials allege the metal got there as part of a scheme to evade trade restrictions. The idea was to move aluminum through Mexico into the U.S. where it could benefit from provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“These things have nothing to do with me,” Liu told the Journal, although the results of the investigation cast doubt on that claim.

Aluminum manufacturing is subsidized in China, and so Chinese firms were able to undercut U.S. producers; the United States responded by setting up tariffs to make domestic aluminum more attractive.

Routing Chinese aluminum through Mexico was a way to get around those tariffs.

Things went awry when a one of Liu’s alleged business partners Po-Chi “Eric” Shen, started to gain attention over some of his erratic practices, which the Journal report highlighted and included spending fortunes on dubious expenses like $70 million worth of red diamonds and rare Ferraris.

The relationship allegedly deteriorated quickly — Shen made headlines in 2014 when he wrecked Liu’s sports car while vacationing in Italy, and was rescued by Rowan Atkinson, of Mr. Bean fame.

The metal may never make it to the United States, in fact there are currently plans to ship it back to Asia, this time Vietnam.

Clinton walks back 'deplorables' comment: I 'regret' using the term to describe 'half' of Trump's supporters

Clinton walks back 'deplorables' comment: I 'regret' using the term to describe 'half' of Trump's supporters

Hillary Clinton on Saturday walked back comments she made about supporters of Donald Trump at an event in New York City.

Clinton said on Friday evening that you could put half of the Republican presidential nominee’s supporters in a “basket of deplorables,” which she said would include racists, xenophobes, and homophobes.

But, following a firestorm of backlash, Clinton released a statement saying her comments were “grossly generalistic,” and that she regretted denigrating “half” of Trump’s supporters.

While she offered remorse for her comments, Clinton also said it was “deplorable” that Trump has built his campaign “largely on prejudice and paranoia,” and has “given a national platform to hateful views and voices.”

“As I said, many of Trump’s supporters are hard-working Americans who just don’t feel like the economy or our political system are working for them,” she added.

Clinton resolved to try and “bring our country together” and “make our economy work for everyone.”

Trump, along with his running mate Mike Pence, responded on Saturday by criticizing the comments Hillary made on Friday.

“Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!” Trump tweeted.

Pence piled on, saying at the Values Voter Summit that Clinton’s “low opinion” of Trump’s supporters should be “denounced in the strongest possible terms.”

Hillary, they are not a basket of anything,” Pence said. “They are Americans and they deserve your respect.”

The Trump campaign also released a statement on Saturday afternoon calling Hillary’s comments on Friday the “worst mistake of the political season.”

“For the first time in a long while, her true feelings came out, showing bigotry and hatred for millions of Americans,” the statement continued. “How can she be President of our country when she has such contempt and disdain for so many great Americans?”

See photos of Clinton and Tim Kaine on the campaign trail

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