Friday, February 12, 2016

Test number 22


Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Suffer little children to come unto me. . . .
—Gospel according to St. Luke

In Brazil it is caused by the mosquito. In Flint it is caused by the politician. The one is not completely understood. The other is understood all too well. Both have inflicted untold harm on their victims and brought great sadness to them and their families. The victims are the children and parents whose lives have been altered in profound ways and no amount of science or money can compensate the children and parents for what they have lost. The effect on the children in Brazil is apparent as soon as they are born. The effect on children in Flint may not be known for years to come.

In Brazil it is believed that there may be as many as 1.5 million residents infected with the Zika virus. In Flint it is an untold number of children who may have their development impaired because of lead poisoning.

Brazilian babies with microcephaly from the Zika virus may have, among other things, abnormally small heads and their brains may have failed to develop properly. The difficulties these children may face include developmental delays, intellectual deficits or hearing loss. Birth defects suffered by Brazilian children are apparent for all to see as their parents are shown on the evening news holding their tiny malformed infants tenderly, not knowing what the future holds for them, their pitifully deformed infants and other members of their families. Zika families do not wonder what they or anyone else could have done to prevent the tragedy that has befallen them. It is just one of those things. Flint is very different but the affected population is the same.

Young children living in Flint are not in danger of suffering microcephaly nor any of the other consequences of the innocently malevolent mosquito. They are, instead, in danger of other developmental issues that may not manifest themselves for years to come. According to reports, as many as 8,000 Flint children under age 6 may have been exposed to lead in Flint’s water. That exposure may have done irreparable damage to some of their nervous systems and brains. The children who have suffered the effects of exposure to lead may require extra help in school because of learning disabilities and may require treatment for medical problems that can go on for years. Fetuses and young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead in the water. No one could have done anything about the mosquito. Lots of people could have done something about the water.

In 2014 when Flint’s emergency manager began providing water to residents from Flint River to save money, residents detected changes in the taste, smell and color of the water. High levels of bacteria were discovered and city officials told residents to boil their water before drinking it. When residents complained about water quality to state officials, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s people and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ignored their complaints. Even after state officials knew there was a problem they did nothing. Lynna Kaucheck, a Food and Water Watch organizer said: “It’s hard to believe that in 2016 people in the United States have to contend with poisoned drinking water, but that’s the sad situation that many Flint residents are contending with. . . . [S]ome residents continue to receive water that is undrinkable, due to lead contamination.” It has now been reported that in January 2015 fresh bottled water was provided for state employees working in office buildings in Flint even though residents had been told Flint tap water was safe to drink. A spokesman for the agency that manages state buildings said the bottled water was introduced after Flint failed to pass tests of water standards having nothing to do with lead in the water. In Michigan some Flint residents have begun a class action law suit against the government alleging that the “City has failed to provide drinkable water to Plaintiffs from April 2014 to present.” No one knows how that suit will end many years from now.

In Brazil the sadness brought to the families was brought by the mosquito. In Flint it was brought by the politicians. The one is not completely understood. The other is understood all too well. Both have inflicted untold harm on their victims. The mosquito has not apologized. Michigan’s governor has. Neither the apology nor the lack of an apology makes the tiniest bit of difference to those affected. They are the children and parents whose lives have been altered in profound ways and no amount of science or money can compensate the children and parents for what they have lost.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Perfect Friendships

America was promises to whom? Archibald McLeish, America Was Promises

It was a good day for those who had served as Iraqi translators/interpreters, although it passed largely unnoticed. The day was October 4, 2013. That was the day President Obama signed an extension of the special immigrant visa program for them. It extended the program until the end of 2013. The Act provided for what were called “Special Immigrant Visas.” They were for Iraqi nationals who had served as translators or interpreters for or on behalf of the United States government. When Congress initiated the fast-track immigrant visa program in 2008 in order to permit translators and interpreters to enter the U.S., the visa applications were supposed to be turned around within 9 months. It has not turned out that way. According to Katherine Reisner of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, as of March 15, 2015, more than 1,800 Iraqis’ applications remain in limbo and many of these have been waiting 5 ½ years. Captain Doug Vossen who served two tours in Iraq said his translator, who is awaiting a visa, served as his protector and adviser, but now that the promised visa has not appeared, he is in hiding in Iraq with his family fearing for his life. “He was there, risking his life when the United States Government came calling. And now, when he is at the end of his rope, completely desperate for him and his family, we’re not returning the favor? Just not right.” Captain Vossen is right and things may be getting worse. That’s because on November 19, 2015, the House passed an anti-refugee bill that, if it becomes law, will increase the difficulties already faced by Iraqi personnel who were promised visas at the conclusion of the part of the Iraq conflict that ended in 2008. Although the intent of the bill is to slow down the almost non-existent admission of Syrian refugees into this country, as drafted it would further delay the admission of those Iraqis who helped the United States during the war. When the bill passed the House, there was uncertainty as to whether or not it would be considered by the Senate. The uncertainty is gone.

On January 18, 2016, it was announced that the Senate would take up the legislation during one of the rare times in 2016 that it will find the time to act as a legislative body. Although Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, has stated that the legislation has no chance of attracting sufficient democratic support in the senate to be passed, if he is wrong and it becomes law, those Iraqis who were promised visas will be able to quietly wait to see if ever the United States will honor the commitment it made to them at the end of the war. (Nine Iraqi interpreters sued the U.S. Government in March 2015 order to get their visa status resolved. That suit is pending.)

There are other potential immigrants who are anxiously waiting to learn if their ability to obtain visas is in jeopardy. The answer for them is not to worry. These people are the beneficiaries of the EB-5 visa program. Under the EB-5 program foreign investors who invest $500,000 in a new U.S. commercial enterprise in a “targeted employment area “ are able to obtain green cards for themselves and visas for two family members. As an alternative to investing $500,000 in a “targeted employment area”, investors may invest $1 million in any new U.S. commercial enterprise irrespective of where it is located. Because of the way the program is structured, an investor may build a luxury project but nonetheless qualify for the benefits with only a $500,000 investment by building it adjacent to a “targeted Employment Area”. What we learn from the foregoing is that money talks-courage doesn’t, at least when it comes to getting visas.

Senator Charles Grassley and others have long urged that the program be overhauled because of abuses in how it operates. That didn’t happen. Instead, towards the end of December, before Congress went on vacation for the holidays, it acted to extend the EB-5 program until September 30, 2016. That will give Congress a chance to see how the program can be improved. It also gives foreign investors additional time to get their EB-5 visas. Meanwhile, the Iraqi translators in Iraq who live in fear for their lives because of the assistance they gave the United States during the war and the subsequent failure of the United States to honor its promises, can wait an indeterminate time for admission to the country they helped. Go figure.

Christopher Brauchli

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