Did Sandy save Occupy?

“>Dumb question. Occupy was already out working in the communities that were hit hardest by Sandy. That’s why they were able to leverage those contacts into a relief organization:

Four adrenaline- and caffeine-fueled weeks later, while the question of how the occupy movement’s founding values jive with relief work is still a matter of debate, there is no question how much the mammoth, headless, volunteer-run disaster-relief organization has helped people. Since those very first days, Occupy Sandy has cooked and distributed between 10 and 15 thousand meals each day; enlisted more than 7,000 volunteers; created three major distribution hubs from which it dispatches both workers and supplies; and established dozens of recovery sites in New York and New Jersey. Perhaps most stunning, the group has raised more than $600,000 in cash for its efforts and received more than $700,000 in supplies donated through repurposed online wedding registries.

In a strange way, the storm has helped the Occupy movement, too, providing the insistently non-hierarchical, tech-savvy network of protestors with an opportunity to demonstrate the values it sometimes struggled to articulate during its Zuccotti Park chapter. When it was centered around inequality in broad, theoretical terms, OWS failed to connect with many of the “99 percent” it aimed to represent, particularly the kinds of folks who live in Gerritsen Beach, Staten Island and the other working class areas that are now ground zero for Occupy Sandy.

Post-storm, the occupy movement finds itself in a position many in these neighborhoods might find more palatable. “They’re channeling all their energy into something tangible,” says Susan Healey, a 54-year-old social worker from Bay Ridge who volunteers with the group but didn’t consider herself an “occupier” back in the Zuccotti days. Necessities and the ability to quickly dispatch volunteers to where they’re needed most are apparently worth a thousand banners.

The Occupy movement is also easier to understand in motion. During the encampment, OWS was standing against something—albeit something as widely disregarded as corporate greed. Now, the group is standing for something—or, rather, running, digging, cooking, cleaning, hoisting, and organizing for something—and much of the effort clearly stems from unassailable generosity and altruism. The good they’re doing seems to have answered any remaining questions about what Occupiers meant by standing up for the “99 percent.” It’s also a rebuke to those who dismissed occupiers as lazy, unemployed kids: Yes, many of the volunteers are young, pierced and tattooed, but, clearly, slackers they are not.

By effectively blowing away the polite outer layer that usually masks the extremity of inequality, the storm handed inequality activists an almost eerily perfect illustration of exactly what they see as wrong with our world. New York and New Jersey’s shoreline communities span the economic spectrum, from the fanciest beach resorts to low-income public housing and year-round bungalows. In Far Rockaway, for instance, where Occupy Sandy is still handing out food and clothes, more than a quarter of residents have an income of less than $15,000 a year. Similarly, Coney Island, where occupy volunteers are working out of a church on Neptune Avenue, is one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City. Just a mile or two down the beach, houses can cost many millions of dollars. While residents with means have been able to pay for the supplies and help they needed, replace what was ruined, and, most important, get out of the most affected areas when necessary, a huge swath of have-nots was cast into a struggle for survival.

News you can use

I always get a flu shot, so here’s one less thing to worry about:

A number of studies have shown a link between heart attacks and a prior respiratory infection. A 2010 study of about 78,000 patients age 40 or older found that those who had gotten a flu shot in the previous year were 20 percent less likely to suffer a first heart attack, even when such cardiovascular risks as smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes were taken in account.

Scarier still, researchers report that up to 91,000 Americans a year die from heart attacks and strokes triggered by flu. This grim statistic prompted the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology to issue guidelines recommending vaccination for patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD). The CDC advises flu shots for everyone over six months of age, but cautions that certain people should check with a medical provider before being immunized.

Sadly, fewer than half of Americans with high-risk conditions like heart disease get the shot, leaving themselves dangerously unprotected against both flu complications and cardiovascular events. In fact, the CDC actually uses heart attack rates to track seasonal flu outbreaks, says Dr. Bale. “They look for areas with a sudden surge in heart attacks and send a team to investigate, because the cause is almost always a spike in flu cases.”

Sadness in the neighborhood

I bought a winter topcoat at the thrift store last night, and this morning, I took it to the dry cleaning shop around the corner to get it altered and cleaned. On the way in, I noticed the shop was for sale.

I told the little old Polish lady I wanted the sleeves let down, and she kept saying she would take them up. “No, no, I want them let down,” I said.

She burst into tears. “I’m sorry, I can’t concentrate,” she said with a thick accent. “My husband is dying of brain cancer. The doctors, they think he’ll go before Christmas. I sell the store, it’s too much.”

Another one! Where is all this brain cancer coming from? I told her I was sorry, that I would say a prayer for his peaceful passing.

“I lost my mother a year ago, too,” she said, her eyes welling. “My husband, he walk like this.” She walked back and forth, slowly and stiffly. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Forty-one years, we are married.”

“I’ll say a prayer,” I said again. “I’m very sorry for what you’re going through.”

Elevator prank

A Brazilian TV show did this stunt. Damn, I think I’d have a heart attack!

A military suicide every 80 minutes

This is why I’m so deeply cynical about the so-called “patriotism” of certain politicians. You would think at the very least, taking care of the troops when they come home would be first on their list — but instead, they talk about tax cuts.

It seems like the system is so overwhelmed by the number of veterans in need of psychological services, all they do is treat the symptoms with drug cocktails — which becomes even more dangerous when veterans go to several different doctors, like this Afghan war vet.

CALLAWAY, Fla. — Libby Busbee pounded on the window of her son’s maroon Dodge Charger as he sat in the driveway of their home earlier this year. Locked inside his car, Army Spc. William Busbee sat with a .45-caliber gun pointed to the side of his head.

“Look at me,” his mother cried out as she tried to get her son’s attention. “Look at me.”

He wouldn’t look.

He stared out the front windshield, distant, said Libby Busbee, relating the story from an apartment complex in Callaway.

“I kept yelling, ‘Don’t you do this. Don’t do it.’ He wouldn’t turn his head to look at me,” she said, looking down at the burning cigarette in her hand.

A 911 call was made. The police pulled her away from the car.

William, Libby Busbee’s 23-year-old son, was talking with a police officer when he fired a shot through the front windshield of his car, according to the police report.

The police recoiled. William rapped on the window in apparent frustration, the report indicated.

Then the second shot was heard.

“I knew that was the one,” said Libby Busbee.

William Busbee took his life in March with his mother and sisters looking on.

William Busbee was no casualty of the war in Afghanistan. He was a casualty of his own mind, his mother said.
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Screwing the unemployed

It’s because of funding time bombs like this that Obama’s self-created crisis may end up screwing the long-term unemployed. That’s what happens when you give into Republican extortionists, and the fatal mistake is assuming they’re going to negotiate good faith. Obama should have taken Clinton’s advice, asserted executive power under the Constitution and told them all to kiss his ass. But of course he didn’t:

More than 40% of the nearly five million Americans who receive unemployment insurance are set to lose those benefits if federal programs expire as scheduled at year-end.

Some economists worry that cutting off those benefits could harm the economy by leaving millions of Americans with less money to spend on everything from food to fuel. Others argue that overly generous benefits are helping to prolong joblessness.

About 2.1 million Americans receive payments through federally backed emergency unemployment programs, which Congress adopted starting in 2008 as a temporary supplement to state-level programs funded primarily with taxes on employers, which generally offer six months of benefits. That number has tumbled from more than 3.5 million at the start of the year and a peak of more than six million in early 2010, reflecting not just the gradual improvement of the job market but also new limits that have pushed hundreds of thousands of workers off the rolls before they could find jobs.

Already this year, hundreds of thousands of people have exhausted their jobless benefits. Now, virtually everyone left in the federal programs would lose their benefits if the programs expire as scheduled at year-end.

Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment benefits amid high joblessness, and it could do so again. But the programs have gotten caught up in the fight over the “fiscal cliff,” a package of tax increases and spending cuts due to take effect early next year. Some Democrats are pushing to extend benefits again, but the programs must contend not only with Republican opposition but also competing priorities such as business and individual tax breaks.

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