Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Neighborhood, Healing Ashtabula

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

The monthly meeting of the My Neighborhood group last Thursday, Valentine's Day, in the dining room of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, heard the formation of committees for housing improvements, gardening, cleanup, and public relations. Sign up sheets fluttered around the room as attendees added their names and contact information.

Ashtabula is facing challenges today, with steadily increasing demands on social services as families struggle harder each month just to survive. People have been bound up in fear and a sense of hopelessness. This is changing.

Speakers at the meeting rose to report on their many projects, which are turning into action. Ashtabula needs many kinds of healing and much is now in motion.

Since Valentine's Day, thoughts of what a newly energized Ashtabula could be like have occurred to me as I drive and walk. Abandoned homes, marked with a large X, intended for removal no longer spell defeat and continued decay. Instead, there is hope for what can occupy the ground there instead.

When I look I see homes built on a passive, Deep Green model, sinking foundations into the earth, which could still be there, and in pristine condition, when the date turns to 2300. Not science fiction, but reality.

Today, passive Deep Green homes are becoming standard in Sweden, Germany and Austria because they need no heating and no cooling. No heating in Sweden? Yes, and it is much colder there. No heating bill. No air conditioning.

These homes also will not burn, remaining untouched at temperatures over 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit and are water-tight. No flooding, either.

Inside they are quiet because of the massive insulation. They cost less to build than conventional stick construction, so the question is not if we can afford them but how we can afford to build anything else, when the price of wood has doubled in the past several weeks.

What would Ashtabula be like if people began buying homes here because it lowered their expenses while raising their standard of living? Changing this direction is one kind of healing.

Father David of St. Peter's outlined the program his church is carrying out now. This program will also heal minds and spirits.

Walking down Main Street begins to present possibilities. Holding these in mind, along with the problems My Neighborhood is determined to solve, you can see past the problems to amazing possibilities.

When people come together, the “possible” becomes boundless.

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Neighborhood - Hope becomes Action

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

At the end of the meeting, which took place in the dining room of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, committees for housing improvements, gardening, cleanup, and public relations had been formed, sign up sheets fluttering around the room as attendees added their names and contact information.

Ashtabula is facing challenges today, with steadily increasing demands on social services as families struggle harder each month just to survive.

Father David of St. Peter's outlined the program his church is carrying out now. This begins with their program on Monday nights. Participants confront the decisions they have made which make success impossible in their lives. Working through a list of questions they find answers, building on small successes. Finding a job is a step on the way. The process takes them beyond survival to the potential for realizing the far greater success which is possible to each of us.

Nicole Varkett from Extreme Mission, located next to Perry's on Main Street, was also there to talk about her goal to establish temporary housing, which can become a base for action, for the homeless presently struggling to survive through freezing nights spent on the streets of Ashtabula. Finding enough food for the growing numbers of people who face homelessness is only one of their goals. Lorrie is determined to provide housing, separate facilities for men and women, to ensure security and provide the peace of mind so essential if each is to successfully transition back to normalcy.

Children will soon be starting their seedlings for springtime to be planted in gardens providing food for the family and flowers to lighten the heart, according to Lorrie Woodard, who is working on starting up community gardening at a location near St. Peter's Church. The monthly newsletter Lorrie passed out showed the area on which they are focusing now. Water, soil augmentation, and the need for a shed and implements, hoes, and rakes, were included.

Time Banking, a practice which allows to, “share their time and talents,” accumulating credit for hours spent assisting others, and so put into action improvements of their own, is being organized. The mission is weaving together of community, neighbor knowing neighbor.

Cleaning up the neighborhood, repairing homes, and beginning a road back to prosperity through enterprise and innovation were recurred themes, as people spoke.

My Neighborhood will continue to meet, and to work. When people come together, what is possible becomes boundless.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 7, 2013 - Remember the Real Earth Day

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

On the Spring Equinox, at the exact moment when the northern and southern hemispheres of the Earth are balanced, bells are rung across the globe. Many over look it, but thousands remember. 
The original Earth Day has been celebrated in this way since 1970, when first established by the Earth Society. The mission was, “Peace, Justice, and Care of the Earth.” 
Many ideas blossom momentarily and then die because they are not nurtured. The woman who has kept the mission of Earth Day alive over the last decades overcame astonishing difficulties to accomplish this goal. 
Helen Garland accepts the difficulties as a price worth paying in service to her ideals, expressed in the mission statement. 
Helen's life as a volunteer began after World War II, when she graduated from Sarah Lawrence. Excited by the founding of the United Nations, she began work as a volunteer in New York, striving to bring the power of cooperative effort to people in diverse nations around the world so they could solve the problems confronting them. 
Helen, today admits she was far too trusting, as were many of her contemporaries.
As CEO of the Earth Society, the second oldest NGO of the United Nations, she realizes, sadly, the U.N. has long since been co-opted by corporate interests. 
The take over began almost as soon as the U.N. was founded, and to her surprise, three men, Maurice Strong, George H. W. Bush, and Robert O. Anderson, in charge of the take-over, placed enormous focus on her. 
Moved by what she saw happening environmentally, she began began working in the Kennedy White House in 1962 as a volunteer to ensure Americans had clean water and air. A group came together with this shared goal. Buckminster Fuller, originator of the geodesic dome, Patrick Horsbaugh, originator of Environics, Margaret Mead, and others, now legendary, believed in our mutual stewardship of the Earth. Their dedication continued past the Kennedy assassination, gaining a growing consensus among all Americans, only later politicized. 
After the first Earth Day took place in 1970 a group headed by Dennis Hayes, armed with six million dollars provided by oil companies, stole the name, 'Earth Day,' and began lavish publicity to offset the original. The April event kept control in the hands of big oil. 
Peace, Justice, Care of the Earth, remains the goal. 
When you understand, the power is, again, your own.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February 1, 2013 - Live Long and Prosper – In Ashtabula

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Ashtabula can reframe itself for economic renewal and prosperity.

Twenty years ago Nathan MacPherson toured law schools in San Diego, where he was living at the time, and found himself inundated by real estate agents who advised him to buy a downtown condo, finessing on his income, so he could live there while in school – and leave school as a millionaire on the appreciation of the condo. Many of these same condos are now in foreclosure.

Skeptical, Nathan, instead chose law school in Des Moines, Iowa, where he purchased three distressed single-family residences and one distressed six-unit multifamily building. Doing much of the work himself, he improved these, with the usual paint, flooring, bathroom remodeling, kitchen remodeling. But he also added insulation in the walls and ceilings, replacing the windows with Energy Star-rated windows, replaced the HVAC units with the highest efficiency units available, and installed Energy Star-rated appliances.

After graduating from law school in 2007 Nathan took a job offer in Frankfurt, Germany, in the Baking and Finance Practice Group of a global law firm and sold his Iowa properties.

The market for real estate in America was crashing. Despite this he was able to sell them all at a profit because the upgrades made were not just cosmetic, but actually lowered the operating costs by as much as 70% while improving comfort.

Nathan's Iowa properties had gone fast, even in the dying market. But he was always looking for better ways to build.

In Germany, he toured construction sites and spoke with the local builders about techniques they were using. The Austrians and Germans were beginning to superinsulate their structures, including the use of triple-pane windows, and employing concrete and stone building materials as thermal mass. They were building according to the German Passive House Standard.

His own home in Germany, which he designed and built, complied with the Passive German Standard. When his first son was born the baby was able to play on a floor which was never cold, just wearing a diaper, in the middle of a winter snow storm.

Passive homes cost nearly nothing to heat. In the middle of winter, turn on a light bulb, it is enough. Contrary to what you probably believe, these cost less to build than conventional housing. These innovative, and clean, technologies need to be built in the US, too. Why not Ashtabula?

January 24, 2013 - Seeking the Muse

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Omelets at the E-Comm Cafe on Main Street are succulent, and huge. I stopped by for one after my Pilates class today. It nearly filled up the plate all by itself, overflowing with perfectly cooked mushrooms and other yummies, with wonderful, coffee refilled every time I looked up.

Pilates class at the YMCA has been a real experience, and was very different than expected. I was surprised to learn Joseph H. Pilates was a sickly child, suffering from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. Determined to find health and strength, he began studying body-building, yoga, qigong, and gymnastics. By age of 14, he was posing for anatomical charts.

A gymnast, diver, and bodybuilder, he moved to England in 1912, earning his living as a professional boxer, circus-performer, and self-defense trainer at police schools and Scotland Yard.

When I started Pilates, I had no idea its original point was what, today, we call rehabilitation. After discovering this I started taking my son, Arthur to classes. Arthur, now 35, suffered major brain injury and other trauma in 1997 during a motorcycle accident. Six months later he shot himself through the brain. Over the past several years his mobility, which was certainly never good after these two events, had been deteriorating. Three months ago getting down on the floor was tough for him. Today I can see the difference, though he is cranky about the earliness of the class.

For me, Pilates has provided some of the same benefits I previously found in Rolfing, with much less pain. Rolfing, originated by Ida Rolf, who received her Ph. D. in biochemistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1920, developed the system to,“correct imbalances in structure placed demands on the body's pervasive network of soft tissues: muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments.”

Pilates helps release trauma to muscles and joints, allowing the body to work more smoothly, providing many of the same benefits at less cost. Rebecca Mondo, who does the class, encourages folks with mobility problems to participate, Wednesdays at the Wellness Center, which is also where we will be starting a group to Evoke the Muse in You. The Muse is a fine thing to have on our journey through life and far more wonderful if you can share with others of like mind and heart.

Body, mind, spirit, it takes all three. Brought together, life can be wonderful.

2nd & 4 Thursday, at 7:15pm, Evoking the Muse in You, come out and read come out and write, share your emotions, your thoughts, your visions with others of like mind and heart.

January 18, 2013 - Shroving, Mardi Gras, and Pancakes

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster 

The story began in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England, on Strove Tuesday, 1445. A woman was making pancakes and forgot to think about the time. This was easy to do because the first small domestic table clock would not be available until at least five years later. Clocks, the kind you wind, the only ones which would be available until the latter half of the 20th Century, depend on the mainspring. The mainspring was invented after the pancakes were beginning to sizzle in the pan. Various sources credit Peter Hele, a locksmith from Nurnburg, also spelled Henlein with this innovation in 1490. Other sources place the date at some decades earlier. 

Regrettably, the woman's name is lost in history. But on the day in question she was busily occupied making pancakes from items in her larder which, the next day, she would be unable to use because Lent would have begun. Then, from across the town she heard the church bells ringing, marking the noon hour when the service for Shriving would begin. According to the stories which have come down to us, without even putting down the frying pan she rushed out of her home and into church, the pancake probably beginning to cool. 

Pancakes have been eaten on Shrove Tuesday, which is also known as Pancake Day, for a long time. In parts of England Pancake races are also held to memorialize the Lady of Olney.
Pancake races are still held in locations across England. In Olney, the race begins in the marketplace and ends at the church. There, the winner receives a prayerbook and a kiss from the Verger. 

Eggs, which are so prominent a part of Easter, are one of the things once given up. This may well explain why in the Ukraine elaborate Easter Eggs, called Pysanky, are still made today. 

The process necessitates dyes, making the egg inedible. But the vivid colors and fine lines draw the eye to the beauty in ordinary things. An egg, a stylus, bee's wax, and a candle, used to melt the wax are required. Making them is a process very conducive to inner contemplation. 

Customs vary. In New Orleans, Mardi Gras. In Italy, Carnevale. In England, pancakes eaten on the day before Lent. For Lent, each of us commits to an inner journey, focusing on a journey into the wilderness, which lasted 40 days, to be remembered always.

January 10, 2013 - Wayne Newton's Gift and Watching the Girls

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Wayne Newton hired Jamie Phillips, after her equine apprenticeship program, to run his Arabian Horse Farms. Jamie says Wayne is a nice, generous man. She still sends him pictures of her kids at Christmas time. 
Wayne's made his wedding gift to her Ali Design, an Arab horse. Ali, like most Arabs, is friendly and would love to come in the house and sleep at the end of their bed. Bedouins raise their horses to live inside their tents. 
That was fifteen years ago now, before her two children and the 'girls' arrived in her life.
Jamie and her husband bought a farm in Rock Creek so Ali would have room to run. It is located at 3948 State Route 45. 
The 'girls' entered Jamie's life as an alternative to a day job. 
Even early a few chickens were running around the yard. Folks would stop and ask if they could buy eggs. From this grew Phillips Egg Company. 
The Girls are Golden Comets, and each can lay 360 brown eggs a year. Jamie's chickens, who she calls, 'her girls,' go out a lot when the garden is not yielding. If it is, they have to stay in their yard, as the garden is a real magnet for them. So you could say the 'girls' are a combination of 'pasture raised,' and 'free range.' They are always 'cage-free.' 
The girls chase and catch frogs and whatever they can find. In the summer they peck at the toes of visitors, too, being especially attracted to painted toe-nails, especially red ones.
Raising chickens and eggs commercially was easy to do, Jamie says. The inspection to be certified was free. The food inspector man came out, looked around and signed off. Jamie rigorously follows the rules, labeling instructions on the cartons of eggs, typed and printed out on recycled cartons. The only other requirement is having a thermometer in her refrigerator. 
Jamie has also had Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Barred Rocks but prefers the Comets. The flock is not as pretty but their personalities are friendly and they are very, very brave. When she goes out to clean the coop as many as four chickens will try to ride on her because she appears to be roost-able.

The business is growing. They are branching out with their garden, cut flowers, and meat chickens. And every day has its little adventures with the 'girls.'

January 3, 2013 - Size Does Matter in Ashtabula

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

We have an exciting development to share regarding monitoring for Manganese poisoning this week. The lack of monitoring, and any related expense, for what all of us had believed was a costly installation for monitoring in Ashtabula, may not be the problem we believed it to be.

For anyone who has not been following the articles appearing in the Star Beacon and my column, the issue was the alarming level of symptoms for Parkinson's Disease and other neurological disorders in and around Ashtabula. The only monitor for emissions is today located in Conneaut, miles from Millennium Inorganic Chemicals, located on Middle Road, just outside the city of Ashtabula.

A potential solution appeared in an article published by Environmental Science & Technology, titled, “Use of X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy To Speciate Manganese in Airborne Particulate Matter from Five Counties Across the United States,” which cites monitoring devices which work reliably and provide the monitoring needed. The unit is about the size of a mail box. Samples removed can be tested, providing strong evidence on whether or not dangerous levels of Manganese are being released.

But more information is needed, for instance.

Particulate matter is captured, as dust, on a filter, then the dust is analyzed at a lab. But how large are the particles? It matters. The smaller, the deeper they are inhaled into the body and it is the smaller particles, especially nano-sized, which cause the most damage. Larger particles are not absorbed, these go down and do not come back up.

TiO2 is what Millennium is producing, according to their literature. Fine and ultra-fine particles, according to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are responsible for a statistically significant increase in adenocarcinomas.

The collection device, and servicing, might cost less than the $50,000 a year the company now generally pays yearly in fines to the EPA.

Additionally, a unit to test blood for levels of Manganese is now available for $800. Anyone who is concerned could be tested. Certainly, Millennium will want to buy one of these and supply it to a local lab. This is good news for the new year.

These developments would certainly relieve the anxiety of residents and also serve the company, allowing them to stand on the evidence they are not polluting. Positive proof is something they definitely need, in case a law suit.

We eagerly await more information on particle size.

My good friend, Dave Lincoln found this and sped the good news to us this afternoon. Solving problems should help everyone.

Collection company handles servicing the unit. EPA protocols

CHIP TECH that can read manganese in human blood in 10 minutes. A unit costs $800.00, find a technician.

Are they showing elevated levels in the blood We have more. EPA hs not taken us seriously, but they should.

December 28, 2012 - Keep the Lights on in Ashtabula

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

This week, between Christmas and the New Year, is known in Germany as The Week Between the Years. For the New Year we make resolutions for things we want to change for ourselves, our families, and our communities. This provides a focus to keep our goals for the next year clear, like a point on the horizon we want to reach. We want our lives to be secure so we, and those we love will be safe. All of us want security, and it is time to get serious, and proactive, about ensuring it happens.

This year we, in Ashtabula, should consider adding to our resolutions for more private matters finding a new direction to ensure our community enjoys reliable, and affordable, electric power.

Recently, we experienced a short outage due to Hurricane Sandy. But today many at the center of the storm are still without power. A hurricane is a natural disaster, but certainly not unforeseeable. In our lifetimes we can expect to see other such disasters and the haunting presence of other threats to power are never far from our minds today.

In a recent article the Department of Defense warned our centralized system for power is extremely vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Other natural disasters, such as Elecro-Magnetic Pulses from the Sun, flooding, and tsunamis can also disrupt the delivery of power to millions for months – or potentially, years.

These facts are frightening to consider. The loss of power leaves our world dark, and all of us vulnerable.

Additionally, a recent article from the Washington Post by Ashley Halsey III, titled, “Nation’s aging electrical grid needs billions of dollars in investment, report says,” quoted the American Society of Civil Engineers, describing the nation’s electrical grid as “a patchwork system that ultimately will break down unless $673 billion is invested in it by 2020.”

Today, there are many systems for point-of-use generation which are affordable, making it possible to detach from the aging electric grid. Financing a change over would cost us far less than the daunting cost of upgrading the present system. And each of us would then be secure. Instead of seeing the lights go out in times of disaster, homes and businesses not directly hit by storms or other events would continue to have power.

With forward planning we can take action here, in Ashtabula. This year, let's resolve to make it happen.

December 20, 2012 - Something Rotten in Ashtabula....

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

My friend Dave sent me some articles today and two of them included links to articles previously published in the Star Beacon about nasty smells emanating from someplace not far from State Road. The article reported the stench smelled like, “cat urine/ammonia,” and additionally reported there had been over 100 complaints since June.

In a later story Mike Settles, Ohio EPA spokesman, named Detrex/ Elco Corp., 1100 State Road had been issued a notice of violation, “after a number  of citizens complained.” Settles further, helpfully, noted the company had, “14 days to respond with a written plan of action.”

But the article went on to quote the claim by Detrex/Elco's operations manager, Mike Steib, “the company is in compliance.”

You could see the folks from the EPA looking at each other, waiting to see someone 'fess up to making the smell. The 'investigation' was still ongoing.

Comments in the paper were far more pointed, including, ashtabula area has been a dumping ground that has been ignored for at least 70 years,we have never had any really politicians or inspectors in any dept. clamp down on these irresponsible polluters. personally i believe thats why our area seems a liitle slow if you know what i mean.”

Reports of visits to the Emergency Room, passing out due to the smell, moving out of the area, cancer clusters, and being ignored by the EPA were also included in the long thread of commentary.

But there were a few points which were overlooked, which should be kept in mind. The EPA has precisely one monitor in Ashtabula County. It is located in Conneaut, miles from the source of the problem. The specific substances for which monitoring takes place are very limited.

Also, the complaints have focused on the scent, which implies a substance which is unpleasant and is picked up by the olfactory senses. This brings up other issues. First, substances such as Manganese are not monitored by the station in Conneaut. Second, one of the substances which we know is emitted is Carbonyl Sulfide. When this hits water, for instance in your nose or mouth, it becomes Hydrogen Sulfide, which deadens the olfactory receptors. So, you may well be inhaling something toxic which has no smell – or be unable to smell something which is toxic.

So now you can stop worrying about the smell, it is the least of our problems.

December 14, 2012 - Rethinking the Grid

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

21 percent of Americans believe they would not survive more than a week without this service. 28 percent think they could last, perhaps, two weeks. 75 percent say they would be dead in less than a half a year. 
These results from a poll conducted by Wenzel Strategies, a national polling company. Americans are afraid, but silent. 
The 'service' is electric power. We all know the power goes out on occasion – are we really this dependent on 'the grid?' Yes, we are. Many would be cut off from all services with out it and unable to even cook food. 
While the results of the survey from which these opinions were taken reflected a high degree of anxiety over the potential, few Americans really know how really fragile the network of power which lights their homes and connects them through the Internet and phone, really is.
And while conspiracy theorists worry about attacks of weapons which would take out 'the grid,' leaving Americans powerless, the sun over head, which warms us, caused exactly the same effects several times in the last half of the 20th Century.

Canada was hit in 1973 by a solar flare which caused outages leaving 6 million without power.
Waves of solar flares were responsible for knocking out shortwave radio communications in southern China in February of 2011 and more flares are now on track to impact Earth.

The grid, as it presently exists, is vulnerable, far more vulnerable than most understand. It also presents other hazards. Two massive fires, which raged across square miles at the cost of billions in Georgiaq and California within the last decade were caused by lines down from the grid.

We depend on a steady and reliable source of power – but our supply can be cut off through a tree down, a natural disaster, solar flares or an intentional attack.

Replacing the grid is expensive, adding to the costs paid by Americans as an ordinary price for living. If nothing else, Hurricane Sandy proved just how many people can be impacted from such foreseeable events. If the flare is large enough, this could be all of us, leaving no one to come to the rescue.

This is an open question, one which demands an answer for every town in America. Ask yourself, what would you do if the lights went out and no one was left to help?

December 7, 2012 - The Shepherds Come Down into Rome

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

At this time of year the shepherds came down from the hills into Rome to set up their braziers. In the evening you could find them by the flow of the embers and the rich scent of roasting chestnuts. I usually bought mine where the bridge flows over the Tiber River as a pathway to Castel Sant'Angelo. The shepherd had not changed his clothes to come into the city, and was always garbed in clothing which showed the wear of long, rough use. His hair was long, coming down past his shoulders.

The chestnuts were always so hot they would burn your hand through the newspaper cornucopia, which the shepherd rolled himself to hold them. Even through my leather gloves I could feel the heat sinking into my fingers as I handed him 50 Lire in payment along with a tip. He would always smile as I left, nodding as he said, “Buon Natale.”

As I walked into the night my eyes were drawn to the angel which sits atop Castel Sant'Angelo, lit up against the dark sky, seeming almost about to take flight. Castel Sant'Angelo means Castle of the Archangel.

The building was originally built as a tomb for Emperor Hadrian in 139 AD, it had taken sixteen years to complete. Later, it fell to the use of the popes, who built a secret corridor, called the Passetto di Borgo. Through this passage popes flee the Vatican to take refuge in the beautiful apartments maintained for their use, as happened when the army of Charles de Bourbon's sacked Rome in 1527.

When the shepherds come down they bring their bagpipes and fill the city with the sounds of their ancient instruments, too. Watching as they held them, close to their chests, the sounds swelling into the air around me, gave me a sense of reaching into the past. At first, the sound surprised me, as I had always associated bagpipes with Scots.

Walking on cobblestones, eating my cooling chestnuts, my next stop would be for Cioccolata Calda, heavy with chocolate and cream.

Rome was once the center of our world, a meeting place for diverse cultures and beliefs. It is right that walking through Rome during Christmas summons both the memory of the birth of the Prince of Peace and the winter still ahead, as on Solstice the earth begins its turn from winter toward the rebirth of spring.

November 29, 2012 - Remembering St. Nicholas this Christmas

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Santa Claus today is celebrated as a jolly elf driving a sleigh into the sky, bringing toys to children. But behind this shallow icon is the reality of a godly and courageous man whose life began less than 300 years after the death of Jesus.

St. Nicholas was born around AD c270 in Patara, Turkey to wealthy Christian parents. His parents taught him the lessons which were then remaking the world, handing down from remembered lessons the words and acts of Christ and the gospels. The four major books, Mark, believed to have been written around ce70, Matthew, Luke, and John were by this time in the hands of the people.

Christianity, during this period, was rapidly becoming the dominant faith of the Western world because instead of relying on words Christians followed the Word of Christ, treating all around them, as Christ had commanded, “as themselves.” Reaching into their communities Christians embraced those who did not share their faith. This was also true of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.

After the death of his parents Nicholas spent all of his inheritance caring for others. At a very young age, around 30, Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, the city now known as Demre, He lived his entire life centered on Jesus Christ, working for justice and caring for those in need.

Aware of the injustices done to women, he provided dowries to poor girls so they could marry and live righteously. Without fear, he confronted authority when injustice was being done, giving no thought for his own safety. When the people of Myra suffered from over taxation he persuaded the Roman Emperor to lower the tax. He endured imprisonment for his faith with unfaltering devotion. During his lifetime he appeared and spoke to those guilty of injustice, persuading them to change their hearts and do right.

Bishop Nicholas, defender of the faith, forcefully argued for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The Nicene Creed is still said in churches today. His acts reached around the Christian world, inspiring others to acts of love and faith in Jesus Christ.

On December 6th, 343 Bishop Nicholas died, but the reality of his acts and how they touched generations of people, continue with us today. This Christmas season, when you look at the image of Santa Claus, remember the real man.

November 22, 2012 - Say No to Excess, Yes to rebuilding

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

President Obama will continue in office for the next four years. A simple swearing in, instead of a lavish inaugural would be appropriate and a powerful statement which needs to be heard.

The present aftermath from Hurricane Sandy should not surprise any of us.We have seen the effects of hurricanes on population centers before. Even today, New Orleans has not been entirely rebuild, leaving over 30,000 people who formerly had homes are still waiting.

The tragedies now enveloping Americans in the communities on October 29th, could have been avoided. This disaster is a direct result of our failure to make sure the infrastructure on which we depend politically, economically, and to keep us safe in the face of disaster, does the job we pay to have done for us by government. The source of the problem is not 'natural disaster' but one of design and priorities.

The tens of thousands, now homeless, having lost everything, remain mired in the evidence our system has failed. We need to see this and take action.

Instead of sending out suggestions on supplies to have on hand, the enormously expensive government agencies which were assigned to provide for disaster relief should have:

Stockpiled immediate resources to be made been available to put people back into their neighborhoods with temporary housing complete power, generated on site, sanitary and cooking facilities. Plans for such units, which could have been moved in either by road or helicopter, as needed, were ignored in favor of FEMA trailers and shelters.

We should be working on fast-tracked plans for rebuilding. We know it will be necessary to replace homes, schools and other buildings quickly, the correct approach would be to do it now by spending money to provide better stability and security in impacted areas proven to be vulnerable to disaster. We need pay for no studies to know where this one is.

Rebuilding should be carried out Deep Green, entirely off the grids. The needed materials and technologies exist. Let's use them. Homes, schools, and businesses could even now be going up. Construction and rehabitation could take place in as little as a month for the first structures.

This is the plan we should have had in place.

It is time to move forward. It is past time for Americans to join together to make this happen. Ask President Obama to cancel the party for corporate donors.

November 14, 2012 - Sacrifice Zones in Ohio

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

It sounds like a horror movie but the book by author Steve Lerner, is impeccably documented. Writing about Marietta, Ohio and the struggle there for families to ensure their children are not at risk of Manganese poisoning, Lerner said, “Eramet (which uses manganese, cadmium, and lead, among other feedstocks, to strengthen steel and purify chromium) releases tons of heavy metal dust into the air. It is one of the county’s top polluters.”

“We thought we had the American dream,” says Lesley Kuhl, who since 2002 has lived with her husband and two young children on a quiet, leafy street in Marietta, Ohio.

Mrs. Kuhl is a Republican, a licensed attorney, who considered herself conservative, when the threat to her children forced her into action along with both environmental activists and others in her town, like Caroline Beidler, who could no longer ignore the visible impact of pollutants on the health of their families.

Caroline Beidler and her husband, Keith Bailey, a carpenter, had built their “dream home,” in Marietta, Ohio. At the time they were unaware that their little piece of heaven was only four miles, as the crow flies, from the French-owned ferroalloy plant of Eramet Marietta, Inc.

Their efforts transitioned from an informal club which logged the ugly odors carried by the breeze from the plant to increasingly organized efforts to stop the emissions. These struggles began in 2002. They continue today to stop the flow of toxic air into their homes.

In Ashtabula, Ohio, the reported levels of Manganese releases are higher. The chief polluter is Saudi Arabian.

The frightening reality is until people locally organize and take action the EPA is content to collect fines for violating emissions standards. The level of 'proof' required to enforce standards which cause no harm are based not on 'clear and convincing evidence,' the standard for civil litigation, but the far more stringent standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” required in criminal cases.

The impact of Manganese is devastating, mimicking conditions as Parkinson's Disease, not treatable by therapies now in use.

Children and older people are the most vulnerable, as activists in Marietta reported. If you know someone who is experiencing, “mental confusion, impaired memory, loss of appetite, mask-like facial expression and monotonous voice, spastic gait, or neurological problems the cause may be Manganese poisoning. Check out the symptoms. Get the facts. Doing so protects us here in Ashtabula.