Reports indicate that one worker has been injured and another is missing after a natural gas well fire and explosion in southwestern Pennsylvania early this morning. Fire was reported at the Lanco 7H well in an area about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh and just miles from the West Virginia border.
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I read an article the other day about a woman who was murdered by her estranged husband in the bathroom of a hotel room while her three children were in the other room. Her oldest daughter tried to dial 911 four times, but it didn't work because of how the hotel's phone system was set up. This hotel, along with a lot of other hotels, required you to dial 9 to get an outside line - even if you were trying to dial 911. The child never got through to 911, and her mother died. I was shocked when I read this because I have never considered the possibility that dialing 911 wouldn't be enough. If I needed to dial 911 from a hotel room, would I remember to dial 9 first? Probably not. Especially if it was a true emergency. In those times of panic, it's hard to stay calm and focus and think clearly.
If you believe their slogans, insurance companies are like a good neighbor. They're on your side. They keep their promises. They're helping people, guiding people, serving people. Rest assured, they say, you're in good hands. But that's the world of advertising, not the gritty world of reality where insurance companies are far more concerned with making a buck than being honest, reasonable or fair.
Like a whole lot of other folks, I look forward to the Super Bowl as much for the commercials as for the football (at least when the Steelers aren't playing). Over the years, marketing firms have outdone themselves in coming up with one great commercial after another. Who can forget Mean Joe Greene tossing his jersey to that young boy in the Coke commercial? Or the Budweiser commercial where the Clydesdales kneel to the empty New York skyline after 9/11? Although the vast majority of the commercials tug on our heartstrings or our funny bones, this year we had a new emotion added to the mix: anger. I am, of course, speaking of the Coke commercial in which "America the Beautiful" is sung in multiple languages. Shortly after the commercial aired, I began seeing a lot of Facebook comments and Twitter posts expressing a very wide range of emotions. The common theme in these comments was that this is "our" song, written to be sung in "our" language, and "our" language is English. Some of these comments came from folks that I know and respect, so I know they aren't made out of ignorance. Lots of times, people just haven't been presented with the other side of the issue at hand. Let me see if I can fix that.
Because it hasn't been said enough, I would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the teachers, aides, school administrators, principals, bus drivers and staff that help educate and take care of our kids. Watching out for our kids and helping provide them with good education is among the most important jobs in our society. I know that as I look back at my own childhood, I can think of many teachers who not only taught me what I needed to know, but who also inspired me to want to learn more. The job of a teacher is incredibly challenging. There is no "one right way" to teach a child. Each kid is an individual, with their own needs, goals, and abilities. Each kid learns in their own way and at their own pace. Every day, in every classroom, teachers, along with the support of the school's staff and administrators, face an enormous challenge. They must balance the effective education that we all expect with the daunting task of completing that mission in a room filled with kids who have their own emotional and educational needs. The best teachers make this balance look easy, but it's not, as I know from my own observations. My mom taught at a small Catholic elementary school where I grew up in Burlington, Vermont. After retiring from IBM, my dad taught high school before going on to his current position as a Professor in the Computer Science Department at Boston College. Both of them taught me the value of an education, a goal so important to them that after they were done helping me and my brother, they went on to help others further their own education.
Recently, Brandi Richards wrote a quasi-compelling blog regarding her love of the snow. As I sit in my office with my space heater on, the temperature outside sitting at a balmy -10, I would like to offer up this alternative. I'm over it. Over the snow. Over the cold. Over the winter. Bring on the spring and better yet, let's daydream about pop-up thunderstorms and watering our lawns.
I lived in the heart of the Kanawha Valley a/k/a "The Chemical Valley" for twelve years before leaving in 2009. Having a degree in chemistry, it amazed and perplexed me that chemical plants and storage tanks were permitted to operate in the midst of such a populated area, directly on the banks of rivers which provided drinking water to hundreds of thousands. I would see these facilitie s and wonder what chemicals were stored there and if anyone was really paying attention to what chemicals were where. Was anyone paying attention to how the chemicals interacted with one another if there was a system failure or accident and the chemicals came in contact with one another? Was anyone paying attention to whether the storage tanks were sufficient to withstand potential interactions with and among chemicals they were holding? Did anyone know what would happen in the event of a leak? Did anyone know the effects of human exposure to these chemicals? Were there mechanisms in place to protect the drinking water? When I would voice these concerns, my friend and colleagues would act like I was crazy. They, of course, assumed the answer to all of these questions was a resounding "yes". They trusted the "good corporate citizens" and the governmental regulators. Many thought these companies were overregulated. The events which began at Freedom Industries on January 9, 2014 proved their trust was misplaced and have forever changed the lives of the hundreds of thousands of West Virginians who have been exposed to both known and unknown chemicals and chemical combinations.
Three workers have been killed and others have been hurt in the collapse of a cell tower near Clarksburg, West Virginia. As the State continues to struggle with the aftermath of the water contamination disaster in the Kanawha region, this additional disaster is another blow. For older West Virginians, the collapse of a structure like this brings the Willow Island catastrophe to mind, where over fifty workers were killed in a collapse of a power plant cooling tower in 1978. More recently, disasters like Upper Big Branch and Sago , have claimed lives for workers on the job in West Virginia in mass incidents.
Happy Super Bowl weekend! As many prepare for the biggest sports weekend in America, we'll be taking it all in with our families and friends. Spring will soon be here - with competition and excitement in the air, it's a great time to sign your children up for sports and activities. The National Center for Education Statistics says that youth involvement in athletics correlates with higher attendance rates, higher grade point averages, improved social engagement, and improved college opportunities. Supporting your children's sports teams is also a great way to show them how much you care.
Why is the Super Bowl the most watched television event almost every year? Is it the matchup between two great football teams? Perhaps. Is it the halftime entertainment that provides memorable moments by famous musical acts like Janet Jackson's well-documented wardrobe malfunction? Possibly. But, I think the thing that may bring all ages, backgrounds, and sports fans and non-sports fans alike together is the commercials. Even if you don't know if a football is blown up or stuffed, even if you don't know the difference between Richard Sherman and Richard Simmons, everyone loves watching the commercials. We talk about and analyze them. They make us laugh. Heck, sometimes they even make us cry. There are the perennial favorites like the Budweiser Clydesdales . There are spots that stay with viewers for years like Mean Joe Greene's Coca-Cola ad. There are all types of funny animals such as monkeys, dogs, and frogs used to get our attention. Last year, Bordas & Bordas even got into the Super Bowl TV frenzy with a commercial of our own.