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Health Care & Environment
05.23 Environmentalists Are Ignoring the Elephant In the Room: U.S. Military Is the World’s Largest Polluter [Since Trump had the EPA's records on global warming and pollution destroyed—and thus reporting world-wide has nearly stopped, let's pick on the US Military]
05.23 White House proposes slashing funds to clean up toxic sites despite EPA's pleas [far worse than just being stupid]
05.20 Global Study Shows Americans Dying from Preventable Causes at Shocking Rates [“What a country!” —Yakov Smirnoff]
05.20 China claims breakthrough in mining 'flammable ice' [might greater release of methane to our atmosphere become a larger problem?]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
05.23 Trump's budget: major slashes to social programs – but $1.6bn for the wall [disgusting that this was proposed at all]
05.21 The small Texas city fighting to remain a ‘safe haven’ for immigrants [morally right & courageous]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
05.20 The Malta Files: How the smallest EU country became a haven for global tax avoidance [why can't we play nice together?]
05.23 Could an Islamic reformation prevent violent radicalisation in Egypt? [denied vital lives enmasse, angry youth rebel in the only way that has any effect]
05.23 Facebook flooded with 'sextortion' and revenge porn, files reveal [wake-up people, don't let kids 'play' here]
05.22 Big game hunter is crushed to death when an elephant he was hunting in Zimbabwe is shot and falls on top of him [a fitting death to an elephant killer]
05.21 UK needs more immigrants to 'avoid Brexit catastrophe' [who benefits from bad "conservative" policy?]
05.21 THE LIGHTS ARE GOING OUT IN THE MIDDLE EAST [we suggest enticing a solar panel and battery manufacturers to locate in your countries to diversify economies and create jobs. use solar to empower yourselves...]
05.21 Budget analysis shows some Australian women hit with effective marginal tax rates of 100% ["conservatives" are cruel to the poor and desperate everywhere, to protect themselves from higher taxes]
05.21 Venezuela: 50th day of protests brings central Caracas to a standstill [who does interventions for countries? could the UN help more?]
05.21 Brexit and the coming food crisis: ‘If you can’t feed a country, you haven’t got a country’ [fear-based nationalism will become a costly problem]
Davitt McAteer’s Crusade for Safe Mines
First published in Mother Jones on Thursday, 8 March 2010
The Miner Act mandated a communications system that tracked the whereabouts of trapped miners. Only 8 percent of U.S. mines have installed such a system in the four years since the law was passed...
In Anderson Cooper’s CNN reports on the horror and grief following the deaths of 25 miners at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, the anchor turned to Davitt McAteer to explain what was going on. For more than 30 years, McAteer has been there through one coal mine disaster after another, pleading for reform.
The key questions in the Massey tragedy are the same as those that were asked following the deaths of 13 miners in Sago, West Virginia, in 2006. Following that incident, many questioned why the federal government would not mount an aggressive drive to enforce safety regulations in the nation’s mines. Neither the Bush administration nor Congress showed any serious willingness to tackle this problem head on. All that came out of the investigations was passage of the Miner Act, which required mines to set up secure areas where trapped workers could seal themselves off with enough food and water to last four days, in the hope that rescuers could reach them in that time. The law also mandated a communications system that tracked the whereabouts of trapped miners. Only 8 percent of U.S. mines have installed such a system in the four years since the law was passed, McAteer told me on the phone yesterday.
These communications systems are not rocket science. As far back as 1998, government and the mine industry were aware of technology that would allow them to stay in contact with trapped miners, as I wrote in a piece for the Village Voice following the Sago disaster:
The Massey disaster was caused by a methane explosion. “The numbers of volume [of the gas] are just huge,” McAteer said. “[Normally] the ventilation system should take care of it. But something failed.” He continued: “There is a record of terrible practices in the mine. Terrible.” So if the government knew of these violations, why wasn’t the mine shut down? McAteer said that the government could have done so—”if they had the balls.”
McAteer has been an often-lonely crusader for mine safety reform. I remember riding with him in a car in the 1960s down the narrow roads of the Appalachian coal country at night, during the efforts to oust the corrupt boss of the United Mine Workers union, Tony Boyle. We were scared to death. We kept watching out the back window for cars tailing us. We feared that we would be run off the narrow twisting roads that cut into the hillsides, with nothing but ravines far below. I remember wishing we had a gun. That coal field struggle ended with the election of Arnold Miller, a reform candidate, but not before the leading crusader, Joseph Yablonski, and his wife and daughter were shot and killed by Boyle operatives in 1969. (Boyle was later convicted for the murders.)
McAteer took me and other reporters all over the West Virginia coal fields, from mine to mine, to black-lung protest groups, to visit working miners and their families. He talked Consolidation Coal, then the industry leader, into letting us tour one of the company’s deep mines. He was the heartbeat of the reform effort—polite, diplomatic, cheerful, and most of all persistent.
Davitt started his career as one of Nader’s Raiders in Washington in the late 1960s. He fought for change in the coalfields—a struggle that culminated in the landmark 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. In the 1970s, after Boyle had been ousted from the UMW, he led the union’s health and safety programs. From 1994 through 2000 he was Bill Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of Labor in charge of mine safety. After Sago, West Virginia governor Joe Manchin asked McAteer to conduct an independent investigation, and he later testified before Congress in hearings that led to passage of the Miner Act of 2006.
All this time, McAteer has been searching for meaning in the coal business. He conducted a historical investigation of the most terrible disaster in the nation’s history at the Monongah mine in West Virginia, where on the morning of December 6,1907, 500 men and boys were killed. They left behind hundreds of women and more than 1,000 children. It was this disaster that ultimately led to a better understanding of industrial working conditions and paved the way for the first federal coal mine act. McAteer’s 30 years of work became a book, Monongah. But as the tragic events at Massey have shown, his work is far from over.
This post originally appeared on MotherJones.com.
Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.
Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.
This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on April 12, 2010.