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The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Str... ((NEW))

Ripley searches for patterns in human behavior by interviewing hundreds of people who lived through catastrophes. Quick-witted survivors are surprisingly anomalous. One fellow who made it through a horrific aircraft disaster in 1977 happened to be sitting on the runway reading an in-flight safety instruction card when another plane crashed into his. He grabbed his wife, leapt through a hole in the fuselage, and turned to see his fellow passengers remaining docilely in their seats, immobile. Most of them died within minutes as fire swept through the wreckage.

The unthinkable: Who survives when disaster str...


At the moment of the explosion, an Anglican priest and scholar named Samuel Henry Prince happened to be eating breakfast at a restaurant near the port. He ran to help, opening up his church as a triage station. It was, strangely enough, Prince's second disaster in five years. He had responded to another local cataclysm in 1912, when a luxury cruise liner called the Titanic had sunk some five hundred miles off the coast of Halifax. Back then, Prince had performed burials at sea in the frigid waters.

Writing a book about disasters may sound voyeuristic or dark, and there are times when it was. But the truth is, I was mesmerized by this subject because it gave me hope. You spend enough time covering tragedies and you start to look for a foothold. I knew there was no way to prevent all catastrophes from happening. I knew it made sense to prepare for them and work to minimize the losses. We should install smoke detectors, buy insurance, and pack "go bags." But none of those things ever felt very satisfying.

I never expected to use what I had learned anytime soon. I usually show up at disaster sites after they happen, in time for the regrets and recriminations, but not the shaking or the burning. But I was wrong, in a way. From a physiological perspective, everyday life is full of tiny disaster drills. Ironically, after writing a book about disasters, I feel less anxious overall, not more. I am a much better judge of risk now that I understand my own warped equation for dread. Having studied dozens of plane crashes, I'm more relaxed when I'm flying. And no matter how many Code-Orange-be-afraid-be-very-afraid alerts I see on the evening news, I feel some amount of peace having already glimpsed the worst-case scenario. The truth, it turns out, is usually better than the nightmare.

Then there are the survivors of disasters, the witnesses who channel the voices of the victims. They were there, sitting next to them, seeing what they saw. And afterward, the survivors spend some portion of their lives thinking about why they lived when so many did not. They were lucky, all of them. Luck is unreliable. But almost all of the survivors I have met say there are things they wish they had known, things they want you to know.

Natural disasters like Ian are one of the most common causes for families to experience simultaneous deaths. Many families are prepared for the loss of a single parent or grandparent. They may have estate plans and guardianship designations in place to direct what happens after an unexpected death. But when an accident, natural disaster, or other event takes multiple family members at the same time, it raises questions about how their estates will be handled.

This can get complicated when an accident or natural disaster kills two or more family members at the same time. The question then becomes whether a probate attorney can prove that the would-be beneficiary survived longer than the deceased. Sometimes this comes down to medical records or death certificates to complete the grisly task of proving who died first.

One week ago, a 200-meter span of a bridge in Genoa collapsed, killing 43 people. It was an unthinkable, terrible tragedy. Victims include kids, French tourists returning home, and three Chilean immigrants. You can read their stories here, I recommend that because whenever a disaster is becoming the center of a political firestorm (as in this case) it is always important to remember what is truly the most important thing: the lives that were taken away.

In order to provide the best treatment in such a complicated setting, special adaptations must be made to the treatment algorithm of the ophthalmology team. In terms of individual trauma cases, the victim of a suicide bombing attack is no different from any other eye trauma patient. The sudden presentation of large numbers of injured patients, however, presents two types of challenges: the logistical one of rapidly processing masses of casualties through the system and the medical one of providing the best possible trauma care to severely wounded patients [14]. According to our protocol, all patients who complain of eye symptoms and all unconscious patients who sustain head or face injuries must be checked by an ophthalmologist. This requires special disaster on-call lists of ophthalmologists who are able to arrive to the hospital on extremely short notice since, thanks to the highly efficient organization of our Red Shield ambulance facilities, blast victims usually arrive at the hospital within minutes and are hurried to either diagnostic tests or directly to operating theaters. Upon arrival to the ED, every victim of a terrorist attack is triaged by a senior surgeon who synchronizes the activities of the multifaceted operation. The ophthalmologists already present in the hospital and the ones on-call who arrive to the ED are in contact with that surgeon in order to expeditiously locate the victims with ocular injuries, examine them, and send them to the operation theaters, intensive care units, imaging studies or home. There is a directive in our department that all available staff members must contact the hospital immediately upon learning about any suicide bombing attack to check whether their services are required. In the event of large-scale attacks, they are prepared to be recruited to assist in triaging and in treating all the victims, not just those with ocular injuries. The triage procedure is the key to the successful management of large trauma events: the most important rule is that all patients must be checked by the ophthalmologist wherever they are located on the hospital premises. Trauma patients invariably require urgent treatment and some are sent directly from the ER to either imaging units or immediately to the trauma surgical unit. The senior ophthalmologist on the premises must contact trauma registration services, get a list of all admitted patients (usually assigned numbers upon admission) and make sure that each and every one of them is examined, even during emergency surgery or during imaging interventions for non-ophthalmological injuries. When an open globe is suspected, the eye is immediately patched, and the finding is reported to the surgeon in charge of the patient: the staff is instructed not to intervene in the treatment of the eye. Further evaluation is done only when it is certain that there is no danger of expulsive hemorrhage.

The Republican's blind belief in deregulation has lead us to a disaster which may very well match that of the Great Depression. Phil Gramm slipped the Commodities Futures Modernization Act in as a rider to the Omnibus Spending Bill 2000 (a 19,000 page document) in order to get it passed (it failed to pass in two previous tries when subjected to scrutiny and an open vote). This CFMA is what legalized and allowed unregulated trading in Credit Default Swaps which brought down the Financial Services industry( -phil.html). Republicans cannot be trusted to run anything least of all our Government. Their belief in deregulation is founded on lobbyist dollars and a belief that Wall Street can do whatever it wants and it won't hurt the economy. This is idiocey.

Mumia et al: "We" are not "giving THEM energy" when our predator state and disaster capitalism remain strongly in place. Watch in the next weeks as Obama picks his team from the good old boy servants of the super wealthy just as Clinton did before him.

I agree with Mr. Galbraith that we need to return to federal regulation and oversight of the financial sector. I'm 62 years old and in my view, this country has been going downhill since Ronald Reagan was elected. I used to believe that the government was working to protect citizens from environmental hazards, dangerous pharmaceuticals, usurious lenders, financial chicanery, natural disasters, pandemics and epidemics-all the things government is good at protecting its people from. I believed, as an RN. that eventually we would have national healthcare. When I was young, health insurance was provided by NON profit companies and it was good. I watched it get worse and worse after Reagan ushered in managed care which turned out to be managed money. Suddenly, health insurance companies had stockholders and were no longer Non profits. After Reagan was elected, I noticed a huge increase in the number of homeless people in San Francisco. This began when Reagan (as Governor) closed the state hospitals in California and declared that communities would care for their mentally ill populations. Unfortunately, the funds for such care were not forthcoming. The conservative free market principles are about making money. A government has to have a social contract with its citizens, and once upon a time our government did. It has disappeared under Republican rule. Our government must renew the social contract and repair the broken trust of its people. This won't happen under a McCain presidency. As a conservative, he will continue the failed policies of Reagan and Bush. That's why this election is so important. Senator Obama offers the possibility of change and renewal of the social contract.

As I sat here in Southern California listening to JK Galbraith and Bill Moyers discuss our current economic woes on KCET-TV, I was shocked and appalled at Galbraith's suggestion that Social Security benefits to current beneficiaries be raised without regard for the looming crisis in that financial system. (Don't get me wrong, today's retirees, like my mother, are getting short shrift when it comes to retirement benefits. And they deserve an increase. But at what future price? No benefits at all for those under age 40-50 today.)If economists such as Galbraith think this is the greatest crisis of our lifetimes, they are sadly mistaken! It's coming in as little as 30-40 years from today. Today's problems are just the appetizers. The 2006 Trustees' Report on the Social Security Trust Fund identified a combined SHORTFALL in benefits funding for retirement and Medicare beneficiaries by 2080 of $87,000,000,000,000. That's $87 TRILLION!! Today's combined rescue, bailout, and coming stimulus packages might add up to three trillion dollars by the time everything is said and done if, as Galbraith contemplates, this situation takes three years to restore order and "trust." The first 25 percent of that has already been disbursed to AIG and in the $750 billion in added liquidity Congress has approved in the short term. Moyers put a current price tag of $8000+ per American household today on the cost when comparing the present turmoil to that of the 1980's Saving & Loan debacle. But all this pales by comparison when we look at the trouble Social Security is already fomenting beneath the surface. The Beltway codespeak about the need to "strengthen Social Security" that George Bush, Barack Obama, John McCain, and others in Congress each espouse is a financial nightmare that will be the downfall of America, and the collapse of the world economic "order" that is, today, already on the brink of ruin. The problems of Social Security have nothing to due with regulators asleep at the wheel. The Trustees have been trying to get Congress and others to address the issue for years, but no one wants to discuss this issue. The plan, as Steve Forbes wrote eight years ago this month after terminating his feeble effort to run for the presidency, has always been: "If we don't have the money to pay for the benefits when the time comes, we'll just sell some more bonds." And he was criticizing Congress for crafting that plan.For those who may be unaware, bonds = debt. And Galbraith, an economist who should know better, sat there facing Moyers saying, America has the opportunity today to borrow money for the next 20 years at 4.3 percent, the same rate as in the last years of the Eisenhower administration. Economists such as James Galbraith, his father John Kenneth, Milton Friedman, and dozens of others whose names should not be unfamiliar, have historically pooh-poohed the idea that there is a fundamental problem with America's spending into oblivion as we have seen in the last 26 or 27 years since Ronald Reagan was elected president, that there is no need to talk of paying off that debt. But in that time, the National Debt has risen from less than $1 trillion at the end of Jimmy Carter's tenure to today's recently authorized "debt ceiling" of $10.3 trillion. It used to be that $1 billion was an unimaginable number of dollars. Today, we toss $85 billion in the direction of AIG, $750 billion in the direction of the retail banks, as if it was penny candy being left out on the porch at Halloween. A trillion dollars is, seemingly, just a drop in the bucket. But take a look at the numbers: $1,000,000 = one million $1,000,000,000 = one billion $1,000,000,000,000 = one trillion One trillion dollars is one million million dollars. It still doesn't "sound" so bad does it? That's why the "economists" aren't afraid of it. But we citizens of the US, ought to be profoundly disturbed by $10,300,000,000,000 of current debt AND an additional $87,000,000,000,000 accumulating "under the radar" supposedly tracking fiscal responsibility. The current economic fiasco is probably going to cost some $3,000,000,000,000 by the time order is restored out of the present chaos. $13,000,000,000,000 + $87,000,000,000,000 = $1,000,000,000,000,000 . . . a "gigamillion" . . . what we once used to call a "bazillion." From where, exactly, will all this money come? In the last days of the Weimar Republic prior to the rise of Adolph Hitler, the government flooded to streets with money to "stimulate the economy" (sound familiar?) with the end result being recorded for posterity in the photographs we have seen of people pushing their money around town in wheelbarrows just to buy a loaf of bread and a liter of milk. With the Federal Reserve pumping cash to the banks, Congress about to create another "stimulus package" (#3 in 7 years), the Treasury getting the printing presses warmed up, it's coming. Not necessarily in the remaining lifetimes of us Baby Boomers. But definitely within the lifetimes of my granddaughters, who were born in 2000 and 2003, and their yet to be born children. I would prefer that it not happen to them, but America is charting a course today that all but guarantees it. Why? Because as we dole out the bonds today, as they have been doled out in the past 28 years and more, and as they'll certainly be doled out in the future, there has never been a genuine discussion of paying off the debt, and not incurring any more in the future. We just sell more bonds to raise capital to pay the interest and principal we owe. And I don't use the term "we" without implication. "We" means the American voting public. "We" keep electing and reelecting the same scoundrels to office term after term after term. One definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." If American voters don't wake up and start removing the idiots in Washington and elsewhere from their political offices, nothing will change. Mark my words, if the Social Security system is not dismantled soon -- at least for those who are 10-15 years from their retirement benefit time, who would have enough time to enact a "Plan B" (as I once wrote to Bill Clinton in 1993, when I was 40, and to George Bush in 2001, when I still had time) -- then America is doomed. And doomsday will be here 40 years earlier than the 2006 Trustees' Report discussion of the "infinite horizon," in 2080, which requires the $87,000,000,000,000 in actual Trust Fund cash, not the special Treasury bonds (IOUs) that fill it today.Just as Congress created the financial disaster we are struggling to comprehend today, so, too, is Congress to blame for the unseen portion of the Social Security "iceberg" that will be just as catastrophic for America as a real iceberg was for the Titanic 93-1/2 years ago.It's nearly too late to man the lifeboats today. 041b061a72


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