Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: 7/31/05 - 8/7/05

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Rant - I never made it out veggie picking

I wanted to go veggie picking...I ended up in the @#$% emergency room instead. My lower legs are red and itchy. Turns out that I have @#$% "cellulitis" - fancy name for an infection usually found in folks with diabetes and/or heart issues.

If the antibiotics don't work I have to go into the @#$% hospital and be on IVs for awhile.

God...I hate this shit.

Airport security and baggage handling - hold on to your valuables!

Thursday, I finally took in our honeymoon pictures to be developed at Costco. The lady ahead of me had picked up her pictures and had a problem with several of them. I ended up overhearing her conversation with the clerk and was flabbergasted.

It seems that she was at a family reunion in Minnesota and caught her flight home to Anchorage at Minneapolis airport. Not only did they take her 2 disposable cameras in a baggage search, they ended up keeping them - with all of her pictures of the reunion!

The lady contacted Airport Security and after having to pay a Fed Ex bill, she got her cameras back...with some extras.

These guys had the balls to take pictures with one of her cameras! She showed them to me...they were NOT accidental because one of them was of a guy behind an x-ray machine looking right at the camera!

I encouraged her to report this to the Airport officials because, who knows what other mayhem these guys perpetrate on poor travelers! It made me curious so I started checking a few things on Google. What I found was pretty interesting.


More than 400 travelers at Pittsburgh International have filed those theft claims. They're among more than 36,000 passengers nationally. The TSA has reimbursed passengers in about half of those cases.

The TSA says none of its screeners in Pittsburgh has been terminated for theft. But as Team 4 discovered, when the TSA gets a theft complaint, the federal agency does not pass that information on to the police.

New York/New Jersey

Airport screeners need immediate access to luggage in order to conduct security searches for unsafe items. It's difficult to argue with this rationale. No one wants a bomb loaded secretly onto the plane she is boarding. But who doesn't feel a tiny bit of dread over the thought of a stranger rifling through his personal belongings? And what's more, what if that stranger steals something?

According to the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Police Department, that's exactly what occurred at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in 2004. Their investigation began in April in response to numerous complaints from airline passengers, including some celebrities. An airport sting operation recorded two Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners pilfering items from luggage investigators had baited with valuable items.

Authorities then secured search warrants for the suspects' homes, where they seized hundreds of stolen cameras, lap-tops, CDs, clothing, jewelry, and hand-held devices. Evidence suggests the screeners systematically lifted items from passenger's checked luggage and traded them for cash at pawn shops. If convicted, the two screeners face up to seven and four years in prison, respectively.

Washington D.C. - Dulles

Emmanuel Osho, 49, who supervised baggage handling for United Airlines at Dulles, could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine when he is sentenced Oct. 14 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Osho admitted during a plea hearing Wednesday that he would rifle through pallets of undelivered mail arriving as cargo on United flights and pluck out envelopes that appeared to contain new or reissued credit cards, stuffing them into a black duffel bag.

Prosecutors estimated that Osho stole roughly 2,000 credit cards from October 2003 to January 2005. Osho sent the credit cards to Brooklyn, N.Y., to a coconspirator, Ademola Idowu, who then distributed the cards to others who would use them up and down the East Coast to obtain fraudulent cash advances.
Cincinnati: The link has an interview on a T.V. station.

Multiple U.S. Airports

While there have been some successful prosecutions, in at least one case the T.S.A. let a screener off the hook. Last year, video cameras recorded a Miami screener stealing CD's from checked luggage. But criminal charges were dropped after the screener's lawyer made it clear that he planned to ask a government official about T.S.A. operations at the trial.

The possibilities for mischief are considerable. Congress requires the transportation agency to check all airline baggage with bomb-detection machinery or with hand-held bomb detectors. More than $5 billion has been spent by the government and airports to purchase and install the new equipment. Unfortunately, the machines are unreliable. In 2002, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta told Congress that the machines have a false-positive rate of 35 percent - and if a bag tests positive, it must be searched by hand. To do this, agents routinely examine baggage in closed areas, far from prying eyes.
I found a list of U.S. airports and the amount of theft reported to the TSA through 8/31/04. I also found a list of U.S. airports and their passenger traffic statistics for 2004. It's very interesting to compare the two - Anchorage with 4.88 million travelers had a reported theft amount of $43, 489.44 through 8/31/04. However, Kansas City, with just over 10 million travlers, reported a theft amount of only $21,489.84. It makes me wonder if there is even a standardized reporting procedure.

I know friends who have had IPods, cameras, even lingerie (creepy!) stolen out of their bags. I'd be interested to hear others opinions.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Illustrious Alaska Medical Board

I missed the fact that my Letter to the Editor in support of Dr. Joyce Murphy appeared in the Daily News yesterday. It was titled "Writer needs to do more research before hailing medical board's act."

It's interesting that we haven't heard a peep about Dr. Murphy in several weeks...long after the decision by the Medical Board was supposed to have been made. I think the bad press scared them.

Oh, speaking of doctors who have their licenses suspended...check out the article today:

A state administrative judge has recommended that Dr. Gary Gerlay's medical license remain suspended.

In his written decision made public Thursday, Judge David Stebing said the suspension was justified by Gerlay's sexual misconduct with patients, failure to provide adequate care and concerns about the doctor's drug use.

The Alaska State Medical Board suspended Gerlay's license April 21, after a three-year state investigation that concluded he was an immediate danger to the public. Gerlay contested the suspension in a hearing before Stebing in June.

Holy crap! They suspended Dr. Murphy's license(s) just because they were questioning her percentage of C-sections! SHE HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG AND NO ONE GOT HURT! The investigation wasn't even complete yet and had only been going on for a few months!

Yet they gave that animal THREE #$%^ YEARS to continue practicing!

I just love Governor Murkowski's right-wing Alaska state bureaucracy! We have doctors sexually abusing their patients? Bah...no big deal...they can wait three years! We have a doctor who helps women get inexpensive contraception and supports natural childbirth to the detriment of hospital profits? For God's sake, stop her from practicing!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Another Alaskan loses his life in Iraq

Lance Corporal Grant B. Fraser from Anchorage, 22 years old, was one of the 14 Marines killed by a roadside bomb on Wednesday.

He graduated from Service High School in 2001 and was a freshman there when my husband was a senior.

According to the New York Times, we can expect to see many more of these high-fatality incidents:
The explosion that killed 14 marines in Haditha yesterday was powerful enough to flip the 25-ton amphibious assault vehicle they were riding in, in keeping with an increasingly deadly trend, American military officers say.

In recent months the roadside bombs favored by insurgents in Iraq have grown significantly in size and sophistication, the officers say, adding to their deadliness and defeating efforts to increase troops' safety by adding armor to vehicles.

The new problems facing the military were displayed more than a week earlier, on July 23, when a huge bomb buried on a road southwest of Baghdad Airport detonated an hour before dark underneath a Humvee carrying four American soldiers.

The explosive device was constructed from a bomb weighing 500 pounds or more that was meant to be dropped from an aircraft, according to military explosives experts, and was probably Russian in origin.

The blast left a crater 6 feet deep and nearly 17 feet wide. All that remained of the armored vehicle afterward was the twisted wreckage of the front end, a photograph taken by American officers at the scene showed. The four soldiers were killed.
The President seems to have decided that it isn't really a "struggle," it really is a "war."
President Bush publicly overruled some of his top advisers on Wednesday in a debate about what to call the conflict with Islamic extremists, saying, "Make no mistake about it, we are at war."

In a speech here, Mr. Bush used the phrase "war on terror" no less than five times. Not once did he refer to the "global struggle against violent extremism," the wording consciously adopted by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other officials in recent weeks after internal deliberations about the best way to communicate how the United States views the challenge it is facing.
It's like watching someone playing ping pong blindfolded.

So tell me, Mr. President, exactly when are we getting our folks out?

Just in time to add to my anxiety!

There was an article in the Anchorage Daily News today about a doctor I just started to see - Dr. Michael Todd. He's head of the Chinook Surgery Group, Alaska Bariatric Center.

Yes, that means I am working towards bariatric surgery. Yes, I'm wracked with anxiety over it.

I swore for many years that I would never go for this surgery. I was afraid of the complications. I thought that it was a money-making gig targeting desperate folks. I thought that other methods were a better choice.

Frankly, I haven't changed most of my views. The difference: my health has gotten to a point where I need to do something rather drastic within the next few years unless I want a significantly shortened life span. Also, I've known enough folks who have had the surgery to know that it works.

- As a result of a virus-gone-bad, I developed Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Because it was mis-diagnosed for 3 years, I ended up with Congestive Heart Failure 2-3 years ago. Due to life-changes and medication, my heart output is almost normal again. However, now my weight becomes a factor due to future, constant strain on the heart.

- Over the years, I have developed more and more pain in my neck, back and knees. As a result of x-rays and cat-scans, the docs discovered that I have severe disc degeneration in my neck and back (the whole thing) and severe degeneration in both knees to the point that the bones are hitting each other on occasion.

- My diabetes has been well under control for the last seven years. I am now struggling with it.

- My blood pressure is under good control as a result of medication. However, I don't know what the future may bring.

I've been on diets off and on all of my life. I've probably lost enough combined weight to make 2 or three normal sized adults. I've always gained it all back. With the hormonal changes I've gone through after turning 40, it's been harder and harder to lose.

So, my doctors suggested this. So far, the only folks who have tried to talk me out of it are those who don't have a clue. Most people who know me understand that as far as my health goes, this is a last ditch effort. If I wait much longer, my health will be such that I won't even qualify to have the surgery.

Anyway, expect to see occasional posts of my internal angst about all of this! If anyone has experiences with it, good or bad, I'd be happy to get your input.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Open Thread - Issues of the Day

- 7 Marines were killed yesterday and 14 more Marines and their interpreter were killed in Iraq today. They were all from the same unit.

- Bear sow shot and "left to rot" at Russian River - her three 2-year-old cubs posing a danger to anglers

- First witnessed tornado touch-down ever in the Aleutian chain - Sand Point to be exact

What else is going on?

Gov. Jay Hammond - Death of a Giant

Loved by Republicans and Democrats, Jay was someone you don't find very often today - a uniting force. All who knew him say the same thing; whether or not you agreed with him, you ALWAYS knew he had the best interests of Alaska and her people at heart.

Ohio could be the beginning

Iraq Veteran and virtual unknown (before the national media attention), Democrat Paul Hackett, lost the special election for a seat in the House of Representatives by a little over 3000 votes - only about 3% - to well-known, well-funded Republican State Legislator Jean Schmidt. This is in a state that went 64% for Bush in 2004.

Thomas over at Knappster has a nice analysis of the Ohio election and what it may signify to Democrats in the future.
And what about other issues? Well, here's what Hackett had to say during the Democratic primary debate:

"I don't need Washington to tell me how to live my personal life, or how to pray to my God. And I don't need Washington to dictate to my wife the decisions that she makes with her doctor, any more than I need Washington to tell me which guns I can keep in my gun safe."

Hackett struck some solidly libertarian themes in his campaign versus his big-government Republican opponent.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer
"There's no safe Republican district. You can run, but you cannot hide," said U.S. Rep. Rahm Emmanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

He noted that Hackett did well in rural counties — he carried Adams, Brown, Scioto and Pike while Schmidt carried Hamilton, Clermont and Warren — and that he ran as a political outsider against "a career politician."

"Paul Hackett was the agent of change," Emmanuel said.

Yup...we'll see him again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Like my new advertising banner?

Not bad for a rank amateur!

Hillary is coming North!

I guess Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain are coming up to Alaska to see global warming for themselves:
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the co-author of a bill to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., are expected to tour Alaska and northwestern Canada, where permafrost is melting, glaciers are in rapid retreat and coastal villages are threatened with increasing erosion. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are also slated to make the trip, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 16 to 19.

Of course, this next bit is no surprise:
Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens, meeting with reporters in Anchorage at the start of Congress' August recess, will not be joining the tour, they said. Both Alaska senators oppose the bipartisan Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, authored by McCain and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., for its mandatory emission reductions.

Yup, good old Ted and Lisa...at first, "global warming" didn't exist. Now that living in Alaska makes that belief seem absolutely ridiculous, they concede the existence of global warming, but they just don't believe humans have anything to do with it.

I'm going to give the Alaskan Demos a call...see if I can "meet" Hillary again...well, me and a couple thousand of my closest friends. When she was here with Bill, I got to shake her hand.

Monday, August 01, 2005

"...the biggest Army deployment from Alaska since the Vietnam War."

Today's Anchorage Daily News:
About 3,800 soldiers from forts Richardson and Wainwright are to ship out for Iraq during August. They are from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and will use 300 of the new Stryker units, eight-wheeled armor combat vehicles that carry soldiers.
I was in Costco the end of last week and saw a family doing two carts worth of shopping. Dad was wearing desert BDUs and the little girl kept clinging on to him. I got a lump in my throat.

Alaska has lost two soldiers to the Iraq War. With 3,800 over there in the thick of it, doing reconnaissance and convoy security (among other duties), I'm sure we all fear that the number will rise.

May the War end before they serve out their year over there.

Alaska "Pork" - it works for me!

Do you know why it works for me? Because so many damn politicians, activists, etc...think they know what's best for us in Alaska!

They want to develop our land or they want to preserve our land from development.

They want to make sure there are enough trophy animals up here for them to kill on their vacations or they want to interfere with whatever wildlife management plan we come up with.

They want to ban trapping and the fur trade.

They want a larger percentage of whatever oil is extracted from Alaska wells.

Left, Right, Conservative, Liberal...it doesn't matter because EVERYONE in the lower-48 seems to think they know better how to manage our affairs than we do! I mean, are we as a country totally obsessed with the same number of issues in Kansas? Idaho? I think not!

So...fine...if they want to interfere, then they can pay for it!

Congress passed a $286.4 billion highway and mass transit bill covering road, rail, waterway and bridge construction projects from now until 2009. $200 million of that is earmarked for the Knik Bridge - opening a second and much faster thoroughfaire to and from the Mat-Su Valley.

A group called "Taxpayers for Common Sense" is stringently objecting to the bridge. This is a reprint of an email I sent to Keith Ashdown of that organization regarding his blatant misinformation:
Mr. Ashdown:

The state of Alaska has ONE (1) highway connecting Anchorage with the rest of the state.

Let me repeat that – ONE (1) highway.

As it stands, our population is growing. To do so requires that housing spread north along that ONE (1) highway. Rush hour has become unbearable at times…an accident keeps folks from getting to work or getting home for hours. In case you still don’t get it…they can’t get home BECAUSE THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE to that road.

The bridge over Knik Arm (which will be named after Don Young who has been a Congressman up here probably longer than you’ve been alive) will connect Anchorage with the Mat Su Valley through Point MacKenzie along Knik/Goose Bay Road. This will be salvation to the Valley in two ways:

1) It will provide a second, faster way for commuters to get to Anchorage.
2) It will open up a large area for housing and business development which, until now, was too far away to be lucrative.

I know this is hard for you to comprehend since there is NO PLACE down there that is actually undeveloped or suffers from a severe lack of roads. We are a state with almost no roads. Juneau, our capital, doesn’t even have a road connecting it with the rest of the continent (and I understand you folks are bitching about that potential expenditure, aren’t you?) I’m sure that you find it “quaint” that the only way to get around in most of this state is by 3 and 4-wheeler, or in the winter, snow machine. However, we find it damn inconvenient and an impediment to basics like electricity and running water.

Our options are extremely limited due to topography and environmental concerns as to where we can put other road connections. Your alleged "bridge to nowhere" would connect us to the Knik-Goose Bay Road in the Mat-Su Valley which is now a long drive-time from Anchorage. With the bridge, the area along the road would acheive rapid business development and the population that lives there would multiply into thriving community areas.

Oh and by the way, all of the people who live in that area (and I know a few) REALLY appreciate knowing that they live "nowhere."

We are a state like every other state. We’d like to be able to have decent transportation like every other state without having to kiss your asses for it. And ya know what, since we provide a big chunk of the oil produced in the U.S., we’re entitled.

By the way, the bridge is expensive due to wetland protections and other environmental restrictions. I guess that’s the trade off for those of you in the lower-48 “knowing best” what’s good for Alaska, isn’t it?

So before you have any more bright ideas on what we need and don’t need, why don’t you bring your uninformed butt up here? I’m sure SOMEONE would give you a tour.
By the way, on Friday, a source involved with the Knik Bridge construction told me that a large infusion of money came in - about $280 million - towards the project. However, the environmental plan must be finalized over the next several weeks and there could be some major (and extremely expensive) environmental roadblocks (i.e. FUDS-type cleanups) necessary to overcome before the project can even get started. Solving those issues will require much behind-the-scenes manuevering by good old Uncle Ted (for those who don't know - that means Senator Ted Stevens). Other sources close to the project think that the $600 million pricetag that is frequently quoted is extremely conservative - that doubling that figure is closer to the mark.

Much of this information should be hitting the fan later today among the parties involved - whether it becomes public other than on this blog remains to be seen. (I love my sources!)

So, do I think that the project should still continue?

If it were Washington or California or any other state in the lower-48, it wouldn't even be a question.

It was a dark and stormy fiction contest...

One of my favorite yearly emails is the one that goes out when the winners of The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest are announced (Bulwer-Lytton was the author who coined "It was a dark and stormy night," the beginning of one of the worst book-opening lines ever. )

The contest (dis)honors the worst opening lines from works of fiction in categories from Puns to Poetry, from Romance to Sci-Fi. Every year it provides me with a rollicking good time when I read the winners.

However, this year - I could not be more proud. An Alaskan has joined the ranks of the literary "rank" as a winner in the "Spy" category!

Charles Jaworky of North Pole, Alaska has given us this gem:

The double agent looked up from his lunch of Mahi-Mahi and couscous and realized that he must escape from Walla Walla to Bora Bora to come face-to-face with his arch enemy by taking out his 30-30 and shooting off his nemesis' ear-to-ear grin so he could wave bye-bye to this duplicitous life, but the chances of him pulling this off were only so-so, much less than 50-50.
*sniff, sniff*

I have a lump in my throat!