Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water

Right now, almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s one in eight of us.

Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Children are especially vulnerable as their bodies aren't strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses. The UN predicts that one-tenth of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply and sanitation.

But water moves beyond just a human rights issue. It's an environmental issue, an animal welfare issue, a sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, deserving of a global conversation.

That's what this year's Blog Action Day is all about.

The Texas Observer -- specifically, Forrest Wilder -- has done the best job of blogging this topic locally. Herre are some of his most recent postings:

They're Stealin' Our Water, Pa. Say It Ain't So.

The Late Great Ogallala Aquifer

The End of the Hill Country

There's Something in the Water

A 'Partial Victory' for Texas Streams

Texas Cloverleaf's contribution is about water in the Barnett Shale. TxSharon at Bluedaze has 68 posts on that subject. More from a global POV...

  • A Human Right: In July, to address the water crisis, the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right over. But we are far from implementing solutions to secure basic access to safe drinking water. More Info »
  • 40 Billion Hours: African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. More Info »
  • 38,000 Children a Week: Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. More Info »
  • Wars Over Water: Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa. More Info »
  • Cell Phones vs. Toilets: Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets, but many more have access to a cell phone. More Info »
  • Food Footprint: It takes 24 liters of water to produce one hamburger. That means it would take over 19.9 billion liters of water to make just one hamburger for every person in Europe. More Info »
  • Technology Footprint: The shiny new iPhone in your pocket requires half a liter of water to charge. That may not seem like much, but with over 80 million active iPhones in the world, that’s 40 million liters to charge those alone. More Info »
  • Fashion Footprint: That cotton t-shirt you’re wearing right now took 1,514 liters of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 liters. More Info »
  • Bottled Water Footprint: The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled. More Info »
  • Waste Overflow: Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water sources. This not only negatively impacts the environment but also harms the health of surrounding communities. More Info »
  • Polluted Oceans: Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year. More Info »
  • Uninhabitable Rivers: Today, 40% of America’s rivers and 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life. More Info »
  • Building Wells: Organizations like and charity: water are leading the charge in bringing fresh water to communities in the developing world. More Info »
  • Technology for Good: Do you want to measure how much water it took to make your favorite foods? There’s an app for that. More Info »
  • Conservation Starts at Home: The average person uses 465 liters of water per day. Find out how much you use and challenge your readers to do that same. More Info »
  • Keeping Rivers Clean: We can all take small steps to help keep pollution out of our rivers and streams, like correctly disposing of household wastes. More Info »
  • Drop the Bottle: Communities around the world are taking steps to reduce water bottle waste by eliminating bottled water. More Info »
  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools: Students in developing countries lose 443 million school days each year due to diseases associated with the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene. Repeated episodes of diarrhea and worm infestations diminish a child’s ability to learn and impair cognitive development. More Info »

Radnofsky, Abbott, Roland face off on "RW&B"

"Red White and Blue" is the local PBS affiliate's political talk show and during the election season features candidate fora. In this thirty-minute video (for broadcast this weekend) the candidates for Texas attorney general -- Barbara Radnofsky, Greg Abbott, and Jon Roland -- take questions from conservative Gary Polland and progressive David Jones.

Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky assailed Attorney General Greg Abbott on his campaign contributions and other topics this week in a Houston TV appearance that served as the closest forum to a debate yet.

Radnofsky accused the Republican incumbent for cowing to his political donors and being Gov. Rick Perry's "consigliere," a term referring to an organized crime boss' top adviser.

Those highlighted a series of sharp exchanges between the two on Red, White and Blue, a political show that airs on HoustonPBS.

"His campaign slogan should be, 'Don't tread on my donors,' " she said. "This gentleman has a history, with all due respect, of decision-making that paves the way for his donors to continue to their practices."

King Street Patriots are breaking the law -- again

If you see any of these thugs at your polling place on Election Day -- or, for that matter, at an early voting location -- call the Harris County Sheriff's Department immediately.

A video shows Texas House District candidate Jim Murphy (R) engaging in political speech at a King Street Patriots event to which opponent state Rep. Kristi Thibaut (D) was not invited. In the video, Murphy talks about his candidacy for office, criticizes Thibaut numerous times and appeals to the audience for help with his campaign.

“I think it’s blatant electioneering. What the King Street Patriots are doing as a nonprofit is prohibited under law,” said Craig McDonald, director of nonprofit watchdog Texans for Public Justice. “If they want to do that kind of one-sided politicking, they need to be a political party or a political committee. They can’t hide behind nonprofit laws to do political campaigning.”

KSP is registered with the Texas Secretary of State as a nonprofit corporation, and, according to KSP representatives, is a nonprofit 501(c)4 corporation. A 501(c)4 group does not have to disclose the source of its donations. Violating state campaign finance laws against corporate contributions is a felony that can carry thousands of dollars in fines and years in jail.

They're in league with the outgoing Harris County voter registrar Leo Vasquez, also a violation of the law which has resulted in yet another lawsuit filed against that office. The Harris County GOP is working in concert with them to "train pollworkers". They intend to intimidate and harass voters on Election Day.

Glenn Smith, Stace Medellin, and I have previously documented these violations. What these radicals have already done, however, pales in comparison to what they plan to do in the coming election period.

The video, posted Oct. 6 to by a user named King Street Patriots, opens with text introducing Murphy as a candidate for U.S. House of Representatives District 133. (There are only 32 congressional districts in Texas — Murphy is a candidate for the Texas House.) The text also identifies Catherine Engelbrecht, president of KSP and its 501(c)3 nonprofit True The Vote, and dates the video Sept. 20, 2010.

In the video, Engelbrecht introduces Murphy: “He is, as we all know now, up against Kristi Thibaut” — someone off-screen shouts “ACORN” — and Engelbrecht smiles and says, “Hmmm, really….”
Engelbrecht continues, “Without further ado, let’s bring up our soon-to-be Rep. Jim Murphy.”

Murphy begins his speech by thanking KSP for its work challenging voter applications sent in by nonprofit Houston Votes, a project of Texans Together Education Fund. Thibaut has a leadership position in the organization, and also received $43,000 in political contributions in 2008 from Texans Together’s affiliated political committee, which, unlike KSP, is registered with the Texas Ethics Commission.

In the video, Murphy calls on Thibaut to resign her position with the group, denounce its activities and to “return that tainted money.”

Murphy tells the audience that he lost his 2008 Texas House reelection bid to Thibaut by a mere 453 votes: “But who’s counting?” he jokes. (Murphy actually lost by 497 votes, according to the Texas Secretary of State.)

Murphy introduces his wife to the crowd, as well as his campaign manager Tom Holloway and assistant campaign manager Rachel Nicholson, identifying them by name.

“I point them out because they want you to get to work, and they want to see you after this presentation, so we’ll get to that,” Murphy says before launching into the subject of the Texas Legislature.

At the end of his roughly 30-minute talk, during a Q&A session with the audience, Murphy appeals for their help in electing more Republicans to the Texas House, in order to replace House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) with someone more conservative.

“We need about another eight Republicans across the state,” Murphy says. “And you have friends in Dallas; you have friends in East Texas; you have friends in Central Texas that can influence these elections, that will give us the numbers we did [before the 2008 elections].”

At one point in the video, after making an awkward joke about heterosexuality and marriage, Murphy laughs and says, “Is this being filmed? You can edit that part out.”

He continues, “We’re among friends.”

The Texas Ethics Commission has a procedure for filing a complaint against this illegal activity as the first step in citizen action. You may call them for more information at 1-800-325-8506.


* Houston tea party group King Street Patriots may risk violating state, federal laws, experts say
* Houston tea party-trained poll volunteers not expecting voter fraud, are prepared to address it, group leader says
* Harris County GOP directs pollworkers to training from tea party group
* Harris County spokesman: Democrats’ $1.5 million voter records request vastly different from tea party’s $1,000 one
* Rabid Dog Briefly Mistaken for Tea Party Candidate (Andy Borowitz)
* Right wing anxiety over voter fraud grows

And an excerpt from that last link ...

Emerging from the resulting hysteria has been a concerted effort among some tea party groups, most notably the one in Harris County, to conduct training sessions for poll workers and recruit volunteers to monitor the polls during election day. This development, in turn, has alarmed voting experts who are less concerned about dead or imaginary people showing up to vote than poll watchers who might unfairly challenge votes because they are partisan or don’t understand the rules of polling places.