Celebrities Shine Media Spotlight on 9/11 Health
Tom Cruise and his wife Katie Holmes headlined a fundraiser last week for the 9/11 Workers Detoxification project, a downtown clinic where first responders receive detoxification treatments created by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The number of attendees at the dinner was not disclosed, nor the total amount of money raised. However, media reports claim that each plate at the dinner cost $6,250, so the take was conceivably well into the six figures. TomKat, as the media have dubbed the couple, are shown arriving at the event held last Friday. Read more at the "celebrity environmentalist" blog "Ecorazzi."
Rosie O'Donnell has also become an enthusiastic advocate for supporting sick 9/11 workers. This morning on "The View," she interviewed first responders who have developed respiratory and other illnesses since their work at Ground Zero, as well as health experts. Rosie writes on her blog: "...nearly 6 years later
these once sturdy americans r completely disabled unable to walk up a flight of stairs one had an oxygen tank with him tubes in his nose forcing air in to destroyed lungs--
unbearable-- there were 50 thousand people who walked toward the fallen towers
half of them r now sick 25 thousand people. 25 THOUSAND PEOPLE !!!!!!!!!!... unreal, truly unreal, the united states, no funding for treatment of these humans, i cried..."
During the show, Rosie promised to make easing the plight of 9/11 responders a priority of her new career post-"The View." The show reaches an audience of millions, and the hosts repeatedly stressed that the problems facing 9/11 workers were "national." Establishing 9/11 health as a nationwide concern is vital as health monitoring organizations continue to solicit money from the federal government. "The View" deserves kudos for bringing this issue to American culture's main stage: daytime TV.
Court Backs Former EPA Chief Whitman in 9/11 Toxins Case
Last week, a lawsuit charging former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman with liability for 9/11 health woes was dismissed. A federal appellate court found that Ms. Whitman's statements in 2001 that the air near Ground Zero was safe to breathe were not “conscience-shocking.” The three-judge panel did not make any factual finding as to the quality of the air, or as to whether the EPA had intentionally misled the public, which Ms. Whitman has denied doing. The court’s decision read: “When great harm is likely to befall someone no matter what a government official does, the allocation of risk may be a burden on the conscience of the one who must make such decisions, but does not shock the contemporary conscience.”
Basically, the judgment says that the government was compelled to clean up the WTC site and that the workers currently facing health problems would still have them regardless of the statements Ms. Whitman made in 2001. Whether a government official's actions are "conscience-shocking" is a legal standard that decides whether the official is liable, in certain types of lawsuits. However, that legal standard is narrow and other lawsuits are pending against Ms. Whitman that use broader standards. "I always thought that if you accepted they were lies — lies to get these people working down there — that those lies were inherently conscience-shocking," the lawyer who brought the case, Stephen Riegel of Weitz and Luxemberg P.C., is quoted in New York Sun coverage. Apparently the appellate judges disagree.
Congressional Hearing Examines Health Effects in Outer Boroughs
The EPA and WTC health were also in the news this week because of a Congressional hearing focused on environmental effects of 9/11 in the outer boroughs of New York. The hearing, of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform, was presided over by Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY), of Brooklyn, and held in Brooklyn Borough Hall. A panel of health experts, environmental advocates and local politicians urged the Environmental Protection agency to expand their decontamination and health-monitoring services to Brooklyn and other areas outside Manhattan that were affected by the large dust clouds that hovered over Ground Zero during the cleanup of the WTC. A parade of evidence, including aerial photos showing a plume of WTC dust covering a large slice of Brooklyn, was submitted along with testimonials of environmental and health workers who have experienced first-hand the contamination of Brooklyn’s air. Bonnie Bellow, a spokeswoman for the EPA in New York, told the New York Times, “While we had a wide range of various kinds of data to indicate there certainly was some dust that went to Brooklyn, we have focused our program closest to ground zero.” The EPA, she said, was “prioritizing the testing and the necessary cleanups” there. They were not invited to participate in the hearing.