Ugly and expensive.
That applies to the grotesque transit station foisted upon New Yorkers at the World Trade Center, described by the civic asset David W. Dunlap in Wednesday’s Times.
Or it could apply to the hideous World Trade Center now looming at the bottom of Manhattan, critiqued recently by another vital journalist, Michael Kimmelman.
But the toxic telephone poles, perpetrated by government in Port Washington, Long Island are downright bad for health.
These new poles tower above the tree line, foisted upon the populace after Hurricane Sandy took down many existing poles two years ago.
Something had to be done. Governor Andrew Cuomo arranged for a power company to take over for our incompetent locals. He reached across the river to the state of his partner and pal Chris Christie, the bridge guy, and imported the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), which describes itself as “a publicly traded (NYSE:PEG) diversified energy company headquartered in New Jersey, and one of the ten largest electric companies in the U.S.”
In the wake of the storm, utility crews from Canada to Mississippi to the Midwest did an admirable job restoring power, but somehow thousands of healthy-looking trees were cut down, giving the impression that crews were paid by the tree trunk. The utility then installed poles 80 feet high, twice the height of the previous poles, and our local government bunglers forgot to arrange for taking down the old poles. So now we have double sets, a blight on the entire peninsula.
Bad enough. But it turns out the new poles are also poisonous – treated with Pentachlorophenol, known as Penta, “a PCP chemical produced by mixing and pressure-treating wood with lethal phenols, chlorine and F9-HTS biodiesel fuels. Penta preserves the wood from rot by killing any living organism in, on or up to eight feet around the pole,” according to one environmental web site.
The site continues: “With that chemical cocktail, Penta poles leach carcinogenic poisonous gases and liquids that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says shouldn’t be encountered without protective clothes, gloves and masks.”
Belatedly, PSEG began putting aprons around the lethal poles, and putting signs every few poles, but the poison still leaches into the aquifer.
As the price for being poisoned, Long Islanders are receiving rate increases of 27 per cent from PSEG this fall. I am sure the PSEG shareholders are happy about the rates.
I am also sure Gov. Cuomo is proud of his import from across the river, which reminds me of lyrics by the great Tom Paxton:
Our leaders are the finest men
And we elect them again and again.
And that’s what I learned in school today,
That’s what I learned in school.
Meanwhile, on their way to school, don’t let the kids near the PSEG poles.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.