Largest Gathering of Clean Water Advocates Converges on Pittsburgh
This year's River Rally, jointly produced by River Network and Waterkeeper Alliance, brought together nearly 700 clean water leaders from 40 U.S. states and 19 countries to the confluence of three great rivers in Pittsburgh, PA from May 30 to June 2. This annual event educated, empowered and inspired grassroots water advocates to go home and continue protecting their local waterways.
Thanks to Rich Wallin of W2 Films for providing this video recap of River Rally.
River Rally 2014 was the largest international gathering of clean water advocates in the world, with participants from Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Mexico, Peru, Senegal and the United Kingdom. More than 70 workshops and panels shared best practices for watershed restoration, stormwater management, water quality monitoring, water and energy conservation, green infrastructure, habitat restoration, safe drinking water and more.
His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa traveled from Nepal to give blessings to the worldwide river protection movement, while inspiring attendees with his story of trekking with 700 followers at 12,000 feet in the Himalayas on an annual trash removal pilgrimage. His Holiness is a young, charismatic teacher of the Drukpa school of Buddhism who understands the pressure of modern life and offers practical ways to calm and focus our minds.
While introducing His Holiness, Marc Yaggi, Waterkeeper Alliance's executive director, shared one of the most poignant lessons His Holiness bestowed upon him during a visit to Nepal, which was the connection between how we treat ourselves and how we treat our planet. "As he likes to say, how can we respect ourselves if we don't respect our planet."
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gave a rousing keynote speech on how damaging the environment is destroying our democracy in the U.S.
As Acting Assistant for Water leading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in protecting the nation’s water resources and overseeing the EPA’s WaterSense consumer product labeling program, Nancy Stoner gave an insider’s overview of the current Waters of the U.S. rule-making process that will decide which streams, wetlands and waterways will be protected in the future.
The Tigris Riverkeeper screened a video made in May of a first-ever kayaking trip down the Tigris River in northern Iraq showing thousands of villagers gaining the information they needed to protect their water resources.
River Rally participants experienced an eye-opening report on the state of the growing environmental monitoring movement in China by Ma Jun, a director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs. Ma Jun has helped expose more than 90,000 air and water violations by local and multi-national companies throughout China.
Water advocates participated in the KEEN River Cleanup along the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. Torqeedo showcased its electric motors during the cleanup and one of DJI's latest drones made an appearance, which is suitable for a diverse range of tasks including citizen science, surveillance and automated survey. In the past two years, small consumer drones have dramatically lowered the cost of high-quality aerial imaging, making this product a perfect fit for water advocates.
Other highlights included the Blue Wrap Fashion Show, and screenings of the documentary films Triple Divide and DamNation. Bridgestone, one of the events lead sponsors, presented River Network with a $25,000 gift in support of its ongoing work to protect and restore waterways throughout the U.S.
The annual River Heroes Awards Banquet celebrated five individuals who are empowering communities throughout the Tijuana River Watershed in Mexico, improving water quality in Maine’s Casco Bay, advocating for rivers in Kansas, giving back as a tireless volunteer river trail steward in Illinois and developing national showcases of urban renewal in Rhode Island.
Margarita Diaz has become the leading community advocate for water quality protection in the coastal community of Playas de Tijuana and throughout Baja California. Over the past 13 years she has mobilized more than 35,000 volunteers, fostering “awareness through action”; coordinated the removal of nearly 200 cubic tons of trash; trained more than 400 youth leaders as “coastal stewards”; and became a guiding citizen in coordinating efforts to protect not just the region’s beaches, but all streams, creeks and waterways in the Tijuana River Watershed.
Joe Payne is one of the first seven Waterkeepers—the Casco Baykeeper—and a founder of Waterkeeper Alliance. For more than 20 years, Payne has been the eyes, ears and voice of Casco Bay, working to protect the environmental health of Maine’s premier bay. He has built an impressive and sustainable operation with outstanding water quality monitoring programs and science-based advocacy, helping to get the bay declared a federally-designated “no discharge area.” Payne even led the campaign to relocate 35,000 lobsters to save them during dredging in the Portland harbor.
Laura Calwell has worked tirelessly for more than 20 years as both a volunteer and as Kansas Riverkeeper for Friends of the Kaw to promote public awareness of the Kaw, an outstanding natural resource and valuable drinking water source in the state of Kansas. Each year she paddles the entire 170 mile Kansas River to check on its health and condition. Calwell has been instrumental in moving sand dredging operations out of the river, and led the effort to institute the Kansas River Inventory, the first comprehensive, publicly available inventory documenting the entire river system’s on-going conditions, structures, animal and plant life and recreational opportunities.
Michael Taylor is the Illinois Water Trailkeeper for the Little Calumet River that runs through the south side of Chicago and its southern suburbs. As a volunteer trail steward and promoter of paddling, Taylor reaches thousands of people each year, getting them actively involved with cleanup and restoration projects, expanding water trail access and training volunteers. He is helping local high students learn how to kayak, and at a recent cleanup made sure every kid who attended had a canoe or kayak for the event—an opportunity most would never experience if it weren’t for Taylor’s tireless efforts. All of this happens when he is not at his regular full-time job.
Jane Sherman founded the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council in 1998 to expand river revitalization initiatives to the entire river system and involve every community. Her vision and hard work have completely altered the quality of life in one of the most economically challenged communities in Rhode Island. Among many accomplishments, she led the charge to convert a 12-acre dilapidated textile mill complex into Riverside Park, now one of the most vibrant, active parks in the city, and helped leverage funding to create the Woonasquatucket River Greenway, a $12 million project that is a national showcase of urban renewal.
In addition, each year River Network celebrates one individual’s accomplishments with the James R. Compton River Achievement Award. This year’s honoree was Rebecca Wodder from Washington, DC. Wodder is a nationally known environmental leader who has devoted her career to conservation causes, beginning with the first Earth Day in 1970 and as a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson (WI) on environmental and energy issues. Most recently she served at the U.S. Department of the Interior as senior advisor to Secretary Ken Salazar, advancing river and watershed objectives. Wodder was nominated by President Obama for the post of Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. She previously served as president of American Rivers from 1995-2011.
“We couldn't be more impressed then we are by the important work these individuals and their organizations are doing to make a meaningful impact on water resources around the nation,” said Nicole Silk, River Network president. “Their dedication to—and love of rivers and water—is what inspires us all.”
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By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach
The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.
When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.
We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.
Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.
What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.
Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.
To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.
Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.
The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.
Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.
Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?
The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.
Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome
While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.
It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.
Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.
Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.
Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.
Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.
Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.
"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."
The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."
In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."
"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."
Today the 6 Biden-Sanders Unity Task Forces are unveiling final language. The Climate Task Force accomplished a gr… https://t.co/gz3broq2qe— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1594240617.0
The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.
Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."
"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."
Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."
"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.
On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.
Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.
"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."
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Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."
Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."
"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."
"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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