3 weeks ago ·
by Health Insurance 4 Everyone ·
Comments Off on NJ Man Mows Lawns For Free To Help Seniors During Pandemic
With many unemployed during the pandemic, it’s uplifting to hear about those that have found a way to help others during this stressful time. Brian Schwartz, an advertising executive who lost his job due to the pandemic founded the nonprofit I Want To Mow Your Lawn to help seniors, veterans and the disabled with their lawn maintenance for free.
Schwartz started out small, covering areas in northern New Jersey but he has a vision of helping people on a scale beyond his own part of the country. While he is using his own knowledge to market this idea, he is looking for volunteers from all over to join his crusade. Schwartz welcomes any and all help ranging from kids in school up to professional landscapers.
Schwartz said “It may sound like a bumper sticker, but it’s true: it just feels good to help out, to do something tangible that people need done and can’t quite do themselves, something straight-forward and clean-cut as newly mowed grass. It really is helpful, it makes an immediate difference that people can see, and people are so appreciative because it is free, no strings, no small print, no paperwork at all. We come, we mow, we go.”
The volunteers are the backbone of this non-profit, some also found themselves out of work and looking for some way to give back to their community. Volunteers can have their own shareable profile URL, custom email alias and phone # extension. Any and all help is welcomed, ranging from kids in school up to professional landscapers.
There is no better feeling than helping out someone in need and kindness is contagious. Schwartz is looking to keep growing nationally. Volunteers must have their own landscaping equipment, be able to transport it and be willing to travel within a 5-10-15 mile radius. To volunteer or request free mowing services you can find more information at IWantToMowYourLawn.com or check out the Facebook page.
Schwartz refuses to accept payment or tips, and he says there’s no fine print to this good deed. “I believe in putting some good into the universe. I see what’s going on in the world, and I just want to help.” His decision to not wallow in the loss of his job in a grim job market and instead, find a way to help others is a testament to who he is. He has helped many in his area and given those that want to help those in their community a way to do so.
1 month ago ·
by Health Insurance 4 Everyone ·
Comments Off on Mazda To Gift Fifty 100th Anniversary Edition Miatas to Hometown Heroes
Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) is giving away the 100th Anniversary Special Edition Mazda MX-5 Miata cars to 50 hometown heroes who have made a lasting impact on their respective communities. MNAO’s “Mazda Heroes-Honoring the Human Spirit spotlights first responders and others across the country who have selflessly uplifted those around them throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Mazda is taking submissions now through October 25.
To nominate someone you know, visit the Mazda Heroes website, where you’ll be asked to make a short 1 minute video explaining how your nominee has selflessly uplifted the community. Upload the video to YouTube and set it to public or unlisted. Complete the entry form and provide a link to the video to enter. Mazda will choose the 50 most outstanding examples and the honorees will be announced starting Dec. 2. All nominees must be 18 years or older.
“From teachers going the extra mile to enhance distance learning, to community activists sourcing PPE for others, there are countless examples of people across the country going above and beyond to support others without expecting anything in return. Mazda wants to honor these important acts of kindness, resilience and empathy,” Mazda’s announcement said.
In April, the car maker launched their Essential Car Care Program to give free oil changes and car cleaning to healthcare workers across the U.S. The program ran from April through June 2020. Throughout the initiative their dealers and employees were grateful to be a part of giving back to those selflessly giving back every day. The feedback that received inspired them to develop the Mazda Heroes program, which will honor individuals supporting communities and share their stories in a moment when people desire inspiration in their lives. Mazda North America President Jeff Guyton said he hopes the Miata giveaway will lift spirits during a time when good news seems scarce.
“We had hoped this time would be filled with moments of celebration and appreciation for our fans, employees and partners for the 100th Year Anniversary. But given the many tragic events of 2020, we decided to express, in another way, our brand’s unique heritage of trying to make things better” he said. “Mazda is looking for people who have demonstrated “selfless acts, creative approaches, and contributions to community.”
The Miata 100th Anniversary Special Edition features many cosmetic upgrades including a white paint job paired with red accents, including a red interior. Special badging can be found on the front fenders, key fob, floor mats, and headrests. Normally, starting prices for this special edition are a good deal higher than the top Grand Touring trim. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic, as well as the soft top and RF variants.
2 months ago ·
by Health Insurance 4 Everyone ·
Comments Off on James Patterson Giving Grants to Teachers
Thousands of schoolteachers will receive $500 grants from author James Patterson to help students build reading skills, especially as schools struggle to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic. Patterson has donated $2.5 million through his Patterson Partnership program with Scholastic Book Clubs. The grant program which is administered by Patterson and by Scholastic Book Clubs, which will provide teachers 500 club points to go with the $500 from Patterson. Out of more than 100,000 applicants, 5,000 teachers will receive grants and club points.
“Whether students are learning virtually at home or in the classroom, the importance of keeping them reading cannot be underscored enough. Reading teaches kids empathy, gives them an escape when they most need it, helps them grapple with harsh realities, and perhaps most importantly, will remind them that they are not alone — even if they’re unable to see their teachers, classmates and friends in-person,” Patterson said in a statement.
Funds from the Patterson Partnership are awarded directly to individual teachers and are to be used solely for the purchase of books for classroom libraries. Winning teachers had the choice of either a direct deposit into their Scholastic Book Clubs account or a check sent via USPS. The 500 Bonus Points will also be directly deposited into winning teachers’ Book Club accounts. This is the sixth year Patterson Partnership has issued the grants through its’ partnership with Scholastic Book Club.
Patterson, one of the world’s best-selling novelists, has given more than $11 million to teachers, along with millions he has given to bookstores, libraries and literacy organizations. This is the sixth installment in the Patterson Partnership for building home and school libraries. He has been donating and campaigning for donations for several years.
Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs, added, “Teachers are always at the front lines of educating all our children and introducing them to books and reading—no matter what else is going on in the world. As the Covid-19 crisis has shown, the hard work and dedication of America’s teachers—and what is demanded of them—cannot be overstated.”
In April 2020, Patterson helped launch a campaign to save independent booksellers, an industry that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign called #SaveIndieBookstores, is a partnership between Patterson, actress Reese Witherspoon’s book club, the American Booksellers Association and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation. Patterson personally contributed $500,000 to that campaign and called for fellow authors and book fans to join him in making donations to the fund.
2 months ago ·
by Health Insurance 4 Everyone ·
Comments Off on Sgt. Major Thomas Payne 1st Living Delta Force Member To Receive Medal of Honor
Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism and selfless actions that were key to liberating 75 hostages under fire during a rescue mission five years ago in Hawija, Iraq. The Congressional Medal of Honor citation reads in part, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on October 22, 2015. Sergeant First Class Payne’s gallantry under fire and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the United States Special Operations Command, and the United States Army.”
The South Carolina youth had originally joined the Army after 9/11, inspired by patriotism and a desire to defend the United States. Payne served as a sniper and sniper team leader in the 75th until November 2007, when he was selected for assignment to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. He would endure 14 deployments before the day of October 22, 2015, when then-Sergeant First Class Payne—as part of a joint task force assisting Iraqi security forces—in what was dubbed OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE-raided an ISIS prison to liberate 70 hostages, after a request by the Kurdistan government.
Payne and his fellow Rangers continued to receive constant fire from the enemy as they first tried to enter the building through the roof before moving to the ground level after several blasts from suicide bombers from the floor below caused the building to partially collapse. Payne navigated to the front door and saw the captives were being held behind a metal door secured by two very heavy padlocks.
His team breached windows and walls to enter the building’s first floor. Once inside, the fighting was intense and commandos began taking casualties. “One of the teams was holding down the breach point all the way down to their last magazine,” Payne said. “Bullets were passing through their uniforms.” Though the building was on fire and partly collapsed, he grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and, through flame and smoke, succeeded in cutting one of the locks before scorching heat forced him to flee the building for some air.
He ran back in seconds later and cut the final lock as the building began to collapse. He received orders to evacuate, but refused to do so before all the disoriented hostages were led to safety. Still receiving enemy fire, Payne entered the building two more times, to drag an incapacitated hostage from the building and again to make sure everyone was out, before he gave the “last man” call so the task force could prepare for extraction.
Under heavy fire, Payne and the other commandos then formed a human wall so the hostages in the other building could run behind them and board the extraction helicopters. The hostages, Payne’s task force and the partnered forces flew back to Erbil, having just taken part in one of the largest hostage rescues in history. His heroism and selfless actions were key to liberating 75 hostages during a contested rescue mission that resulted in 20 enemies killed in action. Payne is the first living Delta Force member to receive the Medal of Honor.
Payne has not talked about his connection to Delta, but said he views the Medal of Honor as a sacred responsibility as a tribute to fallen heroes. “The Medal of Honor represents everything great about our country, and for me I don’t consider myself a recipient of this medal,” Payne said. “I consider myself a guardian of this medal and what’s important to me is my teammates’ legacies will live on with this Medal of Honor.”
3 months ago ·
by HealthInsurance4Everyone ·
Comments Off on CDC Drops 14 Day Quarantine On Travel As Campus Cases Rise
The confirmed U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is approaching 180,000, with over 5.7 million recorded infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned the U.S. is on track to record its 200,000th death from COVID-19 by the fourth week of September. Public health officials say the true U.S. death toll likely passed that grim milestone weeks ago.
The White House defended a decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend against coronavirus testing for people who lack symptoms of COVID-19 — even if they’ve been exposed to an infected person. The CDC also quietly dropped its recommendation that people quarantine for 14 days after traveling from an area with a high rate of infection. Public health experts say the moves will undermine efforts to control the spread of the disease. The New York Times cited two federal health officials who said the changes were ordered by higher-ups at the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House.
The decision was reportedly made at an August 20 meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, while top public health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci was not present because he was undergoing surgery. The changes were backed by the task force’s newest member, Dr. Scott Atlas — a Fox News contributor and radiologist with no expertise in infectious diseases. This comes amid rising concern over outbreaks in schools around the country as at least three dozen states so far have reported cases on college campuses.
A return to campus for the new academic year has colleges and universities struggling to both contain outbreaks of Covid-19 and enforce policies meant to prevent its spread. Across the United States, at least 36 states have reported positive cases at colleges and universities, adding more than 8,700 cases to the country’s tally. Outbreaks have been identified at four different sororities at Kansas State University, according to news releases from the college and the Riley County Health Department. Temple University in Philadelphia announced it is suspending in-person classes for two weeks following the identification of 103 cases on campus. East Carolina reported 370 total positive cases from students as of Aug. 24.
The University of Alabama is receiving backlash after it ordered faculty members to remain silent about students who test positive for the virus, arguing that alerting their classmates would violate federal privacy laws. In an email the professors were admonished, “Do not tell the rest of the class,” with the word “not” underlined. UA currently has confirmed over 1,200 Covid 19 cases since classes resumed August 19th. They continue to urge students to wear masks and socially distance on and off campus. Many schools have limited parties and other gatherings to reduce Covid-19 risks but those rules being violated are why Notre Dame’s outbreak started.
A consensus is building among public health experts that it’s better to keep university students on campus after a Covid-19 outbreak rather than send them home as many are doing. It’s easier to isolate sick or exposed students and trace their contacts if they stay put. While sending students home risks exposing other people there as well as along the way, and makes contact tracing all but impossible. Contact tracing can help manage outbreaks when done correctly. The U.S. has struggled with it for many reasons, including getting people to answer the phone and respond truthfully. That’s even harder at college, when students worry about being disciplined for violating rules on social gathering.
3 months ago ·
by HealthInsurance4Everyone ·
Comments Off on Violent Clashes At Protests Across America
Protests have turned violent in several cities while clashing with right-wing groups. A Kalamazoo City Commissioner called out a Kalamazoo pastor who organized a unity rally the same day the Proud Boys planned to protest. The Southern Poverty Law Center considered The Proud Boys a hate group. Several fights broke out when the Proud Boys came face-to-face with counter protesters in downtown Kalamazoo Saturday Aug. 15, 2020. Nathan Dannison, who organized the prayer vigil and unity rally, said at the he did not know the Michigan People’s Defense League was coming.
Kalamazoo City Commissioner Erin Knott said violence may have been avoided if counter-protesters stayed home. “I think that only gave the Proud Boys the intention and the fuel they so desire. We know from researching the Proud Boys, they don’t start the fight, they finish the fight,” Knott said. The two groups violently clashed. Video showed members of the Proud Boys use pepper spray on counter-protesters and people using torn down street signs as bats. The violence was contentious and assaultive on both sides.
In Georgia, a pro-Confederacy rally drew armed, far-right militia members to the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial in Stone Mountain Park Saturday. Videos on social media showed far-right protestors attacking anti-facism protesters with pepper spray as the counter-protesters chanted “Go home, racists!” and anti-facism protesters grabbing Confederate flags and setting them alight. The protest dispersed when police in riot gear moved in on the crowd at around 1 p.m., and ordered demonstrators to leave or be arrested. Photos from the scene showed the National Guard moving in as well.
After a long day of peaceful protests, agitators descended on Chicago after many protestors went home. The riot resulted in 24 arrests after “multiple agitators” used black umbrellas, changed their appearance and assaulted officers by using skateboards, bottles, bicycles and other projectiles as well as mace. One peaceful protestor defended the actions of police, saying officers responded proportionately to get the situation under control and used pepper spray to deter agitators. Seventeen officers were injured during the clash.
In Portland, Oregon, right-wing extremists and members of the “alt-right” group Patriot Prayer organized a small rally, where they shot pellets from paintball guns and pepper spray against counter-protesters. Patriot Prayer and its leader, Joey Gibson, have organized three of the most violent protests in Portland’s recent history, on Aug. 6, 2017; June 30, 2018; and Oct. 13, 2018. He also organized a large Aug. 4, 2018 rally that led police to use crowd control agents on leftist counter-demonstrators, severely injuring several people with flash-bang grenades.
Protests have happened nightly in Portland for more than two months following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Police are looking for a suspect shown on video assaulting a driver until he was unconscious. Authorities had received a report around 10:30 p.m. of protesters chasing a truck a few blocks from the downtown federal courthouse. The driver crashed and was then assaulted. Video posted online showed the driver of the truck sitting in the street next to the vehicle. A crowd gathered around him and repeatedly punched and kicked him in the head until he was bloody. It wasn’t immediately clear what led to the crash or the confrontation. When police arrived, the man was unconscious. The victim of the assault has been released from a hospital and is recovering.
3 months ago ·
by HealthInsurance4Everyone ·
Comments Off on Michigan Reaches $600 Million Settlement in Flint Water Crisis
The state of Michigan has reportedly reached a deal to pay out about $600 million to victims of the water crisis in Flint. The crisis began in 2014 when Flint’s unelected emergency manager, appointed by then-Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, switched the source of the city’s drinking water in order to save money. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency said it had found dangerous levels of lead — which can affect the heart, kidneys and nerves — in the water flowing into residents’ homes.
The water source move has been linked to at least 12 deaths from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, as well as widespread lead poisoning in residents, including 12,000 children. Dozens of lawsuits, including class-action cases, filed against Michigan and the city of Flint followed. Many cases emphasize the youngest victims — the children whose exposure to lead and toxins could lead to neurological disorders and learning disabilities, among other conditions.
The Supreme Court this year said it wouldn’t block a lawsuit by Flint residents seeking to hold city officials accountable. Lawyers for the city had asked justices to step in, saying their clients had immunity from such lawsuits. A previous ruling from a federal appeals court also sided with the residents. “Knowing the Flint River water was unsafe for public use, distributing it without taking steps to counter its problems, and assuring the public in the meantime that it was safe is conduct that would alert a reasonable person to the likelihood of personal liability,” the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals held.
In March 2017, nearly three years after the incident first came to light, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded $100 million to fund water infrastructure upgrades in Flint. A few weeks later, city officials declared the city’s drinking water was safe to drink. Six years later, the city has inspected more than 25,000 service lines and has replaced 85 percent of the pipes. However, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put work on hold. Residents are still scared to drink the water after city, state and federal officials have been accused of ignoring, denying or covering up complaints that started immediately after the switch.
Tens of thousands of Flint residents are expected to be eligible to receive money from the settlement. The settlement will establish a court-monitored victim’s compensation fund that will provide the direct payments to Flint residents. Nearly 80% of the money will go to those who were younger than 18 at the time of the crisis. Besides the state of Michigan, the settlement includes the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the individual defendants, including former Gov. Rick Snyder, according to a news release. Litigation will continue against other defendants, including two private engineering firms charged with professional negligence.
3 months ago ·
by HealthInsurance4Everyone ·
Comments Off on Campuses in US Switch to Virtual Learning Amid Outbreaks
The U.S. reported another 43,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,300 deaths from COVID-19 on, bringing the official U.S. death toll to nearly 172,000. Public health officials are expressing alarm as the number of daily COVID-19 tests across the country has dropped 17% since mid-July, making it harder for states to track the outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control is warning infection rates are “steadily increasing” in children as millions of students have started or are preparing to return to school.
As global confirmed coronavirus cases topped 22 million, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday that young adults and children are increasingly driving the spread of COVID-19. WHO officials said recent outbreaks in Australia and the Philippines were sparked mostly by people younger than 40, while WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove warned younger people are not immune to the worst effects of the virus.
A surge in coronavirus cases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has forced the school to switch to remote learning, after 177 students tested positive for COVID-19 during the first week of in-person classes. The school said in a statement that the Covid-19 “positivity” rate jumped to 13.6% from 2.8% just a week before. At the time of the announcement, the school had tested 954 students, with 177 in isolation and 349 in quarantine, both on and off campus.
In Indiana, the University of Notre Dame canceled all in-person classes and said it would move to online-only instruction. The university’s sole testing site has been inundated since students returned in early August, identifying a total of 336 coronavirus cases. Notre Dame contends that most infections stem from two off-campus parties thrown by seniors but cases have surged as students introduce the virus to new social groups, straining the school’s resources.
Michigan State University announced it would require undergraduates to study remotely (graduate students and students who take part in athletics are exempt from the mandate). According to NPR, the directive was issued before many students returned to campus, as classes don’t resume until early September. The university released a statement on Tuesday saying, “Given the current status of the virus … it is unlikely we can prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 between students if our undergraduates return to campus.”
According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people had an age-adjusted COVID-19 hospitalization rate about 5.3 times that of non-Hispanic white people. COVID-19 hospitalization rates among non-Hispanic Black people and Hispanic or Latino people were both about 4.7 times the rate of non-Hispanic white people. While there’s no evidence that people of color have genetic or other biological factors that make them more likely to be affected by COVID-19, they are more likely to have underlying health conditions. Having certain conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, increases your risk of severe illness with COVID-19. But experts also know that where people live and work affects their health. Over time, these factors lead to different health risks among racial and ethnic minority groups.
A summer of waning social distancing restrictions has caused a surge in Covid cases among those under 35. Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead and an infectious disease epidemiologist warns “We are seeing people, even young people, who are ending up with severe disease. We are seeing young people who are ending up in ICU. And we are seeing young people who are dying from this virus.”
3 months ago ·
by HealthInsurance4Everyone ·
Comments Off on Covid 19 Cases Rising Worldwide
Worldwide there are over 19 million confirmed cases and over 780,000 deaths. Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States have topped 5.3 million and 166,000 deaths — by far the highest caseload in the world. Brazil has over 3 million confirmed cases and 165,000 deaths, the second highest number of cases behind the US. As the new school year starts or approaches for kids across the US, a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that nearly 100,000 children contracted COVID-19 in the last two weeks of July.
Across five US states, more than 2,000 students, teachers and school employees have been quarantined, after hundreds tested positive for the coronavirus at the start of the school year. That includes nearly 1,200 people quarantined in the Cherokee County School District outside Atlanta, Georgia. In another Georgia school district, a high school that recently suspended two students for posting images of classmates ignoring social distancing guidelines and not wearing masks announced it is implementing remote learning for part of the week, after at least nine students and staffers tested positive for COVID-19.
A school district in Arizona canceled its plans to reopen schools after several dozen teachers staged a “sick out” in protest. “We have received an overwhelming response from staff indicating that they do not feel safe returning to classrooms with students,” Gregory Wyman, the superintendent of the J.O. Combs Unified School District, said in a letter to families posted online Friday. “In response, we have received a high volume of staff absences for Monday citing health and safety concerns.” All classes, including virtual learning, will be canceled, though breakfasts and lunches will be available for pickup, he said. Arizona has over 190,000 confirmed cases and over 4,000 deaths.
In California, the director of the Department of Public Health abruptly resigned Sunday, following the discovery of a computer system failure that led to an undercounting of California’s COVID-19 cases. California has a recorded 630,000 cases and 11,545 people have died. With cases still surging, most schools in California will not be reopening for in-person education this month.
Across the globe in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned Auckland may go back into a lengthy lockdown, after 13 new community coronavirus cases were detected. New Zealand spent more than 100 days without reporting any cases, after health officials responded early and aggressively to the pandemic. They have 1,458 confirmed cases and just 22 deaths.
In Australia, Melbourne remains on a strict lockdown as the country reported a record 21 coronavirus deaths. Sixteen of the deaths are linked to outbreaks in nursing homes. Australia has over 23,000 confirmed cases and over 400 deaths recorded.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force said the US is in a new phase in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the deadly virus is more widespread than when it first took hold in the US earlier this year. “What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas.” Birx stressed that Americans need to follow health recommendations, including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. Birx would not give a projection of how many deaths the US would see by the end of year, but she said a death toll largely depends on southern and western states to maintain and accelerate their mitigation efforts. Those states have become hot spots for the virus
3 months ago ·
by HealthInsurance4Everyone ·
Comments Off on Mass Resignations After Lebanon Blast
Protests raged following the catastrophic explosion at the Port of Beirut, which killed at least 200 people and injured over 7,000 thousands more and leveled neighborhoods. The explosion was triggered by 2,700 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate left unattended in a warehouse for six years and left more than a quarter-million residents homeless. An investigation into what triggered the explosion is under way, and early reports suggest that it was probably a nearby fire.
Protesters stormed three ministries as security forces unleashed tear gas and rubber bullets on demonstrators. Public anger mounted after the blast, focusing on the carelessness that led to one of the worst explosions in Lebanon’s history. The Port of Beirut and customs office is notorious for being one of the most corrupt and lucrative institutions in Lebanon where various factions and politicians,
The mass resignation of Lebanon’s top government officials, including Prime Minister Hassan Diab has failed to quell anger over a crushing economic crisis, record rates of COVID-19 infections and last week’s catastrophic blast. Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion and has left nearly 300,000 people homeless.
The highly explosive material that leveled the city found its way to the warehouse in 2013 when a ship transporting it stopped at the Lebanese port to pick up more cargo as it was headed to Mozambique. There was a legal dispute over port fees and the shipping company was in debt so the 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, was impounded and unloaded; the Russian crew had to stay on board for nearly a year and was then released.
The port’s customs director says he sounded several alarms about the material. Since the blast, some port officials have been placed under house arrest. The New York Times reports an American contractor working with the U.S. Army warned over four years ago about the hazard posed by over 2,700 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate fertilizer left unattended at Beirut’s port. The U.S. State Department reportedly then failed to pass along the warning to U.S. allies.
An official letter circulating online showed the head of the customs department had warned repeatedly over the years that the huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in the port was a danger and had asked judicial officials for a ruling on a way to remove it. In the letter, the customs chief warned of the “dangers if the materials remain where they are, affecting the safety of port employees” and asked a judge for guidance. He said five similar letters were sent in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The letter proposes the material be exported or sold to a Lebanese explosives company. It is not known if there was a response.
Lebanon already was on the brink of collapse amid a severe economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. Many have lost their jobs and seen their savings evaporate because of a currency crisis. Food security is a worry, since the country imports nearly all its vital goods and its main port is now devastated. Drone footage showed the blast tore open a silo structure, dumping its contents into the debris. Estimates suggested about 85% of the country’s grain was stored there. Economy and Trade Minister Raoul Nehme said all the wheat was contaminated and unusable.