Lawmaker's attack on birth-defects study is indefensible
As I read the recent commentary from Rep. Hubert Collins, I can't describe my reaction as "jaw dropping disbelief" — the phrase he used. I'm too familiar with the knee-jerk defense of coal from Eastern Kentucky politicians. I just wish Collins would show as much concern for his constituents as he does for the industry that's been exploiting them for decades.
I'm not convinced that Collins read the study he's complaining about. If he had, he'd know that the authors corrected for a number of other factors, including alcohol, smoking, prenatal care and diabetes. Even after these adjustments, the rate of birth defects in mountaintop removal counties remains too high.
He also would have known that nowhere in the study did the authors claim a direct causal link between MTR and birth defects. Even though no link was established, it's difficult to explain why birth defect rates in this region should be so much higher.
Like the coal industry itself, Collins chooses to blame the victims. A report issued by a law firm associated with the National Mining Association even went as far as to blame inbreeding. I don't see Collins denouncing that report.
Collins' obscure reference to other studies and other areas is nothing more than a diversion. He should leave science to the scientists and concentrate more on representing the people who elected him. He should be thinking more about what's making his people sick than defending coal.
The study on birth defects related to mountaintop removal mining took into account the other contributing factors for birth defects, and still the rate of birth defects in MTR areas was higher. The report did not find the smoking-gun cause related to mining, but neither did they find the smoking gun for Watergate. Yet, President Richard Nixon was gone within six months.
Coal dust, selenium, mercury, arsenic, black lung, broken backs, climate change, political corruption, sludge, floods, a sick mono-culture economy — and now, birth defects. How many smoking guns do we need to find before the place goes up in smoke?
Lord God, can't we figure out something else for our good people to do?
As a former chairperson of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, I am responding to Rep. Hubert Collins' June 11 commentary on a study of birth defects and mountaintop removal.
What is jaw dropping is that voters continue to elect a person who is not representative of anyone but the coal corporations who bankroll his elections so he will do their bidding. And, after voting against the bottle-deposit bill and all other environmental bills, Collins still has the nerve to call himself an environmentalist.
Do we want a representative who ignores the needs of non-profit agencies but is happy to fund any project suggested by his coal cronies? We've nothing against real underground coal mining but hate paying our legislators to shill for the shoot-and-shovers who will be long gone after they've destroyed our clean water, ruined our health, flooded our homes and blown up all our mountains.
Now that the Environmental Protection Agency finally is trying to enforce the laws it should have enforced years ago, Collins and his friends masquerading as "Friends of Coal" are trying to keep the EPA out of Kentucky.
For many years we have watched our mountains, forests, water and air being destroyed. Perhaps if Collins reads and listens to the facts he will understand why Kentucky should get into the alternative energy business while there is still time, create some new jobs for our people and protect the health of those of us who still live here.
Patty Frasher Wallace
Rep. Hubert Collins, whose district includes the heavily mined counties of Johnson, Martin and parts of Pike and Floyd, recently made statements which are disgraceful when the health and welfare of his constituents are at risk. I will set some of the record straight.
The Big Sandy River, which runs through Collins' district, is the most polluted river in Kentucky, and according to the Kentucky Division of Water the No. 1 source of this pollution is coal mining. Also, 82 percent of Big Sandy streams are not drinkable, swimmable or fishable — much of this damage happened during Collins' 20 years as a state representative.
He would style himself as a champion of clean streams, but I challenge him to name one thing he has accomplished to protect water quality for the families he represents. He even has the audacity to question whether or not people can be harmed by toxins in the water.
It was also clear he did not even read the study on birth defects. His column was just another knee-jerk response that sounded like it was written by King Coal. The people he represents are being poisoned; their children and the unborn are being severely harmed. I call on him to put the welfare of the people he represents above those in the coal lobby. We can have coal jobs and a clean environment where children and the unborn come before profit.
No pensions for criminals
It is likely Steve Nunn grew up looking forward to a retirement in a luxurious oceanfront community, rather than spending the final chapter of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Although it is certainly not going to be the retirement he envisioned, the late governor's son will be living out the remainder of his days on the taxpayer's dime.
In a time when budget negotiations continue to tear both our national and state governments apart, I find it nearly comical that there should even be a possibility of having to pay an imprisoned man $28,210 per year in state retirement benefits.
Along with the nearly $30,000 annual cost of housing an inmate, this would amount to over $1 million in state funds being spent on a convicted murderer if he lives to 75. Is it possible that a state that won't even give felons the right to vote will provide another felon with a retirement package he will never even be able to spend?
I find it interesting that his benefits package is nearly equal to the annual cost of housing a prisoner, thus one could logically argue that Nunn will be receiving his annual pension from the state, just in a slightly different package.
As every day the papers and news shows are ruled by our country's ever-growing financial concerns, it is my hope that, albeit a comparatively small sum, our legislators will take decisive action on cutting what is clearly an unnecessary expense.
Jonathan B. Hollan
Tired of McConnell politics
Mitch McConnell is a very intelligent lawyer and politician. His maneuvering of legislation through the Senate is legendary. But what has he done to serve the people of the commonwealth? Not just the coal industry.
If McConnell can use his intellectual capacity to make President Barack Obama a one-term president, why can't he use his vast political skills and intelligence to solve the problems of our state and country?
It's simple. Our senior senator would rather play politics with his corporate-welfare cronies on Capitol Hill than do the hard work it would take to pull the country out of the great recession. Simply cutting taxes for the wealthy won't solve our problems.
The fact that McConnell is lazy and finds it easier to play politics with people's lives should lead to his defeat when he is up for re-election.
The defeat of McConnell can only help lead our state out of the bottom rung of states that fall consistently behind in nearly every category, from poverty to education.
A top priority of the Democratic Party in Kentucky should be to elect progressive politicians with vision. Not some lazy legislator who refuses to do the job Kentuckians sent him to Washington to do.
Norman E. Goldie Jr.
Kentucky Speedway Complains
Terrible experience, lots to improve
Disastrous and disappointing do not even begin to describe how horrible our experience was attending the Quaker State 400. We left in plenty of time to get to the race, only to sit on I-27 for 5½ hours to go less than 10 miles. There was not one place to have a potty break during this time. Finally two miles from the track, we pulled into a field, paid $15 to park and walked.
Were it not for enterprising folks charging $50 for a ride on ATVs or 4-wheelers, hundreds of people probably wouldn't have made it to the race at all.
The incompetence and poor planning was unparalleled. And after arriving halfway into the race, we were told there was no more food. Walking back to the car then enduring more hours in gridlock to get home made this NASCAR experience the absolute worst ever.
To make this a better experience for fans perhaps the following could be improved.:
■ Parking — How about enough parking, free or paid, for the number of tickets sold.
■ Communications — Electronic signs, radio announcements, postings on the Web site or any number of other ways would let people know what is going on.
■ Concessions — Provide enough food and drinks for the number of tickets sold.
■ Training — Speedway workers were overwhelmed and ill-informed.
Carefully worded non-apologies from the general manager to the press and shifting blame to the state don't cut it.
Disregard for disabled
Upon arrival at the Kentucky Speedway, our group was informed that the designated handicapped parking section was not open and we needed to go to a different location. We complied and were directed to a gravel lot, a significant distance from the main entrance.
We informed the parking attendants that one member of our group required a transport chair and another was mobility impaired. The attendants stated we were located in handicapped parking and walked away from our vehicle.
It became evident that the type of gravel would not allow for direct motion of the chair and, therefore, the mobility-impaired member of the group and I had to drag the chair backwards through the gravel.
Upon seeing our plight, a kind race patron assisted in picking up the chair to move it across the lot and over a curb. Throughout the race grounds, curbs and other impediments continued to hinder wheelchair access to the track.
When I purchased the tickets, I called the track and was assured the facility was prepared for both handicapped and mobility-impaired persons. However, this was certainly not the case. I have attended a myriad of national sporting events in many states, including NASCAR races in Charlotte, Indianapolis and Phoenix.
In each case, I have been treated with the utmost respect and witnessed appropriate (and often exceedingly generous) accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It is a great disappointment to experience such disregard for ADA in my home state.
Cheryll E. Crowe
Track got bad advice
I was extremely surprised to read that Kentucky Speedway asked for help from Atlanta Motor Speedway on how to move 100,000 people in and out of a small country race track.
Has anybody been to Atlanta Motor Speedway? I have. I stayed in Hampton, 5 miles from that track. We had to leave our hotel room before 5:30 a.m. to get to the Speedway for racing at 2 p.m. It was ridiculous. People who were not quick enough to snap up the few rooms available in the small town of Hampton must have left the day before. So, obviously, the speedway got exactly what it asked for.
What bothers me most is Bruton Smith, chairman of the track's ownership group, and his cronies convinced the area to build a special highway going into the Atlanta track. Then, they lost a race.
Kentucky, wake up. Don't build this guy another highway to nowhere. Ask Talladega how to get people in and out and how to use the surrounding countryside for the benefit of race fans, land owners and all others involved.
The state would be better looking to somebody with the same sort of Speedway location. Also, Talladega didn't lose a race.
Never going back
We were at the NASCAR race last Saturday. We are big fans, but this was one of the most deplorable tracks we have been to (and we have been to a lot of them). We were cursed at and flipped the finger by shuttle-bus personnel. No one seemed to care or help. It was all about money, not the fans. I am never ever going back there again.
I cannot believe what a debacle the parking and traffic management — or lack thereof — afforded the fans. I left Lexington at 1 p.m. When the race started I was 1.9 miles from the track stalled in heavy traffic. I turned around and went back home, forfeiting my ticket but so disappointed. I will never go to the speedway again.