It took Jon Stewart and lots of public outrage, but the Zadroga Act is moving forward.

Congress just decided that continuing to fund health care for 9/11 first responders is a pretty good idea.

(Also the sky is blue and candy tastes good).

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act is a bill that would extend the already existing health benefits for 9/11 first responders until 2090. It covers medical and other expenses for a long list of conditions that many first responders face as a result of the rescue and recovery efforts after the aircraft crashes on 9/11.


It's a bill that's about as controversial as this kitten:

You're not polarizing at all are you, little guy? Photo from iStock.


It came as a surprise to many people that the bill has had some trouble getting passed. So much trouble in fact, that it prompted America's newly-bearded and recently retired late night sweetheart to return to TV.

I'm speaking, of course, of Jon Stewart, who appeared on The Daily Show and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where he urged Congress to stop playing politics with "this necessary bill" and showed just how bad things can get for the responders.

Stewart with the remaining member of a full panel of first responders from five years ago. Screenshot via "The Daily Show"/Comedy Central.

Thanks in part to Stewart's dedication and action, the Zadroga Act is now is now moving forward.

Legislators agreed on an $8.1 billion reauthorization on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, and attached it to the $1.1 trillion spending bill funding the federal government through most of 2016.

That spending bill, by the way, is the must-pass legislation that narrowly avoided yet another government shutdown before the end of the year.

Essentially, Congress took the two bills that most exemplify their inability to get stuff done on time, stapled them together, and are now nudging them through the House while patting themselves on the back.

Mad yet? Here's another kitten:

You support common sense legislation don't you, buddy?

The Zadroga Act/spending bill double-stuffed Oreo of incompetence won't be voted on until next week, but this is a positive sign.

Especially since the world's easiest bill to get behind has faced such a seemingly uphill battle.

"It's been a tough fight, and it has been a long fight, but it has been worth it," said New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who's been working on 9/11 legislation since 2001. "All [the first responders] ask of us is that we never forget their sacrifice, and Congress is now sending a clear message back: We haven’t."

Many are also calling it a huge victory for the public voice.

Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaking at a news conference announcing the renewal of the Zadroga Act. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"It is a testament to the extraordinary power that Americans can have when they raise their voice and demand action,“ said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, implying that the public outcry championed largely by Jon Stewart has had a real effect on Congress deciding to act.

But the fight isn't over, and the problem never will be.

The simple fact is, a huge number of 9/11 first responders face both mental and physical health problems every day as a result of their heroic actions. Over 8,500 people are currently being treated by the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center.

In the New York Fire Department alone, 109 responders have died from illnesses linked to ground zero exposure.

Passing the Zadroga Reauthorization Act is, as Jon Stewart put it, "literally the least we can do."

Congress, it would appear, can still be trusted to do the least they can do.

The passing of this bill is important, necessary, and impossible to disagree with.

Just like this kitten:

Yes you are! YES YOU ARE!

Courtesy of Verizon
True

If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

via @Todd_Spence / Twitter

Seven years ago, Bill Murray shared a powerful story about the importance of art. The revelation came during a discussion at the National Gallery in London for the release of 2014's "The Monuments Men." The film is about a troop of soldiers on a mission to recover art stolen by the Nazis.

After his first time performing on stage in Chicago, Murray was so upset with himself that he contemplated taking his own life.

"I wasn't very good, and I remember my first experience, I was so bad I just walked out — out onto the street and just started walking," he said.

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