Sunday, March 30, 2014

PNN - the Waters of March!

Susan Nilon - Nilon Report
Jennifer Rubiello - Environment Florida
Jaime Duran - Golden Gate Home owner
Karen Dwyer - Stone Crab Alliance

1.) Virginia Tech experts pinpoint MCHM odors
By Ken Ward Jr. - March 26, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Researchers at Virginia Tech believe they have pinpointed a form of the chemical MCHM that could be causing licorice-like odors to linger in the region's drinking water long after the January chemical leak that contaminated drinking-water supplies for 300,000 residents in a nine-county region of West Virginia.
Using specialized equipment, experts at  Virginia Tech's College of Engineering traced the odors to one of MCHM's two chemical structures, or isomers, and analyzed at what levels that form of MCHM could be smelled in the air and estimated what concentrations could be smelled in water.
A team led by Virginia Tech environmental engineer Andrea Dietrich estimated the odor threshold for that form of MCHM at 7 parts per billion. That's 100 times less than the levels the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised were acceptable for people to drink. However, the CDC's 1-part-per-million number remains controversial, and Dietrich said the continuing odor problems have their own important impacts on residents.
"The toxicity aside, annoying odors have a psychological burden," Dietrich said. "Let's hope this chemical doesn't have any toxicity and the CDC is right, but if people are living with it for two or three months, it imparts a fear and a reminder, and it's a psychological burden. If you can smell it, it's still around."
Dietrich is an expert on water quality and treatment, as well as on taste and odor assessments of water. After the Freedom Industries chemical leak, she received an emergency grant from the National Science Foundation to study MCHM and its potential impacts, and one focus of the Virginia Tech team is the coal-cleaning chemical's odor.
On Tuesday morning, Virginia Tech issued a news release to outline some of its team's preliminary findings.
"Based on our increased understanding of the chemicals involved in the water crisis, the complexities and implications of the spill keep growing," Dietrich said in the release. "People are still afraid to drink the water; odors persist in schools, residences, and businesses; data are still lacking for the properties of the mixture of chemicals in the crude MCHM that spilled."
The Virginia Tech findings come just one day after West Virginia American Water revealed new test results that show low levels of MCHM appear to be leaching from the filters at their Elk River treatment plant into drinking water the company pumps into the region's homes and businesses.
Water company President Jeff McIntyre had said last week that the company didn't think the filters needed changed, but would start doing so on April 1, to address public "perception" that the filters were contaminated. When the new test results were announced, though, McIntyre said it was "not unexpected that MCHM effectively captured in the filter material may show up in trace amounts in water leaving the plant."
In a news release, the water company downplayed the test results - showing MCHM concentrations ranging from 0.42 parts per billion to 0.60 parts - by noting that "one part per billion is equivalent to one drop in a large tanker truck or one second in 32 years."
However, in an interview Tuesday morning, Dietrich said a more complete knowledge of long-standing scientific understanding about chemical odors and about various routes that residents could have been exposed to MCHM from the contaminated water supply might have been helpful in responding to the chemical leak.
Well-established science, Dietrich said, supports the observations of residents who smelled licorice more readily in their showers than from their kitchen taps, and the reactions of public school cooks who complained of odors when they were operating industrial dishwashers. Better flushing guidance that warned residents to open windows or conducting air-quality tests when school employees complained of odors would have been helpful, Dietrich said.  
"One of the points of our research is you have to look at MCHM in its entirety - not just ingestion, but inhalation," Dietrich said. "Our goal is to connect the dots."
Virginia Tech researchers used equipment called "olfactory gas chromatography" to independently measure the concentrations and odors of two isomers found in 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, the main component of the Crude MCHM mixture that leaked from Freedom Industries into the Elk River on Jan. 9.
The 4-MCHM consists of two isomers, called cis- and trans-isomers. These isomers are forms of MCHM that have the same chemical formula but a very slight difference in shape that can have enormous effects on the physical, chemical and biological properties of the substance. Virginia Tech experts said only the "trans" isomer has the stronger licorice-like odor.
In a procedure approved by the university's research review board, Dietrich and her team used a panel of non-experts to smell for MCHM in the air, and determined that the odor threshold for the chemicals trans-isomer is "exceedingly low," at a level of 350 parts per trillion by volume in the air. Using standard chemical formulas, the team then estimated the odor threshold in water to be about 7 parts per billion.
Using a different methodology, the West Virginia Testing Assessment Project, or WVTAP, the independent team hired by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, previously said it had determined the odor threshold for MCHM was 0.15 parts per billion, or about 47 times lower than the Virginia Tech number.
The WVTAP number, though, was for the Crude MCHM mixture -- not for pure 4-MCHM or for the pure chemical's trans-isomer. Also, the WVTAP research, by environmental consultant Michael McGuire, used odor experts who actually smelled water that contained MCHM. The Virginia Tech researchers used lay people to come up with an airborne-odor threshold, and then converted that to a number for odors in water.
On Monday night, WVTAP issued a news release commenting on the Virginia Tech release that had not yet been publicly issued. Dietrich said Virginia Tech had provided a courtesy copy of its release in advance to Tomblin's office.
In its release, WVTAP noted that McGuire's report offered a differing explanation for the licorice odors than the one outlined by Virginia Tech researchers.
"It is important to realize that the odor threshold reported by Virginia Tech was conducted on pure MCHM," McGuire stated in the WVTAP release. "However, pure MCHM has not been causing the licorice odor problem in the Charleston, WV, area."
"We knew that 'Crude' MCHM which consists of a mix of odorous compounds had a sharper licorice odor characteristic than pure MCHM," McGuire said. "We chose to do our testing on the compound that the public experienced and which caused all of the odor problems."
In his report, McGuire wrote that, "Minor components of the chemical compound mix called Crude MCHM could have an impact on the threshold concentrations experienced by panelists and consumers. We are still not certain that only the pure MCHM is responsible for the licorice odor in Charleston drinking water. More research is needed to determine the contribution of the minor components of Crude MCHM to the aesthetic responses experienced by Charleston residents."
Virginia Tech researchers, though, say an important implication of their work is to independently measure the concentrations of the two MCHM isomers. "The licorice odor will be proportional to the amount of the trans-isomer, not the total amount of methylcylohexane methanol," Dietrich said. "While there may be a tendency to measure 'total methylcyclohexane methanol,' this could lead to misleading interpretations."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at or 304-348-1702.

2.) White foam reported along Elk River
By Ken Ward Jr. - Advertiser

CHARLESTON, W.V.a. -- State inspectors spent the morning investigating a report of a white foam floating along the banks of the Elk River, but by lunchtime still had not identified the material.
Department of Environmental Protection officials say the material appears to have come from upstream of the Freedom Industries tank farm, where January's chemical spill occurred.
The investigation began after a local television station alerted Kanawha County officials to the foam. County officials checked out the report, but were initially unable to find anything, said C.W. Sigman, the county's deputy emergency services director.
County officials alerted the DEP, and state inspectors were on the scene, said Tom Aluise, a spokesman for DEP.
Sigman said DEP inspectors and the county later spotted some sort of foam, but had not yet identified the material. "The DEP is trying to figure out what's going on," Sigman said.
Laura Jordan, spokeswoman for West Virginia American Water, said DEP notified her company of the situation at about 8:40 a.m. Water company staff from the Elk River treatment plant have investigated and "found a white colored foam intermittently along the banks of the Elk River from Coonskin to Queen Shoals, as well as along Big Sandy Creek in the Clendenin area," Jordan said.
In an email message, Jordan said "the appearance indicates that it may be a naturally occurring foam," but that company staff are testing water samples for acidity, solids, and electrical conductivity, as well as for organics.
Reach Ken Ward at or 304-348-1702.

3.) 4 Shocking Examples of Police Militarization in America's Small Towns
Police departments are militarizing even far from urban centers.

For nearly half a century, the general trend within America’s police precincts has been toward greater militarization, a transformation initiated by the culture wars of the 1960s and facilitated by the war on drugs, fear of inner-city crime, and anxieties over the threat of terrorism.
Fear of drugs, crime and terrorism have been used to justify the expansion of SWAT programs and the acquisition of military grade weaponry and vehicles in America’s smaller towns. Citing previous work, investigative journalist Radley Balko writes that the number of SWAT teams in municipalities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 “increased by more than 300 percent between 1984 and 1995,” and that 75% of all of these towns had their own SWAT teams by the year 2000. Small precincts acquired wartime weaponry and a warrior culture was engendered among community police.
The ACLU is currently working on a major investigation to illuminate the extent of militarization across America. Here are four shocking examples of militarized police in America's small towns. 
1. Keene, New Hampshire
A town with a murder count of two since 2009, Keene’s city officials surreptitiously accepted a $285,933 grant from the Department of Defense in 2012 to purchase a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck, or BearCat.
The grant was offered through the 1033 program, which was signed into law in 1997 and created a pipeline for the DOD to pass surplus military gear to local police precincts. It may seem preposterous that a sleepy New England town would need to commandeer a tank intended to withstand IED attacks, but in the post-9/11 era, nearly any degree of militarization can be justified with the threat of terrorism.
“We don't know what the terrorists are thinking,” warned Jim Massery, sales manager for the creator of the Bearcat, Lencor Armored Vehicles, to investigative journalist Radley Balko, before questioning whether residents who took issue with the BearCat “just don’t think police officers’ lives are worth saving.”
A series of town meetings led by city councilor Terry Clark revealed a sizable number of city residents opposed the local SWAT’s acquisition of a BearCat. “This is an agreement between the government and arms dealers, essentially,” noted Clark after a representative for Lencor revealed that the transfers of military equipment allow them to tap into the DOD’s $34 billion terrorism budget.
Despite resistance, the Keene police department put the BearCat to use, starting in the fall of 2012, and it was used 21 times as of summer 2013: 19 times for training exercises, once in response to a barricaded person and once in response to a person threatening suicide.
Surrounding cities have signed pacts with Keene to borrow the BearCat when needed, and support throughout the state for similar vehicles remains strong: A state bill to halt the purchase of military equipment by New Hampshire police departments was shot down in late March, making it likely that more departments will seek BearCats from the DOD, in addition to the 11 that already have them.
2. Ogden, Utah
Ogden, a medium-sized Utah town flanked by the Wasatch mountain range and the Great Salt Lake, was for a long time little more than a junction point for railroads crisscrossing the country. These days, it’s ground zero for the debate over the use of SWAT in Utah, which has pitted fervent proponents of aggressive paramilitarism against those who want alternatives to the hyper-violent police confrontations that have roiled the state in recent years.
The flashpoint for the debate came in January 2011, when members of Ogden SWAT battered down the front door of Matthew David Stewart’s home. When the army veteran awoke to the sound of shouting voices and shuffling boots, he grabbed his bathrobe and Beretta and began exchanging fire with the officers, killing one and wounding seven while sustaining multiple gunshot wounds himself
This disastrous account of law enforcement excess was bookended by death, starting with the raid fatality and ending with Stewart’s own suicide in his prison cell shortly after a judge threw out his self-defense claim. However, the questions raised about the use of military tactics have endured, imbued with urgency by a steady drip of fatal statewide SWAT encounters in the last two years.
Although some in the state advocate more diplomatic means of apprehending drug and other types of offenders, the zeal for Ogden SWAT remains stronger than ever as the institution burrows itself deep into the community’s cultural DNA and swells into nearby jurisdictions. Three separate bills in the Utah legislature would limit the ability of SWAT to serve “no-knock” raids (the deadly kind in which officers barge in the door while bellowing “Search warrant!”) and increase the standard of transparency that SWAT-equipped precincts must meet.
3. Columbia, South Carolina
Richland County, where Columbia is located, caught the attention of some activists in 2008 when its sheriff purchased an armored personnel carrier from the DOD. Police in the area continued buying military-grade vehicles unchallenged. Most recently, the Columbia Police Department purchased a mine-resistant war truck from the DOD in the fall of 2013.
Unlike Keene’s BearCat, Columbia’s “U.N. blue” has a turret that can be armed with a 50-caliber machine gun. It’s also built to withstand any mine blasts it may trigger in the streets of the "Capital of Southern Hospitality.”
The Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP) is valued at $658,000, but was handed off virtually free to the Columbia Police Department under the 1033 program. The Nerve found that the only costs incurred by the Columbia police for obtaining the vehicle in September 2013 came to about $2,800: a $2,000 annual fee for participating in the 1033 program, and $800 to actually transport the vehicle from a military base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Under the conditions of the 1033 program, the DOD technically retains ownership of the military equipment it loans out, and recipients must use the equipment for at least one year before it is returned. However, the national ACLU confirmed with AlterNet that they’ve never heard of a department returning equipment to the DOD.
Unsurprisingly, drugs and terrorism were used to justify the presence of the vehicle. The Columbia Police Department’s application for the MRAP explained that the armored vehicle was needed to “protect our officers and the public during high risk counter drug and counter terrorism operations within the city of Columbia and the state of South Carolina.”
Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU-South Carolina, noted that local news outlets failed to commit significant time to covering militarization in Columbia. “There has been a huge distraction,” she wrote to AlterNet in an email, “[with the] search for a new police chief, turf issues with Richland County Sheriff department, [and] city administration problems.”
Documents reviewed by AlterNet reveal that the ACLU-South Carolina sent a FOIA request to the Richland County Sheriff’s office in March 2013, demanding the disclosure of “all 1033 programs inventories created and maintained” by county police departments. The sheriff’s office responded with a warning that fulfilling the ACLU’s request “may result in a charge of several thousand dollars,” which the ACLU immediately countered with another letter.
To date, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department has not complied with the ACLU affiliate’s FOIA request.

4. Paragould, Arkansas
The Paragould police chief attempted to turn a rising crime rate into a carte blanche for sending fully outfitted SWAT teams into communities to ask every single person in public for identification. The population of the town is 27,000. 
"To ask you for your ID, I have to have a reason,” said police chief Todd Stovall at a town hall meeting in December 2012. "Well, I've got statistical reasons that say I've got a lot of crime right now, which gives me probable cause to ask what you're doing out.”
The mayor stood by his police chief. "They may not be doing anything but walking their dog, but they're going to have to prove it,” he added to Stovall’s remarks.
The policy of de-facto martial law captured national attention and inspired an immediate response from the Arkansas ACLU. Stovall  issued a statement justifying police-state tactics as features of “proactive police philosophy dedicated to managing problems before they become unmanageable,” and gave limited lip service to the Constitution and rule of law in general.
The public outrage forced city officials to back away from the Orwellian initiative.

4. McConnell, one week after barring reporter from event: First Amendment 'under coordinated assault'
by Jed Lewison Follow for Daily Kos / Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 02:00 PM PDT
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell brandishes rifle at Conservative Political Action Conference 2014 on March 6, 2014
McConnell understands the First Amendment about as well as he understands guns
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell barred a Kentucky reporter from covering one of his news conferences which puts him the position of knowing what he's talking about when he says things like this:

    Last June, I spoke at the American Enterprise Institute and warned of a grave and growing threat to the First Amendment. That threat has not let up.
Mitch need not search beyond the nearest mirror to come face to face with that threat, but as you might have guessed, he wasn't talking about himself. Instead, this is what has him all hot and bothered:
    Our ability to freely engage in civic life and to organize in defense of our beliefs is still under coordinated assault from groups on the Left.
And who are those groups?
    Left-wing groups like Media Matters [who] harass and intimidate conservatives.
Makes sense, except the part about how Media Matters isn't a part of the government and the part about how the First Amendment exists to protect groups like Media Matters from power-hungry politicians like Mitch McConnell.
McConnell might not like Media Matters, but it is literally impossible for them to threaten his First Amendment rights even if they wanted to. But when the Senate Minority Leader bans reporters from covering his events—and then threatens to arrest them if they persist—that is a true threat to the First Amendment, not that Mitch is going to do anything about it.

5. Don’t let polluters poison our water
Don’t let polluters poison our water We shouldn’t have to worry if the water sources we rely on for drinking, fishing, and swimming are polluted. But for 117 million Americans, a legal loophole has undermined the Clean Water Act safeguards that are supposed to prevent big polluters from dumping unsafe amounts of dangerous pollutants in our waters.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are ready to make important changes to close this loophole—and you can step up to support these changes.
Protect clean water. Tell the EPA and the Corps you support restoring Clean Water Act safeguards for critical streams and wetlands.
Protect clean water. Tell the EPA and the Corps you support restoring Clean Water Act safeguards for critical streams and wetlands.

6. The Reforms Proposed
Reform 1: The NSA, proposes Obama, would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. Well, sort of. First we all just have to trust that what the NSA has been and would have continued to do in secret if Snowden had slept in will just stop. There’s a whopper of a maybe, especially given that these changes come only after the whole evil mess hit the news. Better yet, just because the NSA may not collect data, someone else will, because…
Reform 2: The bulk records would stay in the hands of the phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. So the data still exists, just reshelved. Most phone companies hold such data anyway for 18 months, plenty of time for some leisurely snooping. And just because the phone companies are not required to hold the data longer, that does not mean some government agency which controls their contracts, licenses, technology and all that will not suggest they hang on to it longer. Hey Verizon, just buy a bigger hard drive, they’re cheap these days. Slap a non-disclosure type order on the phone companies and we’ll never know what they keep for how long. Again, this reform requires trusting organizations that lied to us consistently since 2001 until caught red-handed.
Reform 3: The NSA could only obtain specific records with permission from a judge. I think we all can see through this one like it was as sheer as a Miley Cyrus costume. Likely enter the handy FISA court again, which has a long record of rubber stamping government requests, no doubt in no small part because only the government is allowed to speak to the court (in its entire history, the FISA court denied just 11 of the more than 33,900 surveillance requests put to it.)
In addition, it is unclear what level of detail and introspection the court could apply to what no doubt will be hundreds of thousands of new requests, most of which will no doubt be marked as urgent in response to the endless parade of “imminent threats” only the NSA sees.
Sub-Reform: Obama will ask Congress to convene a panel of public advocates to represent “consumers” before the FISA court. Are Citizens now just “consumers” as far as the government is concerned?
The members of this panel, to be drawn from civil liberties, technology and privacy advocates, will be given security clearances and other benefits. Their job will be to represent Americans, but only when the FISA court faces “novel issues of law.” Left open is who these people will be, who will pay them, who will choose them, and how aggressive the government will be in using the security clearance process to keep true advocates away from the court. Who and how “novel issues of law” will be determined is another question. What rights these advocates will have to see government data is unclear. And of course everything will be secret.
Back to the court orders themselves. These court orders are lined up to be another forward-looking thing: once a phone company starts providing call data on an individual, they would be required, on a continuing basis, to feed the NSA data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received. For how long? Not mentioned in the proposal. Better classify that time period or you’ll alert the terrorists when they can start talking freely again. The court orders would also automatically give the NSA related records for callers up to two phone calls, or “hops,” removed from the number that has come under suspicion. So if they look at your records, they are also allowed to look at the doctor you call and the journalist you call.
Worse yet is the way math works with that two-hop rule. One writer has speculated that if one of those hops includes a popular take-out pizza joint, that hop will automatically link the NSA to a very, very large number of people. Other data suggests a typical two-hops set of links will pull in over 8,000 people. Reconfigure your two-hops to restart with one of those 8,000 and so forth until the set of permissible monitoring grows geometrically.
What’s Missing
The only category of people Obama has specifically exempted from surveillance is allied foreign leaders. He has not extended any exemptions to American citizens.
The reform proposals seem specific only to bulk phone records collected by the NSA under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. They do not appear to apply to any other collections by the NSA (email, Skype, chat, GPS, texts, and so on and on), or any other federal or state agency, or to any programs in place today that we are not aware of or which may be created in the future, perhaps in response to the reforms.
This omission is significant; The Guardian reports the NSA collects each day more than five million missed-call alerts, for use in contact-chaining analysis (working out someone’s social network from who they contact and when), details of 1.6 million border crossings a day, from network roaming alerts, more than 110,000 names, from electronic business cards, which also included the ability to extract and save images and over 800,000 financial transactions, either through text-to-text payments or linking credit cards to phone users. NSA also extracted geolocation data from more than 76,000 text messages a day, including from “requests by people for route info” and “setting up meetings.” Other travel information was obtained from itinerary texts sent by travel companies, even including cancellations and delays to travel plans.
The Obama reforms do not even mention surveillance of Internet communications internationally under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act; and surveillance of communications overseas under Executive Order 12333.
The reforms do not mention pulling back the NSA’s ongoing efforts to weaken overall internet security, such a demanding companies provide them with backdoors to bypass encryption.
The reforms leave the door open. Obama’s proposal includes a provision asking Congress to validate that Section 215 of the Patriot Act may in the future be legitimately interpreted as allowing bulk data collection of telephone data.
The reforms leave in place far too many secret court actions and loopholes.
The reforms will be changed in the Congressional process and are likely to be further weakened by frightened representatives terrified of being blamed for the next act of terror (or by fear of losing votes for appearing “weak.”)
The reforms, even if enacted exactly as proposed or even slightly strengthened, only alter the security state in some minor and superficial ways. Our Fourth Amendment rights against unwarranted search and seizure remain jackbooted.
Some might even say the reforms are not reforms at all, but just some pretty words like “Hope” and “Change” that a smart politician might toss off to appear to be listening to his People without doing anything of substance.

To review the latest news: Earlier today, the president called the unprecedented program “modest” and insisted that “nobody is listening to your phone calls.” Belcher — who advises the White House on how to frame issues — went even further, casting the program as nothing more invasive than, say, your bank logging your personal financial transactions or a pollster evaluating data.
Before evaluating the legal arguments being made by Obama, Belcher and other administration officials, let me just say for the record that the most grotesque part of this CNN exchange was when Belcher tried to justify the surveillance program on the grounds that it is popular. In a country whose constitution was designed, in part, to prevent majority public opinion from trampling the basic rights of minorities, this is a hideous line of reasoning, to say the least. Similarly hideous is Belcher claiming that mass surveillance is making us safer, but not being able to provide any evidence that such a claim is true.
All of that aside, what’s significant here are the larger legal arguments, because they will likely be used in court cases to cement this and other surveillance programs for the long haul. And the fact is, the White House’s legal arguments are deceptive — and at times, outright lies.
First and foremost, let’s remember that a former FBI counterterrorism agent recently told CNN that the administration is, indeed, listening into phone calls. If that’s true, the president is outright lying (which should no longer be considered surprising, in light of his administration’s blatant — and potentially perjurious — lies before Congress on this issue).
But let’s say that despite this, you nonetheless believe President Obama when he says his administration isn’t listening in on phone calls. The fact remains that, as the New Yorker and Reuters both show, the collection of “metadata” about calls is often just as intrusive as listening into the actual calls themselves. Reuters sums it up this way:
Any suggestion that Americans have nothing to worry about from this dragnet collection of communications metadata is wrong. Even without intercepting the content of communications, the government can use metadata to learn our most intimate secrets – anything from whether we have a drinking problem to whether we’re gay or straight… So we shouldn’t be comforted when government officials reassure us that they’re not listening to our communications – they’re merely harvesting and mining our metadata. In a digital world, metadata can be used to construct nuanced portraits of our social relationships and interactions.
That gets to how Belcher followed up his boss during our debate on CNN today. He argued not only that a program sweeping in data from millions of Americans is modest, but also that it is no different than companies analyzing consumer data. Like so many carefully sculpted political talking points, it sounds logical, except when you remember the key facts being omitted — in this case, the fact that the government is using its law enforcement power to obtain the data without the public’s permission. Yes, that’s right: unlike a company with which you personally do business — and with which you sign an agreement about your personal information — the Obama administration is using the government’s unilateral power to simply grab your information across multiple platforms.
That’s hardly, as the dismissive phrase goes, a “distinction without a difference.” As I noted on CNN, when it comes to civil liberties, the Bill of Rights is all about constraining the power of the government to encroach on our freedoms. It does this because the founders recognized that the government isn’t just another institution in society — it isn’t, say, just a private bank or a polling firm. It is granted special powers (subpoena, warrants, etc.) that those other institutions don’t have — but it was granted those powers in exchange for that authority being properly constrained. When such constraints are removed, our liberties are inevitably restricted (this, by the way, is why Senator Obama sponsored legislation to outlaw what President Obama is now doing).
Belcher and other Obama officials likely know all this, but also know that the best way to at once defang the NSA scandal and normalize the government’s assault on civil liberties is to pretend it’s the same as any other company using data in the creepy ways we’ve all gotten accustomed to. It’s the old “nothing to see here, move along” trick. The only question is: Will America fall for it?

8. NEOLIBERALISM - social darwinism in a party mask
In left discussion the term “neo-liberalism” is often used to refer to a particular pro-free market economic perspective and set of policies that conservatives developed in the 1970’s and 1980’s as an alternative to the New Deal and European social democracy. As Reed uses the term, however, it is generally synonymous with any perspective or policy that supports capitalism in general.

The defenders of the Democratic party cited above tout the recent successes of the sane in temporarily rejecting pieces of the neoliberal agenda. They ignore the many successes of neoliberalism, and its growing future prospects. But none of them discusses the massive amount of political effort that goes into the few temporary successes. Just stopping President Obama’s plan to make sure old people have skin in the game by cutting Social Security and Medicare was a five year effort of organizing phone calls, emails, congressional contacts, demonstrations and constant publicity. The same is true of the effort to derail the Keystone Pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We couldn’t even scrape together the energy to insist on extension of long-term unemployment benefits, and were unable to stop cuts to food stamps, among many other failures.
These exhausting campaigns eat time and energy that could be used for positive purposes, if the Democrats had any positive purposes. But they don’t. On every issue, from climate change to judicial appointments to financial regulation to health care reform, the first choices of solutions are neoliberal, and each time we have to start over from ground zero.
There are no Democratic voices for a decent future. Other than the empty platitudes mouthed by Obama and belied by his actions, there is no discussion of a path towards a future in which democracy controls the rich and their corporations. There is only the dead hand of Friedrich Hayek and the bullhorns in the hands of the filthy rich bellowing that markets are god-like and that we proles must serve them to survive. There is only the demand that we support whatever Democrat gets past the money primary and gratefully lick one or two crumbs off the floor.

They intend to take everything we all work for and pay for, as individuals and families, like our homes and savings; or as a society, for ourselves and each other, like Medicare or the post office, and turn it all into a private revenue stream for the 1%.

who will argue that Bill Clinton deserves his many millions BECAUSE he did away with Glass Steagall which permitted the neoliberal orgy of massive economic collapse that, somehow, spared those who engineered and profited from the fraud. Who will come to argue that Barack will deserve his billion dollar reward for adding more misery for the many but even greater profit for the few … even as the capacity of the planet to support human life is compromised for that profit, even as forever war makes a mockery of life, just as the US legal system, since Bush v. Gore makes mock of justice and truth.
Let us not forget that it is not just the economic system that neoliberalism destroys, as indeed you remind us, it is the actual viability of human life which is on the chopping block, it is the question of what it actually means to be human that is neither asked, permitted to be asked, or even acknowledged as the existential question of our time.
That a single generation of economic “adherents” may hold the fate of humanity in their grubby paws, mindless and careless, obsessed with only themselves and their “ambitions” of wealth and total control … is not merely appalling it is obscene.
That so many citizens are willfully blind, are happy to embrace any evil so long as those who would do their thinking for them tell them it is the thing to do is, simply, heartbreaking, and suggests that the sound-bite philosophy of our time, supplied by “the media”, and enforced by political “operatives” is so thread-bare, so empty and lifeless … as to have NO substance at all.

9. FDL (Podesta attacks / defeats strawmen)

Last week several environmental groups called on the president to not speed up permitting for liquefied natural gas exports. In response White House adviser John Podesta met with reporters and forcefully rebutted arguments they had not made.
“If you oppose all fossil fuels and you want to turn that switch off tomorrow, that is a completely impractical way of moving toward a clean-energy future” he thundered, answering a charge articulated by no one. “With all due respect to my friends in the environmental community,” he continued against his fictional adversary, “if they expect us to turn off the lights and go home, that’s sort of an impractical suggestion.” It was an admirable performance, a rare and special display of the kind of soaring creativity not normally encountered outside of a child’s imagination.

In point of fact, the groups were simply arguing against the latest excuse to ramp up fracking – and they can’t do much more than appeal to conscience. They certainly aren’t in a position to launch primary challenges or force other unpleasant consequences on Democrats. Meanwhile the fossil fuel industry – which, granted, doesn’t wield the fearsome clout inside the Beltway that, say, Friends of the Earth does – has managed to scrape together some meager resources to try to get its message out.
Since the Obama administration is a huge fracking cheerleader – Podesta reiterated that support – I can understand why activism against it is a sore spot. He also was careful to point out that the administration is finalizing plans to reduce methane emissions from fracking. Details to follow, um, later. Meanwhile, the existing dirty practices continue.
Presumably the EPA will be in charge of regulating methane, which doesn’t inspire much confidence considering that the EPA is currently being sued for failing to regulate methane. Podesta’s spiel boils down to a vague promise that eventually a captured agency will do something. In addition, we are to trust that – against all recent experience – the industry won’t dilute to meaninglessness any worthwhile proposal that somehow miraculously emerges.
Since this was a Politico story no pushback like that greeted Podesta, of course. He pretty much got the stenography treatment: An official said something and whether or not it has merit, it’s newsworthy. In a similar vein the article links to a piece with a headline trumpeting popular support of Keystone XL “(Also on POLITICO: Poll: 65 percent back Keystone),” support based largely and falsely on expected job creation. The fact that only 35 permanent full time jobs will be created by Keystone doesn’t reflect on the validity of the poll though. People said they liked it, with or without accurate information, so the result must be reported. Journalism, friends.


Work has been suspended to remove spent nuclear fuel from a storage pool [...] [TEPCO] said an accident occurred at around 9:30 AM on Wednesday when workers started removing fuel units at the No. 4 reactor building [...] a large crane used to hoist a cask containing 22 spent fuel units from the storage pool suddenly halted before lifting the cask. Workers were attaching a hook to the crane’s wire [...] The company says no rise in radiation levels have been observed around the pool. [...]

11.Hanford Workers sickened, hospitalized

Hanford workers sickened by unknown vapors rises to 17 — The KING 5 Investigators have found that six Hanford workers were sickened Wednesday from ingesting chemical vapors at the nuclear facility. [...] This brings the total to 17 Hanford employees who have needed medical care since last Wednesday due to the inhalation of toxic vapors. [...] “Data collection and analysis is underway in the affected (tank) farms to understand what happened and what might be done to reduce the likelihood of future occurrences,” said [Jerry Holloway, External Affairs Manager at U.S. Dept. of Energy’s contractor Washington River Protection Solutions]. [...] The incident Wednesday occurred in yet another location at the Hanford site [...] Sources tell the reporter 17 people were working on the video inspection when three were suddenly sickened by the release of vapors.

Mike Geffre, retired WRPS employee who spent 26 years at Hanford: “It’s pretty scary. It doesn’t usually happen like this. Usually you see four or five a year. But to have this many in eight days is really abnormal [...] Whenever you hear of someone getting tank vapors, you never know what the long term affects are. The affects of exposures like this can show up as health problems years down the road.”

KING 5 News transcript: The King 5 investigators learned that workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation have been rushed to the hospital. […] I was in Richland doing an interview on this very topic […] during that interview we got word from sources that right at that time that 3 more employees were either going to the hospital here or taken to the onsite medical facility at Hanford because of another such incident […] In those three separate incidents the workers were all at different locations at Hanford, so this isn’t just one problem area where they’re seeing a repeat problem. [...] Obviously, workers are concerned, feel there’s a problem here, and they want their employer and the Department of Energy to do something about it.

12. Hurricane landfill's MCHM permit 'dead'
By Ryan Quinn  Advertiser

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Waste Management's permit modification allowing it to dump MCHM-contaminated wastewater mixed with sawdust into a Hurricane landfill is "dead," a spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said Friday.

Kelley Gillenwater said Waste Management has changed its permit to deposit 700 tons of the material into its Disposal Services landfill in Putnam County. Waste Management changed the date from Oct. 1 to March 26, which was Wednesday, so the approval is now expired.

The company announced March 15 that it would stop dumping at the Hurricane site, following public backlash to the 36,000 to 40,000 gallons the company said it deposited from Feb. 25 to March 13.

However, Putnam County Commission President Steve Andes said he wanted the permit change rescinded so the company couldn't start dumping again.

On Monday, Putnam County and the city of Hurricane asked a Kanawha County circuit judge to force DEP Secretary Randy Huffman "to stop the permitting of the disposal of Crude MCHM-, PPH- and DiPPH-contaminated waste in the landfill.

Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib granted a preliminary injunction blocking the DEP from allowing Waste Management to dump the material, and he scheduled a hearing for Friday to determine whether to make the injunction permanent or not. However, when the DEP's lawyers told Zakaib at the hearing that the permit was now expired, the judge dismissed the case.

Putnam County Attorney Jennifer Scragg Karr wanted to proceed with the hearing, to explain why Waste Management should never have been granted a permit and set precedent "that they not be allowed to do this again with anyone else."

The judge said that wasn't necessary, though, because residents near the Hurricane landfill weren't affected anymore.

"We're concerned with the case of the plaintiffs here," Zakaib said, "not anybody else."

Friday's hearing was supposed to also deal with the county and city's request to force the DEP to compel the remediation of the chemicals already there. Hurricane City Manager Ben Newhouse said the city still wants it all removed.

Karr said the county will have to keep working on that issue, hopefully alongside Waste Management and out of court. If that doesn't work, she said, there could be another lawsuit in circuit or federal court.

Freedom Industries leaked the chemical into the Elk River on Jan. 9, fouling the water of about 300,000 West Virginians.

Diversified Services, the company Freedom hired to clean up the chemical, was depositing the material in the landfill. Hurricane and Putnam County officials complained that neither they nor the public were told the contaminated material would be stored in Putnam County, or that the landfill had applied for a permit modification to accept the material.

Andes said the city and county asked Huffman last week to void the permit, and said they would go to court if the agency did not comply. Gillenwater said minor permits do not require public notice -- and that Waste Management didn't violate the permit -- so the DEP didn't rescind it.

The city and county stated in their complaint that the local health officer for the Putnam and Kanawha-Charleston health departments has advised them that preliminary data "may demonstrate self-reported symptoms associated with inhaling" the chemicals. They state that they first learned about the chemical when residents began complaining about a licorice smell near the landfill.

"The said health officer also advises that the long-term human impact from inhalation of these chemicals is unknown at this time," officials said in their lawsuit. They also expressed concern about leachate coming from the material already in the landfill, adding that the DEP could not have found the landfill to have the means to "store or dispose of this contaminated waste for which no human toxicity tests have been performed to adequately ascertain the toxicity to human health."

The Hurricane landfill was the only site accepting the material, so officials aren't sure what will happen to the approximately 700,000 gallons of it the DEP says is now sitting in a tank at the Freedom Industries tank farm along the Elk River. Aluise said the site cleanup must ensure that MCHM doesn't get into waterways, so any rainwater or snow melt that runs across the site is being collected.

He said earlier this week that Freedom was negotiating with two industrial/commercial wastewater facilities in Ohio and one in North Carolina to take the wastewater.

Reach Ryan Quinn at or 304-348-1254. 

from UN
Water is the essence of life. Safe drinking water and sanitation are indispensable to sustain life and health, and fundamental to the dignity of all. 

In order to address this crisis, the international community has increasingly recognized that access to safe drinking water and sanitation must be considered within a human rights framework 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

PNN - Women's History Month with Special Guest Host Meredith

Rebecca & Subash
Please intro us as 
Rebecca Wakefield from SEIU Local 1991 
and Subhash Kateel from OneMiami, 
here to bring us the SEIU Tallahassee Update.

Meredith Ockman our very special guest host
Terri ODonnell
Barbara Devane

Scientists have crowdsourced a network of volunteers taking water samples at beaches along the West Coast in hopes of capturing a detailed look at low levels of radiation drifting across the ocean since the 2011 tsunami that devastated a nuclear power plant in Japan.

With the risk to public health extremely low, the effort is more about perfecting computer models that will better predict chemical and radiation spills in the future than bracing for a threat, researchers say.

Federal agencies are not sampling at the beach. Washington also doesn't test ocean water for radiation, said Washington Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer. The state of Oregon is sampling, but looking for higher radiation levels closer to federal health standards, said state health physicist Daryl Leon.

The March 2011 tsunami off Japan flooded the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, causing radiation-contaminated water to spill into the Pacific. Airborne radiation was detected in milk and rainwater in the U.S. soon afterward. But things move much more slowly in the ocean.

”We know there's contaminated water coming out of there, even today,” Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said in a video appealing for volunteers and contributions.

In fact, it is the biggest pulse of radioactive liquid dropped in the ocean ever, he said.

”What we don't really know is how fast and how much is being transported across the Pacific,” he added. “Yes, the models tell us it will be safe. Yes, the levels we expect off the coast of the U.S. and Canada are expected to be low. But we need measurements, especially now as the plume begins to arrive along the West Coast.”

In an email from Japan, Buesseler said he hopes the sampling will go on every two or three months for the next two to three years.

Two different models have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals predicting the spread of radioactive isotopes of cesium and iodine from Fukushima. One, known as Rossi et al, shows the leading edge of the plume hitting the West Coast from southeast Alaska to Southern California by April. The other, known as Behrens et all, shows the plume hitting Southeast Alaska, British Columbia and Washington by March 2016.

The isotopes have been detected at very low levels at a Canadian sampling point far out to sea earlier than the models predicted, but not yet reported at the beach, said Kathryn A. Higley, head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University. The Rossi model predicts levels a little higher than the fallout from nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s. The Behrens model predicts lower levels like those seen in the ocean in the 1990s, after the radiation had decayed and dissipated.

The models predict levels of Cesium 137 between 30 and 2 Becquerels per cubic meter of seawater by the time the plume reaches the West Coast, Higley said.

The federal drinking water health standard is 7,400 Becquerels per cubic meter, Leon said.

Becquerels are a measure of radioactivity.

The crowdsourcing raised $29,945 from 225 people, enough to establish about 30 sampling sites in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and California, according to Woods Hole. The website so far has not reported any radiation.

Sara Gamble of Renton, Wash., the mother of a young child, raised $500 because she thinks it is important to know what is really going on. Woods Hole sent her a bucket, a funnel, a clipboard, a UPS shipping label, instructions and a big red plastic container for her sample. She went to Ocean Shores, Wash., a couple of weeks ago, collected her sample and shipped it off. No results have come back yet. To do another sample, she will have to raise another $500.

”I got lots of strange looks at the beach and the UPS Store, because it's labeled 'Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity,' and it's a big red bin,” she said. “But it's funny; nobody would ask me anything out on the beach. I was like, 'Aren't you curious? Don't you want to ask?”'

Taking the sample has allayed her initial fears, but she still thinks it is important to know “because it affects our ecosystems, kids love to play in the water at the beach, and I want to know what's there.”

On the Web: Details on radiation project:

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution FAQ on Fukushima radiation:

Video of crowdsource appeal:

AP Writer Phuong Le contributed to this story from Seattle.

Follow Jeff Barnard at


The unskilled and destitute are being targeted to finish the clean-up job at Fukushima nuclear plant.

The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which claimed the lives of 15,884 people, caused a catastrophic nuclear meltdown at the plant in 2011.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the operator of the nuclear plant, has come under intense scrutiny for leaving the hazardous decommissioning work to unqualified staff while pouring resources into another plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, according to the New York Times.

Now experts fear that as qualified engineers are forced to quit the site because they have reached the legal limits for radiation exposure, only poorly skilled labourers are being brought in.

"There is a crisis of manpower at the plant," said Yukiteru Naka, founder of Tohoku Enterprise, a contractor and former plant engineer for General Electric.

"We are forced to do more with less, like firemen being told to use less water even though the fire's still burning."

But recruitment agents were desperate to keep the 3,000 workers at the plant, regardless of their level of skill.

One online advert reads: "Out of work? Nowhere to live? Nowhere to go? Nothing to eat? Come to Fukushima."

Another job advert for radiation monitoring says: "You must have common sense, and be able to carry out a conversation."

It has also been widely reported that some homeless people were recruited by subcontractors to work at the plant.

Hiroyuki Watanbe, a city council member in nearby Iwaki, said: "We're talking people who are living hand-to-mouth."

Tepco refused to comment on claims that untrained workers had ignored alarm warnings of an overflow of contaminated water from one of the tanks.

Toyoshi Fuketa, a commissioner at the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said: "It's an extremely elementary mistake. If a fire alarm went off in your house you'd be worried, let alone a nuclear power plant."

Tepco's deputy nuclear chief, Masayuki Ono, admitted: "It did not occur to us to actually go to the scene to check."

Tepco has been accused of being more interested into putting more workers at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa as part of the government's push to return to nuclear energy three years after the world's second-worst nuclear disaster rather than concentrating on a proper clean-up of Fukushima.


3. Scalia Licks His Chops: Upcoming SCOTUS Case
    May Be Even Worse than Citizens United

March 19, 2014  |  

Sometime in the next three months – perhaps as early as next week – the Supreme Court will issue its next big campaign finance decision, a ruling that reformers worry will further open floodgates of one-percenter campaign cash. The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, concerns a challenge by the RNC and conservative CEO Shaun McCutcheon to the federal laws restricting how much one person can donate to candidates and party committees each cycle.

“Really what’s at stake here is whether there’s just a few hundred or a few thousand people who can dominate the entire election process in the U.S.,” warned attorney Adam Lioz, a counsel for the progressive think tank Demos and co-author of the  amicus brief filed by groups including the NAACP, the Sierra Club and the American Federation of Teachers. In a Monday interview, Lioz responded to arguments from Mitch McConnell, Antonin Scalia and First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams; discussed why neither side is satisfied with a 1976 precedent; and argued the legitimacy of America’s political process was under threat. A condensed version of our conversation follows.

What is the worst-case scenario in this case?

The worst-case scenario would be that the Court not only strikes down the aggregate limits, but does so in a way that calls into question contribution limits more generally, and puts them in the crosshairs…

The Court for decades has viewed spending limits under a standard known as strict scrutiny…but has been more deferential…with regard to contribution limits…

If the Court were to change the legal standard that they use to review contribution limits…it could also engage the courts in a very sticky game of judging the levels of different contribution limits, and sort of trying to take a scalpel to the work of the legislative branch…

We have a Supreme Court who no longer contains any members that have had political experience, getting involved in substituting its own judgment for those who actually have experience running for office, and know how these laws operate in practice…

So the worst case-scenario is to jeopardize contribution limits generally, which would be a radical departure from four decades of campaign finance law, where the Court has been very clear again and again that the legislative branch has the discretion to set reasonable contribution limits and make sure that the integrity of our democracy is not threatened.

When you say “the integrity of our democracy,” what is the nature of the threat there?

The Court has for years said that we can pass laws to fight corruption or its appearance. Obviously the prospect of contributors, wealthy contributors, giving large donations directly to political candidates raises that prospect of corruption or its appearance — and fairly directly. And then there’s also the more general sort of broader threat to the integrity of our democracy, when the citizens of a democracy accurately perceive that a very small number of wealthy donors calls the tune, and that practically speaking the size of one’s wallet determines the strength of her voice in our democracy. This is a direct threat to citizens’ participation, and to the legitimacy of the laws and policies that come out of our political process at the end of the day.

What, if anything, stood out to you in the oral argument on this case?
Some of the justices seem to really understand what’s at play here… There was one reference to [how] under 500 people could fund the whole shooting match…

We already have a situation where candidates know that they have to appeal to the donor class, a very small percentage of the overall populace, in order to get in the game and run effectively. This decision, if it comes out badly, could put that phenomenon on steroids. And now all of the sudden, instead of thousands of people who are members of that donor class, we could have a few hundred people who are really playing this gatekeeper role across the country, where candidates are forced to make a pilgrimage to certain wealthy donors and make sure they get their stamp of approval in order to really be viable…
So that’s I think really what’s at stake here, is whether there’s just a few hundred or a few thousand people who can dominate the entire election process in the U.S. Which would not only open up new doors to direct types of corruption — because it would return us to the old soft money system, where individual office-holders could solicit large checks for their party and their fellow candidates. But it would also really concentrate control over our political system and undermine people’s faith in our democracy…

When you ask the very wealthy what their priorities are, they have the exact opposite priorities as the general public.

Justice Scalia said in [oral] argument that it was “fanciful to think that the sense of gratitude that an individual” elected official feels “because of a substantial contribution” to the RNC or DNC is “any greater” than for a massive contribution to a PAC trying to re-elect them that would already be legal. Is he wrong? 
Well, I think Justice Scalia’s statement demonstrates the fallacy at the heart of Citizens United — in that what he’s pointing to is the very real phenomenon that when wealthy contributors make million-dollar contributions to outside groups like super PACs, that there is certainly a level of gratitude and appreciation generated amongst the folks they’re aiming to support.

But these things are also a matter of degree… If the Court strikes the aggregate limit, they’d be creating a situation where the candidate him- or herself could directly solicit million-dollar checks on behalf of his or her party and/or fellow candidates, through the phenomenon of joint fundraising committees…

That increases the nexus, and puts candidates into more direct contact with the donors in terms of the multimillion-dollar checks…

The contributions that large donors can make to candidates often take place early in the election cycle, in the primary campaigns, or even when people are deciding whether to run for office in the first place… Big money acts as a filter, determining who runs and who wins…

In that very important way, [those] kinds of big checks to candidates have a more profound effect on the system as a whole than outside spending. And so therefore it is reasonable there be greater protection against those kinds of big checks to candidates…

[Also] the majority of outside spending tends to be concentrated in a handful of races that are highly competitive, and so therefore already expensive. And so the marginal value of each dollar spent by a super PAC in a, you know, $50 million race is going to be much less than the marginal value of a dollar that a big donor can give to a candidate earlier in the process.
Senator McConnell’s  brief in this case argues that the government’s arguments reveal that “The real concern is with the raw amount of money a single individual could contribute,” and that the “attempt to justify the aggregate limit as a naked restraint on too much individual speech is an affront to the First Amendment.” Why do you disagree?

The government’s argument — and the argument that should win the day in this case — is that allowing one person to give an unlimited amount into federal elections presents two concrete problems. Number one: It facilitates the circumvention of the…base contributions limit, the limit [on cash] that goes directly to a candidate, because it gives more opportunities for candidates, and parties especially, to pass around money and to aggregate sums…
And then…it puts individual candidates back in the business of soliciting huge checks from individual donors, so [it] essentially revives the soft money system that Congress acted in…McCain-Feingold to end…

In terms of the broader argument…the government has a responsibility to fight the appearance of corruption, and to protect the integrity of our democracy. And when individuals are giving millions of dollars into the system — that, again, are skewing the priorities of our elected officials, are distracting our elected officials from pursuing the objectives of the general public, and essentially making our elected officials more responsive to the donor class than to their constituents — then that is another compelling reason for the government to limit large contributions to candidates and to the parties.
Debating Citizens United, the First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams  wrote, at The Nation, “People who would enthusiastically defend the free speech rights of Nazis, pornographers and distributors of videos of animals being tortured or killed were appalled that corporations and unions should be permitted to weigh in on who should be elected president.” And he specifically warned that in the arguments over Citizens United,“the assistant solicitor general defending the constitutionality of the statute was forced to concede that the same logic that the government used to defend the statute would, as well, permit the government to criminalize the publication of a book by a corporation urging people to vote for a candidate.” What do you make of those arguments?
When it comes to the relationship between money and speech, there is a fundamental difference between content and amplification… I do not support the government being able to discriminate and regulate based on the content of anyone’s speech, or based on the ideas that are being put forth. What we’re talking about here is about whether a wealthy individual or a corporation that accumulates wealth in the economic sphere should be able to use that economic might to purchase political power by amplifying its voice — using essentially a million-dollar megaphone…drowning out the rest of us in a sea of campaign cash. And that is a fundamentally different question than whether it’s appropriate to silence certain ideas because of the content of that speech…
Ultimately, what we’re talking about is the relationship between economic capitalism and political democracy… One of the universal values that we hold in our political sphere is that we all come to the political table as equals, to make decisions together. And if we allow people who are successful — or even just lucky — in the economic sphere to use that economic might to purchase political power, then we threaten the core of our democratic values. And so the concept of preventing for-profit corporations from purchasing political power by intervening directly into elections has everything to do with how we as society want to balance the relationship between ourselves as political equals and separately as economic players.

SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe  counts at least three conservative justices who’ve indicated that the 1976 decision Buckley v. Valeo should be overturned, leading to fewer restrictions. But activists who favor campaign finance regulation have also taken issue with Buckley v. Valeo from the other side, for accepting the premise that contributions are speech. Do you see Buckley as a precedent that is worth saving?

No. But we need to overturn Buckley in the correct way…

Buckley has given us a lot of problems over the years… It introduced this concept of money as speech, and it was not at all sensitive to the idea that money is primarily used in our system to amplify speech, as opposed to create speech initially…

[And] Buckley is the first place where we got this flawed concept…that only corruption or its appearance are acceptable reasons for [regulating] money in politics. And that has caused lots of problems over the years.
What we need to do is to make room for other core American values to be at play in this debate. So, for example: the core value of political equality. Core values of participation in our democracy…

We definitely need to look at — to be transforming — the Court’s entire approach to money in politics. We need to go back to Buckley, start over, and get it right

Who is the justice to watch here? Does this ultimately come down to how far to the right John Roberts wants to go on this?

I think John Roberts is an important justice to watch, because while he has been skeptical of campaign finance reform throughout his tenure on the court, he’s also been sensitive to the status and reputation of the court…

The American people…are watching the Court very closely for this McCutcheon case. There are people who are ready to take action in its wake…

A radical decision from the Court, that jeopardizes contribution limits in general, will really do a significant amount of harm to the Court’s stature. Because the public does not believe that corporations are people. The public does not believe that money is speech. And the public does not believe that one person should be able to dump $3.5 million into an election and drown out their fellow citizens, threatening the integrity of our democracy.

4. Criticizing For No Press Freedom
For the first time, Reporters Without Borders have added the U.S. and U.K to their annual press freedom index of countries - including longtime favorites like Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Saudi Arabia - that repress online speech and use the internet to conduct domestic surveillance. They specifically call out the hypocrisy of abuses by government agencies within supposed  democracies - cue the NSA - that have "hacked into the very heart of the Internet...(and) turned it into a weapon in the service of special interests." With interactive, scary graphics.

"The mass surveillance methods employed in these countries...are all the more intolerable because they will be used and indeed are already being used by authoritarians countries such as Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to justify their own violations of freedom of information. How will so-called democratic countries will able to press for the protection of journalists if they adopt the very practices they are criticizing authoritarian regimes for?"

5. Breaking: North Carolina Regulators Take Legal Action Against Duke Energy for Coal Ash Dumping
Oh, maybe thats not good?

North Carolina environmental regulators have cited Duke Energy for violating the conditions of a wastewater permit after it illegally dumped an estimated 61 million gallons of coal ash wastewater into a Cape Fear River tributary, according to Waterkeeper Alliance. 

The state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued the citation on Thursday for the permit violations after state officials discovered the dumping during a March 11 inspection at Duke Energy’s Cape Fear Steam Electric Plant.

Regulators said the wastewater was flushed from two large, confined lagoons and into the on-site canal that empties in an unnamed tributary, which connects with the Cape Fear River. The state agency calculated its estimate based on log books Duke Energy maintained for the pumping activities.

Waterkeeper Alliance released aerial surveillance photos taken from a fixed-wing aircraft last week catching Duke Energy workers in the act of pumping the wastewater.

“After more than a week of indecisiveness, DENR conceded that Duke’s secret pumping was indeed illegal, but yet again, DENR’s action only came after Waterkeeper Alliance and the Cape Fear Riverkeeper caught Duke in the act with aerial surveillance photos,” said Donna Lisenby, Waterkeeper Alliance’s global coal campaign coordinator. “Once again, citizens and shrewd investigative reporters had to work overtime to pick up the slack because DENR had failed to notice this egregious dumping for several months.”

The pumps and attached hoses were set up in the pair of coal ash lagoons but were not in use when state officials visited the plant last week. The pumping equipment has since been removed.

The March 11 visit to the Cape Fear plant was part of DENR’s inspections of all Duke Energy’s facilities with coal ash lagoons.

The inspections were announced in the wake of the Feb. 2 coal ash spill at the Dan River plant. The detailed information the state is gathering about each facility will factor into the state’s future decision-making with regard to all of North Carolina’s coal ash lagoons.

“Duke says it is ‘accepting full responsibility’ for the Dan River spill,” said Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette. ”How are we to believe them when they have been deliberately pumping their toxic waste into the Cape Fear River, including on the very same day millions more gallons of sludge were also spilling into the Dan River as a result of Duke’s carelessness.” 

State officials have notified cities downstream of the findings at the Cape Fear plant.

None of the downstream municipalities have reported problems meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards. However, DENR officials are collecting water samples in the Cape Fear River downstream from the plant to determine if surface water meets state water quality standards.

Duke Energy is permitted by the state to discharge treated wastewater from the ash ponds into the canal through vertical spillway pipes, known as risers. The coal ash lagoons and risers at the Cape Fear plant provide physical treatment that allows heavier, more concentrated ash residuals to settle to the bottom of the lagoons over time.

Yet the state’s investigation revealed that the pumping activities bypassed the riser structures and accelerated the drawing down of the lagoons so much that they no longer properly functioned as treatment systems.

According to Duke Energy, the company was using a temporary pumping system to lower water levels in two basins at the Cape Fear plant to perform upcoming maintenance.

“We were notified by phone in August that Duke Energy intended to conduct routine maintenance work at these ash ponds,” said Tom Reeder, director of the NC Division of Water Resources. “The state’s investigation revealed that the pumping activities ongoing at this plant far exceeded what would reasonably be considered routine maintenance.”

Prior to the March 11 inspection, staff with the Division of Water Resources inspected the Cape Fear plant on Dec. 6. During that visit, the state inspector noticed parts of disconnected pumping equipment on the berm next to one of the lagoons, but its levels did not appear to be lower.

Duke Energy did not mention to the inspector during the Dec. 6 inspection that pumping had been on-going in the months prior to the inspection. 

By law, the state agency can issue civil penalties for violations of state environmental laws but is required to give the company 10 days to respond to the notice of violation.
“Duke Energy has had such a cozy relationship with NC regulators and legislators for so long they don’t even think twice about breaking the law with respect to their poisonous coal ash pollution,” said Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Peter Harrison.

6. Notice of Meeting/Workshop Hearing

The Dept. of Environmental Protection, Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee announces a public meeting to which all persons are invited.
DATE AND TIME: Monday, March 31, 2014, 10:30 a.m.
PLACE: Board of County Commissioners Chambers, 3rd Floor, Collier County Government Center, Bldg. F, 3299 Tamiami Trail East, Naples, Florida 34112
GENERAL SUBJECT MATTER TO BE CONSIDERED: To evaluate a pending application in Department file 1353-H, submitted by Dan A. Hughes Company, L.P., to drill in the Big Cypress watershed and explore for hydrocarbons. A copy of the pending application may be obtained at

A copy of the agenda may be obtained by contacting: Betsy Gingery, Department of Environmental Protection, Office of General Counsel, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., MS 35, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000, telephone number: (850)245-2284 or email:

Pursuant to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, any person requiring special accommodations to participate in this workshop/meeting is asked to advise the agency at least 2 days before the workshop/meeting by contacting: Betsy Gingery at the address, email or telephone number above. If you are hearing or speech impaired, please contact the agency using the Florida Relay Service, 1(800)955-8771 (TDD) or 1(800)955-8770 (Voice).

For more information, you may contact: Betsy Gingery at the address, email or telephone number above. Written materials may be provided to Ms. Gingery as well.

Children have been experiencing health effects already. As Paul said, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. But it’s hard to understand why, for example, that a teacher I personally know witnessed 50% of his class with noses bleeding at the same time. And this is a recurring thing that we hear, that children’s noses are bleeding a lot.

There have been respiration problems and immune system problems reported by some teachers and many families. This is coming from lots of different areas.

“Radiation leaks could still be occurring” at WIPP — Locals worried since “no one knows anything” — Workers to use “military-like tactics… ready to risk everything” — “Event has changed WIPP” — “Life as we knew it is going to be different

New York Times, Mar. 20, 2014: “The event that has happened has changed WIPP,” [Jose R. Franco, manager of the Department of Energy's Carlsbad field office] said, using the popular nickname for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. “But we need it to reopen.” […] “Did we ever think it could happen? No, but it did,” [Rick Fuentes, president of the local chapter of the United Steelworkers union] said. “So everybody has to come to terms with the reality that life as we knew it at WIPP is going to be different now.”

Indian Country Today, Mar. 20, 2014: Local Carlsbad residents, even those who work there or are dependent on WIPP’s economic benefits, are worried because “no one knows anything.” They are glad that the EPA has come in to investigate as well, because they don’t know if they can trust what WIPP officials have to say about the leak and any radiation contamination. […] “no one knows anything” — explanations are criticized and officials are mistrusted.
Carlsbad Current Argus, Mar. 22, 2014: Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership has spent weeks training for the day when teams are sent below ground to investigate the transuranic nuclear waste drums […] the military-like tactics will consist of a balance of risks according to Re-entry Team Leader Wes Bryan. […] A myriad of factors play a role in the underground investigation process and any mistake has the possibility of derailing the task. […] Bryan has prepped his mine rescue team how to respond to any and all “worst case scenarios.” […] Bryan said, if the closed air circuit for a rescue team member fails, that person should remove their helmet because suffocation poses a greater and more immediate threat of death than breathing in radioactive particles underground. […] inherent risks and dangers cannot be overlooked and the mine rescue team is ready to risk everything to ensure the safety of the Carlsbad and surrounding communities.
Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Safety Program at the Southwest Research and Information Center, Mar. 22, 2014: “A month after the fact, we still don’t know what happened because no humans or robots have been underground. Radiation leaks could still be occurring. On top of that, the amount of radioactivity released into the atmosphere may be unknowable forever. […] What we are certain of is that plutonium and americium are very dangerous and typically cause fatal lung cancer when inhaled. Yet, if you believe the Department of Energy, these employees face no health risks whatsoever. […] There are 170,000 total containers buried at this site, with many holding contaminated plutonium waste from making nuclear bombs. [...] The release of radioactive material wasn’t supposed to happen for 15,000 years, yet WIPP had its first catastrophe in 15 years.”


Sunday, March 16, 2014

PNN - Water & Health


SEIU (Rebecca Wakefield, SEIU & Subhash Kateel One Miami)
Leanne & Eric AIDS
Jeanne Economos & Author Dale Findley Slongwhite
her book FED UP - the high cost of cheap food
Matthew Schwartz Florida Wildlands
Link to Dale Slongwhites'  Book:

Also, we got some good news today.  The Florida Humanities Council featured the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt Project and the Lake Apopka farmworkers in their most recent edition of their magazine.  Here is the link:
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (Heath Harrison) -- The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Water and Waste Management has issued two notices of violation to a company that hauled MCHM and other chemicals for Freedom Industries. 

According to a news release from the DEP, inspectors responded to a report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of a sheen in a drainage system at the facility of Diversified Services near St. Albans. 

A separate investigation of the company by the EPA and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. has been ongoing. A group of FBI agents removed computers, paperwork and boxes from the company last week. 

The WVDEP conducted sampling at the site and instructed Diversified to take action to contain the material. The agency said the company complied. The test results showed MCHM was present in the drainage system, which empties into the Kanawha River. 

The notices include a stormwater permit violation and a failure to minimize or prevent a potentially harmful discharge. 

The company has until March 26 to craft a response to the violations. 

MCHM was the chemical that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians in nine counties, after 10,000 gallons leaked into the Elk River from Freedom’s Charleston facility on Jan. 9. Diversified has been been working for Freedom to remove the chemical from the Charleston site.

2. Neighbors Near Company That Hauled MCHM For Freedom Industries Frustrated By Violations, Chemical Odor

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (Katy Brown) -- People who live next to Diversified Services near St. Albans are frustrated, angry, and sick. 

"Is it going to take somebody dying before they stop him?" asked one neighbor. "Is that what it's going to take for someone to care?" 

Diversified was hired by Freedom Industries to transport MCHM and other chemicals. 

But on Friday, the DEP's Division of Water and Waste Management issued two notices of violations to the trucking company after finding MCHM in the drainage system near their headquarters outside of St. Albans. 

Neighbors said they've been breathing in that MCHM for years. 

"The DEP guy comes down and tells me they're cleaning it up," said the neighbor. "Can we really trust these people to clean up the mess they made?" 

And with the warm weather, people living in the area said that all too familiar licorice smell is stronger than ever. 

"At different times it's really bad," Cecelia Sanson said. "You cry. You get nosebleeds. You get headaches." 

The issue at Diversified is that the company's drains dump into a tributary of the Kanawha River. 

No one knows how much of the MCHM got into the drainage system or the exact cause and timeframe of the release. 

But the good news is that there are no public water intakes immediately downstream from the site. 

Still, neighbors hope Diversified does the responsible thing. 

"I hope that they clean up everything that they've messed up," Sanson said. "And I hope they don't do it somewhere else." 

Diversified Services has until March 26 to provide a written response to the violations. 

In the meantime, the DEP will continue to monitor the situation. 

3. from WVA Moms for Safe Water

100% negligent! And why is the DEP wearing respirators if MCHM isn't harmful? This isn't an accident this is intentional and unacceptable!

Over the past few days since I found out about the MCHM tainted water that is being dumped into the DSI Landfill in Hurricane, I've had time to really think about what is going on. When the spill occurred in Charleston a few months ago, it was caused by an accident that occurred. While there was negligence involved that caused the accident, there was still an accident. What's now occurring is intentional and negligent as the MCHM is knowingly being placed in trucks, transported along our roadways and being dumped into a Hurricane landfill. No accident, no failed equipment, no failed tanks. Everyone involved in this situation is 100% negligent in their actions and I am hopeful that a court of law will prove this and proper penalties will be handed out to all involved. 

It really infuriates me that the DEP would let this occur, knowing how dangerous this chemical is or may be. Tonight on the news, I watched a DEP official wearing a respirator while inspecting the MCHM found in a stream outside of Diversified Services in St. Albans. BUT MCHM IS NOT HARMFUL OR DANGEROUS!!! 

50,000 gallons of MCHM tainted water has now been dumped into Waste Management's DSI landfill in Hurricane. Today, DSI was served legal papers advising them of the injunction that will be filed first thing Monday in the Circuit Court of Putnam County, which was required prior to the hearing. 
I'm hopeful that the Court will approve the injunction to keep this from continuing. 

I want to thank everyone for their support and am requesting lots of support in the future as this situation is far from over!

We may need to have a rally or public meeting in the near future. If you would be willing to attend or have any other ideas of what we could do, please leave a comment below.

4. Experts say: Flushing Effectiveness "mixed" (largely ineffective)
Kayla Sue Jacobs, a volunteer with Mountain Justice, advertises free bottled water the environmental group was handing out Friday at the Capitol. The organization was protesting the state government's handling of the water crisis caused by the Jan. 9 leak of the coal-cleaning chemical Crude MCHM into the water supply of nine West Virginia counties and calling on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to continue water distribution to residents. About 15 officers from the State and Capitol police forces kept an eye on the approximately 15 protesters.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The flushing of home plumbing systems recommended by state officials and West Virginia American Water after the January Elk River chemical leak had only "mixed effectiveness," according to preliminary findings by an expert hired by the Tomblin administration.

A team led by University of South Alabama environmental engineer Andrew Whelton reported this week on problems with the guidance and potentially related exposures to the chemical Crude MCHM from the Freedom Industries leak.
Results from some home testing conducted by Whelton's team before being hired by the state "implied that first flush had mixed effectiveness" on removing the chemical from plumbing systems.
Whelton said Friday that, at some homes, one round of flushing reduced MCHM levels to below the 10-parts-per-billion detection limit. At other homes, flushing did not reduce MCHM levels and, at others, chemical levels were reduced but still remained greater than 10 parts per billion, Whelton said.
Preliminary results of that work were presented Wednesday during a scientific seminar at the University of New Orleans and later posted on the Whelton team's website.
The presentation described the Jan. 9 leak of MCHM into the drinking-water source for 300,000 West Virginians as the "largest drinking water chemical contamination in U.S. history."
"The incident was and remains unprecedented," said the presentation.
In early February, amid public pressure about the chemical leak's impacts, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin hired Whelton to conduct home testing to determine if chemicals from the leak had remained inside homes after the state-advised flushing process was complete.
Whelton and his team already had been working in West Virginia, and later received a National Science Foundation grant to further their efforts.
The presentation this week focused on data from their initial work from Jan. 16-22 in West Virginia. Whelton's team visited 16 homes, where they conducted more-detailed work. The presentation said the results released so far are not part of the state-funded research, dubbed the West Virginia Testing Assessment Project, or WVTAP.
Among other things, the new report emphasizes that Whelton's team confirmed that home plumbing systems vary. They found that more than one type of piping material was present in nearly a third of the homes they visited. They found copper, galvanized iron and plastic piping, all of which could interact differently with chemicals such as MCHM.
Starting four days after the leak, water company officials and the state government told residents to run their hot water for 15 minutes, their cold water for 5 minutes and outside faucets for 5 minutes, to flush any chemicals from their homes.
State officials have said their goal was to ensure that any MCHM in water supplies was below a concentration of 1 part per million. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scrambled in the hours after the leak to come up with that number as a public-health screening level, but outside experts have questioned the CDC's methods and whether agency officials had enough information about the chemical to make such a judgment.
Even after flushing their plumbing systems, though, some resident complained that the licorice-like odor of MCHM remained in their homes and in their water.
Nearly half of the residents interviewed by Whelton's team reported experiencing some health symptoms after tap-water exposure. Residents reported nausea, dizziness, rashes, headaches and burning eyes, among other things. None of those interviewed by Whelton's team sought medical attention, though. Whelton said this indicates the state's publicized numbers for potential health impacts -- based on hospital visits -- did not capture everyone who could have been experiencing chemical reactions.
In their presentation, Whelton's team reported that some residents they talked to might not have correctly followed the flushing guidance issued by the state and the water company. Some residents, for example, flushed by running all of their home faucets at once.
The presentation noted that MCHM vaporizes faster in hot water than in cold, and questioned if potential inhalation exposures to residents were considered in the development of the flushing guidance.
"Chemicals volatilized from tap water into poorly ventilated rooms," the presentation said. "Some bathrooms had nonfunctioning ventilation fans and no windows."
As part of independent flushing guidance his team issued, Whelton advised residents to flush one room at a time, open windows when doing so, and use some sort of ventilation fans to help avoid inhaling chemical fumes.
Federal officials had encouraged the state government to advise residents to flush their home plumbing systems until they no longer smelled the licorice odor, but the state declined to follow that federal recommendation.
Earlier this week, in a letter appealing the denial of additional Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for the water crisis, Tomblin acknowledged that concerns about MCHM in the water supply continued, even after the state-advised "flushing" of the system was completed.
"Even after flushing procedures were implemented, there were surges in chemical presence in various areas, requiring more testing," the governor said in a letter to FEMA. "Because of the strong odor of the chemical, the water was objectionable long after the spill was contained.
"Accordingly, testing continued, and still continues, at significant expense to the state and local agencies," the governor wrote. "This testing was necessary to lessen the immediate threats to public health and safety posed by the mass exposure to a relatively unknown chemical."
Tomblin said additional federal funds are needed for a variety of purposes, including continued water sampling and testing.
"Our ongoing response to the spill, continuous studies, and test results will serve as future guidance not only for exposure to the specific chemical involved in the spill, but for any water system contamination in the nation," the governor wrote. "The work we are funding will fill a void in the scientific and public health knowledge base with much-needed information."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at or 304-348-1702.

4. On March 12, 2014 Dr. Andrew J. Whelton and graduate student LaKia McMillan traveled to the University of New Orleans to deliver a seminar about the January 2014 West Virginia drinking water contamination incident. The 45 minute seminar was entitled Lessons Learned from the Largest Drinking Water Chemical Contamination Incident in US History: The 2014 Elk River Chemical Spill, West Virginia. 

Dr. Whelton’s University engineering and science team visited the affected area January 16-22, 2014. Some results of their actions were described during the seminar.
On January 9, 2014 the drinking water for 300,000 people living in 9 counties near the West Virginia state capitol became contaminated by industrial chemicals. Approximately 10,000 gallons of an industrial liquid product called Crude MCHM that also was mixed with a product called PPH was spilled into the Elk River. Chemicals within this mixture then entered the regional drinking water treatment facility and were distributed to 15% of the State of West Virginia’s population. Once detected, the 300,000 residents and businesses were ordered to immediately halt drinking water use for all purposes because of public health water safety / chemical exposure concerns.
This Do Not Use order remained in place for several days, affecting hospitals, businesses, and residences. The order was followed by direction that building and business owners as well as residents should flush the chemically contaminated water from their plumbing systems. Because of resident personal concerns about chemical exposures, several residents whom the University team interviewed did not flush their plumbing systems even after being directed by officials to do so. The incident was, and remains unprecedented.
The University team consisted of Dr. Whelton, Ms. McMillan along with Civil Engineering Professor Kevin White and graduate students Matt Connell, Keven Kelley, and Jeff Gill. The seminar presentation PDF file can be downloaded here: Whelton UNO WV Presentation. The file is 14 Megabites (MB) in size so downloading the file may be slow.
Dr. Whelton’s team has a twitter account and can be followed here: @TheWheltonGroup. The residents who were interviewed by the University team were identified by contacting West Virginia nonprofit organizations and through personal contacts of Dr. Whelton. On January 16, while Dr. Whelton’s team drove 15 hours to Charleston, West Virginia more than 80 homeowners asked for assistance. Results presented in the March 12 seminar describe a survey of 16 different homes.
Chemical tap water testing results obtained during their January visit are undergoing analysis and will be released in the coming weeks. As of today, Dr. Whelton’s team continues to receive questions by homeowners and nonprofit organizations about the lingering drinking water odors, the safety of the tap water in residences and schools, impact of the contaminated water on plumbing systems, and actions residents can take to protect themselves. Dr. Whelton participated in two town hall meetings in February 2014 to help answer questions from residents and businesses who were affected.
Questions about this file and material should be directed to Dr. Andrew J. Whelton at
IMPORTANT NOTE: Information described in the presentation is not part of the ongoing WVTAP project funded by the West Virginia Bureau of Health. The results presented at the University of New Orleans represent those obtained by the authors. Dr. Whelton became involved in the WVTAP project weeks after this testing was conducted. For information about the WVTAP project please visit the WVTAP website here.

5. OOPS - no reporting for you!
The National Response Center website has been taken down for maintenance. Anyone making a report to the NRC may do so by calling the NRC hotline at 1-800-424-8802. Anyone witnessing an oil spill, chemical release or maritime security incident should call that number to make a report.

The information usually available to the public in the NRC database is still available. Anyone wishing to request information of any reported incident may send the request via the U.S. Coast Guard Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) e-mail address This is the same information that you would normally get from the NRC database directly, however, this e-mail address is being used temporarily for the convenience of requestors as a means to send in an information request to the NRC. Responses will be processed in accordance with the normal FOIA timeline

6. Hurricane (WVA) Mayor Says No More MCHM Waste Being Accepted At Landfill

Reported: Mar. 15, 2014 5:47 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 15, 2014 6:58 PM EDT

HURRICANE, W.Va. (Heath Harrison) – Hurricane Mayor Scott Edwards said Saturday said he has received word that no more MCHM waste is being accepted into the city’s landfill.

Edwards said in a statement posted on his Facebook page that he received a phone call from Lisa Kardell, the director of Public Affairs for Waste Management, informing him of the decision.

Edwards thanked the community for speaking out, and said the decision was made due to overwhelming community outcry.

Edwards had said Friday that the city and Putnam County would file an injunction in court to stop the MCHM disposal at the landfill.

NaturalNews) There is something seriously wrong in the fertile Yakima Valley region of Washington. A surging number of babies are being born with major birth defects, and the reasons why are eluding state health officials.
As reported by CNN, a nurse in the area, Sara Barron, was the first to report on a particularly horrifying condition: anencephaly -- a condition in which babies are born without much of their brain and skull.
"I was just stunned," she told the network in an interview. "Three in a couple-of-month period of time... that's unheard of, and they have such tragic, terrible outcomes."
Her shocking finding and report eventually prompted an investigation by the state health department. Investigators found some disturbing results.
Over a three-year period, there were 23 cases concentrated in three southern Washington counties -- Yakima, Benton and Franklin. That's a rate (8.4 per 10,000 live births) that is four times the national average (2.1 per 10,000 live births), CNN reported.
What could be causing such a phenomenon? Is it just one of those weird coincidences, or is something more sinister at play?
Mandy Stahre, with the Washington State Department of Health, conducted the investigation into the high rates of anencephaly. She says she and other investigators are stumped.
"We have not found an answer, and that's a very frustrating part, because this is such a devastating diagnosis for a woman to have," she told CNN.
Barron, however, says she wonders if state health authorities did not find anything because they didn't look hard enough at all possible causes.
'We have to weigh how invasive we want to be'
For one thing, she said, the health department has not spoken to any of the parents of the babies who had birth defects. So they don't know what the parents may have eaten, or what environmental conditions they have been exposed to, or what kind of chemicals or substances they all might have come in contact with -- like, perhaps, the pesticides that are routinely sprayed in the heavily agricultural region in which they live.
Andrea Jackman, whose daughter Olivia was born with spina bifida, another type of neural tube defect, said she wasn't asked anything by state investigators.
"Nobody's asked me anything," she told the network.
So, exactly how did the state conduct its investigation? Stahre said investigators examined data in each parent's medical record -- what sort of prescription drugs they were taking and preexisting medical conditions.
"The study examined medical records from January 2010 through January 2013 and looked at possible risk factors including family history, pre-pregnancy weight, health risk behaviors such as supplemental folic acid and medication use, and whether the woman's residence received drinking water from a public or private source. No significant differences were found when comparing cases of anencephaly with healthy births in the three county area," said a health department press release.
"But medical records don't have details about diet or pesticide exposure," CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reported, "two key considerations for this type of birth defect."
Indeed, the health department -- in its press release -- even admitted: "Medical record reviews might not have captured all information, preventing a cause from being identified."
So why not talk to the mothers?
"Well, we have to weigh that," said Stahre. "This is a devastating diagnosis, and we know that for a lot of these women, they had to make some hard choices. We do have to weigh about how invasive we want to be with these types of reviews."
Engineered end of humanity?
At least one mother -- Jackman -- said she would have "been fine" with being questioned. She wants answers so that other mothers don't have to go through the same thing.
On the surface, this looks like yet another example of poisoning that Natural News editor and founder Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, wrote about recently when he said humanity doesn't stand a chance of surviving this onslaught of corporate-sponsored genocide:
After having now analyzed over 1,000 foods, superfoods, vitamins, junk foods and popular beverages for heavy metals and other substances at the Natural News Forensic Food Labs, I have arrived at a conclusion so alarming and urgent that it can only be stated bluntly.
Based on what I am seeing via atomic spectroscopy analysis of all the dietary substances people are consuming on a daily basis, I must now announce that the battle for humanity is nearly lost. The food supply appears to be intentionally designed to end human life rather than nourish it.
Learn more:

8. GE (We bring mutant things to LIFE)  Hanford Hangover
June Casey: When I was in high school, I was able to participate in many, many school activities, so I was going, you know, 24 hours a day as most young people do. And then it was when I was at Whitman College that I came home for Christmas and my parents noticed that something was drastically wrong with me. They took me to a physician, and the physician said that I had the most severe case of hypo-thyroidism he had ever seen in his career. The basal metabolic rate was a minus 36. He said, "You're physical movements and behavior are those of someone about 90 years old instead of someone who is 19."

Narrator: The college June Casey was attending was located in Walla Walla, Washington, 50 miles downwind from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a massive 570 square mile facility where General Electric made plutonium for the U.S. military between 1946 and 1965.

June Casey: And then I started losing my hair, and I had long, naturally-curly hair. I then had to start wearing a wig, and have since lost two babies, one through miscarriage and the other through stillbirth. I have thyroid nodules which have to be watched. The endrocrinologist said that I could contract thyroid cancer at any time.

Narrator: Around the same time that June Casey lost her hair, Tom Bailey was a toddler. For years, he drank the milk and ate the food grown on his family's farm which was located right next to the Hanford reactors.

Tom Bailey: Well, growing up here downwind from Hanford never meant anything to us because it was just a neighbor. Our business was to grow food and their business was to make nuclear weapons. And we never paid any attention to what they did. We never looked over the fence. But we always had deformed farm animals. The largest amount of farm animals at one time was 80 calves out of 200 cows that were grossly deformed. Either they died or they were too deformed to walk. We had deformed sheep, deformed kittens, deformed chickens. In some years, there were a lot of them, and in other years there weren't so many.

Narrator: In the mid-1980s, Tom Bailey began to wonder: If the animals on the farms were so affected, what about the people? He himself was born with birth defects, and today is sterile. He surveyed the 28 families who lived in a small area near Hanford, and found that 27 of them had suffered severe health problems, all of which are associated with exposure to high doses of radiation. This area is now know as "the death mile."

Tom Bailey: This is the north corner of it here, beginning with the Weinberger household. The 1973 March of Dimes poster child was born there with no eyes. The family back in behind here, the boy and his wife just had a child born with no skull.

Narrator: June Casey and the residents of "death mile" are not alone. Thousands of people who lived in the northwestern United States have experienced similar devastating health problems. As the medical histories of Hanford "downwinders" began to come to light, the government was forced to begin revealing some of the classified documents about what had really been going on at Hanford.

A picture has begun to emerge of enormous radioactive releases - some accidental, and many intentional - into the air, the ground, and the Columbia River which runs right through the Hanford complex. Enormous radioactive releases that G.E. knew about at the time, but chose to cover up.

Tom Bailey: We took, here in Eastern Washington State, the downwind area, twice the amount of radiation as the children at Chernobyl took. And at Chernobyl, they impounded all the milk, they evacuated whole towns, they cordoned off hundreds of miles of farmland. They [the Soviets] evacuated their people, and they warned them. And here, there was absolutely no warning. They didn't evacuate anybody. Quite to the contrary, they came and said, "You're safe."

Narrator: One of the worst incidents during G.E.'s tenure at Hanford was a calculated experiment in which radioactive particles containing more than 500 times the radiation of the Three Mile Island accident were deliberately released into the air. The documents explaining why this experiment was done are still classified.

June Casey: Well, it was on Mother's Day of 1986 when I read an article in my local newspaper describing this release, a deliberate and secret experiment by the G.E. Hanford plant in 1949 when I was a student at Whitman College. And I just knew immediately, it was like a knife in my heart, I said to myself, "Oh, no." And I really was in tears all day. I knew immediately that what had happened to me then was related to that secret experiment.

Narrator: The toxic and radioactive legacy left behind at Hanford is staggering. There were at leat 1,100 contaminated sites on the grounds [of the Handord site]. The Columbia River, a source of food and place of recreation for people throughout the Northwest, is now the most radioactive river in the world. Two-thirds of the high-level radioactive waste from U.S. weapons production is stored at Hanford in tanks that leak, and as some scientists have warned, could explode.

Cleaning up these environmental disasters is expected to cost at least $60 billion ($60,000,000,000) and take over 30 years, with General Electric leaving its share of the cost to the U.S. taxpayers. Thousands of "downwinders" are now sueing for damages. The government has now begun to acknowledge its role in the devastation at Hanford. So far, General Electric has not.

June Casey: All they've ever said in their letters to me is, "We left all the documents behind, so we don't know any more than you do or what you read in the newspapers." And I guess I find that very hard to believe.

Narrator: According to the business press, General Electric is the most powerful company in the United States. And G.E. is rapidly expanding its control of markets worldwide. G.E. owns NBC, Hotpoint, and RCA, and in its annual report boasts of its leadership role in each of the products it manufactures. But the one product line it never mentions is nuclear weapons, where G.E. has also been an industry leader.

Continuing in the role it carved out at Hanford, today G.E. makes critical components for more nuclear weapons systems than any other company. And the trail of radioactive and toxic wastes that G.E. is leaving behind at research and production sites across the U.S. also continues to grow and grow. G.E. builds the nutron trigger for every U.S. hydrogen bomb; is a prime contractor for "Star Wars" and the new radioactive space reactor, the SP-100; a moving force behind the deadly Trident submarine and missile, the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the MX, Minuteman, and Cruise missiles, the F-111, and the list goes on and on.

Rear Admiral Gene La Rocque (Ret.): We have about 30,000 nuclear weapons. Far more than enough to defend ourselves. But industry exerts a lot of influence on whether or not we buy weapons. And General Electric is one of our foremost defense contractors. The American public ought to become aware of the fact that it is these companies, like General Electric, that push the U.S. Congress into building more weapons than we need.

G.E. television commercial: "Progress" in the defense of our nation. And at General Electric, "progress" is our most important product.

Narrator: In the beginning of the atomic age, General Electric helped make the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And today, G.E. continues to be a key player behind the scenes in determining federal nuclear weapons policy thanks to the company's high volume of PAC [political action committee] contributions; its 150 person Washington D.C. lobbying office, the largest of any weapons contractor; and the revolving door between the military and G.E.'s top executive offices through which people like General David Jones, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Reagan, have ended up serving on G.E.'s Board of Directors. And G.E.'s influence in Washington D.C. starts right at the top [at the White House].

Among the handful of corporate CEOs (Chief Executive Officer) who have direct access to President Bush is G.E.'s Jack Welch. Today, one of G.E.'s most lucrative contracts is for testing and building critical components for the Trident submarine. Much of this work is done at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratories, a nuclear weapons complex located in upstate New York. There are close to 400 tons of lethal waste buried in dozens of secret landfill sites on the facility's grounds. Three of the five reactors in the Knolls complex were built without the containment structures or backup emergency core cooling systems found in all commercial nuclear reactors.

But as it did while running Hanford, General Electric insists that there is no danger at Knolls. In the four decades of operation, G.E. has stated, "there has been no significant impact from Knolls site operations on the environment or adverse effehe community or the public." In fact, G.E. claims it wants its workforce to alert management to health, safety, and environmental concerns.


NAPLES  SPEAKERS (Field Producer Stephen Malagodi


Frank Cummings Preserve our Paradise

Bobbie C. Billie 

Jennifer Hecker

Amber Crooks S. Florida Conservancy 

John Dwyer

Jaime Duran (Neighbor)

Karen Dwyer

FSU Students - 

Bradley Rosendorf

Matthew Schwartz

Board Member Conservation Community Rep.

Richard Trillwig / Karen Dwyer (?)

I oppose common core, since HUMANITY does not live by its calculators alone. Too much emPHAsis on tESTS
is a MESs.
It has seemed to be the nose- GATEWAY for the privatization of Schools, since it seems to make UNTIDY reality
quite quantifiable - and Children and teachers, aren't actually decimal points

solidarity & peace


News Director Rick Spisak welcomes SEIU for their Tallahassee Report, Matthew Schwartz, from Florida Wildlands, a News Special, voices from the EPA Hearing produced and recorded by Independent producer Stephen Malagodi and Ms. Jeanne Economos of the Farm Workers Alliance brings us the author (Dale Findley Slongwhite) of a new book which has collected the oral history of FarmWorkers called "FED UP, the high cost of cheap food."
And Eric and Leanne two AIDS Activists who'll give us an update on AIDS in Florida 
Tune in Live Sunday at 7pm (Eastern) or Anytime