Sunday, August 10, 2014

PNN - Mid-Summer Night's Human Right

PNN 8/10/14

Kofi Hunt
Meredith Ockman
Steve Horn [Pre-Recorded]
Houston Cypress

1. Obama's Spy Chief Liars-- Spying on Congress for Obama

James Clapper and John Brennan lied to Congressional Intelligence committee leaders. That is very bad-- bad enough that they should be fired,

And their agencies spied on the members of congress and then they denied it. That's really bad-- bad enough that they should be fired, and, combining it with lying to congress, they should be prosecuted and jailed.

But Obama says he's okay with. He trusts Clapper and Brennan.

The DOJ, in a very not-separate way, led by worst Attorney General in US history Eric Holder, is doing nothing-- colluding with Obama.

The way I see it, the lying and spying done under the leadership of Brennan and Clapper was done for Obama. That should put him in the crosshairs of investigations and accusations by congress and the DOJ.

Obama got caught. He's covering for the criminals who lied and spied for him. Obama should not be able to protect Clapper and Brennan. Congress should be screaming bi-partisan bloody murder.

Even if the spying was not done specifically for Obama, it was totally illegal and it is outrageous, and incredible hubris on the President's part to believe that it is okay for him to give these high level government officials a pass.

Many would say that he and the members of congress have no choice. The spying done on them has worked and they must back down because they are being blackmailed. That's certainly believable. This is a dangerous situation that must be corrected. Hearings by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, aimed at terminating the jobs and exploring penitentiary possibilities for Clapper and Brennan would be a good first step. Failure to do so would show just how derelict, at best, or maliciously part of the conspiracy to allow un-restrained spy agency abuses Dianne Feinstein is.

2. Dead Zone in the GULF is the size of Connecticut
ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - Scientists say a man-made "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico is as big as the state of Connecticut.
The zone, which at about 5,000 square miles (13,000 sq km) is the second largest in the world but still smaller than in previous years, is so named because it contains no oxygen, or too little, at the Gulf floor to support bottom-dwelling fish and shrimp.
The primary cause of the annual phenomenon is excess nutrient runoff from farms along the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf, said Gene Turner, a researcher at Louisiana State University's Coastal Ecology Institute.
The nutrients feed algae growth, which consumes oxygen when it works its way to the Gulf bottom, he said.
"It's a poster child for how we are using and abusing our natural resources," Turner said.
Turner said the zone has at least twice in recent years reached the size of Massachusetts, about 8,200 square miles (21,000 sq km).
The Gulf dead zone, which fluctuates in size but measured 5,052 square miles this summer, is exceeded only by a similar zone in the Baltic Sea around Finland, Turner said.
The number of dead zones worldwide currently totals more than 550 and has been increasing for decades, according to a report by Turner and Nancy Rabalais from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.
The elongated Gulf zone typically hugs the Louisiana coastline from the Mississippi River Delta to the state's border with Texas, and some years extending offshore of Texas and Mississippi, Rabalais said.
The scientists said a growth in farmed land along the Mississippi River in the 1960s began increasing pollution. In the 1970s, levels of oxygen in parts of the Gulf fell below the needs of bottom-dwelling fish. The zone has been generally growing ever since.
Floods, droughts, storms and other factors affect the volume of nutrients flowing into the Gulf and account for year-over-year fluctuations, Turner said.
"It seems to have leveled out in size, but it could get worse" depending on changes in pollution levels, Rabalais said.
The report said federal farm policy impacts the amount of pollution in the river. Turner said corn fields, which lay bare most of the year and leach nutrients, are one of the biggest contributors to the problem.
A federal task force organized with river states in 2001 to reduce nutrient runoff has had no substantial success, he said.

Two weeks ago, more than 100 members of the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition descended upon the Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing in Tallahassee as it reviewed energy companies' request to reduce efficiency standards. The Coalition called on state regulators rather to strengthen, not weaken, energy efficiency programs to save consumers money on their power bills, create jobs and promote cleaner air.
Members of the Coalition held its "Rally for Energy Savings" outside the PSC hearing because inside the public was barred from speaking on the issue of how Floridians' energy needs are met over the next 10 years.
Rep. Dwight Dudley telling the PSC to open the hearing
to comments from the public.
In remarks just before the hearing opened, State Representative Dwight Dudley echoed the sentiments of the ralliers: "The name Public Service Commission includes the public,” he said. “The public should be heard on this, not hurt. Right now, they're about ready to get hurt.”
Said Ennis Leon Jacobs, past chairman of the Public Service Commission: “Increasing energy savings is a business opportunity and Florida is ready to take advantage. Big utility companies like Duke, TECO and FP&L should be bending over backward to help boost Florida’s economy. They can start by bringing their energy savings programs to industry standards this year.”
Bill Bucolo, President of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida and a leader of the Coalition, called on the commissioners to reject the companies’ request to slash energy savings programs. Duke Energy, Tampa Electric and Florida Power & Light have proposed to gut their energy-saving goals by 93 percent. 
Currently, none of Florida’s major utility companies meet national industry standards for energy savings programs, meaning Florida consumers are missing out on savings that people living in other states enjoy. Duke Energy Florida, part of the nation’s largest electric company, has significantly weaker energy savings programs in the Sunshine State than in North and South Carolina and Ohio.
“Duke Energy is saving their customers in Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina money through good energy efficiency programs, but they’re not doing the same for their customers in Florida. Florida consumers should get the same opportunities and benefits as Duke customers elsewhere,” said Kelly Martin, senior campaign representative with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. 
Ralliers also heard from Susan Glickman, Florida Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund and Kim Ross, President of ReThink Energy Florida. also spoke out against the utilities' attempt to undermine their ratepayers and the people of Florida.
Take Action:
Let the regulators know that you want energy companies to be held to the highest standards for delivering energy savings and solar programs.
4. Canadians Can't Drink Their Water After 1.3 Billion Gallons Of Mining Waste Flows Into Rivers
(from Think Progress)
Hundreds of people in British Columbia can’t use their water after more than a billion gallons of mining waste spilled into rivers and creeks in the province’s Cariboo region.
A breach in a tailings pond from the open-pit Mount Polley copper and gold mine sent five million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of slurry gushing into Hazeltine Creek in B.C. That’s the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools of waste, the CBC reports. Tailings ponds from mineral mines store a mix of water, chemicals and ground-up minerals left over from mining operations.
The flow of the mining waste, which can contain things like arsenic, mercury, and sulfur, uprooted trees on its way to the creek and forced a water ban for about 300 people who live in the region. That number could grow, as authorities determine just how far the waste has traveled. The cause of the breach is still unknown.

So far, water-use bans have been issued for the town of Likely and for people living near Polley Lake, Quesnel Lake, Hazeltine Creek (which flows into Quesnel Lake), and Cariboo Creek, as well as the Quesnel and Cariboo River systems. Authorities so far haven’t issued water bans for the Fraser River — B.C.’s longest river — which is linked to the Quesnel River, (which flows from Quesnel Lake) saying it’s not yet clear whether the effluent has made it to the waterway.
“What we know so far is that debris from the tailings pond backed up a little into Polley Lake, which absorbed some of the flow, but the majority of it went down into the Hazeltine Creek,” Al Richmond, chairman of the Cariboo Regional District told the Vancouver Sun. “The creek (used to be) four feet wide. Now it’s 150 feet wide.”
The region is sparsely populated, which makes emergency response difficult — Richmond told the Vancouver Sun that only four people from the region’s volunteer fire department were able to act as first responders to the disaster. Right now, authorities are working to test all waterways for contamination, a process that Richmond said he hopes will take no more than 48 hours. Richmond also said he didn’t know whether or not the spill had been contained.
“The potential long-term impact to waterways, the watershed and roads is huge,” he said.
Chief Anne Louie from the Williams Lake Indian band agreed, telling the Vancouver Sun that the spill was a “massive environmental disaster.” Residents have reported seeing dead fish washing up from Polley Lake, a body of water that one resident described as “milky green.” Robin Hood, president of the Likely Chamber of Commerce, told the Province that the spill was a “big disaster” for his town and that it poses a major risk to the region’s salmon-spawning grounds.
The spill may be a disaster, but it wasn’t entirely a surprise. The Vancouver Sun reports that concerns about the Mount Polley tailings pond date back to 2011, when an environmental consulting firm put together a report for the B.C. Ministry of the Environment. The report called for an emergency plan for spills such as this and said the pond should be monitored.
“The tailings pond was filling out and they needed to get rid of the water,” Brian Olding of the firm that completed the study said. “The walls were getting too high and the water was getting too high….it appeared from a common sense point of view that you could not continue to build that up higher and higher.”
Tailings ponds — both from mineral mines like the one in B.C. and from tar sands mining operations — pose risks that reach beyond the threat of spills. Tar sands tailings ponds can be deadly for birds that land on them, mistaking them for bodies of water. Earlier this year, a study found that about 200,000 birds land on tailings ponds every year, despite oil companies’ attempts to keep them off. Another study this year found that toxic water from tar sands tailings ponds in Alberta was leaching into groundwater and polluting the Athabasca River.
5. Clean Water? We don't need no stinking clean water
But twice this year the water supply for a major American city was interrupted for days by water pollution. In January, a chemical used in the processing of coal leaked from a ruptured storage tank into the Elk River, contaminating the water supply for about 300,000 people in and around Charleston, W.Va., the state’s capital and largest city. Then, last weekend, the water supply for over 400,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, was declared unsafe because of the presence of microcystin, a toxin released by algae blooms in nearby Lake Erie, the source of the city’s water.
While the circumstances in each situation are different, there are notable similarities. In each case, the pollution could not be adequately treated by the local water plants. Sudden “do not drink” (and, in some cases, “do not bathe”) warnings resulted. And in each case, activities in or near the communities caused, or partially caused, the problem. In Charleston, it was an upstream industrial spill; in Toledo, polluted runoff, including from agriculture, along the Great Lakes stoked the slimy, fluorescent algae blooms that sent residents flocking to supermarkets for bottled water.
Those events offer two important reminders about water in the United States.
The first is that while our country has made huge strides in reducing water pollution since the 1970s, when Congress passed federal laws like the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, controlling water pollution is not a “set it and forget it” endeavor. Those statutes set broad goals but depend on states and the Environmental Protection Agency to design and update programs to keep the water clean.
Charleston underscores the imperative of ensuring that clean water policies are fully implemented and strengthened where necessary. Toledo reminds us that threats are not static and neither is the environment. Polluted runoff was not a primary focus in 1970, and the consequences of climate change were not considered then. But now we recognize that runoff from farms, lawns, streets and parking lots is a major problem across the country and more difficult to control because of its ubiquity. And we also now know that climate change doesn’t just warm the air, it can warm water — resulting in more algae blooms.
A second takeaway is that while the current drought gripping parts of the nation can make us think water scarcity is a function of the absolute quantity of water available, practically speaking it is actually a function of quantity and quality. Toledo was without potable water for several days even though it sits beside the Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater system on earth.
So what should we do?
There are specific steps that would make a difference, including providing water utilities with broader authority to address threats found in watershed surveys; beefing up pollution prevention requirements for chemical tanks to include uniform rules for storage of hazardous substances; and updating outmoded state and federal rules on runoff to include clear reduction targets, which are lacking today.

Equally important, because almost all of us live downstream of somewhere, uncertainty created by a set of Supreme Court decisions about whether all of the nation’s waters are protected by the Clean Water Act needs to be resolved so that upstream pollution doesn’t cause downstream havoc.
Actions like these will almost certainly need to be paired with an increase in financing. The Environmental Protection Agency says the capital needs of water utilities over 20 years amount to $384 billion to keep tap water clean and another $298 billion to address wastewater and runoff. By comparison, over the last 25 years, the E.P.A.’s primary wastewater grant and loan program distributed over $100 billion, a fraction of the investment the nation needs to make now.
Just as important, this moment also calls for a change in thinking about how we can best achieve our nation’s clean water goals. Traditionally, water policy has dealt with issues of quality and quantity separately. This approach must be replaced by an integrated strategy that addresses both together. Neither plentiful, polluted water nor scarce, clean water will meet our needs.
The “green infrastructure” movement taking hold across the nation includes a water management approach that uses natural systems like wetlands and green buffers to reduce runoff, enhance water supply and improve community aesthetics. We need more of this kind of integration and the thinking that animates it.
When we ignore the weaknesses in our current approaches to safeguarding our drinking water supplies, we take a significant risk. If the sudden absence of drinking water in Charleston and Toledo serves to refocus the country on the importance of protecting water with a seriousness that reflects its indispensability, that will be a very good thing.

6.Fukushima Meltdown Worse Than Previous Estimates: TEPCO
Company releases new findings which show nearly all nuclear fuel melted in Reactor 3 following 2011 earthquake and tsunami
The meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan was more severe than previously acknowledged, owner Tokyo Electric Power Company announced Wednesday, according to reports from Japanese media.
The company released new estimates that nearly every fuel rod at Reactor 3, located at No. 1 plant, melted as a result of Japan's March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and most likely fell to the bottom of the containment unit. The finding is far higher than the company's previously stated estimates in which it told people that only 63 percent of the reactor's nuclear fuel had melted. Furthermore, TEPCO's new statement acknowledges that the fuel began melting six hours earlier than previously believed.
“It is still impossible for us to evaluate the potential impact (of the findings) on the decommissioning of the reactor," a TEPCO official stated following the release of the findings, according to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.
But Japanese newspaper The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that the finding might further complicate the troubled decommissioning of the plant.
The paper explains:
As the core meltdown is now believed to have started earlier than was previously thought, the amount of melted nuclear fuel that passed into the containment vessel through the pressure vessel is considered to have been greater, making it technically more difficult to extract the melted fuel and dispose of it.

7.Florida Legislature opens session with plan for modest redistricting map changes  
The rare summertime session was convened after a state judge ruled that the Legislature had drawn invalid map and had violated the Fair District provisions of the state constitution.
Read more here:
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida legislators opened their special session to rewrite the congressional redistricting map on Thursday and moved quickly toward a fix not intended to take effect until 2016.
Legislators halted their campaigns and fundraising, and canceled family vacations, for the rare summertime session convened after Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled last month that they drew an invalid map and had violated the Fair District provisions of the state constitution.
Lewis ordered legislators to fix two of the state’s 27 congressional districts by Aug. 15 and said he would consider ordering a special election after Nov. 4 for the affected districts.
“We are here because we have to get the congressional map right,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, at the start of the special session.
Hours after the gavel fell, House and Senate leaders filed a proposed rewrite that makes minor fixes to the two districts the judge ruled as unconstitutional.
Two other proposed maps emerged as well, one by State Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, and another by the coalition of left-leaning voting groups who filed the lawsuit and successfully persuaded Lewis to invalidate the congressional map.
In a letter to Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz on Thursday, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida warned that the Legislatures’ plan for “slight alterations will not correct the constitutional defects Judge Lewis identified” and urged them to adopt their map as an alternative.
Partisan tensions quickly emerged as Senate Democrats agreed to waive the rules and pass out a proposal as early as Monday, while House Democrats said they would require their chamber to wait until Tuesday for a final vote.
“You’ve got a Legislature that corrupted the process and it caused this special session that’s costing money,” said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. But, he said, legislative leaders are complaining about “the cost and confusion” of conducting special elections to have the maps take effect before 2016.
“We have to find a way to build a plan that allows for elections before 2016, but corrects an unconstitutional map that the Legislature created,” Pafford said.
The judge said he will decide Aug. 20 whether to go forward with a special election for the new districts or not, but legislators are moving forward with the assumption that no election will be held before Nov. 4.
Lawmakers also heard testimony from Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel. He told them that conducting a special election after the Nov. 4 general election is logistically impossible for his county because a majority of his polling sites rely on churches that are booked during the holiday season.
“Legally there would have to be a variety of [state and federal] laws changed to get polling places available,” he said.
House Redistricting Chairman Richard Corcoran and Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano filed identical maps that attempt to fix the flaws in congressional Districts 10 and 5, held by U.S. Reps. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, and Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville. Lewis ruled each was invalid.
The GOP proposal preserves most of Brown’s meandering district, but takes out the black Democrats that had been added to it in what Lewis found was an effort to bleach neighboring districts to favor Webster and U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Orlando.
The proposal also revises the boundaries of seven surrounding districts, removes Sanford from District 5 and attempts to make the district more visually and mathematically compact by adhering to county and geographical boundaries, like the St John’s River.
Galvano, in a memo to senators, said his proposed map reduces the black voting-age population in Brown’s district from 50 percent to 48 percent.
Galvano, who does not believe the state judge has the authority to order a special election for congressional races, said the new maps will be approved on the condition that they do not take effect until after the Nov. 4 elections.
Soto proposed a map that makes minor changes to Brown’s district and splits the districts of Webster and Mica equally between Democrats and Republicans.
House Democrats said they will consider filing a proposed map submitted by the League of Women Voters and Florida Common Cause, which originally brought the lawsuit against the Legislature’s congressional maps.
The coalition plan makes significant changes to Brown’s district, specifically creating an east-west district that stretches across the top of the state from Duval to Gadsden counties and is designed to elect a minority candidate.
House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston of Plantation said that if Democrats file the map on behalf of the plaintiffs they will include specifics on who drew it and who paid for it, in the spirit of transparency.
The plaintiffs argue that the House and Senate map, which would slightly modify District 5, “was the product of a tainted redistricting process” and “does a disservice to the voters who have waited too long for constitutional districts.” 
Their proposed alternative “allows for the creation of a district with enhanced minority voting strength in Central Florida, while preserving the ability of African Americans to elect in CD 5,” they wrote.
Even before the plaintiffs’ proposal was submitted, lawyers for the Republican legislative leaders had prepared their attack. 
In showing a slide of a proposed east-west district, George Meros, an attorney for the House, told legislators that if stretched on its side it would reach from Naples to Cuba, drawing laughter from Republicans on the committee. 
He further noted that the NAACP opposed the east-west configuration, which would stretch for 206 miles, and said it is not justified by the state’s Fair Districts law.
“There is no question that it makes it less likely for an African American candidate to win in an east-west configuration,” Meros said.
As the House and Senate redistricting committee met in a joint session, the audience was bereft of the familiar partisan lobbyists frequently found lining the back of the room.
Galvano and Corcoran had said there would be be “zero tolerance” for any input from partisan political operatives, in response to Lewis’ conclusion that political consultants “did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process.” 
Corcoran told reporters they have ordered members to refrain from any conversations with anyone who want to influence the drawing of the maps and urged them to report any conversation with political operatives to them.
“It won’t be tolerated,” he said. “It will be open and transparent.”
Staff writers Michael Van Sickler, Tia Mitchell, Kathleen McGrory and Rochelle Koff contributed to this report.
Read more here:

8. Rules prevent solar panels in many states with abundant sunlight
Few places in the country are so warm and bright as Mary Wilkerson's property on the beach near St. Petersburg, Fla., a city once noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for a 768-day stretch of sunny days.
But while Florida advertises itself as the Sunshine State, power company executives and regulators have worked successfully to keep most Floridians from using that sunshine to generate their own power.
Wilkerson discovered the paradox when she set out to harness sunlight into electricity for the vintage cottages she rents out at Indian Rocks Beach. She would have had an easier time installing solar panels, she found, if she had put the homes on a flatbed and transported them to chilly Massachusetts.
"My husband and I are looking at each other and saying, 'This is absurd,'" said Wilkerson, whose property is so sunny that a European guest under doctor's orders to treat sunlight deprivation returns every year. The guest, who has solar panels on his home in Germany, is bewildered by their scarcity in a place with such abundant light.
Florida is one of several states, mostly in the Southeast, that combine copious sunshine with extensive rules designed to block its use by homeowners to generate power.
States like Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — not known for clear, blue skies — have outpaced their counterparts to the south in the installation of rooftop solar panels.
While the precise rules vary from state to state, one explanation is the same: opposition from utilities grown nervous by the rapid encroachment of solar firms on their business.The business models that have made solar systems financially viable for millions of homeowners in California, New England and elsewhere around the country are largely illegal in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and some other Southern states. Companies that pioneered the industry, such as SolarCity Corp. and Sunrun Inc., do not even attempt to do business there.
"We get all kinds of inquiries every day" from the South, said Will Craven, spokesman for SolarCity. "People there want to be our customers."
Florida, in particular, is known as the "sleeping giant" of his industry, Craven said. "It has a ton of sunshine, a ton of rooftops," he said. "But there is no rooftop solar industry in Florida."
In South Carolina and Virginia combined, only a few hundred homes have solar panels, according to the Solar Energy Industries Assn. New Jersey has 21,500; California, 234,600.
Under the typical business model for the solar industry, homeowners sign lease agreements with installation companies. The homeowners pay the cost of the panels over time and sell any excess power the systems generate.
Along with tax breaks and other government incentives, the lease agreements have made solar installations increasingly affordable.
States where solar thrives typically pay homeowners attractive rates for the excess power they generate and require utilities to get a considerable share of their power from renewable sources. That gives companies an incentive to promote use of solar.
Southern states, several of which cherish low electricity rates afforded by extensive use of coal, typically have far fewer solar incentives.
Several also have rules that specifically discourage homeowners from going solar. In addition to the bans and restrictions on leasing arrangements, some Southern states assess taxes and fees on solar equipment and generation that do not exist elsewhere.
When Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., installed solar panels a few years ago, for example, the local utility, Dominion Virginia Power, threatened legal action. The utility said that only it could sell electricity in its service area. The university and the solar firm it worked with had to change their lease arrangement and forfeit valuable tax credits.
Soon after, in South Carolina, objections from another utility forced the cancellation of about 80 contracts under which a solar firm had planned to provide panels free of charge to churches and school districts.
The resulting backlash forced a change in the state's law, but a limited one. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley last week signed a bill that directed regulators to establish rules under which leasing would be permitted.
The details still need to be worked out, however, and solar firms worry the rules will be heavily influenced by electric companies that will insist on provisions to discourage installations.
For now, many homeowners and businesses that want to install panels are in the same predicament as Wilkerson. Finding no viable option to lease a system in Florida, she is exploring paying cash to buy one outright for three of the cottages she owns. The cost: $106,000.
Utility officials say the policies inhibiting solar installations result from more than a mere turf battle. Utilities bear the cost of maintaining the power lines, switches and extensive computer networks that make up the electrical grid.
How much of a burden homeowners who install rooftop solar systems place on the grid is hotly debated between utilities and environmentalists.
"We want to bring on more renewables, but we also want to make sure the cost of electricity stays reasonable," said Randy Wheeless, a spokesman for Duke Energy Corp., which serves customers in the Carolinas, the Midwest and Florida.
Officials at Dominion Virginia Power say they are moving as aggressively as they can to promote solar in a heavily regulated, fiscally conservative state reluctant to subsidize homeowners who go green.
Nearly two years ago, the company launched a pilot program that mimics the SolarCity and Sunrun models for leasing solar equipment to businesses. So far, two systems have been installed.
"It might sound small," said Dianne Corsello, manager of customer solutions at Dominion, but she says regulators want to see evidence that such programs will not create unreasonable costs for the utility.
"We are studying the impacts and assessing the benefits to our grid," she said. "It is providing an opportunity to get data."
Solar installation firms scoff at such utility programs. Sunrun Vice President Bryan Miller calls the Dominion rooftop effort "a make-believe program" designed for public relations, not to entice customers to install panels.
Back in South Carolina, solar advocates were pleased last week to see the governor sign the new law loosening restrictions on the industry, but were are also growing impatient.
"There is so much pent-up demand," said Blan Holman, managing attorney at the Charleston office of the Southern Environmental Law Center. "The sunshine is so obviously abundant. It is 98 degrees here today."

9. Nicaragua is facing the worst drought in three decades
The Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (INET) revealed that Nicaragua is currently experiencing the worst drought the country has registered in the last 30 years.
The aforementioned agency estimates that the drought will continue during September and October next, since it is related to the El Niño weather phenomenon.
According to a note released by the news agency Prensa Latina, since last May, during the rainy season which begins in Nicaragua, rainfall levels were low.
The Minister of Agriculture of that country, Edward Centeno, has said the lack of rain could cause a loss of 1.1 billion bushels of corn, 100,000 bushels of peanuts and just over one million tons of rice during the agricultural cycle from 2014 to 2015.
In recent days, the government announced a national Managua special plan to deal with the effects of drought. The actions are planned investigation of the state of production, supply, consumption and food security of the population through surveys.
A plan of water resources and protection of water reservoirs and crops will also develop specialized studies on the phenomenon of drought and its impact will be executed, it added.
The Government has ruled out power rationing due to drought, since the water supply system and interconnection has the necessary reserve capacity.

10. Judge Overturns Fort Collins Five-Year Fracking Ban
judge overturned Fort Collins’ five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing Thursday, making it the third big blow to efforts by grassroots groups and politicians working to ban fracking in communities throughout the state.
District Judge Gregory M. Lammons ruled on the lawsuit filed in late 2013 by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association challenging the bans passed by voters in Fort Collins and Longmont stating that the Fort Collins moratorium is preempted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act because it “impedes a state interest and prohibits what the state law allows.”
“The City’s five-year ban effectively eliminates the possibility of oil and gas development within the City,” Lammons writes. “This is so because hydraulic fracturing is used in ‘virtually all oil and gas wells’ in Colorado. To eliminate a technology that is used in virtually all oil and gas wells would substantially impede the state’s interest in oil and gas production.”
The moratorium in Fort Collins stopped new wells from being fracked within city limits, while the city performed a study on the health impacts of fracking. City officials now have seven weeks to decide if it plans to appeal the court’s decision.
“We are disappointed at the outcome,” Interim City Attorney Carrie Daggett told the Coloradoan. The city is reviewing the judge’s order and will be considering its options, Daggett said.
“The decision of overturning the protective moratorium in Fort Collins against the inherent human and environmental dangers of fracking is yet another display of puppetry enforced by the regulatory scheme,” said Shane Davis, aka The Fractivist.
On Monday, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) pulled two ballot measures from the November ballot that sought to provide far greater local control of Colorado’s fracking industry. The initiatives would have forced fracking wells to be 2,000 feet from schools, hospitals and other community facilities, and established an environmental bill of rights allowing local governments precedence when laws conflict with the state.
Late July, Boulder County District Court Judge D.D. Mallard ruled against Longmont’s fracking ban in favor of “state’s interest,” clearly stating that concerns about health risks to residents don’t quite stack up against Colorado’s stake in the oil and gas industries. Voters approved the ban in 2012, but the Colorado Oil and Gas Association never stopped fighting to overturn it.

11. Moral Monday Conference Call
Join the conference call - Monday, August 11 - 9:00 pm EDT

Call-In: 712-432-0075  - Code: 358229#

12. Despite Danger, Iraqis Unite to Protest Religious Persecution by IS
Iraqis are taking to the streets and to social media to protest the persecution of Christians by the Islamic State — the fringe extremist group formerly known as ISIS.
Since the group seized control of about a third of Syria and a significant portion of Iraq, the Islamic State has forced Iraq's Christian population living within its territory to either convert or leave. Its members have marked Christian houses with the Arabic letter "nun" (ن), in reference to the word "Nazarene," an old Arabic word for Christian.
In response, Iraqis have launched social media campaigns protesting the Islamic State, and the hashtags #WeAreN, and #IamNasrani have been trending on Twitter this week. Another hashtag, #NO2ISIS, has been launched to protest the Islamic State for instigating sectarian violence between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims. These hashtags have been tweeted more than 55,000 times, with the majority of tweets coming from the Middle East. Iraqi Muslims have also used the Arabic hashtags "I am Iraqi; I am Christian," and many have changed their Facebook and Twitter profile photos to a picture of the letter ن.
Despite the danger, the protests have swept the streets, with Iraqi Muslims and Christians participating together in marches and mobilizations. Street artists have also sprayed graffiti on the marked houses, turning the single letter ن into the Arabic phrase: "We are all Christians." As the United States reputedly weighs airstrikes as a response to the religious persecution, Iraqis continue to plan solidarity protests and marches to protest the Islamic State.

13. Chomsky - on Palestine & Israel
"In January 2006, Palestinians committed a major crime: They voted the wrong way in a carefully monitored free election, handing control of Parliament to Hamas."

14.  Missile Defense – Alive and Well, and Eyeing Ohio

Here are two questions you will not often hear from your average American: How large a threat is Iran’s fictional ICBM arsenal, and what is the Pentagon doing to protect us from this imaginary threat? I am pleased to report our government is working on the answers. They are, in order, “worryingly grave” and “send more money and we’ll get back to you.”

I know this because Portage county has been selected as one of four sites under consideration for a proposed ICBM interceptor site. I confess that I haven’t kept up with missile defense of late. I knew it had its roots in Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, that it has been wildly expensive over the years (the New York Times estimates $250 billion), that the priority assigned to it has waxed and waned with the fortunes of its political champions, and that it has shown dubious effectiveness. It seemed like one of those zombie defense programs (e.g.) that no amount of failure or bad publicity can kill. But I’m resigned to a certain level of expensive Pentagon boondoggles; as long as they aren’t being used for saber rattling or launching wars I don’t pay close attention.

It turns out, though, that there’s more going on with missile defense than the occasional futile and rigged test:

The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act requires the MDA [Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency] to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate possible additional locations in the U.S. best suited for future deployment of a Continental United States Interceptor Site (CIS) capable of protecting the homeland against threats from nations, such as North Korea and Iran. The existing Ballistic Missile Defense System provides protection of the U.S. from a limited ballistic missile attack, and the Department of Defense has not made a decision to deploy or construct the CIS.

As part of the selection process, the MDA held (PDF) what it called a public scoping meeting in Ravenna on Tuesday to review the EIS. The MDA had some logo-emblazoned signs in the parking lot directing people to the gym; just outside it was a sign-in table.

Inside the gym was an open house where the public was invited to review placard-sized versions of these slides. There were a great number of spokespeople and uniformed personnel on hand. My rough guess would be one for every two citizens.

There was also a “missile defense is wonderful” video showing on a loop, to make sure the public was scoped in the right direction.

There wasn’t a huge focus on environmental impact, the ostensible reason for the meeting – it seemed more geared towards selling the public on the program. The approach was a little off though. For one, there was no introduction to the subject. It would have been nice if someone from MDA gave an overview of the program, explained why it was vital to national security, what the impact might be locally (both in terms of jobs and environment), and otherwise introduced the topic. Hell, even ODNR gave us a canned presentation – the Pentagon couldn’t do as much? Maybe that was by design, however. As a friend emailed: “In the old days they’d have a public meeting where people were allowed to speak and hear from one another in the community. Now things have changed and they just do an information seminar with displays and pick people off one by one for feedback reducing the ability of citizens to communicate with one another.”

People just went from station to station and talked to MDA representatives.Tables at MDA CIS EIS meeting I spoke briefly to one and asked about the repeated failures of the program. He countered that a test in June failed to fail, and said that the failures were actually helpful because they helped to understand what to do next. I then asked how much money had been spent on the program, and he replied that he didn’t know and couldn’t speak to it. He suggested that I was taking at a “whole pie” view, and he was just there to discuss one slice of it. I responded that it looked like the MDA was only presenting the slices that looked tastiest, and it would have been nice to see some concerns addressed as well.

Now, those who work for MDA will obviously be in favor of it. At a very minimum it employs them, so if the MDA went away they would either be transferred or out of a job entirely. It isn’t surprising that they have a positive view of missile defense. But any attempt to generate public support for MDA ought to treat us like grown ups, and be at least a little forthcoming about the problems as well. The “everything is awesome” approach might go over well to those already in favor it, but it won’t persuade anyone who has reservations.

It all seemed like a very lightweight and informal way to treat a proposal that could have such significant consequences. That might be enough though. It already has the vocal support of both of Ohio’s Senators (bipartisanship!) so it doesn’t look like there will be much political resistance to it. It may have all just been a formality. I certainly hope for their sake it was, because as I wrote in a comment (and told a reporter), 

I came to it skeptical and left opposed. Whether public sentiment matters is something else, of course.

 15. Deaths from birth defects on West Coast spiked in 2011 after radiation release from Fukushima

(NaturalNews) Evidence continues to emerge that fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster led to an increase in birth defects and infant deaths along the west coast of the United States.

In March 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered multiple nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northern Japan. The plume that rose from the plant scattered radioactive materials into the atmosphere worldwide. Just days later, elevated levels of various radioactive isotopes were detected in water, milk and soil across the United States.

Infant deaths jumped after disaster
A June 16 report from the Washington State Department of Health notes an increase in cases of anencephaly in central Washington between 2010 and 2014. Anencephaly is a usually fatal condition in which children are born missing parts of their brains or skulls.

One of the potential causes of the anencephaly cluster that was investigated was "radiation from Fukushima release." The state of Washington decided that Fukushima was not to blame for this particular birth defect cluster, because no similar increases had been seen along other parts of the west coast following the Fukushima disaster.

But other effects have in fact been seen in infants along the west coast in that time period. In June 2011, epidemiologist Joseph Mangano and M.D. Janette D. Sherman, both of the Radiation and Public Health Project, noted that in eight west coast cities (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, and the California cities of Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Cruz), the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report had reported a 35 percent increase in deaths among children under one year of age between the four weeks preceding the Fukushima disaster and the 10 weeks following it. Over that same time period, the number of deaths among that same age group nationwide rose only 2.3 percent.

"Spewing from the Fukushima reactor are radioactive isotopes including those of iodine (I-131), strontium (Sr-90) and cesium (Cs-134 and Cs-137) all of which are taken up in food and water," Mangano and Sherman wrote. "Iodine is concentrated in the thyroid, Sr-90 in bones and teeth and Cs-134 and Cs-137 in soft tissues, including the heart. The unborn and babies are more vulnerable because the cells are rapidly dividing and the delivered dose is proportionally larger than that delivered to an adult."

The authors noted that similar increases in newborn sickness and death were seen following the Chernobyl disaster, including in European locations far from the nuclear plant itself. Similar effects have also seen in studies of wildlife living in areas contaminated with radioactive fallout.

Thyroid connection confirmed
Increases in cases of congenital hypothyroidism (CH) were also seen in Western states immediately following the disaster. This is an expected result of nuclear disasters, which released large quantities of radioactive iodine. Because the body concentrates iodine in the thyroid gland, exposure to radioactive iodine can lead to thyroid abnormalities or cancer. Young and unborn children are particularly vulnerable to this.

In two papers published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics, Mangano, Sherman and Chris Busby, Scientific Secretary for the European Union Committee on Radiation Risk, examined CH following the Fukushima disaster.

"All newborns diagnosed with primary CH born March 17-December 31, 2011, were exposed in utero to radioactive fallout from the Fukushima meltdowns," Mangano and Sherman wrote in a March 2013 paper.

A November 2013 paper found that cases of CH were 21 percent higher and cases of borderline CH were 27 percent higher in California children exposed to Fukushima fallout in utero, compared with children who had gestated either before or after the nuclear disaster.

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