Sunday, March 20, 2016

PNN 3-20-16

Lori Price
Matt Schwartz
Katie Spring

1. Who said: asserting that he talks to himself for advice on foreign policy because he has "a very good brain."

2. the General names Names
General Mills will start labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in all its food products, thanks to Vermont‘s impending GMO law and the failure of the ‘voluntary labeling’ law in U.S. Congress this week.
“We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers, and we simply won’t do that,” wrote General Mills U.S. retail chief Jeff Harmening in a post to the company’s website on Friday. “The result: Consumers all over the country will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills food products.”
The company, which manufactures huge North American brands like Betty Crocker, Yoplait, and Cheerios, among others, now joins Campbell‘s as one of the major food companies in the U.S. to support mandatory GMO labeling, and ends its own long history of standing against similar laws throughout the country. In 2012, General Mills contributed $1.2 million to the campaign against California’s Proposition 37, which would have required mandatory GMO labeling in the nation’s largest state.
Still, environmental and consumer groups applauded the company’s pivot on the issue and called for Congress to do the same. Just Label It, which advocates for transparency of ingredients, said Friday that General Mills “has shown real leadership by committing to provide consumers basic information about their food.”

3. Name Game
The agency has asked a federal trademark board to cancel trademarks obtained by the company that previously ran the park's hotels, restaurants and outdoor activities, the Sacramento Bee reported Friday ( Those trademarks include the name, "The Ahwahnee," which was used on a luxurious stone and timber hotel with stunning views of the park's fabled granite peaks, and "Curry Village," a woodsy family-friendly lodging complex.
The park's previous concession company, Delaware North, is demanding the park service pay it $51 million for the names and other intellectual property and has filed a lawsuit in federal court. The park service, meanwhile, changed the names of The Ahwahnee, Curry Village and other sites while it fights for the rights to keep the original names.
Attorneys for the U.S. Department of the Interior told the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that the trademark registrations were causing "damage and injury" to the National Park Service, according to the Bee.
Attorneys for Delaware North said in a March 14 reply that the effort to cancel its trademarks was "a tactic" in the ongoing litigation. They asked the trademark board not to take any action until the lawsuit was resolved.
Delaware North recently lost a $2 billion bid — the National Park Service's largest single contract — to run the park's hotels, restaurants and outdoor activities when Yosemite awarded a 15-year contract to Aramark.
Delaware North has said when it won the contract in 1993, the park service required it to buy the former concessionaire's assets.
The park service has valued the names and other intellectual property at about $3.5 million.

4. fire in the whole
Dawn Chapman doesn’t barbeque much anymore. The mother of three is concerned about the rising levels of cancer in Bridgeton, Missouri, and the surrounding suburbs nestled together just north of St. Louis. But the source of the cancer, she says, isn’t in the meat. It’s in the air.
Bridgeton’s West Lake landfill sits atop 40,000 tons of radioactive waste, illegally dumped there nearly five decades ago. Much of the buried material was left over from experiments conducted as part of the Manhattan Project, the top secret crash project during World War II to build an atomic bomb. Now, an underground fire in a connected landfill could spread to the buried cache, which could send radioactive waste into the local air and water supply.
Or, if local EPA officials and geological experts are to be believed, maybe not. There are conflicting studies commissioned by the various parties in this saga that, maybe predictably, have produced very different results.
Since the fire began years ago, residents, activists, politicians and the landfill owners have battled over the smell coming from the underground fire and the future of the radioactive waste buried several hundred yards away.

In early December 2009, a subsurface thermal reaction (better known as an “underground fire”) started in the Bridgeton landfill. These types of fires are self-sustaining, consuming the fuel around them (in this case, trash) and releasing large amounts of heat and gases into the atmosphere.
Republic Services, which owns the Bridgeton site through a subsidiary company, reported high levels of hydrogen and carbon monoxide coming from the site and noted subsurface temperatures as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of the landfill.
Residents of Bridgeton and the other middle-class suburbs near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport started complaining about the foul fumes in early 2012.
Complaints about headaches, nosebleeds, aggravated asthma and other respiratory ailments had begun years earlier. But even these concerns paled before fears of the fire’s possible path toward the radioactive waste.
Since public debate began over the landfill, the major players have agreed on only two salient facts: a subsurface fire is burning in the Bridgeton landfill, and that fire is only a few thousand feet from a radioactive-waste dump. Virtually everything else about the situation is under dispute.

Radioactive Contaminants Found
Republic Services and local authorities have vehemently disagreed about how close the subsurface fire is to the radioactive waste — and how fast it is approaching that waste.
In a January 2014 report, Republic claims the fire hadn’t yet spread into the north quarry of the Bridgeton landfill, the part closest to the radioactive cache. Republic also claimed the fire, which started in the south quarry, isn’t moving north at all. This claim is backed by local EPA officials.
However, a landfill fire expert commissioned by Chris Koster, Missouri’s attorney general and presumptive Democratic candidate for governor in 2016, drew a far more dire picture. Koster and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources claim the fire is moving north, toward the radioactive waste, at a rate of one to ten  feet a day, depending on how its progress is measured.
Dueling experts have also clashed on whether the fire has been releasing dangerous radioactive dust into the air. Republic and the EPA say no radiation has spread beyond the landfill proper, but a report from Koster claims radioactive contaminants have been found in nearby trees, groundwater and in the northern reaches of the trash site.
One putative hotspot is Coldwater Creek, a small tributary of the Missouri River that runs through cities near Bridgeton. Local residents say thousands of their neighbors living near Coldwater have been diagnosed with cancer in the past few years.
Both sides have also weighed in on what would happen if the subsurface fire does reach the radioactive waste. Republic, through a report prepared by outside contractors, says this will result in no new health risks, because the waste is not “explosive.”
In a report of their own, EPA administrators in Cincinnati agreed with Republic that there was no chance of the waste causing an explosion, but they said that if the fire reaches the waste, it could trigger a chemical reaction and send massive amounts of pollutants into the air and the surrounding groundwater.
Local activist Ed Smith, of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, toldWhoWhatWhy that these pollutants would include radon and other known carcinogens. But he also argued that even without the threat of fire, the buried waste poses a serious health hazard.
A tornado could expose and spread radioactive substances, and if an earthquake hits the region, Smith says, the waste could become liquefied and seep underground into local floodplains and other bodies of water .
Smith calls Republic’s spokesmen and lawyers outright liars for claiming that leaving the waste as is would have no environmental impact.
Russ Knocke, Republic Services’ Vice President of Communication & Public Affairs, toldWhoWhatWhy that the attorney general’s office is basing its lawsuit on incorrect analysis of landfill data. He says Tony Sperling, the lead expert for the state, recanted several key parts of his testimony during a deposition, including previous statements that the fire had reached the north quarry or is close to the radioactive material. In that deposition, Sperling also said the fire could not enter the north quarry under current water conditions in the landfill.
Knocke flatly denied that the underground fire is causing the nasty odor, saying there are other known odor sources in the area that are required to report air emissions data to the EPA. He also said removing the waste would nearly double the risk of cancer in the community, while putting removal workers themselves at high risk.

The Politics of Cleaning up

Meanwhile, Dawn Chapman and other local activists have demanded the EPA or the Army Corps of Engineers remove the waste as quickly as possible.
Chapman, who is a co-founder of the activist group Just Moms STL, told WhoWhatWhythat the 18,000 residents who follow the group on Facebook disagree among themselves on what to do with the radioactive waste, but they all want a permanent fix from the Army Corps of Engineers, and soon.

ON THE SAME day that Ted Cruz announced that anti-Muslim conspiracist Frank Gaffney would be one of his top foreign policy advisers, he won an endorsement from the chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Robert P. George. George said he was endorsing Cruz, his former student at Princeton, because “no one has been stronger than Ted in standing up for religious liberty and other fundamental constitutional freedoms.”
Over the course of his campaign, Cruz has openly endorsed religious discrimination against Syrian refugees, defended government spying on mosques, and voted against a Senate resolution condemning Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the United States. Yesterday, he unveiled his foreign policy advisory team, full of people who have made names for themselves peddling outrageous conspiracy theories that the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrated the U.S. government and that Muslim immigrants are turning American cities into “no-go zones.” A number of Cruz’s advisers, including Gaffney, are members of the Center for Security Policy, a think tank that has been designated as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its anti-Muslim bigotry.
George did not respond to request for comment about his endorsement.
The commission is a government-funded organization that describes itself as an “independent, bipartisan, U.S. federal government commission [that] that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.” Last year, the Senate voted to continue funding the USCIRF’s $3.5 million annual budget through 2019. The organization issues an annual report on religious freedom, including monitoring of “Countries of Particular Concern” on this issue.
Ironically, for an organization whose mandate is promoting religious tolerance, USCIRF has frequently come under fire for alleged discrimination, including a 2012 lawsuit by a Muslim woman who said her job offer was rescinded by the organization on religious grounds. Former employees told the Washington Post that the organization is “rife, behind-the-scenes, with ideology and tribalism, with commissioners focusing on pet projects that are often based on their own religious background” and that “anti-Muslim bias runs through the commission’s work.” In the midst of a national 2010 controversy over a Muslim group’s plan to build a mosque in lower Manhattan, USCIRF commissioner Nina Shea actually weighed in with an op-ed criticizing the project.
George’s endorsement of Cruz is seemingly the latest irony for an organization that receives millions of dollars each year from the U.S. government to promote religious freedom.

6. Slain Activist Berta Cáceres' Daughter: US Military Aid Has Fueled Repression and Violence in Honduras
Another indigenous environmentalist has been murdered in Honduras, less than two weeks after the assassination of renowned activist Berta Cáceres. Nelson García was shot to death Tuesday after returning home from helping indigenous people who had been displaced in a mass eviction by Honduran security forces. García was a member of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, co-founded by Berta Cáceres, who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize last year for her decade-long fight against the Agua Zarca Dam, a project planned along a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca people. She was shot to death at her home on March 3. On Thursday, thousands converged in Tegucigalpa for the start of a mobilization to demand justice for Berta Cáceres and an end to what they say is a culture of repression and impunity linked to the Honduran government's support for corporate interests. At the same time, hundreds of people, most of them women, gathered outside the Honduran Mission to the United Nations chanting "Berta no se murió; se multiplicó -- Berta didn't die; she multiplied."

7. Newly Released Inspection Reports on Keystone XL’s Southern Route Fuel Doubt Over ‘Safest Pipeline Ever Built' Claims

TransCanada’s claim that the southern route of the Keystone XL Pipeline is the safest pipeline ever built in the United States is challenged by the release of new documentation confirming multiple code violations.

Daily inspection reports on the construction of the pipeline obtained by the Tar Sands Blockade, an activist group, renew questions about the pipeline’s integrity.
Mounting evidence that the pipeline was not built to mandated minimum requirements established by the American Petroleum Institute increases the chances the pipeline will leak or experience a catastrophic spill. 

The reports — prepared by federal regulators with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) — reveal some code violations not previously disclosed. The number of reports also account for less than half the number of days the agency claims it spent inspecting the pipeline while it was being constructed.

Last year President Obama denied TransCanada a permit to build the northern route of the Keystone XL pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border.But his administration had fast-tracked the construction of the southern leg of the project in 2012.

The Keystone XL's southern route, renamed the Keystone Gulf Coast Pipeline when the project was split into sections, goes from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. In Cushing, the pipeline connects to TransCanada’s pipeline network that originates in Alberta, Canada.

After mandatory safety tests revealed potential problems with the integrity of the southern pipeline, TransCanada dug up 130 sites and made repairs before the pipeline was permitted to start up.

PHMSA noted in its final inspection report that 37 sections of pipe had to be cut out and replaced and many areas of the pipeline’s coating had to be repaired.

The Tar Sands Blockade, Public Citizen, and landowners living along the pipelines path monitored the repair work. They were joined by Evan Vokes, former TransCanada materials engineer-turned-whistleblower, who shared his technical expertise.

They requested PHMSA require TransCanada do a new pressure test on the pipeline to test the integrity of the repairs. ButPHMSA turned them down at a private meeting held shortly before TransCanada started up the pipeline. 

PHSMA explained that it had faith the repairs were done correctly and assured the group that its inspectors spent over 150 days inspecting the pipeline during construction — overseeing welding, coating, installation, backfilling, testing and all other construction activities.

That claim prompted Kathy Redman, a member of the Tar Sands Blockade, to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the daily inspection reports. In total 66 reports were released covering 70 days.

Of those reports, two recount a PHMSA inspector aborting his mission after being warned that protesters would be at the site he planned to inspect. Another recounts an inspector sitting in on a safety training session with contractors and interviewing personnel.

“Inspecting pipeline construction is a boots on the ground activity,” Vokes told DeSmog. “Any time not spent on the pipeline right of way cannot be considered time spent inspecting construction.”

Vokes believes it would have been prudent for regulators to spend as much time as possible monitoring the construction of the pipeline. TransCanada has been cited on more than one occasion by regulators in the U.S. and Canada for not complying with construction code.  

A couple of the company’s latest projects blew up, not long after they started operating, including the Bison Pipeline in Wyoming and the North Central Corridor Loop in Alberta, Canada.

DeSmog asked PHMSA if it had documentation to prove more than 150 days were devoted to inspections.

“There would not necessarily be 150 reports for 150 days, and we’ve been trying to find another way to explain that,” an email sent to DeSmog by a PHMSA director stated.**

But PHMSA’s final inspection report for the Gulf Coast pipeline states, “Daily reports were submitted by each engineer/inspector to document the daily
construction activities observed during the inspections.”  It also says that “A total of 165.9 AFO [away from the office] days and 53.35 non-AFO days were spent on the TransCanada construction project.”

“The discrepancy in the number of days the agency claims it spent inspecting to the number of daily inspection reports makes me doubt PHMSA’s credibility,” Redman told DeSmog. The reports she did get added to her concern that the pipeline is a disaster waiting to happen.

The reports include inspectors’ observations of TransCanada violating construction codes. A report dated 10/30/2012 describes a welder who had the wrong welding rods in his bucket.

“That is a fundamental fuck-up,” Vokes told DeSmog. “It could explain the high number of welding failures the pipeline suffered.” 

A welding inspector is required at all construction sites during pipeline installation. Using the wrong welding rods leads to bad welds, and bad welds can lead to slow leaks.

“The welder and the welding inspector should have been fired on the spot,” Vokes said. 

Vokes found it troubling that the inspection report makes no mention of PHMSA’s inspector taking immediate corrective action. He believes stopping construction after discovering the wrong rods in a welder’s bucket would have been an appropriate response.

In another PHMSA inspection report, dated 7/09/2013, TransCanada’s pipeline coating problems are noted.  At a dig site where the company was assessing issues detected by a safety test, the inspector found damage done to the coating caused by a shovel.

Previously released warning letters PHMSA sent to TransCanada reprimand the company for hiring unqualified welders andnot protecting the pipeline’s coating during installation. And PHMSA’s final inspection report reveals TransCanada received unsatisfactory marks on welding procedures and installation practices related to the pipeline’s protective coating.

PHMSA did not fine TransCanada for any of the violations it cited in warning letters or require a second pressure test after TransCanada repaired the pipeline, although it has the regulatory power to do so.

8. Alarm over very sick animals washing ashore in Alaska 

Local Official: Alarm over very sick animals washing ashore in Alaska — Fish bleeding from face, bloody entrails coming out of body — “We are very much aware of the possibility of radiation from Fukushima affecting ocean life”

Janet Mitchell, City Administrator for Kivalina City Council, with Replogle Swan, Kivalina Search and Rescue, Nov 3, 2015 (emphasis added): Arctic char with Saprolegnia mold – Kivalina, Alaska – I have an interest in the health of the sea mammals because of the Fukushima disaster… even if the foods we eat from the ocean may not be affected, they do migrate through the bodies of water surrounding Alaska so we do have cause for concern… We have noticed baby seals washing ashore because they are too weak to swim for lengths of time. There are walruses 

that come to shore also from being so sick. My brother shot a walrus last summer that was so skinny, we were very alarmed at it’s condition. Baby walruses come ashore… alone. We do not know if they survive… Pt. Hope also reports very sick walruses summer time… [T]he most recent discovery was a rainbow trout brought to the city office… I’ve attached photos of the very sick fish… the bloody entrails were exiting out and it was also bleeding through the mouth. There were the beginnings of lesions on the skin… We are very much aware of the possibility of radiation from Fukushima affecting the ocean life but we realize there are other possibilities.
  • Local Environmental Observer (LEO): … LEO Network has received a number of reports this year about illness in fish, birds and sea mammals…
  • Dr. Jayde Ferguson, Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game: There appears to be Saprolegnia (a water mold) growing on the tail… The anal fin has a blistered appearance, possibly a proliferative growth such as a neoplasm or tumor that has formed an ulcer. A systemic infection (such as a bacterial infection in blood) may also be involved as there appears to be reddening in the head region…

9. too hot for Robots
Radiation in Fukushima was so bad, they couldn’t afford to send people into some places. It turns out, the radiation was so high that even the chrome-domed replacements didn’t fare much better.
“It is extremely difficult to access the inside of the nuclear plant,” Naohiro Masuda, TEPCO’s head of decommissioning said. “The biggest obstacle is the radiation.”
The solution? Robots. The problem? Robots.
“It takes two years to develop a single-function robot,” Masuda said.
As soon as TEPCO’s robots, co-designed with Toshiba, get close to Reactor 3, their circuitry gets destroyed by the radiation. The robots are designed to “swim” in the radiated pools where the radioactive fuel rods are located, to search for and recover them.
The robots are unable to enter Reactor 3 because of the concentrated levels of radiation compared to the lesser toxic Reactor 4, where 1,535 fuel rod assemblies had previously been removed.Workers were also able to stand near enough to the pool to directly observe the process in Reactor 4.
This is the same company, mind you, which “accidentally” used radiation monitoring equipmentwhich maxed out at 100mSv when the radiation was 18 times higher – nobody was concerned that the reading was stuck at 100 for really long periods of time, apparently.
TEPCO claims that the radiation levels in many locations at the site have fallen dramatically. We were unable to verify if they were using the correct equipment at this time. However, more than 8,000 human workers continue to risk their lives clearing the site of debris at any one time throughout the day.
Water is pumped into the reactors to cool them, and the irradiated water is stored in leaky, illegally-constructed-by-desperate-poverty-stricken-people water tanks.
So far, Japanese fishermen have refused to allow TEPCO to release the water it has “treated” into the sea… though TEPCO site manager Akira Ono claims that he is “deeply worried” the storage tanks will leak radioactive water into the sea anyway.
Masuda, for his part, claims that leaks have been greatly reduced ever since the company built a wall along the shoreline. Walls are apparently an important solution for every problem in the world.
“I am not about to say that it is absolutely zero, but because of this wall the amount of release has dramatically dropped,” he said.
In February, TEPCO completed construction of the world’s largest ice wall to prevent the water from leaking into the groundwater, and thus, into the sea. The wall will only be tested later in the year when water is pumped through the pipes and frozen.
TEPCO is developing another robot that will be ready by 2017. However, it is unknown how long that one will last.

10. Fukushima forests, dubbed 'radiation reservoirs,' are full of mutated life forms

NaturalNews) Five years after the earthquake-triggered events that led to the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, significant levels of radiation remain in the area – particularly in the forests near the disaster site.

The Japanese government has been attempting to clean up the radiation in the villages near the plant so that they can be repopulated, but so far, the surrounding countryside has been left alone, based on the advice of the Atomic Energy Commission.

The cleanup efforts have greatly reduced the amount of radiation in the villages, but according to a new report published by Greenpeace that was based in part on several peer-reviewed studies, the forests near the plant have become "radiation reservoirs," where radiation-induced mutations are now appearing in several plant and animal species.

The "complex and extensive" environmental consequences are in the early stages, and will likely continue for hundreds of years, due to the long half-life of the radioactive elements released during the disaster.

From the Greenpeace report:

"Clearly, some early impacts are already being seen: internal tissue contamination in forest plants and trees resulting in caesium translocation in bark, sapwood, and heartwood; high concentrations in new leaves, and at least in the case of cedar – pollen; apparent increases in growth mutations of fir trees with rising radiation levels; heritable mutations in pale blue grass butterfly populations; DNA-damaged worms in highly contaminated areas; high levels of caesium contamination in commercially important freshwater fish; apparent reduced fertility in barn swallows; and radiological contamination of one of the most important ecosystems – coastal estuaries."

The Fukushima disaster was the worst such event since the nuclear accident that occurred at Chernobyl in 1986. But unlike Chernobyl, where the affected area was completely abandoned, the Japanese government is planning to lift evacuation orders by March 2017 for many of the villages near the Daiichi plant.

According to the Greenpeace report, this could lead to disastrous long-term health consequences for those who choose to return to their homes.

The ongoing coverup
Japanese government authorities, along with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and TEPCO (the company responsible for the Fukushima nuclear plant), have consistently attempted to downplay the seriousness of the disaster and its long-term human health and environmental implications.

For example, a 2015 report by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency stated that:

"No observations of direct radiation induced effects in plants and animals have been reported, although limited observational studies were conducted in the period immediately after the accident. There are limitations in the available methodologies for assessing radiological consequences, but, based on previous experience and the levels of radionuclides present in the environment, it is unlikely that there would be any major radiological consequences for biota populations or ecosystems as a consequence of the accident."

It's difficult to imagine that the IAEA was unaware of the peer-reviewed studies that the Greenpeace report was based on, and so it would appear that the authorities involved are willing to risk the health of thousands of people in their efforts to cover up the true extent of the dangerous radioactive contamination in the area near the plant.

In fact, according to the Greenpeace report:

"The current approach of Japanese authorities to forest decontamination is the removal of leaf litter, soil, and understory plants in 20 meter strips along the roads and around homes that are surrounded by forests. In terms of decontaminating the large areas of Fukushima this approach is futile. Over seventy percent of Fukushima prefecture is forested, which is not possible to decontaminate."

Furthermore, the melted fuel rods beneath the three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have still not been contained, and no one is sure when the problem will be solved – or if a workable solution even exists.

As the Greenpeace report concludes:

"[T]he people of Fukushima, who have lost so much to TEPCO's nuclear disaster, deserve to have accurate and complete information so that they may face the decisions ahead with clarity and knowledge."

Unfortunately, that information is not being provided by those who are responsible for the disaster and its ongoing cleanup.


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