Sunday, April 03, 2016

PNN - 4/3/16 - Fools Day Plus 2


PNN - Fools Day Plus 2
- 4/3/16

News Director Rick Spisak
Anita Stewart Webcaster Challenging the Rhetoric
Dr. Wendy Lynn Lee - Fracktivist and Human Rights Activist and Philosopher
Brian Stettan WebCaster Progress for Democracy
Frank Day Progressive Democratic Activist
Meredith Ockman SE Regional Director NOW
Amy Tidd Democratic Activist
Diana Hanford Demarest Democratic Campaign Manager / Former Palm Beach Democratic Party Treasurer


1. El Nino
It has already killed parts of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Loss of the coral reefs indirectly threatens the food chain, causes a loss to biodiversity, and affects the 500 million people worldwide who rely on reefs for their livelihoods. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, said the world is on course to lose coral reefs entirely by 2040. 

2. A Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) “quarterly threat assessment”  dated January 2016 and marked “unclassified/not for public release,” but posted publicly online, lists “animal rights and environmental extremists” and “anarchist extremists” as “groups [that] represent a significant domestic terrorist threat.”

Animal rights activists, environmentalists, and anarchists are featured along with homegrown violent extremists inspired by al Qaida and ISIS, sovereign citizen extremists, and anti-abortion extremists as groups that “represent the most prominent known threat to the US” in the category of domestic terrorism. The quarterly threat assessment also describes foreign terrorist threats including ISIS, al Qaida, Jabhat al Nusra, and al Shabaab.
The Boston Police bulletin features a “threat matrix” chart, which it describes as a “snapshot of the groups that are assessed to pose a significant threat to the [Metro Boston Homeland Security Region].”

The chart describes the intent, capability, and opportunity for groups ranging from al Qaeda and ISIS to animal rights and environmental extremists to attack targets in the Boston area.

The international terrorist group al Qaida killed nearly three thousand Americans on 9/11. ISIS has in recent months been responsible for horrifying violence in Iraq, Syria, France, and Belgium.

But according to “green scare” scholar Will Potter, animal rights and environmental “extremists,” who over the past few decades have occasionally been convicted of destroying property, have never killed a single human being in the United States. Despite this profound difference between terrorist groups like al Qaida and ISIS, which explicitly and intentionally aim to kill civilians, and animal rights and environmental activists, who explicitly and intentionally aim not to harm human beings, the Boston Police Department lists the groups in the same terrorism “threat matrix” chart.


3. WAIT WAIT - We can fix this!FLINT, Mich. (AP) — An official with Flint's water plant said Tuesday he had planned to treat the drinking water with anti-corrosive chemicals after the city began drawing from the Flint River but was overruled by a state environmental regulator.

Mike Glasgow, then a supervisor at the plant and now the municipal utilities administrator, said he received the instruction from district engineer Mike Prysby of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality during a meeting to discuss the final steps before Flint switched from the Detroit water system as a cost-saving measure in April 2014.
Glasgow said Prysby told him a year of water testing was required before a decision could be made on whether corrosion controls were needed, which the state DEQ has since acknowledged was a misreading of federal regulations on preventing lead and copper pollution. The omission enabled lead to leach from aging pipes and fixtures and contaminate tap water that reached some homes, businesses and schools.

"I did have some concerns and misgivings at first," Glasgow said before a joint legislative committee investigating the Flint water crisis. "But unfortunately, now that I look back, I relied on engineers and the state regulators to kind of direct the decision. I looked at them as having more knowledge than myself."

He added, "Now when I look back and as I move forward, wherever my career takes me, you can believe I will question some of the decisions of regulators above me in the future." Lee Anne Walters, who helped draw official attention to the problem after high lead levels were discovered in her house, told The Associated Press that hearing of the DEQ official's instruction to the city made her "nauseous."

"That one meeting was the difference between this city being poisoned and not being poisoned," she said.

A task force appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder last week described the state as "fundamentally accountable" for Flint's lead-contaminated water crisis, partly because of the decision on corrosion controls. The group's report said the DEQ was primarily to blame, while the state Department of Health and Human Service and local and federal officials also made mistakes.

Flint, an impoverished city of nearly 100,000, was under control of emergency managers appointed by Snyder when decisions were made to switch the water sources and later to forgo corrosion treatments


4.LOCK IT - UNLOCK IT - DONESAN FRANCISCO — The Justice Department said on Monday that it had found a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple, allowing the agency to withdraw its legal effort to compel the tech company to assist in a mass-shooting investigation.
The decision to drop the case — which involved demanding Apple’s help to open an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, a gunman in the December shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14 people — ends a legal standoff between the government and the world’s most valuable public company.

The case had become increasingly contentious as Apple refused to help the authorities, inciting a debate about whether privacy or security was more important.
Yet law enforcement’s ability to now unlock an iPhone through an alternative method raises new uncertainties, including questions about the strength of security in Apple devices. The development also creates potential for new conflicts between the government and Apple about the method used to open the device and whether that technique will be disclosed.

Lawyers for Apple have previously said the company would want to know the procedure used to crack open the smartphone, yet the government might classify the method.
“From a legal standpoint, what happened in the San Bernardino case doesn’t mean the fight is over,” said Esha Bhandari, a staff lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. She notes that the government generally goes through a process whereby it decides whether to disclose information about certain vulnerabilities so that manufacturers can patch them.

“I would hope they would give that information to Apple so that it can patch any weaknesses,” she said, “but if the government classifies the tool, that suggests it may not.”


5. What would you do if a bottled water company came to your town and tried to take control of your water?

Unfortunately, for too many communities, this is not a hypothetical situation. Take Cascade Locks, in Hood River County, Oregon. This pristine town on the Columbia River has been battling for the last seven years to stop NestlĂ© from taking control of their water and building a bottling plant in their community. 

For years, the company has been working the system to avoid environmental reviews, buy influence over local politicians and speed up the process to get what they want.
Meanwhile, the community has been putting up a fierce fight to protect their water. 

6. of course we knew
I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. 
You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”


7. Everglades City, FL—March 24, day five of the March to defend Florida Everglades, will bring marchers and protestors from all over the state to two different hot spots today:  Big Cypress National Preserve Headquarters and McLeod Park in Everglades City.  

As part of their 80-mile, 6-day protest march across the Everglades from Miami to Naples, along the proposed route of the River of Grass Greenway, the groups will call on the National Park Service (NPS) to respect indigenous rights, abandon the River of Grass Greenway (ROGG), and deny applications for oil drilling and seismic testing on NPS land.  A delegation of marchers had planned to deliver petitions—ROGG petition, Seismic Petition, Group Sign-on Against ROGG—to Big Cypress National Preserve Superintendent Whittington but the superintendent has refused to meet with the marchers or to send staff out to receive them. Nevertheless, the marchers plan to send a delegation inside to deliver the documents.  

Undaunted, the protestors will travel on to Everglades City where they will call on the Everglades City Council and Miami-Dade County Parks to withdraw support from ROGG and for all other stakeholders to shut down the project permanently.  

Opposition has grown against the River of Grass Greenway because plans show it would destroy wetlands, fragment critical habitat, and encroach on indigenous lands.  Bobby C. Billie, Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal Peoples submitted comments condemning it and has been spearheading efforts to stop it.  The Miccosukee Tribe issued an official letter opposing it that includes a list of federal acts it breaks, including skipping initial tribal consultation before commissioning the feasibility study.  Betty Osceola of the Panther Clan and Miccosukee Tribe has gathered over 5000 signatures against it and says, “We don’t need another dam across the Everglades.”  The project is also losing support:  the Naples Pathway Coalition, a nonprofit that originally proposed the project in 2006, withdrew its support saying its resources are better spent working on other projects; and Miami Dade County relinquished its role as project lead.


8 WHEN YOUR HOT!
influential group of scientists led by James Hansen, the former NASA scientist often credited with having drawn the first major attention to climate change in 1988 congressional testimony, has published a dire climate study that suggests the impact of global warming will be quicker and more catastrophic than generally envisioned.
The research invokes collapsing ice sheets, violent megastorms and even the hurling of boulders by giant waves in its quest to suggest that even 2 degrees Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels would be far too much. Hansen has called it the most important work he has ever done.
The sweeping paper, 52 pages in length and with 19 authors, draws on evidence from ancient climate change or “paleo-climatology,” as well as climate experiments using computer models and some modern observations. Calling it a “paper” really isn’t quite right — it’s actually a synthesis of a wide range of old, and new, evidence.

“I think almost everybody who’s really familiar with both paleo and modern is now very concerned that we are approaching, if we have not passed, the points at which we have locked in really big changes for young people and future generations,” Hansen said in an interview.

The research, appearing Tuesday in the open-access journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, has had a long and controversial path to life, having first appeared as a “discussion paper” in the same journal, subject to live, online peer review — a novel but increasingly influential form of scientific publishing. Hansen first told the press about the research last summer, before this process was completed, leading to criticism from some journalists and also fellow scientists that he might be jumping the gun.

What ensued was a high-profile debate, both because of the dramatic claims and Hansen’s formidable reputation. And his numerous co-authors, including Greenland and Antarctic ice experts and aleader of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, were nothing to be sniffed at.
After record downloads for the study and an intense public review process, a revised version of the paper has now been accepted, according to both Hansen and Barbara Ferreira, media and communications manager for the European Geophysical Union, which publishes Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Indeed, the article is now freely readable on the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics website.
The paper, according to Ferreira, was subject to “major revisions in terms of organisation, title and conclusions.” Those came in response to criticisms that can all be read publicly at the journal’s website. The paper also now has two additional authors.
Most notably, perhaps, the editorial process led to the removal of the use of the phrase “highly dangerous,” in the paper’s title, to describe warming the planet by 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The original paper’s title was “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming is highly dangerous.” The final title is “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous.”
But nonetheless, James Hansen’s climate catastrophe scenario now takes its place in the official scientific literature relatively intact. So let’s rehearse that scenario, again, for the record.
Hansen and his colleagues think that major melting of Greenland and Antarctica can not only happen quite fast — leading to as much as several meters of sea level rise in the space of a century, depending on how quickly melt rates double — but that this melting will have dramatic climate change consequences, beyond merely raising sea levels.


10. Democracy Rally

Millions of Americans are fed up with politics as usual. We need real solutions to raise wages, keep jobs in America, address climate change and provide access to quality education. Instead we get a Congress that’s focused on the needs of billionaire campaign donors.

If you believe that our democracy should work for people, not big money corporations, click here to sign our petition.

This petition is just the first step. Later this spring, thousands of activists from over 170 organizations including Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and the NAACP will join the Democracy Awakening in Washington, D.C. to demand change.

Many of these activists plan to engage in civil disobedience actions and risk arrest to ensure that Congress hears our message loud and clear: we want big money out of politics and our voting rights restored.



11. REGIME CHANGE in the UKRAINE
Ukraine has gone from political crisis to armed conflict to humanitarian crisis with no break in the regress ever since the American-cultivated coup in February 2014. But for many months now, we have had before us a textbook example of what I call the Power of Leaving Out.

The most daring attempt at “regime change” since righteous Clintonians invented this self-deceiving euphemism in the 1990s has come to six-figure casualties, mass deprivation,  a divided nation and a wrecked economy. If you abide within the policy cliques or the corporate-owned media, it is best to go quiet as long as you can in the face of such eventualities.
The short of it, readers, is that all three chickens now take up their roosts at once: The Poroshenko government is on the brink of collapse, neo-Nazi extremists have forced it to renew hostilities in the east and there is no letup in the blockade Kiev imposes on rebelling regions. The last differs from a punitive starvation strategy only in degree.

The very short of it is that the more or less complete failure of Washington’s most adventurous assertion of power in the post-Cold War period can no longer be papered over. Even the most corrupted correspondents have to file something when political mutiny and warfare break into the open—and when non-American media, as is their peculiar habit, report on these things. It is for this reason alone you can read a smidge—but only a smidge—about the events now unfolding in Ukraine in the New York Times and all other media that reliably do as the Times does.
Forcing a nation to live under a neoliberal economic regime so that American corporations can exploit it freely, as the Obama administration proposed when it designated Arseniy Yatsenyuk as prime minister in 2014, is never to be cheered. Turning a nation of 46 million into a bare-toothed front line in America’s obsessive campaign against Russia is never to be cheered. 

Forcing the Russian-speaking half of the country to live under a government that would ban Russian as a national language if it could is never to be cheered. The only regret, a great regret of mind and heart, is that American failures almost always prove so costly in consequence of the blindness and arrogance of the policy cliques.

Readers may remember when, with a defense authorization bill in debate last June, two congressmen advanced an amendment banning military assistance to “openly neo-Nazi” and “fascist” militias waging war against Ukraine’s eastern regions. John Conyers and Ted Yoho got two things done in a stroke: They forced public acknowledgment that “the repulsive neo-Nazi Azov battalion,” as Conyers put it, was active, and they shamed the (also repulsive) Republican House to pass their legislative amendment unanimously.

Obama signed the defense bill then at issue into law just before Thanksgiving. The Conyers-Yoho amendment was deleted but for a single phrase. The bill thus authorizes, among much, much else, $300 million in aid this year to “the military and national security forces in Ukraine.” In a land ruled by euphemisms, the latter category designates the Azov battalion and the numerous other fascist militias on which the Poroshenko government is wholly dependent for its existence.

An omnibus spending bill Obama signed a month later included an additional $250 million for the Ukraine army and its rightist adjuncts. This is your money, taxpayers, should you need reminding. As Obama signed these bills, the White House expressed its satisfaction that “ideological riders” had been stripped out of them.

Until recently, what one heard and read of Ukraine’s progress into a neoliberal future was almost all happy talk (or silence, of course). Vice President Biden, who carries the Ukraine portfolio in the administration, makes regular trips to laud the Poroshenko government and the reformist zeal of Premier Yatsenyuk. This is perhaps only natural, given Biden’s son is neck-deep in Ukraine’s resource extraction industry.

Biden sounded a different note during his latest trip to Kiev, which came in December. Yes, there was another handout, this one $190 million to help the Poroshenko government implement “structural reforms” of the usual anti-democratic kind. (Are you toting up all these checks?) But Biden was stern, make no mistake. He shook his finger from the podium in parliament.
“We understand how difficult some of the votes for reforms are, but they are critical for putting Ukraine back on the right path,” Biden said. “As long as you continue to make progress in fighting corruption and build a future of opportunity for all Ukraine, the U.S. will stand with you.”
Back on the right path? Continue to make progress?

Since euphemisms are an American export item, familiar in euphemism markets the world over, a translation: You are embarrassing us because you have done nothing. We gave you a window to pass legislation before the Ukrainian people figured out how awful it would make their lives. You’re blowing it as we speak. Hurry up. Meantime, here is another couple of hundred million.
A few days ago Geoffrey Pyatt, the American ambassador in Kiev, put in his two cents. (No check this time.) Pyatt, readers will surely recall, did the gumshoe work for Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state who engineered Yatsenyuk’s elevation to the premiership two years ago. His concern was grave as he addressed a defense and security seminar: He wants to see “meaningful steps to reform the trade and investment climate.” These are, of course, the abiding passions of every un- or under-employed Ukrainian.
“Ukraine has said that it wants to become a major defense exporter,” the ambassador elaborated. “I know that is possible, given the extraordinary capabilities that I have seen the Ukrainian industry demonstrate, but it can only happen if Ukraine continues to press ahead on critical reforms, tackles corruption, and works to meet NATO standards. This will require a paradigm shift in Ukraine’s defense industry, and a move away from a mindset of state-owned enterprises….”
Pyatt refers to a very specific circumstance in the above passage. Ukraine is a cesspit of illegal arms dealing, and this is a wellspring of corruption and illicit profit American defense contractors want to partake of. A source in Europe who is familiar with the trade but not part of it explained things this way in a note the other day:
Ukraine has been the plaque tournant [hub, lively market] of illegal arms trade since the end of the USSR. The mob, the Kiev military, the far-right groups and some of the oligarchs all participate at different levels in this very, very dirty business…. None, as in none of this has been touched by the Kiev regime…


12. FIVE YEARS ON!
Five years after an accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, some scientists continue to find found small amounts of radioactive material along the West Coast of North America. And some of them say we should expect to see this in the ocean for decades to come. Elevated levels found off the coast of Japan show that the situation is not yet under control, and that the facility is still leaking radiation.

But the levels observed near the United States are below — very far below — those set by health and safety standards, and are also far outstripped by naturally occurring radiation.

Five years after an accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, some scientists continue to find found small amounts of radioactive material along the West Coast of North America. And some of them say we should expect to see this in the ocean for decades to come. Elevated levels found off the coast of Japan show that the situation is not yet under control, and that the facility is still leaking radiation.

But the levels observed near the United States are below — very far below — those set by health and safety standards, and are also far outstripped by naturally occurring radiation.


A lone tree sits on the tsunami-scarred landscape in the exclusion zone, close to the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Feb. 26, 2016, in Namie, Fukushima, Japan.
Getty Images
A lone tree sits on the tsunami-scarred landscape in the exclusion zone, close to the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Feb. 26, 2016, in Namie, Fukushima, Japan.
On March 12, 2011, an earthquake triggered a tsunami that struck 700 miles of coastline and caused a disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant. It was considered the worst such disaster since the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Russia in 1986.
Much of the radiation from the disaster leaked into the sea, leading to fears in other countries that the toxins would poison marine ecosystems and fisheries, and cause cancer or other health problems for humans.

U.S. scientists began receiving phone calls from concerned citizens asking them if it was safe to eat fish or swim in the ocean.

While government agencies looked for radiation in soil, air, drinking water and the food supply, oceanographer Ken Buesseler said a "traditional gap" in government agency responsibility leaves ocean radiation unstudied.

But the public was concerned — Buesseler was getting phone calls from worried citizens. There had also been a series of massive die-offs of marine life, especially sea lions, and some of the people Buesseler talked to feared the die-offs resulted from radiation, he said.

He and a team secured a grant from the Moore Foundation and ran a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a vessel, researchers, and the equipment needed to take seawater samples near Japan and North America.

His team looked for a particular radioactive isotope called cesium-134. That isotope is particularly useful because it has a very short, two-year half-life. If there was cesium-134 somewhere in the ocean, it almost certainly would have to come from Fukushima. Other isotopes — such as cesium-137 — have far longer half-lives. There still is some cesium-137 in the ocean from nuclear tests conducted in the middle of the 20th Century, for example.

Cesium is soluble in seawater, so it is easily taken up and dispersed by ocean currents. This may partly be a good thing: The ocean is vast, and it has quickly diluted concentrations in the most affected area around Japan.

But it does mean radiation can spread out across the Pacific and around the planet.

Last December, Buesseler and his team said they had found a spike of cesium-134 off the coast of California — about 11 becquerels per cubic meter of water. Becquerels are a unit measuring radiation. Buesseler and his team reported finding about 10 becquerels per cubic meter of water 1,500 miles north of Hawaii. That was a level around twice as high as levels they had found on previous missions.

Five years later, scientists have reason to assume radiation from the Fukushima disaster is still showing up on U.S. shores. And they will likely continue to leak and drift for decades to come.

Then again, these levels are extremely small. To put 11 becquerels in perspective, a single dental X-ray would expose a person to 1,000 times more radiation than swimming in that water for an entire year, according to Buesseler. It is about 500 times lower than the U.S. government standard for safe drinking water.

Manley, who studies kelp and seaweed, was also receiving phone calls from people worried about radiation in the ocean shortly after the accident. He contacted Kai Vetter, a researcher and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who had already started a project monitoring the air for radiation after the accident.

They formed a group called Kelp Watch in the wake of the accident. The group involved 52 marine scientists taking kelp samples at sites ranging from Kodiak Island off the coast of Alaska, to Baja California, in Mexico, and as far east as Hawaii. To date, they have found no detectable levels of radioactive isotopes in kelp or seaweed tissue. Vetter told CNBC that they are certain there is some radiation from Fukushima in the kelp, but the levels are so low their equipment has not been able to detect it.

The radiation Buesseler was measuring in the Pacific was orders of magnitude smaller than what would be required to cause the aforementioned sea life die-offs in the Pacific.

Separate research from NOAA and other groups has tentatively connected some of these deaths to toxins released by plankton blooms — products likely of unusually warm ocean water common during El Nino. In any event, Buesseler said, if the levels were high enough to lead to die-offs around the Pacific, there would have to be greater marine life losses close to Japan, and there haven't been.
Radioactivity is everywhere, and most of it is naturally occurring.

"We are living in a radioactive world, and we are exposed to it all the time," Vetter told CNBC.

And to a certain extent, humans can handle it. However, radiation can be carcinogenic — sun exposure can cause skin cancer, for example. But small amounts of sun exposure are not necessarily harmful, and the body has repair mechanisms to handle damage. It is also important to keep radiation from specific sources in perspective.

A study commissioned by Congress in 1999 estimated that the air in the U.S. averages about 15 becquerels of radon per cubic meter. Kelp has naturally occurring potassium-40, another radioactive isotope and "the potassium-40 levels in kelp are extremely high compared to the very small amount of cesium that has been detected in seawater," Manley said.

That said, it is still necessary to keep a close watch over radioactivity levels from the accident.

"We are not completely out of the woods," Buesseler said. The Fukushima site is still full of radioactive material, and there have been some leaks since the accident that have released more material into the environment.

He said there about a thousand tanks full of "something on the order of 750 million tons of water that are far more radioactive than anything in the ocean." There is also radioactive material in the groundwater, soil and in the buildings.

"I expect to see small leaks for decades to come," he said. "It is a difficult thing to have soil and groundwater and buildings contaminated to this extent and not have that leaking out."

The public concern in some quarters is still high.

Vetter was motivated to start RadWatch — the air-monitoring project — and Kelp Watch with Manley "because we felt, and it was confirmed by the public, that the government was not doing enough in that communication, they were not really measuring, to a large degree and the message was, 'Don't worry about it.' But people were worried about it, and justifiably so."

All three scientists told CNBC that some members of the public — albeit a small minority — have done everything from questioning their findings to, in some cases, threatening them.
"Whatever you claim, whatever opinion you have, you can find confirmation on the Worldwide Web," Vetter said. "Which is great, but also a great risk."
Manley said that "as soon as we started putting our data up on Kelp Watch people began contacting us to complain. They said, 'Oh you are lying, or you are telling half-truths. You can't really have a conversation with them because they attack your credibility, rather than your data. It was a real eye-opener for me."

12. FIVE YEARS ON!
Five years after an accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, some scientists continue to find found small amounts of radioactive material along the West Coast of North America. And some of them say we should expect to see this in the ocean for decades to come. Elevated levels found off the coast of Japan show that the situation is not yet under control, and that the facility is still leaking radiation.

But the levels observed near the United States are below — very far below — those set by health and safety standards, and are also far outstripped by naturally occurring radiation.

Five years after an accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, some scientists continue to find found small amounts of radioactive material along the West Coast of North America. And some of them say we should expect to see this in the ocean for decades to come. Elevated levels found off the coast of Japan show that the situation is not yet under control, and that the facility is still leaking radiation.

But the levels observed near the United States are below — very far below — those set by health and safety standards, and are also far outstripped by naturally occurring radiation.


A lone tree sits on the tsunami-scarred landscape in the exclusion zone, close to the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Feb. 26, 2016, in Namie, Fukushima, Japan.
Getty Images
A lone tree sits on the tsunami-scarred landscape in the exclusion zone, close to the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Feb. 26, 2016, in Namie, Fukushima, Japan.
On March 12, 2011, an earthquake triggered a tsunami that struck 700 miles of coastline and caused a disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant. It was considered the worst such disaster since the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Russia in 1986.
Much of the radiation from the disaster leaked into the sea, leading to fears in other countries that the toxins would poison marine ecosystems and fisheries, and cause cancer or other health problems for humans.

U.S. scientists began receiving phone calls from concerned citizens asking them if it was safe to eat fish or swim in the ocean.

While government agencies looked for radiation in soil, air, drinking water and the food supply, oceanographer Ken Buesseler said a "traditional gap" in government agency responsibility leaves ocean radiation unstudied.

But the public was concerned — Buesseler was getting phone calls from worried citizens. There had also been a series of massive die-offs of marine life, especially sea lions, and some of the people Buesseler talked to feared the die-offs resulted from radiation, he said.

He and a team secured a grant from the Moore Foundation and ran a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a vessel, researchers, and the equipment needed to take seawater samples near Japan and North America.

His team looked for a particular radioactive isotope called cesium-134. That isotope is particularly useful because it has a very short, two-year half-life. If there was cesium-134 somewhere in the ocean, it almost certainly would have to come from Fukushima. Other isotopes — such as cesium-137 — have far longer half-lives. There still is some cesium-137 in the ocean from nuclear tests conducted in the middle of the 20th Century, for example.

Cesium is soluble in seawater, so it is easily taken up and dispersed by ocean currents. This may partly be a good thing: The ocean is vast, and it has quickly diluted concentrations in the most affected area around Japan.

But it does mean radiation can spread out across the Pacific and around the planet.

Last December, Buesseler and his team said they had found a spike of cesium-134 off the coast of California — about 11 becquerels per cubic meter of water. Becquerels are a unit measuring radiation. Buesseler and his team reported finding about 10 becquerels per cubic meter of water 1,500 miles north of Hawaii. That was a level around twice as high as levels they had found on previous missions.

Five years later, scientists have reason to assume radiation from the Fukushima disaster is still showing up on U.S. shores. And they will likely continue to leak and drift for decades to come.

Then again, these levels are extremely small. To put 11 becquerels in perspective, a single dental X-ray would expose a person to 1,000 times more radiation than swimming in that water for an entire year, according to Buesseler. It is about 500 times lower than the U.S. government standard for safe drinking water.

Manley, who studies kelp and seaweed, was also receiving phone calls from people worried about radiation in the ocean shortly after the accident. He contacted Kai Vetter, a researcher and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who had already started a project monitoring the air for radiation after the accident.

They formed a group called Kelp Watch in the wake of the accident. The group involved 52 marine scientists taking kelp samples at sites ranging from Kodiak Island off the coast of Alaska, to Baja California, in Mexico, and as far east as Hawaii. To date, they have found no detectable levels of radioactive isotopes in kelp or seaweed tissue. Vetter told CNBC that they are certain there is some radiation from Fukushima in the kelp, but the levels are so low their equipment has not been able to detect it.

The radiation Buesseler was measuring in the Pacific was orders of magnitude smaller than what would be required to cause the aforementioned sea life die-offs in the Pacific.

Separate research from NOAA and other groups has tentatively connected some of these deaths to toxins released by plankton blooms — products likely of unusually warm ocean water common during El Nino. In any event, Buesseler said, if the levels were high enough to lead to die-offs around the Pacific, there would have to be greater marine life losses close to Japan, and there haven't been.
Radioactivity is everywhere, and most of it is naturally occurring.

"We are living in a radioactive world, and we are exposed to it all the time," Vetter told CNBC.

And to a certain extent, humans can handle it. However, radiation can be carcinogenic — sun exposure can cause skin cancer, for example. But small amounts of sun exposure are not necessarily harmful, and the body has repair mechanisms to handle damage. It is also important to keep radiation from specific sources in perspective.

A study commissioned by Congress in 1999 estimated that the air in the U.S. averages about 15 becquerels of radon per cubic meter. Kelp has naturally occurring potassium-40, another radioactive isotope and "the potassium-40 levels in kelp are extremely high compared to the very small amount of cesium that has been detected in seawater," Manley said.

That said, it is still necessary to keep a close watch over radioactivity levels from the accident.

"We are not completely out of the woods," Buesseler said. The Fukushima site is still full of radioactive material, and there have been some leaks since the accident that have released more material into the environment.

He said there about a thousand tanks full of "something on the order of 750 million tons of water that are far more radioactive than anything in the ocean." There is also radioactive material in the groundwater, soil and in the buildings.

"I expect to see small leaks for decades to come," he said. "It is a difficult thing to have soil and groundwater and buildings contaminated to this extent and not have that leaking out."

The public concern in some quarters is still high.

Vetter was motivated to start RadWatch — the air-monitoring project — and Kelp Watch with Manley "because we felt, and it was confirmed by the public, that the government was not doing enough in that communication, they were not really measuring, to a large degree and the message was, 'Don't worry about it.' But people were worried about it, and justifiably so."

All three scientists told CNBC that some members of the public — albeit a small minority — have done everything from questioning their findings to, in some cases, threatening them.
"Whatever you claim, whatever opinion you have, you can find confirmation on the Worldwide Web," Vetter said. "Which is great, but also a great risk."
Manley said that "as soon as we started putting our data up on Kelp Watch people began contacting us to complain. They said, 'Oh you are lying, or you are telling half-truths. You can't really have a conversation with them because they attack your credibility, rather than your data. It was a real eye-opener for me."

13. turkey point update

Drinking water is safe for now; experts worry about Biscayne Bay
Wednesday’s news of radiation contamination emanating from the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant leaking into Biscayne Bay alarmed Florida Keys citizens on every level. First, the Keys drinking water comes from the same neighborhood as the plant. Second, the affect to the fishery — so close to home waters — could also have an enormous impact.
“There is no tritium [a radioactive isotope of hydrogen] in our water supply,” said Kirk Zeulch, executive director of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority. Zeulch said there are numerous monitoring wells around the well field that pumps water from the Biscayne Aquifer and none of the tests show a trace. “But this needs to be kept on the front page to keep the issue from fading away. We need help from the state and federal authorities that regulate nuclear power plants and the studies need to continue.”
According to news reports about the leak, the high levels of tritium are a result of changes made to the plant in 2013 to increase energy output. Critics allege the reactor’s canals ran too hot and too salty. The result, they say, is a “saltwater plume” underground that is headed inland. Although it’s five miles away from FKAA’s freshwater well field, Zeulch described it as a “threat, but not an imminent threat.”
Several times, the plant has received special permission to pump freshwater into the canals to relieve the salinity. However, University of Miami hydrologist David Chin has said that doesn’t alleviate the problem because evaporation rates exceed natural rainfall and it may also increase pressure on the saltwater plume causing it to expand further.
Tom Walker, deputy executive director of FKAA, said the utility is not aware of any tritium in the saltwater plume and said that two weeks ago, the power plant was ordered to place extraction wells into the heart of the saltwater plume by a Tallahassee judge.
“Florida Power and Light will start extracting the hyper-saline water and then injecting it into deep wells into the boulder zone of the Floridian Aquifer,” Walker said, adding that the plan to extract the water from the saltwater plume is due in April.
Zuelch said the court-ordered measure could halt the saltwater plume’s progress, or even cause it to retreat. FPL has issued a statement saying the public and drinking water are safe and that improvements are a continuing effort.
According to a study released by the Miami-Dade Commission this week, over the last five years levels of tritium found in the canals ranged between 1,500 and 16,500 pCi/L. (Natural levels in Biscayne Bay are 20 pCi/L and the legal limits for tritium in drinking water are 2,133 pCi/L in the United States.) Because some of the canals are as deep as 24 feet, experts worry the tritium (as well as high levels of saline, phosphorus and ammonia) collected in early January from the bottom of the canals at rates of 2,600 to 3,400 pCi/L are reaching tidal surface waters connected to Biscayne Bay. Miami-Dade County has asked FPL to address these new findings.
The report does not address how increased levels of tritium might impact the public or marine life. According to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, everyone is exposed to small amounts of tritium everyday as it can occur naturally. It enters the human body through food and drink consumption and half is excreted within 10 days.
Florida Keys Commercial Fishing Association’s Bill Kelly said he called on Nick Wiley, the director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, to study the problem on Wednesday.
“We need to test the lobster, shellfish and finfish in Biscayne Bay,” Kelly said. “We need to know if there’s any concern about public consumption of any of those products collected in that area.”
Kelly said it might impact 150-175 commercial fishing operations in that area, not counting restaurants.
“The product value of the spiny lobster alone in that area is more than $40.6 million,” he said. “I’m anxious to gather more information on this. The news is not good for man or beast.”
Turkey Point was constructed in the early 1970s. It supplies more than one million homes with power in South Florida.

14. Transparent as an Obsidian Bust
The Obama administration strongly opposed a bill to overhaul the government's open-records laws and lobbied behind the scenes to prevent it from getting to the president's desk last Congress, according to emails and talking points obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

The records include a particularly revealing set of 2014 talking points used by the Department of Justice that raised about a dozen major and minor objections to the broadly supported legislation. The document says the changes in the bill are "not necessary" and would "undermine" the success of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

"The Administration views [the bill] as an attempt to impose on the Executive Branch multiple administrative requirements concerning its internal management of FOIA administration, which are not appropriate for legislative intervention and would substantially increase costs and cause delays in FOIA processing," according to the opening paragraph of the talking points. 

The Freedom of the Press Foundation obtained the documents through a FOIA lawsuit. It first shared them with Vice News, which has reported extensively using open records. The Justice Department told Vice it is not uncommon for the department to share the "potential unintended consequences" of legislation. 
The House and Senate passed slightly different versions of the legislation, but despite late scrambling, the two bills were never merged and died when the last legislative session ended. 

This Congress, both chambers acted quickly to move their respective FOIA reform bills out of committee. And the House passed its version earlier this year. The Senate Judiciary Committee acted quickly last year to advance its proposal, but it had not received floor time in the ensuing year. 
The White House has been publicly mum on the reform bills. When the House bill passed this January, the White House simply said it would "take a close look at this legislation." Other agencies have also lobbied against the bill. 
The documents released Wednesday show that GOP leadership last March "hotlined" its FOIA bill, meaning it looked to move the legislation through unanimous consent unless there were objections. But Sen. Jeff Sessions put a hold on the legislation, according to an email from a Sessions aide to the Justice Department. 
Sessions's office did not respond to a request for comment about the bill. 
The largest piece of the FOIA reform legislation would codify a so-called presumption of openness, which requires federal agencies and other parts of the government to adopt a policy that leans toward the public release of documents. President Obama instructed agencies to adopt a similar model when he first entered office. But critics say agencies have not lived up to that promise.  
Under the legislation, agencies would have to point to a specific "foreseeable harm" when withholding documents unless disclosing them is specifically barred by law. The legislation would do a number of other things, including creating a single FOIA request portal for all agencies and limiting the amount of time that certain documents are exempt from disclosure. The bill would also make more documents available online.
In the 2014 talking points, the Justice Department raised four "major concerns" with the legislation. Among them were the "foreseeable harm" proposal.
"The bill effectively amends each and every one of the existing exemptions in a manner that is fatally vague and subjective. This addition would vastly increase FOIA litigation and would undermine the policy behind each of the existing exemptions," according to a section of the talking points criticizing the foreseeable harm provision.

Other major objections centered on the creation of a single FOIA request website and the bill's requirement that agencies do a comprehensive review of existing records to see if they should be proactively released.


1. TPP Threat
2. Flint Water Crisis
3. The Apple Hack
4. General Mills decision to reveal (GM material) in their Breakfast foods 
5. The POST-FERGUSON Black Lives Matter and an assessment of Police Behavior
6. The ongoing KOCH/ALEC attacks on Womens medical access
7. Fukushima, Japan, the Pacific and the Planet
8. Lake Okeechobee and its discontents
9. The ROGG
10. The Progressives Responsibility to Senator Sanders and the Future
11. Monkey Dung and the Republican Race
12. Turkey Point and ongoing radioactive releases into Biscayne Bay 
13. Bring 3 Topics yourself - to share


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