Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children who are from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant in Koriyama, March 13, 2011. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano confirmed on Saturday there has been an explosion and radiation leakage at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The biggest earthquake to hit Japan on record struck the northeast coast on Friday, triggering a 10-metre tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses, ships, cars and farm buildings on fire. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/REUTERS)
The White House released a statement Sunday offering support for the people of Japan which included this:
The U.S. Ambassador declared an emergency which opened up an immediate funding of $100K from USAID?s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. They set up a Response Management Team in DC and sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Tokyo, which includes people with nuclear expertise from the Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services as well the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC members are experts in boiling water nuclear reactors and are available to assist their Japanese counterparts.
Reliable news on the precise state of Japan's Fukushima nuclear facilities has been hard to come by, suggesting solid info is scarce and what is available is subject to both spin and speculation. Throughout the weekend mixed reports of a possible fuel melt, and updates/corrections on same from Japanese officials and nuclear experts, swirled around the media landscape like smoke from the damaged unit. SciAm has a review of worst case scenarios, and Kbman wrote this nformative diary here on what a nuclear meltdown might mean.
Nuclear power brings up intense debate on a variety of fronts and touches on several fundamental energy vs environmental policy issues. My personal view is current commercial reactor designs are expensive, suffer from regulatory issues, and carry a potentially substantial and equally irreducible element of risk. In fairness, the same could be said of other energy sources we rely on such as oil and coal.
But even if newer designs were to prove viable and safer, the capacity of Big Business, and especially the energy industry, to arbitrarily write, rewrite, avoid, evade, and even ignore regulations on a whim is a real concern when considering the large scale implementation of next generation nuclear power.
The father of the man suspected of planting a bomb in a backpack along a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., says his son was home with him the day of the incident.
"I know he didn't go plant it because he was with me," Cecil Harpham told KXLY. "He helped me dress, he cooked my meals, he did my chores, he brought my firewood in and he just lived right here with me."
Harpham said he suffered a stroke in November and that his son, Kevin Harpham, had been caring for him until last week.
Although he said his son did not plant the bomb, Harpham did acknowledge that his son is a racist and interacted with other racists online. Harpham even speculated that Kevin could have helped build a bomb.
"Maybe he might of helped them build a bomb, he might have, might have helped them build a bomb," he said, adding that he had once had a conversation with Kevin about bomb making after his son bought a book on the subject.
"He said I bought the book and I read it and is so disappointed because there was no directions to build a bomb," Harpham said.
And even if his son is racist, Harpham said Kevin doesn't "know how to hate."
"Picture that if you had a son and he said I hate Negroes, but you go with him somewhere and he meets, he goes to a cashier to pay for his gas and you see him being very polite to this Negro and courteous and you stand back and you say jeepers, for a hater, he don't know how to hate," he said.
Finally, Harpham tried to downplay the seriousness of bomb that was found.
"This bomb really wasn't a bomb, it didn't go off, they couldn't even blow it up with explosives besides it, if anything it was a really cruel joke," Cecil said.
Kevin Harpham, 36, has been charged in U.S. District Court with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of knowingly possessing an improvised explosive device.
Read the rest here.
President Barack Obama has weighed into the gun-control debate two months after the mass shooting in Arizona.
In an op-ed for the Arizona Daily Star over the weekend, Obama writes that "like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. And the courts have settled that as the law of the land."
"In this country, we have a strong tradition of gun ownership that's handed from generation to generation. Hunting and shooting are part of our national heritage," he writes. "And, in fact, my administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners - it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges."
"The fact is, almost all gun owners in America are highly responsible," Obama writes. "They're our friends and neighbors. They buy their guns legally and use them safely, whether for hunting or target shooting, collection or protection. And that's something that gun-safety advocates need to accept. Likewise, advocates for gun owners should accept the awful reality that gun violence affects Americans everywhere, whether on the streets of Chicago or at a supermarket in Tucson."
"I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country," he writes.
"However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place."
"I know some aren't interested in participating. Some will say that anything short of the most sweeping anti-gun legislation is a capitulation to the gun lobby. Others will predictably cast any discussion as the opening salvo in a wild-eyed scheme to take away everybody's guns. And such hyperbole will become the fodder for overheated fundraising letters," Obama said.
"But I have more faith in the American people than that. Most gun-control advocates know that most gun owners are responsible citizens. Most gun owners know that the word 'commonsense' isn't a code word for 'confiscation,'" Obama writes.
The Rachel Maddow Show recently did something I've rarely seen ? an episodic news show (a news show divided into episodes, like Countdown) in which the episodes formed a single structure. About all the messy Republican mayhem happening in the states, Maddow concludes:
"This is about a massive reallocation of resources held in common by the citizens to corporations for their private gain. And it is about a tactical kneecapping of the political force that might resist that ? a tactical kneecapping of the Democratic party and its union base."Each "chapter" in this essay develops an aspect of this idea, brilliantly.
Ep. 2: You can't vote them out if you can't vote (keeping voters from voting)This is far-forward thinking; big picture stuff. Ignore Trumka's bridge-maintenance with Obama; that may not last, depending on Team Change, their ham-handedness, and you. Take Maddow's larger point instead; she's right. And take heart that this larger point has a voice.
Ep. 3: That not-so-democratic feeling (a great intro to Episode 4)
Ep. 4: Handing the environmental hen to the foxes (a must-watch; rule by fiat from Republican governors)
Ep. 5: Interview with AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka
Imagine what it must be like to be in Japan right now: A massive earthquake, a tsunami, two explosions at nuclear power plants and now, even a volcano. It's going to take a very long time for those poor people to dig out from these disasters, and apparently a very long time before they can stop worrying about radiation:
WASHINGTON ? As the scale of Japan?s nuclear crisis begins to come to light, experts in Japan and the United States say the country is now facing a cascade of accumulating problems that suggest that radioactive releases of steam from the crippled plants could go on for weeks or even months.
The emergency flooding of two stricken reactors with seawater and the resulting steam releases are a desperate step intended to avoid a much bigger problem: a full meltdown of the nuclear cores in two reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. On Monday, an explosion blew the roof off the second reactor, not damaging the core, officials said, but presumably leaking more radiation.
So far, Japanese officials have said the melting of the nuclear cores in the two plants is assumed to be ?partial,? and the amount of radioactivity measured outside the plants, though twice the level Japan considers safe, has been relatively modest.
But Pentagon officials reported Sunday that helicopters flying 60 miles from the plant picked up small amounts of radioactive particulates ? still being analyzed, but presumed to include cesium-137 and iodine-121 ? suggesting widening environmental contamination.
In a country where memories of a nuclear horror of a different sort in the last days of World War II weigh heavily on the national psyche and national politics, the impact of continued venting of long-lasting radioactivity from the plants is hard to overstate.
Japanese reactor operators now have little choice but to periodically release radioactive steam as part of an emergency cooling process for the fuel of the stricken reactors that may continue for a year or more even after fission has stopped. The plant?s operator must constantly try to flood the reactors with seawater, then release the resulting radioactive steam into the atmosphere, several experts familiar with the design of the Daiichi facility said.
That suggests that the tens of thousands of people who have been evacuated may not be able to return to their homes for a considerable period, and that shifts in the wind could blow radioactive materials toward Japanese cities rather than out to sea.
Last week, the head of Tea Party Nation attacked House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for not being conservative enough, writing, ?Charlie Sheen is now making more sense than John Boehner.? Local tea party activists also attacked Boehner on ethics. And now, Boehner’s deputy, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), is in trouble with tea party activists in his home district:
That frustration boiled over recently when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, opposed an amendment that would have made deeper cuts than the $61 billion that the House passed. It triggered a blistering reaction from leaders of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation.
“We are extremely disappointed in Eric Cantor, but not surprised,” Mark K. Lloyd, chairman of the federation, said in a news release. “The will of the American people was pretty clear in November ? cut, cut, cut spending. Apparently, Eric Cantor’s ‘conversion’ to fiscal restraint was only temporary.”
The tea-party activists also called out Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-10th, for voting against the amendment.
“Anger and dissatisfaction with both representatives is very high in the Virginia Tea Party movement.”
The failed amendment would have made steep across-the-board cuts in non-security discretionary spending. Jamie Radtke, a Virginia tea-party activist who is running for Senate, said he has a broader concern that the GOP leadership lacks “the stomach to make the real cuts that need to be made.” As a growing movement of Main Street Americans demand fairness in taxation and social spending, will Cantor be beholden to the tea party special interest?
The pro-WikiLeaks hacktavist community known as ?Anonymous? released a series of emails today ?provided by a former Bank of America employee who claims they show how a division of the bank sought to hide information on foreclosures.? Commenting on the documents, one member of ?Anonymous? said, ?The way the system is, it?s made to cheat the average person.?
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) called for a ?temporary halt in building new nuclear power plants in the United States until the situation in Japan can be examined.? Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), however, said he doesn?t believe the U.S. should back away from nuclear energy, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he?s ?still willing to look at nuclear.?
The death toll in Japan has soared past 10,000 people, easily marking the country’s “worst crisis since World War II.” Many thousands are homeless and millions more are without water, power, heat, or transportation.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced her opposition to House Republicans’ effort to defund Planned Parenthood, making her the first Republican Senator to defend the health group. “I believe Planned Parenthood provides vital services to those in need and disagree with their funding cuts in the bill,” Murkowski wrote in a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee chairmen, in which she asks for “continued funding.”
In an op-ed in an Arizona newspaper yesterday, President Obama called for more effective background checks for gun sales in the wake of the January shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). We need ?an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks,? Obama wrote, noting that shooter Jared Lee Loughner should have been denied a handgun.
Leaders of both parties are confident that a new stop-gap funding measure will be approved this week,funding the government until April 8. While the second proposal offered by the House GOP Friday would eliminate or reduce 25 programs and cut federal spending by $6 billion, some GOP lawmakers may vote against it because it doesn’t implement the full $61 billion in cuts or ban Planned Parenthood funds.
According to a National Security Archive report released today, “barely half” of the 90 agencies equipped to process FOIA requests have taken steps to meet President Obama’s government transparency goal. While the 49 complying now improves on the 13 complying last year, the National Security Archive said “at this rate, it’ll be the end of his term before agencies do what Obama asked them to do on the first day” of his presidency.
And finally: As in the halls of Congress, lobbyists beat lawmakers on the ice at the annual Congressional Hockey Challenge, an exhibition hockey match held last week. While the beginning of the game looked good for the legislators, the lobbyists came back, getting five goals past goalie Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). The event raised over $100,000 for charity.
Demonstrations continue in Bahrain, even as Saudi Arabia and the US weigh in to quiet them.[...]
Read The Full Article:
In the short term, market participants tend to have a very narrow focus when it comes to determining what information influences their decision making. And we’re certainly seeing that now …
I say that because despite all of the underlying problems in the world, the dominant focus in markets for the past few . . . → Read More: Rate Hike Lurking; Keep a Close Eye on the Euro!
Read The Full Article:
Duke Energy Corp., whose CEO is leading the fundraising for the Democratic National Convention, is guaranteeing a $10 million line of credit for the event.
The credit line from Fifth Third Bank is apparently the first time such an arrangement has been used by any Democratic convention organizers.
A Duke spokesman said stockholders, not ratepayers, would be on the line in the event of a default by the convention's host committee. But the head of the committee said it may never have to draw on the money.
"It is just security in the event of a cash shortfall," Will Miller, acting executive director of the Charlotte organizing committee, said Friday. "The host committee is obligated to pay it back, and the host committee will pay it back." - Charlotte Observer
And huge surprise... the GOP is whining about it
Calling the Charlotte event “a people’s convention,” the DNC is limiting all corporate and individual cash contributions to $100,000, but the Republican National Committee is framing the line of credit as a way to circumvent that rule.
“We said it then and we’ll say it again, this rule isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said. “It proves the ‘policy’ was nothing more than a PR move from the very beginning.”
The DNC insists that the credit is not an improper contribution but rather “a standard business transaction,” spokesman Brad Woodhouse told POLITICO. “Duke Energy — which is part of the Charlotte 2012 Host Committee — is simply helping guarantee the loan.” - Politico
If this was a straight-out donation I could see their point but it's a line of credit... a loan.