Daily Archive: 02/10/2012

Feb 10 2012

Fukushima in Georgia

I won’t defend them, this is what they say they want.  I do feel kind of bad for their neighbors and the rest of us.

First of all, what do we know about Fukushima that we didn’t know a month ago?

New Containment Flaw Identified in the BWR Mark 1

Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Associates

Feb. 6, 2012

(W)e know that right before the explosion, the containment vent was working. Now the Japanese are saying that the containment vent was working, but the pipes were somehow or other leaking hydrogen into the plant as well and that is what caused the explosion.

To my way of thinking, the data does not support the interpretation of the nuclear industry and the Japanese. What the data does support is the Brunswick test from 40 years ago. It seems to me that for 8 hours or more, the containment at Fukushima was basically ruptured, that the top had popped up, and gasses were sliding out, so that it could not go over 100 pounds per square inch.

And hydrogen gasses were leaking out of the containment and into the reactor building for a long period of time. After that, it only took a spark to blow the reactor building up. This is a really important distinction. The nuclear industry, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Japanese are saying that we can make the vent stronger so that this accident cannot happen. But if the nuclear head is lifting up, the vent is irrelevant. The containment on the Mark I design has a design flaw that the containment vent cannot solve.

Cancer Risk To Young Children Near Fukushima Daiichi Underestimated

Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Associates

January 17, 2012

(Y)oung girls in the Fukushima Prefecture are going to get 5 times the exposure they would get from 2 rem. That means that about one in 100 young girls is going to get cancer as a result of the exposure in Fukushima Prefecture. And that is for every year they are in that radiation zone. If you are in there for 5 years, it is 5 out of 100 young girls will get cancer.

Oh, and there’s a serious possibility that Daiichi #2 could go re-critical-

Tepco Injects Boric Acid Into Reactor as Temperatures Rise

By Tsuyoshi Inajima, Bloomberg News

Feb 6, 2012 10:18 PM ET

The temperature of the No. 2 reactor was 70.1 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit) as of 6 a.m. today, according to preliminary data, Akitsuka Kobayashi, a spokesman for the utility, said by phone. The reading fell from 72.2 degrees at 5 a.m. this morning, and is below the 93 degrees that’s used to define a cold shutdown, or safe state, of the reactor.

Since Feb. 1, temperatures at the bottom of the No. 2 reactor vessel have risen by more than 20 degrees Celsius, according to the company’s data. Tepco, as the utility is known, and the government announced that the Fukushima plant reached a cold shutdown on Dec. 16, nine months after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami wrecked the nuclear station, and caused three reactors to meltdown and release radiation.



About 95,000 cubic meters, which is enough to fill 38 Olympic-sized swimming pools, of highly radioactive water may still be in the basements, even after the company has processed more than 220,000 cubic meters of contaminated water, according to Tepco’s latest estimate on Feb. 1.

That would be 93 Celcius in case you’re as confused as I was.  What’s the big deal about re-criticality?  Well, it’s not an atomic bomb per se but from this Time Magazine report from March 30, 2011

To nuclear workers, there are few events more fearful than a criticality accident. In such a scenario, the fissile material in a reactor core-be it enriched uranium or plutonium-undergoes a spontaneous chain reaction, releasing a flash of aurora-blue light and a surge of neutron radiation; the gamma rays, neutrons and radioactive fission products emitted during criticality are highly dangerous to humans. Criticality occurs so rapidly-within a few fractions of a second-and so unpredictably that it can suddenly kill workers without warning.

I’m sure some of you learned in history class just as I did of Harry K. Daghlian and Louis Slotin.

More information and links in an excellent piece by Harvey Wasserman aka solartopia at Firedog Lake.

Gregg Levine (a name you may recognize better) has some interesting pieces up too-

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Ignores Fukushima, Green-Lights First New Reactors in 34 Years

By: Gregg Levine, Firedog Lake

Thursday February 9, 2012 4:59 pm

The NTTF (Fukushima Near-Term Task Force) recommendations, geared toward improving safety and preventing another disaster like the one still evolving at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, have still not become official government rules-some are projected to take up to five years to draft and implement-and so, for now, the new reactor construction will get to pretend the Tohoku quake and tsunami, and the resulting core meltdowns and widespread radioactive contamination, never happened.

The Vogtle reactors are of a new (or, let’s call it “new-ish”) design. The AP1000 reactor was just approved by the NRC in December, over the objections of numerous scientists and engineers, who saw claims of innovation insufficient to counter the dangers native to any Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) design. Upon examination, many of the "improvements" to the AP1000 look more like ways to cut construction costs. Even so, a single new AP1000 is expected to cost anywhere from $8 billion to $14 billion dollars-and, it should be noted, no US nuclear facility has ever come in anywhere close to on time or on budget. The US government has already pledged over $8 billion in federal loan guarantees to cover construction of the Georgia reactors, since without the government backstop, no private financial institutions will invest in such a high-cost, high-risk project. Southern Co. has already spent $4 billion preparing the Vogtle site for the anticipated new construction.

“I cannot support this licensing as if Fukushima never happened,” said Gregory Jaczko after the Thursday vote-but thanks to the four other commissioners of his captured agency, licensing as if Fukushima never happened is exactly what the NRC did.

NRC Vogtle Reactor Approval Should Blow Lid Off Nuclear Finance Scam

By: Gregg Levine, Firedog Lake

Friday February 10, 2012 9:30 am

Coming almost exactly two years after the Obama administration granted the project $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees, the NRC’s OK for the project did not signal a groundbreaking at Vogtle. Thanks to a redefinition of what constitutes construction, drafted under a former NRC commissioner who now works for the nuclear industry, Southern started building on the site long before the AP1000 reactor design was finally approved by the NRC last December. And foundations were poured into the Georgia earth before environmental impact surveys were even required to be filed. So, Thursday’s move did not actually start construction, but it did start the roulette wheel turning on a massive financial gamble where Southern Company is pretty much assured of winning, and US taxpayers and Georgia utility customers are guaranteed to lose.



As this month marks two years since the government agreed to the loan guarantees, it will mark almost as long a time since the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the details of the deal the DOE struck with Southern Co., and thus it also marks almost two years of stonewalling by the Obama administration and the energy consortium.



These, of course, are just the costs incurred if everything goes more or less right. And these, of course, are just the costs of building the reactors-it has nothing to do with the fueling, the maintenance, the waste removal and clean up should anything get, you know, “unusual.” But since the taxpayers and ratepayers pretty much built the new reactors for them, those costs should come out of Southern Co/Georgia Power’s profits once they start charging for the actual power, right?

Uh. . . wrong. As George W. Bush was headed out the door, he made sure that the Department of Energy would be liable for all costs from any high-level radioactive waste generated at the new Vogtle units. And, of course, as is true for all facilities in the US, the Price-Anderson Act indemnifies the industry against claims arising nuclear accidents.

And the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval-coming when it does-does nothing to make those accidents less likely. The NRC voted for Vogtle’s COLA over the objections of its chairman, Greg Jaczko, who thought safety rules that should come from the post-Fukushima recommendations should have been stipulated as essential to any new license. And the AP1000’s design, which Toshiba-Westinghouse likes to tout as safer than its close cousin, the pressurized water reactor, is suspected to be anything but.

Meanwhile, trouble at nuclear reactors worldwide continues apace. At Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi, unit two, which was said to have been brought to a “cold shutdown” in December, has experienced what is called a “re-criticality”-in other words, the temperature inside the ruptured containment vessel has begun to rise again, up more than 20 degrees Celsius since February 1. Officials from Japanese power company TEPCO have done a poor job of explaining why this might be happening or what it might mean for the future, but they do admit to the necessity of increasing the amount of water and boric acid pumped into the damaged reactor to counteract the warming. And, since there are holes and cracks in the reactor vessel, that means more radioactive waste water pouring out of the building and into the basements and surrounding plant grounds-more water on top of the 95,000 cubic meters already believed to be there, and on top of the 220,000 cubic meters that TEPCO has claimed they “processed” (and then dumped back into the environment).



Back in the USA, the San Onofre plant remains completely shutdown after one reactor was found to be leaking tritium on January 31. Meanwhile, the other reactor, offline for refueling and repairs since January 9, was discovered to have alarmingly excessive wear inside its almost new turbine tubes.

And at Prairie Island, a nuclear facility in southeastern Minnesota, Xcel Energy has copped to two separate toxic chemical and radiological spills. One happened last November, but Xcel did not alert residents of the Prairie Island Indian Community-a whopping 600 yards from the power plant-till last week. The second happened just last Friday, February 3, but Xcel waited to give notice till Monday because the leak happened “‘after business hours’ just before the weekend.”

This is but a small sample-less than a week’s worth-of the nuclear world the NRC has now voted to expand. With each of these items should come a list of questions and a cavalcade of caution, but the NRC’s rulings on the AP1000 have defied the facts on the ground. Meanwhile, the entire federal government seems hell-bent on ignoring the fiscal realities, instead choosing to guarantee that money flow from the pockets of taxpayers into the coffers of nuclear energy corporations, whether or not those corporations ever provide a kilowatt of power to those taxpayers.



Many who are outraged by the bailouts of the banks should see each of these nuclear facilities as a little version of the same “socialize the risk, privatize the profit” model. A nuclear facility might only lose billions of dollars instead of trillions, but as Everett Dirksen observed in a cheaper era, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”



And for those that think this week’s $25 billion settlement with the five big financial institutions guilty of mortgage fraud is somehow a grand amount-just remember that you can’t get two new nuclear power stations for that. . . and after typical delays and cost overruns, $25 billion likely won’t even get you one.

So, take a good look at what is happening in Georgia-even if the Obama administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission won’t. . . even if the Obama administration and the NRC don’t want you to. The nuclear industry, its acolytes, its lackeys, its supplicants and subordinates want to make the Vogtle reactors the first of many, the first of an irresistible nuclear renaissance, the start of a hard-charging, government-subsidized pushback-against activists and environmentalists, sure, but in reality, against the truth.

The truth, of course, is that without the lobbyists and the grease they spread, without the captured regulators and the purchased elected officials, the nuclear industry would be relegated to the past, right alongside its antiquated technology. The truth is that nuclear power is not clean, nor safe, nor too cheap to meter-it is dirty, dangerous, and a financial sinkhole of epic proportions. Banks and investment houses know it, ratepayers in Georgia and Florida know it, many of the residents of Japan know it, and even the government of Germany knows it-and now you know it, too. Now is the time to make sure your representatives in government-your president, your members of Congress, your state and local officials-know that you know it. Now is the time to stop this boondoggle and bailout, and then get to the business of safely uncoiling the nuclear serpent’s grip on our leaders and our imaginations. The AP1000 is not a first glimpse of the future, it is the last gasp of the past-and the sooner we stop subsidizing the old ideas, the sooner we can start investing in some new ones.

Feb 10 2012

An Acceptable Compromise? Let Us Hope

President Barack Obama presented a compromise addressing the objections of the religious right, so-called pro-lifers and extremest conservatives to the provision in Affordable Care Act requiring religiously affiliated employers to provide contraceptive coverage to women. Women will still be guaranteed coverage for contraceptive services without any out-of-pocket cost, but will have to seek the coverage directly from their insurance companies if their employers object to birth control on religious grounds. Insurers will absorb the cost insuring that access to birth control as well as cancer screening, mammograms and check ups would remain free to all women.

Planned Parenthood and the Catholic Health Association both expressed pleasure about the new plan, however, there were still objections from the Catholic Bishops and right wing politicians who vowed to continue the war on women.

Many of those voicing objections to this provision have cited the 1st Amendment stating that forcing churches to provide something that is opposed by their tenets violates their 1st Amendment right to freely practice their religion. But does it? The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Contraception is not about freedom of religion, as Scarecrow at FDL so eloquently explains:

What’s happening here is that the government has chosen to adopt a rule relating to health care.  Proponents often say this, and some media may dismiss this as ducking the religious issue, but it’s not.  It’s consistent with what we’ve done for decades.  Contraception is about health care, mostly women’s health care, and sometimes life-saving health care; but it’s clearly health care.  When government addresses contraception, it does so for health reasons, not religious reasons.  Government can adopt rules to protect women’s health and safety without violating the First Amendment.

What about the “establishment clause”?  This is how the bait and switch happens.  The Catholic Bishops do not believe contraception should be used; it shouldn’t be available at all.  They don’t mean just unavailable to Catholics; they mean not available to anyone. They want the legal rule to be: no contraceptives for anyone, so no insurance coverage for contraception services for anyone.

Religious freedom says they are free to believe contraception is wrong, that it violates their religion.  Government can’t force them to believe otherwise; it can’t force them to exercise a religion they don’t believe, except that government can, for health and safety reasons, require everyone to obey reasonable rules to protect peoples’ health and safety, even if some believe such regulations are inconsistent with their religious beliefs.

Religious freedom doesn’t mean the Catholic Bishops, or any other religious leaders, have the right to impose what they believe on everyone else.  When we cross over to the realm of what the rules should be for everyone, and the pushing is coming from a religious purpose, it’s more likely we’re talking about that other clause, the establishment clause.  And that’s exactly where the Bishops are.

Those who oppose any contraception insurance coverage want to prevent the government from having a rule that requires contraception, or have it adopt a rule prohibiting the coverage of contraception.  And they want this not for health/safety reasons, but for declared religious ones.  In other words, they want a government rule that imposes their religious beliefs on everyone else.  That’s not about the “free exercise” clause; that’s “establishment of religion.”

Constitutional lawyer David Boies, who represented VP Gore and successfully opposed California’s Prop 8. appeared with Lawrence O’Donnell on The Last Word, explaining the constitutionality of the birth control mandate.

Feb 10 2012

This Week In The Dream Antilles

First, Salvador Dali. Then, Willard. It’s the anagrams that keep on giving. And oh what strange things, what strange associations the mind makes.

Your Bloguero is informed that the surrealist leader André Breton coined the anagram “Avida Dollars” for Salvador Dalí, to tarnish his reputation by the implication of commercialism. Very clever. And intentional. But when your last name is Romney, and the letters that spell “money” are obvious and comprise 5/6ths of your family name, you have a big problem. Especially when the US economy is in the gutter, and you’re running for president in 2012, and you want to claim that you can end the depression. And it escapes no one that you have tons and tons of money.

As if that weren’t enough, the problem is exacerbated by the design geniuses who created Willard’s logo.  Look at these awful examples:

   

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They made the “R” essentially unreadable by turning it into a flag-thing, leaving you, dear reader, with a 5-letter scramble that can only spell one thing, “money.” Just look at it. Just think about it. Look at this terrible logo. Ask yourself, “What’s the word that comes to mind.”  You don’t think, “Oh, he’s the guy to fix the economy.” Nope. You think, “Money. He has tons of money. He’s really, really, really rich.”

This isn’t rocket science. When you think about Romney, because you see his name somewhere, it’s unavoidable. The mind is in control. You have to associate his name and logo with the word “money,” of which Willard has far more than anyone else.

This inevitably feeds the meme that he’s a very, very rich guy and that he’s, therefore, totally protected and completely isolated and thoroughly out of touch with the middle class, the poor, and probably even a lot of people who think of themselves as rich, just not as rich as he is.

How can he ameliorate this? Certainly not by making speeches about the glories of capitalism. Or talking about his success in plundering companies. No. Goodness. The reminder of all of these unfortunate associations dominates his name. Look. Look at his name. You see it. It’s not his fault. He didn’t make up the name. It’s not a nom de guerre. Would that it was. No. It’s right there in his birth name. He has it. His father has it. His kids have it. R+money.  

And unfortunately, once you focus on these letters, just one time, dear reader, you cannot miss it. Again. You cannot forget it. You cannot look at his name and not think, “Oh, money. There’s his money again. It’s R+money.”  Whenever you see his logo, you automatically think, “Oh, money.  R+money.” And that involuntarily and automatically associates with the thought “out of touch.” With privilege. With not being like your Bloguero and you. With being rich and having the world handed to him on a sterling silver platter by a liveried butler. With Richie Rich.

His handlers and Faux News try to shield him from the devastating anagram by referring to him solely as “Mitt,” a monicker (like Kimberly and Muffy) that reeks of the upper class, prep schools in Connecticut, being a legacy (and not the sharpest tool in the shed) in the Ivy League, and the kind of privilege and seashore homes and yachts and snootiness that you can imagine. He’s part of the people that Jay Gatsby aspired but was unable to become because of the source of his funds. You can fill out the entire picture.

But look, it gets worse. “Mitt” isn’t really his first name. His first name is really “Willard”, and that name, which your Bloguero and Al Sharpton prefer, reminds of just one thing, rats.  

Yes, your Bloguero can hear you complaining. “Come on, Bloguero. This ‘analysis’ if that’s what it is, is too far fetched for us. We don’t believe in this kind of semiotics.”  Hah. Don’t be skeptical. And don’t be silly. This is a problem as old as Shakespeare:


‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;


      Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.


      What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,


      Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part


Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!


      What’s in a name? that which we call a rose


      By any other name would smell as sweet;


So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,


      Retain that dear perfection which he owes


Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,


      And for that name which is no part of thee


      Take all myself.

Oh, be some other name indeed. Don’t like the Bard as a source? Fine. How about Marshall McLuhan instead, “Diaper backward spells repaid. Think about it.”

Before its too late, and it may already be just that, Willard needs a logo that manages to obscure this name problem. Something simple that makes all the letters the same size and font. But look. Willard’s been running for president for an eternity, and, if you didn’t understand this already, he just doesn’t get it.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest of essays in The Dream Antilles. Usually it appears on Friday. Sometimes, like now, it’s something else entirely. To see what essays were in The Dream Antilles you have to visit the Dream Antilles.

Feb 10 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: Money and Morals

Lately inequality has re-entered the national conversation. Occupy Wall Street gave the issue visibility, while the Congressional Budget Office supplied hard data on the widening income gap. And the myth of a classless society has been exposed: Among rich countries, America stands out as the place where economic and social status is most likely to be inherited.

So you knew what was going to happen next. Suddenly, conservatives are telling us that it’s not really about money; it’s about morals. Never mind wage stagnation and all that, the real problem is the collapse of working-class family values, which is somehow the fault of liberals.

But is it really all about morals? No, it’s mainly about money.

Bill Boyarsky: Judge Puts Heart Into Prop. 8 Ruling

In throwing out California’s notorious Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, appellate Judge Stephen Reinhardt showed the heart of a romantic and humor in a ringing defense of the often-scorned institution of marriage.

Reinhardt wrote the majority opinion in the 2-1 ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that declared the proposition violated the Constitution. His opinion may wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Just how that conservative body will view an opinion by the most liberal member of the nation’s most liberal federal appellate court is unknown.

Laura Flanders: Rotten Recovery for Women

Three years ago, when President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, he said:

   “It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign…we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness. If we stay focused, as Lilly did, and keep standing for what’s right, as Lilly did, we will close that pay gap and ensure that our daughters have the same rights, the same chances, and the same freedom to pursue their dreams as our sons.”

To which there was much rejoicing. Since then, the picture for women regarding work, jobs, chances and dreams has grown bleaker.

Take those January jobs numbers. That official unemployment fell to 8.3 percent from 9.1 percent a year ago was cause for good cheer amongst the instant expert crowd, but the light at the end of the tunnel was harder to make out if you were female, young, old or a person of color.

Peter Van Buren: Silent State: Washington’s Campaign Against Whistle-Blowers

On January 23rd, the Obama administration charged former CIA officer John Kiriakou under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified information to journalists about the waterboarding of al-Qaeda suspects. His is just the latest prosecution in an unprecedented assault on government whistleblowers and leakers of every sort.

Kiriakou’s plight will clearly be but one more battle in a broader war to ensure that government actions and sunshine policies don’t go together. By now, there can be little doubt that government retaliation against whistleblowers is not an isolated event, nor even an agency-by-agency practice. The number of cases in play suggests an organized strategy to deprive Americans of knowledge of the more disreputable things that their government does. How it plays out in court and elsewhere will significantly affect our democracy.

Eugene Robinson: Romney’s Overriding Ambition

Criticism of Mitt Romney for lacking a coherent message is grossly unfair. He has been forthright, consistent and even eloquent in pressing home his campaign’s central theme: Mitt Romney desperately wants to be president.

Everything else seems mushy or negotiable. Romney is passionate about the need, as he sees it, to defeat President Obama-but vague or self-contradictory as to why. The lyrics of “America the Beautiful,” which Romney has recited as part of his standard campaign speech, don’t solve the mystery; Obama, too, is on record as supporting spacious skies and fruited plains.

Beyond personal ambition, what does Romney stand for? Obviously, judging by Rick Santorum’s clean sweep on Tuesday, I’m not the only one asking the question. I suspect an honest answer would be something like “situational competence”-Romney boasts of having rescued the 2002 Olympics, served as the Republican governor of one of the most Democratic states in the nation and made profitable choices about where to invest his money. But with the economy improving and the stock market soaring, Romney’s president-as-CEO argument loses whatever relevance it might have had.

David Sirota: Embracing ‘Enough’

Of all the no-no’s in contemporary America-and there are many-none has proven more taboo than the ancient doctrine of dayenu. Translated from the original Hebrew, the word roughly means “It would have been enough.” The principle is that a certain amount of a finite resource should satisfy even the gluttons among us.

I know, I know-to even mention that notion is jarring in a nation whose consumer, epicurean and economic cultures have been respectively defined by the megastore, the Big Mac and the worship of the billionaire. Considering that, it’s amazing the word “enough” still exists in the American vernacular at all. But exist it does, and more than that-the term’s morality is actually starting to suffuse the highest-profile debates in the public square.

After the financial meltdown, for example, Congress witnessed an unexpectedly spirited fight over enacting pay caps at bailed-out financial institutions. Beneath the overheated rhetoric, the brawl revolved around determining how much is enough to compensate Wall Street’s government-subsidized scam artists.

Feb 10 2012

On This Day In History February 10

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 10 is the 41st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 324 days remaining until the end of the year (325 in leap years).

On this day in 1937, Roberta Flack is born in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and was raised in Arlington, Virginia.

During her early teens, Flack so excelled at classical piano that Howard University awarded her a full music scholarship. She entered Howard University at the age of 15, making her one of the youngest students ever to enroll there. She eventually changed her major from piano to voice, and became an assistant conductor of the university choir. Her direction of a production of Aida received a standing ovation from the Howard University faculty. Flack is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and was made an honorary member of Tau Beta Sigma by the Eta Delta Chapter at Howard University for her outstanding work in promoting music education.

Flack became the first African-American student teacher at an all-Caucasian school near Chevy Chase, Maryland. She graduated from Howard University at 19 and began graduate studies in music, but the sudden death of her father forced her to take a job teaching music and English for $2800 a year in Farmville, North Carolina.

Flack then taught school for some years in Washington, DC at Browne Junior High and Rabaut Junior High. She also taught private piano lessons out of her home on Euclid St. NW. During this period, her music career began to take shape on evenings and weekends in Washington, D.C. area night spots. At the Tivoli Club, she accompanied opera singers at the piano. During intermissions, she would sing blues, folk, and pop standards in a back room, accompanying herself on the piano. Later, she performed several nights a week at the 1520 Club, again providing her own piano accompaniment. Around this time, her voice teacher, Frederick “Wilkie” Wilkerson, told her that he saw a brighter future for her in pop music than in the classics. She modified her repertoire accordingly and her reputation spread. Subsequently, a Capitol Hill night club called Mr. Henry’s built a performance area especially for her.

When Flack did a benefit concert for the Inner City Ghetto Children’s Library Fund, Les McCann happened to be in the audience. He later said on the liner notes of what would be her first album “First Take” noted below, “Her voice touched, tapped, trapped, and kicked every emotion I’ve ever known. I laughed, cried, and screamed for more…she alone had the voice.” Very quickly, he arranged an audition for her with Atlantic Records, during which she played 42 songs in 3 hours for producer Joel Dorn. In November 1968, she recorded 39 song demos in less than 10 hours. Three months later, Atlantic reportedly recorded Roberta’s debut album, First Take, in a mere 10 hours. Flack later spoke of those studio sessions as a “very naive and beautiful approach…I was comfortable with the music because I had worked on all these songs for all the years I had worked at Mr. Henry’s.”

Flack’s version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” hit number seventy-six on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972.

Flack’s Atlantic recordings did not sell particularly well, until Clint Eastwood chose a song from First Take, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, for the sound track of his directorial debut Play Misty for Me; it became the biggest hit of the year for 1972 – spending six consecutive weeks at #1 and earning Flack a million-selling gold disc. The First Take album also went to #1 and eventually sold 1.9 million copies in the United States. Eastwood, who paid $2,000 for the use of the song in the film, has remained an admirer and friend of Flack’s ever since. It was awarded the Grammy Award for Record Of The Year in 1973. In 1983, she recorded the end music to the Dirty Harry film Sudden Impact at Eastwood’s request.

Flack soon began recording regularly with Donny Hathaway, scoring hits such as the Grammy-winning “Where Is the Love” (1972) and later “The Closer I Get to You” (1978) – both million-selling gold singles. On her own, Flack scored her second #1 hit, “Killing Me Softly with His Song” written for Lori Lieberman in 1973. It was awarded both Record Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female at the 1974 Grammy Awards. Its parent album was Flack’s biggest-selling disc, eventually earning Double Platinum certification.

In 1999, a star with Flack’s name was placed on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. That same year, she gave a concert tour in South Africa, to which the final performance was attended by President Nelson Mandela.

In 2010, she appeared on the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, singing a duet of “Where Is The Love” with Maxwell.

Flack is also a spokesperson for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; her appearance in commercials for the ASPCA featured The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.