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Mar 12 2015

The Breakfast Club (Captain, it’s rad… iation!)

The Guardian

So it’s 4 years on now from the Fukushima disaster.  What do we know?

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgWell we know a little bit more about the extent of the damage.  There are 6 reactors at Fukushima Daichi only 3 of which were in operation at the time, but all of which are involved.  You don’t hear much about reactors 5 and 6 which were off line, but the reason they were off line is they were experiencing cooling problems.  They sit today fueled, hot, closely monitored but unapproachable due to the high levels of radiation, slated for decommissioning.

Unit 4 was in a similar stand down.  What makes it unique is that it still experienced massive damage from a hydrogen explosion and the bulk of its nuclear fuel was stored in a pool on it’s roof.

The good news is that all 1533 fuel rods have been removed as of just this last December, the bad news is that the ground is subsiding underneath it and the building is in danger of collapse.  Even without the fuel the structure is still highly radioactive in operating areas and thoroughly contaminated by fallout.

All of the active reactors, 1, 2, and 3 experienced both hydrogen explosions and core meltdowns which almost certainly in the case of Unit 1 and probably in all of them has breached every level of containment and is sitting partially buried in plain old soil.

The salt water used as an emergency measure during the early stages of the disaster has corroded and ruined almost every installed control system and massive amounts of water continue to be pumped to this day to contain the reaction.  This highly radioactive water is stored in big steel tanks (think Power Plant size) that are starting to rust and leak.  There is no plan for how to dispose of it.

Speaking of radioactive water, it leaks out of the big holes in the bottom of the reactor containment units into the ground and natural ground water continues to flow through the site to the sea in a large and permanent plume.  All efforts, including the much vaunted ‘ice dam’ created by freezing the dirt around the site have been an utter failure.

There doesn’t seem to be a Plan B.

Speaking of radiation, in most critical areas it remains high enough that even specially hardened electronics fail within hours, humans would die in days from exposure.  Even in outlying areas of the 30 km exclusion zone workers can receive a lifetime dose in weeks or months.  Thyroid cancer (an early indicator) has risen from 2 – 7 cases in a population of 100,000 to over 100 reported in a population of 300,000 so far.

Does that seem gloomy enough?

TEPCO (a zombie company, effectively bankrupt) and the Japanese Government continue to delay, obsfuscate, and minimize the impact of this event.  Independent science is actively discouraged in favor of happy fun time propoganda.  The Japanese Government, which is paying Billions for fossil fuels to maintain energy capacity, is actively pushing for the resumption of nuclear power production and the re-activation of the remaining 40+ plants despite the fact that they are no safer than they ever were.

In the mean time Solar is getting cheaper and better than ever to the point where it is price competitive with Oil even at $50 a Barrel.

Remember, it’s safe, clean, AND makes you glow in the dark so it’s easy to find your way to the bathroom at night!

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

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Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

Obligatories

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

This Day in History

News

2 Officers Are Shot Amid Protests Outside Ferguson Police Station

By JOHN ELIGON, The New York Times

MARCH 12, 2015

Two police officers were shot here early Thursday morning as gunfire rang out in front of the police station, throwing into panic what had been a spirited – and at times tense – but largely peaceful night of protests.



One officer, from the St. Louis County Police Department, was shot in the shoulder, and the other, from the suburban Webster Groves department, was shot in the face. Both were in serious condition, but their injuries were not life threatening, said Sgt. Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County police.

The shots, which witnesses said they believed originated from the top of a hill about 220 yards directly across from the station, came just hours after the Ferguson police chief, Thomas Jackson, announced that he would resign, a move greeted with praise from protesters. Chief Jackson had been at the center of criticism that he ran a racially biased department ever since one of his white officers fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager seven months ago.

How Chicago police used marijuana to disappear young people at Homan Square

by Spencer Ackerman and Zach Stafford, The Guardian

Wednesday 11 March 2015 15.36 EDT

The story of Marc Freeman’s disappearance inside Chicago’s Homan Square police warehouse on a marijuana offense last year exists between the lines of his arrest report – as his time in custody was not logged on the books until he surfaced at a police station seven hours after his arrest.

At 3.35pm on 22 October 2014, Chicago police arrested Freeman for possession of about two pounds of marijuana. From there, the police report states, Freeman was “transported to Homan for further processing”. The report specifies nothing about Freeman’s time at the secretive compound save for a seeming arrival at 4.10pm, only to note that he arrived in nearby district 11 lockup at 10.32pm.

During the intervening hours, Freeman was lost to the outside world – denied, by police, any phone calls, attorney visits or a record of where he was. Shackled inside Homan Square, Freeman told the Guardian, as have 10 others, he was neither booked nor otherwise processed at a facility some have likened to the domestic equivalent of a CIA ‘black site’.

Retail Sales in U.S. Unexpectedly Fall for Third Straight Month

Bloomberg News

8:30 AM EDT March 12, 2015

Sales at U.S. retailers unexpectedly decreased in February for a third consecutive month as inclement weather and low wage gains restrained shoppers.

The 0.6 percent drop followed a 0.8 percent decrease in January, Commerce Department figures showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 86 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.3 percent gain. Sales declined in nine of thirteen major categories, led by auto dealers and building supply merchants.

The coldest February on record in parts of the Northeast and Midwest, combined with sluggish pay increases, probably made Americans leery of spending the windfall from cheaper gasoline, using it instead to build up savings or pay down debt.



The figures used to calculate gross domestic product, which exclude categories such as food services, auto dealers, home-improvement stores and service stations, showed little change in sales after a 0.1 percent drop in January.

The 2.3 percent drop in purchases at building-material stores was the biggest since May 2012.

Leak investigation stalls amid fears of confirming U.S.-Israel operation

By Ellen Nakashima and Adam Goldman, Washington Post

March 10, 2015

A sensitive leak investigation of a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has stalled amid concerns that a prosecution in federal court could force the government to confirm a joint U.S.-Israeli covert operation targeting Iran, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Federal investigators suspect that retired Marine Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright leaked to a New York Times reporter details about a highly classified operation to hobble Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability through cyber-sabotage – an effort not acknowledged by Israel or the United States.

Prosecutors will have to overcome significant national security and diplomatic concerns if they want to move forward, including pitting the Obama administration against Israel if that ally were opposed to any information about the cyber-operation being revealed in court.

The United States could move forward with the case against Israel’s ­wishes, but such a move might further harm relations between two countries, which are already frayed because of a disagreement over how best to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Administration officials also fear that any revelations could complicate the current negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

TPP at the NABE

by Paul Krugman, The New York Times

Mar 11 8:43 am

So why do some parties want this deal so much? Because as with many “trade” deals in recent years, the intellectual property aspects are more important than the trade aspects. Leaked documents suggest that the US is trying to get radically enhanced protection for patents and copyrights; this is largely about Hollywood and pharma rather than conventional exporters. What do we think about that?

Well, we should never forget that in a direct sense, protecting intellectual property means creating a monopoly – letting the holders of a patent or copyright charge a price for something (the use of knowledge) that has a zero social marginal cost. In that direct sense this introduces a distortion that makes the world a bit poorer.

There is, of course, an offset in the form of an increased incentive to create knowledge, which is why we have patents and copyright in the first place. But do we really think that inadequate incentive to create new drugs or new movies is a major problem right now?

You might try to argue that there is a US interest in enhancing IP protection even if it’s not good for the world, because in many cases it’s US corporations with the property rights. But are they really US firms in any meaningful sense? If pharma gets to charge more for drugs in developing countries, do the benefits flow back to US workers? Probably not so much.

Which brings me to my last point: Why, exactly, should the Obama administration spend any political capital – alienating labor, disillusioning progressive activists – over such a deal?

U.S. Army: $500 million spent on empty buildings as troops cut

By David Alexander, Reuters

3/11/15

The U.S. Army is spending half a billion dollars a year to maintain empty or unused facilities, even as it faces budget cuts that could force it to slash 60,000 more troops, top Army officials told lawmakers on Wednesday.



McHugh and General Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, appealed for lawmakers to support the president’s request for a $534 billion 2016 Pentagon base budget that would exceed federal spending caps by some $35 billion.



“Right now we’re paying about $500 million a year, roughly, just to maintain empty infrastructure, unused infrastructure,” McHugh told a panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Israel vote seen as referendum on Netanyahu years

By Laurent Lozano, AFP

Netanyahu, 65, called for the March 17 vote late last year as his coalition government teetered on the brink of collapse. It will be Israel’s third election since 2009 and the premier’s biggest challenge after six years at the helm.



The veteran rightwing leader is not certain to win the vote, with the most recent opinion polls giving a three-point lead to the centre-left Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog.



On Thursday, Netanyahu conceded his opponents could win and warned that would threaten Israel’s security.

Report: Chance of mega-quake hitting California increases

By ALICIA CHANG, Associated Press

March 10, 2015 6:38 PM

Scientists are virtually certain that California will be rocked by a strong earthquake in the next 30 years. Now they say the risk of a mega-quake is more likely than previously thought.

The chance of a magnitude-8 quake striking the state in the next three decades jumped to 7 percent from 4.7 percent, mainly because scientists took into account the possibility that several faults can shake at once, releasing seismic energy that results in greater destruction.

While the risk of a mega-quake is higher than past estimates, it’s more likely – greater than 99 percent chance – that California will be rattled by a magnitude-6.7 jolt similar in size to the 1994 Northridge disaster. The chance of a Northridge-size quake was slightly higher in Northern California than Southern California – 95 percent versus 93 percent, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Future of BBC’s ‘Top Gear’ uncertain after host suspended

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press

3/11/15

BBC News said Wednesday the broadcaster has postponed the three remaining episodes after suspending host Jeremy Clarkson over a reported “fracas” with a producer. The BBC hasn’t given details about the incident, but co-host James May characterized it as “a bit of a dustup.”



Clarkson also asked for forgiveness last year after allegedly using the racist n-word during filming for the show. He said then had been given a “final warning” by producers.



Prime Minister David Cameron called Clarkson a friend and a “huge talent,” and said his children would be “heartbroken if ‘Top Gear’ is taken off air.”

Will Wyatt, a former director of BBC television, said the broadcaster could try to continue “Top Gear” without Clarkson, but “it would be a bit like the Musketeers without D’Artagnan.”

Michigan paying the price now for tax plan to save business

By DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press

3/11/15

On a Tuesday morning in October 2010, a beaming Gov. Jennifer Granholm and executives of the Detroit Three automakers walked into a meeting of Michigan’s economic development board to announce the final pieces of an agreement to head off thousands of company layoffs looming for the recession-battered state.

The state would provide $2.9 billion in tax credits to help upgrade Michigan auto plants for the future; the carmakers would agree to add and keep factory jobs on their home turf.



The auto companies and many others are cashing in hundreds of millions of dollars in credits a year, cutting deeply into state revenues at a time when the budget should be flush with a rising economy. A projected $410 million budget shortfall is triggering cuts in funding for hospitals and diverting K-12 money to other purposes.

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