Posts tagged with 'Lindsay Beyerstein'
A second reactor unit at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan may have ruptured, authorities announced on Wednesday. This is on top of their earlier revelation that the containment vessel of a separate reactor unit had cracked.
As of Tuesday, four nuclear reactors in Japan seem to be in partial meltdown in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami, according to Christian Parenti of the Nation:
One of them, reactor No. 2, seems to have ruptured. The situation is spinning out of control as radiation levels spike. The US Navy has pulled back its aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, after seventeen of its crew were exposed to radiation while flying sixty miles off the Japanese coast.
But despite three major explosions—at reactor No. 1, then No. 3, then No. 2—the Fukushima containment vessels seem to be holding. (Chernobyl lacked that precaution, having only a flimsy cement containment shell that collapsed, allowing the massive release of radioactive material.)
So, the good news is that only one out of four of the reactors is teetering on the brink of a full meltdown, and engineers might still be able to stave off disaster. The bad news, Parenti explains, is that spent fuel rods on the reactor sites could pose grave health hazards even if the threat of meltdown is averted. Even so-called “spent” rods remain highly radioactive.
The big question is whether the facilities that house this waste survived the earthquake, the tsunami, and any subsequent massive explosions at the nearby reactor. Given the magnitude of the destruction, and the relatively flimsy facilities used to house the spent rods, it seems unlikely that all the containment pools emerged unscathed. Parenti explains:
Unlike the reactors, spent fuel pools are not—repeat not—housed in any sort of hardened or sealed containment structures. Rather, the fuel rods are packed tightly together in pools of water that are often several stories above ground.
A pond at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is overheating, but radiation levels were so high that the Japanese military has postponed a helicopter mission to douse the pond with water.
Journalist and environmental activist Harvey Wasserman tells the Real News Network that the housing the spent rods (a.k.a. nuclear waste) is a chronic problem for the global nuclear industry.
Wasserman told GRITtv that the west coast of the United States has reactors that could suffer a similar fate in the event of a sufficiently large earthquake.
“If I were in Japan, I would at least get the children away from the reactor, because their bodies are growing faster and their cells are more susceptible to radiation damage. I would go out to 50 kilometers and at least get the children away from those reactors,” nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen told DemocracyNow! on Tuesday. At the time he said this, 70,000 residents had already been forced to evacuate their homes, and another 140,000 were ordered to stay indoors.
Kirsten Powers, Fox News’ resident self-proclaimed liberal, took to the pages of the Daily Beast recently to make the bizarre case that Planned Parenthood should be de-funded because the 100-year-old organization doesn’t really prevent the half-million abortions that it claims to prevent by supplying millions of clients with reliable birth control. (Powers was forced to concede that a gross statistical error rendered her entire piece invalid.) At RH Reality Check, Amanda Marcotte describes how Powers attempted to repackage fringe anti-contraception arguments for a mainstream audience. At TAPPED, I explain why Planned Parenthood’s abortion-prevention claim is rock solid.
Unscrupulous doctors are cashing in on the latest diet fad: hormone injections derived from the urine of pregnant women, Kristina Chew notes for Care2.com. Patients pay $1,000 for consultations, a supply human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and a 500-calorie-a-day diet plan. There is no evidence that hCG increases weight loss more than a starvation diet alone. But paying $1,000 to inject yourself in the butt every day does evidently work up a hell of a placebo effect.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.
by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger
In a shocking move, Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate convened in the Capitol on Wednesday night to pass a union-busting bill without a quorum. The bill passed the State Assembly on Thursday afternoon, and Gov. Scott Walker signed it into law this morning. The Democratic state senators have returned from exile. Now, activists are shifting their attention to recall campaigns, court challenges, and even a general strike.
Madison Firefighters Union President Joe Conway was in the Capitol on Wednesday night to witness what he called “a criminal act by the Republicans” and “game changer for everyone.” Conway called for a general public strike.
John Nichols of the Nation describes the procedural move the Republicans used to pass the bill without a quorum, on what he calls “one of the most remarkable days in American political history”:
After weeks of intense debate inside and outside the Capitol, and at a point when most Wisconsinites thought a compromise was in the offering, Republican legislative leaders suddenly announced that they would pass the most draconian components of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill – including a move to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
At this point, the 14 Senate Democrats were still in exile in Illinois, attempting to deny the Republicans the quorum they needed to pass the bill. Under Wisconsin law, the state Senate only needs a quorum to pass non-fiscal legislation. So, the Republicans ostensibly stripped out all the fiscal language from the bill and passed it hastily, without hearings or debate, in the dead of night.
Micah Uetricht and George Warner of Campus Progress call this “non-fiscal” dodge the height of hypocrisy. For weeks, Walker has justified stripping unions of their bargaining rights as a measure needed to balance the budget. The bill clearly affects the state’s budget, arguably making it a fiscal bill in disguise, and possibly opening the door to a court challenge. If it is a financial bill after all, then the state Senate didn’t have the power to pass it without a quorum.
Uetricht and Warner also note that the South Central Federation of Labor, the labor council that represents unions in the Madison area, with a combined membership of 45,000 workers, voted in February to begin preparations for a general strike.
The Progressive‘s Matthew Rothschild, who was at the Capitol, estimates that 15,000 people converged there as word spread that the bill had been passed. Cries of “General Strike!” rang out in the Capitol on Wednesday night.
As I reported in Working In These Times, the Senate Republicans may have violated Wisconsin’s strict open meetings law, which requires 24 hours’ notice for meetings, unless there’s some kind of emergency that prevents organizers from getting the word out earlier, in which case, a minimum of 2 hours’ notice is still required. The Senate was in emergency session, but nobody is claiming that there was any kind of real-life emergency that prevented the Republicans from notifying the public in a timely manner.
Andy Kroll of Mother Jones notes that the bill would allow the state to fire public employees who join a strike, walk-out, sit-in, or make a coordinated effort to call in sick.
Here’s more news from Wisconsin:
- In a special comment on GritTV, host Laura Flanders asks if it’s time for the first U.S. general strike since 1909.
- Peter Rothberg of the Nation asks whether the time has come for a general strike.
- David Moberg of Working In These Times explores the history, and possible future, of general strikes in America.
- Jessica Pieklo of Care2 writes about Madison as a birthplace of the labor movement.
- Jeff Leys of Truthout argues that the Madison could once again become the crucible for a powerful progressive movement.
- Public News Service argues that Walker’s government is staging a power grab at the expense of local control, a value Republicans supposedly hold dear.
- State Rep. Kelda Hellen Roys tells The UpTake that last night’s vote was illegal because the original bill wasn’t even drafted when it was voted on.
- At TAPPED, Pima Levy argues that the strategy that Republicans in Wisconsin used to pass the bill was similar to that used by federal Democrats to pass the Affordable Care Act. After the U.S. Senate Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority, they passed a “budget neutral” version of the bill, which bypassed the filibuster. She predicts that the Wisconsin GOP will face a significant backlash.
Wisconsin isn’t the only state waging war on the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Ohio’s Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature are poised to restrict the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 public servants. Michigan seems poised to pass a “hostile takeover” bill that would give the Republican governor unchecked power to declare cities bankrupt and appoint a manager who could cancel union contracts. In Indiana, state House Democrats are boycotting the legislature in an attempt to derail anti-union legislation.
Michigan’s Republican-controlled state senate passed and sent back to the state house a “hostile takeover” bill that would give the governor the power to declare cities insolvent and appoint a city manager, who in turn, could cancel collective bargaining agreements and sell off city property without anyone else’s approval, Adele Stan notes in AlterNet. Hundreds of pro-union demonstrators rallied in the state capital of Lansing on Tuesday to protest the measure.
Eartha Jane Melzer reports in the Michigan Messanger that the bill is on the fast track to passage, despite raising serious constitutional questions about the limits of executive power. “This is a takeover by the right wing and it’s an assault on democracy like I’ve never seen,“ Michigan State AFL-CIO president Mark Gaffney said.
Republicans in Indiana have had their sights set on public sector unions since they took the General Assembly in 2010. Huge crowds gathered in Indianapolis on Thursday in support of union rights. This was the 18th day of uninterrupted union protests outside the state House. Police estimated a turnout of 8,000. Democratic lawmakers, who had fled the state to prevent the passage of an anti-collective bargaining bill, said they had no plans to return.
About 3,200 people gathered at the Statehouse in Ohio to protest a bill that would severely limit the collective bargaining rights of some 350,000 public workers including teachers, firefighters, and police. Democrats say they will fight to recall the bill if it is signed into law. Mark Miller of Change.org summarizes the key provisions of the bill, SB 5, which recently passed the state Senate. Ohio Democrats are trying to stall the progress of the legislation by demanding public hearings. Unlike their counterparts in Indiana and Wisconsin, they don’t have enough seats to deny the Republicans a quorum by leaving the state.
The public sector is the last bastion of high union density in the United States because public sector workers have historically been protected from the kind of union-busting tactics that are routine in the private sector. If the public sector unions are destroyed, the U.S. labor movement will die with them. The very future of the middle class is at stake.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Follow us on Twitter. For the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.
The entire federal government might shut down over birth control. Yes, birth control. This special edition of the Pulse is about the ongoing war against women being waged in Congress and in state legislatures nationwide.
Cutting birth control
Last Friday, the House voted to amend the continuing resolution to fund the federal government to defund the $317 million Title X Family Planning Program, a major beneficiary of which is Planned Parenthood. None of this money funds abortions. Instead, it goes to birth control, cancer screenings, and other reproductive health services for 5 million low-income Americans.
This kind of preventive care is highly cost-effective. Every federal family planning dollar saves an estimated $4 tax dollars on unintended pregnancy costs alone. Saving money by de-funding contraception is like “saving money” by not paying your rent. It’s not savings if you end up staying in a hotel that costs even more.
As Nick Baumann reports for Mother Jones, Senate Democrats are confident that they can defeat the measure. However, if that happens and the House Republicans won’t pass an acceptable alternative, the federal government will run out of money and shut down until the impasse is resolved. (more…)
by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger
Tainted egg shell game
The Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club is pushing state regulators to investigate two factory farms and a feed mill linked to this summer’s massive recall of salmonella-tainted eggs, Lynda Waddington reports in the Iowa Independent. The Sierra Club sent a strongly-worded letter to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller urging him to investigate Wright County Egg, Hillandale Farms and the Quality Egg LLC feed mill. All three firms were linked to the salmonella outbreak that sickened an estimated 1200 people; and all three firms are linked to agro-baron Austin “Jack” DeCoster.
Tom Philpott of Grist calls DeCoster a “habitual” environmental offender and “one of the most reviled names in industrial agriculture.” In 1996, the Department of Labor fined DeCoster Eggs $3.6 million for what the then-Secretary of Labor described as “running an agricultural sweatshop” and “treating its employees like animals.” Over the years, DeCoster enterprises racked up additional fines in other states. A previous Attorney General of Iowa dubbed DeCoster a habitual offender for water pollution. In 2002, five female employees at the DeCoster’s Wright County egg operation alleged that their supervisors had raped them and threatened to kill them if they reported the crime. The company paid $1.5 million to settle the lawsuit. (more…)
By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger
It was a roller coaster week for proponents of the public option. While the Senate Finance Committee rejected two proposed public option amendments, four of the five health bills produced by congressional committees include a public option. The next stage is to put those bills together in a process called conference, that results in a final piece of legislation that the House and the Senate will vote on. In this video clip, Marcy Wheeler tells VideoNation that progressives can continue the fight for a public option by emulating a tried and true Blue Dog strategy: Focus on building a bloc of votes, not on flipping the opposition. (more…)
By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger
Last night Gov. Howard Dean, former chair of the DNC and 2004 presidential hopeful, appeared in conversation with journalist Joe Conason at the 92nd Street Y in New York. Dean discussed his new book, Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Health Care Reform.
Later on, I had a chance to ask Dean about the prospects for passing health care reform in the Senate through budget reconciliation, a parliamentary tactic that would allow the bill to pass by majority vote and thwart a filibuster. Many Democratic strategists consider reconciliation to be extremely politically risky, but Dean is unconvinced. He argues that passing a bill through budget reconciliation is not only doable, but also likely to result in a stronger bill.
“I’m not worried about doing this through reconciliation,” he said, “I think we’ll probably have a better bill if it’s through reconciliation because the people who are involved in the passage of the bill will only be Democrats and a very high proportion of Democrats want a public option.”
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.