March 10, 2013 archive

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Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

By MICHAEL MOSS, The New York Times

Published: February 20, 2013

The snack that Dunn was proposing to sell: carrots. Plain, fresh carrots. No added sugar. No creamy sauce or dips. No salt. Just baby carrots, washed, bagged, then sold into the deadly dull produce aisle.

“We act like a snack, not a vegetable,” he told the investors. “We exploit the rules of junk food to fuel the baby-carrot conversation. We are pro-junk-food behavior but anti-junk-food establishment.”

The investors were thinking only about sales. They had already bought one of the two biggest farm producers of baby carrots in the country, and they’d hired Dunn to run the whole operation. Now, after his pitch, they were relieved. Dunn had figured out that using the industry’s own marketing ploys would work better than anything else. He drew from the bag of tricks that he mastered in his 20 years at Coca-Cola, where he learned one of the most critical rules in processed food: The selling of food matters as much as the food itself.

Later, describing his new line of work, Dunn told me he was doing penance for his Coca-Cola years. “I’m paying my karmic debt,” he said.

Fukushima 2 years on

Thousands across Japan march against nuclear power


9 hours ago

TOKYO – Anti-nuclear rallies took place across Japan, on the eve of the second anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster, urging Japan’s new government to abandon nuclear power.

Tens of thousands gathered in Hibiya park in central Tokyo, where activists and unionists packed a concert hall to voice their opposition.

Similar rallies were held elsewhere in Tokyo and across the rest of the nation, with local media reporting as many as 150 anti-nuclear events planned for the weekend and on Monday.

Protesters are calling for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office late December following his party’s election win, to dismantle all nuclear plants.

Fukushima Toxic Waste Swells as Japan Marks March 11 Disaster

By Jason Clenfield, Bloomberg News

Mar 10, 2013 11:01 AM ET

Radiation danger prevents workers from approaching a tangle of metal and upturned cars surrounding Unit 3, which was ripped apart by a hydrogen gas explosion after the tsunami. Remote controlled cranes are used to pull steel and concrete rubble from the top of the structure.

It will be years before even robots can work inside the steel- and concrete-encased core, according to Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer at Burlington, Vermont-based energy consultant Fairewinds Associates Inc.

“Unit 3 is in a condition that none of us has ever imagined,” he said by phone. “The entire structure is inaccessible to human beings right now.”

While clearing debris helps reduce radiation levels, it’s also filling the plant with toxic waste for which the utility has no ultimate disposal plan. More than 73,000 cubic meters of contaminated concrete, 58,000 cubic meters of irradiated trees and bushes, and 157,710 gallons of toxic sludge has built up, according to the utility.

Then there’s the water.

Tanks of it now cover an area equal to 37 football fields and the utility is clearing forest to make room for more. Some 400 tons of ground water each day seeps into reactor buildings and is contaminated.

There are 480 cesium-clogged filters, each weighing 15 tons, already warehoused in what the utility calls temporary storage.

“These filters will have to be stored for 300 years because cesium has a 30-year half-life and the rule of thumb is 10 half-lives,” Fairewinds’ Gundersen said.

Tokyo Electric has “no plans” for what to do with the water once its filtered, plant manager Takahashi said. It will probably wind up back in tanks, spokesman Yoshikazu Nagai said, standing in front of the new treatment facility.

Graft and corruption is rampant.

Japan’s cleanup of radiation, other toxins from tsunami and nuclear fiasco anything but clean

By Associated Press

Updated: Sunday, March 10, 1:02 AM

To clear, sort and process the rubble – and a vastly larger amount of radiation-contaminated soil and other debris near the nuclear plant in Fukushima, the government is relying on big construction companies whose multi-layer subcontracting systems are infiltrated by criminal gangs, or yakuza.

In January, police arrested a senior member of Japan’s second-largest yakuza group, Sumiyoshi Kai, on suspicion of illegally dispatching three contract workers to Date, a city in Fukushima struggling with relatively high radioactive contamination, through another construction company and pocketing one-third of their pay.

Labor shortages, lax oversight and massive amounts of funds budgeted for the clean-up are a recipe for cheating. And plenty of money is at stake: the cleanup of a 20-kilometer (12-mile) segment of an expressway whose worst contamination exceeds allowable radiation limits by 10 times will cost 2.1 billion yen ($22.5 billion), said Yoshinari Yoshida, an Environment Ministry official.

Move along, nothing to see here.

Nuclear chief: US plants safer after Japan crisis

By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

March 10, 2013 1:35 PM

All but five of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors were performing at acceptable safety levels at the end of 2012, (Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison) Macfarlane said, citing a recent NRC report. “You can’t engage that many reactors and not have a few that are going to have difficulty,” she said.

But the watchdog group, the Union of Concerned Scientists, has issued a scathing report saying nearly one in six U.S. nuclear reactors experienced safety breaches last year, due in part to weak oversight. The group accused the NRC of “tolerating the intolerable.”

Using the agency’s own data, the scientists group said 14 serious incidents, ranging from broken or impaired safety equipment to a cooling water leak, were reported last year. Over the past three years, 40 of the 104 U.S. reactors experienced one or more serious safety-related incidents that required additional action by the NRC, the report said.

“The NRC has repeatedly failed to enforce essential safety regulations,” wrote David Lochbaum, director of the group’s Nuclear Safety Project and author of the study. “Failing to enforce existing safety regulations is literally a gamble that places lives at stake.”

Problem-plagued plants in Florida and Wisconsin are slated for closure, and four other reactors remain offline because of safety concerns. Shut-down reactors include two at the beleaguered San Onofre nuclear power plant in southern California, which hasn’t produced electricity since January 2012, when a tiny radiation leak led to the discovery of damage to hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.


Take your vitamins.

On This Day In History March 10

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

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.

March 10 is the 69th day of the year (70th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 296 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, Tibetans band together in revolt, surrounding the summer palace of the Dalai Lama in defiance of Chinese occupation forces.

China’s occupation of Tibet began nearly a decade before, in October 1950, when troops from its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded the country, barely one year after the Communists gained full control of mainland China. The Tibetan government gave into Chinese pressure the following year, signing a treaty that ensured the power of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the country’s spiritual leader, over Tibet’s domestic affairs. Resistance to the Chinese occupation built steadily over the next several years, including a revolt in several areas of eastern Tibet in 1956. By December 1958, rebellion was simmering in Lhasa, the capital, and the PLA command threatened to bomb the city if order was not maintained.

Lhasa Rebellion

On 1 March 1959, an unusual invitation to attend a theatrical performance at the Chinese military headquarters outside Lhasa was extended to the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama, at the time studying for his lharampa geshe degree, initially postponed the meeting, but the date was eventually set for 10 March. On 9 March, the head of the Dalai Lama’s bodyguard was visited by Chinese army officers. The officers insisted that the Dalai Lama would not be accompanied by his traditional armed escort to the performance, and that no public ceremony for the Dalai Lama’s procession from the palace to the camp should take place, counter to tradition.

According to historian Tsering Shakya, the Chinese government was pressuring the Dalai Lama to attend the People’s Congress in April 1959, in order to repair China’s image with relation to ethnic minorities after the Khampa’s rebellion. On 7 February 1959, a significant day on the Tibetan calendar, the Dalai Lama attended a religious dance, after which the acting representative in Tibet, Tan Guansan, offered the Dalai Lama a chance to see a performance from a dance troupe native to Lhasa at the Norbulingka to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s completion of his lharampa geshe degree. According to the Dalai Lama’s memoirs, the Dalai Lama agreed, but said that the Norbulingka did not have the facilities, and suggested the new auditorium in the PLA headquarters in Lhasa as a more appropriate venue. Neither the Kashag nor the Dalai Lama’s bodyguards were informed of the Dalai Lama’s plans until Chinese officials briefed them on 9 March, one day before the performance was scheduled, and insisted that they would handle the Dalai Lama’s security. Some members of the Kashag were alarmed that were not also invited to lead a customary armed procession, recalling a prophecy that told that the Dalai Lama should not exit his palace.

According to historian Tsering Shakya, some Tibetan government officials feared that plans were being laid for a Chinese abduction of the Dalai Lama, and spread word to that effect amongst the inhabitants of Lhasa. On 10 March, several thousand Tibetans surrounded the Dalai Lama’s palace to prevent him from leaving or being removed. The huge crowd had gathered in response to a rumor that the Chinese communists were planning to arrest the Dalai Lama when he went to a cultural performance at the PLA’s headquarters. This marked the beginning of the uprising in Lhasa, though Chinese forces had skirmished with guerrillas outside the city in December of the previous year. Although CCP offcials insisted that the “reactionary upper stratum” in Lhasa was responsible for the rumor, there is no way to identify the precise source. At first, the violence was directed at Tibetan officials perceived not to have protected the Dalai Lama or to be pro-Chinese; attacks on Hans started later. One of the first casualties of mob was a senior lama, Pagbalha Soinam Gyamco, who worked with the PRC as a member of the Preparatory Committee of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, who was killed and his body dragged by a horse in front of the crowd for two kilometres.

On 12 March, protesters appeared in the streets of Lhasa declaring Tibet’s independence. Barricades went up on the streets of Lhasa, and Chinese and Tibetan rebel forces began to fortify positions within and around Lhasa in preparation for conflict. A petition of support for the armed rebels outside the city was taken up, and an appeal for assistance was made to the Indian consul. Chinese and Tibetan troops continued moving into position over the next several days, with Chinese artillery pieces being deployed within range of the Dalai Lama’s summer palace, the Norbulingka. On 15 March, preparations for the Dalai Lama’s evacuation from the city were set in motion, with Tibetan troops being employed to secure an escape route from Lhasa. On 17 March, two artillery shells landed near the Dalai Lama’s palace, triggering his flight into exile. On 19 March the Chinese started to shell the Norbulingka, prompting the full force of the Uprising. According to the freetibet website, on 21 March 800 shells rained down on the palace, including the shelling of the Norbulingka and Lhasa’s major monasteries, slaughtering thousands of Tibetan men, women and children. Combat lasted only about two days, with Tibetan rebel forces being badly outnumbered and poorly armed.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Under cover of darkness, Afghan women head to battle

By Mandy Clark, Correspondent, NBC News

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — Severely outgunned, the battle was going badly. It seemed like certain defeat. Then, from out of the crowd stepped a young girl of around 14. She grabbed the pole from the fallen flag-bearer, held it up, and called out to her brothers-in-arms to fight to the death.

Though she was shot dead, her rallying cry was seen as the turning point of the 1880 Battle of Maiwand; a triumph for the Afghans, and a devastating loss for British forces during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Her name was Malalai, Afghanistan’s Joan of Arc.

“If you go back into history, before we only had one female soldier named Malalai, but now I have a lot of Malalais in my Special Forces,” said Colonel Jalauddin Yaftaly, who heads the elite units. There are more than 1,000 women in the Afghan Army – and about two dozen have made it into Special Forces.

Sunday’s Headlines:

How a U.S. Citizen Came to Be in America’s Cross Hairs

Letters and secret files reveal the tormented life of Lina Prokofiev

Argentina’s worry over Falklands

Can Nicaragua protect the waters it won?

Kazakhstan’s independent media under fire

Late Night Karaoke

Voting Rights Are Not A Racial Entitlement

Adapted from Rant of the Week at The Stars Hollow Gazette

Voting is no ‘racial entitlement,’ Justice Scalia

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could mean the end of a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. At the heart of the case is the question of whether states with a long history of racial discrimination must still get permission from the Justice Department before changing their voting laws.

We’ll have to wait until summer for the Court’s decision. But we can take a pretty good guess about what one of the justices thinks about the VRA right now. In comments that drew gasps from lawyers listening in at the Court, he made no secret of his feelings about the law.

What We Now Know

In this week’s segment of “What We know Now” of MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes“, host Chris Hayes tell is that there has been a dramatic rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since last year, CO2 levels jumped by 2.67 parts per million, the second highest rise in carbon emissions since record-keeping began in 1959. Joining Chris to discuss what they have learned this week are Jeff Smith, assistant professor at The New School for Management and Urban Policy, former Missouri State Senator (2006-2009); Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice; Maya Wiley, founder and president of the Center for Social Inclusion; and Dan Baum, author of “Gun Guys: A Road Trip.”

To serve and protect … banks?

by David Dayen, Salon

With mega-banks illegally foreclosing on active duty members, the penalty is jail. But, as always, there’s a catch

Wrapping themselves in the American flag is a popular pastime among our nation’s prominent institutions. But is it secretly possible for them to commit crimes against active duty members, and pay no price? [..]

This has happened at least 700 times to service members on missions overseas since the beginning of the foreclosure crisis in 2008. And it’s actually illegal; it violates the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a statute that carries criminal penalties. The nation’s biggest banks have admitted to the conduct before Congress and in regulatory filings, and they only recently acknowledged that they illegally foreclosed on 10 times as many service members as they previously claimed. Any serious effort to hold banks accountable for routine abuse of homeowners should include prosecutions of this execrable behavior. But the government rolled out settlements years before the true depth of these violations ever began to come to light.

I will let the ever eloquent Charles Pierce of Esquires have, hopefully, the last word on the pimply faces little turd, James O’Keefe:

The week ended with the journamalism moon passing retrograde into the House Of Moron. First, James O’Keefe, the noted guerrilla yacht perv, settled up a “meritless lawsuit” for $100K with an ACORN person he’d ratfcked back in the days when Democrats took him seriously enough to defund organizations for the crime of being ratfcked by a ratfcker. (H/t to the lovely Wonkette for being all over O’Keefe on this one, which is not what it sounds like, dammit.) Also, again, nice job, congressional Democrats for ratfcking yourselves on this.