March 11, 2014 archive

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Fukushima, 3 Years After



Deadly Fukushima Crisis Further Corrodes Viability of Nuclear Energy

By H Patricia Hynes, Truthout

Tuesday, 11 March 2014 09:08

More than 35 percent of some 38,000 Fukushima children examined have cysts or nodules on their thyroids, as compared with 1 percent of a control group of Japanese children. In a callous move to keep schools open in Fukushima, the Japanese government raised the “permissible” level of radiation for children. Japanese children now can be exposed to 20 times more radiation than was previously allowed, a level comparable to the yearly limit for German workers.

Hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive water from the site have emptied and continue to leak via groundwater into the Pacific Ocean at the rate of 400 tons per day. Radioactive cesium, a carcinogen that bioaccumulates in animal, fish and human tissue, has been found throughout mainland Japan, in fish off the coast of Fukushima (thus closing that industry) and in large migratory fish such as Bluefin tuna off the coast of California. A plume of radioactive water from Fukushima is expected to reach the West Coast of the United States in early 2014. Tragically, there is no solution in sight to trapping and treating the cesium-, tritium- and strontium-contaminated groundwater before it reaches the Pacific Ocean. “The situation at the reactor site is progressively deteriorating, not stabilizing,” stated an international group of experts in their urgent appeal for international action to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Radioactive waste is the nuclear industry’s nightmare, most currently so in Fukushima Dai’ichi, where intensely radioactive spent fuel rods lie in a warped and sinking structure and at risk of a catastrophic fire if another (and potentially likely) earthquake strikes the region. For this reason, the US State Department advised Americans soon after March 11 to evacuate to at least 50 miles from the plant.

Study: Nuclear Reactors Are Toxic to Surrounding Areas, Especially With Age

By Candice Bernd, Truthout

Tuesday, 11 March 2014 09:06

The United States currently has 100 operating nuclear reactors in 31 states. The last nuclear plant to be constructed was finished in 1996, and the oldest was built in 1969. The average age of all operating nuclear plants in the United States is about 30 years.

Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is at a major risk of a Fukushima-style disaster because it sits atop an active fault line, and the plant’s age is a factor in its vulnerability to seismic activity.

But (David) Lochbaum (Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists), who authored a report for UCS called, “Seismic Shift: Diablo Canyon Literally and Figuratively on Shaky Ground,” maintains the earthquake hazard in the 1970s, when the Diablo Canyon plant was proposed and constructed, led its designers to protect against seismic activity no greater than 0.4 g-forces. That was before two other major active fault lines in the region were discovered and estimated to cause a ground motion of around 0.75 g-forces. PG&E has not made any structural adjustments or modifications to account for this discrepancy.

The Persecuted 1%

Bill Maher HD New Rule: People Who Have Power Acting Oppressed

And finally, New Rule: Someone must tell me what is with this new trend of people who have all the power acting like they’re the oppressed ones? Heterosexual Christians under siege from gays. White people complaining that reverse racists are trying to strip them of their right to shoot unarmed black men. And most bizarre, the recent wave of billionaires sobbing that they’re being demonized and under attack. And the thing is, it’s not just having all the money in the world that’s getting them down, it’s that the rest of us don’t often enough look at them and say, “You are the most brilliant industrious person on Earth. Can you teach us how to be more like you while we buff your cock with this fine Sham-Wow?”

You know, I used to think Hollywood egos were the neediest, but these Masters of the Universe? More like babies on a plane. Stock trader Steve Schwarzman – net worth $8 billion – once said that Obama raising his taxes 3% felt like when Hitler invaded Poland. Sounds like something Sarah Palin would tweet after huffing paint thinner. (audience laughter) But with the super-rich it’s becoming a meme. Now we have Tom Perkins – net worth $8 billion – saying the richest 1% are so persecuted in America, they feel like Jews in Nazi Germany. Which is why just to be safe, last week Tom built a panic room inside his mansion that’s a full-size replica of Anne Frank’s house.

h/t to Bruin Kid at Daily Kos for the transcript



CIA says it doesn’t spy on the Senate


3/11/14 10:09 AM EDT Updated: 3/11/14 1:11 PM EDT

“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution,” Feinstein charged. “It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective Congressional oversight of intelligence activities….I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate.”

Making her first detailed remarks on the issue, Feinstein said Tuesday she was compelled to take the floor to answer “inaccurate information” that has been spreading about actions the committee’s staff took with CIA documents detailing an internal agency review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta in 2009.

Feinstein said contrary to the reports, the documents in question were willingly provided before the CIA attempted to revoke staffers’ access and inhibit the committee’s ability to investigate the now-defunct interrogation and detention program.

After an agreement with Panetta in 2009 to provide a way for Senate staffers to review what Feinstein called a “document dump,” Feinstein said staffers noticed in 2010 that access to previously accessible files had been revoked.

“In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset,” Feinstein said, saying she raised the issue with the White House counsel. “He recognized the severity of the situation and the grave implications of executive branch personnel interfering with an official congressional investigation. The matter was resolved with a renewed commitment from the White House counsel and the CIA that there would be no further unauthorized access to the committee’s network or removal of access to CIA documents already provided to the committee.”

In regards to press reports that Senate staffers should not have had access to the documents, Feinstein said, “I reject that claim completely,” and she slammed the CIA’s apparent accessing of the congressional network and what she called attempts to “intimidate” Congress.

“The CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation which we now have seen repeated anonymously in the press, that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network,” Feinstein said. “As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool, running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation.”

Feinstein acknowledged that by taking a copy of the CIA’s internal study, intelligence committee staffers violated an agreement with the CIA not to remove documents without prior clearance from the agency.

“There was a need to preserve and protect the internal Panetta review in the committee’s own secure spaces,” she argued. “The relocation of the internal Panetta review was lawful and handled in a manner consistent with its classification. No law prevents the relocation of a document in the committee’s possession from a CIA facility to secure committee offices on Capitol Hill.”


‘We’re heading towards a dystopian surveillance society’

MSNBC’s “Now” host Alex Wagner interviewed Julian Assange from his refuge at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. He discusses the surveillance stata, his exile and Edward Snowden.

On This Day In History March 11

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 11 is the 70th day of the year (71st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 295 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1851, The first performance of Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi takes place in Venice.

Rigoletto is an opera in three acts  with the Italian libretto written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo. It is considered by many to be the first of the operatic masterpieces of Verdi’s middle-to-late career.

Composition history

Verdi was commissioned to write a new opera by the La Fenice opera house in Venice in 1850, at a time when he was already a well-known composer with a degree of freedom in choosing the works he would prefer to set to music. He then asked Piave (with whom he had already created Ernani, I due Foscari, Macbeth, Il Corsaro and Stiffelio) to examine the play Kean by Alexandre Dumas, père, but he felt he needed a more energetic subject to work on.

Verdi soon stumbled upon Victor Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse. He later explained that “It contains extremely powerful positions … The subject is great, immense, and has a character that is one of the most important creations of the theatre of all countries and all Ages”. It was a highly controversial subject and Hugo himself had already had trouble with censorship in France, which had banned productions of his play after its first performance nearly twenty years earlier (and would continue to ban it for another thirty years). As Austria at that time directly controlled much of Northern Italy, it came before the Austrian Board of Censors. Hugo’s play depicted a king (Francis I of France) as an immoral and cynical womanizer, something that was not accepted in Europe during the Restoration period.

From the beginning, Verdi was aware of the risks, as was Piave. In a letter which Verdi wrote to Piave: “Use four legs, run through the town and find me an influential person who can obtain the permission for making Le Roi s’amuse.” Correspondence between a prudent Piave and an already committed Verdi followed, and the two remained at risk and underestimated the power and the intentions of Austrians. Even the friendly Guglielmo Brenna, secretary of La Fenice, who had promised them that they would not have problems with the censors, was wrong.

At the beginning of the summer of 1850, rumors started to spread that Austrian censorship was going to forbid the production. They considered the Hugo work to verge on lèse majesté, and would never permit such a scandalous work to be performed in Venice. In August, Verdi and Piave prudently retired to Busseto, Verdi’s hometown, to continue the composition and prepare a defensive scheme. They wrote to the theatre, assuring them that the censor’s doubts about the morality of the work were not justified but since very little time was left, very little could be done. The work was secretly called by the composers The Malediction (or The Curse), and this unofficial title was used by Austrian censor De Gorzkowski (who evidently had known of it from spies) to enforce, if needed, the violent letter by which he definitively denied consent to its production.

In order not to waste all their work, Piave tried to revise the libretto and was even able to pull from it another opera Il Duca di Vendome, in which the sovereign was substituted with a duke and both the hunchback and the curse disappeared. Verdi was completely against this proposed solution and preferred instead to have direct negotiations with censors, arguing over each and every point of the work.

At this point Brenna, La Fenice’s secretary, showed the Austrians some letters and articles depicting the bad character but the great value of the artist, helping to mediate the dispute. In the end the parties were able to agree that the action of the opera had to be moved from the royal court of France to a duchy of France or Italy, as well as a renaming of the characters. In the Italian version the Duke reigns over Mantova and belongs to the Gonzaga family: the Gonzaga had long been extinct by the mid-19th Century, and the Dukedom of Mantova did not exist anymore, so nobody could be offended. The scene in which the sovereign retires in Gilda’s bedroom would be deleted and the visit of the Duke to the Taverna (inn) was not intentional anymore, but provoked by a trick. The hunchback (originally Triboulet) became Rigoletto (from French rigolo = funny). The name of the work too was changed.

For the première, Verdi had Felice Varesi as Rigoletto, the young tenor Raffaele Mirate as the Duke, and Teresina Brambilla as Gilda (though Verdi would have preferred Teresa De Giuli Borsi). Teresina Brambilla was a well-known soprano coming from a family of singers and musicians; one of her nieces, Teresa Brambilla, was the wife of Amilcare Ponchielli.

The opening was a complete triumph, especially the scena drammatica, and the Duke’s cynical aria, “La donna è mobile”, was sung in the streets the next morning.

William Butler Yeats is Dead

I hear the dogs pointlessly barking across the valley at night.  Give a dog a fence and it will bark even louder still.  That’s my entire essay.    

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Which one of us shall win the prize

To live and which one will die

Late Night Karaoke