July 11, 2014 archive

Uganda and Pepe Julian Onziema

John Oliver celebrates recent LGBT rights milestones in the United States before covering oppressive anti-gay laws in Uganda. (Also, the US involvement in inspiring and funding those laws.) Ugandan LGBTI rights advocate Pepe Julian Onziema sits down with John to discuss the situation in his home country.

Chemical Plants Contents Kept Secret By Campaign Money

On April 17, 2013, an ammonium nitrate chemical storage facility in West, Texas exploded killing 15, injuring 160 and destroyed or damaged over 160 buildings. The cause of the original fire is still unknown. The plant that exploded was owned by a privately held family corporation. The plant only carried $1 million in liability insurance which under Texas law, was $1 million more than it needed. One year later, no legislation has even been introduced to increase regulations or inspections.

A year after the explosion, the US Chemical Safety Board issued its findings:

CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “The fire and explosion at West Fertilizer was preventable. It should never have occurred. It resulted from the failure of a company to take the necessary steps to avert a preventable fire and explosion and from the inability of federal, state and local regulatory agencies to identify a serious hazard and correct it.”

The CSB’s investigation found that at the state level, there is no fire code and in fact counties under a certain population are prohibited from having them.  “Local authorities and specifically-local fire departments-need fire codes so they can hold industrial operators accountable for safe storage and handling of chemicals,” said Dr. Moure-Eraso.

CSB Supervisory Investigator Johnnie Banks said “The CSB found at all levels of government a failure to adopt codes to keep populated areas away from hazardous facilities, not just in West, Texas. We found 1,351 facilities across the country that store ammonium nitrate.  Farm communities are just starting to collect data on how close homes or schools are to AN storage, but there can be little doubt that West is not alone and that other communities should act to determine what hazards might exist in proximity.”

The CSB’s preliminary findings follow a yearlong investigation which has focused on learning how to prevent a similar accident from occurring in another community. “It is imperative that people learn from the tragedy at West,” Dr. Moure-Eraso said.

One of the major factors that has kept any new regulations from being passed has been the large amounts of cash from families like the Koch brothers that has flowed into the pockets of the Republican politicians. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow talked with Wayne Slater, senior political writer for the Dallas Morning News, about Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott allowing chemical plants to keep their contents secret, a move that benefits Koch Industries, and a campaign donor.

Hazardous chemical lists no longer public record in Texas

DALLAS — For the past 30 years, federal law has required chemical makers and handlers to disclose what’s stored on premises. It’s called the Community Right To Know Act, and it has been at the core of the safety conversation since last year’s deadly fertilizer explosion in West, Texas.

But News 8 has learned that in the past few weeks, state health officials have stopped making those hazardous chemical records public. [..]

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “states and communities […] can use the Tier II information to improve chemical safety and protect public health and the environment.” In Texas, Tier II reports are kept on file at the Department of State Health Services and according to its web site, those reports are public information. All citizens “may ask for” them by simply filling out a request.

Yet, just days ago, following the ammonium nitrate building fire in Athens, when News 8 asked the Department of State Health Services for an updated Tier II report on the facility, department spokesperson Carrie Williams told us, “We’re not able to release the kind of information you’re requesting.”

Williams cited an Attorney General’s ruling from May 22, 2014, which denied public access to “Tier Two information […] because it reveals the location, quantity and identity of hazardous chemicals […] likely to assist in the construction of an explosive weapon.”

Emergency officials and responders are now the only ones in Texas able to access Tier II reports.

Abbott: Ask Chemical Plants What’s Inside

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, under fire for blocking public access to state records documenting the location of dangerous chemicals, said Texans still have a right to find out where the substances are stored – as long as they know which companies to ask.

“You know where they are if you drive around,” Abbott told reporters Tuesday. “You can ask every facility whether or not they have chemicals or not. You can ask them if they do, and they can tell you, well, we do have chemicals or we don’t have chemicals, and if they do, they tell which ones they have.”

In a recently released decision by his office, Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor, said government entities can withhold the state records – in so-called Tier II reports – of dangerous chemical locations. The reports contain an inventory of hazardous chemicals.

But Abbott said homeowners who think they might live near stores of dangerous chemicals could simply ask the companies near their homes what substances are kept on site.

Collected under the federal Community Right to Know Act, the information was made available upon request by the state for decades to homeowners, the media or anyone else who wanted to know where dangerous chemicals were stored. But, as WFAA-TV recently reported, the Texas Department of State Health Services will no longer release the information because of the attorney general’s ruling.

The Breakfast Club: 7-11-2014

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. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

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.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History


On This Day In History July 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.

July 11 is the 192nd day of the year (193rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 173 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1789, Jacques Necker is dismissed as France’s Finance Minister sparking the Storming of the Bastille.

Necker was seen as the savior of France while the country stood on the brink of ruin, but his actions could not stop the French Revolution. Necker put a stop to the rebellion in the Dauphiné by legalizing its assembly, and then set to work to arrange for the summons of the Estates-General of 1789. He advocated doubling the representation of the Third Estate to satisfy the people. But he failed to address the matter of voting – rather than voting by head count, which is what the people wanted, voting remained as one vote for each estate. Also, his address at the Estates-General was terribly miscalculated: it lasted for hours, and while those present expected a reforming policy to save the nation, he gave them financial data. This approach had serious repercussions on Necker’s reputation; he appeared to consider the Estates-General to be a facility designed to help the administration rather than to reform government.

Necker’s dismissal on 11 July 1789 made the people of France incredibly angry and provoked the storming of the Bastille on July 14. The king recalled him on 19 July. He was received with joy in every city he traversed, but in Paris he again proved to be no statesman. Believing that he could save France alone, he refused to act with the Comte de Mirabeau or Marquis de Lafayette. He caused the king’s acceptance of the suspensive veto, by which he sacrificed his chief prerogative in September, and destroyed all chance of a strong executive by contriving the decree of 7 November by which the ministry might not be chosen from the assembly. Financially he proved equally incapable for a time of crisis, and could not understand the need of such extreme measures as the establishment of assignats in order to keep the country quiet. Necker stayed in office until 1790, but his efforts to keep the financial situation afloat were ineffective. His popularity had vanished, and he resigned with a broken reputation.

Le Tour 2014: Stage 7, Épernay / Nancy

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Well, just to prove you don’t need wet weather and cobbles to make Le Tour dangerous (why yes, I am in favor of keeping the cobbles sections), yesterday on regular roads we had 2 huge crashes that injured 14 riders, more, may I point out, than in Stage 5 with the cobbles.  Three had to withdraw on course, Xabier Zandio of Sky, Jesús Hernández of Tinkoff, and Egor Silin of Katusha, and Stef Clement of Belkin will not start.  By contrast on the cobbles we only lost 2.

People are also grousing about the spectators getting too close to take ‘selfies’ but the fact is they have always been getting in the middle of the course and pressing in from the sides to take pictures so it’s really the same as it’s always been.  It was a bit damp, but it always is in Belgium, and there was a strong cross wind that broke up the main group of riders into 2 smaller groups which helped shape the race.

The fireworks came in the final kilometer when it became clear that Giant-Shimano had lost a little of it’s leg speed.  Though commentators initially blamed Kittel’s disappointing finish to a puncture he later admitted he had simply run out of gas.  Starting at the 1 km mark it looked as if the race was Michal Kwiatkowski’s but André Greipel attacked from the middle of the lead group and held off a very late charge from  Alexander Kristoff.  Once again Peter Sagan overcame a crash to finish a very respectable 5th.

So on the day it was André Greipel, Alexander Kristoff, Samuel Dumoulin, Mark Renshaw, and Peter Sagan.  Marcel Kittel finished 84th, 54 seconds back.  64 riders finished on the lead time including Jakob Fuglsang in 15th and Vincenzo Nibali in 18th.  Alberto Contador finished 20th.

In the General Classification it’s Vincenzo Nibali, Jakob Fuglsang (:02), Peter Sagan (:44), Michal Kwiatkowski (:50), and Fabian Cancellara (1:17).  There are only 3 other riders less than 2 minutes back.  In the Points championship the leader is Peter Sagan (217), Brian Coquard (137), Marcel Kittel (135), Alexander Kristoff (117), André Greipel (91), and Mark Renshaw (87).  Their nearest competitor is 32 points behind.  In the Climber competition not much has changed, Cyril Lmoine (6), Blel Kadri (5), Jens Voigt and Nicolas Edet tied at 4.  Team rankings are Astana, Belkin (4:18), BMC (6:05), Sky (6:17), Trek (7:22), Cannondale (9:03).  Everyone else is over 10 minutes out.  Youth competition has boiled down to 4 riders, Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski (:06), Roman Bardet (1:27), Tom Dumoulin (1:41), and Thibaut Pinot (2:40).  Everyone else is over 11 minutes out.

Épernay / Nancy is about 146 miles long.  It’s another mostly flat sprint stage with the Sprint Checkpoint about 2 thirds of the way through.  At the end of the stage there are 2 Category 4 climbs, Cote de Maron and Cote de Bofflers.  They expect showers on and off, we shall see.

Late Night Karaoke

Just a Question

To gauge opinion and attitudes.

If you work 8 hours a day 5 days a week how much should you earn?

Juxtapose that with 4 hours a day 5 days a week and report the findings please