Archive for May 22, 2012

Nuclear Regulatory Chairman Too Sensitive to Living Things — Forced Out

This happened yesterday:

Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, announced Monday he would resign from the five-member commission that oversees US nuclear power plant safety after a tenure in which he wrangled with other members of the commission over the direction of safety regulations.

Mr. Jaczko’s chairmanship, which began with tumult three years ago over the NRC’s controversial decision to cancel the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository – now concludes on the heels of a tumultuous year attempting to implement “lessons learned” from the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. He announced his resignation amid an ongoing battle over his proposals to tighten safety regulations at US nuclear power plants in the wake of the Japanese disaster.

On Jazcko’s watch, the NRC responded to major incidents at reactors across the United States including flooding, an earthquake, and tornados as well as serious mechanical problems. Notably, Jaczko activated the commission’s emergency response authority and personally directed the NRC’s initial response in the days after a huge tidal wave hit the Daiichi plant on March 10, 2011 – knocking out backup generators.

Jaczko and NRC staff monitored the unfolding crisis around the clock and made key decisions. He told Americans in Japan to stay at least 50-miles away from the unfolding meltdowns. And he created a task force to recommend steps the US should take to reinforce safety measures for US reactors.

But such unilateral decisions became a flashpoint for political upset among the other four commissioners and within the nuclear power industry. The commissioners questioned whether or not Jaczko had assumed too much authority and power over NRC operations in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown – or had cut the other commissioners out of the communications loop.

Translation: The decisions Jaczko made were scaring people about the supposed “safety” of nuclear power plants.  He was too honest about the risks.


Despite the pressure on Jaczko, the White House proclaimed publicly up until last month that it backed him.

Translation:  But the White House caved under pressure from the nuclear industry and it didn’t defend him.  It wants to whitewash the threats posed by the nuclear power industry too.

But Jaczko’s supporters noted that he had been subjected to relentless personal attacks by his fellow commissioners and nuclear industry supporters.

Exactly.  When you have a “Nuclear Regulatory Commission” staffed by people in the nuclear industry, this is what you get: A worthless piece of government.

Reminds me of the bought-and-paid-for members of the Food and Drug Administration, you know, the people who are supposed to protect our food and drug supply:  FDA Delays Deadline for New U.S. Sunscreen Labels.






May 22, 2012 at 6:22 PM Leave a comment

The Obama Administration Hires Anti-Obamacare PR Firm to Promote Obamacare

From the department of what the hell are they thinking:

Porter Novelli, a public relations and lobbying firm, was awarded a $20 million contract from the Obama administration to promote health reform. “The campaign will inform the American people about the many preventive benefits now available to those with Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” a representative from the Department of Health & Human Services told PR Week, which broke the news.

Porter Novelli, for those who followed the health reform debate, might be an odd choice to help promote the law. As I reported for ThinkProgress in 2009, the global head of Porter Novelli’s healthcare division manufactured a front group designed to kill public support for health reform. Peter Pitts, soon after being hired by Porter Novelli in two years ago, launched various Tea Party and conspiracy-laced attacks on the Affordable Care Act as the legislation made its way through Congress.


Of course, the Obama administration has every right to hire outside help to promote the law. But if Porter Novelli’s prior involvement in spreading industry-funded attacks against the law isn’t a problem, there are other potential conflicts of interest. According a press release, Porter Novelli still maintains a number of healthcare clients, including Bayer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Eisai and Pfizer.


Wrong on so many levels.

May 22, 2012 at 5:38 PM 2 comments

The Alberta Tar Sands — Surely God is Crying

Wow.  My hat is off to Robert Johnson of the Business Insider.  He traveled to the Albert Tar Sands area in Canada and took a series of photos that will blow your socks off.  The oil companies extracting oil from the ground up there are turning the place into a polluted hell hole that is unrecognizable from its natural state.

Bear in mind this area is the headwater for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  After seeing these photos, I’m more opposed to that pipeline than ever.  The U.S. shouldn’t be a party to the total destruction of “more than 54,000 square miles” of Canadian wilderness.  What’s happening up there is a crime against the Earth.

The Canadian Oil Sand Mines Refused Us Access, So We Rented This Plane To See What They Were Up To

When reaching out to Alberta oil sands companies before a trip to Canada last month, I thought all of them mined oil the same way — they don’t.The open mining most people think of when they picture the oil sands is just one way of extracting crude from the ground, but it is without a doubt the most dramatic. And we had to see it.

After being refused a mine tour and any type of access to a mining site or equipment, Business Insider rented a plane that I used to see everything I could of the mines on my own.

Restricted to flying no lower than 1,000 feet above the ground, I spent nearly two hours leaning out the window of a small Cessna 172 with a long lens, snapping pictures and trying to keep warm.

The oil sands hold up to two trillion barrels of oil spread over more than 54,000 square miles, making it the second largest oil deposit in the world after Saudi Arabia.

The amount of energy spent recovering that oil and the pollution created in refining it is immense and the impact on the environment profound.


See the sickening slide show above, which in essence shows this:

First they clear the trees from the land. (Photo: Robert Johnson — Business Insider)

Then they scrape away the shallow layer of leafy, peaty topsoil called muskeg. (Photo: Robert Johnson — Business Insider)

Then the trucks and shovels come in to scoop up the oil sand— that shovel is electric, runs on 15,000 volts — and scoops up 90 tons in one load — it takes about 2.5 tons of sand to produce one barrel of oil. (Photo: Robert Johnson — Business Insider)

And what was once forest, turns into this. (Photo: Robert Johnson — Business Insider)

Again, go to the link above (or here) to view incredibly informative slide show.  (No wonder the oil companies wouldn’t grant Mr. Johnson access.  They don’t want us to see images like this.)

If this is what we have to do to squeeze the last remaining drop of oil out of the earth because we’re too freakin’ lazy and spoiled to get our sh*t together and get off oil, we deserve what we get.  If there is a God, I’m sure he’s thoroughly disgusted with us.

And thank you Robert Johnson.  This is what real journalism looks like.




May 22, 2012 at 1:06 PM Leave a comment

Congressional Discourse Getting Dumber


Most congressional observers agree that the level of discourse on Capitol Hill is coarser and more partisan than ever before. A new study suggests it’s also dumber.

Congress collectively speaks at almost a full grade-level lower than it did seven years ago, with Republican lawmakers ranking as the smartest and least-smart-sounding talkers, according to a new study by the Sunlight Foundation sure to earn the ire of at least some congressional offices.

The study rightfully notes that what some might consider “the dumbing down” of congressional speeches could be interpreted as an attempt to more simply and effectively communicate with constituents. That effort could be in part because the study says that Congress generally speaks at a higher grade level than average Americans.

Using the Flesch-Kincaid test, which equates higher grade levels with longer words and sentences and higher numbers of syllables and characters, the study concludes that lawmakers speak at a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. Americans generally speak at between an 8th and 9th grade level.

Read more here and check out the list of the worst and best speakers.  All of the worst speakers are Republicans.  My theory is — snark alert ahead —  they have to dumb it down so Fox viewers can kinda, sorta, maybe understand what they’re saying.


May 22, 2012 at 11:39 AM Leave a comment

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