Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.
Just about anything goes, but attacks and pie fights are not welcome here. This is a community diary and a friendly, peaceful, supportive place for people to interact.
Everyone who wants to join in peaceful interaction is very welcome here.
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Texas guitarist Anson Funderburgh. Enjoy!
Little Charlie & Anson Funderburgh - Side Tracked
"In the absence of full-fledged Congressional investigations, American policymakers rarely look back. They are bound by continuity and fealty across administrations and generations."
-- Samantha Power
News and Opinion
Former members, staff say need for new Church committee
Nearly 40 years ago, Congress formed a special committee to investigate the U.S. intelligence community in connection with a series of domestic spying scandals.
There’s a need today for a similar effort, say 15 members and former staff of the former Church committee , citing the revelations of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ daily communications data.
A new version of the Church committee should be formed “to undertake a thorough, and public, examination of current intelligence community practices affecting the rights of Americans and to make specific recommendations for future oversight and reform,” the signatories wrote in an open letter to President Barack Obama and Congress.
The letter comes a week after the current chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., accused the CIA of conducting unauthorized searches of computers used by her staff to compile a top-secret report on the spy agency’s infamous detential and interrogation program.
The signatories contended that revelations by the Church committee - named after the late Democratic Sen. Frank Church of Idaho - “bear striking similarities to the actions we’ve learned about over the past year.
NSA surveillance program reaches ‘into the past’ to retrieve, replay phone calls
The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden. ...
The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere. ...
Ubiquitous voice surveillance, even overseas, pulls in a great deal of content from Americans who telephone, visit and work in the target country. It may also be seen as inconsistent with Obama’s Jan. 17 pledge “that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security,” regardless of nationality, “and that we take their privacy concerns into account.” ...
Present and former U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide context for a classified program, acknowledged that large numbers of conversations involving Americans would be gathered from the country where RETRO operates.
The NSA does not attempt to filter out their calls, defining them as communications “acquired incidentally as a result of collection directed against appropriate foreign intelligence targets.”
Until about 20 years ago, such incidental collection was unusual unless an American was communicating directly with a foreign intelligence target. In bulk collection systems, which are exponentially more capable than the ones in use throughout the Cold War, calls and other data from U.S. citizens and permanent residents are regularly ingested by the millions. ...
An independent group tasked by the White House to review U.S. surveillance policies recommended that incidentally collected U.S. calls and e-mails — including those obtained overseas — should nearly always “be purged upon detection.” Obama did not accept that recommendation.
Reports of the Death of a National License-Plate Tracking Database Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
In a February 19 front-page story, the Washington Post appeared to be breaking news of yet another massive federal surveillance program invading the privacy of innocent Americans. ...
But the Post had gotten it all wrong. DHS wasn’t planning to create a national license-plate tracking database — because several already exist, owned by different private companies, and extensively used by law enforcement agencies including DHS for years. ...
The private companies have figured out how to leverage enormous value out of what has historically been public — but uncollectable and unmanageable — information by gathering it into databases that put incredibly detailed and revealing personal information at a paying user’s fingertips.
In this case, the act of driving through an intersection, being anywhere near a police car, or parking on the street — not to mention passing through a toll booth — now leaves a digital residue that you don’t own, and that someone else can seize, use, and sell. ...
The boom in data is fueled by increasingly omnipresent automatic license plate readers mounted on cruising police cars (and fleets of free-lancers for the repo industry), or perched on road signs and bridges: small, high-speed cameras running software that can identify and log up to 1,800 plates per minutes, complete with metadata about when and where the plate was captured.
What’s the problem with a nationwide license plate tracking database, anyway? [director of the Technology for Liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, Kade] Crockford recently asked and answered that question in her blog:If you aren’t the subject of a criminal investigation, the government shouldn’t be keeping tabs on when you go to the grocery store, your friend’s house, the abortion clinic, the antiwar protest, or the mosque. In a democratic society, we should know almost everything about what the government’s doing, and it should know very little to nothing about us, unless it has a good reason to believe we’re up to no good and shows that evidence to a judge. Unfortunately, that basic framework for an open, democracy society has been turned on its head. Now the government routinely collects vast troves of data about hundreds of millions of innocent people, casting everyone as a potential suspect until proven innocent. That’s unacceptable.
Obama cites security more to censor, deny records
The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.
The administration cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests, the analysis found.
The government's own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that half way through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records despite its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.
In category after category — except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees — the government's efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.
How the Unaccountable CIA Went off the Rails on Torture and Kidnapping, and No One Is Responsible
In the months following 9/11, it seems Washington just couldn’t say “no” to the CIA. The agency’s budget shot through the ceiling. Suddenly the CIA not only commanded private armies, it even had a state-of-the-art air force! Between 2006-2007, the CIA drove a proxy war, mobilizing Ethiopia’s army to invade Somalia. It was perhaps the most audacious war the CIA ever triggered. But it hardly raised a stir in Washington, where reinvigorated secrecy ensured that hardly anyone knew about it — and where to this day few analysts even understand what the CIA’s little war, in which thousands of innocent civilians perished, was about. The CIA also bore core responsibility for a nine-year-long drone war in Pakistan: 300 strikes with more than 3,000 fatalities, almost all of this in an area that U.S. military strategists describe as the core of the battlefield in the current war. It also ran, jointly with the military, drone campaigns in Yemen and Somalia. None of this is what the authors of the National Security Act had in mind with the words “covert operation.” In fact, virtually the only people in the world from whom these activities were kept secret were American voters.
Throughout this period, the dapper and good-natured John Rizzo was the CIA’s senior career lawyer. One would hope to find in his memoir a deep account of the policy battles that led to the CIA’s transformation, and particularly the legal issues. There is no other time in American history when the public has been riveted by legal policy issues as luridly appealing as those that emerged in 2004-2007. Gruesome accounts of homicide and torture in secret prisons run by the American government rocked the world. The scandal opened with now-iconic photographs from Abu Ghraib, and spread as stories emerged from Bagram, Camp Nama, the CIA’s Salt Pit prison north of Kabul, its secret prison near Rabat, Morocco, and Guantánamo. President Bush insisted that “we do not torture.” But an avalanche of secret U.S. legal documents quickly showed otherwise.
John Rizzo was at the center of this storm.
"Company Man" offers an interesting collection of vignettes from a 35-year career in the agency, but its essence is a rationalization of the CIA’s decision to operate black sites and use torture. Rizzo chronicles the steps that led to these decisions and then to back away from them. We discover, for instance, as John Kiriakou first revealed, that the key decisions about the use of waterboarding, mock burial, the cold cell, longtime-standing, sleep deprivation and similar techniques, were taken by the CIA both to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and to the White House. They were ultimately reviewed and approved by the National Security Council (NSC) Principals Committee (consisting of key cabinet officers, the national security advisor, the president and vice president). Only two members of the NSC openly voiced reservations: Condoleezza Rice didn’t like enforced nudity. Colin Powell objected to sleep deprivation. (Kiriakou, a former CIA case officer and analyst, is currently serving a prison term for what he revealed.)
From Iraq to Ukraine: A Pattern of Disaster
Eleven years ago this week the United States invaded Iraq – an event the late General William E. Odom rightly called the biggest strategic disaster in US military history. The decade since that catastrophe proves one thing about US policymakers: they’ve changed their tactics without learning a thing.
Iraq today is a seething cauldron of religious and ethnic hatreds: a full-scale civil war is in progress, with Sunnis in open rebellion against the majority Shi’ites. ... Our enormous failure in Iraq exhausted us, not only financially but also morally and psychologically. Not that the war hawks of Washington were the least bit deterred by their abysmal failure: it was the American people who began to wonder if perhaps it hadn’t been worth the lives, the destruction of an entire country, and the rise of militant anti-Americanism on a world scale. In reaction, ordinary Americans became increasingly vocal about the need to stay out of the world’s intractable conflicts and instead tend to business at home.
The political class didn’t pay much attention at first, only modifying their approach. Instead of simply invading, in the Bushian fashion, the strategy was to utilize proxies as a temporary expedient, while laying the groundwork for more direct overtly military intervention. Libya was supposed to be the model: this was preceded by a big propaganda campaign, in which our credulous mainstream media picked up the administration’s "imminent humanitarian disaster" talking point and ran with it. ... Libya began falling apart the moment we announced its "liberation," and has gone rapidly downhill ever since. Yet the War Party achieved a nominal victory in that the scheme worked, after all. The Three Harpies of the Libyan Apocalypse – Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power – succeeded in dragging the President, not exactly kicking and screaming, into the Libyan mini-quagmire. ...
Ukraine has been a longstanding battlefield in the on-again, off-again cold war with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and one where the US has not always fared as well as it has more recently. The Orange Revolution, you might not remember, went sour pretty quickly, with the hero of the revolutionary hour, Viktor Yushchenko, quickly discredited and now largely forgotten.
Not to worry. Thanks to the infusion of untold millions into various NGOs and Ukrainian opposition groups, there are new "heroes of the Revolution" who have taken the stage in the Maiden – and taken power in Western Ukraine. No need to send in US troops: the muscle is provided by the black-masked cadre of "Right Sector," football hooligans and neo-Nazi skinheads who wear the red-and-black insignia of the pro-Nazi Ukrainians who fought under SS command during World War II. Their
fuehrerleader, Dmytro Yorash, is deputy chief of "national security," i.e. the new regime’s political police. ...
I thought I would never live to see the day when the US State Department whitewashed the neo-Nazi views and heritage of a gang of thugs who had seized power in a violent coup d’etat. In Iraq, Libya, and Syria, US policymakers empowered radical Islamists of one sort or another. That was bad enough. Today, however, in Ukraine they are empowering the heirs of Adolf Hitler. How is this not a scandal?
Defiant Putin signs treaty making Crimea part of Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin, defying Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions, on Tuesday signed a treaty making Crimea part Russia but said he did not plan to seize any other regions of Ukraine.
In a fiercely patriotic address to a joint session of the Russian parliament in the Kremlin, punctuated by standing ovations, cheering and tears, Putin lambasted the West for what he called hypocrisy. Western nations had endorsed Kosovo's independence from Serbia but now denied Crimeans the same right, he said.
"You cannot call the same thing black today and white tomorrow," he declared to stormy applause, saying Western partners had "crossed the line" over Ukraine and behaved "irresponsibly".
Summary - Vladimir Putin speech
• Putin signed draft legislation on bringing the Crimea region into Russia following a defiant address to the federal assembly. Crimea’s prime minister and parliament speaker also signed the document.
• During the televised address, he said that in the hearts and minds of Russian people, “Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia”. He said its fate had always been an issue of “vital importance” to Russia.
• Putin dismissed the idea that Russia would try to seize other regions in Ukraine, as an attempt to scare people. “We do not want a partition of Ukraine, we do not need this,” he said.
• He said that the rights of all minorities would be protected in Crimea, announcing that all all three main nationalities there - Ukrainians, ethnic Russians and Tatars - would have equal language rights. Tatars, who were persecuted and deported under Stalin have been particularly fearful of their fate under Russia.
• He accused the west of having “crossed the line” over Ukraine, and of trying to scare Russia with sanctions. Putin said Russia would never seek to start a confrontation with the west but would defend its own interests.
• Referring to intervention around the world, including in the Middle East, Putin said western partners, headed by the US ,were guided by the “rule of the gun”. Dismissing accusations of aggression made against Russia, he said not a single shot had been fired in Crimea.
• The Russian president accused nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites of being behind the “coup” in Ukraine.He said usurpers and radicals were in government positions in Kiev.
The Crimean Referendum of Independence
Has passed with 97% in favor of joining Russia. Those not in favor boycotted the referendum, in part due to intimidation, in part due to the fact that the question was do you favor joining Russia, or return to the 1992 constitution, in which Crimea is a part of the Ukraine, but substantially independent. There was no option to stay with the current situation.
While looking into the legal precedents, I investigated Kosovo: in 1991 they voted 99% in favor of independence. Only Albania recognized the legality of the referendum. Later, of course, Kosovo did wind up declaring its independence again. Serbia went to the International Court of Justice for an opinion on whether it was legal for Kosovo to separate. The decision was in favor, and is fascinating. ...
Of course many countries do not want regions to leave them, and make it illegal. But it is impossible not to conclude that those who say Crimea joining Russia is illegal are anything but flaming hypocrites if they also said that Kosovo leaving Serbia was legal. The International Court for Justice’s ruling is nothing but special pleading.
The larger issue is this: do people have the right to self-determination, and under what circumstances? ... This is a line which is hard to draw: if you support self-determination, where does it stop? What group is large enough to be allowed to leave? If you don’t, if you think that whatever countries exist today should exist always and no one should leave then you have no such problem, but that can be a recipe for catastrophe, as Africa’s history, with all its artificial countries and their bloodshed, have shown.
The Ukraine crisis through the whimsy of international law
Listening to U.S. President Barack Obama bang on this week about the importance of world opinion and obeying international law and respecting sovereignty and being on the right side of history, you had to wonder whether he didn't have a little voice in his head whispering: "Really? Seriously? I'm actually saying this stuff?"
This is the commander-in-chief of a military that operates a prison camp on Cuban soil, against the explicit wishes of the Cuban government, and which regularly fires drone missiles into other countries, often killing innocent bystanders.
He is a president who ordered that CIA torturers would go unprosecuted, and leads a nation that has invaded other countries whenever it wished, regardless of what the rest of the world might think. ...
[S]itting beside [Obama] on Monday as he gave his lecture on international law from the Oval Office was close ally Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli prime minister, having just engaged in a protracted, robust handshake for the cameras, presides over a country that operates a military occupation in the West Bank, an occupation that includes Israeli settlements, which violate the international law Obama was demanding Putin obey.
The U.S. insists that Israel's occupation can only be solved by respectful negotiation between the parties themselves, and it vehemently opposes punishing Israel with the sort of moves currently being contemplated against Russia. ...
We must at least pretend there's international law and fairness and basic rules, because it reassures us that we live in a world where raw power doesn't ultimately rule. ...
Money and hard power count, and that's that. The big players have it, and the smaller players play along. If we need the anaesthetic liquor of self-delusion to deal with it, well, drink up.
Sanctions on Russia over Ukraine not expected to damage delicate diplomacy on Syria, Iran
Before slapping Russia with the most serious sanctions since the Cold War era, the Obama administration calculated that such a breach in bilateral relations wouldn’t affect joint U.S.-Russian efforts on other urgent diplomatic initiatives, especially with Syria and Iran.
Foreign policy analysts said the gamble behind the administration’s announcement Monday of sanctions against 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials – the alleged architects of the Crimea annexation campaign – makes sense.
The U.S. focus on chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict fulfills Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal of keeping Syrian President Bashar Assad in power, and Russian influence in the talks on Iran’s nuclear program has diminished, according to analysts who specialize in U.S.-Russian relations.
Those conclusions suggest that the State Department’s compartmentalization policy will succeed, avoiding a severing of U.S.-Russian ties but still light years away from what the Obama administration once had envisioned as a “reset” with Moscow.
Russian Foreign Ministry vows retaliatory steps against EU
Russia sharply criticised the European Union on Tuesday for imposing sanctions on Russian officials and lawmakers involved in efforts to make Crimea part of Russia, and said it will retaliate.
"Attempts to speak to Russia in the language of force and threaten Russian citizens with sanctions will lead nowhere," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The adoption of restrictive measures is not our choice; however, it is clear that the imposition of sanctions against us will not go without an adequate response from the Russian side."
The Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, has unanimously passed a statement in which they volunteered to be subject to the US and EU sanctions imposed on individual Russian officials and lawmakers due to the referendum in Crimea.
"We suggest that Mr. Obama [US President Barack Obama] and EU bureaucrats put all of the Duma deputies who voted for Crimea's accession to Russia and for this resolution on the 'black list' of persons subject to the US and EU sanctions," the statement says.
The new Republic of Veneto? Venice to vote on seceding from Italy
Italians in Venice and its surrounding region are voting this week on whether to break away from the rest of the country and form their own country, organisers told AFP on Monday.
The online vote, organised by local independence parties, is not legally binding but aims to galvanise support for a bill calling for a referendum on whether the region of Veneto should split from Italy.
The new Republic of Veneto would be inspired by the ancient Venetian republic — a rich economic, cultural and trading power which existed from the 7th century until its fall to Napoleon in 1797.
The Indipendenza Veneta party behind the bill said the separatist movement was fuelled by the government’s apparent inability to stamp down on corruption, protect its citizens from a damaging recession and plug waste in the poorer south. ....
The region pays around 71 billion euros ($98.5 billion) in taxes to Rome, 21 billion euros more than it receives in investment and services.
The latest polls show that — of the 3.8 million people eligible to vote in the region — around 60 percent is in favour of independence.
Letting Egypt Abuse Code Pink Leader
For several months, the peace organization Code Pink was in communication with Egyptian diplomatic representatives in the United States to arrange the arrival of approximately 100 women from around the globe who would go to Egypt and then travel up to the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. If prevented from crossing into the besieged territory, they would hold a demonstration on International Women’s Day (March 8) to show solidarity with the women of Gaza.
One of the principal organizers of this event was the well-known peace activist Medea Benjamin, winner of such awards as the Martin Luther King Peace Prize (2010), the Marjorie Kellogg National Peacemaker Award (2012), the Thomas Merton Center Peace Award (2012), and the Peace Foundation Memorial Award (2012). Benjamin is, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “One of the high profile leaders” of the American peace movement. ...
The Egyptian government knew she was on her way and it is probable that the U.S. government also knew her plans.
Benjamin, along with several other members of Code Pink, arrived at Cairo’s international airport about 8 p.m. on March 3. In her own words here is what happened next:
“I arrived at the airport. When I gave in my passport, I was taken aside, brought into a separate room, where I was held for seven hours without anybody ever telling me what was wrong. Then I was put into a jail cell at the airport, held overnight. And in the morning, five very scary-looking men came in and wanted to take me away. And I said, the [U.S.] embassy is coming. They were supposed to have arrived. Instead, the men dragged me out, tackled me to the ground, jumped on me, handcuffed my wrists so tight that they started bleeding, and then dislocated my shoulder, and then kept me like that grabbing my arm.”
In the meantime, both the Code Pink members who had accompanied Benjamin to Egypt as well as those in the U.S. were pleading for help from the U.S. embassy in Cairo. They would continue to plead for some 13 hours. The embassy refused any assistance, telling the women that they “were on their own.”
To this day Benjamin has not received any explanation for the incident from either the Egyptians or the Americans.
Europe’s Not So Shiny ‘Recovery’
As the West tries to lure crisis-stricken Ukraine into the European Union’s fold, a major selling point is the promise of a brighter economic future. But the reality for many Europeans – especially in countries pummeled the hardest by the Great Recession – isn’t all that appealing, even as some EU bureaucrats are touting a recovery.
It’s true that raw numbers show that the recession appears to have bottomed out, even in some of those hard-hit nations on Europe’s “periphery,” from Ireland in the west through Portugal, Spain and Italy in the south to Greece in the east. For instance, Spain’s economy contracted 1.2 percent in 2013, but most of that was in the first half of the year, and the EU projects 1 percent growth for Spain in 2014 and 1.7 percent in 2015. Plus, for the first time in years, Spain had positive net job creation in February.
But that will translate into little relief for the nearly 27 percent of Spain’s population which is unemployed, or for the nearly 1.5 million who fell into extreme poverty during the crisis, according to a bellwether report in Spain. During the crisis — to meet EU “austerity” demands — pensions were frozen, the welfare state was slashed, and taxes ate away purchasing power. There’s little hope, too, for the millions more who lost their middle-class status.
At the street level, the “recovery” is nowhere to be seen, at least not for nine of every ten Spaniards who say this tepid economic growth has not trickled down to them. Almost three-quarters of Spaniards expect that conditions will remain the same or get worse in 2015, according to several recent polls.
When you walk around Spanish cities, what you see is a very noticeable increase in visible poverty, including people who until recently might have been considered middle class. You see middle-aged men in suits begging in the streets or waiting in charity lines. You see evicted families seeking refuge, immigrants on the move, and I’ll-work-for-food offers online.
Thus, while the Spanish government and the EU can tout the signs of a recovery, a sense of hopelessness still hovers over the many unemployed and real panic grips even people with jobs because they fear what may lie ahead.
Greece, EU/IMF lenders reach initial deal on bailout aid: sources
Greece and its international lenders have struck an agreement in principle to unlock the next tranche of rescue loans after six months of negotiations, three sources close to talks said on Tuesday.
Greek officials declined to comment, saying the government would make an announcement later on Tuesday.
Democrats Press Holder on Exaggerated Mortgage Fraud Claims
The Justice Department’s inspector general has raised hackles in Congress, even among Democrats, with the release of an audit last week that found the department’s post-financial crisis ballyhoo about a sweeping crackdown on mortgage fraud to be overblown.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading congressional champion of protecting consumers from financial fraud, and two fellow Democrats in the House wrote Attorney General Eric Holder on March 17th to express “deep concern” with the report’s conclusions and request a meeting to discuss corrective measures.
“This report calls into question the Department’s commitment to investigate and prosecute crimes such as predatory lending, loan modification scams and abusive mortgage servicing practices,” wrote Warren, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings and California Rep. Maxine Waters. ...
Auditors for the inspector general traced the department’s supposedly escalated efforts to curb mortgage fraud between fiscal years 2009 and 2011. However, the department’s internal auditors found that, after $200 million was appropriated to boost the FBI’s efforts to root out mortgage fraud, the bureau’s Criminal Investigative Division ranked complex financial crimes as the lowest of six criminal threats in its purview and ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest subcategory as well. ...
While the department announced at an Oct. 9, 2012 news conference that its Distressed Homeowner Initiative had resulted in “530 criminal defendants being charged, including 172 executives,” the department could not provide evidence supporting that boast, the audit found. Rather, 107 criminal defendants were charged, and the estimated losses in those cases totaled $95 million, not the $1 billion claimed at the news conference, the inspector general reported.
The Evening Greens
Climate change is putting world at risk of irreversible changes, scientists warn
In a rare intervention into a policy debate, the American Association for the Advancement of Scientists urged Americans to act swiftly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and lower the risks of leaving a climate catastrophe for future generations.
“As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do,” the AAAS said in a new report, What we know.
“But we consider it our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risks and costs of taking action.” ...
Despite “overwhelming evidence”, the AAAS said Americans had failed to appreciate the seriousness of the risks posed by climate change, and had yet to mobilise at a pace and scale needed to avoid a climate catastrophe.
The scientists said they were hoping to persuade Americans to look at climate change as an issue of risk management. The society said it plans to send out scientists on speaking tours to try to begin a debate on managing those risks.
Concerns Over Suppression of Studies of Fukushima Fallout
In the chaotic, fearful weeks after the Fukushima nuclear crisis began, in March 2011, researchers struggled to measure the radioactive fallout unleashed on the public. Michio Aoyama’s initial findings were more startling than most. As a senior scientist at the Japanese government’s Meteorological Research Institute, he said levels of radioactive cesium 137 in the surface water of the Pacific Ocean could be 10,000 times as high as contamination after Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear accident.
Two months later, as Mr. Aoyama prepared to publish his findings in a short, nonpeer-reviewed article for Nature, the director general of the institute called with an unusual demand — that Mr. Aoyama remove his own name from the paper.
“He said there were points he didn’t understand, or want to understand,” the researcher recalled. “I was later told that he did not want to say that Fukushima radioactivity was worse than Chernobyl.” The head of the institute, who has since retired, declined to comment for this article. Mr. Aoyama asked for his name to be removed, he said, and the article was not published.
The pressure he felt is not unusual — only his decision to speak about it. Off the record, university researchers in Japan say that even now, three years after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, they feel under pressure to play down the impact of the disaster. Some say they cannot get funds or university support for their work. In several cases, the professors say, they have been obstructed or told to steer clear of data that might cause public “concern.”
Mass Scallop Die Off a 'Red Flag' for the World's Oceans
An increase of acidity in the Pacific Ocean is quickly killing off one of the world's most beloved shellfish, the scallop, according to a report by the British Columbia Shellfish Grower’s Association.
“By June of 2013, we lost almost 95 per cent of our crops,” Rob Saunders, CEO of Island Scallops in B.C. told Canada's CTV News.
The cause of this increase in acidity, scientists say, is the exponential burning of fossil fuels for energy and its subsequent pollution. Oceans naturally absorb carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fossil fuel emissions, which causes acidity to rise. ...
“This is a bit of a red flag,” said [marine ecologist from the University of British Columbia, Chris] Harley.
And this red flag has a much bigger impact than one might imagine. “Whenever we see an impact at some level of the food chain, there is a cascading effect at other levels of the food chain,” said Peter Ross, an expert in ocean pollution science.
Was the Los Angeles Earthquake Caused by Fracking Techniques?
Was the 4.4-magnitude earthquake that rattled Los Angeles Monday morning caused by fracking methods? It's hard to say, but what's clear from the above map, made by Kyle Ferrar of the FracTracker Alliance, is that the quake's epicenter was just eight miles from a disposal well where oil and gas wastewater is being injected underground at high pressure.
Don Drysdale, spokesman for the state agency that oversees California Geological Survey, told me that state seismologists don't think that the injection well was close enough to make a difference (and the agency has also raised the possibility that Monday's quake could have been a foreshock for a larger one). But environmental groups aren't so sure.
In other states, injection wells located 7.5 miles from a fault have been shown to induce seismic activity, points out Andrew Grinberg, the oil and gas project manager for Clean Water Action. "We are not saying that this quake is a result of an injection," he adds, "but with so many faults all over California, we need a better understanding of how, when, and where induced seismicity can occur with relation to injection."
"Shaky Ground," a new report from Clean Water Action, Earthworks, and the Center for Biological Diversity, argues that the close proximity of such wells to active faults could increase the state's risk of earthquakes. According to the report, more than half of the state's permitted oil wastewater injection wells are located less than 10 miles from an active fault, and 87 of them, or about 6 percent, are located within a mile of an active fault.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
Anson Funderburgh & Sam Myers - Changing Neighborhoods
Mark Hummel with Little Charlie & Anson Funderburgh - The Hustle Is On
Anson Funderburgh & Sam Myers - The Blues Is My Companion
Anson Funderburgh & Sam Myers - Let the good times roll
Anson Funderburgh & Charlie Baty - Chitlins Con Carne
Anson Funderburgh & Sam Myers - Tell Me What I Want To Hear
Anson Funderburgh & Sam Myers - I'm Your Professor
Rick Estrin / Little Charlie Baty / Anson Funderburgh
Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets - She Knocks me out
Little Charlie Baty / Anson Funderburgh - Hideaway
Kim Wilson & Anson Funderburgh - My Little Girl
Mark Hummel with Little Charlie & Anson Funderburgh -Shake for Me
Mark Hummel with Little Charlie & Anson Funderburgh -Rockinitis
It's National Pie Day!
The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.
Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.
Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us? Well you'll see why very soon. So what are you waiting for?! Head on over now and be one of the first!