Late Night Worries as Largest Concrete Pump Heads to Japan

This seems like it would be big news, could it be an early April Fools? I don’t know, but I thought it warranted a front page mention.

Concrete pump to help in Japan nuclear crisis (like the one used at Chernobyl) – Democratic Underground

Source: AP/ABC News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – Authorities say the world’s largest concrete pump will be flown from Atlanta to Japan on the world’s largest cargo plane as part of a series of emergency steps to help stabilize damaged nuclear reactors.

The Augusta Chronicle reports that the 190,000-pound pump features a 70-meter boom which can be remotely controlled. Officials say that makes it suitable for use in the highly radioactive environment surrounding the nuclear plants.

The pump was manufactured by Germany-based Putzmeister, whose equipment was used at Chernobyl in the 1980s to entomb the melted core of the reactor in concrete.

The pump had been used at the Savannah River Site near the Georgia-South Carolina line.

Read more:

UPDATE 3-Japan to take control of Tokyo Electric – media | Reuters

TOKYO, April 1 (Reuters) – Japan will take control of Tokyo Electric Power Co , the operator of a stricken nuclear plant, in the face of mounting public concerns over the crisis and a huge potential compensation bill, a domestic newspaper reported on Friday.

Groundwater at nuclear plant ‘highly’ radiation-contaminated: TEPCO | Kyodo News

In Vienna on Wednesday, Denis Flory, IAEA deputy director general and head of the agency’s nuclear safety and security department, said readings from soil samples collected in Iitate between March 18 and March 26 ”indicate that one of the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation is exceeded (there).”

In response to the IAEA, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Thursday the government may implement measures, if necessary, such as urging people living in the area to evacuate, if it is found that the contaminated soil will have a long-term effect on human health.

Nishiyama said at a press conference in the afternoon that the agency’s rough estimates have shown there is no need for people in Iitate to evacuate immediately under criteria set by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan.

”The radiation dose of a person who was indoors for 16 hours and outdoors for eight hours (and continued such a lifestyle) would be about 25 millisieverts, which is about half the level which requires evacuation based on the commission’s criteria,” he said.

The commission explained that domestic criteria are based on measurements at radiation in the air, and not the soil.

In another effort to prevent radioactive dust from being dispersed from the plant, where masses of debris are strewn as a result of explosions, Tokyo Electric initially planned to conduct a test spraying of a water-soluble resin on Thursday, but postponed the plan due to rain.

Exclusive: WANTED: U.S. workers for crippled Japan nuke plant | Reuters

– As foreign assignments go this must be just about the most dangerous going.

A U.S. recruiter is hiring nuclear power workers in the United States to help Japan gain control of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been spewing radiation.

The qualifications: Skills gained in the nuclear industry, a passport, a family willing to let you go, willingness to work in a radioactive zone.

The rewards: Higher than normal pay and the challenge of solving a major crisis.

“About two weeks ago we told our managers to put together a wish list of anyone interested in going to Japan,” said Joe Melanson, a recruiter at specialist nuclear industry staffing firm Bartlett Nuclear in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on Thursday.

So far, the firm has already signed up some workers who will be flying to Japan on Sunday.

Melanson said there will be less than 10 workers in the initial group. Others are expected to follow later, he added.

Plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has appealed to the nuclear industry outside of Japan for assistance as the crisis has spiraled beyond their control.

FRANCE 24 – Despite UN recommendation, Japan will not widen evacuation zone

Despite recommendations from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency to widen the evacuation zone, the Japanese government said it would not take further action as it continues to race to contain the leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

AFP – Japan said on Thursday that its crisis-hit nuclear plant must be scrapped, but currently had no plans to evacuate more people, despite calls for a larger exclusion zone around the crippled facility.

Grappling with the aftermath of a massive earthquake and tsunami, its biggest post-war disaster, Japan’s government hosted French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who called for clear international standards on nuclear safety.

Nuclear crisis puts evacuation zones under scrutiny –

The detection of excessive radiation in a village 25 miles northwest of the damaged Fukushima nuclear facility is raising questions about whether Japan’s recommended evacuation zone is adequate and whether standards for evacuations will be adequate in any future U.S. accident.

  • Fukushima Prefectural officers collect soil at a rice paddy in Koorimachi, Japan, to check if it is contaminated by radioactive materials.By APFukushima Prefectural officers collect soil at a rice paddy in Koorimachi, Japan, to check if it is contaminated by radioactive materials.


Fukushima Prefectural officers collect soil at a rice paddy in Koorimachi, Japan, to check if it is contaminated by radioactive materials.

At a hearing Thursday on Capitol Hill, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., asked Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko whether his agency’s plan to evacuate people within 10 miles of a U.S. nuclear plant accident was adequate.

Jaczko said NRC’s emergency preparedness is “built on two thresholds.” One is a “preplanned” evacuation of those living within 10 miles of a plant. The second threshold is 50 miles from a plant. Within that zone, he said, the plan would be to ensure that contaminated food supplies could be dealt with.

A few other news items that we have linked to in the comments:

Japan plant radioactivity 10,000 times standard – CBS News

Crews ‘facing 100-year battle’ at Fukushima – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Consider this an open thread…

Tea Party Astroturf: More Apparent than Ever and Blatantly Hypocritical

Have you been wondering why we seem to have such a concerted effort in all kinds of states to take down unions, women’s rights, attack public workers, bankrupt the state with excessive tax cuts for business and the wealthy and other basically overwhelming policy attacks?  Thought much about the Teabots recently?  Well, here’s some interesting information on the little grass roots that got played big time.  Not only is the tea party representing the interests of the rich, it’s also representing the interests of the rich taking  lots of money from the state and federal government that they purport to hate.  ABC’s Good Morning America has found some really interesting things on Tea Party Darlings on the Dole. Many of the biggest political icons in the movement are big abusers of government largess.

ABC’s senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl reported “the Tea Party movement is all about slashing federal spending, but at least five House members with Tea Party connections have themselves collected more than $100,000 each in federal farm subsidies, totalling more than $8 million since 1995.”

The subsidies are included in a report out Thursday by the Environmental Working Group. “We need a better system,” said Rep. Stephen Fincher, a Tennessee Republican whose family farm has received more than $3 million in subsidies, with more than $100,000 going directly to the Congressman himself. Asked directly if he’d refuse to take any further subsidies, he dodged the question. Others said the farm subsidies–totalling $16 billion–need to cut if not eliminated.

We’ve also learned that future presidential wannabe Michelle Bachman’s husband’s Christian “counseling” services

Watch the video by following this linked picture to ABC.

receives state funds in the scam to ungay, gay people.  Talk about an appalling breach in the establishment clause!

Bachmann and Associates, Inc., a counseling center that receives state funds and is owned by Rep. Michele Bachmann and her husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann, uses counseling methods steeped in fundamentalist Christianity, raising questions about its use of taxpayer money.

Founded in 2003, Bachmann’s clinic has taken in nearly $30,000 in state funds since 2007. Dr. Bachmann has said publicly that God heals people at his clinic and that Jesus Christ is the “Almighty Counselor.”

“We are distinctly a Christian counseling agency here in the Twin Cities,” he told KKMS radio in 2008. “We have 27 Christian counselors, Christ-centered, very strong in our understanding of who the Almighty Counselor is, and as we rely on God’s word and the Almighty Counselor, we have the opportunity to change people’s lives.”

He continued, “God heals people and if we give opportunity, if we are a willing vessel and we go according to what God’s word is, it works.”

The clinic applied for and received Rule 29 and Rule 31 licensing from the state in 2003. The rules allow the clinic to receive state money to treat low-income Minnesotans for mental health and chemical dependency problems. The clinic has earned $27,564 in state payments since 2007 — and likely received more, since the Minnesota Transparency and Accountability Project’s online data only goes back to 2007. Bachmann and Associates took $1,419 in public money in 2007, $13,140 in 2008, $12,493 in 2009 and $512 so far in 2010, according to the transparency project.

All of the clinic’s counselors identify as Christians. Among them is Marian E. Eckhardt, a licensed psychologist. Her mission statement says, “I believe that through knowledge, faith and dependency on God and His revealed truths one receives the strength and love to truly fulfill their life’s purpose.”

Saul Selby, the clinic’s drug and alcohol counselor, is also an ordained minister. Selby writes that he seeks to “help individuals and couples experience wholeness and healing through the application of biblical principles and the Love of Christ.”

Debra Kullberg, an associate marriage and family therapist, is also a licensed member of the clergy. “Jesus as the Son of God is the Savior, Healer, and intimate Lover of my soul,” she says in a statement on the clinic’s website. “He invites those He calls to join Him on a personal journey to the Cross. Our entire being is healed and restored (body, soul, and spirit) as we surrender ‘our way’ for ‘His way.’”

Watchdog groups say that the state’s arrangement with Bachmann and Associates is problematic.

Here’s some more of those tea party icons and their lives propped up with farm subsidies.

While the majority of American farmers receive no government money at all, at least 23 current members of congress or their families have received government money for their farms — combining for more than $12 million since 1995 according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group.

The biggest recipient was Rep. Stephen Fincher, a Republican from Frog Jump, Tenn.

While the self-described Tea Party patriot lists his occupation as “farmer” and “gospel singer” in the Congressional Directory, he doesn’t mention that his family has received more than $3 million in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2009, according to the Environmental Working Group.

According to an article last year in Salon, Michelle Bachmann, Charles Grassley, and Sam Brownbeck all get subsidies from the federal government to prop up their businesses.

No one would agree to stop taking subsidies — which is sensible, because if the money’s available, why not take it — but more amusingly some of these Tea Partiers wouldn’t even explicitly say they’d vote to end the subsidies, which are almost universally acknowledged as wasteful spending by experts across the ideological spectrum. Rep. Vicky Hartzler just said “everything should be on the table” and she was open to “starting the discussion,” which is just how lawmakers talk when they refuse to admit that they won’t vote for something they should vote for.

“Anti-government Republicans take lots of free government money” is basically an evergreen story. Chuck Grassley, Sam Brownback, and Michele Bachmann have also benefited from wasteful farm subsidies, even though they all hate the socialism so much. It’s enough to make you sympathize with libertarians, until you watch John Stossel talk about seasteading or something.

Here’s the scoop from TruthDig on how Michelle Bachman’s family basically makes a living from take federal money.

Bachmann, of Minnesota, has spent much of this year agitating against health care reform, whipping up the so-called tea-baggers with stories of death panels and rationed health care. She has called for a revolution against what she sees as Barack Obama’s attempted socialist takeover of America, saying presidential policy is “reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom.”

But data compiled from federal records by Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit watchdog that tracks the recipients of agricultural subsidies in the United States, shows that Bachmann has an inner Marxist that is perfectly at ease with profiting from taxpayer largesse. According to the organization’s records, Bachmann’s family farm received $251,973 in federal subsidies between 1995 and 2006. The farm had been managed by Bachmann’s recently deceased father-in-law and took in roughly $20,000 in 2006 and $28,000 in 2005, with the bulk of the subsidies going to dairy and corn. Both dairy and corn are heavily subsidized—or “socialized”—businesses in America (in 2005 alone, Washington spent $4.8 billion propping up corn prices) and are subject to strict government price controls. These subsidies are at the heart of America’s bizarre planned agricultural economy and as far away from Michele Bachmann’s free-market dream world as Cuba’s free medical system. If American farms such as hers were forced to compete in the global free market, they would collapse.

However, Bachmann doesn’t think other Americans should benefit from such protection and assistance. She voted against every foreclosure relief bill aimed at helping average homeowners (despite the fact that her district had the highest foreclosure rate in Minnesota), saying that bailing out homeowners would be “rewarding the irresponsible while punishing those who have been playing by the rules.” That’s right, the subsidy queen wants the rest of us to be responsible.

It continually amazes me that so many people appear to be vulnerable to the message that  it’s government workers or poor people that benefit from government programs when so many statistics show that most of the largess from federal programs and subsidies go to those that are solidly upper middle class.  What really kills me is that the same people that are waging wars on working people, women, children, and the poor for taking the tax payers’ hard earned cash are the same ones that are really living off the government teat.  My guess is that many corporations–like GE–and individuals–like the Bachmanns–would be scraping around for other forms of incomes if it wasn’t for the funds they receive from the governments they so love to hate.  Hypocrisy this huge should hurt.

Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Here are the stories that caught my eye this morning.

Reuters: Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret help for Libya rebels

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

Obama signed the order, known as a presidential “finding”, within the last two or three weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter.

Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. This is a necessary legal step before such action can take place but does not mean that it will.

Washington Post: In Libya, CIA is gathering intelligence on rebels

The Obama administration has sent teams of CIA operatives into Libya in a rush to gather intelligence on the identities and capabilities of rebel forces opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, according to U.S. officials.

The information has become more crucial as the administration and its coalition partners move closer to providing direct military aid or guidance to the disorganized and beleaguered rebel army.

Although the administration has pledged that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed to Libya, officials said Wednesday that President Obama has issued a secret finding that would authorize the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups.

I can’t imagine why anyone would be surprised that the CIA is involved in Libya (they are everywhere). But the progs are looking down their noses in strong disapproval.

Emptywheel: Where Will Obama Try Himself for Material Support for Terrorism?

After all, according to Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project any help to a terrorist group–even counseling on how to make peace–is material support. And no matter how we try to spin arming rebels as an act of peace, it’s a good deal more help than legal counsel.

And, as the DC Circuit’s decision yesterday in Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman’s habeas suit makes clear, it’s not enough for a person to stop associating with al Qaeda in the 1990s, nor does the government need any real evidence of a tie between someone in al Qaeda’s vicinity to claim that person is a member of al Qaeda.

Glenn Greenwald: The wisdom and legality of arming Libyan rebels

Then there’s the question of the legality of arming Libyan troops. Salon’s Justin Elliott reported on Monday that the administration was actively considering arming the rebels despite an absolute arms embargo imposed by U.N. Resolution 1970 (“imposing an arms embargo on the country”). Today, The Guardian elaborates by citing numerous legal experts insisting that it would be a violation of the U.N. Resolution for the U.S. to arm the rebels. For its part, the U.S. insists that it is legally entitled to do so, with Hillary Clinton announcing that the arms embargo has been “overriden” by the broad mandate of U.N. Resolution 1973, allowing “all necessary measures” to be used to protect Libyan civilians.

On the strictly legal issue, this seems to be a close question. Can the specific arms embargo really be “overriden” by a general clause allowing the protection of civilians? That seems redolent of the Bush arguments that specific prohibitions in the law (such as the ban on warrantless eavesdropping) were “overriden” by the broad war powers assigned by the AUMF. More to the point, can it really be said that arming Libyan rebels is necessary for the protection of civilians? That sounds much more like what one does to help one side win a civil war.

I don’t know, and I admit I don’t like the idea of this action in Libya expanding too far. I remember when Reagan armed the “Contras.” Of course back in those days we were arming right-wing groups and the US was involved in countless human rights violations. In Libya, the opposition forces are trying to depose a genuinely evil dictator who has been involved in terrorist attacks.

But here’s my question: why don’t the progs convince the guy they supported to get us the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan? They wanted this guy, they forced him on us, and now they’re whining. and what are they doing to find a decent alternative? A big nothing.

I’m not going to be happy if we get involved in a ground war in Libya or anywhere else, but it hasn’t happened yet. We’ve been in Afghanistan for almost ten years!

Raw Story: Most Americans think Obama does not deserve re-election, according to new poll

Obama’s approval rating is also at its lowest point ever, at 42 percent, while his disapproval rating rose from earlier in the month to a new high of 48 percent.

A similar Quinnipiac poll published March 3 found President Obama with 46 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval.

In that earlier poll, voters also split on whether Obama deserves reelection, with 47 percent saying yes and 45 percent saying no.

The latest poll reflects the president’s sliding fortunes in other studies, with a full 50 percent now saying that he does not deserve to stay in office beyond 2012.

The big problem with this is that the Republicans are bound to nominate someone who is to the right of Atilla the Hun and about as crazy and unempathetic as Muammar Gaddafi. I refuse to vote for Obama, but what if we end up with Michelle Bachmann or Mike Huckabee as President?

Anyway, the Tea Party’s polls are in the crapper along with Obama’s.

Just 32 percent of respondents viewed the tea party favorably, while a record-high 47 percent had a negative view of the movement that propelled Republicans to dramatic Congressional victories last November. Fourteen percent had no opinion, and 7 percent said they’ve never heard of the tea party.

I sure hope the Congresspeople find out about that.

Russ Feingold doesn’t think Jeffrey Immelt is a very good jobs czar. No kidding, lol.

Feingold’s new group, Progressives United, is set to launch a new campaign to pressure General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to step down as the head of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competiveness. Feingold’s campaign — which I’m told will be joined by Move On later today — is based on two pieces of news that, Feingold says, render Immelt unfit for the gig of Obama jobs chief: GE paid no American taxes in 2010; and Immelt’s compensation doubled .

In an email to members of his new group, Feingold will argue that if Immelt doesn’t step down, Obama should fire him, arguing that Dems need to stop coddling corporations whose behavior undermines our economy:

I’ve got a couple of semi-humorous stories to get your mind off all the bad news. Get out your tiny violin. Did you know that the super-rich are unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives?

The Atlantic: Secret Fears of the Super-Rich

Does great wealth bring fulfillment? An ambitious study by Boston College suggests not. For the first time, researchers prompted the very rich—people with fortunes in excess of $25 million—to speak candidly about their lives. The result is a surprising litany of anxieties: their sense of isolation, their worries about work and love, and most of all, their fears for their children.

Awwwww. Too bad, so sad. Then give your money away to people who actually need it, why don’t you. And then get a real job.

Raw Story: Death anxiety linked to acceptance of intelligent design: study

Research conducted at the University of British Columbia and Union College found that people’s death anxiety was associated with support of intelligent design and rejection of evolutionary theory.

Death anxiety also influenced those in the study to report an increased liking for Michael Behe, a prominent proponent of intelligent design, and an increased disliking for Richard Dawkins, a well-known evolutionary biologist.

The findings suggest that people are motivated to believe in intelligent design and doubt evolutionary theory because of unconscious psychological motives.

Okay, time out. Because? No. This is a correlational study, and as we all should have learned long ago, Correlation does not equal causation.

The study was lead by UBC Psychology Assistant Professor Jessica Tracy and and UBC psychology PhD student Jason Martens. It was published in the March 30 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE.

“Our results suggest that when confronted with existential concerns, people respond by searching for a sense of meaning and purpose in life,” Tracy said. “For many, it appears that evolutionary theory doesn’t offer enough of a compelling answer to deal with these big questions.”

There are a lot of variables unaccounted for in this description of the study. Maybe death anxiety is just associated with fundamentalist Christianity. I guess I could look up the study and see what the findings really were… But I probably won’t.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?

Late Night PLUB outrage: Women will Lie to get free abortions

It seems most Republican men and some Republican women don’t think of women as adults who can make moral and wise decisions.  Indiana State Rep. Eric Turner (R), believes that women will falsify rapes and incest crimes in order to get free abortions.  He’s calling it the rape loophole.

Yesterday morning, the Indiana House considered an anti-abortion bill that “would put some of the tightest abortion restrictions in the nation into Indiana law.” Introduced by state Rep. Eric Turner (R), HB 1210 would make most abortions illegal after 20 weeks. Current law restricts abortions after the fetus is viable, generally around 24 weeks.

In an attempt to soften the blow this bill would land on Hoosier women, state Rep. Gail Riecken (D) introduced an amendment to exempt “women who became pregnant due to rape or incest, or women for whom pregnancy threatens their life or could cause serious and irreversible physical harm” from being forced to carry to term. Fearing this bill would “push women to the back alleys” for illegal abortions, Riecken pleaded with lawmakers to allow women to make the choice in these cases.

Turner then stepped to the podium and insisted that Riecken’s amendment would create a “giant loophole” for women. That loophole? Women “could simply say they’ve been raped”

House Dems beat back most of the outrageous attempts to limit a woman’s right to her body.

HB 1210, authored by Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, would make most abortions illegal after 20 weeks, while current law restricts most abortions after the fetus is considered viable, generally around 24 weeks.

Among its other provisions, the bill also requires abortion providers to tell patients that abortion carries risks, including the possibility of breast cancer.

Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, tried to remove that language, saying studies have shown no link between abortion and breast cancer.

“I support the bill,” said Welch, a nurse and one of only five House Democrats among the 51 co-sponsors of the bill. “But I do not support the (breast cancer) language because it is not evidence-based.”

Still, the House voted 41-52 against her amendment. The only physician in the chamber, Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, voted for Welch’s proposal.

The House also voted 42-54 against an amendment by Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Riecken, which would have exempted from the bill women who became pregnant due to rape or incest, or women for whom a pregnancy threatens their life or could cause serious and irreversible physical harm.

Turner urged his colleagues to oppose that amendment, saying it created “a giant loophole.”

Japanese Officials Admit They Are Making No Progress

Chernobyl disaster: will it happen again?

The Guardian reports that radiation levels are rising in the ocean near the Fukushima nuclear plant, and Japanese officials admit they basically have no real solution for the apparent meltdown and/or meltdowns of the four damaged nuclear reactors.

The country’s nuclear and industrial safety agency, Nisa, said radioactive iodine-131 at 3,355 times the legal limit had been identified in the sea about 300 yards south of the plant, although officials have yet to determine how it got there.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nisa spokesman, said fishing had stopped in the area, adding that the contamination posed no immediate threat to humans. “We will find out how it happened and do our utmost to prevent it from rising,” he said.

Good luck with that. The battle to control the reactors could go on for years.

The battle to control the slow-motion meldowns could take years, according to this Reuters article.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. has conceded it faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain overheating fuel rods and avert a meltdown.

“Regrettably, we don’t have a concrete schedule at the moment to enable us to say in how many months or years (the crisis will be over),” TEPCO vice-president Sakae Muto said in the latest of round-the-clock briefings the company holds.

Back to the Guardian piece:

Robert Peter Gale, a US medical researcher who was brought in by Soviet authorities after the Chernobyl disaster, said recent higher readings of radioactive iodine-131 and caesium-137 should be of greater concern than reports earlier this week of tiny quantities of plutonium found in soil samples.

But he added: “It’s obviously alarming when you talk about radiation, but if you have radiation in non-gas form I would say dump it in the ocean.”

Wonderful. The Japanese eat a lot of fish, don’t they?

From ABC News

Radiation measured at a village 40 kilometres from the Fukushima nuclear plant now exceeds a criterion for evacuation, the UN nuclear watchdog said.

And a Japanese nuclear expert has warned crews may have to keep pouring cooling water onto the stricken reactors for years.

Years. That is what multiple sources are now saying. It could take years. So how does it end? We hope for new discoveries that will solve the problem, while the reactors continue to melt down and release radioactive elements into the groundwater and the ocean? Or there is a catastrophic explosion?

Yes, I know the “experts” say that won’t happen, but if workers are going to be struggling with these plants for years, there is inevitably going to be human error. Besides, the “experts” have tried to minimize the dangers all along. Only now is the real truth beginning to come out.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists All Things Nuclear blog:

Today the IAEA has finally confirmed what some analysts have suspected for days: that the concentration per area of long-lived cesium-137 (Cs-137) is extremely high as far as tens of kilometers from the release site at Fukushima Dai-Ichi, and in fact would trigger compulsory evacuation under IAEA guidelines.

The IAEA is reporting that measured soil concentrations of Cs-137 as far away as Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima-Dai-Ichi, correspond to deposition levels of up to 3.7 megabecquerels per square meter (MBq/sq. m). This is far higher than previous IAEA reports of values of Cs-137 deposition, and comparable to the total beta-gamma measurements reported previously by IAEA and mentioned on this blog.

This should be compared with the deposition level that triggered compulsory relocation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident: the level set in 1990 by the Soviet Union was 1.48 MBq/sq. m.

Thus, it is now abundantly clear that Japanese authorities were negligent in restricting the emergency evacuation zone to only 20 kilometers from the release site.

This is bad, folks. Here is a summary of the health effects of cesium-137:

Like all radionuclides, exposure to radiation from cesium-137 results in increased risk of cancer.

Everyone is exposed to very small amounts of cesium-137 in soil and water as a result of atmospheric fallout. Exposure to waste materials, from contaminated sites, or from nuclear accidents can result in cancer risks much higher than typical environmental exposures.

If exposures are very high, serious burns, and even death, can result. Instances of such exposure are very rare. One example of a high-exposure situation would be the mishandling a strong industrial cesium-137 source. The magnitude of the health risk depends on exposure conditions. These include such factors as strength of the source, length of exposure, distance from the source, and whether there was shielding between you and the source (such as metal plating).

Please note that cesium-137, like plutonium doesn’t occur naturally in the environment. When officials and “experts” talk about “background” radiation, they are talking about elements that have been introduced through nuclear tests and nuclear reactor accidents and bi-products. This “background” radiation wasn’t around before the nuclear age, and I personally don’t believe that it has no effect on us.

From NPR: More radioactive material has been found in foods in Japan.

Yesterday, I asked in a comment what is being done with all the contaminated water that is being removed from the Fukushima reactors. Scarecrow addressed this question today at FDL.

They’ve got hundreds of tons of contaminated water preventing workers from getting close enough to pumps, valves, monitors needed to stabilize conditions. So they have to pump this water out and put it somewhere, but where? There are tanks at/near some units that can hold some of it, but not all, and external temporary storage may allow exposure to the atmosphere. Meanwhile, they must keep pumping more fresh water into the reactors and spent fuel storage pools, while more leaks out.

There are large pools of dangerously contaminated water in the turbine buildings adjacent to each reactor buidling, with more leaking in from somewhere, and few places to put it. Just outside the turbine buildings, there are long, deep trenches nearer the ocean and likely filled with water from the tsunami. But they’re now contaminated with radiation and water leaks from the turbine building.

Where can they put all this water? And given varying degrees of contamination, which water should they put where? For example, should they just pump out the least radioactive water in the trenches/pools and dump it in the ocean?

Believe it or not, some people are suggesting putting the water in large ships and letting them float around in the ocean. And what happens if there is a huge storm and the ships are damaged? Honestly, this gets scarier and scarier every day.

Even worse, today smoke was seen at another nuclear plant owned by Tepco!

The company said smoke was detected in the turbine building of reactor No. 1 at the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant around 6 p.m. (5 a.m. ET).

Smoke could no longer be seen by around 7 p.m. (6 a.m. ET), a company spokesman told reporters.

The Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where workers have been scrambling to stave off a meltdown since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems there….

After the dual disasters, Japanese authorities also detected cooling-system problems at the Fukushima Daini plant, and those living within a 10-kilometer radius (6 miles) of Fukushima Daini were ordered to evacuate as a precaution.

What next? Something tells me whatever happens next won’t be good.

Mega Tax breaks created Current State Budget Problems

Because so many manufacturing plants and accompanying good jobs compare new locations with old when companies decided to recapitalize or expand, states feel compelled to become rivals to attract capital investments to their states.  This intense rivalry to attract the few major employers left standing in the US economy leads many governors into basically giving away more benefits than the incoming or staying-put businesses became worth to the state and municipalities in the  majority of cases.  Many of the businesses would have stayed put even were they not given the tax breaks.

There is also a huge stake for these governors in upping their credibility for being able to attract business to the state.  It serves many of them well at the ballot box, even when the public is not really aware of what’s been given away to attract a few jobs.  Many of the worst offenders are Republican governors where flexing tax hating muscle is more importance than effective governance when heading to the Iowa/New Hampshire test grounds for higher office. The evidence is much clearer in states ruled by Republican governors.  A recent study Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal government-research group in Cleveland as reported by McClatchey shows how states like Ohio, Louisiana, Texas, Michigan and many others have basically bankrupted the state with business tax giveaways and aggressive tax cuts to the richest of the rich. This has also played out on the federal level. The severe flaws with these tax cuts have become evident as the economy sank during the global financial crisis and federal funds provided during the Obama stimulus have dried up.

Across the country, taxpayers jarred by cuts to government jobs and services are reassessing the risks and costs of a variety of tax reductions, exemptions and credits, and the ideology that drives them. States cut taxes in hopes of spurring economic growth, but in state after state, it hasn’t worked.

There’s no question that mammoth state budget problems resulted largely from falling tax revenues, rising costs and greater demand for state services during the recession. But questionable tax reductions at the state and local level made the budget gaps larger — and resulting spending cuts deeper — than they otherwise would have been in many states.

A 2008 study by Arizona State University found that that state’s structural deficits could be traced to 15 years of tax cuts, mainly income-tax reductions that “were not matched by spending cuts of a commensurate size.”

In Texas, which faces a $27 billion budget deficit over the next two years, about one-third of the shortage stems from a 2006 property tax reduction that was linked to an underperforming business tax.

In Louisiana, lawmakers essentially passed the largest tax cut in state history by rolling back an income-tax hike for high earners in 2007 and again in 2008.

Without those tax reductions, Louisiana wouldn’t have had a budget deficit in fiscal year 2010, the 2011 deficit would’ve been 50 percent less and the 2012 deficit of $1.6 billion would be reduced by about one-third, said Edward Ashworth, the director of the Louisiana Budget Project, a watchdog group.

The original source of all this tax cutting madness can probably be traced to California and the infamous Proposition 13.  Prior to Prop 13, California was a state in an enviable position with wonderful, low cost schools and infrastructure that was the symbol of US modernity. The Reagan roll backs of taxes and passage of increased write offs for investment to stimulate capital investments provided similar short term boosts that have led to long term problems.

Before California’s Proposition 13 triggered a nationwide tax-cut revolt in the late 1970s, state and local taxes accounted for nearly 13 percent of personal income in 1972, Bartik said. By 2007, it was 11 percent.

State corporate income taxes have fallen as well. Once nearly 10 percent of all state tax revenue in the late ’70s, they accounted for only 5.4 percent in 2010.

“It’s a dying tax, killed off by thousands of credits, deductions, abatements and incentive packages,” according to 2010 congressional testimony by Joseph Henchman, the director of state projects at the Tax Foundation, a conservative tax-research center.

Even now, as states struggle to provide basic services and ponder job cuts that threaten their economic recovery, at least seven governors in states with budget deficits have called for or enacted large tax reductions, mainly for businesses.

Even now, both the President and members of both parties are talking corporate tax cuts when many households pay more in taxes to the IRS than the biggest of the multinationals. Here’s a  article in Forbes from last year showing how GE and other major corporations that live off of federal contracts also manage to avoid federal tax obligations.  Exxon-Mobile and Walmart are also tax avoiders.  You can go read the details but I sought out this old article for this tidbit so you  know why a lot of them can get away with paying so few taxes.

But it’s the tax benefit of overseas operations that is the biggest reason why multinationals end up with lower tax rates than the rest of us. It only makes sense that multinationals “put costs in high-tax countries and profits in low-tax countries,” says Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation. Those low-tax countries are almost anywhere but the U.S. “When you add in state taxes, the U.S. has the highest tax burden among industrialized countries,” says Hodge. In contrast, China’s rate is just 25%; Ireland’s is 12.5%.

Corporations are getting smarter, not just about doing more business in low-tax countries, but in moving their more valuable assets there as well. That means setting up overseas subsidiaries, then transferring to them ownership of long-lived, often intangible but highly profitable assets, like patents and software.

The President is correct in that if we lowered the overall tax rate on corporations, these companies would be less likely to relocate overseas to a certain extent.  This would have to be coupled with closing the loopholes that allow them to avoid many taxes.  Right now, the loopholes make the effective corporate tax rate different from the published. This would be a gargantuan task as each congressman and senator has a business they protect with all their might.  Even Democrats in Louisiana protect the oil and gas industry, as an example.

The odd thing about the problems with the state and all these tax giveaways to businesses is that their tax rates are a minor decision variable so giving them tax breaks doesn’t provide business much benefit but hurts the state.  When I worked as a consultant to the Department of Economic Development in Nebraska back in the 80s, I found that what a lot of corporations actually looked for in business site were good schools, good recreational facilities, and just basically a great place to live.  Omaha frequently lost out to  many bids because it was considered a pretty boring place to live with few recreational opportunities.  The weather was frequently one reason no one wanted to move there.  It had no major sports teams for one.  So, why are these governors gutting school budgets and public works programs when the same things that benefit the people in the state attract businesses to the area?  I will never understand that one.

Many of the new tea party governors are cutting taxes like never before assuming that just giving away tax breaks will appease any potential business leaders and possible attract some new ones.  This faith-based tax policy is based more on ideology than any actual data that shows tax breaks do any of that.

Business tax reductions may be overrated as an economic stimulus because they’re so low on the totem pole of expenses. For most businesses, the cost of labor is probably 15 times the cost of all state and local taxes, said Bartik of the Upjohn Institute.

In his own research, Bartik found that a 10 percent across-the-board cut in state and local business taxes might boost employment by 2 percent, but it could take up to 20 years.

“Most studies indicate you might get 30 percent of the effect after five years and maybe 60 percent after 10 years,” Bartik said. “It takes a while because investment decisions are quite lagged and take place gradually.”

Compounding Ohio’s budget woes are 128 state tax exemptions, credits and deductions that drain more than $7 billion a year in would-be revenue. These loopholes make Ohio miss out on one of every four dollars it would otherwise collect in taxes, said Schiller of Policy Matters Ohio.

In Missouri, business and individual tax credits cost the state $521.5 million in fiscal year 2010, compared with $103 million in 1998, according to a state report.

Louisiana’s 441 individual and corporate tax breaks cost the state $7.1 billion last year. That nearly matches the $7.7 billion that all state and local taxes brought in.

Some of the breaks provide sales-tax exemptions on groceries, prescription drugs and residential utilities that saved Louisiana taxpayers $717 million last year. But another allows Louisiana companies to keep 1 percent of the state sales taxes they collect — about $34 million statewide — just for filing their tax returns on time.

I’ve seen Louisiana go down hill pretty rapidly over the last few years.  Roads are in disrepair.  The students at the UNO business school actually clean their own classrooms and the building twice a week because the two janitors assigned to the huge 4 story building just can’t keep up with the duty.  The unemployment system is a mess with waits of months to get a claim processed and a forced move to the phone and the computer or a 3 hour wait on the phone to actually talk to a person.  I wouldn’t recommend any one locate here because just simply getting to a state employee these days is impossible.  They’ve adopted the phone tree hell realm model of business.  It’s worse than getting customer service from a large bank.

Still, conservative tax cut fanatics still spin their tales of being overtaxed and how the burden is driving business out of the country.  Really, it’s not the taxes.  Businesses are going overseas because that’s where the money is now.  The ASEAN region is seeing a huge increase in middle class consumers.  Not so where in the US where wages are stagnant at best.  Historical data is showing that these state tax cuts are not only not bringing businesses to the states, but they are driving people away.  As I found in my work, companies cannot attract and maintain good employees in states with bad schools, bad roads, horrible crime rates, and lack of basic services and recreation.  That’s not what you hear from conservative “experts’ who ignore data to follow their tax cutting muse.

Hodge, a conservative, said that closing loopholes and exemptions was less harmful to the economy than tax increases were. The Tax Foundation supports scaling back or closing tax loopholes, while lowering tax rates across the board.

“My argument to state lawmakers is that lower rates for everybody are better than tax incentives for some,” Hodge said.

That incentive-free philosophy was behind Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s call for a flat 6 percent corporate income tax to replace the current business tax system. But Snyder’s flat tax amounts to a $1.5 billion tax cut for businesses, paid for in part by education cuts, personal income tax increases and taxing public and private pensions.

“We think that’s the way to rebuild our state, and to get it on a path toward economic prosperity,” Snyder’s top economic development official, Michael Finney, said during a recent trip to Washington.

History suggests otherwise, however. After the nation recovered from the 1990-91 recession, 43 states made sizable tax cuts from 1994 to 2001 as the economy surged. Twenty-eight states, in fact, reduced their unemployment insurance payroll taxes after 1995.

But states that cut taxes the most ended up with the largest budget shortfalls and higher job losses when the economy slowed again in 2001, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

These are some truly startling conclusions that show just how far we’ve come from using data, economics, and basic accounting to make decisions at even the state level.  When governors are ruling multiple important states based on political ideology and faith based economy policies, the country is in real trouble.  Some of these folks–like Scott Walker–seem to be true-believers.  Bobby Jindal is more of an opportunist than a true believer.  His presidential ambitions have led him to make decisions he knows will hurt the state. He’s done nothing but pursue an agenda  that will serve his ambitions.  I imagine that Rick Perry probably falls into that category too.

It is absolutely necessary that people know that there are direct effects of bad tax policy.  It is not only evident in schools, roads, and basic goods in services, it is also evident in the types of people that start leaving your state.  Most of the states with these problems are also having population shifts that make them look more like developing nations that countries with mature economies.  The more they have tried to set up the rules in favor of businesses doing what they want, the more they lose the types of workers and residents that appreciate and demand good government services.  I’ve said this many times, but I had no problem paying my high tax bill in Minnesota because I could see the money put to good use daily in my world class roads, schools, and recreational facilities.  I begrudge giving Bobby Jindal a dime because I figure it will only go to enrich people that don’t need anything from me to begin with.

This is a situation that more people need to learn about and discuss.  Please take the time to review some of the startling statistics in the McClatchy article.  Each state usually has a non-profit group, like Policy Matters Ohio or Louisiana Budget Project, that closely follows these actions.  I’d recommend you find the group for your state and become informed.  I know most of you aren’t my neighbors, but the LBP has a great report up on how Jindal has basically turned my state into a business subsidy haven that has shown to be the most inefficient in the country.  Here you can see directly how these tax give-aways are not producing good results.

According to the most recent report from the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry, Industrial Tax Exemptions awarded in 2010 are estimated to cost Louisiana over $946 million over the next ten years. In 2009, Louisiana awarded exemptions worth $745 million and in 2008, over $614 million. That means that over a three-year time span, more than $2.3 billion in potential revenue has been lost in return for the creation of 7,256 potential new jobs.

The most recent report, dated August 2010, identified 592 companies and corporations across the state that qualified for the exemption. These companies employ over 206,128 jobs and created 2,537 new jobs. Louisiana consistently awards these ten-year property tax breaks for dozens of multi-national industrial giants that have little need for state subsidies.

You might at least be interested to see the companies on the list.  Most of them are from the oil industry which is of course in a period of incredible profitability and can’t relocate to Orlando or Atlanta even if they wanted to.  They are here for our oil.   Anyway, I hope this information stimulates a good discussion.

Wednesday Reads: Emotional and Physical Pain, we have both!

Morning news hounds! So much to discuss, so let’s get to it.

I think there is way more going on at the Japan Fukushima Nuclear Plant then they are letting on. For the latest news keep checking back on the blog, we will post any updates as they happen.

Here is a summary of the events over at Fukushima. SNAPSHOT-Japan’s nuclear crisis | Reuters

And for the latest, here is a link to Kyodo News: Kyodo News

I guess the positive side to this is that our own nuclear plants are getting some well needed scrutiny by the powers that be…On Capitol Hill, Trying to Learn Lessons from Fukushima –

Almost all American nuclear power plants have backup batteries that would last only half as long as those at Japan’s troubled Fukushima Daiichi plant did after a tsunami knocked out power there, an expert testified Tuesday at a Senate committee briefing on nuclear safety.

An industry official, addressing the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, conceded that battery life was “one of the obvious places” that nuclear operators would examine for potential improvements.

We have been discussing the Libya issue quite a lot on Sky Dancing. Everyone has strong opinions on this, I have felt that our action with the UN was necessary and I am very supportive of Hillary Clinton’s decision to urge Obama to do the right thing. I know we have linked to Juan Cole many times recently, but today I have this for you to think about: Why Obama had to act in Libya | Marc Lynch

This was the blunt, powerful heart of President Obama’s speech last night explaining American intervention in Libya: had the international community not acted when it did, thousands would have been slaughtered as the world watched.   The effects of that decision would have been felt across the Middle East, where America would have been deemed to have abandoned the people struggling for freedom in the Arab world.  And it would have quite simply been wrong. I have long been conflicted about the decision to intervene militarily, primarily because of the absence of a clearly defined end-game and the risk of escalation. I doubt that Obama’s speech will convince many of his critics. But I now think that he made the right call.

Obama had an interview on CBS with Erica Hill last night. Here is a link to the transcript.

Obama: Qaddafi regime’s “days are numbered” – CBS Evening News – CBS News

A day after President Obama laid out his case for intervention in Libya by saying that he authorized the use of military action to protect civilians from a “massacre,” he told CBS News that the regime of Muammar Qaddafi knows its “days are numbered.”

Special Section: Anger in the Arab World
Obama offers forceful defense of Libya action

In an interview with CBS News’ Erica Hill Tuesday, Mr. Obama answered questions about possible negotiations with Qaddafi’s regime, possible terror alliances within the pro-democracy rebellion and the United States’ goals in Libya.

In other Libya news: Washington Debates Idea of Arming Libyan Rebels –

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is engaged in a fierce debate over whether to supply weapons to the rebels in Libya, senior officials said on Tuesday, with some fearful that providing arms would deepen American involvement in a civil war and that some fighters may have links to Al Qaeda.

The debate has drawn in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, these officials said, and has prompted an urgent call for intelligence about a ragtag band of rebels who are waging a town-by-town battle against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, from a base in eastern Libya long suspected of supplying terrorist recruits.

“Al Qaeda in that part of the country is obviously an issue,” a senior official said.

I posted a link about this recent Santorum sanitarium moment. Sometimes when I read some of the things these PLUBs say I think they really do belong in some sort of padded cell. The damage that is being done to our rights as women is like some sort of bad nightmare that I can’t wake up from. I want to scream and smack some sense into these Religious Right a-holes.

TRENDING: Santorum blames ‘abortion culture’ for problems with Social Security – CNN Political Ticker – Blogs

Santorum blames abortion for Social Security woes – War Room –

Speaking of Fetus Fanatics, I know that I have already mentioned the latest dig at black women from this anti-abortion group. Yes, from the same PLUBs that put that horrid ad up in NYC with the little girl, are now targeting poor areas in Chicago.  Flare-up over abortion sign – Chicago Sun-Times

A controversial anti-abortion billboard campaign that uses President Obama’s face to target black women was launched in Chicago amid angry scenes Tuesday.

Abortion-rights campaigners clashed with Always Life, the Texas-based anti-abortion group that plans to install 30 billboards across the South Side to draw attention to the disparity in the number of black women seeking abortions.

The billboard has a picture of Obama’s face next to the words “Every 21 minutes our next possible leader is aborted,” and encourages women to visit an anti-abortion website,

On to other “Women’s Issues” in the news:  Walmart sex-bias case divides US supreme court | Business | The Guardian

Conservative judges on the US supreme court sharply challenged lawyers attempting to bring the biggest sex discrimination case in history as a key hearing on the case got underway in Washington.

The court’s justices are set to decide by June whether lawyers representing potentially more than a million women employed by Walmart can bring a class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit against the retail giant. Their decision looks set to redefine discrimination cases in the US.

Over in Wisconsin, the judge has put off a decision yet again.  Wisconsin judge again halts collective bargaining law –

Amid a debate over whether Wisconsin’s new collective bargaining law had taken effect, a Wisconsin judge again put it on hold Tuesday and warned anyone against trying to implement it.

“Now that I’ve made my earlier order as clear as it possibly can be, I must state that those that act in willful and open defiance of a court order place not only themselves at peril of sanctions — they also jeopardize the financial and governmental stability of the state of Wisconsin,” said Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi.

Sumi may decide Friday whether the law will be allowed to stand — at least for now.

And speaking of Wisconsin and uptight religious conservatives, here is what happens when you have a rally supporting two things that these PLUBs detest the most.  I link to the wingnut right site below because most of you will not see the other sides propaganda unless we bring it to you. I know I would have never seen this if I was not keeping up with all news on Planned Parenthood. You can click the link, but if you don’t that is okay, here is a quote from it:  Wisconsin AFL-CIO Holds Joint Rally with Planned Parenthood | RedState

Maybe if you’ve been a union member for some time, you’ve been able to avoid some level of discomfort over your union dues going to the political campaigns of Democrats. Maybe you’re a hard-working conscientious person who can rationalize this by saying that, after all, the Democrats are more pro-union than Republicans, generally speaking. Maybe you were able to swallow your irritation at the massive union support for Obamacare despite knowing full well that Obamacare was likely to eliminate many working class jobs as companies could not afford to afford the mandate. Now, on the other hand, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO has gone one step farther to stand in defense of an organization – Planned Parenthood – that has nothing whatsoever to do with union or working issues. That’s right: from now on you (or at least your union dues) are now in favor of taxpayer funding for abortion.


It’s time for union members to stand up to this kind of disgusting overreach once and for all.

Overreach? What the hell do you call all the crap you are doing to women and their private, personal choice to make decisions about their own bodies…the hypocrisy is ridiculous.

Here is a post from last night that you may have missed on the recent violence against women in Libya. Libyan Rape Victim Faces Criminal Charges « Sky Dancing

I am no expert in the next couple links, so hopefully if Dakinikat is feeling better she can explain this more in her wonderful way.

Drop in home prices raises fear of double dip – The Washington Post

Home prices dropped in nearly all major housing markets in the country in January, according to price index numbers released Tuesday. Analysts said the decrease might be a harbinger of a double-dip recession in the housing market.

8 New Bills to Wind Down Fannie and Freddie –

House Republicans announced a package of eight bills on Tuesday that would wind down the mortgage finance giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, more quickly than the Obama administration proposed.

The proposals would dismantle Fannie and Freddie in a most ironic manner. The mortgage giants thrived for decades by behaving like private companies at public expense. The cumulative effect of the eight bills would make the companies behave like federal agencies while stripping away the advantages.

Fannie and Freddie would be required to pay their employees according to federal wage scales. The companies would be subjected to regular oversight by an inspector general and required to ask Treasury before borrowing money.

And for your last link, those scientist have found that emotional pain comes from the same part of the brain as physical pain. So those broken hearts really do hurt as bad as they seem to.  In our minds the emotional pain is like physical pain. Pain: Brain doesn’t differentiate between emotional, physical pain –

Like a jab in the arm with a red-hot poker, social rejection hurts. Literally. A new study finds that our brains make little distinction between the sting of being rebuffed by peers — or by a lover, boss or family member — and the physical pain that arises from disease or injury. The new findings are published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


The functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanned the subjects and showed their brains responding both to emotional hurt and physical pain with increased blood flow to a wide range of common regions — a clear sign of “neural overlap” in the way we process and experience social and physical pain.

So what are you reading about today? Hit me with your best shot!