Sunday Reads: Mad about the Boy and Sunflowers…Radioactive Sunflowers

Good Morning.

Last night I saw one of the best movies ever made, Sunset Blvd…and I have to say, like Norma Desmond…I am mad about the boy. The “boy” being William Holden.

Funny what you remember isn’t it

There was a song that was popular when I was in high school, I never liked it much but it was recorded live in Tom’s Diner…the same diner that was used for the street shots of Monk’s coffee shop on Seinfeld. This song’s lyrics mention the death of William Holden…

I open
Up the paper
There’s a story
Of an actor

Who had died
While he was drinking
It was no one
I had heard of

Oh, you can be sure I knew who Suzanne Vega was talking about…Damn, he was one hell of a leading man!

Anyway, on with the news reads for this morning.

Lee is on his way up to Banjoland, but now the rain is falling in New Orleans.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/storm_graphics/AT13/refresh/AL1311W5_NL_sm2+gif/204714W5_NL_sm.gif

This is one slow-moving storm…New Orleans feeling lucky, wary as storm nears land | Reuters

Southern Louisiana was coping fairly well with heavy rains from Tropical Storm Lee on Saturday but New Orleans officials warned residents against rising winds and complacency amid the storm’s slow onslaught.

“This storm is moving painfully slow,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a briefing on Saturday afternoon. “Don’t go to sleep on this storm,” he added. “The message today is that we are not out of the woods.”

Hope all is well Dak!

I have some interesting links for you today, we will start over in Japan. Remember that Fukushima Nuclear Plant?

Nuclear legacy: photos tell tale of 2 ghost towns  | ajc.com

Twenty-five years after a reactor at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded and melted down, its surroundings are well-explored territory, including the abandoned workers’ town of Pripyat, two kilometers (about a mile) from the plant. The guides who take visitors through the area know exactly where to go and, more important, what to avoid.

[…]

The people who fled Futaba, the town nearest to the Fukushima plant, need only look to Pripyat, some 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) away, for a hint of what it will probably turn into: a ghost town forever looking as though it expects its 7,000-plus people to return any minute.

In Futaba, unlike in Pripyat, you are in uncharted territory. There are no guides. The radioactive hot spots are uncharted, and behind every corner, danger may lurk that will not turn malignant for years, even decades. Radiation cannot be sensed like a hum or a smell. The sun shines and the wind blows, and only the beeping of your Geiger counter tells you something is wrong.

There are two images that I want to point out:

In this Thursday, April 21, 2011 photo, a dog walks across a street in the deserted town of Futaba, inside the 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

In this Sunday, April 2, 2006 photo, a dog walks in the deserted town of Pripyat, Ukraine, some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

Well, those pictures say a hell of a lot…and so does this one:  Japan is open for business – The Washington Post

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES – Sunflowers are seen in the tsunami hit field in in Natori, in Miyagi prefecture, and were planted by local elementary school children on July 15, 2011. Japan has a campaign to grow sunflowers to help decontaminate radioactive soil.

Yes, Japan is planting sunflowers to help remove the cesium.  Sunflowers rise to battle Japan’s nuclear winter – Technology & science – Science – msnbc.com

About 80,000 people were forced to evacuate from a vast swath of land around the reactor as engineers battled radiation leaks, hydrogen explosions and overheating fuel rods. They have no idea when, if ever, they can return to homes that have been in their families for generations.

Worse still, radiation spread well outside the mandatory evacuation zone, nestling in “hot spots” and contaminating the ground in what remains a largely agricultural region.

Rice, still a significant staple, has not been planted in many areas. Others face stringent tests and potentially harmful shipping bans after radioactive caesium was found in rice straw.

Excessive radiation levels have also been found in beef, vegetables, milk, seafood and water. In hot spots more than 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the plant, the tea is radioactive.

Sunflower campaign
In an effort to lift the spirits of area residents as well as lighten the impact of the radiation, Abe began growing and distributing sunflowers and other plants.

“We plant sunflowers, field mustard, amaranthus and cockscomb, which are all believed to absorb radiation,” said the monk. “So far we have grown at least 200,000 flowers (at this temple) and distributed many more seeds. At least 8 million sunflowers blooming in Fukushima originated from here.”

Sunflowers were also used to clean up contaminated soil near Chernobyl.  Imagine, once the flowers grow they must be disposed of properly.  Yes, the big yellow flowers are radioactive… atomic… a sea of golden toxic waste!  Japanese Scientists Get Creative With Nuclear Contamination Clean-Up

Sunflowers near Chernobyl

After the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, sunflowers and rape blossoms were used to decontaminate soil in Ukraine.

The researchers believe growing sunflowers will remove the radioactive caesium in the ground. Radioactive caesium is similar to kalium, a commonly used fertilizer. If kalium is not present, sunflowers will absorb caesium instead.

Yamashita’s team plans to remove the harvested sunflowers through burning, so that the radioactive caesium could be dispersed in smoke instead of requiring storage.

Alternatively, the researchers are also considering using hyperthermophilic aerobic bacteria to decompose the plants. The decomposing process will reduce the sunflowers to about 1 percent of their previous volume, which will slash the amount of radioactive waste that needs to be disposed.

As for the radiation that is seaborne, and not in the soil…Modelling the dispersion of Fukushima-Daichii nuclear power plant release (H/T Susie Madrak)

Take a look at that link, there are moving computer images of the dispersion of the radioactive plume as it traveled the Pacific currents away from Japan.

So, lets move from toxic radioactive particles to toxic radioactive candidates…GOP candidates that is.

Republican Candidates Turn Attacks on One Another – NYTimes.com

The Republican field is entering a pivotal stage in the nominating contest as candidates increasingly move beyond criticizing President Obama and start to run against one another.

The outcome of three debates in the next three weeks — starting Wednesday night, the first time Mr. Perry, Mr. Romney and Mrs. Bachmann will face one another — will influence fund-raising, shape strategy and set perceptions as the candidates hurtle toward the start of voting early next year.

In both parties, there is now a sense that the president’s political frailty, underscored by the report on Friday that showed zero net job creation in August and new projections that unemployment will remain elevated through Election Day next year, is even greater than it appeared at the start of the summer, injecting additional energy and urgency into the Republican primary race.

While many Democrats once hoped that perceived deficiencies among the Republican contenders could provide a lifeline to Mr. Obama, the prospect of losing the presidency is no longer summarily dismissed by his advisers.

In other words, they are going to “eat” their own kind in the next few weeks…should be some great fodder for the late night political comedians.

Early this week, this article was published on Colorlines.  The Definitive Guide to Bigotry in the 2012 Republican Primaries (So Far) – COLORLINES

There is a reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s capital. Stretched out between the memories of two presidents, the water reminds us that politics are merely a reflection of American society, for better or worse. The best of our society was on display 48 years ago when hundreds of thousands of Americans stood in scenic unity along the reflecting pool in support of civil rights. Today, the 2012 presidential elections reflect a nation still plagued by bias and inequality. Troubled and ugly waters indeed.

The following is a guide to use when you consider casting a vote for one of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates. You may be among the Americans who have lost faith in Obama or the Democratic Party and pondering a step to the right. Faulty as the Democrats may be, read this guide and remember that liberals still believe abolishing slavery was a good idea and that women should not be confined to the kitchen—which is not something you can say about all of the Republican contenders.

Check out this link, and read the entire article, because it breaks down the candidates and some of the questionable remarks that these 2012 GOP hopefuls have made. (Some will not come as a surprise to you, but Colorlines really does a great job of writing it down.)

From the bigoted remarks and beliefs to the religious fervor that most of the GOP 2012s are pimping left and right. This next article is from Time and discusses the Articles of Faith: What Journalists Should Be Asking Politicians About Religion | Swampland

A few weeks ago, I opened up my Twitter feed early in the morning and immediately wondered if I was being punk’d. Instead of the usual horse race speculation, my colleagues in the political press corps were discussing the writings of evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer and debating the definition of Dominionism. The same week, a conservative journalist had posed a question about submission theology in a GOP debate, and David Gregory had grilled Michele Bachmann about whether God would guide her decision-making if she became President.

The combination of religion and politics is a combustible one. And while I’m thrilled to see journalists taking on these topics, it seemed to me a few guidelines might be helpful in covering religion on the campaign trail:

Ask relevant questions.

It’s tempting to get into whether a Catholic candidate takes communion or if an evangelical politician actually thinks she speaks to God. But if a candidate brings up his faith on the campaign trail, there are two main questions journalists need to ask: 1) Would your religious beliefs have any bearing on the actions you would take in office? and 2) If so, how?

This is also a rather long article, and discusses the kinds of “faith” related questions the media needs to focus on.  From policy to Jeremiah Wright…so please read the entire article if you can.

From the Minx Missing Link File:  There was a plane crash this past week just off the coast in Chile…some of you may have missed this news. The plane crashed when extremely bad weather hit the area. Chile says no survivors from Pacific Ocean air crash | Reuters

“One arrives at the conclusion that the impact was so strong that it must have killed those aboard instantly,” Defense Minister Andres Allamand said.

The CASA 212 military plane tried twice to land on Friday before it went missing as heavy winds and sporadic rains hit the area.

Among the passengers were five TVN national television staff members, including well-known presenter Felipe Camiroaga, who were planning to film a report about reconstruction on the islands after last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The islands were badly hit by the tsunami.

21 people were aboard that plane, all are presumed dead.

Friday there was a 6.7 magnitude earthquake that hit in Argentina and a 6.8 earthquake the struck off the Fox Islands, in the Aleutian chain of islands in Alaska. Mother nature has been on the rampage lately.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  This is one cool looking Woolly Rhino, isn’t it? BBC News – ‘Oldest’ woolly rhino discovered

Woolly rhino impression (Julie Naylor) The discovery team says it might have used its horn as a paddle to sweep snow from vegetation

As a fiber nut, the first thing I thought about when I saw that picture was…ooo, I bet that spins up like yak or maybe Icelandic fleece, one of the primitive sheep whose fleece has a dual coat. One layer is guard hair, straight and more “hairy” like, it makes a very strong and stable yarn…great for use as warps in weaving and the lower woolly fleece, that is soft and wavy, with lots of loft and crimp, that makes a great flexible yarn because it has more “give” for knitting and use as weft in weaving.

A woolly rhino fossil dug up on the Tibetan Plateau is believed to be the oldest specimen of its kind yet found.

The creature lived some 3.6 million years ago – long before similar beasts roamed northern Asia and Europe in the ice ages that gripped those regions.

The discovery team says the existence of this ancient rhino supports the idea that the frosty Tibetan foothills of the Himalayas were the evolutionary cradle for these later animals.

The report appears in Science journal.

“It is the oldest specimen discovered so far,” said Xiaoming Wang from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, US.

“It is at least a million years older, or more, than any other woolly rhinos we have known.
“It’s quite well preserved – just a little crushed, so not quite in the original shape; but the complete skull and lower jaw are preserved,” he told BBC News.

Well, that is all for me this morning. Enjoy your first Sunday in September, and I will catch you all later in the comments.


Midweek Tidbits from Sima

(or, I’m back!)

So the last couple months have been a real wringer for me. As many of you know, my mother lost her ability to walk and started to weaken due to progressive spinal deformation caused by arthritis. In early March she had a spinal operation which opened the holes which were pressing on her nerves and reconstructed her spine. 2 days after the operation she went into a ‘code’, the one just up from ‘code red’, and had to be rescued by a bunch of nurses and doctors. She told me that she can’t remember much about it except for one thing; she saw my sister standing at the end of a long tunnel, reaching towards her. And she said when she saw that she knew she couldn’t leave; my sister still needed her, we all still needed her.

After over a month in rehab and a month in a hospital bed at home, Mom’s walking again. She’s really weak and has turned over my sister’s strenuous care to me and my father. It’s been very interesting. My sister adores having me care for her, and once I got over the squick factor, I really like caring for her. We sing and giggle and have fun, and I feel like a kid again, sneaking my sister into my room after we were meant to be in bed so we could listen to music together. So there have been some good side effects to my Mom’s long wasting illness.

Recently the PBS News Hour ran a special series on Autism, which is what my sister ‘has’. The series was really good and went into the impact autism has on parents and siblings. I cried when the little girl talks about the future with her brother. She’s 8 and already sees it (Episode 1). And I cried when the older woman, in episode 5, wonders what is going to happen to her and her brother when her parents die. I so know those fears and feelings and I’m so angry at society for just abandoning us after the autistic (and retarded, and physically disabled, and downs syndrome and… you get the drift) kids leave school. Their lives do not end then!

Anyway if you are interested, you can watch the special on the ‘net, here. Each episode is only 10 to 15 minutes long. The links to each episode are along the right hand side of that page.

Brulee, the runt, in front. Her sister Decadence is behind. They were born only minutes apart.


My interest in animal welfare came a bit closer to home in the last few months, as 4 of my does gave birth in April and early May. Or I should say, 3 of them. The 4th has a false pregnancy, but she’s making milk and I’m not gonna complain! One of the does gave birth to 5 kids, all does. That’s pretty rare. Two of the kids were runts and needed 24/7 care. Unfortunately one of the kids passed on. She was simply too little and premature for me to keep alive, although I managed it for a month. The other little darling is doing great, and I offer a picture as a cute antidote to whatever is bothering you currently. It’s hard to tell from the pic, but she can basically fit in the palm of your hand. She’s a bit bigger now, but I can still hold her and support her completely in one hand.
Read the rest of this entry »


Late Night Disaster Thread

h/t Susie Madrak via her FaceBook account.

Dr Helen Coldicot says that the Radiation from Japan’s crippled nuclear energy facilities will Kill Millions of People.  A report’s been released on Chernobyl’s meltdown on the event of its 25th anniversary.  There is a horrendous laundry list of damage from unusable crop land, cancers, and severely deformed fetuses and babies. From this, Dr. Coldicot extrapolates the future damage from Fukushima.  It’s bad; really bad.

You can read her statement here.

During the 25th anniversary last week of the Chernobyl disaster, some commentators asserted that few people died in the aftermath, and that there have been relatively few genetic abnormalities in survivors’ offspring. It’s an easy leap from there to arguments about the safety of nuclear energy compared to alternatives like coal, and optimistic predictions about the health of the people living near Fukushima.

But this is dangerously ill informed and short-sighted; if anyone knows better, it’s doctors like me. There’s great debate about the number of fatalities following Chernobyl; the International Atomic Energy Agency has predicted that there will be only about 4,000 deaths from cancer, but a 2009 report published by the New York Academy of Sciences says that almost one million people have already perished from cancer and other diseases.

The high doses of radiation caused so many miscarriages that we will never know the number of genetically damaged fetuses that did not come to term. (And both Belarus and Ukraine have group homes full of deformed children.)

Nuclear accidents never cease. We’re decades if not generations away from seeing the full effects of the radioactive emissions from Chernobyl.

As we know from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it takes years to get cancer. Leukemia takes only 5 to 10 years to emerge, but solid cancers take 15 to 60. Furthermore, most radiation-induced mutations are recessive; it can take many generations for two recessive genes to combine to form a child with a particular disease, like my specialty, cystic fibrosis. We can’t possibly imagine how many cancers and other diseases will be caused in the far future by the radioactive isotopes emitted by Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Even more startling is this presser that you can watch in the Youtube below.  The human cost is and will continue to be astronomical. It’s ten minutes well-spent.  I actually think that sharing pictures of deformed children and babies could do the world good.


Late Night: Interesting Juxtapositions

FIRST JUXTAPOSITION: COMPARE AND CONTRAST

First responders at Ground Zero in NYC

Huffington Post reported today that a little-known amendment in the new 9/11 health bill requires anyone who applies for benefits to be checked by the FBI to make sure they’re not terrorists.

The tens of thousands of cops, firefighters, construction workers and others who survived the worst terrorist assault in U.S. history and risked their lives in its wake will soon be informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list, according to a letter obtained by HuffPost.

Any of the responders who are not compared to the database of suspected terrorists would be barred from getting treatment for the numerous, worsening ailments that the James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law was passed to address.

It’s a requirement that was tacked onto the law during the bitter debates over it last year.

The letter from Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, informs medical providers and administrators that they should begin letting patients know before the new program kicks in this July.

Yes, the people who risked their lives and their health to help after 9/11 will be treated like suspected terrorists by their government.

"Liquidators" clean up after Chernobyl explosion

From Voice of America: Chernobyl’s Cleanup Crew Pay a Steep Price, 25 Years On

On April 26, 1986 a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl plant caught fire and exploded, sending radioactive debris high into the sky. Aleksey Breus was an engineer at Chernobyl at the time of the explosion. He worked four straight days inside the plant after the explosion. He wore protective equipment, but still received a large dose of radiation.

According to Breus, all “lucheviki” – the Russian word surviving cleanup workers use for describing one another – have been left with one thing in common: illness and a lack of money to pay for medications. He says virtually all of them live in poverty.

Another Chernobyl worker, Aleksander Kramer, says he was one of the first to go into the plant after the explosion. Kramer, who now lives in Germany, remains angry at how he was treated by authorities in what was then the Soviet Union. From the very beginning, he says, the authorities doubted those claiming they were part of the clean-up effort.

And the suspicions have lingered. In 1993, Kramer says former rescue workers had to prove to Ukranian authorities “that their documents were not a sham and that their health problems were real.”

Remember when we were told over and over again that the United States was morally superior to the Soviet Union? What’s the difference again?


SECOND JUXTAPOSITION: COMPARE AND CONTRAST

Time Magazine, 1970: President Richard Nixon tells the media that Charles Manson (then on trial in Los Angeles) is guilty.

Nixon had just come from a ten-day working holiday in San Clemente, where he found himself angered by the coverage given the Manson case in the local media. Many of the young, Nixon said in Denver, “tend to glorify and to make heroes out of those who engage in criminal activities.”

In Los Angeles, the effect of Nixon’s remarks on the Manson trial was instant and dramatic. While the Los Angeles Times came out the same afternoon with a four-inch headline reading MANSON GUILTY, NIXON DECLARES, Judge Charles Older went to great lengths to ensure that the jury, which has been sequestered since the trial began, would not learn of Nixon’s remarks. The windows of the jury bus were whited over with Bon Ami so that no juror could glimpse the headline on street newsstands. If the jury discovered Nixon’s verdict, the defense might have grounds for a mistrial.

Remember when Americans (and the media) cared when the President did something wrong?

WL Central, April 22, 2011: President Obama tells protestors that Bradley Manning “broke the law.”

Transcript and comments from WL Central:

“People can have philosophical ideas about certain things,” President Obama explains. “But, look, I can’t conduct diplomacy on open source.” He then goes on to add that he has to abide by certain classified information rules or law and if he had released material like Manning did he’d be breaking the law.

Now, here is the remark that deserves the most attention: “We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our decisions about how the laws operate.” He adds, “He broke the law.” Finally, before removing himself from the conversation, he says Manning “dumped” information and “it wasn’t the same thing” as what Daniel Ellsberg did because what Ellsberg leaked “wasn’t classified in the same way.”

First, President Obama says Bradley Manning did it. It is not entirely clear that he did it unless you solely rely on the chat logs published by Wired magazine. Manning is the alleged whistleblower in the case. And, displaying this attitude that he is guilty before he actually is put on trial and convicted may prejudice Manning’s case.

That’s if Mr. Obama ever allows Bradley Manning’s case to go to trial. When is that going to happen? And when will today’s media be as outraged by Obama’s irresponsible remarks as the media of 1970 was at Nixon’s?