7 days ago
Nine Circles of Hell! for Tuesday, August 23, 2011 Nine Circles of Hell!
The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – for Tuesday, August 23, 2011, including a bonus story on reactor-disasters, an extra link on John Huntsman, and an additional article on the Israel-Gaza fighting over the weekend, are:
Nuclear plants at epicenter of east coast earthquake
The Los Angeles Times
Magnitude 5.9 quake shakes East Coast
A powerful earthquake rattled Washington, D.C., today, prompting evacuations of the Capitol, the Pentagon and many other area office buildings.
Authorities said the quake was 5.8 on the Richter scale, and the epicenter was near Fredericksburg, Va. Early reports said the quake was felt up and down the East Coast.
That appears to be the largest quake on record for this area. Before today, the largest occurred last July, a 3.6 quake that hit near Rockville, Md., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The North Anna nuclear power plant is located near the quake’s epicenter in central Virginia, northwest of Richmond.
Two reactors at North Anna shut down automatically and the plant lost offsite power, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, CNN reports. Diesel generators are providing power in what is being called “an unusual event,” the least serious designation.
The quake shook the New York Stock Exchange and early reports suggest it was felt as far north as Toronto. It was felt by reporters in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. President Obama is on vacation there — he was golfing Tuesday afternoon.
- In other older reactor-disaster news, according to the Journal Star, “Flood waters recede at OPPD’s Fort Calhoun Station“:
Employees at Fort Calhoun Station nuclear power plant 20 miles north of Omaha are doing something most of us take for granted: They’re walking to work on dry ground.
For months, floodwaters have forced hundreds of employees to use elevated, metal walkways to get to key buildings and other parts of the plant owned by the Omaha Public Power District.
The walkways are being dismantled, OPPD spokesman Mike Jones said Monday. So are aqua dams — tubular structures filled with water — that protected the administration building and training center.
“We still have some water on site, but we have access to the buildings,” Jones said. “We are seeing land in some areas where before there was water.”
Huntsman backs ‘new Republican orthodoxy’ to raise taxes on poor
The Wall Street Journal
Huntsman Fires From Center at Perry, Bachmann
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s low-key, Mr. Mellow approach to the Republican presidential campaign has gotten him high praise in elite media circles – from a spread in Vogue to the New York Times Magazine cover – but little traction among Republican voters who actually do the choosing …
But Mr. Huntsman also made it clear his politics still lean conservative. He no longer backs establishing a firm cap on the release of greenhouse gases or doing much in the short run to combat climate change, as long as unemployment remains high …
He supports repealing President Barack Obama’s health-care law and turning Medicaid into block grants to the states.
His three-point plan for the economy: a flatter, simpler tax code by the end of the year, sharp cutbacks in federal regulations and a short-term push to develop domestic natural gas supplies. Most if not all of Mr. Obama’s Wall Street regulation bill should be repealed, Mr. Hunstman said.
He opposes another round of federal funding for infrastructure, as the president wants. “Those are temporary jobs. You build the roads, then you’re back to same old problems, a lack of predictability and confidence in the marketplace,” he said.
And he agrees with the new Republican orthodoxy that the half of American households no longer paying income tax – mainly working poor families and seniors – should be brought onto the income tax rolls.
“Marco Rubio was right when he said we don’t have enough people paying taxes in this country,” he said, referring to the senator from Florida.
- The Associated Press reports, “GOP presidential hopeful Huntsman says he’d be open to running as VP to Bachmann”:
Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman says he’d be open to running as vice president if rival and tea party favorite Michele Bachmann wins the nomination.
The former ambassador to China and ex-Utah governor says that every time he’s been asked to serve his country he’s answered “yes.” Huntsman tells CNN interviewer Piers Morgan that if asked by the Minnesota congresswoman to run as her vice president he’d “be the first person to sign up, absolutely.”
Suicide is killing more US soldiers than active combat
Q13 FOX News
Widow blames husband’s suicide on 9th deployment
It’s a startling fact from the U.S. Pentagon — suicide is killing more U.S. soldiers than active combat.
As soldier suicide rates climb, experts said it could be because the military keeps redeploying soldiers with PTSD.
That’s what happened to a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Army Ranger. His widow said he repeatedly asked for help, but it never came.
Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, 25, saw the change in her once charming and outgoing husband, Staff Sgt. Jared Hagemann, after his very first deployment to Iraq.
“He came home, he was quiet, wouldn’t look people in the eye, wouldn’t look anybody in the eye,” Joppa-Hagemann said. “He wanted to remain hidden, he didn’t want to be around people.”
He shared with Ashley and his superiors his reservations about the mission. He was even diagnosed with PTSD, but Ashley said it fell on deaf ears.
“What they do is tell you it’s normal, ‘Man up,’ everybody goes through it,” she said.
So Hagemann, an Army Ranger in the Second Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, went through six more combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As time went on, after deployments, the drinking started, and there were more outbursts, more nightmares,” Joppa-Hagemann said.
Last year, Ashley says her husband finally had enough. He wanted out. She said he was promised he would not have to deploy again, if he just completed one last mission — his eighth.
“He signed paperwork to re-enlist because they promised him that he would have six months off with schooling, and then they would put him in a non-deployable position,” she said.
But when he returned in February, he was switched to a different company and was basically told he would be deployed again.
“That was hell, at least three times that month he held a gun to his head, talking about he didn’t want to deal with it anymore. It was a fight just to wake up and want to live,” she said.
She said her repeated pleas for help went unanswered.
Instead of being helped for PTSD, he was told to take an anger-management class.
On June 28th, Staff Sgt. Hagemann, a husband and father of two boys, six-year-old Noah and 18- month-old Parker, shot himself in the head.
“The only thing I can do is know that he is at peace, and that the only thing that keeps me going is that he wanted change, and that’s why I’m still doing this, so that no one else will have to go through that,” Joppa-Hageman said.
She said she wants people to know there is help out there for soldiers suffering from PTSD.
While her family didn’t find it in time, she wants to help others. She is currently working with an organization called March Forward. But there are many resources to help.
For US blacks, “still harder for us to get into the whole realm in the arts”
Novelist Sapphire complains of ‘very real’ racism in the arts
Her first novel was a bestseller, and was adapted into the double-Oscar-winning film Precious. Her second, The Kid, has just been published to enthusiastic reviews. But author and poet Sapphire says that, as an African-American artist, she nonetheless feels the “very real and very painful” effects of racism.
Speaking at the Edinburgh international book festival, Sapphire said that when Push – the novel that became the film Precious – was published, readers found it difficult to grasp that she, the author, was separate from its impoverished, abused, illiterate narrator.
“I remember when Push came out, there was shock when people saw me – they’d say: ‘You’re not 16, you’re not obese. We thought this was your life story.’
“It was as though they thought this was some illiterate teenager’s life story and I had spoken it into a tape recorder, and some white editor had written it.”
She said: “It’s as if black artists are only able to tell autobiographical horror stories and don’t have an imagination. There was an idea I wouldn’t have been able to conceive of [the narrator] Precious’s life unless I had lived it; there’s an idea I wouldn’t have the ability to write about a young African-American male without somehow living as a male. But the idea that I could not read and study and use my imagination and create and craft a character has been very real and very painful to me.”
Sapphire, 61, was born in California and came to literary prominence as a performance poet. She gleaned some of her material for Push (1996) as a teacher in New York. Her second novel, The Kid, imagines the life of Precious’s son Abdul, who is orphaned at nine when his mother dies from an Aids-related illness. He is abused at the Catholic school he attends; becomes an abuser himself; and later achieves success as a dancer in an avant-garde, downtown New York company. She described the story as “an African-American Oliver Twist”.
Academic and creative achievement are still regarded as beyond the capabilities of black people in America, she said. “That whole realm of intellectual activity and artistic activity is not seen as something that black people do. We’re still the dancer not the choreographer, and still the musician, not the conductor. It’s still harder for us to get into the whole realm in the arts.”
US “black” job loss splits African-American politicians, Obama
The Washington Post
Black lawmakers grill Obama aide on jobs
A top aide to President Obama got a public grilling Monday night from black lawmakers and civil rights leaders, who vented frustration at a jobs forum here that the administration was not doing more to directly help distressed black communities.
Tensions rose when Don Graves, executive director of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, told a lively crowd of hundreds in a black church sanctuary that Obama was “focused on every community across the country.”
When he added that “certain communities have been hit harder than other communities,” one lawmaker pressed him for specificity.
“Let me hear you say ‘black,’” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
As the crowd erupted in cheers, Graves responded quietly: “Black, African-American, Latino, these communities have been hard hit.”
The exchange illustrated an emerging tension between some black lawmakers and the country’s first black president over the disproportionately poor economic conditions in the African-American community, where unemployment stands at 16 percent.
Obama and his aides say all Americans including blacks benefit from broad-based policies. But many black lawmakers and civil rights leaders want direct, targeted aid — and some worry that Obama’s pursuit of white independent voters might make him reluctant to advocate for blacks.
Monday’s forum was the latest stop in a month-long jobs tour being led by the Congressional Black Caucus , which hosted earlier events in Cleveland, Detroit and Atlanta.
In one of the world largest mine’s shadow, Utah family lives in fear
In shadow of one of world’s largest mines, Magna fights for its future
These days, Steve Norcross glimpses less and less of the sun setting from his front lawn in Magna, but tonight, he looks up and sees the clouds are turning peach and gray, with a slightly brown haze on the horizon.
“Pretty nice view, huh?” he asks with a smile, and a slight edge to his voice. Over his shoulder to the west, there is a berm, a hill and a giant yellow and black sign painted on the side of a Kennecott Utah Copper building that reads: “It’s your safety — think about it.” The message makes Norcross bristle.
Up on the top of Kennecott’s tailings pond, on a road that straddles a line between the north pond, which holds a lake of bluish-gray water, and the south pond, which looks like a native prairie with dry, blond wheat and juniper bushes dotting the fields, Paula Doughty, Kennecott tailings and water services manager, is talking about the mine’s philosophy toward environmental stewardship.
As the depository of Kennecott’s final waste product — tailings — these ponds are a key part of the mine process; they contain the byproduct of all of the rocks Kennecott has ever crushed and all of the copper it has ever harvested and receive roughly 170,000 tons of the material every day. Kennecott spent $500 million in 1996 to build its north tailings pond with the most modern technology available so it would function efficiently and be structurally sound in the event of an earthquake.
“As time has gone on, certainly, environmental regulations have become more stringent,” Doughty says. “We try to go even more stringent, more conservative, with the knowledge that things are going to be tighter, so, we say, let’s see if we can’t go above and beyond what is required … because we’d just as soon take care of it now versus in the future, if that ever happens.”
Nevertheless, there are rifts between Kennecott and residents like Norcross who are skeptical of the company’s altruistic goodwill and fearful of the impacts of an expansion. The south tailings pond is still unstable, and shouldn’t be built on, Norcross says. If the company is willing to risk his safety to expand its mine, what else are they willing to sacrifice?
If a major earthquake were to hit Magna today, the south tailings pond, which dates back to 1906, could break free of its boundaries and spill across state Route 201. Norcross worries his family will be in danger if they make the pond even bigger on an unstable base. He also worries the company might one day lapse in maintenance of the ponds as they did in the 1980s, and the oppressive dust storms might return.
Kennecott says the tailings themselves aren’t harmful, though they contain trace amounts of copper, lead and arsenic. Norcross wonders how harmless they really are.
If Kennecott is granted a permit to expand its tailings pond, the perimeter will expand into 565 acres of wetlands along the Great Salt Lake, and it will grow three stories taller in some places. In phase two of the project, Kennecott would resume using a majority of the south tailings pond, which is still seismically unstable.
The south tailings pond also seeps water into a shallow aquifer, as permitted by Utah’s Department of Water Quality. The pond leaks at a rate of about 620 gallons per minute, according to the UDWQ, which found high levels of arsenic, selenium and cadmium in the aquifer. The north tailings impoundment sits on a layer of clay, which acts as a natural liner. The UDWQ monitors ground water through 28 wells situated around the entire complex.
Kennecott’s central plans to expand and keep mining until 2039 depend on making the tailings pond bigger.
British govt. denies active, former special forces advising Libyan rebels
Libya: Nato plans final onslaught on Gaddafi’s forces
British and Nato military commanders are planning what they hope will be a final onslaught on Colonel Gaddafi’s forces to put an end to all resistance from troops loyal to the Libyan leader …
The Guardian has learned that a number of serving British special forces soldiers, as well as ex-SAS troopers, are advising rebel forces, although their presence is officially denied …
The sudden advance on the capital suggests co-ordination between the rebels and Nato planners is not as effective as had been widely assumed.
On Tuesday, Nato commanders were analysing photographic and signals intelligence provided by spy planes looking at what defence chiefs call “patterns of life” – movements of people and vehicles in and around Gaddafi’s compound.
British, Danish and Norwegian aircraft have been particularly active in striking targets in Triploi. RAF jets have attacked the compound with 500lb Paveway bombs, but they have so far been directed at its perimeter walls and control towers.
The decision facing Nato commanders on Tuesday was whether the compound’s core and underground tunnels could be regarded as legitimate targets and weighing up the risks involved, notably to the lives of civilians and rebels. British defence chiefs are also aware of the dangers of being seen to be sanctioning assassination.
Nato planes can more easily spot groups of Gaddafi forces ambushing rebel convoys on the streets of Tripoli, but defence officials say bombing them from the air would be far too risky.
Pilots are continuing to seek targets that are more clearly defined as military, including command and control facilities, radar and surface-to-air missiles which are still being operated by troops loyal to Gaddafi, the latest strike figures put out by Nato indicate.
British aircraft are seeking what pilots call “dynamic” targets – targets seen by chance – as well as “deliberate” planned targets.
The Guardian has previously reported the presence of former British special forces troops, now employed by private security companies and funded by a number of sources, including Qatar. They have been joined by a number of serving SAS soldiers.
They have been acting as forward air controllers – directing pilots to targets – and communicating with Nato operational commanders. They have also been advising rebels on tactics, a task they have not found easy.
Britain’s international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said there would be a “bumpy ride” over the coming days.
“There was a lot of confusion. There are quite long lines of communication involved,” he told the BBC. “It’s inevitable in this situation, with the warfare going on as it is, that there will be some confusion.”
Israel decides “to prepare instead of rushing into war” with Gaza
Netanyahu tells cabinet: Israel lacks legitimacy for major Gaza operation
The cabinet voted Monday to refrain from any action that could lead to an escalation in the south and to cooperate indirectly with the truce Hamas declared on Sunday. So far, the truce has largely held, although three rockets did hit southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on Monday.
The cabinet meeting began at about 11 P.M. Sunday and adjourned at about 3 A.M. Monday morning. The ministers were briefed by senior defense officials, but were not asked to approve any further military action. Instead, the meeting focused on ways to contain the situation and prevent an escalation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak offered various arguments for why Israel must exercise restraint – its international isolation, the fact that the Iron Dome rocket interception system still offers only partial defense, and the fear of worsening the diplomatic crisis with Egypt. Under these circumstances, Netanyahu said, all-out war against Hamas-run Gaza would be inadvisable.
Prior to the cabinet meeting, several ministers had called for a harsher Israeli response to the rocket fire; and that is largely what prompted Netanyahu to convene the cabinet Sunday night: By having the full cabinet approve the decision to refrain from further military action, he hoped to block criticism from within the government.
What emerged most clearly from Netanyahu’s and Barak’s statements to the cabinet was that Israel lacks the international legitimacy needed for a large-scale operation in Gaza. The diplomatic crisis with Egypt further constrains Israel’s freedom of action.
“The prime minister thinks it would be wrong to race into a total war in Gaza right now,” one of Netanyahu’s advisors said. “We are preparing to respond if the fire continues, but Israel will not be dragged into places it doesn’t want to be.”
Several Netanyahu aides detailed the constraints on Israeli military action, most of which are diplomatic.
“There’s a sensitive situation in the Middle East, which is one big boiling pot; there’s the international arena; there’s the Palestinian move in the Untied Nations in September,” when the Palestinians hope to obtain UN recognition as a state, one advisor enumerated. “We have to pick our way carefully.”
But there were also military constraints, the aides noted. For one, the Israel Defense Forces do not yet have enough Iron Dome batteries to defend the home front.
“If we had even one more battery, we could defend another medium-sized city,” one aide said. “That’s precisely why we need to prepare instead of rushing into war.”
- Al Jazeera reports that this fighting got “little international attention.” In case you didn’t hear about it, read this nice summary in, “Gaza pays the price … again“:
The ongoing deadly Israeli air strikes on Gaza, and the exchange of home-made rockets fired from Gaza, has drawn mixed reactions from Palestinians in the besieged Gaza.
First, seven Israelis were killed in two attacks on buses in southern Israel, according to Israeli medics.
The attacks began when gunmen fired at an Israeli bus that was traveling near the Egyptian border.
Palestinians deny any involvement in the attack.
Then, Israel blamed Gaza’s Popular Resistance Committees for the attack and retaliated with Israeli missiles killing 15 Palestinians, with 55 injured, including 12 women, 15 children, three elderly and one ambulance worker.
On Saturday, Israeli sources said one Israeli was killed and about a dozen injured in southern Israel in a barrage of Palestinian home-made rockets fired from Gaza.
The deadly attacks have gotten little international reaction, but regional reactions from the Arab League have condemned the attack on Gaza and called for an immediate stop to the attacks and military operations against Gaza. However, the Jordanian government, through Abduallah Abu Rumman, condemned Israel for its “military escalation and operations in Gaza that have killed civilians as well as Egyptian officers”, urging an immediate halt to the strikes in order to avoid regional instability.
South African winery workers’ unsafe working conditions, poor housing
South Africa wine grown by ‘abused’ workers
Workers helping to make South Africa’s renowned wines are subject to unsafe working conditions and inadequate housing, a report has said.
Human Right Watch says workers on wine and fruit farms face exposure to pesticides and are blocked from forming labour unions.
The reports also says these workers are some of the worst paid in the country – despite strict labour laws.
A trade body for wine producers said the report was unfair.
But the head of Wines of South Africa said the study’s claims would be investigated.
Most of the abuses apparently happened in the Western Cape Province – home to six of the country’s nine wine growing regions.
“I spoke to a worker who has been living in a pig stall with his family for more than 10 years,” HRW’s Kaitlin Cordes told the BBC.
The 96-page report, Ripe with Abuse, is based on more than 260 interviews with farmworkers, farm owners, civil society members, industry representatives, government officials, lawyers and union officials.
It calls on the government to do more to make sure the labour laws are being respected, following previous similar warnings.
The BBC’s Karen Allen in Johannesburg says South Africa’s wine industry is trying to recover from its chequered past.
Farm workers were once compensated for their labour in wine, with disastrous health consequences.