Nel's New Day

April 22, 2023

Earth Day 2023

On Earth Day 2023, the world probably will heat up past the 2.7 degree Fahrenheit (1.5 degree Celsius) goal of the Paris climate agreement, closing in on shutting the door for action to control climate warning. Yet countries are starting to take action:

Wealthy countries are finally starting to contribute money to reverse climate change by compensating to poorer countries.

The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan climate treaty to phase out hydrofluorocarbons in refrigerators and air conditioners.

A new treaty can preserve almost one-third of the earth with 23 targets to accomplish by 2030.

The open ocean may be protected by a legal framework if the UN adopts the agreement and countries ratify the agreement.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine accelerated Europe’s movement away from fossil fuels.

A new law in the U.S. moves the economy away from fossil fuels with tax breaks, rebates, and investments.

Laws are setting up pollution regulations for vehicles, moving them away from using fossil fuels.

This piece from Heather Cox Richard in Letters from an American chronicles the history of this day:

[Today] is Earth Day, celebrated for the first time in 1970. Coming the same week that House Republicans demanded that Congress rescind the money Democrats appropriated in the Inflation Reduction Act to address climate change, Earth Day in 2023 is a poignant reminder of an earlier era, one in which Americans recognized a crisis that transcended partisanship and came together to fix it.

The spark for the first Earth Day was the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. A marine biologist and best-selling author, Carson showed the devastating effects of people on nature by documenting the effect of modern pesticides on the natural world. She focused on the popular pesticide DDT, which had been developed in 1939 and used to clear islands in the South Pacific of malaria-carrying mosquitoes during World War II. Deployed as an insect killer in the U.S. after the war, DDT was poisoning the natural food chain in American waters.

DDT sprayed on vegetation washed into the oceans. It concentrated in fish, which were then eaten by birds of prey, especially ospreys. The DDT caused the birds to lay eggs with abnormally thin eggshells, so thin the eggs cracked in the nest when the parent birds tried to incubate them. And so the birds began to die off.

Carson was unable to interest any publishing company in the story of DDT. Finally, frustrated at the popular lack of interest in the reasons for the devastation of birds, she decided to write the story anyway, turning out a highly readable book with 55 pages of footnotes to make her case.

When The New Yorker began to serialize Carson’s book in June 1962, chemical company leaders were scathing. “If man were to faithfully follow the teachings of Miss Carson,” an executive of the American Cyanamid Company said, “we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth.” Officers of Monsanto questioned Carson’s sanity.

But her portrait of the dangerous overuse of chemicals and their effect on living organisms caught readers’ attention. They were willing to listen. Carson’s book sold more than half a million copies in 24 countries.

Democratic president John F. Kennedy asked the President’s Science Advisory Committee to look into Carson’s argument, and the committee vindicated her. Before she died of breast cancer in 1964, Carson noted: “Man’s attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself? [We are] challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves.” 

Meanwhile, a number of scientists followed up on Carson’s argument and in 1967 organized the Environmental Defense Fund to protect the environment by lobbying for a ban on DDT. As they worked, Americans began to pay closer attention to human effects on the environment, especially after three crucial moments: First, on December 24, 1968, William Anders took a color picture of the Earth rising over the horizon of the moon from outer space during the Apollo 8 mission, powerfully illustrating the beauty and isolation of the globe on which we all live.

Then, over 10 days in January–February 1969, a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, poured between 80,000 and 100,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific, fouling 35 miles of California beaches and killing seabirds, dolphins, sea lions, and elephant seals. Public outrage ran so high that President Nixon himself, a Republican, went to Santa Barbara in March to see the cleanup efforts, telling the American public that “the Santa Barbara incident has frankly touched the conscience of the American people.”

And then, in June 1969, the chemical contaminants that had been dumped into Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire. A dumping ground for local heavy industry, the river had actually burned more than ten times in the previous century, but with increased focus on environmental damage, this time the burning river garnered national attention.

In February 1970, President Richard M. Nixon sent to Congress a special message “on environmental quality.” “[W]e…have too casually and too long abused our natural environment,” he wrote. “The time has come when we can wait no longer to repair the damage already done, and to establish new criteria to guide us in the future.”

“The tasks that need doing require money, resolve and ingenuity,” Nixon said, “and they are too big to be done by government alone. They call for fundamentally new philosophies of land, air and water use, for stricter regulation, for expanded government action, for greater citizen involvement, and for new programs to ensure that government, industry and individuals all are called on to do their share of the job and to pay their share of the cost.”

Nixon called for a 37-point program with 23 legislative proposals and 14 new administrative measures to control water and air pollution, manage solid waste, protect parklands and public recreation, and organize for action. “As we deepen our understanding of complex ecological processes, as we improve our technologies and institutions and learn from experience, much more will be possible,” he said. “But these 37 measures represent actions we can take now, and that can move us dramatically forward toward what has become an urgent common goal of all Americans: the rescue of our natural habitat as a place both habitable and hospitable to man.”

Meanwhile, Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, visited the Santa Barbara oil spill and hoped to turn the same sort of enthusiasm people were bringing to protests against the Vietnam War to efforts to protect the environment. He announced a teach-in on college campuses, which soon grew into a wider movement across the country. Their “Earth Day,” held on April 22, 1970, brought more than 20 million Americans—10% of the total population of the country at the time—to call for the nation to address the damage caused by 150 years of unregulated industrial development. The movement included members of all political parties, rich Americans and their poorer neighbors, people who lived in the city and those in the country, labor leaders and their employers. It is still one of the largest protests in American history.

In July, at the advice of a council convened to figure out how to consolidate government programs to combat pollution, Nixon proposed to Congress a new agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, which Congress created in 1970. This new agency assumed responsibility for the federal regulation of pesticides, and after the Environmental Defense Fund filed suit, in June 1972 the EPA banned DDT. Four months later, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, establishing protections for water quality and regulating pollutant discharges into waters of the United States.

Today, even as Republicans are attacking the EPA by suggesting that Congress cannot delegate major regulatory powers to it, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to promote environmental justice. In the past generation we have come to understand that pollution hits minority and poor populations far harder than it does wealthy white communities: the government and private companies target Indigenous reservations for the storage of nuclear waste, for example, because the reservations are not covered by the same environmental and health standards as the rest of the country.

Biden said, “To fulfill our Nation’s promises of justice, liberty, and equality, every person must have clean air to breathe; clean water to drink; safe and healthy foods to eat; and an environment that is healthy, sustainable, climate-resilient, and free from harmful pollution and chemical exposure. Restoring and protecting a healthy environment—wherever people live, play, work, learn, grow, and worship—is a matter of justice and a fundamental duty that the Federal Government must uphold on behalf of all people.”


Happy Earth Day 2023.

As always, the fabulous photographs by Ann Hubard of nature gives me hope that our world will continue. Thanks, Ann!

February 18, 2023

Norfolk Southern, DDT Face Derailment

Three days after a disastrous train derailment releasing toxic chemicals on February 3, East Palestine (OH) was evacuated. Thirteen days later, another train from the same company, Norfolk Southern, derailed outside Detroit (MI), sending 30 cars off the track. One railcar contained liquid chlorine, but supposedly wasn’t one of overturned section, according to Van Buren Township authorities. Norfolk Southern has been described as the epitome of hazards connected to the prioritization of speed and profits over safety, called Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). The U.S. has an annual average of 1,704 train derailments, almost five a day.

A problem with the East Palestine derailment was the poor distribution of weight. Forty percent of the train’s weight was in the rear third, and the back half was the heavier than the front. In best practice, trains are frontloaded with the heaviest cars, and the lightest ones are at the back. Rearranging train cars requires costly time and workforce which doesn’t fit with PSR.  Although the weight distribution may not have caused the derailment, it made the wreck worse. The company said workers were wrong about the faulty weight distribution, but two employees said that if any train was going to make headlines, it would be the February 3 run through East Palestine. Toxic materials on the train were kept secret, and people weren’t notified of the exact contents for two weeks.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) blames Democrats for providing only $5 billion for rail safety in the bill that she rejected; she said that this “failure … would’ve never happened under a Republican-controlled infrastructure bill.” Yet the GOP never created an infrastructure bill. Other Republicans want President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to take the fall for the rail industry’s disasters. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) said Buttigieg needs to take action and “stop blaming DDT. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) echoed Vance’s sentiments, and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called for Buttigieg to resign.  Buttigieg stated that DDT’s withdrawal of a braking rule made his agency’s ability to regulate the rail system “constrained by law.”

After providing no aid for several days, Ohio’s Gov. Mike DeWine complained that FEMA stated that Ohio is not eligible for assistance at this time.” The White House said that “needs are much more expansive than what FEMA can meet.” FEMA is “supporting response” in “a multiple agency response … HHS, CDC, EPA, as well. They are coordinating with the emergency operation center and working closely with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. Each federal agency has its own unique role here.”

Oddly enough, the movie White Noise, based on Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel about a train derailment that spilled chemicals, was filmed in East Palestine with some residents as extras. Just as in real life two weeks ago, the town had to evacuate from hazardous air in the 2021 filming. 

Surveillance footage shows the train already on fire 20 miles from East Palestine when it traveled through Salem (OH). The train’s crew was told about a mechanical issue before an emergency brake went on, but questions remain about why the crew didn’t see the fire and thus stop the train. Devices on the rails could identify the fire, but they are 25 miles apart. Railway authority William C. Vantuono described the theory of why the sensor devices did not stop the derailment.

Juliane Beier, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh focusing on vinyl chloride exposure, said the biggest problem after the derailment would be contaminated groundwater from the chemical’s liquid form. Chemicals such as butyl acrylate are also appearing in downstream Ohio towns’ water samples. She said the dilemma could worsen as the spill’s chemicals more from the soil to the water.

Andrew Whelton, an environmental engineer investigating chemical risks from disasters, explained:

“The heavier the chemical, often the slower it degrades and the more likely it is to stick to soil. These compounds can remain for years if left unaddressed. If the heavily contaminated soils and liquids are excavated and removed, the long-term impacts can be reduced. But the longer removal takes, the farther the contamination can spread. It’s in everyone’s best interest to clean this up as soon as possible and before the region gets rain.”

Videos of creeks near the East Palestine derailment show shimmering rainbow slicks, likely vinyl chloride, that is heavier than the water and can sink to the bottom of a lake or stream.  Republicans are criticizing the EPA’ lack of aggressive action, but it has lost 20 percent of employees, about 3,600, since the agency’s peak in 1999. Counting for inflation, the budget is $4 billion less than the $10.3 billion in 2010. Ohio is one of 24 states filing a lawsuit this week against the federal government for EPA plans to toughen environmental regulations and pollution limits in small streams and wetlands.  

Although Republicans have not blamed Norfolk Southern for the disaster, at least seven lawsuits have been filed against the railroad company claiming negligence and seeking damages for property and economic loss along with exposure to hazardous chemicals. Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost told the company that his office is considering a lawsuit against the rail operator. A company representative failed to attend a town hall meeting, claiming the “growing physical threat to out employees and members of the community.” It did promise a $1 million fund to help the community recover—about $200 per person. Norfolk Southern’s stock has fallen about nine percent since the February 3 derailment.  

Pollution from the train derailment isn’t the only environmental issue for the area. Last fall, Shell Oil opened a plant on the Ohio River near Monaca (PA), about 20 miles from the train disaster. Employing about 600 people, the “ethane cracker” makes small pellets, called “nurdles,” the foundation for almost all plastic products. Ethane and methane are separated out of natural gas, and the methane is heated until it transforms into ethylene, a highly reactive raw material for polyethylene. On February 2, the day before the derailment, two environmental groups announced a lawsuit against Shell Chemical Appalachia, operator of the plant, for violating federal and state air-quality standards. Many elected officials and the business community maintain that economic concerns are more important than the environment.

Two days before the derailment 35 miles west of Detroit, a deadly truck crash in Tucson closed the main freeway for two miles, and hazardous chemicals sent up yellow and red clouds from leaking liquid nitric acid. People were evacuated within a half-mile radius, and a shelter in place for three miles continued for over a day.

The report from the Fulton County (GA) grand jury has been partially released, and the news is not good—for the MAGA world. Two conclusions were released about its investigation into the 2020 election interference:

“One or more” witnesses may have committed perjury when they lied under oath. The grand jury “recommends the District Attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.” (No names were given.)

No widespread fraud occurred in George’s 2020 election that could result in overturning the election despite testimony from witnesses “still claiming” that fraud took place. The grand jury vote was unanimous on this conclusion.

Deposed Donald Trump’s (DDT) response to these two conclusions:

“Thank you to the Special Grand Jury in the Great State of Georgia for your Patriotism & Courage. Total exoneration. The USA is very proud of you!!!”

(There was no exoneration. And no names.)

Fulton County’s grand jury report of no election fraud joined several other high-profile assessments with the same conclusion: researchers from the Berkeley Research Group’s study of six states paid by DDT; the private audit of Maricopa County (AZ) with a $1 million donation from DDT; a GOP-led state committee in Michigan; a GOP-ordered Wisconsin investigation; the courts; a large-scale media investigation; and former AG Bill Barr and other DDT allies.

Georgia’s GOP spent at least $220,000 last year for the legal fees of fake GOP electors who may now face criminal charges in Fulton County’s probe of state election fraud. In 2022, the party spent $290,000 in legal fees, $200,000 more than the previous year. The state’s GOP chair is one of the fake electors.

Drew Findling, DDT’s new lawyer to protect him in a potential prosecution for election fraud in Georgia, is called the billion-dollar lawyer after he defended rap artists and progressive causes such as Black Lives Matter protesters and pro-choice activists. Findling’s biggest problem will be controlling his client especially if a judge orders DDT not to taunt DA Fani Willis online during a trial. Basic advice from defense attorneys: shut up. Findling may not be able to succeed in his management of DDT.

Experts believe that an indictment for DDT is imminent, but will the lawyer get paid?

February 15, 2023

East Palestine Train Wreck from Industry Cost Savings

On February 3, a 141-car train, operated by Norfolk Southern, was traveling from Madison (IL) to Conway (PA) when 38 cars derailed in East Palestine (OH), a town of under 5,000 people located 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. The ensuing 100-foot flames damaged an additional 12 cars. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated:

“Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment.”

Security footage from 20 miles west of East Palestine showed sparks or flames under at least one of the train cars.

With no notification, the train carried 20 tanker cars of hazard materials including the toxic chemical vinyl chloride, a flammable gas for making polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a hard resin used in plastic products. Eleven of the cars derailed. Longterm exposure can lead to liver damage, possibly liver cancer as well as leukemia and lung cancer. Short-term exposure effects include dizziness and drowsiness, while high exposure can lead to hospitalization and death. Another chemical on board, butyl acrylate, is also used in plastic production. Other chemicals being carried on the train include ethylhexyl acrylate, isobutylene, and ethylene glycol monobutyl.

Some of the cars carrying vinyl chloride not breached were in danger of exploding; therefore three days later, the contents were released and burned, causing a huge black smoke plume above the town for several hours after hundreds of people in a one-mile radius were evacuated. Burning the chemical releases hydrogen chloride, irritating eyes, throat, skin, and nose, and phosgene, causing vomiting, eye irritation, and burning throat.

When people returned to their homes, many still reported smelling the chemicals and experiencing headaches, watery eyes, and burning sensations in their throats. One resident compared the smell to nail polish remover and burning tires. Several also said their pets, including cats and birds, fell ill after the derailment, some of them unexpectedly dying. A resident ten miles away said that six of her chickens suddenly died a day after the chemical release. The crash killed an estimated 3,500 fish from 12 different species, and released materials entered storm drains.

Current regulations are so lax that the derailed train was not considered a “high-hazard material train”; Norfolk Southern was not required to notify Ohio officials about the contents of its cars. Although residents were cleared to return on February 9, the EPA wrote Norfolk Southern in the past week that that hazardous chemicals remain present and more may be released. The state EPA said the town’s drinking water is safe, but multiple officials advised residents to drink bottled water.

As many as 25 million people live in zones vulnerable to deadly derailments of trains carrying toxic materials, including substances that can cause explosions. Each year, about 4.5 million tons of toxic chemicals are transported by rail through U.S. communities every year by rail, and 12,000 trains carrying hazardous materials travel through towns and cities each day. The NTSB operates a confidential reporting system allowing employees to report unsafe events and near misses so that they can be fixed. None of the seven major U.S. freight railroad companies uses this program. (Left: the East Palestine derailment.)

About a decade ago, a similar derailment in New Jersey caused 23,000 gallons of vinyl chloride to be released into the environment. New regulations about transportation of toxic materials, including crude oil and hazardous chemicals, included a law requiring these trains to be retrofitted with electronic braking systems, which brake trains cars immediately altogether, rather than front to back like conventional brakes. Former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) rescinded the rule. Rail workers, government officials, and industry analysts have long warned that these disasters can be expected because of the industry aggressively cutting costs, slashing its workforce, and resisting regulations.

Possible solutions:

Acoustic detectors: Failing wheel bearings often make a clicking noise, perhaps for hundreds of miles before overheating; the system can use radio tags on cars to identify the exact car and axle causing problems.

Better brakes: Electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes for trains allow trains to apply brakes to all of their cars simultaneously, keeping cars from running into each other. In 2018, DDT revoked the requirement for ECP brakes for trains hauling flammable materials because the cost “would be significantly higher than the expected benefits.” The current braking system used by the vast majority of the nation’s trains was developed in 1868. Operating like a Slinky, the air brakes cause the back of the training running into the front, pushing out the cars and causing derailments.  

Shorter trains: Derailments wouldn’t be as damaging because internal forces and stresses within trains would be reduced. The practice also effectively increases staffing per train car. During the last six years, train companies cut 29 percent of their workforce, 45,000 employees. The industry’s precision-scheduled railroad aggressively runs as much cargo with as few workers as possible. Northern Southern led the rail companies in increasing the length of trains from an average length of 1.3 miles in 2021, over 100 rail cars, to the derailed train almost 1.8 miles long.

While Norfolk Southern dropped thousands of employees amidst warnings of safety risks, the seven largest freight railroad companies in the U.S., including Norfolk Southern, spent $191 billion on stock buybacks and shareholder dividends between 2011 and 2021 in contrast to the $138 billion on capital investments. The company also paid millions to its executives and refused a shareholder initiative requiring executives to “assess, review, and mitigate risks of hazardous material transportation.” Before DDT dropped the braking regulations, which would have lessened the severity of the East Palestine disaster, rail industry donors gave over $6 million to GOP campaigns.

The vast majority of the nation’s trains continue to rely on a braking system first developed in 1868. Trains equipped with these traditional air brakes make emergency stops more slowly and with higher rates of damage than trains equipped with ECP brakes, according to both safety advocates and the Federal Railroad Administration.

In addition to blocking the ECP brake requirement, the industry pushed to limit the types of chemical compounds covered by regulations. One was to restrict the definition of “high-hazard flammable trains,” or HHFT, mostly to cover oil trains, not trains carrying the industrial chemical on the Norfolk Southern train causing chemical damage in Ohio. The Obama administration showed that the brake regulation would save over $1 billion by avoiding accidents, but industry lobbyists said the costs would outweigh the benefits by $3 billion. The Federal Railroad Administration estimated a cost of half a billion.

The AAR lobbying group concurred that “the costs of the ECP rule substantially outweigh its benefits,” and claimed the mandate would cost them about $3 billion — or roughly 2 weeks of their operating revenue in a typical year. The FRA estimated the brake requirement would cost about half a billion. Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the Senate’s third largest recipient of rail industry campaign cash, pushed to repeal the braking rule, praising “sound science and careful study.” A 2018 study found that DDT’s Transportation Department submitted mistaken calculations by excluding the most common type of train derailments. The agency admitted the mistake but still said the cost was too high for a mandate. Norfolk Southern disclosed an increase in train accidents over the past three consecutive years.

Railroad unions are fighting a possible rule allowing trains with the new electronic brakes to travel 2,500 miles, an increase of 1,000 miles from 1,500, without having brakes tested. In the matter of scheduling, Congress voted to force a deal to keep railroad workers from taking unscheduled sick time.

Charlie Kirk, founder of right-wing Turning Point USA, is spreading conspiracy theories about the toxic railroad disaster in East Palestine. He said on his podcast that the crash was a failed attempt to wipe out white people and orchestrated by President Joe Biden’s cabinet. Kirk accused Biden’s administration of not caring “for the white working-class voters in eastern Ohio” because they don’t care about them in other reasons. Then he accused Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg of downplaying the severity of the crisis:

“If this train derailment happened in downtown Atlanta in the densely populated Black neighborhoods, this would be the number one news story. It would be Flint water crisis 2.0. There would be clamoring and activism and talks for reparations. And Buttigieg, meanwhile, is out there saying, ‘listen, while this derailment is happening, while the act of poisoning is happening,’ he’s saying, ‘look, the problem is that workers are too white.’”

Evan Lambert, a journalist for cable NewsNation, was arrested during Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s press conference for journalists two days after the train derailment, supposedly for talking while broadcasting DeWine’s statements. The conference had been delayed two hours to a time when Lambert was scheduled to do a live shot. Charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and criminal trespassing, he spent five hours in jail.

Mike Viqueira, the Washington Bureau Chief of NewsNation, said Lambert did his live shot away from the podium and spoke quietly, wrapping up as soon as DeWine started speaking. Two white officers put the Black journalist on the ground on his stomach. A witness was heard to say, “Oh my God, you guys this is bad, stop.” DeWine said it was his practice to allow reporters to talk to viewers live as he speaks at news conferences. Criminal charges against Lambert were dismissed over a week later.

February 12, 2023

Earthquakes’ Disaster from Building Negligence

Balloon update: Today’s “high altitude object” was shot down over Lake Huron. After complaining about President Joe Biden’s not shooting down the huge Chinese balloon until February 4, GOP Mike Turner (R-OH) said Biden is “trigger happy” and suggested Biden is “trying to change headlines.” The fourth “object” shot down by Biden’s orders in eight days and the third in three days, it was spotted over Montana on Saturday before moving on to Wisconsin and Michigan. The three more recent ones were much smaller than the first one.

Deaths from the 7.8 earthquake in Turkey near the Syrian border surpassed 34,000 a week after the disaster at 4:17 am on February 6 (8:17 pm EST the day before). One of the 2,000+ aftershocks was 7.5. Hope of finding survivors has faded four days after the 72-hour deadline although a few people were rescued on the sixth day. In the most recent rescue, a teenage girl and a woman were rescued after 162 hours. The disaster has left millions—5.3 million in Syria alone–homeless in the bitter cold and snow with power outages, and shortages of food and fuel. The next problem they face is disease, epidemics from lack of access to clean drinking water. Bodies remaining in the rubble will contaminate the water supply, and the living lack toilet facilities. One person reported that “bodies are all over the roads, with only blankets on them” in one city.

At least 6,000 buildings collapsed in Turkey, raising questions about whether the large-scale tragedy could have been avoided with stiffer regulations. Turkey has two fault lines, and earthquake building codes are over 80 years old.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s future is on the line in the upcoming elections on May 14 after he has been in power for 20 years. In January, Erdogan moved the election up by six weeks to May 14 because of his economic crises. Turkey’s inflation is still 57 percent, down from over 80 percent between August and November 2022. Interest rates are suppressed, and the Turkish lira lost almost 30 percent of its value against the dollar in the last year.

About the disaster, Erdogan said, “Such things have always happened. It’s part of destiny’s plan.” Shmuel Eliyahu, chief Rabbi of Safed in northern Israel and member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, stated that God is punishing countries for their mistreatment of the Jewish people.

The massive rescue operation spread across ten of Turkey’s 81 provinces, and cities in the ten provinces had a population of over 13 million. Antakya, a city of 400,000, is almost completely destroyed. Some villages couldn’t be reached for days, and damaged roads blocked rescue teams from getting through for two or three days after the first quake. The current quake needs a much larger rescue effort than the last big quake in 1999 when the military was in charge. Worried about the power of the armed forces, the president diminished its involvement and moved the responsibility to civil disaster authority, slowing down the rescue. Vast sums were collected by two “earthquake solidarity taxes” to make buildings resistant to earthquakes, but no one knows where the money was spent.

Two German groups and the Austrian army have suspended their assistance in Hatay (Turkey) because of security reasons. They said they will return if their safety can be guaranteed. 

After another quake in 2020, a geological engineer predicted the risk of an upcoming earthquake in Turkey but was ignored. The collapse of a residential building in Istanbul in 2019 killed 21 people and also showed the upcoming danger. If all the building regulations had been followed for the current earthquake, columns would have survived intact, and floors wouldn’t have collapsed on top of each other like pancakes. 

Drone footage showed fissures cracking across streams, fields, hillsides, and roads, and one ragged ditch cut into embankments along open land to the horizon, breaking a highway’s tarmac and metal barriers. Massive boulders fell down the hills on either side. The longest rupture runs 190 miles northeast from the Mediterranean Sea’s northeastern tip, one of the longest on record.

Turkish authorities have detained 134 people responsible for constructing buildings that collapsed, 62 of them in the city of Adana. At least 113 arrest warrants have been issued for alleged building negligence, and 12 people have been taken into custody, including building contractors. More arrests are expected, possibly as a diversion for the disaster’s overall blame of corruption and government policies. Amnesties for contractors avoiding building regulations were to encourage a construction boom, including in earthquake-vulnerable areas.

As weak as the aid in Turkey may have been, help in Syria seems almost nonexistent. With the help of Russia, Dictator Bashar al-Assad has waged war against his own people for over a dozen years, a battle killing over 600,000 Syrians in a nation now little more than 21 million people. The Islamist hardline operated rebel groups hold the northern part of Syria where hundreds of families or more are under the rubble. They refuse aid from government-held parts of Syria, and Assad refuses to send aid to areas he doesn’t control. Aid went through only one closely guarded border crossing. The rebels also turned back help from Syria’s Kurdish-led northeastern region.

The UN projects deaths of over 50,000 from the current series of earthquakes in Turkey after the bodies are found. It is the deadliest earthquake to affect Syria since the 1822 Aleppo earthquake and one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the Mediterranean lands east of Italy. The number of deaths has already surpassed the largest earthquake previously in Turkey, the one in 1939 killing 32,700, since 1268.

Three active tectonic plates—the Anatolia, Arabia, and African plates—touch and interact with each other. Most of Turkey is on two major fault lines surrounding this area—the North Anatolian Fault and the East Anatolian Fault with a slip rate of six to ten millimeters each year—that squeeze Turkey west toward the Mediterranean Sea. As Greece joins Turkey in moving west, the two faults make a “V” shape at the edges. The Arabia fault, which includes Syria, is headed north and colliding with the southern rim of Eurasia.

Faults come from the edges of plates around the earth; slowly moving plates increase stress on the plates’ edges. They get stuck and then break lose, causing the earthquakes, time and again.

Despite mapping from geology, satellite modeling, and earthquake recording, the lack of building code enforcement has caused a great humanitarian tragedy. California has dangerous faults, but the progressive government has ensured strong building codes. With the loss of regulations from conservative administrations in the U.S., the U.S. could have the same problems as Turkey, especially with the rapid growth of earthquake-prone areas in the U.S. from fracking as in Oklahoma.

The fault line causing the Turkey disaster is similar to faults under the Puget Sound: the Seattle Fault, the Tacoma Fault, and the South Whidbey Island Fault, all near large population centers, are shallow in the earth’s crust like those in Turkey. In addition, they are different from “the big one” coming from the Cascadia subduction fault. Offshore faults tend to cause bigger earthquakes and a larger tsunami risk. 

Faults need time to build up stress, allowing lengthy times between ruptures, “seismic gaps” when people let their guard down. Most people in Turkey didn’t worry about the East Anatolian fault because a catastrophic earthquake had not happened for generations. A fault can wait for even several hundred years; the last massive earthquake on the Oregon Coast from the 600-mile Cascadia Subduction Zone from northern California to British Columbia occurred in 1700. The possibility of a disaster from this fault has largely been ignored because of the attention on the San Andreas fault in California.

A lighter note:

Conservatives are always looking for some way to put down the “liberal elite” who don’t understand Middle America. Toward that end, the GOP tweeted the message, “Wait until the coastal elites find out that this is where their food comes from!” accompanied by a photograph of farm land. Unfortunately for the Republican group, the land belongs to the “coastal elites”: the attached photo is of the San Joaquin Valley near San Francisco.

Clara Jones, the editor-in-chief of Mother Jones magazine tweeted, “Bow down to CA’s food production. With 4% of nation’s farms, we produce 13% of all ag products, 1/3 of all veggies, 2/3 of nation’s fruit and nuts, 81% of wine…” Luckily, Twitter is still willing to publish rejoinders with facts.

My favorite response? “Wait until the country folks find out that this is where the vast majority of federal funding for them comes from.”  This tweet included a photo of Manhattan.

Republicans tend to shoot themselves in the … foot? In 2020, DDT’s campaign ad promised he would protect beloved U.S. monuments from the “Radical Left.” Deciding that images of treasonous insurrectionists owning humans was a bad optic, they used a photo of the Christ the Redeemer statue—in Brazil. DDT vowed to protect South American statues. Footage from Morocco illustrated the U.S. “unruly” southern border, and the GOP “Commitment to America” video employed stock footage from Russia and Ukraine. Etc.


February 18, 2021

Faulty GOP Governance Destroying Texas, Killing People

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) carries his luggage at the Cancun International Airport REUTERS/Stringer

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) went to the top of the news on Thursday, and not in a good way. His trip to the sunny, warm Ritz-Carlton in Cancún ($309 per night) roiled his constituents, many of whom were freezing—sometimes literally to death—in Texas with below-freezing temperatures and no electricity or water. Cruz claimed he was being “a good father” by taking his children on a well-deserved vacation because of a “tough week”; his wife’s texts give a different story of escape from their “FREEZING” house. Heidi Cruz invited friends to come along on their getaway. Not until photos of Cruz and stories of his runaway dominated the media did he decide to return on Thursday. Critical hashtags included “#FlyinTed” and “#FledCruz,” and he was called Ted “Cancún” Cruz. Winning his 2018 election against Beto O’Rourke with under 51 percent of the vote, Cruz has indicated a goal of again become a presidential candidate in 2024. Opponents will have lots of material for response.

Because of regulations at the private school where Cruz’s daughters attend, they are not permitted into the classroom for a week after international travel unless they take a COVID-19 test three to five days after returning. Either way, they cannot go back to school next week. Before Cruz left on his trip, he said as many as 100 people could die this week. His advice before his departure:  

“This storm is dangerous, and there’s a second storm expected to hit this week, which will make things even worse, so if you can, stay home. Don’t go out on the roads. Don’t risk the ice… We could see up to 100 people lose their lives this week in Texas. So don’t risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids.”

Cruz also commandeered Houston police to get him to and through the airport as he headed out on his vacation.

Exhibiting the attitude among millions of far-right Republicans, Tim Boyd, the now-resigned mayor of Colorado City (TX), posted on Facebook about people with no power:

“The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout!… If you are sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your lazy is direct result of your raising! [sic]…. This is sadly a product of a socialist government where they feed people to believe that the FEW will work and others will become dependent for handouts…. I’ll be damned if I’m going to provide for anyone that is capable of doing it themselves!… Bottom line quit crying and looking for a handout! Get off your ass and take care of your own family!” “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish [sic].”

After loss of electricity and running water came boiling advisories for seven million Texans, empty grocery shelves, and canceled deliveries to food banks and schools. According to Austin resident Jeff Goodell, “People wandering around with handguns on their hip adds to a sense of lawlessness.” Lack of power made ranchers and farmers destroy tens of millions of dollars of goods. Fruit and vegetables have frozen in the Rio Grande Valley, and dairy farmers daily pour $8 million worth of milk down the drain because they can’t get the milk to dairies. Hospitals face deadly horrific conditions, and last Monday, Harris County, including Houston, reported over 300 carbon monoxide poisonings.

Even with a thaw in Texas, which isn’t happening for a few days, people will suffer from lack of running water. Disruption in about 590 public water systems in almost 60 percent of the state’s counties affect almost 12 million people of the state’s population of 29 million. Houston asked people to not run water because “it is needed for hospitals and fires,” according to the city’s mayor. Earlier in the week, people were told to leave faucets dripping to keep pipes from freezing, but now they are asked to turn them off, leaving pipes to burst. Only 135 labs in the state can test water to determine when people should stop boiling it, if they are fortunately enough to have power to boil water.

For losing presidential candidate Rick Perry, death is better than have federal government involved. He reassured people that “the sun will come out.” Texas conservatives find regulation unacceptable, but they asked for charity from U.S. taxpayers for the disasters they personally cause. President Joe Biden sent generators, diesel, blankets, and water to Texas “at their request,” according to Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary.

Publicity probably forced Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to stop blaming the loss of wind power—seven percent of the missing energy from the big freeze. Of the total power shortfall of over 30,000 megawatts, only 2,000 came from wind. Instead, Abbott moved on to attacking his own energy department who maintain the missing energy comes from lack of winterizing power-generating systems, primarily from fossil fuels. The state refused to provide any fiscal incentives to power plant operators in preparation for winter: the state’s power companies get more money if they don’t weatherize all their plants and shut down some of them in winter.  

According to Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa, Abbott is following a “pattern” of “lack of foresight and inability to manage.” Hinojosa cited lack of action for displacements during Hurricane Harvey, no planning for the coronavirus crisis, and “abysmal” handling of vaccine distribution. The loss of energy supply is being compared to the fallout from Hurricane Katrina. Lack of deregulation, i.e., mandating electrical equipment upgrades or weatherization, comes from reliance on free markets.

Deregulation in the 1990s created a grid emphasizing cheap prices instead of good service. Last summer, Cruz said California couldn’t “perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity.” Now he tried to run away from the disaster in a state with the highest rate of uninsured, double the U.S. average in child poverty, and a greater unemployment rate than the federal rate.

Mayors in Texas cities are lobbying for the Democratic stimulus plan, writing Congress about “budget cuts, service reductions, and job losses. Sadly, nearly one million local government jobs have already been lost during the pandemic. … The $350 billion in direct relief to state and local governments included in President Elect Biden’s American Rescue Plan would allow cities to preserve critical public sector jobs and help drive our economic recovery.” Cruz opposes “blue-state bailouts” even for his red state and voted in December against the stimulus package.

Texan GOP leadership so adamantly refuses any involvement with Democrats that the 60 generators and fuel stays at the airport because Republican officials refuse to distribute them.

Proving that governments can manage reliable energy with regulation, the ten percent of the state not under the control of the mis-named GOP-appointed Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has had minimal outages despite also being hit by the storms. For example, El Paso, at the extreme left side northwest of Alpine, had about 3,000 outages, 1,000 of them for about five minutes. Outside ERCOT, regions invested in cold-weather upgrades after the 2011 big freeze while ERCOT assumed that cold weather wouldn’t return. The GOP control in Texas opposes regulations, but almost 70 percent of people in El Paso voted Democratic.

Fox network’s Tucker Carlson was an early spreader of the lie about Texas being “totally reliant on windmills” because “the Green New Deal came to Texas.” The much maligned “Deal” was only a proposal pushed to a 2019 vote in the Senate by Republicans so they could vote it down. Carlson may end up in court over his falsehoods: Bloomberg News is calling for lawsuits like the ones for Fox’s lies about the 2020 election.

More information about the Texas debacle. 

April 22, 2020

You Can Save the Earth

Today in the midst of the worst pandemic for more than a century, Earth Day spent its 50th anniversary. For over three years, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), elected by a minority of the U.S. voters, has assaulted the environment to favor his friends. In the same way that prominent Republicans say that people should die in order to keep them rich, DDT pollutes and poisons the world. In his most recent efforts, the ones after he stopped the enforcement of most environmental regulations “indefinitely,” he now permits life-threatening chemicals on products used for cooking and argues that any control of mercury and other toxic pollution from power plants isn’t “appropriate and necessary.”

On April 22, 1970, twenty million people marched and rallied to clean up the country. Fifty years later, the destruction of habitats has displaced wildlife that brought viral outbreaks. Past ones such as AIDS, Ebola, and SARS have moderate control; with no leadership in the United States, the current one, COVID-19, has swept across the nation, infected millions and killing an unknown number because only a little over one percent of the people in the U.S. have been tested.

On Earth Day 2020, the entire leadership of the United States, including 75 percent of environmental managers working for the fossil fuel industries, promotes fossil fuel production at the loss of all alternative energies and roll back auto emissions standards. For example, Head of the BLM William Perry Pendley believes that the Endangered Species Act is “rural genocide” meant to drive residents off the land. For decades, the United States has seen the escalation of the militia movement that wants county sheriffs to arrest federal employees who enforce environmental rules and the purge of environmental Republican in Congress.

The one bonus of the current pandemic is the lessening of pollution which kills about 4.2 million people throughout the planet from stroke, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses. In just New York, carbon monoxide from cars during the past couple of month has been reduced by nearly 50 percent compared from the same months last year. The massive decline of pollution and greenhouse gases in China for just two months probably saved the lives of 4,000 young children and 73,000 elderly adults in just China.

Seimologists from Belgium to New Zealand can better track tremors with people staying home. They determine the lessening of noise pollution means people can avoid stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure, sleep disruption, etc. The lack of noise pollution from cruise ships makes marine animals healthier and increases their reproduction by decreasing stress-hormone levels.

Other sea creatures may be making a comeback. For almost a decade, the sea stars, vital to preserving the kelp forests by eating sea urchins, have been wasting along the West Coast, possibly from a virus. One theory about the disappearance of sea stars is the large number of people on the beaches. Nature may have gotten to the tipping point of survival with the human invasion.

The frantic search for a solution to COVID-19 may lead to saving the environment. As researchers push to find information about pathogens and their human hosts may discover answers to the disappearing coral reefs, possibly from highly contagious bacterial diseases. The 50 percent of pathogenic bacteria and coral diseases in sea grass found in Indonesian waters could be from human sewage. Researchers are replicating the sea grass in Puget Sound for human defenses in medicines and diet. They already determined that mangrove sea squirts have antimicrobial agents and anticancer drugs. Algae and the blue blood from abalone can stop herpes and flu viruses.

The shrinking of the ozone layer over Antarctica shows that people can make a difference in climate change if they try. By 2000, the 1987 Montreal Protocol to stop ozone-depleting substances (ODS) reversed the jet stream direction to head back to the north. The change in the jet stream had pushed rain away from the coastal areas of Australia, causing drought and ensuing wildfires. The decreasing rainfall may change with the shift in jet streams and ocean currents.

After 50 years of honoring the environment on Earth Day, the majority of people say they take at least seven of 15 actions to help the environment during the past year, beginning with 85 percent who voluntarily recycle. Over half reduced use of energy, tried to use less water, used reusable shopping bags, avoided products harming the environment or bought products better for the environment, and replaced  incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent or luminescent ones.

Last month, people shared a poem that went viral across the internet. They claimed that it was written in 1869 by Kathleen O’Mara and reprinted for the 1918 flu pandemic. The author is actually a retired Wisconsin teacher and palliative care chaplain, Catherine O’Meara, who wrote it in March 2020 because of the current pandemic.  

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows.

“And the people began to think differently.

“And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

“And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

In 2017, Jane Hirschfield wrote this poem for Earth Day. Its prescience is even more important in 2020 when the anti-science leadership of the United States avoids finding solutions for the current health disaster.

“On the fifth day/the scientists who studied the rivers/were forbidden to speak/or to study the rivers.

“The scientists who studied the air/were told not to speak of the air,/and the ones who worked for the farmers/were silenced,/and the ones who worked for the bees.

“Someone, from deep in the Badlands,/began posting facts.

“The facts were told not to speak/and were taken away.

“The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.

“Now it was only the rivers/that spoke of the rivers,/and only the wind that spoke of its bees,/while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees/continued to move toward their fruit.

“The silence spoke loudly of silence,/and the rivers kept speaking,/of rivers, of boulders and air.

“In gravity, earless and tongueless,/the untested rivers kept speaking.

“Bus drivers, shelf stockers,/code writers, machinists, accountants,/lab techs, cellists kept speaking.

“They spoke, the fifth day,/of silence.

Poet Lynn Ungar wrote her response to the current sheltering at home. The first few lines: 

“What if you thought of it/as the Jews consider the Sabbath—/the most sacred of times?

“Cease from travel.

“Cease from buying and selling.

“Give up, just for now,/on trying to make the world/different than it is.”

The United States is now facing an economic disaster over twice as bad as the one caused by George W. Bush in 2009—and it’s combined with a health disaster. During the Great Recession over a decade ago, people modified their buying habits—mending instead of trashing, cooking instead of always eating out, buying second-hand instead of from elite stores—trying to conserve because they had no money. President Obama pulled the United States people out of this disaster, but they went back to their wasteful ways. If only people will keep patterns of saving after COVID-19 is really under control instead returning to destroying the planet through their extravagant lifestyles.

[Thanks to Ann Hubard and Sue Hardesty for photos of an environment we need to preserve.]

On April 22, the U.S. has 849,092 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 47,681 deaths, as well as countless others who weren’t tested. That’s a 12-percent increase in deaths during the past two days.

July 11, 2019

DDT’s Failures—Citizenship Question, Environment

“We are not backing down,” Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced in the Rose Garden yesterday when he backed down from putting a citizenship question into the 2020 census. This morning, he declared that he would sign an executive order to include the question, despite the Supreme Court and three lower courts ruling against it. This afternoon, he issued an executive order requiring federal departments to provide records about resident noncitizens to the Commerce Department, an action easily done without one of his “executive orders.” Although the monthly American Community Survey, which asks the citizen question, is sent to about one percent of the population each year, but this data cannot be used for legislative and congressional redistricting.

Earlier this week, the DOJ tried to trade out its legal team to argue the case, a first for the DOJ. The judge rejected a new team, calling the request “patently deficient” because the government had provided “no reasons, let alone ’satisfactory reasons,’ for the substitution of counsel.” He required the government to show that replacing the team won’t add further delay to the suit and mandated each of the 11 lawyers now on the case to submit a signed and sworn affidavit giving “satisfactory reasons” for the request. The plaintiffs also have a pending motion to sanction the government for false testimony for the motivation behind the question. New York Attorney General Letitia James said:

“Despite the president attempting to fire his lawyers, this is not an episode of The Apprentice.”

AG Bill Barr, DDT’s fixer, gave an impressive speech declaring victory for DDT after they both backed down. Barr said that they would win if they kept fighting but that they had too little time.  DDT’s “victory” means taking the option that he rejected over a year ago. Earlier this week, Barr had said that he had a way to put the question on the census forms but wouldn’t tell anyone. Before the House leaves for its August recess, members plan to vote to hold both AG William P. Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas tied to the citizenship question.

DDT’s kerfuffle about the citizenship question eclipsed today’s social media summit with conservative online commentators to complain about what they perceive as censorship from big tech companies. DDT tweeted that topics will be “the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies.” Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were not invited. DDT’s goal was to distract the media and his supporters from his and his Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s involvement in the Jeffrey Epstein child sex-trafficking scandal. At his meeting in the East Room, DDT attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) rather than Joe Biden, indicating that he sees Warren as a greater opponent than Biden.

A few special guests DDT invited to his “troll party”:

James O’Keefe, who doctors videos to embarrass progressives including faking negative accounts of ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and Medicaid, got caught trying to pull a sting on Washington Post’s reporting about child molester Roy Moore during his last run for U.S. Senate.

Carpe Donktum publishes doctored videos to support DDT that sometimes cause him to be blocked from Twitter.  

Ali Alexander (aka Akbar) tried to start a racist birther-like campaign by tweeting that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is not an “American Black,” a post quote-tweeted by Donald Trump, Jr. Alexander’s earlier Twitter ban this year came after he lied to followers about buying bitcoin, ammo, and guns because of a non-existent impending civil war.

Jim Hoft created the blog Gateway Pundit with such falsehoods as Hillary Clinton having a serious gum disease, E. Jean Carroll getting her DDT rape allegation for Law & Order, and Parkland shooting survivors being “crisis actors.”

Tim Pool claims to support progressive causes and policies but promotes right-wing rumors.

Benny Johnson, once a BuzzFeed writer, moved up the conspiracy chain to Daily Caller to complete DDT obsession after a series of plagiarism accusations.

Minds, an “anti-Facebook” and “Crypto social network,” rewards contributors in bitcoins, giving haven to violent neo-Nazi groups such as Atomwaffen, which has been linked to several murders in the U.S., and Feuerkrieg Division, which has made death threats against tech CEOs and politicians. Those two groups were banned, but other white supremacist accounts remain.

Bill Mitchell, a promoter of the bizarre conspiracy movement QAnon, tells his radio show listener that “Q is trying to do is motivate and encourage the base” by opposing media coverage critical of Trump.  

Michael Morrison was recently suspended from Twitter for closely copying Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter account in what he called a parody.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), under ethics charges for threatening witness Michael Cohen, praised Infowars, castigated the “deep state,” and introduced a resolution to force investigator Robert Mueller to resign.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) blocked a bill requiring political campaigns to report offers of foreign assistance to the FBI. DDT has already said he would welcome negative information about opponents in the 2020 election. Accepting help from a foreign entity or power is already illegal, but the bill would mandate reporting any offers. Blackburn said that mandatory reporting would pose an “overbroad” burden. At a recent conference, Israeli government minister Gilad Erdan bragged that Israel was responsible for laws in 27 U.S. states that blocked free speech supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign targeting Israel. Russia isn’t the only country controlling U.S. elections.

Plus a few more GOP members of Congress and Cabinet members. Despite DDT’s refusal to include the major tech companies, he must have faith in them. His campaign spent over $5 million on Facebook ads just this year.

DDT declared himself an environmental president this week came after polls showed him week in this area with millennials and suburban women. He repeated his bizarre statement that forest fires can be blocked by cleaning “dirty floors.” Yet he allowed timber companies to cut more trees, usually the big, more fire-resistant trees while leaving combustible piles of low-value tinder that exacerbate forest fires and bragged about “being good stewards of our public land,” reducing carbon emissions, and promoting the “cleanest air” and “crystal clean” water. In truth, DDT opened up public lands to drilling, signed off on the biggest rollback of federal land protection, and lifted a moratorium on new coal mining leases on public lands. The EPA is rolling back clean-water regulation of pollution in streams and wetlands, and DDT proposed opening up the U.S. coastline to offshore oil and gas drilling. Carbon emissions have declined in the U.S. but only half that of a dozen other country. DDT falsely cited the high cost of the Dems’ Green New Deal, not yet determined, and omitted the 3.1 percent increase in 2018 when taking credit for the decline in carbn emissions since 2000. DDT left out the part that he pushes coal plants that increase carbon dioxide emissions. Joining DDT for his speech were two Cabinet secretaries, former lobbyists for the coal and oil industries who oversee energy and environment issues.

Shortly before the speech, Washington, DC floods [left] from rain shut down part of a nearby subway station and created pools of water in the White House basement. New Orleans [right] faces an unprecedented problem, possibly worse than the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, with the Mississippi River at record flooding, 16 feet instead of the usual six to eight feet in midsummer. Tropical Storm Barry, the season’s first tropical system, could cause a storm surge of two to three feet at the river mouth for a crest of 20 feet, not seen since February 1950 and 2.3 feet short of the April 1922 record. Evacuations of almost 200 offshore oil facilities has cut off more than half the region’s oil output. An EPA report had warned of effects from the climate crisis, but DDT buried the information.

DDT’s White House pastor preaches that environmentalism is radical and foolish, because God put natural resources on earth for people to use up. EPA director Andrew Wheeler took credit for falling air pollution from 1970 to cover up the 3.1 percent increase in carbon emissions in 2018. DDT called himself “a believer in solar energy,” but he put huge tariffs on solar panels in 2018, eliminating thousands of solar installation jobs, and made deep cuts in solar funding. Although claiming credit for fighting Florida’s toxic algae problem, he failed to allocate sufficient funds to restore the Everglades and reduce polluted water discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

The one subject DDT left out of his speech on the environment? Climate change—or as it’s now called, climate crisis. He might want to reconsider this omission. He’s unpopular on a number of key issues such as health care, gun violence, foreign policy, immigration, and abortion, but his bottom rating—29 percent approval—is for his handling of climate change. In only one issue, the economy, is he over 50 percent approval—at 51 percent.

April 21, 2019

Earth Day 2019

Tomorrow is the 49th anniversary for a global event in 193 countries. Although hundreds of millions work to save the planet every day, April 22 is set aside as a day of action. As the Earth Day website explains:

“People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders, including Pope Francis, connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on.”

Last year’s theme was to End Plastic Pollution. One goal was to reduce the annual use of 500 million plastic straws in just the United States. In July 2018, Seattle became the biggest city in the U.S. to ban plastic straws, and Starbucks plans to phase out plastic straws by 2020. McDonald will ban plastic straws at UK and Ireland restaurants, and the 1,000 U.S. locations of  the food service company Bon Appétit Management will follow suit. Thanks to a Girls Scout, Alaska Airlines was the first airline to phase out plastic straws and stirrers. Shelby O’Neil created Jr Ocean Guardians for her 2017 Girl Scout USA Gold Award Project to share her passion in saving oceans and marine life for the future. Other airlines–American, Delta, and United–are following Alaska’s lead.

Getting rid of straws may have seemed a minor task because they comprise only 0.025 percent of the eight million tons of plastic going into the ocean each year. But it’s a simple beginning. From there, governments are decreasing the use of single-use plastic bags for shopping by adding fees for them or replacing them with paper bags. The town where I live passed an ordinance to do this a few days ago. Kroger is just one major company doing away with plastic bags for its shoppers. Using reusable shopping bags can drastically cut down on the one trillion plastic bags used world-wide every year.

Another reduction in plastic is to reuse water bottles instead of single-use ones. One person using a refillable water bottle can save an average of 170 bottles each year. And the single-use bottles have poisonous chemicals that aren’t present in glass or stainless steel reusable bottles.

Other ways to avoid plastic use is to pack food in glass containers, avoid snack foods with excess packaging, and skip plastic flatware. Hopefully, restaurants where you eat will use cardboard for takeout food instead of plastic. Buying products in cardboard containers will cut down on single-use plastics.

A particularly vicious form of plastic comes into microbeads used in most cosmetic items. UK has joined other countries in banning the product that is killing marine life who mistake the tiny particles for food. Ethique Beauty became plastic free in 2012, preventing three million bottles, jars, and tubes being sold and aiming for ten million by 2025. The United States has banned microbeads only in rinse-off cosmetics.

Founded in Bandon (OR), the Washed Ashore project creates sculptures from plastic materials washed up on beaches. It has a traveling art exhibit to create an awareness about the world’s growing plastic pollution problems.

Another 30 ways to recycle stuff.

Last year’s Earth Day theme to reduce plastic proliferation set progress into motion, and activists will begin work on this year’s theme, “Protect Our Species” which are rapidly disappearing from climate change, deforestation, poaching, pollution, pesticides/herbicides, and consumption.

One species that people might want to protect is that of humans. Because of the huge corporation Monsanto, people are getting cancer from its pesticides that contain glysophates. Products from popular foods for children–breakfast cereal, snack bars, and from popular companies such as Quaker, Kellogg, and General Mills–to “adult beverages” of wine and beer contain the cancer-causing chemical. To sell its genetically-modified seeds for plants that won’t be damaged by glysophates, Monsanto engineered varieties of corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, and more crops. Over 90% of all soybeans and over 70% of all corn grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, and the majority of these plants are tolerant to glyphosates. Originally people assumed that these crops were safe for human, but studies–not those paid for by Monsanto–show them to be endocrine disruptors causing birth defects, reproductive impairment, and DNA damage.

Another way to save the planet is to saving marine animals which might slow climate change because they store carbon in their bodies; their carbon-rich waste products sink into the ocean to fertilize and protect marine plants. Sea stars are just one of the marine species rapidly dying off. [Photo by Sue Hardesty]

On its 50th anniversary in 2020, the Earth Day network is organizing a “Great Global Clean Up,” which it hopes to be the largest environmental volunteer event in history. The goal is to remove billions of pieces of rubbish from streets, beaches, rivers,and parks, and is being launched across US cities in 2019. With its SOLVE project, Oregon is already ahead of the project. Founded 50 years ago in 1969 by Gov. Tom McCall, the goal of reducing and cleaning up litter and vandalism throughout the state expanded in 1984 to the first statewide citizen Beach Cleanup in the nation, an event that has spread to all 50 states and 100 other countries. The Oregon beach cleanup now takes place twice a year.

To celebrate Earth Day–every day, every year–hold yourself accountable and vow to save the planet for the future. [Photos: The Moon – Sue Hardesty; The Ocean – Ann Hubard]








January 16, 2019

Past, Future of a Fishing Village

The Port of Newport in Oregon oversees Yaquina Bay, an area that is home to research ships from NOAA after its Pacific marine operations relocated from Lake Union (WA), the Hatfield Marine Science Center which is operated by Oregon State University, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Residents have struggled to keep the water clean for these facilities, however, as businesses have tried to take over in the 21st century.

In 2005, a company from the United Arab Emirates wanted to recycle huge ships in this large bay, commonly known as “ship breaking,” by removing all hazardous wastes and then cutting the ships into pieces that are then sold as scrap metal. These ships were anchored in a California bay because the government no longer needed them. Because of the danger from polluting the bay, the community stopped the venture to keep the Hatfield facility and the Oregon Aquarium safe. Business people were upset with the loss because the ship breaking promised as many as 125 jobs within two years.

Yaquina Bay had been selected for the project because Oregon’s environmental regulations are more lax than those in California. Ships in Newport wouldn’t even be in drydock to destroy invasive species as they are in other areas such as Texas. After sitting in California for another four years, the government sent the ships to Texas for dismantling.

The next proposed venture for the Yaquina Bay came after a bond measure in 2010 with the $28 million restructuring of the Newport International Terminal that would provide about 40 jobs. By 2013, the Port had contracted to bring logs to the small town of Newport, about one truck every 20 minutes on the winding road from Corvallis and down through residential areas to the terminal, so that raw logs could be shipped overseas to China.

Between the time of the passing of the bond for the terminal reconstruction and the Port’s contract to bring logs through Newport, the Port won a bid to become the new home for NOAA’s new Marine Operations Center-Pacific Facility. NOAA built a $38 million facility with a pier long enough for five large ships and arranged for the relocation of at least 175 high-paying jobs to Newport.

Newport residents continued to express concerns about foreign ships bringing invasive species in its ballast, toxic issues from debarking the logs before they were shipped, and threats that large fishing ships could no longer dock at the Newport International Terminal. As many as 15 fishing vessels moor at the terminal at the same time during peak fishing activity November 1 to January 10 and April 1 to May 15 because the port has no other place with shore power and other services for these large vessels. After improvements to the terminal, for example, Fred Yeck brought his 124-foot trawler F/V Sea Dawn back to Newport. With Newport the top commercial fishing port on the West Coast, the industry pours hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy.

The contract for the logging shipments was canceled, but another problem arose in the past few months: conservative legislators from eastern Oregon took on the longshore group’s cause to take local leadership from the Port and put it into the hands of state government. The local newspaper News-Times printed opposing viewpoints about the proposed legislation, HB 2284. Members of the longshore organization wrote about HB 2284 turning Newport into “a vital part of the economic engine for the mid-coastal area” and making promises of “expanded family wage jobs, expanded business growth.”

Robert Smith, owner of the F/V Raven, pointed out that lobbyist for the bill lives in “the valley” (a term for the I-5 corridor 50 miles inland) and may not be aware of the economic activity in the port—NOAA, Hatfield, OSU, Rogue Brewery, the aquarium, and the facility from OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). As Smith wrote, the marine research, including wave and wind energy development, generates millions of dollars and expected to create hundreds of jobs. He provided much more information about more reasons for preserving local leadership of the Port.

Newport (OR) is well on the way to become the premier research center of the West Coast comparable to Woods Hole. A short-sighted shift to focusing on shipping logs, which takes manufacturing jobs out of the United States, destroys the future of Newport and its potential for more living-wage employment.

As the state battles the question of whether the Port of Newport should lose its local leadership—and possibly its existing marine benefits—go back in time in Sue Hardesty’s history of the Newport International Terminal:

Among the many things I love about living on Oregon’s Yaquina Bay are the bits of history platted about on its edges or used in ways it was never meant to be—for example, the huge ship propeller stationed outside our Pacific Maritime Heritage Center. My interest, however, is not so much in the propeller (although it is beautiful) as it is in the SS CW Pasley ship [below right] to which it was once attached. This ship was named after Sir Charles William Pasley (1780-1861), a British military engineer who wrote textbooks and experimented with improving concrete. McCloskey and Company built the Pasley, one of a fleet of 24 concrete ships, under a wartime emergency program near the end of World War II. The decks and hulls were made entirely of concrete with six-inch-thick walls reinforced with rebar.

The second concrete-hulled vessel purchased by the port was the SS Joseph Aspdin, named for a Brit who received a patent for “Portland” cement made from limestone on the English Channel. The Aspdin is remembered as “the ship that committed suicide.” She broke loose of its moorings in the dark of night, left Yaquina Bay, went aground, and sank

In 1948, the Pasley and the SS Francois Hennebique, named after a French stonemason who pioneered in reinforced concrete, were floated into place to build a wharf at McLean Point on the south side of Yaquina Bay and sunk by blasting holes in their sides and bottoms. Over time the Pasley shifted and rolled toward the bay, and structural failure caused cracks in the hull. Oil leaks polluting the bay finally closed the wharf in 2001.


I watched the renovation of the terminal that began in 2010. The Pasley was refloated and dismantled and the Hennebique partially dismantled. Much of the Hennebique hull still remains under the terminal, and I can see the bow on the edge of the tarmac where fishing boats are serviced. The cement from the hulls was ground up and reused as paving material and the metal rebar recycled. The new terminal opened for business in August 2013.

Back in 1942, McCloskey had received a federal contract in 1942 to build the fleet of concrete ships because steel was scarce. All 24 ships were built at an incredible rate of speed, with the first one launched within a month, and named after pioneers in the science and development of concrete. In addition to the ones in Yaquina Bay, two ships were sunk as blockships in the Allied invasion of Normandy, and nine more were sunk as breakwaters for a ferry landing at Kiptopeke, Virginia. Seven are still afloat in a giant breakwater on the Powell River in Canada to protect the logging pond of the Powell River Company pulp and paper mill in BC, Canada.

The future USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) is floated from the dock for the first time during its October 2015 christening at Bath Iron Works.

At 420 feet, the SS Peralta is the largest—and oldest—concrete ship afloat and comprises part of the Powell River breakwater with eight other concrete ships that McCloskey built. Originally an oil tanker built during World War I, the Peralta was converted to a sardine cannery in Alaska in 1924. Twenty-four years later, she was taken to Antioch (CA) where she served for another ten years before moving to Canada with nine World War II concrete ships.

April 22, 2018

Earth Day 2018

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 9:51 PM
Tags: ,

Visual Earth Day 2018 may have the greatest resistance to the destruction of the planet since its inception almost a half century ago in 1970. The current federal promotion of business over environment and the elimination of regulations that protect air, land, and water have resulted in a giant backlash both within the courts and among individual efforts. In lawsuits, the people are winning in many areas as environmental groups fight against agribusiness food, pesticides, and genetically modified foods. In a tragic event, LGBTQ and environmental rights activist David Buckel died after he set himself on fire on April 20, 2018 to demonstrate how people are destroying the planet. He wrote:

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result—my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

People power in 2018:

A Louisiana water protector locked herself into a cement-filled barrel placed in the trench of a horizontal directional drill to block construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

People in Maryland blocked construction before a tractor blockade intended to prevent building a compressor station to bring fracked gas from the Mid-Atlantic to the Dominion export terminal.

A busload of Lancaster (PA) protesters took a 12-foot-long piece of pipeline into a corporate meeting room, singing songs and chanting, asking “How does it feel to be invaded?”

Protesters built a small longhouse to block the main entrance to the corporate headquarters in a Bellevue (WA) energy company.

People protested California’s Gov. Jerry Brown about fracking when he spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Hundreds of people protested Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf about his pro-fracking policies.

Protests are stopping pipeline investments in Canada and drastically slowing down the transportation of tar sands and fracked gas.

Tree-sits in West Virginia are increasing to prevent the Mountain Valley pipeline for fracked gas that will destroy trees and the habitat.

Cities are no longer divesting in banks that fund fossil fuel projects because of protests.

Washington activists defeated the largest oil-train terminal in the nation.

HSBC, the biggest bank in the world, will no longer fund oil or gas projects in the Arctic, tar sands projects, or most coal projects.

Groups and individuals are suing corporations and the federal government are facing lawsuits from individuals, organizations and state and local governments over climate change and environmental degradation.

ExxonMobil is facing a number of lawsuits because the company misled the public and polluted decades after it knew about climate risks and failing to stop investigations into its actions.

Twenty-one young people are allowed to go to trial against the federal government about its environmental destruction after a trial court and the 9th Circuit Court allowed them to continue.

A court ruled that the EPA violated the Civil Rights Act following decades of inaction after complaints; hundreds more complaints about environmental racism face the EPA.

The Supreme Court is hearing a case about whether the U.S. must obey treaties with indigenous people. 

Edmonston, a working-class Maryland town with a median income of $19,000, developed a green town, turning empty lots into community gardens, adding rain barrels, and adding permeable pavement, solar panels, fruit trees for food, and native plant landscapes with leaves collected by the city and composted.

People in Brooklyn reclaimed land, beginning with a vacant lot turned into an almost 2-acre community space with garden beds, an outdoor movie screening area, a pumpkin patch, and an educational production and research farm and transforming over 200 sites. [Data on vacant lots in the city and help for people to reclaim them.]

Wind farming is creating jobs in red states like Texas.

Beyond Extreme Energy is hold a Crack the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory System) protest to increase pressure on the agency that supports fossil fuel and nuclear industries; the protest is at the same time as the Poor People’s Campaign beginning on Mother’s Day to spend 40 days educating the population about links between the environmental crisis with economic inequality, racism, and other issues.

Daniel Webb, 36, has kept all of his plastic—4,490 items with just 8 biodegradable and 93 percent single-use—to make a mural with them.

The Solar Foundation mapped solar jobs, the fastest source of new energy, by congressional district as solar is the fastest growing source of new energy.

Beginning on May 1, the Popular Resistance School, an eight-week course, teaches how movements grow, build power, and succeed and explains the role people can play in the movement. You can sign up here.


Make every day Earth Day. You can save the planet!

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