Nel's New Day

March 3, 2014

Media Skips Events: House Bills, Nuclear Energy, Venezuela, Marissa Alexander

This morning I woke up thinking that I hadn’t heard anything about U.S. House activities lately. That’s what the mainstream media has reported—nothing. But the GOP members are still busy. These are bills that they passed just last Thursday in what they call “Stop Government Abuse Week.” There was nothing about a “Help People Get Jobs Week.”

These five bills all attack the EPA by rendering the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act meaningless because downright repealing this act wouldn’t look good for them. With all the red tape of these proposed laws, the party of less government seems to be moving in the area of massive bureaucracy:


  • All Economic Regulations are Transparent (ALERT) Act.  The purpose of this is to make creating regulations more difficult, for example that one that “prohibits a rule from taking effect until the information required by this Act is posted on the Internet for not less than six months.”
  • Regulatory Accountability Act. Agencies would be required to choose the least costly rule possible after conducting estimates of all “indirect” costs (undefined) and benefits. Industry groups could then sue if they disagree. Anything is possible with this act: for example, incentivizing companies to transfer compliance online could be interpreted as an indirect cost from paper companies’ losing business. Of course, the least costly method of regulating asbestos would be posting warnings.
  • Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act.  Rules that affect small businesses are already reviewing proposed regulations, but this act would require all regulations from almost all regulatory agencies to go before a Small Business Review panel, even if the regulations would not affect these businesses.
  • Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act. The result of this act would be to put barriers to reaching agreements to settle lawsuits if an agency such as the EPA does not meet a deadline for issuing a regulation mandated by law.
  • Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act. These unfunded mandates would be on federal agencies to provide more reports on the financial impact on businesses and states of regulations.


This is a sample of what a GOP Congress could do to the country.

As I mentioned above, there was nothing in my newspaper about the bills that the House passed last week. The media has, from time to time, addressed the issue of newspapers disappearing across the country. I have fought the trend by subscribing to three newspapers, two dailies and my small town’s twice-weekly publication. As I see how these papers—even large ones from Portland and Eugene—concentrate on local issues or just the big headlines of the day such as the recent situation in the Ukraine, I question the money that I send them.

Here are a few stories that weren’t touched in any of my print newspapers:

On the same day that the House passed the above five bills, the Obama administration recommended that private companies should start looking for oil and gas reserves off the Atlantic coast, an area closed to drilling for decades. The industry has lobbied for three decades to lease ocean tracts from Delaware to Cape Canaveral (FL) and failed—until now. The current five-year plan preventing drilling ends in 2017, but an environmental impact study by the Interior Department decided that undersea seismic testing could begin at that time. That means that two federal agencies are considering the destruction of the environment through the Keystone XL Pipeline and Atlantic drilling.    

A few short articles have been released about the 100 tons of highly radioactive water that leaked from one of the more than 1,000 storage tanks because of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster and is now moving toward North America’s west coast. Thus far, the waters off Canada are at an “acceptable” level, but the ocean currents keep moving radioactivity toward us. At the same time, Japan announced a major push to expand its nuclear energy program, and the Obama administration has approved $6.5 billion in loan guarantees for the country’s first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years.  

While the government plans new nuclear plants, it ignores the dilemma of the old ones, faulty cleanup and failure to successfully store the spent nuclear fuel. Two whistleblowers about the troubled safety practices at the Hanford (WA) massively contaminated nuclear-waste site have been fired within the past few months. The 70-year-old plant has 53 million gallons of nuclear waste in 177 underground tanks, many of them leaking radioactive materials into the ground. Both reported a design flaw that could lead to a hydrogen explosion or a nuclear chain reaction. Cleanup at Hanford costs taxpayers about $2 billion a year.

This past month an accident caused 13 employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad (NM) to inhale radioactive americium that concentrates in the bone, liver and muscle, and radioactive isotopes have been discovered a half mile away from the plant. The plant, containing more than 80,000 cubic meters of waste, has been closed for over two weeks after the discovery. The disaster may have been caused by a large piece of salt falling from the ceiling in the storage area and rupturing drums of waste. Potentially, more than the 13 workers could be at risk.

A few articles are finally beginning to trickle into the mainstream media almost a month after the beginning of the “unrest” in Venezuela protesting its new government with thousands of people marching through the streets of Caracas and clashing with police. Although my newspaper did mention this “unrest,” it skipped the part in which at least 17 people have been killed during the protests and countless others have been arrested.


Perhaps mainstream media is staying quiet because of the reasons behind the protest—income inequality and oil. Plentiful oil destroyed the country’s agriculture, and rural people retreated to the cities where the wealthy gated their neighborhoods to keep them out. Protesters are fed up with rising prices, scarce goods, a crackdown on independent media, and colectivos, left over from the Chavez regime, who act as paramilitary groups attacking demonstrators. The debate—and the protests—stem from two visions of Venezuela and the way in which oil wealth should be distributed and spent. Should it go to social programs or policing?

On the other side of the world in Afghanistan, U.S. forces beat up a radio station owner who airs ads paid for by U.S. forces and threatened to kill him. Qazi Nasir Mudassir said that the U.S. special forces didn’t seem to know that his station is largely supported by pro-government ads paid for by the U.S. military and that he received death threats from the Taliban for running these ads. U.S. forces blamed the operation on Afghans.

White men shooting and killing other people in Florida is common, according to the news, and most of them escape guilty verdicts. When a black woman fired one shot in the wall of her Florida house because her abusive estranged husband was going to beat her up—and admitted it to the police—she went to prison. After the internet spread knowledge about Marissa Alexander’s 20-year-old sentence for defending herself, she received a new trial. An appeals court overturned the conviction.

Prosecuting attorney Angela Corey could have dropped the case, but she refused. Corey was also the prosecuting attorney in George Zimmerman’s case when the jury exonerated him. Now Florida prosecutors are asking for an additional 40 years—a total of 60 years in all.

Thus a black woman in fear for her life fires one shot, injures no one, and was sentenced to 20 years with the possibility of an additional 40 years. In the same state, a racist white man follows a black teenager, shoots and kills him, and gets off. And the media ignores the plight of the black woman.

I guess I’ll be cancelling at least one of my newspapers.


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