Monday, June 25, 2012

Time to Declare All-Out War on the Trawler Pirates

Sunday's announcement that today's scheduled opener for setnetters in the Kasilof subdistrict of upper Cook Inlet may do more to raise the ire of Alaskans than all the depredations undergone for decades by mostly Alaska Native subsistence and commercial users in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.  Over the years, all the  writings, testimony at fishery oversight boards, attempts to get conservation-minded people appointed to such boards, and pleas to our serving politicians have gotten us almost nowhere, when it comes to forcing the Bering Sea and North Pacific trawl fleets to severely limit their bycatch of  halibut and Chinook salmon.  But the Kenai commercial and sports salmon fisheries are so deeply enmeshed in several aspects of Alaska politics, and - more importantly - white male-dominated Alaska politics - that a tipping point may have been reached this week:
[B]ased on the poor performance of Kenai River early-run king salmon stocks, as well as king salmon stocks in Cook Inlet and other areas of the state, it is likely that the Kenai River late-run king salmon stock will also experience poor performance and require conservative management. Therefore, the department intends to manage the Kasilof Section set gillnet fishery with two primary objectives.
First, the department is charged with meeting an optimum escapement goal (OEG) in the Kasilof River, enumerated with sonar, of 160,000-390,000 sockeye salmon. The set gillnet fishery will be fished with this escapement objective as the primary management target. In addition, the fishery will also be managed to conserve late-run king salmon stocks, especially if inseason assessment reveals these stocks are performing poorly.
Commercial fishing openings will be predicated upon sockeye salmon escapement levels and inseason assessment of late-run king salmon stocks. This is a significant change in the management of the Upper Subdistrict set gillnet fishery, but the department’s priority is to ensure adequate escapement and conserve salmon stocks when necessary. 
There has been a cascade of Chinook return failures, beginning with the Copper River, where opening commercial catches of Sockeye were very high, but Chinook returns were surprisingly low, leading to the cutoff of Chinook harvest by personal use fishery dipnetters below Chitina.  The returns in the Taku, Stikine and Chilkat Rivers in Southeast Alaska are abnormally low.

The shutdown of both commercial and subsistence Chinook fisheries in the predominantly Alaska Native Yukon fisheries are once again leading to civil disobedience and harsh reaction by the Parnell administration's law enforcement arm there:
State and federal wildlife officials this week seized 21 nets and 1,100 pounds of salmon from subsistence fishermen in Southwest Alaska, Alaska State Troopers say. The seizures, on Wednesday, come during a subsistence fishing closure on the Lower Kuskokwim River. 

Low salmon runs there have again hammered cash-poor village residents who rely on salmon as a traditional food source. At least some of the fishermen may have been on the river in an act of civil disobedience. Two communities -- Tuntutuliak and Akiak -- issued resolutions or statements encouraging residents to fish despite the government ban that began earlier this month, according to a troopers spokesman. 

State and federal wildlife officers issued 33 citations in all. The offense is a criminal misdemeanor, said trooper spokesman Tim DeSpain. 

The Bethel-based Association of Village Council Presidents plans to meet next week and ask the state to issue a disaster declaration in the region. "They're getting depressed and it's getting to be a crisis situation, because they're not going to have any food," said Myron Naneng, AVCP president, who was visiting the Kuskokwim River village of Akiachak Thursday. 

"Salmon is 'neqa' in Yup'ik. In literal translation, in Yup'ik, (it) means food," Naneng said. 
Salmon means food on the lower Yukon, but salmon means hundreds of millions of dollars on Cook Inlet.  Earlier in June, the Kenai River sports Chinook fishery was closed:
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed the river from the mouth upstream to Skilak Lake to king salmon fishing beginning Friday. The closure will be in place during the early run of kings through the end of June. 
The Peninsula Clarion reports that Fish and Game says the early king run on the Kenai looks to be perhaps the lowest on record. 
The lowest on record. 

Soon afterward, the Susitna drainage was closed down to Chinook catch:
The state is banning all fishing for king salmon in the Susitna River drainage starting Monday morning because of poor runs. Ken Marsh, a spokesman for the department's sportfishing division, said Friday that the ban will be will take effect at 6 a.m. Monday in an effort to meet minimum spawning goals. King salmon returns throughout Alaska have been in deep decline for the last few years and the bottom may not have been reached yet, fishery biologists say. 
Anchorage Daily News investigative reporter, Richard Mauer, has taken the lead there in writing about this debacle.  Mauer is Alaska's best investigative journalist.  His articles on the subject of the closures are perhaps too careful, though.  In two articles, Mauer quotes fishery experts who seem to claim Alaska's Chinook are at or near the low end of some sort of natural cycle.  Yet, at the same time, North Pacific halibut stocks are in a similar downward spiral.

To more and more people, the most obvious culprit is the fishery that wantonly wastes and kills hundreds and hundreds of thousands of halibut and Chinook salmon every year, every month, every week and every day - the deepwater trawl fishery.  Comments to Mauer's articles point toward the obvious.  Here's just one example:
does anybody believe the the Bycatch numbers are factual !!! 

Observer coverage is only 30% and I have seen whole tows released before being brought to the surface because the Observer was on deck, the trawler boss knew he had a dirty tow !! released underwater most of these fish are dead already and the thousads of King Salmon the observer would have counted are gone usally the next dirty tow the observer may be at lunch or off shift and below deck this is the dirtiest fishery and without a doubt the most rigged. 

Cameras are not allowed on these boats because the owners don't want it known what is really going on, So believe what you want but if these Trawlers are not stopped good luck with your King fishing, and your Juvenile Halibut are getting swallowed up too .. 

But don't worry Pollack is available at your local market.
People want to do something about this.  Those of us watching the trawlers decimate or destroy our fisheries for decades have felt all but powerless. But now that the Kenai and upper Cook Inlet are being hit by their greed and wanton waste, things may change.

Here are two ways you can help:

1.  You can join the Facebook page I started last winter, called Occupy Fisheries.  The group is small, but there are many high quality links posted there every week that can alert you to actions on stopping legalized fish piracy.

2.  You can sign this letter to Gov. Parnell.  I have.  It reads:
We the sport and subsistence fishing people of Alaska, demand an end to trawler bottom fishing of pollock that produces chinook salmon and halibut bycatch. We demand a full investigation and the complete shut down of this fishing industry until results show the trawlers don't take all the fish. We have a right to our fair share of this fishery through sport and/or subsistence fishing according to Article 8.3 of Alaska State Constitution. 
 Please comment here, if you know of other movements afoot to stop the lunacy of high bycatch limits and limited surveillance of the blue water trawl fleet.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fishing for the Halibut at Deep Creek

Judy has fished from charter boats out of Deep Creek twice before.  I never had.  Saturday, I got my try at it, along with our daughter Julia and her boyfriend, Jesse.  It was Jesse's first day ever in Alaska.  Good choice, Jesse.

Above is Mt. Spurr, across Cook Inlet from us.  Below is our boat:

Here's the family crew:

And the catch (four aren't ours.  The biggest is Julia's):

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Wonders, Summer Projects

Our daughter Julia is up visiting for several days.  Her boyfriend, who has never been to Alaska, arrives tonight.

This afternoon Judy and Julia took the canoe out on Neklason Lake together for the first time in a while.  They were rewarded with the sight of our nesting pair of swans, together with their new brood of seven cygnets.  This is the first time Trumpeter swans have hatched their young on the lake since we've lived here.

Julia is helping me make a new set of floor boards for the Klamath.  We should have the skiff completely refurbished with its new motor in time to take a trip out to Shotgun Cove to hike up to the ridge overlooking Blackstone Bay.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Good News and Bad News from Chitina Copper River Sockeye Dipnet Fishery

I.  Copper River Reds Not Radioactive:

The good news is that I was able to run radiation tests on livers, spleens, stomachs and other tissue of Copper River Sockeye salmon caught last night.

Their radiation levels in average millisieverts per minute was nominal.  Background radiation in the room in which they were measured was in the high 60s.

The fish tissue itself was at 73 millisieverts per minute, less than my basement, but more than my kitchen, and far lower than the ash pile at the fire pit in our front yard.

II:  O'Brien Creek Cuts a New Channel at confluence with the Copper:

The bad news is two-fold.  First, the sockeye catch remains fairly low considering the tremendous amount of fish that have entered the river.  Secondly,  this morning - at about 1:00 am, O'Brien Creek, which was in full spate, cut a new channel to the north of the long-existing one, at the entrance of its estuary below the old railway bridge.

When Kelly and I got to O'Brien Creek last night at about 10:30 pm, we were able to drive onto the Chitina Corporation land at the spit, and down to the new landing for the charter boats.  But when we came back in the early morning, the river had left its banks, and was quickly eating away land.

The cleaning trailer maintained by Mark Hem and Sam McAllister had to be moved, lest it be washed into the advancing creek.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Sick People at the Immoral Minority - Updated

Jesse Griffin at my house, back when we were friends
I  worked in the field of public safety for over twelve years.  Seven of them in the field of corrections, at Anchorage's Cordova Center, the state's largest halfway house.

I ran the place for two of those years.

I sent well over 100 people back to prison, while working to assure thousands of others were released back into public life after serving their time.

Nothing sickens me more in regard to incarceration, prison or prison life than wishes for sexual violence upon a prisoner, female or male.  That young males bound for prison will be forcefully sodomized while institutionalized is a meme,  most notably, commonly. and carelessly shown through "Bubba" references.

Anyone who wishes rape upon another person, or predicts such ill treatment, while at the same time not doing anything to reduce chances of that occurring, is a scoundrel.

Jesse Griffin, has posted a diary about the convictions in the Alaska militia trial today.  Here are some of the sick fucks' comments to his post:
I think Cox will be so busy bending over in the shower to pick up his soap that he won't have the time to do any damage.
He's going to be someone's bitch real soon. With a boyish face like that you know he'll be grabbed real quick by the meanest of the mean. I hope he enjoys his new life
to which somebody replied:
Funny, I had the same thought while reading the post.
I'm fine with that!
Say goodbye to cocky cox. He will now be a lifer´s meek and submissive girlfriend. The loudest guys in the room are always the weakest.

I can see him now wearing a Sarah fright wig, Sarah fuck me shoes, Sarah fake glasses, and Belmont girls.

Jesse Griffin moderates all comments posted at his blog.

Obviously not to delete or comment upon his fans' wishes for sexual violence in Federal prisons, though.

Am I wrong to think his policy is disturbing in a major way?

Update - Tuesday Morning:  Since I wrote this, more sick comments are piling in:

The inevitable "Bubba" comment:
One has to wonder how tough Mr. Cox will be once Bubba gets hold. One can almost hear his whimpering in the distance! Cuddle time, Cox?
A commenter made a similar observation to mine:
Interesting that people who are supposed to be liberals are gleeful about someone being anally raped. Prison rape jokes aren't funny. It's a bizarre American thing I'll never understand. Yes I'm American, yes I'm liberal. I used to laugh about it too until I matured.
The responses:
Go back to your hole you troll!! These guys deserve every bit of anal pounding that they're going to get.

Gryphen writes a great blog and all you can do is complain because we're telling it like it is.
and finally, Lefty O'Douls writes: 
Maybe you should line up next to Schaeffer for your turn.
And I missed the fact earlier that Jesse Griffin himself invited the sickos to launch away, by linking to an Urban Dictionary definition I had never seen before - PMITA. It stands for "pound me in the ass":
Somehow I think this verdict knocked that cocky grin right off Schaeffer Cox's face.

Now he is headed to PMITA prison. And in my opinion it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. 

Headed to the Copper River

The Copper River above the confluence with the Chitina River, looking north
Kelly and I are headed over to the Copper River canyon tomorrow.  The nets are ready, the knives are sharpened, the ropes and harnesses and rain gear are packed.
Looking upriver in the middle of the Copper River Canyon

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Garden Pictures - Recovering From a Bad Early June

Between the rain and the chilly days and nights, this was the worst early June for our vegetable garden.  The greenhouse hasn't fared badly, as everything got a marvelous start during April and May.

Above - columbine and wild geraniums in Judy's rock garden.

Below, Stupice tomatoes in the greenhouse.

A new plant in Judy's rock garden:

A slightly hybridized wild columbine:

A hybridized white columbine:

The palette in my wife's rock garden:


Fava bean flowers coming out:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mat-Su Democrats U.S. House Primary Candidate Forum Friday Evening

Seated from left to right:  Debra Chesnut, Rep. Sharon Cissna, Doug Urquidi, Matt Moore, with Mat-Su Democrats chair Gwen Heynen at right
The Mat-Su Democrats, perhaps Alaska's most progressive local chapter, held the first U.S. House candidate forum of the 2008 election cycle this evening.  I was the moderator.

Four out of the five candidates from our party were able to be there.  Frank Vondersaar, from Homer, had a previous engagement.  Alaska state Rep. Sharon Cissna (Anchorage), Debra Chesnut (Fairbanks), Matt Moore (Anchorage) and Doug Urquidi (Eagle River) were all there.  The format was a three-minute introductory statement, a round of ten questions to each candiate, posed by me (submitted previously by members of the Mat-Su Democrats), with one-minute responses, four questions to all the candidates from the audience, and 90-second conclusions.

There were about 70 people attending.

What struck me the most were three things:
1.  How much humor all had to offer, and how much the four opponents laughed at each others' jabs at Young, GOP policies or other laughable aspects of the current political scene.  They genuinely like each other. 

2.  How many observed, one way or another, how, in respect to the ongoing wars and growth of the national security state, the Democratic Party establishment has come to support policies now implemented by the Obama administration and the Democratic Party-controlled Senate, that Democrats abhorred when Bush was chief executive.

3.  How Democrats in power don't seem to understand how to describe responsible, sustainable development policies in terms that will strongly resonate with union members and voters in the middle.
The ten questions I posed were:
1.  What is your position on the Knik Arm Bridge?

2.  If built, should it include rail as well as roadway?

3.  Do you support the proposed Watana hydroelectric dam on the upper Susitna River?

4.  What are your thoughts on the proposed Pebble Mine?

5.  Do you support the Wishbone Hill open pit coal mine Usibelli plans on opening in Sutton?  What about the Alaska

6.  Mental Health Trust coal leases behind Chickaloon?

7.  What is your strategy for forging positive relationships among congresspersons in Washington DC?

8.  How will you address Don Young's inevitable argument of his seniority?

9.  Name one thing you would do - beyond what is now being  done - to help veterans.

10.  Has the surveillance state gone too far?
All the candidates had creative ideas about ways to help veterans, so I allowed them more time to expand upon that.

This is an interesting group of engaged, committed Alaskans who have few ties to old school Alaska Democratic Party politics.  If you get a chance to go to one of the upcoming forums, you should.

Does the Netroots Care about Nuclear Power?

Image by Greg Jalbert, Culture Change
--- by Gregg Levine

On Thursday, June 7, as hundreds of online journalists and activists gathered in Providence, Rhode Island for the seventh annual Netroots Nation conference to discuss what were deemed the most pressing issues of the day, a smaller group made up of nuclear industry representatives and officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the US Department of Energy got together 400 miles south to discuss matters they thought even more urgent. While the attendees in the Ocean State were getting training on “how to navigate the action-packed schedule at Netroots Nation [and] survive on two hours sleep (and still be alert for a day of panels!),” owners of the nation’s aging nuclear facilities pursued doubling the length of new operating licenses, floating the possibility that reactors will be allowed to run into their 80th year–twice the original design life of most plants.

As bloggers, organizers, pundits and politicians were discovering the charms of the Beehive of Industry (yes, that is one of Providence’s nicknames), inspectors at Davis-Besse, the oft-discussed, always troubled nuclear power plant near Toledo, Ohio were reporting what they termed a “pinhole” leak releasing about a gallon of radioactive coolant every 10 minutes. The reactor had been shut down for refueling, maintenance and safety inspections, but was supposed to restart last week. . . before the leak was discovered in a pipe weld. (Though the reason behind the leak has yet to be determined, FirstEnergy, Davis-Besse’s owner, has now resumed the restart. . . without so much as a raised eyebrow from regulators.)

This incident at Davis-Besse comes not so very long after the Ohio primary, where the safety of the plant and trustworthiness of its owners and regulators was an issue in the race between two sitting Democratic members of Congress–Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur. Forced to run against each other because of redistricting, the plight of Davis-Besse became a defining issue between the two, with Kucinich calling for the plant to remain off-line until the cause of cracks in the containment structure was determined, while Kaptur affirmed her faith in FirstEnergy. Kaptur argued that the failing facility meant jobs for the struggling district–a district that was drawn to favor Kaptur’s old base–and in the end, beat Kucinich for the Democratic nod.

Following this latest breach in safety, Representative-for-another-six-months Kucinich has petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Inspector General (PDF) for an investigation into the NRC’s lax supervision of Davis-Besse.

As the netroots community and representatives of organized labor pondered in Providence whither the union movement in the wake of the Wisconsin recall results, 250 actual union workers, locked out of their jobs at Massachusetts Pilgrim nuclear plant (a short drive from the Rhode Island Convention Center), some for as long as 10 weeks, were filing a five-point grievance with the National Labor Relations Board. The union accused Pilgrim’s operator, Entergy, of coercive and threatening behavior leading up to a June 2 vote on a new labor contract. The workers overwhelmingly rejected the contract a week after the NRC granted Entergy a 20-year license extension for the plant–and 10 days after Pilgrim had to scram because of reduced vacuum in the plant’s condenser.

That there would be problems at a plant where replacement workers have been complaining that they are being asked to do jobs outside their expertise hardly seems surprising. That an ongoing labor action, safety concerns and licensing fight happening just two counties away from Providence would not be an issue at the Netroots Nation convention is a bit more vexing.

While conventioneers in Providence listened to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman explain his relative lack of action on the foreclosure fraud crisis as somehow part of what he called a “transformational moment,” members of Pilgrim Watch, a citizen’s group opposed to the Massachusetts nuclear plant, were in court demanding that regulators do more to require post-Fukushima lessons learned be incorporated in required upgrades to Pilgrim’s GE Mark I boiling water reactor (the exact same design as those at Fukushima Daiichi). Activist groups have mounted similar (and additional) legal challenges to the relicensing of Vermont Yankee, another ancient Mark I reactor well into its break-down phase. And in New York, public activism mounts as the Indian Point reactors approach their relicensing hearing.

In fact, Friday, as Netroots Nation attendees wondered why there was a 90-minute gap in the midday schedule (word is conference organizers were hoping to bag the president or vice president as a lunchtime keynote, and the extra time was allotted for additional security. In case you missed it, the closest the conference got to any high-level White House official was a new campaign video, introduced on tape by Obama), the DC Court of Appeals handed down an important decision that could have broad implications for the future of domestic commercial nuclear power. A three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was negligent in the way it evaluated plant safety because regulators assumed a solution to the country’s long-term radioactive waste storage crisis when none currently exists.

If you were watching your twitter feed, you might have caught this. If you were sitting in on any of Friday afternoon’s Netroots panels, this ruling probably didn’t come up.

Indeed, throughout the three-plus days of panels, training sessions, caucuses and keynotes, attendees quite likely heard no mention of nuclear power, its persistent threats to safety, its drastic drain on the budget, its onerous oppression of workers or its brazen gouging of rate-payers. For, while there were well over 100 panels, and dozens of other training sessions and caucuses, nothing on the schedule even made a passing attempt to address nuclear energy here in the United States or the ongoing (and growing) crisis of radioactive contamination from Fukushima spreading across the globe.

It would be one thing if this were purely fodder for wonks and science geeks, but as demonstrated above, and in over a year’s worth of columns, nuclear power touches on many (if not most) of the issues considered to be core concerns of the netroots movement. Corporate greed, captured government, worker rights, environmental justice, and a lazy legacy media–its all part and parcel of the nuclear narrative.

And it might not be worth a few precious hours of conference schedule if the fight against nuclear power and its acolytes were a lost cause, but in this post-Fukushima moment (and, yes, we are still in it), the country and the world stand at a crossroads. While the US government seems hell-bent on backstopping a failing, flailing industry, other countries are using this crisis to step back from the next potential nuclear nightmare and commit to a cleaner, renewable energy future. Meanwhile, here in the United States, engaged communities of activists and concerned citizens are organizing to fight on the local level for the protections their federal government has failed to deliver.

The appeals court decision on Friday is a monument, really, to the years of hard work put in by individuals and organizations across the country–and it is a monumental opportunity to learn from this success and build the future of the anti-nuclear movement.

It is a movement that could benefit greatly from the online organizing tools that have breathed so much life into the netroots, but the netroots, too, could learn a few things from the anti-nuclear movement. Providence, with its physical proximity to Pilgrim, and its temporal proximity to so many developments on the nuclear front, would have seemed like a golden opportunity. But the organizers of Netroots Nation appeared to have other priorities.

While the good folks at NIRS–the Nuclear Information and Resource Service–where awarded a booth in the exhibition hall at the Providence convention center, veterans of the conference know there is quite a different level of engagement when it comes to the booths, versus what happens at panels and speeches. (This is to take nothing away from NIRS, which had a table filled with great information, much of which can also be found on their website.)

Fired up?

Some noise was made, quite publicly, as a matter of fact, about this year’s Netroots convention being friendlier to the Obama administration. “I think people are generally on board [with Obama's reelection effort],” said Raven Brooks, the executive director of Netroots, as he explained to Talking Points Memo that this year’s convention would be relatively free of the confrontation that met White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer at the 2011 conference.

“People are fired up about 2012,” said Mary Rickles, who is communications director for Netroots, noting in the same TPM article that she expected an administration presence at this year’s conference. (Again, unless you count Schneiderman, there was none.)

Inside the convention center, Van Jones–briefly part of the Obama administration until driven out by a rightwing witch-hunt, and cofounder of Rebuild the Dream–headlined the last night of speeches. Jones, himself a longtime advocate for renewable energy, instead turned to a theme he has hit often in recent years: that while some might be disappointed with the pace of progress, in the end, it is not Obama’s failing, it is ours. But this time, it being an election year, and everyone thusly “fired up,” Jones put it this way: “We have two tasks: to re-elect the president and re-energize the movement to hold the president accountable.”

Quoting Jones in an email announcing next year’s convention, Brooks underscored the point:
After November has come and gone, our job of pushing for the strongest possible progressive policies will begin in earnest. In short, we’ve got to step up our game.
Inspiring thoughts, perhaps, but ones completely contrary to the way electoral politics has worked in this country about as far back as anyone can remember. Making demands of office-seekers after you’ve pledged your vote is not just cart-before-the-horse, it’s asinine and ass-backwards.

The netroots played a roll in the election of Barack Obama in 2008, though in the eyes of the now-POTUS, not an overly large one. After the election, Team Obama moved quickly to rein in the less-predictable elements of its grassroots campaign while one-by-one riding roughshod over most of the issues that mattered to left-leaning bloggers and online activists. Previous NetNat attendees had a right to boo Obama surrogates, and the folks charged with re-electing the president should be taught to fear that wrath–if not through activism, at least by way of apathy.

Mitt Romney would no doubt make a dismal president–but that is not the point. This election will be decided by turnout, and the Obama campaign will need to motivate parts of his base such as the netroots with reasons to get out and vote for his second term. If online activists want something from Obama in return for going to the polls, the time to demand that, the time to get that on paper–or in pixels–is before election day, not after.

After, Obama doesn’t need you anymore. It’s called a lame duck term for many reasons, but one of them is that the president can easily duck any kind of obligation some might feel he should have to his blandly loyal netizens.

Which brings us back to nuclear power and Netroots Nation. It is not a secret that one of Obama’s great benefactors in past elections has been Exelon, the nuclear giant that not only gave heavily to the 2008 campaign, but once employed both former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, once a senior Obama advisor and now Communications Director for his 2012 campaign.

Obama’s steadfast support for nuclear power–making the point, not once, but twice, in the first weeks after the Fukushima crisis began, to publicly assure that the US commitment to nuclear was strong–now puts him at odds with many countries in the industrialized world, but, more important here, it has always put him at odds with many in the online progressive community. It would be sad to think that conference organizers decided against any anti-nuclear content in an effort to keep this year’s Netroots Nation “onboard” with and “fired up” about a possible administration presence.

But it would be even sadder to think that the fault lies not in these self-anointed stars, but in ourselves. While chances are if you are reading this you have at least some degree of interest in nuclear issues, is it possible that what once was called the “blogosphere” (but now should be considered something more) does not see nuclear power, the looming environmental catastrophe and financial sinkhole it presents, as relevant? Is it that the almighty and always invisible atom is just not as juicy as, say, fracking, or anything with the word “occupy” in it?

That would be a shame–and a mistake–for it is all part of a piece. The work of occupiers across this country over the last year is to be applauded, but some of the things central to the protests, a broken system, a captured government filthy with corporate cash, are central to the fight against nuclear power, as well. And while hydrofracking represents a tremendous threat to our water supply and our climate, and so should be protested full bore, its current profitability might make it less sensitive to activism than nuclear power at this point in its history.

Without government support–without the federal loan guarantees, the Price-Anderson indemnity, state and local tax breaks and rate subsidies–the commercial nuclear power industry would collapse.

There would be few demands for license renewals because few plants would turn a profit.

And without a government-run long-term waste repository, the nuclear industry faces even more safety and financial concerns. The lack of storage options is actually a crisis for nuclear operators–and a threat to the safety of a majority of Americans. What this country does with its atomic waste has always been a political issue, too–and it has played out on the political stage throughout this past year. It is an issue that is very sensitive to old-time, easy to grasp, electoral politics, and so it is one sensitive to the newfangled tools of internet organizing.

So, between environmentalists and budget wonks, between regulatory hawks and electoral junkies, and between old-line environmental activists and 21st Century online organizers there is much to discuss. Let’s hope that no matter who is running for whatever office next year, the netroots, and the Netroots Nation conference, find the time and space–and the political will–to engage the dirty, dangerous and expensive threat of nuclear power.
*  *  *
[Full disclosure by Gregg Levine: I had submitted a panel proposal for the 2012 Netroots Nation conference, and though it was given consideration and, I am told, was in the running till the end, it was not included in the final schedule. The panel was to be called "Clean, Safe, and Too Cheap to Meter? Countering Nuclear's Lies in a Post-Fukushima Landscape," and while I was disappointed at not having this opportunity, the far bigger concern for me was that conference organizers chose not to include any sessions on nuclear issues at all. One year's personal slight is not really a big deal; ignoring the obvious and broad importance of this topic, however, signals a bigger problem.]

Obama's Address to Netroots Nation Last Week

CNN Situation Room June 13th Coverage of Jonathan Pollard Forum

Jonathan Pollard was a better than average argument for capital punishment.

 Rep. Engel should leave my country and move to Hebron. If he agrees to give up his U.S. citizenship and move there, I'll donate the first $500.00 toward his moving expenses.

What CREW Has Learned About Don Young

image by Dennis Zaki
[The complete report on Rep. Don young by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington may be found at this link: 

CREW Archives:  Rep. Don Young ]
The Department of Justice, in response to a court order and after insisting there was no document from its investigation of Rep. Don Young (R-AK) it could disclose without violating Rep. Young’s privacy interests, produced hundreds of pages from the FBI’s investigative files to CREW several weeks ago. Even with redactions, those documents tell a remarkable story of greed and corruption. They also reveal what we have suspected for a long time – DOJ’s Public Integrity Section killed the Young prosecution because it did not have 100% confidence it could get a conviction. Ironic given the Department’s decision to prosecute former Sen. John Edwards under a novel, unprecedented theory of law.

The documents pertain to an investigation of Rep. Young’s role in procuring a $10 million earmark that benefitted one of his campaign contributors and that was inserted into a Fiscal Year 2006 transportation bill after both houses had voted on the bill. In 2008, Congress itself demanded that DOJ investigate what has come to be called the “Coconut Road” earmark. The FBI documents reveal that six months before this demand, in June 2007, the FBI and several Florida U.S. Attorneys’ Offices already had opened a public corruption investigation of Rep. Young for “systemic abuse” of his position of trust, initially described as “the receipt of funds from constituents in localities which were then awarded funds for Federal projects that may not have been requested or in the region’s long term plans.”1

Over the course of three years, the FBI, with assistance from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, interviewed dozens of witnesses and amassed a wealth of evidence concerning not only Rep. Young’s role in the Coconut Road earmark, but his misuse of campaign funds to finance personal expenses of both himself and his wife Lu Young. The two used Rep. Young’s campaign account as a personal piggy bank they reached into to cover such things as personal travel home to Alaska,2 restaurants unrelated to campaign activities, and laundry and dry cleaning.3    According to at least one witness, Rep. Young treated any travel to Alaska as campaign related, regardless of its purpose.4    Both he and his wife routinely obtained $300 cash advances for their trips to Anchorage to cover tips and incidental expenses, a practice eventually stopped on the advice of counsel.5    One witness described cash left for Rep. Young either in his hotel room or his condominium.   Lu Young also sought reimbursement from campaign funds for additional expenses incurred during trips to Alaska, such as lunches with friends.7    In addition, Rep. Young kept a sports utility vehicle parked in the congressional garage for which he sought monthly reimbursement from campaign funds for mileage, even though the vehicle apparently never left the garage.8

Witnesses interviewed by the FBI paint a fairly negative picture of Rep. Young’s wife Lu, who perceived herself to be “the elected official,” but also acted as a kind of office manager, screening people who came into Rep. Young’s office.9    Described as having “a sense of entitlement about most things,” she submitted many of her personal expenses for reimbursement from campaign funds, including meals with friends and family.10   

This practice apparently stopped at some point after years of abuse on the advice of counsel.11    Another witness told the FBI Lu Young received “countless bracelets and ivory while in the DC office,” as well as diamond earrings during a Las Vegas trip,12 while another described Rep. Young and his wife as the recipients of lavish gifts.13

Travel to the Youngs’ two houses in Fort Yukon, Alaska, was covered in large part by campaign funds. The campaign typically paid half of the cost of a charter flight to Fort Yukon, with the congressional office picking up the rest of the cost, which it attributed to Lu Young.14    In some instances, however, the campaign paid for the entire cost of the chartered flight.15    The Youngs also used these flights to transport building supplies.16    Even though these trips were paid for with campaign funds, no campaign events ever took place in Fort Yukon.17

On multiple occasions, Rep. Young went on hunting trips to various hunting resorts in New York, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Montana paid for with campaign funds.18    In some instances, these trips coincided with campaign trips, but the hunting trips themselves were not campaign events.19    In at least one instance, a planned fund raising event was never held, but the hunting trip still went forward.20

Rep. Young failed to disclose these hunting trips on his annual financial disclosure forms. On August 17, 2010, DOJ’s Public Integrity Section referred this matter to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct on August 17, 2010, for possible violations of the Ethics in Government Act.21    Apparently the House Ethics Committee already had commenced its own investigation, as the referral memo references the fact Rep. Young, through counsel, had previously provided the documentation regarding these trips to the committee.22

By December 2008, working with individuals from several U.S. Attorney’s Offices and DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, the FBI had gathered “a vast amount of evidence.”23    For its part, the FBI’s Washington Field Office had “invested a large amount of resources into the case, including two agents, an intelligence analysts and one financial analyst.”24    It appears there were several investigative teams pursuing different allegations with the intent of charging Rep. Young “and his co-conspirators” in a single indictment in 2009.25

The FBI files contain a draft indictment charging Rep. Young with Honest Services Fraud, described as follows:
Donald Young, in his capacity as Congressman of Alaska, accepted and expected things of value (trips, meals, golf, etc.) from lobbyists, and in exchange, he would provide them with official actions (meetings, letters, legislation).26
The draft indictment also charges Rep. Young with false statements for failing to disclose gifts and trips he received from lobbyists.27

In the end, however, despite years of work and mountains of evidence, DOJ’s Public Integrity Section pulled the plug on the Young investigation. An August 30, 2010 FBI memo notes the following:
After review by the Chief of the Public Integrity Section, Department of Justice, it was determined that there was not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to ultimately convict Congressman Young. Instead, the FBI has for- warded a letter outlining certain actions taken by Congressman Young and will leave punishment to the discretion of the Ethics Commission.28
In typical fashion, the Ethics Committee exercised its discretion to do exactly nothing.
Nevertheless, some documents suggest Rep. Young may be the subject of an ongoing investigation. The FBI has made a number of redactions relying on FOIA Exemption 7(A), intended to protect against interference with “enforcement proceedings.”29    These include documents that appear to pertain solely to Rep. Young, such as documents summarizing the case against Rep. Young and the objective in moving forward.30

Finally, separate and apart from Rep. Young, the documents reveal the practice of at least some congressional staff to seek pay cuts or not accept pay raises before an election to avoid the one- year lobbying ban imposed on staff earning above a certain percentage of their member’s salary. In this way, if a member lost, the staffer would have more options, including the very lucrative option of lobbying members from the outside.31    According to one former staffer who did this, none of his responsibilities and duties changed when he lowered his salary. This same staffer admitted his work on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the relationships he made there were key to his ability to obtain earmarks for his clients once he became a private sector lobbyist.32
1 Young Document 2 (references are to the bates numbers on the documents produced by the FBI).
2 See, e.g., Young Document 192.
3 Young Document 193.
4 Young Document 194.
5 Young Document 195.
6 Id.
7 Id.
8 See id.
9 Young Document 193.
10 Young Document 194.
11 Young Document 193.
12 Young Document 198.
13 Young Document 250. 14 Young Document 196.
15 Id.
16 Id.
17 Id.
18 Young Documents 138-9, 197, 237.
19 Young Document 197.
20 Id.
21 Young Document 166.
22 Id.
23 Young Document 337.
24 Id.
25 Id., Young Document 339.
26 Young Document 355.
27 Young Document 357.
28 Young Document 173.
29 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A).
30 Young Documents 183, 186. See also Young Document 235, 249.
31 Young Document 244-245, 247, 248.
32 Young Document 248.

Corrupt Bastard Don Young

Don Young addressing Wasilla Tea Party Patriots - April 15, 2009 - image by Philip Munger
[This is the October 16, 2006 article I wrote for progressive activist Howie Klein, and his blog, Down With Tyranny.  I'm reprinting it now, to help people remember just how sleazy some of Don's actions have been over the years]

Don Young and Jack Abramoff first crossed paths in 1997. Young had "sponsored a bill to hold a vote in Puerto Rico on statehood for the U.S. territory. Abramoff was a lobbyist for a group called Future of Puerto Rico that wanted the same thing." The bill passed the House but died in the Senate.

Beginning in 1999, Young became involved with Abramoff in scams designed to bamboozle Americans into believing that products produced under slave labor-like conditions in the Mariana Islands were "Made in the USA." Young, as chairman of the House Resources Committee, had oversight responsibilities over working conditions in the Marianas and the Marshall Islands. In spite of this responsibility, Young neglected to raise questions regarding working conditions in either Island group while touring the Pacific Ocean territories on trips subsidized or arranged by Abramoff.

Young has never been confronted on his failure to take action on labor abuses in the Marianas at that time which included forced prostitution and abortion, harsh working conditions, a rapidly growing narcotics trade and illegal garnishment of employee wages. Throughout the period of Young's stewardship over the islands, working conditions worsened as sweatshops erected there replaced the American textile and clothing industry one shop at a time.

Chinese crime boss and sweatshop owner Tan Siu Lin was able to launder money through Abramoff to a number of GOP legislators and committees at the same time the US Interior Department was issuing reports to Young about horrendous working conditions and the growth of organized crime at Tan family-owned businesses in the Marianas.

On January 4, 1999, Abramoff was hired to represent the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Abramoff’s main mission was to stop legislation pending in Congress, which would have raised costs of clothing manufactured by the Tan family and other clothing manufacturing interests there.

On February 21, 1999, Young visited the Marshall Islands. As soon as he returned to Washington, DC, Young killed House Resolution 730, which called for the implementation of US labor laws in the Marshalls.

On February 2, 2000, Young called Abramoff’s assistant Jennifer Calvert to ask for use of Abramoff’s MCI skybox for two upcoming fundraisers. The request was granted. The fundraisers were held March 30 and July 24. Young failed to report use of the skyboxes, as required by Federal law, until early 2006-- after the Abramoff scandal broke and was splashed all over the national media.

Later in the summer of 2000, Abramoff’s lobbying firm, Preston, Gates and Ellis, held a pricey tribute for Don Young at the Republican National Convention.

In 2001, Abramoff moved to the firm of Greenburg Traurig. In a January 4, 2001 proposal to represent the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Abramoff wrote about his confidence in Don Young’s ability to quash legislation prejudicial to the Tan family business interests. But Abramoff also complained about Young's removal from the Chair of the House Resources Committee, saying, "The loss of Chairman Young’s authority cannot easily be measured or replaced." [He was replaced by someone equally corrupt and someone who was quick to pick up where Young left off: Dirty Dick Pombo.]

But Abramoff wasn't yet done with Young. We know of at least two more scams. On March 21, 2001, Abramoff staffer Tony Rudy met with Young's staff to "start gathering signatures on letter to chairman," an unclear reference to a Marianas official.

During the remainder of 2001, Young or his staff met or had discussions with Abramoff agents at least eleven times, May 25, 29 and 31; June 5, 8, 13 and 25 (twice); August 22; and December 13 and 21.

In the summer of 2002, Young's senior counsel, Duane Gibson, went to work for Abramoff. This is in itself highly interesting given the almost daily parade of GOP staffers and ex-staffers under fire, indictment or both.

In September 2002, Young sought to intervene with the General Services Administration on behalf of Abramoff, who at that time was seeking preferential treatment for a group of his Tribal clients who were bidding on a proposal to develop the Old Post Office Complex site in Washington, DC. Although Young merely wrote two letters to the GSA recommending the tribe's business consortium, he received a $7,000 contribution from two of the partners in the deal. Irregularities in this business deal have led to the indictments and convictions of David Savafian, GSA chief of Staff, Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio, and, of course, Ambramoff. [Just today the Sacramento Bee confirmed that Young House crony John Doolittle is also being investigated for the FBI for his role in the Abramoff corruption scandals. It is widely believed that after Doolittle has been indicted Young and Montana Senator Conrad Burns will be the next up for thorough investigations by the Feds.]

On November 21, 2005 Abramoff’s partner Michael Scanlon pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a member of Congress and other public officials. January 3, 2006 Abramoff pled guilty to three felony counts, conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion, involving charges stemming principally from his lobbying activities in Washington. He is purportedly continuing to cooperate with Federal investigators but in the world of Gonzales/Bush "Justice," Alice Fisher has led the investigative team. Fisher has been tied to fundraising for GOP crime boss Tom DeLay’s legal defense team.

In February 2006, the Anchorage Daily News published an editorial and a story that covered some of the Young-Abramoff links detailed above. Young responded on February 7, 2006 with a long letter to the editor of the News. Young claimed, quite falsely, "I have never had any personal or professional relationship with Abramoff." Young concluded, "I find the Daily News' editorial suggesting an unethical link between myself and Abramoff to be reprehensible. You need to get your opinions [sic] straight and quit attacking my integrity." The Anchorage Daily News followed up on February 19, 2006, with an article detailing some of the Young-Abramoff links.

And Abramoff-Young links keep popping up. Former Abramoff colleague, David Safavian, was convicted on June 20, 2006 of false statements and obstruction of justice involving his collusion with Abramoff while Safavian served as Chief of Staff of the Federal General Services Administration. Although Safavian has been pinned mostly for the well-known golf junket to Scotland, which has also brought down Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio, Don Young's name came up in another aspect of Safavian's trial, the aforementioned Old Post Office Complex area development scam. There is a possibility that more information about Young's involvement in this crooked deal will come out in Safavian's pre-sentence investigation report, which is due for completion soon.

Along with Safavian, Federal prosecutors have convicted former Chief of Staff to Rep. Bob Ney, Neil Volz, for his role in deals which cut quite close to Young's involvement in the Old Post Office Complex scam and his subsequent contributions from Abramoff's clients. The May 25, 2006 Cleveland Plain Dealer article on Safavian has Volz testifying regarding Young. "In his testimony, Volz, who worked with Abramoff (as did Young’s chief counsel, Duane Gibson) after leaving Congress, detailed how the lobbying team received assistance from several Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Ney, Shelley Moore Capitol (W.Va.), Don Young (Alaska) and Steven LaTourette (Ohio)."

Liz Ruskin, the reporter who wrote the Anchorage Daily News stories critical of Young, left the paper in mid-2006. As of October 9, 2006, the Daily News has found no replacement for Ruskin, who reported on Alaska's Congressional delegation. According to their publisher, Patrick Dougherty, they have nobody assigned to cover Young during one of the most important national elections since World War II.

More articles are coming out every week as more information on Abramoff's criminal network come to light. Today's Los Angeles Times carries a long feature by Peter Wallsten, titled "Displease a Lobbyist-- Get Fired." In the article Wallsten chronicles Abramoff's long reach by having Allan Stayman fired in 2001, with Ken Mehlman's help. Stayman was the chief State Department negotiator for agreements on working conditions in the CNMI while Young also had direct responsibility for those conditions.

Alaskans should hold our sole Representative in what will be a Democratically-controlled Congress far more accountable about his dealings with Abramoff through the years, and his failure to look after the welfare of the citizens and residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands when he was statutorily responsible for the welfare of those people.

AK-AL U.S. House Candidate Forum This Evening in Palmer

image by Dark Black
This evening, the Mat-Su Democrats will host four of the five Democratic Primary candidates, running for a shot at Rep. Don Young in the fall election, in a forum:
June 15 Egan Dinner Forum at Turkey Red, You won't want to miss this one.  

Four of the five Democratic candidates running to challenge Don Young for his Congressional seat will be featured in a Forum sponsored by the MatSu Democrats on Friday evening, June 15. The event will be held at Turkey Red Restaurant in Palmer from 6-8:30PM. Appetizers will be served from 6-6:30 with beer and wine available for purchase. In addition, a silent "dessert" auction will take place. The Forum will begin at 6:30 with local Composer/Blogger Phil Munger moderating. Candidates Sharon Cissna (Anchorage), Debra Chesnut (Fairbanks), Matt Moore (Anchorage) and Doug Urquidi (Eagle River) will be participating. Frank Vondersaar (Homer) had a prior commitment. This will be a great opportunity for the community to hear from these congressional hopefuls.
I'm honored to be the moderator for this kickoff event.  I've been covering and writing about Rep. Young since mid-2006, though I haven't written anything substantial about the congressman for quite a while.  The most recent article by one of the progressive Alaskan bloggers was earlier this month, when Steve Aufrecht at What Do I Know? noted attorney Cliff Groh's essay about items having to do with the Department of Justice's long-standing, but most likely terminated investigation of Young for corruption:
This posts builds from Cliff Groh's post at Alaska Political Corruption that cites Charlie Savage's New York Times' May 31 article about the Public Integrity Section's (PIN) checkered record of late. PIN's the Justice Department branch that prosecuted the Alaska corruption cases, including the Stevens case, and the John Edward's [sic] case, but dropped their case against Don Young. It also includes links to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's (CREW) report on the documents it got through Freedom of Information Act requests from DOJ regarding Don Young.
Aufrecht doesn't go much further than noting the coverage, though his links are very helpful.  Especially the link to the CREW Report.  Neither Groh nor Aufrecht published the report itself.  I've read it, and find it interesting comparing the recent report to my 2006 article for Down With Tyranny.  Though I wrote then about some of the matters investigated by the Department of Justice, they investigated other things, and I covered serious matters not indicated in the DOJ paper work we've yet seen.

As part of bringing attention to Rep. Young on this kickoff day for our Democratic Party's bringing candidates to the fore, I'm going to publish the entire CREW report on Young, and I'll repost the 2006 article I wrote for Howie Klein at DWT.

As an aside,  I'll note some thoughts I've had recently about the candidates the Democrats have put up against Young since Alaska political corruption came to national attention in 2006:

Diane Benson and Tony Vita were my guests at a May concert given by the Anchorage Youth Symphony and the Anchorage Concert Chorus.  As we headed from the lobby to the hall, we passed Ethan Berkowitz, his wife Mara Kimmel, and their two kids, Hannah and Noah.  As we talked about kids and music, I thought, "What a helluva good first family these four would have made!"

When Diane Benson got almost 42% of the vote against Don Young in 2006, even though though he outspent her eight to one, people got a wake-up call.  Although the Anchorage-based Democratic Party organization was loathe to help her at all, some in Fairbanks, including the imaginative (now incoming party chair) Mike Wenstrup, found money to help her campaign get on the air during the closing weeks of October.  Had the party gotten behind Benson in early September, and gotten national support that brought attention to Young's corruption, we might now be looking at supporting Diane Benson in her bid for a fourth term in the U.S. House.

When I saw the votes roll in on election night 2008, I was as shocked as anyone else to see the huge gulf between everyone's polling data, and what was coming up on the screen on the Berkowitz-Young contest.  I'm still suspicious that that particular race was manipulated somehow through the electronic voting process.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dock Ellis and His June 12, 1970 Pittsburg Pirates No Hitter - on LSD

--- hat tip to Kelly Walters

Estimating the Potential Impact of Failure of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool

--- reposted from WashingtonsBlog

Estimating the Potential Impact of Failure of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool
A Local Problem for Japan or a Global Mega Crisis?
Paul C. Gailey, Ph.D. , President& CEO, Holophi CHAG
Extreme opinions are being voiced about the risk of global catastrophe resulting from a possible collapse of the Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 spent fuel pool. These claims are appearing mostly among the public through internet media and other non-official channels. Officials sources remain largely mute on the subject or downplay the risks. This report provides an approximate bounding of the risks using available data. The results of this analysis suggest that a nominal release of 10% of the SFP 4 inventory of cesium and strontium would represent 3-10 times the March 2011 release amounts, substantially increasing risk levels in Japan and impacting marine life. Release of 100% of the SFP 4 inventory, or 30-100 times the March 2011 release amounts, could result in significant global impact.

More than a year after earthquake and tsunami that devastated areas of Japan in 2011, new alarms are being sounded concerning the state of the unit 4 spent fuel pool (see Note 1). Although the unit 4 reactor was not operating at the time of the tsunami, its fuel was being stored, along with a large quantity of spent fuel assemblies, in a pool within the unit 4 building. This building was seriously damaged by a hydrogen explosion. The spent fuel pool, which is located about 30 meters above ground, is considered to be in danger of collapsing.

The infrastructure for moving the fuel assemblies was rendered inoperable by the explosion, and high radiation levels make it extremely difficult to clear debris, perform repairs, or construct a new system for removing the assemblies. The cooling system for the spent fuel pool was also destroyed by the explosion, and Tepco has positioned temporary hoses to pump water into the pool for cooling. They have also installed steel pillars to help support the pool.

Reason for Concern
The unit 4 spent fuel pool (SFP) contains 1300-­‐1500 spent and active fuel assemblies. Because the structure of the unit 4 building was damaged by an explosion, the spent fuel pool is in danger of collapsing. If the pool collapses or develops serious cracks allowing the cooling water to drain, the fuel rods will be exposed to the environment. These concerns are elevated by a recent report that additional large earthquakes (magnitude 7) are expected in the area (Tong et al., 2012).

Spent fuel pools are not protected in the same way as reactor cores, and the unit 4 building is seriously damaged. Thus, there is no obvious second line of defense protecting the environment from the radioactive fuel and secondary isotopes if water cooling is lost. Together, the fuel rods currently produce about one megawatt (MVV) or more of waste energy in the form of heat (see Note 2) even though they are not operating in a reactor. This heat must be removed through the use of cooling water to avoid damage to the fuel rods including possible melting, fire, explosions and release of radioactive material.

If cooling water for the spent fuel pool is lost – either by collapse of the pool, formation of cracks in the pool, or other factors – a major release of radioactive material could result. Given the large amount of heat generated by the fuel rods, the temperature would rise quickly. These rods are surrounded by zirconium cladding, and at high temperatures, this cladding catalyzes hydrogen production, can generate additional heat, and even explode and burn (NRC, 2006).

The water surrounding the fuel rods in the spent fuel pools serves two purposes: First, it conducts heat away from the fuel assemblies to avoid overheating. Second, it provides shielding from the extremely high radiation levels near the rods. If a collapse or breakage of the unit 4 spent fuel pool occurs, the loss of shielding by the cooling water could critically increase radiation levels in the entire Daiichi complex. High radiation is already a serious problem limiting worker and even robot access to the plant to perform repairs and mitigation, and to maintain cooling of the other spent fuel pools and reactors. Thus, a catastrophic failure of the unit 4 spent fuel pool could potentially cascade into additional releases from the other spent fuel pools and reactors.

Estimated Amounts of Radioactive Material
Operation of a nuclear plant produces a number of radioactive isotopes. For this preliminary potential impact analysis, we will focus primarily on cesium, strontium, and plutonium, while noting that other radioisotopes are also of concern. Cesium and strontium are easily absorbed in plants and animals similarly to potassium and calcium, respectively. Their movement through the biosphere and long half lives (years to decades) mean that they represent substantial health hazards at relatively low concentrations. Plutonium is not as soluble and easily distributed in the environment, but is extremely carcinogenic when inhaled or ingested.

Because the various isotopes are produced by nuclear reactions during the operation of the reactors, the quantities present in the fuel rods must be estimated from calculations and measurements. For this analysis, we will use the estimated amounts below (Mertyurek et al., 2010, Pretzsch et al., 2011). If improved estimates are identified, the results of the analysis below can be easily scaled based on the new data.

[The remainder of this report can be found HERE]

Will the Guy Who Wanted to Sell Nuclear Weapons to Apartheid South Africa Force Obama to Release the Ted Bundy of Espionage? - Probably

From Haaretz:
Israel President Shimon Peres began on Monday a four day visit in Washington during which he will be awarded the Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Barack Obama and meet administration officials. Equipped with a signed petition calling for the release of Israeli convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, Peres said the matter will be discussed with Obama in private.
Shimon Peres once was instrumental in attempting to arm apartheid South Africa with nuclear weapons to use against neighboring states - as a nuclear threat.  I wrote about it here in March:
Back in 1975, at the height of the White South African Apartheid regime’s period of hubris, they were getting a lot of help in their attempts to become a nuclear power:
Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state’s possession of nuclear weapons. The “top secret” minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa’s defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them “in three sizes”. The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that “the very existence of this agreement” was to remain secret.
It didn’t.  The news came out in 2010, which disturbed the Israelis:
The Israeli authorities tried to stop South Africa‘s post-apartheid government declassifying the documents at Polakow-Suransky’s request and the revelations will be an embarrassment, particularly as this week’s nuclear non-proliferation talks in New York focus on the Middle East. They will also undermine Israel’s attempts to suggest that, if it has nuclear weapons, it is a “responsible” power that would not misuse them, whereas countries such as Iran cannot be trusted. A spokeswoman for Peres today said the report was baseless and there were “never any negotiations” between the two countries. She did not comment on the authenticity of the documents. South African documents show that the apartheid-era military wanted the missiles as a deterrent and for potential strikes against neighbouring states. The documents show both sides met on 31 March 1975.
So Peres, the supporter of giving nukes to white supremacist South Africa, now wants to force Obama to free the most damaging spy in the history of espionage against Obama's country?  


Here's a bit on how damaging Jonathan Pollard was to our security interests at the height of the latter part of the Cold War:
The career intelligence officer who helped to assess the Pollard damage has come to view Pollard as a serial spy, the Ted Bundy of the intelligence world [emphasis added]. "Pollard gave them every message for a whole year," the officer told me recently, referring to the Israelis. "They could analyze it" -- the intelligence -- "message by message, and correlate it. They could not only piece together our sources and methods but also learn how we think, and how we approach a problem. All of a sudden, there is no mystery. These are the things we can't change. You got this, and you got us by the balls." In other words, the Rota reports, when carefully studied, gave the Israelis "a road map on how to circumvent" the various American collection methods and shield an ongoing military operation. The reports provide guidance on "how to keep us asleep, thinking all is working well," he added. "They tell the Israelis how to raid Tunisia without tipping off American intelligence in advance. That is damage that is persistent and severe."
Another view:
Moles have burrowed on Israel’s behalf throughout the U.S. intelligence services.  Perhaps most infamous was the case of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish-American employed as a civilian analyst with the U.S. Navy who purloined an estimated 800,000 code-word protected documents from inside the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and numerous other U.S. agencies. While Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, counterintelligence investigators at the FBI suspected he was linked to a mole far higher in the food chain, ensconced somewhere in the DIA, but this suspected Israeli operative, nicknamed "Mr. X," was never found.   Following the embarrassment of the Pollard affair — and its devastating effects on U.S. national security, as testified by then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger (who allegedly stated that Pollard "should have been shot") — the Israeli government vowed never again to pursue espionage against its ally and chief benefactor.
And another, more stark view, by Seymour Hersh:
documents that Pollard turned over to Israel were not focussed exclusively on the product of American intelligence -- its analytical reports and estimates. They also revealed how America was able to learn what it did -- a most sensitive area of intelligence defined as "sources and methods." Pollard gave the Israelis vast amounts of data dealing with specific American intelligence systems and how they worked. For example, he betrayed details of an exotic capability that American satellites have of taking off-axis photographs from high in space. While orbiting the earth in one direction, the satellites could photograph areas that were seemingly far out of range. Israeli nuclear-missile sites and the like, which would normally be shielded from American satellites, would thus be left exposed, and could be photographed. "We monitor the Israelis," one intelligence expert told me, "and there's no doubt the Israelis want to prevent us from being able to surveil their country." The data passed along by Pollard included detailed information on the various platforms -- in the air, on land, and at sea -- used by military components of the National Security Agency to intercept Israeli military, commercial, and diplomatic communications.
At the time of Pollard's spying, select groups of American sailors and soldiers trained in Hebrew were stationed at an N.S.A. listening post near Harrogate, England, and at a specially constructed facility inside the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, where they intercepted and translated Israeli signals. Other interceptions came from an unmanned N.S.A. listening post in Cyprus. Pollard's handing over of the data had a clear impact, the expert told me, for "we could see the whole process" -- of intelligence collection -- "slowing down." It also hindered the United States' ability to recruit foreign agents. Another senior official commented, with bitterness, "The level of penetration would convince any self-respecting human source to look for other kinds of work." A number of officials strongly suspect that the Israelis repackaged much of Pollard's material and provided it to the Soviet Union in exchange for continued Soviet permission for Jews to emigrate to Israel. Other officials go further, and say there was reason to believe that secret information was exchanged for Jews working in highly sensitive positions in the Soviet Union.
A significant percentage of Pollard's documents, including some that described the techniques the American Navy used to track Soviet submarines around the world, was of practical importance only to the Soviet Union. One longtime C.I.A. officer who worked as a station chief in the Middle East said he understood that "certain elements in the Israeli military had used it" -- Pollard's material -- "to trade for people they wanted to get out," including Jewish scientists working in missile technology and on nuclear issues. Pollard's spying came at a time when the Israeli government was publicly committed to the free flow of Jewish emigres from the Soviet Union. The officials stressed the fact that they had no hard evidence -- no "smoking gun," in the form of a document from an Israeli or a Soviet archive -- to demonstrate the link between Pollard, Israel, and the Soviet Union, but they also said that the documents that Pollard had been directed by his Israeli handlers to betray led them to no other conclusion.
High-level suspicions about Israeli-Soviet collusion were expressed as early as December, 1985, a month after Pollard's arrest, when William J. Casey, the late C.I.A. director, who was known for his close ties to the Israeli leadership, stunned one of his station chiefs by suddenly complaining about the Israelis breaking the "ground rules." The issue arose when Casey urged increased monitoring of the Israelis during an otherwise routine visit, I was told by the station chief, who is now retired. "He asked if I knew anything about the Pollard case," the station chief recalled, and he said that Casey had added, "For your information, the Israelis used Pollard to obtain our attack plan against the U.S.S.R. all of it. The coordinates, the firing locations, the sequences. And for guess who? The Soviets." Casey had then explained that the Israelis had traded the Pollard data for Soviet emigres. "How's that for cheating?" he had asked.
I am guessing that Obama, in his desperation for Zionist campaign contributions, will release Pollard, in spite of the damning evidence against the traitor.  And all this at the behest of a man who sought to turn white supremacist South Africa into a nuclear power, an act that certainly would have prolonged the apartheid agony. What is your guess?