Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for March 19th, 2011

Saturday News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 19, 2011

>– The focal point for the latest phase of the class war is the Midwest. If the tide can be turned in Wisconsin, it can be turned everywhere — and the April 5 Wisconsin Supreme Court election is key. Go to for some dispatches therefrom.

— Mohammmed Nabbous, known on Twitter and elsewhere as “Mo” and an incredibly brave citizen journalist sending dispatches from Libya, was killed last night during a Gaddafi attack on Benghazi.

Twitter has been ablaze with comments on Mo:

bencnn benwedeman
A true hero, Mohammed Nabbous of Sawt Libia al-Hurra, the Voice of Free Libya, was killed in fighting in Benghazi today. #Libya
26 minutes ago Favorite Retweet Reply

monaeltahawy Mona Eltahawy
Damn you, #Gaddafi. Damn you a million times you murderous bastard.

2 hours ago Favorite Undo Retweet Reply

monaeltahawy Mona Eltahawy
RT @Gheblawi: for the sake of our Mohamed Nabbous & all martyrs let’s not stop struggle for freedom, honor their sacrifices and free #Libya
3 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

FreeBenghazi Libya.elHurra
by monaeltahawy

#LibyaAlHurraTV Mo’s wife: “He died for this cause & let’s hope that Libya will become free.” #Libya #Oplibya #Feb17
4 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

Here’s an interesting way to combat corporate control of our politics:

Following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, Minnesota Democrats are proposing a constitutional amendment to define an individual as a “natural person.” The 2010 ruling gave corporations certain rights as “persons” and allowed them to engage in new levels of political activity. Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis said the DFL bill is aimed at curtailing the idea that corporate entities have the same rights as human beings.

The bill, SF683/HF914, puts forward a simple question to voters: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to define ‘person’ to mean natural person?”

“Corporations have been allowed to funnel vast sums of money into elections which distorts our elections and really amounts to buying elections,” Dibble told the Minnesota Independent. “No other entity could begin to match the amount of money that corporations are capable of spending.”

— The Guardian’s Ben Goldacre on why linking to primary sourcing is important:

This week the Telegraph ran the headline “Wind farms blamed for stranding of whales”. It continued: “Offshore wind farms are one of the main reasons why whales strand themselves on beaches, according to scientists studying the problem.” Lady Warsi even cited this as fact on the BBC’s Question Time this week, while arguing against wind farms.

But anyone who read the open-access academic paper in PLoS One, titled “Beaked whales respond to simulated and actual navy sonar”, would see that the study looked at sonar and didn’t mention wind farms at all. At our most generous, the Telegraph story was a spectacular and bizarre exaggeration of a brief contextual aside about general levels of manmade sound in the ocean by one author at the end of the press release (titled “Whales ‘scared’ by sonars”). Now, I have higher expectations of academic institutions than media ones, but this release didn’t mention wind farms, certainly didn’t say they were “one of the main reasons why whales strand themselves on beaches”, and anyone reading the press release could see that the study was about naval sonar.

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For the want of a nail

Posted by Charles II on March 19, 2011


Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said backup power systems at the plant had been improperly protected, leaving them vulnerable to the tsunami that ravaged the north-eastern coast of Japale.

The failure enabled uranium fuel to overheat and was a “main cause” of the crisis, Nishiyama said. “I cannot say whether it was a human error, but we should examine the case closely.”

A spokesman for Tokyo Electric, which owns and runs the complex, said it was protected against tsunamis of up to five metres (16ft) but a six-metre wave of water struck Fukushima on 11 March.

This is something important to understand. The precipitating cause of the crisis was that backup pumps were submerged by the tsunami. Nuclear safety doesn’t just involve fuel rods, containment, and waste disposal. Every element of the system has to work perfectly.

There are things we can do to mitigate potential harm from our obsolete reactors prior to shutting them down, which is probably going to take time. For example: get spent fuel rods off site and into real containment in geologically safe areas, so that we don’t have to worry about them going up with the reactor. Check whether backup systems actually work (this is a real scandal for US reactors). Train staff for real-live emergencies; one factor in Fukushima was a delay of several hours in recognizing that this was a crisis, and a delay of several days by the Japanese government in accepting help.

All of these are things that would be done if the nuclear industry and the US government were serious about preventing disasters.

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