Archive for March, 2007

Entry for March 27, 2007

March 27, 2007

This photo of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) by the AP’s Bob Brown accompanied today’s Washington Post article by Sandhya Somashekhar, “Kaine Vetoes Death Penalty Expansion.” Staff writers Amy Gardner and Timothy Dwyer contributed to the report.

Said Kaine,

I don’t think we need to expand capital punishment in Virginia to protect human life and keep people safe. “It’s just that simple.

Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) urged Republicans to override the veto in the name of public safety at the session to take place April 4..

I do think the governor was clear during his campaign that he was morally opposed to the death penalty I respect that view, but I do think from a public safety standpoint . . . that this is an important bill.

Kaine, a Catholic personnallly opposed to the death penalty , had said in recent months that he was uneasy about expanding what is already one of the most aggressive death penalty statutes in the nation.

His opponent in the Governor’s race, former attorney general Jerry Kilgore (R) sniped,

I’m probably the least surprised person in Virginia over this. He’s been an activist in the anti-death-penalty movement. He should have just come out and said it [during the campaign] and had a fair debate.

Kaine promised to uphold the current laws but had not addressed an expansion. He has allowed 4 executions since he took office in January 2006. From 1976-2005, Virginia executed another 92 and is only second to Texas in the number of executions carried out..

Said Delegate Kenneth Plum (D), another death penalty opponent:

This signals to me that Virginia is feeling the effects of a nationwide disillusionment with the death penalty. At the very least it is keeping with the moderate view of those who believe in the death penalty.

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Tutored at the college and prepared a MTR resource guide for John Boroski

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Entry for March 26, 2007

March 26, 2007

Photo from an NRC 3/26 news release, “NRC Asks for Help in Locating Missing Radioactive Source in Philadelphia” which shows a “radioactive americium-241” source bolted to the aluminum 9- inch-by-15-inch baseplate of a soil density gauge stolen from a construction site Monday, March 19.

I’ve already written about the commercial tanker that crashed in California while carrying nuclear waste. Now in an episode worthy of the keystone kops (except the police were effective, it’s the NRC who are clowns) I bring you tidings of how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs you!

The radioactive source pictured above has gone missing from South Philly, one of two inside the gauge stolen from an unamed construction site last Monday. The other source was found at Nicetown Salvage Company last Thursday.

Yesterday, the NRC and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania finally got around to asking the Department of Energy Radiological Assistance Program team with more sensitive radiation detection/monitoring equipment to help with the search.

Since the Nicetown company had sent a shipment of aluminum to a processing
facility in Camden, N.J. (formerly famous for my Aunt Mimi and Campbell Soup) folks wanted to seach Camden first. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection staff members found nothing.

Today, the DOE teams searched the construction site, the Nicetown and Camden sites and a route in between the two sites but came up empty.

They’re issuing the usual disclaimers. You know, “The material is only dangerous to a member of the public if ingested or inhaled or the source container is completely disassembled and the source remains in contact with the skin continuously for several days.”

They want to assure us that it’s not a terrorist in search of nuclear material, probably just someone wanting to steal a “high-end tool box” or wanting to sell the device for its “scrap metal value, unaware of the contents. “

Gee, if the thief is still in possession, I wonder if s/hewill catch wind of this and find a higher bidder? Anyone with information is asked to call the NRC at 301/816-5100. I’ll bet said thief is calling as I type this entry.

Jessie S. rated the Germantown Road facility in Tioga at Insider Pages:

Nicetown salvage is a typical junkyard operation. They take ll sorts of metal scrap: iron, copper, nickel, bronze. Good place to get rid of your unwanted metals.
They have a pick-up service for nearby areas.

Wonder if the thief took advantage of that pick-up service. A few things NRC didn’t mention that the Philly Ink writer Joseph A. Gambardello (email) revealed in his March 23 story, “Tipster leads authorities to stolen nuclear gauge”

  • Police and firefighters found the gauge hours after information from a tipster who had probably seen pictures of the distinctive yellow case with its red radioactive symbols broadcast on local television. High end tool box? Scrap metal?
  • the device also contained cesium-137
  • Fire Department Executive Chief Daniel Williams said five people, including two police officers, were taken to a hospital as a precaution. One had a high radioactive reading from contamination of his shirt.
  • the hunt and the subsequent recovery operation snarled traffic throughout the area into the evening rush hour;
  • and my favorite, Nicetown Salvage has been closed and will have to be decontaminated after a stolen nuclear gauge was found in a crusher Thursday, a location which Police Chief Inspector Joseph O’Connor called “mind-boggling.”

Cesium-137 according to the Centers for Disease Control’s radioisotope brief, is the the stuff that’s still around from the 1950’s nuclear tests and Chernobyl. It descrbes the what’s contained in industrial guages as “large, concentrated amounts” The sources in these and radiation therapy devices

are designed to remain sealed and keep people from being exposed; however, if these canisters are intentionally or accidentally opened, the Cs-137 inside could be dispersed…[which] can cause burns, acute radiation sickness, and even death. Exposure to Cs-137 can increase the risk for cancer because of exposure to high-energy gamma radiation. Internal exposure to Cs-137, through ingestion or inhalation, allows the radioactive material to be distributed in the soft tissues, especially muscle tissue, exposing these tissues to the beta particles and gamma radiation and increasing cancer risk.

And Americium-241? According to the EPA’s fact sheet, it

poses a significant risk if ingested (swallowed) or inhaled. It can stay in the body for decades and continue to expose the surrounding tissues to both alpha and gamma radiation, increasing the risk of developing cancer. Americium-241 also poses a cancer risk to all organs of the body from direct external exposure to its gamma radiation. One source of direct exposure would be contaminated soil. Exposure to any significant amount of Am-241 is unlikely under normal circumstances. (“Normal circumstances” do not include trying to access or remove the Am-241 source in a smoke detector!)

All this makes me wonder if that salvage yard crusher’s activity qualifies for the complete disassembling that the NRC thought so unlikely? Go figure.

Entry for March 25, 2007

March 25, 2007

If you can see the Syncopaths, do! More later.

Creasy Greens and Charlottesville (3/24/07)

March 24, 2007

Drawing of creasy greens from March 1984 issue of Mother Earth News.

This morning I got up early and went down to the Roanoke market in time ot get eggs from Jack Furguson and bring him the cartons I’ve been saving, as I bought eggs from other sources over the past year and more. Jack had a whole line of folks waiting and his greens were so beautiful, I bought a pound each of spinach, creasies and kale. I’ll take the spinach up to Charlottesville for a bread and butter gift when I attend the Virginia Festival of the Book and stay with Rob and Sue.

Celeste will put me up tomorrow night after the Greenwood dance featuring the Syncopaths and caller Seth Tepfer, who is, I think, from from Atlanta.

Entry for March 23, 2007

March 24, 2007

Illustration by Edel Rodriguez accompanied March 26 The New Yorker’s “Loves Lost,” Anthony Lane’s favorable review of Mike Binder’s Adam Sandler/Don Cheedle film, “Reign Over Me.” Don’t you think Rodriquez makes Sandler look like Bob Dylan?

The three appeared March 22 on Charlie Rose. (video) ,

Entry for March 21, 2007

March 24, 2007

Melina Mara’s photo accompanied the March 19 WaPo story, “Prosecutor Firings Not Political, Gonzales Says: Attorney General Acknowledges, Defends Actions” by Dan Eggen.

Watching the March 18 hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on C-SPAN, I was disgusted with Jon Kyl’s actions as quite the appologist, citing Clinton’s firing of all the U.S. Attorneys at the start of his term. Thankfully Dianne Feinstein called him on it.

Feinstein submitted S. 214 , ” Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007January on 9. The measure passed by a vote of 94-2 on march, with Hagel and Bond voting nay.

Two front page stories of interest by staff writers today in the Washington Post for those following the U.S. Attorney firings:

See also: “Bush administration U.S. attorney firings controversy – Congresspedia

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Book group tonight: Snow by Orhan Pamuk. Next book: Lillian Hellman’s first of three memoir’s, An Unfinished Woman (NYT review).

Sago Mine Shut, Tygart delayed, amid Sago Lawsuits

March 22, 2007

Last night Richard Engel was on Charlie Rose (video), talking about his new special on MSNBC, War Zone Diary. This is a reporter the right hates, as I found out when I looked for a picture on Google images. The above is from the reportercaps site, but there were other pictues at various “liberal media” expose and alert sites.

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Ken Ward, Jr.’s March 22, 2007 Charleston Gazette story “Sago Mine shut down: Company cites rising costs, slump in prices,” reports that International Coal Group confirmed the previous day that it had shut down the Sago mine on March 19. While there was no press release on the ICG site, it provided Ward with a prepared statement that high production costs due to the amount of coal decreasing relative to the amount of rock and weakening coal prices

made the Sago Mine unprofitable in the current coal market.

A small crew will remain employed at the Sago Mine to maintain the mine infrastructure in idle status and keep it available for restart should market conditions improve.

ICG had previously cut the workforce at the mine from about 85 in early 2006 to 48 at the end of December, according to disclosures filed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. The remaining Sago workers have been offered jobs at other operations of ICG subsidiary Wolf Run Mining, the company said.

Production last year was down by more than a third over 2005, to about 323,000 tons of coal, according to MSHA data.

In other Sago news, according to Ward, this morning Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King appointed Charleston lawyer Nick Casey to serve as a special commissioner to decide discovery disputes between lawyers in the 15 lawsuits filed by Sago victim families and by McCloy, saying the commissioner would help sort out the process of lawyers exchanging documents and scheduling depositions during the investigative phase of the cases. Separate suits have been filed on behalf of McCloy and the estates of 11 of the 12 miners who died in the disaster. Section foreman Martin Toler Jr. is the only victim for whom a suit has not been filed. Defendants in the cases include ICG and Wolf Run Mining, along with ICG founder Wilbur Ross and various Sago suppliers and contractors. King said he would schedule a hearing later on motions by Ross to be dismissed from cases in which he is personally named as a defendant.

Ward also noted that in early February, ICG announced it was delaying developing of its planned Tygart No. 1  longwall mine in Taylor County for at least a year due to “the weak market environment.” In late December, Allegheny Energy, the sole customer of ICG’s Sycamore No. 2 Mine in Harrison County, sued ICG for alleged breach of a coal supply contract. Sycamore had been idled after encountering adverse geologic conditions and unmapped abandoned gas wells. Last year, ICG reported a net loss of $9.3 million, compared to a net income of $31.8 million in 2005. The company’s total coal sales were 4.8 million tons in 2006, compared to 4.2 million in 2005.

UMWA Issues Own Report on Sago

March 20, 2007

March 16, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) released its own Report on the Sago Mine Disaster of January 2, 2006.

The Union believes that there is absolutely no clear evidence to support the theory that lightning was the cause of the explosion. Further, there is no evidence that lightning striking the ground near a mining operation has ever traveled into the underground area of a mine, without the presence of a conduit from the surface into the mine, and then caused an ignition or explosion of gas or dust.

The Union has determined that the most likely cause of the explosion was conditions contained solely within the sealed area of the mine where the explosion
occurred. The lightning strike theory is based entirely on circumstantial evidence and is so remote as to be practically impossible.

The UMWA concludes that the most likely cause of the explosion was frictional activity from the roof, roof support or support material which ignited the methane-air mixture. The union firmly believes that 12 men are dead today who should not be. The UMWA believes that if the mine’s operating company, the International
Coal Group (ICG) had put safety ahead of profit and if the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) had followed the mandates established
by Congress in the 1969 Coal Act and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, all 12 of the trapped miners would have survived and given the circumstances it is likely all 13 would be alive today.

The Agency’s decisions over the past several decades to promulgate regulations, grant petitions for modification and create policies that contradict the intent of Congress by reducing or eliminating the legislated protections played a major role in the tragic events of January 2, 2006.

Likewise, decisions Sago mine management made in operating the mine, including ventilation plans, roof control plans and its extremely rare practice of second mining created conditions in the mine that were inherently risky. The Union believes that the company’s flawed plans and mining practices contributed to the devastating events of January 2, 2006.

Knowing the cause of the explosion is important so that steps can be taken to prevent a similar situation from happening again. However, regardless of the cause of the explosion in this instance, had MSHA followed the mandates of Congress, and had ICG operated the mine with an eye firmly focused on miners’ safety, there is every reason to believe that every person underground that day would have survived.

The company issued a news release March 15 that quoted its president and chief executive officer Ben Hatfield as saying,

The UMWA’s report is nothing more than political grandstanding. The report is wholly unreliable as an investigatory finding and is designed solely to further the union’s political and organizing agenda.

See also, the first interim staff report to the House Committee on Education and Labor, Implementation of the MINER Act Is Proceeding Too Slowly (2/27/07). George Miller, (D-CA) proposed more stringent legislation last year, H.R. 5389.

Entry for March 19, 2007

March 19, 2007

Looking forward to reading this one! I read Zimbardo in college psych, although not the Stanford prison experiment, which he researched in 1971. He just retired from Stanford, but will be teaching at Palo Alto. More later. The bus is coming/

Entry for March 18, 2007

March 19, 2007

Photo of sassafras from the Salisbury (MD) aboretum. The leaves are dried and ground to make filé powder.

Stayed at home and made a pot of filé gumbo with the real deal I bought in LA when I attended the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival back in 1994. Plan to bring it to the book group Wednesday, where we will discuss Snow by Orhan Pamuk. Still working on getting the book finished.

Called Mary P. who moved from here to Atlanta. The last time I saw here was en route to the festival.