For years, unsuspecting Navajos inhaled radioactive dust and drank contaminated well water. Many of them became sick with cancer and other diseases.
The radioactivity at the former mine is said to measure one million counts per minute, translating to a human dose that scientists say can lead directly to malignant tumors and other serious health damage, according to Lee Greer, a biologist at La Sierra University in Riverside, Calif. Two days of exposure at the Cameron site would expose a person to more external radiation than the Nuclear Regulatory Commission considers safe for an entire year.
The E.P.A. filed a report on the rancher’s find early last year and pledged to continue its environmental review. But there are still no warning signs or fencing around the secluded and decaying site. Crushed beer cans and spent shell casings dot the ground, revealing that the old mine has become a sort of toxic playground.
“If this level of radioactivity were found in a middle-class suburb, the response would be immediate and aggressive,” said Doug Brugge, a public health professor at Tufts University medical school and an expert on uranium. “The site is remote, but there are obviously people spending time on it. Don’t they deserve some concern?”
Navajo advocates, scientists and politicians are asking the same question.
Some Navajo officials point out that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hard-rock mining claims on one million acres of federal land around the Grand Canyon in January, saying it was needed to preserve the mile-deep canyon and the river that runs through it. The mining industry is challenging that decision in court.
But the Navajo Nation, considered a sovereign government entity, has not gotten similar treatment from the federal government for its land, some of its officials say. The nation has asked for $500 million for mine cleanup, but the money has not materialized, said Eugene Esplain, one of two officials with the Navajo E.P.A. responsible for patrolling an area the size of West Virginia.
Taylor McKinnon, a director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that worked to halt new mining claims near the Grand Canyon, said the Cameron site was the worst he had seen in the Southwest. He has even seen cow droppings near the mine, he said, an indication that cattle are grazing there. And “people are eating those livestock,” he said.
Ronald Tohannie, a project manager with the Navajo advocacy group Forgotten People, said the locally grown beef was tested at the slaughterhouse, but not for the presence of radioactive substances like uranium.
Meanwhile, the deregulatory state continues to expand its reach: the USDA proposes that poultry plants police themselves. Oh yeah, this sounds great; no way there could ever be a conflict-of-interest here:
Currently, the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors are stationed along the assembly lines in poultry plants and examine the birds for blemishes, feces or visible defects before they are processed.Oh, but the industry thinks it's a great idea:
Under the planned expansion, the agency would hand over these duties to poultry plant employees, while the inspectors would spend more time evaluating the plant’s bacteria-testing and other safety programs. The department has run the pilot program in 20 poultry plants since 1998.
The poultry industry applauded the Agriculture Department decision.Well, I'm sure the invisible hand will take care of any problems; these companies most certainly don't have a vested interest to take shortcuts and lie in order to increase profits. Capitalism would never work that way.
“The proposed rule is the logical next step in the modernization of poultry inspection,” said Tom Super, vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council in Washington.
The National Surveillance State doesn't like it when you expose the excesses of US government actions, whether in foreign lands or here:
A 2011 FOIA request from the ACLU revealed that just in the 18-month period beginning October 1, 2008, more than 6,600 people — roughly half of whom were American citizens — were subjected to electronic device searches at the border by DHS, all without a search warrant. Typifying the target of these invasive searches is Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old dual French-American citizen and an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student who was traveling from Montreal to New York on an Amtrak train in 2011 when he was stopped at the border, questioned by DHS agents, handcuffed, taken off the train and kept in a holding cell for several hours before being released without charges; those DHS agents seized his laptop and returned it 11 days later when, the ACLU explains, “there was evidence that many of his personal files, including research, photos and chats with his girlfriend, had been searched.” That’s just one case of thousands, all without any oversight, transparency, legal checks, or any demonstration of wrongdoing.And over in NYC, Bloomberg's private army continues to run amok:
Poitras’ work has been hampered, and continues to be hampered, by the constant harassment, invasive searches, and intimidation tactics to which she is routinely subjected whenever she re-enters her own country. Since the 2006 release of “My Country, My Country,” Poitras has left and re-entered the U.S. roughly 40 times. Virtually every time during that six-year-period that she has returned to the U.S., her plane has been met by DHS agents who stand at the airplane door or tarmac and inspect the passports of every de-planing passenger until they find her (on the handful of occasions where they did not meet her at the plane, agents were called when she arrived at immigration). Each time, they detain her, and then interrogate her at length about where she went and with whom she met or spoke. They have exhibited a particular interest in finding out for whom she works.
She has had her laptop, camera and cellphone seized, and not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied. On several occasions, her reporter’s notebooks were seized and their contents copied, even as she objected that doing so would invade her journalist-source relationship. Her credit cards and receipts have been copied on numerous occasions. In many instances, DHS agents also detain and interrogate her in the foreign airport before her return, on one trip telling her that she would be barred from boarding her flight back home, only to let her board at the last minute. When she arrived at JFK Airport on Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, she was told by one DHS agent — after she asserted her privileges as a journalist to refuse to answer questions about the individuals with whom she met on her trip — that he “finds it very suspicious that you’re not willing to help your country by answering our questions.” They sometimes keep her detained for three to four hours (all while telling her that she will be released more quickly if she answers all their questions and consents to full searches).
It’s hard to overstate how oppressive it is for the U.S. Government to be able to target journalists, film-makers and activists and, without a shred of suspicion of wrongdoing, learn the most private and intimate details about them and their work: with whom they’re communicating, what is being said, what they’re reading. That’s a radical power for a government to assert in general. When it starts being applied not randomly, but to people engaged in activism and journalism adverse to the government, it becomes worse than radical: it’s the power of intimidation and deterrence against those who would challenge government conduct in any way. The ongoing, and escalating, treatment of Laura Poitras is a testament to how severe that abuse is.
If you’re not somebody who films the devastation wrought by the U.S. on the countries it attacks, or provides insight into Iraqi occupation opponents and bin Laden loyalists in Yemen, or documents expanding NSA activities on U.S. soil, then perhaps you’re unlikely to be subjected to such abuses and therefore perhaps unlikely to care much. As is true for all states that expand and abuse their own powers, that’s what the U.S. Government counts on: that it is sending the message that none of this will affect you as long as you avoid posing any meaningful challenges to what they do. In other words: you can avoid being targeted if you passively acquiesce to what they do and refrain from interfering in it. That’s precisely what makes it so pernicious, and why it’s so imperative to find a way to rein it in.
According to the NYCLU, which filed the suit, "virtually every private apartment building [in the Bronx] is enrolled in the program," and "in Manhattan alone, there are at least 3,895 Clean Halls Buildings." Referring to the NYPD’s own data, the complaint says police conducted 240,000 "vertical patrols" in the year 2003 alone.Sure would be nice if those Tea Partiers who claim to love the Constitution so much would raise a stink about all this nonsense, huh?
If you live in a Clean Halls building, you can’t even go out to take out the trash without carrying an ID – and even that might not be enough. If you go out for any reason, there may be police in the hallways, demanding that you explain yourself, and insisting, in brazenly illegal and unconstitutional fashion, on searches of your person.
Stories like this "Clean Halls" program are beginning to make me see that journalists like myself have undersold the white-collar corruption story in recent years by ignoring its flip side. We have two definitely connected phenomena, often treated as separate and unconnected: a growing lawlessness in the financial sector, and an expanding, repressive, increasingly lunatic police apparatus trained at the poor, and especially the nonwhite poor.
In recent years, as Wall Street firms turned into veritable felony factories, we had pundits and politicians who cranked out reams of excuses for one white-collar criminal after another and argued, in complete seriousness, that sending a rich banker to jail "wouldn’t solve anything" and in fact we should "tolerate the excesses" of the productive rich, who "channel opportunity" to the rest of us.
On the other hand, we’ve had politicians and pundits in budget fights and other controversies railing against the parasitic poor, who are not only not "productive" enough to warrant a break, but assumed to be actively unproductive (they consume our tax money and public services) and therefore sort of guilty in advance.
When I read this "Clean Halls" story I immediately thought of the various robosigning scandals. If even one law enforcement official had been able to take just one stroll through, say, the credit card collections office of a Chase or a Bank of America at any time in the last decade, he would have seen rows of cubicles full of entry-level employees whose entire job was to sit around all day long, right out in the open, forging court documents. Whole departments attended to this job for years and years and somehow nobody with a badge ever got a whiff of it.
But in New York, we have cops cruising through private buildings, checking bags full of ketchup 200,000 times a year. Makes sense, doesn't it?
With the Beltway consensus being that Paul Ryan is a level-headed moderate who should be taken seriously, Paul Krugman once again reminds us that Ryan is actually an extremist hack who's hell-bent on destroying whatever last vestiges we have of a social safety net — all so that the richest of the rich can steal ever greater amounts of wealth from the rest of us:
[T]here are many problems with [the Ryan budget] proposal. But you can get the gist if you understand two numbers: $4.6 trillion and 14 million.At the same time, it's becoming clear that welfare reform has been a disaster for many of the poorest of the poor — and things are made even worse as states like Arizona, home of the GOP id, keep on chipping away at the safety net:
Of these, $4.6 trillion is the revenue cost over the next decade of the tax cuts embodied in the plan, as estimated by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. These cuts — which are, by the way, cuts over and above those involved in making the Bush tax cuts permanent — would disproportionately benefit the wealthy, with the average member of the top 1 percent receiving a tax break of $238,000 a year.
Mr. Ryan insists that despite these tax cuts his proposal is “revenue neutral,” that he would make up for the lost revenue by closing loopholes. But he has refused to specify a single loophole he would close. And if we assess the proposal without his secret (and probably nonexistent) plan to raise revenue, it turns out to involve running bigger deficits than we would run under the Obama administration’s proposals.
Meanwhile, 14 million is a minimum estimate of the number of Americans who would lose health insurance under Mr. Ryan’s proposed cuts in Medicaid; estimates by the Urban Institute actually put the number at between 14 million and 27 million. So the proposal is exactly as President Obama described it: a proposal to deny health care (and many other essentials) to millions of Americans, while lavishing tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy — all while failing to reduce the budget deficit, unless you believe in Mr. Ryan’s secret revenue sauce.
Despite the worst economy in decades, the cash welfare rolls have barely budged.
Faced with flat federal financing and rising need, Arizona is one of 16 states that have cut their welfare caseloads further since the start of the recession — in its case, by half. Even as it turned away the needy, Arizona spent most of its federal welfare dollars on other programs, using permissive rules to plug state budget gaps.
The poor people who were dropped from cash assistance here, mostly single mothers, talk with surprising openness about the desperate, and sometimes illegal, ways they make ends meet. They have sold food stamps, sold blood, skipped meals, shoplifted, doubled up with friends, scavenged trash bins for bottles and cans and returned to relationships with violent partners — all with children in tow.
[R]ecent studies have found that as many as one in every four low-income single mothers are jobless and without cash aid — roughly four million women and children. Many of the mothers have problems like addiction or depression, which can make assisting them politically unpopular, and they have received little attention in a downturn that has produced an outpouring of concern for the middle class.
Poor families can turn to other programs, like food stamps or Medicaid, or rely on family and charity. But the absence of a steady source of cash, however modest, can bring new instability to troubled lives.
One prominent supporter of the tough welfare law is worried that it may have increased destitution among the most disadvantaged families. “This is the biggest problem with welfare reform, and we ought to be paying attention to it,” said Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, who helped draft the 1996 law as an aide to House Republicans and argues that it has worked well for most recipients.
“The issue here is, can you create a strong work program, as we did, without creating a big problem at the bottom?” Mr. Haskins said. “And we have what appears to be a big problem at the bottom.”
He added, “This is what really bothers me: the people who supported welfare reform, they’re ignoring the problem.”
In a twist on poverty politics, poor single mothers, previously chided as “welfare queens,” were celebrated as working-class heroes, with their stories of leaving the welfare rolls cast as uplifting tales of pluck. Flush with federal money, states experimented with programs that offered counseling, clothes and used cars.
But if the rise in employment was larger than predicted, it was also less transformative than it may have seemed. Researchers found that most families that escaped poverty remained “near poor.”
And despite widespread hopes that working mothers might serve as role models, studies found few social or educational benefits for their children. (They measured things like children’s aspirations, self-esteem, grades, drug use and arrests.) Nonmarital births continued to rise.
But the image of success formed early and stayed frozen in time.
Clarence H. Carter, Arizona’s director of economic security, says finances forced officials to cut the rolls. But the state gets the same base funding from the federal government, $200 million, that it received in the mid-1990s when caseloads were five times as high. (The law also requires it to spend $86 million in state funds.)
Arizona spends most of the federal money on other human services programs, especially foster care and adoption services, while using just one-third for cash benefits and work programs — the core purposes of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. If it did not use the federal welfare money, the state would have to finance more of those programs itself.
“Yes, we divert — divert’s a bad word,” said State Representative John Kavanagh, a Republican and chairman of the Arizona House Appropriations Committee. “It helps the state.”
While federal law allows such flexibility, critics say states neglect poor families to patch their own finances. Nationally, only 30 percent of the welfare money is spent on cash benefits.
“It’s not that the other stuff isn’t important, but it’s not what T.A.N.F.” — the Temporary Assistance program — “was intended for,” said LaDonna Pavetti of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington research and advocacy group. “The states use the money to fill budget holes.”
And yes, Paul Ryan loves this amoral approach towards helping the neediest:
Many leading Republicans are pushing for similar changes to much larger programs, like Medicaid and food stamps. Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the top House Republican on budget issues, calls the current welfare program “an unprecedented success.” Mitt Romney, who leads the race for the Republican presidential nomination, has said he would place similar restrictions on “all these federal programs.”(Corey Robin's typically enlightening take on this is worth checking out, too.)
With the social safety net in tatters, I'm not the only one dependent upon the kindness of strangers to pay for much-needed medical treatment and healthcare expenses:
Justice Antonin Scalia subsequently expressed skepticism about forcing the young to buy insurance: “When they think they have a substantial risk of incurring high medical bills, they’ll buy insurance, like the rest of us.”
May the justices please meet my sister-in-law. On Feb. 8, she was a healthy 32-year-old, who was seven and a half months pregnant with her first baby. On Feb. 9, she was a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down by a car accident that damaged her spine. Miraculously, the baby, born by emergency C-section, is healthy.
Were the Obama health care reforms already in place, my brother and sister-in-law’s situation — insurance-wise and financially — would be far less dire. My brother’s small employer — he is the manager of a metal-fabrication shop — does not offer health insurance, which was too expensive for them to buy on their own. Fortunately, my sister-in-law had enrolled in the Access for Infants and Mothers program, California’s insurance plan for middle-income pregnant women. AIM coverage extends 60 days postpartum and paid for her stay in intensive care and early rehabilitation. But when the 60 days is up next week, the family will fall through the welfare medicine rabbit hole.
Their best hope is the survival of the Obama reform. Perhaps my brother can get a job that offers health insurance for the family, but without the reform’s protections, like the prohibition on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, removal of annual and lifetime insurance caps, and reinsurance for large claims, there is no guarantee that they could obtain insurance. More likely, they would buy insurance on a health exchange. Here in Massachusetts, where such an exchange is in place, they could have purchased a plan with an affordable premium (at their income level, the monthly premiums range from $39 to $91 per adult). And these money and insurance issues would not have added to the other stresses in their profoundly changed lives.
Instead, their financial future is shattered. Family and friends are raising money to buy a wheelchair van and to renovate their home for accessibility. The generosity of the local community is stunning. One incident in particular struck me to the core. A woman from a small community nearby had something for us. A cancer survivor, she had decided to “give back” by placing donation cans in stores around town. She had finished her drive and consolidated the money. The small coffee can she handed over to me and my sister-in-law had a slit in the lid and was decorated with pink felt and ribbons, now a little smudged from handling. Inside were several hundred dollars in small bills. We burst into tears. This is social policy in the richest nation in the history of the world.
Partha Dasgupta calls for a “far-reaching change in the global economic system,” in order to achieve a sustainable world and argues that “‘tinkering around the margins’ will no longer suffice.”
We need to drive less, live more fulfilling lives, and pay more for gas.
Looks like Saudi Arabia is striving to be like Arizona, drawing down on a non-renewable supply of groundwater.
The saddest, emptiest mall in the world.
On greening parking. Of course, the ideal world is one in which we've limited the supposed necessity to drive everywhere.
Rush Limbaugh is a piece of shit and many of his listeners appear to be incapable of critical thought, instead just choosing to regurgitate Limbaugh's distortion of a climate change researcher's work.
Philip Zelikow believes the administration that employed him engaged in war crimes.
Guess what, Teabaggers? The Founding Fathers supported an individual mandate.
Raise the minimum wage.
Liberals bash Paul Ryan. Conservatives shout "zoo animals"!
The GOP's War On Women continues as equal pay comes under attack in Wisconsin.
Frank Rich on the GOP's War On Women.
And a look at the War On Women over time, in which the GOP goes from progressive to regressive.
Platonic friendship: embrace it.
What?! You've kissed someone? You're probably going to become a sex addict.
Don't knock superstition.
How exciting!: important people love Doug Mack's new book. (And remember, Doug's on a book tour. Go see him if he stops by your town.)
What's Wifey been up to as of late, you ask? Well, here's your answer.
It's too bad this tutorial didn't exist back when I conducted a pit orchestra for a musical in college: how to be a conductor.
Jack White may very well be a mad genius.
Oh yes, the new Spiritualized album is streaming at NPR! Yeah, it's good: