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https://www.npr.org/2018/10/21/659194405/in-hurricane-michaels-wake-florida-panhandle-faces-steep-path-back-to-normal

In Hurricane Michael's Wake, Florida Panhandle Faces Steep Path Back To Normal
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October 21, 20188:12 AM ET
Heard on Weekend Edition Sunday
Debbie Elliot 2010

Debbie Elliott


Port. St. Joe Mayor Bo Patterson stands in front of what's left of one of the towns two gas stations. Both were destroyed by Hurricane Michael, the fuel pumps torn from their concrete slabs.
Debbie Elliott/Debbie Elliott/NPR

More than a week after Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida panhandle, cities and towns are facing the daunting task of trying to rebuild. The recovery is hampered by catastrophic damage not only to homes and businesses, but to vital infrastructure as well.

The small Gulf coast town of Port St. Joe, with a population of about 3,500 residents, is one of countless communities that was hit by the storm.

"Everywhere you turn and go you see some kind of destruction," says the town's mayor, Bo Patterson. "Whether it was wind damage, whether it was water, one of the two."

Patterson says Hurricane Michael pushed in a 13-foot storm surge that flooded the streets closest to St. Joseph Bay on the west side of Port St. Joe. The rest of town saw roofs ripped off, windows blown out and huge oak and pine trees toppled.

"Devastating, devastating," he repeats. "I don't know any other word to describe what you're seeing."

The roof is off at the local Baptist church; its steeple is bent over. The walls are gone from the Burger King. Port St. Joe's two gas stations are also destroyed — the fuel pumps torn from their concrete slabs.
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"We can't even pump gas," Patterson says.

The mayor says the city can't even start to think about recovery until it can clear all of the downed trees from local roadways. Backhoes have been brought in to help, and crews are working on most streets to replace power poles.


In the community of Highland View, just west of Port St. Joe, the storm surge from Hurricane Michael toppled houses and knocked mobile homes completely over.
Debbie Elliott/Debbie Elliott/NPR

Meanwhile, residents are trying to muck out soggy homes, and using chain saws to cut up downed trees.

"You hear that sound a lot," Patterson says of the buzz of chain saws. "Up until dark. You hear that all day long."

Couches, mattresses and piles of soaked clothing are stacked up curbside on residential streets.

"Just about every street you go down ... you'll see destruction like that," Patterson says. "People just — all they own is by the road to be thrown away."

At a flooded apartment near the bayfront, Alesha Smiley and her brother spent a recent afternoon moving soaked mattresses from the unit she shares with her grandmother, an elderly amputee in poor health.

"It is depressing," she says. "I try not to think about it too hard. But it's been a lot of people come in and helping."

Mayor Patterson says the city has been getting help from relief agencies and the state and federal government. He admits the town is at the mercy of outside assistance because its main source of revenue — tourism and water and sewer bills — has been decimated.
After Hurricane Michael, A Call For Stricter Building Codes In Florida's Panhandle
National
After Hurricane Michael, A Call For Stricter Building Codes In Florida's Panhandle

"We don't know how we'll pay our bills," he says. "Seriously."

Driving through a neighborhood on the west side of town, Patterson does see signs of progress as he greets residents out cleaning up storm debris.

"I think most people in this area do have power, so that's good," Patterson says.

He stops at an old high school gym that's been converted into an emergency supply distribution point. Among those helping to coordinate the response from there is Port St. Joe city commissioner Eric Langston.

"We still have some things to look forward to," Langston says. "We're still here. We're still breathing. The worst has already happened as far as the hurricane. All we can do is look ahead and try to rebuild."

But Langston acknowledges it will be a long time before the town gets back to a sense of normalcy.

Back on the road, Mayor Bo Patterson points out the damage in the downtown business district. The roof is off his pest control business.

"It's unbelievable," he says.http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/index.php/topic,11567.msg163495/topicseen.html#msg163495

He contemplates the rebuilding that's ahead.

"It's going to take years," Patterson says. "And I'm hoping the city can survive it."
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The End of Empire, Civilisation and Habitat – The Perfect Time to Shoot the Messenger by Kevin Hester. Terrific piece by a frequent visitor and friend of the Diner FB page.



A common characteristic at the end of an empire is that many of the empires subjects and victims are aware of the coming collapse, whilst the hedonistic ‘Emperors’, rulers, dictators and those closest to them who benefit the most from the exploitation of their subjects, the living planet and all it’s species, seem oblivious or in denial.
The standard response after a civic official or a military commander works up the courage to tell the emperor of the impending chaos and the inability to sustain the unsustainable, is the knee jerk reaction to “Shoot the Messenger”.
The small community on the planet who have come to understand the severity of the multiple crises we are facing and accept our impending extinction, become the latest and soon to be last messengers to be shot. Many of the readers of this blog have “Taken one for the team” due to their commitment to pointing out the extinction elephant in the room. Don’t underestimate the role that you are playing, the youth deserve the truth.

The much vaunted IPCC has come out with their latest fantasy prognosis stating that we have ‘only’ 12 years to avoid irreversible, dangerous climate change.
Explain to me how 29 years after the U.N. said we had only 11 years, we still have 12? One of us is struggling with the maths of extinction. Check out Albert Bartletts presentation on the exponential function below which will go some way to explaining how quickly the unraveling will unfold and why most can’t seem to grasp where we’re at;
“One of the greatest shortcomings of the human race is it’s inability to understand the exponential function” Albert Bartlett.

How is it that just a few scientists like Meyer Hillman, James Lovelock, Malcolm Light, Sam Carana from the Arctic News Blog, Guy McPherson et al are prepared to speak about the unfolding 6th great extinction and that it involves our species as well as the 150 to 200 we exterminate daily?

All the scientists who have been appointed to the IPCC collect substantial salaries and research grants from either governments, corporations or tertiary institutions funded by the very same economic order that is literally grinding the living planet into dust. Only the most courageous and honest are capable of talking about the end of everything when the first thing they will lose is their salaries and research grants.
As a generalisation, another thing they have in common is being middle and upper class. You won’t find many class warriors in the IPCC with a few exceptions from the developing world who are bearing the brunt of the collapse now, not long off in the future.
The IPCC repeats the mantra “If we just start now” or some such nonsense that fails to understand the pathology of capitalism and the military industrial complex. The cognitive dissonance at the edge of extinction is an amazing case study in psychology.

Ok then, why wouldn’t the large NGO’s like the Rockerfeller funded 350.org and Greenpeace tell us the truth?
The two I have mentioned above and many more have been corporatised and employ legions of dedicated climate warriors both paid and unpaid. Maintaining ‘cash flow’ in an NGO requires them to make compromises to appease their funders, often at the expense of their supporters and their scientific knowledge. Remember the days they all warned us about crossing tipping points? We never hear the them mentioning them now that we have over 6 dozen in the rear view mirror!
Recently the Greenpeace UK offices suffered the indignity of being picketed by climate warriors disgusted by GP’s downplaying of the crises. “Time is running out for the planet and Greenpeace just got a massive wakeup call”.
Massive kudos to the amazing activists from Extinction Rebellion who confronted Greenpeace.( @ExtinctionRebellion on Twitter).

In 2016 Professor Guy McPherson and I toured Aotearoa N.Z. for the second time together speaking to the public about the true severity of the crises we face and Guy was interviewed by a local journalist named Rachel Stewart, she seems to have had an epithany since meeting the good professor;
“Hope is useful. It keeps us going, and preserves a measure of mental health. Without it, we suffer enormously. Have I given up hope? Yes, some time ago. Do I feel better for it? In a weird way, I do. It’s a relief of sorts. Not because I don’t need to try any more – I’ll always push for action – but because accepting the blindingly obvious feels more real, and breeds another emotion that will be useful in the days ahead. Bravery; You can go a long way on bravery, courage, heart. It can ensure a clarity of thought, and a willingness to embrace what Buddhists have banged on about for millennia. That is, living in the moment.“Don’t say I didn’t warn you”

My response to the issue of ‘hope’ and the merits of facing the true severity of our predicament is summed up wonderfully by the amazing Joanna Macy in her December 2017 article “The Greatest Danger;
“Because of social taboos, despair at the state of our world and fear for our future are rarely acknowledged. The suppression of despair, like that of any deep recurring response, contributes to the numbing of the psyche. Expressions of anguish or outrage are muted, deadened as if a nerve had been cut. This refusal to feel impoverishes our emotional and sensory life. Flowers are dimmer and less fragrant, our loves less ecstatic. We create diversions for ourselves as individuals and as nations, in the fights we pick, the aims we pursue, and the stuff we buy.”

Managing our grief and maintaining our sanity whilst incarcerated in the insane asylum known as industrial civilisation is and will continue to be one of our greatest challenges.
There are a number of courageous artists using their talents to deliver the news that none of us ever wanted to here. I’ll embed a few of them below, be sure to subscribe to these three You Tube channels venturing where few are courageous enough to go.
In no particular order;

How fast could this set of living arrangements disappear? A little known risk we face is that when industrial civilisation collapses we lose the “Global Dimming” or the  aerosol masking effect. Almost as much warming as we are experiencing today has been filtered out by the pollution we have ejaculated into the atmosphere blocking out solar radiation from reaching the earths surface. When Industrial civilisation collapses we lose that dimming effect and within about 6 weeks we will have a doubling of the present day warming, this will wipe out crop production almost immediately.
Patrick Farnsworth will be interviewing Truthout reporter and author Dahr Jamail on Last Born in the Wilderness in the next few days and I will be interviewing Dahr on my and Professor McPhersons radio show Natur Bats Last in January when his latest book “The End of Ice” is published on January 15th . Dahr will be touring Aotearoa N.Z. with me speaking about the book and the journey writing it in July 2019 assuming this set of living arrangements and still staggering along.
I’d also recomend following Patrick Farnsworth’s blog and Facade Book page “Last Born in the Wilderness”

Soon the living will envy the dead, get living while you still can and refrain from dumping on the last generation of youth the burden of trying to fix the unfixable. Doing so is both cruel and immoral imho.

3
Debunking the 6 biggest myths about ‘technology addiction’



Using this many devices at once doesn’t mean a person is addicted to technology. Pressmaster/Shutterstock.com

How concerned should people be about the psychological effects of screen time? Balancing technology use with other aspects of daily life seems reasonable, but there is a lot of conflicting advice about where that balance should be. Much of the discussion – including the World Health Organization’s recent decision to declare “gaming disorder” an “addictive behavior disorder” –is framed around fighting “addiction” to technology. But to me, that resembles a moral panic, giving voice to scary claims based on weak data.

For example, in April 2018, television journalist Katie Couric’s “America Inside Out” program focused on the effects of technology on people’s brains. The episode featured the co-founder of a business treating technology addiction. That person compared addiction to technology with addictions to cocaine and other drugs. The show also implied that technology use could lead to Alzheimer’s disease-like memory loss. Others, such as psychologist Jean Twenge, have linked smartphones with teen suicide.

I am a psychologist who has worked with teens and families and conducted research on technology use, video games and addiction. I believe most of these fear-mongering claims about technology are rubbish. There are several common myths of technology addiction that deserve to be debunked by actual research.

Technology is not a drug

Some people have claimed that technology use activates the same pleasure centers of the brain as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine. That’s vaguely true, but brain responses to pleasurable experiences are not reserved only for unhealthy things.

Anything fun results in an increased dopamine release in the “pleasure circuits” of the brain – whether it’s going for a swim, reading a good book, having a good conversation, eating or having sex. Technology use causes dopamine release similar to other normal, fun activities: about 50 to 100 percent above normal levels.

Cocaine, by contrast, increases dopamine 350 percent, and methamphetamine a whopping 1,200 percent. In addition, recent evidence has found significant differences in how dopamine receptors work among people whose computer use has caused problems in their daily lives, compared to substance abusers. But I believe people who claim brain responses to video games and drugs are similar are trying to liken the drip of a faucet to a waterfall.

Comparisons between technology addictions and substance abuse are also often based on brain imaging studies, which themselves have at times proven unreliable at documenting what their authors claim. Other recent imaging studies have also disproved past claims that violent games desensitized young brains, leading children to show less emotional connection with others’ suffering.

Technology addiction is not common

People who talk about tech addictions often express frustration with their smartphone use, or they can’t understand why kids game so much. But these aren’t real addictions, involving significant interference with other life activities such as school, work or social relationships.

My own research has suggested that 3 percent of gamers – or less – develop problem behaviors, such as neglecting schoolwork to the point that grades suffer. Most of those difficulties are mild and go away on their own over time.

Technology addiction is not a mental illness

In June 2018, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its International Compendium of Diseases.

But it’s a very controversial decision. I am among 28 scholars who wrote to the WHO protesting that the decision was poorly informed by science. The WHO seemed to ignore research that suggested “gaming disorder” is more a symptom of other, underlying mental health issues such as depression, rather than its own disorder.

This year, the Media Psychology and Technology division of the American Psychological Association, of which I am a fellow, likewise released a statement critical of the WHO’s decision. The WHO’s sister organization, UNICEF, also argued against using “addiction” language to describe children’s screen use.

Controversies aside, I have found that current data doesn’t support technology addictions as stand-alone diagnoses. For example, there’s the Oxford study that found people who rate higher in what is called “game addiction” don’t show more psychological or health problemsthan others. Additional research has suggested that any problems technology overusers may experience tend to be milder than would happen with a mental illness, and usually go away on their own without treatment.

‘Tech addiction’ is not caused by technology

Most of the discussion of technology addictions suggest that technology itself is mesmerizing, harming normal brains. But my research suggests that technology addictions generally are symptoms of other, underlying disorders like depression, anxiety and attention problems. People don’t think that depressed people who sleep all day have a “bed addiction.”

This is of particular concern when considering who needs treatment, and for what conditions. Efforts to treat “technology addiction” may do little more than treat a symptom, leaving the real problem intact.

The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Technology is not uniquely addictive

There’s little question that some people overdo a wide range of activities. Those activities do include technology use, but also exercise, eating, sex, work, religion and shopping. There are even research papers on dance addiction. But few of these have official diagnoses. There’s little evidence that technology is more likely to be overused than a wide range of other enjoyable activities.

Technology use does not lead to suicide

Some pundits have pointed to a recent rise in suicide rates among teen girls as evidence for tech problems. But suicide rates increased for almost all age groups, particularly middle-aged adults, for the 17-year period from 1999 to 2016. This rise apparently began around 2008, during the financial collapse, and has become more pronounced since then. That undercuts the claim that screens are causing suicides in teens, as does the fact that suicide rates are far higher among middle-aged adults than youth. There appears to be a larger issue going on in society. Technopanics could be distracting regular people and health officials from identifying and treating it.

One recent paper claimed to link screen use to teen depression and suicide. But another scholar with access to the same data revealed the effect was no larger than the link between eating potatoes and suicide. This is a problem: Scholars sometimes make scary claims based on tiny data that are often statistical blips, not real effects.

To be sure, there are real problems related to technology, such as privacy issues. And people should balance technology use with other aspects of their lives. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for the very small percentage of individuals who do overuse. There’s a tiny kernel of truth to our concerns about technology addictions, but the available evidence suggests that claims of a crisis, or comparisons to substance abuse, are entirely unwarranted.

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article originally published May 22, 2018.

4
United States Drops 21 Spots in Global Life Expectancy Rankings

By 2040, an average American’s lifespan is projected to rise from 78.7 to 79.8 years, an increase of just 1.1 years




Spain nabbed the top spot with an average life expectancy of 85.8 years (Wikimedia Commons)

By Meilan Solly

SMITHSONIAN.COM
OCTOBER 19, 2018

4.9K350415.3K

Life expectancies across the globe are projected to rise by an average of 4.4 years over the next two decades, but a study recently published in The Lancet predicts the United States will linger far behind other high-income nations, reaching an average lifespan of just 79.8 years by 2040. Comparatively, frontrunner Spain is forecast to boast an average lifespan of 85.8 years, while Japan sits at a close second with an expected lifespan of 85.7 years.

Newsweek’s Daniel Moritz-Rabson reports that the new rankings find the U.S. dropping from 43rd to 64th place. This staggering 21-spot plunge represents the largest decrease for a high-income nation and suggests that Americans born in 2040 won’t live much longer than those born in 2016. As Ed Cara notes for Gizmodo, average life expectancy in 2016 was 78.7, just 1.1 fewer years than the 2040 projection.

The study, which was led by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), drew on data from the 2016 Global Burden of Disease study to predict life expectancy in 195 countries and territories. Spain, formerly in fourth place, edged out Japan to nab first, while Singapore (85.4), Switzerland (85.2) and Portugal (84.5) rounded out the remaining spots in the top five.

According to Agence France Presse, the United States’ decline sees it effectively switch places with China. Now in 39th place thanks to an average lifespan of 81.9 years, the Asian powerhouse formerly stood at a lowly 68th.

Other nations projected to enjoy rising life expectancies include Portugal, which jumped from 23rd to fifth after adding 3.6 years to its average lifespan, and Syria, which will move from 137th to 80th by extending its average lifespan from 68.2 years to 78.6 years—assuming, of course, that the country’s devastating civil war soon draws to a close.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, CNN’s Rob Picheta writes that the landlocked African country of Lesotho stands in last place with a predicted life expectancy of 57.3 years. In total, 18 African nations sit at the bottom of the rankings despite seeing lifespan rises between 6.4 and 9.5 years.

“Inequalities will continue to be large,” IHME Director Christopher Murray said in a statement. “In a substantial number of countries, too many people will continue earning relatively low incomes, remain poorly educated, and die prematurely. But nations could make faster progress by helping people tackle the major risks, especially smoking and poor diet.”

The top determinants of average lifespan are so-called “lifestyle” diseases, according to AFP. These include high blood pressure, obesity, high blood sugar and alcohol and tobacco use. Air pollution, which the team estimates is responsible for taking a million lives in China every year, is another key influence.

In general, scientists expect mortality drivers to shift from infectious diseases like malaria to chronic and non-communicable disorders such as diabetes, lung cancer and kidney disease.

CNN’s Picheta points out that U.S. life expectancy has actually declined over the past two years, in part because of the country’s ongoing opioid crisis, which claimed 63,600 lives in 2016. Obesity also poses a threat to residents, affecting four in every 10 adults and 18.5 percent of children.

Lifestyle changes could help offset these issues, Brett Molina writes for USA Today. A June report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 23 percent of U.S. adults get enough exercise, while a 2017 study reported just one in 10 Americans eats a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables.

The team’s findings aren’t set in stone. In fact, the researchers mapped both best- and worst-case scenarios. In the former, 158 countries experienced life expectancy gains of at least five years, while 46 saw gains of 10 years or more. In the latter, nearly half of all countries saw a decrease in life expectancy, with lowest-ranked Lesotho standing at just 45.3 years.

“The future of the world’s health is not pre-ordained, and there is a wide range of plausible trajectories,” lead author Kyle Foreman, director of data science at IHME, said in a statement. “But whether we see significant progress or stagnation depends on how well or poorly health systems address key health drivers.”

5
Surly Newz / Re: "Dafuq?"
« Last post by Surly1 on Today at 03:52:10 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/MJeaQGv5I2g&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/MJeaQGv5I2g&fs=1</a>

Absolutely fascinating. Have never seen a rainbow so low.
6
60,000 tons of dangerous radioactive waste sits on Great Lakes shores

THE EFFECTS OF A WORST-CASE SCENARIO — FROM A NATURAL DISASTER TO TERRORISM — COULD CAUSE UNTHINKABLE CONSEQUENCES FOR THE GREAT LAKES REGION.

Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press
Published 9:00 a.m. ET Oct. 19, 2018 | Updated 4:20 p.m. ET Oct. 19, 2018




More than 60,000 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel is stored on the shores of four of the five Great Lakes — in some cases, mere yards from the waterline — in still-growing stockpiles.

“It’s actually the most dangerous waste produced by any industry in the history of the Earth,” said Gordon Edwards, president of the nonprofit Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

The spent nuclear fuel is partly from 15 current or former U.S. nuclear power plants, including four in Michigan, that have generated it over the past 50 years or more. But most of the volume stored along the Great Lakes, more than 50,000 tons, comes from Canadian nuclear facilities, where nuclear power is far more prevalent. 

It remains on the shorelines because there's still nowhere else to put it. The U.S. government broke a promise to provide the nuclear power industry with a central, underground repository for the material by 1998. Canada, while farther along than the U.S. in the process of trying to find a place for the waste, also doesn't have one yet.

More than 60,000 tons of highly radioactive, spent nuclear fuel is stored on the shores of the Great Lakes, on both the U.S> and Canadian sides.Keith Matheny/Detroit Free Press

The nuclear power industry and its federal regulator, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, point to spent nuclear fuel's safe on-site storage over decades. But the remote possibility of a worst-case scenario release — from a natural disaster, a major accident, or an act of terrorism — could cause unthinkable consequences for the Great Lakes region. 

Scientific research has shown a radioactive cloud from a spent fuel pool fire would span hundreds of miles, and force the evacuation of millions of residents in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto or other population centers, depending on where the accident occurred and wind patterns.

It would release multiple times the radiation that emanated from the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 — a disaster that led to mass evacuations, no-go zones that exist to this day, and a government ban on fishing in a large, offshore area of the Pacific Ocean because of high levels of radioactive cesium in the water and in fish. The fishing industry there has yet to recover, more than seven years later.

“The Mississippi and the Great Lakes — that would be really bad,” said Frank von Hippel, senior research physicist and professor of public and international affairs emeritus at Princeton University.

Added Jim Olson, environmental attorney and founder of the Traverse City-based nonprofit For Love of Water, or FLOW: “The fact that it’s on the shorelines of the Great Lakes takes that high consequence that would be anywhere and paints it red and puts exclamation marks around it.”

Spent nuclear fuel is so dangerous that, a decade removed from a nuclear reactor, its radioactivity would still be 20 times the level that would kill a person exposed to it. Some radioactive byproducts of nuclear power generation remain a health or environmental hazard for tens of thousands of years. And even typically harmless radioactive isotopes that are easily blocked by skin or clothing can become extremely toxic if even small amounts are breathed in, eaten or drank, making their potential contamination of the Great Lakes — the drinking water supply to 40 million people — the connected Mississippi River and the prime agricultural areas of the U.S. a potentially frightening prospect.

Nuclear power is generated from the heat and energy given off when an atom is split.Keith Matheny/Detroit Free Press


Click on map locations for nuclear site details:

All numbers approximate. U.S. site wet pool storage data from 2011; dry cask storage data from 2014, and may include some quantity of spent fuel listed as wet pool-stored in the 2011 survey. Sources: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission


Estral Beach, an out-of-the-way neighborhood along western Lake Erie in Monroe County's Berlin Township, is literally in the shadow of the cooling towers of the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant, where more than 600 tons of spent nuclear fuel remains stored.

"I think it's a disgrace," said Ken Evanoff, who lives less than a mile from the reactor. 

"All of us can complain about it, but there ain't nothing that's going to be done about it, in the long run. When is it going to change?"

A block closer to the plant in Estral Beach, Craig Borowski has lived with Fermi 2 out his window for three decades.

"It's always in the back of your mind," he said. "It's like a war zone, and that waste is the collateral damage of our existence. It's the easiest path to take versus doing the right thing."

For five years, Michigan residents, lawmakers, environmental groups and others around the Midwest have, loudly and nearly unanimously, opposed a planned Canadian underground repository for low-to-medium radioactive waste at Kincardine, Ontario, near the shores of Lake Huron.

Meanwhile, spent nuclear fuel, vastly more radioactive, sits not far from the shores of four Great Lakes — Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario — at 15 currently operating or former nuclear power plant sites on the U.S. side. In Michigan, that includes Fermi 2; the Donald C. Cook nuclear plant in Berrien County; the Palisades nuclear plant in Van Buren County, and the former Big Rock Point nuclear plant in Charlevoix County, which ceased operation in 1997 and where now only casks of spent nuclear fuel remain.

Neither the U.S. nor the Canadian government has constructed a central collection site for the spent nuclear fuel. It’s not just a problem in the Great Lakes region — more than 88,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel, an amount that is rising, is stored at 121 U.S. locations across 39 states.

Stephen Tait is a spokesman for DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear plant, where the stores of spent nuclear fuel near the shores of Lake Erie date to when the plant started commercial operation in 1988.

“Our canisters and buildings are able to withstand the impacts of natural disasters, man-made objects, terrorist attacks, wide-bodied commercial aircraft impacts,” he said.

“All of our used fuel is stored, maintained and protected with safety as our top priority.”

Wet and dry


Spent nuclear fuel isn’t only radioactive, it continues to generate heat. It requires storage in pools with circulating water for typically five years before it can be moved into so-called dry-cask storage — concrete-and-steel obelisks where spent fuel rods receive continued cooling by circulating air.

In practice, however, because of the high costs associated with transferring waste from wet pools to dry casks, nuclear plants have kept decades worth of spent fuel in wet storage. Plant officials instead “re-rack” the pools, reconfiguring them to add more and more spent fuel, well beyond the capacities for which the pools were originally designed.

“The prevailing practice in the United States is you re-rack the pools until they are just about as dense-packed as the nuclear core,” von Hippel said.

Only in recent years have nuclear plants stepped up the transition to dry cask storage because there’s no room left in the wet pools. Still, about two-thirds of on-site spent nuclear fuel remains in wet pools in the U.S.

That’s a safety concern, critics contend. A catastrophe or act of terrorism that drains a spent fuel pool could cause rising temperatures that could eventually cause zirconium cladding — special brackets that hold the spent fuel rods in bundles — to catch fire.

Such a disaster could be worse than a meltdown in a nuclear reactor, as spent nuclear fuel is typically stored with nowhere near the fortified containment of a reactor core.

“The long-term land-contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than those from Chernobyl,” a 2003 research paper by von Hippel and seven other nuclear experts stated.

The reference is to the worst nuclear power disaster in world history, the April 1986 reactor explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the former Soviet Union, now a part of the Ukraine, where 4,000 to 90,000 are estimated to have died as a result of the radiation released. A study by the University of Exeter in Great Britain, released this June, found that cow’s milk from farms about 125 miles from the Chernobyl accident site still — more than 30 years later —- contains the radioactive element cesium at levels considered unsafe for adults and at more than seven times the limit unsafe for children.

Allison Macfarlane, a professor of public policy and international affairs at George Washington University, served as chairman of the NRC during the Obama administration from July 2012 until December 2014. 

“What I think needs more examination is the practice of densely packing the fuel in the pool,” she said.

The NRC does not regulate how much fuel can be in a pool, in what configuration it’s placed, and how old the fuel is, Macfarlane said.

“We did consider doing more study of this situation, what potential hazards may exist from densely packing spent nuclear fuel pools, and my colleagues declined to support me on that," she said.

“What you worry about are the kinds of situations you can’t yet imagine — which is what happened at Fukushima.”

Fukushima and 'The Devil's Scenario'


On March 11, 2011, following a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and an ensuing, 50-foot tsunami, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan lost cooling capabilities for four of its six reactors. The cores became damaged and radiation was released into the atmosphere, making it the world’s second-worst nuclear power industry accident after Chernobyl.

But it’s what happened — or almost happened — at the plant's Unit 4 spent-fuel pool that gives nuclear watchdogs nightmares.

A hydrogen explosion four days into the disaster left the building housing the Unit 4 spent-fuel pool in ruins. The pool was seven stories up in a crumbling, inaccessible building.

It "was so radioactive, you couldn’t put people up there,” von Hippel said. “For about a month after Fukushima, people didn’t know how much water was in the pool. They were shooting water up there haphazardly with a hose, trying to drop it by helicopter."

Two weeks after the earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission secretly conducted a worst-case scenario study of the ongoing disaster. The biggest fear that emerged: that a self-sustaining fire would start in the Unit 4 spent fuel pool, spreading to the nearby, damaged reactors. That, they found, would release radiation requiring evacuations as far away as 150 miles, to the outskirts of Tokyo and its more than 13.4 million residents.

“That was the devil’s scenario that was on my mind,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said during a special commission’s 2014 investigation of the accident.

“Common sense dictated that, if that came to pass, then it was the end of Tokyo.” 

The worst-case-scenario report was not released for nearly a year. “The content was so shocking that we decided to treat it as if it didn’t exist,” the Japan Times quoted a senior Japanese government official as saying in January 2012.

What kept the spent fuel rods covered with water in Unit 4 was a miraculous twist of fate: The explosion had jarred open a gate that typically separated the Unit 4 spent fuel pool from an adjacent reactor pool.

“Leakage through the gate seals was essential for keeping the fuel in the Unit 4 pool covered with water,” a 2016 report on the Fukushima accident by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded.

“Had there been no water in the reactor well, there could well have been severe damage to the stored fuel and substantial releases of radioactive material to the environment."

It’s a startling “very near-miss,” said Gordon Thompson, executive director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Given wind directions that are common in Japan, they could have been looking at removing the population of Tokyo for decades, or centuries,” he said. “You’re talking tens of millions of people that would have to relocate. That’s the bullet that Japan dodged.”

Following Fukushima, the NRC required U.S. nuclear power plants to install instrumentation showing real-time water levels in spent-fuel pools even in the event of a power outage. Consideration was also given to speeding up transfer of spent-fuel from wet pools to dry casks, but NRC officials rejected that.

"In 2013, the staff evaluated whether there would be a significant enhancement to safety by expediting the transfer of fuel from pool to cask," NRC officials told the Free Press in an email. "The conclusion was that the increase in safety would not be significant enough to warrant requiring expedited transfer. The timing of transfer to cask is therefore a business decision for the licensee rather than a safety issue."



The nuclear power industry and regulators “try to maintain that everything is safe and secure, and it’s really not,” said Kevin Kamps, a nuclear waste watchdog for the nonprofit Beyond Nuclear, an anti-nuclear power and weapon organization based in Maryland.

“It’s incredibly irresponsible to keep these pools as jammed full as possible because of the risk it adds and because they’re going to have empty these pools eventually, anyway.”

Added Thompson, “Even that realization about Japan has not budged the U.S. nuclear industry or the NRC’s willingness to tolerate the risk at nuclear plants.”

The U.S. nuclear industry sees Fukushima differently — in some ways as a success story.

“At Fukushima, you not only had a tsunami, you blew up the buildings … and you still did not drain the pool,” said Rod McCullum, senior director for fuel and decommissioning at the Nuclear Energy Institute, the trade association for nuclear utilities in the U.S.

“Those pools and those casks withstood explosions and earthquakes and tsunamis, all on the same day.”

A scenario where a fire can occur by the draining of water from a spent-fuel pool “has never been demonstrated,” McCullum said. He noted safety measures added in the U.S. since Fukushima include the ability to provide extra pumps and water supplies, in minutes or hours, should a spent fuel pool become breached and lose water — even if the disaster required that the resources be brought in by air from farther away.

But McCullum also acknowledged the shock waves through the global nuclear power industry caused by the Japanese disaster.

“After Fukushima, we never say anything is impossible,” he said.

A promise broken


It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

After the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, ushering the end of World War II, the U.S. military continued to experiment with bigger, more lethal nuclear bomb capabilities. But a simultaneous push also began to harness the “pollution-free” potential of nuclear power.

“In the United States, when the nuclear industry was established in the 1950s and 1960s, the assumption was that the spent nuclear fuel would be reprocessed,” Thompson said.

A plutonium reprocessing facility was opened in New York state in the early 1960s, operated for six years, and then folded amid skyrocketing costs and various mishaps. President Jimmy Carter banned reprocessing in 1977 because of the costs and concern about the proliferation of plutonium.

Carter’s decision was the correct one, said Edwin Lyman, senior scientist in the Global Security Program at the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But “it did leave the utilities in a lurch,” eliminating a method they’d planned to use for dealing with their growing nuclear waste stockpiles.

By 1980, 77 nuclear power plants were storing increasing amounts of spent nuclear fuel on-site. Two years later, Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in January 1983. It created a timetable and a procedure to create a permanent, underground, central disposal site for high-level radioactive waste. It also declared that the federal government would “take title” to all high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel at plant sites nationwide, and, in return for payment of fees by the industry, would dispose of the waste at a new, central repository site “beginning not later than Jan. 31, 1998.”

After a few years of site evaluation, in December 1987, Congress amended the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to designate one site, Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as the permanent, national nuclear waste repository location. Some called it the “Screw Nevada Bill,” Thompson said.

Highly toxic, highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel has piled up at plants throughout both the U.S. and Canada-- and along the Great Lakes' shores.Keith Matheny/Detroit Free Press

“Very quickly, the political difficulties of developing a repository started becoming apparent,” he said. “The thinking was, ‘Nevada has a relatively small congressional contingent. There’s already a radioactive nuclear weapons test site there, anyway. Let’s just shove it there.’ All other options were then off the table.”

Not surprisingly, Nevada fought back. The legal and political battle went on for more than a decade. The 1998 deadline for a repository came and went. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy under President Barack Obama ended its pursuit of a Yucca Mountain repository, amid pressure from powerful Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, who became Senate majority leader in 2007.

By 2014, having paid more than $39.8 billion in fees to the U.S. Nuclear Waste Fund, with no promised central repository taking away their still-rising stockpiles of spent fuel, nuclear utilities sued the federal government, and won a series of settlements.

“Every day, the taxpayers of America are paying $2.2 million for keeping this spent nuclear fuel on nuclear power plant sites — over $800 million a year," McCullum said. 

President Donald Trump’s administration has signaled a willingness to revive the Yucca Mountain plan, but it remains more wish than near-reality.

“The lesson we’ve learned is these projects take so long, you really can’t impose them on local populations,” von Hippel said. “You have to get consent.”

The original 9/11 idea


In August 2002, al-Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda got an anonymous call offering him an incredible interview with two of the biggest fugitives from justice on the globe: al-Qaida leaders Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the so-called mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

Wrote London’s The Guardian about Fouda’s account at the time: “After two days in a run-down hotel (in Karachi, Pakistan), he was passed through a chain of people before being blindfolded, put in a car (trunk) and driven to an apartment building. He was taken to a flat strewn with laptop computers and mobile phones and occupied by two men whom he recognized as Bin al-Shibh and Mohammed.

Among the things Fouda said he learned in his interview: That the initial targets for what became the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks included two, unspecified U.S. nuclear power plants.

 "It was decided to abandon nuclear targets for the moment," Fouda said Mohammed explained to him. "I mean for the moment," Mohammed added.

Al-Qaida leaders feared an attack on U.S. nuclear facilities “might get out of hand,” Fouda said he was told.

Noted Kamps of the nonprofit Beyond Nuclear, “We’re relying on the moral restraint of a terrorist organization not to attack nuclear plants.”

That startling revelation was later amplified in the 9/11 Commission’s report, which not only noted Mohammed’s account, but that 9/11 ringleader and hijacker Mohammed Atta, in July 2001 meetings with Bin al-Shibh in Spain, “mentioned he had considered targeting a nuclear facility he had seen during familiarization flights near New York.”

The plan was ultimately scuttled because Atta “thought a nuclear target would be difficult because the airspace around it was restricted, making reconnaissance flights impossible and increasing the likelihood that any plane would be shot down before impact," the 9/11 Commission report states.

Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists said the nuclear facility in question was probably Indian Point in New York, about 25 miles north of New York City. In an ironic twist, the supposed heightened security measures that discouraged Atta from a nuclear plant strike don’t exist, Lyman said.

“In fact, there was no such protection,” he said. “There is no no-fly-zone around nuclear plants.”

It's still not an outright prohibition. After 9/11, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a "notice-to-airmen" stating: “In the interest of national security and to the extent practicable, pilots are strongly advised to avoid the airspace above, or in proximity to such sites as power plants (nuclear, hydro-electric, or coal), dams, refineries, industrial complexes, military facilities and other similar facilities. Pilots should not circle as to loiter in the vicinity over these types of facilities.” 

Personnel at nuclear plants "voluntarily report to us and to local law enforcement whenever they see a plane loitering in the vicinity," NRC spokesman David McIntyre told the Free Press. "Such pilots may be greeted by local law enforcement upon landing and further advised not to fly over or loiter over a plant."

The policy also applies for remote-controlled drones, McIntyre said.

In a Great Lakes region where magnitude-9.0 earthquakes and tsunamis aren’t a potential threat to stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel, terrorism remains possible.

The NRC is understandably vague in its discussion of the nuclear power industry’s preparedness to thwart or withstand acts of terrorism — but asserts that facilities are, indeed, prepared. The agency has implemented security requirements for spent-fuel storage in accordance with a “design basis threat,” an outlined list of potential threats codified in U.S. law, including “a single group attacking through one entry point, multiple groups attacking through multiple entry points … well-trained (including military training and skills) and dedicated individuals, willing to kill or be killed.” The scenarios include land- or water-borne vehicles with bombs. Notably, they do not include attacks from the air.

“We have highly trained and highly armed security forces at U.S. nuclear plants,” said McCullum of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

“They actually drill this. Force on force. 'Mission Impossible'-type attacks on nuclear facilities and they have to defend them, again and again and again.

“We don’t believe in magic. We believe in concrete and steel and gates and guns.”

But von Hippel, the senior research physicist and professor emeritus from Princeton University, has reviewed security preparedness at nuclear facilities — including the classified reports not available to the public — and has remaining concerns.

“A previous National Academies study I reviewed (in 2006) pointed out a variety of different scenarios their security arrangements don’t cover,” he told the Free Press. “There were two versions of the report, one unclassified version, but specifics about the scenarios that were of concern were classified. We reviewed the issue again in 2016 and concluded they had not resolved the issues.”

It’s an economic issue, von Hippel said. Threats beyond those specifically listed "would be up to the military, up to the federal government," he said. 

“How exactly is the government supposed to do that? I guess it’s really by intelligence. Because government isn’t there at the plant. Like we should have been able to do with 9/11, we should be able to see the threat coming. That’s the thinking.”

As spent nuclear fuel moves to dry casks, the threat of terrorism, while not heightened over wet pools, becomes a more particular focus, von Hippel said.

“You worry more about terrorism and less about an accident with dry casks,” he said. “They’re air-cooled, passive, so there’s no machinery that can malfunction, no loss of coolant potential. You’re really worried about somebody blowing a hole into a dry cask and making sure the maximum amount of radioactivity comes out.”

Thompson, the executive director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies at Cambridge, sees “a big void in national security planning” when it comes to terror threats at nuclear facilities.

“The NRC’s position on beyond design basis threats is essentially that this is a matter for the national security apparatus — it’s not our job, so somebody else will take care of it,” he said. “But if you look at the Pentagon, Homeland Security, I think you will look in vain to find any part of that apparatus that is addressing that area that the NRC says is not its job.”

Welcome to Zion, nuclear waste dump


Ask Zion, Illinois, Mayor Al Hill what the federal government’s broken promise on taking spent nuclear fuel away means in his community, and you’ll get an earful.

At the city of about 25,000 on the shores of Lake Michigan, 45 miles north of Chicago, just south of the Wisconsin border, twin reactors operated from 1968 to 1998. The facility shut down one year after Illinois deregulated electric utilities.

The community knew it had “unwritten understandings” with the nuclear facility, Hill said. Some were positive, some negative.

“We knew we’d have an unsightly nuclear power plant sitting there for years and years,” he said. “It limited the recreation opportunities on the lakefront for residents and nonresidents.”

In return, the plant owner, ComEd, paid more than $19 million a year in taxes to the city, local schools, the park and library district, Hill said. The plant provided 800 jobs and a payroll of about $40 million.

Now, with the plant gone and demolished, what remains is a field of concrete and steel obelisks, 65 in all, containing 2,226 spent nuclear fuel assemblies.

Now there are no positives, only negatives, Hill said.

“There was never an understanding, it was never part of the equation, that these spent-fuel rods were going to be here, and we were going to serve as a de facto interim nuclear storage facility,” he said.

It has “severely inhibited” economic development opportunities on the lakefront, Hill said.

“I’ve been told on more than one occasion, when we’ve been trying to get somebody to develop here, that there’s no way they will come while that nuclear waste is still next door,” he said. “(They’ve said), ‘The perception is you guys all glow in the dark.’ ”

Chris Daisy owns Zion Cyclery, a bicycle shop on Sheridan Road in Zion a few blocks away from the dry casks of spent nuclear fuel. He says his business is an anomaly, doing well and bringing in customers from other, nearby cities.

"Our downtown, compared to other downtowns in the county, we're doing terribly," he said.

"There's zero foot traffic in Zion. There's absolutely no one walking downtown here during the day.



"We're basically turned into a de facto nuclear waste dump because what was promised to be taken out of here has never been taken out."

While the federal government is paying nuclear utilities for its failure to develop a central repository for spent fuel, that money isn’t coming to communities like Zion, left holding the nuclear waste bag, Hill said.

“This is where the spent fuel rods are going to be for the foreseeable future,” he said. “I understand there’s a movement afoot to get Yucca Mountain moving again. But that’s going to be a battle, and that’s going to take a lot of years.

“Our position is, if we’re going to serve as a spent-fuel rod storage facility, we should be compensated. The federal government should be compensating us for that.”

The negative economic impact is only part of the concern, Daisy said. Always looming in the background, however remote the possibility might be, is the potential of the unimaginable.

"These days, in an age of terror attacks, you don't want a bunch of spent uranium sitting on the shore of Lake Michigan," he said. "It doesn't make sense."

Canada's Yucca Mountain


Because nuclear power is much more widely used in Canada — the province of Ontario alone has 20 nuclear reactors at three plants — it also generates much more nuclear waste. 

In Ontario, nearly 52,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel is stored on-site at nuclear plants along Lakes Huron and Ontario.

“There’s a huge amount of high-level, radioactive waste stored right along the water,” said Edwards, the president of the nonprofit Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

Like the U.S., Canada is seeking a long-term storage solution that will involve a central underground repository. Unlike the U.S., the Canadian government is seeking willing hosts, promising jobs and economic activity. The Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organization has trimmed a list of 22 interested communities down to five. Two of those finalists are on the shores of the Great Lakes: Huron-Kinloss and South Bruce, Ontario, near the Bruce nuclear reactor on Lake Huron, where a proposed underground storage facility for low-to-intermediate radioactive waste is already drawing controversy.

Final site selection is planned by 2023, with the underground spent nuclear fuel repository in operation by the 2040s, Ontario Power Generation officials said.

“The current way to store (spent nuclear fuel) is safe, but it requires greater controls, such as a nuclear response force to ensure the safety of the facility, the safeguarding,” said Karine Glenn, director of the waste and decommissioning division of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

“Internationally, the consensus has been that the best way to manage the fuel on a long-term basis — we’re talking thousands of years — is to put it in a repository and seal it off from human intrusion.”

Where do we go from here?


Despite a half-century of evidence to the contrary, the continued position of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is that highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel will not stay on-site at locations around the Great Lakes and elsewhere — it will be moved to that still-aspirational central repository, somewhere.

Interim storage facilities have been recently proposed for west Texas and near Carlsbad, New Mexico. The proposed facility in Andrews, Texas, would hold about 44,000 tons of the waste, stored above ground and accepted in 5,000-ton phases. Officials predicted it could begin accepting waste by 2021.

The proposed southeast New Mexico facility would store up to 110,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel in underground storage casks meant to hold the waste for about 40 years, per the license application.

But many hurdles remain, and some question whether yet another temporary solution helps much. 

The nuclear power industry and its regulator in the U.S., the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, assures that the spent nuclear fuel is stored safely. But critics worry an unforeseen calamity could breach the storage containers and cause a radioactivity release.Keith Matheny/Detroit Free Press

Even if a central repository is one day approved, another complication arises — how to get two generations of the most dangerous industrial waste man has ever created from sites all over the country to one point.

“You can’t just wave a magic wand and teleport the wastes out to New Mexico — that’s going to take 50 years,” said Kamps, the radioactive waste analyst with the nonprofit Beyond Nuclear.

Critics, with gallows humor, have dubbed the years of required trips down highways and railways “Mobile Chernobyl.”

“We would be transporting this stuff for decades over road and railways,” Edwards said. “It would make the potential for problems and accidental release even worse.”

Edwards' proposed solution: Pulling the waste away from shorelines, and encasing it in much more hardened, protective enclosures, and monitoring it appropriately.

No nuclear power-using country, anywhere in the world, has yet successfully built and used a long-term, underground repository for spent nuclear fuel.

“It’s true that we have to do something with the waste of some sort,” Edwards said. “But it’s not true that we have a solution. We have ideas of how we might possibly handle it. But we don’t know if that’s really going to be effective.”

Germany, in the 1980s, tried using an abandoned salt and potash mine to store barrels of nuclear waste over 30 years, the Asse II mine. It’s now prompting a cleanup that may take 30 years and cost nearly $12 billion U.S. dollars. The government has disputed the contention of workers at the mine that they were exposed to excessive levels of radiation, causing an unusual number of cancers.

Meanwhile, many U.S. nuclear plants are reaching their designed lifespans, and with wind and solar increasingly competitive as energy sources, utilities are taking hard looks at whether to stay in the nuclear business.

Nuclear power is projected to drop as a percentage of the world’s power generation mix from 10 percent in 2017 to just 5.6 percent by 2050, a report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency this summer found.

That could mean more communities hosting casks of dry-stored spent nuclear fuel, and nothing else. If central repository solutions aren’t found, within years, the re-licensing of some early dry-cask storage facilities will come into play, as they meet a lifespan they were never expected to reach.

“The age of nuclear power is winding down, but the age of nuclear waste is just beginning,” Edwards said.

Contact Keith Matheny: 313-222-5021 or kmatheny@freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @keithmatheny.

7
Doomsteading / Re: The Doom Loop
« Last post by Surly1 on Today at 02:57:01 AM »
OK. Here we go fellows.
If You want something to worry about, This is it.
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/leveraged-loans-cov-lite-central-banks-2018-10

"‘If you want to worry about something … this is it’: Central banks and investors are sounding the alarm on a corner of the debt market that's suddenly over $US1 trillion in size"

And:
“When you have no covenants, I can take cash and distribute it all out. I can sell the assets of the company and you as a debt holder are holding the bag.”

What could possible go wrong?

When this happens in the US, we socialize the losses and make the proles many for the casino losses. Or fraud, if you prefer.
8
Surly Newz / Doomstead Diner Daily October 21
« Last post by Surly1 on Today at 02:46:05 AM »

Doomstead Diner Daily October 21


The Diner Daily is available HERE with even MORE sections and stories:
http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/news/



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Editor's note

The Doomstead Diner is a hub for discussion and information pertaining to the ongoing Economic Collapse of the Industrial Economy. The Diner is the result of many years of discussion and debate on many other forums. At Doomstead Diner, our goal is to collate much of the information we can to assist in planning for the world to come.
9
The Kitchen Sink / 📰 A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
« Last post by RE on Today at 01:29:53 AM »
Sounds like a day in my life at the Diner Desk.

RE

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/10/19/a-day-in-my-life-at-counterpunch/

October 19, 2018
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
by Jeffrey St. Clair


The view from my desk.

It’s six in the morning here in Oregon City. The sun won’t be up for another hour. The west wind is rattling the windows. I hope a storm is brewing. We need the rain. Then I hear the tea kettle sputtering. The damn thing refuses to whistle. I make pot of Moroccan mint tea and settle behind my battered Mac. The new grandkid is already up, has been for an hour or so, gnawing on the ears of a stuffed toy grizzly that Kimberly and I picked up several years ago in Yellowstone.  The once feral gray cat who has no known name is now curled up at my feet and the sleek black cat we call Baudelaire is standing on the table brushing his back against the screen. There will be no breakfast. There hasn’t been any breakfast in a year. I’ve been bamboozled into following an “intermittent fast,” which prohibits any food from 7 PM to 11 AM. I don’t recommend it.

I check the CounterPunch page to make sure all of the morning’s stories have posted, since they were edited and loaded into WordPress last night. Occasionally there are screw-ups, usually mine. All looks good so far. There are 15 new pieces today. An intriguing mix of stories ranging from the killing of Jamal Khashoggi to the tottering global economy, from the failure of Democrats to appeal to millennials to the torments of Gaza.

Then I grit my teeth and download my email. There are 612 new messages in my inbox since I last checked eight hours ago. The count is a little higher than normal because of the annual fund drive. Every morning starts with a purge, wiping out the spam and the advertisements, the duplications, the bounces, the latest alerts on crisis actors in Vegas and thermite at Ground Zero. That leaves 503 messages that need my attention. First, I scan for advisories from the CounterPunch team: Joshua, Becky, Nathaniel, Deva and Nichole. Becky sent a note about yesterday’s totals from the fund drive. We’re down from last year by about 25 percent, even though the number of contributors has actually risen. The economy is more brutal and unforgiving than anyone admits. The rising stock market only reflects how much wealth the one-percent has amassed at the expense of the rest of us. Many of our readers live from paycheck to payday loan.

There’s a note from Nichole about books for potential review that have landed in Petrolia. I pick out four or five titles to be shipped north. Nathaniel writes to say that the debate over “fascism” has flared up again on the CounterPunch social media platforms in response to a provocative piece by my pal Anthony DiMaggio. Deva says that a troublesome bug in the site’s shopping cart has been resolved. Josh sends a gloating email about the Dodgers’ big win over the Brewers and another about the four or five stories he’s editing today, before he assembles the email Blaster, which will be sent off to nearly 50,000 CounterPunchers in a few hours. There are several group emails about CounterPunch business. We are all brainstorming about ways that we can make the fundraiser more effective, less annoying and end as soon as possible. None of us are professional fundraisers. None of us like asking for money or sacrificing staff hours and space on the website for this annual ordeal. But we don’t have any other options. We won’t sell ads and we don’t get big grants from liberal foundations.

Not many outlets that take our line on the Middle East or the vacuity of the Democratic Party get grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts or the Rockefeller Foundation. That’s one big reason there aren’t that many sites like CounterPunch, frankly. Another, of course, is that they don’t have our writers. We’re funded by our readers and only our readers. Live by the word, perish by the word.

Thankfully one of our longtime supporters has stepped up this week and promised to match every $100 or more donation up to $25,000 total. The matching grant is landing right on time, but will only make a dent in our modest goal if our readers pitch in.

We seem to scrape by every year, though some years are leaner than others. This has been a very lean couple of years, partly because we’ve lost one of our largest donors, who had graciously supported CounterPunch for 15 years. He said that it’s time to see if we can swim against the current on our own. I told him we’re all taking swimming lessons and are intent on drowning as slowly as possible. But he was quite right. We now have more than two million unique visitors to the site every month. If each of them gave merely five dollars a year we wouldn’t have to run another fundraiser until 2030.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. Nearly three weeks into this annual fund drive we’ve received contributions from more than 2100 CounterPunchers. That’s a nice round number, but it represents only a tiny fraction of our readers. Even so, CounterPunch’s online edition remains a commons; it’s free to all who come and we intend to keep it that way as long as we can. If people like it, if they feel they need it, they’ll pony up the money to keep us afloat. We are compelled to survive amid the grinding swirl of the very market forces that we abhor and are seeking to undermine.

There’s also an email from Zach at AK Press saying that our new book, The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink should be getting into bookstores, those endangered spaces, sometime this week. It’s a big book with more than six years of reporting in it from some of the most battered places on the continent, such as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. It’s not just a book about the environment, but the defenders of nature–from the desert southwest and the Rocky Mountains to Flint and Standing Rock–and how those brave environmentalists have become the targets of the FBI, corporate goons and mysterious infiltrators. It’s an urgently written book with real blood on the pages.

Next, I scan in the inbox for any threatening legal letters. We’ve been sued in the past by a former CIA officer, a Saudi sheikh, two US senators and the nation of Qatar. To name a few. We’ve never lost, knock on wood. Still, the last time we were sued, the legal fees cost us $30,000 and the case didn’t even reach the deposition phase. Since the Gawker ruling, the situation for the independent press has become ever more perilous. Any aggrieved billionaire who sues over the slightest critique and litigates against cash-strapped media sites can force these outlets into bankruptcy. Trump, of course, is eager to lend presidential authority to this assault on the first amendment.

Fortunately, there are no demand letters this morning. But there was a torrent of hate mail, which is always more instructive to read than the rare herogram. “Why are you so soft on Putin?” “Why are you in Putin’s pocket?” “Your blind support of Assad is outrageous.” “Why did CounterPunch turn its back on the Syrian regime?” “ANTIFA are fascist scum.” “ANTIFA is the last line of defense against fascists.” “You guys are climate deniers.” “Why did CounterPunch abandon Cockburn’s critique of global warming science?” “You Bernie Bros are responsible for Trump!” “I’ve donated for many years, but not after St. Clair’s vile attacks on Bernie Sanders.”

I sympathize with the confusion. Unlike many political sites, CounterPunch doesn’t a have company line. The online edition of CounterPunch has always been a venue where different voices, on what can loosely be described as the “left,” can freely engage in fierce debates about politics, economics, war, movies, racism, music and political movements. We’ve tried to make CounterPunch free from dogma and cant, but to keep it open for writers with fresh points of view and vivid writing styles. The experience can perplex readers who are used to grazing in the usual media feedlots of processed prose and artificially-colored opinions.

The phone rings at 7:30 AM. It’s the first call of the day. There will be dozens more before it finally goes silent. As usual, those early morning calls remind me of Cockburn. We talked every day at 7 AM for nearly 20 years. I miss his friendship and his political voice. Alex would have had rich sport carving up Trump, his deranged adherents and his banal Democratic pursuers. This call, however, is for a radio interview about the 14 different ethics investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

It’s Thursday, the busiest day of the week for Josh and me. This is the day we begin preparing Weekend Edition, which generally runs a slate of 45 stories. We’ve been collecting potential pieces over the week. Now the essays must be edited, the links inserted, photos selected, captions, headlines and sub-headlines written. We have to order the stories, write blurbs and load them all into WordPress. I usually edit about 20 stories on Thursday another batch early on Friday morning, waiting on some of our late-arriving regular contributors, such as the usually tardy but indispensable David Yearsley. Each story takes about 20 minutes to edit and load. That’s nine hours of steady work at the Mac. If nothing goes awry and something usually does.

After my first interview, I dive in.  Yigal Bronner has sent a devastating piece from the West Bank, where he has been camped out in small village slated for demolition by Israel. It’s sure to unnerve some timid readers. The historian Jacques Pauwels has sent a piece on eating at the House of the Swan, 450-year old restaurant in Belgium where Karl Marx once hung out. The old Rousseau scholar Andy Levine sends a note telling me to hold a spot for his piece on the future of progressive politics in a party (the Democrats) dominated by neoliberals. Jason Hirthler, who is a tremendously gifted writer, has sent a new piece whacking the fragile pieties of our liberal elites. Paul Street tries to make sense of the Trump/Kanye West show. Ramzy Baroud writes a political obituary for Nikki Haley’s savage tenure at the UN. It should prove to be another rich palette of stories.

At noon, I take a break for lunch. The first protein of the day is a chunk of sockeye salmon I barbecued for dinner last night. It’s even better cold. I wash it down with a glass of apple cider (I’ve stopped drinking alcohol since the kid moved in with us) and skim the headlines of the New York Times, the Independent, London Review of Books and Ha’aretz. I take a walk in the rain and return soaked and cold. I write a few emails to writers reminding them of the deadline for the next print issue of the magazine and write some thank you notes for contributors to the fund-drive.

My wife Kimberly calls and reports that she’s got the flu. The library is always the first vector for the autumn plagues. I’ll go down next, as I always do. This is not good news and we’re fearful of passing it to the grandkid, who is staying with us for the next month, while his father is on assignment in Hungary. We’re damn lucky we have health care through Kimberly’s work at the university. So few American journalists enjoy this privilege, which should be a fundamental right for all. There are no sick days or mental health days (though god knows we could use them) at CounterPunch. The website must go up.

At 1:30 PM, I dive back into the editing and work steady until my interview at 3. Nick Pemberton tries to make sense of Chomsky’s voting strategy. Jill Richardson explores the consequences, political and cultural, of Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test. Ricardo Vaz writes from Belgium on Saudis’ genocidal war on Yemen. Dr. John Carter sends a painful piece from the wilds of Idaho describing the plight of Great Pyrenees guard dogs who have been abandoned by their owners. There’s a piece by the courageous Dr. Hakim Young from Afghanistan.

After the radio show, I work on a few more stories and then I am seized in panic. Damn. It’s 5 PM on Thursday and I haven’t written a word for my own column. I didn’t even have a topic. What the hell I am going to do? Becky temporarily distracts me with an update on the daily totals from the fund drive. Not awful, but not great, either. We’ve got to pick up the pace or confront a crisis. I quickly check the website traffic. It looks pretty robust. Patrick Cockburn’s essay on the Saudis and Greg MacDougall’s powerful report on the epidemic of suicides among indigenous people in Canada are still buzzing, being read and debated from Olympia, Washington to Cape Town, South Africa.

Around 6 PM I finish editing the last of the pieces for Weekend Edition and begin cooking dinner. I select a challenging but delicious recipe taken from south of France by the great Paula Wolfert called “Chicken with Red Onion Sauce.” As I quarter the chicken, I continue searching for an idea for a column. Kimberly rings to say she’s snarled in traffic. I grumble about my predicament. She comes to the rescue by suggesting that I write about a typical day at CounterPunch. Would that be cheating, I wonder? Nah. I scribble some notes as the chicken sizzles and the rice steams.

After dinner, I retreat to my office with my Macbook and a pre-rolled from Gnome Grown (the local pot shop) and start pounding out this journal entry while listening to John Coltrane’s “Lost Album.”  Not wanting this to be an entirely fact-free column, I do a little research. In the last year, CounterPunch has published 5301 articles by 3050 different writers. On average, we add 12 new writers to the site every week. This year we published writers on every continent, including Antarctica, and from every state, including Alabama and Wyoming. The articles were read, posted, tweeted, re-tweeted millions of times by nearly 16 million individual readers. Those numbers are impressive, considering CounterPunch’s origins 25 years ago as a six-page newsletter published fortnightly for a few thousand subscribers. Many of those original subscribers stay with us to this day.

Over 25 years, I think we’ve proved our worth. We’ve built CounterPunch into an intelligent, combative and radical presence around the world. But we can only move forward with your financial support. There’s no safety net for us. CounterPunch is run by a dedicated skeleton crew. After all these years, against all odds we’re still here. We’re still a lean operation with no waste to prune. Every dollar you can manage is crucial to our survival.

It’s 10 PM when I finish this column-cum-plea for money. I download my email for the last time and shutter the Macbook. It’s been an exhausting but productive day. A gentle but steady rain begins to beat at the window. The black cat looks up at me. He’s an odd cat and usually follows me on my late night walks to clear my head, but he’s showing no inclination toward venturing outside into the Oregon drizzle tonight. Come on, Baudelaire, let’s take a stroll–even evil flowers need a little water to grow.
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We got an early start this morning for the drive to Tacoma, and after a stop at Costco to fuel up were on the road by 9AM.  I made Tuna Sandwiches for Road Food so we wouldn't have to stop for Fast Food on the road trip, and we made the crossing on the I-90 with just a couple of bathroom breaks, arriving in Seattle around 2:30, where our first stop was at K-Dog's digs.  K-Dog recommended the Whistlestop Pub.  Good food, best aspect though was the hot looking servers.  ;D

After that Brian & I drove down to the Casino Hotel we are staying at, which was somewhat confusing because they actually have 2 locations and are in the process of vastly expanding the Tacoma one and the one we are at is actually in Fife, a couple of miles up the road on the I-5.  We did eventually find the right location though, and were checked in with all our preps in the hotel room by around 7 PM.

After that we went to explore the Hotel ammenities, which include a really nice looking buffet at a reasonable price, but we discovered how we can enjoy this buffet 100% FREE without ever gambling or buying a hotel room!  :o  How to do it is a TOP SECRET.  We got food vouchers, but didn't use them tonight because we were already stuffed from the dinner with K-Dog at the Whistlestop.  Tomorrow though we will hit the buffet and I will get some boots on the ground pics of the various buffet offerings, which are heavily weighted toward seafood.  Tomorrow night features LOBSTER at the buffet!  They also have a Chinese themed regular restaurant and a deli where the food vouchers are good. :icon_sunny:

Tomorrow is a day to relax and have some fun gambling and pigging out at the buffet.  K-Dog should be coming down to join us in the afternoon.  After that on Monday morning it's Tombstone Time!

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