Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Disappearance of Unsilent Generation

Some of you may have looked for Unsilent Generation in the past few days, and instead come upon an unfamiliar site welcoming you to the German version of Unsilent Generation. (Willkommen zur deutschen Version von unsilentgeneration.com.)

What happened is that my domain name, unsilentgeneration.com, expired, and was quickly snatched up by someone else–a German guy. I assume he has bought it in order to sell it back, and I am trying to do so.

In the meantime, Unsilent Generation can be found at a new URL, unsilentgeneration.net.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and I hope you will stick with me while I get this thing sorted out.

Behind the English Unrest

This comment in the Guardian by Nina Power sheds some light on the situation in England:

Since the coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital (preceded by clashes with Bristol police in Stokes Croft earlier in the year). Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. The government knows very well that it is taking a gamble, and that its policies run the risk of sparking mass unrest on a scale we haven’t seen since the early 1980s. With people taking to the streets of Tottenham, Edmonton, Brixton and elsewhere over the past few nights, we could be about to see the government enter a sustained and serious losing streak.

The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. Read More

Vitter and Koch:A lesson in Who Runs this Nation

What people often miss in following the actions of government as reported in the media is the  banality of life in Washington.  Behind the scenes Congress plods along,its real workings mostly hidden from view.

Thanks to the Institute of Southern Studies, we have a crisp civics lesson in what really goes on in the form of a detiled account of how Congress,working as so often it does,with lobbyists in tow,set about delaying reforms that would protect the public from the carcinogins leaking out from the chemical formaldehyde.

Take a minute or so to  read this. You’ll see just how our democratic government actually works:

6/10/2011Date on which the Department of Health and Human Services released a report  classifying formaldehyde — a chemical used in the manufacture of consumer goods  including carpeting, plywood, personal care products and pharmaceuticals — as  “a known carcinogen”

1989Year in which the  Environmental Protection Agency first assessed the health risks of formaldehyde

1998 Year in which the agency first tried to update that assessment, only to be repeatedly stalled by industry and  and its allies in Congress: 1998

2004:Year in which Sen. James Inhofe  (R-Okla.) pressed the EPA to delay the revised assessment, despite preliminary  findings from a National Cancer Institute (NCI) study linking formaldehyde to  leukemia.

Amount in campaign contributions Inhofe received that  same year from Koch Industries, a major chemical manufacturer: $6,000

Number of pulp mills that Koch bought that same year from Georgia-Pacific, a leading formaldehyde producer and  plywood manufacturer: 2

2005: Year in which Koch bought all of  Georgia-Pacific

2006:Year in which the International  Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified formaldehyde as a known  carcinogen

2009:Year in which the NCI released a  study linking formaldehyde exposure to cancers of the blood and lymphatic  system

Increased risk of leukemia for  workers exposed to high amounts of formaldehyde, according to the NCI study:  78%

Increased risk of death from blood  cancers for highly exposed workers: 37%

2009 Year in which both the IARC and  National Toxicology Program concluded that formaldehyde exposure is linked to  leukemia

2009:Year in which Sen. David Vitter  (R-La.)  successfully delayed the formaldehyde assessment by  placing a hold on the nomination of a key EPA appointee to force the agency to  send its draft assessment to the National Academy of Sciences for review

Average cost of an NAS review:  $800,000 to $1,000,000

Amount that  Formaldehyde Council lobbyist Charles Grizzle personally donated to Vitter’s  campaign the same day he placed the hold on the EPA nomination: $2,400

The suggested donation to  attend a fundraising party thrown for Vitter by Grizzle after EPA agreed to send  its assessment to the NAS: $1,000

Amount that Vitter’s campaign  received in 2009 from companies that produce large amounts of formaldehyde waste  in Louisiana: about $20,500

Amount Vitter’s campaign  received that same year from companies with interests in formaldehyde  regulation: about $40,000

Rank of Monsanto’s plant  in Luling, La. among top U.S. emitters of formaldehyde pollution in 2009: 1

Rank of Angus Chemical’s plant in    La. among top U.S. emitters of formaldehyde pollution in 2009:  2

4/8/2011:Date on which the NAS released its  formaldehyde review, finding that the chemical irritates the eyes, nose and  throat and causes respiratory lesions and cancer of the nose and upper throat —  but not leukemia:

Amount the federal government spent  to purchase trailers for for Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims that were later  found to have dangerously high levels of formaldehyde: $2 billion

Percent of the 134,000 FEMA  trailers provided to Katrina and Rita victims estimated by the federal  government to have formaldehyde problems: 33

6/3/2011:Date on which Rep. Cedric Richmond  (D-La.) introduced legislation to create a health registry of people who were  provided with FEMA trailers between 2005 and 2009

2010:Year in which President Obama  signed a law establishing the first national standards for formaldehyde in  composite wood products such as plywood and particle board

2013 Year by which the U.S. will have  the most stringent standards for formaldehyde emissions in the work

This is a lesson in how government really works: not by mandating or reversing laws, but through the endless behind closed door dealing, so often fending off change for the better. In this case more than 20 years.We saw it in air pollution regulations where Robert Byrd (coal) and John Dingel (autos) succeeded for years in delaying the acceptance of emission controls. We saw it just recently in the credit card legislation,which in the name of reform,ended up raising rates for many people. And we saw it in health care where the insurance and pharmaceutical industries successfully fended off any serious reform. This is the Republic in action.

Typhoon Season Could Make the Japanese Nuclear Mess Even More Complicated

 With the typhoon season close at hand,people are wondering whether the  Japanese can get it together fast enough to cover their leaking nuclear plants.They talk about entombing the whole mess, in a sarcophagus like structure which has been compared to building a pyramid. At Chernobyl, the Russians dumped concrete in 600 helicopter runs.  Numerous pilots died after doing a dump. God knows how long this will take in Japan even with assists from a big pump the US is sending.  Does this mean Japanese radiation will be spewing skyward for months or years or what? God forbid, in a typhoon?

The French, as previously noted, are sufficiently concerned to warn women and infants not to drink milk,soft cheeses,and to keep clear of tap water coming from open reservoirs.They don’t want gardeners to water leafy vegetables with rain water.

The US attitude appears to be– no problem. A little radiation isn’t going to hurt anyone.The CDC says not to worry. It’s insignificant.

How do they know how much iodine,cesium 137 or strontium 90 is in the fish caught out of the currents running north past the Fukushima plant up to the Bering Sea, and then down the coast of Alaska where much of our commercial fishing is done.

  The answer is they don’t.The FDA,charged with protecting us, isn’t even bothering to test the fish.

  As Washington’s Blog asks,is this some sort of slick way of raising the radiation standards–by looking the other way.  Or,my guess is it’s  just business as usual by the people who have not been regulating food and drugs over  the years

  Thanks to the Anchorage Daily  News we have a not so pretty picture of our  hot shit government in action. Here are a few excerpts:

DeLancey, the FDA spokeswoman, said those Japanese fishermen were disrupted by the tsunami and are no longer fishing anyway.

As for U.S. fish, she said, “We have not been doing any testing. We’ve been working with NOAA to keep an eye on U.S. waters, to see if there is any cause for alarm, and we do have the capability to begin testing if that does occur.”

Asked to explain what kind of monitoring was taking place in the ocean, DeLancey said, “You would have to talk directly to NOAA … I don’t really want to speak for another agency.”

But NOAA fisheries spokeswoman Kate Naughton declined to answer questions and referred a reporter back to DeLancey and the EPA.

DeLancey said that so far, there’s no reason for concern about Fukushima. The radioactive materials in the water near Fukushima quickly become diluted in the massive volume

 

Elderly Especially Vulnerable in Japanese Earthquake

More than half of all those who died in the Japanese earthquake were over 65.The Asahi Shimbun reports that “on 7,935 of the roughly 13,000 deaths confirmed by police headquarters in 12 affected prefectures, and whose ages were identified, 4,398, or 55.4 percent were 65 or older.”

The percentage was 56.4 percent in Iwate Prefecture, 54.8 percent in Miyagi Prefecture and 57.7 percent in Fukushima Prefecture.

Basic resident register data show that the ratio of elderly people age 65 and older to the entire population in the three prefectures was between 22 percent and 27 percent. That means that the rate of victimization among the elderly was more than double the percentages of elderly residents in these prefectures.

Geographic and demographic characteristics of the Sanriku coast, formed by jagged inlets and small fishing communities whose populations are both shrinking and aging, played a factor in the high death rate among elderly.

Most victims drowned or died from injuries in the tsunami. Many ended up being washed away by the tsunami while trying to escape, or had no one to help them to safety.

Will Japanese Radiation Require Iodine Pills in the US?

The prospect of radiation from the Japanese nuclear disaster reaching the US on the Pacific Jet stream is no longer an academic issue. The New York Times reports this morning  the UN predicts a radiation plume might soon reach the west coast. The extent of radiation lofted in this cloud is unknown. Hopefully not much. Nuclear experts outside Japan are now saying the situation is much worse than the Japanese admit to and a second Chernobyl is seriously discussed.

Ed Markey, he Massachusetts Democrat who is ranking member of the House Natural Resources committee, and the most knowledgeable and outspoken member of Congress on nuclear energy matters, has asked the government to get ready for an emergency.

  Markey sent a letter to Dr. John Holdren, President Obama’s Director, Office of Science & Technology Policy on Tuesday. “The Japanese nuclear crisis is already worse than the Three Mile Island accident and is clearly the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.  Japan reportedly is now distributing KI to its citizens,” he wrote, “We should not wait for a catastrophic accident at or a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor in this country to occur to implement this common-sense emergency preparedness measure.” Yesterday he asked HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to get involved:

The essential value of distributing potassium iodide in preparation for a potential nuclear disaster has been abundantly clear for more than 30 years,” wrote Rep. Markey in the letter to Secretary Sebelius “The exercise of Presidential power to distribute KI is now long overdue, leaving many Americans living near these plants needlessly at risk, as sadly evidenced by the disaster in Japan.”

   Obama (and Bush before him) has so far taken no steps to issue iodine pills.

Hopefully the Japanese situation can be brought under control. But if not and we have another Chernobyl, what can we learn from that horrendous experience. While the cancer rates were not as high as predicted following that accident, they were substantial. Yesterday Laurie Garrett, the former excellent science reporter at Newsday who now works at the Council on Foreign Relations, explained in a briefing paper:

“ In 2006, a multi-agency panel of UN experts estimated that two hundred thousand square miles of Eastern Europe were blanketed with fallout, five million residents of the area were exposed, and one hundred thousand people continue to receive radiation contamination from their food and environment that is above normal background levels. (See Environmental Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident and Their Remediation: Twenty Years of Experience, published by the IAEA in 2006.)’’

Later in her paper, Garrett writes as follows:

  • The clearest evidence of Chernobyl impact on human health was damage to the thyroid gland, a crucial hormone-producing organ located by the esophagus, which absorbs iodine. Radioactive iodine was a key component of Chernobyl fallout, and along the path of that grim extrusion are today thousands of deaths as well as ailing adults who were children in 1986. Distribution of prophylactic iodine–which saturates the organ’s receptors, blocking attachment by radioactive forms of the element–was slow under the Soviets after the Chernobyl incident. The 2006 IAEA analysis found this mistake fatal for many, because thyroid uptake of radioactive iodides was very rapid, saturating the organ within days.

Thirteen years after the Chernobyl disaster, the incidence of pediatric thyroid cancer is fifty-two times the region’s pre-1986 level. In Belarus, where the fallout blew, it was 113 times higher than the country’s pre-1986 diagnosed incidence of thyroid cancer. In the immediate area surrounding Chernobyl, the incidence of pediatric and adult thyroid cancer remains the highest found anywhere in the world, more than 500 times the pre-1986 levels for the region and an order of magnitude higher than anything ever seen in any other location on earth, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The rate of thyroid diseases–including non-cancer conditions such as Graves and Hashimoto’s dysfunctions–is extraordinary. Fourteen years after the accident, thyroid diseases of various kinds were diagnosed in these Ukrainians at a rate of about one per three thousand local residents annually.

  Researchers at the Institute of Experimental Physiology in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, have diagnosed a range of immune system and blood disorders among most of the estimated seven hundred thousand people who were children in 1986, exposed to significant fallout. Harvard scientists estimate the leukemia rates in this population are about 50 percent higher than what has been diagnosed among comparable Ukrainians not exposed to the fallout. 

As a footnote to all this, it is worth noting the Obama administration’s stance to date on iodine pills. As Markey explains it:

Rep. Markey amended the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 to make potassium iodide available to state and local governments to meet the needs of all persons living within a 20 mile radius of a nuclear power plant. However, the Bush administration chose to ignore these provisions and declined to implement them, thereby denying communities access to stockpiles of KI.
 In December 2009, Rep. Markey wrote President Obama urging him to move forward with full implementation of the provisions. However, Dr. Holdren’s office wrote Rep. Markey in July of last year upholding the Bush administration’s position. Because of this action, citizens living within the 10 mile radius of nuclear power plants in some states have KI stockpiled for an accident, but others do not and those living out to the 20 mile radius do not receive KI.

More on the Pacific Jet Stream and Japan

As a footnote to my post yesterday about  the Japanese balloons attacking the US mainland in World War II, I found a bit more on the subject–thanks to Sam Smith at prorev.com— which illustrates the reach and force of the Pacific Jet Stream. Hopefully, little of the radiation from the Japanese nuclear plants will end up in this powerful wind.

   In a secret mission called Operation Firefly,the famed all  black unit called the  555th US Airborne Parachute Company was deployed to put out the forest fires set off in the balloon attacks. Here is a brief entry from Wikipedia:

During the winter of 1944-45, the Japanese sent 9000 fire balloons toward the western coast of North America. It was believed 1000 succeeded in reaching the United States, and 300 were witnessed. After three days, each balloon dropped an incendiary bomb.[2] In order to conceal the efficacy of these attacks, the missions of the 555th was kept clandestine in nature. In addition to fires started by the enemy incendiary devices, the 555th fought numerous other forest fires. Stationed at Pendleton Field (site of initial training for the Doolittle’s raid on Japan) Oregon, with a detachment in Chico, California, unit members courageously participated in dangerous fire-fighting missions throughout the Pacific Northwest during the summer and fall of 1945. The group engaged in over 1200 missions, earning the nickname “Smoke Jumpers” in addition to “Triple Nickles.” The only fatality in the unit died while jumping on August 6, 1945