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Thu, 11 Feb 2016
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Fukushima redux? Indian Point nuclear plant is a disaster waiting to happen

© Julie Jacobson/AP
The Indian Point nuclear facility reported “alarming levels” of radioactivity in three water monitoring wells.
Indian Point Energy Center, which sits roughly 30 miles from the heart of Manhattan in New York City, has been plagued with safety breaches and leaks, and has even been the subject of a deliberate cover-up since it began operations in the 1970s. A statement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday revealing"radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into groundwater" near the nuclear facility is hardly a surprise — though no less indicative that it may be time to shut down the aging plant.

"The company reported alarming levels of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well's radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent," Cuomo's statement asserted.

Entergy, which operates the reactors known as Indian Point 2 and 3 at the Buchanan, New York, facility — Indian Point 1 ceased operations in 1974 after failing to meet expectations — claimed there was no immediate threat to public health because the contamination had not migrated off-site. Cuomo, however, wasn't convinced. He ordered Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to work with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and employ all necessary measures to conduct a thorough investigation and impact assessment to the environment — and of possible threats to public safety.

Comment: Once again, profits trump safety.


New York: Nuisance abatement law allows cops to evict residents from their homes without filing charges

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has a reputation for finding novel ways to violate the rights of citizens. "Stop-and-frisk" became the defining characteristic of a police force more interested in meeting quotas for revenue collection than stopping actual crimes.

Clandestine spying on innocent Muslim Americans—based not on criminal suspicion but entirely on ethnicity—became an obsession for the NYPD after 9/11. And now, technology is allowing the largest police department in the U.S. to continuously track the vehicular whereabouts of everyone, all the time, with automated license plate readers. It is giving this data to a private company, Vigilant Solutions, for their commercial gain.

Now, an investigation by ProPublica and the New York Daily News sheds light on a little-known law called "nuisance abatement" that has mushroomed into an abuse of power on par with civil asset forfeiture.


Don't tase me, bro! New study shows police tasers cause short-term cognitive impairment similar to dementia

© Dees Illustration
The first study to look at the effects of a Taser shock on the human brain has produced unsettling results that will have major implications for police encounters. People are often questioned and/or read their Miranda rights just after being Tased, but researchers found that receiving 50,000 volts of electricity can cause a state of short-term cognitive impairment comparable to dementia.

Tasers have become the tool of choice for law enforcement "less than lethal weapons," with two million citizens being subjected to the devices. They can indeed be lethal, however, as 47 Americans died after being Tased last year. Tasers do not seem to reduce the number of people shot to death by police either, and they are often deployed needlessly.

Calvon Reid, who was simply standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, was Tased to death by two cops at the same time while two other cops stood by. A witness said the cops could have easily manhandled Reid, but they were just "punishing him."

Comment: Police departments may start referring to tasing as electroshock therapy. Nothing to see here, folks.

Stock Up

Republicans: Obama's $4T budget DOA

"It's just $4 trillion..."
US President Barack Obama will send his final annual budget to Congress as many Republican leaders have branded it dead on arrival.

The Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to pass the $4-trillion budget proposal for the fiscal year 2017, beginning on October 1, but the blueprint will give Obama the chance to outline spending priorities in the final year of his presidency. "That document ... will be President Obama's final vision of how he lays out the fiscal future for the country," said Joel Friedman, vice president for federal fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The budget proposal, to be sent to Congress on Tuesday, includes new ideas that the administration has reviewed in recent weeks, including a $1 billion task force to fight cancer, $1.8 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, and a $10-a-barrel oil tax for infrastructure and clean transportation projects. The budget blueprint also includes increased funding for military projects such $7.5 billion to ramp up the fight against the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group. While some of these proposals are too much for fiscal conservatives, Congress can advance more agreeable elements of the budget without endorsing the entire package.

Breaking with a decades-old tradition, the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees announced that they would not even give Obama's budget director, Shaun Donovan, the usual hearings in their panels.

Comment: Republican consensus is not surprisingly two thumbs down. Stubborn stagnation has been the trademark of this congress, which is why its ratings are around a net 8% public approval, verifying they do not work in the interests of the public-at-large. That said, neither does Obama.

Green Light

First train from China arrives in Russia as part of the New Silk Road

© sputniknews.com
New Silk Road open for business.
The very first freight train arrived to Russia's Kaluga Region from China as part of the Beijing-led New Silk Road infrastructural project, according to the official website of the Kaluga Region. The Chinese-led $900-billion New Silk Road infrastructural project is supposed to connect East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and even Africa.

Russia would also play a major part in the construction of the future major project. The train that arrived from China to the Kaluga Region is a test drive of a large scale trade volume of between the two countries. "On February 5, the first freight train arrived to the Kaluga Region under the framework of the international project New Silk Road," the official statement said. The cargo train was mostly fit with components for the Samsung company, based in the city of Kaluga.

Russian Deputy Transport Minister Alexei Tsydenov, Kaluga Region Governor Anatoly Artamonov and two top Chinese Samsung representatives were present during the official meeting ceremony.

Last year, China and Russia signed the "Joint Declaration on the Silk Road Economic Belt construction and the Eurasian Economic Union docking cooperation". The declaration confirmed that Russia supports the Silk Road Economic Belt project construction and is willing to cooperate closely with China to push the declaration.

Comment: Russian and Chinese partnering for infrastructure and commerce offers a way forward in the midst of dismal Western economic prospects. These two countries are not strangled by the dollar, nor are their economies dependent upon the US and its corrupt, self-serving financial hegemony. Worst case, they have created a means to cooperate and thrive while the rest of the world financially implodes.


Fatal head-on collision of two passenger trains in Germany; casualties reported

© via Twitter @TimesNow
Rescue ops underway in Germany as 2 trains collide near Bad Aibling, killing 2 persons & injuring about 100 others
A head-on collision of two passenger trains occurred in southeastern Germany on Tuesday, with several people killed and at least 150 sustaining injuries, local police said.

The collision, which involved two Meridian passenger trains, occurred in Bavaria, the town of Bad Aibling, about 25 miles southeast of Munich, according to police spokesman Juergen Thal Meier, cited by the rosenheim24 news portal.

While the death toll is still unknown, local media report at least 150 people have been injured in the crash.


Both Sanders and Clinton say they would end private prison contracts

© www.businessinsider.com
States pay private prisons per inmate and, by contract, have to pay for empty beds.
Senator Bernie Sanders has pledged if elected president, he'd end the practice of contracting with private corrections companies to operate federal prisons set aside for non-citizens, a campaign spokesperson told The Nation. The statement came in response to an investigation by Seth Freed Wessler, published in the Feb. 15 edition of The Nation magazine. Wessler uncovered negligent medical care that likely contributed to the deaths of dozens of immigrants inside a little-known sector of the federal prison system. Hillary Clinton's campaign did not respond to a request for comment, but has previously said more she'd end private contracting for immigrant detention broadly.

In September, Sanders introduced a bill called the Justice Is Not for Sale Act to ban government contracts with private prison companies at the federal, state, and local level within three years. "[Sanders] talked about how we need to stop those contracts period, and not just for immigrant detention centers, but for prisons overall," Erika Andiola, a campaign strategist for the Sanders campaign, told The Nation. "He's just not okay having contracts with private prisons at all."

"And he's not afraid to say this, because he's never gotten money from private prisons in the past," Andiola said, in a jab at Hillary Clinton, who pledged to stop accepting money from private prison companies last October only after protests and criticism from immigration activists.

Comment: Private prison...a place in which one of these candidates could become intimately acquainted? (Pssst...Hillary...they have your boot size!) Give the money back.


Refugee children increasingly vulnerable at the Greece-Macedonia border

More and more children are traveling alone on the Balkan route for refugees. It is feared that thousands could fall prey to criminals. DW's Nemanja Rujevic reports from Gevgelija.

Authorities are automatically suspicious when they encounter refugee children traveling through Europe alone. According to Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, 10,000 unaccompanied minors have apparently disappeared after entering the bloc, though many of those have likely fallen through the cracks of sloppy national bureaucracies. Aid workers in Gevgelija, a Macedonian town on the border with Greece, say the number of women and children on the run has been rising. According to statistics from the government of Macedonia, 75 percent of refugees who arrived in the country last summer were men, but now women and children make up two-thirds of the people seeking to transit the country en route to the European Union.

"At first, people wanted to test the system," said Jesper Frovin Jensen, who works for UNICEF in Gevgelija. "Young men broke the ice." But as the situation in war zones has deteriorated, Jensen said, waiting at home is no longer an option for many people. "Besides, the smugglers cannot fill their ships in these weather conditions and are thus lowering prices," the Danish aid worker said. "That is the green light for those who previously could not afford the journey."

Comment: See: German gov't: Around 5,000 refugee kids missing in Germany, police say some could be victims of crime

Eye 1

Neocons taking over US academic institutions, promote Islamophobia

© www.patheos.com
Neoconservative Zionists have taken over US academic institutions and are promoting Islamophobia while pushing out professors who are sympathetic towards Islam and Muslims, an American scholar says.

"Unfortunately today, these neoconservatives whose philosophy is that intellectuals should be in the service of tyrants who rule using big lies and mass murder," said Kevin Barrett, who has a Ph.D in Arab and Islamic studies and is one of America's best-known critics of the so-called war on terror. "They have taken over the academy and they don't belong in the academy," Barrett told Press TV on Monday. "Transparency and freedom are the ideals of the academy; because the neoconservatives reject these ideals, they have no business in the academy."

On Saturday, an American female professor at a Christian university who got in trouble after wearing the hijab and saying Muslims and Christians worship the same God has agreed to leave the school.

Wheaton College, located near Chicago, Illinois, and political science professor Larycia Hawkins have reached a confidential agreement in which they will "part ways," the college said in a statement. "This seems to be a very strange kind of phenomenon that a professor should not be allowed to teach at a university," said Barret, who himself was fired from the University of Wisconsin for accusing the US government of being involved in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"The whole idea is ludicrous but apparently not in Wheaton College, where Islamophobia appears to be mandatory," he added. "Anyone who doesn't hate Muslims with all their heart and soul apparently is not welcome to teach at Wheaton College. It's a disgrace and an outrage and travesty and anybody who cares about freedom in America should head straight to Chicago to protest, to go and occupy the offices of the administration [of Wheaton College] there."

Comment: What happened to the brotherhood of man, united we stand--divided we fall, all together now, our similarities far outweigh our differences...and so on? The need for the West to be thoroughly Islamophobic must be so important it is penetrating even the bastions of higher academia in order to ensure this mindset becomes a full-range societal paranoia.


Milestone study shows sleep deprivation easily leads to false confessions

© William Edwards/AFP/Getty Images
Damon Thibodeaux faced 15 years in prison on the basis of a false confession he gave while sleep deprived.
The body of 14-year-old Crystal Champagne was found underneath a bridge in Louisiana in 1996, an electrical cord wrapped around her neck and her clothes in disarray. It didn't take long to find the man who did it: within a couple of days, her cousin Damon Thibodeaux confessed to police on tape that he had raped and murdered her.

In fact, Thibodeaux had nothing to do with the crime, as DNA evidence would later confirm. But he paid a heavy price for his false statement, spending 15 years in solitary confinement on death row before being released.

Although hard to fathom, false confessions happen surprisingly often; they are thought to play a role in up to a quarter of wrongful convictions in the US, according to the campaign group the Innocence Project. In many cases, as in Thibodeaux's, the suspect was profoundly sleep deprived during their police interviews.

Now a study has shed more light on how easily severe exhaustion can lead to this type of false confession. Legal experts are predicting it will be cited in future court cases. "It's a milestone," says Lawrence Sherman, head of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge.

Comment: Make no mistake, sleep deprivation is a form of torture: Ex-CIA officer: Torture great way to get false confessions