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Mon, 16 Oct 2017
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What will you do when the lights go out? The inevitable failure of the US power grid

Delta Airlines recently experienced what it called a power outage in its home base of Atlanta, Georgia, causing all the company's computers to go offline—all of them. This seemingly minor hiccup managed to singlehandedly ground all Delta planes for six hours, stranding passengers for even longer, as Delta scrambled to reshuffle passengers after the Monday debacle.

Where Delta blamed its catastrophic systems-wide computer failure vaguely on a loss of power, Georgia Power, their power provider, placed the ball squarely in Delta's court, saying that "other Georgia Power customers were not affected", and that they had staff on site to assist Delta.

Whether it was a true power outage, or an outage unique to Delta is fairly insignificant. The incident was a single company without power for six measly hours, yet it wreaked much havoc. Which brings to mind (or at least it should) what happens when the lights really go out—everywhere? And just how dependent is the U.S. on single-source power?


Fire, explosion rocks refinery in St. James Parish, Louisiana

An explosion and fire rocked the Motiva refinery Thursday morning.

The St. James Sheriff's office says the fire and explosion occurred at 10:54 a.m. and is still burning at the facility located on Highway 44 in Convent.

The St. James Parish and Convent Fire departments have responded to the scene. La. Hwy. 70 is closed between La. Hwy. 3125 and La. Hwy. 22 until further notice. A spokesman for the sheriff's office said all employees have been accounted for.

Motiva has activated their emergency response plan monitor air quality in and around the plant. More than 700 people work at the refinery. "The safety of our employees and our community is our first priority," said Hugues Bourgogne, General Manager of the Convent Refinery. "Please bear with us as we focus our attention on accounting for all employees and securing the incident."

According to the Motiva website, including the Convent facility, Motiva owns and operates three refineries - located within a 120-mile radius of each other - in Convent and Norco and Port Arthur, Texas.


Soylent CEO faces charges for "unpermitted" off-grid tiny home

© Martha Benedict
Flat Top Hill, Los Angeles
Rob Rhinehart, developer of the "magical milkshake" known as Soylent, has been criminally charged for attempting to build an off-grid "experiment in sustainable living" without obtaining city permits. He could face up to two years in prison and a $4,000 fine.

Rhinehart bought an 8,422-square foot plot of land on Flat Top Hill overlooking the city and placed a shipping container on it, planning to create a minimalist dwelling with solar panels, septic tank and graywater recycling.

However, any time someone wants to live detached from the government-regulated grid and associated extortion fees, it draws the attention of authorities.

Part of the problem may be that he didn't move quickly enough for nearby residents who complained about the large red structure sitting up on the hill. They didn't like that some trash was left behind after Rhinehart hosted a party there, and how the shipping container became the target of graffiti and misbehaving youngsters.

Rhinehart said he would move the structure to a new location, but the city was already working to bring him up on charges. Rhinehart maintains that he spent thousands to improve the land, remove trash and mow the grass on his land and the entire hilltop.

Heart - Black

New York teen hangs himself after Catholic school staff ignore 'constant' bullying

Daniel Fitzpatrick
A 13-year-old boy in Staten Island, NY committed suicide this week after school officials did nothing to stop the incessant bullying he was subject to every day.

The New York Daily News said that Daniel Fitzpatrick left behind a heartbreaking letter in which he said he "gave up" on life and getting help after classmates at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn ruthlessly bullied him about his weight, grades and social awkwardness.

Fitzpatrick's family said that their son tried to get help from teacher after teacher, but they — and the school principal — turned a blind eye and allowed other students to torment the boy. "I gave up," he wrote in a suicide note. "The teachers...they didn't do anything."

Daniel was found by his sister on Thursday night, hanged by the neck in the family's attic. The family shared the letter with the Daily News on Friday in hopes that someone will be "held accountable" for their son's death.

"My son shouldn't have to die to be heard," said Daniel's mother Maureen Fitzpatrick. "There's something wrong with the adults in authority positions when kids can't go to them for help. No parent is supposed to bury their child," she said.

Comment: See also: Study: Bullying as a child has a worse effect on mental health than parental abuse


South Koreans protest US missile defense system placement by shaving their heads

© Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters
Seoungju residents chant slogans during a protest against the government's decision on deploying a U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense unit in Seongju, in Seoul, South Korea, July 21, 2016. The banner reads "Desperately oppose deploying THAAD"
About 900 South Koreans shaved their heads in protest against the decision to place a US THAAD missile defense system on their land with the purpose of countering threats from North Korea. This is the latest in a series of rallies against the missiles.

The protest was held on Monday in the county of Seongju - the site of the placement.

The government approved the deployment of the THAAD system based on the North's repeated threats to both the South and the US of "merciless" and "annihilating" nuclear strikes. However, protesters continued their show of defiance to the decision, voicing concerns over the perceived cancer risk - owing to the system's powerful radar - and the THAAD system becoming a wartime target should an enemy choose to strike.

Regional neighbors have also expressed sharp disagreement, with China considering the missiles a threat. North Korea has even promised to strike in retaliation.


Navy sailor uses Clinton case as precedent in asking for leniency from court

© U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Walter / Wikipedia
USS Alexandria submarine
A US Navy sailor facing prison time over photos he took with his cellphone inside a nuclear attack submarine is pointing to the case of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to ask for probation instead.

Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier, 29, will be sentenced this week in federal court, having pleaded guilty in May to "unlawful retention of national defense information," a charge leveled against him under the 1917 Espionage Act, according to Politico.

A 10-year Navy veteran and machinist aboard the USS Alexandria, Saucier was charged after his cellphone - with several photos taken inside the nuclear attack submarine - was found in the trash in March 2012. Upon learning he was under investigation, Saucier destroyed a laptop, camera and memory card, leading to additional charges of obstruction of justice.

Federal sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of 63 to 78 months, but Saucier's attorney Derrick Hogan is asking for probation, citing the treatment of the Democratic presidential nominee in the probe over her use of a private server to handle classified and sensitive government information while serving as secretary of state.

Bad Guys

Knife attack & shooting in Cologne, two suspects still on the run

© Wolfgang Rattay / Reuters /File photo
A police vehicle patrols at the main square and in front of the central railway station in Cologne.
At least one person has been injured in a stabbing and shooting attack in the German city of Cologne, police and the public prosecutor's office said. Local media reported that two suspects are currently at large.

The incident took place on Flandrische Street on Monday morning, Koelner Express newspaper reported. When police arrived at the scene, they determined there had been a knife attack and shooting.

Two suspects are now on the run, the paper said.

According to witness accounts cited by Koelner Express, there were three or four people in the street having an argument with the victim before they attacked him with a knife or knives.

When the victim tried to escape in his Mercedes, the attackers began shooting at him, but the bullets only hit the car, according to the witnesses.

Police said the car was riddled with bullets when the officers arrived at the scene.

The victim, a 34-year-old male, received stab wounds and head injuries and was taken to hospital, police and prosecutors said.


Father & 7yo daughter terrorized at gunpoint by 'insane & violent' police officer

© Ken Walton / Facebook
Ken Walton and daughter
A father and his young daughter claim they were terrorized by a highway patrolman in Arizona while they were en route to the Grand Canyon on Friday.

Ken Walton, who is from California, described the horrifying ordeal in a lengthy Facebook post where he and his 7-year-old daughter were held at gunpoint after being pulled over by the out-of-control highway patrolman.

"Tonight, I was arrested at gunpoint by an Arizona highway patrol officer who threatened to shoot me in the back (twice) in front of my 7-year-old daughter. For a moment, I was certain he was going to kill me for no reason," he wrote.

Walton had been making his way to the Grand Canyon in a rented car when he was pulled over by the Arizona Highway Patrol who had been tailing him for a few miles.

Comment: As Mr. Walton further writes, he feels it was only by virtue of his demographic (white male) that he survived the terrifying encounter at all:
"Maybe it's because, as I sat in that back of that police car and heard the AHP officer learn the truth from his dispatcher - that the man he'd just captured at gunpoint and threatened to murder was totally innocent - I realized it was very possible that the only reason I was alive was because I am a scrawny 48-year-old white man wearing a Micky Mouse t-shirt and cargo shorts and hiking boots. The officer that arrested me was so pumped up on adrenaline and eager to get a "bad guy" that he could barely control himself, and if I'd looked just a little bit more threatening to him - because I was black, or young, or long-haired, or tattooed, or didn't speak English - I believe he might have pulled the trigger.

If you are a person who has ever looked skeptically [sic] at the claims of Black Lives Matter, or others who talk about police violence, I urge you to consider what happened to me and put yourselves in the shoes of others. I just survived a bizarre gunpoint situation in which I was as innocent as Philando Castile, who was not as lucky as I was. We live in a society where anywhere and everyone can have a gun at any time, and police are responding with fear in dangerous ways. I got lucky tonight. My daughter and I made it to the Grand Canyon and I'm going to try to salvage what's left of our vacation. Many others - because of the color of their skin or the way they look or because of simple bad luck - did not meet the same fate."

Bad Guys

New Black Panther leader on Milwaukee: This is a war on black people

© Twitter/@HueyGunClub
Responding to the latest violent incidents in Milwaukee over the weekend, Babu Omowale, the so-called national minister of defense for the People's New Black Panther Party, declared "Is it a war? Yes, it is. It's a war against black people because we're the ones being murdered."

Omowale is also co-founder of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, a black militant gun group named after Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton.

Omowale was speaking in an interview set to air Sunday night on this reporter's talk radio program, Aaron Klein Investigative Radio, broadcast on New York's AM 970 The Answer and News Talk 990 AM in Philadelphia.

Asked if the riots in Milwaukee following the police shooting on Saturday of an armed assailant fleeing the scene amounted to a "civil war," Omowale responded thusly:
"The people against terrorism, and tyranny in their community is not a civil war. When you are speaking about civil war, you are talking about a country fighting against a country. This is oppressed people fighting against a racist, white supremacist police system. Which is meant to oppress a certain group of people. More than likely black people and poor people around the country."

"What you see is people lashing out and fighting against the system. As it is said in the Second Amendment, you know. So this is not new. The people in this country have always defended themselves against tyranny. So I can't liken this to a civil war. No it's not. Is it a war? Yes, it is. It's a war against black people because we're the ones being murdered. We're the ones being killed. So there's been a war against us. But is it a civil war? I can't say that that's the case."

Comment: After the interview, Klein takes a caller and then goes on to spout the usual rightwing rant against progressive movements, especially decrying criticism of Israel by black organizations. Further reading:


Milwaukee unrest continues: Police 'rescue' new shooting victim amid 2nd night of violent protests

© Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters
A gas station is seen burned down after disturbances following the police shooting of a man in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. August 14, 2016.
One person was shot and rushed to the hospital in Milwaukee where disturbances continued for a second night. The crowd has been throwing objects at officers, blocking roads and firing some shots, police said.