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North Dakota economy booms, population soars

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North Dakota, the state with the nation's lowest unemployment rate, capped a decade of economic prosperity with dramatic population growth in its biggest cities.

Fargo added nearly 15,000 residents to hit a record population of 105,549, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday. Its fast-growing neighbor of West Fargo added an additional 11,000 residents to reach a population of 25,830.

Fargo has seen steady growth over the decade - the housing boom missed it - to reach a size that surprised city officials.

"Above 100,000? Wow. That puts us into a different category of city. That's great," says Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker. The city is now home to about one of every six North Dakota residents.

Fargo's growth is especially striking considering North Dakota's population is only 672,591, the nation's third smallest. The state's total population grew 4.7% from 2000 to 2010, below the national average of 9.7%, but robust for a region that has suffered for decades from a depopulation of the Great Plains.

Arrow Down

Oregon: Mysterious wheat crop loss puzzles researchers

Wheat
© Oregon Business

Freak rainstorms fell. Fungi spread. Viruses attacked. Clouds of herbicides drifted. Not necessarily in that order or combination and what exactly happened remains unclear. But what is known is that last fall swaths of wheat on roughly 40,000 acres - worth about $15.4 million - in Umatilla, Morrow and Gilliam counties turned yellow and withered in a perfect storm of bad conditions.

Oregon State University plant pathologist Christopher Mundt got a call in October from OSU Gilliam County extension agent Jordan Maley. "I knew something was wrong when he called; I mean, he's a fourth-generation farmer," says Mundt. A crop disease specialist who will excitedly talk about the decades during which he purposefully stressed plants to infect them with all manner of afflictions, Mundt was a bit dumbfounded when Maley described the isolated 150-acre field in Eastern Oregon that had splotches of withered plants. The young wheat leaves were bursting out the sides of the plant instead of sprouting upward, curling up like an accordion. "I saw things I have never seen before," says Maley. "It's been very controversial. When it boils down to it, we really don't know what's going on."

The ravaged wheat in Gilliam County was not the only strange thing cropping up in Eastern Oregon wheat fields last fall. According to Maley, September saw two inches of rain in one day in Gilliam County, about 15% of the arid county's total annual precipitation. Rain fell throughout the region during a time when growers usually can count on weed-free fields to plant the soft white winter wheat for which the Northwest region is known, a crop that has seen a meteoric rise in value worldwide in the past year. With the unusual and early rain, weeds bloomed throughout the region.

Cowboy Hat

Joe Bageant, 'Redneck' Rebel and Popular Progressive Author, Dies at 64

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© Rich Cooley/Daily
Writer Joe Bageant sits inside his Winchester home by his laptop computer. His book, "Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War," examines problems with political rivalry within the United States today.
Progressives have lost one of their most talented writers in Joe Bageant, who assailed the corporate takeover of American democracy and the collapse of the middle class.

On Sunday March 27, progressives lost one of their most talented authors in Joe Bageant, who died at age 64 after a four month bout with cancer. The recipient of high praise from luminaries such as Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn, Bageant was one of AlterNet's most popular essayists for his work on the corporate takeover of American democracy, the destruction of the middle-class over the past four decades and the plight of Redneck America. Bageant grew up in Winchester, Va. and his work often dwelled on the misery and duldrums of rural blue collar life.

Dave Pollard, a colleague of Bageant's, summed up the author's unique approach and insight reviewing Deer Hunting with Jesus, Bageant's 2008 book, a revisit to his Virginia roots:

Comment: For more of Joe Bageant's articles, see this Sott link:

AMERICA: Y UR PEEPS B SO DUM? Ignorance and courage in the age of Lady Gaga


Eye 1

CNN: Fukushima will end very, very badly - No one knows how to stop it

Transcript Summary:

Unprecedented...
Frankly no one knows how to end situation...
Beyond ability of Japanese authorities to contain...
Best guess on how this ends?...
There is going to be a bigger breach than we have already seen in 2 and 3...
Workers will be evacuated...
We will see at least two core meltdowns and two spent fuel pool fires...
It will end very, very badly, that is what I actually think is going to happen...
This will take weeks, months to contain it in best case...


Heart - Black

Thousands of Gulf Oil Spill clean-up crew are dying

Notes from a Facebook buddy:

This young woman, Jennifer Rexford, BP-hired oil cleanup worker, is documenting her illness from the toxins in the gulf with her video camera. If you think it's just headaches or something like that, watch this. Severe neurological damage. Doctors and hospitals refuse to acknowledge this with anyone there who's sick. And there are apparently tens of thousands now.



Paul Doomm is mentioned twice in this video. He is a 22 year old who swam in and ate from the Gulf all summer, against his grandmother's advice. He has been hospitalized after seeing 94 doctors who don't know what to do for him. His blood had the highest amount of PAH's ever documented.

Evil Rays

Plutonium detected in soil at Fukushima nuke plant, suggesting damage to fuel rods

Tokyo,-- Plutonium has been detected in soil at five locations at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said in a statement on Monday.

According to Kyodo News Agency, the plutonium detection suggests "certain damage to fuel rods".

Plutonium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons, is present in the fuel at the complex, which has been leaking radiation for over two weeks.

Bad Guys

The Doomsday Scenario: Is Fukushima About to Blow?

Fukushima plant
© n/a
Damaged reactor building at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are deteriorating and the doomsday scenario is beginning to unfold. On Sunday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) officials reported that the levels of radiation leaking into seawater at the Unit 2 reactor were 100,000 times above normal, and the airborne radiation measured 4-times higher than government limits. As a result, emergency workers were evacuated from the plant and rushed to safe location. The prospect of a full-core meltdown or an environmental catastrophe of incalculable magnitude now looms larger than ever. The crisis is getting worse.

If spent fuel rods catch fire from lack of coolant, the intense heat will lift radiation plumes high into the atmosphere that will drift around the world. That's the nightmare scenario, clouds of radioactive material showering the planet with lethal toxins for months on end. And, according to the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics of Vienna, that deadly process has already begun. The group told New Scientist that:
"Japan's damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima has been emitting radioactive iodine and caesium at levels approaching those seen in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors - designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests - to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster. The daily amount of caesium-137 released from Fukushima Daiichi is around 60 per cent of the amount released from Chernobyl. (New Scientist, March 24 ---thanks to Michael Collins "They said it wasn't like Chernobyl and they were wrong")

Evil Rays

Carolinas, Florida Utilities Report Radiation from Japan

Raleigh, North Carolilna-- Utilities in Florida as well as North and South Carolina are adding to the list of states in the U.S. reporting trace amounts of radiation from a nuclear reactor in Japan that was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami.

Progress Energy says it picked up low levels of iodine-131, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear fission, at its nuclear plant in South Carolina and a Florida plant.

Progress Energy owns the single-unit Crystal River Nuclear Plant near Crystal River, Fla.

Dollar

Bayer ordered to pay 136.8 million in US GM rice contamination case

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A unit of Germany's Bayer AG has been ordered by a court in Arkansas to pay $136.8 million to Riceland Foods over the contamination of U.S. long grain rice stocks with a genetically modified strain from Bayer that decimated exports more than four years ago.

The judgment, handed down by a jury in Stuttgart, Arkansas, includes $125 million in punitive damages to Riceland, a farmers cooperative.

Bayer said it is "disappointed" with the verdict and is considering its legal options. It said the punitive damages exceed what is permitted by Arkansas law and will therefore be limited to the statutory cap of $1 million.

Evil Rays

Highly radioactive water found in tunnel outside nuclear plant

Tokyo -- Water found in a tunnel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has alarmingly high radiation readings, officials said Monday, adding that it is unclear how or why the tainted water got out of the building.


The water at the plant is emitting more than 1,000 millisieverts per hour of radioactivity -- a level the plant's owner had said is at least 100,000 times normal levels for coolants inside a nuclear reactor.

It was in a tunnel that contains electrical cables and is connected to the No. 2 reactor's turbine building, an official with the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said. The measurements were taken Monday afternoon.