Fukushima: robot finds massive deposits thought to be melted nuclear fuel


Click to enlargeInt’l Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning/Kyodo News

❝ Images captured by an underwater robot on Saturday showed massive deposits believed to be melted nuclear fuel covering the floor of a damaged reactor at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant.

The robot found large amounts of solidified lava-like rocks and lumps in layers as thick as 1m on the bottom inside a main structure called the pedestal that sits underneath the core inside the primary containment vessel of Fukushima’s Unit 3 reactor, said the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.

❝ On Friday, the robot spotted suspected debris of melted fuel for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused multiple meltdowns and destroyed the plant. The three-day investigation of Unit 3 ended on Saturday.

Locating and analysing the fuel debris and damage in each of the plant’s three wrecked reactors is crucial for decommissioning the plant. The search for melted fuel in the two other reactors has so far been unsuccessful because of damage and extremely high radiation levels…

When you screw-up a nuclear-fueled power plant the sort of damage you produce is generational in scope.

Whistleblower Case Illustrates How Trump/Flunkies Try to Silence Science


“The threat to these Alaska Native communities is not theoretical…Retaliation against me for those disclosures is unlawful.”

❝ For the first time since the Trump administration came to office and began dismantling the key science underpinnings of federal climate policy, a senior agency official has invoked the protections of the whistleblower law to publicly object to what he calls an illegal attempt to intimidate him.

The official, Joel Clement, had been the director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Interior Department before he says he was arbitrarily reassigned to an obscure accounting post to punish him for speaking up about protections for native Americans in Alaska. He says that was ordered by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to force him to be quiet or quit — and to send a message.

Clement, who publicized his formal complaint in a commentary published Wednesday in the Washington Post, said his case is not an isolated example but part of a pattern.

Witch Hunt is one of Trump’s favorite condemnations of journalists working hard to present facts to confront his lies – and more. No doubt many of his appointed flunkies – like Ryan Zinke – not only approve of their boss’s lies; but, join willingly in shameful practices like those described by Clement in an attempt to close down criticism and confrontation.

Not unusual for rightwing ideologues. Reminiscent of that Republican creep, Joe McCarthy, who popularized the witch hunt as his favorite political theatre decades ago. Trump’s theatrics promise a revival.

Sting: Fake Coppers Scored $1.2 Million in Weaponry From The Department of Defense


Chris Hondros/Getty Images

❝ When you think of a federal sting operation involving weaponry and military gear, the Government Accountability Office doesn’t immediately jump to mind. The office is tasked with auditing other federal agencies to root out fraud and abuse, usually by asking questions and poring over paperwork.

❝ This year, the agency went a little more cowboy. The GAO created a fictitious law enforcement agency—complete with a fake website and a bogus address that traced back to an empty lot—and applied for military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense.

And in less than a week, they got it.

❝ A GAO report issued this week says the agency’s faux cops were able to obtain $1.2 million worth of military gear, including night-vision goggles, simulated M-16A2 rifles, and pipe bomb material from the Defense Department’s 1033 program, which supplies state and local law enforcement with excess materiel. The rifles and bomb equipment could have been made functional with widely available parts, the report said.

They never did any verification, like visit our ‘location,’ and most of it was by email,” said Zina Merritt, director of the GAO’s defense capabilities and management team, which ran the operation. “It was like getting stuff off of Ebay.”

Modern communications technology surely makes it easier to screw up. If you’re a screw-up.

Why I get most of my news coverage from Bloomberg TV

Yes, I enjoy “magazine pieces and panels on MSNBC. Also watch Sky News and the Canadian Broadcasting Company via apps on our Apple TV. And I wish Al Jazeera America was still around. But, the sidebar and crawl on Bloomberg – and onscreen staff segments – keep me up-to-date with our world better than any of the “all-American” networks.

True, also, of a number of online sites – from The Big Picture to VOX.

They’re Back..! Subprime Loans, Cars, this time instead of houses. Defaults Are Soaring

❝ It’s classic subprime: hasty loans, rapid defaults, and, at times, outright fraud…Only this isn’t the U.S. housing market circa 2007. It’s the U.S. auto industry circa 2017.

A decade after the mortgage debacle, the financial industry has embraced another type of subprime debt: auto loans. And, like last time, the risks are spreading as they’re bundled into securities for investors worldwide.

❝ Subprime car loans have been around for ages, and no one is suggesting they’ll unleash the next crisis. But since the Great Recession, business has exploded. In 2009, $2.5 billion of new subprime auto bonds were sold. In 2016, $26 billion were, topping average pre-crisis levels, according to Wells Fargo…

❝ Few things capture this phenomenon like the partnership between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Banco Santander SA. Since 2013, as U.S. car sales soared, the two have built one of the industry’s most powerful subprime machines.

Details of that relationship, pieced together from court documents, regulatory filings and interviews with industry insiders, lay bare some of the excesses of today’s subprime auto boom. Wall Street has rewarded lax lending standards that let people get loans without anyone verifying incomes or job histories. For instance, Santander recently vetted incomes on fewer than one out of every 10 loans packaged into $1 billion of bonds, according to Moody’s Investors Service. The largest portion were for Chrysler vehicles.

Some of their dealers, meantime, gamed the loan application process so low-income borrowers could drive off in new cars…

❝ Through it all, Wall Street’s appetite for high-yield investments has kept the loans — and the bonds — coming…Reid Bigland, Chrysler’s U.S. sales chief, said Santander has been a “good partner.”

Typically, you look to see which regulators have had staff cut by the sleaziest members of Congress. That’s where the money-grubbers most inclined to fraud are focused. Nowadays, with today’s version of the Republican Party in slim control of both houses of Congress – with the pimp-in-chief in the White House – you can be assured the beat goes on!

Some Antibiotics in First Trimester Raise Risk of Major Birth Defects

❝ Several common types of antibiotics were linked both to major congenital and to organ specific malformations in infants when taken during the first trimester of pregnancy, a retrospective Canadian cohort study found.

❝ Exposure to antibiotics, such as clindamycin, doxycycline, quinolones, macrolides and phenoxymethylpenicillin, increased the risk of these birth defects, reported Flory T. Muanda, MD, of the University of Montreal, and colleagues.

However, there was no increased risk of major congenital malformations linked to exposure to amoxicillin, cephalosporins, or nitrofurantoin, the authors wrote in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology…

❝ Researchers examined data from the Quebec pregnancy cohort, an ongoing population-based cohort with data on all pregnancies covered by Quebec Public Prescription Drug Insurance from 1998 to 2008, comprising about 140,000 infants.

Be aware.

❝ They concluded that, despite the small absolute risks associated with these birth defects, “physicians should consider prescribing safer antibiotics for the treatment of maternal infections when possible.”

Callista Gingrich nomination to the Vatican stinks on ice


What passes for job qualifications inside the Beltway

❝ Let us consider the qualifications of President Trump’s nominee to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See: one Callista Gingrich of Virginia.

❝ She is a former clerk on the House Agriculture Committee…She is the author of children’s books about an elephant named Ellis…She sings in the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception…She plays French horn in City of Fairfax Band…And, she testified Tuesday, she has “looked at some of” Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change.

❝ But really, Gingrich was receiving a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee because of one qualification: She is married to Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and a major backer of President Trump.

And now, for his support of Trump, he is getting the ultimate patronage: the chance to live in Rome on the taxpayer’s dime while his wife, the president of Gingrich Productions, enjoys a plum posting…

❝ National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters called it “astonishing that a party that celebrates family values at every turn has a president who is on his third wife and who has bragged about his extramarital affairs and who is appointing an ambassador to the Vatican who had a six-year affair with her future husband while he was still married to his second wife.”

The nomination of Callista is also Trump’s beatification of Newt, who has done as much as anyone to coarsen American politics — and to pave the way for Trump — with his name-calling, demonizing and brinkmanship.

Appointments like this one are often payback for loyalty. With a so-called president who values loyalty as the dearest form of obedience, I guess no one should be surprised at an appointment as incompetent as anything else he’s done to demean the presidency.