Superstorm Sandy dumped 11 billion gallons of raw sewage into eastern United States waterways


Hurricane Sandy dumped about 11 billion gallons of raw and untreated sewage into waterways from Washington DC to Connecticut, the science journalism group Climate Central said on Tuesday. That’s enough human waste to cover New York’s Central Park in 41ft of sewage, or fill 17,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools…

The group, which drew on data from the Environmental Protection Agency, state protection agencies and water treatment plants, said most of the outflow during the storm, which hit the eastern US in October last year, was caused by storm surges, which overwhelmed sewage treatment plants. But power shutdowns – and heavy rain in Washington DC – also played a part. A third of the sewage was untreated.

The scientists said the report exposed yet another risk factor to America’s crumbling infrastructure, due to climate change.

New York City authorities have been working for years to reinforce the city’s subway system, which is vulnerable to flooding, and to shore up power stations, which are located along the coast. The scientists said that in the wake of Sandy, when storm surges raised waters more than 9ft above the high tide mark, it was time to look at waste-treatment plants.

“Our sewage infrastructure isn’t built to withstand such surges and we are putting our property, safety and lives at risk if we don’t adequately plan for these challenges,” said Alyson Kenward, a senior scientist and research manager for Climate Central, adding that almost all of the sewage had ended up in New Jersey and New York…

The estimated cost of repairs to New York and New Jersey’s sewage treatment plants could reach $4.7 billion. “In the long run, sea-level rise is going to force us to rework our infrastructure physically if we are going to keep it intact,” she said.

There isn’t any part of superstructure repair, maintenance or upgrades that Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in Congress care a rat’s ass about. They operate under the assumption that voters only care about dollars – like the money-grubbing thugs they’ve elected.

Stupid DOMA rules even screw-up Wall Street’s recruiting

U.S. restrictions on same-sex marriage are making it harder for Wall Street to attract some foreign workers, said executives including R. Martin Chavez, who leads equities trading for Goldman Sachs…

Chavez, a 49-year-old U.S. citizen, cited his own story as an example of the potential hurdles those restrictions create, saying they almost forced him to leave the country. He married his partner last year, which proved to be problematic when they tried to replace his partner’s student visa.

“We got married in the state of New York,” Chavez said at the event, which was held at Goldman Sachs’s Manhattan headquarters. “You’d think this would be a wonderful thing, except we ended up in this crazed paradox where because we were married in the state of New York, that created the presumption of his attempt to immigrate, which meant he would not be eligible for a student F-1 visa.”

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing, the marriage doesn’t give Chavez’s partner the right to immigrate or obtain a green card permitting him to live and work in the country.

After several months of interviews and paperwork, Chavez’s husband received a new visa. In the meantime, Chavez said he spoke to Goldman Sachs executives about moving his role to London if his husband wasn’t allowed back into the U.S. He also considered retiring from his job running the largest equity- trading business in the world and moving abroad…

While the issue affects only a limited number of employees, it can result in significant costs for companies that have to move workers out of the U.S. or in lost productivity from dealing with an employee’s or partner’s immigration status, Alisa Seminara, associate general counsel for Citigroup said at the event…

The immigration issues will probably be remedied if the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA, which defines marriage as a heterosexual union and prohibits gay spouses from claiming federal benefits, Rachel Tiven at Immigration Equality said. The court may rule on the case by the end of June. Activists are also pushing for inclusion of same-sex rights in an immigration bill being debated in Congress…

Overdue. But, then, that’s always been the lot of civil rights in America.

The most reactionary elements in our land seem to spend a significant portion of their waking life working to manipulate Congress – and state and local government – into denying full civil rights for ordinary citizens feared and hated by cowards and bigots.

Oklahoma nutball declares sovereignty from government

Shane Farrell Thomas, 37, a Del City contractor accused of embezzlement, is among those who say they do not recognize government’s authority to impose laws or taxes…

“We know they are in Oklahoma because we see and hear about their paper activity in our court system,” said Tamara Pratt, deputy director of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City. “That’s their method of operation.”

‘Sovereign citizens’ such as Thomas, a defendant in multiple embezzlement cases, usually represent themselves in court, filing nonsensical paperwork on their own behalf.

“They like to flood the courts with false liens against public officials,” Pratt said, adding that ‘sovereigns’ don’t pay taxes, create false license plates and driver’s licenses and sometimes make currency as a means of defiance.

On Friday, Thomas was taken into custody by courthouse deputies before the start of his preliminary hearing. An arrest warrant for Thomas was issued after he failed to appear for a previous hearing.

Handcuffed and with his mother in tow, the Del City man reappeared before Oklahoma County Special Judge Larry A. Jones and promptly asked the judge to remove himself from the case…

Jones fired back, telling Thomas a counterclaim he filed that names the judge as a defendant has no merit because “there is no such creature” in criminal cases…“The arguments you’re making today are nonsensical and not relevant to these proceedings,” the judge told Thomas. “You’re clueless.”

Thomas, a contractor, is accused in four felony cases of embezzling more than $100,000 from friends and neighbors who paid him to complete home repairs, court records show…

Thomas, who referred to himself in court papers filed this week as “a living son of our Father God” and “one of the sovereign people of Oklahoma,” declined to comment about his beliefs or the rights of his alleged victims outside of court.

We don’t recognize him as anything more than a criminal defendant,” District Attorney David Prater said Friday…

A useless representative of nutball politics, the silliest sort of anarchy come full circle from left to right. He whines about paying his fair share as thoroughly as the 1% at the top of corporate America.

Jersey City coppers told to remove anti-government patch

Police officers believed to be members of an anti-government extremist movement have been disciplined, an official with the Jersey City Police Department said.

The group of men from the Emergency Services Unit were “Three Percenters,” a movement that believes the federal government must be resisted because it is taking away Americans’ rights, the Jersey Journal reported…

Followers “engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing,” including the notion that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States were carried out by the federal government, said the non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

The “Three Percenters” take their name from the idea that only 3 percent of American colonists took up arms against the British during the Revolutionary War, a Facebook page says.

Deputy Police Chief Peter Nalbach did not identify the officers who were disciplined.

The department took action after a letter sent to the Jersey Journal said some ESU officers wore a patch saying “One of the 3 percent.” A photo of a patch accompanied the letter.

Nalbach confirmed the officers were wearing a patch and that it was removed “because we don’t allow unofficial patches.”

Fitting for clowns using 3% of their brains.

Attempts to establish fascist cells inside police departments are nothing new in the United States or abroad. Whether recruiting is done from “natural talent” in the forces or cadres entering departments with the goal of building a presence – is unimportant.

Their goals are the same, individually and collectively. The task of civilians, the appropriate response from the body politic, is to root out racists, the stormtrooper mentality that always accompanies cowards and fear-mongers trying to redirect the armed branch of civil service into vicious, reactionary policies.

IRS lets businesses avoid corporate regulation, call themselves real estate trusts – stop paying taxes!

Look like rental property to you?

A small but growing number of American corporations, operating in businesses as diverse as private prisons, billboards and casinos, are making an aggressive move to reduce — or even eliminate — their federal tax bills.

They are declaring that they are not ordinary corporations at all. Instead, they say, they are something else: special trusts that are typically exempt from paying federal taxes.

The trust structure has been around for years but, until recently, it was generally used only by funds holding real estate. Now, the likes of the Corrections Corporation of America, which owns and operates 44 prisons and detention centers across the nation, have quietly received permission from the Internal Revenue Service to put on new corporate clothes and, as a result, save many millions on taxes.

The Corrections Corporation, which is making the switch, expects to save $70 million in 2013. Penn National Gaming, which operates 22 casinos, including the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas, recently won approval to change its tax designation, too.

Changing from a standard corporation to a real estate investment trust, or REIT — a designation signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower — has suddenly become a hot corporate trend. One Wall Street analyst has characterized the label as a “golden ticket” for corporations…

At a time when deficits and taxes loom large in Washington, some question whether the new real estate investment trusts deserve their privileged position.

As an example of bending over to kiss corporate butt:

…The Corrections Corporation and the Geo Group successfully argued that the money they collect from governments for holding prisoners is essentially rent. Companies that operate cellphone towers have said that the towers themselves are real estate.


Sea surface temperatures reach highest level in 150 years on Northeast continental shelf

Sea surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem during 2012 were the highest recorded in 150 years, according to the latest Ecosystem Advisory issued by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). These high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are the latest in a trend of above average temperature seen during the spring and summer seasons, and part of a pattern of elevated temperatures occurring in the Northwest Atlantic, but not seen elsewhere in the ocean basin over the past century…

Sea surface temperature in the region is based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and long-term ship-board measurements, with historical SST conditions based on ship-board measurements dating back to 1854. The temperature increase in 2012 was the highest jump in temperature seen in the time series and one of only five times temperature has changed by more than 1 C…

“Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing and strength of spring and fall plankton blooms could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature,” Kevin Friedland, a scientist in the NEFSC Ecosystem Assessment Program, said. He noted that the contrast between years with, and without, a fall bloom is emerging as an important driver of the shelf’s ecology. “The size of the spring plankton bloom was so large that the annual chlorophyll concentration remained high in 2012 despite low fall activity. These changes will have a profound impact throughout the ecosystem.”

Michael Fogarty, who heads the Ecosystem Assessment Program, says the abundance of fish and shellfish is controlled by a complex set of factors, and that increasing temperatures in the ecosystem make it essential to monitor the distribution of many species, some of them migratory and others not…”We now have information on the ecosystem from a variety of sources collected over a long period of time, and are adding more data to clarify specific details. The data clearly show a relationship between all of these factors.”

“What these latest findings mean for the Northeast Shelf ecosystem and its marine life is unknown,” Fogarty said. “What is known is that the ecosystem is changing, and we need to continue monitoring and adapting to these changes.”

What is also known is that the average political hack in Congress doesn’t care a tinker’s damn about these changes – or how they may result. So, a comprehensive political response to build understanding and education, policy and best practices among those who earn their livelihood from the Northeast seas – ain’t about to happen.

Bangladesh coppers nab fugitive owner of collapsed building

News of Sohel Rana’s capture was met with cheers at the site of the building collapse

Rescuers have resumed using heavy machines to clear rubble after a fire reportedly killed a woman trapped in the rubble of the eight-storey building that collapsed near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, on Wednesday…

“We are not sure whether the woman is dead or not, but she could not be rescued as a fire broke out when the rescuers tried to pull her out by cutting iron rods,” said Shahinul Islam, spokesman for the army unit leading rescue operations…

The owner of the building was arrested earlier on Sunday as the death toll from its collapse exceeded 380.

“The human-faced beast who had built a death trap here was arrested while trying to flee the country,” Jahangir Kabir Nanak, a local government minister, said while touring the rubble in Savar, 25km northwest of Dhaka.

Sohel Rana, a local politician with the ruling Awami League party, was captured near the Indian border and flown back to Dhaka to face questioning, security sources said.

Rana was accused of using substandard materials during construction of the building, which was completed in 2006.

Accused of negligence in the building collapse were the owners and top executives of the garment factories housed in the Rana Plaza building.

Three have been arrested, and three remained at large…

The factory owners were accused of ignoring warnings issued by officials a day before the collapse that the building was unsafe due to large cracks.

The owners and managers of the factories forced employees to work despite knowing of the cracks, a complaint filed with police said…

Four government engineers, who approved and supervised the planning and construction of buildings, were likewise arrested.

79% of Bangladesh’s export earnings come from clothing manufacture. Any industry occupying that big a portion of a nation’s economy is likely to own as many politicians as manufacturing facilities. Forgive my cynicism; but, I don’t expect very much to be done about dangerous working conditions in Bangladesh.

Rand Paul blocking treaties designed to catch tax cheats

Senator Rand Paul is coming under pressure from some multi-national businesses to drop his opposition to tax treaties between the United States and other nations.

Citing privacy concerns about Americans’ tax data, Paul, a Republican and libertarian, has single-handedly blocked Senate action on treaties with Hungary, Switzerland and Luxembourg that have been signed by authorities on both sides, but have been awaiting Senate review since 2011.

At least six other tax treaties or treaty updates — with Chile, Spain, Poland, Japan, Norway and Britain — may soon be added to the Senate’s queue for confirmation votes.

Major U.S. businesses such as IBM Corp and Fluor Corp are lobbying for Senate action on tax treaties, according to Senate lobbying disclosure documents.

“How many treaties will be held hostage?” asked Cathy Schultz, a lobbyist for the National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington, D.C.-based group that represents companies such as Caterpillar and Pfizer.

Paul has said he is concerned that recent treaties would give foreign governments too much access to U.S. citizens’ tax information, a stance that has some support among like-minded conservative libertarians.

“Rand Paul is not a typical senator who may bend over to business lobbyists,” said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy at The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank…

He’s right. Paul bends over for the thugs who own the business lobbyists. And the Cato Institute btw.

No new tax treaties or treaty updates have been approved since 2010, when Paul was elected as the junior senator from Kentucky on a wave of support for Tea Party-aligned Republicans.

Paul recently declined to answer questions from a reporter in a Capitol hallway about the “hold” he has placed on the treaties. Under Senate rules, one senator can prevent a motion from reaching a vote on the Senate floor…

In recent years, tax treaties have begun to play an increasing role in efforts by the United States and major European Union countries to crack down on tax avoidance.

The U.S. Treasury in 2012 began signing new tax pacts with countries as part of implementation of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, a 2010 anti-tax-evasion law.

Hilarious. Because nutball Tea Party libertarians consider taxation intrusive to their privacy – and private gain – there are a few opportunist Republicans who think this suddenly makes that party less pro-Business.

It may show the party to be pro-stupidity by trying to interfere with global commerce; but, Paul isn’t doing so on behalf of people who are screwed by global corporations. He’s doing this to protect the profits squirreled away in tax havens like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands by crooks who wouldn’t pay a fair share to their own funeral if they could get away with it.

Touring the world’s greatest science labs

The CERN lab near Geneva, like many other research facilities, offers tours of the premises

They may be at work pursuing the greatest mysteries of the physical world—yet the men and women who operate the world’s most prestigious physics and astronomy laboratories aren’t necessarily too busy to host guests. Throughout the world, physics and astronomy labs—many of them shimmering like stars in the wake of tremendous discoveries and achievements, some on mountaintops, others underground—welcome visitors to tour the premises, see the equipment, look through the telescopes and ponder just why they almost always make you wear a hardhat.

CERN. It’s the little things in life that really matter to the researchers at CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research. This facility—located near Geneva, Switzerland—has gained superstardom over the last year, after announcing the discovery of what had been a holy grail of physics for decades—sometimes called the “God particle.” First predicted by physicist Peter Higgs in 1964, the then-theoretical particle, which pops from a field that is believed to give other particles their mass—became known as the Higgs boson before more recently assuming its grandiose nickname.

CERN’s $10 billion atom smasher, called the Large Hadron Collider, had been at work for several years in its subterranean home in the Alps, beneath the French-Swiss border, colliding protons at high speeds before rendering what seemed to be evidence for the God particle in 2012.

Should you be in the charming Swiss countryside this summer, consider taking a guided tour of this most distinguished of the world’s great physics laboratories.

RTFA and consider many other tours around the world’s leading science labs. Leave more suggestions if you’re so inclined.

Thanks, Ursarodina