Oil spill in heart of Los Angeles shuts down neighborhood

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Thousands of gallons of crude oil spilled over a half-mile area in Los Angeles on Thursday due to a break in an above-ground Plains West Coast pipeline, the city fire department said.

The spill was 10,000 US gallons, according to Jamie Moore, a public information officer with the Los Angeles Fire Department…The cleanup was under way this morning, with crews vacuuming up most of the crude.

Four people at a nearby business were evacuated with respiratory complaints, and two people were transferred to a hospital…

The pipeline was shut off remotely, and the incident shut down a section of the Atwater Village area of the city…

“Oil is knee-high in some areas,” the fire department said. “A handful of commercial businesses are affected.”

The break in the 20-inch pipeline was at a pumping station in an industrial area near San Fernando Road in Atwater Village, the fire department said.

The pressure was so high and the volume of oil pushed through was so large that the oil didn’t stop rushing from the broken pipeline for 45 minutes.

Video footage from the NBC affiliate showed oil spraying about 20 feet in the air from the leak, which happened at an oil-gathering station situated next to a strip club, The Gentlemen’s Club, which was evacuated, according to media reports…

The Plains West Coast pipeline is run by Plains Pipeline L.P., a unit of Plains All American. A company spokesman did not immediately return a call outside normal business hours…

L.A. Battalion Chief David Spence told local television that the line ran from California’s main oil-producing region near Bakersfield to a storage facility in Long Beach, near a cluster of refineries including those run by Phillips 66, Valero and Tesoro…

I worked in and around the oil industry for a long enough spell to generally respect the safety of most pipelines, long-or-short-haul. I’m beginning to wonder about the quality and frequency of inspections – given the number of reported failures we’re getting to. Because the folks up top know damned well what the dangers are. Do they have accountants and lobbyists on board offering assurances about the cost of disasters, nowadays?

Thanks, Mike

The Pentagon has a plan to stop the Zombie Apocalypse. Really.

The U.S. military has always been the one place in government with a plan, forever in preparation mode and ready to yank a blueprint off the shelf for almost any contingency. Need a response for a Russian nuclear missile launch? Check. Have to rescue a U.S. ambassador kidnapped by drug lords? Yup, check, got that covered. How about a detailed strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse? As it turns out, check.

Incredibly, the Defense Department has a response if zombies attacked and the armed forces had to eradicate flesh-eating walkers in order to “preserve the sanctity of human life” among all the “non-zombie humans.”

Buried on the military’s secret computer network is an unclassified document, obtained by Foreign Policy, called “CONOP 8888.” It’s a zombie survival plan, a how-to guide for military planners trying to isolate the threat from a menu of the undead — from chicken zombies to vegetarian zombies and even “evil magic zombies” — and destroy them.

CONOP 8888, otherwise known as “Counter-Zombie Dominance” and dated April 30, 2011, is no laughing matter, and yet of course it is. As its authors note in the document’s “disclaimer section,” “this plan was not actually designed as a joke.”

Military planners assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska during 2009 and 2010 looked for a creative way to devise a planning document to protect citizens in the event of an attack of any kind. The officers used zombies as their muse. “Planners … realized that training examples for plans must accommodate the political fallout that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes that a fictional training scenario is actually a real plan,” the authors wrote, adding: “Rather than risk such an outcome by teaching our augmentees using the fictional ‘Tunisia’ or ‘Nigeria’ scenarios used at [Joint Combined Warfighting School], we elected to use a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken for a real plan.”

In other words, it’s about as realistic as the 50 times Congressional Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare.

Feds bust 50 for Medicare fraud in South Florida – part of 90 nationwide

It was a textbook operation for veterans of law enforcement’s endless war on Medicare fraud in South Florida: 50 suspects busted over two days on charges of trying to steal almost $66 million from the federal program.

But this take-down was different from so many others in the past: 37 of those arrested were patient recruiters accused of collecting thousands of dollars in bribes for supplying Medicare beneficiaries to crooked home healthcare agencies, mental health clinics and pharmacies.

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer condemned the “pay to play culture” that he said fuels the nation’s capital of Medicare fraud with “kickbacks.” He said the underground business of patient recruiting has become so competitive that brokers are demanding increasingly higher prices for patients, who also receive bribes in exchange for their valuable Medicare cards.

Ferrer said the accused all used the taxpayer-funded Medicare program “like an ATM machine,” robbing the elderly and disabled of costly services. “And they all had one thing in common: greed.”

As in the past, South Florida’s arrests accounted for the majority of Medicare fraud suspects busted in a coordinated nationwide take-down. In total, 90 doctors, nurses, clinic operators, patient recruiters and patients were charged with collectively filing $260 million in false Medicare claims…

The most prominent name among South Florida’s newly arrested Medicare fraud suspects belonged to Dr. Barry Kaplowitz.

The Aventura psychiatrist served as the medical director of an outpatient mental health facility in Hollywood that federal prosecutors say generated $7.5 million in false claims for Medicare patients who did not need psychiatric treatment…

“I think it’s worse for a doctor to be involved in healthcare fraud,” White declared Monday, when he first considered Kaplowitz’s bond. “It’s outrageous.”

Total fracking scumbags. Yeah, yeah, innocent until proven guilty. Meanwhile, Jay Weaver’s article in the Miami Herald makes it clear that South Florida is mecca for Medicare Fraud.

And please, please, don’t waste too much breath on defending the Republican governor of Florida. Before the silliest voters in the US elected him his clinic set the record for fines paid for fraud.

Elizabeth Warren, Progressive Democrats battle for student loan refinancing

College students joined six Democratic senators on Capitol Hill Wednesday to press for the passage of a measure that would allow for the refinancing of student loans.

In introducing the legislation last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said it had twin goals of driving down the $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and shrinking the profits the federal government pulls in from the interest payments on those loans.

She was joined by Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Chuck Schumer of New York, Al Franken of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, five of the bill’s 27 co-sponsors.

We need to let students refinance their loans like others do with their homes,” Franken said. Added Reed: “We need to give people a fair shot at a better life, a better America.”

If passed, the measure would allow borrowers holding current loan debt to refinance their interest rates down to the same rate available to new borrowers — 3.68 percent, a figure passed by Congress last year — the same way a home or car loan can be refinanced if interest rates drop…

Any idea what silly-ass excuse Republicans will come up with to basic aid for students like this? We all know they would prefer folks be kept as ignorant as possible. That helps keep them in office.