The West’s coal giant is going away


Click to enlargeAlex/Creative Commons

❝ The smokestacks of the Navajo Generation Station rise 775 feet from the sere landscape of the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, just three miles away from the serpentine, stagnant blue wound in sandstone known as Lake Powell. Red rock cliffs and the dark and heavy hump of Navajo Mountain loom in the background. Since construction began in 1969, the coal plant and its associated mine on Black Mesa have provided millions of dollars to the Navajo and Hopi tribes and hundreds of jobs to local communities, as well as electricity to keep the lights on and air conditioners humming in the metastasizing cities of Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Yet they’ve also stood as symbols of the exploitation of Native Americans, of the destruction of the land, and of the sullying of the air, all to provide cheap power to the Southwest.

But coal power is no longer the best energy bargain. And…the plant’s four private utility owners, led by the Salt River Project, voted to shut down the plant at the end of 2019, some 25 years ahead of schedule. When the giant turbines come to a halt and the towers topple in the coming years, the plant will become a new symbol, this one of a transforming energy economy and an evolving electrical grid that is slowly rendering these soot-stained, mechanical megaliths obsolete.

❝ Salt River Project officials have been very clear…They note that it’s now cheaper for them to buy power for their 1 million customers from other sources than it is to generate power at Navajo, thanks mostly to low natural gas prices. A November 2016 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the Central Arizona Project pays about 15 percent more for electricity from the power plant — of which it is part owner — than it would if it bought power wholesale from the Mead trading hub located near Las Vegas.

❝ None of this will change even if President Donald Trump rolls back the Clean Power Plan or other regulations put in place by the Obama administration. In fact, if a drill-heavy energy policy is put into place, it will increase natural gas supplies, thus increasing the spread between natural gas and coal.

It’s a sign of the times. We will continues to see pimps like Trump – owned body and soul by the US Chamber of Commerce – run their collective mouths, beat the drums of war and obedience, demand resurrection of backwards methods that will only serve to further slow our national economy.

Science and technology will continue to forge ahead.

Advertisements

The death rate gap widens between urban and rural America


Sometimes you actually get what you voted for

❝ If you live in a city or a suburb, chances are you’ve seen the health of people around you improve over time — fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease, better cancer treatments, and fewer premature deaths.

But if you’re one of the 46 million Americans who live in a rural area, odds are you’ve watched the health of your neighbors stagnate and worsen.

❝ New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that rates of the five leading causes of death — heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke — are higher among rural Americans. In other words, mortality rates in rural areas for these preventable deaths, which were going down, are now plateauing and even increasing…

❝ …More than income, more than the frequency with which you exercise, the simple fact of where you live can have a huge impact on your health…

…the most pronounced rural-urban gaps are deaths from unintentional injuries — like suicide or drug overdose — and deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease…

❝ …According to the CDC, part of it is that people in rural areas often don’t have access to health care facilities that can quickly treat severe trauma. The opioid epidemic is also overwhelmingly concentrated in rural pockets of the US, as are the related overdose deaths.

But it’s not just deaths from unintentional injuries that disproportionately affect rural Americans. Rural Americans are also far more likely to die from CLRD, which encompasses a wide range of lung diseases from occupational lung diseases to pulmonary hypertension. The CDC believes this discrepancy is largely due to cigarette smoking being far more prevalent among adults living in rural counties…

❝ Additionally, a higher percentage of rural Americans are in poorer health. Generally speaking, rural Americans report higher incidences of preventable conditions like obesity, diabetes, cancer, and injury. They also face higher uninsured rates in addition to fewer health services.

Yes, these folks represent one of the significant communities that voted for Trumponomics, Republican plans to repeal Obamacare, just about any government program predicated on mandating better healthcare and preventive medicine.

The operative question remains – stupid or ignorant? You might throw in gullible if you look at folks who rely on “good enough for Grandpa”.

The Doomsday Clock just ticked closer to Midnight – thanks to Trump

It’s now 2 ½ minutes to “midnight,” according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which warned Thursday that the end of humanity may be near.

The group behind the famed Doomsday Clock announced at a news conference that it was adjusting the countdown to the End of it All by moving the hands 30 seconds closer to midnight — the closest the clock has been to Doomsday since 1953, after the United States tested its first thermonuclear device, followed months later by the Soviet Union’s hydrogen bomb test.

In announcing that the Doomsday Clock was moving 30 seconds closer to the end of humanity, the group noted that in 2016, “the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change.”

❝ But the organization also cited the election of President Trump in changing the symbolic clock.

“Making matters worse, the United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both of those fronts,” theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss and retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley wrote in a New York Times op-ed on behalf of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”

Like so many meaningful sources of information affecting the future of this planet and all the species on board – I doubt Trump has ever read the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Or ever will.

Força Chapecoense

3000
Click to enlargeFernando Remor/EPA

“Que essa seja a última imagem dos nosso guerreiros”

❝ Police in Colombia have confirmed that at least 75 people were killed when a plane carrying, among other passengers and crew, the first-team squad of Brazilian top-flight team Chapecoense, went down close to the town of Cerro Gordo in the early hours of Tuesday. Initial reports said there were six survivors, including players and a travelling journalist, but police said one person had died in hospital. The plane was carrying 72 passengers and nine crew members.

❝ Based in the city of Chapecó in the state of Santa Carina, Chapecoense were en route to Medellín to play the first leg of the final of this year’s Copa Sudamericana (South America’s answer to the Europa League), against the current Copa Libertadores holders Atlético Nacional. Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper reported there were 22 players from the squad on board as well as 22 football journalists. A 23rd Chapecoense player, whom the newspaper did not name, had been supposed to travel with his team-mates but was not on the plane…

Team sports are a special part of athletic life. They were a year-round part of my childhood. Growing up when I did, where I did, meant The Beautiful Game wasn’t central to my young life. For most of the world – that centrality would be automatic.

Once in a great while a disaster claims the lives of athletes, a whole team, managers, medicos, trainers, heros and hardly-ever starters. They had a life together that also was something with a life of its own. And now death.

John Hersey’s Hiroshima revealed the horror of the bomb


This book has never been out of print

At the end of this month 70 years will have passed since the publication of a magazine story hailed as one of the greatest pieces of journalism ever written. Headlined simply Hiroshima, the 30,000-word article by John Hersey had a massive impact, revealing the full horror of nuclear weapons to the post-war generation, as Caroline Raphael describes.

❝ I have an original copy of the 31 August 1946 edition of The New Yorker. It has the most innocuous of covers – a delightful playful carefree drawing of summer in a park. On the back cover, the managers of the New York Giants and the New York Yankees encourage you to “Always Buy Chesterfield” cigarettes.

Past the Goings on About Town and movie listings, past the ritzy adverts for diamonds and fur and cars and cruises you find a simple statement from The Editors explaining that this edition will be devoted entirely to just one article “on the almost complete obliteration of a city by one atomic bomb”. They are taking this step, they say, “in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon, and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of its use”.

Seventy years ago no-one talked about stories “going viral”, but the publication of John Hersey’s article Hiroshima in The New Yorker achieved just that. It was talked of, commented on, read and listened to by many millions all over the world as they began to understand what really happened not just to the city but to the people of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and in the following days…

Hersey’s editors, Harold Ross and William Shawn, knew they had something quite extraordinary, unique, and the edition was prepared in utter secrecy. Never before had all the magazine’s editorial space been given over to a single story and it has never happened since. Journalists who were expecting to have their stories in that week’s edition wondered where their proofs had gone. Twelve hours before publication, copies were sent to all the major US newspapers – a smart move that resulted in editorials urging everyone to read the magazine…

All 300,000 copies immediately sold out and the article was reprinted in many other papers and magazines the world over, except where newsprint was rationed. When Albert Einstein attempted to buy 1,000 copies of the magazine to send to fellow scientists he had to contend with facsimiles. The US Book of the Month Club gave a free special edition to all its subscribers because, in the words of its president, “We find it hard to conceive of anything being written that could be of more important at this moment to the human race.”

By November, Hiroshima was published in book form. It was translated quickly into many languages and a braille edition was released. However, in Japan, Gen Douglas MacArthur – the supreme commander of occupying forces, who effectively governed Japan until 1948 – had strictly prohibited dissemination of any reports on the consequences of the bombings. Copies of the book, and the relevant edition of The New Yorker, were banned until 1949, when Hiroshima was finally translated into Japanese by the Rev Mr Tanimoto, one of Hersey’s six survivors.

Please read the book. It is one of the three books reflecting the War that formed much of my life. Certainly my feelings about the cruelty of war. My family still has the free copy we received from the Book-of-the-month club.

Sorry. I can write no more this morning. Too many tears.

FDA ban on e-cigarette sales to minors started this week

The US Food and Drug Administration officially started regulating the sale of e-cigarettes on the 8th. Following a ruling that was finalized back in May, the agency now considers e-cigarettes, vape pens, and other related electronic devices “tobacco products,” and will henceforth ban sales to anyone under the age of 18.

Retailers are now banned from selling e-cigarettes to minors.

Going forward, retailers will need to treat e-cigs the same way they treat cigarettes and cigars, verifying the customer’s age against their photo ID. Meanwhile, most manufacturers will need to verify with the FDA that their products don’t carry any additional health risks. The regulations are outlined in the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which governs the sale of tobacco products to minors.

Overdue.

URGENT air bag warning tells Honda/Acura owners to park it

The U.S. government is urging owners of 313,000 older Hondas and Acuras to stop driving them and get them repaired after new tests found that their Takata air bag inflators are extremely dangerous.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday that it has data showing that chances are as high as 50 percent that the inflators can explode in a crash, injuring people by sending metal shrapnel into the passenger compartments.

“These vehicles are unsafe and need to be repaired immediately,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Folks should not drive these vehicles unless they are going straight to a dealer to have them repaired…”

NHTSA’s urgent advisory covers vehicles that are up to 16 years old including 2001 and 2002 Honda Civics and Accords, the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL, the 2002 Honda Odyssey and CR-V, and the 2003 Acura CL and Honda Pilot, NHTSA said. The vehicles are among the oldest involved in the Takata recalls…

The older the inflators are, and the more time they spend in heat and humidity, the more likely they are to malfunction.

Honda said it has ample replacement parts available from companies other than Takata to immediately fix the cars…The company said it has reached out to the owners multiple times, but many vehicles remain unrepaired even in high-humidity areas mainly along the U.S. Gulf Coast that are at the highest risk.

In lab tests, about half of the inflators from these older Hondas in areas along the Gulf Coast blew apart.That should be enough to make the point to folks. If you’re driving one of these — STOP. If you know friends or kin who are driving one of these cars, make them stop.

Illegal abortions are killing women in developing countries and restrictions demanded by the USA make it worse

In developing countries, the maternal mortality rate is a staggering 239 per 100,000 women, with an estimated 303,000 women dying in 2015. One in 10 of all maternal deaths are caused by unsafe abortions; an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions are performed every year.

We know that providing access to legal terminations would stop women dying, but this remains an issue that provokes huge debate. Women who can’t access them legally still have abortions, but they have to pay bankrupting sums, often risking their lives.

Backstreet abortions are usually done in an unclean and unsafe environment. If they don’t kill women, they often put them in hospital with horrific complications, leaving them infertile, facing major abdominal surgery and enormous medical bills.

What is stopping women from accessing safe abortions? The first is restrictive laws in their own countries, which can extend to a ban…Ludicrously, this problem is compounded by the fact that countries with the most restrictive abortion laws often have the poorest family planning provision.

The second barrier is the tight regulation governing donor aid. The US has a ban on any of its funding being spent on terminations for women. The Helms amendment, a 43-year-old law, stipulates that abortions cannot be funded as a method of family planning. This means that no US foreign aid is spent on the provision of abortions or even advising or promoting abortion services for women. Recent headlines suggest that the US will not even allow its funds to be used to provide terminations for women who have been raped by Isis fighters…

We know that abortions, when performed legally, are cheap and safe. Yet the grim reality is that tens of thousands of women who die in the developing world each year from unsafe abortions do so because policymakers have decided their lives are not worth saving.

With changes in this policy, maternal mortality could be reduced for a low cost. The technology exists and is affordable. A misoprostol pill that induces an early stage abortion costs less than a dollar. This is not an issue of resources and funding, but a value judgment on what women may or may not do with their lives.

Another look back to the world of the Republican Party and the ideology of patriarchal religion held dear to the heart of 19th Century conservatives.

The United States still relies on a model generated by a religious bigot who hated equal rights for non-white Americans as much as he opposed reproductive rights for women. Jesse Helms was a racist thug kept in office beyond any reasonable function except to stand in opposition to the concept of equal opportunity for class after class of Americans. The Republican Party still honors his memory.

E-cigarette poisonings reach epidemic levels in young children

Electronic cigarettes have sickened rising numbers of young children, a study of U.S. poison center calls has found. Most cases involve swallowing liquid nicotine.

While most kids weren’t seriously harmed, one child died and several had severe complications including comas and seizures.

This is an epidemic by any definition,” said lead author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital…

The researchers say the results highlight a need for better parent awareness about the importance of keeping the devices out of sight and reach of young kids. They also recommend stricter regulation and applauded long-awaited restrictions the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued…

The study examined poison center calls about exposure to nicotine and tobacco products among children under age 6 from January 2012 through April 2015. The most worrisome findings involved e-cigarettes — battery-powered devices that turn nicotine into an inhalable vapor. Some feature colorful packaging and flavored nicotine that can attract young children.

I find it hard to believe that parents are ignorant of the dangers presented by these materials. Sure, they bullshit themselves to keep up their habit/addiction. Still, they must realize the threat to young children.

RTFA for details on the study. I chalk this one up to stupid.