Philadelphia oil refinery fires go back decades

❝ An explosion at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery in South Philadelphia early Friday is the latest in a string of fires, explosions, and incidents involving the city’s oil refinery compounds.

The five minor injuries pale in comparison to the deaths reported in some earlier blasts, but it was so large and so hot that it could be seen from space in satellite infrared images, according to the National Weather Service.

RTFA and follow a string of explosions and fires recorded as far back as 1931.

The evidence for vaccine safety is abundant. That will be $100,000…

❝ At what point does a body of evidence become massive enough to count as proof? When has a question been answered enough times that it can be put to rest?

When it comes to the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, it sometimes seems as though public health advocates must constantly roll the burden of proof toward a mountaintop that never comes into view.

❝ The latest salvo against vaccinations came courtesy of Robert Kennedy Jr. and Robert De Niro. At a joint appearance this week, Kennedy offered $100,000 to anyone who could turn up a study showing that it is safe to administer vaccines to children and pregnant women, with a specific call out to concerns about mercury. De Niro was there to lend his endorsement and a patina of Oscar-winning gravitas.

The article is clear and accurate on the unreliability of either in producing science that backs up their foolishness.

❝ Like most people, I can think of many handy uses for a spare hundred grand, and would gladly sit down and share my experience as a pediatrician with De Niro and Kennedy at great length. It’s nearing two decades since I graduated from medical school, and in that span of time I’ve immunized thousands of patients. Not once have I encountered a case where those immunizations could be plausibly linked with autism.

In the off chance that my word alone isn’t sufficient to collect the $100,000, I’m happy to proffer lots of studies that support the safety of vaccines. Studies never seem to settle the question for anti-vaccine activists, but they are the best evidence we could ever have, based on millions of people and using many different types of comparisons, that vaccination is safe for kids…

All of this information is readily available to anyone who chooses to look for it — 350 health organizations recently reaffirmed the safety of vaccines and highlighted more than 40 of the most respected studies in an open letter to President Trump — and yet still Kennedy and De Niro are happy to pretend none of it exists.

❝ However, if either De Niro or Kennedy read this article and change their mind, I’m happy to take the $100,000 anyhow.

I’ll second that emotion. I grew up when most of today’s vaccines hadn’t yet been designed and produced. Every spring, kids in the factory town where I grew up would compare notes about who was missing, who died over the winter.

Mumps, scarlet fever, rubella, diphtheria vaccination was just becoming universal — polio was waiting for us in the summer.

Man walks free of death row after 26 years in Louisiana pen


Glenn Ford – a long time ago

A man who spent nearly 26 years on death row in Louisiana walked free Tuesday, hours after a judge approved the state’s motion to vacate the man’s murder conviction in the 1983 killing of a jeweler.

Glenn Ford, 64, had been on death row since August 1988 in connection with the death of 56-year-old Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport jeweler and watchmaker for whom Ford had done occasional yard work. Convicted of first-degree murder by an all-white jury, Ford, who is African-American, had always denied killing Rozeman.

Ford walked out the maximum security prison at Angola on Tuesday afternoon, said Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Asked about his release, Ford told WAFB-TV, “It feels good; my mind is going in all kind of directions. It feels good.”

Ford told the outlet he harbors some resentment at being wrongly jailed: “Yeah, cause I’ve been locked up almost 30 years for something I didn’t do…I can’t go back and do anything I should have been doing when I was 35, 38, 40, stuff like that,” he added…

Gary Clements, one of Ford’s lawyers, told Al Jazeera that the new information was a confession from another suspect in Rozeman’s murder.

“We are very pleased to see Glenn Ford finally exonerated, and we are particularly grateful that the prosecution and the court moved ahead so decisively to set Mr. Ford free,” read a statement from Clements and Aaron Novod, another attorney for Ford from the Capital Post Conviction Project of Louisiana.

They said Ford’s trial had been “profoundly compromised by inexperienced counsel and by the unconstitutional suppression of evidence, including information from an informant.” They also cited what they said was a suppressed police report related to the time of the crime and evidence involving the murder weapon.

I hope Mr. Ford lives long enough to sue the crap out of the state of Louisiana. They’ve been caught in corrupt and crooked incarceration enough times that they actually passed a law limiting compensation to innocent prisoners after their release to $25K for each year wrongfully imprisoned.

Anyone think that the Sportsman’s Paradise will do anything about the sleazy coppers and prosecutors who railroaded Glenn Ford into prison?

I don’t think so, either.

BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill may take decades to recover


Reuters Pictures used by permission

The deep-sea soft-sediment ecosystem in the immediate area of the 2010’s Deepwater Horizon well head blowout and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will likely take decades to recover from the spill’s impacts, according to a scientific paper reported in the online scientific journal PLoS One.

The paper is the first to give comprehensive results of the spill’s effect on deep-water communities at the base of the Gulf’s food chain, in its soft-bottom muddy habitats, specifically looking at biological composition and chemicals at the same time at the same location.

“This is not yet a complete picture,” said Cynthia Cooksey, NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science lead scientist for the spring 2011 cruise to collect additional data from the sites sampled in fall 2010. “We are now in the process of analyzing data collected from a subsequent cruise in the spring of 2011. Those data will not be available for another year, but will also inform how we look at conditions over time.”

Continue reading

AT&T saves decades of call records for the DEA


DEA agents – or AT&T employees?

For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.

The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.

The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.

The project comes to light at a time of vigorous public debate over the proper limits on government surveillance and on the relationship between government agencies and communications companies. It offers the most significant look to date at the use of such large-scale data for law enforcement, rather than for national security.

The scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by other government programs, including the N.S.A.’s gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act. The N.S.A. stores the data for nearly all calls in the United States, including phone numbers and time and duration of calls, for five years.

Hemisphere covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years, according to Hemisphere training slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some four billion call records are added to the database every day, the slides say; technical specialists say a single call may generate more than one record. Unlike the N.S.A. data, the Hemisphere data includes information on the locations of callers.

The slides were given to The New York Times by Drew Hendricks, a peace activist in Port Hadlock, Wash. He said he had received the PowerPoint presentation, which is unclassified but marked “Law enforcement sensitive,” in response to a series of public information requests to West Coast police agencies.

The program was started in 2007, according to the slides, and has been carried out in great secrecy.

“All requestors are instructed to never refer to Hemisphere in any official document,” one slide says. A search of the Nexis database found no reference to the program in news reports or Congressional hearings.

The Obama administration acknowledged the extraordinary scale of the Hemisphere database and the unusual embedding of AT&T employees in government drug units in three states.

But they said the project, which has proved especially useful in finding criminals who discard cellphones frequently to thwart government tracking, employed routine investigative procedures used in criminal cases for decades and posed no novel privacy issues.

Crucially, they said, the phone data is stored by AT&T, and not by the government as in the N.S.A. program. It is queried for phone numbers of interest mainly using what are called “administrative subpoenas,” those issued not by a grand jury or a judge but by a federal agency, in this case the D.E.A.

The government will offer up blather about success at shutting down drug dealers. Worthy of one more ironic slow clap. Success arrived at by compromising the privacy of the citizens of a supposedly free country is crap. Government self-praise floating atop a cesspool of corrupt practices is just one more signal of imperial power clasped to the bosom of power-hungry politicians.

Relying on one of our royal corporations to store and dole out information on every citizen smacks of one more sci-fi prediction come true. Corporate networks functioning as the best ally of a potentially fascist state ain’t exactly something worth bragging about. Even though that will be the response from hacks in both parties now that Drew Hendricks has turned up one more Big Brother watchdog in our lives.

Not just the NSA – FBI’s data mining needs scrutiny, as well

98714615-fbi-nsa-spying-1

We recently learned that the National Security Agency has a database with the records of almost every phone call made in the U.S. To address public concerns over its surveillance activities, the agency has begun to explain how it uses the metadata — information including when calls are made, how long they last and to whom they are placed — it has accumulated over the last seven years.

Although Americans deserve this explanation, they shouldn’t delude themselves. Even if the NSA’s controversial program were shut down tomorrow, another government agency that is busy collecting and retaining personal data would keep humming along. True accountability for the government’s surveillance activities should also include an airing of — and tighter restrictions on — the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s power to collect and store substantial amounts of innocuous information about Americans.

Since 2008, for instance, the FBI has had the authority to conduct “assessments” — investigations that require no suspicion of criminal activity. In service of these low-level investigations, an FBI agent may use various invasive methods, including infiltrating public meetings of groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union or Alcoholics Anonymous, using informants, and even putting the target of the investigation under full-time physical surveillance…

From 2009 through 2011, according to data provided by the FBI, the bureau spent a significant amount of its limited time and resources conducting almost 43,000 assessments related to either counterterrorism or counterintelligence. Fewer than 5 percent of them turned up any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing…

And what does the FBI do with all of the information it has gathered on innocent Americans?…All information it collects is kept and sometimes shared, “regardless of whether it furthers investigative objectives,” because it may “eventually serve a variety of valid analytic purposes” — even if that means keeping the information in an FBI database for as long as 30 years

The federal government’s use of “suspicious activity reports” tells a similar story…One would think a suspicious-activity report that provided no evidence of possible terrorist threats would be discarded immediately. To the contrary, even a report without any link to terrorism is kept in a widely available FBI database for six months, in a separate classified database for five years, and in yet another FBI database for at least 25 more years.

If you’re taking the time to stick your finger in the eye of Congressional politicians over Big Brother NSA – take the opportunity to nudge Beltway hacks about Big Brother’s doddering Grandpa, the FBI. Oversight policies established a number of time are shoved into the storage closet as soon as citizens and our supposedly watchful Free Press return to ignoring the day-to-day activities of our federal coppers.

The same technology that put the NSA on the map is being used to keep the original model for government snooping in full employment.

Why are US nuclear bombs still based in the Netherlands?

Some 22 US nuclear weapons are stored on Dutch territory, says former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers…Mr Lubbers, a centre-right prime minister from 1982-94, said they were stored underground in strong-rooms at the Volkel air base in Brabant.

He made the revelation in a documentary for National Geographic – saying: “I would never have thought those silly things would still be there in 2013.”

The presence of nuclear weapons on Dutch soil has long been rumoured…However, Mr Lubbers is believed to be the most senior person to confirm their existence.

“I think they are an absolutely pointless part of a tradition in military thinking,” Mr Lubbers said.

The Telegraaf newspaper quoted experts as saying the weapons held at Volkel were B61 bombs that were developed in the US in the 1960s. At 50 kilotons, they are four times the strength of atom bombs used on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima or Nagasaki at the end of World War II…

The “poorly kept secret” of the existence of nuclear weapons in concrete vaults emerged in 2010 in the classified US documents published by Wikileaks, reported NRC Handelsblad newspaper.

It was mentioned in a report on a conversation involving US Ambassador to Berlin Philip Murphy, US diplomat Phil Gordon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s national security adviser, Christoph Heusgen.

In November 2010, then-Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal declined to give any explanation to the Dutch parliament.

A spokesman for the Royal Dutch Air Force was quoted by Dutch broadcaster NOS on Monday as saying these issues “are never spoken of“…”[Mr Lubbers], as former prime minister, knows that well,” he added.

Just as American liberals or conservatives fall right in line with every wish of the Pentagon and our military-industrial complex, governments around the world click their heels and listen to Uncle Sugar. It’s easier than thinking for yourself. Less trouble than cutting the umbilical cord to American death machines – and the dollars that flow into government treasuries and, sometimes, Swiss bank accounts.

Just as Obama uses the same excuses as George W Bush, governments of convenient coalitions – Center-Left, Center-Right, patriotic, independent politicians in other nations pay close attention to the people who own the United States – and never get out of line. Transparency is a cool word that still depends upon who owns the house and the windows.

Landmark diesel exhaust study stalled by congress-punks

Publication of a landmark government study probing whether diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in miners — already 20 years in the making — has been delayed by industry and congressional insistence on seeing study data and documents before the public does.

A federal judge has affirmed the right of an industry group and a House committee to review the materials and has held the Department of Health and Human Services in contempt for not producing all of them.

The much-anticipated study of 12,000 miners exposed to diesel fumes carries broad implications. If the research suggests a strong link between the fumes and cancer, regulation and litigation could ramp up — with consequences not only for underground mining, but also for industries such as trucking, rail and shipping.

Exposure isn’t limited to workers; people who live near ports, rail yards and highways also are subjected to diesel exhaust laced with carcinogens such as benzene, arsenic and formaldehyde.

But for the time being, at least, the results of an $11.5 million investigation by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are under lock and key.

Richard Clapp, emeritus professor of environmental health at Boston University, is among several public health experts who called the situation unusual. “I’ve never heard of an industry group demanding manuscripts from a government agency before a study has been accepted for publication,” Clapp said. “My guess is it would give the industry a chance to prepare their rejoinder early. They want to delay anything that’s going to implicate them in liability for lung cancer.”

RTFA for all the anecdotal testimony. Yes, the “experts” are right in saying the point is moot from here forward – especially for highway transport. The diesel used over-the-road nowadays is qualitatively different from what was in use even 5 years ago.

That doesn’t limit liability for the creeps who’ve been aware of the risks of the crap they used to burn – especially in enclosed mines and semi-closed open cast mines and seaports with walls of containers stacked everywhere. The collusion of Congress with industry groups is about as criminal as it ever managed to be. Different administration. Same hedge.