Cancer Alley getting worse!


Click to enlarge

❝ ProPublica and The Times-Picayune and The Advocate investigated the potential cancer-causing toxicity in the air. Using EPA data, public records requests and more, we found that some of the country’s most toxic air will likely get worse…

❝ The data for our story and corresponding graphic comes from several sources. We provide details on each below.

The bulk of the analysis relies on data from the Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) model, which was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Manufacturing facilities with 10 or more employees in particular industries, which are in possession of chemical quantities above specific thresholds, are required to disclose information on their toxic emissions to the Toxics Release Inventory, a program administered by the EPA. The EPA releases this information online each year as required by the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. RSEI translates the TRI data, which is reported by weight, into values that reflect the relative risk to human health. These indicators allow regulators, companies and communities to assess risks and take action relative to a specific facility or waste stream.

Please click through to the article and the many sources referenced by the authors.

America’s history as a slave-based economy needs compensation for evil

❝ Mélisande Short-Colomb sits cross-legged on the purple comforter draped over her twin bed. She lives in the dorms here at Georgetown University, where she just wrapped up her first semester as a freshman.

Short-Colomb is 63. But that’s not all that makes her different from her student peers.

❝ Last year, she learned about her ancestors’ ties to the university when she was contacted by a genealogist tracing the descendants of slaves that Jesuits at Georgetown owned almost two centuries ago. She had been working in New Orleans as a chef, but when Georgetown offered her and all of the descendants of the slaves a special legacy admission status, she decided to become a student again.

Compensation for past injustice is not a new concept in law – even American law. Though, let’s face it, we have no shortage of politicians who would fight against such compensation unless it provided direct benefit to their own corrupt lives. And then there still are Dixiecrats who miss the “good old days” of institutional racism.

Louisiana’s coastal subsidence already counts as a “worst case scenario”


Click to enlargeKaren Apricot

❝ It’s common knowledge that the coast of Louisiana is quietly sinking into the balmy Gulf waters. But new research suggests we may have been underestimating how quickly it’s happening.

A new paper, published…in the Geological Society of America’s bulletin GSA Today, includes an updated map of the Louisiana coastline and the rate at which it’s sinking into the sea, a process scientists call “subsidence,” which occurs in addition to the climate change-caused process of sea-level rise. The new map suggests that, on average, the Louisiana coast is sinking at a rate of about 9 millimeters, or just over a third of an inch, per year — a faster rate than previous studies have suggested…

❝ Scientists have long known that Louisiana is sinking. Subsidence is believed to be a natural process, which has likely been occurring in the region for thousands of years. But scientists believe the process has been enhanced by a variety of human activities in the Mississippi Delta over the past century, including oil and gas extraction, as well as the building of levees and other actions affecting the flow of the Mississippi River, which carries mud and sediment down toward the Gulf and helped build up the delta in the first place.

The combination of subsidence and sea-level rise along the Gulf shore has made coastal Louisiana increasingly vulnerable to erosion in recent years. Last year, residents of the region’s rapidly sinking Isle de Jean Charles received a $48 million grant from the federal government to be used for relocation, giving them the grim title of the nation’s first “climate refugees.” And in the future, as sea levels continue to rise, the problem is only expected to worsen along the Louisiana shore…

❝ And for now, the big picture suggests that coastal Louisiana is still sinking, and perhaps more quickly than some experts believed. Coupled with the continued invasion of the rising seas, the area remains one of the most vulnerable parts of the country. And while policymakers have already expressed deep concern about the region’s future — the state legislature recently approved a $50 billion plan for the protection and restoration of the coastline — experts note that there’s still need for more research on exactly how quickly the shoreline is slipping away.

Joshua Kent, an expert in geoinformatics at Louisiana State University, told The Washington Post by email that the new paper reiterates the need for increased monitoring along the coast. “Accurate and consistent monitoring will help reduce the uncertainties and improve strategies for sustaining this important landscape,” he said.

Or you could forget about science and technology and work at ripping as much profit as possible in the shortest conceivable time, take the money and run. Think anyone with their hands in the pants of the oil and gas industries will roll over and squeak? Think anyone in Congress funding their campaign on the American Petroleum Institute dole will grow a backbone overnight?

Hypocrite Louisiana Republicans demand flood aid — voted against Hurricane Sandy relief for the Northeast


Steve Scalise, Republican hypocrite-in-chiefAP

Call it logrolling or one hand washing the other, a generally recognized fact in Washington is that if you want something for your district, it pays to agree to the same thing for another guy’s district.

That point may have been lost on three Louisiana congressmen when they voted against a $50.5-billion relief package for the victims of Superstorm Sandy. The 2012 storm ravaged coastal communities in New Jersey and New York. Now they’re in the position of needing the same sort of aid for their own state. How will that play out?

The three lawmakers, all Republicans, are Rep. Steve Scalise (currently the House majority whip); Bill Cassidy, who moved up to the Senate last year; and John Fleming. They’re all likely exemplars of another Washington truism: fiscal responsibility is great, until it’s your own district that’s getting fiscally hammered. Then Job One becomes working to “help the residents of the threatened areas in their time of need.”…

No one is saying that the flood-stricken communities of Louisiana don’t deserve all the assistance that the U.S. government can provide them. But so did the residents of the Sandy zone.

Indeed, the funds made available through the emergency declaration are likely to be a drop in the bucket compared to what ultimately will be needed in Louisiana. FEMA will spend several million dollars on emergency housing and other aid. But the final toll could be well into the tens of billions. Initial estimates in Baton Rouge, covering about half of the parishes hit by the flooding, are that 110,000 homes worth a total $20 billion have been damaged. Business losses and reconstruction costs will come to much more.

These are the categories covered by the Sandy appropriation that Louisiana’s lawmakers voted down.

I’m waiting for the Republican Party to claim a patent on hypocrisy. They surely own it in practice.

Sometimes you get what you need, sometimes you lose what you deserve to lose – eh, North Carolina?


Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports

The NBA has decided to hold the 2017 All-Star Game in New Orleans after taking the midseason event out of North Carolina because of a state law that limits anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people.

New Orleans, announced Friday as the new location of the game, replaces Charlotte, which was set to host the game until the NBA decided last month to move it elsewhere.

Unlike several other Southern states, Louisiana has not been swept up in legislative efforts to pass laws similar to that in North Carolina — a fact Gov. John Bel Edwards has touted while lobbying the NBA to bring its All-Star weekend to New Orleans.

“We embrace our rich cultural heritage and see our diversity as a virtue,” Edwards wrote in a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in late July. “Should the NBA choose to bring the All-Star Game back to New Orleans in 2017, it will strongly reaffirm its commitment to communities that value fairness and inclusion.”

The NBA’s decision — and the economic boost it will bring — provides a timely dose of good news following disastrous flooding across large swaths of southeast Louisiana that has killed at least 13 people and damaged an estimated 40,000 homes…

This marks the third time New Orleans, which became an NBA city for the second time in 2002, has been selected to host the league’s All-Star Game.

A number of entertainment acts, including a Bruce Springsteen concert, have canceled North Carolina events because of its so-called HB2 law…

The Human Rights Campaign, a national civil rights group working on behalf of lesbian, gay and transgender people, applauded the NBA’s decision to choose New Orleans.

The boycott is an old and honorable political act. The opportunity to stick it to a state controlled by voters who elect and re-elect bigots – and take away $100 million in revenue that would have landed in the North Carolina business community – is enough to make an cynical old Leftie like me smile for days.

That the process ends up benefitting the people of a state traumatized by natural disaster – and expands upon services rendered to needy folks by the kindness and social understanding of NBA athletes – is a special bonus.

Pic of the day: Heroic coppers defend white Baton Rouge

Ieshia Evans, hero
Click to enlargeReuters

A photograph of a woman protesting the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last weekend — striking because of her resolute facial expression, dignified pose and the juxtaposition between her flowing dress and the riot gear of the Louisiana State Police as they approach to arrest her — has gone viral, and now we know that the woman at the center of the photo is a mother to a 5-year-old boy.

Ieshia Evans went to Baton Rouge to join the protests “because she wanted to look her son in the eyes to tell him she fought for his freedom and rights,” a friend named R. Alex Haynes wrote…

This is closer to the truth of life in the American Police State than any conservative whines. If you’re white, you’re right. If you’re Black, git back!

Climate refugees in the Lower 48


Click to enlargeGuardian/Charlie Varley
“Used to be all you could see was trees and woods”

Wenceslaus Billiot, an 88-year-old native of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, remembers growing up on a much different island than the two-mile sliver of his ancestral home that remains today.

“When I was a kid I used to do trapping in the back,” he said, gesturing towards the back of the small, one-story house that stands elevated on stilts to escape the floods that roll in from the bayou after nearly every storm. “You could walk for a long time. Now, nothing but water.”

The back balcony overlooks a vast expanse of water leading to Terrebonne Bay and, further, the Gulf of Mexico – that now lies in his backyard.

Billiot and his equally sprightly 91-year-old wife, Denecia Naquin, are among the last remaining residents of this island, which has lost 98% of its land and most of its population to coastal erosion and rising sea levels since 1955. The population, which peaked at around 400, is now down to around 85…

As in other areas of southern Louisiana, the loss of once-vast tracts of marshland and trees has left the island exposed to hurricanes and frequent flooding has stripped the land, made farming impossible and forced residents into an annual ritual of rebuilding.

The couple, like nearly everyone on the island, belong to the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, and can trace their roots to the early 1800s when Native Americans fleeing forced relocation under the Indian Removal Act first settled the island. The tribe was quickly intertwined with the local French Cajun influence, which can still be heard in the lilting accent of Billiot and Naquin’s generation…

Now, with new federal funding, the Isle de Jean Charles tribe will be part of the first program in the lower 48 states to address an entire community’s resettlement needs due to climate change and increased natural disasters.

In January the tribe was awarded $52m for resettlement from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as part of its $1bn Natural Disaster Resiliency Competition. The money will fund a new sustainably designed development to provide housing to up to 400 tribe members on a new plot inland. Planning is in the early stages, but officials hope to choose a site likely somewhere north of Houma, the closest city, later this year.

The project will be watched closely as a testing ground for the resettlement of whole communities – culturally sensitive ones, in particular – as the effects of climate change begin to be felt more acutely along the coasts of North America and indigenous communities in Alaska face similar prospects of disappearing land…

Louisiana has one of the fastest rates of land loss in the country, due to the twin problems of land loss and sea level rise. Since the 1930s, the state has lost nearly 2,000 square miles of land, equivalent to roughly one football field every 45 minutes.

“The land is sinking for a variety of reasons,” said Alex Kolker, a professor of earth sciences at Tulane University. Natural land loss has been compounded by the thousands of canals dredged by oil and gas companies drilling in the area and levees built along the Mississippi River have stopped the natural process of sediment that would otherwise replenish coastal land. “Climate change is becoming a big issue,” he said, and the increasing rate of sea level rise could soon overtake the rate of land loss, which has historically been greater.

In the future, a lot of the rest of the world could look like what Louisiana looks like now, Kolker added.

RTFA. Please. Lots of detail about the lives of ordinary people disrupted by climate change. The wealthy, even the upper middle class already afford the mobility characteristic of much of American population. The keyword being “afford”. They can pick up and move.

For the rest, in a political culture infected with science-deniers for the usual reasons, disaster like this is something that rolls inevitably towards destruction of your community and its culture.

A new window on the universe — gravitational waves confirmed


The top two plots show data received at each detector
The final plot compares data from both…confirming the detection

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (09:51 UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA…

Based on the observed signals, LIGO scientists estimate that the black holes for this event were about 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun, and the event took place 1.3 billion years ago. About 3 times the mass of the sun was converted into gravitational waves in a fraction of a second — with a peak power output about 50 times that of the whole visible universe. By looking at the time of arrival of the signals — the detector in Livingston recorded the event 7 milliseconds before the detector in Hanford — scientists can say that the source was located in the Southern Hemisphere.

RTFA. Lots of truly interesting science.

And, sorry, Trumpites – the earth is not flat.

Republicans think everyone is doing well enough – so, cut off food stamps!

food stamps

Joanika Davis relies on the $194 per month she receives in food stamp benefits every month to help her get by as she searches for employment.

But on Jan. 1, Davis is set to lose that financial lifeline — one of approximately 31,000 Louisianians set to suffer as a result of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to reinstate the work requirement for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in his state.

SNAP rules typically allow full benefits to single able-bodied adults only if they have jobs or are enrolled in a job-training program. Otherwise, they may access food stamp benefits for no more than three months every three years. States with high unemployment can apply for a federal waiver…

Since the beginning of the Great Recession, nearly every state in the country sought and was granted a federal waiver at some point. But recently, a number of states with Republican governors have allowed their waivers to expire, citing improved economic circumstances and a desire to get their food stamp recipients back to work. Jindal, a Republican, allowed Louisiana’s waiver to lapse on Oct. 1.

Gotta love Republican morality. Yup, these folks sure are living high on the hog with them food stamps.

“We continue to seek opportunities for SNAP recipients to increase their self-sufficiency. Engaging in work activities is a key step in that transition,” said Suzy Sonnier, the head of Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services…

Spoken like a true conservative ideologue who never had to worry about finding “work activities” to survive the Great Recession.

And it is not only people in Louisiana who are losing out.

Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming have recently allowed the work requirement to be reimposed, leaving 28 states with their food stamp waivers intact in fiscal year 2016.

The people affected by the reinstatement of the work requirement tend to be among the poorest of the poor, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an economic think tank. In 2014 able-bodied, childless, unemployed adults on food stamps had an average of $2,200 in gross income, the center found…

In Louisiana, at least, the reimposition of the work requirement may prove temporary. John Bel Edwards, the Democrat who will succeed Jindal as governor on Jan. 11, has vowed to request a federal waiver on his first day in office

You might hope this is an example sufficient to seep into the brains of working folks throughout the Republican/Confederate empire and convince them to vote against the evil of two lessers. At least in state and local elections.

I’m not holding my breath, waiting.