Monday, November 14, 2011

Last Call

From the Fukushima Daiichi files comes this set of images from the plant.  Japan is eager to show off how "safe" the plant is right now but the reality is the plant could take a generation or longer to clean up.

While radiation emissions have dropped significantly since the 11 March earthquake and tsunami, workers continue to operate in highly dangerous conditions.

Towns near Fukushima have responded cautiously to plans to build temporary storage sites for massive quantities of radioactive debris generated by the accident.

Almost eight months after the start of the crisis the government says the facilities will not be ready for at least another three years. In the meantime, towns will have to store the contaminated waste locally, despite health concerns.

To reach its target of halving radiation levels within two years the government will have to remove large quantities of soil. Scraping 4cm of topsoil from contaminated farmland in Fukushima prefecture would create more than 3m tonnes of waste, says the agriculture ministry, enough to fill 20 football stadiums.

Once completed, the storage facilities would hold soil and other contaminated waste for up to 30 years, local reports said.

"We have been aiming to start cleaning up as soon as possible," Toshiaki Kusano, an official in Fukushima city, told Reuters. "To do so we need to talk about where to store the waste, but we have not been able to answer the question residents are asking: how long it was going to stay there?"

I still stick by my estimate of a trillion dollars to clean this mess up completely.  Now we have a decent idea of the timeframe to go along with it.

Greek Fire, Part 46

Zee Germans have just opened up the Moon Door in the Eyrie and are looking to make Greece fly.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party voted to offer euro states a “voluntary” means of leaving the currency area.

CDU delegates meeting in the eastern German city of Leipzig for their annual party congress today backed a motion on the euro that included a clause permitting euro exits without exclusion from the European Union. They rejected an amendment that would have sought to change voting at the European Central Bank so that it is weighted according to economic size. 

This isn't a graceful exit, this is opening the emergency door on the plane while in flight and kicking Greece out, parachute optional.   You don't go to the trouble to craft a law giving countries optional exits from a collective currency unless you plan to see that law used.  Methinks some sort of gun will be held to Greece's head very shortly involving this, once enough other EU countries pass optional exit laws.  They'll follow Germany's lead, however.

Only question is how soon.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Oh look, Politico is pitching Obama is DOOOOOOOOOOMED stuff again.  Must be another Monday WIN THE NEWS CYCLE offensive with the President's numbers improving enough to mean that they have to serve penance for the Cain sexual assault story.

Sen. Joe Lieberman was treated like an outcast back in 2008 when he broke from the Senate Democratic Caucus and openly opposed Barack Obama’s bid for the White House.

Asked last week if he’d back Obama in 2012, the Connecticut independent said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

This time around, there may be more Liebermans.

A number of moderate Democrats like Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar and liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders are declining to give their unqualified support for the president, saying they’re either too focused on their own races or are calling on the White House to cater to their agendas before they will offer an endorsement. Some up for reelection in red states or in swing districts fear that even showing up on stage with Obama will give their opponents an image to seize upon — much as Democrats did in 2008 when they repeatedly flashed shots of Sen. John McCain hugging President George W. Bush.

Really?  Joe Lieberman doesn't know if he's going to support President Obama?  This is news?  Isn't he not running for reelection anyhow?  And Blue Dog Henry Cuellar is attacking President Obama from the right, while Bernie Sanders is making news by attacking POTUS from the left?  Wow, way to stay on top of the pulse of rapid Washington change, guys.

Then again, Politico thinks the President having a six point lead over Mitt Romney in their own poll makes Obama vulnerable.  Just causing problems, these guys.  Also, totally penance for the Cain story.

Helicopter Parents Doing No Favors

As advocates of parent-child rough-and-tumble play, we have often bumped up against the bubble-wrapping tendencies of the helicopter parent. So when Merriam-Webster announced recently that helicopter parent is now a bona fide entry in their dictionary, we took notice. The concept — a parent who is overly involved in the life and safety of his or her child — surely predates the first known use of the phrase, in 1989. But official inclusion in the dictionary suggests that helicoptering is not just a fad that will go out of style. In fact, more and more parents seem to be in hover mode these days, but the trend is worth standing up to. Because the truth is that children benefit from precisely the opposite of helicoptering: rowdy, physical, interactive play — or roughhousing. Roughhousing between parent and child, not helicoptering, makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, likable, ethical and physically fit

Helicopter parents might argue that roughhousing can cause bumps and bruises, but the other possible effects of helicoptering could be far worse. A recent Journal of Evolutionary Psychology article described that when children are helicoptered away from all risk, they aren’t safer, they are just more anxious. If they are never allowed to scale a jungle gym or have the chance to wrestle with their parents or another child, they are unable to develop appropriate coping mechanisms for failure, hurt or disappointment. They also have a harder time with confidence, courage and creativity.

Learning how to cope with life and all that it brings is a life skill that is being overlooked. Sometimes things don't make sense, and sometimes we have to rely on ourselves because we're alone when disaster strikes. Kids need the confidence in knowing they can take care of themselves, to deprive them of that is doing harm.

Treasure Hunting: You're Doing It Right

The people behind "Storage Wars" just stumbled upon their most incredible discovery yet -- a real-life pirates' chest that's at least 200 years old ... containing half a mil in gold doubloons[sic]

Dan and Laura Dotson came across the stash inside a foreclosed storage locker at an auction in Contra Costa County, CA -- which they sold off to one lucky bastard for just over a grand.

The Dotsons discovered the pirates booty after auctioning off the locker -- a small treasure an expert described as "Pieces of Eight Spanish Gold," dating anywhere between the 16th and 19th century.
It's just spiffy that something so cool has been discovered after sitting and waiting for who knows how long.

The Dems' Job Strategy Is Working, Part 2

Fresh off his success getting Congress to pass legislation to help find jobs for returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets, the next stage in President Obama's push for jobs bill is a similar $1 billion measure to hire, train, and deploy healthcare workers.

The Obama administration will announce Monday as much as $1 billion in funding to hire, train and deploy health-care workers, part of the White House’s broader “We Can’t Wait” agenda to bolster the economy after President Obama’s jobs bill stalled in Congress.

Grants can go to doctors, community groups, local government and other organizations that work with patients in federal health-care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The funds are for experimenting with different ways to expand the health-care workforce while reducing the cost of delivering care. There will be an emphasis on speed, with new programs expected to be running within six months of funding.

“This will open the inbox for many innovators and organizations that have an idea to bring to the table,” Don Berwick, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in an interview. “We’re seeking innovators, organizations and leaders that have an idea to bring into further testing.” 

On the surface, this seems like exactly the kind of program Republicans want in their approach to health care: venture capitalism for the doctors, hospitals, and medical device corporations to find better real-world solutions to lower Medicare and Medicaid costs.   The reality is I fully expect Republicans to scream "Obamacare!" and unanimously vote against it.

The fact of the matter is after Friday's Senate vote to approve a jobs measure for veterans, the Tea Party will expect their wishes to be heeded on this, and you should expect to see a number of Republicans dismiss the measure as part of the President's evil death panel machine or whatever.

It would be outstanding if I'm wrong on this, but I don't think I will be.

Big Men (And Women) Off Campus

The confluence of exploding college room and board and California's housing collapse has resulted in one heck of a set of digs for some smart university kids:  renting huge mansions for chump change for the semester.

Here in Merced, a city in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley and one of the country’s hardest hit by home foreclosures, the downturn in the real estate market has presented an unusual housing opportunity for thousands of college students. Facing a shortage of dorm space, they are moving into hundreds of luxurious homes in overbuilt planned communities.

Forget the off-to-college checklist of yesteryear (bedside lamp, laundry bag, under-the-bed storage trays). This is “Animal House” 2011.

Double-height Great Room? Check.

Five bedrooms? Check.

Chandeliers? Check.

Then there are the three-car garages, wall-to-wall carpeting, whirlpool baths, granite kitchen countertops, walk-in closets and inviting gas fireplaces.

“I mean, I have it all!” said Patricia Dugan, a senior majoring in management, who was reading Dario Fo’s “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” in her light-filled living room while soaking a silk caftan in one of two master bathroom sinks.

The finances of subdivision life are compelling: the university estimates yearly on-campus room and board at $13,720 a year, compared with roughly $7,000 off-campus. Sprawl rats sharing a McMansion — with each getting a bedroom and often a private bath — pay $200 to $350 a month each, depending on the amenities. 

Smart. I expect we'll see a lot more of this across the country, but especially in California and Nevada where the housing market disintegrated the fastest.  That is if we don't suffer another financial collapse, and the way Europe is going right now that's a distinct possibility.


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