Corbett’s budget cuts in Pennsylvania = 700 jobs lost, 500 of them teachers, in the Lehigh Valley. Wheee!
They do such great investigative work (BP oil spill, Haiti — just to name two) and they’re having a fund drive. Money well spent, if you can afford to throw them a few bucks!
TOKYO — Japanese authorities raised Tuesday their rating of the severity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis to the highest level on an international scale, equal to that of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Officials with Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission reclassified the ongoing emergency from level 5, an “accident with off-site risk,” to level 7, a “major accident.” The reassessment comes at a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency says the plant is showing “early signs of recovery” but still in a critical condition.
The plant’s debilitated reactors face constant threat of strong aftershocks, and the latest on Tuesday morning — a 6.2-magnitude temblor — caused a brief fire at a water sampling facility near Daiichi’s No. 4 reactor. The Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the power plant, said that the critical process used to cool the hot fuel rods had not been interrupted, and radiation levels showed no signs of change.
A level 7 accident, according to the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, is typified by a “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects.”
[...] Radiation leaking from Fukushima Daiichi amounts to about 10 percent of that from the Chernobyl accident, a Nuclear Safety Commission official, who was not named, said on national television.
[...] According to the Kyodo news agency, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission reported Monday that the plant, at one point after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, had been releasing 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactivity per hour. The report did not specify when those radiation readings occurred. A release of tens of thousands of terabecquerels per hour, though, correspondents with the radiation leakage level that the IAEA uses as a minimum benchmark for a level 7 accident.
“This corresponds to a large fraction of the core inventory of a power reactor, typically involving a mixture of short- and long-lived radionuclides,” an IAEA document says. “With such a release, stochastic health effects over a wide area, perhaps involving more than one country, are expected.”
And of course, we are still avoiding the world “meltdown” — although, according to Rep. Ed Markey, the nuclear core has already melted through the reactor vessel.
Our judicial branch is very, very broken:
Recently Slate ran a commentary on Connick v. Thompson, declaring, “Clarence Thomas writes one of the meanest Supreme Court decisions ever.” They detail at length the penchant of the Scalia-Thomas dyad for being cruel simply because they can be – or more accurately, because they feel justified that their “originalist” interpretation makes them unbiased arbiters of the law. Slate notes that Thomas and Scalia bend over backwards to excuse the actions of the state even though lower courts and the prosecutors themselves have admitted that egregious errors were made. While it is understandable to focus on the human costs of this decision, Slate overlooks a much more important fact: they’re wrong. In writing this decision they completely ignored 30 years of precedent in favor of “legislating from the bench” and “judicial activism” and all the other buzzwords that, curiously enough, I did not hear any conservative Champions of the Individual Against Encroaching Powers of the State apply to the justices’ actions in this case.
First, some background.
It’s complicated, I won’t try to break it out. But please, go read the whole thing.
The L.A. Times frame on this story was wrong, wrong, wrong. Obama will, as I predicted here after last week’s call with Nancy Pelosi, throw his weight behind the Catfood Commission plan:
President Obama plans this week to respond to a Republican blueprint for tackling the soaring national debt by promoting a bipartisan approach pioneered by an independent presidential commission rather than introducing his own detailed plan.
Obama will not blaze a fresh path when he delivers a much-anticipated speech Wednesday afternoon at George Washington University. Instead, he is expected to offer support for the commission’s work and a related effort underway in the Senate to develop a strategy for curbing borrowing. Obama will frame the approach as a responsible alternative to the 2012 plan unveiled last week by House Republicans, according to people briefed by the White House.
Just as I predicted. All the hoo-hah over the Ryan plan was only to soften us up for what Obama wanted all along: The plan from his handpicked members of the Catfood Commission. Just like he did with the healthcare plan, he sat down with the players and worked out his own back-door “bipartisan” deal to sidestep that messy democracy thing he finds so distasteful.
Letting others take the lead on complex problems has become a hallmark of the Obama presidency. On health care, last year’s tax deal and the recent battle over 2011 spending cuts, Obama has repeatedly waited as others set the parameters of the debate, swooping in late to cut a deal. The tactic has produced significant victories but exposed Obama to criticism that he has shown a lack of leadership.
Like the House GOP budget plan, the Senate effort — led by three Democrats and three Republicans known as the Gang of Six — aims to cut about $4 trillion from the debt over the next decade. But the group is looking to reduce spending in all categories, while urging a rewrite of the tax code that would raise revenue. The Republican plan would cut spending on domestic programs while protecting the military and preserving George W. Bush-era tax cuts that disproportionately benefit high earners.
The work of the Gang of Six is modeled on recommendations of the fiscal commission Obama appointed last year. On Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the commission had “created a framework that may help us reach a deal and a compromise.”
“The fiscal commission showed that you need to look at entitlements, you need to look at tax expenditures, you need to look at military spending, you need to look at all of these issues,” Carney said. “You can’t — you can’t simply slash entitlements, lower taxes and call that a fair deal.”
If the L.A. Times is right, this is the best news we’ve had in a while. You know, I don’t even care why Obama’s finally taking a strong liberal position on this budget. I don’t care if his campaign staff polled the reaction, choked on the numbers and it’s a cynical response to get re-elected. (And I’m not saying it is — this may have been his intention all along, and if so, I was clearly wrong. If it wasn’t, it doesn’t matter as long as he’s now changing course.)
All I care about is, a Democratic president should not be kicking the nation’s neediest when they’re down and then lining the pockets of the already-rich. So today, I’m going to allow myself to hope that the president is simply doing the right thing for the right reasons:
Reporting from Washington— President Obama will call for shrinking the nation’s long-term deficits by raising taxes on wealthier Americans and requiring them to pay more into Social Security, drawing a barbed contrast with a Republican plan to save money by deeply slashing Medicare, Medicaidand other domestic spending.
Obama will offer some spending cuts, including trims to the Pentagon’s budget, but his speech Wednesday is likely to provide Americans with a vivid choice between higher taxes or fewer benefits, issues that will color the national debate straight through the 2012 election.
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