The girl in the bubble

Sherwin-Williams Paints, Miles City

In case you’re as sensitive to paint fumes as I am (and yes, I tried the no-VOC and still got sick), I just wanted to let you know that Sherwin-Williams makes a paint line with minimal additives that’s designed for use in hospitals and schools.

The funny thing is, I love Sherwin-Williams paint. The only reason I don’t use it more often is the closest one was all the way in South Philly — or so I thought. It turns out there’s one of their stores less than a half-mile from my house! (The manager said they had a Google search problem they finally got straightened out, because they weren’t turning up in the results.)

The manager said the big-box stores throw a lot of additives in there to increase the profit margin, whereas most paint stores have paint that’s mostly paint. (This is true. It’s something I learned this morning after I found a online message board for professional painters, who were complaining about the respiratory effects of the no-VOC paints.)

The young woman who was waiting on me said, “Do you have a latex allergy?”

The light bulb went on. “As a matter of fact, I do,” I said. “But paint? It applies to paint fumes?”

Yeah, I guess it’s an issue.

The biggest American nuke disaster you never heard of

Hanford, Washington.

As much as a million gallons of radioactive waste have leaked from Hanford’s underground tanks—more than all of the leaks from all other nuclear facilities in the U.S. combined, according to Tom Carpenter, an attorney and the executive director of Hanford Challenge. The watchdog group represents Hanford workers and whistleblowers.

In a letter to Washington State Attorney-General Bob Ferguson in April, Hanford Challenge alleged that 38 workers had been exposed to vapors since March and urged the state to act where the Energy Department hasn’t. There are currently about 11,000 workers at the site.

Another 20 Years of Failure

Further, contractors at Hanford have had a string of problems, from corruption to failing to meet deadlines. That kind of performance by the Department of Energy and its contractors is why there’s no end in sight to the cleanup, he said.

“The one common denominator there is the Department of Energy and until you change them out as the manager of the cleanup, we’re going to see another 20 years of failure out there,” Carpenter said.

The delays are mainly due to the discovery of new waste, said Cameron Hardy, spokesman for the Energy Department’s Richland, Washington, office. He said most of the contractors now are “high-performing. There was the potential for a lot of abuse in the early years, but things have changed since then.”

A couple tries to cancel their Comcast service


Please note: this conversation starts about 10 minutes in — by this point my wife and I are both completely flustered by the oppressiveness of the rep.
So! Last week my wife called to disconnect our service with Comcast after we switched to another provider (Astound). We were transferred to cancellations (aka “customer retention”).

The representative (name redacted) continued aggressively repeating his questions, despite the answers given, to the point where my wife became so visibly upset she handed me the phone. Overhearing the conversation, I knew this would not be very fun.

What I did not know is how oppressive this conversation would be. Within just a few minutes the representative had gotten so condescending and unhelpful I felt compelled to record the speakerphone conversation on my other phone.

This recording picks up roughly 10 minutes into the call, whereby she and I have already given a myriad of reasons and explanations as to why we are canceling (which is why I simply stopped answering the reps repeated question — it was clear the only sufficient answer was “Okay, please don’t disconnect our service after all.”).

Another round of wingnut attacks on Social Security

This time, for disability coverage:

Issa’s implication is that almost all the applicants approved by these judges are unworthy. He’s hoping to shock taxpayers by stating that between 2005 and 2013, the judges “placed over 3.2 million people on federal disability programs at a total cost of nearly one trillion dollars.”

There’s a good lesson there in how to turn a modest number into a scary one. Issa arrives at $1 trillion by multiplying 3.2 million by $300,000, which is the estimate of some MIT researchers of the present value cost of disability and Medicare for the typical disability recipient. The real value? The MIT researchers use $1,120 a month in disability payments. But that figure wouldn’t serve Issa’s purpose of making the cost of disability seem horrific.

Issa doesn’t leave any doubt about where he’s going with this. Social Security Disability is likely to run out of money in 2016; at that point the most obvious fix would be to shift some money from Social Security’s retirement fund to disability, as Congress has done in the past.

In his letter to Colvin, Issa signaled his hostility to this option. He tried to place all the blame for the program’s ills on the Social Security Administration. “A bailout of the disability fund after at least a decade of serious agency mismanagement and at the expense of the SSA retirement program, without meaningful reforms to a broken appeals process…is not a responsible solution.”

Can you see what’s coming? He’s talking about cutting disability grants or denying appeals. Disability advocates better bulk up now for the coming battle to preserve America’s promise to take care of its disabled population; it’s going to be a hard and ugly fight.

‘Gotten rid of the green crap’

So Cameron’s new UK cabinet has gotten rid of environmentalists. In light of the widespread winter deluges, that’s just plain crazy.

First the “badgers moved the goalposts”. Now environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has been shown the red card in a cabinet reshuffle.

The environmental views of Paterson’s replacement, Liz Truss, are little known, but the former Shell employee is a free market enthusiast who backed the doomed sell-off of public forests. That suggests someone who – like Paterson – sees environmental protection as so much red tape to cut.

Elsewhere in the reshuffle, the departure of foreign secretary, William Hague, who clearly recognised climate change as the global strategic threat it is, and irrepressible green cheerleader Greg Barker as energy minister, removes two of a rare breed: strong green Tory voices in government.

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