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Monday Afternoon News Roundup

flu shot

Monday Afternoon News Roundup

Looks like the worst of the flu season is over.

Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down as Pope. Here’s a look back. I would like to take a moment and talk about the Catholic Church. First, as a caveat, I’m not Catholic. On the other hand, I do respect what the Catholic Church stands for. I am Christian. As a Christian, I’ve been deeply saddened by the lack of responsiveness that the Catholic Church has shown to its members. We have seen, over the last 5-10 years, the Catholic Church suffer a slow death by a thousand cuts. The problem with priests molesting children was originally exhibited as a tale of an isolated crazed individual, but it was much more than that. So, in this era of modern communications, instant messaging and 24-hour news service, one would figure that the Church would get out ahead of the story and admit its culpability, stand up and say that this type of behavior is unacceptable and will never be tolerated. Unless I missed it, I never heard that kind of admission. To me, as someone who is on the outside of the Catholic faith, this is an unfortunate legacy of Pope Benedict XVI. Finally, I just don’t understand the tradition of electing somebody who is in their late sixties or early seventies.

The cause of the Dinosaurs’ extinction has been theorized to be a meteor. There is now more evidence to support this theory.

In Oregon, protesters decided to exercise their rights by showing up to the State Capitol with guns.

By |2013-02-12T20:57:45-04:00February 11th, 2013|Mass Shooting, Religion, Science|6 Comments

More on the Financial Meltdown

I am currently in the middle of the book Too Big to Fail, while the book has some structural problems (too many little teeny details about who went to Harvard, what car they drove and who grew up poor, it is almost as if the author showing off that he’s done this research), the content is solid. This book tells this tale from yet another angle. I continue to be amazed at how many of the Wall Street CEOs had no idea of the enormity of their problem. At the same time, there’s almost no acknowledgment that they caused the problem. The other thing that seems to shine through in all of these financial meltdown books is the sense of privilege that piece Wall Street executives seem to have.

This leads me to William Cohan’s article in the New York Times. It seems that privilege is continuing:

Notwithstanding the fact that Judge Peck is now overseeing litigation in his courtroom about whether Barclays conned Lehman in the original sale and should have paid billions more for the business, he will have the opportunity, at a hearing on Aug. 18, to make another gutsy call: He can — and should — take a heroic stand against continuing to use the dwindling assets of the Lehman estate to pay the ongoing legal bills of Lehman’s former officers and directors, the very people who helped drive the firm off the cliff in the first place. Their culpability was made abundantly clear by the comprehensive 2,200-page post-mortem released in March by the special examiner, Anton Valukas.

Why should Lehman’s creditors, who stand to get pennies on the dollar when the bankruptcy case winds up years from now, foot the rapidly mounting legal bills for people like the former chief executive Dick Fuld and two of his top officers, Erin Callan and Ian Lowitt? More important, what kind of message does it send to existing and future corporate leaders if there is no limit to how far they can go to avoid taking responsibility — be it ethical, moral or financial — for their actions?

Judge Peck has the opportunity to say “no más” to Fuld & Co., who are plenty wealthy (Fuld is estimated to have been rewarded with nearly $500 million by Lehman between 2000 and 2008), and require them to start footing the bills for their own legal defense instead of continuing to suck millions in legal fees for their attorneys out of the estate. All payments have to be approved by Judge Peck s because of something known as the “automatic stay,” which — as its name suggests — puts an immediate and ongoing block on all payments to creditors of every stripe during a bankruptcy proceeding. To pay the legal bills of the former Lehman officers and directors, Judge Peck has to approve them, and that is the purpose of the Aug. 18 hearing. (more…)

By |2010-08-06T06:52:47-04:00August 6th, 2010|Economy|Comments Off on More on the Financial Meltdown

Mining for answers

A couple of days ago, I was going to post something on a mining disaster in China. Over 100 miners were trapped for more than a week. Somehow, 115 miners were rescued. They were alive. Before I had a chance to really investigate what happened and how they were saved, we had our own mining disaster. I hate these things. I really do. I believe we should be able to work and have a reasonable expectation of coming home — alive. There are some jobs that carry the risk of death — police officer, firefighter — to name a few. You should be able to work and in a safe environment. That should be our right here in the United States. It may turn out that there was no culpability and that this disaster, this horrible explosion, was a freak accident. Maybe, but I doubt it. Mining is dangerous. This is a fact. Whether you are in Russia, China or here in the United States, digging long tunnels underground and extracting a particular rock does carry an inherent risk. I know that some progressives are calling for tighter regulations and that may be needed. Right now, I just want our government to enforce the regulations that we have. I know that if I’m driving my car and I collect over 1000 violations, I won’t be driving my car anymore. (BTW, where is Obama? I’m just asking.)

My heart goes out to those who have lost their lives and their families who have to live on without them.

Update: I got an e-mail from Check this out. I think that it is very well done.

From Political Animal:

Ten years ago, the Big Branch Refuse Impoundment, a giant coal-waste reservoir owned by Massey in Inez, Kentucky, sprung a leak that flooded nearby waterways with so much sludge that it was declared the largest environmental catastrophe in the history of the Southeastern United States — bigger, in fact, than the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Monthly published a piece from Clara Bingham several years ago on the disaster.

On Oct. 11, 2000, in Inez, Ky., a town of 500 in the heart of the state’s coal fields, a coal-waste reservoir the size of 306 Olympic-size swimming pools sprang a leak. Within six hours, 300 million gallons of thick sludge had flooded out of the Big Branch Refuse Impoundment, a hilltop facility owned by Martin County Coal, and into two tributaries of the Big Sandy River, which courses along the Kentucky-West Virginia border before emptying into the Ohio River.

The gooey mixture of black water and coal tailings traveled downstream through Coldwater and Wolf creeks, and later through the river’s main stem, Tug Fork. Ten days later, an inky plume appeared in the Ohio River. On its 75-mile path of destruction, the sludge obliterated wildlife, killed 1.6 million fish, ransacked property, washed away roads and bridges, and contaminated the water systems of 27,623 people. Incredibly, no lives were lost. Even so, the EPA declared the spill the largest environmental catastrophe in the history of the southeastern United States. In fact, the Inez disaster was almost 30 times larger than the infamous Exxon Valdez tanker spill, which dumped 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

The company that owned the waste impoundment, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, the fourth largest coal producer in America, claimed that the flood was caused by an “act of God.” Jack Spadaro, superintendent of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, a training facility for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) based in Beckley, W. Va., was part of the team assembled by MSHA to investigate. Working with eight colleagues from MSHA, an arm of the Department of Labor that regulates the coal industry, Spadaro began interviewing engineers, miners, and mine company officials to determine what had caused the impoundment to break. The investigation, which began on the eve of the 2000 presidential election, had within a month begun to collect evidence that Spadaro’s team believed could prove negligence on the part of Martin County Coal.

The evidence was never published — the Bush administration, the beneficiary of generous support from Massey CEO Don Blankenship, intervened to quash the investigation. (Indeed, the Bush administration’s record on mining oversight was itself scandalous.)

Brad Johnson also has a good piece on this today, including details surrounding a deadly fire which broke out in the Massey-owned Aracoma Alma mine in 2006, burning two men alive.

Coal River Valley activist Lorelei Scarbro, meanwhile, told CNN, “Massey Energy’s record speaks for itself. With an enormous amount of violations and previous deaths at this mine, I will leave it to you to decide if this company puts profits before the safety of its workers or views its employees as a disposable commodity.”

By |2010-04-11T10:14:57-04:00April 11th, 2010|Environment|Comments Off on Mining for answers
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