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You’ve heard about Flint, MI, a city of 100,000 people. In 2012 the city was placed under emergency management by the state of Michigan due to its excessive debt. A series of unelected city managers were installed to run it and those managers changed Flint’s water suppliers to save about $5 million. During the gap in coverage between the two suppliers–around April of 2014–the city was switched to its backup water source, the Flint River.

The Flint River is polluted with factory runoff and contains high chlorides from road salt runoff. Residents immediately noticed a change in water quality and in late April, coliform bacteria were detected in the city water as a result of testing. Later, high levels of trihalomethane were detected, a result of the water plant’s overuse of chlorine to stop the bacteria.

The plant also neglected to use orthophosphates to remove lead from the water. When the chlorides in the water leached lead out of Flint’s old piping, the doubled source of lead in the city’s water created a lead crisis. As an aside–the city also suffered the largest outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease–a water-borne illness–in the past ten years.

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Accountability

So a Missouri school district has announced a policy to treat all fights as felonies

Arrest of children by officers correlates with worse academic performance, non-graduation, and a continued criminal history throughout life. Charging kids with crimes isn’t an answer. Prisons do remove harmful folks from society, but too many times they’re used as retribution instead of rehabilitation. A way to take people we call bad and to make them vaguely suffer, out of sight and out of mind.

Kids or no, incarceration is a blow to someone’s future and if that blow is the intent of the criminal justice system, the jail doesn’t seem necessary; the conviction should be enough punishment on its own. But it’s not; people should be locked up in order to allow for the development of skills which allow them to succeed in society according to the social and legal rules we have collectively created. Imprisonment should not then come with the weight of conviction which weighs down a criminal’s job prospects and civil rights.

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New Safe Containment

The New Safe Containment for Chernobyl has started moving into position over the Chernobyl reactor. Chernobyl has been covered by an impromptu sarcophagus since the initial accident in 1986, but that was always a temporary measure. The New Safe Containment is the largest mobile, land-based structure ever built. It’s tall enough to contain the statue of liberty and it’s being slid into position over the reactor on a special track. This news came up on the 14th and it won’t be until Saturday that it’ll be in position. It’s big and slow.

But still, despite all of the news lately, including the conga line of world leaders who congratulated Trump and reminded you that wow there have been some shit elections lately, it’s good to remember that forty-odd countries can put down a billion dollars to do something for the common good.

It’s good news. Nuclear power is something that I’ve supported since, y’know, being in the Naval Nuclear Power Program. I used to think that it was a good transitional power before we went full solar. As long as we could respect its power, we could use it safely.

Sadly, it looks like the window of nuclear power is closing as renewables get better. Maybe it’s for the best; I like safe nuclear power (yes, I know this is a post about Chernobyl) as a testament to mankind’s resolute, technical prowess. Kind of a static, “we can still do these things.” As if we still went to the moon on a regular basis, but solar is the safer, more reasonable alternative. Or it will be soon.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/15/502165456/gigantic-shield-moves-into-place-to-cover-exploded-chernobyl-reactor

Speaking of responsible use of power, Facebook and Google are going to start being more responsible about how their funds are channeled towards false news content. I mean, there’s a segment of the public which in the aftermath of our latest election want to point the fingers at anyone but themselves over the fact that they and their candidate lost. Those guys have at long last found some corner of the world where their omnidirectional scorn passes the sniff test. Maybe if you run a channel for information that pulls in massive amounts of money, you should be responsible for what’s in that channel.

Like, Facebook and Google as news sources are not–and should not be–coin operated business. It turns out that anything powerful enough to pull in millions of dollars is worth hiring a person to do quality control for. If that cuts into your bottom line, that’s the price of doing business. That is literally a price paid for being a responsible businessperson. Bare minimum.

Especially given the hypocrisy. Facebook and Google congratulate themselves on being great venues to create a better world. And yet it’s taken them this long–and it’s a good thing they’re doing it–to actually ensure that the services they’re providing actually serving a common good. Up until that point, they generally claimed they were responsible for every good thing that happened as a result of their existence and denied responsibility for all of the bad things.

I feel like I’m rambling, but it’s good to see a course correction.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/15/technology/google-will-ban-websites-that-host-fake-news-from-using-its-ad-service.html?_r=0/

A Full Pardon

So Alan Turing was a mathematical genius who helped the British win World War II for The British with his codebreaking skills. However, after the war he was indicted under public indecency laws of the time because of his homosexuality. He was sentenced to have to take female hormones to blunt his sex drive and he killed himself a few years later.

The government of Britain officially apologized to Turing and pardoned him in 2013. Now, a new bill will be introduced by Prime Minister Theresa May to pardon another 49,000 men who were indicted under public indecency laws before they were repealed in 1967.

I always wonder if it’s worth it for a government to take time to redress something that’s long since over. On the other hand, in 2003 the United States Congress renamed french fries “freedom fries.”

Actually, one guy changed the congressional cafeteria menu, but it counts.

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/alan-turing-law-government-pardon-rachel-barnes-historic-crimes-a7370621.html

Watts Bar 2

The first US nuclear reactor to come online in the last 20 years is in the Tennessee Valley Authority. Watts Bar 2 came in 6.5 Billion dollars over budget, allegedly due to nuclear regulation.

Of course, no one from CNN to the LA Times to Forbes backs that up. Everyone seems hung up on the 20-year construction delay.  Watts Bar 1, a sister reactor, went online in 1996 and it took almost nine years to build Watts Bar 2. You’ll find a lot of sprawling think-pieces which provide these basic facts, generously padded with timeline of nuclear disasters from Three Mile Island to Chernobyl and ending in Fukushima.

News articles on the subject seem authoritative until they describe the iconic cooling towers used to remove excess heat as “reactors.” Everyone is quick to bemoan the cultural insecurity which caused nuclear decline, whether it’s coded as regulatory smothering, environmental hyperactivism, or investment cowardice.

Really though, the focus should be the loss of technical literacy which makes supporters and opponents of nuclear power incapable of speaking intelligently on the subject at all.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/20/us/tennessee-nuclear-power-plant/index.html

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-america-s-newest-nuke-plant-20151011-column.html

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rodadams/2016/10/19/watts-bar-is-now-commercial/#30966e7222c9

micdotcom:

News chopper catches police beating a man who had surrendered after a car chase

Fox affiliate WFXT’s news helicopter, the “SkyFox,” inadvertently caught police in Nashua, New Hampshire, brutally beat a the subject of a car chase who was crawling out of his truck and surrendering on Wednesday evening. More on the suspect, chase and police department response.

micdotcom:

And yet, even a century after her death, Tubman is still facing adversity.