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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Fukushima, A Crisis Still Unfolding

What follows is a report on Fukushima that is chilling.  Wm Boardman published this over at OpEdNews.  A portion of it is posted here for those following this blog and those trying to find follow-up news on what is happening at Fukushima.

Fukushima Spiking All of a Sudden


By William Boardman

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back toReader Supported News.

Bad as the situation is at Fukushima, it’s gotten worse.

Perhaps you’ve heard that radiation levels of the water leaving the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear power plane and flowing into the Pacific Ocean have risen by roughly 9,000 per cent. Turns out, that’s probably putting a good face on it.

By official measurement, the water coming out of Fukushima is currently 90,000 times more radioactive than officially “safe” drinking water.

These are the highest radiation levels measured at Fukusmima since March 2011, when an earthquake-triggered tsunami destroyed the plant’s four nuclear reactors, three of which melted down.

As with all nuclear reporting, precise and reliable details are hard to come by, but the current picture as of July 10 seems to be something like this:

”   On July 5, radiation levels at Fukushima were what passes for “normal,” which means elevated and dangerous, but stable, according to measurements by the owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

”   On July 8, radiation levels had jumped about 90 times higher, as typically reported.  TEPCO had no explanation for the increase.

”   On July 9, radiation levels were up again from the previous day, but at a slower rate, about 22 per cent.  TEPCO still had no explanation.

”   On July 10, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) issued a statement saying that the NRA strongly suspects the radioactive water is coming from Fukushima’s Reactor #1 and is going into the Pacific.

We Must Do Something About This Thing With No Impact

“We must find the cause of the contamination . . . and put the highest priority on implementing countermeasures,” NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told an NRA meeting, according to Japan Times.

As for TEPCO, the paper reported, “The utility has claimed it has detected “no significant impact’ on the environment.”

“in the SNAFU sense of “Normal'”

Neither the NRA nor TEPCO has determined why the level of radioactivity has been increasing. Both characterize the increase as a “spike,” but so far this is a “spike” that has not yet started to come down.

Here’s another perspective on the same situation:

”   10 becquerels per liter — The officially “safe” level for radioactivity in drinking water, as set by the NRA.

A becquerel is a standard scientific measure of radioactivity, similar in some ways to a rad or a rem or a roentgen or a sievert or a curie, but not equivalent to any of them.  But you don’t have to understand the nuances of nuclear physics to get a reasonable idea of what’s going on in Fukushima.  Just keep the measure of that safe drinking water in mind, that liter of water, less than a quart, with 10 becquerels of radioactivity.

”  60 becquerels per liter — For nuclear power plants, the safety limit for drinking water is 60 becquerels, as set by the NRA, with less concern for nuclear plant workers than ordinary civilians.

”   60-90 becquerels per liter — For waste water at nuclear power plants, the NRA sets a maximum standard of 90 becquerels per liter for Cesium-137 and 60 becquerels per liter of Cesium-134.

At some of Fukushima’s monitoring wells, radiation levels were in fractions of a becquerel on July 8 and 9. At the well (or wells) that are proving problematical, TEPCO has provided no baseline readings.

”  9,000 becquerels per liter — On July 8, according to TEPCO, the company measured radioactive Cesium-134 at 9,000 becquerels per liter.  Since TEPCO characterized this as 90 times higher than on July 5, the implication is that the earlier reading (about 100) was less than twice as toxic as the allowable limit and only 10 times more toxic than drinking water for civilians.

”   11,000 becquerels per liter — TEPCO’s measurement of Cesium-134 on July 9.    

”    18,000 becquerels per liter — TEPCO measurement of  Cesium-137 on July 8.

”    22,000 becquerels per liter — TEPCO’s measurement of Cesium-137 on July 9.

”    900,000 becquerels per liter — TEPCO’s measurement of the total radioactivity in the water leaking from Reactor #1.  This radiation load includes both Cesium isotopes, as well as Tritium, Strontium and other beta emitters.  There are more that 60 radioactive substances that have been identified at the Fukushima site.

A becquerel is a measure of the radioactivity a substance is emitting, a measure of thepotential danger. There is no real danger from radiation unless you get too close to it — or it gets too close to you, especially from inhalation or ingestion.

Nobody Knows If It Will Get Worse, Get Better, or Just Stay Bad

The water flow through the Fukushima accident site is substantial and constant, both from groundwater and from water pumped into the reactors and fuel pools to prevent further meltdowns.

In an effort to prevent the water from reaching the ocean, TEPCO is building what amounts to a huge, underground dike — “a deeply sunken coastal containment wall.”  The NRA is calling on TEPCO to finish the project before its scheduled 2015 completion date.

Meanwhile, radiation levels remain high and no one knows for sure how to bring them down, or even if they can be brought down by any means other than waiting however long it takes.

Canadian Tar Sands Leak Still a Mystery

Canadian Tar Sands Leaking a Mystery Still

Here is another reason why we shouldn’t be anxious for approve pipe lines for Canadian Tar Sands oil.  I haven’t read this yet in the US main stream media.  I suppose they’ll get around to it.  For pictures and more information, please go to the The Star’s website at the URL provided below.  What is causing this spill is a mystery as is everything else surrounding it.

News / Canada

‘Nobody understands’ spills at Alberta oil sands operation

Oil spills at an oil sands operation in Cold Lake, Alberta have been going on for weeks with no end in sight, according to a government scientist.

 By: Emma Pullman and Martin Lukacs Special to the Star, Published on Fri Jul 19 2013

Oil spills at a major oil sands operation in Alberta have been ongoing for at least six weeks and have cast doubts on the safety of underground extraction methods, according to documents obtained by the Star and a government scientist who has been on site.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been unable to stop an underground oil blowout that has killed numerous animals and contaminated a lake, forest, and muskeg at its operations in Cold Lake, Alta.

The documents indicate that, since cleanup started in May, some 26,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with surface water have been removed, including more than 4,500 barrels of bitumen.

The scientist said Canadian Natural Resources is not disclosing the scope of spills in four separate sites, which have been off bounds to media and the public because the operations are on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, where there is active weapons testing by the Canadian military.

The company says it is effectively managing and cleaning up the spills.

“The areas have been secured and the emulsion is being managed with clean up, recovery and reclamation activities well underway. The presence of emulsion on the surface does not pose a health or human safety risk. The sites are located in a remote area which has restricted access to the public. The emulsion is being effectively cleaned up with manageable environmental impact,” the company said in a statement.

The documents and photos show dozens of animals, including beavers and loons, have died, and that 30,600 kg of oily vegetation has been cleared from the latest of the four spill zones.

The company’s operations use an “in situ” or underground extraction technology called “cyclic steam stimulation,” which involves injecting thousands of gallons of superhot, high-pressure steam into deep underground reservoirs. This heats and liquefies the hard bitumen and creates cracks through which the bitumen flows and is then pumped to the surface.

The scientist, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their job, said the operation was in chaos.

“Everybody (at the company and in government) is freaking out about this,” said the scientist. “We don’t understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven’t put the measures into place.”

In response to emailed questions from the Star, Canadian Natural Resources said it was co-operating with the regulator.

“We are investigating the likely cause of the occurrence, which we believe to be mechanical,” the company said.

“Canadian Natural has existing groundwater monitoring in place and we are undertaking aquatic and sediment sampling to monitor and mitigate any potential impacts. As part of our wildlife mitigation program, wildlife deterrents have been deployed in the area to protect wildlife.

“We are saddened that unfortunately some animal fatalities occurred between the time of the incident and the deployment of our animal deterrent systems. All of the fatalities have been reported to the Alberta Energy Regulator.”

The company added that it has “taken appropriate steps to ensure no additional impact to wildlife or the environment and that the incident site is reclaimed.”

Canadian Natural Resources did not respond to the charge that they aren’t disclosing the scope of the spills.

Oil companies have said in situ methods are more environmentally friendly than the open-pit mining often associated with the Alberta oil sands, but in situ is more carbon and water-intensive.

“In the course of injecting steam they’ve created fractures from the reservoir to the surface that they didn’t expect,” said the scientist, who is speaking out over concern that neither the company nor Alberta’s regulatory bodies would properly address the situation.

On Thursday, the Alberta Energy Regulator confirmed there were four spills in the last few months, and ordered Canadian Natural Resources to restrict its steam injections and enhance monitoring at the operations in Cold Lake.

Regulator official Bob Curran said the latest spill is spread across 40 hectares.

Canadian Natural Resources disputed that figure Friday. “We have the mapped area impacted to be significantly less than 40 hectares with the area being reduced daily through effective cleanup efforts,” the company said.

Critics say such spills raise questions about the safety and viability of in situ extraction, which by 2020 is expected to account for as much as 40 per cent of Canada’s oil sands production, because many of Alberta’s deposits cannot be mined.

“This is a new kind of oil spill and there is no ‘off button,’ ” said Keith Stewart, an energy analyst with Greenpeace who teaches a course on energy policy and environment at the University of Toronto. “You can’t cap it like a conventional oil well or turn off a valve on a pipeline.

“You are pressurizing the oil bed so hard that it’s no wonder that it blows out. This means that the oil will continue to leak until the well is no longer pressurized,” which means the bitumen could be seeping from the ground for months.

The company said the process is sound and has a good track record over 30 years in Alberta. It said that nevertheless it is reviewing its wellbores “to enhance wellbore integrity and modify steaming strategies to prevent the remote possibility of these events in the future.”

The Cold Lake operations are on the traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation, which is pursuing a constitutional challenge that argues the cumulative impacts of oil sands industrial development are infringing their treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap.

As well, the First Nation says there are graves alongside the lake in the area affected by the spills, and that band members have been unable to access that area.

Helen Thomas – R.I.P.

A wonderful person and a journalist of historic significance

It is sad to read of Helen Thomas’ passing. She lead an exemplary life as a journalist and a woman. She has had a very positive impact on journalism. The nation’s history during her time with us is a bit more honest and open because of her. She asked the tough questions that her male colleagues didn’t think or dare to ask. Presidents were forced to anticipate her questions when planning what to say. Which Washington pool reporter today has that impact on the White House?

Ms. Thomas would find it a fitting tribute if in reviewing her life, career, and her impeachable integrity as a journalist, that we use her example to deepen our examination of journalism as it is practiced today. This is especially opportune at a time when whistle blowers are pursued as traitors, telephones at news agencies are bugged and journalists turn on their own for printing what every American has a right to know about what government is doing. I hope some of the young journalists coming up today will take some lessons from Helen Thomas and show the courage that she displayed over her career. And I hope that news organizations find the courage to challenge their corporate over lords and empower journalists to uncover what is true and important for the rest of us know.


On a more personal note, while I never met Ms. Thomas, she was very kind and welcoming to two young journalists in my familly when they first arrived in Washington. She was, and remains an inspiration for many. Knowing how much I admired her my family gave me a copy of her book, “Watchdogs of Democracy” which she very kindly signed for me. Thank you, Helen.

Texas, Where Carbon is King

Take one look at the state-by-state CO2 admission rates and it is immediately apparent that two states stand out from the rest, California and Texas. Of these two, Texas stands head and shoulders over California. Over the span of ten years Texas produced over 7.5 trillion metric tons of CO2, That is more than the 19 lowest emissions states plus D.C. combined. Amost 12% of al the CO2 emissions generated in the United States came from Texas. Californai produced 6.6% while Pensyulvania, Ohio, Florida and Illinois each produce between 4.6% and 4% of the nations CO2 emissions.

What are the implications for carbon conservation when more than one-sixth (18.3%) of all CO2 emissions are coming from just two states? For one thing it suggests that focusing national efforts on Texas and California can produce the biggest improvements in the short term. Furthermore, the data suggests that half the states with the lowest emissions are already working harder to reduce further carbon emissions that higher CO2 producing states. Among the higher CO2 producing states, Florida, Georga, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorodo and South Carolina increased their carbon polution between 2000 and 2010.  Of these, the states with the highest rate of increase were Arazona (9.9%) and Colorado (11.8%). The largest state increase in carbon emissions over ten years was Nabraska (16.0%). So focusing our national effort on just a hand full of states might be the best strategy to make the biggest and quickest improvements in our carbon footprint in the world.


Release Date:
 May 13, 2013  |  Next Release Date: May 2014  |   full report State-Level Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2000-2010

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions vary significantly across states (Figure 1), whether considered on an absolute or per capita basis. The overall size of a state, as well as the available fuels, types of businesses, climate, and population density, play a role in both total and per capita emissions. Additionally, each state’s energy system reflects circumstances specific to that state. For example, some states are located near abundant hydroelectric supplies, while others contain abundant coal resources.This paper presents a basic analysis of the factors that contribute to a state’s carbon dioxide profile. This analysis neither attempts to assess the effect of state policies on absolute emissions levels or on changes over time, nor does it intend to imply that certain policies would be appropriate for a particular state.
The term “energy-related carbon dioxide emissions” as used in this paper, includes emissions released at the location where fossil fuels are used. For feedstock application, carbon stored in products such as plastics are not included in reported emissions for the states where they are produced.
Table 1. State energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by year (2000 – 2010)
million metric tons carbon dioxide
 2000 to 2010
State 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Percent Absolute
District of Columbia 4.3 4.1 4.2 3.9 4.0 3.9 3.2 3.4 3.1 3.2 3.3 -23.6% -1.0 40.6
Vermont 6.8 6.6 6.4 6.5 7.0 6.8 6.7 6.6 6.1 6.3 6.0 -10.8% -0.7 71.9
Rhode Island 11.6 12.1 11.6 11.3 10.8 11.0 10.4 11.0 10.6 11.3 11.0 -4.8% -0.6 122.6
South Dakota 14.1 13.4 13.7 13.6 13.7 13.2 13.3 13.9 15.1 14.9 15.1 7.3% 1.0 154.1
Delaware 16.3 15.7 15.5 16.1 16.1 17.0 15.8 16.7 15.9 11.8 11.7 -27.9% -4.5 168.7
Idaho 15.6 15.5 14.9 14.2 15.5 15.7 15.8 16.3 15.8 15.4 16.2 4.0% 0.6 170.9
New Hampshire 17.5 16.9 17.6 20.8 21.9 21.3 19.4 19.3 19.1 17.3 17.0 -2.8% -0.5 208.0
Hawaii 18.8 19.2 20.5 21.5 22.6 23.2 23.5 24.4 19.7 18.9 18.9 0.7% 0.1 231.1
Maine 22.3 22.4 24.0 23.4 24.0 23.1 21.3 21.0 19.4 18.6 18.5 -17.1% -3.8 238.1
Montana 31.3 31.9 30.7 32.7 34.5 35.5 35.8 37.8 36.1 32.5 34.9 11.4% 3.6 373.6
Connecticut 42.8 41.5 39.9 42.3 44.4 43.9 40.9 40.3 38.2 36.5 36.9 -13.7% -5.8 447.7
Oregon 41.2 40.6 39.1 39.3 40.6 41.0 40.3 43.8 43.2 41.2 40.3 -2.4% -1.0 450.6
Nevada 45.3 44.6 41.4 43.4 47.7 49.8 41.5 41.8 41.2 39.7 38.1 -15.9% -7.2 474.3
Alaska 44.3 43.4 43.6 43.5 46.8 48.1 45.8 44.1 39.5 37.9 38.7 -12.6% -5.6 475.6
Nebraska 41.4 42.7 42.2 43.0 43.1 43.5 44.1 44.5 46.5 46.8 48.0 16.0% 6.6 485.7
North Dakota 50.8 51.7 51.4 50.9 49.5 52.4 50.8 52.6 53.1 51.4 52.5 3.3% 1.7 567.1
New Mexico 58.0 58.2 55.2 57.3 58.5 59.1 59.9 59.1 57.6 58.5 54.8 -5.5% -3.2 636.2
Arkansas 63.2 62.4 60.9 61.3 61.9 59.7 61.6 63.1 63.7 61.6 66.1 4.6% 2.9 685.8
Wyoming 62.7 63.0 61.7 63.4 63.4 62.8 63.7 66.1 66.8 63.7 64.9 3.5% 2.2 702.3
Mississippi 60.6 69.4 61.9 63.2 64.8 63.2 65.4 67.7 64.1 60.4 65.5 8.0% 4.9 706.1
Utah 65.1 62.9 62.1 62.7 65.3 67.0 68.3 70.4 69.9 65.0 64.2 -1.3% -0.9 723.0
Kansas 76.1 71.8 76.6 78.4 75.8 72.0 72.1 80.1 76.9 75.0 75.0 -1.3% -1.0 829.7
Maryland 77.5 78.0 77.9 80.4 82.0 83.9 77.5 78.1 74.7 71.4 70.5 -9.0% -7.0 852.0
Washington 82.8 79.4 72.8 74.5 76.7 78.3 76.3 81.8 79.6 77.5 76.1 -8.1% -6.7 855.9
Massachusetts 82.2 82.1 82.9 83.8 82.6 84.3 76.4 80.0 77.2 71.0 73.0 -11.2% -9.2 875.6
Iowa 77.7 76.6 77.2 76.4 78.9 78.9 80.2 85.7 88.3 83.8 88.7 14.1% 11.0 892.4
South Carolina 79.3 78.0 79.2 79.5 87.1 85.7 86.4 87.0 85.5 80.7 84.0 5.9% 4.7 912.5
Colorado 84.7 92.8 90.9 90.0 93.1 95.4 96.4 99.2 97.6 93.7 96.5 13.9% 11.8 1,030.3
Arizona 86.0 88.3 87.7 89.3 96.6 96.7 100.0 102.2 103.1 94.6 95.9 11.6% 9.9 1,040.5
Minnesota 97.7 94.7 97.3 101.0 100.6 101.7 99.1 100.9 100.6 93.1 93.4 -4.4% -4.3 1,080.3
Wisconsin 107.5 105.5 106.7 104.3 107.1 110.5 102.7 104.7 105.7 96.7 99.2 -7.7% -8.3 1,150.6
Oklahoma 100.1 101.4 101.6 103.5 99.8 106.9 110.2 109.6 113.1 104.9 103.4 3.4% 3.4 1,154.5
West Virginia 113.4 103.5 116.2 112.5 109.8 111.9 112.2 114.6 110.6 89.1 98.9 -12.7% -14.4 1,192.8
Virginia 122.3 120.0 118.5 122.2 126.5 128.5 122.0 127.7 117.4 106.3 109.8 -10.2% -12.5 1,321.3
Tennessee 125.2 124.2 123.2 120.9 123.0 124.6 127.0 126.7 120.3 100.3 107.1 -14.5% -18.1 1,322.4
New Jersey 121.1 118.5 118.9 119.8 122.6 127.6 120.2 128.6 124.3 110.4 115.4 -4.7% -5.7 1,327.5
Missouri 125.4 131.1 131.8 138.3 140.0 143.0 141.6 140.8 137.9 131.6 135.7 8.2% 10.3 1,497.2
Alabama 140.4 132.0 136.7 137.2 139.7 141.5 144.0 146.1 139.2 119.8 132.7 -5.5% -7.7 1,509.3
North Carolina 147.7 143.1 144.3 144.7 148.2 152.7 147.4 153.6 149.0 132.9 142.9 -3.3% -4.8 1,606.4
Kentucky 144.7 148.1 148.3 143.9 150.9 153.2 156.1 156.4 153.7 143.7 150.7 4.2% 6.1 1,649.7
Georgia 167.9 160.3 165.1 167.5 173.3 183.9 181.5 184.6 173.5 163.4 173.7 3.4% 5.8 1,894.7
Michigan 192.6 188.5 187.9 184.7 187.4 189.3 178.2 181.2 175.2 164.4 165.9 -13.9% -26.7 1,995.1
New York 211.4 206.7 200.8 210.1 213.9 210.7 192.5 199.4 190.5 175.5 172.8 -18.3% -38.6 2,184.4
Louisiana 239.9 211.9 219.8 214.6 226.2 221.7 236.0 234.5 221.7 203.9 223.5 -6.8% -16.4 2,453.6
Indiana 238.2 228.6 231.7 236.9 237.8 236.7 235.0 234.7 231.5 208.5 219.1 -8.0% -19.1 2,538.6
Illinois 232.1 223.1 225.1 227.7 235.2 242.0 233.9 242.1 240.7 226.1 230.4 -0.7% -1.7 2,558.3
Florida 239.2 238.1 241.3 244.9 257.3 260.9 259.5 257.8 240.2 226.3 246.0 2.8% 6.7 2,711.7
Ohio 264.0 254.5 260.3 267.4 262.5 269.7 263.0 268.9 261.9 237.6 249.1 -5.6% -14.9 2,858.9
Pennsylvania 276.3 263.4 270.1 273.0 276.6 280.0 274.1 277.6 264.9 246.0 256.6 -7.1% -19.7 2,958.7
California 381.3 385.8 384.9 389.5 391.5 389.0 397.5 403.7 389.8 375.9 369.8 -3.0% -11.4 4,258.6
Texas 711.3 704.1 715.8 706.4 709.7 677.8 675.2 676.7 653.3 624.9 652.6 -8.3% -58.8 7,507.7
Total1 5,879.9 5,772.4 5,810.0 5,857.5 5,968.8 6,000.4 5,921.6 6,029.0 5,842.9 5,441.8 5,631.3 -4.2% -248.6 64,155.6
1For the United States as a country see, EIA, Monthly Energy Review, Section 12: Environment.  Differing methodologies between the two data series causes
the total for all states to be slightly different from the national-level estimate.  The amount varies no more than 0.5 percent.  See Appendix A for details on
the data series differences.
Source:  U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), State Energy Data System and EIA calculations made for this analysis.
Note:  The District of Columbia is included in the data tables, but not in the analysis as it is not a state.

What Good Can Be Salvaged from the Trayvon Martin Case

Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman walks free. Was justice served?

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/23354940@N03/9280339883/: Hood Up! Justice for Trayvon Martin
Hood Up! Justice for Trayvon Martin by musyani75

That answer depends on who is asking the question. It should be a national outrage that this question splits us along both racial and political lines, but this has all become too predictable for outrage on these grounds. If we focus on the facts of the case the verdict divides us and there is no chance for reconciling our opposing views. If we shift the focus to our racial divide the glacial pace of reconciliation is measured in generations and no satisfactory solution can be seen. If we shift the focus to politics the question of justice will fade like an echo in the wind of endless partisanship. But focusing strictly gun laws in Florida may hold some slim hope for something good to come out of Trayvon’s death.  If this trial has done anything useful, it has been to drawn attention to the crazy legal framework that informed this verdict.

Who instigates a conflict that turns deadly has always been a factor in determining guilt. The concept is that deadly conflicts are be avoided at the earliest possible stage, before they turn deadly. If you initiate the conflict, the onus is on you to end it before someone gets hurt. The “stand your ground” laws in Florida and elsewhere upends this logic. Now, whoever walks away from a murderous gun fight can legally claim it was self-defense, even if the dead guy was unarmed. It is mostly a reasonable assumption that the survivor of a deadly conflict must have felt their life was in danger at some point.

In Florida, you can now walk up to anyone in the street, provoke them into assaulting you physically and then shoot them in self-defense. You are no longer held responsible for their death. If this was not the intent of the “stand your ground” laws, it is the absurd practical implication following this verdict. These laws, with their faulty legal premises, need to be overturned.

Still I have to wonder what the legal outcome would have been if Trayvon also had a gun and ended up shooting Zimmerman first. Would days pass before he was arrested and charged?  Would he have been acquitted by this jury?

If the only twist to this story was that Trayvon had managed to turn the barrel of Zimmerman’s gun around at the last instant to kill him, would the legal premise of the stand your ground law have been applied to Mr. Martin?  Would the actions of the police and the outcome of the justice system been different?  These questions are too important to ignore, but I am afraid the best answers to them depends largely on what we teach our children.

New Study – Sword Violence at an All Time Low

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

A new study released by the O.K. Institute of Lake Woebegone, Minnesota, confirms that the rate of injury or death by swords continues to be exceeding rare in the 21st century. Once the leading cause of death in adolescents and young adults, both the incidents of sword play injury and sword related homicides remain at an all time low as a percentage of the population. In many US cities, even those with extraordinarily high homicide rates, the rate of sword related homicide was nearly zero between 2001 and 2012.


Researchers speculate that the low sword homicide rate may be the result of the present low rate of sword ownership in the United States. Less than one in one-hundred households currently own a sword and fewer than 1 person in 100,000 openly carry a sword. This is in stark contrast to the 18th Century when it is estimated that 1 out of every 20 men owned swords. Sword ownership rates may have been considerably higher in some urban areas where swords were openly carried in the streets for protection.

In their remarkable analysis, the researchers believe they have found a direct correlation between the decline of sword ownership and the decline in sword related deaths. This correlation remained robust even when compensating for variables such as sword safety training, blade size and such demographic differences as age, race, religion and economic status of the sword owners.

A spokesman at the O.K. Institute, speaking on behalf of the researchers, speculates that the results of this study could have practical implications for understanding the current high rate of gun violence in the United States. Further studies will be needed to confirme these results and to explore whether these findings can be generalized to the prevalence of violence by other types of lethal weapons.

[Obviously satirical]

See How Much Money it Takes to Be Financially Secure in Your Town

What follows is a Family Budge Calculator put out by the Economic Policy Institute. www.epi.org/resources/budget/ The example shown here is for a two parent family with two children living in the capital city of New Jersey, Trenton. A typical family there needs over $75,000 in income per year to be financially secure. That means each parent would have to work full-time and be making at least $18/hour. Or, if only one parent worked, they would need to be pulling in $36/hour for their family to be financially secure. This is a long ways from minimum wage.

Family Budget Calculator

EPI’s Family Budget Calculator measures the income a family needs in order to attain a secure yet modest living standard by estimating community-specific costs of housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes. The budgets, updated for 2013, are calculated for 615 U.S. communities and six family types (either one or two parents with one, two, or three children).

As compared with official poverty thresholds such as the federal poverty line and Supplemental Poverty Measure, EPI’s family budgets offer a higher degree of geographic customization and provide a more accurate measure of economic security. In all cases, they show families need more than twice the amount of the federal poverty line to get by. [To see and use the actual calculator for yourself readers of WordPress must go to the website at  http://www.epi.org/resources/budget/ ]


Family Types include:

One Parent, One Child One Parent, Two Children One Parent, Three Children Two Parents, One Child Two Parents, Two Children Two Parents, Three Children

States Include:


Area Names In New Jersey Include:

Atlantic City, NJ MSA Bergen-Passaic, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area Jersey City, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area Monmouth-Ocean, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area Newark, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area Ocean City, NJ MSA Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD MSA Trenton-Ewing, NJ MSA Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, NJ MSA Warren County, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area


Trenton-Ewing, NJ MSA (NJ)

Two Parents, Two Children



Monthly Housing


Monthly Food


Monthly Child Care


Monthly Transportation


Monthly Health Care


Monthly Other Necessities


Monthly Taxes


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Obesity, Metabolic Disease and Pathways to a Cure

What follows is my abridged version of one of the most significant summaries of research into diet and human health.  This article was written by Moises Velasquez-Manoff  for Mother Jones in April of 2013. When you go to the full text of this article you will also find a video and other helpful information.  The focus of this abridgement is to present the key advances in our understanding of diet, obesity and metabolic syndrome.  Omitted are the implications and recommendations with respect to dietary changes. I would recommend that you read the full article at Mother Jones. The URL Web address is below.

Are Happy Gut Bacteria Key to Weight Loss?

by Moises Velasquez-Manoff

[Abridged version for readers of DataDrivenViewPoints.com]

MOTHER JONES – April 22, 2013



In 2004 a curious diabetes specialist in Buffalo, New York, named Dr. Paresh Dandona, fed nine normal-weight volunteers an egg sandwich with cheese and ham, a sausage muffin sandwich, and two hash brown patties to see what effect this had on their bodies.

He found that levels of a C-reactive protein, an indicator of systemic inflammation, shot up “within literally minutes,” and remained elevated for hours. Inflammation is a natural and important part of our immune system response, but inflammation can also cause collateral damage, especially when the response is overwhelming—like in septic shock—or when it goes on too long.

Chronic, low-grade inflammation has long been recognized as a feature of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of dysfunctions that tends to precede full-blown diabetes and that also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and even dementia—the top killers of the developed world. The syndrome includes a combination of elevated blood sugar and high blood pressure, low “good” cholesterol, and an abdominal cavity filled with fat, often indicated by a “beer belly.” Could chronic systemic inflammation (CSI), in fact, be a major cause of metabolic syndrome disorder? A fast-food breakfast inflamed, he found, but a high-fiber breakfast with lots of fruit did not. A breakthrough came in 2007 when he discovered that while sugar water, a stand-in for soda, caused inflammation, orange juice—even though it contains plenty of sugar—didn’t.

This time, along with their two-sandwich, two-hash-brown, 910-calorie breakfast, one-third of his volunteers—10 in total—quaffed a glass of fresh OJ. The non-juice drinkers, half of whom drank sugar water, and the other half plain water, had the expected response—inflammation and elevated blood sugar. But the OJ drinkers had neither elevated blood sugar nor inflammation. The juice seemed to shield their metabolism. “It just switched off the whole damn thing,” Dandona says. Other scientists have since confirmed that OJ has a strong anti-inflammatory effect.

What caught Dandona’s attention was increased blood levels of a substance called endotoxin. This molecule comes from the outer walls of certain bacteria. If endotoxin levels rise, our immune system perceives a threat and responds with inflammation. Where had the endotoxin come from? We all carry a few pounds’ worth of microbes in our gut, a complex ecosystem collectively called the microbiota. The endotoxin, Dandona suspected, originated in this native colony of microbes. Somehow, a greasy meal full of refined carbohydrates ushered it from the gut, where it was always present but didn’t necessarily cause harm, into the bloodstream, where it did. But orange juice stopped that translocation cold.

If what some scientists now suspect about the interplay of food and intestinal microbes pans out, it could revolutionize the $66 billion weight loss industry—and help control the soaring $2.7 trillion we spend on health care yearly. “What matters is not how much you eat,” Dandona says, “but what you eat.”

Scientists now suspect that our microbial communities contribute to a number of diseases, from allergic disorders like asthma and hay fever, to inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease, to cancer, heart disease, and obesity. As newborns, we encounter our first microbes as we pass through the birth canal. Until that moment, we are 100 percent human. Thereafter, we are, numerically speaking, 10 percent human, and 90 percent microbe. Our microbiome contains at least 150 times more genes, collectively, than our human genome.

The importance of intestinal microbes to our health has grown increasingly evident. Animals raised without microbes essentially lack a functioning immune system. Entire repertoires of white blood cells remain dormant; their intestines don’t develop the proper creases and crypts; their hearts are shrunken; genes in the brain that should be in the “off” position remain stuck “on.” Without their microbes, animals aren’t really “normal.”

Scientists now suspect that our microbial communities contribute to a number of human diseases, from allergic disorders like asthma and hay fever, to inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease, to cancer, heart disease, and obesity. As newborns, we encounter our first microbes as we pass through the birth canal. Until that moment, we are 100 percent human. Thereafter, we are, numerically speaking, 10 percent human, and 90 percent microbe. Our microbiome contains at least 150 times more genes, collectively, than our human genome. Sometime in childhood, the bustling community of between 500 and 1,000 species stabilizes.

Our stool is roughly half living bacteria by weight. Every day, food goes in one end and microbes come out the other. The human gut is roughly 26 feet in length. Hammered flat, it would have a surface area of a tennis court. Seventy percent of our immune activity occurs there. The gut has its own nervous system; it contains as many neurons as the spinal cord. About 95 percent of the body’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter usually discussed in the context of depression, is produced in the gut. So the gut isn’t just where we absorb nutrients. It’s also an immune hub and a second brain. And it’s crawling with microbes. They don’t often cross the walls of the intestines into the blood stream, but they nevertheless change how the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems all work on the other side of the intestine wall.

Science doesn’t know exactly what goes wrong with our microbes in disease situations but a loss of intentional microbe diversity appears to correlate with the emergence of illness. Children in the developing world have many more types of microbes than kids in Europe or North America yet develop have fewer allergies and less asthma. In the developed world, children raised in microbially rich environments—with pets, on farms, or attending day care—have a lower risk of allergic disease.

Some studies find that babies born by C-section, deprived of their mother’s vaginal microbes at birth, have a higher risk of celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes, and obesity. Early-life use of antibiotics—which tear through our microbial ecosystems like a forest fire—has also been linked to allergic disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity. Those who study human microbial communities fret that they are undergoing an extinction crisis.

If our microbiota plays a role in keeping us healthy, then how about attacking disease by treating the microbiota? After all, our community of microbes is quite plastic. New members can arrive and take up residence. Old members can get flushed out. Member ratios can shift. So the microbiota represents a huge potential leverage point in our quest to treat, and prevent, chronic disease. In particular, the “forgotten organ,” as some call the microbiota, may hold the key to addressing our single greatest health threat: obesity.

One-third of Americans are now considered overweight, and another third obese. Worldwide, one-fourth of humanity is too heavy, according to the World Health Organization. One-third of Americans are now considered overweight, and another third obese. Worldwide, one-fourth of humanity is too heavy, according to the World Health Organization.

The long-dominant explanation is simply that too little exercise and too many calories equals too much stored fat. The solution: more exercise and a lot more willpower. But there’s a problem with this theory: In the developed world, most of us consume more calories than we really need, but we don’t gain weight proportionally. If you run a daily surplus of just 500 calories you should gain a pound of fat per week, but we either gain weight much more slowly, or don’t gain weight at all.

Some corpulent people, meanwhile, have metabolisms that work fine. Their insulin and blood sugar levels are within normal range. Their livers are healthy, not marbled with fat. And some thin people have metabolic syndrome, often signaled by a beer gut. They suffer from fatty liver, insulin resistance, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, and low-grade, systemic inflammation. From a public health perspective, these symptoms are where the real problem lies—not necessarily how well we fit into our jeans.

In one study, mice raised without any intestinal microbes could gorge on food without developing metabolic syndrome or growing obese. But when colonized with their native microbes, these mice quickly became insulin resistant and grew fat, all while eating less food. Another researcher suspected that low-level inflammation might be the cause for this. To prove the principle, he gave mice a low dose of endotoxin, that molecule that resides in the outer walls of certain bacteria. The mice’s livers became insulin resistant; the mice became obese and developed diabetes. A high-fat diet alone produced the same result: Endotoxin leaked into circulation; inflammation took hold; the mice grew fat and diabetic. Then came the bombshell. The mere addition of soluble plant fibers called oligosaccharides, found in things like bananas, garlic, and asparagus, prevented the entire cascade—no endotoxin, no inflammation, and no diabetes. Oligosaccharides are one form of what’s known as a “prebiotic”.

Cani had essentially arrived at the same place as Dandona with his freshly squeezed orange juice. Junk food caused nasty microbes to bloom, and friendly bugs to decline. Permeability of the gut also increased, meaning that microbial byproducts—like that endotoxin—could more easily leak into circulation and spur inflammation. Simply adding prebiotics—in this case, Bifidobacteria—kept the gut tightly sealed, preventing the entire cascade. Our sweet and greasy diet changes gut permeability and alters the makeup of our microbial organ. Our “friendly” community of microbes becomes pathogenic, leaking noxious byproducts where they don’t belong.

Probiotics are bacteria thought to be beneficial to digestion, like the lactobacilli and other bacteria in some yogurts. In the future probiotics might be bacteria derived from those found in Amazonian Indians, rural Africans, even the Amish—people, in other words, who retain a microbial diversity that the rest of us may have lost.

Ultimately, the strongest evidence to support microbial involvement in obesity may come from a procedure that, on the face of it, has nothing to do with microbes: gastric bypass surgery. The surgery, which involves creating a detour around the stomach, is the most effective intervention for morbid obesity—far more effective than dieting.

Originally, scientists thought it worked by limiting food consumption. But it’s increasingly obvious that’s not how the procedure works. The surgery somehow changes expression of thousands of genes in organs throughout the body, resetting the entire metabolism. In March, Lee Kaplan, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center in Boston, published a study in Science Translational Medicine showing a substantial microbial contribution to that resetting.

He began with three sets obese mice, all on a high-fat diet. The first set received a sham operation—an incision in the intestine that didn’t really change much, but was meant to control for the possibility that trauma alone could cause weight loss. These mice then resumed their high fat diet. A second set also received a sham operation, but was put on a calorically restricted diet. The third group received gastric bypass surgery, but was then allowed to eat as it pleased. As expected, both the bypass mice and dieted mice lost weight. But only the bypass mice showed normalization of insulin and glucose levels. Without that normalization, says Kaplan, mice and people alike inevitably regain lost weight.

To test the microbial contribution to these outcomes, Kaplan transplanted the microbiota from each set to germ-free mice. Only rodents colonized with microbes from the bypass mice lost weight, while actually eating more than mice colonized with microbes from the other groups. In humans, some studies show a rebound of anti-inflammatory bacteria after gastric-bypass surgery. Dandona has also noted a decline in circulating endotoxin after the procedure. If we understand the mechanism by which the microbiota shifts, he says, perhaps we can induce the changes without surgery.

NOT EVERYONE ACCEPTS that inflammation drives metabolic syndrome and obesity. And even among the idea’s proponents, no one claims that all inflammation emanates from the microbiota. Moreover, if you accept that inflammation contributes to obesity, then you’re obligated to consider all the many ways to become inflamed. The odd thing is, many of them are already implicated in obesity.

Particulate pollution from tailpipes and factories, linked to asthma, heart disease, and obesity, is known to be a cause of inflammation. So is chronic stress. And risk factors may interact with each other: In macaque troops, the high-ranking females, which experience less stress, can eat more junk food without developing metabolic syndrome than the more stressed, lower-ranking females. Epidemiologists have made similar observations in humans. Poorer people suffer the consequences of lousy dietary habits more than do those who are wealthier. The scientists who study this phenomenon call it “status syndrome.”

Exercise, meanwhile, is anti-inflammatory, which may explain why a brisk walk can immediately improve insulin sensitivity. Exercise may also fortify healthy brown fat, which burns off calories rather than storing them, like white fat does. This relationship may explain how physical activity really helps us lose weight. Yes, exercise burns calories, but the amount is often trivial. Just compensating for that bagel you ate for breakfast—roughly 290 calories—requires a 20-minute jog.

Then there’s the brain. Michael Schwartz, director of the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence at the University of Washington in Seattle, has found that the appetite regulation center of the brain—the hypothalamus—is ofteninflamed and damaged in obese people. He can reproduce this damage by feeding mice a high-fat diet; chronic consumption of junk food, it seems, injures this region of the brain. Crucially, the brain inflammation precedes weight gain, suggesting that the injury might cause, or at least contribute to, obesity. In other words, by melting down our appetite control centers, junk food may accelerate its own consumption, sending us into a kind of vicious cycle where we consume more of the poison wreaking havoc on our physiology.

Of course there’s a genetic contribution to obesity. But even here, inflammation rears its head. Some studies suggest that gene variants that increase aspects of immune firepower are over-represented among obese individuals. In past environments, these genes probably helped us fight off infections. In the context of today’s diet, however, they may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome.

Biologically simple, processed foods may cultivate a toxic microbial community, not unlike the algal blooms that result in oceanic “dead zones.” In fact, scientists really do observe a dead zone of sorts when they peer into the obese microbiota. Microbes naturally form communities. In obese people, not only are anti-inflammatory microbes relatively scarce, diversity in general is depleted, and community structure degraded. Microbes that, in ecological parlance, we might call weedy species—the rats and cockroaches of your inner world—scurry around unimpeded. What’s the lesson? Junk food may produce a kind of microbial anarchy. Opportunists flourish as the greater structure collapses. Cooperative members get pushed aside. And you, who both contain and depend on the entire ecosystem, pay the price.

[This abridged version is provided for public use. See https://datadrivenviewpoints.com/fair-use-notice/]

How Wide is the Gender Gap – The Difference Between Mars and Venus

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

 Are men and woman really so different?  Newly published research suggests that how men and women think may be even more different than we suspect!
Gender Differences
You have probably noticed that we humans come in two genetically distinct biological groups, males and females.  All other genetic distinctions are trivial by comparison.  We usually assume that our genetic differences are limited to these physiological distinctions. We take for granted that all social differentiation between men and woman is driven by these obvious biological traits.  More recently we have accepted that gender roles may be malleable characteristics molded in childhood according to the prevailing social norms.  Strip away the gender imprinting from society and we might find no psycho/social differences at all.
Support for this idea has come from scientific research which found that the frequencies with which various personality traits are exhibited in males and females are not so broad (see Hyde’s “gender similarities hypothesis”, 2005, Am Psychol 60: 581–592.).  This suggested a lot of overlap in the constellation of personality traits between men and woman.  At the same time there is a growing body of scientific evidence pointing to a genetic component in personality development.  This support the idea that both nature and nurture contribute to the person we become.
Now a new statistically sophisticated analysis of this earlier data on gender and personality traits appears to turned the previous findings upside down. In a paper entitled “The Distance Between Mars and Venus: Measuring global sex differences in personality,” three researchers named Marco Del Guidice, Tom Booth and Paul Irwing looked not at the frequency of distinct personality traits in males and females, but at multi-variant patterns of personality traits that appear to be associated with gender.  http://bit.ly/x2SsfL
In their analysis of these statistically correlated patterns, the researchers concluded there may be as little as a 10% overlap in the personality make-up of men and women.  This difference in gender personality traits is larger than previous differences found in other specific traits, such as aggression rates between the sexes, according to the researchers.  In their paper they also bring in the views of some evolutionary psychologist who hold that:

 divergent selection pressures on males and females are expected to produce consistent – and often substantial – psychological differences between the sexes.  By the logic of sexual selection theory and parental investment theory,  large sex differences are most likely to be found in traits and behaviors that ultimately relate to mating and parenting. More generally, sex differences are expected in those domains in which males and females have consistently faced different adaptive problems.” 

From their academic perspective the authors go on to say, Given the contrast between the predictions derived from evolutionary theory and those based on the gender similarities hypothesis, there is a pressing need for accurate empirical estimates of sex differences in personality.”  From an academic point of view this study will almost certainly intensify research and professional debate in this area of study.  Findings of this magnitude always do, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs, which take time to develop.
From my perspective, if future evidence does convinces society that men and women have innately different templates from which our personalities emerge, this belief will have profound and far reaching consequences.  For now, however, this news simply makes for interesting parlor talk.

Lobbying Produced a 22,000% Return for Corporations per One Study

Is lobbying Congress a good investment?

This is normally a nearly impossible question to answer, but a unique set of circumstances allowed researchers to conclude that Corporate lobbying for a tax amnesty provision in the 2004 American Jobs Creation Act(AJCA) yielded a 22,000% return.  Yea, I would say it was worth it.

One reason why the question can’t normally be answered is that the financial information needed to answer the question can almost only be found on Corporate tax returns.  All tax returns are confidential and only the IRS can see them.  But a unique opportunity to study this question presented itself through a tax amnesty provision in the AJCA.

The University of Kansas School of Business ceased the opportunity.  Researchers found that they were able, in this unique situation, to publicly obtain all the information need to analyze the return on lobbying expenditures.  As stated in this study, “This is the first study to provide actual values of the financial savings arising from tax law changes, and the first to use data that has been audited by independent accounting firms.”

The study identified 496 firms that participated in the tax amnesty program and repatriation of foreign income.  They analyzed $298 billion of repatriations and the 93 firms that engaged in lobbying.  These 93 firms repatriated $208 billion (or 70% of the total). The lobbying group spent $282.7 million on lobbying expenditures and received $62.5 billion in tax savings, which represents a 220:1 return on investment. The study also summarizes the sausage making process as the AJCA bill made its way through Congress.

Cudos to the authors, Alexander, Mazza and Scholtz, and to the University of Kansas School of Business for this important piece of research.

Measuring Rates of Return for Lobbying Expenditures: An Empirical Analysis under the American Jobs Creation Act


Raquel Meyer Alexander

University of Kansas – School of Business

Stephen W. Mazza

University of Kansas – School of Law

Susan Scholz

University of Kansas – Accounting and Information Systems Area

April 8, 2009
The lobbying industry has experienced exponential growth within the past decade. The general public, the media, and special interest groups perceive lobbying to be a powerful mechanism affecting public policy. However, academic research finds inconclusive results when quantifying the rate of return on political lobbying expenditures. In this paper we use audited corporate tax disclosures relating to a tax holiday on repatriated earnings created by the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 to examine the return on lobbying. We find firms lobbying for this provision have a return in excess of $220 for every $1 spent on lobbying, or 22,000%. Repatriating firms are more profitable overall, but surprisingly, profitability is not a predictor of repatriation amount. Rather, industry and firm size are most predictive of repatriation. Cash on hand, a proxy for ability to repatriate, is not associated with the repatriation decision or the repatriation amount. This paper provides compelling evidence that lobbying expenditures have a positive and significant return on investment.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 36
Keywords: Multinational Firms, Corporate Taxation, Repatriation, Lobbying
JEL Classifications: F23, H20, H25, K34

Working Paper Series


From the report:

“Dividing the estimated tax savings by the estimated amount spent on lobbying gives an estimate of each companies’ return on their lobbying investment. This measure gives an overall return of 220 times the investment. ((46,157.5 + 15,897.0)/282.7). That is, for every dollar spent on lobbying, there was a tax savings equal to about $220. In percentage terms, this is a 22,000% return.”
[Top 20] Companies Repatriating $500M or More
(105 companies total1)
Amount Repatriated/
Total Assets2