Investigators are still trying to figure out exactly how an estimated 7,500 gallons of a chemical used to clean coal called 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, leaked from a storage facility into the Elk River. But state and federal agencies clearly should have done more to limit the risks. For starters, the state failed to adequately inspect how the facility stored chemicals, though it did send inspectors there to check on air quality. The chemicals were kept in tanks on the riverbank, upstream from a large water-treatment plant that supplies Charleston.Much more on the day's top stories below the fold.
[...] What’s needed is meaningful reform like the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the New York Democrat, that would require manufacturers to prove that chemicals are safe before they can be sold.
In recent days, concentrations of MCHM in the water system have fallen sharply and some in the Charleston area can now drink the tap water. But the passing of this crisis should not dissuade the state or the federal government from strengthening and enforcing statutes.
Barbara Stripling at Wired:
Here’s something you probably didn’t know: The recent ruling striking down network neutrality doesn’t just affect websites and internet service providers — it affects libraries, too.The Denver Post calls for a stronger blogger shield law:
By striking down the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Open Internet Order this week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals just gave commercial companies the authority to block internet traffic, give preferential treatment to specific internet services, and steer internet users away from online content based on their own commercial interests. Since the internet is now the primary mechanism for delivering content and applications to the general public, it’s more important than ever that commercial ISPs not have that kind of power to control or otherwise manipulate such communications.
As a school librarian — and the head of the American Library Association — I expect that the court’s ruling will negatively affect the daily lives of Americans in a number of ways, particularly children in K-12 schools. School, public, and college libraries rely upon the public availability of open, affordable internet access for school homework assignments, distance learning classes, e-government services, licensed databases, job-training videos, medical and scientific research, and many other essential services. We must ensure the same quality access to online educational content as to entertainment and other commercial offerings. But without net neutrality, we are in danger of prioritizing Mickey Mouse and Jennifer Lawrence over William Shakespeare and Teddy Roosevelt. This may maximize profits for large content providers, but it minimizes education for all.
A bill to strengthen Colorado's shield law is a long time coming but so is an update to the antiquated law that offers no protection to bloggers. [...] As written, the statute now protects only members of the mass media — newspapers and periodicals, radio, TV, wire services, news syndicates and cable TV.Chris Mooney at Mother Jones:
Offering protection to bloggers has been controversial and stalled a bill in the U. S. Senate last year.
Today, news gathering is done on a broad spectrum of formats and protection should be afforded regardless of the medium.
The latest data are out on the prevalence of global warming denial among the US public. And they aren't pretty.Eugene Robinson looks at the latest Benghazi report:
The new study, from the Yale and George Mason research teams on climate change communication, shows a 7-percentage-point increase in the proportion of Americans who say they do not believe that global warming is happening. And that's just since the spring of 2013. The number is now 23 percent; back at the start of last year, it was 16 percent [...] The obvious question is, what happened over the last year to produce more climate denial?
According to both Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale and Ed Maibach of George Mason, the leaders of the two research teams, the answer may well lie in the so-called global warming "pause"—the misleading idea that global warming has slowed down or stopped over the the past 15 years or so. This claim was used by climate skeptics, to great effect, in their quest to undermine the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report in September 2013—precisely during the time period that is in question in the latest study.
The bipartisan report on Benghazi released Wednesday by the Senate intelligence committee should finally convince conspiracy theorists of the obvious: There is no there there.Paul Krugman:
Administration officials did not orchestrate any kind of attempt, politically motivated or otherwise, to deceive the American people. In their public statements, including the infamous talking points, they relied on what intelligence analysts told them.
For four years, Europe has been in the grip of austerity fever, with mostly disastrous results; it’s telling that the current slight upturn is being hailed as if it were a policy triumph. Given the hardship these policies have inflicted, you might have expected left-of-center politicians to argue strenuously for a change in course. Yet everywhere in Europe, the center-left has at best (for example, in Britain) offered weak, halfhearted criticism, and often simply cringed in submission.In case you missed it, this David Horsey piece is an important read:
When Mr. Hollande became leader of the second-ranked euro economy, some of us hoped that he might take a stand. Instead, he fell into the usual cringe — a cringe that has now turned into intellectual collapse. And Europe’s second depression goes on and on.
Guns don’t kill people, popcorn kills people. Or maybe it’s texting. Or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time with some fool who thinks he needs to take a gun to the movies.Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitution dares the GOP to put out its agenda:
Each and every day it is possible to scan the news from across the U.S. and find an example of human stupidity turned lethal by the presence of a gun. This week’s top horror is the shooting of a father out on a kid-free date with his wife who was gunned down by an idiot with a pistol in his pocket. Except he wasn’t really an idiot.
Gun-rights fanatics (these days there are few who are not fanatics) insist that only a few poorly trained, mentally unstable or criminally inclined gun owners give all the millions of God-fearing, Constitution-defending firearms enthusiasts a bad name. But can anyone think of a person more well-trained and responsible than a retired police captain, SWAT team leader and security guard?[...] Guns may not kill people, but people who think they need to carry guns too often find themselves killing other people in the most wasteful, needless, pointless ways.
Since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010, and even before that, their entire message has been critical of what Democrats have proposed or passed, with no discussion of what if anything they would do if given real power.Robert Schlesinger looks at the GOP "uncertainty" principle:
So let's see it. They talk tax reform endlessly -- let's see what conservative tax reform would actually look like. They've promised "repeal and replace" -- let's see what this "replace" looks like. As National Journal reports in a similar piece, a health-care reform bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Price of Roswell is said to have strong support among GOP House members, yet party leadership refuses to allow the bill to move or even get a hearing in a subcommittee. They treat it as a crazy old aunt that they're keeping hidden in the basement.
If a bill exists, yet its supposed champions refuse to allow a vote on it, does it really exist at all?
Remember the right's uncertainty obsession? It wasn't too long ago that virtually every conservative was pinning the soft economic recovery on the bogeyman of "uncertainty" – businesses couldn't hire, we were told, because they didn't know what taxes they'd be paying and what regulations they'd be enduring short months or years later. "Uncertainty is the enemy of our prosperity," then-Rep. Mike Pence memorably said at the end of 2010.Rachel Maddow:
But having gone around, uncertainty is coming around for conservatives, undercutting the right's rearguard attempts to roll back Obamacare.
According to reporting in The Record, Wildstein has made a habit of buying the Web addresses of people who cross his path in New Jersey politics — including the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2012 and a mid-level official at the Federal Aviation Administration who helped forge a firefighting agreement with the Port Authority that Wildstein disliked. While he was at the Port Authority, Wildstein bought the online names of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top appointees to the agency, including Executive Director Pat Foye, who sounded the alarm about the Fort Lee scheme. Wildstein’s redirect on PatFoye.com sends visitors to the Web site of the New York Yankees.Finally, Steve Rosenthal points out that America is becoming more liberal:
It’s one thing for public officials to subject one another to that kind of low-level, neener-neener harassment, but in New Jersey, reporters have been targeted too. Wildstein snatched up and redirected ShawnBoburg.com after Boburg wrote a (not terribly unflattering) profile of the intensely private Wildstein last year and an article on Christie’s patronage hiring.
The country is getting more diverse, and as the proportion of white voters shrinks, so, too, does the conservative base. As demographics shift, so do political preferences — in this case, toward the left. A close examination of U.S. attitudes in the past decade-plus reveals that the United States is steadily becoming more progressive. It’s been well publicized how America has “evolved” on marriage equality. Washington Post/ABC News polling last year found that, by a margin of 58 percent to 36 percent , people believe their fellow Americans should be able to marry whomever they choose — something that would have been unthinkable less than a decade ago.
This progressive trend isn’t isolated to this issue. Over the past 10 or so years, national polls have shown that the general public is becoming more liberal on...