In today’s On the News segment: Radiation levels at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan may be increasing; the Trans-Pacific Partnership is even worse than we previously thought; the Volkswagen emissions scandal is shaping up to be one of the biggest corporate crimes in recent history; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Science and Green News …
You need to know this. We’ve known for decades that free trade agreements are bad news for American workers. But, now that the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been released, we know that this massive trade deal is a major threat to our environment as well. Last week, the full text of the TPP – aka SHAFTA – was finally released to the public. Unfortunately for our environment and our food supply, the final deal is even worse than we previously thought. In the words of Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, “We now have concrete evidence that the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens our families, our communities, and our environment.” He added, “It’s no surprise that the deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write the deal.” And, after reviewing the details, the Sierra Club wasn’t the only group that expressed their concern. Wenonah Hauter of EcoWatch.com warned about the devastating effect on our right to know what’s in our food. She said, “The language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures.” In other words, GMO food producers can challenge our labeling laws if they predict that those laws will interfere even slightly with their prospective profits. This massive trade agreement would be the largest in our global history, and it would harm our nation in ways we have never before seen. Our lawmakers have already given up their right to negotiate or change what’s in this disastrous deal, so the only option we have left is to demand that they reject the entire thing. For the sake of our workers, our environment and our food supply, we better stop SHAFTA while we still have a chance.
The Volkswagen emissions scandal is shaping up to be one of the biggest corporate crimes in recent history. And now, we’re learning that the “defeat device” issue is even larger than first reported. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that those devious contraptions have been found in Porsche and Audi vehicles as well. As such, the EPA issued new Notices of Violation to all three car manufacturers and noted that their investigation into this matter will continue. This is yet another example of corporate malfeasance that would have been caught if we stopped taking the word of corporate giants. We have regulations in place to limit pollution, ensure safety and protect consumers, but they mean nothing when we don’t bother to check and see if they’re being upheld. Because this scandal went undetected for so long, we face the nearly impossible task of repairing or replacing millions of vehicles that are already on the road. We can’t take this pollution back out of the air or make it convenient for customers to fix or replace cars. But we can prevent similar scandals from going undetected. We have regulations for a reason, so let’s make sure that they’re actually being followed.
It’s official. The Obama administration has rejected the Keystone tar sands pipeline for good. Early last week, TransCanada submitted a request to the State Department. They wanted our government to hit the pause button on the review of Keystone until TransCanada could resolve an ongoing legal battle with the state of Nebraska. But, our State Department officials figured out that the reason for TransCanada’s request was a little more self-serving. By granting a delay, the State Department would be putting off the final review until the next president takes office – and it’s likely that the company was hoping for a Republican victory in 2016. Thankfully, our State Department officials didn’t fall for this brazen attempt to skirt the system. Not only was the request for delay denied, but President Obama said, “America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change.” And, he rejected the toxic tar sands project saying it, “would have undercut that global leadership.” Thankfully, this project has been stopped. But the work is far from over in the fight against climate change.
Radiation levels at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan may be increasing. According to a recent article in The Japan Times, radiation levels of 9.4 sieverts have been detected in a building connected to reactor number 2, which was devastated by the massive tsunami back in 2011. And, for those of us who aren’t nuclear experts, that means levels are high enough to cause death after just 45 minutes of exposure. Those levels are so high, they have prevented further examination of the contaminated building – even with the use of a remote-controlled robot. However, further details about the dangerous levels have been few and far between. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) continues to be quite secretive about the ongoing clean up, and the international community has appeared uninterested in pressing Tepco for more information. Despite the fact that it’s been more than four years since the earthquake and tsunami took out the plant, Tepco is no closer to a real solution. The ongoing disaster at Fukushima is too big, and too dangerous, for one corporation to be solving alone, and it’s time for the international community to intervene.
And finally … Science says you’ve got another reason to cut a rug. According to a recent study from the University of Oxford, dancing with friends is a great way to improve your health. While busting a move provides the obvious benefits of exercise, synchronizing with others may help us feel closer to our friends and even increase our tolerance for pain. These findings help explain why dance movement therapies have been so successful at treating Parkinson’s and dementia patients and even children with autism. The researchers found that even small amounts of synchronization, like tapping your finger in time with another person, helps us feel closer and more trusting of others. This has important benefits for individuals and communities, and it could explain a lot about our evolutionary history being filled with dance. So, if you want to connect with friends on a deeper level, perhaps it’s as simple as turning on your favorite tune.
And that’s the way it is for the week of November 9, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.