On the News With Thom Hartmann: When Business and Politics Mix, the Public Pays the Price, and More

In today’s On the News segment: There’s an important lesson to be learned from the ongoing coal ash disaster in North Carolina; if you’re trying to diet or quit smoking, you may have better luck if you play a video game; government officials are preparing to reenter the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of….science & green news…..

You need to know this. There’s an important lesson to be learned from the ongoing coal ash disaster in North Carolina. When business and politics mix, the public pays the price. So, it’s up to the government to put a firewall in between the profit-makers and regulators. When that firewall is breached, the results can be devastating. Just look at the disaster North Carolina. Before Pat McCrory took over the governor’s mansion last year, he worked for 28 years as an executive for Duke Energy – the company responsible for last month’s massive coal ash spill. After taking office, the newly-elected Republican governor said that North Carolina’s environmental regulatory agencies needed to focus more on so-called “customer service.” In other words, regulators should make it easier for companies like Duke Energy to get around safety regulations, and just ignore it when these companies break the rules. Under McCrory’s watch, North Carolina slashed the budget for water pollution programs and shrank the size of that state’s watchdog agencies. And we all know what happened next. In February, Duke Energy spilled almost 40 thousand tons of toxic waste into the Dan River, in the third worst coal ash spill in history. Clean up is going to take years, if not decades, and it’s going to cost taxpayers a fortune. Thankfully, last week, a federal grand jury began hearing evidence on whether that firewall between state regulators and Duke Energy had been breached, and whether Governor McCrory played a hand in weakening regulations. So far, McCrory has been able to use his power to shut down state regulators, but he can’t stop this federal investigation. Stay tuned.

If you’re trying to diet or quit smoking, you may have better luck if you play a video game. According to a new study by Plymouth University in the UK, playing a game of Tetris can help reduce cravings for food or nicotine. Researchers conducted a study with 119 college students by instructing them play that game for three minutes whenever the students began having a craving. However, half of the students were given games that only displayed an error message. The researchers found that over time the nicotine or food cravings got weaker for everyone, but cravings went away faster for people who were able to play Tetris. The scientists suggest that any similar activity may have the same effect, however they believe the game worked because it forced the subjects to focus on shapes rather than on the food or other substance that the students were craving. Another scientist, Lotte van Dillen, agreed with the study and said, “I think it is important that people are motivated to play the game for it to be an effective tool to fight cravings, and as a possible side effect, you may become a very skillful player.”

According to RadCast.org, government officials are preparing to reenter the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico. For the past month, specials teams from the Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership have been training to enter the facility in a way to minimize risk to employees and avoid causing any further damage to the plant. The teams will investigate the cause of the leak, and assess the damage to containers of radioactive waste. Although officials have continued to claim that this event poses no risk to human health, various sources – including experts and individuals who contribute to RadCast – reported radiation levels near that plant as recently as last week. From what they report, the situation in Carlsbad is far worse than officials claim, but you won’t hear that in the corporate media. Be sure to check out RadCast.org for radiation readings and all the real nuclear news.

Another week goes by and we learn of yet another toxic fuel spill. Just since last week, there have actually been at least two new oil-related disasters. One spill was discovered last Monday in a nature preserve near Cincinnati, Ohio, and the other occurred over the weekend when a oil barge collided with another ship in a Texas waterway. The spill in Oak Glen Nature Preserve was reported after a man walking in the park discovered a 10,000 gallon leak, and investigators had no idea how or when that leak started. The Saturday spill in Texas was much larger – as much as 168,000 gallons of thick, tarry shipping oil coated the water near the Texas City dike. As of 10pm on Saturday, the Coast Guard was still investigating the cause of the collision, and officials said that the spill had not yet been contained. When is our nation going to get it? From coal ash spills to pipeline leaks to numerous train and barge accidents – the fact is that no type of transport is safe for fossil fuels. And that’s not even considering the dangers of burning these dirty fuels. For the sake of our planet – and our species – we must stop this addiction to dangerous fossil fuels.

And finally… Earlier this month, lawmakers in France doubled-down on their stance against GMOs. Authorities in that nation have been attempting to establish an all-out ban on GMO corn, but a senior court has twice struck down their efforts. So, French officials have renewed a ban on planting any genetically-modified corn until they can debate a permanent law in April. Scientists in that nation have compiled evidence of the dangers of GMO corn to health and to the environment. Those experts, along with other environmentalists, welcomed the renewed ban, although they continue to call for a permanent law against any and all genetically-modified products. In our nation, we can’t even seem to pass legislation to label GMOs, let alone ban them, while countries around the world are recognizing the risks of meddling with Mother Nature. Activists and experts all around our world see the dangers of GMOs, and we must keep up the fight for the right to know what’s in our food.

And that’s the way it is for the week of March 24, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.