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Environmental Scientist

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30 years on, Norway’s radioactive reindeer are a stark reminder of Chernobyl legacy

Reindeer are perhaps not the first things which spring to mind when you think of nuclear fallout.

However, 30 years after the nuclear power plant explosion in Chernobyl, Ukraine, and more than a thousand miles away, the grazing animals are recording high levels of radioactivity.

Last September reindeer in Våga reinlag AS, Jotunheimen, had readings of 8,200 becquerel per kilo of radioactive substance Caesium-137, according to Norway's The Local.

Three years earlier reindeer in the same central Norwegian region had readings of 1,500 becquerel, less than a fifth of the concentration.



Monsanto Given Legal Shield in a Chemical Safety Bill

WASHINGTON — Facing hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits, the giant biotechnology company Monsanto last year received a legislative gift from the House of Representatives, a one-paragraph addition to a sweeping chemical safety bill that could help shield it from legal liability for a toxic chemical only it made.

Monsanto insists it did not ask for the addition. House aides deny it is a gift at all. But the provision would benefit the only manufacturer in the United States of now-banned polychlorinated biphenyls, chemicals known as PCBs, a mainstay of Monsanto sales for decades. The PCB provision is one of several sticking points that negotiators must finesse before Congress can pass a law to revamp the way thousands of chemicals are regulated in the United States.

“Call me a dreamer, but I wish for a Congress that would help cities with their homeless crises instead of protecting multinational corporations that poison our environment,” said Pete Holmes, the city attorney for Seattle, one of six cities suing Monsanto to help cover the costs of reducing PCB discharge from their sewers.

The House and the Senate last year both passed versions of legislation to replace the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act, a law that the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged had become so unworkable that as many as 1,000 hazardous chemicals still on sale today needed to be evaluated to see if they should be banned or restricted.



Bernie Sanders: 'After a lot of thought, I voted for me'

By NOLAN D. MCCASKILL 03/01/16 09:02 AM EST

Bernie Sanders voted — for himself, of course — on Tuesday in Vermont.
“I will tell you after a lot of thought, I voted for me for president,” the Vermont senator said, smiling at a man he had just taken a selfie with.

“Congratulations, Bernie. Good luck out there,” replied the man, who patted Sanders on the back and laughed.
The Democratic presidential candidate and his wife, Jane Sanders, cast their votes at a polling station in Burlington around 7:30 a.m., according to a pool report.

“Nice warm day,” a woman at the local community center where Sanders voted joked (it was about 12 degrees outside). “Nice Vermont day.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-dem-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/03/bernie-sanders-super-tuesday-vote-220018

Tuesday Toon Roundup 3: The Rest








Tuesday Toon Roundup 2: The Don and The Klan

Tuesday Toon Roundup 1- Not so Super Tuesday

Amazing Volcano image

The Incredibly Real Beauty of Nature’s Explosive Power

Sergio Tapiro has been photographing the Colima volcano outside his home town of Colima, Mexico, for the past 14 years. “One of the lessons I have learned from this volcano is if you want to take a good picture you have to know your subject—you have to study, to read, to see, and learn to watch what the volcano is doing,” he says. “If you don’t study your subject your chances of having the greatest photo of your life are less. If you know perfectly what you are doing, the chances are huge.”

Tapiro’s collection of photos, taken over the years, shows the volcano in various states—emitting billowing plumes of smoke during the day, standing sentinel at night under swirls of stars. But the greatest photo of his life (so far) is the dramatic shot of ash, lava, and lightning above, which recently won a World Press Photo award.

Colima, also known as the Volcano of Fire, is one of the most active in Latin America, Tapiro says. He monitors the activity via a webcam, studies seismographs, and even owns a restaurant close by. He had been observing an uptick in activity at several points over the last year, when explosions and plumes of erupting ash charged the atmosphere, sparking lightning. Tapiro was on the lookout to capture this extraordinary activity.

When explosions began on the clear, starry evening of December 13, 2015, Tapiro was ready with his tripod-mounted DSLR and remotely triggered shutter set for eight-second exposures. One, two, three, four shots. And then, with the fifth, “I saw this marvelous lightning, the biggest lightning I have seen with this volcano.” The 1,600- to 1,900-foot strike was like a giant strobe, he says, illuminating the side of the mountain and clouds of ash.

“Volcanos have something that inspire and remind you about the power of creation and how the Earth makes marvelous things,” Tapiro says.


Justice Thomas asks questions in court, 1st time in 10 years

Source: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Clarence Thomas has asked questions during a Supreme Court argument for the first time in 10 years.

Thomas’ questions came Monday in case in which the court is considering placing new limits on the reach of a federal law that bans people convicted of domestic violence from owning guns.

Thomas asked the Justice Department lawyer defending the government’s prosecution whether the violation of any other law suspends a person’s constitutional rights.

It was the second week the court has heard arguments since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Thomas’ friend and fellow conservative.

Read more: http://wtop.com/politics/2016/02/justice-thomas-asks-questions-in-court-1st-time-in-10-years/

Consistent link between violent crime and concealed-carry gun permits

The first study to find a significant relationship between firearm crime and subsequent applications for, and issuance of, concealed-carry gun permits has been published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

The paper, “Firearm Violence and Effects on Concealed Gun Carrying: Large Debate and Small Effects,” found there is a consistent link between violent crime — especially crimes that involve guns — and an increase in the number of people issued carry permits over two time periods examined in the study, said Jeremy Carter, an assistant professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

While the link is consistent and robust, Carter said the magnitude of this association is relatively low.

“It seems the level of debate surrounding violence and concealed carrying far outweighs any observed effects,” Carter and his co-author, Michael Binder, an assistant professor at the University of North Florida, conclude. “We acknowledge that other factors are just as — if not more — important and highlight the need for more refined research to parse out any plausible relationships.”

“From a theoretical perspective, the finding of firearm crime as a predictor of concealed carrying is the first such demonstrable relationship and provides evidence that should solicit further investigation,” the study says.


A huge international study of gun control finds strong evidence that it actually works

By Zack Beauchamp

What do we really know about the research on whether gun restrictions help reduce gun deaths? Even for PhDs, this is a difficult question. There's been a mountain of research on the subject, but these dozens of studies conducted over many years and in many different countries reach a broad and sometimes contradictory range of conclusions. It's hard to know what it really tells us, taken together, about whether gun laws can reduce gun violence.

A just-released study, published in the February issue of Epidemiological Reviews, seeks to resolve this problem. It systematically reviewed the evidence from around the world on gun laws and gun violence, looking to see if the best studies come to similar conclusions. It is the first such study to look at the international research in this way.

The authors are careful to note that their findings do not conclusively prove that gun restrictions reduce gun deaths. However, they did find a compelling trend whereby new restrictions on gun purchasing and ownership tended to be followed by a decline in gun deaths.

"Across countries, instead of seeing an increase in the homicide rate, we saw a reduction," Julian Santaella-Tenorio, a doctoral student in epidemiology at Columbia University and the study's lead author, told me.


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