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Environmental Scientist

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Sewage crisis threatens Gaza's access to water

The UN warns that if there is no change, there will be no drinkable water left in the Gaza Strip by 2016
April 18, 2015 5:00AM ET
by Jen Marlowe

GAZA CITY — Until very recently, Salameh Abu Kash earned his living as farmer. Abu Kash, a heavyset man with thick eyebrows and a clipped beard, lives in Wadi Gaza, a valley in the central Gaza Strip. The wetland here was known for its biodiversity, but after construction of a sewage treatment plant was delayed in 2011, excrement from nearby refugee camps and towns began to be diverted through the valley en route to the Mediterranean Sea.

“They brought sewage for us and for our children, and we can’t sleep anymore,” said Abu Kash in Arabic the following year. “Farming is ruined. The plants are diseased. There are flies, worms, and it is spreading.” Animals and birds were soon replaced by swamps of sewage, swarming flies and thriving bacteria. Residents began to suffer from an increase in allergies, inflammation, fevers and weakened immunity, Abu Kash said. Disease-ridden mosquitoes feasted on the community at night. The stench was overpowering.

Wadi Gaza is but one illustration of the full-blown water and sanitation crisis that is facing the Gaza Strip. A severe lack of potable water is exacerbated by inadequate sanitation infrastructure, which in turn is connected to Gaza’s chronic shortage of electricity and fuel, all of which is tied to Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. The United Nations warned that by 2020, Gaza may no longer be livable, in large part because of these interconnected problems.

The interim solution to the sewage problem in Wadi Gaza can be found in the pipe that now protrudes from the area’s beach, one of seven such pipes along Gaza’s 25-mile coastline that spew brown liquid into the waves. Approximately 24 million gallons of raw or partially treated sewage exits those pipes into the Mediterranean Sea each day, according to the Palestinian Water Authority, though desalination expert and engineer Ghassan Qishawi says the number is closer to 32 million. The excrement comes from areas of Gaza, such as the southern town of Khan Younis, where there are no treatment plants, or from areas where treatment plants aren’t yet functional because Israel has delayed or denied the importing of the necessary equipment. Sheikh Ejlin, Gaza’s largest treatment plant, is operational, but it’s crippled by chronic electricity outages and cannot properly treat the wastewater in the four hours a day it has power. Much of the sewage gushing into the sea is coming, only partially treated, from the Sheikh Ejlin plant.



Incredible Hidden Cave in Laos


Army morale low despite 6-year, $287M optimism program

More than half of some 770,000 soldiers are pessimistic about their future in the military and nearly as many are unhappy in their jobs, despite a six-year, $287 million campaign to make troops more optimistic and resilient, findings obtained by USA TODAY show.

Twelve months of data through early 2015 show that 403,564 soldiers, or 52%, scored badly in the area of optimism, agreeing with statements such as "I rarely count on good things happening to me." Forty-eight percent have little satisfaction in or commitment to their jobs.

The results stem from resiliency assessments that soldiers are required to take every year. In 2014, for the first time, the Army pulled data from those assessments to help commanders gauge the psychological and physical health of their troops.

The effort produced startlingly negative results. In addition to low optimism and job satisfaction, more than half reported poor nutrition and sleep, and only 14% said they are eating right and getting enough rest.



Editorial: Bed quotas for immigration detainees a costly flub

Illegal border crossings are in decline, but Homeland Security officers nonetheless have a detention-bed quota they must meet. Private prison companies are reaping the benefits, and taxpayers are being shortchanged.

If that scenario sounds distorted, well, it is. Criminal justice systems around the country are turning to alternatives beyond incarceration to lower costs. But Congress is blocking such innovations when it comes to immigration.

The quotas were imposed in 2009, when Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, inserted language into the agency’s budget that called for 33,400 beds to be filled by detainees at any given time. Republicans have increased the quota to 34,000. In the Obama administration’s 2106 budget, the quota is raised by 40 more beds.

The bed quota forces Homeland Security to detain nonviolent people who are not a threat to the public. The policy is inflexible, expensive and sometimes inhumane.



It's not a flub, it's a feature....

No, Ted Cruz, the 2nd Amendment doesn’t protect your right to rebellion

by Jon Green

Yesterday, TalkingPointsMemo reported that Texas Senator Ted Cruz sent an email to supporters urging them to send him money to make him president so that he could, as president, protect their right to violently overthrow the president.

As the email read:

The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn’t for just protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It is a Constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny — for the protection of liberty

Cruz’s assertion was so absurd that Lindsey Graham — sporting an A rating from the NRA — not-so-subtlely compared Cruz to Jefferson Davis, pointing out that as far as armed rebellions go, “we tried that once in South Carolina. I wouldn’t go down that road again.”

The email is a reprisal of a meme normally reserved for NRA forums and first year government seminars at Liberty University, trotted out by gun activists once they’ve run out of arguments for why they so desperately need to keep an arsenal of high-caliber weapons stockpiled in their toolshed.

How historically nonsensical and utterly baseless Cruz’s claim is shouldn’t bear repeating, but if a US senator and declared presidential candidate is taking the argument seriously, it does.



Ask the real experts about ocean acidification, not climate science deniers

If you try hard enough – and sometimes you don’t have to try hard at all – you can find all sorts of crazyballs evidence-free misleading gumph out there on the intertubes.

Many of the proponents are so blinded by their own ideology and beliefs that they can perform all manner of logical gymnastics to tell themselves that they’re right and the experts are wrong.

Some are utterly convinced that dude absolutely was abducted by a single-toed space alien, Elvis totally used to work at the local chip shop, humans didn’t evolve but were “designed” and there’s no evidence that extra carbon dioxide causes climate change.

But none of this should mean those views deserve to get a run in a national newspaper.

Occasionally though, they do.



NYC bars the use of credit checks in hiring

Source: CBS News

New York City lawmakers are barring most employers from checking a job candidate's credit record.

The city council passed a bill on Thursday that makes it illegal to request or use a job applicant's credit history in making a hiring decision.

"All New Yorkers deserve the chance to compete for a job based on their skills and qualifications, not three digits on a financial report," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in a statement after the measure was approved by a margin of 47-3. "Just because you've struggled with medical bills or student loans does not make you any less hard working, qualified, or trustworthy than anyone else."

City council member Brad Lander, who sponsored the legislation, said in a press conference that credit checks for employment "unfairly lock" New Yorkers out of jobs.

Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-city-bars-the-use-of-credit-checks-in-hiring/

Louisiana goes for broke with discrimination bill

By Steve Benen

As marriage equality takes root as the legal norm in much of the country, opponents of equal-marriage rights have adopted a new set of tactics. Whereas it was common a decade ago to see Republicans pushing anti-gay constitutional amendments – at the state and federal level – right-to-discriminate measures have clearly become the new weapon of choice.

Arizona generated national attention last year with its foray into this area, but a gubernatorial veto quickly ended the fight. This year, Indiana created a firestorm with its discrimination statute, which policymakers were soon after willing to “fix.” Arkansas scaled back its far-right drive in this area soon after.

But msnbc’s Jane C. Timm reported yesterday that Louisiana Republicans are plowing ahead with a related bill of their own.
HB 707 – the “Marriage and Conscience Act” – says the state can’t take “adverse action” against someone for opposing same-sex marriage for religious reasons; sponsor Rep. Mike Johnson told msnbc he’s hoping the bill will come up for a vote in the next few weeks. If passed, this law would likely ensure, for example, that the state couldn’t punish a state worker who refuses to process paperwork on a name change following a gay marriage in another state, or a police officer who didn’t want to police a same-sex wedding ceremony.

“This Louisiana bill really does what people accused the Indiana law of doing,” leading religious freedom expert and University of Virginia law professor Doug Laycock told msnbc. While Indiana’s law offered up individuals accused of discrimination a legal defense that a judge could then weigh, Laycock explained, this law gives religious individuals absolute protection from state action, without balancing interests of – for instance – whether a gay individual’s right to services outweighs the religious individual’s freedoms.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), not surprisingly, told msnbc the proposal is “not about discriminating against anyone,” so much as it’s about “religious freedom.”

There’s ample evidence to the contrary.



Rubio and Christie are your "Reefer Madness" Candidates....


If Marco Rubio or Chris Christie manage to elbow out the competition and win the White House in 2016, they'll crack down on pot in states that have legalized marijuana.

The Republican presidential hopefuls told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in separate interviews on Tuesday that they'd enforce federal drug laws and block the sale of marijuana in Colorado and Washington.

'Marijuana is a gateway drug,' Christie said, citing an 'enormous addiction problem in this country.'

'And we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down through the federal law enforcement. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. And the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3040342/Republicans-vow-war-pot-White-House-Marco-Rubio-Chris-Christie-say-clampdown-cannabis-sales.html

Rubio-backed insurance market covers a whopping 80 people

By Rachana Pradhan

In 2008, while Democrats were declaring that the time was right for national health care reform, Marco Rubio, the speaker of the Florida House, had a ready response: Florida should build a market-based system that would help contain the cost of insurance and make it more available.

Rubio pushed his no-mandate health insurance exchange, dubbed Florida Health Choices, through the state Legislature that year. “It’s about competition, it’s about choice, and it’s about the marketplace,” he told The Palm Beach Post at the time.

Florida Health Choices, which finally opened last year, now covers 80 people.

Obamacare, which Rubio wants to repeal, covers 1.6 million in Florida alone. And 93 percent of them are subsidized.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/marco-rubio-florida-insurance-market-117055.html
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