Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, June 1, 2015 7:38 pm

Odds and ends for June 1

So the Orange County (CA) DA’s office handled a slam-dunk murder case so corruptly that all 250 prosecutors in the office have been barred by a judge from having any further to do with the case. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, which is a big ol’ ugly ball of law-enforcement and prosecutor malfeasance so big that all sorts of very bad types may be set free before they should’ve been, or may never face trial, because of it. Coda: If you think that’s the only place this kind of cheating is going on, you’re kidding yourself.

Quasi-relatedly, we don’t just have cops killing unarmed African Americans, we now have repeat offenders.

Some of the most intrusive parts of the Patriot Act expired at midnight last night and ZOMG SHARIA LAW OH NOES!!11!!1!!ELEVENTY!!1! Wait, what? That didn’t happen? Oh. (pause) OK. But this could.

Presented, without snark, some seriously hopeful news about treating cancer.

Microsoft will release Windows 10 — for free — July 29. But you’ll take away my Windows 7 Pro when you pry my cold dead hands from it stop offering security upgrades for it like you stopped for Windows XP, I guess.

Airlines aren’t just greedy, they’re also stupid. Exhibit A: United Airlines.

Gosh, an elected official in North Carolina can’t even engage in a little public bigotry anymore without people complaining about it.

The mayor of Belhaven, N.C., Adam O’Neal, is walking almost 300 miles to Washington, D.C. — again — to — again — try to draw attention to lack of health care in rural areas.

An American tourist visiting a lion preserve in South Africa rolled down her car window just like she’d been told not to do and got mauled to death. Commenters on the article are overwhelmingly in favor of the lion, and I’ve got to say, so am I. Lady, what part of “nature, red in tooth and claw” didn’t you understand?

The News & Record unveiled its newly redesigned website today. It’s still butt-ugly and it still doesn’t have RSS feeds. Bright side: They resurrected the URL Greensboro.com, which they never should have stopped using in the first place.

92-year-old Harriette Thompson of Charlotte finished a marathon Sunday, so I really don’t want to hear about your bad back or your sore feet.

 

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Friday, May 7, 2010 11:23 pm

Events. Patterns. Systems.

OK, we know the recent economic collapse was due in significant part to inadequate regulation and government oversight. We know that the Deepwater Horizon disaster now erupting in the Gulf of Mexico was due in significant part to inadequate regulation and government oversight. And we now have a reasonable basis for believing that our environment’s role in causing human cancers has been badly underestimated — again, in significant part because of inadequate regulation and government oversight:

The prevailing regulatory approach in the United States is reactionary rather than precautionary. That is, instead of taking preventive action when uncertainty exists about the potential harm a chemical or other environmental contaminant may cause, a hazard must be incontrovertibly demonstrated before action to ameliorate it is initiated. Moreover, instead of requiring industry or other proponents of specific chemicals, devices, or activities to prove their safety, the public bears the burden of proving that a given environmental exposure is harmful. Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety.

U.S. regulation of environmental contaminants is rendered ineffective by five major problems: (1) inadequate funding and insufficient staffing, (2) fragmented and overlapping authorities coupled with uneven and decentralized enforcement, (3) excessive regulatory complexity, (4) weak laws and regulations, and (5) undue industry influence. Too often, these factors, either singly or in combination, result in agency dysfunction and a lack of will to identify and remove hazards.

(I should point out that while items 3 and 4 may appear contradictory, a law or regulation can be weak because it is excessively complex and therefore difficult for enforcers to understand).

The report goes into detail about a variety of environmental factors that lead to cancer (including some in the field of medicine), but unless I missed it, it doesn’t come right out and say the obvious: Preventing cancers caused in this way would be a helluva lot easier and cheaper than treating them, just as the cheapest, easiest way to “treat” lung cancer is never to start smoking. But because our legislators are bought-and-paid-for whores of industry, we keep getting cancers, we keep dying, and industry keeps profiting from all the dead people and the pain and grief of their survivors.

I suppose it’s relevant in this context to mention that we’re in the process of dumping, both on the surface and a mile under the ocean, chemical dispersants to try to deal with the oil eruption from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. These chemicals, whose composition is a trade secret, have not been tested on human beings. But here’s what we do know about them:

OSHA requires companies to make Material Safety Data Sheets, or MSDSs, available for any hazardous substances used in a workplace, and the ones for these dispersants both contain versions of a disturbing statement. 9500’s states that “Component substances have a potential to bioconcentrate,” while the one for 9527A has the slightly more comforting, “Component substances have a low potential to bioconcentrate.”

This is not what you want to hear about toxins being dumped in the sea by the hundreds of thousands of gallons. The EPA defines bioconcentration as the “accumulation of a chemical in tissues of a fish or other organism to levels greater than in the surrounding medium.” In other words, substances that bioconcentrate tend to move from water into fish, where they can do damage to the fish itself, as well as be passed on to predator fish — and on up the food chain, to human eaters.

And just how toxic is this stuff? The data sheets for both products contain this shocker: “No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product” — meaning testing their safety for humans.

Well, that’s good, then.

And the bigger picture yet is this: We’ve tried deregulating things in a big way now for about the past 30 years. Is anyone seriously arguing that the airline industry is in better shape now than 30 years ago? The financial system? Commercial radio?

And what about you? Are you better off for the changes to these industries?

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