This show was pre-empted for the Senate Hearings. The recording below is the same one that will be run on KPFT-HD2 on March 30th.
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- An educated electorate is a prerequisite for a democracy.
- You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.
Sugar Land officials assess future of solid waste practices; Bellaire City Council approves development permits on former Chevron campus; Missouri City moves forward with nearly $11 million in bond infrastructure projects; UPDATED: Houston homelessness sees 5.8% spike in 2022; coalition cites housing programs for overall decline during pandemic; What is harm reduction, the drug-treatment program that Sen. Ted Cruz has criticized?; Maine faces a crisis from PFAS-contaminated produce, which is causing farms to close and farmers to face the loss of their livelihoods; Veteran cameraman and Ukrainian journalist killed near Kyiv while reporting for Fox News; Biden heading to Brussels for NATO meeting; Russia Deploys a Mystery Munition in Ukraine; Seven key developments in the Ukraine conflict this weekend; Calling Putin a war criminal is a bigger deal than you think; Are we all Cardassians now?;More.
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- Sugar Land officials assess future of solid waste practices; By Cynthia Zelaya | COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM | 4:56 PM Mar 18, 2022 CDT | Updated 4:56 PM Mar 18, 2022 CDT
- The Solid Waste Task Force presented recommendations for the future of solid waste disposal and recycling in Sugar Land during a City Council meeting March 15.
- With the city of Sugar Land’s current waste and recycling contract with Republic Services set to end in March 2023, City Manager Mike Goodrum organized the Solid Waste Task Force to identify areas where the city’s next contract could be improved.
- The task force has identified four things to be prioritized when going into the next contract. These points are to ensure customer satisfaction, encourage recycling through educational outreach, promote environmental stewardship and make sure the new contract provides the best possible service at the lowest price for the community, according to officials at the meeting. …
- … Based on the task force’s own preferences, an online poll of town hall’s preferences and a survey, a majority of people would prefer recycling and green waste collection being increased to once a week. Trash and bulky-waste collection should remain the same, according to the survey.
- The task force recommends that clear trash bags be used for green waste and regular trash, as it makes identifying sources of cross contamination easier. Additionally, Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements during natural disasters require cities to use clear plastic bags for debris collection, so the change would make receiving government assistance easier. …
- A large source of dissatisfaction with Republic among citizens expressed during the public comments was the use of side-loading trucks. They note how, although more time-efficient, they cannot pick up anything outside the can, loose trash, or cans that are not easily accessible from the road.
- “They picked up everything,” said Deborah Sullivan, referring to the old trash service that used rear-loading trucks. “No matter what was out there, there were guys that [picked] it up and threw it in the back of the trash truck. It was great. It was convenient. They took the bulky waste and the green waste too. …”
- Five to 10 companies are expected to bid for the waste collection contract with Sugar Land in 2023.
- TAGS: Sugar Land Sugar Land City Council
- Bellaire City Council approves development permits on former Chevron campus; By George Wiebe | COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM | 4:41 PM Mar 22, 2022 CDT | Updated 4:41 PM Mar 22, 2022 CDT
- More than four years after Chevron sold 30 acres of land at the intersection of Fournace Place and South Rice Avenue in Bellaire, plans on the North Bellaire Special Development District are in motion. …
- The proposed development, which was broken up into three sections to make oversight and potential alterations more manageable, received permit approval by the Bellaire City Council on March 21, though not without a last minute debate between council members. …
- The council also approved the next phase of its water and wastewater line improvements project at the March 21 meeting. … No construction timeline has been released.
- TAGS: Bellaire-Meyerland-West University Bellaire City Council North Bellaire Special Development District
- Missouri City moves forward with nearly $11 million in bond infrastructure projects; By Hunter Marrow | COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM | Mar 22, 2022, 2:36 PM CDT | Updated 2:36 PM Mar 22, 2022 CDT
- Missouri City City Council has approved the sale of newly authorized general obligation bonds worth $10.89 million in order to fund the city’s future infrastructure projects. …
- [T]he bonds will fund drainage, facilities, streets and parks projects, according to agenda documents. …
- Even with the approval of the bond sale, Missouri City still holds over $91 million in bonds that have yet to be issued, according to agenda documents. That includes over $80 million that still remain from the voter-approved November bond election.
- UPDATED: Houston homelessness sees 5.8% spike in 2022; coalition cites housing programs for overall decline during pandemic; By Christopher Goodwin | COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM | 6:43 PM Mar 16, 2022 CDT | Updated 4:51 PM Mar 18, 2022 CDT
- The Coalition for the Homeless’ annual homelessness count conducted Jan. 24 suggests pandemic response efforts may have helped keep rates of homelessness down in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties.
- A March 16 news release from the coalition reported more than 3,200 people were experiencing homelessness during the January  count, with about 1,700 in shelters and 1,500 who were unsheltered. Overall, the number of people experiencing homelessness rose 5.8% from [last year but] homeless counts have dropped during the pandemic from nearly 4,000 in 2020. Overall, the number of people experiencing homelessness has declined 64% since 2011, according to data provided by the coalition. … [MIKE: It’s worth noting that Houston’s population has grown by almost 800,000 in that time frame.]
- [Ana Rausch, vice president of operations [for the Community COVID[-19] Housing Program, or CCHP] also [attributed] the success of maintaining low homeless numbers to putting the majority of the coalition’s funding toward permanent solutions, which helped place over 3,800 people into housing through the CCHP.
- “[The] CCHP enabled the partners of The Way Home to place many more people in permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing over a 12-month period compared to prior years,” Rausch said in the March 16 announcement.
- Announced in July 2020, Phase 2 of the CCHP used American Recovery Plan Act dollars to help house 7,000 more clients and added more support to ensure more long-term successes.
- “Many of the CCHP Phase 2 funds will be dispersed in May of this year,” Rausch said. “Although CCHP Phase 1 runs through September, CCHP Phase 2 investments will run concurrently for a small portion of time and then will start back up through the end of 2024.”
- REFERENCE: The current metro area population of metro Houston in 2022 is 6,603,000. (Houston Metro Area Population 1950-2022)
- REFERENCE: The metro area population of Houston in 2011 was 5,836,814 (Demographics and Population Datasets Involving Houston Metro Area (TX))
- What is harm reduction, the drug-treatment program that Sen. Ted Cruz has criticized?; by Andrew Zhang | TEXASTRIBUNE.ORG | March 22, 2022, 21 hours ago
- MIKE: FYI, I’ve rearranged points in this story for clarity.
- In early February, Cruz sparked controversy when he tweeted “Biden crime policy: Crack pipes for all” and then later went on his podcast, “Verdict”, to further amplify the statement, which fact-checkers have said is false.
- Cruz’s comments responded to a news article from a conservative publication …
- Cruz was referring to the Biden administration’s $30 million grant program that aims to mitigate the fallout from the country’s opioid crisis and increased fentanyl overdoses. The program relies on what are called harm-reduction policies, which call for minimizing the detrimental health and economic impacts of drug abuse until users can get treatment rather than criminalizing addiction.
- The senator’s comments focused on “safe smoking kits”, which typically contain alcohol swabs, lip balm and other protective materials meant to protect users from possible burns, blisters and transmittable infections such as HIV and hepatitis C. Some harm-reduction organizations include glass stems that can function as pipes in their safe smoking kits. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki denied that the federal program would fund the inclusion of pipes and said the federal government does not support direct or indirect funding for such items. …
- But federal officials denied claims the program would fund pipes. In a joint statement, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and National Drug Control Policy Director Rahul Gupta said their agencies are focused on “using our resources smartly” to reduce the harm and fatalities caused by drug use.
- “Accordingly, no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits,” they said.
- A spokesperson for Cruz did not respond to requests for comment.
- What is the harm-reduction approach?
- Harm reduction offers a science-based alternative of recognizing addiction as a disease, as opposed to traditional and nonscientific approaches that have criminalized drug usage.
- For the most part, harm reduction does not look to cure the addictions of the people served. Instead, it works to ensure people on drugs stay alive and as healthy as possible until they can receive proper treatment. …
- [Claire Zagorski, a harm-reduction and drug policy researcher at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy] said harm reduction is economically smart — people who overdose or injure themselves while using can end up with a hospital bill that they cannot pay.
- Marcia Ory, a public health professor at Texas A&M University and chair of the school’s opioid task force, said the harm-reduction approach accompanies a shift in perception about addiction. Evidence shows that people who get addicted to drugs don’t have a lack of willpower but instead undergo bodily changes that entice them to want more drugs.
- Ory … said if criminalization were successful, fewer people would have addiction and fewer lives and families would be ruined. …
- What do harm-reduction practices look like?
- Programs can distribute an array of products that all aim to reduce harm from drug use. That can include safe injection kits with clean syringes and fentanyl testing strips, which are a relatively cheap way to check for the presence of the deadly narcotic that is increasingly a contaminant in other drugs. … Distributed items can also include naloxone, often known as Narcan, a medicine that can treat opioid overdose. …
- [Paulette Soltani, director of organizing for the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance, which protested outside Cruz’s Austin office in March. said,] “It’s outrageous that somebody like Ted Cruz is even commenting on harm-reduction tools when a lot of the evidence-based tools that we need in the first place are illegal in the state,” “It’s a political issue at the expense of the lives of Texans.”
- MIKE: Conservatives seem to deal a lot in what might be called “stealth eugenics”; eliminating ‘undesirables’. And of course, lying to make political points.
- Maine faces a crisis from PFAS-contaminated produce, which is causing farms to close and farmers to face the loss of their livelihoods; by Tom Perkins with photographs by Tristan Spinski | THEGUARDIAN.COM | Tue 22 Mar 2022 06.05 EDT, Last modified on Tue 22 Mar 2022 @ 22.02 EDT
- … Farmers Johanna Davis and Adam Nordell bought Songbird in 2014. … [But in December 2021, the] couple learned the farm’s previous owner had decades earlier used PFAS-tainted sewage sludge, or “biosolids”, as fertilizer on Songbird’s fields. Testing revealed their soil, drinking water, irrigation water, crops, chickens, and [their] blood were contaminated with high levels of the toxic chemicals.
- The couple quickly recalled products, alerted customers, suspended their operation and have been left deeply fearful for their financial and physical wellbeing. …
- Public health advocates say Songbird is just the tip of the iceberg as Maine faces a brewing crisis stemming from the use of biosolids as fertilizer. The state has begun investigating more than 700 properties for PFAS contamination. Few results are in yet, but several farmers’ independent testing revealed high PFAS levels, and statewide contamination has disrupted about 10 farms.
- Farmers who spoke with the Guardian say other growers have admitted to hiding PFAS contamination because they fear economic ruin.
- Maine is hardly alone. It is finding more contamination because it’s doing more testing, experts say. All sludge contains some level of PFAS, and farms across the country have increasingly used the substance as fertilizer in recent decades. Michigan, one of the only other states to monitor biosolids and to test agricultural products, recently discovered PFAS-contaminated beef. …
- PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 9,000 compounds used to make products heat-, water- or stain-resistant. Known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t naturally break down, they have been linked to cancer, thyroid disruption, liver problems, birth defects, immunosuppression and more. Dozens of industries use PFAS in thousands of consumer products, and often discharge the chemicals into the nation’s sewer system.
- Sludge is a by-product of the wastewater treatment process that’s a mix of human excrement and any number of more than 90,000 human-made chemicals or substances discharged from industry’s pipes. “It’s a toxic soup,” said Laura Orlando, a Boston University civil engineer who studies sludge contamination.
- Sludge is expensive to landfill but as human excrement holds nitrogen, phosphorus and other plant nutrients, it’s often lightly treated, marketed as “biosolids” and sold or given to farmers who view it as a cost-saving fertilizer.
- Maine’s unfolding crisis is prompting fresh calls to ban the practice and PFAS. In July, the state’s government became the world’s first to approve a near ban of PFAS, and a proposal to prohibit biosolids that haven’t been tested for PFAS is moving through the Maine legislature. …
- [Songbird] farm’s PFAS levels are … alarming. Maine’s water limit on six kinds of PFAS is 20 parts per trillion (ppt), while levels at Songbird were 8,000 ppt. The state set sludge limits between 2.5 and 5.2 ppb parts per billion (ppb) – Songbird recorded levels in its soil as high as 475 ppb. Additionally, PFAS can spread [to nearby properties]. …
- Regulation is complicated by a hesitancy to disrupt the agricultural industry and a lack of federal limits for PFAS in food. Though Maine’s agricultural department established standards for beef and milk, they only monitor one out of thousands of kinds of PFAS. Public health advocates say the limits should be lower and more PFAS compounds should be included in testing.
- After Stoneridge Farm, a small dairy operation more than 100 miles south of Songbird, discovered in 2016 that sludge and paper mill waste used as fertilizer had probably contaminated its cows and milk, the state developed limits for two kinds of PFAS in sludge. Subsequent testing found about 95% of Maine’s sludge exceeded the limits.
- In response, in 2019 [Maine’s Department Of Environmental Protection, the DEP] developed new restrictions for spreading sludge on farmland. One rule permitted spreading if the combined sludge and clean soil’s PFAS levels didn’t exceed state sludge limits. Patrick MacRoy, deputy director of Defend Our Health Maine called the policy “ridiculous” because it allowed clean fields to be contaminated with PFAS. …
- As the sludge ban gains momentum, Maine’s largest waste management company, Casella Waste Systems, and some wastewater treatment facilities, have responded by saying that the state doesn’t have enough room in its landfills for more sludge and that the ban will increase customers’ water and sewer bills.
- Landfilling sludge is a problem, said Joe Fusco, Casella vice-president, because its storage requires more material as a bulking agent and that’s going to “take up scarce landfill space”. …
- Fusco said the claim that Casella is only concerned about its shareholders is “a gross oversimplification” that ignores the larger issue of how to get PFAS out of the waste system.
- MIKE: Fusco is right. It’s not really a waste processing issue. The problem is upstream, where the chemicals are dumped into the wastewater system. This is part of a larger problem with all kinds of chemical waste. Companies dump this stuff into the sewers, making it a public waste treatment problem, or store it in holding ponds that leak or burst or eventually become a public problem some other way.
- MIKE: As I’ve often said, “Profit is private, but pollution is public.” There are many different parts to this problem: Storage, shipping, disposal, or chemical breakdown or conversion making waste suitable for bio-remediation or -degradation. And it isn’t just a chemical problem. Heavy metals and other industrial biproducts also contaminate the sewage waste stream. The problem isn’t sludge per se. It’s the kind of stuff that should never find its way into wastewater in the first place and become part of the sludge.
- MIKE: Whether this is a treatment problem for industry or government, the first step has to be separating these industrial byproducts from the sewage waste stream.
- REFERENCE: “Dark Waters (2019)” starring Mark Ruffalo, (based on The New York Times magazine article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” by Nathaniel Rich.
- Veteran cameraman and Ukrainian journalist killed near Kyiv while reporting for Fox News; By Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter, CNN Business | Updated 4:12 PM ET, Tue March 15, 2022
- [An attack last week] on a Fox News crew reporting near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv left two of the network’s journalists dead and its correspondent severely injured, the channel said on Tuesday. …
- The deaths come as journalists working in Ukraine increasingly find themselves coming under fire. Brent Renaud, an award-winning American documentarian, was killed Sunday in an attack that also injured journalist Juan Arredondo. A Sky News team released footage earlier this month showing them being violently ambushed.
- MIKE: The rest of the article is mostly background on these individuals and tributes to them.
- MIKE: What we should remember is all war correspondents – especially those that report from the actual war zones – have balls of steel, and deserve both our deep respect and our deep, deep gratitude.
- Biden heading to Brussels for NATO meeting; Ted Kemp, Chloe Taylor, Amanda Macias | CNBC | Updated Wed, Mar 16 20221:26 AM EDT
- S. President Joe Biden plans to travel to Brussels next week to meet with NATO allies about bolstering support for Ukraine as it fights to fend off Russia’s unprovoked attack.
- The “extraordinary summit” on March 24 will bring together North American and European leaders to discuss “further strengthening NATO’s deterrence & defence,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
- The alliance is expected to call on its military commanders Wednesday to send more troops and missile defenses to eastern Europe, Reuters reported.
- Russia Deploys a Mystery Munition in Ukraine; Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles are releasing a previously unknown decoy designed to evade air-defense systems, an American official said. By John Ismay | NYTIMES.COM | March 14, 2022
- … The devices are each about a foot long, shaped like a dart and white with an orange tail, according to an American intelligence official. They are released by the Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles that Russia is firing from mobile launchers across the border, … when the missile senses that it has been targeted by air defense systems.
- Each is packed with electronics and produces radio signals to jam or spoof enemy radars attempting to locate the Iskander-M, and contains a heat source to attract incoming missiles. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about intelligence matters, described the devices on the condition of anonymity.
- The use of the decoys may help explain why Ukrainian air-defense weapons have had difficulty intercepting Russia’s Iskander missiles. …
- The devices are similar to Cold War decoys called “penetration aids,” the intelligence official said, that have accompanied nuclear warheads since the 1970s and were designed to evade antimissile systems and allow individual warheads to reach their targets. The incorporation of the devices into weapons like the Iskander-M that have conventional warheads has not been previously documented in military arsenals.
- “The minute people came up with missiles, people started trying to shoot them down, and the minute people started trying to shoot them down, people started thinking about penetration aids,” Jeffrey Lewis, a professor of nonproliferation at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif., said in an interview. “But we never see them because they’re highly secret — if you know how they work, you can counteract them.” …
- The use of the decoys may point to some level of carelessness or urgency by Russian military leadership, Mr. Lewis said, given that Russia knows they will inevitably be collected and studied by Western intelligence services so that NATO air defenses can be programmed to defeat the Iskander’s countermeasures.
- MIKE: This development is extremely interesting from a military intelligence standpoint, so the question is raised: Why reveal this technology to the West in this war? Let’s discuss the next story…
- SPEAKING OF MISSILES …
- Seven key developments in the Ukraine conflict this weekend; By Jack Guy, CNN | Updated 10:12 AM ET, Mon March 21, 2022
- MIKE: There’s a lot in this particular that’s militarily interesting and humanly tragic, but in view of the last piece, this is what caught my eye:
- … Russia launches hypersonic missiles: The Russian military claimed it had launched a series of strikes on military targets in Ukraine employing hypersonic and cruise missiles on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
- In a statement released on Sunday, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov said sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles were fired from the Caspian Sea, and air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missile systems were fired from airspace over Crimea.
- US officials also confirmed to CNN that Russia launched hypersonic missiles against Ukraine last week, the first known use of such missiles in combat.
- The launches were likely intended to test the weapons and send a message about Russian capabilities, multiple sources told CNN.
- MIKE: From my readings, Western military and intelligence officials were confused by the appearance of these two weapons; one that was previously unknown, and the other whose capture now reveals major technology secrets of the Russians. Are the Russians getting to the bottom of their munitions barrel? Did some lower officer fire these missiles with this secret tech without the knowledge and approval of his superiors? Or are the Russians hurting so badly for weaponry, that these are what they have left?
- MIKE: Of course it’s not quite as simple as that, but it almost is.
- Ukrainian authorities released this picture of what they say is an unexploded hypersonic missile in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. https://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/220321110037-01-ukraine-monday-reset-03-21-intl-super-169.jpg
- Calling Putin a war criminal is a bigger deal than you think; Analysis by Paul LeBlanc, CNN | Updated 5:39 PM ET, Mon March 21, 2022
- … Is Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal? His country’s unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine has presented reams of evidence that have led some world leaders — including US President Joe Biden last week — to use the loaded label.
- The question now is what Biden’s comments — which he followed up by calling Putin a “murderous dictator” and “pure thug” — will mean for the war in Ukraine going forward.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday didn’t signal any concern that Biden’s remarks would roil talks with Russia. He told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that he’s “ready for negotiations” with Putin. (More on this in a minute.)
- Biden’s comments represented a major moment since leading officials had mostly avoided saying war crimes were being committed in Ukraine, citing ongoing investigations into whether that term could be used. But soon after the President uttered the words “I think he is a war criminal” to reporters at an unrelated event, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the comment was “from the heart.” Other officials used similar language.
- “When you are speaking from the heart, speaking as a human and you’re seeing what we’ve all seen, these searing images on TV, a Russian strike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol, strikes against residential buildings, against schools, against civilian neighborhoods, it’s hard not to walk away with that conclusion,” State Department spokesman Ned Price later told CNN.
- And after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he “personally” agreed with Biden’s label of Putin, Psaki told reporters that the top US diplomat was speaking from the heart “as well.”
- Why all the parsing? While terms like “war crimes” and “war criminal” are often used colloquially, they do have a legal definition that could be used in potential prosecution. That includes in the Geneva Conventions, which specify intentional targeting of civilians as a war crime.
- In other words, the White House is being careful to not get ahead of the international investigations probing Russia’s invasion. …
- The view from the State Department. US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Friday also expressed her personal view that war crimes are being committed in Russia, saying that they “all feel it personally,” but noted that there must be “a body of proof” before a legal determination can be made. …
- How long do war crime investigations take? Investigations at the International Criminal Court take many years, and only a handful of convictions have ever been won.
- Put differently, it could be a while before Biden’s “war criminal” remarks have any legal weight — if ever.
- As we noted earlier this month, the court tries people, not countries, and focuses on those who hold the most responsibility: leaders and officials. While Ukraine is not a member of the court, it has previously accepted its jurisdiction. Putin could, therefore, theoretically be indicted by the court for previously ordering war crimes in Crimea.
- However, the ICC does not conduct trials in absentia, so he would either have to be handed over by Russia or arrested outside of Russia. That seems unlikely.
- AN OUTSIDE-THE-BOX RECOGNITION OF PERCEPTIONS: Andrew ran across the following post on TUMBLER. I thought it was interesting enough to discuss for reasons I hope will become apparent. The post was written by a US man using the handle, “Road House End Game”. Andrew has not been able to contact him. Here’s the text:
- “I was talking to my mom about Cardassians and said something along the lines of ‘what must it be like to be a Cardassian civilian. like abstractly knowing the rest of the galaxy thinks of your species as ‘the evil ones’ and kinda sorta knowing your government runs labor camps and torture prisons and is a military empire, and it’s a huge deal for everyone else in the galaxy, but you just like run a restaurant so it’s not a big part of your daily life, so you just like, go about your day and make soup and don’t think about it’ and then halfway through my sentence I actually heard myself and then had to go sit down for like ten minutes. like sat down in a chair and stared at the floor for ten minutes.”