Monday, May 17, 2010
Airport Scanners Safety Questioned, Iran Skirts Nuke Sanctions, Sex Criminals Indefinitely Detained - News Headlines 17 May 2010
From Denny: The Supreme Court ruled lopsidedly in favor of detaining dangerous sex criminals - even after they have served their sentences. They reversed a previous lower court ruling. At some point, we all have to consider the public good and the welfare of children by preventing dangerous sexual predators access to them.
To date there is no therapy, pill or surgery that has proven effective against dangerous sexual predators to "cure" them, rendering them no longer dangerous. To hold them indefinitely after a prison term is served is far superior to turning them loose only to re-offend, often killing. Why wait for the obvious? They don't want to change so why let them loose on the population?
As it is about 25% of our population are considered to be psychopaths - all of which are not necessarily violent - or not yet. Those we know to be violent we might as well keep incarcerated. Sometimes, with wisdom you just have to rule in favor of the welfare of the majority as opposed to one individual's rights - rights they basically threw away the first time they raped, molested or killed.
I put up a January article that talks about how the Obama administration's EPA reversed the Bush policy for pollution. For several months now I've noticed how much better is the air quality here in south Louisiana even though we have a multitude of chemical plants and oil refineries. At first I thought it was because of the weather but the better air quality persisted. Thanks to the Obama administration the air I breathe is much improved! You might want to click on the title to that article to check on your city.
As to the new privacy invasive airport scanners I've been having this nagging bad feeling for some time ever since they were installed in 23 airports. Besides the modesty issue, I just don't trust the science. Turns out neither do several eminent scientists: a molecular biologist, a biochemist and biophysicist and a cancer specialist.
What's of deep concern here is that about one in 20 people in the population, about 5%, are sensitive enough to radiation that it causes gene mutation and chromosome damage. There are no tests to let people know if they are part of that small group susceptible to damage and as a traveler you have no way of knowing if you are at risk. Scientists are worried about skin cancer, immune-system problems, breast cancer, mutations in sperm cells, and effects on a developing fetus.
Now, tell me, does this sound like a machine you would willingly step into now that you know this from a pack of concerned scientists? How will this affect the world population over the long term when about 700 million people are screened like this a year? Will it sterilize fertility, causing massive depopulation? Will it cause world wide cancers or other birth defects? What are the long term ramifications? No long term studies have been done on this airport scanner. Until then, perhaps it would be a better idea to step up the drug dog patrols. Bring in the hounds...
White House Notes Iran Nuclear Deal Skeptically (CBS)
The White House on Monday showed deep skepticism about Iran's new deal to ship low-enriched uranium off its soil, saying it has the chance to be "positive step" but warning that the deal still allows Iran to keep enriching uranium toward the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
"Given Iran's repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran's nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a written statement to the media.
In a deal struck with Turkey and Brazil, Iran said it would export much of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey. In return, Iran would get fuel rods of medium-enriched uranium to use in a Tehran medical research reactor. The move was seen as an attempt by Iran to prevent a looming round of United Nations sanctions.
But the nations leading the charge for more punitive action against Iran over its nuclear defiance, including the U.S., were hardly swayed...
Obama Will Establish Commission to Investigate Oil Leak (CBS)
...Mr. Obama will use an executive order to establish the commission. It will mirror panels created to investigate previous disasters like the shuttle Challenger and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
Reversing Bush, EPA Toughens Smog Rules (CBS) (7 January 2010)
Stricter Rules Recommended by Scientists Will Likely put Hundreds More Counties throughout the U.S. in Violation
The EPA proposed stricter health standards for smog, replacing a Bush-era limit that ran counter to scientific recommendations.
The new limits - which are presented as a range - will likely put hundreds more counties nationwide in violation, a designation that will require them to find additional ways to clamp down on pollution or face government sanctions, most likely the loss of federal highway dollars.
The tighter standards will cost tens of billions of dollars to implement, but will ultimately save billions in avoided emergency room visits, premature deaths, and missed work and school days, the EPA said.
The proposed range was what scientists had recommended during the Bush administration. However, former President George W. Bush personally intervened and set the standard above what was advised after protests from electric utilities and other industries. The Bush standard was still stricter than the previous smog standard set in 1997.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement Thursday that science, this time around, had been followed.
"EPA is stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face," Jackson said. "Using the best science to strengthen these standards is long overdue action that will help millions of Americans breathe easier and live healthier."
The Obama administration last year had indicated it planned to scrap the Bush smog limits, when it asked a federal judge to stay a lawsuit challenging the March 2008 standards brought by 11 states and environmental groups...
Court: No Need To Free 'Sexually Dangerous' Inmates (NPR)
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal officials can indefinitely hold inmates considered "sexually dangerous" after their prison terms are complete.
By a 7-2 vote, the high court reversed a lower court decision that said Congress overstepped its authority in allowing indefinite detentions of considered "sexually dangerous."
"The statute is a 'necessary and proper' means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others," said Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the majority opinion.
President George W. Bush in 2006 signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which authorized the civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal inmates.
The act, named after the son of "America's Most Wanted" television host John Walsh, was challenged by four men who served prison terms ranging from three to eight years for possession of child pornography or sexual abuse of a minor. Their confinement was supposed to end more than two years ago, but prison officials said there would be a risk of sexually violent conduct or child molestation if they were released....
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled last year that Congress overstepped its authority when it enacted a law allowing the government to hold indefinitely people who are considered "sexually dangerous."
But "we conclude that the Constitution grants Congress legislative power sufficient to enact" this law, Breyer said....
Chief Justice John Roberts last year granted an administration request to block the release of up to 77 inmates at a federal prison in North Carolina. These were people whose prison terms for sex offenses were ending. The justice's order was designed to allow time for the high court to consider the administration's appeal...
Scientists Question Safety Of New Airport Scanners (NPR)
After the "underwear bomber" incident on Christmas Day, President Obama accelerated the deployment of new airport scanners that look beneath travelers' clothes to spot any weapons or explosives.
Fifty-two of these state-of-the-art machines are already scanning passengers at 23 U.S. airports. By the end of 2011, there will be 1,000 machines and two out of every three passengers will be asked to step into one of the new machines for a six-second head-to-toe scan before boarding.
About half of these machines will be so-called X-ray back-scatter scanners. They use low-energy X-rays to peer beneath passengers' clothing. That has some scientists worried.
"Many people will approach this as, 'Oh, it must be safe, the government has thought about this and I'll just submit to it,'" says David Agard, a biochemist and biophysicist at the University of California, San Francisco. "But there really is no threshold of low dose being OK. Any dose of X-rays produces some potential risk."
Agard and several of his UCSF colleagues recently wrote a letter to John Holdren the president's science adviser, asking for a more thorough look at the risks of exposing all those airline passengers to X-rays. The other signers are John Sedat, a molecular biologist and the group's leader; Marc Shuman, a cancer specialist; and Robert Stroud, a biochemist and biophysicist.
"Ionizing radiation such as the X-rays used in these scanners have the potential to induce chromosome damage, and that can lead to cancer," Agard says.
The San Francisco group thinks both the machine's manufacturer, Rapiscan, and government officials have miscalculated the dose that the X-ray scanners deliver to the skin — where nearly all the radiation is concentrated.
The stated dose — about .02 microsieverts, a medical unit of radiation — is averaged over the whole body, members of the UCSF group said in interviews. But they maintain that if the dose is calculated as what gets deposited in the skin, the number would be higher, though how much higher is unclear...
The scientists don't all agree on the nature of the potential risks. For instance, the UCSF scientists, in their letter to Holdren, worry about effects such as melanoma, a dangerous skin cancer; immune-system problems; breast cancer; mutations in sperm cells; and effects on a developing fetus...
Brenner says he thinks the danger to most individual travelers is miniscule. But he worries about the unknowns when those very small risks are multiplied times something like 700 million travelers a year.
Recent research, Brenner says, indicates that about 5 percent of the population — one person in 20 — is especially sensitive to radiation. These people have gene mutations that make them less able to repair X-ray damage to their DNA. Two examples are the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancer, but scientists believe many more such defects are unknown.
"I don't know if I'm one of those 5 percent. I don't know if you're one of those 5 percent," Brenner says, "And we don't really have a quick and easy test to find those individuals."
Children are also more vulnerable to radiation damage, because they have more dividing cells at any time. A radiation-induced mutation in their cells can lead to cancer decades later.
Brenner says the most likely risk from the airport scanners is a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma, which is usually curable...
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