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Whether posting and debating about the coronavirus and public health, the environment and the catastrophic consequences of global warming and climate change, the threats to America’s Democratic institutions, politics, voter suppression and intimidation, Veterans advocacy, fair labor practices or a long list of vital social and economic issues, truth tellers become a target for those who would like to silence public debate and speaking truth to power. We will not be silenced. Please stay tuned.
‘There have to be consequences:’ Judge ups sentences for U.S. Capitol rioters
Jan Wolfe and Mark Hosenball October 13, 2021
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge in Washington has repeatedly sentenced people who stormed the U.S. Capitol to more prison time than prosecutors sought, saying that even people who were not violent should face consequences for joining the unprecedented assault.
In the past week, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has imposed sentences ranging from 14 to 45 days on four people who pleaded guilty to unlawful parading and picketing inside the Capitol building on Jan. 6 — a misdemeanor offense.
“There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of the government, beyond sitting at home,” Chutkan said at one of the hearings.
More than 650 people have been charged with joining the Jan. 6 violence, when supporters of Republican Donald Trump fought with police, smashed windows and charged through the building in an attempt to overturn his election defeat. So far, more than 100 people have pleaded guilty, and at least 17 of those defendants have been sentenced.
Four people died on the day of the violence, one shot dead by police and the other three of natural causes. A Capitol Police officer who had been attacked by protesters died the following day. Four police officers who took part in the defense of the Capitol later took their own lives. More than 100 police officers were injured.
On Wednesday, Chutkan sentenced two cousins who breached the Capitol and took selfies while doing so to 45 days in jail.
Prosecutors had asked Chutkan to sentence each of the defendants — Robert Bauer of Kentucky, and Edward Hemenway of Virginia — to 30 days in prison.
A day earlier, Chutkan sentenced an unrelated defendant, Dona Sue Bissey of Indiana, to two weeks of incarceration.
Prosecutors recommended Bissey, 52, serve probation, citing her early acceptance of responsibility and cooperation with law enforcement.
Bissey’s friend, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, avoided jail time after pleading guilty to the same crime, receiving a sentence of three years of probation from a different judge in June.
Chutkan, a former public defender appointed to the federal judiciary by former President Barack Obama, last week sentenced another defendant who admitted to the misdemeanor charge, Matthew Mazzocco, to 45 days in prison.
That court hearing marked the first time that one of the judges overseeing the hundreds of Jan. 6 prosecutions imposed a sentence that was harsher than what the government asked for.
Chutkan is not the first judge to second-guess the Justice Department’s handling of the Jan. 6 prosecutions.
Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the federal court in Washington, has suggested prosecutors were being too lenient in allowing some defendants to plead guilty to misdemeanor offenses.
At a hearing in August, Howell said even defendants facing low-level offenses played a role in “terrorizing members of Congress” on Jan 6.
During a plea hearing, the judge asked: “Does the government, in agreeing to the petty offense in this case, have any concern about deterrence?”
So far, no judge has rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors in a Jan. 6 case.
Almost all of the defendants to be sentenced so far pleaded guilty to non-violent misdemeanors. The Justice Department has signaled that it plans to seek much stiffer penalties for felonies.
In the case of Florida man Paul Hodgkins, who pleaded guilty to one felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding, the Justice Department requested an 18 month sentence. U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss went lighter on Hodgkins, sentencing him to eight months.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)
‘We don’t have water’: South American dam faces energy crunch as river ebbs
South American dam faces energy crunch as river ebbs
By Daniela Desantis October 20, 2021
HERNANDARIAS, Paraguay (Reuters) – The giant Itaipu hydroelectric power plant, wedged between Paraguay and Brazil on the Parana River, is facing an energy crunch amid record low river and rainfall levels that experts say could last into next year.
The Itaipu dam, which supplies around 10% of the energy consumed in Brazil and 86% of that used in landlocked Paraguay, has recorded its lowest output since the hydroelectric plant began operating at full capacity in 2005.
Downstream, the Argentine-Paraguayan Yacyreta plant produced half the normal level of energy in September, an example of how severe droughts are complicating the shift away from fossil fuels by drying up rivers and reservoirs.
“We have available power, what we don’t have is water to sustain that power for a long time,” Itaipu’s Operations Superintendent Hugo Zarate told Reuters, adding that the plant was “meeting the demand but for short periods of time.”
Zarate estimated that production at Itaipu would be between 65,000 and 67,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) this year.
“That’s about 35% of the maximum value of 2016 and 15% less than in 2020,” he said in his office at the plant, located between the cities of Hernandarias in Paraguay and Foz do Iguacu in Brazil.
The low production levels hit power output as well as impacting royalties the countries receive for the use of the water.
The drought, one of the worst in the last century, has led Brazil’s government to ask its citizens to reduce their consumption of electricity and water and raised the specter of possible power rationing.
Itaipu has a normal average inflow of about 11,000 cubic meters per second (m3/s), while that of Yacyreta is 14,500 m3/s, according to their technicians. Both rely on the flow of the river and have limited storage capacity.
Production is impacted heavily by the flows upriver in the Parana basin, regulated by about 50 dams upriver in Brazil, which have seen water stores dwindle since 2019 amid declining rainfall levels.
The average flow in Itaipu so far this year is 6,800 m3 per second, a level similar to that of the 1970s, according to Zarate. Average monthly inflows for Yacyreta are between 6,000-9,500 m3/s, said Lucas Chamorro, its head of hydrology.
“The useful volumes of the reservoirs are reaching their historical minimums… while the extreme trends of the El Nino or La Nina are becoming more acute,” said Chamorro, referring to cyclical climate patterns that can bring both heavy rains and drought to South America and elsewhere.
But relief does not seem to be around the corner. Despite a recent improvement, below normal rainfall seems likely for southern Brazil for the rest of the year, said Refinitiv Senior Weather Research Analyst Isaac Hankes.
“Plenty more rain is needed to ease drought concerns,” he said.
The Itaipu dam “totally relies on the improvement of the water flows,” said Zarate. “And if that doesn’t happen, this energy crisis is going to persist for at least next year.”
(Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Rosalba O’Brien)
This Ad Is the Republican Party’s Whole Deal Circa 2021
Jack Holmes October 20, 2021
If you’re looking for a concise summary of the Republican Party in 2021, you’ve got one courtesy of newly minted Nevada gubernatorial candidate Michele Fiore. The Las Vegas councilwoman released a campaign ad on Wednesday that truly has it all: a Ford® Super Duty® truck, a frontier setting, a gun carried prominently on the hip, and the use of that gun to destroy the great evils of our time. These are represented on the labels of beer bottles—which look a bit like Bud Heavies but are apparently products manufactured by “Socialism”—and they are as follows: “VACCINE MANDATES,” “CRT,” and “VOTER FRAUD.”
The second refers to “critical race theory,” a term for a relatively obscure area of study in American law schools which has been repurposed as a catch-all for perceived Woke Excesses by right-wing political operatives. (One admitted this outright.) The third refers to a problem that does not exist in any significant way, though it has become an article of faith underpinning the notion that the 2020 election was stolen from the one true president, Donald Trump. And the first is the in-vogue talking point over at Fox News, which requires all its employees to get vaccinated or get tested every day of the week—a significant burden that you’d think would push a lot of hesitaters to get vaccinated—but whose on-air hosts decry such rules as authoritarian power grabs and, perhaps, the end of the American experiment itself.
None of this is all that new, I guess, and the skeptical coverage you’ll find on this webpage is exactly what Fiore is hoping to get out of the video. (In it, she decries the media attacks she suffered for endorsing Donald Trump, though the examples she pulls from the Washington Post—”gun-toting calendar girl”—and Politico—”the Lady Trump”—do not seem extraordinarily vicious? She did release a calendar where she totes guns—also a Christmas card—and she is determined to cast herself as an heir to the Trumpian throne. Where’s the problem?) But this really is the whole deal. It’s not just the centrality of firearms in political messaging that, as a whole, conveys the notion of a person, a movement, and a Real America under siege. Somehow, we all just grew accustomed to this stuff. In what way is “the Joe Biden administration coming after” Michele Fiore? Do we just say these things now?
Something else you may have noticed is that, like pretty much anything else coming out of the Republican Party at the present moment, there is no discussion of any actual issue facing the United States of America right now. Inequality? The plight of American low-wage workers? Infrastructure? Climate? Healthcare? The 728,000 people dead from COVID-19 in the United States? None merit a mention. For Esquire’s September issue, Charles P. Pierce wrote about what he called the Phantom Revolution, which has consumed the conservative movement and directed its energy towards imaginary threats with very real consequences. It’s hard to think of a better example than a political ad that lays out the three major issues facing America as election fraud, critical race theory, and having to get vaccinated during a pandemic. Also, if socialism looks like Budweiser, wouldn’t that make it as American as apple pie?
America isn’t running out of everything just because of a supply-chain crisis. America is running out of everything because Americans are buying so much stuff.
Emma Cosgrove October 18, 2021
Disruptions in global supply chains have generated the phrase “everything shortage.”
But US imports are at record levels at some ports, and Americans are breaking shopping records, too.
Supply-chain professionals plan to alleviate the backlog container by container.
Americans are buying everything they can get their hands on, and they’d be buying even more if it weren’t for those pesky supply-chain snarls, the National Retail Federation said.
“Spending might have been higher if not for shortages of items consumers are eager to purchase,” Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s chief economist, said in a statement issued on Friday.
Those shortages seem so ubiquitous that the term “everything shortage” is now being used liberally to describe consumers’ frustration as they try to get goods of all sorts: paper towels, milk, toys and more.
Yet claims that the country is running short on everything miss a key point. America has, in fact, imported an immense amount of stuff in the past eight months. And that’s part of the reason we’re in the midst of an epic supply-chain congestion.
Where 6 things go after they’re discarded
Have you ever wondered what happens to something after you throw it away? The answer might surprise you. Our waste ends up in landfills, processing plants, and recycling centers all over the world. Here’s where computers, avocado pits, and more go after they’re discarded. For more, visit: Tires into electricity:
We imported more stuff … then we bought it
To understand the situation, consider the country’s inventory to sales ratio. This metric, tracked by the US Census Bureau, compares how much stuff sellers have on hand to how much stuff consumers are buying. The ratio is at a 10-year low, which indicates that we’re low on stuff.
But the Port of Los Angeles reported a 30% uptick in incoming cargo in the first nine months of this year. (Important note, most of nonfood goods sold in the US come from abroad.) The Port of Charleston, South Carolina, has been breaking all-time records since March. Prologis, a major industrial real-estate player, is “effectively sold out” of warehouse space.
All of that means that the inventory to sales ratio isn’t low because the US is short on stuff. It’s low because sales have gone completely nuts.
In the first nine months of 2021, retail sales were up 14.5% over the same period in 2020 – a year in which retail sales jumped 8% over 2019. The NRF expected to end the year with sales up 10.5% to 13.5%. Lots of imports and even more spending have driven the inventory to sales ratio down because businesses imported a lot of stuff, and then Americans bought it.
“Today’s retail sales data confirms the power of the consumer to spend, and we expect this to continue,” Matthew Shay, NRF’s CEO, said in a statement.
What do we do now
This isn’t to say true shortages don’t exist. The semiconductor supply could lag behind demand for years. Furniture makers are short on foam.
But most products that shoppers want to buy this holiday season don’t face a true shortage of one of their fundamental components. They instead have transportation problems somewhere along the long path from Asia to the US.
Warehoudes are full, ports are jammed, transportation prices are at record highs. The Biden administration felt compelled to work out extra hours of operation at America’s busiest port (which supply-chain experts expected to have limited effect).
There are two solutions here. The first is what supply-chain professionals are doing now: chipping away at the backlog container by container. The other possible fix is mostly mentioned in jest by supply-chain professionals.
If supply chains were a bathtub with a clogged drain, turning off the spigot would help avoid an overflow, right?
If demand for stuff slowed down, or production at the source did, the tub would take hours or days to fill rather than minutes. Supply-chain professionals joke that power cuts to Chinese factories could help the situation because at this point that’s the only plausible decrease in the water pressure coming anytime soon. It’s in part a jest because that’s one of the few things that could realistically, if temporarily, slow down the American consumer at this moment.
Untaming a river: The stakes behind America’s largest dam removal
Doug Struck October 18, 2021
They have been waiting for three years, growing fat and long in the tumult of the Pacific Ocean. Now the salmon turn, inexorably, driven by some ancient smell, into the mouth of a river along the wild Northern California coast.
For millennia, Native Americans watched the fish enter the Klamath River. The tribes celebrated them as a gift from the gods, but the fish numbers dwindled. Once the water teemed with millions of fish; last year, only 46,000 chinook salmon migrated successfully.
Huge dams, proclaimed by newcomers to the region as wondrous monuments to their dominance of nature, and promoted by the U.S. government as a way to open the West to settlers, blocked the fish from their upstream spawning grounds and slowed the Klamath in torpid reservoirs.
Now humanity is set to surrender much of the river back to nature. Four large dams on the Klamath River are due to be torn down in what is called the largest dam removal project in American history.
“It’s massive. It’s huge,” says Amy Cordalis, a legal adviser to the Yurok Tribe, of which she is a member, as she watches a heron lumber along the Pacific coast. “For the tribes and for the Yurok, it’s the beginning of healing. We remove those dams, the river runs free, and the salmon can go home.”
The removal will mark a major victory for environmentalists in their campaign to restore once-wild rivers in the United States by tearing down unneeded dams. It will be a historic victory for Native Americans who were promised eternal fishing rights, only to see fish blocked from their rivers. And it promises to help salmon, once a massive driver of the natural life cycle here in the Pacific Northwest.
But it could be too late. Environmentalists already see fish migrations dwindling in tributaries of the Klamath – a warning of further decline to come – and tribes no longer can count on fish as a source of food and a central part of their culture. Farmers upriver, meanwhile, who depend on irrigation, will continue to lay claim to their share of water from the river system. All of which means that the contentious issues that have swirled around the mighty Klamath for decades won’t vanish with the removal of four massive walls of earth and concrete.
“We are in a race with extinction,” says Michael Belchik, a senior biologist for the Yurok Tribe, of the declining salmon stocks. “And we are losing.”
The dams have foreshortened the ancient fish migration and slowed the Klamath River’s fast and wild run. Drought has stolen water. Climate change has warmed the river, now steeped with toxins and disease.
The Klamath River once strode unimpeded from southern Oregon through Northern California. Its kingdom is an overlooked corner of America, an untamed swath of rugged land and insular people. America knows the legends the area has spawned: the American Indian wars drenched in treachery and blood. The relentless gold rush miners who ravaged salmon streams. The broken treaties. The Bunyanesque loggers felling centuries-old trees. And, in modern times, the environmentalists chaining themselves to hemlock and fir in the name of a small, spotted owl.
“There are layers of culture, of history, of biology,” says Mr. Belchik. “All put together.”
Mr. Belchik, wind whipping at his words aboard a fast jet boat, is following the start of the salmon’s route from the cold waters of the Pacific. To trace the salmon’s journey inland is to see the challenges facing the river, the fish, and the people who depend on both – and how it might all soon change.
The salmon turn from the ocean into a choppy estuary at the ancient Yurok community of Requa, California, beside the town of Klamath. The place is a busy depot: Waves of chinook and coho salmon face upriver for their last brutal trip to spawn and die, meeting young salmon swimming seaward with new silver scales broadcasting a readiness for ocean life. They swim alongside steelhead trout, ropy lamprey eels, and even some massive green sturgeon. Seals prowl. Anglers prey. All mix in the estuary briefly, then go their own ways.
The adult salmon swim toward the continent as the estuary narrows. They dart under the tall slender bridge of Highway 101, the sinuous coastal traffic vein of California.
“From here, the salt water stops. And the salmon will not eat again,” says Mr. Belchik, as the shadow of the bridge passes overhead.
Five miles upriver, the Klamath River becomes shallower. At the helm of the jet boat, Hunter Mattz reads the ripples on the surface. He cuts and weaves like a matador. It seems reckless – rushing forward in a boat with a V-8 engine above shallow rocks. But speed is necessary, the pilot explains. Backing off the throttle would cause the craft to settle in water. He needs it to skim the surface. “I had to learn to press forward, not to hesitate,” Mr. Mattz says.
The struggle over fish is a family matter for Mr. Mattz, as it is for many tribal members. His grandfather, Raymond Mattz, was arrested 19 times in the 1960s as authorities tried to force the Native Americans to stop fishing. He finally invited California game wardens to take him away, and eventually won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming the Yurok’s tribal rights to fish in their ancestral waters.
“I’ve spent a lot of my time here, fishing,” says the young Mr. Mattz, his long ponytail dancing in the wind.
The salmon wend past the rocks, expending precious power. Eagles patrol the sky. Black bears visit at night. All await the salmon.
Sixteen miles upriver is the first turnoff. The salmon are drawn, in ways humans still do not fully understand, to the place of their birth. A few thousand veer into Blue Creek, whose headwaters lie far up in the Siskiyou Wilderness.
As he chats at the juncture of the creek, Mr. Belchik is distracted. Suddenly the water churns with leaps and splashes. A cloud of fish has brought a harbor seal upstream for a banquet. “Did you see that?” Mr. Belchik exalts. “I just saw a big 20-pound salmon like right there. Big 20-pounder! Wow.”
Mile after mile upriver the salmon swim, past ancient redwoods that somehow evaded the sawyers’ saws, towering Douglas firs, alders, and cottonwoods. The wet air of the coast rises with the land, and drops its rain – more than 100 inches per year – feeding the temperate rainforest.
The fish leave the territory of the Yurok, who have been here for thousands of years. They move forward in the Klamath through deep, spectacular gorges that crease uplifted granite mountains.
Sixty-six miles upriver, the Salmon River bustles in to join the Klamath. The river used to be famous for its surfeit of thousands of chinook each spring. This year biologists counted 95 fish.
In what can be a race of days or a hesitant swim of weeks, the salmon have labored their way more than 100 miles upstream. They reach Happy Camp, California, which flies the three eagle-feathered flag of the Karuk Tribe. The river at the center of the town – and at the tribe’s cultural heart – is tired and foul. The flow of water this far up is weak and the shallow currents intolerably warm for the cold-loving salmon. Blooms of toxic algae threaten the river as well.
Russell “Buster” Attebery, chairman of the Karuk Tribe, rarely eats fish from the river anymore. Mostly, he says, the fish are not there. It is an honored tradition for young men to catch and present salmon to their elders. But the tribe ended the practice four years ago. For its age-old ceremonies celebrating the return of the salmon, the tribe now gets fish from the Yurok on the coast.
“My saddest day as chairman was to tell our elders that we can’t bring them any [local] fish,” says Mr. Attebery, who has headed the tribe for 11 years. “I think the happiest day will be when I tell them that we can.”
The struggling salmon seek shady water in the day, and move at night when the river is cooler – and alive. On a fierce windy night, the Klamath, lit by the moon, turns silver. Its usual gentle shush swells to a thousand voices, and the willows on its banks flail their branches in wild genuflection.
The fish leave the green folds of the Klamath Mountains and enter high steppe plains of volcanic rock. After 175 miles, they reach the Shasta River tributary. In the 1930s, fish counts put the number of chinook salmon in the Shasta at 80,000. Last year, volunteers who walked the river recorded 4,000.
Eventually, as it nears the Oregon border, the river begins to flatten. RV parks, with fat vehicles parked on concrete pads, line its banks. The current picks up, and the fish plunge forward, oblivious of human rafters who float past them on inner tubes.
The fish turn a corner, 190 miles from the ocean where they began. But here, straddling the river, is an imposing red-clay and concrete barrier – the Iron Gate Dam.
There is no ladder, no passage for fish. The wall, 740 feet wide, is the end of the line.
Six dams were built on the Klamath River between 1918 and 1962. The Iron Gate Dam is 173 feet tall. Sluice pipes wind down the face of the dam from the reservoir behind it, ejecting water through two turbines to create hydroelectricity and providing the Lower Klamath a ration of lake-warmed water. Three shorter dams further upriver – the Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and John C. Boyle – also were built to bring kilowatts to a rural land.
“This is so easy to be done, the benefit so great, and the cost so little, that it cannot fail to meet with the approval of every citizen,” gushed the Klamath Evening Herald when the dams were proposed in 1901.
The tribes say they were promised a fish passage around or over the dams, but that did not happen. Instead, a hatchery was built at the Iron Gate Dam to insert juvenile salmon into the river, obliterating the ancient spawning pull of more than 400 miles of river and tributaries upstream.
But the dams pool the river in reservoirs, interrupting its pace, and trap sediment. In this drought, the river is low, warm, and slow. That has fueled a disease called Ceratonova shasta, spores released from host worms that thrive in the slower warm current. It can kill young fish. It has claimed, by some estimates, 95% of the juvenile salmon released from the hatchery recently.
Tribal leaders and biologists say the river – once the third most fertile salmon river in the West – may soon have no more salmon.
For 20 years, the tribes argued for restoration of the tributaries that were ravaged by logging and for removal of the dams, or the installation of working fish ladders. It has been a tortured fight. They were bolstered by the 1973 Supreme Court decision that overturned the arrest of Mr. Mattz’s grandfather. The tribes were further empowered by state and federal protections of endangered species, including the Klamath’s coho salmon.
But the fight still got ugly. In 2001, nearly 15,000 farmers, demanding more water for irrigation, mounted a “bucket brigade” protest, symbolically moving 50 pails of water from the river into an agricultural irrigation canal. The administration of George W. Bush then ordered water diverted to the farmers, which contributed to a massive die-off of tens of thousands of fish. Native groups still talk about it with a hushed tone of horror.
This year, in a reversal, federal authorities have cut off the irrigation water to farmers, as the drought has endangered the fish. That has brought an outcry from farmers that they are being sacrificed for salmon.
It’s a “disaster,” says Ben DuVal. Mr. DuVal farms far above the Iron Gate Dam, southeast of Upper Klamath Lake. He runs a 600-acre spread and raises 1,700 cattle on land his grandfather won in a homestead lottery in 1948. The grandfather of his wife, Erika, also secured acreage in the lottery. They hope to pass the farm down to their daughters, Hannah and Helena – “if that’s what they want,” the couple add in unison.
Their community of Tulelake, California, was a government project. It was created when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation drained swamps, dammed Upper Klamath Lake, and promised irrigation water forever to veterans of World War I and II who would homestead and farm the land. The government also promised fishing rights and water forever to the tribes. That duplicity burdens all of their descendants today: There is not enough water for both.
Outside the DuVals’ home, a 35-foot-high stack of hay bales awaits a buyer. Eventually, a tractor-trailer will haul them to Seattle, where they will be shrink-wrapped and shipped to Japan, South Korea, China, or Saudi Arabia.
“Believe it or not, it’s cheaper to ship it to China than to North Dakota,” says Mr. DuVal. About 1,200 farms in the area grow grain and alfalfa, potatoes and onions with water from Upper Klamath Lake.
But this year, the DuVals and their neighbors feel their livelihoods are endangered. Without the irrigation water, they cannot survive long, he says. Ms. DuVal motions out her sunny kitchen window to a fallow field. “You would not see brown out there; you would see green” in any other year. Their neighbor is sharing his well water, and many farmers are drilling deeper, even though they know the aquifer cannot support them all. “We’ve done a lot of things to get by this year that just aren’t going to work next year,” says Mr. DuVal.
“If we can’t get by for another year,” he adds, “it could very well be the end of our operation.”
“Finding the water is one thing,” Ms. DuVal says at her kitchen table, “but dealing with the mental and emotional struggles as well can … can break a person.”
The water cutoff has set the overwhelmingly white farmers – “irrigators” – against the defenders of the Klamath River and the Klamath River Indians. Mr. DuVal says he is not opposed to the dam removals – two remaining dams will control the lake level. But he believes the fish will not recover, given the warm and polluted waters.
“We’re putting farms out of business in order to continue doubling down on a theory that’s not working,” he says.
Don Gentry, the white-maned chairman of the Klamath Tribes, headquartered an hour north in Chiloquin, Oregon, acknowledges the dam removals will not be a panacea. Salmon may have to be reintroduced. They have not been seen in Chiloquin, on Upper Klamath Lake, for more than 100 years. But he is also concerned about two other endangered fish.
Known to the tribe as C’waam and Koptu, and called suckerfish by others, the species live in the lake. The adults are hardy and produce millions of juvenile fish each spring. But the young fish cannot survive the warm and polluted waters of Upper Klamath Lake, a shallow basin fouled by nutrients and often choked with toxic blue-green algae. Each year for nearly three decades, all the juvenile fish died by August.
Mr. Gentry frets about hydrology and biology, but it is the cultural loss he feels most keenly. He recalls the traditional catch of the C’waam and presentation to elders.
When he was a teenager, at a time of overt prejudice against Native Americans, the practice “affirmed that I had a place in our community and a purpose,” he says. “It made me the person I am today.”
The tribal members say they are not trying to deprive farmers of all their water, but, in a historical irony, the government is now on their side. State and federal laws say endangered fish must have enough water to survive.
In “normal” years, the removal of four dams downstream would not affect Upper Klamath Lake. Its two remaining dams, with fish ladders, would still control the farmers’ allocations. But climate change is altering normal expectations, and the farmers worry that the government will cut them off again to bolster water supplies for the endangered fish.
And nearly 4 million wild birds that stop on the historic ponds and marshes on their migration are “the last in line for water,” notes Bill Lehman, executive director of the nonprofit Klamath Watershed Partnership. He argues that water allocations must sustain the wetlands that support migrating birds.
In the end, the decision to remove the dams was simply a matter of business. The hydroelectric plants are now owned by the energy company PacifiCorp, which is a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. The owners looked at the requirements for modernizing the old dams – including a court order that they install fish ladders – and concluded the modest electrical power produced by the plants no longer justified their upkeep.
“We won because Warren Buffett decided it was too expensive” to keep the dams, admits Mr. Attebery of the Karuk Tribe.
The dams will be turned over to a legal entity called the Klamath River Renewal Corp., backed by the California and Oregon governments. Earthmovers are scheduled to begin dismantling the dams in two years.
But tensions remain ragged. Mark Bransom is chief executive officer of the new entity, and sometimes meets hostility as he explains the project in local communities. He recalls being confronted in a parking lot one night after a public meeting by two burly men who warned him never to return to the county. They added that they were armed.
“Oh, really?” Mr. Bransom says he told them. “What do you shoot? I carry my Glock .45 everywhere I go.” He offered to show them a shooting stance. “I can hit a 2-inch [target] at 30 feet every single time.” He says the men shuffled away.
Mr. Bransom, who grew up in rural Colorado, says he understands the distrust. “Your grandparents may have worked on these dams,” he tells people at public meetings. “Your ancestors came here to mine and they lost mining. And then they turned to logging and they lost logging – the spotted owl came along. Now agriculture is under assault, because we’re using too much water to grow hay and killing the salmon. So, you know, I understand what you’re saying.”
But Jeff Mitchell, an elder of the Klamath Tribes, says his people also are fighting for their way of life, their culture, and religion.
“We are fish people and we are water people,” says Mr. Mitchell. “We have a few laws that we believe the creator passed down to us, from generation to generation, and one of those is it is our responsibility to protect these fish. If for some reason these fish go away, the creator has told us we will go away. I believe that.”
Revealed: more than 120,000 US sites feared to handle harmful PFAS ‘forever’ chemicals
Carey Gillam and Alvin Chang October 17, 2021
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified more than 120,000 locations around the US where people may be exposed to a class of toxic “forever chemicals” associated with various cancers and other health problems that is a frightening tally four times larger than previously reported, according to data obtained by the Guardian.
The list of facilities makes it clear that virtually no part of America appears free from the potential risk of air and water contamination with the chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Colorado tops the EPA list with an estimated 21,400 facilities, followed by California’s 13,000 sites and Oklahoma with just under 12,000. The facilities on the list represent dozens of industrial sectors, including oil and gas work, mining, chemical manufacturing, plastics, waste management and landfill operations. Airports, fire training facilities and some military-related sites are also included.
The EPA describes its list as “facilities in industries that may be handling PFAS”. Most of the facilities are described as “active”, several thousand are listed as “inactive” and many others show no indication of such status. PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their longevity in the environment, thus even sites that are no longer actively discharging pollutants can still be a problem, according to the EPA.
People living near such facilities “are certain to be exposed, some at very high levels” to PFAS chemicals, said David Brown, a public health toxicologist and former director of environmental epidemiology at the Connecticut department of health.
Brown said he suspects there are far more sites than even those on the EPA list, posing long-term health risks for unsuspecting people who live near them.
“Once it’s in the environment it almost never breaks down,” Brown said of PFAS. “This is such a potent compound in terms of its toxicity and it tends to bioaccumulate … This is one of the compounds that persists forever.”
A Guardian analysis of the EPA data set shows that in Colorado, one county alone – Weld county – houses more than 8,000 potential PFAS handling sites, with 7,900 described as oil and gas operations. Oil and gas operations lead the list of industry sectors the EPA says may be handling PFAS chemicals, according to the Guardian analysis.
In July, a report by Physicians for Social Responsibility presented evidence that oil and gas companies have been using PFAS, or substances that can degrade into PFAS, in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), a technique used to extract natural gas or oil.
‘Permeating all industrial sectors’
The EPA said in 2019 that it was compiling data to create a map of “known or potential PFAS contamination sources” to help “assess environmental trends in PFAS concentrations” and aid local authorities in oversight. But no such map has yet been issued publicly.
The new data set shows a total count of 122,181 separate facilities after adjustments for duplications and errors in listed locations, and incorporation and analysis of additional EPA identifying information. The EPA facility list was provided to the Guardian by the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Peer), which received it from the EPA through a Freedom of Information request. (Peer is currently representing four EPA scientists who have requested a federal inquiry into what they allege is an EPA practice of ignoring or covering up the risks of certain dangerous chemicals.)
PFAS chemicals are a group of more than 5,000 man-made compounds used by a variety of industries since the 1940s for such things as electronics manufacturing, oil recovery, paints, fire-fighting foams, cleaning products and non-stick cookware. People can be exposed through contaminated drinking water, food and air, as well as contact with commercial products made with PFAS.
The EPA acknowledges there is “evidence that exposure to PFAS can cause adverse health outcomes in humans”. But the agency also says that there is only “very limited information” about human health risks for most of the chemicals within the group of PFAS chemicals.
EPA officials have started taking steps to get a grasp on the extent of PFAS use and existing and potential environmental contamination, as independent researchers say their own studies are finding reason for alarm. Last year, for instance, scientists at the non-profit Environmental Working Group issued a report finding that more than 200 million Americans could have PFAS in their drinking water at worrisome levels.
The EPA is expected to announce a broad new “action plan” addressing PFAS issues on Monday. The list of facilities handling PFAS is one part of the larger effort by the agency to “better understand and reduce the potential risks to human health and the environment caused by PFAS,” EPA deputy press secretary Tim Carroll told the Guardian.
“EPA has made addressing PFAS a top priority,” Carroll said. “Together we are identifying flexible and pragmatic approaches that will deliver critical public health protections.”
Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and an expert on PFAS, said the EPA compilation of more than 120,000 facilities that may be handling PFAS and other recent moves shows the agency is taking the issue seriously, but more work is urgently needed.
“Unfortunately, where PFAS are used, there is often local contamination,” Birnbaum said. And while the EPA appears to be trying to get a handle on the extent of exposure concerns, progress “seems very slow”, she said.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) asserts that PFAS concerns are overblown.
Major manufacturers have backed away from the PFOS and PFOA-related chemicals that research has shown to be hazardous, and other types of PFAS are not proven to be dangerous, according to the chemical industry organization. “PFAS are vital” to modern society, according to the ACC.
But public health and environmental groups, along with some members of Congress, say the risks posed to people by industrial use of PFAS substances are substantial.
Four US lawmakers led by Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, wrote to the EPA administrator, Michael Regan, on 6 October about their concerns regarding PFAS contamination of air and water from industrial facilities, saying: “For too many American families, this exposure is increasing their risk of cancer and other serious health problems.”
More than 150 advocacy groups also sent a letter to Regan calling for urgent action to address industrial discharges of PFAS chemicals, noting that many of the chemicals “have been linked at very low doses to serious health harms”.
One of the sites on the EPA list is the Clover Flat landfill in Calistoga, California, a small community in the Napa Valley area that is popular for its vineyards and wineries. The landfill sits on the northern edge of the valley atop the edge of a rugged mountain range.
Clover Flat has taken in household garbage, as well as commercial and industrial waste since the 1960s, but over time the landfill has also become a disposal site for debris from forest fires.
Though the EPA list does not specifically confirm Clover Flat is handling PFAS, the community has no doubt about the presence of the toxic chemicals. A May 2020 water sampling report requested by regional water quality control officials showed that PFAS chemicals were present in every single sample taken from groundwater and from the leachate liquid materials around the landfill.
Close to 5,000 people live within a three-mile radius of the landfill, and many fear the PFAS and other toxins taken in by the landfill are making their way deep into the community.
Geoffrey Ellsworth, mayor of the small city of St Helena in Napa county, said multiple streams cross the landfill property, helping rains and erosion drive the chemical contaminants downhill into creeks and other water sources, including some used to irrigate farmland. He has been seeking regulatory intervention but has not been successful, he told the Guardian.
A small group of Napa Valley residents have been working on a documentary film about their concerns with the landfill, highlighting fears that exposures to PFAS and other contaminants are jeopardizing their health.
“The water is full of foam and looks soapy and smells funny,” said 69-year-old Dennis Kelly, who lives on a few acres downhill from Clover Flat. His dog Scarlett has become sick after wading through waters that drain from the landfill into a creek that runs through his property, Kelly said. And for the last few years he has suffered with colon and stomach cancer.
Kelly said he fears the water is toxic, and he has noticed the frogs and tadpoles that once populated the little creek are now nowhere to be found.
“Pollution is going to be what kills us all,” Kelly said.
Our water usage has shrunk by 62%, saving more than 919,000 gallons of water and about $6,000 in Los Angeles Department of Water and Power charges since 2009. I like that.
I don’t like knowing that one of the roughly 120 golf courses in the Coachella Valley blows through our entire 12-plus years of water savings in about nine hours, every single night.
In one part of the permanently drought-stricken four-fifths of Australia called “outback,” golf course fairways are dirt and “greens” are compacted black sand. People play on them daily. Coachella Valley golfers and golf course owners, state water resource managers, water drinkers: Are you listening?
Chuck Almdale, North Hills
To the editor: I have been bothered for a while about how California has been underutilizing the scant water we do have by growing snacks (almonds) and wine, and now I find out that millions of gallons daily are going to golf courses from a water source that is recharged by the imperiled Colorado River.
So there’s plenty of water for snacks, wine and golf. Welcome to the hedonistic California Republic.
Jim Sangster, Ojai
To the editor: As the members of the senior generation who moved to and developed the desert’s golf resorts age and die off, what will be the need for these huge, useless expanses of green?
Details: Two-thirds of Americans say extreme weather events in the U.S. have been occurring more frequently than in the past, while only 28% said they’ve been taking place about as often, and just 4% perceiving a dropoff in frequency.
When it comes to extreme weather events in their backyards, 46% of U.S. adults say the area where they live has had an extreme weather event over the past year.
The area with the greatest number of people reporting an extreme weather event was the South Central Census Division. It includes Louisiana, a state hit hard by Hurricane Ida and heavy rainfall events.
Yes, but: Even on perceptions of extreme weather events, there is a partisan split, the survey found, with Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents more likely to report experiencing extreme weather than Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
The survey of 10,371 Americans took place from Sept. 13–19, 2021, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6 percentage points.
The left-leaning group Data For Progress on Thursday released genuinely brutal poll numbers for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), whose very public role in holding up President Biden’s agenda is clearly not wearing well with her state’s primary electorate.
The survey of likely voters for her 2024 Democratic Senate primary showed just 25 percent approval for Sinema’s performance in office, as opposed to 85 percent for Arizona’s other Democratic senator, Mark Kelly, and President Biden himself. Tellingly, she trailed all four of her hypothetical primary opponents by 29 points or more.
The brewing revolt of the Arizona Democratic electorate should terrify Sinema — assuming that she has any interest in being re-elected as a member of the Democratic Party. Unlike her partner in obstruction, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sinema is not the only Democrat who could plausibly be elected to statewide office in her state. And her troubles suggest that the stalwart Democrats who vote in primary elections are yearning for the kind of party discipline former President Donald Trump imposed on wavering Republicans.
Sinema’s dreadful numbers, in fact, look a lot like those of former Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in the 2018 election cycle. One of the most prominent Trump critics in the Senate both before and after Trump’s election, Flake trailed ultraconservative Republican Kelli Ward by 27 points in a hypothetical primary, and boasted the exact same 25 percent approval number among likely GOP primary voters (albeit much closer to Election Day than Sinema is now). Seeing the writing on the wall, Flake chose to retire rather than face a near-certain primary drubbing.
Unlike Flake, a frequent recipient of Trump’s juvenile invective, Sinema has barely received any public criticism from Biden, suggesting Arizona Democrats resent her largely for opposing popular policies like paid family leave and expanded Medicare benefits. And unless she relents and helps craft a social spending bill acceptable to all factions of her party, she’s likely to follow Flake’s path to political oblivion.