With this morning's New York Times, we'll start by noting Douglas Jehl and Steven R. Weisman's "Bush Nominee for U.N. Post Faces Hurdles at Senate Panel" (David E. Sanger helped with the article):
A former chief of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research is expected to testify in opposition to John R. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds hearings on Mr. Bolton next week.
With one Republican member, Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, reserving final judgment, the committee's approval of Mr. Bolton's nomination does not appear to be certain, senior Congressional officials said.
Brad e-mails to alert us to Carl Hulse and Philip Shenon's "DeLay Denounces Report on Payments to His Family:"
Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, on Wednesday angrily dismissed newspaper accounts that focused on payments to his wife and daughter as well as on additional trips taken by him that have come under scrutiny.
In an interview with CNN, Mr. DeLay criticized an article in The New York Times on Wednesday that said his wife, Christine A. DeLay, and his daughter, Dani Ferro, had received more than $500,000 since 2001 from his political action and campaign committees. He called the article "just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me," contending that his wife and daughter had legitimately earned the money by working as valued members of his political team.
DeLay, DeLay, DeLay. "Liberal media?" That's the best you can do? You must be as weary of being exposed as we are all are weary of you.
Larry notes Matthew L. Wald's "Study Finds Vulnerabilities in Pools of Spent Nuclear Fuel:"
Terrorists could plausibly mount a successful attack on the pool of spent fuel at a nuclear power reactor, according to a study done for Congress by the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists said federal regulators should evaluate each plant to determine if some of the fuel should be moved into dry casks to lower the risks.
The report contradicts the position of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which says that the pools, maintained at more than 100 reactors, are as safe as casks, which reactor owners have turned to only as their pools have reached capacity.
For an in depth report on this topic, read Anne-Marie Cusac's "Fire HazardBush Leaves Nuclear Plants at Risk" from The Progressive. From Cusac's article:
The Bush Administration is actually relaxing the fire safeguards there.
Instead of insisting that the plants have heat-protected mechanical systems in place that will shut down reactors automatically in case of fire, which is the current standard, the Bush Administration would actually let the power companies rely on workers to run through the plants and try to turn off the reactors by hand while parts of the facilities are engulfed in flames.
"The result could be catastrophic," says a March 3 letter from Representative Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Representative John Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, to Nils J. Diaz, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). "This would assign reactor personnel the duty of rushing directly to the shutdown equipment located throughout the reactor complex to shut down the reactors manually, and would potentially take place in station areas affected by smoke, fire, and radiation and possibly under attack by terrorists."
Inside the NRC, the idea of people dodging flames and possibly high radiation areas to try to avert a meltown has raised some eyebrows. In a September 2003 meeting, one member of a panel on reactor fire safety repeatedly pointed out that relying on humans to do work in dangerous conditions and under stress was asking for trouble. It's difficult to prepare operators, said Dana Powers, a member of the Fire Protection Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards. "How do you do that?" he asked. "How do you simulate smoke, light, fire, ringing bells, fire engines, crazy people running around?"
So why is the NRC proposing to relax the fire safety standard? Amazingly, because many nuclear power plants have not been abiding by current regulations to put up proven fire barriers. Rather than demanding better fire safeguards or insisting that nuclear power companies at least abide by the current ones, the NRC wants to let them off the hook. It's as if car drivers were regularly going 90 mph, so the government raised the speed limit to 90.
Krista e-mails noting Alan Cowell's "Sinn Fein Leader Offers I.R.A. an 'Alternative' to Violence" which she feels needs rounding out. First the excerpt:
Gerry Adams, the leader of the Sinn Fein political wing of the Irish Republican Army, urged I.R.A. fighters on Wednesday to pursue their goals through politics as an alternative to "armed struggle."
His statement, made under strong political pressure and read to reporters in Belfast, seemed to be the closest he had come in public to urging the I.R.A. to renounce violence and transform itself into an open political movement from a secretive, underground guerrilla force.
We are told Bully Boy and Blair (are they this century's Jonathan & Jennifer Hart -- when they met, it was murder!) are waiting and seeing.
Krista and I'll refer you to the CounterPunch article we linked to yesterday, Cindy Ellen Hill's "On the Lists What's the Patriot Act Doing in Belfast?" From that article:
If the IRA is placed on President Bush's Terrorist Exclusion List, charitable organizations whose activities include support of families experiencing trauma or economic difficulty due to a family member's involvement in IRA activity run the risk of being shut down and having their assets seized, much as has occurred with several large Islamic charities. If the IRA is placed on the State Department list of Designated Terrorist Organizations, any American who "materially supports' the IRA -- again, including public advocacy, or humanitarian aid to those who have been disadvantaged by the troubles -- will be prosecuted as a terrorist. The devil will then meet the deep blue sea on the question of what position the U.S. will take regarding Sinn Fein's relationship with the IRA.
The fate of Northern Ireland stands on the edge of a knife, and Irish Americans have much on the line. The question remains whether the Bush administration betrayal of the cause of peace in Northern Ireland is enough to reawaken the Irish American community as a political block to be reckoned with, and whether that Irish American community can compel the U.S. Government to once again stand as guarantors of the cause of Irish freedom.
Barbara e-mails to note Jodi Wilgoren's "40-Year Term for Supremacist in Plot on Judge:"
Matthew Hale, the white supremacist convicted last year of plotting to assassinate a federal judge, was sentenced Wednesday to 40 years in prison for what the sentencing judge described as an "egregious act against the rule of law in the United States."
"I consider Mr. Hale to be extremely dangerous," the judge, James T. Moody of Federal District Court, said in imposing the maximum sentence.
Reason to stay focused on opposition to extending the sunset provisions of the Patriot Act?
According to Eric Lichtblau's "Less Prickly Than Ashcroft, Gonzales Wins Some Fans," Alberto "Brand New Me" Gonzales is winning fans. Don't be shocked, Jean-Claude Van Damme had them once too and look at him today. Stay active.
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