Health Insurance Exchanges Might Not Be Accessible to Trans* People

From Huffington Post:


As the largest-ever health insurance expansion rolls out, the promise of finally getting health care will be a boon for many — but not necessarily for trans* people.

Last month the White House brought in LGBT community leaders from many states to a banner event helping us all understand the big insurance expansion on the horizon (see the video here) and the launch of the great new Out2Enroll LGBT portal. As of Oct. 1 enrollment began, and on Jan. 1 millions more Americans are expected to have health insurance. Importantly, all the newly insured will have access to preventative medicine. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure in health, and, ultimately, that translates to dollars saved from the national health budget and years of good health saved for individuals.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was clear that with one in three low-income LGBT Americans living without health insurance, this is a huge opportunity to stabilize the health of our communities. Plus, with expansions in regulations, insurance providers can no longer discriminate against people for being LGBT, charge higher premiums for this status, or deny coverage because of preexisting conditions like HIV or being trans*. This alone could really affect the many trans* folk like me who’ve spent years hiding their trans* status from health insurers to make sure we don’t get denied routine coverage. Those fears are not an exaggeration. A few years ago, when my doctor helpfully changed my sex from female to male on their records, my insurer reacted by denying 100 percent of benefits until we finally caved and pretended it was a mistake.

Secretary Sebelius went even further, announcing that HHS has strengthened the civil rights clause of the Affordable Care Act. The prohibition on sex discrimination now includes sex stereotyping (think LGB) and gender identity. Plus, Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh ran down the list of everything that HHS is doing to collect trans* data now, reassuring us that they were being responsive to community calls for trans* data collection. That is certainly desperately needed, because we can’t fix problems we can’t see, and data collection is how we see problems in the public health world.

Then the news turned grim. In one example of how data collection helps us see problems, the Center for American Progress commissioned research on the messaging about how and why LGBT people should enroll in the new insurance offerings. The findings showed that the existing messaging works for most LGB people, but not for trans* people. The researcher was blunt: The trans* focus groups were some of the saddest she had ever run. The participants had such a profound history of discrimination that they had developed extreme wariness of any representative of the health care system. Plus, trans* people needed to have very specific questions answered: Will the policy cover hormones, have friendly providers, or cover gender confirmation surgeries? But people had no confidence that insurance navigators could answer these questions, and, worse, no confidence that they’d even be treated decently once they disclosed they were trans*. Again, these fears are not without exaggeration either; the evidence from the most recent assessment of trans* needs showed that nearly one fifth of respondents had not just been discriminated against by health providers but outright turned away from care for being trans*. So, while the new protections are wonderful, saying them in Washington doesn’t mean my people can trust that they will be in effect all around the country.

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Chelsea Manning: Trans Behind Bars

From The Edge Boston:

by Christiana Lilly
South Florida Gay News
Friday Oct 11, 2013

Pvt. Bradley Manning made waves when he released the largest number of classified documents in American history to Wikileaks.

Then, after being sentenced to 35 years in prison, she captured everyone’s attention again after coming out as a transgender woman. Introducing herself as Chelsea Manning, she is fighting for her request to receive hormone therapy while incarcerated – an ongoing battle for transgender prisoners across the country.

“We want to make sure that transgender prisoners have access to the appropriate medical care that they are entitled to, and there are too many systems that are not providing that care or are not knowledgeable about what that care should be,” said Amy Whelan, a senior staff attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

By estimation, transgender prisoners represent a very small percentage of the federal prison population and an official record is not available. However, in the last 2005 census of prisons 1 percent of prisoners’ genders was not identified. The Florida Department of Corrections said there are only seven in the Sunshine State.

No matter the number, the battle for fair medical treatment and protection from sexual assault is ongoing. Prisoners are entitled to medically necessary treatment and medication, treating anything from schizophrenia to diabetes, with some citing the Eighth Amendment as proof. Some, however, don’t feel that gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder (GID) is one of them.

“All prisoners are entitled to receive treatment that’s medically necessary, and this is treatment that’s medically necessary, so I don’t feel like it’s special treatment. Just like a diabetic should receive the treatment that he requires to treat his disorder, so should someone receive it for gender identity disorder,” said Cassandra Capobianco, an attorney with Florida Institutional Legal Services (FILS).

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Held Hostage, and the Need to Encourage Dissent and Debate

From Huffington Post:


Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post called “Burying the Lede,” about the general silence of the national LGBT and trans organizations in response to the historic Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) decision protecting all trans and gender-nonconforming Americans against discrimination. While that post was focused on one issue, it was a specific example of a more general failure: that of our leaders to adequately represent the needs of the greater community, and the lack of dialogue to encourage that transformation.

This past weekend I attended the J Street conference in D.C. J Street was created to be a counterpoise to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). J Street believes that Israel’s Jewish and democratic character depends on a two-state solution, resulting in a Palestinian state living alongside Israel. Vice President Joe Biden was a keynote speaker, bringing a degree of recognition to J Street that has been absent in its four years of existence. That recognition is critical, because since the collapse of the Camp David and Taba peace talks and the Second Intifada, the mainstream American Jewish community has been very effective in silencing dissent. For over a decade the only acceptable opinion was one in support of the policies of the rightist Likud party, accompanied by a refusal to discuss the underlying issue of the occupation and its impact on Israeli society.

The most interesting panel was entitled “Held Hostage,” on this very topic, and the panelists considered ways to improve dialogue and not only allow for alternate opinions but welcome them. The speakers were clear that this must be a two-way street, that demonization of either side is unacceptable. They emphasized that there needs to be recognition that both sides have serious concerns that deserve respect, and that the only way we can overcome our paralysis is by being willing to listen, forgive when necessary, and compromise.

I believe that these Jewish concerns about Israel’s survival are particularly difficult for the American Jewish community because we have little power to influence the outcome. The choice is for the Israeli community, and our role, being a relatively minor one, leads us to exaggerate our differences and battle with unnecessary anger.

While the issue of Israel’s soul and security is far more consequential than debates on the future of trans activism, there are similarities. Whereas the leaders of the organized professional Jewish community usually make the decisions on political and legislative matters, so have the leaders of the national trans and LGBT organizations too frequently arrogated unto themselves the decision making on issues of critical import. They act with absolute authority, based on their organizational positions, with few mechanisms for community input and debate.

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Boehner’s “a disaster,” Cruz an “intelligent fool,” and heroin should be legal: Barney Frank talks to Salon

From Salon:

Former congressman Barney Frank slams ex-colleagues, questions banks’ clout, and predicts how the shutdown will end

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013

Barney Frank spent 32 years in the U.S. House before retiring in January. In recent years, he helmed the House Financial Services Committee during the 2008 financial crisis, became the first member of Congress to marry a same-sex partner while in office and helped lead the charge for a ban on anti-gay firings (so far stymied) and post-crash financial reform (that law now bears his name). He’s currently writing a book.

In a Monday afternoon interview, Frank predicted the endgame of the debt-ceiling showdown and defended his push in Congress for an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would have left out transgender workers. He also told Salon that big banks “have very little political power,” called the president’s support for Social Security cuts “appalling” and urged America to legalize heroin and cocaine. What follows is a condensed and edited version of our conversation.

So we’re about to hit two weeks of a government shutdown, and we’re days from the debt-ceiling deadline without a final deal. Are you surprised?

No. One of the lies people tell is, “I don’t like to say I told you so.” It is in fact one of the few pleasures that improve with age. I don’t have to take a pill before, during or after I do it.

So no, I’m not surprised. The control the right wing has over the Republican Party, and the ideology of those people, and the political framework that has dominated the Republican Party where all Republican politicians have been terrified of losing a primary to an extremist — that was predictable.

The system of government we have now — can it work with the tactics that we’ve seen Republicans take up?

No. But it has a potential self-correcting mechanism.

This is a very recent phenomenon. In January 2008, George Bush approached [Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid] and said, “We need a stimulus.” If they were Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, they would have said, “Hey, great. Let the economy tank — we’ll do better in the coming election.” Instead, they worked with him. Then I spent all year cooperating with [Treasury Secretary] Hank Paulson.

[Then] most fraught period in the American political calendar, two months before a presidential election, Bush sends Bernanke and Paulson out to tell us, “Terrible things are happening, and unless you agree to do some very unpopular things and give us a lot of power, the economy is going to collapse.” Well again, if we were McConnell and Boehner, we would have said, “Hey, we’ll really win big in another two months when the economy goes in the toilet.” Instead, perfect political cooperation. We fought them over some issues, but we worked with them.

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Stephen Fry interviews Joseph Nicolosi, exposes “ex-gay” therapy as bogus and terrible

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Oprah tells atheist swimmer Diana Nyad that atheists don’t believe in ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’

I’ve considered Oprah Winfrey to totally full of bullshit for years.

From Raw Story:


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Corporations are now demanding religious freedom

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Think a New Economy Is Possible? Meet the Man Already Making it Happen

From Alternet:

Rob Hopkins helped start the first Transition Town. Now it’s a global network of thousands of communities showing no signs of slowing down.

By Tara Lohan
October 14, 2013

Standing in front of a crowd of hundreds at Oakland, California’s Grand Lake Theater, Rob Hopkins shows a picture of a butcher shop in a small town in Northern Ireland. A row of hams hang in the window, the door is cracked open, welcoming, a passerby walks his dog. Just another example of a successful small town business, vital for the local economy. Right? Except, Hopkins explains what you can’t immediately see when you glance at the image. The store is real, but the window display is a fake—it’s simply photoshopped posters plastered over the glass. The local business has gone under, the shop is gutted, but those organizing the last G8 meeting of the world’s most powerful countries that met in Northern Ireland don’t want to be reminded of this and they sure don’t want the media to see it. So the truth has been glossed over, obscured.

These are the times we live in. We can pretend everything is OK on Main Street, or we can actually try to fix it. Hopkins is already hard at work on the fixing. In late 2006, Hopkins, who taught permaculture, came up with the seed of an idea that has grown into something wild and beautiful: the Transition Network. It started as one Transition Town in Totnes, England and the concept has replicated across 44 countries and thousands of towns and neighborhoods. The initial idea is simple: “To support community-led responses to peak oil and climate change, building resilience and happiness.”

The organization now helps communities connect with each other, learn how to reduce CO2 emissions and decarbonize, and implement plans for a whole new kind of economic development. That’s where the idea of resilience comes in. According to the Transition Network:

‘Resilience’ has been defined as “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change, so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks.” In Transition, the concept is applied to settlements and their need to be able to withstand shock.

It sounds a lot like preparing for disaster, but it’s more like avoiding disaster by preparing for the inevitable by changing the way we use energy and structure our economy.

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2013 resembles 1927, a terrifying year

From The Toronto Star:

2013 is looking a lot like 1927, a scary year in American history.

Mon Oct 14 2013

I don’t know why you all seem to think it’s 2013. Clearly it is 1927. I just read Bill Bryson’s book on the American summer of that year — the glorious writer has an astonishing knack for narrative even on sedative subjects like baseball — and it fell from my nerveless fingers when I realized what he was trying to convey.

The world is holding 1927 all over again.

This is soul-chilling. I have had this Twilight Zone sensation before and I always restrain myself from asking total strangers if they notice anything funny about people’s hair and the background music. In London it is always next year. In Zara with its nylon dresses and boxy purses, it is still 1965, but in Topshop it’s 1975, just as it is in downtown Edmonton. In Harry Rosen it is the mid-’90s, the last time men were forced to wear suits, and at work, it is always Grade 7 all over again. Retro is in. I go into people’s homes now and wonder why they are trying to recreate my parents’ rec room.

Here’s the list the normally cheerful Bryson offers in One Summer, America 1927: The U.S. Federal Reserve made the fatal error that led to the 1929 stock market crash. The Mississippi flooded catastrophically. Young “flappers” were dressed like sluts and dancing shamelessly. A Michigan man blew up a school to protest taxation, killing 44 people in the worst mass child slaughter in U.S. history. Anti-Semitism rolled and crackled. Radio became huge, a free medium that killed many newspapers and left journalists wondering what to do. The U.S. was run by two presidents, Coolidge and Hoover, each awful in their own way. Terrorist bombs went off across the U.S. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. Prohibition made people drink illegally. Charles Lindbergh made international flight look easy.

I could just leave you like the idiotic Todds reviewing the book on the moronic American website — “what a fun book this book is!” — but no, I will point out the eerie parallels, the sinister meaning Bryson is clearly intending.

Little has changed. The international risk-taking of financiers that caused the 2008 crash has not stopped. There is major flooding across the continents. Young women are nearly nude and dancing shamelessly. Newtown, Conn., happened. Anti-Muslim hate rolls and crackles. The free Internet is killing newspapers and leaving journalists wondering how to survive. Canada is being run by a suspicious autocratic rube, the U.S. by a timid drone-dispatching do-nothing. Terrorist bombs continue worldwide. Guantanamo remains open, and prisons expand in Canada and the U.S., with solitary confinement replacing electrocution. The war on drugs continues and people keep taking drugs. The world (not Canada) runs on bullet trains, the transport of the future.

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The Golden Girls Retirement Plan

From The Advocate:

Could Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, and Rose hold the key to comfort in your later years?

BY David Rae
October 15 2013

You all know the show. Four single women move in together and grow into the best of friends. We know this show as being ahead of its time on issues like AIDS, gay marriage, coming out, unwed mothers, discrimination, cross-dressing, immigration, and many other topics, but it also was quietly ahead of the curve when shedding some light on the impending retirement crisis facing the aging U.S. population. For a variety of reasons the reduced cost of shared housing was a necessity for these Golden Girls, but gay retirees share many of the same threats to a secure retirement faced by these funny ladies. As a group, we are more likely to be single in retirement and less likely to have children. Each of these factors can greatly decrease the safety nets available during these years.

With some proper planning, a “Golden Girls” retirement may be a great way to help make your golden years more fulfilling, and help make your hard-earned dollars provide more security in what could easily be a 30-year-plus retirement. Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia came together out of necessity; hopefully you and your friends can come together out of friendship and get the added benefit of a higher standard of living than you might be able to enjoy on your own.

I assumed that not everyone reading this is a widowed 60-something grandmother, but all the same I’m sure many of us will face similar challenges when it comes to retirement. I love the idea of spending my golden years surrounded by friends and family, but I’d prefer that this type of living arrangement be a choice rather than being forced to live with strangers simply because I couldn’t afford to live on my own. Think of how much money the girls save by combining household expenses. Those savings could be rolled into luxuries you may not have been able to afford on your own, like travel, upgrading your home, or theater tickets. Personally, I think these savings may pale in comparison to the value of just knowing someone is there to hear about last night’s date or even listen to a St. Olaf story, or just hearing “Thank you for being a friend.”

Shared housing can have its drawbacks as well, and it isn’t for everyone. But if you are behind on your retirement savings or just like having people around, this may be a way for you to retire and stay retired. The lower your expenses are in retirement, the longer your money will last, and longevity of life is one of the biggest issues facing retirees today. Increased longevity has made running out of money a serious threat facing many seniors.

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The right’s sinister new plot against pensions

From Salon:

Public employees aren’t driving states to bankruptcy, despite what activists and corporate front groups insist

Thursday, Oct 10, 2013

As state legislatures prepare for their upcoming sessions, you will no doubt hear a lot about public pensions. More specifically, you will hear allegations that states are going bankrupt because of their pension obligations to public employees. These claims will inevitably be used to argue that states must renege on their pension promises to retirees.

This is what I’ve called the Plot Against Pensions in a report I recently completed for the Institute for America’s Future. Engineered by billionaire former Enron trader John Arnold, championed by seemingly nonpartisan groups like the Pew Charitable Trusts and operating in states throughout America, this plot is not designed to strengthen pensions or to save taxpayer money, as its proponents claim. It is designed to slash public employees’ guaranteed retirement income in order to both protect states’ corporate welfare and, in some cases, enrich Wall Street.

Consider the math of state budgets. According to Pew’s estimates, “The gap between states’ assets and their obligations for public sector retirement benefits (is) $1.38 trillion” over 30 years. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes, this gap was not caused by benefit increases, as conservatives suggest. Data prove that most of it was caused by the stock market decline that accompanied the 2008 financial collapse.

Of course, regardless of cause, a $1.38 trillion shortfall sounds like an emergency. But it is a relatively tiny problem — one that may require small changes, but does not require radical schemes to entirely eviscerate retirement benefits. That’s because, as CEPR points out, in most states the shortfall “is less than 0.2 percent of projected gross state product over the next 30 years.”

To put those numbers in perspective, remember that the 30-year $1.38 trillion pension shortfall is just $46 billion a year — and “just” is the operative word in comparison to the amount states give away in the form of corporate subsidies.

According to a 2013 study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, states lose roughly $40 billion a year thanks to loopholes that let corporations engage in offshore tax avoidance. Additionally, a New York Times analysis recently found that “states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies” in the form of subsidies — many of which create no jobs.

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Trade in Services Agreement Moves Forward, But How Will It Affect Consumers?

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South Dakota’s cattle cataclysm: why isn’t this horror news?

From The Guardian UK:

Ranchers in South Dakota lost tens of thousands of cattle from a freak storm. Thanks to the shutdown, no one is paying attention, Monday 14 October 2013

If you aren’t in the ag world, you most likely haven’t heard about the devastating loss that ranchers in western South Dakota are struggling with after being hit by winter storm Atlas.

For some reason the news stations aren’t covering this story. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t. This story has heartbreak, tragedy and even a convenient tie into the current government shutdown. Isn’t that what the news is all about these days?

But the news isn’t covering this story. Instead, it is spreading around on social media, and bloggers are writing from their ranches in South Dakota. Bloggers are trying to explain how the horrible happened. And now I am going to join them to tell you the part of the story that I know, and I am going to ask you to help these people, because if you are here reading this, I know you give a crap about these people.

Last weekend western South Dakota and parts of the surrounding states got their butts handed to them by Mother Nature. A blizzard isn’t unusual in South Dakota, the cattle are tough and can handle some snow. They have for hundreds of years.

Unlike on our dairy farm in Wisconsin, beef cattle don’t live in climate controlled barns. Beef cows and calves spend the majority of their lives out on pasture. They graze the grass in the spring, summer and fall and eat baled hay in the winter.

In winter these cows and calves grow fuzzy jackets that keep them warm and protect them from the snow and cold. The cows and calves live in special pastures in the winter. These pastures are smaller and closer to the ranch, and they have windbreaks for the cows to hide behind. They have worked for cows for hundred of years.

So what’s the big deal about this blizzard?

It’s not really winter yet.

The cows don’t have their warm jackets on. The cows are still out eating grass in the big pastures. Atlas wasn’t just a snowstorm, it was the kind of storm that can destroy the ranchers that have been caring for these cattle for hundreds of years.

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Fossil Fuel Euphoria

From Tom Dispatch:

Hallelujah, Oil and Gas Forever!

By Michael T. Klare
October 15, 2013

For years, energy analysts had been anticipating an imminent decline in global oil supplies.  Suddenly, they’re singing a new song: Fossil fuels growing scarce?  Don’t even think about it!  The news couldn’t be better: fossil fuels will become ever more abundant.  And all that talk about climate change?  Don’t worry about it, they chant.  Go out and enjoy the benefits of cheap and plentiful energy forever.

This movement from gloom about our energy future to what can only be called fossil-fuel euphoria may prove to be the hallmark of our peculiar moment.  In a speech this September, for instance, Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission (that state’s energy regulatory agency), claimed that the Earth possesses a “relatively boundless supply” of oil and natural gas.  Not only that — and you can practically hear the chorus of cheering in Houston and other oil centers — but many of the most exploitable new deposits are located in the U.S. and Canada.  As a result — add a roll of drums and a blaring of trumpets — the expected boost in energy is predicted to provide the United States with a cornucopia of economic and political rewards, including industrial expansion at home and enhanced geopolitical clout abroad.  The country, exulted Karen Moreau of the New York State Petroleum Council, another industry cheerleader, is now in a position “to become a global superpower on energy.”

There are good reasons to be deeply skeptical of such claims, but that hardly matters when they are gaining traction in Washington and on Wall Street.  What we’re seeing is a sea change in elite thinking on the future availability and attractiveness of fossil fuels.  Senior government officials, including President Obama, have already become infected with this euphoria, as have top Wall Street investors — which means it will have a powerful and longlasting, though largely pernicious, effect on the country’s energy policy, industrial development, and foreign relations.

The speed and magnitude of this shift in thinking has been little short of astonishing.  Just a few years ago, we were girding for the imminent prospect of “peak oil,” the point at which daily worldwide output would reach its maximum and begin an irreversible decline.  This, experts assumed, would result in a global energy crisis, sky-high oil prices, and severe disruptions to the world economy.

Today, peak oil seems a distant will-o’-the-wisp.  Experts at the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) confidently project that global oil output will reach 115 million barrels per day by 2040 — a stunning 34% increase above the current level of 86 million barrels.  Natural gas production is expected to soar as well, leaping from 113 trillion cubic feet in 2010 to a projected 185 trillion in 2040.

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Protectors vs destroyers — Canadians unite to stop fracking in New Brunswick

From Waging Non-Violence:

October 14, 2013

For the past two weeks, an unprecedented coalition of Acadians, Anglophones and members of the Elsipogtog First Nation have blockaded a compound in the Canadian town of Rexton, New Brunswick, where trucks and equipment used in the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are stored. The company that owns the facility — SWN Resources Canada — has been working all summer to conduct seismic tests as the first step in the fracking process. While the natural gas derived from the drilling would primarily be sold over the border in the United States, the impacts of extraction — namely polluted water and air — would be felt in these communities for generations to come.

In New Brunswick, the provincial government owns all underground mineral and gas rights. The local people have little influence over their own land. In some cases, citizens only receive a written notice within 24 hours of seismic testing and drilling on their land. Realizing their lack of legal power in the decision-making process, impacted landowners began organizing in New Brunswick’s Kent County about three years ago, when shale gas companies moved in to start exploration. Groups like Our Environment, Our Choice and Upriver Environment Watch began educational campaigns — including speaking tours, lobbying the provincial and local governments, and public actions such as a blue ribbon campaign for clean water, where activists tied ribbons along the major roads in the area to publicize the issue.

Denise Vautour, a local Acadian, got involved in the Upriver group after seeing the 2010 anti-fracking documentary Gasland. As a retired medical social worker, Vautour has focused on what she perceives as the immorality of exposing the populous to fracking. While the industry has claimed in local public meetings that fracking fluid is safe enough to drink, Vautour believes they are lying. Beyond the obvious carcinogens in fracking fluid, she has argued that even the best medical reports still need years-worth of evidence before the longterm effects of fracking on human and ecological health can be determined.

Three months ago, Latour submitted evidence to the province surrounding the moral complications of continuing to pollute water and air without prior and informed consent. However, she has yet to receive a response because government offices are sifting through thousands of submissions from New Brunswick residents in opposition to fracking.

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Plummeting morale at Fukushima Daiichi as nuclear cleanup takes its toll

From The Guardian UK:

Staff on the frontline of operation plagued by health problems and fearful about the future, insiders say

in Fukushima
The Guardian, Tuesday 15 October 2013

Dressed in a hazardous materials suit, full-face mask and hard hat, Japan‘s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, left his audience in no doubt: “The future of Japan,” he said, “rests on your shoulders. I am counting on you.”

Abe’s exhortation, delivered during a recent visit to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, was only heard by a small group of men inside the plant’s emergency control room. But it was directed at almost 6,000 more: the technicians and engineers, truck drivers and builders who, almost three years after the plant suffered a triple meltdown, remain on the frontline of the world’s most dangerous industrial cleanup.

Yet as the scale of the challenge has become clearer with every new accident and radiation leak, the men working inside the plant are suffering from plummeting morale, health problems and anxiety about the future, according to insiders interviewed by the Guardian.

Even now, at the start of a decommissioning operation that is expected to last 40 years, the plant faces a shortage of workers qualified to manage the dangerous work that lies ahead.

The hazards faced by the nearly 900 employees of Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] and about 5,000 workers hired by a network of contractors and sub-contractors were underlined this month when six men were doused with contaminated water at a desalination facility.

The men, who were wearing protective clothing, suffered no ill health effects in the incident, according to Tepco, but their brush with danger was a sign that the cleanup is entering its most precarious stage since the meltdown in March 2011.

Commenting on the leak, the head of Japan’s nuclear regulator, Shunichi Tanaka, told reporters: “Mistakes are often linked to morale. People usually don’t make silly, careless mistakes when they’re motivated and working in a positive environment. The lack of it, I think, may be related to the recent problems.”

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