Below is my column in USA Today on the prosecution of three state and local officials in the Flint, Michigan water scandal. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has promised more (and higher ranking) defendants in the coming weeks. However, as discussed in this column, these cases are not as straightforward as the pictures of bottles of Flint water juxtaposed against clean water. While there are strong elements to some of the charges, the prosecution is not nearly as easily or obvious as has been suggested in the media, in my view.
We have previously discussed how people seem incapable of resisting selfies even at the scenes of disasters or while driving (before accidents) or during environmental tragedies but some selfie are not just inappropriate but incriminating. That is the case with Wayne Huntsman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to starting the King Fire in 2014, which burned a dozen homes and nearly 100,000 acres in the central Sierra Nevada. The key evidence was the selfie taken above at the origin of the fire.
We have been following the environmental meltdown in China from lethal levels of air pollution to “cancer villages” from industrial waste. The latest report comes from the water ministry and, while some are questioning whether there is full disclosure of water contamination, the official position is shocking enough. According to the report, more than 80% of rural wells in China’s north-east contain water unsafe for drinking. It is the safety of water in urban areas that is being questioned but the government insists that the water is fine.
As recently discussed in terms of the Japanese killing hundreds of whales despite falling demand for whale meat, Norway is continuing its commercial whaling operations despite the fact that so few Norwegians want to eat whale that the country is just giving the whale meet to feed animals on fur farms.
Japan continues to defy the world in its slaughtering of whales despite international prohibitions and a 2014 ruling of the International Court of Justice that its claim of “scientific research” is transparently fraudulent. The latest outrage involved the killing of 333 minke whales on a four-ship, 115-day expedition — death toll that included 200 pregnant females.
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
The occasional, and in many ways perennial, Chinese, Mexican, and Chilian export containing hazardous material continues to be a concern for child safety. This is often the result of lackluster quality controls overseas and indifference or lack of initiative on the part of children’s toy wholesalers to test products accordingly. It is a problem associated with “Just in Time” shipping methods where a domestic company simply relies on foreign manufacturers to label, ship, and distribute products to market without actually taking possession of the items to perform quality control. The situation is exasperated by lack of oversight by foreign governments and especially from the manufacturers themselves.
Time and money is needed for toy companies in the US to place quality control technicians overseas, and the temptation to avoid this cost and logistic leads to children receiving harmful doses of heavy metals and pathogens.
The latest find comes from children’s jewelry.
President Barack Obama today surprised many by nominating the moderate Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Merrick Garland. Garland is unlikely to thrill liberals. He is fairly conservative on criminal cases and tends to favor government interests. Conservatives are not going to like his vote to move to reconsider the case that became the historic Heller decision that recognized the individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. However, Garland moves virtually everything off the table for the Republicans. While a moderate, he is as far right as a Democratic president could go.