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This week: Who Built the Stadiums?; A Dollar a Minute to Talk to Dad; Vermont Yankee Discharges Heat Water Downstream

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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Who Built the Stadiums?

I am a visitor in the Valley and read with great interest [Pete] Redington's recent piece on public fundings of stadiums. While I am not in favor of this, I think that he is not telling the entire truth, either. The fact is that the government gets the money to fund stadiums by taking it from the private sector, since government produces nothing. I think that the issue raised by Redington is a real one, in that choices made by governments about spending their forcibly obtained resources are usually poor ones, be they failing Solyndras or failing stadiums. The better way is to let the private sector build what it will and suffer losses for its failures and profit from its successes ( so the government can take more from it).

Gerson Kaplan
via e-mail

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A Dollar a Minute to Talk to Dad

Three phone companies are trying to charge some of the nation's poorest grandmothers, fathers, and children upwards of $1 a minute to talk on the phone with their loved ones. And these families have no choice but to pay the high cost; if they don't, they won't be able to hear their loved one's voice.

Why can these companies get away with this? Because the loved ones in this story are in prison—and these three phone companies have exclusive deals with 45 states that allow them to charge obscenely high fees for incarcerated people to use the phone.

These companies think they can act with impunity because you've never heard of them. But we have a real opportunity right now to stop this prison profiteering. The Federal Communications Commission is finally considering regulating this behavior, to bring long-distance rates for incarcerated people in line with what those of us outside of prison pay.

Tell the FCC: Help kids stay in touch with their parents, and sisters in touch with their brothers, by regulating the prison phone companies so that they charge reasonable rates.

Experts know that having regular calls and visits from family while incarcerated can make people far less likely to go back to prison. Considering the billions of dollars our states spend annually on incarceration, it is in the states' interest to ensure maximum contact with families.

But instead, according to a new report from Prison Policy Initiative: "Prison phone companies are awarded these monopolies through bidding processes in which they submit proposals to the state prison systems; in all but eight states, these contracts include promises to pay 'commissions'—in effect, kickbacks—to states, in either the form of a percentage of revenue, a fixed upfront payment, or a combination of the two."

These prison phone companies are part of a growing sector of the economy that profits off public responsibility. From food to health care to the entire prison, more and more elements of incarceration are being run with an eye for maximizing profit. The largest company, Corrections Corporation of America, made $1.7 billion in revenue in 2011, overseeing disproportionately violent and unsanitary prisons in dozens of states.

In this increasingly privatized environment, the biggest beneficiaries are greedy executives and shareholders. On the other side are the families of the 2.7 million children in the U.S. who have a parent in prison, who have to choose between a weekly call with their loved ones and putting food on their table."

For a decade, the FCC has been receiving requests to force the prison phone companies to charge fair rates. But the FCC is refusing to regulate these outrageous fees. Our allies at Prison Policy Initiative believe that an onslaught of comments from people like you could be what it takes to get the FCC to start regulating prison phone rates. Thanks for taking action.

Kaytee Riek
Rob Wohl
SumOf Us.org

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Vermont Yankee Discharges Heat Water Downstream

Federal and state fisheries biologists have voiced strong concerns about the effects of heated water on resident and migrating fish. In a March, 2012 letter to the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), Ken Sprankle, Connecticut River coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wrote, "River water temperature is one of the single greatest cues and physical variables to influence fish behavior, physiology, migration, movement, feeding, growth, maturation, spawning, egg and larval development, resilience to pathogens (stress), and survival." He went on to write, "There are too many unknowns and concerns related to Entergy's [owner of Vermont Yankee's] thermal water discharge to assume that it is not having a negative impact on these juvenile migratory fish especially in the absence of any good science to show otherwise."

The elevated temperatures shad face in the Connecticut River are anything but natural. The Connecticut River Watershed Council commissioned three independent studies done by respected and experienced scientists to look at key aspects of the science Entergy used to justify their thermal pollution discharge.What did we find?

Beyond the clearly problematic Entergy assertion that its discharge affects only the pool behind Vernon Dam and no further downstream than that, Entergy refuses to identify the water quality model it relied on to justify its claim of no impact on the river. Consequently, independent reviewers have not been able to evaluate the model. After a close review of temperature data from in-river temperature loggers deployed by Entergy and the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service, it is clear that the water temperature below the plant is hotter than Entergy's permit allows between 50 and 70 percent of the time.

Entergy selected a heat-tolerant suite of fish that does not reflect the full makeup of species in the Connecticut River to test the impact of its thermal pollution discharge. We suggested a more robust methodology that uses current science and a more representative list of species based on an EPA-funded fishery survey of the river conducted in 2008 and 2009.

We made our reports available to ANR so it can evaluate them and if appropriate, ANR can use them as part of its work to draft a renewal permit limiting Entergy's thermal pollution discharge. We have made these reports available to the public through news stories and on our web site (www.ctriver.org).

Based on our reports, we have again requested that ANR issue a permit that requires Entergy to use its cooling towers all of the time in a closed cycle cooling mode. A closed cycle requirement would mean there would be no discharge of hot water to the Connecticut River.

David Deen, River Steward
Connecticut River Watershed
Council

 

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