Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Man dead, media silent

On Saturday, March 27, a man named Clyde Ratcliff was allegedly speed and not long after was pursued by Springfield police.  Mr. Ratcliff lost control of his car and it crashed into a fence.  Police broke a car window and pulled Mr. Ratcliff from the car.  Everything that happened after that is in dispute.  The outcome, however, is not: Mr. Ratcliffe is dead.

Many questions will be raised in the weeks to come, and whether they will be answered to the community's satisfaction, I don't know, but right now I just have one question:  where the hell was the media?  Four days passed and the Springfield Republican and our three television stations, WWLP 22, CBS 3 and ABC 40 were silent.

Now, there is no doubt that Mr. Ratcliff's death after an encounter with the Springfield police would be of immediate and great interest to the residents of Springfield.   Since November numerous accusations of police brutality that have rolled through this city starting with the beating of Melvin Jones III by Springfield police which was recorded on a cellphone.  Much has happened since then, including the firing of two police officers just yesterday.  Masslive.

But the media was silent for four days, until today, when member of the African-American Clergy Alliance and family members of Clyde Ratcliff paid an unannounced visit to Mayor Domenic Sarno.  . Someone told me that the night Mr. Ratcliff died, Channel 40 did a preview of upcoming news and said something about a man chased by police who had crashed his car-- but that no news story ever followed.  I didn't see that for myself and if anyone knows of any media coverage of Mr. Ratcliff's death that took place before today, I'd like to know.  I do know for sure that the Republican wrote nothing, and before this evening, found nothing on the local stations..

Now, just how does something like that happen?

It could be incompetence, but how does incompetence happen to affect one newspaper and three TV stations at the same time?

How does the media get this kind of news?  Obviously police scanners play a role.  What other ways is information communicated?  Did all these methods break down at the same time?

Or was the media asked to sit on this story for a while?

Living near a power plant is dangerous

Our children are at risk from power plant pollution: Over 25 million children in the U. S. live in counties
that violate national air quality standards for the common pollutants ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide;
Cases of asthma have rapidly increased, more than doubling in the past two decades. Six percent of U.S. children have asthma; 
Thirty-five million of our children live within 30 miles of a power plant — a distance within which local
communities may reasonably be affected by a power plant’s smoke plume; an estimated 2 million of these
children are asthmatic and are particularly susceptible to these pollutants; 72,000 of our schools are within 30 miles of a power plant; Average health risks to children due to exposure to power plant combustion wastes could be up to
10,000 times higher than EPA’s allowable risk levels for cancer and other illnesses. Power plants are a major source of the most common pollutants in the air that harm children. Power plants emit 67 percent of the sulfur dioxide (SO2), 23 percent of the nitrogen oxides (NOX), 33 percent of the mercury, and 38 percent of the carbon dioxide from energy related sources. In much of the U.S., especially in the East, Midwest and South, sulfates make up the bulk of so-called fine particulate matter. Power plants are responsible for about half of the fine particulate matter in
many parts of the U.S. Numerous epidemiological studies have suggested that sulfate particles are among those most strongly associated with health impacts and premature mortality in adults.
 (Thanks, Meg Sheehan from Stop Spewing Carbon.) Photo from ahhyeah's photostream at Flickr.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Biomass plant on fire

(The entire content of this post is from Geoff and Rebecca  Brown.  Thanks!)

There are several biomass plant fire videos available on the web.  This one from Sittard, Holland is probably the most dramatic; watch at 2 minutes, 14 seconds when a large explosion occurs:

Mayor William Martin of Greenfield included a letter regarding the Pinetree Power burner from Westminster, MA Town coordinator, Karen M. Murphy, in his pro-biomass task force report.  It includes this passage: "On the down side, the facility by its very nature is prone to fires.  There was a five-alarm fire at the plant in 2004 and there have been a number of other fires over the years.  Extreme care should be given to implementing adequate safety measures in this regard..."
Finally, within the last week employees fled a significant fire at "Creative Biomass" (a wood pellet production facility in Fitchburg, MA):

BRIEF: Fire breaks out at Creative Biomass

By Emily Devlin, Sentinel and Enterprise, Fitchburg, Mass.
Feb. 17--FITCHBURG -- Local and state fire officials worked to identify the cause of a fire inside a Creative Biomass warehouse on Tuesday, after Fitchburg firefighters responded to a call at around 3:10 p.m, according to Deputy Chief Kevin Curran.
"They're really not suspecting arson. However, they're trying to figure out what did happen," Curran said.
Three employees saw a "very quick flash fire," Curran said, before fleeing the warehouse and calling the Fire Department.
Creative Biomass is located at 22 Kimball Place, just off River Street.
The fire likely originated in a wood-pulverizing machine in the rear section of the warehouse, Curran said. The wood product the company uses to create its home heating wood pellets caught fire, which spread to other areas, Curran said.
The state Fire Marshal's office was on the scene carrying out an investigation just before 6 p.m., along with Fitchburg firefighters.
Curran said Creative Biomass employees would monitor the warehouse overnight, to watch out for any fire resurgence.
"They think they have a probable cause," Curran said.
Curran declined to provide further details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Is this how you want our state forests to look?

Photo by Christ Matera, Mass Forest Watch.  More on his site.