Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 12th, 2021

E.P.A. Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking a Decade Ago

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The panel above is from 50 years ago, and we have learned nothing in the meantime: we continue to trash the environment despite having to live in it. Hiroko Tabuchi reports in the NY Times:

For much of the past decade, oil companies engaged in drilling and fracking have been allowed to pump into the ground chemicals that, over time, can break down into toxic substances known as PFAS — a class of long-lasting compounds known to pose a threat to people and wildlife — according to internal documents from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The E.P.A. in 2011 [under President Barack Obama – LG] approved the use of these chemicals, used to ease the flow of oil from the ground, despite the agency’s own grave concerns about their toxicity, according to the documents, which were reviewed by The New York Times. The E.P.A.’s approval of the three chemicals wasn’t previously publicly known.

The records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by a nonprofit group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, are among the first public indications that PFAS, long-lasting compounds also known as “forever chemicals,” may be present in the fluids used during drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

In a consent order issued for the three chemicals on Oct. 26, 2011, E.P.A. scientists pointed to preliminary evidence that, under some conditions, the chemicals could “degrade in the environment” into substances akin to PFOA, a kind of PFAS chemical, and could “persist in the environment” and “be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds.” The E.P.A. scientists recommended additional testing. Those tests were not mandatory and there is no indication that they were carried out.

“The E.P.A. identified serious health risks associated with chemicals proposed for use in oil and gas extraction, and yet allowed those chemicals to be used commercially with very lax regulation,” said Dusty Horwitt, researcher at Physicians for Social Responsibility.

For fracking to work, the energy industry has an appetite for chemicals that, when pumped underground at high pressure, can coax oil out of the ground most efficiently. In 2008, a scientific paper published in an oil-industry journal and led by a DuPont researcher referred to the “exceptional” water-repelling and other characteristics of types of chemicals that include PFAS, and called the chemicals an “emerging technology” that showed promise for use in oil and gas extraction.

The E.P.A. documents describing the chemicals approved in 2011 date from the Obama administration and are heavily redacted because the agency allows companies to invoke trade-secret claims to keep basic information on new chemicals from public release. Even the name of the company that applied for approval is redacted, and the records give only a generic name for the chemicals: fluorinated acrylic alkylamino copolymer.

However, an identification number for one of the chemicals issued by the E.P.A. appears in separate E.P.A. data and identifies Chemours, previously DuPont, as the submitter. A separate E.P.A. document shows that a chemical with the same E.P.A.-issued number was first imported for commercial use in November 2011. (Chemours did not exist until 2015, though it would have had the responsibility to report chemicals on behalf of its predecessor, DuPont.)

There is no public data that details where the E.P.A.-approved chemicals have been used. But the FracFocus database, which tracks chemicals used in fracking, shows that about 120 companies used PFAS — or chemicals that can break down into PFAS, the most common of which was “nonionic fluorosurfactant” and various misspellings — in more than 1,000 wells between 2012 and 2020 in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Because not all states require companies to report chemicals to the database, the number of wells could be higher.

Nine of those wells were in Carter County, Okla., within the boundaries of Chickasaw Nation. “This isn’t something I was aware of,” said Tony Choate, a Chickasaw Nation spokesman. [Fun fact: I was born and raised in Carter County, and my grandfather Ham, a surveyor, made the first official map of Carter County, for which he was paid 40 acres of land which turned out to be above the largest oil pool in Oklahoma, a discovery made some years after he traded the land for a buckboard and a team of mules. – LG]

Nick Conger, an E.P.A. spokesman, said that the chemicals in question were approved a decade ago, and that amendments to laws since then now required the agency to affirm the safety of new chemicals before they are allowed into the marketplace. He said the redactions in the documents were mandated by a statute protecting confidential business information. The Biden administration had made addressing PFAS a top priority, he added, for example by proposing a rule to require all manufacturers and importers of PFAS since 2011 to disclose more information on the chemicals, including their environmental and health effects.

Chemours, which has in the past agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle injury claims related to PFOA pollution, declined to comment. In 2005, DuPont also agreed to pay $16 million to settle allegations by the E.P.A. that it had failed to report information about the health and environmental effects of PFAS, in the largest administrative penalty the agency had ever imposed at the time. But Chemours, which was spun off from DuPont in 2015, has not spoken publicly about the use of these chemicals in drilling and fracking. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the report:

A class of man-made chemicals that are toxic even in minuscule concentrations, for decades PFAS were used to make products like nonstick pans, stain-resistant carpeting and firefighting foam. The substances have come under scrutiny in recent years for their tendency to persist in the environment, and to accumulate inside the human body, as well as for their links to health problems like cancer and birth defects. Both Congress and the Biden administration have moved to better regulate PFAS, which contaminate the drinking water of as many as 80 million Americans.

Industry researchers have long been aware of their toxicity. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s, when the environmental attorney Rob Bilott sued DuPont for pollution from its Teflon plant in Parkersburg, W.Va., that the dangers of PFAS started to be widely known. In settlements with the E.P.A. in the mid-2000s, DuPont acknowledged knowing of PFAS’s dangers, and it and several other chemical manufacturers subsequently committed to phase out the use of certain kinds of the chemical by 2015.

And it’s not just the effects of the poisoning of the ground (and, presumably, groundwater). As a consequence of injecting wastewater from oil production into the ground, Oklahoma has been wracked by earthquakes.

And of course we continue to pollute the ocean — and there’s the elephant farting in the room: massive dumping of CO2 into the atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change, which we see accelerating as heat builds up (and as we continue to burn fossil fuels).

Of course, there’s the money the companies have paid, but that really doesn’t do the job, does it?

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2021 at 7:15 pm

A jazz great who died too soon: Austin Peralta

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Austin Peralta recorded the album above when he was 15, with Ron Carter on bass. Ted Giola writes at The Honest Broker:

Frankly, I don’t recall why I reached out to pianist Austin Peralta back in 2008 or 2009. I vaguely remember that someone told me about him in an email—but I get recommendations like that every day. So why did I pay attention to this one?

It must have been someone whose judgment I trusted. Not a paid publicist or record label flack—probably a seasoned LA musician whose opinions I took seriously. The advice, as I recall, was short and to-the-point, along the lines of: Ted, pay attention to this LA teenager named Austin Peralta. He’s going to shake things up.

I can say with certainty that I had no interest in Peralta as a jazz child prodigy. There are few music critics less interested in child prodigies than I. I hear about them all the time—they’re everywhere nowadays—and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are just two kinds of child prodigies in jazz, and it’s wise to avoid both of them.

The first type is the over-hyped talent who is nowhere near as good as the press releases claim. This is not an infrequent situation—and usually because someone stands to gain from exaggerating the child’s ability. If I had a taste for jazz gossip (which I don’t), I could share shameful details of parents who invest a hundred thousand dollars or more in creating a reputation for their youngster as a prodigy, built largely on smoke and mirrors and cash payments. The kid must have a modest level of talent, but we’re definitely not talking about the next Mozart—more like a school band standout. If you have enough money to spend, you can even get radio airplay and fawning reviews. It sure looks good on the college application.

On the other hand, there are genuine child prodigies, with enormous talent. But even here, I find the whole situation distasteful. No matter how awesome their ability, children should not be releasing jazz albums. They need time to mature and find their individual sound and approach. If they’re rushed at this juncture, they may never achieve any genuine depth as artists.

Consider the case of Joey Alexander, the most hyped child prodigy in jazz in recent memory. The first time I heard him play, I knew immediately that he had huge upside potential. Alexander is the real deal. But I also knew that he shouldn’t be making records at age 11—and the New York Times wasn’t doing him any favors by proclaiming his greatness in large font headlines.

Even if the finger dexterity is impressive, the emotional depth and sense of individualism—absolutely essential elements in jazz—will be lacking at that age. There’s only so much soulfulness a preteen can put into a solo, and it barely fills a thimble. More to the point, too much praise too soon can stunt a child’s development. (If you have any doubts, just look at the teen sports world and count the tragic stories.) Alexander recently turned 18, and I’ve started paying closer attention—with the highest of hopes. But he may struggle holding on to his audience, because he built his public image as a precocious whiz kid, fast and glib at the keyboard—a rare adolescent, no doubt, but embraced by various interests as a marketable commodity. The time will come when Joey Alexander genuinely deserves a Grammy nomination, but when he was 13, there were a thousand jazz players more worthy than him. Yes, the marketing hype won out, but that’s a risky way to embark on your life’s work—you can only be the whiz kid for so long.

So I certainly didn’t reach out to Austin Peralta because he was promoted as a prodigy. That probably made me more skeptical than anything. But in all fairness, there wasn’t much promotion. I’d never received a press release, and few were aware of Peralta’s precocious music skills back in those days—at least in the United States. There was no fawning article in the New York Times or any other leading newspaper, as far as I could tell. I had never heard his name until someone told me about him.

But a Google search informed me that Peralta had achieved a degree of jazz fame in Japan when he was 15 years old. He even made two records in Japan—both of them released in 2007. The first one, called Maiden Voyage, featured Peralta playing with bassist Ron Carter. That caught my attention. Carter is one of the most respected bassists in the history of jazz—what’s he doing in the studio with a 15-year-old pianist? And that same year, Peralta recorded another album for the Japanese market, but this time with another world class bassist, Buster Williams.

At this juncture, I decided I should listen to this music, just to stay informed. I had low expectations—as mentioned above, the prodigy angle always turns me off. I’m old enough to remember the rise and fall of Craig Hundley—these youngsters come and go, usually sooner rather than later. But as a jazz critic, I still need to listen. I spend a lot of time doing just that, staying abreast of trends, whether I like them or not. Stan Getz once told me: “I listen to music the way a stock broker follows Wall Street”—a comment which puzzled me at the time, but I now understand exactly what he meant. You ought to know whose stock is rising, and whose is falling, even if you’re not making an investment.

But I ran into a problem. I couldn’t . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2021 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Music

Will America resume competition? Big corporations don’t like it, and they have power.

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

On Friday, as President Joe Biden signed “An Executive Order Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” he echoed the language of his predecessors. “[C]ompetition keeps the economy moving and keeps it growing,” he said. “Fair competition is why capitalism has been the world’s greatest force for prosperity and growth…. But what we’ve seen over the past few decades is less competition and more concentration that holds our economy back.”

Biden listed how prescription drugs, hearing aids, internet service, and agricultural supplies are all overpriced in the U.S. because of a lack of competition (RFD TV, the nation’s rural channel, has a long-running ad complaining of the cost of hearing aids). He also noted that noncompete clauses make it hard for workers to change jobs, another issue straight out of the late nineteenth century, when southern states tried to keep prices low by prohibiting employers from hiring Black workers away from their current jobs.

“I’m a proud capitalist,” Biden said. “I know America can’t succeed unless American business succeeds…. But let me be very clear: Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation. Without healthy competition, big players can change and charge whatever they want and treat you however they want…. “[W]e know we’ve got a problem—a major problem.  But we also have an incredible opportunity. We can bring back more competition to more of the country, helping entrepreneurs and small businesses get in the game, helping workers get a better deal, helping families save money every month. The good news is: We’ve done it before.”

Biden reached into our history to reclaim our long tradition of opposing economic consolidation. Calling out both Roosevelt presidents—Republican Theodore Roosevelt, who oversaw part of the Progressive Era, and Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who oversaw the New Deal—Biden celebrated their attempt to rein in the power of big business, first by focusing on the abuses of those businesses, and then by championing competition.

Civil War era Republicans had organized around the idea that the American economy enjoyed what they called a “harmony of interest.” By that, they meant that everyone had the same economic interests. People at the bottom of the economy, people who drew value out of the products of nature—trees, or fish, or grain—produced value through their hard work. They created more value than they could consume, and this value, in the form of capital, employed people on the next level of the economy: shoemakers, dry goods merchants, cabinetmakers, and so on. They, in turn, produced more than they could consume, and their excess supported a few industrialists and financiers at the top of the pyramid who, in their turn, employed those just starting out. In this vision, the economy was a web in which every person shared a harmony of interest.

But by the 1880s, this idea that all Americans shared the same economic interest had changed into the idea that protecting American businesses would be good for everyone. American businessmen had begun to consolidate their enterprises into trusts, bringing a number of corporations under the same umbrella. The trusts stifled competition and colluded to raise the prices paid by consumers. Their power and funding gave them increasing power over lawmakers. As wealth migrated upward and working Americans felt like they had less and less control over their lives, they began to wonder what had happened to the equality for which they had fought the Civil War.

Labor leaders, newspapers, and Democratic lawmakers began to complain about the power of the wealthy in society and to claim the economic game was rigged, but their general critiques of the economy simply left them open to charges of being “socialists” who wanted to overturn society. Congress in 1890 finally gave in and passed an antitrust act, but it was so toothless that only one senator in the staunchly pro-business Senate voted against it, and no one in the House of Representatives voted no.

Then, around 1900, the so-called muckrakers hit their stride. Muckrakers were journalists who took on the political corruption and the concentration of wealth that plagued their era, but rather than making general moral statements, they did deep research into the workings of specific industries and political machines—Standard Oil, for example, and Minneapolis city government—and revealed the details behind the general outrage.

Their stories built pressure to regulate the robber barons, as they were called by then, but Congress, dominated by business interests, had no interest. Instead, President Theodore Roosevelt and his successor, William Howard Taft, tended to rein in the trusts through the executive branch of the government, especially by legal action undertaken by the Department of Justice.

On Friday, Biden promised to use the power of the executive branch to rein in corporations, much as Theodore Roosevelt did during his terms of office. But there was more to Biden’s statement than that. His emphasis on . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2021 at 2:07 pm

Mystic Water Leather & Smoke, the wonderful Omega Pro 48, and the superb iKon #102

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Omega’s Pro 48 (10048) is a wonderful brush — in lather capacity, in feel, and in aging gracefully. Indeed, a young/new Pro 48 seems awkward and reluctant to perform — so much so, that I recommend that for a week you simply load it on the puck, work up a lather in your palm, and rinse it out without using it. After a week of that, the brush will be able to perform fairly well, though its performance will greatly improve over the next few months of use.

Both boar and horsehair brushes should be soaked before use: wet the knot well under the hot-water tap, then stand the sopping-wet brush on its base for several minutes — while you shower, for example. There is no need (or point) in immersing the brush in a water-filled sink.

The lather the brush wrought from Mystic Water’s Leather & Smoke was excellent. This was a sample puck, but it’s still going strong. Putting the little puck in a tub makes loading easy.

iKon’s Shavecraft #102, a slant, remains one of my top razors. They seem to be hard to find nowadays, but if you come across one, I recommend that you snap it up at once. It’s totally comfortable and highly efficient. I always get an amazingly smooth result, and I don’t think I’ve ever nicked myself with this razor: extremely efficient and also extremely comfortable — what’s not to like? This morning’s shave wiped out a two-day stubble and left my skin baby smooth (and also baby soft, thanks in part to my prep using Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave).

A good splash of Chiseled Face Easy Street aftershave — a most pleasant aftershave — and a new week begins. And I have a good stock of curry (see earlier post), to which I think I’ll add some lime juice and cashews.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2021 at 11:25 am

Posted in Shaving

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