Gavins Point Dam Rumor Awakened Me

I promise I haven’t gone off the deep end.

Rather, this column in today’s Press & Dakotan is an exploration of the conspiracy theory world that came to my attention this week after I saw a video from a guy saying the government is going to blow up Gavins Point Dam. I didn’t make any of this up. All of these ideas can be found in the online conspiracy world.

And it’s a crazy world.


Are you awake?

That was the question posed to me this past week as I was confronted with the great threat looming to the west. I had just learned that Gavins Point Dam had been strung with explosives.

The face of the dam is cracking, the Smiling Scotsman’s YouTube video informed me, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or some other branch of the military is going to blow up 25 percent of the structure to relieve the historic pressure and save the power plant.

Knowing how evil and wasteful the United States government is, I had no reason to doubt this Omaha man’s claims, which had come to him third-hand.

“It’s important that you wake up and learn how to survive this threat,” another YouTube video informed me.

“I am awake,” I muttered to myself while sitting at my office desk in the Press & Dakotan, surrounded by the mainstream media (or “lamestream” media, if you prefer) that sought to keep this information from me.

Despite my new consciousness, I kept my mouth shut as I was forced to write a story about how the theory was “crazy,” or so the Corps claimed in a conference call. I knew better than to confront our genocidal government officials without an escape plan in place.

I feel fortunate. I am awake.

“This thing is about to happen, guys,” TerralO3 said while showing a map of the Missouri River valley in his YouTube video that references the Smiling Scotsman. “These roads are going to be taken out. You are going to have troops deployed in this area for this catastrophe they’re getting ready to create.”

You see, the government has been storing water in the upper Missouri River basin so it can be unleashed in a cascade that will divide America in two. This will assist the coming extinction-level event (ELE) being brought on by the approaching “Comet” Elenin, which is actually a dwarf star. It will wreak destruction on this planet later this year.

Notice how its alleged discoverer and namesake, Russian astronomer Leonid Elenin, conveniently has ELE in his name. The code is so clear, I don’t understand how people cannot see this!

But most Americans are just sheeple, who blindly follow our government overlords.

“The government is lying to you — all of them,” TerralO3 says. “From Obama, the Kenyan-born foreign national from Indonesia, to everybody in Congress who has allowed him to be in office even though they know for a fact he has no business even being in this country. They’re all getting ready to go into their underground bunkers because ELE is coming.”

As I write this, I’m preparing to depart for the Ozarks, where a group of us are determined to survive this ELE.

Mock me if you want. I understand. I was once like you.

I believed that media outlets like the Press & Dakotan, the New York Times and the Washington Post do their best to report the truth and have the interests of their readers at heart.

But now I know better. The Internet has been a great liberator.

Because it offers so much unadulterated truth, some of the lamestream media outlets have even had to acknowledge facts — even if it was only to try to convince the sheeple that they are false.

Obama was born in Hawaii? Ha. Paul Revere warned early Americans that the British were coming? Bull pucky. Legalized abortion isn’t part of a genocidal scheme to wipe out black people? I won’t be a silent witness to the truth.

And I won’t buy the media’s lies anymore.

You shouldn’t, either.

“It’s going to be the worst catastrophe in the history of the United States.”

I know, TerralO3.

“It’s almost too late to try to wake people up to this. We’re going to have to leave without you.”

I’m coming, Terral03. I’m prepared to “yes, sir/no, sir” my way through all those military checkpoints that will likely come between me and our rendezvous in the Ozarks.

But I promise I’ll find you, somewhere in the deep, dark night that lies ahead.


(EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is a work of satire, and we can assure you that, even though he has been talking a lot about the need for a vacation, Nathan is not planning a trip to the Ozarks.)

Who Knew? Healthy Babies Require Clean Air

It’s not hard to find people who say they want to breathe clean air.

However, propose any measures to make the air cleaner, and you’ll have a political firestorm on your hands. In fact, measures such as eliminating or completely gutting the Environmental Protection Agency pass for mainstream conservative talking points these days.

But research is increasingly tying poor air quality to long-term health problems that begin at birth. Studies have shown, for example, that carbon monoxide related to automobile emissions harms fetal health.

Nancy Folbre asks the right question on her New York Times blog:

Greater publicity for economic research on the impact of regulation might quiet critics of the Environmental Protection Agency, who often focus on its short-term costs rather than its long-term benefits. Would changing its name — perhaps to the Environmental Child-Protection Agency — help win over the family-values crowd?

When it comes to creating a better environment that helps improve overall human health, we need all the allies we can get. Sometimes a carefully-crafted argument can go a long way.

Here is another excerpt from the interesting blog, which can be read in its entirety here.

Epidemiologists and economists have long agreed that low birth weight is an important, albeit approximate, predictor of future health problems. A wealth of new economic research tracing individuals over time shows that it is also an approximate predictor of future earnings problems, with statistical effects almost as strong as children’s test scores.

Among other things, low birth weight increases the probability of suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and lowers the probability of graduating from high school.

In the current American Economic Review, Janet Currie of Princeton, a pioneer in this new area of research, summarizes recent findings and points out that children of black mothers who dropped out of high school are three times as likely as children of white college-educated mothers to suffer low birth weight.

Many of the mechanisms that underlie this inequality are linked to characteristics of the physical environment, such as exposure to environmental toxins.

For instance, carbon monoxide related to automobile emissions harms fetal health. Detailed statistical analysis of families in New Jersey shows that moving from an area with high levels of carbon monoxide to one with lower levels has an effect on birth weight larger than persuading a woman who was smoking 10 cigarettes a day during pregnancy to quit.

Another memorable illustration of carbon monoxide effects comes from a study of the impact of E-ZPass electronic technologies, which improve infant health by reducing auto emissions in neighborhoods close to highway toll booths.

Exposure to toxic air pollutants and waste dumps (like Superfund cleanup sites) both lowers birth weight and increases the risks of premature and infant death.

Corps: Rumor That Gavins Point Will Be Blown Up ‘Crazy’

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official says that a rumor about Gavins Point Dam cracking and being lined with explosives “is crazy.”
A Youtube video surfaced during the weekend from a man making the claim.
“The face of Gavins Point Dam is cracking,” the man says, before explaining that the Corps “or the military” has strung explosives along 25 percent of the structure. The explosives will be detonated this week to relieve pressure on the dam, he claims.
The rumor has circulated widely since the video’s appearance.
“I saw it,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Commander Col. Bob Ruch said during a conference call Sunday evening. “Whether it’s a joke or a hoax, that’s what the Internet allows. If you want the truth, come to our webpage and sit in on these (conference calls). We’re not stringing explosives on the dam. It’s not cracking. It’s performing as designed.”
Also, Ruch also said during the call that there is a possibility that access to Chief White Crane Recreation Area, located on the east edge of Lake Yankton, could be closed off because of rising waters.

How Did Gavins Point Get To 160,000 cfs?

The Omaha World-Herald had some excellent flood coverage in its Sunday edition, including a lengthy interview with Corps officials. It provides a play-by-play of how releases got to where they are today.

Here is one of the most interesting exchanges. Jody Farhat is the chief of the Water Management Division in Omaha.

Farhat: This was the real kicker. About the second weekend in May, we got two or three inches of rain in eastern Montana. We had a good rise on the Yellowstone River. Again, still manageable.

We were going to have to increase our releases from Garrison Dam and the dams downstream. But the weekend of May 20 to 22, much of the eastern half of Montana got 5 to 8 inches of rain.

Down here we can get 5 or 8 inches of rain. It happens once in a while over a small area. A county or a community gets a heavy rainstorm. But this was over the whole eastern half of Montana. A tremendous volume of water came in. Then it was followed by more rain in the following weeks into June.

As a result, we had a tremendous volume of water come into the reservoir system. We’re estimating that this rainfall event was between 4 million and 5 million acre-feet of runoff — and it used up all the storage that we had remaining into the reservoirs that we were planning to use for the snow.

So now we’re full.

Q. The winter snowpack runoff wouldn’t exceed 4 million to 5 million acre-feet?

Farhat: The volume would have, but we would have releases at the same time. We had enough storage to manage that runoff. It usually takes two and a half months to get the snow out.

Q. Tell us more about the May 22 rains. It seemed that you were increasing the Gavins Point Dam releases daily that week.

Farhat: It took a couple of days to really get a good handle on the volumes that we were going to be looking at and also the potential timing for that snowmelt, because we were already late into the season. We were concerned it would melt off rapidly, so we ran different scenarios of our snowmelt and, of course, with additional rain in the forecast as well.

We thought we would be right at 110,000 cubic feet per second to 120,000 cfs from Gavins Point. That following weekend, they forecast three or four inches more rain over this same saturated area. We knew at that point that those releases would have to go up.

During that period we had some of the highest storage gains in the reservoirs. Over 400,000 acre-feet a day. I worked here a long time before I ever saw a storage change of 100,000 acre-feet a day.

It was just an unbelievable amount of water coming into the reservoir.

McMahon: So it might have looked like we weren’t on our game, but we’re monitoring it closely, making adjustments on the best available information and not wanting to incite panic, because now we were edging up into historic releases.

It looked like what it looked like, but it was the best we could do under the circumstances.

Each one of those bumps up of releases were “Oh, my God,” because we hadn’t been there before. Oh, my God, 100,000. Oh, my God, 120,000. Oh, my God, 150,000.

Q. A lot of people wonder why you didn’t start releasing in April when you saw the snowpack rise.

Farhat: On the 28th of January we had all of the flood-control capacity available.

The fact that 2010 was a big runoff year didn’t reduce our ability to provide flood control this year because we had evacuated all of last year’s water. The full flood-control capacity was available.

Read the whole interview here. It is worth your time.

‘I Miss The Girl Where A Woman Now Stands …’

Remember that weird and wonderful South Park episode (from long, long ago) that starred Robert Smith of The Cure? Remember how Kyle declares The Cure’s “Disintegration” as the “best album ever?”

Well, this piece began while listening to “Disintegration.” I’m not going to argue with Kyle’s assessment, although “Wish” probably had a bigger impact on my youth …


As you grow older, you grow more real.
Time exacts you. It etches in your skin.
I’ve read each scar. I’ve held each hand.
The burdens that you carry have kept you thin.
But I miss the girl where a woman now stands.

Please hear what I have to say, my love. Hear how it all began.
You were homesick when I met you, uncomfortable in your clothing. You said your room was haunted. The bed was cold, and shadows spilled out of your closet.
I did my best to pretend I believed you. But I’d seen my share of ghosts before, and I could tell yours came from within.
You paused after you looked into my eyes, and then said they were bluer than any sky you’d ever seen.
“Well, let me tell you, they’re blue for you, sweetheart,” I said. “You’re the prettiest girl I’ve ever set my eyes upon, and I know you’ll have to leave. But if you don’t have to, please don’t leave yet.”
I tried to maintain my confidence as I was greeted by a momentary silence. It was heavy and bursting at the seams. Sometimes our whole lives are defined by a few precious moments. I suddenly felt this weight.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately,” I said. “I’m only 18, but I think I know all I want to know about it. I was in love once, and it changed me. I hated what it did, though. Most people talk about how love makes them feel complete. Makes them a better person. Well, love made me feel separated from myself. It made me feel dependent. I don’t ever want to feel that way again.”
I was being honest in my haste to make conversation. But I was also trying to get you interested in me. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to take my silly confession and make it work in my favor.
“You want to know what I know about love?” you asked. “Love is like a box of chocolates.”
You giggled. I was relieved.
“But,” you added. “I know what you mean. I’ve been there, too. Love is not always a constructive thing. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it tears us apart.
“I have to go,” you said. “It’s those shadows I was telling you about. I have to keep moving.”
“I could go with you,” I offered. “I could scare them off.”
“No, you can’t, silly. You’ve got to stay here. Break some other girl’s heart with your war on love.”
You pressed your lips against my cheek, and I’m quite certain my temperature jumped by 10 degrees. You smelled soft, like rose petals. My heart contracted as you pulled away and turned to leave.
“We’ll see each other again,” you said as you looked me in the eye. “I know it.”

You were right, of course.
I saw you a few days later, sitting on a large stone by the lake. My heart felt like one of the rocks you sent skipping across the water’s surface. I was confused by my inability to ignore you. I didn’t even know you, and I could already feel myself changing, adapting to what I imagined might be your desires.
I suddenly found myself taking more of a liking for Tom Hanks because I was certain you loved “Forrest Gump.” I’d been to a local rose garden to see if I could find your scent. I had spotted the small “Pixies” tattoo near your wrist and purchased “Trompe le Monde,” thinking that if I couldn’t fool the world, perhaps I could at least fool you into thinking I was a big fan of the band.
As I approached, you grew larger and larger. I saw wings emerge from your back.
“Angel or demon?” I asked myself, unable to shake the bitter taste of love I’d acquired at an early age.
Once I reached you, you were quite still — and quite human. Despite the chemical reactions you produced in my mind, I suddenly realized that you were my equal. Nothing more and nothing less.
You smiled as you laid your eyes upon me, and I felt compelled to divulge everything. I cringe at the thought of it still.
“So let me confess,” I told you nervously. “I want you to break my heart. Tonight. Tomorrow. Next week. I don’t care. I want to savor every tiptoe of your tongue upon my lips and know that with each step we approach the unpredictable end. I already told you I don’t want to be in love, but with you I somehow feel safe. Safe to be stupid. Safe to dream a little dream and then awake with disappointment as I realize that it was nothing more than that.”
Instead of fluttering away in fear at this suggestion from a man who was still a relative stranger, you sat and looked me up and down.
“Can you at least give me a little time to decide if your heart is worth breaking?” you asked.
“I’d offer to break your heart as well, Celice, but I’ve got a feeling it’s already broken,” I replied.
With that, I could feel your vision begin to blur, and I watched tears stream down your cheeks. It was those ghosts within you again. You pulled at your red sweater, but those shadows were much deeper and couldn’t be peeled away.
I placed my arms around you and squeezed. I wasn’t about to offer to save you. I didn’t know yet what I was fighting. But I could offer comfort. I could offer warmth.
“I just want to stop thinking,” you said. “Can you help me do that? Can you help me forget how fucking stupid I am? Keep me thinking about the present. Make me look toward the future. If you promise me that, I promise I’ll break your heart. It won’t be us forever. It will be us for now, for however long now lasts. If I sense you losing yourself, I’ll end it. I’ll end us.”

“Now” expired nine years ago — after four years had passed.
I did what I could to place you in the waking hours. From the distance of dreams, I tried to bring you to the light.
But the shadow of that boy’s body kept growing larger in your mind. And then it started talking. I knew this because you had conversations with it at night.
“I want to see you,” you whispered to this unseen entity. “All I ever see is darkness. I want to see your skin. Can you smile? Are you warm? Every day, I see your body laying lifeless. I see the gravel pressed into your hands. I don’t need you to remind me. I won’t forget. I swear I won’t forget you.”
But you would never discuss these things with me. You had once confessed what had happened that night when you were a 16-year-old driving home, but you would only share the cold, devastating facts. You said it was your burden to bear, and you didn’t want to talk about it.
I would plead otherwise.
“You’ve got a light inside you, Celice. If you would talk about this guilt with me — with someone — I know you could get it under control and the boy would give you some peace. But you keep yourself so airtight that no light gets in or out.”
You didn’t break my heart.
I recognized myself in you, and I sought to bridge the gap between us in order to be whole. I admit it: You made me complete in your own way.
It was your love of melancholy, rainy mornings and aching music. It was your whispers in my ear after a night of drinking. It was your fear of getting lost in the past and not reaching the future.
But our faults appeared with time, and the black bones were exposed. I think it was our familiarity with death that made our demise seem natural. We knew that foundations rot, that all things must pass.

Since then, I’ve written stories all over you.
I held your hand at your mother’s funeral. I kissed you when you bought me a box of chocolates on my 25th birthday. I gave you a ride home when your car battery died in downtown Savannah.
You have been a source of light for me, even though you struggle to see that light within yourself.
But the passage of time concerns me. While you are close to my heart, you are increasingly far away from my head. You are sinking into the sea of life, and I’m afraid that, one day, I’ll never retrieve you. I fear there will be a day when you won’t be able to retrieve yourself, either. That girl who fought to see the future will succumb to the past.
The shadows will have won, and the darkness will endure.
If that comes to pass, who will remember the best of you?
Who will remember the girl where this woman now stands?

The Tinkle Heard Around The World

Perhaps you’ve heard about the pee in Portland, Ore., that led to city officials draining about 8 million gallons of water from a reservoir there. On one level, it is, of course, funny. Pardon the 5-year-old in me. But it’s mostly quite frustrating that one man’s pee could cause so much waste.

That frustration is being felt around the world, as shown in the BBC story linked to above.

Some eight million gallons of treated drinking water have been flushed down the drain in the US state of Oregon after a man urinated into a reservoir. Did such a vast amount of water have to be dumped?

“Nobody wants to drink pee, and I don’t want to deal with the 100 people who would be unhappy that I’m serving them pee in their water.”

Those are the words of David Shaff, a water bureau official in Oregon’s biggest city Portland, after flushing away 32 million litres of water.

They decided to take the drastic action after security cameras caught a 21-year-old man urinating into an uncovered reservoir. The water had already been purified and was to go directly to homes.

It continues:

Toxicologist Prof Alan Boobis is “flabbergasted” by what he says is a complete overreaction.

“In a healthy person, urine is sterile. It’s something we can say with confidence – it’s not going to have any impact on anyone whatsoever.”

He says even if chemicals were in the urine, they would not be in large enough quantities to cause damage.

“We are exposed to chemicals all the time but the intake is already below a level that’s going to cause harm.

“Urine contains a whole range of substances that the body has no need for. It might contain chemicals that are potentially harmful but the levels are going to be very low when expelled by the body, and even lower when diluted by water.”

Prof Boobis, from Imperial College London, points out that the reservoir already probably contained urine from fish and animals.

It’s an interesting article and worth a read.

All this talk of pee and waste reminded me of a conservation column I wrote in 2009.

Oh, and I’ll do my best to not discuss pee on this blog again for a very long time. 🙂

Here is, believe it or not, my award-winning column from the Press & Dakotan:

I’ve never peed in the shower.
Well, not that I remember, anyway.
But I’m tempted to start.
Hold on. Before you blacklist me from your shower, let me explain.
You see, it’s for the environment.
People of my generation were always told by Kermit the Frog — though maybe not quite in this context — that it’s not easy being green. Despite my concerns about the environment, that’s been a pretty constant refrain in my life for not doing many eco-friendly activities beyond recycling. Maybe you can relate.
Stop eating meat? Too hard.
Ride my bike to the store instead of drive? Impossible.
Take fewer showers during the week? Disgusting.
But peeing in the shower? I do think it’s kind of gross, but I could do that.
It all started when I saw an infectious animated television ad from a Brazilian environmental group named SOS Mata Atlantica that features various people and entities, ranging from Gandhi and Frankenstein to King Kong, urinating in the shower.
Why? Because they argue that doing so could save a toilet flush — and therefore 1,157 gallons of water annually per household. That’s a lot of water.
The concept sounds pretty silly to me, I’ll admit. But it really is a serious small step toward addressing a big issue.
Water shortages are no laughing matter; something we have the luxury of forgetting because we have the good fortune of living along the Missouri River. This ad got me thinking more seriously about other small steps I could take to become more eco-friendly.
I grew up on a farm, so there was rarely a meal where I didn’t consume pork or beef. I can’t imagine a life without meat. But maybe I could imagine a life with less of it.
I’m proud of the way we raise animals on our family farm. But farms like ours are a minority. Many of the 60 billion animals raised for food each year spend their lives on factory farms under deplorable conditions. I think many people are just waking up to the implications of our food habits and finding that the way those animals are treated is morally unacceptable.
But let’s set that aside for now and focus on the amount of resources it takes to support our growing meat habit around the world. According to “Food Matters: A Guide To Conscious Eating,” it takes 40 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of beef protein. To produce one calorie of corn takes only 2.2 calories of fossil fuel.
If I were to eat chicken, fish or eggs one day a week instead of red meat, the reduction in the amount of greenhouse gases expended would be the equivalent of driving 760 miles less a year. If I just ate vegetables on that one day, the number would increase to 1,160 miles.
Those are big numbers for a little adjustment. I think I could swallow that.
And according to Mother Jones, every time I cut my hot shower by one minute, I reduce my carbon imprint by a quarter pound. I would like to assume that, even if I do take the time for a whiz, I could shave a minute off my shower time!
So putting a little thought into becoming more green, I’m beginning to see hope for a creature of habit like me. Maybe it’s not as hard as I thought.
Unfortunately, the key to reducing consumption and preserving the environment does not lie with just you and me. It lies with all of us.
While I think it is important to take personal responsibility when it comes to stewardship of the world in which we live, I also believe that responsibility extends to encouraging government action on these issues. This is a systemic problem — we live under an economic paradigm that encourages endless, and often mindless, consumption with little regard for the long-term consequences. Unless there are society-wide changes, a little less meat here or a little shorter shower there is not going to come close to addressing the environmental problems we face.
And in that case, it will be more than just my yellow stuff going down the drain …