Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday Must Read: Koch Brothers Fund UC Berkeley Climate-Change Skeptic; Radioactive Rain Falls on US

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 7:52 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The Koch brothers, the billionaire oil executives who have financed the Tea Party movement, are now funding a climate change study at UC Berkeley that is led by a global warming skeptic, the LA Times reports. Some scientists fear that the Berkeley study is designed to undercut climate-change science and the Obama administration’s plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The study is being headed up by Richard Muller, a Cal physicist who is a longtime critic of the international scientific consensus on climate change. And the largest backer of the study is the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, which donated $150,000 to it. Charles and David Koch are the nation’s most prominent financiers of efforts to block the regulation of greenhouse gases.

2. Radioactive rain from the Japanese nuclear crisis has been falling on the United States with levels of radioactive material that exceed federal health-safety standards, the Bay Citizen reports. The radioactive rain was detected in tests conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and by nuclear power plant operators in Pennsylvania. Results from tests conducted in California should be made public soon. However, federal authorities are downplaying the test results so far, saying that while the amount of radioactivity in the rain exceeds the EPA’s “maximum containment level,” there is nothing to worry about because the radiation will degrade to acceptable levels in the next month or two.

3. The monster snowpack in the Sierra is one of the largest on record, the Chron reports. Water content is at 165 percent of normal, the highest since 1995. An incredible 740 inches of snow — more than 61 feet — has fallen on Donner Summit so far. The huge snowpack prompted Governor Brown to officially declare an end to the state’ three-year drought yesterday, although he warned that demand for water in the state still outstrips supply — even in flush years. A heat wave in the Bay Area, meanwhile, set record high temperatures in several cities yesterday, including Oakland, which reached 83 degrees.

4. California community colleges are preparing to turn away an unprecedented 400,000 students this fall now that there will be no June election for Governor Brown’s proposed tax measures, the Chron reports. The tax measures, if approved by voters, would have allowed the state’s community college system to avoid $400 million in budget cuts.

5. And the inability of Republicans to reach a compromise budget deal with Brown likely has snuffed out their hopes of slashing public-employee pensions, the LA Times reports. The newspaper notes that Brown now will likely turn to organized labor to mount a fall campaign for his tax measure proposals and that unions will not agree to help if he proposes to cut pensions. Political experts say Republicans blew a historic opportunity to achieve some of their longtime budget goals when they overreached and demanded too much from Brown at the bargaining table.

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