Will New Orleans new disaster prevention system keep the waters out?

The new Seabrook Floodgate Complex was built in “record time” to protect New Orleans

New Orleans became the poster child for governmental and agency foot-dragging when it came to revitalization and replacing the enormous devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But after seven years and full funding from Congress, there is the real possibility that the city could weather the approaching hurricane season well.

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USDA to scrap an important food safety check

Our ability to track cattle in cases of food contamination could be compromised

Our ability to track cattle in cases of food contamination could be compromised


The National Animal Identification System – a USDA program set in place during the Bush administration (one of the small bright spots of his tenure) after the discovery in late 2003 of a cow infected with mad cow disease –  will be scrapped due to apparent resistance from ranchers and farmers. Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack will announce the changes this Friday.

In the meantime, states will need to create a new system that included how to identify livestock. Officials plan to create a different livestock tracing program that they hope will gain widespread industry support. 

New federal rules will be developed – this could take two years or more to create – but the officials said these would only apply to animals moved via interstate commerce, such as cattle raised in one state being transported to a slaughterhouse in another state.

It’s not clear how far the government would go to restrict the movement of livestock between states if the animals did not meet basic traceability standards.

The soon-to-be-scrapped system received $142 million in federal financing but only 40 percent of the nation’s livestock producers participated in it,  according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

 So, once again, lobbyists have the final say on matters of safety. Since it’s our food supply, doesn’t that make you feel comfy?

Airlines must let people go!

20090318_zaf_e47_884.jpgThe U.S. government has done something that consumers have been pushing them to do for years. The Transportation Department has ordered airlines to let passengers stuck in stranded airplanes to deplane after three hours.

Until now, airlines have had complete say-so as to when or if stranded passengers can deplane, no matter how many hours their plane sits in line on the tarmac. Today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the three-hour limit and other new passenger protections long fought for by consumer advocates. This year, from January to June, 613 planes were delayed on tarmacs for more than three hours, with passengers kept on board.

Under the new rule, airlines must provide food and water for passengers within two hours of a plane being delayed on a tarmac and maintain operable lavatories. They must also provide medical attention when necessary.

For those who remember the TV series LA Law, there was an apisode on this exact topic (“The Plane Mutiny”, 1989). One of the attorneys was stranded on the tarmac for hours and finally had to threaten a major lawsuit in order to get himself off the plane. Nice to know that the government has finally listened, even if it’s been quite a few years in the making.

This new rule takes effect in 120 days.