Saturday, October 12, 2013

(OT) EBT (Food Stamp) Debit Cards Have Stopped Working, as of Saturday October 12, 2013

(UPDATE 10/15/2013) Saturday's outage may have been a dry run, if the memo from USDA is authentic. See my latest post.


Many, many Americans who depend on the program to buy necessary food for their families, have to shell out the money they don't have to purchase food right now.

Xerox, the vendor who runs the system, says it's a system failure. Department of Agriculture says it's not because of the government shutdown. Sure.

From KPCC, southern California public radio station (10/12/2013):

Food stamp debit cards not working in California and many other states

People in California, Ohio, Michigan and several other states found themselves unable to buy groceries with their food stamp debit-style cards on Saturday, after a routine check by vendor Xerox Corp. resulted in a system failure. A manager at Ralph's in Glendale confirmed to KPCC that their EBT system is down.

Xerox spokeswoman Karen Arena confirmed via email Saturday afternoon that some Electronic Benefits Transfer systems are experiencing temporary connectivity issues. She said technical staff is addressing the issue and expects the system to be restored soon. U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe underscored that the outage is not related to the government shutdown. Xerox runs EBT card systems for 17 states and all were affected by the outage.

...Johnson said Xerox is notifying retailers to revert to the manual system, meaning SNAP customers can spend up to $50 until the system is back online. SNAP recipients should call the 800 number on the back of their card, and Xerox will guide them through the purchase process.

Shoppers left carts of groceries behind at a packed Market Basket grocery store in Biddeford, Maine, because they couldn't get their benefits, said fellow shopper Barbara Colman, of Saco, Maine. The manager put up a sign saying the EBT system was not in use. Colman, who receives the benefits, called an 800 telephone line for the program and it said the system was down due to maintenance, she said.

"That's a problem. There's a lot of families who are not going to be able to feed children because the system is being maintenanced," Colman said. "No one should put maintenance in during the daytime."

She planned to reach out to local officials.

(Full article at the link)

Well, local retailers, as far as I checked, are NOT doing the manual entry at all, and they simply refuse the EBT card. There are customers who are shelling out the money they hardly afford to spend, in order to buy food.

The government official's assurance that it is not because of the government shutdown doesn't mean much to people who cannot buy food.

The toll-free customer service number is not working, and the website for the program is down.

A piece of advice that one of the local retailers was giving to the affected customers was to call Congressman of the area and complain. They seem to think it is because of the government shutdown.

Hitting the low-income people hardest - that's Obama's way anyway.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pictorial-2: Another Elementary Mistake in Water Leak at #Fukushima I NPP - Good Old Overflow

This is now a toddler-would-start-to-be-embarassed level of a mistake.

In preparation for the typhoon rain, workers connected the hose to transport rainwater into a square tank (TEPCO calls it "notch tank") and turned on the pump. The problem was that they connected to a wrong tank in a wrong area (H6 Area, instead of intended H2), and the rainwater overflowed.

Photo from TEPCO (10/1/2013):

(Photo taken by Nuclear Regulation Authority)

NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka is worried about the recent spate of minor water leaks at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant due to apparent worker errors, and commented, according to Mainichi Shinbun (10/9/2013):


"The [workers'] morale at the plant has dropped considerably, causing problems due to carelessness. We need to request TEPCO's top management to (boost the morale)."

Commissioner Fuketa, in the same Mainichi article, also said:


"Simple, human errors are occurring, including the one where workers transported the contaminated water to a wrong tank. We cannot overlook such errors."

So, what are you going to do, Dr. Tanaka and Dr. Fuketa?

TEPCO's top management, as with any top management at any large corporation, does not necessarily know how the front-line workers at the plant work. Recall how then-Plant Manager Masao Yoshida had to fight the top management to get the job done at the plant.

Besides, many workers at the plant are made to work for peanuts ($100 a day, if that) with no benefit or job security, as a contract worker at a subcontractor.

The best morale-boosting thing TEPCO could do, I think, would be to split out the plant as a separate company, directly hire the workers with benefits, raise own capital and attract companies/people with expertise in decommissioning. Too bad the idea, which was first raised and advocated by then-TEPCO Chairman Katsumata in 2011, was shot down by the Democratic Party of Japan administration under Naoto Kan.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Just In from #Fukushima I NPP: Worker Splashed with Contaminated Water as He Mistakenly Removed the Pipe Joint from RO Apparatus

Compared to the previous one which is bad enough, this got to be a below-kindergartener level idiocy, lack of competent workers, or lack of concentration due to overwork, or all of the above.

From TEPCO's alerts for the press (here and here) and Jiji Tsushin (10/9/2013):

  • A worker of an affiliate company mistakenly removed the joint of the pipe that goes into the Reverse Osmosis Apparatus (line-3) at 10:01AM on October 9, 2013;

  • Amount of water leaked: 60 meters x 12 meters x several centimeters;

  • The leak was stopped 50 minutes later;

  • The leak is contained inside the temporary building that houses Reverse Osmosis Apparatus;

  • The leaked water had already been treated by SARRY (cesium absorption) but not yet by Reverse Osmosis Apparatus (desalination), meaning it is extremely high in beta nuclides (37 million Bq/L or 37,000 Bq/cm3);

  • The worker may have been splashed with this contaminated water with extremely high beta.

(OT) US State Secretary, Defense Secretary Gung-Ho with Japanese Counterparts, As Abe Smiles Broadly

US State Secretary John Kerry was the one who wanted to mete out "shock and awe"-like military attacks on a small country in Middle East back in August based on Youtube videos, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was going along with Kerry until Kerry put his foot in his mouth.

The two look very eager to please Japan's Abe administration, as shown in the photos below, taken during their recent visit to Japan.

Back in February this year, President Obama treated Mr. Abe rather shabbily when the latter visited the US, with only a brief working lunch and no press conference. I guess the US administration needs some allies now.

Chuck Hagel, John Kerry, Shinzo Abe, Fumio Kishida (Minister of Foreign Affairs), Itsunori Onodera (Minister of Defense), from (10/4/2013):


The United States and Japan announced on Thursday that defense relations are being strengthened for the first time in 16 years, including new force deployments and greater cooperation against missile and cyber attacks.

The closer military and defense relations come amid growing tensions in Asia over China’s maritime encroachment in the region, which military officials fear could trigger a future conflict.

New missile defenses, the addition of two squadrons of MV-22 tilt rotor transport aircraft, and deployment of three Global Hawk long-range drone aircraft are key elements of the new ties. New P-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft and advanced F-35 jets also will be deployed in Japan.

"MV-22 tilt rotor transport aircraft" is trouble-prone Osprey.

Kerry and Hagel laid a wreath at the Chidorigafuchi Cemetery where the war-dead (including unnamed soldiers and civilians who died, but not those judged as "war criminals" in the Tokyo Tribunal) are buried, in Tokyo, from AFP (10/3/2013). The only other foreign high-ranking official who did the same was the Argentinean president in 1979; there had been no US official who had done so, until Kerry and Hagel on October 3, 2013:

Pictorial: An Elementary Mistake in Water Leak at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant

(UPDATE) There's now a new leak with HIGH BETA, due to egregious worker error. See my latest post.


This self-explanatory pictorial by Mainichi Shinbun (10/4/2013) shows the kindergarten-level idiocracy (or kindergarteners-would-be-offended level) at TEPCO.

It shows how one of the recent (while I was gone) leaks from the storage tanks at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant happened.

  1. 5 linked tanks are placed on a slope (30cm x 55m);

  2. Judging by the amount of beta-nuclides in the water stored as reported by Mainichi (580,000Bq/L, or 580Bq/cm3), the tanks contain water that has been treated by SARRY (cesium removed) and RO (desalination);

  3. The tanks were already close to full;

  4. The only water gauge installed was on the tank located at the top of the slope; the water gauge showed there was still some room to pour rainwater that accumulated inside the dam that surrounds the tanks;

  5. Workers started pumping the rain water into the top tank;

  6. There was a gap between the lid on top of the bottom tank and the side panel of the tank; thus

Out went the water slightly mixed with rainwater.

The beta-nuclide content, though much lower than that in the waste water after RO, is still way above the legal limit for discharge (30Bq/L). Part of the leaked water may have reached the ocean, TEPCO admits.

I sense an acute shortage of competent workers at the plant.