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    The Daily Troll: Oil via rail. Most fascinating Seattleites.

    Worries about coal trains are joined by fears about oil trains. Joel Connelly picks his most intriguing people of the year. A federal office in Seattle closes.
    Dr. Lee Hood (center left, in jacket) and members of his Institute for Systems Biology lab group celebrate with a made-in-Seattle toast after he learned he would receive the National Medal of Science.

    Dr. Lee Hood (center left, in jacket) and members of his Institute for Systems Biology lab group celebrate with a made-in-Seattle toast after he learned he would receive the National Medal of Science. Hsiao-Ching Chou/Institute for Systems Biology

    Oil trains

    This year has brought a lot of talk about coal trains coming to the Northwest as part of the proposed development of ports to ship coal to China for its utilities. But there are also oil trains coming from North Dakota to refineries at Anacortes, a factor that adds to the concerns, as Crosscut's Floyd McKay has reported. This afternoon, Oregonlive.com picked up an AP report on the national explosion in oil shipments via train. Comparing the trains to pipeline transportation of oil to refineries, a North Dakota Sierra Club representative told AP that rail is  "the greater of two evils." Some fear major spills in population centers.

    Most fascinating people of 2012

    Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com plays the yearly list game in intriguing fashion, picking Seattle's 12 most intriguing people of 2012. The selections, first posted late Thursday, are in the slideshow format so overused at seattlepi.com (Hearst loves those extra clicks!) but the picks are well conceived and so well explained that it works well. Naturally, with Connelly, there's a slant toward compassionate, middle-of-the road progressivism. The picks include UW President Michael Young, U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan and soccer player Hope Solo.

    Another big pick

    Seattle biomedical pioneer Dr. Leroy Hood, who is currently president of the Institute for Systems Biology, has been selected to receive the National Science Medal. He and other recipients will receive their awards at a White House ceremony early next year. The news came out late Friday, just before many of us headed off for a holiday weekend.

    Census changes

    The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that it is closing its Seattle office; a Seattle Times story notes the federal agency is focusing more on Internet replies to questionnaires. The acting Census director, Thomas Mesenbourg, said that technology allows the agency to "do more with less." Regional oversight of part-time workers in the Northwest is shifting to a Los Angeles office. Because of retirements and people finding other jobs, only three of about 45 regular Seattle staffers were laid off.

    Joe Copeland is political editor for Crosscut. You can reach him at Joe.Copeland@crosscut.com.

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    Posted Fri, Dec 28, 4:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    Re: Census changes

    Mr. Copeland revealingly writes, "only three...were laid off" (emphasis added).

    Once again we see proof those fortunate few who still have jobs still don't comprehend that being laid off in this post-American-Dream economy is a radically life-changing event -- most often a permanently life-ruining disaster.

    To minimize this bottomlessly grim reality by inserting the adjective "only" is scarcely different from writing that "only three" were were slain by a would-be mass murderer or that "only three" were killed in a fatal accident.

    Posted Fri, Dec 28, 7:10 p.m. Inappropriate

    Exports by rail -

    Personally, I think we need to investigate the shipment of grain from our west coast ports. First,there are the agricultural subsidies: Not just for the grain itself, but the low cost power to farm communities and subsidized, low cost, wasteful water use.

    That is only the beginning.

    What about the C02 emissions and global warming resulting from operating machinery to grow and harvest the grain? And the "grain dust" that causes significant health problems for people with allergies, and asthmatic conditions.

    Transportation by rail only compounds the problem. The environmental impacts are well known but need to be examined in a cumulative impact statement as required by both the National Environmental and State Environmental Policy Acts. Scoping these impacts is a regional issue requiring extensive public comment sessions.

    So before we export that grain ---- think twice!

    Posted Fri, Dec 28, 8:31 p.m. Inappropriate

    Well said.

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