Friday, December 26, 2014

How Austerity and Bail-ins Will Pummel the 99 Percent

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he 2008 financial crisis left political and economic elites with two major problems: how to pay for the bank bailouts in the short term and how to prepare for the next financial collapse. The solution put forward for the first problem was to spread the pain downward, insulating the people who created the mess from the consequences of their chronic gambling. In second case, they looked to a policy of last resort that had only been used once before, during the Great Depression.
Of course, they had to create catchy, near incomprehensible terms for these policies in order to make an increasingly stressed out, debt-ridden population accept them as the new normal. Thus, they gave us austerity and later, the bail-in.
Austerity: So What Else is New?
Austerity used to be one of those words that made an impression on me when I heard it. It brought to mind sensible, beer-drinking Bavarian monks. Now I’m fed up with seeing it in the news, always being sold as some kind of economic “tough love.”
The thing is, austerity has been around in poorer countries for years, imposed from on high by the IMF and the World Bank. During the 1980s and 90s it was called “debt restructuring.” All the available evidence shows it was an unmitigated disaster for working people in countries from Argentina to Zaire.
Still, failure rarely stops economists with a theory. So austerity got introduced after the crash of 2008 into the post-industrial economies of the West, especially in the European Union.
But what does austerity actually mean? According to Investopedia, “austerity measures generally refer to the measures taken by governments to reduce expenditures in an attempt to shrink their growing budget deficits.” In practice, it has meant cuts to social services and reductions in government workforce.
Ireland, once called the Celtic Tiger and promoted as an economic success story, became a poster child for these programs after 2008. The country made no move to increase its corporate tax rate, a logical step considering, at 12.5%, it had one of the lowest in Europe. Instead, the Irish government targeted cuts at its most vulnerable citizens.
In the first austerity budget, legislators lowered the minimum wage, cut 3 billion Euros from the welfare rolls and eliminated 25,000 government jobs. One sad result of this has been a mass exodus from the country, especially among the young, something not seen since the early 20th century.
The austerity story was much the same in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, the countries hardest hit by these programs. In North America, the term isn’t used as much to describe belt-tightening policies, in part because aspects of austerity programs are seen as business as usual, even in good times. This is especially true in the U.S. where one party campaigns on shrinking government and privatizing everything, while the other party pretends to do otherwise but quietly enables those cuts and privatizations in order to pay back the corporate interests that fund its campaigns.
Austerity has already led to protests around the world, and it’s hard to see how these policies could be extended to another crisis without massive civil unrest. Looking at the bubbles that have ballooned since 2008 in the bond and derivatives markets, the next bust is practically inevitable. At the same time, further bailouts seem politically untenable, which leads us to the next big heist in the name of protecting the global casino: the bail-in.
Saving is for Chumps
It used to be that savers were considered the backbone of any advanced economy. Whether buying a home or paying for a child’s education, it was taken for granted that one had to save for it. Nowadays, savers go by another name: suckers. This is in part because of the macro-economic policy called Quantitative Easing, or QE, in which money is printed at a rapid clip by central banks in order to keep interest rates artificially low. But its also going to be due to a thing that less people are talking about: the bail-in.
One Tuesday morning in late March 2013, depositors in insolvent banks in Cyprus awoke to find that their bank accounts had been given a “haircut,” with accounts under 100,000 euros reduced by 6.75% while those over 100,000 lost 9.9%. At the time, it was made to seem like a unique situation and much was made of the fact that Russian oligarchs were using Cyprus as a tax haven. As if this made it okay to steal depositor’s money.
Before looking at this specific example, we should note that commercial banks have junior and senior creditors. Traditionally, senior creditors (depositors and some classes of bond holders) are supposed to receive their money before junior creditors (shareholders and those holding riskier, higher yield bonds) in the event of an institutional collapse.
In the case of Cyprus, the order of payment between senior and junior creditors was reversed. As reported at the time by Forbes magazine, hardly a bastion of left-wing orthodoxy: “In the end it amounts to the cronies (other banks and government) and non-cronies. The cronies get 100% (of their money) or more; the non-cronies, including non-interest-bearing depositors who should be super-senior, get a kick in the gut instead." Thus, Cypriot depositors paid the lion’s share of the cost of rescuing their over-leveraged banks in tandem with facing the kinds of austerity measures seen elsewhere.
On the Road to Serfdom, Again
In a story featured on a few weeks ago, Ellen Brown reported that during the mid-November G20 summit in Brisbane, leaders of most the world’s biggest economies passed the “Adequacy of Loss-Absorbing Capacity of Global Systemically Important Banks in Resolution.” Besides being more than a mouthful of seemingly unrelated words, this document enshrines bail-ins for these countries with a unique twist: they will not only go after depositor’s money but also pension fund investors (major holders of now “bail-inable bonds") in the event of the collapse of another Too Big to Fail institution.
You could be forgiven for thinking your money might be safer in a credit union or, considering that interest rates are near 0% anyway, under your mattress. It probably is. If anything has been proven since the collapse of 2008, it’s that the banksters are seen as far too important to the financial system to be made to pay for their crimes, leaving the 99% to foot the bill.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Lawless Manipulation of Bullion Markets by Public Authorities

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The Federal Reserve and its bullion bank agents are actively using uncovered futures contracts to illegally manipulate the prices of precious metals in order to keep interest rates below the market rate. The purpose of manipulation is to support the U.S. dollar’s reserve status at a time when the dollar should be in decline from the over-supply created by QE and from trade and budget deficits.

Historically, the role of gold and silver has been to function as a means of exchange and a store of wealth during periods of economic and political turmoil. Since the bullion bull market began in late 2000, It rose almost non-stop until March 2008, ahead of the Great Financial Crisis, which started with the collapse of Bear Stearns. When Bear Stearns collapsed, gold was taken down over the course of the next 7 months from $1035 to $680, or 34%; silver from $21 to $8, or 62%. The most violent takedown occurred as Lehman collapsed and Goldman Sachs was about to collapse. This takedown occurred during a period of time when gold should have been going parabolic in price. The price of gold finally took off in late October 2008 from $680 to $1900 while the Government and the Fed were busy printing money to bail out the banks. While the price of gold rose nearly 300% from late 2008 to September 2011, the U.S. dollar lost over 17% of its value, falling from 89 on the dollar index to 73.50.

The current takedown of gold from $1900 to $1200 has occurred during a period of time when financial and political fraud and corruption becomes worse and more blatant by the day. Along with this, the intensity and openness with which the metals are systematically beat down seems to grow by the day.

Comex futures trade 23 hours a day via a global computerized trading system known as Globex.  The heaviest period of trading occurs when the actual Comex floor operations are open, which is 8:20 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. EST.  All other times Comex futures trade electronically via Globex.  Gold and silver are smashed primarily  during the Globex-only trading periods, when volume is often  light to non-existent.

This graph of Comex futures trading on December 16th shows the sudden plunge in the price of silver.


The second stage of the sharp price drop begins at 1:30 pm eastern time (11:30 mountain time), after the Comex floor trading operation was closed for the day. This is typically one of the lowest volume trading periods, during which orders to buy or sell can cause significant price disruption to the market. There were no news or events that would have triggered the sudden selling of bullion futures, and none of the other markets experienced unusual movements while gold and silver were quickly plunging in price.

To put in perspective the 9,767 silver contracts sold in 15 minutes, the total trading volume in Comex silver for the 23-hour global trading period for Comex contracts ending at 5:00 p.m. on December 15th was 149,964 contracts, or an average of 6,520 contracts per hour.  The only type of market participant that would dump almost 10,000 contracts in a 15-minute period is a seller who’s only motivation is to push the price of silver as low as possible.  One entity that can afford to use capital like this is the Federal Reserve, because the Fed can create its own capital for free using the printing press.

In the background, the financial markets are becoming increasingly pressured by declines in emerging market currencies, insolvent sovereign governments–including here in the US–and perhaps a renewed derivatives crisis triggered by the collapse in the price of oil.  The oil price decline could result in derivative problems larger than the subprime mortgage derivatives of the 2008 crisis.

The downward manipulation of the prices of precious metals prevents the “crisis warning transmission system” from properly functioning.  More important, the decline in the price of gold/silver vs. the U.S. dollar conveys the illusion that the dollar is strong at a time when, in fact, the dollar should be under pressure from the over-issuance of dollars and dollar-denominated debt.

What we have been experiencing since the 2008 crisis is not only the subordination of US economic policy to the needs of banks “too big to fail,” but also the subordination of law and the financial regulatory agencies to the interests of a few private banks. The manipulation of the bullion markets is illegal whether done by private parties or on public authority, and so we have the spectacle of the US government supporting a handful of banks via illegal means. Not only has economic accountability been set aside, but also legal accountability.

Just as Washington places itself above laws prohibiting torture and naked aggression in order to conduct its self-declared “war on terror” and above the Constitution in order to construct a domestic police state, Washington places itself above the laws prohibiting market manipulation.

Obviously, the government’s claim to represent the rule of law is as false as all its other claims. The foul stench of corruption and hypocrisy that emanates from Washington is the smell of a dying country.

Financial Market Manipulation Is The New Trend

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A dangerous new trend is the successful manipulation of the financial markets by the Federal Reserve, other central banks, private banks, and the US Treasury. The Federal Reserve reduced real interest rates on US government debt obligations first to zero and then pushed real interest rates into negative territory. Today the government charges you for the privilege of purchasing its bonds.

People pay to park their money in Treasury debt obligations, because they do not trust the banks and they know that the government can print the money to pay off the bonds. Today Treasury bond investors pay a fee in order to guarantee that they will receive the nominal face value (minus the fee) of their investment in government debt instruments.

The fee is paid in a premium, which raises the cost of the debt instrument above its face value and is paid again in accepting a negative rate of return, as the interest rate is less than the inflation rate.

Think about this for a minute. Allegedly the US is experiencing economic recovery. Normally with rising economic activity interest rates rise as consumers and investors bid for credit. But not in this “recovery.”
Normally an economic recovery produces rising consumer spending, rising profits, and more investment. But what we experience is flat and declining consumer spending as jobs are offshored and retail stores close. Profits result from labor cost savings from employee layoffs.

The stock market is high because corporations are the biggest purchases of stock. Buying back their own stock supports or raises the share price, enabling executives and boards to sell their shares or cash in their options at a profitable price. The cash that Quantitative Easing has given to the mega-banks leaves ample room for speculating in stocks, thus pushing up the price despite the absence of fundamentals that would support a rising stock market.

In other words, in America today there are no free financial markets. The markets are rigged by the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing, by gold price manipulation, by the Treasury’s Plunge Protection Team and Exchange Stabilization Fund, and by the big private banks.

Allegedly, QE is over, but it is not. The Fed intends to roll over the interest and principle from its bloated $4.5 trillion bond portfolio into purchases of more bonds, and the banks intend to fill in the gaps by using the $2.6 trillion in their cash on deposit with the Fed to purchase bonds. QE has morphed, not ended. The money the Fed paid the banks for bonds will now be used by the banks to support the bond price by purchasing bonds.

Normally when massive amounts of debt and money are created the currency collapses, but the dollar has been strengthening. The dollar gains strength from the rigging of the gold price in the futures market. The Federal Reserve’s agents, the bullion banks, print paper futures contracts representing many tonnes of gold and dump them them into the market during periods of light or nonexistent trading. This drives down the gold price despite rising demand for the physical metal. This manipulation is done in order to counteract the effect of the expansion of money and debt on the dollar’s exchange value. A declining dollar price of gold makes the dollar look strong.

The dollar also gains the appearance of strength from debt monetization by the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank. The Bank of Japan’s Quantitative Easing program is even larger than the Fed’s. Even Switzerland is rigging the price of the Swiss franc. Since all currencies are inflating, the dollar does not decline in exchange value.

As Japan is Washington’s vassal, it is conceivable that some of the money being printed by the Bank of Japan will be used to purchase US Treasuries, thus taking the place along with purchases by the large US banks of the Fed’s QE.

The large private US and UK banks are also manipulating markets hand over fist. Remember the scandal over the banks fixing the LIBOR rate (the London Interbank Borrowing Rate) and the opening gold price on the London exchange. Now the banks have been caught rigging currency markets with algorithms developed to manipulate foreign exchange markets.

When the banks get caught in felonies, they avoid prosecution by paying a fine. You try doing that.

The government even manipulates economic statistics in order to paint a rosy economic picture that sustains economic confidence. GDP growth is exaggerated by understating inflation. High unemployment is swept under the table by not counting discouraged workers as unemployed. We are told we are enjoying economic recovery and have an improving housing market. Yet the facts are that almost half of 25 year old Americans have been forced to return to live with their parents, and 30% of 30 year olds are back with their parents. Since 2006 the home ownership rate of 30 year old Americans has collapsed.
The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act during the Clinton regime allowed the big banks to gamble with their depositors’ money. The Dodd-Frank Act tried to stop some of this by requiring the banks-turned-gambling-casinos to carry on their gambling in subsidiaries with no access to deposits in the depository institution. If the banks gamble with depositors money, the banks’ losses are covered by FDIC, and in the case of bank failure, bail-in provisions could give the banks access to depositors’ funds. With the banks still protected by being “too big to fail,” whether Dodd-Frank would succeed in protecting depositors when a subsidiary’s failure pulls down the entire bank is unclear.

The sharp practices in which banks engage today are risky. Why gamble with their own money if they can gamble with depositors’ money. The banks led by Citigroup have lobbied hard to overturn the provision in Dodd-Frank that puts depositors’ money out of their reach as backup for certain types of troubled financial instruments, with apparently only Senator Elizabeth Warren and a few others opposing them. Senator Warren is outgunned as Citigroup controls the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve.

The falling oil price has brought concern that oil derivatives are in jeopardy. Citigroup has a provision in the omnibus appropriations bill that shifts the liability for Citigroup’s credit default swaps to depositors and taxpayers. It was only six years ago that Citigroup was bailed out to the tune of a half trillion dollars. Already Citigroup is back for more while nothing whatsoever is done to bail the American people out of their hardships caused by Citigroup and the other financial gangsters.

What we are experiencing is not a repeat of the past. The ability or, rather, the audacity of the US government itself to manipulate the major financial markets is new. Can this new trend continue? The government is supposed to be the enforcer of laws against market manipulation but is itself manipulating the markets.

Governments and economists take their hats off to free markets. Yet, the markets are rigged, not free. How long can stocks stay up in a lackluster or declining economy? How long can bonds pay negative real interest rates when debt and money are rising. How long can bullion prices be manipulated down when the world’s demand for gold exceeds the annual production?

For as long as governments and banks can rig the markets.

The manipulations are dangerous. Manipulations blow a bigger bubble economy, and manipulations are now being used by Washington as an act of war by driving down the exchange value of the Russian ruble.
If every time the stock market tries to correct and adjust to the real economic situation, the plunge protection team or some government “stabilization” entity stops the correction by purchasing S&P futures, unrealistic values are perpetuated.

The price of gold is not determined in the physical market but in the futures market where contracts are settled in cash. If every time the demand for gold pushes up the price, the Federal Reserve or its bullion bank agents dump massive amounts of uncovered futures contracts in the futures market and drive down the price of gold, the result is to subsidize the gold purchases of Russia, China, and India. The artificially low gold price also artificially inflates the value of the US dollar.

The Federal Reserve’s manipulation of the bond market has driven bond prices so high that purchasers receive a zero or negative return on their investment. At the present time fear of the safety of bank deposits makes people willing to pay a fee in order to have the protection of the government’s ability to print money in order to redeem its bonds. A number of events could end the tolerance of zero or negative real interest rates. The Federal Reserve’s policy has the bond market positioned for collapse.

The US government, perhaps surprised at the ease at which all financial markets can be rigged, is now rigging, or permitting large hedge funds and perhaps George Soros, to drive down the exchange value of the Russian ruble by massive short-selling in the currency market. On December 15 the ruble was driven down 19%.

Just as there is no economic reason for the price of gold to decline in the futures market when the demand for physical gold is rising, there is no economic reason for the ruble to suddenly loose much of its exchange value. Unlike the US, which has a massive trade deficit, Russia has a trade surplus. Unlike the US economy, the Russian economy has not been offshored. Russia has just completed large energy and trade deals with China, Turkey, and India.

If economic forces were determining outcomes, it would be the dollar that is losing exchange value, not the ruble.

The illegal economic sanctions that Washington has decreed on Russia appear to be doing more harm to Europe and US energy companies than to Russia. The impact on
Russia of the American attack on the ruble is unclear, as the suppression of the ruble’s value is artificial.
There is a difference between economic factors causing foreign investors to withdraw their capital from a country, thereby causing the currency to lose value, and manipulation of a currency’s value by heavy short-selling in the currency market. The latter can cause the former also to occur. But the outcome for Russia can be positive.

No country dependent on foreign capital is sovereign. A country dependent on foreign capital, especially from enemies seeking to subvert the economy, is subject to destabilizing currency and economic swings. Russia should self-finance. If Russia needs foreign capital, Russia should turn to its ally China. China has a stake in Russia’s strength as part of China’s protection from US aggression, whether economic or military.
The American attack on the ruble is also teaching sovereign governments that are not US vassals the extreme cost of allowing their currencies to trade in currency markets dominated by the US. China should think twice before it allows full convertibility of its currency. Of course, the Chinese have a lot of dollar assets with which to defend their currency from attack, and the sale of the assets and use of the dollar proceeds to support the yuan could knock down the dollar’s exchange value and US bond prices and cause US interest rates and inflation to rise. Still, considering the gangster nature of financial markets in which the US is the heavy player, a country that permits free trading of its currency sets itself up for trouble.

The greatest harm that is being done to the Russian economy is not due to sanctions and the US attack on the ruble. The greatest harm is being done by Russia’s neoliberal economists.

Neoliberal economics is not merely incorrect. It is an ideology that fosters US economic imperialism. By following neoliberal prescriptions, Russian economists are helping Washington’s attack on the Russian economy.

Apparently, Putin has been sold, along with his internal enemies, the Atlanticist integrationists, on “free trade globalism.” Globalism destroys the sovereignty of every country except the world reserve currency country that controls the system.

As Michael Hudson has shown, neoliberal economics is “junk economics.” But it is also a tool of American financial imperialism, and this makes neoliberal Russian economists tools of American imperialism.
The remaining sovereign countries, which excludes all of Europe, are slowly learning that Western economic institutions are deceptive and that placing trust in them is a threat to national sovereignty.
Washington intends to subvert Russia and to turn Russia into a vassal state like Germany, France, Japan, Canada, Australia, the UK and Ukraine. If Russia is to survive, Putin must protect Russia from Western economic institutions and Western trained economists.

It is too risky for the US to take on Russia militarily. Instead, Washington is using its unique symbiotic relationship with Western financial institutions to attack an incautious Russia that foolishly opened herself to Western financial predation.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fukushima Exponentially More Dire than Chernobyl — Deteriorating Plant Threatens Global Radiation

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[After a quarter-century, this is] my last article written as Editor of HazMat Managementmagazine [and] Solid Waste & Recyclingmagazine Guy Crittenden, editor of HazMat Management magazine and Solid Waste & Recyclingmagazine (Part of the EcoLog Environmental Resources Group, “Canada’s leading publisher of print and electronic environmental, occupational health and safety, workers’ compensation news, legislation and compliance solutions – Subscribers include environmental health and safety managers, engineers, executives and lawyers in all industry sectors and government”), Dec 11, 2014 (emphasis added):
  • Instead of a long article about what transpired in 2014 and what may be ahead, I’m going to offer readers three items… that have made a deep impression on me recently; these are “must watch” items for anyone interested in helping our species avoid peril from environmental degradation
  • The deteriorating status of things at the destroyed nuclear plant at Fukushima, Japan…you have an obligation, really, to be aware of conditions there
  • [There is a] very real and present threat from the… highly radioactive… destroyed cores of the reactors, as well as things like the storage of contaminated water in hastily-built, rusting containers
  • This is serious stuff… an actual meltdown of the reactors — real China Syndrome stuff — as had been assumed would never likely happen in a modern reactor
  • The situation is exponentially more dire than Chernobyl
  • [Workers must] remove the rods for safe containment without having them contact one another and trigger a fire, the consequences of which would be unimaginable — We’re talking mass extinction around the world, especially in the northern hemisphere
  • Most people have forgotten the situation and think of it only as a local Japanese problem
  • It’s only a matter of time before another earthquake or tidal wave triggers such an event
Kevin Kamps, nuclear waste watchdog for Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Hotseat, Dec 9, 2014 (at 37:00 in):  “If the meltdown is bad enough, that’s going to burn its way right through the foundations of the containment — like we’ve seen at Fukushima Daiichi.”

The Fukushima Endgame: The Radioactive Contamination of the Pacific Ocean

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Nuclear radiation resulting from the March 2011 Fukushima disaster –which threatens life on planet earth– is not front page news in comparison to the most insignificant issues of public concern, including the local level crime scene or the tabloid gossip reports on Hollywood celebrities.
The shaky political consensus both in Japan, the U.S. and Western Europe is that the crisis at Fukushima has been contained. 
The truth is otherwise. Known and documented, the ongoing dumping of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean constitutes a potential trigger to a process of global radioactive contamination. 
This water contains plutonium 239 and its release into the Ocean has both local as well as global repercussions.  A microgram of plutonium if inhaled, according to Dr. Helen Caldicott, can cause death:
Certain isotopes of radioactive plutonium are known as some of the deadliest poisons on the face of the earth. A mere microgram (a speck of darkness on a pinhead) of Plutonium-239, if inhaled, can cause death, and if ingested, radioactive Plutonium can be harmful, causing leukemia and other bone cancers.
“In the days following the 2011 earthquake and nuclear plant explosions, seawater meant to cool the nuclear power plants instead carried radioactive elements back to the Pacific ocean. Radioactive Plutonium was one of the elements streamed back to sea.” (
It would appear that the radioactive water has already penetrated parts of the Japanese coastline:
Environmental testing of shoreline around the nuclear plant (as well fish, especially Tuna) showed negligible amounts of Plutonium in the seawater. The Plutonium, from what little is reported, sank into the sediments off the Japanese coast.”  (Ibid)
A recent report suggests that the Japanese government is intent upon releasing the remaining radioactive water into the Ocean. The proposed “solution” becomes the cause of radioactive contamination of both the Japanese coastline as well as the Pacific Ocean, extending to the coastline of North America.
While the chairman of the Nuclear Radiation Authority recognizes that the water in the tanks is heavily “tainted”, a decision has nonetheless been taken to empty the tanks and dump the water into the Ocean:
The head of Japan’s nuclear watchdog said contaminated water stored at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant should be released into the ocean to ensure safe decommissioning of the reactors.
Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, made the comment Dec. 12 after visiting the facility to observe progress in dismantling the six reactors. The site was severely damaged in the tsunami generated by the 2011 earthquake.
I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of tanks (holding water tainted with radioactive substances),” Tanaka told reporters, indicating they pose a danger to decommissioning work. “We have to dispose of the water.”
With regard to expected protests by local fishermen over the discharge, Tanaka said, “We also have to obtain the consent of local residents in carrying out the work, so we can somehow mitigate (the increase in tainted water).”
Tanaka has said previously that to proceed with decommissioning, tainted water stored on the site would need to be released into the sea so long as it had been decontaminated to accepted safety standards.
“While (the idea) may upset people, we must do our utmost to satisfy residents of Fukushima,” Tanaka said, adding that the NRA would provide information to local residents based on continuing studies of radioactive elements in local waters.
The inspection tour was Tanaka’s second since he became NRA chief in September 2012. He last visited in April 2013.
During his visit, Tanaka observed work at a trench on the ocean side of the No. 2 reactor building, where highly contaminated water is being pumped out. He also inspected barriers set up around the storage tanks to prevent leaks of tainted water.
Tanaka praised the completion in November of work to remove all spent nuclear fuel from the No. 4 reactor building, as well as changes to work procedures that he said allows for the completion of the work at the No. 2 reactor trench.  Hiromi Kumai , NRA Head Signals Massive Release of Tainted Water to Help Decommission Fukushima Site Asahi Shimbun December 13, 2014
The contradictory statements of  the NRA chief  avoid addressing the broader implications, by giving the impression that the issue is local and that local fishermen off the Fukushima coast will be consulted.
Additional articles and videos on Fukushima and Nuclear Radiation are available at Global Research’s Dossier on The Environment

 Nuclear Radiation: Categorization
At Fukushima, reports confirm that alpha, beta, gamma particles and neutrons have been released:
“While non-ionizing radiation and x-rays are a result of electron transitions in atoms or molecules, there are three forms of ionizing radiation that are a result of activity within the nucleus of an atom.  These forms of nuclear radiation are alpha particles (α-particles), beta particles (β-particles) and gamma rays (γ-rays).
Alpha particles are heavy positively charged particles made up of two protons and two neutrons.  They are essentially a helium nucleus and are thus represented in a nuclear equation by either α or .  See the Alpha Decay page for more information on alpha particles.
Beta particles come in two forms:  and  particles are just electrons that have been ejected from the nucleus.  This is a result of sub-nuclear reactions that result in a neutron decaying to a proton.  The electron is needed to conserve charge and comes from the nucleus.  It is not an orbital electron.  particles are positrons ejected from the nucleus when a proton decays to a neutron.  A positron is an anti-particle that is similar in nearly all respects to an electron, but has a positive charge.  See the Beta Decay page for more information on beta particles.
Gamma rays are photons of high energy electromagnetic radiation (light).  Gamma rays generally have the highest frequency and shortest wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum.  There is some overlap in the frequencies of gamma rays and x-rays; however, x-rays are formed from electron transitions while gamma rays are formed from nuclear transitions. See the Gamma Rays  for more” (SOURCE: Canadian Nuclear Association)
A neutron is a particle that is found in the nucleus, or center, of atoms. It has a mass very close to protons, which also reside in the nucleus of atoms. Together, they make up almost all of the mass of individual atoms. Each has a mass of about 1 amu, which is roughly 1.6×10-27kg. Protons have a positive charge and neutrons have no charge, which is why they were more difficult to discover.” (SOURCE: Neutron Radiation)
“Many different radioactive isotopes are used in or are produced by nuclear reactors. The most important of these are described below:
1. Uranium 235 (U-235) is the active component of most nuclear reactor fuel.
2. Plutonium (Pu-239) is a key nuclear material used in modern nuclear weapons and is also present as a by-product in certain reprocessed fuels used in some nuclear reactors. Pu-239 is also produced in uranium reactors as a byproduct of fission of U-235.
3. Cesium (Cs-137 ) is a fission product of U-235. It emits beta and gamma radiation and can cause radiation sickness and death if exposures are high enough. …
4. Iodine 131 (I-131), also a fission product of U-235, emits beta and gamma radiation. After inhalation or ingestion, it is absorbed by and concentrated in the thyroid gland, where its beta radiation damages nearby thyroid tissue  (SOURCE: Amesh A. Adalja, MD, Eric S. Toner, MD, Anita Cicero, JD, Joseph Fitzgerald, MS, MPH, and Thomas V. Inglesby MD, Radiation at Fukushima: Basic Issues and Concepts, March 31, 2011)

The War at Home Meets the Wars Abroad

Do you ever get a sense of déjà vu? When you get a creepy feeling that you’ve been there before, or experienced something before?  On Saturday, December 13, I was marching in a #BlackLivesMatter march down 4th Avenue in downtown Olympia, Washington, with about 50 other people in the middle of the street. It was dark, cars were honking in anger or support, and protesters were chanting about racist violence, militarization, and the police. That’s when the déjà vu hit me hard.
But of course, I had heard it all before. Only seven years ago, a few blocks to the north, antiwar protesters had blocked the Port of Olympia. They were keeping armored vehicles from being shipped between Fort Lewis and the killing fields of Iraq. The port protesters were facing down the police who were protecting the military equipment, so it could be sent against brown-skinned people in a foreign land.
But now, we were marching down 4th Ave. because similar armored vehicles were being brought back from Iraq to be deployed in the “homeland.” They were being deployed for the oldest and longest war that the United States has ever fought, against black- and brown-skinned people on American soil. Instead of occupying Iraq or Afghanistan, they were occupying the streets of American cities. The militarization of the police is causing the deaths of more and more African Americans and others, so that every new police killing becomes a déjà vu of the last one.
We live in a country where not only are the police being militarized, but an overseas military intervention is officially termed a “police action.” When soldiers return from Iraq or Afghanistan, sometimes the only job they can find is in law enforcement or private security firms, and their military training causes some of them to see potential enemies everywhere. And because there are fewer jobs available in the U.S., the same kids who are harassed by cops in their own neighborhoods have few options other than joining the military to harass other kids abroad.
We shouldn’t be so surprised that the war is coming home, because it’s always been here. When martial law was declared in African American neighborhoods of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, private Blackwater mercenaries were flown directly from Baghdad to enforce it. When the U.S. torture chambers in Abu Ghraib Prison were exposed, it was revealed that one of the torturers had come directly from the prison-industrial complex in Pennsylvania, where he presumably had learned his tradecraft on African American and Latino inmates.
The grand jury refusal to indict the killer of Eric Garner came the same week as the release of a Senate report on the CIA torture empire that has grown since 9/11. Part of the report focused on waterboarding, a torture technique (stretching back to counterinsurgency wars in Native America and the Philippines) in which the victims are nearly drowned to extract information or confessions. In other words, the purpose of waterboarding is to prevent a person from breathing, much like the police chokehold that caused Eric Garner to gasp for air. #ICantBreathe is a statement with global implications.
We don’t know the names of most of the civilians who have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in U.S. bombings in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and countless other targeted “tribal regions.” But we can better understand their suffering through the voices of the mothers of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, John T. Williams, Aiyana Jones, and the countless other targets of racist killers.
We can have more empathy for what civilians face abroad by understanding this war at home, and conversely have more solidarity with civilians here by understanding the wars abroad. If repressive techniques are successfully tested on foreigners or immigrants, they are then inevitably brought back into the “homeland” to be used on citizens (as we’ve seen here in Olympia with Army surveillance of antiwar groups). And if cops and armed white citizens can commit violence with impunity in the homeland, it enables even greater violence elsewhere.
Only two hours before the Olympia youth rally, and a few blocks south at the Washington State Capitol, 1,000 gun-rights activists held an “I Will Not Comply” rally against a new voter-mandated state law for background checks on gun owners. The camouflage-clad militants openly brandished automatic assault weapons, and passed them freely amongst each other. The Washington State Patrol claimed it witnessed no violations of the law at the rally. These protesters, of course, were almost all white, and they flew at least one Confederate flag.
Whatever one thinks about gun control, let’s get one thing straight here. If a heavily armed crowd of 1,000 African Americans, Latinos, or Native Americans had protested at any State Capitol, the State Patrol would have tried to find (or engineer) an excuse to detain them. If the heavily armed crowd had been Muslim, the Army would have been brought in helicopters and armored vehicles against the “terrorists.” But because this homegrown threat was posed by white, Christian citizens, they were portrayed in the local paper merely as liberty-loving “advocates.”
The same double standards apply to wars abroad. When the enemies of the U.S. launch wars, they are “committing genocide” or “ethnic cleansing.” When the U.S. and its allies launch wars, they are “defending freedom,” or carrying out “humanitarian interventions.” Even at times when the military is called on to stop genuine dangers, it generally ends up killing more civilians and alienating its own allies. In much the same way, a family that calls the police to restrain a mentally ill relative sometimes regrets the decision, when the cops end up causing more harm than good.
The attention of the American public is moving away from overseas wars, because the Pentagon’s shift to bombers and drones, and proxy armies and mercenaries, has caused lower casualties among U.S. troops. But public attention is shifting toward the war at home, where it will be more difficult to automate or outsource the war, and it will be more difficult to hide it from evening commuters or even football fans. And if more Americans lose their faith in the local police department as our protectors, they may begin to rethink the Pentagon as our protector as well.
Since President Obama’s election in 2008, conservatives and progressives alike have declared the “death” of the antiwar movement. Strong antiwar sympathies caused a lowering of troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, and prevented wars against the Syrian and Iranian militaries, but could not prevent the new bombings of Iraq and Syria. Certainly the antiwar movement is not as visible or vocal as it was during the Bush years, if we only look at opposition to the wars abroad.
But if we see the upsurge in Ferguson, New York, and the entire country as opposing the racist militarization of American society and the “war at home,” the current upsurge is one of the strongest antiwar movements we’ve ever seen. It has stronger leadership from people of color than earlier movements. The movement is broadly based and deeply rooted in a wide range of local communities, and its protests have been sustained over weeks and months.
Black Lives Matter is even far more multiracial and multigenerational than earlier uprisings against the war at home, such as the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion. The youth who are taking the lead in the recent protests are not playing politics as usual, and will not easily go back to a compliant acceptance of militarization, either at home or abroad. I’ve witnessed many social movements in my years, and it just feels different this time.
Déjà vu means “already seen,” and that’s just the problem. We’ve already seen genocide and lynchings in our history. We’ve already seen kids shot down in cold blood, and their killers get promoted. We’ve already seen police and military alike trained to strike at peaceful civilians with their “hands up,” for the crime of challenging the empire, or merely for being in the way. We’ve already seen social movements blossom, get intimidated or coopted, and then wither away. But history doesn’t always have to repeat itself, because the cycles exhaust themselves and eventually hit a wall.
A tectonic generational shift is underway that we are only beginning to perceive. Upsurges such as Occupy, Idle No More, Climate Justice, and Black Lives Matter may either gradually release tension in the fault lines, or serve as harbingers of more intense shake-ups ahead. If, in our cynicism and fatalism, we think that we’ve “already seen” it all, we may be surprised by how quickly change can and does happen. Things will not always stay the same, and old patterns do not have to be repeated. If social movements remain brave and unpredictable, they can move mountains.