Monday, February 29, 2016

US social crisis overshadows 2016 presidential election

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The primary campaigns to select the presidential candidates for the Democratic and Republican parties move into the decisive stage over the next four weeks, when two-thirds of all state primaries and caucuses will be completed. Eleven states have primaries on Tuesday, March 1, followed by Michigan and Mississippi on March 8 and Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio on March 15.
The American media gives round-the-clock coverage to the minutiae of capitalist politics—the insults and smears and lies hurled back and forth between the various representatives of big business seeking the nominations of the two parties. But very little attention is being paid to the conditions of life facing the working-class majority of the American population.
The reality of life in America for working people is drastically at odds with the official picture of a society in the seventh year of a slow but steady economic recovery, in which the population is generally prosperous and certainly not in desperate straits. The seething anger among working people, expressed in only a very limited and distorted way in the presidential campaign, is the product of intractable and deepening economic and social tensions.
Numerous reports released during the first two months of 2016 document the staggering dimensions of the social crisis facing working people in the United States. A majority of Americans have too little savings to pay for an emergency expense of $1,000. One in four US adults is burdened by debts caused by medical expenses. More than one million working people are being cut off food stamps. One million retirees face pension cuts dictated by the Obama administration.
Of all these social disasters, only the lead poisoning catastrophe in Flint, Michigan has become an issue in the presidential campaign, for the most cynical of reasons—to present the crisis, falsely, as a race issue, rather than one facing the entire working class, white, black and immigrant.
Another report on the social crisis was publicized Thursday on the front page of the New York Times. A study by a recently established think tank, the Economic Innovation Group, found that more than 50 million Americans live in communities—defined by postal ZIP codes—that are severely distressed economically.
The study used measures of education, poverty rate, unemployment, housing vacancy rate, median income and trends in employment and business formation to calculate figures for economic distress, showing that tens of millions “continue to feel left behind by the economic recovery.”
It identified the ten worst urban areas, in terms of economic distress, as (in order): Cleveland, Detroit, Newark, Toledo, San Bernardino, Stockton, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Memphis and Cincinnati. The state of Texas had the largest number of people living in distressed ZIP codes, 5.2 million, while the state of Mississippi had the highest proportion of its population living in distress, 40 percent.
In the most distressed 20 percent of ZIP codes, the study found, “nearly a quarter of adults have no high school degree, over half of adults are not working, and the median income is only two-thirds of the state level.” Since the 2008 Wall Street crash, these ZIP codes lost on average 6.7 percent of their jobs and 8.3 percent of their businesses. Their housing stock was on average more than 50 years old.
Contrasting the economic conditions in the distressed areas with those in high-income, high-growth areas (ZIP codes located mainly in the centers of finance and high technology, including New York City, Boston, Dallas and the San Francisco Bay Area), EIG executive director Steve Glickman observed, “It’s almost like you are looking at two different countries.”
Other studies document the failure of the state and federal governments to provide a social “safety net” adequate to meet the needs of working people. The majority of those who receive some form of public assistance have jobs, many of them full-time, but they earn so little that they cannot make ends meet. A majority of low-paid workers, those making $12 an hour or less, depend on some form of public assistance, principally food stamps and Medicaid.
Wages for the working class as a whole are stagnating. For the last quarter of 2015, total employment costs, the broadest measure of wages and benefits, rose a paltry 0.6 percent, bringing the total increase for the year to 2.1 percent. Only the plunge in oil prices, which has sharply reduced the cost of getting to work, has offset the impact of rising prices for necessities like food, education and medical care.
Extreme social distress has gone hand in hand with an immense growth in social inequality. The policies of the Obama administration have ensured a virtually unlimited stream of cash into the banks and financial system, and the wealth of the top 1 and 0.1 percent of the population has returned to pre-crisis levels.
Summing up data that has previously been reported on the WSWS, a recent article in Foreign Affairs noted, “[T]he share [of wealth] owned by the top 0.1 percent [increased] to 22 percent from nine percent three decades ago. In 2011, the top one percent of US households controlled 40 percent of the nation’s entire wealth.”
The states voting during the month of March include virtually the whole of the South, the most impoverished region in the United States. Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia hold primaries March 1, while Kentucky and Louisiana do so four days later. Later in the month come Mississippi, Florida and North Carolina.
Billionaire Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—herself a multimillionaire with close ties to Wall Street—are favored to sweep the Republican and Democratic primaries in the South. Yet these representatives of the American financial aristocracy are separated by an unbridgeable economic and social gulf from the working people of that region.
Trump, Clinton and the other big business politicians will jet from rally to rally, and spend tens of millions on campaign advertising. Meanwhile, the appalling living conditions faced by millions in the South were put on display as a series of major storms ravaged the region, destroying flimsily-built homes, particularly in impoverished rural areas where manufactured homes and trailers are commonplace.
The recent closures of Wal-Mart stores across the region will reportedly create three new “food deserts,” neighborhoods where residents “will lack any place that sells fresh produce and meat once the last of the Wal-Mart stores slated for closure turns off the lights.” This includes parts of Arkansas, where Clinton was once first lady and served on the board of directors of the retail giant.
No section of the political establishment, from Trump to Democratic Party candidate Bernie Sanders, has any solution to the social crisis confronting the vast majority of the population. Both Trump and Sanders have in different ways sought to appeal to immense social anger—the former by promoting anti-immigrant and racist bigotry, the latter by calling for a “political revolution” that boils down to promoting the Democratic Party, which for the past seven years has presided over a historic transfer of wealth from the working class to the rich.

Fukushima: Almost Five Years Later And Look At What’s STILL Happening

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As most of you reading this already know, 2011 bore witness to one of the darkest days of human environmental history. That year, a nuclear disaster occurred at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant after a massive 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami, resulting in the nuclear meltdown of three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors.
Again, this is one of the (if not the) most disastrous environmental incidents in the history of the human race. You could argue that the BP oil spill of the year prior was on the same level, but it doesn’t matter; these types of catastrophes happen every day on our planet, and the corporations responsible do their best to cover up the facts and influence the public into thinking that it’s not as bad as it looks. But it is far worse than we even realize, and these events serve as a great opportunity for us to wake up and realize that the time for change is here.
Or do we need yet another lesson?
With Fukushima, we are talking about serious radioactive water leakage. Just a couple of months ago, the facility’s operator, TEPCO, announced that contamination levels have spiked up to 70 times over regular readings. This was happening because of a gutter that pours rain and ground water from the plant to a nearby bay. (source)
Furthermore, in that same time period TEPCO also announced that a staggering 750 tons of contaminated rainwater have escaped the plant. (source)(source)
This is one of many examples of continual contamination of the Pacific Ocean, and the entire planet. It’s no secret that TEPCO has had a very hard time dealing with this, and they also recently announced that they would miss their toxic water cleanup deadline.
A recent report by UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) stated that Japan had made significant progress, but there is still a radioactive threat, and a “very complex” scenario at Fukushima. (source)
This type of thing has been happening since the earthquake first occurred. The Japanese government made it clear in 2013 that a minimum of 300 tonnes of contaminated water has been pouring into the Pacific Ocean every single day. That means that approximately 300,000 tonnes (minimum) of contaminated water made its way into the Pacific Ocean by March of 2013. Just imagine what that number is now. (source)
It’s also noteworthy to mention that TEPCO had to dump 3 million gallons of contaminated water into the Pacific to make room in its storage ponds for water that was more heavily contaminated, which they needed to pump out of the damaged reactors to try and get them under control. (source)
Again, these are minimum amounts, as TEPCO has spent a great deal of time denying the truth and trying to conceal information.
Even after the immediate crisis eased, scientists continued to find radioactive contamination in the waters off the plant.
As Nation Geographic reports:
“Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who has analyzed thousands of samples of fish from the area, said he’s continued to find the high levels of cesium-134, a radioactive isotope that decays rapidly. That indicates it’s still being released.” (source)
He stated that “it’s getting into the ocean, no doubt about it. The only news was that they finally admitted to this.” (source)
“This is one of the most monstrous cover-ups in the history of medicine.” – Dr Helen Caldicott, personally nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Linus Pauling
You can view what she had to say about the crisis here.
In 2014, Bronwyn Delacruz, a high school student from Grande Prairie, Alberta, discovered that a variety of seafood, particularly seaweeds, are littered with high levels of radiation. You can read more about that here.
Extremely low levels of radioactive cesium-134 were also detected about 100 miles off the coast of Eureka in northern California. You can read more about that here.
A study published in the peer-reviewed Open Journal of Pediatrics has found that radioactive Iodine from Fukushima has caused a significant increase in hypothyroidism among babies in California, and this was a study that was conducted two years ago. They determined that:
Although less than three years have elapsed since the meltdown, health effects of low-dose exposures from fallout should be analyzed, especially for those in the earliest stages of life. Health status measures after March 2011 such as infant deaths, neonatal deaths, birth defects, stillbirths, low weight births, premature births, and cancers in the first year of life can be analyzed. Short-term findings of the young can serve as a warning about potential long-term adverse health effects on populations of all ages. Fukushima fallout appeared to affect all areas of the US, and was especially large in some, mostly in the western part of the nation.” (source)
You can read more about that, and view the study here.
Just to reiterate, every single year since the disaster happened, there has been undeniable evidence that the plant was leaking every day for the first two years, and for the last couple of years there have been confirmed leaks as well.

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way. We Can Change.

First of all, Japan built this reactor on an earthquake fault, and the GE engineers who were involved resigned because they knew this (as Dr Helen Caldicott explains in a source linked above). If you look at how many nuclear reactors have been built on earthquake fault lines, it will make you scratch your head. Why are we using the same energy that’s used to blow up nuclear bombs to generate power when we have several other ways to do so? Why are we using nuclear power to boil water, using that heat to turn it into steam, to turn a turbine that generates electricity? How primitive are we?
We are starting to realize that this is a huge mistake, we are dealing with radioactivity here that, were you to stand next to it for even a couple of seconds, you would die. We’ve already seen the effects travel all the way to North America., as mentioned above.
The world’s largest private bank, UBS, is urging investors to join the clean, renewable energy movement. Analysts at the bank say that power plants in Europe might be extinct within the next 10 to 20 years.
Most of the plants retiring in the future will not be replaced, large scale power plants could be on the path to extinction.”(source)
We could use solar power to provide energy to the entire planet. A team at IBM recently developed what they call a High Concentration Photo Voltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system that is capable of concentrating the power of 2,000 suns, they are even claiming to be able to concentrate energy safely up to 5,000X, which is huge. You can read more about that here.
Over-unity breakthroughs are also being made, which means the second law of thermodynamics must be adjusted to account for the fact that space is not empty.Here is one example coming out of India. Here is a video of a NASA astronaut and Princeton physics professor explaining the reality of these devices. Here is a clip of another renowned physicist doing the same, with more links to publications within the article.
We have so many plausible solutions to our environmental problems just waiting to be taken advantage of,  but many people have a hard time accepting the fact that they are both feasible and affordable.
We (the human race) need to grow out of our adolescence and into adulthood. It’s time to move on and embrace new ways of doing things; people are working hard to come up with alternatives and we should be making every effort to adapt. Old habits die hard, but we need to learn from our mistakes and ensure a brighter future for the generations to come.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Rape of East Timor: The Greatest Crime of the 20th Century, Executed and Covered up

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Secret documents found in the Australian National Archives provide a glimpse of how one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century was executed and covered up. They also help us understand how and for whom the world is run. 
The documents refer to East Timor, now known as Timor-Leste, and were written by diplomats in the Australian embassy in Jakarta. The date was November 1976, less than a year after the Indonesian dictator General Suharto seized the then Portuguese colony on the island of Timor.
The terror that followed has few parallels; not even Pol Pot succeeded in killing, proportionally, as many Cambodians as Suharto and his fellow generals killed in East Timor. Out of a population of almost a million, up to a third were extinguished.
This was the second holocaust for which Suharto was responsible. A decade earlier, in 1965, Suharto wrested power in Indonesia in a bloodbath that took more than a million lives. The CIA reported: “In terms of numbers killed, the massacres rank as one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.”
This was greeted in the Western press as “a gleam of light in Asia” (Time).The BBC’s correspondent in South East Asia, Roland Challis, later described the cover-up of the massacres as a triumph of media complicity and silence; the “official line” was that Suharto had “saved” Indonesia from a communist takeover.
“Of course my British sources knew what the American plan was,” he told me. “There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops, so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust. It was only much later that we learned that the American embassy was supplying [Suharto with] names and ticking them off as they were killed. There was a deal, you see. In establishing the Suharto regime, the involvement of the [US-dominated] International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were part of it. That was the deal.”
I have interviewed many of the survivors of 1965, including the acclaimed Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who bore witness to an epic of suffering “forgotten” in the West because Suharto was “our man”.  A second holocaust in resource-rich East Timor, an undefended colony, was almost inevitable.
In 1994, I filmed clandestinely in occupied East Timor; I found a land of crosses and unforgettable grief. In my film, Death of a Nation, there is a sequence shot on board an Australian aircraft flying over the Timor Sea. A party is in progress. Two men in suits are toasting each other in champagne. “This is a uniquely historical moment,” babbles one of them, “that is truly, uniquely historical.”
This is Australia’s foreign minister, Gareth Evans. The other man is Ali Alatas, the principal mouthpiece of Suharto. It is 1989 and they are making a symbolic flight to celebrate a piratical deal they called a “treaty”. This allowed Australia, the Suharto dictatorship and the international oil companies to divide the spoils of East Timor’s oil and gas resources.
Thanks to Evans, Australia’s then prime minister, Paul Keating — who regarded Suharto as a father figure — and a gang that ran Australia’s foreign policy establishment, Australia distinguished itself as the only western country formally to recognise Suharto’s genocidal conquest. The prize, said Evans, was “zillions” of dollars.
Members of this gang reappeared the other day in documents found in the National Archives by two researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Sara Niner and Kim McGrath. In their own handwriting, senior officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs mock reports of the rape, torture and execution of East Timorese by Indonesian troops. In scribbled annotations on a memorandum that refers to atrocities in a concentration camp, one diplomat wrote: “sounds like fun”. Another wrote: “sounds like the population are in raptures.”
Referring to a report by the Indonesian resistance, Fretilin, that describes Indonesia as an “impotent” invader, another diplomat sneered: “If ‘the enemy was impotent’, as stated, how come they are daily raping the captured population? Or is the former a result of the latter?”
The documents, says Sarah Niner, are “vivid evidence of the lack of empathy and concern for human rights abuses in East Timor” in the Department of Foreign Affairs. “The archives reveal that this culture of cover-up is closely tied to the DFA’s need to recognise Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor so as to commence negotiations over the petroleum in the East Timor Sea.”
This was a conspiracy to steal East Timor’s oil and gas. In leaked diplomatic cables in August 1975, the Australian Ambassador to Jakarta, Richard Woolcott, wrote to Canberra: “It would seem to me that the Department [of Minerals and Energy] might well have an interest in closing the present gap in the agreed sea border and this could be much more readily negotiated with Indonesia … than with Portugal or independent Portuguese Timor.”  Woolcott revealed that he had been briefed on Indonesia’s secret plans for an invasion. He cabled Canberra that the government should “assist public understanding in Australia” to counter “criticism of Indonesia”.
In 1993, I interviewed C. Philip Liechty, a former senior CIA operations officer in the Jakarta embassy during the invasion of East Timor. He told me: “Suharto was given the green light [by the US] to do what he did. We supplied them with everything they needed [from] M16 rifles [to] US military logistical support … maybe 200,000 people, almost all of them non-combatants died. When the atrocities began to appear in the CIA reporting, the way they dealt with these was to cover them up as long as possible; and when they couldn’t be covered up any longer, they were reported in a watered-down, very generalised way, so that even our own sourcing was sabotaged.”
I asked Liechty what would have happened had someone spoken out. “Your career would end,” he replied. He said his interview with me was one way of making amends for “how badly I feel”.
The gang in the Australian embassy in Jakarta appear to suffer no such anguish.  One of the scribblers on the documents, Cavan Hogue, told the Sydney Morning Herald: ”It does look like my handwriting. If I made a comment like that, being the cynical bugger that I am, it would certainly have been in the spirit of irony and sarcasm. It’s about the [Fretilin] press release, not the Timorese.” Hogue said there were “atrocities on all sides”.
As one who reported and filmed the evidence of genocide, I find this last remark especially profane. The Fretilin “propaganda” he derides was accurate. The subsequent report of the United Nations on East Timor describes thousands of cases of summary execution and violence against women by Suharto’s Kopassus special forces, many of whom were trained in Australia. “Rape, sexual slavery and sexual violence were tools used as part of the campaign designed to inflict a deep experience of terror, powerlessness and hopelessness upon pro-independence supporters,”  says the UN.
Cavan Hogue, the joker and “cynical bugger”, was promoted to senior ambassador and eventually retired on a generous pension. Richard Woolcott was made head of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra and, in retirement, has lectured widely as a “respected diplomatic intellectual”.
Journalists watered at the Australian embassy in Jakarta, notably those employed by Rupert Murdoch, who controls almost 70 per cent of Australia’s capital city press.  Murdoch’s correspondent in Indonesia was Patrick Walters, who reported that Jakarta’s “economic achievements” in East Timor were “impressive”, as was Jakarta’s “generous” development of the blood-soaked territory. As for the East Timorese resistance, it was “leaderless” and beaten. In any case, “no one was now arrested without proper legal procedures”.
In December 1993, one of Murdoch’s veteran retainers, Paul Kelly, then editor-in-chief of The Australian, was appointed by Foreign Minister Evans to the Australia-Indonesia Institute, a body funded by the Australian government to promote the “common interests” of Canberra and the Suharto dictatorship.  Kelly led a group of Australian newspaper editors to Jakarta for an audience with the mass murderer. There is a photograph of one of them bowing.
East Timor won its independence in 1999 with the blood and courage of its ordinary people. The tiny, fragile democracy was immediately subjected to a relentless campaign of bullying by the Australian government which sought to manoeuvre it out of its legal ownership of the sea bed’s oil and gas revenue. To get its way, Australia refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the Law of the Sea and unilaterally changed the maritime boundary in its own favour.
In 2006, a deal was finally signed, Mafia-style, largely on Australia’s terms. Soon afterwards, Prime Minister Mari Alkitiri, a nationalist who had stood up to Canberra, was effectively deposed in what he called an “attempted coup” by “outsiders”. The Australian military, which had “peace-keeping” troops in East Timor, had trained his opponents.
In the 17 years since East Timor won its independence, the Australian government has taken nearly $5 billion in oil and gas revenue — money that belongs to its impoverished neighbour.
Australia has been called America’s “deputy sheriff” in the South Pacific. One man with the badge is Gareth Evans, the foreign minister filmed lifting his champagne glass to toast the theft of East Timor’s natural resources. Today, Evans is a lectern-trotting zealot promoting a brand of war-mongering known as “RTP”, or “Responsibility to Protect”.  As co-chair of a New York-based “Global Centre”, he runs a US-backed lobby group that urges the “international community” to attack countries where “the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time”. The man for the job, as the East Timorese might say.

The Great Fukushima Nuclear Cover-Up. The Power of Propaganda

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The Japanese were kept in the dark from the start of the Fukushima disaster about high radiation levels and their dangers to health, writes Linda Pentz Gunter. In order to proclaim the Fukushima area ‘safe’, the Government increased exposure limits to twenty times the international norm. Soon, many Fukushima refugees will be forced to return home to endure damaging levels of radiation.
Once you enter a radiation controlled area, you aren’t supposed to drink water, let alone eat anything. The idea that somebody is living in a place like that is unimaginable.
Dr. Tetsunari Iida is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) in Japan.
IAEA fact-finding team leader Mike Weightman visits the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on 27 May 2011 to assess tsunami damage. Photo: Greg Webb / IAEA Imagebank via Flickr (CC BY-SA).
IAEA fact-finding team leader Mike Weightman visits the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on 27 May 2011 to assess tsunami damage. Photo: Greg Webb / IAEA Imagebank via Flickr (CC BY-SA).
As such, one might have expected a recent presentation he gave in the UK within the hallowed halls of the House of Commons, to have focused on Japan’s capacity to replace the electricity once generated by its now mainly shuttered nuclear power plants, with renewable energy.
But Dr lida’s passionate polemic was not about the power of the sun, but the power of propaganda. March 11, 2011 might have been the day the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. But it was also the beginning of the Great Japan Cover-Up.
On the ISEP website, Iida extols the coming of the Fourth Revolution, following on from those in agriculture, industry and IT. “This fourth revolution will be an energy revolution, a green industrial revolution, and a decentralized network revolution”, he writes.
But in person, Iida was most interested in conveying the extent to which the Japanese people were lied to before, during and after the devastating nuclear disaster at Fukushima-Daiichi, precipitated on that same fateful day and by the deadly duo of earthquake and tsunami.
“Shinzo Abe says ‘everything is under control’”, said Iida, speaking at an event hosted by Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Green Cross, and Nuclear Consulting Group in late January. It was headlined by the former Japan Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, who was at the helm when the triple disasters struck.“Yes – under the control of the media!”
A trial for Tepco like post-war Tokyo Trials
The media may have played the willing government handmaiden in reassuring the public with falsehoods, but in July 2012, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission concluded that the disaster was really no accident but man-made. It came about, the researchers said, as a result of “collusion” between the government, regulators and the nuclear industry, in this case, Tepco.
“There should be a Tepco trial like the post-war Tokyo Trials”, Iida said, referring to the post World War II war crimes trial in which 28 Japanese were tried, seven of whom were subsequently executed by hanging.
Hope for such accountability – without advocating hanging - is fleeting at best. In 2011, while addressing a conference in Berlin hosted by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, I suggested the Tepco officials should be sent to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, (a body the US still conveniently refuses to recognize) to answer for what clearly amounts to crimes against humanity.
The remark caused a bit of a stir and earnest questions about the mechanism by which Tepco could be brought there. Needless to say, nothing of the kind ever happened, or is likely to.
Instead, the Abe’s government’s preferred tactic is to go full out to restart reactors and move everybody back home as soon as possible, as if nothing serious had happened. Just scoop off a little topsoil, cart it away somewhere else and, Abracadabra! Everything is clean and safe again!
Normalizing radiation, a policy and now a practice
Of course radiological decontamination is not that easy. Nor is it reliable. It is more likepushing contamination from one spot to the next”, as independent nuclear expert, Mycle Schneider describes it. And radiation does not remain obediently in one place, either.
“The mountains and forests that cannot even be vaguely decontaminated, will serve as a permanent source of new contamination, each rainfall washing out radiation and bringing it down from the mountains to the flat lands”, Schneider explained. Birds move around. Animals eat and excrete radioactive plant life. Radiation gets swept out to sea. It is a cycle with no end.
Nevertheless, efforts are underway to repopulate stricken areas, particularly in Fukushima Prefecture. It’s a policy, and now a practice, of ‘normalizing’ radiation standards, to tell people that everything is alright, when clearly, there is no medical or scientific evidence to support this. And it was an approach already firmly and institutionally in place, even on March 11, 2011 as the Fukushima disaster first struck and much of the decision-making was left to individual judgement.
“We were told that evacuating poses a greater risk than radiation,” recalls Hasegawa Kenji, a farmer from Iitate, a village situated 45 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Featured in the Vice documentary Alone In The Zone‘, Hasegawa criticizedIitate’s mayor for making what he called a terrible mistake.
Even when the scientists told the mayor that Iitate was dangerous, he ignored them all. He brought in experts from around the country who preached about how safe it was here. They said we had nothing to worry about. They kept telling us that. Eventually the villagers fell for it and began to relax. And the mayor rejected the idea of evacuating even more. That’s why nobody left, even though the radiation levels were so high.
The nuclear industry did not tell the public the truth
The confusion surrounding evacuation was so profound that, as Zhang et al. noted in a September 11, 2014 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public HealthUnclear evacuation instructions caused numerous residents to flee to the northwestern zone where radiation levels were even higher.”
All par for the course, said Iida. “I must emphasize, the people in the nuclear industry did not tell the public the truth and keep us informed.”
Next in the ‘normalization’ process came the decision to raise allowable radiation exposure standards to 20 millisieverts of radiation a year, up from the prior level of 2 mSv a year. The globally-accepted limit for radiation absorption is 1 mSv a year.
This meant that children were potentially being exposed to the same levels of radiation that are permitted for adult nuclear power plant workers in Europe. Some officials even argued that zones where rates were as high as 100 mSv a year should be considered ‘safe’. Writing on his blog, anti-pollution New Orleans-based attorney, Stuart Smith,observed wryly:
Instead of taking corrective measures to protect its people, Japan has simply increased internationally recognized exposure limits. It seems that the priority – as we’ve seen in so many other industrial disasters in so many other countries – is to protect industry and limit its liability rather than to ensure the long-term health and well being of the masses. Go figure.
The great repatriation lie
All of this set the perfect stage for the Great Repatriation Lie. “It’s the big cover-up,” Iida told his Westminster audience. “People are being told it’s quite safe to have a little [radiation] exposure.”
Indeed, at a recent conferences of prefectural governors, young people in particular were urged to return to Fukushima. “If you come to live with us in Fukushima and work there, that will facilitate its post-disaster reconstruction and help you lead a meaningful life”,said Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori.
Young people in Japan, however, appear not to be cooperating. Where evacuees are returning, the majority are senior citizens, who have less to lose from a health perspective and are more traditionally tied to the land and their ancestral burial grounds.
“They want to die where they were born and not in an unfamiliar place”, said Yoshiko Aoki, an evacuee herself who now works with others, and who also spoke at the London conference.
All of this impacts revenue from the inhabitants’ tax which constitutes 24.3% of all local tax sources and is collected by both prefectures and municipalities. It is levied on both individuals and corporations but with the bulk of revenue coming from individuals.
Senior citizens who have retired do not contribute to income tax, so the onus is on governors and mayors to lure as many working people as possible back to their towns and regions in order to effectively finance local public services.
Radioactive areas are hardest hit economically
Late last year, the Asahi Shimbun looked at tax revenues in the 42 municipalities affected by the triple 2011 disasters of earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima meltdowns.
Unsurprisingly, the areas hardest hit by radiological contamination had suffered the biggest economic blows. Those areas free from radioactive fallout could simply rebuild after the tsunami and earthquake, and had consequently recovered economically, some even to better than pre-3/11 levels.
On the other end of the scale, Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, marked the biggest decreasing rate – 72.9 percent – in tax revenues for fiscal 2014″, the Asahi Shimbunreported“All residents of the town near the crippled nuclear plant remain in evacuation. Although tax payments from companies increased from decontamination work and other public works projects, income taxes paid by residents and fixed asset taxes have declined.”
To return or not to return is the question of the hour – or it will be come March 2017, when the Abe government has announced it will revoke many evacuation orders. At that point, government compensation to evacuees would be lifted, putting them under financial pressure to return. Cue more confusion.
People are confronted, said Iida, with “two extreme views, either that it’s very dangerous or quite safe. So it’s very difficult to decide which is the truth and it has been left up to individuals.”
One of those towns that could be declared ‘safe’ is Tomioka, Japan’s Pripyat, formerly home to close to 16,000 people but now uninhabited.
“It’s like a human experiment, that’s how we feel,” said Aoki in London, herself a former Tomioka resident. “The Governor of Fukushima spoke about a safe Fukushima. We want it to become safe, but our thoughts and reality are not one and the same.”
Observes Kyoto University professor of nuclear physics, Koide Hiroaki, in the Vice film, who has been outspoken for decades against the continued use of nuclear energy:
Once you enter a radiation controlled area, you aren’t supposed to drink water, let alone eat anything. The idea that somebody”, he pauses, ” … is living in a place like that is unimaginable.

The Public Is Being Looted By Privatization And Deregulation

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The privatization movement and the deregulation movement have turned out to be failures.
Privatization in Britain under the Thatcher government had its origin in the belief that the absence of incentivized managers and shareholders with a stake in the bottom line resulted in nationalized companies operating inefficiently, with their losses covered by government like the big private banks’ losses today. Thatcher’s government believed that privatizing socialized firms would reduce the UK budget deficit and take pressure off the British pound.
Today privatization is a way that governments can reward cronies by giving them valuable public resources for a low price. When the UK government privatized the postal system, there were news reports that one postal property in London alone was worth the purchase price of the entire postal service.
Privatization is also a way that conservatives, who object to social pensions and national health, can stop “taxpayer support of welfare.” In the US conservatives want to privatize Social Security and Medicare. In the UK conservatives want to privatize the National Health System.
It looks like the UK Conservative government is taking a step in the direction of privatizing the national health system, one of the great social reforms in British history. https://www.rt.com/uk/333270-nhs-professionals-privatized-deloitte/[1]
In the US there are advocates of privatizing the national forests. In some ways the forests are already privatized as private timber companies are allowed to “harvest” the trees at favorable prices, and often the government even builds the roads for them.
In the US deregulation has resulted in high prices and poor service. When airlines were regulated, they competed on service. They had spare equipment so that mechanical problems did not mean cancelled flights. Stopovers did not involve additional costs.
When AT&T had a regulated communication monopoly, the service was excellent and the price was low. Today we have a large number of unregulated local monopolies, and the prices are high. The bottom line and managerial bonuses are more important than service. Customers experience constant service interruptions. Maintenance and broadband improvements are sacrificed to executive salaries.
In the US and UK public university tuition has risen so high that the universities have in effect been privatized. When I went to college there was no such thing as student loans. In-state tuition was nominal, and colleges provided inexpensive housing and meals. Most students in state universities were residents of the state.
Many aspects of the US military have been privatized. Services that the military formerly provided in-house are now contracted out to private companies at high costs.
The case for privatization and deregulation needs to be reexamined in light of the evidence and the real reasons they are being pursued.