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.