Sunday, July 21, 2013

PNN - ARAB SUMMER

PNN - 7/21/13
Guests:
Rick  7:01-7:06
Renee
Sarab Al-Jijakli  7:09  -   7:24pm  (15)
Charlotte Kates  7:25  -   7:40pm  (19)
Moudy Khalil    7:45  -   8:05pm    (15)
Khaled Al­Sahili  8:06 -   8:17pm    (20)
Emine Dilek       8:27  -  8:37pm    (9)
Denis Campbell  8:38 -  8:58pm    (30)


News
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STUCK CLOCK RIGHT TWICE A DAY - ROONEY on Syria - LISTEN
1. Cong. Tommy Rooney
As many of you know, I have grave concerns with plans to provide weapons and support to the rebels in Syria.

With the knowledge that these rebels have been infiltrated by al Qaeda, we simply cannot in good conscience provide arms to these groups. We cannot spend American dollars to arm the enemy that attacked us on 9/11, whom we’ve fought for more than a decade, and whom our troops risk their lives fighting to this day. Arming the al Qaeda-backed rebels directly conflicts with our national security interests.

That is why, in my role as member of the House Intelligence and Appropriations Committee, I have offered an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill to prohibit funding for arms or support to any group engaged in military action in Syria. The House is scheduled to consider this bill next week.

2. 2 Choices - LISTEN

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They do it all the time. For consumers in other countries.
It’s only here, in the U.S., where the food and biotech lobbyists have Congress in their back pockets, that more than 80 percent of processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Those GMO ingredients are making Monsanto and Big Food rich. They’re making us sick. And the tons of herbicides and pesticides used to grow them are poisoning our soil and water.
Food manufacturers make GMO-free products for consumers in 64 other countries for one of two reasons: Either because consumers in those countries have demanded that GMOs be banned from their food supplies. Or because consumers have demanded GMO labeling laws.
In most cases, rather than label the GMOs in their products, food manufacturers have found alternative ingredients.
We can have GMO-free food, too. But only if we demand it.

3. Alan Maki - Left Unity - - LISTEN
Lots of people are talking about "left unity" and all other kinds of "unity."

I agree with the idea we need to be united. But, who are "we?" What do "we" stand for? Is support for Wall Street politicians like Obama the basis for creating "left unity;" or even a contributing factor to "left unity?" Is "left unity" all that we seek?
We should be seeking the unity of all Americans "fed up" with the Democrats and Republicans which would include many of those fed up trying to work for change from within and around the Democratic Party and even a few Democratic Party politicians who are just as fed up as the rest of us.

Many of those calling for "left unity" are doing so simply to divert our attention from the fact that they supported a Wall Street imperialist war monger like Obama and this support of theirs of Obama has become detrimental to "left unity" and working class unity and unity of liberals, progressives and the left.

Unity of working class liberals, progressives and the left and others who agree has been the only coalition that has ever won real change in this country or any place else in the world.

Unity has to be based on the fact that we are: "People uniting For Peace, Full Employment, Universal Health Care and Environmental Protection."

4. Should You Be Able to Buy Food Directly From Farmers? Regulators Don't Think So

- LISTEN

Around the country, local farmers are selling meat, dairy products, and other dinner table staples directly to neighbors, who are increasingly flocking to the farms in search of wholesome food.
This would seem to embody the USDA’s advisory, “Know your farmer, know your food,” right? Not exactly.
For the USDA and its sister food regulator, the FDA, there’s a problem: many of the farmers are distributing the food via private contracts like herd shares and leasing arrangements, which fall outside the regulatory system of state and local retail licenses and inspections that govern public food sales.

In response, federal and state regulators are seeking legal sanctions against farmers in Maine, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California, among others. These sanctions include injunctions, fines, and even prison sentences. Food sold by unlicensed and uninspected farmers is potentially dangerous say the regulators, since it can carry pathogens like salmonella, campylobacter, and E.coli O157:H7, leading to mild or even serious illness.

 5. Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Wants to Outlaw Oral Sex—Yup, That Includes Between Married Couples
- LISTEN

In an unusual move, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), his party’s nominee for governor, launched a  new campaign website Wednesday highlighting his  efforts to reinstate Virginia’s unconstitutional Crimes Against Nature law. The rule, which makes felons out of even consenting married couples who engage in oral or anal sex in the privacy of their own homes, was  struck down by federal courts after Cuccinelli blocked efforts to bring it in line with the Supreme Court’s 2003  Lawrence v. Texas ruling.

6. You can't get there from Moscow on the Canal
Panama holds ex-CIA Milan officer in case of kidnapping, torture of Muslim cleric 18 Jul 2013 A former CIA base chief convicted in the 2003 abduction of a terror suspect from an Italian street has been detained in Panama after Italy requested his arrest in one of the most notorious episodes of the U.S. program known as extraordinary rendition, Italian and Panamanian officials said Thursday. Robert Seldon Lady, the former CIA chief in Milan, entered Panama, crossed the border into Costa Rica and was sent back to Panama where he was detained, according to an Italian official familiar with Italy's investigation of the rendition of Cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr.

7. FAA warns public against shooting guns at drones [Nope. If people see a drone, they should *blow it out of the sky.* We're not tolerating the psychotic NYPD or Department of Homeland Stasi to deploy armed drones to buzz over our heads.] 19 Jul 2013 People who fire guns at drones are endangering the public and property and could be prosecuted or fined, the Federal Aviation Administration warned Friday. The FAA released a statement in response to questions about an ordinance under consideration in the tiny farming community of Deer Trail, Colo., that would encourage hunters to shoot down drones. The administration reminded the public that it regulates the nation's airspace, including the airspace over cities and towns. Under the proposed ordinance, Deer Trail would grant hunting permits to shoot drones. The permits would cost $25 each. The town would also encourage drone hunting by awarding $100 to anyone who presents a valid hunting license and identifiable pieces of a drone that has been shot down. [Excellent!]

8. Inexplicable - Mysterious Steam @ THE FUKE - - LISTEN

Steam rising from reactor building in Fukushima 18 Jul 2013 Steam is rising from a destroyed building that houses a reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said on Thursday. The utility, widely known as Tepco, said the [sky-high] levels of radioactivity around the plant had remained unchanged and it was looking into what triggered the emission. The steam rising from the reactor No.3 building was spotted at 8:20 a.m. (2320 GMT) by a subcontractor who was filming the destroyed building and preparing to remove rubble from the site. It was still visible some two hours later, Tepco spokeswoman Maymi Yoshida said.

9. OCCUPYHOMES RALLIES AROUND HOMEOWNER FACING FORECLOSURE
- LISTEN
Retired postal clerk Jaymie Kelly of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is holding onto her home by a thread, despite having paid five times its value in ballooning monthly payments. She received a letter from the attorney general dated in May agreeing to delay eviction for 30 days past her redemption period, which expired April 24. The next day Freddie Mac filed an eviction summons, and shortly thereaftershe appeared in court with representatives from activist group OccupyHomes Minneapolis (OHM), which managed to convince Freddie Mac's attorney to back off temporarily.

"I've been on the block I'm living on for 58 of my 63 years," Kelly told Truthout. "This is my neighborhood. It's my everything. I really feel like I'm invested in this community. I have no plan B. Without [OccupyHomes] I would be homeless. It seems to me that it makes more sense for the bank to work with me."

With reports like these stockpiling under the OHM radar, activists spearheaded an initiative called the Eviction Free Zone (EFZ), encompassing the Powderhorn and Central neighborhoods in Minneapolis, where there have been 835 evictions since 2007, not including renters.

According to EFZ project organizer Chris Gray, the runaround Kelly is experiencing isn't unusual; homeowners frequently are served with eviction notices while actively negotiating with banks.

10. FORMER DEP ATTorNEY WINS CASE/LOSES JOB - LISTEN


Lawyer Chris Byrd had just won a court victory on behalf of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. After a four-day trial, a jury had ruled that a Marion County couple had illegally filled in wetlands by an aquatic preserve along the Rainbow River. Instead of celebrating, the DEP attorney felt worried.
"As soon as the verdict came back, I had a sinking feeling," he said. "I thought, 'When (Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary) Jeff Littlejohn hears about this, I'm probably going to lose my job.' "
Sure enough, Littlejohn met with the defendants and listened to their complaints about Byrd. Five months after his win, Byrd was one of four DEP lawyers ousted from their jobs.
Byrd and colleague Kelly Russell believe they were terminated because they frequently clashed with Littlejohn over how — and whether — to enforce state laws protecting the environment.
Although he's in charge of regulatory programs, "Littlejohn doesn't like enforcement," Byrd said. "He doesn't want the department to do any high-profile enforcement cases."
Russell, in an email to the Times, contended they were fired "because of direct or indirect encounters in which our legal advice — which was specifically sought and provided — was not well received by the deputy secretary, his appointees, or outside influences, including in interactions . . . with certain opposing counsel representing private property or development interests."
Another longtime DEP attorney who was let go, Teresa Mussetto, declined to comment.
The fourth of the ousted lawyers, Chris McGuire, said he got along fine with Littlejohn but had problems with Littlejohn's deputy, Mike Halpin, when Halpin oversaw the air pollution permitting section and McGuire was in charge of attorneys in that field.
"He expressed some dissatisfaction with the air attorneys," McGuire said. "They would say, 'You can't do things,' and he didn't want to hear that."

A Times request to interview Littlejohn and DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard was declined by DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie. He said the firings had nothing to do with officials' disagreements with the attorneys.

Instead, Gillespie said, the firings were the work of the new DEP general counsel, Matthew Z. Leopold. Vinyard hired Leopold earlier this year from the U.S. Justice Department, where he worked on the 2010 BP oil spill. His resume includes no mention of any experience trying cases in Florida.

Leopold decided to get rid of four of his 42 attorneys because of a decline in his department's workload, Gillespie said.
"These staffing decisions were made as Matt came in as a new manager and assessed his team," Gillespie said. Because the agency is doing more to assist companies in complying with the law rather than punish them, "there have been fewer enforcement cases" needing attorneys.
Gillespie said that in 2010 DEP attorneys handled 2,289 enforcement cases. By 2012, that number dropped to 799, and as of the end of May, only 145 new ones have been filed this year.
Part of the reason for that decline, Byrd said, is the number of inspectors looking for violations has been "slashed and burned" in recent years. The other reason, he said, is because Littlejohn and Halpin control which cases reach the attorneys, even though neither has a law degree.
Littlejohn spent more than 10 years working as a consulting engineer getting state and federal permits for his clients. Vinyard hired him in March 2011 to oversee the DEP's regulatory programs, and he picked Halpin as his assistant deputy secretary.

Before any cases get to attorneys, Byrd said, they now must go through Halpin, and many are rejected. Before, when people failed to get permits for filling in wetlands or other activities, the agency went after them, he said. Now the approach is to grant them an after-the-fact permit and let it slide.
"It's like Alice in Wonderland up there now," Byrd said.
Even when cases did make it to the attorneys, "we were routinely overruled by Jeff Littlejohn," Byrd said. "Attorneys would be called to his office to brief him on cases that were not under (his division), and we were constantly having him argue with us over legal principles."
The four fired attorneys had all received stellar job reviews in recent years. One of them, Mussetto, had won a major victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.
But as Byrd learned, victory in court is no guarantee of future employment.
After the Marion County jury ruled for the DEP in its wetland-filling case against John and Mona Rondolino of Dunnellon, Byrd was ready to push for the maximum penalty — until one of Rondolino's consultants invited Littlejohn to visit.
"He was on my property for 3 ½ hours," John Rondolino said. No lawyers were present, he said.
Rondolino said he told Littlejohn that the DEP attorney was a crook and a liar. He said Littlejohn seemed upset that Byrd had spent four years prosecuting a case involving a small residential lot but made no promises about what he would do.
On April 25, Leopold asked Littlejohn if it would be all right to "re-engage" with Rondolino's attorney on working out a settlement. Byrd was not included. So far no settlement has been reached.
Documents the DEP released in response to a records request included a May 13 email that Littlejohn sent to Leopold saying he needed to discuss a Pensacola court case — the one Russell and Byrd were working on when they were fired.
Leopold sent back an email to Littlejohn and Halpin that said thanks, adding, "I need input from you guys on the best role" for an attorney he had just hired, Fred Aschauer Jr. Added to the payroll just nine days before Leopold fired the four, Aschauer had spent the previous decade challenging DEP permit decisions.
"I suggest having him head up our permitting group, in charge of defending our permit decisions," Littlejohn replied. So that's the job Leopold gave him.

Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@tampabay.com.

11. Welcome to Florida's Water and Land Legacy Campaign! - LISTEN

Join our coalition of more than 4,000 individual volunteers and 300 conservation and civic organizations from across the state working to put the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment on the November 2014 ballot.

We're banding together because deep funding cuts are seriously jeopardizing the great work Floridians have been doing for decades to protect what's best about Florida: miles of beaches, beautiful parks, crystal clear springs, endless opportunities to swim, bike and fish, and an amazing diversity of plants and animals.  The Amendment will allocate less than one percent of our state budget (starting in with $625 million in 2015) to keeping our waters clean and to protecting our beaches, springs, wildlife habitat and other natural areas for future generations!

So far more than 150,000 Floridians have signed, but to get this important amendment on the November 2014 ballot, we need to gather a total of 683,149 valid signatures from Florida voters—and we need your help to reach that goal!
      Get started today by sending in your petition!

12. CHASING THE DEBBIL  - LISTEN

During the financial crisis, while Dr. Evil-ish Wall Street villains like Goldman and Lehman Brothers were getting all the bad press, pundits continually referred to J.P. Morgan Chase as the "good bank." The myth of Chase as the finance sector's one upstanding rock of rectitude reached its zenith in July of 2009 with an embarrassingly hagiographic piece in the New York Times entitled, "In Washington, One Bank Chief Still Holds Sway." In that one, the paper breathlessly praised Jamie Dimon for emerging from "the disgrace of his industry" to become Barack Obama's "favorite banker."

Chase and Jamie Dimon kept that rep for a good long time. As late as 2011, Dimon's name was being floated around Washington very seriously as a potential replacement for Tim Geithner's Treasury Secretary post. Even when Dimon showed up on the Hill last year to testify (read: obfuscate) about the infamous "London Whale" episode, Senators on the banking committee - who, as writer George Zornick noted, had collected a cumulative $522,088 in donations from Chase - slobbered all over Dimon and shelved the important London Whale matter to ask the great genius's advice on how to fix the economy.

Well, there's some more news about the "good bank" - Chase is about to pay yet another ginormous settlement for cheating and stealing from the public. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will fine Chase "close to $1 billion" for manipulating energy prices in Enron-esque fashion in Michigan and California. The story is interesting in itself - and we'll write more about it later - but for now, it's just the fact of yet another massive settlement for this bank that's so interesting.

In the three-year period between 2009-2012, Chase paid out over $16 billion in litigation costs. Noted financial analyst Josh Rosner of Graham Fisher slammed Chase in a report earlier this year, pointing out that these settlements and legal costs represented a staggering 12% of Chase's net revenue during this time. There couldn't possibly be a clearer demonstration of the modern banking model, in which companies break rules/laws as a matter of course, and simply pay fines as a cost - a significant cost - of doing business.

For sheer curiosity's sake, I thought I'd list, in capsule form, some of the capers Chase has been caught up in in recent years:

    They were fined $153 million for the infamous "Magnetar" fund case, another scam in which a bank allowed a hedge fund to create a "born-to-lose" mortgage portfolio to bet against. Very similar to the Abacus case that's at the heart of the ongoing "Fabulous Fab" trial;

    Chase paid $228 million for its role in the egregious municipal bond bid-rigging case we wrote about in Rolling Stone in 2011;
    Chase paid $297 million to the SEC last November for fraud involving mortgage-backed securities;
    Chase paid $75 million in cash and generously agreed to forego $647 million in fines in the Jefferson County, Alabama mess, in which a small-town pol was bribed into green-lighting a series of deadly swap deals;
    In two separate orders this spring, Chase was reprimanded by the OCC and the Fed for money-laundering behaviors similar to the infamous HSBC case, and also for regulatory failures and fraud in the London Whale episode. There was a separate FBI investigation into the London Whale probe in which they allegedly lied to customers and investors about the loss;
    They're under investigation for allegedly failing to disclose Bernie Madoff's trading activities to authorities;
    They were one of 13 banks asked to pay up in this year's $9.3 billion robosigning settlement;
    They were one of four banks last year to settle for a total of $394 million with the OCC for improper mortgage servicing practices;
    They were ordered by the CFTC to pay $20 million last year for improper segregation of customer funds (this was part of the Lehman investigation). The CFTC also fined Chase $600,000 last year for violating position limits in the cotton markets;
    Last year, Chase paid a $45 million settlement to the federal government for improperly racking up fees for veterans in mortgage refinancings. Hey, if you're going to steal from everyone, you can't leave out those veterans overseas!
    In 2010, Chase paid $25 million to the state of Florida for selling unregistered bonds to a state-run municipal money-market fund;

    The bank last year was convicted in Europe along with several other banks for fraudulent sales of derivatives to the city of Milan. A total of about $120 million was seized from Chase and three other banks.

There have been so many settlements with so many agencies around the world (I'm in a hurry and can't get to Chase's messes in Britain, Japan and elsewhere) that they're almost impossible to count. Some papers are reporting that Chase is being investigated by as many as eight different agencies in the U.S. alone.

There are some other civil actions left out, too, like the $110 million class-action settlement for improper charging of overdraft fees, or their part in the gigantic $6 billion settlement completed last year involving Visa, MasterCard and other credit card providers for manipulating card service rates. And states like California have only just begun crawling up Chase's backside for its role in the lunatic filing of erroneous credit card collection lawsuits, a scam outed by whistleblower Linda Almonte.

Chase is turning into the Zelig of the corruption era. In virtually every corruption scandal, the bank is in the background somewhere. The HSBC money-laundering mess? Chase was reprimanded for similar abuses. The Madoff story? They're under investigation there. MF Global? As banker to Jon Corzine's notorious firm, they were part of a $546 million settlement to return money to MF Global's outraged customers. Jefferson County? That was them. And again, you might have heard of Abacus, but Magnetar was just as bad. Not that anyone's counting or anything.

Memo to colleagues on the White House pool: could someone please ask the president if Jamie Dimon is still his favorite banker?

13. Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo! and Twitter Letter to Obama on Surveillance

- LISTEN

Dozens of companies, non-profits and trade organizations including Apple Inc (NSQ:AAPL), Google Inc (NSQ:GOOG) and Facebook Inc (FB.O) sent a letter on Thursday pushing the Obama administration and Congress for more disclosures on the government's national security-related requests for user data.

General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, suggested he was open to the idea but that officials were trying to determine a way to disclose that information without jeopardizing FBI investigations.

"We just want to make sure we do it right, that we don't impact anything ongoing with the FBI. I think that's the reasonable approach," Alexander told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, when asked about the letter.

Together with LinkedIn Corp (NYS:LNKD), Yahoo! Inc (NSQ:YHOO), Microsoft Corp (NSQ:MSFT), Twitter and many others, the companies asked for more transparency of secret data gathering in the letter addressed to Alexander as well as President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and national security leaders in Congress.

Tech companies have been scrambling to assert their independence after documents leaked last month by former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden raised questions about how much data on their clients they handed over to the government to aid its surveillance efforts.

The leaks have renewed a public debate over the balance between national security and privacy, and have put tech companies in an awkward position, especially because many have been assailed for their own commercial use of customer data.

Some companies, including Facebook and Apple, struck an agreement in June with the government to release some information about the number of surveillance requests they receive. But they were limited to disclosing aggregate government requests for data without showing the split between surveillance and criminal requests, and only for a six-month period.

In Thursday's letter, they asked to be allowed to regularly report statistics on the number and scope of user data requests done under specific national security authorities and the number of individuals, accounts or devices affected by those requests.
'They Don't Have A Choice'

Alexander said it was important to keep in mind that companies were compelled by U.S. law to hand over data.
"They don't have a choice. Court order, they have to do this," he said.
"From my perspective, what they want is the rest of the world to know that we're not reading all of that email, so they want to give out the numbers. I think there's some logic in doing that."

The letter also asked Congress to pass legislation that would require the federal government to make transparency reports and let companies disclose user data requests without having to ask a court for permission.

Co-signers included investors such as Boston Common Asset management and Union Square Ventures, as well as scores of associations including Human Rights Watch, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform and conservative FreedomWorks.

One of the lawmakers to whom the letter was addressed was Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat who has introduced a bill that would expand reporting requirements for the secret programs, add more court reviews and move up the expiration of the authorization for some of the data collection by 2 1/2 years.

"Americans deserve to know how much of their communications data is being swept up by government surveillance, and the government's use of these authorities must be subject to strong oversight," Leahy said on Thursday.

He said the Judiciary Committee would hold another hearing on the issue later this month.

The White House and Department of Justice did not immediately comment on Thursday's letter.

 14. letter 2 - Governor Rick Scott,  - LISTEN

The death of Trayvon Martin and subsequent acquittal of his killer have exposed an unfortunate culture of targeting and criminalization of young people of color in Florida.

We demand a Trayvon Martin Act. We demand that you call a special session of the Florida Legislature to address the issues at the center of the Trayvon Martin tragedy: "stand your ground" vigilantism, racial profiling, and a war on youth that paints us as criminals and funnels us out of schools and into jails.

15. “Who Could Trust Such A Company?” – The Big Fat Lies About Radiation Exposure Of Workers At Fukushima - LISTEN
testosteronepit's picture
Submitted by testosteronepit on 07/20/2013 16:03 -0400

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com   www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

The nuclear fiasco playing out relentlessly in Japan since March 2011 has shaken the previously omniscient and omnipotent nuclear industry – and the government agencies that aided and abetted it. Yet they still obfuscate and minimize the consequences of the triple melt-down of the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. Latest revelation: the number of workers at the plant who had cancer-inducing radiation doses in thyroid glands from inhaling radioactive substances during the early stages of the crisis was elven times higher than disclosed last December.

Not 178 workers, as TEPCO, the bailed out and now partially state-controlled owner of the nuke had said, but 1,973 workers, as the Asahi Shimbun has “learned.”

Despite its erstwhile omniscience and omnipotence, TEPCO has been publically baffled by an endless series of mishaps, surprises, and occurrences that left it mostly helpless. For example, in mid-March, it disclosed that a month earlier (!), a greenling with 740,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram had been caught near the plant. That’s 7,400 times the government’s food safety limit, highest ever measured by TEPCO’s testing program. The prior record-breaking TEPCO fish had 510,000 becquerels. And they’re all part of the food chain.

Then, early last week, researchers determined that several Japanese sea bass caught off the coast of Hitachi, a city about 60 miles south of the plant – halfway toward Tokyo – had radioactive cesium levels of 1,037 becquerels per kilogram, over ten times the government’s food safety limit. It was the first time since April 2011 that such high levels of contamination had been found in that region. The researchers claimed they had no clue why this mega-dose was now showing up again, over two years after the accident.

Alas, cesium-134 and cesium-137 in groundwater at the plant suddenly started soaring in early July. When measured on July 8, levels were 90 times higher than those found on July 5 and reached 200 times the legal limit for groundwater. TEPCO was baffled. “It is unclear whether the radioactive water is leaking into the sea,” a company official said.

On June 19, TEPCO had already admitted that groundwater contamination of highly toxic, radioactive strontium-90, a by-product of the fission of uranium and plutonium, had increased by more than 100 times between December and May; and that the level of radioactive tritium, a somewhat less harmful substance, had increased by 17 times. And when the cesium levels were spiking in early July, it admitted in the same breath that tritium levels in seawater had soared to 2,300 becquerels per liter, the highest ever detected, and more than double the contamination measured two weeks earlier.

All this came at a very inconvenient time: TEPCO is cooling the reactors and spent fuel rods with a constant flow of water – 400 metric tons per day – and then stores that contaminated water in tanks on site. But some of them have been leaking due to sloppy workmanship. Plus, it cannot indefinitely build new tanks for that endless flow of water. So, it is trying to get approval to just dump that contaminated water into the Pacific. Whatever isn’t already leaking into it.

This is the backdrop to the revelation that TEPCO’s admission in December of radiation doses having exceeded the “safe” level of 100 millisieverts – and going as high as 11,800 millisieverts – in only 178 workers was a lie.

TEPCO might not even have studied the issue at all. Despite warnings from international health experts about the risks of radiation exposure, it didn’t launch an investigation into thyroid gland doses until it was essentially forced to by international pressure. So it finally collected thyroid data on 522 workers – of the 19,592 workers who worked at the plant over time, of whom 16,302 were employed by often shady contractors and subcontractors. It submitted the results to the World Health Organization last year but still refused to release the results until it learned that the WHO would publish them. Hence, the disclosure last December.

But no one believed the results. The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation questioned the reliability of the data; and Japan’s Ministry of Health pressured TEPCO to give the data another look. Which it finally did. The Asahi Shimbun reported:

    TEPCO and its partner companies not only re-evaluated the readings from thyroid gland dose tests, but they also estimated doses when the amount of radioactive iodine that entered the body was unavailable. These estimates were based on cesium intake amounts, the airborne iodine-to-cesium ratio on the days they worked, and other data. The latest study showed that doses topped the 100-millisievert mark in 1,973 workers.

For how long had TEPCO been dragging its feet? Since most of the exposure occurred during the early stages of the disaster, TEPCO had taken 28 months to admit that nearly 2,000 of its workers had cancer-inducing radiation doses in their thyroid glands. The workers themselves told the Asahi Shimbun that TEPCO "provided little or no information" about it.

So when push came to shove, TEPCO leaned over backwards to help these workers. “We will provide and pay for annual, ultrasound thyroid gland tests to all workers with thyroid gland doses in excess of 100 millisieverts over their lifetimes,” a PR person explained. “We have already notified those who are eligible for the checkups.”

True to its formerly omniscient manner, TEPCO didn’t know how many of those workers had actually taken the tests. And what if abnormalities were detected during the tests? TEPCO didn’t say. Hand in glove with TEPCO, the Health Ministry itself hasn’t examined the thyroid gland doses of the workers; it would be up to TEPCO on a “voluntary” basis.

Some workers complained that TEPCO hadn’t carefully explained the risks of radiation exposure in thyroid glands; and some employees of subcontractors complained that they’d never been informed about the radiation doses or the thyroid gland tests.

In July, Masao Yoshida, the plant manager, died of esophageal cancer. He was 58. He’d stayed at the plant for nine months after the accident, struggling to contain the accident and keep the reactors from overheating. He’d prevented a much larger fiasco. He resigned in December 2011, after having been hospitalized for what turned out to be cancer. TEPCO, suddenly omniscient again, and true to the manner of the nuclear industry, announced that his death was unrelated to radiation exposure. As in all such cases, no one could prove the opposite; it’s impossible to determine what exactly caused each individual cancer – the mantle the nuclear industry hides behind.

“Who could trust such a company?” said an exasperated Hirohiko Izumida, governor of Niigata Prefecture, after TEPCO’s board had decided on July 2 to restart two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant in his prefecture, despite a survey that showed that only 27% of the residents in his prefecture supported it. “There is no greater disregard for local people than this,” the governor said.

Researchers of Tokyo Woman’s Christian University presented a survey to the Cabinet Office’s Atomic Energy Commission on July 17. Among other results, it showed that 87% of the Japanese thought that Japan should get out of nuclear energy, either abandoning it as soon as possible (33%) or phasing it out over time (54%). And a full third thought that information propagated by the central government about nuclear issues was the most untrustworthy.

But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a staunch supporter of the nuclear industry [though he might face some dense pillow talk at home: read.... Akie Abe, His “Anti-Nuclear” Wife ]. Reestablishing the glory of the nuclear industry is high on the Abenomics wish list – even as the true cost of nuclear power will gnaw away at Japan for generations.

Such catastrophic nuclear accidents are very rare, we’re told incessantly. But when they occur, they’re costly. So costly that the French government, when it came up with estimates, kept them secret. But the report was leaked: the total cost over time of an accident in a thinly populated area could exceed three times France’s GDP. Read.... Potential Cost Of A Nuclear Accident? So High It’s A Secret!

On the lighter side, there is a Japanese ghost island, a speck of land that used to be a coal mine where 5,000 miners lived and toiled. In the 1970s, it was abandoned and the concrete structures left to decay, only to resurface in the last James Bond flick. Now Google captured it for Street View – and made an awesome brief video of this eerie industrial wasteland. Check it out.... Eerie Abandoned Japanese Island On Google Street View.

16. News:
The EPA wants to change radiation exposure standards that would make a 1 in 6 cancer rate after a nuclear accident acceptable. Please join us in voicing your strongest possible opposition! Sign our petition here: http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/7285/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=14709. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), using advice from a nuclear industry-funded group, has recommended radiation exposure limits that could cause a cancer in at least 1 in 6 people, possibly more. Demand that EPA withdraw these "Protective" Action Guides or PAGs, which would be used after all kinds of nuclear catastrophes.
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