Sunday, September 08, 2013

PNN - 9-8-13 - In Union We Are Strong

New Mercury Media Presents

PNN - In Union We are STRONG
join us as we interview:

Nick Surgey Director of Research,  Center for Media & Democracy- He will speak about his research on the working of ALEC

AFL CIO Leaders
Rick Smith, Chief of Staff , SEIU - Florida Public Services Union

Alphonso Mayfield, President, SEIU-Florida Public Services Union
also member SEIU International Executive Board

Chuck Ridley, Community Leader, Northwest-Southwest Alliance of Delray Beach

Gypsy Gallardo, Organizer with Agenda 2010 and Editor in Chief Power Broker Magazine


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1. New Radiation levels reached
- (LISTEN)Reuters
Radiation readings around tanks holding contaminated water at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have spiked by more than a fifth to their highest levels, Japan's nuclear regulator said, heightening concerns about the clean-up of the worst atomic disaster in almost three decades.
Radiation hotspots have spread to three holding areas for hundreds of hastily built tanks storing water contaminated by being flushed over three reactors that melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011.
The rising radiation levels and leaks at the plant have prompted international alarm, and the Japanese government said on Tuesday it would step in with almost $500 million of funding to fix the growing levels of contaminated water at the plant.
Readings just above the ground near a set of tanks at the plant showed radiation as high as 2,200 millisieverts (mSv), the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said on Wednesday. The previous high in areas holding the tanks was the 1,800 mSv recorded on Saturday.
Both levels would be enough to kill an unprotected person within hours. The NRA has said the recently discovered hotspots are highly concentrated and easily shielded.
The tanks sit on a hill above the Pacific Ocean at the Fukushima plant, which was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, triggering the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl a quarter of a century earlier.
"TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE"
The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco, said last month water from one the tanks was leaking. Another small leak was found later and the rising number of areas of concentrated radiation are raising concerns of further leaks.
The NRA later raised the severity of the initial leak from a level 1 "anomaly" to a level 3 "serious incident" on an international scale of 1-7 for radiation releases.
"There's a strong possibility these tanks also leaked, or had leaked previously," said Hiroaki Koide, Assistant Professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute. "We have to worry about the impact on nearby groundwater...These tanks are not sturdy and have been a problem since they were constructed two years ago."
It's also possible the radiation readings are increasing because of more frequent monitoring and inspections by Tepco employees, indicating the hotspots and leaks have been there for some time, Koide said.
"The government has finally said they will be involved in this problem but they are still not going to be fully involved in the decommission," he said. "It is too little, too late."
URANIUM ROD MELTDOWNS
The disaster created fuel-rod meltdowns at three reactors, radioactive contamination of the air, sea and food and resulted in the evacuation of 160,000 people in the area, north of Tokyo.
The peak release of radiation in the sea around Fukushima came about a month after the earthquake and tsunami. Ocean currents have since dispersed the plume and sent the diluted radiation in a slow drift towards the West Coast of the United States, studies have shown. The amount of radiation expected to reach Canadian and U.S. coastal waters in the years ahead is projected to be well within safety limits for drinking water as it will have been greatly diluted.
The closest towns to the stricken plant remain deserted and off-limits to the public, although some former residents have started to return to their homes, some of which are less than 20 kms away, as decontamination work progresses.
Tepco is storing enough contaminated water to fill more than 130 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The water becomes contaminated as it is flushed over the melted uranium fuel rods to keep them cool. The government has ordered Tepco to transfer all the water held in around 310 weaker, bolted tanks to more reliable welded tanks at the Fukushima site. Tepco said there are around 620 welded tanks, but these take longer to build, and an NRA official has said some of these, too, might not be safe as they are lined up on the ground rather than on a concrete foundation.
Japan's biggest utility has been criticized for a series of mishaps including its admission, after repeated denials, that contaminated water was flowing into the Pacific from another area of the plant. That was followed by the leaks from above-ground tanks.
The latest radiation readings at the plant were taken on Tuesday and were not related to a 6.9 magnitude earthquake off southern Japan earlier on Wednesday.

2. Obama Warned on Syrian Intel
- (LISTEN)
By Ray McGovern
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Is Syria a Trap?
Precedence: IMMEDIATE
We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this. In writing this brief report, we choose to assume that you have not been fully informed because your advisers decided to afford you the opportunity for what is commonly known as “plausible denial.”
We have been down this road before – with President George W. Bush, to whom we addressed our first VIPS memorandum immediately after Colin Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003 U.N. speech, in which he peddled fraudulent “intelligence” to support attacking Iraq. Then, also, we chose to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt, thinking he was being misled – or, at the least, very poorly advised.
The fraudulent nature of Powell’s speech was a no-brainer. And so, that very afternoon we strongly urged your predecessor to “widen the discussion beyond …  the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.” We offer you the same advice today.
Our sources confirm that a chemical incident of some sort did cause fatalities and injuries on August 21 in a suburb of Damascus. They insist, however, that the incident was not the result of an attack by the Syrian Army using military-grade chemical weapons from its arsenal. That is the most salient fact, according to CIA officers working on the Syria issue. They tell us that CIA Director John Brennan is perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, the public – and perhaps even you.
We have observed John Brennan closely over recent years and, sadly, we find what our former colleagues are now telling us easy to believe. Sadder still, this goes in spades for those of us who have worked with him personally; we give him zero credence. And that goes, as well, for his titular boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has admitted he gave “clearly erroneous” sworn testimony to Congress denying NSA eavesdropping on Americans.
Intelligence Summary or Political Ploy?
That Secretary of State John Kerry would invoke Clapper’s name this week in Congressional testimony, in an apparent attempt to enhance the credibility of the four-page “Government Assessment” strikes us as odd. The more so, since it was, for some unexplained reason, not Clapper but the White House that released the “assessment.”
This is not a fine point. We know how these things are done. Although the “Government Assessment” is being sold to the media as an “intelligence summary,” it is a political, not an intelligence document. The drafters, massagers, and fixers avoided presenting essential detail. Moreover, they conceded upfront that, though they pinned “high confidence” on the assessment, it still fell “short of confirmation.”
Déjà Fraud: This brings a flashback to the famous Downing Street Minutes of July 23, 2002, on Iraq, The minutes record the Richard Dearlove, then head of British intelligence, reporting to Prime Minister Tony Blair and other senior officials that President Bush had decided to remove Saddam Hussein through military action that would be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.” Dearlove had gotten the word from then-CIA Director George Tenet whom he visited at CIA headquarters on July 20.
The discussion that followed centered on the ephemeral nature of the evidence, prompting Dearlove to explain: “But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” We are concerned that this is precisely what has happened with the “intelligence” on Syria.
The Intelligence
There is a growing body of evidence from numerous sources in the Middle East — mostly affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its supporters — providing a strong circumstantial case that the August 21 chemical incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters. The aim is reported to have been to create the kind of incident that would bring the United States into the war.
According to some reports, canisters containing chemical agent were brought into a suburb of Damascus, where they were then opened. Some people in the immediate vicinity died; others were injured.
We are unaware of any reliable evidence that a Syrian military rocket capable of carrying a chemical agent was fired into the area. In fact, we are aware of no reliable physical evidence to support the claim that this was a result of a strike by a Syrian military unit with expertise in chemical weapons.
In addition, we have learned that on August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major, irregular military surge. Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and Qatari, Turkish and U.S. intelligence officials took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, now used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their foreign sponsors.
Senior opposition commanders who came from Istanbul pre-briefed the regional commanders on an imminent escalation in the fighting due to “a war-changing development,” which, in turn, would lead to a U.S.-led bombing of Syria.
At operations coordinating meetings at Antakya, attended by senior Turkish, Qatari and U.S. intelligence officials as well as senior commanders of the Syrian opposition, the Syrians were told that the bombing would start in a few days. Opposition leaders were ordered to prepare their forces quickly to exploit the U.S. bombing, march into Damascus, and remove the Bashar al-Assad government
The Qatari and Turkish intelligence officials assured the Syrian regional commanders that they would be provided with plenty of weapons for the coming offensive. And they were. A weapons distribution operation unprecedented in scope began in all opposition camps on August 21-23. The weapons were distributed from storehouses controlled by Qatari and Turkish intelligence under the tight supervision of U.S. intelligence officers.
Cui bono? - (LISTEN)
That the various groups trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have ample incentive to get the U.S. more deeply involved in support of that effort is clear. Until now, it has not been quite as clear that the Netanyahu government in Israel has equally powerful incentive to get Washington more deeply engaged in yet another war in the area. But with outspoken urging coming from Israel and those Americans who lobby for Israeli interests, this priority Israeli objective is becoming crystal clear.
Reporter Judi Rudoren, writing from Jerusalem in an important article in Friday’s New York Times addresses Israeli motivation in an uncommonly candid way. Her article, titled “Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria,” notes that the Israelis have argued, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s two-and-a-half-year-old civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome. Rudoren continues:
“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.
“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”
We think this is the way Israel’s current leaders look at the situation in Syria, and that deeper U.S. involvement – albeit, initially, by “limited” military strikes – is likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict in Syria. The longer Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region, the safer Israel calculates that it is.
That Syria’s main ally is Iran, with whom it has a mutual defense treaty, also plays a role in Israeli calculations. Iran’s leaders are not likely to be able to have much military impact in Syria, and Israel can highlight that as an embarrassment for Tehran.
Iran’s Role
Iran can readily be blamed by association and charged with all manner of provocation, real and imagined. Some have seen Israel’s hand in the provenance of the most damaging charges against Assad regarding chemical weapons and our experience suggests to us that such is supremely possible.
Possible also is a false-flag attack by an interested party resulting in the sinking or damaging, say, of one of the five U.S. destroyers now on patrol just west of Syria. Our mainstream media could be counted on to milk that for all it’s worth, and you would find yourself under still more pressure to widen U.S. military involvement in Syria – and perhaps beyond, against Iran.
Iran has joined those who blame the Syrian rebels for the August 21 chemical incident, and has been quick to warn the U.S. not to get more deeply involved. According to the Iranian English-channel Press TV, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif has claimed: “The Syria crisis is a trap set by Zionist pressure groups for [the United States].”
Actually, he may be not far off the mark. But we think your advisers may be chary of entertaining this notion. Thus, we see as our continuing responsibility to try to get word to you so as to ensure that you and other decision makers are given the full picture.
Inevitable Retaliation
We hope your advisers have warned you that retaliation for attacks on Syrian are not a matter of IF, but rather WHERE and WHEN. Retaliation is inevitable. For example, terrorist strikes on U.S. embassies and other installations are likely to make what happened to the U.S. “Mission” in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, look like a minor dust-up by comparison. One of us addressed this key consideration directly a week ago in an article titled “Possible Consequences of a U.S. Military Attack on Syria – Remembering the U.S. Marine Barracks Destruction in Beirut, 1983.”
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Thomas Drake, Senior Executive, NSA (former)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan
Larry Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
W. Patrick Lang, Senior Executive and Defense Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.)
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East (ret.)
Todd Pierce, US Army Judge Advocate General (ret.)
Sam Provance, former Sgt., US Army, Iraq
Coleen Rowley, Division Council & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)
Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret); Foreign Service Officer (ret.)

3. Physician: Statement by Canadian officials indicates Fukushima contamination was detected in fish at levels that are “difficult to explain without undue alarm” 
- (LISTEN)
 — Huffington Post: “Sockeye Salmon Sushi: Use a Geiger Counter”
    [...] spawning sockeye salmon journey via the North Pacific Current from the top of Japan to Northern California, British Columbia and Alaska. This same current carries whatever Fukushima is in the process of vomiting forth, bathing salmon and herring all along the way in radioactive cesium. [...]
    [...] We need to test the fish. Nobody, no entity, no country tests the salmon for radiation exposure: red flag. [...]
    Professor and Canada Research Chair in Preventive Medicine and Population Health at University of British Columbia, and the former President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Dr. Erica Frank: “The bit that needs fixing here is our inevitably deadly reliance on nuclear power. Yummy tuna and salmon today, and most export products from Japan — and what happens when the same thing happens at Hanford, and any other nuclear power station?”
    Dr. Erica Frank: “In particular, this is the piece that indicates to me that they have found levels detectable-but-difficult-to-explain-without-undue-alarm:”
    To date, all results that have been produced show that no radionuclides are present above actionable levels. This means that we have not found any evidence of radioactivity in any food products at levels of concern. Once the Agency has conducted its rigorous quality control it will publish all test results on its website. (Canadian Food Inspection Agency communication provided by Dr. Frank) [...]

 Ever since Japan was hit by an earthquake and a tsunami in 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has leaked 300 tons of radioactive water per day. In an effort to protect local water, the Japanese government announced a plan Tuesday to spend 32 billion yen (approximately US$320 million) on an underground "ice wall" to prevent contaminated water from flowing out to sea. In addition to the ice wall is a 15 billion yen project to upgrade water treatment plants in the area to remove radioactive elements, placing the mission's total budget at 47 billion yen, just shy of half a billion dollars.
Bill Horak, chair of nuclear science and technology at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, said that it's not just the storage containers that are a source of water contamination. "There's an aquifer underneath the plant that runs out to the sea, like an underground river," he told ABC News. "It picks up contaminants that have leaked into the ground, and no one has a good handle on how contaminated that water is."

The so-called ice wall may conjure up images of igloos, but Horak said that it's not so much an actual wall of ice as it is a network of coils, similar to what you would find in the refrigerator or freezer. "The coils transport liquid nitrogen at 30 degrees Kelvin, which freezes the ground and builds an impenetrable wall," he said.

4. Deformed Vegetables, Fruit Reportedly Pop Up Around Japan Nuclear Plant
  - (LISTEN)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government needs to intervene in order to properly address the handling of Fukushima. "Instead of leaving this up to [Tokyo Electric Power Company], the government will step forward and take charge," he said in a statement. "The world is watching if we can properly handle the contaminated water."
Tokyo is currently one of three cities still in the running to host the 2020 summer Olympics, along with Madrid and Istanbul. Tokyo is projected to get the bid from the International Olympic Committee, but addressing these kinds of problems may be what tips the scales in the Japanese city's favor. Naoki Inose, the chairman behind Tokyo's 2020 bid for the Olympic Games, said that the situation in Fukushima will not affect Tokyo.
 Horak isn't sure whether Japan's ambitious project is the right direction to head in. "When we had a leak at Brookhaven about 13 or 14 years ago, we put a bunch of stripper wells to pump the water before it got off site," he said. The lab kept the water in a closed loop and played the waiting game for the radioactive element tritium (an isotope of hydrogen) to decay naturally. Tritium has a half life of 12.3 years. "I don't know if anyone has actually tried this frozen wall concept for this type of activity."
But there is still uncertainty as to what radioactive elements are actually being leaked in the water. "Most of the radioactive nuclei have been cesium and iodine," said Horak. "But if you have actinides, the nastier and heavier elements like uranium and plutonium, that would be a whole other thing entirely."

5. google maps it
- (LISTEN)
 Two years after Japan's worst nuclear disaster displaced 21,000 residents of Namie, much of the town remains the same.
Just miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant, roofs that collapsed from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake still litter roads. Newspapers from March 12, 2011 - the day after disaster struck – are stacked high at the paper's office. There are shells of homes, but no sign of life inside.

The desolation has largely been hidden from public view, behind checkpoints set up to cordon off the government mandated nuclear exclusion zone. But Google is hoping to bring the displaced residents back home – at least virtually – using its street view technology.

The tech giant began today the process of digitally mapping neighborhoods closest to the nuclear plant, dispatching its street view car to Namie for the first time. With a specialized camera mounted atop its vehicle, Google drove through the empty town, steering around collapsed homes and cracked roads to capture a 360 view of the damage.

ABC News accompanied Google in its mapping route today. No special clothing is worn, but the crew was out of zone within three hours.
RELATED: Google Maps Releases App For iPhone
The entire process is expected to take several weeks. Google plans to unveil Namie's street view map in a few months, according to product manager Kei Kawai.
"There's nothing that compares to actually coming in and seeing [the damage] for yourself," Kawai said. "But we can at least show what these places are like, to the people who [evacuated] the city, to the world."
The street view cars have logged more than 27,000 miles, since the triple disasters first struck Japan's coast two years ago. They were immediately dispatched to areas hardest hit to capture the tsunami's aftermath.
But the idea to digitally map Namie came from town residents themselves, Kawai said.
Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba said his town has yet to begin the process of decontamination. Recovery has not begun. He hoped the Google images would show the world the reality.
"We still have to wear hazmat suits and get government approval, just to go home," he said. "How can we even begin to rebuild under circumstances such as that."
More than half of Namie's residents have relocated to other cities in the Fukushima prefecture. Baba now works out of a temporary city hall set up in the city of Nihonmatsu, roughly 40 miles away.
He has spent the last two years trying to keep the community together, but he sees it slowly drifting apart.
Last week, he released a phone book, listing the name and contact information of displaced Namie residents, including those living outside of the region, in a desperate attempt to keep the town together.
"It's absolutely frustrating," he said. "That 'smell' of life, the smell of the kitchen, the smell of gasoline in the streets, all of that is gone now. There is just silence."
Baba says it will take at least a decade for residents to return home.
Kawai says Google plans to continue tracking the rebuilding process through its "Memories for the Future" site, which includes a unique digital archive project that gives users a virtual tour of the most devastated buildings.
"This is not over. This is not even the beginning," said Kawai.

6. measurements of radioactive tritium
in seawater
- (LISTEN)

– seeping out of the nuclear complex via groundwater into the sea – show levels at 4700 becquerels per liter, the highest tritium level in the measurement history.
Reports from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, say that measurements of radioactive tritium in seawater – seeping out of the nuclear complex via groundwater into the sea – show levels at 4700 becquerels per liter, the highest tritium level in the measurement history. The highest tritium levels have come in the past 15 days, the same reports show.
TEPCO also revealed that the highest levels of radiation in seawater were detected near reactor 1. Previous measurements showed the levels at 3800 becquerels per liter near reactor 1, and 2600 becquerels per liter near reactor 2, but the measurements have been showing increased radiation levels in the past 2 weeks. This increase in the harbor’s seawater has been continuously rising since May, reports said.
Also on Monday, another leak of highly contaminated water was discovered from the valve of a tank dike on the premises of the nuclear plant, adding to the multiple leak issues that the plant has had since TEPCO started the cleanup job on the facility. With this leak, radiation levels at the site again increased to 100 millisieverts per hour. The safe level of radiation is 1-13 millisieverts per year. The valve was said to have been left open so that rainwater can flow through, helping the TEPCO workers spot any radioactive leaks. TEPCO has since closed the valve as soon as it was discovered that radioactive water was flowing through it, instead of just surface and rainwater.

7. Geneva II Syria Peace Process   - (LISTEN)

A friend of mine who is talking to a European government about this asked me for a memo on it. I thought others might be interested.

Memo: ensuring Syrian civil society participation in “Geneva II”
As the international community works to bring about a political solution to Syria’s civil war, many have called for efforts to ensure the participation of Syrian civil society. While it is obviously the case that ending the civil war requires the participation of people who are fighting and those who are backing the people who are fighting, the participation of Syrian civil society groups  - i.e., people who are not shooting other people - can add momentum and legitimacy to efforts to end the fighting and resolve the conflict.

There are many international precedents; crucially, there is a recent Arab precedent in Yemen, in the form of the National Dialogue Conference, which is strongly backed (including financially) by the international community, including the United Nations, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia.

How this could unfold in the Syria case is obviously something that would have to be negotiated among many players – as it was in Yemen. However, one could start floating some ideas to people who could help bring them about.

First, venue would be important. The closer the venue is to Syria, the easier it would be for Syrian civil society groups to participate, and the easier it would be for the UN and the EU to help finance their participation.

Second, composition would be crucial, obviously, and would have to be negotiated. Here the Yemen precedent would be useful – in the case of the NDC in Yemen, it was agreed that a minimum percentage of the seats would be held by women, a minimum number would be held by youth, different regions would be represented, different political parties would be represented, different religious groups would be represented. All of this would be relevant to Syria – e.g. insuring participation from Kurds, Christians, etc.

Third, how the civil society participation relates to what is already planned would have to be negotiated. But a simple, minimal means of bringing about some civil society participation would be to follow UN precedent. A parallel Syrian civil society conference could be set up to run ahead of and overlapping with the “Geneva II” process in the same city. The UN has a practice of doing this, e.g. with UNCTAD, there have been international NGO conferences that preceded UNCTAD in the same place in which the UN subsidized participation. The civil society conference could make recommendations to the “Geneva II” process.

Also, representatives of the civil society conference could be available to international media, have a forum for press conference, etc., to respond to and comment on political developments; they could also lobby officials on behalf of the civil society recommendations.

Clearly, UN/Arab League envoy for Syria would be someone key to talk to about this; also, the UN envoy to the NDC in Yemen.

Others who would be good to talk to: Lebanon and Oman. Lebanon, because it has a big stake in political accommodation in Syria, has its own history of civil war and political accommodation, contains within it the same splits that are rending Syria, and because the Lebanese government has the ability to relate to Hizbullah, a key player. Oman, because it is the only Arab country that has good relations with both sides of the Saudi/Iran divide, has been a consistent voice for dialogue, and has been willing to back things that promote dialogue with its name and its resources.    
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