PNN - 9/21/14 - Rehabilitation & Radiation
Join Host News Director Richard W. Spisak Jr.
and his Guests:
Jessica Dylan Winter Co-Founder, Writer Key Zine
and Anonymous (partner) [www.TheKeyZine.com]
Timothy A. Mousseau
1. Stop US Sugar's sprawling city in the Everglades!
U.S. Sugar unveiled plans last week to build a massive, sprawling city called Sugar Hill between the Everglades and its water source, Lake Okeechobee.
The project would bring 18,000 new residential units and 25 million square feet of commercial, industrial, office and retail units. The 67-square-mile development would have a devastatingly irreversible impact on the Everglades and coastal communities. This dangerous plan would also skyrocket the value of US Sugar's land, potentially derailing completion of the state of Florida's contract with US Sugar to purchase 153,000 acres in the Everglades for cleaning and restoration.
The decision will ultimately be made by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO), but Governor Scott has the power to direct their denial of the project. Now is your chance get him moving!
Tell Governor Scott to protect the Everglades and the coasts by immediately directing the FDEO to deny the US Sugar development plan.
Complete the form below with your information.
Personalize your message if you wish.
Click the Send Your Message button to send your message to Governor Scott and the South Florida Water Management Board.
2. 'The Argument Is Over. Climate Change Is Happening Now'
e have reached a milestone this year, exceeding a 400 parts per million level of carbon in the atmosphere. While it was reported, has the trajectory we are on been fully understood? In an era where we are still dealing with climate deniers amidst the biggest self-made global catastrophe facing humankind, it is time that the equivocating stop and the media move beyond climate denial.
The reason is simple. The late Dr. Stephen Schneider often reminded us of that we buy insurance for a less than one percent chance that our house will burn down. And yet, we are waiting for 100 percent certainty on climate science even though the very life support system of our planet is at stake. And the science is showing that Earth’s life support system may be truly at stake. Per Dr. Michael Mann and others, business-as-usual emissions could possibly threaten the whole web of life. It is our obligation to take every precaution in our power to prevent that calamity.
The web of life has collapsed several times in the past, including the Permian Mass extinction, during which over 95 percent of all life on Earth perished. We are, with our accelerated burning of fossil fuels, creating conditions similar to those that triggered the Permian Mass extinction. Last Hours, the second film in our Green World Rising series, explains why.
Given the state of the climate debate in this country, we may face consternation that we have told this story. But as Dr. Schneider said, why risk the very life support system of our planet? I believe that people should be treated as adults and be told the truth, even if it is strong medicine. Scientists themselves often have to pull back from sobering conclusions for fear that they get reprimanded. But given the levels of carbon in the atmosphere, it is time to comprehend the whole story. We must all take heed and listen.
The European Union adheres to the notion of the precautionary principle. The burden of proof rests with the state or corporation to prove a specific action or product is not harmful before implementing it. The burden there does not rest on the public or civil society to prove that an action or product is not harmful. In the case of climate change, this is prudent law and much worth implementing here in America.
Here, the fossil fuel industry undermines, obfuscates and threatens those who speak out. This should no longer be acceptable to the media even if it does sell ads. The debate is over. Climate change is happening due to human activity and the burning of fossil fuels. It is time to move on to a sustainable new world.
This new world would be stable and viable. We will show that a world powered by renewable energy resources will allow for a more equitable distribution of income and stable energy prices. Less carbon will be released into the atmosphere, pollution will be reduced and overall health will increase. We need to start putting this world in place immediately, and we are glad to see that it is starting to happen.
To companies sitting on gigatons of still-buried carbon reserves: Please start massively moving into this new world of sustainable energy. Citizens can do what they can, individually, like plant urban gardens, turn off the lights, compost and recycle. But we need companies and bigger players to step up and build the cars that run on electricity (thank you, Elon) and biofuel from non-food resources; make the planes that run on biojet fuel; and create the systems that power our homes and industry with solar, wind and geothermal.
As my late father said, who worked in the fossil fuel industry: Do not burn fossil fuels but rather, use them to make life-sustaining products. The oil molecule and others like it have many undiscovered properties and unlocked potential: burning them is the least interesting and most destructive.
A world based on fossil fuels has no future; so stop fighting for it. And if companies don’t want to invest in this sustainable, economically robust future; that's fine; but don't create barriers that prevent all of us from building this world; please step out of the way.
Humanity still has a bright future if we move as quickly as possible to a world based on renewable energy. Let’s fight for this world, and stop giving credence to the deniers and their junk science that has for so long kept us back and created our current state of peril. It’s time for all of us to work in harmony with nature to build this new world.
3. GOOGLE acts like NSA
In interviews with BBC and Sky News, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange explains how Google's behavior, though legal, is like that of surveillance agencies.
Google's practices are "almost identical" to those of the U.S. National Security Agency and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, Julian Assange has said.
The WikiLeaks founder made the charge Thursday in interviews with the BBC and Sky News. He spoke from the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, where he has lived for over two years under political asylum.
"Google's business model is to spy," Assange told the BBC.
"It makes more than 80 percent of its money collecting information about people, pooling it together, storing it, indexing it, building profiles of people to predict their interests and behaviors and then selling those profiles principally to advertisers, but also to others."
"The result is, in terms of how it works, its actual practice, is almost identical to the National Security Agency or GCHQ," he said.
In similar comments to Sky News, Assange said, "Google has become, in its behavior, a privatized version of the NSA. It's not that it's doing things that are illegal. It's not," he said, explaining its profile-building practices.
"That is the same procedure that the National Security Agency or GCHQ goes through, and that's why the National Security Agency has then latched on top of what Google is collecting."
Google has been involved "since at least 2002 working with the NSA; in terms of contracts they are formally listed as part of the defense industrial base. Since 2009 they've been engaged in the PRISM system where information collected by Google, nearly all information collected by Google, is available to the National Security Agency."
"Google has been reasonably successful in the U.S. debate shifting its collaboration with the NSA towards the NSA itself," he said.
Though acknowledging that his current situation in the confines of the embassy are difficult and that the impact on his family has been severe, Assange said that there are others, including Chelsea Manning, in more difficult situations.
Asked by Sky News, "What next?" he explained how high the stakes are in determining the future rules of the Internet.
"The Internet, because it is merged with society, is now the future destiny of human society. Unlike our nation states, the Internet is a global phenomenon, so the laws and standards that we erect on the Internet we're erecting for the whole world at once. So if we get them wrong, it will affect everywhere at once, so those are the stakes."
4.Obama administration ‘blocking’ information from the press – AP
Uncovering information that should be available to the public has become increasingly difficult under the presidency of Barack Obama, an Associated Press bureau chief says. In some cases, it surpasses the secrecy of the George W. Bush administration.
The White House’s penchant for secrecy does not just apply to the federal government, according to AP's Washington bureau chief, Sally Buzbee. During a joint meeting of news editors, she stated that the same kind of behavior is starting to appear in state and local governments.
Buzbee pointed out eight ways that the Obama administration is stifling public access to information – including keeping reporters away from witnessing any military action the United States takes as it battles Islamic State extremists in the Middle East.
READ MORE: National security reporter shared drafts with CIA press office, emails reveal
“The public can’t see any of it,” Buzbee said, referring to the military campaign. “News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off – there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the [US] bombers fly from.”
She also expressed frustration with the government’s handling of the upcoming 9/11 trial, during which journalists are prohibited from looking at even non-classified court filings in real time.
“We don’t know what prosecutors are asking for, or what defense attorneys are arguing,” she said.
Meanwhile, basic information about the prison complex in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is being withheld from the public, despite the fact that the Bush administration freely shared this data. The media is unable to learn how many inmates are on hunger strike in the infamous prison, or how frequently assaults on guards take place.
5. Climate change not just for the North Pole Anymore
We're teaming up with hundreds of allied organizations—including 350.org, the Sierra Club, Avaaz, the Energy Action Coalition, and Service Employees International Union—to make sure world leaders understand that there's an overwhelming public demand for a strong, solutions-based plan for our climate.
Climate justice has been a vital issue for MoveOn members for many years. We organized a virtual town hall on climate change in 2008 that got all of the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination on the record. We pushed for a major clean energy jobs bill in 2010; our efforts helped strengthen the legislation that eventually passed the House of Representatives. We've supported allies' and members' work to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, which has become a referendum on domestic climate change action. And MoveOn members have supported dozens of campaigns across the country to stop major dirty energy projects that would increase the carbon pollution accelerating climate change.
6. Corporate Media: Don't Worry, Be Fracking
A new study shows that gas leaks from wells associated with the controversial drilling technique known as fracking are responsible for water contamination. Over at Think Progress (9/15/14), the study was summarized under the headline "Study Links Water Contamination to Fracking Operations in Texas and Pennsylvania."
But other media accounts tell a different story–one that seems designed to send the message that fracking isn't causing these problems.
"Well Leaks, Not Fracking, Are Linked to Fouled Water" was how the New York Times (9/15/14) put it. At the USA Today website (9/15/14): "Study: Faulty Gas Wells, Not Fracking, Pollute Water."
The Times story begins:
A study of tainted drinking water in areas where natural gas is produced from shale shows that the contamination is most likely caused by leaky wells rather than the process of hydraulic fracturing used to release the gas from the rock.
The Times is trying to stress that fracking critics' claims have been challenged. As the Times' Henry Fountain reports, "Some environmental groups have suggested that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could cause the gas to migrate into drinking water aquifers." But this study, it's explained, says otherwise:
The researchers found no evidence that fractured shale led to water contamination. Instead, they said cement used to seal the outside of the vertical wells, or steel tubing used to line them, was at fault, leading to gas leaking up the wells and into aquifers.
But does this finding justify the "don't blame fracking" headlines? It's hard to follow the logic. These wells exist only because of fracking. If polluted water is linked with the fracking wells and not the actual cracks in the earth caused by fracking, that's important to know. But it still seems clear that fracking is to blame.
It's not like critics of fracking were previously unfamiliar with the dangers of faulty casings. In 2011, CNN (5/10/11) reported on a Duke University study that found high levels of methane in drinking wells near natural gas wells, and noted that study author Robert Jackson suspected faulty casings were involved. But that didn't mean fracking was off the hook:
The gas, which is usually located thousands of feet below the water table, appears to be entering the water wells either through cracks in the bedrock or, more likely, the casing in natural gas wells, said Jackson. Casings are steel and concrete barriers natural gas companies use to line a well where it passes through the water table.
Jackson suspects hydraulic fracturing may be to blame…. Jackson thinks the sand and high pressure used in the fracking process may be weakening the well's casing, allowing the gas to seep out.
The environmentalist Desmog Blog (5/10/11) cited CNN's report under the headline "Scientists Confirm Fracking Link to Flammable Drinking Water."
Problems with well cement were also involved in the greatest single oil disaster in US history; as the Times notes, "The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago was related in part to problems with cement that was supposed to act as a gas barrier in the well." So would anyone say the BP disaster is not really about undersea oil drilling? I don't think so. But in this case, readers are told that it's not fracking's fault that faulty fracking wells are polluting your drinking water.
The Washington Post did a better job with its headline (9/15/14): "Study: Bad Fracking Techniques Let Methane Flow Into Drinking Water." And then there's the larger issue of fracking-linked water pollution. As Katie Valentine of Think Progress pointed out:
But anti-fracking activists say that cementing and casing are only part of fracking’s contamination problem. For one, there’s the issue of fracking waste: In 2012 alone, fracking wells in the US created 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, according to a 2013 report from Environment America. That wastewater often contains carcinogens and even radioactive materials, and the deep pits that the wastewater gets stored in are not foolproof. In New Mexico alone, the report states, chemicals from oil and gas waste pits have contaminated water sources at least 421 times.
And whether it’s the act of drilling itself or failures in casing or waste storage, contamination from fracking operations is a major problem in natural gas-heavy parts of the country. Last month, Pennsylvania made 243 cases of contamination of private drinking wells from oil and gas drilling operations public for the first time. West Virginia, too, has linked cases of well water contamination to oil and gas drilling. And this month, researchers at the University of Texas found that levels of arsenic, selenium and strontium were higher than the EPA's limits in some private wells located within about 1.8 miles of natural gas wells.
7. CIA POSTS HUNDREDS OF DECLASSIFIED JOURNAL ARTICLES
The Central Intelligence Agency has posted hundreds of declassified and unclassified articles from its in-house journal Studies in Intelligence, in an effort to settle a lawsuit brought by a former employee, Jeffrey Scudder. Until lately, the CIA had resisted release of the requested articles in softcopy format (Secrecy News, March 17), but the Agency eventually relented.
"Of the 419 documents that remain in dispute in Scudder, the CIA has produced 249 in full or in part by putting them up on the CIA website," the government informed Mr. Scudder's attorney, Mark S. Zaid, this week. They are posted here.
The newly posted articles cover a wide range of topics, and vary considerably in substance and originality. The CIA said that 170 other articles sought by Scudder had been withheld in full.
Jeffrey Scudder was profiled recently in the Washington Post (CIA employee's quest to release information 'destroyed my entire career' by Greg Miller, July 4, 2014).
8. Senate GOPers Filibuster Equal Pay For Women (Again)
Republicans in the Senate on Monday unanimously filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act. Did you see this on the news? Did you hear about it on the radio? Did you read about it in your local paper? There is an election coming and accurate, objective information is essential for democracy to function.
The Paycheck Fairness Act "amends the portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) known as the Equal Pay Act to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages." It "revises the exception to the prohibition for a wage rate differential based on any other factor other than sex. Limits such factors to bona fide factors, such as education, training, or experience."
To sum up, it would put in place measures to ensure that women will be paid the same as men if they do the same work.
The vote was 52-40 in favor, but it was killed because it was filibustered by Republicans. Among the few outlets that even bothered to report that the bill was before the Senate, few reported that there was a Republican filibuster to kill the effort.
What Information Do Voters Get To Help Them Decide?
Politico at least reported that there was a vote: "Senate blocks pay equity bill." "Senate Republicans rejected a measure written by Senate Democrats aimed at bridging differences in pay between men and women.
The Paycheck Fairness Act fell short 52-40, failing to clear a 60-vote procedural vote hurdle on Monday evening, the third time the measure has failed since spring of 2012."
So women should be angry at "the Senate"? It "failed to clear" a "procedural vote hurdle."
What information do voters get from this, to help them decide who to vote for and against?
But wait, it gets better. After April's Republican filibuster of this bill Politico had the headline: "Senate GOP blocks pay equity bill." This time they took out "GOP".
9. Altered to Withstand Herbicide, Corn and Soybeans Gain Approval
The Agriculture Department has approved the commercial planting of corn and soybeans genetically engineered to survive being sprayed by the herbicide known as 2,4-D, according to documents it posted on a federal regulatory website on Wednesday.
Some corn and soybean growers have been pushing for approval, saying the new crops would give them a sorely needed new tool to fight rapidly spreading weeds that can no longer be killed by Roundup, known generically as glyphosate, the usual herbicide of choice.
But critics say that cultivation of the crops, which were developed by Dow AgroSciences, will mean a sharp increase in the spraying of 2,4-D, a chemical they say would be more damaging to the environment, nearby non-engineered crops and possibly human health, than Roundup.
“With this approval comes millions of more pounds of toxic herbicides dumped onto our land; it’s an unacceptable outcome,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group, said in a statement.
He hinted that the organization might file a lawsuit to try to reverse the decision, as it has done with other rulings related to genetically engineered crops.
The Environmental Protection Agency must still approve a new formulation of 2,4-D that is supposed to be used with the crops.
Dow AgroSciences, a division of Dow Chemical, has said it expects to have all approvals in time to begin selling what it calls the Enlist weed control system for planting next year.
The Agriculture Department, in its environmental analysis, predicted that approval of the crops would lead to a 200 percent to 600 percent increase in the use of 2,4-D nationally by 2020. But it said analysis of the effects of that increased use was the responsibility of the E.P.A. The Agriculture Department said its approval depended mainly on whether the crops would harm other plants.
The chemical 2,4-D was one component of Agent Orange, a defoliant used in the Vietnam War that has been linked to various health problems. But experts say the health effects were caused mainly by another ingredient in Agent Orange.
The E.P.A. has declined to remove 2,4-D from the market on health and safety grounds. The chemical is the nation’s third most widely used herbicide behind glyphosate and atrazine, and it also is used in many home lawn care products, according to the Agriculture Department.
Crops resistant to glyphosate, known as Roundup Ready crops, now account for the vast majority of corn and soybeans grown in the United States. That is because they make it easy for farmers to control weeds. Farmers simply spray glyphosate on their fields, killing the weeds while leaving the genetically engineered crops intact.
But it was so easy that farmers ended up relying too heavily on glyphosate, allowing many types of weeds to develop resistance. Weeds that can no longer easily be killed by glyphosate now infest about 70 million acres of American farmland, double the area in 2009, according to Dow.
Farmers have had to resort to using different chemicals, or higher doses of glyphosate, or to tilling their fields, which can increase soil erosion. Some farmers have had to go back to pulling weeds by hand.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
The new crops, which would also be resistant to glyphosate, would be a solution. Farmers could spray a mixture of 2,4-D and glyphosate, which would kill even the weeds that no longer succumb to glyphosate alone.
“We’ve used the latest science and technology to address problem weeds,” Tim Hassinger, president of Dow AgroSciences, said in a statement Wednesday. “Enlist will be a very effective solution and we’re pleased to have this technology one step closer to the farm gate.”
Monsanto, which developed the Roundup Ready crops, is now awaiting approval of crops resistant to a different herbicide called dicamba. But critics say it will not be too long before weeds develop resistance to 2,4-D as well as dicamba.
Both 2,4-D and dicamba have a tendency to drift or evaporate, allowing them to spread to nearby farms where they could harm crops not engineered to be resistant to the chemicals.
A group of fruit and vegetable growers and canners in the Midwest, calling itself the Save Our Crops Coalition, had initially opposed approval of Dow’s corn and soybeans.
But the group changed its stance after Dow promised to take certain steps to reduce the risk of drift. Farmers growing the corn and soybeans will have to promise to use the new herbicide that the E.P.A. is now evaluating. The product, called Enlist Duo, is a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D meant to minimize drift and volatilization.
Farmers will also have to agree to certain other restrictions on how and when the chemical can be sprayed.
Dow had initially hoped to get its corn on the market by 2013. But the Agriculture Department decided to write full environmental impact statements, rather than less comprehensive environmental assessments, delaying the approval.
The agency received more than 10,000 submissions on its draft environmental impact statements during the 60-day public comment period, which ended in March. More recently, it said, it received petitions with more than 240,000 signatures opposing approval.
10. BIG FINES THREATENED YAHOO
US threat of fines forced Yahoo to hand over users' data
Unsealed court documents have shown that the US government threatened Internet giant Yahoo with large fines if it failed to hand over user email data. The case dates back to George W. Bush's second term as president.
The US government asked a court to threaten Yahoo with fines of $250,000 (193,500 euros) per day unless it handed over customers' email information to intelligence agencies, court documents released on Thursday showed. The daily fine was to double each week. Yahoo email service is free for customers, but it generates revenue through advertising.
"Our challenge, and a later appeal in the case, did not succeed," Yahoo general counsel Ron Bell said, adding that the court material showed "how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the US government's surveillance efforts."
The Internet company on Thursday said that it would begin making more of the roughly 1,500 pages of court documents from its failed 2007 legal challenge publicly available.
Bell said that the court upheld a law that is the predecessor to Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, more commonly known as the "Prism" program unmasked last year by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
"Despite the declassification and release, portions of the documents remain sealed and classified to this day, unknown even to our team," Bell said.
Failed Fourth Amendment challenge
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose members are appointed by a Supreme Court justice, has never held a public session. The documents remain heavily redacted, despite their release.
"International terrorists, and [redacted] in particular, use Yahoo to communicate over the Internet," US director of national intelligence at the time, Mike McConnell, said in a court document supporting Washington's stance. "Any further delay in Yahoo's compliance could cause great harm to the United States, as vital foreign intelligence information contained in communications to which only Yahoo has access, will go uncollected."
Yahoo had challenged the demands on the basis of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, guaranteeing that "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…"
US Internet companies have been keen to disclose as much information as possible about the secretive procedure leading up to their releasing customers' personal data without public knowledge - in part because of concerns about an impact on their businesses. Earlier this year, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google began publishing details on the number of requests for data they receive.
11. Ecuador: WikiLeaks exposes how US sought to stop democratic process
Sunday, September 14, 2014
By Linda Pearson
Leaked US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks show sought to stop President Rafael Correa (pictured) from pushing ahead with a constituent assembly to draft a new, more progressive, constitution.
In November 2006, leftist candidate Rafael Correa won the second round of the Ecuadorian presidential election with 57% of the vote, compare with his conservative opponent, Alvaro Noboa, who won 43%.
Despite the US’s failure to undermine Correa’s candidacy, as shown by diplomatic cables published by WIkiLeaks, further US cables suggest the US Embassy in Quito believed it could hold sway over the new government.
A December 2006 cable reported: “We are under no illusions that USG [US government] efforts alone will shape the direction of the new government or Congress, but hope to maximize our influence by working in concert with other Ecuadorians and groups who share our views.”
The cable identified a number of “red lines” that, if crossed, would threaten “core interests” and should therefore “trigger an appropriate USG response”.
Attacking political elites
The first “red line” set by the embassy was Correa’s move to dissolve the unpopular Ecuadorian Congress.
Congress was the cornerstone of Ecuador’s corrupt “party-ocracy”. At the time, it had a public credibility rating of only 6%.
Correa’s supporters had demanded that a constituent assembly be called to rewrite the country’s constitution and reform its political institutions, a move which would mean the dissolution of Congress.
The US Embassy viewed Correa’s assembly plans as a threat to US interests, in the same way it had viewed previous president Alfredo Palacio’s assembly proposal. In working covertly with Correa’s opponents against the assembly, as it had done during Palacio’s term, the embassy again demonstrated the hypocrisy of its stated claims to be concerned with “promoting democracy” in Ecuador.
Before Correa’s inauguration in January 2007, the embassy encouraged members of Congress to put forward their own reforms to head off the threat of more radical change presented by the constituent assembly.
A cable from December 2006 reported that the embassy would “open channels of communication with the incoming Congress to encourage dialogue and compromise to promote stabilizing reforms”, such as the introduction of congressional elections by district.
“If the new Congress acts quickly and boldly,” the cable said, “it would gain badly needed credibility and undermine momentum for the risky, potentially destabilizing constituent assembly.”
By the end of the year, congressional deputies appeared to have followed the embassy's advice. A cable from December 22 reported on a meeting between the then-US ambassador Linda Jewell and deputies from the Christian Democratic Union party (UDC), one of the parties receiving “technical assistance” funded by the US Congress-backed National Endowment for Democracy.
The cable said that leader of the UDC, Carlos Larreategui, told the ambassador that Correa’s economic policies were the “road to ruin”.
Larreategui outlined a strategy “to oppose Correa's Assembly”, which he said had been agreed upon by the UDC, Alvaro Noboa’s Institutional Renewal Party of National Action, the Gutierrez brothers’ Patriotic Society Party and the Social Christian Party.
According to their strategy, the 70-member alliance would “immediately set about passing its own alternative political reforms” after taking office. Their intention, as a later cable put it, was to “thwart the incoming government of president-elect Rafael Correa from imposing its own reforms via referendum and constituent assembly”.
As tensions between the Correa government and Congress rose, the ambassador wrote: “It is not in our interest to be seen as a protagonist in the brewing showdown, should it lead to instability.”
She planned to meet with the president of Congress on January 11 to “signal USG support for Congress as an institution, without commenting publicly on the assembly”.
Other cables show that the US Embassy continued to work with Correa’s opponents to try to stop the constituent assembly.
On his inauguration in January 2007, Correa issued a decree stating that there would be a referendum on April 15 on whether to convoke a constituent assembly. In February 2007, Congress passed its own law approving a referendum on a watered-down version of the assembly outlined in Correa’s decree.
Congress’s version of the assembly would not have the same powers to reform the country’s institutions. In particular, it would not have the power to dissolve Congress.
In response, Correa modified the congressional law in line with his original decree, and submitted it to Ecuador’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) for approval.
In face of mounting protests against Congress, the TSE approved Correa’s version of the assembly. Not to be defeated, congressional deputies then voted to illegally depose the TSE’s president Jorge Acosta.
In response, the TSE issued an order expelling from Congres the 57 members responsible for trying to unseat Acosta.
On March 19, US diplomats met with Lucio and Gilmar Gutierrez who were planning to form a Congress of the expelled deputies in Guayaquil. According to a cable reporting on the meeting, the Gutierrez brothers said that the “rebel” congress would consider trying to impeach Correa.
The embassy advised, however, that Congress would score more points against Correa by unilaterally revoking its resolution against Acosta.
The cable reported that the US Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) “emphasized the value of having the Congress regain the legal high ground; if Correa then declines to follow suit, the political equation changes and public opinion might start gradually tilting against him”.
The DCM further advised: “It is also important that the opposition offer a positive change agenda, not just a series of anti-Correa blocking tactics.”
In March, the embassy reported that the “usually fractious Ecuadorian private sector has begun to develop what could become a cohesive response to what it perceives as threats from the Correa administration”.
According to the cable, president of the Banco de Guayaquil, Guillermo Lasso, told the ambassador that he had formed a group called Ecuador Libre to “analyze the risks that Correa administration might take”.
The right-wing Lasso had previously served in two Ecuadorian administrations, leading the free trade negotiations with the US during Gutierrez’s presidency. The banker went on to challenge Correa unsuccessfully for the presidency last year.
When Ecuador Libre’s analysis had been shared with members of the business community, Lasso said, they had initially been “nervous” about doing anything. But then, “one by one they called him to sign up to an effort to counter Correa's policies”.
Lasso said their approach would be to “challenge the Correa administration on key principles, and not to defend particular interests”. Public relations efforts would “stress the importance of economic, political and individual freedoms”.
Lasso requested that the US government “echo the private sector's appeal for individual freedoms should the private sector come under fire from the government”.
Well-funded corporate intervention
The cable reported on another meeting with Gloria Alarcon, president of the Guayaquil Chamber of Commerce, and Miguel Pena, president of the Guayaquil Chamber of Industries. Requesting secrecy, Alarcon and Pena told the embassy’s Counsellor for Economic Affairs of plans to “address Correa’s call for a Constituent Assembly”.
The business community intended to identify suitable candidates to support in the assembly elections, who would “have a lot of money” for their campaign. They were also planning to use radio spots and TV ads to “raise questions in the public mind about Correa's objectives for the Constituent Assembly”.
According to the cable, some of the embassy’s private sector contacts wanted the US to “do their heavy lifting” and “take a leading role in challenging Correa's policy”. However, US diplomats had told them that achieving consensus within their sector and “offering responsible alternatives” was “a necessary pre-condition before any international engagement can be truly effective”.
The US Embassy’s efforts to help opponents of the assembly were ultimately fruitless. Substitutes who replaced the expelled congressional deputies accepted the TSE’s ruling. The referendum on Correa’s version of the constituent assembly went ahead in April 2007 with 82% of Ecuadorian’s voting in favour.
Meanwhile, polls showed that 93% of Ecuadorians viewed Congress as “bad” or “very bad”. In November 2007, Congress was dissolved by the constituent assembly and replaced under the new Constitution by the National Assembly of Ecuador.
[This is the fourth part of an ongoing series analysing about 1000 US diplomatic cables from Ecuador published by WikiLeaks, much of which has not been reported on before.]
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12. NSA Can Trace People 'Through Power Lines'
A former NSA worker says spooks can pinpoint your location using power lines - but forensic experts cast doubt on the claim.
An unnamed former staff member at the National Security Agency (NSA) says whistleblowers appearing on film can be traced using power lines.
Network Frequency Analysis (ENF) is usually used to prove audio and video has not been tampered with, but the source says it can be used to determine the physical location of someone.
The analysis is carried out by analysing the 50 Hertz (60 Hertz in US) energy sound generated by power grids - which is nearly inaudible.
The hum is captured by most audio recording devices, and investigators can peel away layers of audio until the bare hum remains. The hum can then be scrutinised for unusual variations.
This week, German website Heute.De reported an unnamed former NSA worker who said the agency can use the technique to determine where a recording of a TV interview or other video clip took place.
It works by comparing captured energy hums with those previously recorded across the grid.
But experts say that while in principle it could be possible, in reality it was unlikely to be practical.
Veteran ENF forensic expert Philip Harrison told The Register: "Let me start by saying that in principle it could well be possible to use ENF to determine the location a recording was made as well as the time it was made."
But he added that "hundreds or thousands of logging devices" would be needed across each country to locate a recording location accurately.
Ian Appleby, who has worked in the energy and defence sectors, was also sceptical: "You would need a tap on every one of thousands of transformers."
13. JAPAN IN DEPTH / TEPCO MEASURES FAIL TO HOLD WATER
By Eiji Noyori and Hiroyuki Oyama / the-japan-times.com / September 11, 2014 / Three and a half years after the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, efforts to contain water contaminated with radioactive substances at the plant are at a crossroads.
Resolving the radioactive water issue is the first hurdle toward decommissioning the plant. However, despite the time that has passed since the beginning of the nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric Power Co. has been unable to curb the growing volume of contaminated water.
The following is an on-site report about how work to address the contaminated water problem is being carried out at the power plant, where workers are struggling with this difficult task.
Stemming underground flow
As Yomiuri Shimbun reporters entered the Fukushima No. 1 plant on Monday morning, a series of vertical pipes could be seen inserted in the ground at intervals of about one meter, on the inland side of the No. 4 reactor building.
This was the construction site of an “ice wall” intended to freeze soil around reactor buildings Nos. 1 to 4 using coolant, circulating within 30-meter-long pipes, to block the flow of groundwater into the reactor buildings. The ice wall is planned to stretch for about 1.5 kilometers.
Out of 1,545 pipes scheduled for installation to create the ice wall, drilling work has only been completed for about 400 pipes. The government and TEPCO plan to start freezing the soil toward the end of this fiscal year, and to maintain the ice wall for seven years.
“It’s necessary to dig straight and deep into the ground without misalignment to freeze the soil for a long period of time with certainty. We’re gathering veteran drilling experts from across the nation,” said Tadafumi Asamura of Kajima Corp., a major construction company in charge of ice wall works.
Goal remains distant
On a hill overlooking the reactor buildings, about 200 meters toward the mountains from the construction site, wells that resemble metal barrels protrude from the ground. They are a part of the “groundwater bypass system” in which untainted groundwater is pumped up from 12 wells and released to the sea.
The ice wall will be completed next spring or later, but to pump up as much untainted underground water as possible before it flows into the reactor buildings, TEPCO started operating the bypass system in May.
About 300 to 400 tons of groundwater flows into the reactor buildings each day, and becomes contaminated with radioactive substances. Over the past 3½ years, TEPCO has been keeping the contaminated water in tanks, but these tanks can now be seen everywhere across the plant premises, thick like a forest, and they are steadily approaching the limits of their capacity.
Ocean still remains vulnerable
Leakage of highly contaminated water into the sea is another problem that must be dealt with immediately.
In areas around sea walls near the turbine buildings of the Nos. 1 to 4 reactors, structures destroyed by the massive tsunami remain as they were 3½ years ago. The removal of debris containing radioactive substances has been inadequate, with radiation levels still relatively high.
In coastal areas, another array of steel pipes, this time one meter in diameter, has been driven into the ground. This is the “ocean-side wall” intended to prevent contaminated water from leaking from the buildings into the port. Construction is still underway.
In addition, the government and TEPCO announced a plan in August to construct 42 “subdrain” wells near the turbine buildings and five wells near sea walls to pump up contaminated groundwater, and discharge it into the harbor of the plant after purification.
TEPCO expects leakage of radioactive strontium to be reduced to one-fourtieth of the current 4.8 becquerels a day if contaminated water is pumped out from the subdrain wells and pits after construction of the walls is completed.
However, such new measures are seen by a local fisheries cooperative association as additional burdens. Trial fishing began two years ago, with initial catches of three kinds of marine life, including octopus. This month it widened to 51 species.
“We’re getting back to a life where we can fish,” a fisheries cooperative association official said. Amid such circumstances, the new measures are a source of growing concern among local residents.
14. FUKUSHIMA PREF. GOVT ACCEPTS ‘TEMPORARY’ RADIOACTIVE WASTE
via channelnewsasia.com /
September 1, 2014 /
The governor of disaster-struck Fukushima agreed on Monday (Sep 1) to accept the “temporary” storage of nuclear waste from the Japanese accident, paving the way for an end to a years-long standoff.workers-move-waste-containing-radiated-soil-leaves-and-debris-from-the-decontamination-operation-at-a-storage-site-in-naraha-town-near-the-fukushima-nuclear-campus
Yuhei Sato has been cajoled and lavished with the promises of subsidies if he accepts a central government plan to build a depot on land near the battered Fukushima Daiichi plant.
“I have made an agonising decision to accept plans to construct temporary storage facilities in order to achieve recovery in the environment as soon as possible,” Sato told central government ministers in Tokyo.
The worst nuclear accident in a generation erupted in March 2011 when a huge tsunami swamped the plant on Japan’s northeast coast, flooding cooling systems and sending reactors into meltdown.
The resulting plumes of radiation contaminated areas far and wide, rendering a swathe of Fukushima uninhabitable, perhaps for generations, and forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes.
Tokyo’s solution has been to try to scrub the radiation from the affected areas, often by lifting topsoil in the hope that contamination levels will go down. This has left the thorny problem of what to do with all the waste, with no community in Japan prepared to accept its permanent storage.
The government’s answer has been to seek a temporary fix while it works on getting a long-term plan in place. While observers have long said the area around Fukushima is the only viable option, people already displaced have seen it as unacceptable because it would in effect finalise the abandonment of their communities.
Sato’s acquiescence came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government offered subsidies worth more than ¥300 billion (US$2.9 billion), including land rent for the facility location. Under the plan, the government will build storage units on an area of 16 square kilometres near the still-fragile power plant.