Sunday, November 02, 2014

PNN - Progressive Journalist Round-Up 11/2/14

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Lee County Commission Candidate Debbie Jordan
and the Progressive Roundtable with
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and ...
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Solidarity & Peace
Rick Spisak, News DIrector, PNN

1. Net Neutrality
On the day before Halloween, late at night, Igor called the Wall Street Journal to whisper that the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission favored a hybrid plan for regulating internet carriage of communications. Igor the Leaker said that Tom Wheeler, spookily attired in a costume as lobbyist for cable companies, his former job, and with face made up to look like a determined protector of the public interest, believed his new plan meets legal requirements, unlike the two previous tries. The proposal, which Igor the Leaker didn’t call the Frankenstein Plan, will distinguish between wholesale and retail transactions.
It would apply utilitylike regulation to the wholesale portion, the exchange of data from the content provider to the Internet service provider for passage through to the end consumer. The retail portion, the transaction that sends data through the Internet service provider to the consumer and which allows the consumer to access any legal content on the Internet, would receive a lighter regulatory touch.
The rationale for the plan, explained Igor the Leaker, is that we wouldn’t want to burden the consumer with heavy regulation like we do to electricity, because that would bring out the twin zombies Discouraging Investment and Slowed Innovation, and we wouldn’t want that, now would we? As you know, the current regime of light touch regulation has so stimulated innovation and investment that we are now the proud nation of high cost for lousy service. A recent studylooked at speeds of internet service and cost and found that US cities are slower and more expensive than cities in other countries. The industry claims that costs are higher and broadband access is lower here because the US is so big, but that argument is meaningless in the context of city to city comparisons, like the comparisons in the graphics here.
According to The Hill reporter Mario Trujillo put the work in to read that poorly written study:

The report found that U.S. cities with publically owned networks, like Chattanooga or Lafayette, have speeds far exceeding cities with only traditional Internet service providers like Verizon, AT&T or Comcast.
“In general, our research shows that these locally-owned networks tend to deliver better value to their customers when compared on a price-per-megabit basis to competing cable and telecom providers in their own cities,” according to the report.
The industry claims that it reinvests its profits, allegedly $1.2 trillion since the mid-90s. That figure by itself says nothing about new investment as opposed to repairs and replacement; and replacement of old parts automatically increases speeds as technology advances, because the each new generation of technology is faster than its predecessor. I suspect a significant portion of the money went to campaign contributions and lobbying, because that has the highest return on investment.

2. Either declare which side you are on or be presumed opposition
The conventional wisdom about Democrats’ and Republicans’ racial politics over the last century or so seems to go something like this: Lingering hostility towards Republicans over the Civil War created a “solid South” for the Democrats. The GOP’s more business-friendly stance also sent working class people to the Democrats, creating an uneasy and unstable coalition comprised in part of minorities and unreconstructed racists. The fractures were visible even in signature achievements like Social Security,* and the coalition split apart for good over civil rights legislation in the 60s. Helped along by the Southern Strategy, conservative whites flocked to the Republican party starting in the 70s, and the two parties sorted into bases that had fewer ideological contradictions.

It’s tempting to put other issues in that narrative, maybe because it’s fun to contemplate the drama of major parties splitting apart and re-sorting in response to seismic shifts. It’s more fun than contemplating a major party adapting to new circumstances and including new partners incrementally, anyway.

That bias acknowledged, it seems at least possible that climate change and environmental issues might be in the process of creating an unsustainable coalition for the Democrats. While there’s long been a kind of low-grade disgruntlement with certain Democrats in areas where the extraction industry looms large – those who tread lightly around coal interests in Ohio or West Virginia, oil drilling in Louisiana, etc. – the growing awareness of human-influenced climate change and the cost/benefit analysis of unconventional extraction is creating sharp new divisions.
Since I’ve been paying particular attention to fracking in my neck of the woods, I know how communities are having to accommodate a process that brings little benefit to most citizens. On an issue like, say, water supplies, blandly comparing the amount used to the total amount in a state or region is deceptive. The real impact is felt at the community level, and the relative dearth of political leadership on that creates a vacuum.
In its absence, ad hoc coalitions have started to form (“It’s as if bed and breakfasts, birdwatchers, bicyclists, beef producers, and Bambi killers united against big oil”), traditional environmental groups have come under increased scrutiny, and representatives who try to play both sides are being called out. With the oil and gas industry increasingly willing to do whatever it takes to win, politicians are less and less able to be on the fence. Either declare which side you are on or be presumed opposition.
Earlier this year Chris Hayes made the case for a connection between slavery and fossil fuels. He looked more at economic parallels, but the impact on the political landscape could be just as huge. The comparison isn’t perfect, of course: there isn’t a sizable Democratic constituency primed to bolt to the Republicans over the issue. The tension here has more to do with politicians wanting to remain cordial with moneyed interests. Still, it’s an issue that will create increasing dissonance between higher ups and the base, which creates room for new leaders. That may come from unapproved challengers within the party, or it may develop organically outside it. But either way, it looks like something that will only get more, not less, urgent – and that might cause some fundamental realignments.

3. Oppose the NSA ?
In June of 2014, Senators Mark Udall, Ron Wyden and Rand Paul offered a rare show of election-year unanimity when they penned a joint statement arguing that "it is more important than ever to let Congress and the administration know that Americans will reject half-measures that could still allow the government to collect millions of Americans' records without any individual suspicion or evidence of wrongdoing."
Udall and Wyden, both Democrats, and Paul, a presumed contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, declared, "It is time to end the dragnet -- and to affirm that we can keep our nation secure without trampling on and abandoning Americans' constitutional rights."
Essential to that initiative, the senators suggested, is "a groundswell of public support for reform."
Just five months later, the strength of that groundswell will be tested in Colorado. Udall, the senior senator from that state, is in the fight of his political life with Republican Congressman Cory Gardner. It's a brutal, high-stakes battle, and polls suggest Gardner has a slight advantage.
If Udall loses, "it would be a significant loss for the movement" to hold the NSA to account and to renew the privacy rights of Americans, says Laura Murphy, who heads the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"What Udall has is the institutional memory, and the relationships in the civil liberties community, in the Democratic Party and in the tech industry so that we don't have to start over again with someone new," Murphy told The Hill, which has highlighted concerns about what losing Udall would mean to the fight to restrain the NSA.
Constitution Project senior counsel Scott Roehm summed those concerns up when he said, "Were Senator Udall to lose, I think he would be sorely missed. He was one of the earliest voices for meaningful surveillance reform even before the Snowden leaks."
Why so much concern about one senator?
It has a lot to do with the courage and consistency of Udall's objections to NSA abuses. The Colorado senator has been a genuine watchdog: calling for Central Intelligence Agency directorJohn Brennan to resign after it was revealed that CIA operatives had been spying on the communications of Senate staffers, challenging his colleagues to establish effective oversight of intelligence agencies, demanding meaningful checks and balances and criticizing President Obama for failing to end the excesses of the Bush-Cheney era.
"Mass collection of our phone and Internet records started under a Republican president, continued under a Democratic one. I won't tolerate it," Udall tells voters. "As Coloradans, our rights include the freedom to be left alone."
This willingness to defend privacy rights against abuses -- no matter who is in power -- distinguishes Udall and only a handful of others in the Senate. That's why a writer for Reason magazine, the country's essential libertarian publication, observed last week that a Udall loss "could be grim news for civil libertarians hoping to rein in the NSA."
Grim news, indeed. So grim that it raises the question: Shouldn't the preservation of Fourth Amendment protections be a high enough priority that responsible Republicans might want to put partisanship aside and defend a senator who has emerged as an essential advocate for the Bill of Rights?
Shouldn't Rand Paul be speaking up for Udall -- if not with an explicit cross-party endorsement then at least with an acknowledgement of the principled positions taken by the senator from Colorado? Shouldn't civil libertariansfrom across the political and ideological spectrums, Democrats and Republicans, Greens and Libertarians, recognize that the Colorado race is not just another contest in the jockeying for control of the Senate?
The idea of putting aside petty partisanship in order to speak up for a principled senator is not some radical new notion. In the 1960s, Oregon Democratic Senator Wayne Morse said he intended to vote for Oregon Republican US Senate candidate Mark Hatfield because they shared strong opposition to the war in Vietnam. In the 1990s, Arizona Senator John McCain, a conservative Republican, made no secret of his regard for progressive SenatorRuss Feingold, D-Wisconsin, because of their shared commitment to campaign finance reform.
The Fourth Amendment has too few defenders. Feingold, the sole senator to oppose the Patriot Act in 2001, was defeated in the Republican "wave" election of 2010. Now, the prospect of another Republican "wave" threatens Udall. Those who recognize that privacy rights must be preserved must recognize that the threat is not just to Udall but to the cause of the Constitution.
4. 4th Estate to 5th Column
The Fourth Estate has become over time a Fifth Column for the Power Elites in business, finance and politics and the Agenda Benders of the National Security State.
An Alert and Knowledgeable Citizenry
In his final address to the nation the 34thpresident of the United States Dwight D (Ike) Eisenhower, in his much referenced 'farewell to arms' speech, famously warned Americans about the perils of the growing "military-industrial complex". In this address he said:
"...Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together."
Although it's the "military-industrial" bit most folks remember, it was the "alert and knowledgeable" part that should resonate. Unfortunately for the "alert and knowledgeable citizenry" Ike suggested was the only bulwark against the continued growth, power and influence of this monster within, most of said "citizenry" remained oblivious to it all. They either fell asleep at the democratic wheel or chose to remain ignorant of the already disturbing implications of its encroaching reach into every aspect of the American demos and polity. When the torch was passed to the new generation in 1961, the 'good life' was beckoning. Few it seemed wished to rock the boat.
That the growth of this "complex" almost fifteen years into the New American Century has far exceeded anything even the Old Warhorse himself could have imagined is a given. Yet despite this, we can safely say even if the "good life" may not be "beckoning" anymore and we all have much more to fear regarding Ike's warnings, most Americans are still asleep at the wheel. There seems little evidence that is likely to change anytime soon.
And herein we should ponder at least one of the main reasons why this is so.
For those folks who retain any measure of faith or confidence that the so-called Fourth Estate -- in this case, the mainstream or corporate media -- is providing us with all the insight we need to make sense of the driving forces behind global developments and events, then a reality check of the first order is in order. The Fourth Estate has become over time a Fifth Column for the Power Elites in business, finance and politics and the Agenda Benders of the National Security State. The big fix is in, the game rigged. And it is decidedly not in favour of equality, democracy, freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of the majority; nor is it for that matter, designed to nurture "an alert and knowledgeable citizenry".
When we consider a "Fifth Column" as defining any group or cohort working against, and to the detriment of, a larger group -- in this case, an otherwise "alert and knowledgeable citizenry" -- the analog is fitting, albeit not very flattering. As might be expected, the media is supposed to act as a 'bulwark against bullshit', and to hold the PTBs to account, to ensure their transparency, honesty and integrity.
The fundamental principles of journalistic ethics and the standards by which we might judge what we are fed sound hunky-dory in theory. But when the rubber hits the road these ethics and standards are all too quickly deep-sixed in favour of more prosaic, less lofty, and increasingly, democracy defying, concerns. Put simply, the "public interest" becomes "private".
The evidence for this is overwhelming and irrefutable. On its own the extraordinary growth of the independent and alternative media underscores this premise. This doubtless points to more people increasingly looking for news, viewpoints and opinions outside the MSM. The 'marketplace of ideas' isn't just expanding; the monopoly is breaking down and whole new niches are opening up. This is of course a welcome development.
With this in mind, although some might suggest one does not need a Ph.D in media theory to appreciate this, with the MSM, when it comes to the acquisition and dissemination of news information that is in the (admittedly)ever-moving feast of the "public interest", these principles -- veracity, objectivity, accuracy, impartiality, fairness, accountability, integrity -- have become a bit 'old school', a casualty as much in times of peace as in war. Although there are promising signs their readership is waning, even in the modern information and communications age there is no shortage of folks implacably wedded to their daily fix of 'impropaganda' from the establishment newsmakers and the 'opinionocracy' whose positioning statement might well read: "Here is the news we choose, to give you all today".
The Great Malaise
Yet, as long as we are not relying on the MSM for our daily dose of context and perspective, examples underscoring the broad premise herein abound everywhere we care to look. Writer Ulson Gunnar reported in an article this week on the New Eastern Outlook website, details of Vladimir Putin's recent address to the Valdai Discussion Club. Putin's address was wide ranging and is highly recommended reading.
Let's firstly consider Gunnar's response to Putin's address. After applauding Putin's willingness to point to Washington's hypocrisy in key foreign policy areas and noting the seemingly irreversible loss of "respect and legitimacy" once commanded" by the U.S. in the international arena, Gunnar then cites as one of the main reasons the MSM's "utter failure to hold accountable, poor policy driven by corrupt, criminal special interests":

"Leaving it to Putin to point out the sorry state of American foreign policy grants Russia the respect and legitimacy the US would have otherwise held onto were it capable of putting its own house in order. The inability of America's media to serve public interests" is a symptom of America's greater malaise." [My Emphasis]
But the reality is even worse than that. The major U.S. media has not simply failed to hold Washington accountable for its destructive arrogance. The MSM chose to ridicule Putin for his undeniably accurate remarks. For instance, The Washington Postpublished an editorial entitled (in print editions), "Putinoia on full display," which said, about Putin's Valdai remarks, "out poured a poisonous mix of lies, conspiracy theories, thinly veiled threats of further aggression and, above all, seething resentment toward the United States."
The Post editors then cited examples of Putin's "Putinoia" such as his statements that the U.S. had "declared itself the winner of the Cold War" and promoted a "unipolar world [that] is simply a means of justifying dictatorship over people and countries."
Other examples of Putin's "madness", according to the Post, included his observations that Washington's interventions have created chaos around the world and that the overthrow of Ukraine's elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a "coup d'etat." In other words, Putin made observations that were either obviously true or certainly arguably true but the Post insisted on its own reality, one that grossly misleads its readers and implicitly sets the boundaries of MSM-approved debate.
As an exemplary case study, we again might look at the recently released Kill the Messenger, a film treatment of the life and times of investigative journalist Gary Webb. Webb attempted in 1996 to shed light on the CIA's connections to, and knowledge of, cocaine distribution by the Nicaraguan contras and their associates, and the consequent crack epidemic that spread across America throughout the eighties.
Ultimately his career was destroyed by a concerted, relentless character assassination and disinformation campaign by the Big Three of the U.S. print media -- The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The New York Times -- each one of which variously, yet ruthlessly distorted, and then refuted, Webb's claims. In 2004, his career and marriage over, and financially destitute, Webb - for several long years the MSM's favourite whipping boy - committed suicide.
If Webb's fate resulted from a rare manifestation of an unholy mix of journalistic nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance in the history of reportage and public opinion making, we might be able to cut the MSM a bit of slack. But sadly it is not, and we can't, not by a long shot from the Grassy Knoll. If its own "malfeasance" etc., did not amount to a bona fide conspiracy by the MSM to cover up criminal "nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance" at the highest levels of the U.S. government, it will do until the real one gets here.
That is was also designed to camouflage its own venality and incompetence is something we might also ponder. It is notable that it was not one, but three, of the so-called newspapers of record in established MSM circles that led the attack against one of their own. Taking into account the extraordinary significance of Webb's reportage, along with the fact it is now generally accepted he largely got his story right (and by some accounts may haveunderstated the complicity or awareness of higher powers into what was happening), his own personal and professional odyssey is a savage, wholly justifiable indictment on all things MSM in the Home of the Brave.
Yet insofar as we can gather, none of them has openly or unequivocally acknowledged its complicity in covering up the details of Webb's revelations and/or for what they did in destroying his career, his family and ultimately his life. No-one has been held to account, and no-one has apologised.
The fact that at least one of these papers -- again we're talking the redoubtable Washington Post -- is still trying to defend the indefensible is surely another nail in the coffin of the ancien regime of the corporate controlled media, information and news industry. It seems though the Post may only be rubbing salt into its own wounds, as any number of more independent media folk seem determined to set the record straight on Webb's behalf.
Weapons of Mass Disinformation
As for the rest of the MSM cohort who jumped onto the Big Three's "Get Gary Webb" bandwagon, it would appear they are letting sleeping dogs lie in the wake of the film's release. It's unknown if they are doing this to preserve whatever integrity they might have left over their own attacks on Webb and/or failure to undertake their own investigations, or whether it is because they really don't care one way or another. Webb may just have been collateral damage -- an 'expendable' -- in the perennial War on Truth in MSM circles.
If Watergate was a high-water mark then in investigative reportage and political news coverage in the U.S., the example of which might be held up to demonstrate the establishment could always be counted on to demand transparency and hold, without fear or favour, those in power at the highest levels of government to account for their behaviour -- and by some accounts there are compelling reasons after all these years to view this assessment with some scepticism -- then the Webb affair would have to qualify as a suitable case study at the other end of the spectrum.
As significant as Webb's story is in its implications for a free, fair and fearless mainstream press in America, as indicated, this is the norm, not the exception. With this in mind, we can hardly expect that we are going to get the kind of news and information we need to remain "alert and knowledgeable", in an age where being so has possibly never been more important in homo sap's sorry ass history on the Big Blue Ball.
As indicated there are numerous examples past and present of that Unholy Trinity of nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance in mainstream journalistic reportage, from Pearl Harbor to JFK; from Vietnam to the Iran-Contra Scandal; from the first Gulf War, the Balkans War to the events of 9/11; from Iraq's WMDs, and the War on Terror; from the GFC to Benghazi up until the present day. And these only skim the surface. If these bastions of fair and fearless reportage are the newspapers of record, the record is patchy indeed.
Moreover, there can be no better example of the double standards that prevail in U.S. politics and in its relationship with the Fourth Estate than Obama's 2013 honouring of Ben Bradlee -- the iconic Washington Posteditor who famously presided over the paper's coverage of the Watergate Scandal, the outcome of which was the downfall and subsequent resignation of an American president -- with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As noted in the Roundup, Goldman Sachs is once again being cited for ripping off its clients, this time in the IPO space. Goldman had already paid massive fines for causing the mortgage crisis by selling its own clients toxic assets. Later the firm would take considerable reputational damage when a former Goldman Sachs executive, Greg Smith, wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times where he claimed Goldman employees routinely took advantage of the firm’s clients and enjoyed mocking them afterwards – the birth of the “Muppet” meme.

Now Joe Nocera has obtained, due to a clerical error, documents detailing Goldman Sachs screwing its IPO clients. Goldman’s clients, eToys, are in the midst of a lawsuit against Goldman. eToys is claiming Goldman conspired to keep the price of the IPO low to benefit their investment bank clients who gave Goldman a kickback in return. eToys later went out of business partly due to lacking capital that it could have raised in a more honest IPO.
Recently, however, I came across a cache of documents related to the eToys litigation that seem to tilt the argument in favor of the skeptics. Although the documents were supposed to be under seal, they were sitting in a file at the New York County Clerk’s Office, available to anyone who asked for them. I asked.
What they clearly show is that Goldman knew exactly what it was doing when it underpriced the eToys I.P.O. — and many others as well. (According to the lawsuit, Fitt led around a dozen underwritings in 1999, several of which were also woefully underpriced.) Taken in their entirety, the e-mails and internal reports showGoldman took advantage of na├»ve Internet start-ups to fatten its own bottom line.
The documents detail that Goldman’s focus was on using the eToys IPO to generate more business with its investment clients. After the investment clients profited the Goldman Sales force sprung into action calling the clients to secure more business gaining large commissions. A quid pro quo with eToys and other IPO clients losing out.
Goldman carefully calculated the first-day gains reaped by its investment clients. After compiling the numbers in something it called a trade-up report, the Goldman sales force would call on clients, show them how much they had made from Goldman’s I.P.O.’s and demand that they reward Goldman with increased business.It was not unusual for Goldman sales representatives to ask that 30 to 50 percent of the first-day profits be returned to Goldman via commissions, according to depositions given in the case.
“What specifically do you recall” your Goldman broker wanting, asked one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers in a deposition with an investor named Andrew Hale Siegal.
“You made $50,000, how about $25,000 back?” came the answer. “You know, you made a killing.”
“Did he ever explain to you how to pay it back?” asked the lawyer.
“No. But we both knew that I knew how,” Siegal replied. “I mean, commissions, however I could generate.”
30-50%! Now that’s an incentive structure.
Luckily for Goldman Sachs they were not so greedy they forgot to do another kickback, this one in the form of bribes to Congress and the President. Otherwise they might have to actually suffer for their misbehavior.
 But having bought protection from the Justice Department while getting massive subsidies and bailout guarantees from the Federal Reserve ensures Goldman’s continued survival and dominance. And as long as Goldman has the government behind them they will have clients no matter how likely they are to treat them like Muppets.

6. Israeli Feelings are hurt - Deputy Speaker of the Knesset FEIGILIN COMPLAINS:
I fundamentally disagree with PM Netanyahu on many issues – including those issues over which the US has criticized the PM in the past. But if America does not officially distance itself from yesterday’s personal attack against Prime Minister Netanyahu (who represents all the citizens of Israel) we can conclude that under Obama, the US has deteriorated to the cultural and essential level of a third world country. Its future is already behind it.

7.Sweden Notices Palestine
The Swedish government has now recognized the state of Palestine. The Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, told reporters that Palestine qualified as a state under international law because “There is a territory, a people and government.” The EU as a governing body is still delaying any such recognition though Sweden’s unilateral move may expedite the process.
Sweden’s recognition of Palestine comes as Israel faces international condemnation after it announced it would be building 1,000 housing units in the Arab section of Jerusalem. Israel is also facing allegations of war crimes for its latest incursion into Gaza that included attacks on UN and international aid facilities. Sweden’s announcement could be the beginning of a larger movement within the international system to recognize Palestinian statehood so that Israel can be held accountable for taking land and launching military attacks under the framework of violating the rights of another state. That framework could make it easier to subject Israel to sanctions to incentive better behavior towards the Palestinians.

Thirty billion dollars in funding for roads, bridges and thousands of new homes in areas devastated by the tsunami in Japan three and a half years ago is still languishing unspent in the bank. That means Keiko Abe is heading into a fourth winter of sub-zero temperatures in a cramped, temporary dwelling that is succumbing to the elements.
“I’m just clenching my teeth until I can move out and live like a human being again,” says Abe, 66, as she stands in the dim light of her living room with enough space for a couch, table and television. A gray mould clings to some walls of the prefab structure, where Abe has lived with her husband since shortly after a 9-metre (30 feet) wall of water obliterated large swathes of the city of Ishinomaki on the afternoon of March 11, 2011.
Abe, who lost her home and everything in it that day, is now the victim of a funding quagmire that has left her and tens of thousands of other evacuees stranded in temporary units that were supposed to house them for no more than two years.
Japanese government funds budgeted for reconstruction and transferred to local governments are stuck in banks across the tsunami-ravaged northeast, a Reuters review of budget and bank deposit data and interviews with bank officials reveals. The central government has paid out more than $50 billion directly to local governments in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures, the areas hardest hit by the disaster. But about 60 percent of that money remains on deposit in the region’s banks.
Ishinomaki, where more than 3,700 people died in the tsunami – the most casualties of any city in the disaster – has been deeply affected by the funding paralysis. The port city, where 56,000 buildings were damaged, has been showered with money for reconstruction – about $4.1 billion in the three years after it was hit.
But almost 60 percent of the money, or $2.3 billion, remains in bank deposits. And fewer than five percent of the planned new homes for the city’s nearly 25,000 evacuees have been completed.
“I’ve given up on the local authorities,” says Abe. “They don’t think about us.”
A few minutes’ drive from Abe’s temporary home, the mayor of Ishinomaki sits in his office directing part of the blame for the hold-ups at bureaucrats in Tokyo. “It’s a massive disaster but central government officials are acting as if these were normal times,” says Hiroshi Kameyama, referring to the red tape he confronts in getting building plans approved. “It’s one of the reasons why public works are delayed.”
Makoto Kitamura, the deputy director general of the Reconstruction Agency, says local government spending of reconstruction money has been accelerating. “The pace of the construction projects has also been picking up,” he told Reuters, sitting in his office in Tokyo. “So it is not something you should worry about.”
For Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the reconstruction delays are a potential time bomb. Before he became prime minister in December 2012, Abe campaigned in parliamentary elections on a pledge to speed up reconstruction – a promise he has repeated on both anniversaries of the disaster since he took office. As opposition leader he chided the government for not moving fast enough on rebuilding: “Japan has no future without reconstruction of disaster-hit areas,” he declared during a tour of Fukushima, where the tsunami crippled a nuclear plant.
As prime minister, he vowed in March 2013 that “reconstruction will have made a lot of progress and our lives will be better by March 11 next year.” A year later he repeated the promise: The government would make the year ahead one in which “everyone in disaster-hit areas feels the progress of reconstruction.”
So far, about 2,700 housing units of a planned 29,000 have been completed in the tsunami-hit areas. In its housing plan issued more than a year ago, the government said it aimed to complete 15,000 homes by March next year. It has since scaled back that target to 10,000 units.
A labor shortage exacerbated by the siphoning of workers away from the disaster zone to build commercial facilities for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games has slowed reconstruction. So have a spike in the cost of building materials and problems in procuring land in the disaster zone.
Initial government estimates for the cost of building a new home have been far off the mark. In 2011, the Reconstruction Agency budgeted $158,000 for a new home. In April, it revised that estimate upward, for a second time, to $217,000 – almost 40 percent higher than the original figure.
“We are struggling to keep up with the rise in costs,” Michio Oka, a section chief in Ishinomaki’s reconstruction office, told Reuters. “Because of the sharp rise in material and labour costs we have failed to attract contractors.”

9. FUKUSHIMA - Destroyed the Region/ Destroyed History
Anjalika Sagar (at 2:00 in): Things have got much worse — and at the same time that things have got much worse, you have an accelerated form of secrecy relating to the level of the contamination in food products, in the sea… We were interested in… the politics of how disposable this population has become… Where the threat of the earthquakes could possibly contaminate the whole of Japan, which has happened…
Kodwo Eshun: We made a distinction between the nature of an accident and the nature of a catastrophe… The idea is that an accident is located in time and space… the earthquake and tsunami are a terrible tragic instance, but they are accidents. 
The catastrophe is potentially unlimited in time and space… The [meltdowns are] a catastrophe that opened up a fissure in time and space both in the past and in the present and in the future. So that what seems to be past is no longer past, but becomes present in a new way. And similarly what hasn’t happened yet is menaced by this moment… The horror of inhabiting radiation is that it menaces the future in the present. And it makes the future hostile in the present. So that mothers cannot be certain the babies they will have will not mutants. It makes the question of mutation — which is a core fantasy of science fiction, for comics, for superheroes — take on a real world effect… Very few people trusted the Japanese government anymore…. What we heard… was this notion of Japan as a laboratory, the notion of the citizens of Japan as guinea pigs. The sense that the Japanese government are carrying out an experiment in which they are calculating the levels at which people will revolt, and the levels at which people will accept their fate.

10. FUKUSHIMA - Buildings Unstable
“It’s a time bomb and clock’s still ticking” — Ex-Fukushima Worker: I’m scared of collapse at plant, “buildings are in a very bad state” — Gundersen: “Building failures” will occur in future if problems not solved

11. TVA - Damn Sinkhole
Sinkhole develops under dam in US — 7 nuclear reactors downstream — Water now seeping out — Gov’t notified of ‘stability issues’, plants begin evaluating potential flood impacts — Official: An ‘uncommon’ occurrence, we’re monitoring it continuously and working around clock — Structure same height as Niagra Falls  - BOONE DAM STABILITY ISSUES… “TVA conducted a briefing for government officials… after discovery of a sink hole near the base… water and sediment [has been] found seeping from the river below the dam. TVA is continuously monitoring the dam… The dam is located upstream of all three TVA nuclear sites… The NRC Senior Resident Inspector was notified. The licensee is evaluating this event for potential impact on the design basis flooding level.”
A chink in the Boone Dam’s armor has Tennessee Valley Authority officials starting the annual depth drawdown of Boone Lake about five weeks ahead of schedule.

When an Oct. 20 inspection of the dam revealed a sink hole — a common occurrence — TVA workers repaired it quickly. Six days later, an uncommon occurrence happened when seepage was found near the location of the sink hole at the base of the dam.

John McCormick, TVA vice president of river operations, assures the dam is structurally sound, but said the TVA is “exercising an abundance of caution.”

Over the course of the next 11 days, McCormick said the TVA will be bringing down the water level about 11 more feet to the necessary mark of 1,362 feet, which is what he calls the “winter pool” level. The rate at which the TVA can drop the lake maxes out at 2 feet per day and 7 feet for the week.

“We recognize this is an inconvenience,” he said. “We’re asking for patience from the community until we can fix it and fix it right.”

An early drawdown will mean that many on the lake will have to remove their boats and docks more than a month sooner than usual. McCormick said he hopes no one’s jet skis or boats become stranded.

“Property and marina owners with docks and boats need to take necessary precautions for the early drawdown,” the TVA said.

With the water level at the lower level, TVA’s engineers and experts can investigate the cause of the seepage and correct the issue. Currently, the site of the seepage is being marked by a steel bar that is sticking out of the water about 25 yards below the dam.

Jennifer Dodd, a dam safety officer with the TVA — the nation’s largest public power provider and a corporation of the U.S. government — said it could turn out that the cause of the sink hole and seepage is a broken pipe or drain, but they won’t know until the water’s low enough to further inspect. She said the area of the seepage is underwater in the rip-rap rocks near the shoreline.

Volatile weather, unless something near catastrophic, shouldn’t shake the TVA’s duty of lowering the lake before Nov. 10, McCormick said.

“Unless it’s a huge storm, we can do what we need to do,” he said.

A similar situation occurred in 2007 at Bear Creek in Alabama, where seepage was found, but it was dealt with swiftly.

McCormick said this issue won’t result in rate increases and emergency repair costs like this are built into his budget. For the time being, his main concern is public cooperation in dropping the water so the issue can be resolved in a timely and safe manner.

“Public safety is our top priority and we are continuously monitoring the dam to ensure it is safe,” he said. “The accelerated drawdown it out of an abundance of caution. Our engineers want to be sure we understand what caused the sink hole and where the water and sediment is coming from.”
Anyone who wants more information on the TVA’s river system and reservoirs can go on their site at
Read more: Seepage at bottom of dam causes early lowering of Boone Lake - PHOTOS | Johnson City Press 
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12. WIPP IT… WIPP IT real bad
Department of Energy Releases WIPP Recovery Plan
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Department of Energy (DOE) released the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant 
(WIPP) Recovery Plan, outlining the necessary steps to resume operations at the transuranic waste 
disposal site outside of Carlsbad, N.M. WIPP operations were suspended following an underground truck 
fire and a radiological release earlier this year.
“Safety is our top priority,” said Mark Whitney, Acting Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office of 
Environmental Management. “Some of the top nuclear and recovery experts from DOE and the nuclear
industry helped develop this plan and I’m confident we will be able to safely and compliantly resume 
operations in the first quarter of 2016.”
Key elements of the recovery plan include strengthening safety programs, regulatory compliance, 
decontamination of the underground, increasing ventilation, mine stability and underground habitability, 
and additional workforce retraining. The Department will continue to work closely with site regulators, 
including the New Mexico Environment Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through 
implementation of the plan.
Findings and recommendations from the investigations of both the truck fire and the radiological release will be incorporated into WIPP actions moving forward. Results from additional on-going investigations into the cause of the radiological release will also be incorporated once those investigations are complete.

Recovery Plan - Phase I
Returning WIPP to normal operations will be a long, multi-step process.  The focus continues to be on the actions necessary to keep the public, environment, and employees safe; mitigate the radiation source; and restore operations.
  • Isolate ventilation flow-through: Two 10-foot wide bypass dampers, which allowed limited airflow to bypass HEPA filters, were sealed with high-density foam.
    Status: Complete
  • Lower monitoring instruments into the salt and air intake shafts: Data from the monitors showed no radiological contamination in the area of the shafts underground and established safe habitability for personnel entries.
    Status: Complete
  • Personnel re-entry teams descend into the mine: Multiple personnel entries have been completed.  The initial entry consisted of two eight-person teams.  The teams surveyed conditions from the Salt Shaft Station to the Air Intake Shaft Station to establish two usable egress locations — a requirement for future underground work.  The teams confirmed communications (mine pager phone and regular telephone) with the aboveground base station.  Lastly, the teams established an underground base of operations and a clean area for team members to change into or remove protective suits and equipment as they enter and leave the mine.
    Status: Complete
  • Personnel re-entry teams continue further into the mine: The teams continued to survey conditions of the mine while moving southward toward the suspected release location.  A smaller three-person team reached Panel 7, Room 7, where a breached waste container from Los Alamos National Laboratory was identified.  The DOE established a Technical Assistance Team of experts from across its national laboratories to review photos and video, as well as samples of debris, taken by entry teams in order to determine the cause of the radiological release.
    Status: Complete
  • Replace contaminated filters: For operations to continue, a properly functioning ventilation system is required.  Ventilation system filters in the two filtration units have been replaced.
    Status: Complete
Recovery Plan - Phase II
  • Mitigate the contamination source: Mitigation of the contamination source will be accomplished according to a plan developed from the knowledge gained during Phase I entries.
    Status: Pending
  • Restore conditions that will support operations: This includes radiological characterization and posting; ground control activities (e.g., bolting) for mine safety; equipment and systems maintenance, cleaning, and upgrades.
    Status: In progress
  • Incorporate corrective actions: Lessons learned from the fire and radiological event are being used to enhance programs and procedures prior to resuming operations.
    Status: In progress throughout the recovery process
Accident Investigation Boards
As a result of the February events -- the February 5 salt haul truck fire and the February 14 radiological release -- the Department of Energy (DOE) established two Accident Investigation Boards (AIB) to assess the WIPP safety systems programs and processes at the federal and contractor levels.  These investigations include analysis of training and qualifications, maintenance, and emergency management response to the events.

The AIBs use a rigorous process to investigate events that had, or potentially could have had, a negative impact on employees, the public or the environment.  The DOE Carlsbad Field Office and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, made every aspect of WIPP operations available to the investigation teams.
The AIBs develop Judgments of Need (JON) that form the basis for corrective actions designed to prevent the recurrence of events.  DOE Headquarters, the Carlsbad Field Office and Nuclear Waste Partnership will develop and implement these corrective actions as part of the recovery process.

The AIB report on the haul truck fire was released March 7, 2014. To view the report, click on the following link.

The AIB report on the February 14 radiological event is being issued in two phases. Phase I focuses on the release of radioactive material from the underground to the environment and the follow-on response to the release. The Phase I AIB Report was released April 24. To view the report, click on the following link.
The Phase 2 report will be focused on determining the direct cause of the release of the material. A release date is yet to be determined. 
Other Plans and Submittals
On May 30, 2014, the Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership submitted the WIPP Nitrate Salt Bearing Waste Container Isolation Plan to the New Mexico Environment Department, as required by Administrative Order 05-20001.  To view this report, click on the following links.
Mine Safety and Health Administration
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) performs periodic inspections of the WIPP facility. The MSHA inspection information is available through the Mine Data Retrieval System. Instructions for accessing MSHA inspection information for WIPP are as follows:

1. Use this link to the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s website
2. Find “Data Transparency at MSHA" in the left hand column
3. Type in the WIPP mine number – 2901857 and hit enter or click on “go”
4. On the “Report Selection Page” choose “Inspections” to access violations and status by inspection date or “Violations” to access a list of all violations, the regulatory citations and the dates they were terminated.
Please recognize that a delay may occur between MSHA follow-up visits and when the data is updated to reflect closure or termination of a citation.

Media Contact for Recovery
Tim Runyon
U.S. Department of Energy
WIPP Recovery Communications
P.O. Box 3090
Carlsbad, NM 88221-2078 
Phone: (575) 234-7545
Donavan Mager
Manager Communications
Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC
P.O. Box 2078 GSA-104
Carlsbad, NM 88221-2078
Phone: (575) 234-7586
Public Inquiries
WIPP Information Center
Phone: 1-800-336-WIPP (9477)

Recovery Page

Event Information
Path Forward

News and Updates

Other WIPP Documents and Tools
Hazardous Waste Permit
WIPP Toolbox

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