Archive for June, 2012

200,000 Protest in Japan Ahead of Nuclear Restart

June 30, 2012

Published on Friday, June 29, 2012 by Common Dreams

- Common Dreams staff

Hundreds of thousands of protesters showed up at the door of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s residence on Friday, lining the streets of central Tokyo to express outrage over the continued push for nuclear reactor restarts in the country.

Shareholders of Japan’s electricity companies voted on Wednesday to reboot nuclear power throughout the nation, despite widespread public opposition.

Noda approved the restarts of two reactors at Kansai Electric’s Oi plant on June 16, but his pro-nuclear stance has prompted weekly protests outside of his residence. Friday’s protest was perhaps the biggest yet. Organizers estimated the turnout to be over 200,000 people,according to Japan Times.

Japan had shut down the last of its 50 nuclear facilities in early May, following continued public disapproval of nuclear power after last year’s disaster in Fukushima, which continues to plague the region with record levels of nuclear radiation.

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Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Japanese prime minister’s residence in Tokyo on June 29 (Photo: Kyodo News, via Associated Press)

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Record Radiation Levels Detected at Fukushima Reactor

June 29, 2012

A journalist checks the radiation level with her dosimeter at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in February 2012. TEPCO, the operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, says it has detected record amounts of radiation in the basement of reactor number 1. (photo: AFP)
A journalist checks the radiation level with her dosimeter at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in February 2012. TEPCO, the operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, says it has detected record amounts of radiation in the basement of reactor number 1. (photo: AFP)

go to original article

By Agence France-Presse

29 June 12

 

EPCO, the operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, said Wednesday record amounts of radiation had been detected in the basement of reactor number 1, further hampering clean-up operations.

TEPCO took samples from the basement after lowering a camera and surveying instruments through a drain hole in the basement ceiling.

Radiation levels above radioactive water in the basement reached up to 10,300 millisievert an hour, a dose that will kill humans within a short time after making them sick within minutes.

The annual allowed dose for workers at the stricken site is reached in only 20 seconds.

“Workers cannot enter the site and we must use robots for the demolition,” said TEPCO.

The Fukushima operator said that radiation levels were 10 times higher than those recorded at the plant’s two other crippled reactors, number two and three.

This was due to the poor state of the nuclear fuel in the reactor compared to that in the two others.

The meltdown at the core of three of Fukushima’s six reactors occurred after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and ensuing massive tsunami shut off the power supply and cooling system.

Demolition of the three reactors as well as the plant’s number 4 unit is expected to take 40 years and will need the use of new technologies.

Yes, Bush v. Gore Did Steal the Election

June 29, 2012

 

This Is How We Mythologize Now

DAILY INTEL HOME

Slideshow: NYC Goes All Out for Gay Pride Parade 

The general topic of wildly partisan Supreme Court rulings is on everybody’s mind right now for some reason. The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carneywants everybody to know that the Supreme Court really, truly did not hand the presidential election to George W. Bush. “You can disagree with the ruling in Bush v. Gore,” writes Carney, “but you can’t honestly argue that it decided the election.”

Well, yes, you can. In fact we know nearly for certain that the recount stopped by the Supreme Court would have given Gore the lead. (Of course, it’s entirely possible that the Republican-controlled Florida legislature would have simply overridden the results of the count and handed the state to Bush, as itthreatened to do.) But Carney is repeating a common misconception.

The myth that Bush would have won had the recount proceeded dates back to a recount conducted by a consortium of newspapers that examined the ballots. The consortium found that “If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards, and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin.” But the newspapers decided that this was not how the counties would have actually tabulated the votes. By the variable standards they would have used, the papers reported, Bush would have prevailed. Thus the national news reported a slew of headlines asserting that Bush would have prevailed.

The conclusion was erroneous. The newspapers assumed that the counties would only have looked at “undervotes” — ballots that did not register any votes for president — and ignored “overvotes” — ballots that registered more than one vote for president. An overvote would be a ballot in which the machine mistakenly picked up a second vote for president, or in which a voter both marked a box and wrote in the name of the same candidate. A hand recount in which an examiner is judging the “intent of the voter” would turn those ballots that were originally discarded into countable votes.

Counting overvotes in which the intent of the voter was clear would have resulted in Gore winning the recount. And subsequent reporting by the OrlandoSentinel and Michael Isikoff found that the recount, had it proceeded, almost certainly would have examined overvotes. (Most of the links have been lost over time, but you can find references here and here.)

The newspapers’ error has to be understood in the context of the time. After Bush prevailed in the recount, there was massive pressure to retroactively justify the processes that led to his victory, in the general spirit of restoring confidence in the system. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, that pressure intensified to the point where it was commonly opined that the newspapers ought to entirely cancel the recount (scheduled to come out in November 2001, at the height of the rally-around-Bush moment). In that atmosphere, the newspapers grasped for an interpretation that would both reassure most Americans of what they wanted to believe and avoid placing themselves in opposition to a powerful and bipartisan rallying around Bush that was then at its apogee.

Now, the actual effect of the recount is obviously something of a side issue when assessing the actions of the Court. Nobody knew the outcome of the recount, only that it threatened to make Al Gore president, and stopping it would guarantee Bush’s victory. That is the environment in which five Republican-appointed justices essentially invented a one-time-only ruling to stop the recount. And that’s the relevant history in which to understand the Court’s decision to make up its own new legal theories about the regulation of the health-care market now.

Another World Is Possible: Build It And They Will Occupy

June 28, 2012


By Mickey Z.

27 June, 2012
World News Trust

Be realistic, demand the impossible. (graffiti, Paris 1968)

Let’s imagine the state of the planet as a fire raging through a high-rise building…

Q. How would the 1% react?

A. They’d immediately call on the corporate media to make certain that most of the 99% refuse to acknowledge even the smell of smoke, never mind the flames. In fact, with enough programming, mainstream America would opt to perceive “rumors” of a fire as some kind of socialist scheme. Once the masses have been sufficiently pacified, well… there’s a shitload of money to be made off the inferno and many, many future blazes to be planned.

Meanwhile, activists would behave like a sincere but dysfunctional fire department. They’d bicker over tactics, debate who pulled the fire alarm first, complain about which of them gets to hold the fire hose or drive the fire truck, get distracted by discussions about electing a new fire chief, and waste a whole lot of time imagining how to salvage the building within its original framework.

Mic Check: I say, let the building burn. The structure is not salvageable so let it smolder right down to its fuckin’ foundation.

I say this because the global “problems” being exposed by Occupy Wall Street (OWS) are not merely flaws within a basically fixable configuration. Economic inequality isn’t a hiccup. Epidemics of preventable diseases are not an anomaly. Institutional racism, sexism, speciesism, homophobia, and patriarchy are not systemic blind spots. Capitalism — hell, all forms of industrial culture – cannot be tenderly reformed into sustainability.

Let’s not waste resources putting out fires set by the 1%. Let’s instead build our own structures so that those people yet to embrace their 99% status are better able to visualize an alternative to the way of life to which they fearfully cling.

I’ve had a few conversations about this concept with John Eustor, one the original #Pulse/Liberty Square drummers. We’ve talked about how people — even if they are utterly miserable — are often too afraid to de-occupy the only way of life they’ve ever known. The culture as a whole is designed to not only to nurture such fear but also to convince us that the system can be tweaked and reformed and made more tolerable.

To paraphrase John: “They try to convince us that hell can be improved, that it can be turned into heaven. But hell is hell and it’ll never be heaven. If we want heaven, we have to create something totally different. If we stop concentrating on trying to fix hell, we can create our own promised land, our own heaven on earth. Then you watch and see how many others join us.”

Mic Check: Such a radical departure from archetypical activism requires a steadfast commitment to cultivating deeper and deeper solidarity among those already rebelling while simultaneously toiling — day and night — in the essential realm of outreach.

One possible method to achieve both of these objectives is to foster more and more small scale and/or short term alternative community models.

“You can’t have a functioning democracy without what sociologists call ‘secondary organizations,’ places where people can get together, plan, talk and develop ideas,” explains Noam Chomsky. “You don’t do it alone. The Occupy movement did create spontaneously communities that taught people something: you can be in a supportive community of mutual aid and cooperation and develop your own health system and library and have open space for democratic discussion and participation. Communities like that are really important.”

To varying degrees and on varying levels, OWS does get the big picture view. As I wrote while the original encampment was still evolving at Liberty Square/Zuccotti Park: What’s happening is the cultivation of an alternate model of human culture. Several man-made hierarchies, constructs, and barriers have been challenged and some have already been (at least) temporarily smashed. What OWS is modeling is a far more cooperative, creative, participatory, tolerant, and downsized way of living.

The predictable — I’d even say, frightened — response to this holistic and revolutionary approach goes a little something like this:
“You gotta stop dreaming. Get realistic and learn how to play the game.”
“Don’t you understand that things just don’t work like that?”
“What you’re talking about is Utopia.”
Blah, blah, fuckin’ blah…

Mic Check: Mutual aid and cooperation aren’t utopian. They are our last best chance.

So, while the dominant hierarchy drowns in its own hypocrisy, fear, and greed, let’s use our energy and passion to create — and occupy — a whole new model.

#PromisedLand

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

© WorldNewsTrust.com

Sen. Bernie Sanders: The American People Are Angry

June 28, 2012

Published on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 by Sen. Bernie Sanders

“The American people are angry,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a major Senate floor speech today. They are angry that the middle class is collapsing because of the Wall Street-caused recession, they are angry that unemployment is sky high, that 50 million people lack health insurance, and that working families can’t afford college for their kids. Meanwhile, the wealthy and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well and now billionaires and their congressional friends want to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.”

© 2012 Sen. Bernie Sanders

The End Is Near

June 27, 2012


By David Swanson

26 June, 2012
Warisacrime.org

Apocalypse has been given a bad name.  The Seventh Day Adventists are still around.  The Nike sneaker cult failed to open Heaven’s Gate.  The new millennium brought us George W. Bush, not Jesus H. Christ.  And everybody’s terrified of “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

But our species is living beyond its means.  If we continue down this path, the planet, our food supplies, our climate, and life as we know it will collapse.  If we bring population growth, consumption, and pollution under control, the damage already set in motion will play out for centuries, but complete catastrophe will likely be averted.

Nobody likes to be told that the end might be near.  Either it is or it isn’t.  And the question is resolved by a personal lifestyle choice.  Do I wish to be a pessimist or an optimist?  Of course, optimist is far more popular.  Even most predictors of apocalypse have actually believed they were predicting a good thing.  The world was to be replaced with something better.  Even our best environmentalists who understand the radical changes needed for survival guarantee they will happen.  Harvey Wasserman says he simply believes in happy endings.

Meanwhile, we can barely get half of us in the United States to “believe” that global warming is happening.  Of course, we step outside and there’s a sauna, but that could just be “natural.”  So what if the ocean is a few inches higher?  The people who’ve been predicting that for decades have been wrong until now, and now they’re only a little right — if you even believe them.  The ocean looks about the same to me.  And if they predict exponential acceleration of such changes, meaning that once the changes have become visible it won’t be long before they’re enormous, well that just proves one thing: they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.  They’re pessimists.

In 1992, governments finally got together in Rio and took some baby steps.  In 2012, they reconvened andcollectively proclaimed , “To hell with all that.  This rock may be doomed, but that’s our great-grandchildren’s problem.  Screw them! This is Rio.  Roll down the windows.  Turn up the air conditioning.  Pass me a drink!”  Well, actually, a few scientists and diplomats stood off to the side and muttered , “What we need to save us is a really bad catastrophe.”  And a 17-year-old girl stood up and blurted out the truth, which made everybody feel really important.  Imagine: you were at the meeting that could have chosen to save the planet; how cool is that?  Imagine how the judge feels who is sitting in Washington, D.C.,deliberating on whether the atmosphere ought to be protected or destroyed.  The atmosphere!  Of the earth!  Now that’s power, and the longer you deliberate the longer you can fantasize about possibly even using that power.

In 1972 a group of scientists published a book called Limits to Growth .  It passionately urged the changes needed before human growth and destruction exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet.  In 1992, the same authors published Beyond the Limits .  There were by then, they found, too many humans doing too much damage.  We were beyond sustainable limits and would need to change quickly.  In 2004, they published an update, arguing that we were already 20 percent above global carrying capacity, and that we had “largely squandered the past 30 years.”  Their warnings grew sharper: “We do not have another 30 years to dither.”

The updated book charts the course we’ve been on these past 30, now 40, years.  Population has exploded in less industrialized countries.  Many millions of poor people have been added to our species, while a shrinking percentage of the world’s population has continued to hoard most of the wealth.  The planet has become less equitable through the repeated act of giving birth.  Then it has become less equitable still through economic growth that has been made to benefit most those least in need.  Meanwhile, nations with high population growth have been least able to invest in infrastructure, being obliged to take care of their people’s immediate needs.  This has resulted in still greater poverty, triggering higher birth rates in families dependent on children to survive.  These vicious cycles can be broken, and have been broken, but not by wishing or hoping.  And time is running out.

Sustainable agriculture is being practiced in some places and could feed us all if practiced everywhere and the food distributed to everyone.  The problem is not figuring out what to do so much as simply doing it.  But we can’t do it individually, and we can’t wait for those in power to do it on their own.

Corporations will not learn to make more money by behaving responsibly, not to a sufficient extent to reverse current trends.  The logic of the market will not correct itself, except in the most brutal sense.  If we wait for Wall Street to decide that destroying the Earth is a bad idea, the basic systems of life on Earth will collapse in shortages, crises, and widespread suffering.  Instead, we have to enforce change as a society, and we have to do it now.  If we’d acted in 1982, write the authors of Limits to Growth , we might have avoided serious damage.  If we’d acted in 2002, we also still had a fighting chance.  By 2022, it will be too late to avoid decline.  We’re halfway there.

Limits to Growth offers the crisis of the ozone layer as evidence that humanity can face up to a global environmental disaster and correct it.  Of course, we can.  We have always had that option and always will.  Even beyond 2022, we will have the option of lessening the destruction to as great an extent possible.  But slowing the damage to the ozone layer required changes to a relatively small industrial cartel, nothing to compare to big oil.  The question is not, I think, whether the world can act collectively on behalf of the Earth.  The question is whether the world can act collectively against the organized strength of the fossil fuels industry, its closely aligned military forces in the United States and NATO, and governments far gone down the path of inverted totalitarianism.

For you optimists, I should point out that living sustainably need not mean suffering.  We could live better lives with less consumption and destruction.  Our culture can grow while our population declines.  Our society can advance while our production of waste products retreats.  Our mental horizons can broaden while our food sources narrow.  Millennia from now, people living sustainably on this planet could look back with wonder at the insanity of the notion that everything had to grow , and with gratitude toward those who gave their fellow passengers an awakening smack to the face.

Here’s one small place to start .

David Swanson’s books include ” War Is A Lie .” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org andhttp://warisacrime.org and works for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org . He hostsTalk Nation Radio . Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook .

Hands Off Syria and Iran! End the Drone Wars!

June 27, 2012

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6/23 – 7/1 Emergency Protests Against the Growing Threat of War on Syria or Iran

“Day After” Demos within 24 hours of any NATO attack

Hands Off Syria and Iran!

End the Drone Wars!

We Need Jobs, Education and Healthcare, Not Endless War!

U.S & Syria: Facts you should know


If NATO military actions are unleashed against Syria or Iran, the United National Antiwar Coalition – UNACpeace.org is urging activists across the country to immediately call united “Day After” demonstrations within 24 hours at Federal Buildings across the U.S.

But don’t wait for another U.S. war. TAKE ACTION NOW!

Actions against the growing war danger are already being held in the following 28 cities during the week of June 23 to July 1.

List of actions in 28 cities

These emergency united actions are demanding:

 

 

 

We Need Jobs, Education and Healthcare, Not Endless War!

 

The growing threat of war against Syria is escalating! Recently, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Russia not to get in the way of US backed efforts to force out the government of President Assad. The U.S. supplied Turkish jet shot down over Syria has heightened tensions. While Washington and its NATO allies openly funds and arms mercenary forces in Syria, the corporate media is making every effort to overwhelm us with calls for another “Humanitarian War”.

The drumbeat of sanctions and threats against Iran is growing! On Thursday June 28th, the most extreme form of U.S. oil, banking and trade sanctions on Iran are set to take effect, followed by EU sanctions on July 1. Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz in response. Sanctions are an orchestrated effort to create crisis, destabilizing shortages and economic dislocation. Even in the absence of an immediate conflagration, oil sanctions are a prelude to war, not an alternative to war.

US drone attacks are an expanding form of anonymous war! U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan are now occurring on a daily basis. In response, Pakistan has closed all NATO supply routes into Afghanistan for the past 8 months. U.S. drone wars have expanded to Yemen, Somalia and now the Philippines. This is international lawlessness and an attack on the sovereignty of every country.

During the period from June 23 through July 1, there will be demonstrations, vigils, forums and meetings around the country to protest the growing threats of war.

Please join the protests or organize an emergency action in your city.

If NATO military actions are unleashed against Syria or Iran, UNAC is urging activists across the country to immediately call united “Day After” demonstrations within 24 hours at Federal Buildings across the U.S.

Actions during the week of June 23 to July1 are already being held in the following 28 cities:

1.     Minneapolis, MN, Tues. June 26, 4:30pm Federal Building 4th St & 3rd Ave.

2.     Chicago, IL, Tues. June 26, 4:30 to 6:00 pm, 130 E. Randolph, Natl HQ of Obama Election Campaign

3.     Detroit, MI, Wed. June 27, 4:30pm, Federal Building, Michigan Ave. & Cass Ave.

4.     Grand Rapids, MI Mon. June 25 & Mon. June 30, Monument Park, Fulton St & US 131

5.     Columbus, OH, Sun. June 23 & 24, 4pm @ COMFEST, Goodale Park, Solar Stage

6.     Columbus, OH, Sun. July 1, 5pm, 15th St & High St, Main Entrance of OSU

7.     Boston, MA, Mon. June 25, Obama Fundraiser, 3-6:00pm, Boston Symphony Hall,Massachusetts Ave. & Huntington Ave.

8.     Northampton, MA, Sat. June 30 11am Main Street intersection

9.     New Haven CT – Sat. June 30 – The Green,

10. Albany, NY, Thurs. June 28, 4:30 – 6pm, Federal Building, N. Pearl & Clinton Ave.

11. Syracuse, NY, Thurs. June 28, Federal Building

12. Rochester, NY, Friday, June 29 -4:30pm  Culver Road across from old Armory by Cobbs Hill Park  & 490 Exit.

13. Buffalo, NY,

14. NYC, NY, Wed. June 27, 6:30pm Meeting on war threats & building a response, Manhattan Theatre Club, 311 West 43rd St.

15. Brooklyn, NY, Sat. June 23, 6:30pm, 1026 Coney Island Ave

16. Jersey City, NJ, Sun. June 24, noon, Journal Square’s 9/11 Fountain

17. Newark, NJ, Sat. June 23 & 30, Broad St & Market St, part of daily protests

18. Philadelphia, PA, Wed. June 27, 4:30 – 6pm, Federal Building, 6th & Market.

19. Washington DC, Sun. July 1, 11am Washington Monument & Constitution, 1pm march to Senate Building, area 2

20. Tallahassee, FL, Sun. June 24, 12:30 – 2:30 pm, Florida’s Old Capitol Steps, Appalachee Pwy & S Monroe

21. Colorado Springs, CO, Sun. July 1, Noon – 2pm, Acacia Park, corner of Bijou & Tejon

22. Salt Lake City, UT, Wed. June 27, 5pm Federal Building, South State St.

23. Los Angeles, CA, Sat. June 30, 4pm, Westwood Federal Building, 11000 Wilshire Blvd.

24. Oakland, CA, Fri. June 29 5pm Federal Building

25. Vallejo, CA, Sat. June 30 1pm Peace Pole, 289 Mare Island Way

26. Fresno, CA,

27. Vancouver, CANADA Sat. June 23, 1pm Vancouver Art Gallery, Robson & Howe St.

28. Vancouver, CANADA, Tues, June 26 7pm, Meeting at Joe’s Café, 1150 Commercial Dr. at William St

A full list of the growing number of locations with contact information will appear at: UNACpeace.org

Send information about your action to: UNACpeace@gmail.com

U.S. & Syria: Facts you should know

By Joyce Chediac

The following timeline reviews the progression of U.S.-NATO intervention in Syria and counteracts the Big Lie in the corporate media aimed at preparing open imperialist military aggression against the Syrian people.

● Washington has funneled money to a right-wing Syrian opposition group since at least 2005. (Washington Post, April 16, 2011)

● The U.S. reopened its embassy in Damascus in January 2011 after six years. This was no thaw in relations. The new ambassador, Robert S. Ford, who served until October 2011, is a protégé of John Negroponte, who organized death squads in El Salvador in the 1970s and in Iraq while ambassador there in 2004-05. There terror squads killed tens of thousands. Ford served directly under Negroponte at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

● Ford “played a central role in laying the groundwork within Syria as well as establishing contacts with opposition groups.” Two months after he arrived in Damascus, the armed insurgency began. (Global Research, May 28)

● Armed opposition to Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011 in Daraa, a small town on the Jordanian border. Mass protest movements usually start in large population centers. Later, Saudi Arabia admitted sending weapons to the opposition via Jordan. (RT, March 13)

● The U. S. and its NATO allies used grassroots protests in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere as a cover to build support for right-wing insurgencies whose goal was not to help the Syrian people but to bring Syria into the pro-imperialist camp. Any excesses or mistakes by the Assad government were not the real issue.

● The Arab League, European Union and U.S. begin imposing economic sanctions, a form of warfare, against Syria in November 2011 on the pretext of stopping state-sanctioned violence against protesters. Stepped-up sanctions and freezing of Syrian assets caused the value of the Syrian pound to drop by 50 percent against the dollar, with the cost of necessities often tripling.

● Exiles who received U.S. funding became part of the Syrian National Council. SNC’s Burhan Ghalioun said he would open up Syria to the West, end Syria’s strategic relationship with Iran (and with the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance), and realign Syria with the reactionary Arab regimes in the Gulf. (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 2, 2011)

U.S. &NATO escalate involvement

● Ex-CIA agent Philip Giraldi admitted that the U.S. was involved in Syria and laid out the U.S. plan: “NATO is already clandestinely engaged in the Syrian conflict, with Turkey taking the lead as U.S. proxy. Ankara’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davitoglu, has openly admitted that his country is prepared to invade as soon as there is agreement among the Western allies to do so. The intervention would be based on humanitarian principles, to defend the civilian population based on the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine that was invoked to justify Libya.” (theamericanconservative.com, Dec. 19, 2011)

● Giraldi continued: “Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to … the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council who are experienced in pitting local volunteers against trained soldiers. … French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence. …

● “The frequently cited United Nations report that more than 3,500 civilians have been killed by Assad’s soldiers is based largely on rebel sources and is uncorroborated. Likewise, accounts of mass defections from the Syrian Army and pitched battles between deserters and loyal soldiers appear to be a fabrication, with few defections being confirmed independently. Syrian government claims that it is being assaulted by rebels who are armed, trained, and financed by foreign governments are more true than false.”

● The “Free Syrian Army” has rear bases in Turkey, is funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and is made up of defecting Syrian soldiers. Spiegel Online sites a source in Beirut who reports seeing “‘hundreds of foreign fighters’ who have attached themselves to the FSA.” (Feb. 15)

● The U.N.-mandated commission of inquiry, in its February 2012 report, documented torture, taking of hostages, and executions by armed opposition members.

● The first heavy fighting in Syria’s capital, Damascus, started in March. Pipelines were blown up, and huge explosions ripped through intelligence and security buildings in Christian areas on March 16, killing at least 27 people. The Syrian government charged then that terrorist attacks supported from abroad have been responsible for eight car bomb attacks since December, killing 328 and wounding 657. This got little Western media attention.

● Human Rights Watch on March 20 accused armed Syrian opposition members of “Kidnappings, the use of torture and executions … of security force members, individuals identified as members of government-supported militias, and individuals identified as government allies and supporters.”

● In the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, the armed opposition has formed its own laws, courts and death squads, according to Spiegel Online. Abu Rami, an opposition commander in Baba Amir, interviewed by Spiegel, said in the city of Homs his group has executed between 200 and 250 people. (March 29)

U.N. steps in

● Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan went to Syria in March at the behest of the U.N. and Arab League to put together a peace proposal. But Annan and the U.N. are not impartial. Annan is an architect of the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, cited by former CIA agent Giraldi as the planned pretext for intervention in Syria. The U.N. endorsed this doctrine under Annan’s tenure.

● In 2004, Annan gave U.N. approval to the U.S., French and Canadian intervention that deposed Haiti’s President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Annan’s stated reasons were the same then as now in Syria: an alleged impending “humanitarian catastrophe.” Annan provided a similar U.N. cover for France to tighten its colonial grasp on the Ivory Coast in 2006. In Syria, Annan’s calls for a Syrian government ceasefire and for outside “humanitarian” aid are really calls for foreign intervention.

.

● Syria agreed to an Annan-brokered ceasefire March 27. The opposition refused. While the Western heads of state and the corporate media heaped blame on Assad for “not honoring” the ceasefire, the West kept arming the opposition.

● What the U.S. government really thought of the ceasefire was revealed by Robert Grenier, former director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center, who called upon those who would “help” Syria “to climb metaphorically into the ring and dirty themselves,” adding, “what the situation needs is not high-minded sentiments, but effective, lethal aid.” (Al Jazeera, March 29)

● As the imperialists “climbed into the ring,” they continued to blame Assad. Speaking at an anti-Assad “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul on April 1, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Assad had “defiled” the ceasefire. She called for Damascus to unilaterally stop fighting and withdraw from areas of heavy right-wing infiltration. She said the U.S had pledged at least $25 million in “nonlethal” aid to the Syrian opposition, which included satellite communication equipment.

● By May, the reactionaries “have begun receiving significantly more and better weapons … paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated … by the U.S.” (Washington Post, May 15) “The Syrian rebels have received their first ‘third generation’ anti-tank weapons. They are supplied by Saudi and Qatari intelligence agencies following a secret message from President Barack Obama.” (debkafile.com, May 22)

The Houla massacre

● Right before a scheduled visit to Syria by Annan, news broke of a horrible massacre of 108 people in Houla on May 25, which included whole families and as many as 48 children. Headlines worldwide blamed the Syrian government, and all Western capitals called for increased sanctions and more international pressure on Assad.

● By May 27, the imperialists had coordinated their “international outrage” and expelled Syrian diplomats from the U.S., the Netherlands, Australia, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and Canada.

● The U.N. Security Council reacted to the massacre — with no investigation as to who was responsible — by unanimously condemning Syria for allegedly using tanks and artillery after agreeing to a ceasefire. Ignored were statements from the Assad government that it was not responsible. A closer look showed this was the case.

● Marat Musin, reporting for Russia’s ANNA News, was in Houla and interviewed witnesses right after the massacre. Musin determined that the massacre was committed by the so-called Free Syrian Army, not the Assad forces. His report concluded: “The attack was carried out by a unit of armed fighters from Rastan, in which more than 700 gunmen were involved. They brought the city under their control and began with a cleansing action against loyalist [pro-Assad] families, including elderly people, women and also children. The dead were presented to … the U.N. and the ‘international community’ as victims of the Syrian army.” (May 31) The conservative German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, corroborated the ANNA report on June 7.

● Residents knew many of the killers by name and identified them as local criminal elements now working for the FSA. (Syria News, May 31) Anti-Assad forces then posed as villagers and invited the U.N. observers in. Some put on uniforms of the Syrian soldiers they had killed and said they were defectors.

● A widely shown photo of dozens of shrouded bodies, which the BBC first presented as the aftermath of Houla, was really taken by photographer Marco di Lauro in Iraq in March 2003.

● BBC world news editor Jon Williams admitted in his blog June 7 that there was no evidence whatsoever to identify either the Syrian Army or Alawite militias as the perpetrators of theMay 25 massacre. United Kingdom’s Channel 4 senior reporter Alex Thomson said June 7that the opposition led him into a line of fire and tried to get him killed by Syrian military forces so it would “look bad” for Assad.

Spent fuel pool in Japan’s Fukushima could spark nuclear fire(10 Times More Than Chernobyl)

June 27, 2012

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Updated 26 June 2012, 13:38 AEST

It’s being described as a global catastrophe waiting to happen.

Spent fuel pool in Japan’s Fukushima could spark nuclear fire (Credit: ABC)

A pool brimming with hundreds of tonnes of spent nuclear fuel rods perched 30 metres above the ground in a shattered building next to a damaged reactor.

While much has been made of the meltdowns in reactors one, two and three at Fukushima, not so well known is the precarious state of the fuel storage pool in reactor four.

Japanese and US nuclear experts say if another large earthquake hits Fukushima and causes the damaged pool to drain, it could spark a catastrophic nuclear fire, which would release 10 times more radioactivity than at Chernobyl.

The operator TEPCO however, says the pool is stable and can withstand another large quake but admits it can’t remove the rods immediately because vital equipment was damaged beyond repair.

Correspondent: Mark Willacy, ABC North Asian correspondent in Fukushima

Speakers:Robert Alvarez, former senior policy advisor to the US secretary of energy, Yoshimi Hitosugi, spokesperson for TEPCO, Hiroaki Koide, senior nuclear reactor engineer at Kyoto University, Mitsuhei Murata, Japanese diplomat

MARK WILLACY: They sit in the gloom, inside a pool open to the elements, five floors up, inside a shattered building.

1535 nuclear fuel assemblies, most of them containing highly radioactive spent fuel rods.

ROBERT ALVAREZ: The spent fuel pool in number four at Fukushima contains roughly ten times more caesium 137 than released by the Chernobyl accident.

MARK WILLACY: Robert Alvarez is a former senior policy advisor to the US secretary of energy. He fears another powerful earthquake could set off a catastrophe, bigger than what’s already happened at Fukushima.

ROBERT ALVAREZ: The drainage of water caused by an earthquake or the toppling of the pool, which would be the worst possible consequence, could result in essentially the cladding around the spent fuel, which is made of an alloy of zirconium, to heat up and catch fire. And then there would be a massive release of radioactivity.

The major isotope of concern would be caesium 137. And it would involve about 10 times more radioactivity than released at Chernobyl.

MARK WILLACY: The operator of the nuclear plant, TEPCO, rejects this saying the fuel pool is stable.

But recently, the company was forced to admit that one of the reinforced walls of the pool had bulged slightly after last year’s massive quake.

(Yoshimi Hitsogui speaking)

“We checked the condition of the wall the other day”, TEPCO spokesman Yoshimi Hitosugi tells me. “The bulge was confirmed along part of it. But we do not think that it will have any effect on the soundness of the pool” he says.

But TEPCO’s sanguine assessment of the fuel pool doesn’t wash with some experts.

Hiroaki Koide is a senior nuclear reactor engineer at Japan’s prestigious Kyoto University, and he warns that TEPCO is playing with fire.

(Hiroaki Koide speaking)

“If there’s a crack in the pool and the water drains out the fuel rods will be exposed” Hiroaki Koide tells me. “It will then be impossible to cool the fuel. So if an accident happens, 10 times more caesium than has already been released by the Fukushima meltdowns will go into the atmosphere. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, Tokyo could become uninhabitable” he says.

MITSUHEI MURATA: I call it the sickness of Japan. Colloquially it can be explained that first, we hide; then we postpone; and then we assume no responsibility.

MARK WILLACY: Mitsuhei Murata is a former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland and a career diplomat who fears for the future of his nation.

Mr Murata is highly sceptical of TEPCO’s assurances that everything at Fukushima is under control.

MITSUHEI MURATA: TEPCO and the government of Japan not only lacks the ability but the intention.

MARK WILLACY: So in your opinion, if there was a problem with that fuel pool it would be the end of Japan?

MITSUHEI MURATA: Yes. And there is no one who denies that.

MARK WILLACY: Until recently the only thing protecting the number four fuel pool from the elements was a plastic sheet.

Nuclear engineer Hiroaki Koide argues that TEPCO’s main priority should be getting the hundreds of tonnes of spent nuclear fuel out of the pool and into safe storage.

(Hiroaki Koide speaking)

“As soon as possible, those fuel rods should be removed” he says. “Earthquakes are striking almost every day around the Fukushima plant, so I’m praying the big one won’t hit” he tells me.

Despite Hiroaki Koide’s anxiety, TEPCO doesn’t seem to be in a hurry, and the company admits that even if it wanted to extract the fuel rods from the pool it couldn’t.

(Yoshimi Hitsogui speaking)

“The original method was to take out the spent fuel by crane attached to the ceiling of the building”, says TEPCO spokesman Yoshimi Hitosugi. “But that’s been damaged. So we are thinking of installing a crane for this. We would like to start removing the fuel sometime next year” he says.

Until then, many in Japan are holding their breath.

And in far away Washington, former US government advisor, Robert Alvarez, fears a disaster greater in scope than Chernobyl.

ROBERT ALVAREZ: Nothing like this has ever happened before. This is a problem that, if such an event were to occur, it would be of an international dimension.

MARK WILLACY: So every time the earth rumbles, ripples spread across the surface of the number four fuel pool, and hearts flutter 240 kilometres away here in Tokyo.

The Fear Factor

June 27, 2012
OP-ED COLUMNIST

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Published: June 26, 2012 5 Comments
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If there is one thought that summarizes the strength and weakness of the Arab awakenings, it’s the one offered by Daniel Brumberg, a co-director of the democracy and governance studies program at Georgetown University, who observed that the Arab awakenings happened because the Arab peoples stopped fearing their leaders — but they stalled because the Arab peoples have not stopped fearing each other.

Josh Haner/The New York Times

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Readers’ Comments

This dichotomy is no surprise. That culture of fear was exactly what the dictators fed off of and nurtured. Most of them ran their countries like Mafia dons operating “protection rackets.” They wanted their people to fear each other more than the leader, so that each dictator or monarch could sit atop the whole society, doling out patronage and protection, while ruling with an iron fist. But it will take more than just decapitating these regimes to overcome that legacy. It will take a culture of pluralism and citizenship. Until then, tribes will still fear tribes in Libya and Yemen, sects will still fear sects in Syria and Bahrain, the secular and the Christians will still fear the Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia and the philosophy of “rule or die” will remain a potent competitor to “one man, one vote.”

You would have to be very naïve to think that transitioning from primordial identities to “citizens” would be easy, or even likely. It took two centuries of struggle and compromise for America to get to a point where it could elect a black man with the middle name Hussein as president and then consider replacing him with a Mormon! And that is in a country of immigrants.

But you would also have to be blind and deaf to the deeply authentic voices and aspirations that triggered these Arab awakenings not to realize that, in all these countries, there is a longing — particularly among young Arabs — for real citizenship and accountable and participatory government. It is what many analysts are missing today. That energy is still there, and the Muslim Brotherhood, or whoever rules Egypt, will have to respond to it.

Precisely because Egypt is the opposite of Las Vegas — what happens there never stays there — the way in which the newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, ultimately learns to work with the secular, liberal, Salafist and Christian elements of Egyptian society will have a huge impact on all the other Arab awakenings. If Egyptians can forge a workable social contract to govern themselves, it will set an example for the whole region. America midwifed that social contract-writing in Iraq, but Egypt will need a Nelson Mandela.

Can Morsi play that Mandela role? Does he have any surprise in him? The early indications are mixed at best. “As Mohamed Morsi prepares to become Egypt’s first democratically elected president,” Brumberg wrote on foreignpolicy.com, “he will have to decide who he really is: a political unifier who wants one ‘Egypt for all Egyptians’ as he said shortly after he was declared president, or an Islamist partisan devoted to the very proposition that he repeated during the first round of the election campaign, namely that ‘the Quran is our constitution.’

“This is not so much an intellectual choice as it is a political and practical one,” he added. “Morsi’s greatest challenge is to unite a political opposition that has suffered from fundamental divisions between Islamists and non-Islamists, and within each of these camps as well. If his call for a government of national unity merely represents a short-term tactic for confronting the military — rather than a strategic commitment to pluralism as a way of political life — the chances of resuscitating a transition that only days ago was on life support will be very slim indeed.”

It is incumbent on the Muslim Brotherhood to now authentically reach out to the other 50 percent of Egypt — the secular, liberal, Salafist and Christian elements — and assure them that not only will they not be harmed, but that their views and aspirations will be balanced alongside the Brotherhood’s. That is going to require, over time, a revolution in thinking by the Muslim Brotherhood leadership and rank-and-file to actually embrace religious and political pluralism as they move from opposition to governance. It will not happen overnight, but if it doesn’t happen at all, the Egyptian democracy experiment will fail and a terrible precedent will be set for the region.

The U.S. has some leverage in terms of foreign aid, military aid and foreign investment — and we should use it by making clear that we respect the vote of the Egyptian people, and we want to continue to help Egypt thrive, but our support will be conditioned on certain principles. What principles? Our principles?

No. The principles identified by the 2002 U.N. Arab Human Development Report, which was written by and for Arabs. It said that for the Arab world to thrive it needs to overcome its deficit of freedom, its deficit of knowledge and its deficit of women’s empowerment. And, I would add, its deficit of religious and political pluralism. We should help any country whose government is working on that agenda — including an Egypt led by a Muslim Brotherhood president — and we should withhold our support from any that is not.

New Toilet Turns Human Waste Into Electricity and Fertilizer

June 27, 2012

Prof Chang, Dr Giannis, Prof Wang, Dr Rajagopal, and Dr Chen with the No Mix Vacuum Toilet. (Credit: Image courtesy of Nanyang Technological University)

ScienceDaily (June 26, 2012) — Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have invented a new toilet system that will turn human waste into electricity and fertilisers and also reduce the amount of water needed for flushing by up to 90 per cent compared to current toilet systems in Singapore.

Dubbed the No-Mix Vacuum Toilet, it has two chambers that separate the liquid and solid wastes. Using vacuum suction technology, such as those used in aircraft lavatories, flushing liquids would now take only 0.2 litres of water while flushing solids require just one litre.

The existing conventional water closet uses about 4 to 6 litres of water per flush. If installed in a public restroom flushed 100 times a day, this next generation toilet system, will save about 160,000 litres in a year — enough to fill a small pool 10 x 8 metres x 2m.

The NTU scientists are now looking to carry out trials by installing the toilet prototypes in two NTU restrooms. If all goes well, the world can expect to see and even sit on the new toilet in the next three years.

Associate Professor Wang Jing-Yuan, Director of the Residues and Resource Reclamation Centre (R3C) at NTU who is leading the research project, said that their ultimate aim is not only for the new toilet system to save water, but to have a complete recovery of resources so that none will be wasted in resource-scarce Singapore.

“Having the human waste separated at source and processed on-site would lower costs needed in recovering resources, as treating mixed waste is energy intensive and not cost-effective,” Prof Wang said. “With our innovative toilet system, we can use simpler and cheaper methods of harvesting the useful chemicals and even produce fuel and energy from waste.”

Aiming to convert all waste to resource, the new toilet system which is part of a project that has received $10 million from Singapore’s National Research Foundation’s Competitive Research Programme in 2010, will be useful for new housing estates, hotels, resorts, and especially communities not linked to the main sewerage system and so require their own sewerage facilities.

How it works

The No-Mix Vacuum Toilet will divert the liquid waste to a processing facility where components used for fertilisers such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium can be recovered.

At the same time, the solid waste will be sent to a bioreactor where it will be digested to release bio-gas which contains methane. Methane is odourless and can be used to replace natural gas used in stoves for cooking. Methane can also be converted to electricity if used to fuel power plants or fuel cells.

‘Grey water’ (used water from the laundry, shower and kitchen sink) can be released back into the drainage systems without further need for complex waste water treatment, while leftover food wastes can be sent either to the bioreactors or turned into compost and mixed with soil, resulting in a complete recovery of resources.

Assisting Assoc Prof Wang in the project are four other NTU researchers — Asst Prof Chang Wei-Chung, Dr Chen Chia-Lung, Dr Apostolos Giannis and Dr Rajinikanth Rajagopal. This next-generation toilet and resource recovery system took the team one and a half years to develop and will be showcased to the industry at the upcoming WasteMET Asia 2012, held from the 1st to 4th July this year at Marina Bay Sands’ Sands Expo and Convention Center.


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