Archive for September, 2013

Noam Chomsky: ‘The Foundations of Liberty Are Ripped to Shreds’

September 30, 2013

America's leading intellectual, Professor Noam Chomsky. (photo: MIT)
America’s leading intellectual, Professor Noam Chomsky. (photo: MIT)

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By Steven Garbas, Satellite

28 September 13

 

oam Chomsky is the Institute Professor and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. The most cited living source in the world, his theories have been extremely influential in the fields of analytic philosophy, psychology, modern language, and computer science. He has written over 100 books examining the media, US foreign policy, social issues, Latin American and European history, and more.

We met with Professor Chomsky in Cambridge in May to discuss the development of the drone era under president Obama.

NC: Just driving in this morning I was listening to NPR news. The program opened by announcing, very excitedly, that the drone industry is exploding so fast that colleges are trying to catch up and opening new programs in the engineering schools and so on, and teaching drone technology because that’s what students are dying to study because of the fantastic number of jobs going on.

And it’s true. If you look at the public reports, you can imagine what the secret reports are. It’s been known for a couple of years, but we learn more and more that drones, for one thing, are already being given to police departments for surveillance. And they are being designed for every possible purpose. I mean, theoretically, maybe practically, you could have a drone the size of a fly which could be buzzing around over there [points to window] listening to what we’re talking about. And I’d suspect that it won’t be too long before that becomes realistic.

And of course they are being used to assassinate. There’s a global assassination campaign going on which is pretty interesting when you look into how it’s done. I presume everyone’s read the front page of the New York Times story, which is more or less a leak from the White House, because they are apparently proud of how the global assassination campaign works. Basically President Obama and his national security advisor, John Brennan, now head of the CIA, get together in the morning. And Brennan’s apparently a former priest. They talk about St. Augustine and his theory of just war, and then they decide who is going to be killed today.

And the criteria are quite interesting. For example, if, say, in Yemen a group of men are spotted by a drone assembling near a truck, it’s possible that they might be planning to do something that would harm us, so why don’t we make sure and kill them? And there’s other things like that.

And questions did come up about what happened to due process, which is supposedly the foundation of American law-it actually goes back to Magna Carta, 800 years ago-what about that? And the justice department responded. Attorney General Holder said that they are receiving due process because it’s “discussed in the executive branch.” King John in the 13th century, who was compelled to sign Magna Carta, would have loved that answer. But that’s where we’re moving. The foundations of civil law are simply being torn to shreds. This is not the only case, but it’s the most striking one.

And the reactions are pretty interesting. It tells you a lot about the mentality of the country. So one column, I think it was Joe Klein, a bit of a liberal columnist for one of the journals, was asked about a case in which four little girls were killed by a drone strike. And his answer was something like, “Well, better that their little girls should be killed than ours.” So in other words, maybe this stopped something that would ultimately harm us.

There is a reservation in the United Nations Charter that allows the use of force without Security Council authorization, a narrow exception in Article 51. But it specifically refers to “imminent attack” that’s either underway or imminent so clearly that there is no time for reflection. It’s a doctrine that goes back to Daniel Webster, the Caroline Doctrine, which specifies these conditions. That’s been torn to shreds. Not just the drone attacks, but for a long time.

And so slowly the foundations of liberty are ripped to shreds, torn apart. Actually Scott Shane, one of the authors of the Times story, did write an article responding to the various criticisms that appeared. His ending was quite appropriate, I thought. He said something like, “Look, it’s better than Dresden.” Isn’t it? Yeah. It’s better than Dresden. So that’s the bar: we don’t want to just totally destroy everything. We’ll just kill them because maybe someday they will harm us. Maybe. Meanwhile, well of course, what are we doing to them?

I think it’s everything from that to surveillance systems that will be of unimaginable scale and character. And of course now data can be collected endlessly. In fact Obama supposedly has a data storage system being constructed in Utah somewhere where all kinds of data are being poured in. Who knows what? Probably all your emails, all your telephone conversations, someday what you’re saying to people in the streets, where you’ve been lately, you know, who do you talk to, probably a ton of stuff like that will be there. Does it mean anything? Actually, probably not as much as many people fear. I don’t think that that data is actually usable. In fact I think, I suspect it’s usable only for one purpose: if the government for one reason or another is homing in on someone. They want to know something about this guy, well, then they can find data about him. But beyond that, history and experience suggest that there’s not much that can be done about it.

Even 40 years ago, 50 years ago-I actually was involved at the time in trials of the resistance against the Vietnam War. I was an unindicted co-conspirator in one trial, coming up for trial myself, and following other trials. I got to look fairly carefully at what prosecutions were like based on FBI data about people. They were comical. I mean, there were cases where they picked the wrong people. They picked one person, they meant someone else. In one of the trials, I kept being confused with a guy named Hershel Cominsky; they could never get the Jewish names straight. Unbelievable. In fact, in the Spock trial they really angered two people: Mark Raskin, who they put on trial and he didn’t want to be on trial, and Art Waskow, who did want to be put on trial and who they didn’t put on trial. It’s possible that Waskow was the person that they were looking for, but they couldn’t distinguish him from Raskin. And they just couldn’t put cases together.

The Spock trial is a very interesting case. I followed that one closely. That’s the one where I was an unindicted co-conspirator, so I was sitting in with the defense team, talking to the lawyers and knew all the people. The prosecutor, being the FBI, put on such a rotten case in the prosecution that the defense decided just to rest. They didn’t put on a defense, because the defense would have just tied together things that they hadn’t found. It was a conspiracy trial; all they had to do was tie things together. And it was transparent because it was all happening totally publicly. That was the whole point. And the FBI apparently was simply ignoring everything that was public, not believing it, which is almost all there was. Almost all there was; not everything. And looking for some kind of secret connections to who-knows-what, North Korea or whatever was in their minds.

But here they have plenty of data, right in front of their eyes and they don’t know how to use it. And I think that there is quite a lot of that.

SG: Getting back to that New York Times article that you mentioned: It outlines the process behind the “kill list” and the Pentagon-run meetings where they determine if a name can be added. Traditionally, presidents have kept a distance from legally murky CIA operations. But the Times article says that Obama is the final authority on a name being added to the list. Can you comment on the existence of the list and how close Obama is to the process?

NC: Well, any of these lists should be subjected to severe criticism. Including the terrorist list. Now there is a list of terrorists, you know, a State Department list of terrorists. Just take a look at it one day. Nelson Mandela was on the list until four years ago. There’s a reason: Ronald Reagan was a strong supporter of apartheid, and one of the last, practically until the end. And certainly at the end of his term, he continued to support the apartheid regime. In 1988 the ANC, Mandela’s African National Congress, was declared to be one of the more notorious terrorist groups in the world.

So that’s justification for supporting the apartheid regime: It’s part of Reagan’s war on terror. He’s the one that declared the war on terror, not Bush. Part of it was, “We have to defend the white regime against the terrorists of the ANC.” Then Mandela stayed on the list. It’s only in the last couple of years that he can travel to the United States without special authorization.

That’s the terrorist list. There are other cases. So take, for example, Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein had been officially considered a terrorist. He was taken off the list by Ronald Reagan and his administration in 1982 because the United States wanted to provide aid and support to Saddam-which they incidentally did, and tried to cover up, for all sorts of things. But, ok, so he’s taken off the list. They have an empty spot. So what do they do? They put Cuba on.

First of all, Cuba had been the target of more international terrorism than probably the rest of the world combined ever since Kennedy launched his terrorist war against Cuba. But it actually peaked in the late ’70s. Shooting down an airliner and killing 70 people, blowing up embassies, all kinds of things. So here’s the country that’s the target of more terrorism than anyone else, and they are put on the terrorist list to replace Saddam Hussein, who we [later] have to eliminate because we don’t want to support him.

What that tells you is quite incredible if you think it through. Of course, it’s never discussed, which also tells you something. But that’s the kind of question we should be asking about the terrorist list: Who is on it and why? Furthermore, what justification does it have?

It’s a decision in the executive branch of the government, not subject to judicial or any other review. They say, “You’re on the terrorist list!” Ok. You’re targeted for anything.

And other lists are like that too. McCarthy’s famous lists are minor examples. These are serious examples, these are official government lists. So to start with, we should put aside the idea that there is any sanctity, even authority, to the list. There isn’t. These are just state decisions at the whim of the executive for whatever reasons they may have. Not the kind of thing you ever have any respect for. Certainly not in this case.

SG: Sometime in the distant future, could there be blame placed directly on Obama legally just because of his close association with the kill list?

NC: I’m sure he knows it. I suspect that’s one of the reasons he’s been very scrupulous about exculpating all previous administrations. So no prosecution of Dick Cheney or George Bush or Rumsfeld for torture, let alone for aggression. We can’t even talk about that. Apparently the US is just exempt from any charges of aggression.

Actually, it’s not too well known, but as far back as the ’40s the US exempted itself. So the United States helped establish the modern World Court in 1946, but it added a reservation: That the United States cannot be charged with violation of international treaties. What they had in mind, of course, was the UN Charter, the foundation of modern international law. And the OAS Charter, charter of the Organization of American States. The OAS Charter has a very strong statement that they demand of any Latin American countries against any form of intervention. Clearly, the US wasn’t going to be limited by that. And the UN Charter, along with the Nuremberg principle, which entered into it, had a very harsh condemnation of aggression, which is pretty well defined. And they understood that, of course. They could read the words of the US Special Prosecutor at Nuremberg, Justice Robert Jackson, who spoke pretty eloquently to the tribunal and said when they handed the death penalty to the people, primarily for committing what they considered the “supreme international crime”-namely aggression, but lots of others-that they were “handing these people a poisoned chalice, and if we sip from it, we must be subject to the same judgment or else the whole proceedings are a farce.” Not well said, but it should be obvious. But there’s a reservation that excludes the US.

Actually, the US is excluded from other treaties too. Essentially all. If you take a look at the few international conventions that are signed and ratified, they almost always have an exception saying “not applicable to the United States.” It’s called non-self executing. Meaning, this needs specific legislation to exact it. This is true, for example, for the Genocide Convention. And it came up in the courts. After the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, Yugoslavia did bring a charge against NATO to the court, and the court accepted the charge. The rules of the court are that a state is only subject to charges if it accepts court jurisdiction. And the NATO countries all accepted court jurisdiction, with one exception. The US addressed the court and pointed out that the US is not subject to the Genocide Convention. One of the charges was genocide. So the US is not subject to the Genocide Convention because of our usual exemption.

So the immunity from prosecution is not just practiced, and of course the culture-it couldn’t be even imagined in the culture, which is an interesting comment about the culture. But also even just legally.

In fact, the same question might be asked about torture. The Bush administration has been accused, widely and prominently, of implementing torture. But if it ever came to trial I think a defense lawyer might have a stand to take: The US never really signed the UN Torture Convention. It did sign and ratify it, but only after it was rewritten by the Senate. And it was rewritten specifically to exclude the forms of torture used by the CIA, which they had borrowed from the Russian KGB.

It’s well studied by Alfred McCoy, one of the leading scholars that has dealt with torture. He points out that the KGB/CIA tortures, they apparently discovered that the best way to turn a person into a vegetable is what’s called “mental torture.” Not electrodes to the genitals, but the kinds of things that you see in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, which are called mental tortures. They don’t leave marks on the body, essentially. That’s the best way and we do them. In fact, we do it in supermax prisons all the time. And so the treaty was rewritten to exclude the kind of things that the CIA does and that we do and in fact are done routinely at home, although that didn’t come up. And it was then signed into domestic legislation, I think under Clinton.

So is the Bush Administration even guilty of torture under international law? It’s not entirely obvious. In fact it’s not entirely obvious who would be. To get back to your original question, I think Obama has serious reasons for making sure that, as he puts it, “it’s time to look forward, not backward.” That’s the standard position of a criminal.

SG: In some of the documents that were leaked and obtained in the last month, one of the things published in the Times and in McClatchy talked about how the CIA had reduced its use of black sites in part because of fear of prosecution, that their officials might be charged as war criminals. So considering what you’ve just described, why would the CIA be afraid enough to adjust its policies?

NC: Well, what they’re afraid of, I would suspect, is the kind of things that Henry Kissinger is apparently afraid of when he travels abroad. There is a concept of “universal jurisdiction” which is pretty widely held. It means if a war criminal, a person who has carried out really serious war crimes, major crimes-doesn’t have to be war crimes-arrives in your territory, that country has a right to bring him to judicial process. And it’s called “universal jurisdiction.” It’s kind of a shady area of international affairs, but it has been applied. The Pinochet case in London was a famous case. The British court decided that yes, they had a right to send him back to Chile for trial.

And there are other cases. By now, for example, there are recent cases where Israeli high officials have been wary of coming to London, and in some cases their trips have been called off because they could be subject to universal jurisdiction. And it’s been reported, at least, that the same is true of some of Kissinger’s concerns. And I think that’s probably what he’s referring to. You can’t be sure that . . . you know, power’s getting more diversified in the world. The US is still overwhelmingly powerful, but nothing like it once was. There are many examples of that. And you can’t be sure what others will do.

And a striking example of the restrictions of US power in this regard came out in a study that was reported, but I don’t think that the really important part of it was reported-that’s a study on globalizing torture put out by the Open Society Forum a couple of weeks ago. You’ll find it in the press. It was a study of rendition. Rendition, incidentally, is a major crime that, again, goes back to Magna Carta, explicitly. Sending people across the seas for torture. But that’s open policy now. And this was a study of which countries participated in it. And it turned out that it was over 50 countries, most of Europe, Middle East, which is where they were sent for torture. That’s where the dictators were, Asia and Africa. One continent was totally missing. Not a single country was willing to participate in this major crime: Latin America. And one person did point this out, Greg Grandin, a Latin Americanist at NYU, but he’s the only person I saw who pointed it out.

That’s extremely important. Latin America used to be the “backyard.” They did what we said or else we overthrew the governments. Well, furthermore, during these years it was one of the global centers of torture. But now US power has declined sufficiently so that the traditional, most reliable servants are simply saying no. It’s striking. And it’s not the only example. So, going back to universal jurisdiction, you can’t really be sure what others will do.

You know, I have to say, I never expected much of Obama, to tell you the truth, but the one thing that surprised me is relentless assaults on civil liberties. I just don’t understand them.

 

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First Step to Reduce Plant Need for Nitrogen Fertilizer Uncovered

September 29, 2013

Sep. 27, 2013 — Nitrogen fertilizer costs U.S. farmers approximately $8 billion each year, and excess fertilizer can find its way into rivers and streams, damaging the delicate water systems. Now, a discovery by a team of University of Missouri researchers could be the first step toward helping crops use less nitrogen, benefitting both farmers’ bottom lines and the environment. The journal Science published the research this month.

Gary Stacey, an investigator in the MU Bond Life Sciences Center and professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, found that crops, such as corn, are “confused” when confronted with an invasive, but beneficial, bacteria known as rhizobia bacteria. When the bacteria interact correctly with a crop, the bacteria receive some food from the plant and, simultaneously, produce nitrogen that most plants need. In his study, Stacey found that many other crops recognize the bacteria, but do not attempt to interact closely with them.

“The problem is that corn, tomatoes and other crops have a different response and don’t support an intimate interaction with the rhizobia, thus making farmers apply larger amounts of nitrogen than might otherwise be necessary,” Stacey said. “Scientists have known about this beneficial relationship since 1888, but it only exists in legume crops, like soybeans and alfalfa. We’re working to transfer this trait to other plants like corn, wheat or rice, which we believe is possible since these other plants recognize the bacteria. It’s a good first step.”

When legumes like soybeans sense a signal from the bacteria, they create nodules where the bacteria gather and produce atmospheric nitrogen that the plants can then use to stimulate their growth. This reaction doesn’t happen in other plants.

“There’s this back and forth battle between a plant and a pathogen,” said Yan Liang, a co-author of the study and post-doctoral fellow at MU. “Rhizobia eventually developed a chemical to inhibit the defense response in legumes and make those plants recognize it as a friend. Meanwhile, corn, tomatoes and other crops are still trying to defend themselves against this bacteria.”

In the study, Stacey and Liang treated corn, soybeans, tomatoes and other plants to see how they responded when exposed to the chemical signal from the rhizobia bacteria. They found that the plants did receive the signal and, like legumes, inhibited the normal plant immune system. However, soybeans, corn and these other plants don’t complete the extra step of forming nodules to allow the bacteria to thrive.

“The important finding was that these other plants didn’t just ignore the rhizobia bacteria,” Stacey said. “They recognized it, but just activated a different mechanism. Our next step is to determine how we can make the plants understand that this is a beneficial relationship and get them to activate a different mechanism that will produce the nodules that attract the bacteria instead of trying to fight them.”

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.  

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Water decontamination system at Fukushima halted due to glitch

September 29, 2013

NATIONAL SEP. 29, 2013 – 06:55AM JST ( 8 )

TOKYO —

A system to decontaminate radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has been halted due to a defect only hours after it started operations, the plant’s operator said Saturday.

The Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) is designed to remove radioactive materials contained in contaminated water and is expected to play a crucial role in the utility’s fight against the toxic water accumulating at the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said.

The equipment was started in the early hours of Friday but was stopped at 10:37 p.m. the same day when it was found not to be properly flushing fluid used to remove radioactive particles, TEPCO said in a press release.

“We are in the process of investigating the cause of the incident,” the statement said.

There are three ALPS systems at the plant, which was left in a meltdown crisis by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The utility initially started trial operations of two of the three systems in March but halted them in June after corrosion in one was found to be causing water leakage. A third system was activated on Friday before the stoppage.

TEPCO has poured thousands of tons of water onto the plant’s reactors and continues to douse them to keep them cool.

The utility says they are now stable but need more water every day to prevent them running out of control again.

Highly polluted water from the plant is contaminating hundreds of tonnes of groundwater daily and is also leaking from temporary storage tanks, making its way into the sea.

TEPCO has so far revealed no clear plan for disposal of the stored polluted water.

(C) 2013 AFP

Crisis at Fukushima Continues to Spiral With Hole in Radiation Barrier

September 28, 2013

Published on Thursday, September 26, 2013 by Common Dreams

Fence made of silt that sits in harbor has been breached, TEPCO admits, sparking further concern of ocean contamination

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

IAEA experts examine recovery work on top of Unit 4 of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 17 April 2013. (Photo: Greg Webb / IAEA)In the latest in a series of mishaps to hit the crisis-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, a radiation-stopping “fence” around the reactors has developed a hole, plant operator TEPCO admitted on Thursday.

Fences made of earth and sand sit in the harbor next to the plant and were erected to help contain radioactive material from flowing into the ocean.  They “are suspended from floats and anchored with weights on the seafloor,” the Japan Times explains.

One of the fences that sits next to still-intact reactors five and six was found to be breached, sparking further worry about the amount of radioactive contamination heading into the ocean.

TEPCO has struggled to contain the “emergency without end” at Fukushima since the disaster began to unfold in March of 2011. An unsustainable contaminated water-storage system plagued by a series of leakssoaring radiation levels in groundwater that head into the ocean, and high levels of radiation found in fish have catalyzed widespread resistance to nuclear power and raised international alarm.

As out of control as the situation seems, one expert has warned that it may actually be “much worse” than claimed.  Also, long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman warned last week that a plan to “remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air” risked putting the “hand of global nuclear disaster… painfully close to midnight.”

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We’re Eating What? 9 Contaminants in US Meat

September 28, 2013
September 28, 2013

 

By Martha Rosenberg

Meat contaminants are not likely to go away because they stem from Big Meat’s desire to maximize profits by growing animals faster, squeezing them into small living spaces and keeping meat looking “fresh” on store shelves longer

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Recently the US Department of Agriculture announced plans to “relax” federal meat and poultry inspections, allowing meat processors greater leeway in policing themselves, already the agricultural trend. But most food activists ask how standards could be relaxed any further when drug residues, heavy metals, cleaning supplies, gasses, nitrites, hormones and other unwanted guests contaminate the meat supply. They are almost all unlabeled.


Yum by Martha Rosenberg

Is seafood safer? Dream on. Mercury-filled tuna is what inspired Fischer Stevens to make the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove,” about the Japanese dolphin-fishing industry when he personally came down with mercury poisoning. The Chicago Tribune , New York Times and Consumer Reports have reported high mercury levels in almost all red lean and fatty tuna tested, in recent years. Aquaculture is so festooned with antibiotics, veterinary drugs and pesticides, it can make factory farming look, well, green. Commercial shrimp production, for example, “begins with urea, superphosphate, and diesel, then progresses to the use of piscicides (fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone), pesticides and antibiotics (including some that are banned in the US), and ends by treating the shrimp with sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxicant), Borax, and occasionally caustic soda,” says a review of Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood on AlterNet.

Meat contaminants are not likely to go away because they stem from Big Meat’s desire to maximize profits by growing animals faster, squeezing them into small living spaces and keeping meat looking “fresh” on store shelves longer. Here is a list of worst offenders:

Antibiotics

Most people know that antibiotics are part of the diet of US livestock to make them grow faster (feed is metabolized more efficiently) and prevent disease outbreaks in cramped conditions. But they’d   be surprised at how many animals destined for the dinner table have drug residues that exceed legal limits. Each week the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) finds dangerous antibiotic levels in animals which include penicillin, neomycin and “sulfa” and “cipro” drugs, many from “repeat violators.” Excessive levels are also found of risky antibiotics like tilmicosin, whose label tells the farmer, “Not for human use. Injection of this drug in humans has been associated with fatalities,”   (nice!) and gentamicin, which the FDA, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Association of Bovine Practitioners warn against using at all, except under rare circumstances.   Unlike bacteria which antibiotics are supposed to kill, “No amount of cooking will destroy [drug] residues” says a USDA Office of the Inspector General report.

Bacteria

You’d think with the antibiotic party going on, meat would be free of bacteria. You’d be wrong. Bacteria are rife in conventionally grown US meat including antibiotic-resistant bacteria also known as superbugs. Almost half of beef, chicken, pork and turkey in   samples tested from US grocery stores contained staph bacteria reported the Los Angeles Times in 2011–including the resistant MRSA staph bacterium (methicillin-resistant S. aureus). Pork tested by Consumer Reports in 2013 also contained MRSA and four other kinds of resistant bacteria. Two serious strains of antibiotic resistant salmonella, called Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Hadar, forced recent recalls   of turkey products from Jennie-O Turkey and Cargill and chicken products from Schreiber Processing Corporation. The resistant salmonella strains were so deadly, officials warned that disposed meat should be in sealed garbage cans to protect wild animals. Yes, even wildlife is threatened by the factory farm-created scourges. MRSA is no longer limited to health care settings, either.   Researchers have found it on Florida public beaches and on the top of unopened soft drink can in a car that was following a poultry truck.

Cleaning Products, yes Cleaning Products

As antibiotics are no longer doing the job, meat producers are getting spooky creative. They are trying radiation, gasses, nitrites and even sprays made of viruses called   bacteriophages to quell the germfest. Still, nothing has caused such reflexive revulsion as the news last year that meat scraps once earmarked for pet food were being resurrected as “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB) also called Pink Slime. While the product looked like human intestines, what really turned the national stomach was that it was treated with puffs of   ammonia to kill the bacterium E. coli. The public was also outraged that the pink slime was supplying the National School Lunch Program. Its main producer, Beef Products, Inc., announced it was closing its production facilities, soon after the hoopla began. But there is another cleaning product used in meat production that is starting to make news: chlorine. According to the website MeatPoultry.com, “99 percent of American poultry processors” cool their “birds by immersion in chlorinated water-chiller baths.” Who knew? The European Union and Russia are currently duking it out with US trade officials over the chlorine-dipped poultry that few Americans realize they are eating.

Hormones

There is another product Americans eat every day that the European Union doesn’t want: beef. The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures says the US’s hormone-heavy beef production poses “increased risks of breast cancer and prostate cancer,” citing cancer rates in countries that do and don’t eat US beef. Like the “fine print” in lean finely textured beef, Americans are blissfully unaware of the synthetic hormones zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate that are part of the recipe for production of US beef. Melengestrol acetate, which is not withdrawn in the days before slaughter, is 30 times more active than natural progesterone says the European Commission. The powerful estrogenic chemical, Zeranol, is associated with early puberty and breast cancers charges the Breast Cancer Fund, a group dedicated to identifying and eliminating the “environmental causes” of cancer. “Consumption of beef derived from Zeranol-implanted cattle may be a risk factor for breast cancer,” agrees a recent article in the journal Anticancer Research . And trenbolone acetate, a synthetic androgen?   It is on scientists’ radar because it masculinizes fish. Too bad USDA is not as cautious as the European Commission.

Mad Cow Disease

Many people have forgotten about Mad Cow Disease but the risks are far from gone, especially because the government has obfuscated. In its final report about the first US mad cow, found in December 2003, the government said “all potentially-infectious product” from the deadly cow “was disposed of in a landfill in accordance with Federal, State and local regulations.” But the San Francisco Chroniclereported that 11 restaurants received the meat. Big difference. The sources of the Mad Cow Disease seen in a second and third cow were never found but the government protected the identities of the Texas and Alabama ranches and let them sell beef again within a month. Mad Cow and related diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease in deer are transmitted by prions which are “rogue proteins” that are not destroyed by cooking, heat, autoclaves, ammonia, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, phenol, lye, formaldehyde, or radiation, and they remain in the soil, contaminating it for years. Because Mad Cow Disease could destroy the US beef industry, officials are quick to dismiss possible human cases. When suspicious cases arise, officials call them “spontaneous” illnesses, not from eating bad meat–even before tests are in.

Asthma-Like Drugs

There is another way factory farmers make animals grow faster besides antibiotics and hormones. The asthma-like drug ractopamine is used in 45 percent of US pigs according to Bacon Bits, the Canadian Pork Industry newsletter, in 30 percent of ration-fed cattle and a growing number of turkeys. Unlike most livestock drugs, ractopamine is not withdrawn before slaughter though its warning label says, “Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Not for use in humans. Keep out of the reach of children,” and recommends protective clothing, gloves, eye wear and masks. Cardiac stimulating drugs like ractopamine cause stress and hyperactivity in animals and they are “not appropriate because of the potential hazard for human and animal health,” wrote researchers in the journal Talanta“Adding these drugs to waterways or well water supplies via contaminated animal feed and manure runoff,” is also a concern, said David Wallinga, M.D. of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in an interview, “because this class of drugs is so important in treating children with asthma.” Could ractopamine, added to the food supply in 1997 with little public awareness, be contributing to skyrocketing rates of obesity and hyperactivity in children?

Heavy Metals

The charge that heavy metals lurk in US meat doesn’t come from food activists and consumer advocates–it comes from the USDA Office of the Inspector General. Its 2010 report found high residues of copper, arsenic and other heavy metals and veterinary drugs in beef released for public consumption including.   Animals with violative levels of metals, anti-parasite vaccines and medicines were knowingly released into the human food supply by inspectors says the report. Pesticides are also a disturbing, gray area with only one of 23 high risk pesticides tested for, the Inspector General’s office said.   The presence of arsenic in poultry made food news in 2011 when a government study found inorganic arsenic, “at higher levels in the livers of chickens treated” with arsenic-laced feed than in untreated chickens. This prompted Pfizer to stop marketing   its arsenic feed, 3-Nitro, since arsenic is a carcinogen in its inorganic form. Worries are not over though. The FDA still allows arsenic in poultry feed for weight gain and feed efficiency, to control parasites and to improve “pigmentation.” Other arsenic-laced feeds besides 3-Nitro remain on the market.

Carbon Monoxide

Why is the meat so red? A few years ago, consumer groups tried to stop the practice   of “modified atmosphere packaging” (MAP)–exposing meat to carbon monoxide to keep it looking fresh. They weren’t successful. Today as much as 70 percent of meat packages in stores are treated with carbon monoxide to keep the meat’s red color (oxymyoglobin) from turning to a brown or gray color (metmyoglobin) through exposure to oxygen. While the meat industry compares meat losing its red color to the harmless discoloration of apples and says MAP keeps products affordable, both the European Commission‘s Scientific Committee on Food and USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service have expressed concerns that the artificially hued food can appear fresher than it really is. Thanks to MAP meat can stay red an entire year!   Consumers do not need to worry about being deceived said Ann Boeckman, a lawyer with a firm representing major meat companies. “When a product reaches the point of spoilage, there will be other signs that will be evidenced–for example odor, slime formation and a bulging package–so the product will not smell or look right.” That’s a relief.

Nitrites and Nitrates

Did you ever wonder why processed meats stay on store shelves for so long, retaining their color, flavor and not spoiling? You have the preservatives nitrite and nitrate to thank. Nitrite and nitrate may make money for food processors but they are so linked to cancer (when they become “nitrosamines” in the human body) the American Cancer Society tells people not to eat them. After a 2008 report from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund that showed eating just one hot dog a day increased the risk of developing colorectal cancer by as much as 21 percent, there were calls to ban processed meat products, especially in schools. Nitrite and nitrate are found in hot dogs, luncheon meats, bacon, Slim Jims and most processed and cured meats. Colorectal cancer is not the only cancer associated with nitrosamines, which have been carcinogenic suspects since the 1970s. They have also been linked, in scientific articles, to lung cancerkidney cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus. If processed meats sound a lot like cigarettes, you are right. Cigarettes also contain nitrosamines.

An earlier version of this report appeared on AlterNet.org

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter whose food and drug expose, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency , distributed by Random House, was named in the American Society of Journalists and Authors 2013 Outstanding Book Awards. A former medical copywriter and medical school lecturer, Rosenberg has appeared on CSPAN, National Public Radio, the Ed Schultz show, the Thom Hartmann show, Huffpost LiveU and RTV.

Submitters Bio:

Martha Rosenberg is a health reporter and commentator whose work has appeared in Consumers Digest, the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Los Angeles Times, Providence Journal and Newsday. She serves as editorial cartoonist at the Evanston Roundtable. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, will be published by Prometheus Books in 2012.

Fukushima Crisis Demands Global Take-Over

September 28, 2013
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“We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
—Harvey Wasserman, author and activist

Email the U.N. Secretary General and the U.S. President now!

Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), does not have the resources to handle 1,300 spent fuel rods now sitting in a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air, with the potential to spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima. 

The situation demands a coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster. 

Chernobyl’s first 1986 fallout reached California within ten days. Fukushima’s in 2011 arrived in less than a week. A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries. 

Former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says of full-scale releases from Fukushima, “This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

This crisis comes just as the Obama Administration is trying to provide a $8.3 billion loan to build the first new nuclear plants in the U.S. in almost 30 years. Tell President Obama to loan that $8.3 billion to a Fukushima emergency clean-up instead.

Tell the United Nations to lead that effort immediately.

Click to Email President Obama and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Please forward this email to everyone!

— The RootsAction.org team

P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Coleen Rowley, Frances Fox Piven, and many others.

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Background:
Harvey Wasserman: Crisis at Fukushima 4 Demands a Global Take-Over
AFP: Fukushima Dumps 1,000 Tons of Polluted Water into Sea

www.RootsAction.org

Human Influence On Climate Clear, IPCC Report Says

September 28, 2013

Sep. 27, 2013 — Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident in most regions of the globe, a new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes.

It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models.

Warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850, reports the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group I assessment report, Climate Change 2013: the Physical Science Basis, approved on Friday by member governments of the IPCC in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Observations of changes in the climate system are based on multiple lines of independent evidence. Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased,” said Qin Dahe, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.

Thomas Stocker, the other Co-Chair of Working Group I said: “Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is projected to be likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 in all but the lowest scenario considered, and likely to exceed 2°C for the two high scenarios,” said Co-Chair Thomas Stocker. “Heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer. As Earth warms, we expect to see currently wet regions receiving more rainfall, and dry regions receiving less, although there will be exceptions,” he added.

Projections of climate change are based on a new set of four scenarios of future greenhouse gas concentrations and aerosols, spanning a wide range of possible futures. The Working Group I report assessed global and regional-scale climate change for the early, mid-, and later 21st century.

“As the ocean warms, and glaciers and ice sheets reduce, global mean sea level will continue to rise, but at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 40 years,” said Co-Chair Qin Dahe. The report finds with high confidence that ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010.

Co-Chair Thomas Stocker concluded: “As a result of our past, present and expected future emissions of CO2, we are committed to climate change, and effects will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 stop.”

Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, said: “This Working Group I Summary for Policymakers provides important insights into the scientific basis of climate change. It provides a firm foundation for considerations of the impacts of climate change on human and natural systems and ways to meet the challenge of climate change.” These are among the aspects assessed in the contributions of Working Group II and Working Group III to be released in March and April 2014. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report cycle concludes with the publication of its Synthesis Report in October 2014.

“I would like to thank the Co-Chairs of Working Group I and the hundreds of scientists and experts who served as authors and review editors for producing a comprehensive and scientifically robust summary. I also express my thanks to the more than one thousand expert reviewers worldwide for contributing their expertise in preparation of this assessment,” said IPCC Chair Pachauri.

The Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (WGI AR5) is available atwww.climatechange2013.org or www.ipcc.ch.

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September 28, 2013
September 26, 2013

Have You Had Enough of the Madness of Capitalism? Is It Time To Consider What Marx Really Said?

By Dr. Lenore Daniels

This essay reviews the key argument in Peter Hudis’s MARX’S CONCEPT OF THE ALTERNATIVE TO CAPITALISM.

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“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“In capitalist history, invasion and class struggle are not opposites, as the official legend would have us believe, but one is the means and the expression of the other.”

Rosa Luxemburg, The Junius Pamphlet

In a talk earlier this year, professor and Rosa Luxemburg scholar Peter Hudis asked the audience to recall a pronouncement uttered by that “great philosopher” Margaret Thatcher: “There is no alternative!” she had asserted. To what? To Capitalism! The T.I.N.A! Still your protest: Capitalism is it!

End of discussion! Fin!

I do not recall Thatcher’s pronouncement, but, here in the U.S., many of us witnessed the “muting” of dissent and the march of capitalism.

We had Reagan, Thatcher’s biggest partner in the globalization of capitalism; we had first-time enlistees to the American Dream and to the pursuit of wealth, by any means necessary; and, submerged within this grandiose narrative of democracy and freedom, the idea that there is No Alternative to Capitalism functioned in a way similar to Hemingway’s “iceberg theory.” Anything could be omitted and the “omitted part would strengthen the story.” Most Americans heard a calm lapping of water and not the gurgling of what was dying.

Those dying were still the scarred bodies of Vietnamese children, but they became increasingly invisible when the war ended. So Americans nodded occasionally at the efficiency of SWAT teams and the successful capture of indistinguishable Black faces identified by police and media banner-tags as THE CRIMINAL. Americans learned to identify the “welfare queens,” the delinquent youth, the gangs, the lazy and unemployed, the criminal in those no longer “victims” of economic and political oppression.

The Civil Rights era was history. Done! In the Black community, hard-won gains, most agreed, could be lost if the “low life” and the “militant” were not thrown overboard to be scooped up by the State for “incarceration.”

We lost a generation of young Black men to the battle against communism in the Vietnam War. On the home front, counter-intelligence programs neutralized and incarcerated men and women. We witnessed the disappearance of job opportunities and income for the majority of Black Americans. The under-education of generations of Black children, the commodification of “thug life,” and PR programs promoting “getting ahead” and “go with the flow” (no matter if the flow en-coffined desperate Black youths) left survivors clinging to the American Dream. They grasped at it, one over-priced electronic gadget, one high-interest credit card, one fancy limo, and yes, one pair of Nike sneakers, at a time–even if another “n_____r’s” or “dog’s” feet were in them. Only recently, Oprah charged racism when a Zurich boutique clerk failed to recognize Her!–the name brand, Oprah! the billionaire, Oprah!–and mistook her instead for a Black woman, in the wrong store, eying a 38,000 (in Francs) handbag.

Thoughts about our past, present, and future have shifted from a collective reflection on the on-going struggle for liberation to a reflection of ourselves as individuals “making it” within a delusional and violent model of existence in which we no longer value life–unless we can recognize it within, to use philosopher Max Haiven’s words, “capital’s paradigms of value.” (“Are Your Children Old Enough to Learn about May ’68?”) If, as Haiven correctly writes, ” “the rigidifications, reifications, and abstractions of social narratives” are intended to “ensure that the fabric of socially reproduced social division, hierarchy, and oppression” remains, and remains unchallengeable and “natural”–since such violence is the “necessary” component for capitalist “accumulation”–then we have done well as supporters and facilitators. But in a capitalist society, everything has a price tag!

As supporters and facilitators, our “successes” have come at the expense of our pastcommemorated only on holidays and otherwise forgotten. Haiven’s observations about the “event” in May 1968 in France reminds me that the State’s absorption of the Civil Rights struggle in America, as just one example, had little to do with equality and freedom for all. Instead, the Struggle was deliberately held underwater, as it were, and drowned, even as the State’s narrative hailed it as a symbolic leap to freedom for the citizens in the U.S. “[A]ll past events,” Haiven writes, past acts of resistance against State oppression, were collected by the State and cataloged in the file labeled “done.” Thus, any further “doing” would only look outdated. According to the State’s narrative, we have gone beyond these events, moving forward as one democratic nation. In reality, writes Haiven, these “events” were “merely stages in the development of present-day free-market globalization.”

So we are here, having spent the latter half of the 20th Century living lives of “endless nows” (Haiven) without life rafts, because too many of us believed that the things that have made things of us, will ultimately free us.

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” Those are the words of a former military general and former president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. put it this way: “An individual has not started living until he [or she] can rise above the narrow confines of his [or her] individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Damage has been done. We see now the fullness of the iceberg, in the “decks” above and those below, and we can see the overflow of water from below, spreading to encompass whatever racial, political, social class you hail from. The water reeks of the smell of death.

Capitalism is no more the “natural” order for sustaining life than are our damaged relations with other human beings. What is “natural” in the “social reproduction of social division, hierarchy, and oppression” and the accumulation of material resources, land, and wealth for the “1%”? What is “natural” in acquiescing to an economic system that demands that human beings practice self-censorship and remain silent when others are labeled “terrorists” and “criminals”? Historically, segregation was “natural.” It was “natural” for whites to insist that Blacks remain “marginal” and accept their “place” in society. Segregation was the law. The majority of the North American public refused to consider an alternative. Any alternative to segregation was seen as a nightmare that could only be stayed by theromantic notion of a free and democratic nation.

Does True Marxism Offer an Alternative?

We can begin considering an alternative to capitalism by giving ourselves permission to engage in that omitted but historically on-going conversation on Marxism.

Many Americans will continue to dismiss any discussion of Marxism outright,  conjuring up flash images of governments that have distorted Marxist thought or the ideas of socialism and communism in practice. To these skeptics, let me mention remarks delivered on the subject by the economist Richard D. Wolff on September 14, 2013. (See http://rdwolff.com .) Wolff offers an excellent analogy by which to judge how objectively we may be appraising the society in which we live:

Wolff asks us to imagine that, in a family next door, one child thinks his family is just great but a second child thinks differently. If you wanted to understand this family, would you speak only to the first child, Wolff asks, the one who has a rosy view of the family, and dismiss the other child as neurotic? In order to draw your own conclusions, it would seem best to speak with both children. Yes?

Given that we know the problems many Americans face with our current capitalist economic system, is it more reasonable to continue simply to roll with its downturns, crises, and reforms, then endure more downturns, crises, and reforms–or to consider at least reading about and discussing an historical alternative to this madness?

“Capitalism,” Wolff explains, produces people who, like the second child in that hypothetical family, “think about capitalism in different ways.”

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/64873675@N00/9728459362/: Forward on Climate Rally Capitalism is killing the Planet
Forward on Climate RallyCapitalism is killing the Planet by SchuminWeb

Karl Marx Thought Differently about Capitalism

What did the thinker Marx offer as an alternative to capitalism? Did he offer in his critique of capitalism a vision of a post-capitalist society? Peter Hudis, Professor of Humanities and Philosophy, pursues this line of questioning in Marx’s Concept of The Alternative to Capitalism (Haymarket Press, 2013).

Hudis’s interpretation of Marx is different from any I have encountered for some time. In his book, he performs the necessary work of analyzing the whole of Marx’s oeuvre, uncovering for us a vision of society that is democratic and free. As Hudis makes clear, you will be hard-pressed to find in his book the Karl Marx you expect to find, based on other studies of his work. Other studies, however, have offered only partial analyses of Marx’s oeuvre, which have made it difficult “to discern whether he has a distinctive concept of a new society that addresses the realities of the twenty-first century.” As Hudis shows in his own book, there is in fact a “coherent and vital concept of a new society” to be found in Marx, from his early works of the 1840s to his final writings.

From its inception, as Hudis makes clear, “the idea of socialism and communism” was not introduced to workers “from the outside” by “radical intellectuals like Marx.” As a young man in the 1840s, Marx himself studied the “economic literature” available to him, including the works of “Smith, Ricardo, Say,” and others. But he was also an activist, engaging directly with groups whose members were “exclusively working-class, though most were artisans and not industrial workers.”

What is essential for us to understand, Hudis argues, is what is central to Marx’s definition of capitalism: “the production of value and surplus value.” This focus on value-production suggests that Marx, the activist-thinker, envisioned an economic system beyond capitalism. The question he posed was, How do we go beyond value-production? This question had never before been thought through and, according to Hudis, is crucial to Marx’s thought, as are his projected contours of a post-capitalist future. “Marx’s dialectical method cannot be fully grasped or appreciated,” Hudis writes, apart from the specific vision of the future that grounded his critique of capital and capitalism.”

As Hudis shows, Marx asked himself, What becomes of the human being in this production of value? His answer is that, in a modern capitalist society, you get “social relations in capitalism, wherein humanrelations take on the form of relations between things.” In what is the “peculiar feature of capitalism,” Marx discovered, “All social relations become governed by the drive to augment value, irrespective of humanity’s actual needs and capacities.” Furthermore, as Hudis writes, Marx recognizes that value production is not “a transhistorical feature of human existence but rather…a specific characteristic ofcapitalist society.”

What could possibly begin to alter this unnatural and deadly foundation of human relations? Actually, the answer has deep roots in Western thought!

To appreciate Marx’s vision of a post-capitalist society, Hudis writes that we must first understand his critique of “theoretical” analysis, particularly the philosophy of Hegel. It is in Marx’s critique of Hegelian philosophy that we are able to grasp the “philosophical underpinnings of [Marx’s own] critique of political economy as well as the economic ramifications.” In Hegel’s work, Hudis argues, Marx confronts an inversion of the order of things as they should naturally exist. Hegel renders the state “the active agent,” which, in turn, makes of “civil society” the “passive object.” In Hegel’s narrative, as Marx sees it, human beings are no longer “the real” subjects of their lives. Rather, the civil society in which they are embodied has become an “abstract object” separated (or “alienated”) from “its communal essence.”

As Hudis points out, Marx could not resist noting that inversion (“Verkehrtheit” in German) is “closely identified” with the German word for madness, “Verrucktheit.”

How do you reform madness? How do you negotiate with it? Do you amend it here or there by a designed reordering of the “real” subject, only to see it reduced in the end to an abstraction? To even engage or continue to engage in the tweaking of such an enterprise, as Marx revealed, is ultimately futile for all of us.

The alternative to madness is to understand what Marx understood in his day. As Hudis explains it: We must put an end to capitalism itself, and it must be done by ending “the estrangement in the very activity of labouring.”

Hudis writes that, with this initial understanding of where Marx has arrived, “we have reached the conceptual pivot of what Marx sees as the alternative to capitalism.

It is in the activity of laboring that we are all branded and chained, and enslaved, physically and mentally, to the unnatural monstrosity that is capitalism. It is precisely in this estrangement from human community that we are not free, no matter what the slogans and grandiose narratives proclaim. No wonder we are drowning in this madness!

But we can save ourselves in the very activity of laboring!

In contrast to the actual practices of capitalist societies and of totalitarian governments claiming to represent Marx’s idea of freedom, both of which justify the repression of citizens in grandiose narratives, Marx’s critique of capitalism, Hudis writes, as well as his “delineation of its alternative,” are “rooted in a particular conception of freedom.” For Marx, Hudis explains, “[f]ree development…is not possible if human activity and its products take on the form of an autonomous power and prescribe the parameters in which individuals can express their natural and acquired talents and abilities.”

It’s Time Now To Demand True Freedom!

Marx’s Concept of The Alternative to Capitalism is a significant work for individuals and grassroots organizations, those who recognize in this historical moment an opportunity to seize Change and not merely T-shirts and banners with the word “Change.” It is an important work for those who have had enough of the way things are; who are seriously interested in, or currently engaged in, various campaigns, from Stop and Frisk and Single-Payer, to corporate land grabs, education and prison activism; and who want to re-direct (or in some cases, resurrect) their labor and creative energies to achieving an end to the savagery of capitalism. That must be the goal for all of us who are unwilling to remain vulnerable to the silencing blows of the police matraque (baton) and the latest high-tech weapons of mass destruction.

Our time is now! It is now, because Marx’s writings are generating interest and discussions around the globe. It is now, because people throughout the world are waking up to Hope–and not the Hope offered in political slogans. Around the world, people find their backs against the wall. (In this, we are a collective!) As Hudis notes, “[T]he phenomenon of capitalist globalization…the emergence of a global-justice movement…[and] the worldwide financial and economic crisis that began in 2008” have drawn new interest in Marx’s work.

Today’s global crisis of economic inequality has not only revealed the deep fault-lines that prevent capitalism from supplying the most basic human needs for hundreds of millions of people worldwide; it has also made it clear that the system has little to offer humanity except years and indeed decades of economic austerity, reduction in public services, and eroding living conditions.

What can a system such as capitalism offer us, when, as Marx’s Concept of The Alternative to Capitalism asks, it has “clearly exhausted its historical initiative and raison d’etre” and its future for humanity can only offer “social and natural conditions” that are “bound to become worse than those afflicting us today”?

Freedom is the only option!

When you pick up Marx’s Concept of The Alternative to Capitalism and start reading, you’ll know you have to get to work. But then, isn’t that the reason you are here, and why you are human?

Submitters Bio:

Columnist and Editorial Board Member, Black Commentator Magazine

_______________________________

Comment: It’s not capitalism or communism, but the awakened way from delusionary karma-machines.

September 27, 2013

 

Fukushima clean-up may be doomed

Critics say Japan’s government is engaged in a vast, duplicitious and fruitless campaign

Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 01:00

First published:Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 01:00

   
Across much of Fukushima’s rolling green countryside they descend on homes like antibodies around a virus, men wielding low-tech tools against a very modern enemy: radiation. Power hoses, shovels and mechanical diggers are used to scour toxins that rained down from the sky 30 months ago. The job is exhausting, expensive and, say some, doomed to failure.

Today, a sweating four-man crew wearing surgical masks and boiler suits clean the home of Hiroshi Saito (71) and his wife Terue (68). Their aim is to bring average radiation at this home down to 1.5 microsieverts an hour, still several times what it was before the incident but safe enough, perhaps, for Saito’s seven grandchildren to visit. “My youngest grandchild has never been here,” he says.

For a few days in March 2011, after explosions at the Daiichi nuclear plant roughly 25km (15.5 miles) to the south, rain and snow laced with radiation fell across this area, contaminating thousands of acres of rich farming land and forests.

More than 160,000 people closest to the plant were ordered to evacuate. The Saitos’ home fell a few kilometres outside the 20km compulsory evacuation zone but, like thousands of others, they left voluntarily.
Invisible poison
When they returned two weeks later their two-storey country house appeared undamaged, but it was covered in an invisible poison only detectable with beeping Geiger counters.

Nobody knows for certain how dangerous the radiation is. Japan’s central government refined its policy in December 2011, defining evacuation zones as “areas where cumulative dose levels might reach 20 millisieverts per year”, the typical worldwide limit for nuclear power plant engineers.

The worst radiation is supposed to be confined to the 20km exclusion zone, but it spread unevenly: less than 5km (three miles) north of the Daiichi plant, our Geiger counter shows less than five millisieverts a year; 40km (25 miles) northwest, in parts of Iitate village, it is well over 120 millisieverts.

Those 160,000 refugees have not returned and are scattered throughout Japan. The nuclear diaspora is swelled by thousands of voluntary refugees. Local governments are spending millions of dollars to persuade them back.

The price tag for cleaning a heavily mountainous and wooded area roughly the same size as Co Wicklow (2,000sq km) has government heads spinning. In August, experts from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology put the total cost of decontamination at $50 billion (€37 billion). The Japan Centre for Economic Research, a Tokyo-based think tank, says the final tally for the Fukushima clean-up will be $600 billion.

The Saitos’ home falls within the boundaries of Minamisoma, a city that has not recovered from the disaster. Most of its 71,000 population fled voluntarily from the Daiichi incident 20km south. A third have yet to return.

“We’ve worked hard to make our city livable again,” says Minamisoma mayor Katsunobu Sakurai. “But everything we’ve done could be for nothing unless the problems at the plant are fixed.”

Fighting radiation is now one of Minamisoma’s few growth industries. The city has set up a permanent office to co-ordinate decontamination with a budget this year alone of $230 million. Since last September, a crew of 650 men has laboured around the local streets and countryside, cleaning schools, homes and farms.

By the end of the year, the operation will employ almost 1,000 people – a large chunk of the town’s remaining able-bodied workforce.
Disputed figures
Radiation levels in most areas of Fukushima have dropped by about 40 per cent since the disaster began, according to government estimates, but those figures are widely disbelieved.

Official monitoring posts almost invariably give lower readings than hand-held Geiger counters, the result of a deliberate strategy of misinformation, say critics. “They remove the ground under the posts, pour some clean sand, lay down concrete, plus a metal plate, and put the monitoring post on top,” says Nobuyoshi Ito, a farmer who opted to stay behind in the heavily contaminated village of Iitate. “The device ends up 1.5m from the ground.”

Critics say toxins wash down from the mountains and forests after the decontamination crews leave, bringing radiation levels back up – though seldom to previous levels.

Local governments are desperate for evacuees to return and must decide on what basis evacuation orders will be lifted. If they unilaterally declare their areas safe, evacuees could be forced to choose between returning home and losing vital monthly compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), operator of the ruined Daiichi complex.

For the refugees, a worrying precedent has been set in the municipality of Date, which lies outside the most contaminated areas. In December 2012, the local government lifted a “special evacuation” order imposed on 129 households, arguing that radiation doses had fallen below 20 millisieverts per year. Three months later the residents lost the $1,000 a month they were receiving from Tepco.

Still, local leaders say they believe the decontamination will work. “Field tests have demonstrated we can bring levels down to five millisieverts per year and that is our objective,” says Iitate mayor Norio Kanno.

He accepts that some residents might refuse to return until exposure falls further – the limit recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection is one millisievert per year. But he insists nobody will be excluded from any relocation plan. “In the end, we need to reach a consensus as a community.”
Toxic waste
The Fukushima clean-up faces another, perhaps insurmountable problem: securing sites to store contaminated soil, leaves and sludge. Many landowners baulk at hosting “interim” dumps – for three years – until the government builds a midterm storage facility.

Local governments across Japan have refused to accept the toxic waste, meaning it will probably stay in Fukushima for good. The waste is stored under blue tarpaulins across much of the prefecture, sometimes close to schools and homes.

At Hitoshi Saito’s home, the decontamination crew have finished a 10-day shift, power-hosing his roof, digging drains and removing 5cm of topsoil from his land. The cleanup has cut radiation by about half, but in the trees a few metres behind his house, the reading is 2.1 microsieverts. “Unless you do something about those trees, all your work is useless,” he berates an official from the city.

The crew may have to return sometime, he speculates. “Whatever happens, we will never have what we had before. It’s clear that my grandchildren will never come here again.”

 

‘Extremely Malicious’: Hundreds of tons of radioactive waste found over 500 kilometers from Fukushima near Japan’s biggest lake

September 27, 2013

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Published: September 22nd, 2013 at 9:09 am ET
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Title: Tons of cesium-tainted wood chips found near Japan’s biggest lake
Source: Kyodo
Date: Sep 18, 2013

Tons of cesium-tainted wood chips found near Japan’s biggest lake

Radioactive cesium has been found on an estimated 200 to 300 tons of wood chips that were left months ago near Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, prefectural officials said.

Samples of the chips show a reading of up to 3,000 becquerels per kilogram, the officials said Tuesday. […]

The Shiga government started an investigation to determine where the chips came from. They were found in the dry bed of the Kamo River in Takashima and other locations near the lake, officials said. […]

“The site is an estuary leading to Lake Biwa, and leaving (the chips) there without permission is extremely malicious. We will deal with the matter strictly,” Gov. Yukiko Kada said.

See also: Japan Times: Cesium levels spiking with unusually high amount of fallout in Okutama, Tokyo up to 300,000 Bq/m² — Home to World’s largest drinking water reservoir of its kind, built to supply Tokyo