Archive for December, 2013

What We Learned About Human Origins In 2013 Will Blow Your Mind

December 31, 2013
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The existence of a mysterious ancient human lineage and the possibility that the earliest humans were actually all one species were among the human-evolution-related discoveries of 2013. Other breakthroughs include the sequencing of the oldest human DNA yet.

Here’s a look at what scientists learned about humanity and human originsthis year:

Mystery lineage

Recent analyses of fossil DNA have revealed that modern humans occasionally had sex and produced offspring not only with Neanderthalsbut also with Denisovans, a relatively newfound lineage whosegenetic signatureapparently extended from Siberia to the Pacific islands of Oceania.

This year, hints began emerging that another mystery human lineage was part of this genetic mix as well. Now, the first high-quality genome sequence from a Neanderthal has confirmed those suspicions.

These findings come from Denisova Cave in southern Siberia, where the first evidence of Denisovans was discovered in 2008. To learn more about the Denisovans, scientists examined DNA from a toe bone unearthed there in 2010.

The researchers found that the fossil belonged to a Neanderthal woman. Her DNA helped refine the human family tree, as it revealed that about 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of modern people outside Africa is Neanderthal in origin, whereas about 0.2 percent of DNA of mainland Asians and Native Americans is Denisovan in origin. [Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans]

The scientists also discovered that the Denisovans interbred with an unknown human lineage, getting as much as 2.7 to 5.8 percent of their genomes from it. This newfound relative apparently split from the ancestors of all modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans between 4 million and 900,000 years ago, before these latter groups started diverging from each other. It’s possible that this mysterious lineage could even be Homo erectus, the earliest known undisputed predecessor of modern humans. However, there are no signs that this unknown group interbred with modern humans or Neanderthals.

Genetic analysis also revealed that the parents of this Neanderthal woman were closely related — possibly half-siblings, or another close relative. (Inbreeding may have been common among early humans — it remains uncertain as to whether it was some kind of cultural practice or whether it was unavoidable due to small community populations at the time.)

Were earliest humans all one species?

Modern humans, Homo sapiens, are the only living member of the human lineage, Homo, which is thought to have arisen in Africa about 2 million years ago at the beginning of the Ice Age. Many now-extinct human species were thought to once roam the planet, such as Homo habilis, which is suspected to be among the first stone-tool makers; the relatively larger-brained Homo rudolfensis; the relatively slender Homo ergaster; andHomo erectus, the first to regularly keep the tools it made.

The level of variation seen in Homo fossils is typically used to define separate species. However, analysis of 1.8-million-year-old skulls excavated from the Republic of Georgia revealed the level of variation seen among those skulls was about the same as that seen among ancient African Homofossils. As such, researchers suggest the earliest Homo fossils may not be multiple human species, but rather variants of a single lineage that emerged from Africa. In other words, instead of Africa once being home to multiple human species such as Homo erectusHomo habilisHomo ergaster and Homo rudolfensis, all of these specimens may actually simply be Homo erectus.

Oldest human DNA

The testing of the oldest known human DNA added more evidence that human evolution was complex.

The genetic material, some 400,000 years old, came from a human thighbone unearthed in the Sima de los Huesos, or “Pit of Bones,” an underground cave in northern Spain. Until now, the previous oldest known human DNA had come from a 100,000-year-old Neanderthal from a Belgian cave.

The fossils unearthed at the site resembled those of Neanderthals, so researchers expected the ancient DNA they analyzed to be Neanderthal as well. Surprisingly, the DNA revealed that this fossil’s closest known relatives were not Neanderthals but Denisovans. This finding is strange, scientists said, because studies to date currently suggest the Denisovans lived in eastern Asia, not in western Europe, where this fossil was uncovered. One possible explanation is that a currently unknown human lineage brought Denisovan-like DNA into the Pit of Bones region, and possibly also to the Denisovans in Asia.

Evolution of tool use

The capability to make and use complex tools is a critical trait distinguishing modern humans from all other species alive today. Now, scientists have found an ancient hand-bone fossil that reveals that the modern human ability to make and use complex tools may have originated far earlier than previously thought.

A key anatomical feature of the modern human hand is the third metacarpal, a bone in the palm that connects the middle finger to the wrist. A little projection of bone known as a styloid process in this bone helps the thumb and fingers apply greater amounts of pressure to the wrist and palm. Researchers had thought the styloid process was a relatively recent feature, perhaps evolving close to the origin of modern humans. However, scientists have discovered a 1.4-million-year-old fossil that possesses this vital anatomical feature, meaning it existed more than 500,000 years earlier than it was previously known to have existed and was perhaps fundamental to the evolution of the whole genus Homo, not just modern humans.

hand fossil
Researchers have discovered a 1.42-million-year-old hand fossil that possesses the styloid process, a vital anatomical feature that allows the hand to lock into the wrist bones, giving humans the ability to make and use complex tools.

This hand bone may not be the only key trait for tool use that evolved near the origin of the human lineage. Humans are the only species that can throw with great speed and precision, and scientists found this ability first evolved nearly 2 million years ago with anatomical changes to the shoulder, arm and torso. This advance likely boosted the hunting prowess of now-extinct human ancestors, helping them effectively and safely kill big game.

Neanderthal discoveries

In 2013, researchers also made important discoveries about Neanderthals, modern humans’ closest extinct relatives. For instance, analysis of a Neanderthal tomb in France suggests that, like modern humans,Neanderthals may have intentionally buried their dead. The new findings are further evidence that Neanderthals might have possessed complex forms of thought, enough for special treatment of the dead.

neanderthal grave
A pit in a French cave that may have been an intentional grave dug by Neanderthals to bury one of their number.

In addition, a cache of Neanderthal fossils discovered in a cave in Greece suggests the area may have been a key crossroad for ancient humans. The age of these fossils suggests Neanderthals and other humans may have had the opportunity to cross paths there, and even interact, the researchers added.

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Fukushima Nightmare Continues as Homeless People are Recruited for Cleanup, Scammed Out of Wages

December 31, 2013
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Police and media in Japan have discovered that homeless people near Fukushima have been recruited to help clean up the three-year-old nuclear devastation for minimum wages, but haven’t seen most of their money.

Most have wound up in debt.

According to Reuters, recruiters like Seiji Sasa have been trolling Sendai Station another locations for homeless people to aid in the behind-schedule, taxpayer-funded radioactive cleanup throughout northern Japan. Police arrested members of Japanese crime syndicates several times this year for infiltrating Obayashi Corp.’s subcontractors and illegally sending workers to disaster sites. Those workers were often brought in for less than minimum wage, but essentially scammed out of their earnings because they were given a place to stay during the hours they weren’t attempting to clean up radioactive soil and debris.

“Many homeless people are just put into dormitories, and the fees for lodging and food are automatically docked from their wages,” Yasuhiro Aoki, a Baptist pastor and homeless advocate, said. ”Then at the end of the month, they’re left with no pay at all.”

homelessinterview

Shizuya Nishiyama, a 57-year-old, says homeless people in Fukushima City like himself are easy targets for companies infiltrated by crime syndicates and looking for cheap employees to help fulfill radiation removal contracts. Video still image credit: Reuters

The homeless workers reported to companies who then reported to Obayashi, known as the country’s second-largest construction firm and one of 20 large contractors involved in governmental cleanup efforts. There are at least more than 730 subcontractors working for performing work for the Ministry of Environment, an amount that has led to scarce oversight. Loose certification and disclosure rules have made it easier to obtain radiation removal contracts. Reuters found 56 subcontractors on environment ministry contracts worth $2.5 billion in the most radiated areas of Fukushima that would have been barred from traditional public works because they had not been examined by the construction ministry.

The crime organizations created recruiting agencies and people like Sasa stood to make $100 for every worker they brought in.

“I don’t ask questions; that’s not my job,” Sasa said in an interview with Reuters. “I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That’s it.

“I don’t get involved in what happens after that.”

Sasa was arrested in November, but did not face any charges. Obayashi also has not faced charges, though the recruiting agencies were set up under the large company.

The Japanese government does not have estimates on the amount of homeless people working on disaster sites, according to Reuters.

Just one-third of wages allocated by Obayashi’s top contractor made it to the workers recruited by Sasa. Various middlemen took the rest, according to police. Workers were left with 50 cents less than Fukushima’s $6.50 minimum wage after food and lodging deductions, but most have ended up in debt.

“We’re an easy target for recruiters,” said Shizuya Nishiyama, a 57-year-old who opted to return to the streets after more than half of his pay was docked for room and board. ”We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we’re easy to spot.

“They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven’t eaten, they offer to find us a job.”

Radioactive hotspots have turned up throughout Japan, including some that threaten human life in Tokyo and may cast a pall on the upcoming Olympics. Tuna contaminated with radiation from Fukushima have been caught off the California coast.

Also, more than 70 U.S. Navy sailors are suing Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)—which operates the Fukushima Daiichi energy plant—for downplaying the danger of nuclear radiation on the site, which led to various forms of cancer and radiation sickness.

Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.

US will cling to mass surveillance like nuclear weapons – Assange to RT

December 31, 2013

Published time: December 29, 2013 20:41
Edited time: December 30, 2013 10:02

Julian Assange said there is “no hope” that mass strategic interception – as it is termed by the US – will go away. The whistleblower then drew a historical analogy with how the US has retained nuclear weapons in the past.

Assange’s comments were made during a panel discussion of the documentary film ‘Mediastan’ on RT. The panel also included director Johannes Wahlstrom and Afghan journalist Enayat Najafizada, who participated in the movie. The film depicts different stages in undercover WikiLeaks journalists’ trips across Central Asia.

“These powers do not give up voluntarily any significant ability to control the world like that,” Assange told RT. He compared any US compulsion to cling onto such abilities as a form of need for global control, pointing out that after the end of the Cold War, the US retained excessive nuclear weapons, despite an enormous anti-nuclear lobby. “Many movies were critical of it – it was a very expensive system to maintain,” he said.

“The US could have reduced its numbers without any significant problem, and yet it still has 5000-6000 nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that there was no need for the country to maintain such a large arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Assange also pointed out further reasons for not standing down from the clutches of the existing system, describing it as “invisible, intangible, complex, and decreasing in cost by 50 percent every 18 months.”

Assange remained optimistic, stating that there has been a shift in the past few years.

“The internet has gone from a politically apathetic space to a new international body politic, which is just starting to find its feet. Edward Snowden was motivated largely by Bradley Manning, both by the success of his revelations and by the ill treatment of him in prison, demonstrating that the US government lacks moral authority and it is not possible to change the system from within. This very conversation is part of that process,” he said.

“So I am to a degree optimistic that there is a new international cultural consensus forming. It is largely embodied within the generation of young people between the ages of 15 and 35. And if it comes to a war between the older generation and the large body of the younger generation, the older generation is simply going to lose.”

“An important part of this process has been demonstrating that the old media organizations are simply a branch of the establishment power within their societies…we simply should not be surprised that The New York Times censors material, or that The Washington Post censors material, or the Guardian, or Central Asian Republic newspapers. They are power institutions. They have interests. What has gone on historically is that they have been very hypocritical institutions in pretending that they are always free to publish anything that is truthful and that the public is interested in. That is false and that is the illusion that needs shattering,” Assange added.

Still from RT videoStill from RT video

‘Mediastan’ was previously made available through the internet, as it dates back to 2011. However, it has not yet been released in cinemas.

While commenting on the success of the movie, Wahlstrom discussed the impact that WikiLeaks has had on the world.

“From a broader respect we can see that WikiLeaks’ releases have made a large impact and have changed the way we interact with media since then. If we just look at the whole NSA affair, which has gone on for the last half a year or so, it is a direct consequence of the WikiLeaks releases. And nowadays there is no direct censorship which is feasible by particular organizations,” he said.

“We are seeing the system where the ability for us to get access to this type of information is becoming much higher, and the price that we will have to be paying in the future would be much lower.”

Wahlstrom believes that privacy can be won back in a slow process of provoking conversation around the subject.

“Getting our privacy back is the same kind of question as getting democracy back, or freedom of information back. And in my point of view, this is a process you have to strive for more or less every day. And in that respect, there are many different things that can be done. But the most important part is building public awareness about these issues,” he told RT.

Journalist Najafizada, who agreed to take WikiLeaks information and attempt to publish it in Afghanistan, said his life was threatened while he was in possession of the material.

“For some time we decided to take these diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks and work with Afghan media organizations in Kabul and in many other provinces to publish, to make stories out of these cables. But unfortunately we later found out that having these materials with ourselves might be life threatening and would be difficult for Afghan media organizations to make stories out of them,” he said. “The risks to being a journalist in Afghanistan are so high. It is our responsibility to not give up.”

Fukushima: An Update from Japan

December 31, 2013

by Brian Covert

When International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials praised the authorities in Japan in October 2011 for their “efficient” handling of the Fukushima nuclear accident seven months after it occurred, perhaps the organization was speaking a little too soon or thinking too wishfully.

Or perhaps it had something to do with the head of the IAEA at the time, Yukiya Amano, being a career bureaucrat from Japan who was just doing what he was hired to do. Or perhaps the IAEA itself was just doing the job it was created to do back in 1957 by the United Nations of supporting and promoting the “peaceful use” of nuclear energy worldwide.

Or maybe it was just a simple matter of laying the first foundation of The Official Story: that the Fukushima nuclear disaster was basically, as Japanese authorities have insisted, sotei-gai — beyond expectations — that it was totally unforeseen and could not possibly have been predicted, but not to worry: Everything would soon be under control and back to business as usual.

Despite the best efforts of a “poodle press” in Japan, snuggled comfortably in the elite laps of power, to repeat such reassuring words to an anxious public, some of the truth did manage to come out about what is arguably the worst nuclear accident in human history.

Looking back decades from now, however, 2013 may well be remembered as the year when the iron lid finally came down over the truth and The Official Story concerning Fukushima was set firmly in place.

It was this year that the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the Fukushima plant, admitted that, among other problems, 300 tons of radioactive groundwater could not be stopped from leaking every day from the Fukushima plant into the nearby Pacific Ocean. It was highly contaminated water, of course, but it was not officially expected to harm sea life or human beings in any way. Not to worry.

Then there was the announcement in September 2013 that Tokyo — a city located less than 320 kilometers (200 miles) from the ongoing nuclear crisis at Fukushima — was chosen to be the site of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

A month later, as if to bolster Japan’s good news, a United Nations scientific committee, in a report to be submitted to the UN General Assembly, downplayed all the public worry over Fukushima. The UN committee placed the levels of radiation as being “very low,” stating: “No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their descendants.” This prompted a strong rebuke from citizens groups and others in Japan who saw this as an attempted whitewash of major proportions by the UN.

But there was one more step to be taken before The Official Story could be called airtight: In November and December 2013, the Japanese government — with the blessing of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama and despite strong public opposition at home in Japan — proceeded to ram a bill through its parliament that, upon becoming law, would make whistleblowing a crime of state that could result in a prison term of up to 10 years.
This “state secrets protection bill” was supposedly intended to protect Japanese government and military secrets from possible terrorist actions (and, no doubt, from an Edward Snowden-type of situation) at a time when Japan’s military-industrial complex was expanding in lock-step with that of the U.S. But it could also be considered no mere coincidence that this state secrets bill was being pushed through to law at a time when TEPCO was just starting a yearlong operation in decommissioning the Fukushima nuclear plant that was unprecedented both in scale and in the potentially devastating consequences that could result if the slightest thing — forces of nature, mechanical failure, human error — went wrong in the course of that year.

This operation involves removing some 1,500 fuel rods from a Fukushima reactor, one by one, and placing them in a more secure area, something that has never been attempted before anywhere. Radiation levels said to be many thousands of times those of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima could be emitted from the Fukushima nuclear plant if any unforeseen problems occur along the way.

Now that Japan’s state secrets bill has become law, leaking sensitive information concerning Fukushima could technically be considered a crime, both for the whistleblower who leaks it and for any journalist who reports it. The extended “war on terror” has now joined hands with “atoms for peace,” with truth becoming the first casualty.

As of the end of 2013, nearly three years after the crisis began at Fukushima, there are an estimated 150,000-plus Japanese residents evacuated from the Fukushima area, many living in temporary housing. Some of that housing is reportedly now in substandard condition, with residents essentially being left to fend for themselves.

Confirmed cases of thyroid cancer are now appearing in some children from the Fukushima area, and the numbers of such cases are certain to rise in the future. Reports of increased levels of radiation, of varying degrees, have also come up throughout Japan and beyond its borders.

Meanwhile, TEPCO and two government ministries are busy arguing about which one of the three parties is responsible for cleaning up the contaminated water that is seeping into the ground and into the nearby sea. And yet, in spite of these and many other problems along the way, the IAEA has wavered little in its praise for Japan’s handling of the Fukushima accident and the quote-unquote “good progress” that has resulted.

The Official Story surrounding Fukushima is one of an unexpected disaster being dealt with swiftly and safely by honest, open authorities facing unlucky circumstances — and being duly investigated by an independent-minded news media that is diligently doing its job. But like all official stories, this story has a long and sordid history behind it. It is a history that people need to know about if they are to understand how and why Fukushima happened in the first place, and which direction the crisis is likely to take in the future.

Here, then, is the story behind the story of Fukushima.

This research was originally published as chapter 14 in Censored 2013: Dispatches From the Media Revolution, eds. Mickey Huff, Andy Lee Roth, and Project Censored (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2012).

On the Road to Fukushima: The Unreported Story behind Japan’s Nuclear-Media-Industrial Complex

Prologue

The most powerful earthquake to ever hit the islands of Japan struck on the afternoon of March 11, 2011. The magnitude 9 quake, centered about 70 kilometers (43 miles) off the Pacific coast, sent oceanic shock waves racing toward Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region. Located squarely on the tsunami’s course were coastal areas that are also home to several nuclear power plants, such as in Fukushima Prefecture, which is situated about 240 kilometers (150 miles) from Tokyo, the most populated metropolis on the planet. As it became clear that something had gone seriously wrong and, due to the tsunami, Japan now had a nuclear catastrophe on its hands at Fukushima, all eyes turned to the Japanese press.

But the Japanese press was nowhere to be found. In the immediate aftermath of reactor meltdowns and the release of radioactivity at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, when evacuations and press restrictions had not yet been set by Japan’s government, the major Japanese news companies did not have a single reporter on the ground in the area.1 Such media companies in Japan usually spare no expense in having their reporters or photographers camp for days at a time outside the homes of suspects in sensationalized crime cases or when stalking scandal-tainted celebrities. But when it comes to pursuing real news stories of public concern, investigating the nation’s political or corporate centers of power, and exercising the freedom of press as enshrined in the Japanese constitution, the news media of Japan can be strangely submissive or even silent. Nowhere has that been more on display than in the reporting of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

How is it that one of the most technologically advanced, democratic societies in the world finds itself with a press that serves more as a lapdog to the powerful than as a watchdog for the public? How does Japan’s nuclear power industry in particular fare in the news media? And more importantly, how is censorship fostered in such an environment and how did it get this way?

The answers to such questions can be found by taking a look back on the road to Fukushima that Japan has traveled since the Second World War. It is the story that most of the mainstream media in Japan are failing to report or to piece together in the wake of Fukushima, perhaps because, in many ways, the media itself is the story.
It is the story of how of the Japanese press has risen to become a global media power unto itself,2 and how Japan’s corporate-dominated news industry grew hand-in-glove with the nation’s development of atomic energy and other major industries following the war. It is the story of a Japanese war crimes suspect imprisoned by US occupation forces, of Japan’s preeminent media tycoon, of the godfather of Japanese nuclear power development, and of the father of Japanese professional baseball—all of whom happen to be the same man, the powerful Japanese predecessor of today’s Rupert Murdoch.
It is the story of the power wielded by right-wing forces in Japan and, at the fringes, of the Japanese mafia. It is a story that also closely involves the United States of America as benefactor: the Central Intelligence Agency, the US Congress, and the US media establishment. It is the story of America’s Cold War geopolitical priorities over the long-term security and environmental safety of the planet.

It is the story, in the end, of Japan’s rise as a modern nuclear-media-industrial power from the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 up to Fukushima more than sixty-five years later. This report attempts to connect the dots of Japan’s atomic past and present, providing the much bigger picture behind the individual acts of censorship surrounding Fukushima and, in doing so, will hopefully offer lessons for the future of a democratic, responsible press in Japan.

The Shoriki Factor

If there is one person who has stood at the nexus of nuclear power, media conglomeration, politics, and industrial development in postwar Japan, it would be Matsutaro Shoriki.

Shoriki, in the early 1920s, was a high-ranking official of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and in previous years had reportedly been involved in every major incident of police repression of social unrest.3 That included the Great Kanto Earthquake of September 1923, Japan’s deadliest natural disaster up to then, in which more than 100,000 people died and tens of thousands of others went missing.4

After the earthquake’s ensuing panic and confusion and the Japanese government’s declaration of martial law, the police took the opportunity to round up ethnic Koreans living in Japan, along with leading Japanese socialists, anarchists, labor activists, and other leftist dissidents of the day—some of whom were later reported killed.5 This all happened on Shoriki’s watch, and a month after the quake he was promoted to a department head position within the Tokyo police hierarchy.6 Shoriki’s law enforcement career came to a halt a couple months later, however, when a young Communist Party supporter attempted to shoot Hirohito, the emperor-to-be, in public. Shoriki was among those dismissed from their police posts for the lapse in security surrounding the assassination attempt.

It was the end of Shoriki’s days as a hard-line police official, but just the beginning of his career as a central figure in the Japanese media world.

One month after his firing from the Tokyo metropolitan police, Shoriki—with no past media experience whatsoever—found himself serving as president of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, then a fledgling 50,000-circulation Japanese metropolitan daily paper in Tokyo.7 He had bought out a controlling stake in the newspaper through a huge personal loan from a cabinet minister then serving in the Japanese government. A rebellion immediately arose among the editorial staff of the paper, but the new owner had no regrets. “Instead of committing hara-kiri” (ritual disembowelment) over the police firing, “I bought a newspaper,” Shoriki would boast.8

The openly pro-capitalistic, anticommunistic Shoriki quickly showed himself as having a finger on the public pulse, understanding well the links between three key areas: mass entertainment, mass mobilization, and massive profits.9

His Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper company sponsored tours in Japan of major league baseball players from the US—first in 1931, then again in 1934, when the Yomiuri paid for US baseball legends Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and others to come and play in Japan. The next year, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper created its own baseball team, the Yomiuri Giants, in the exact image of the famed Giants baseball team of New York (later of San Francisco). In 1936, Japan’s first professional baseball league was started, with Shoriki going on to serve as owner of the Yomiuri Giants pro team and as the first commissioner of the Nippon Professional Baseball league years later.

By the late 1930s and early 1940s, the winds of war were blowing in Japan. All of the Japanese press was expected by the military-dominated government to support Japan’s war of aggression throughout East Asia and the Pacific, and the major news publications—from liberal to conservative—toed the line, either under government pressure or out of a sense of patriotism. Two days after the Japanese military attack on the US-occupied Pacific island of Hawaii in December 1941, the major newspapers in Japan sponsored a public rally in Tokyo denouncing the US and Britain. Shoriki, representing the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, was reportedly one of the main speakers.10

In the fifteen years since Shoriki had taken over the paper, the Yomiuri had gone from being a fairly liberal Tokyo metro daily paper to being an unashamedly conservative national daily newspaper—the third-largest daily paper in Japan, in fact—with a circulation of 1.2 million.11 The Yomiuri became the most nationalistic of Japan’s mainstream news media during World War II. For his efforts, Shoriki, like other press executives in Japan, was appointed to several key government propaganda organizations during the war, including as cabinet-level advisor in the government.12

Behind Prison Walls

Following the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed more than 200,000 people in August 1945, and Japan’s formal surrender a month later, the occupation forces under General Douglas MacArthur wasted no time in sniffing out suspected war criminals as part of victor’s justice, Yankee-style.

The top ranking of war criminals, “Class A,” applied to persons in the highest decision-making bodies in Japan who were believed to have taken part in the starting and/or waging of war against the Allied powers. Among those who were openly demanding that the Americans include Shoriki, the Yomiuri newspaper president, in that Class-A category were Shoriki’s longtime enemies on the Japanese political left and, incredibly, some of the newspaper magnate’s own editorial staff at the Yomiuri Shimbun.13 Long considered to be something of a “dictator” within his paper,14 Shoriki was now facing a serious mutiny by his crew at a very sensitive time in Japanese history. In December 1945, he was ordered by the US occupation forces to report to Japan’s notorious Sugamo Prison in central Tokyo as an inmate.

The dozens of initial suspects of Class-A war crimes at the prison made up a virtual “who’s who” of the most elite of Japanese political, military, and business circles. Shoriki was placed in cellblock 2-B of the prison, directly across from a prominent industrialist who had once been head of the mighty Nissan group of corporations.15 As a media baron, Shoriki commanded respect even behind bars. The Buddhist priest in charge of counseling the accused war criminals at the prison recalled: “Mr. Shoriki, former president of the ‘Yomiuri Newspaper,’ I had met two or three times at banquets given by the Chief Priest, whose advisors in various matters we both had been. He [Shoriki] was still as vigorous as ever. . . .”16

George Herman Ruth, one of the US baseball idols invited by Shoriki to play for Japanese audiences back in the 1930s, had little sympathy for his former patron. “That bum [Shoriki] seemed like a pretty nice fellow,” Babe Ruth, now retired from baseball, said on hearing the news of Shoriki’s imprisonment in Tokyo. “I guess he was too nice, come to think of it. All any of them guys did was bow to us, and even then they must have had a knife in their kimona [sic].”17 Ruth even complained that the American ballplayers had been cheated during their tour of Japan a decade before: “Shoriki didn’t pay us what he promised to pay. Most of us spent more money in Japan than we made.”18
As Shoriki and the others languished in prison not knowing their fate, the US, at least in the early stages, proceeded with its plan of “reforming” Japan, putting a high priority on strengthening democratic institutions and the rights of the individual.

But a funny thing happened on the way to democracy: on a parallel track, the government of the United States, under the umbrella of the Truman Doctrine of President Harry Truman, was also proceeding on a “reverse course” in Japan. From 1947–48 onward, the US priority began shifting away from promoting democracy to fighting communism. General MacArthur’s occupation forces in Tokyo now sought to “strengthen, not punish” right-wing Japanese leaders so as to secure Japan as a key ally especially against the regional influence of Communist China.19

The Cold War was starting and, almost overnight, the US had gone from purging its sworn wartime enemies on the political right in Japan to purging those on the left. Japanese ultra-rightist organizations and even the yakuza, Japan’s mafia syndicates, were becoming useful tools for the US occupation authorities in suppressing the growing social movement of organized labor and liberal political dissent, including in the Japanese news media.20

And so it was that right-wing media mogul Matsutaro Shoriki walked out of the Tokyo prison gates on September 1, 1947—twenty-one months of prison time served and no war-crime charges filed against him.21 Shoriki and many of his fellow Japanese war-criminal suspects were looking much more useful to the United States beyond—rather than behind—prison walls.

Television and “Atoms for Peace”

In summer 1951, with the official end of the American occupation of Japan just around the corner, Shoriki and other released Japanese war criminal suspects were finally removed from General MacArthur’s war-criminal “purge list” and were now free to resume their former public lives. Shoriki received his pardon on August 6, the sixth anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. The very next day, he went to work on his next big project: establishing Japan’s first commercial television network.22

In this venture, Shoriki had warm support from conservative members of the US Congress, who, like their right-wing counterparts in Japan, apparently saw the mass media not as a way to inform or educate the poverty-stricken Japanese masses but rather as a means to essentially feed the Japanese public a steady stream of pro-American messages of progress and development in the postwar period.

Shoriki’s key ally in the US Congress for this was Karl Mundt, a Republican senator from South Dakota. Through the mid-1940s, Mundt had served as an active member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that was investigating suspected Communist infiltration throughout US society. During that same period, Mundt pushed a bill through Congress in 1948 that became law, creating the Voice of America short-wave radio propaganda program.23 But Mundt had an even bigger dream: using the rising medium of television to carry VOA broadcasts throughout the world, including in Japan, as a way to counter the growing global “red” menace. Mundt called his grand plan “Vision of America.”24

It was Hidetoshi Shibata, then a popular conservative, America-friendly radio commentator on Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster) and a former Yomiuri newspaper reporter under Shoriki, who eventually hooked up Mundt and Shoriki.25 On August 14, only a week after Shoriki’s pardon as a US-branded war crimes suspect, Mundt, at a press conference in Washington DC accompanied by a member of Japan’s parliament, announced plans for a team of three American “experts” to fly to Japan the following week to firm up the plans for this new Japanese TV broadcasting network.26 Another week later, the Japanese and American sides met in Tokyo and worked out the details: it was agreed that instead of making this new TV station a part of Mundt’s worldwide “Vision of America” scheme, it would be a wholly Japanese-owned and Japanese-run network financed in part by airing Voice of America radio broadcasts within Japan.27

Shoriki had meanwhile regained his old position as the largest shareholder of the Yomiuri paper, and now persuaded the heads of his archrival daily newspapers, the liberal Asahi and Mainichi, to join the conservative Yomiuri in putting up joint capital of about ¥2 billion ($25 million) for the TV station. Shoriki also used his highly placed connections in Japanese government and financial institutions to further strengthen support for the new station, promoting the TV network as potentially attracting three million Japanese viewers within five years.28

In July 1952, just three months after the US occupation bureaucracy had packed its bags and gone home, the new Nippon Television Network (NTV) was granted its broadcasting license by Japanese media regulators. Shoriki became the first president of NTV in October 1952, and in August 1953, the station went on the air with black-and-white television programs. Now it was just a matter of getting the message out to the masses.

“Kilowatts, not killing”

At the United Nations in December 1953, US President Dwight Eisenhower announced the start of his “Atoms for Peace” program. Several months later in September 1954, US atomic energy commissioner Thomas Murray stood before a convention of American steelworkers at Atlantic City, New Jersey, and called for a nuclear power plant to be built in Japan with US know-how and manpower as “a dramatic and Christian gesture which would lift all of us far above the recollection of the carnage” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nine years before.29 An editorial in the Washington Post immediately and enthusiastically supported this “brilliant idea,” stating: “How better, indeed, to dispel the impression in Asia that the United States regards Orientals merely as nuclear cannon fodder!”30

A few months after that in early 1955, Representative Sidney Yates, a Democrat from Illinois, took it even further when he stood on the floor of the US Congress and called for that proposed first nuclear power plant in Japan to be constructed, of all places, in the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima. He was then sponsoring a bill in Congress for a 60,000-kilowatt nuclear power generating plant to be built in Hiroshima as part of Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace”—a power plant, Yates said, that would “make the atom an instrument for kilowatts rather than killing.”31 (Plans for the Hiroshima nuclear plant eventually fizzled out.)

Back in Japan around that same time, Matsutaro Shoriki, while still president of NTV, campaigned in February 1955 for a seat in his own country’s House of Representatives and won. He was appointed to the cabinet-level position of minister of state. Everything now seemed to be in place. For the better part of 1955, Eisenhower’s newly established United States Information Service (USIS), with its mission of overseas “public diplomacy” (read: propaganda) and Shoriki’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, which now had a colossal circulation of more than two million readers,32 worked closely together on plans to bring America’s atomic-age vision to the Japanese people.33

The Atom Returns to Japan

On November 1, 1955, the USIS and Shoriki’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper kicked off the opening of a futuristic, traveling “Atoms for Peace” exhibition at an event hall in downtown Tokyo, not far from the Imperial Palace.

The fifteen sections of the exhibition, touted as the first of its kind in Far East Asia, explained “how the boundless wealth of the atom has been unlocked, and now it is already being used in many ways for man’s benefit in medicine and industry.” The exhibition was to be shown in Tokyo for a month and a half, then rotated on to seven other major Japanese cities.34 The exhibition included profiles of ten pioneering nuclear scientists; a small demonstration nuclear reactor; a movie about the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; panel displays; and an introduction to the medical, agricultural, and industrial uses of atomic isotopes.35 On New Year’s Day of 1956, while the exhibition was still touring Japan, state minister Shoriki was appointed the first chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, a move praised by US atomic energy commissioner Lewis Strauss as “an important contribution to international peace.”36

The “Atoms for Peace” exhibition finally arrived in Hiroshima in May 1956 and was shown for three weeks at the recently opened Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, located within the city’s Peace Memorial Park commemorating the victims of the 1945 US atomic bombing. An estimated 110,000 Japanese visitors came to see the “Atoms for Peace” exhibition in Hiroshima, and a reported 2.5 million people had seen the exhibition nationwide.37 At the end of it all, notwithstanding some public and press criticism that arose, the “Atoms for Peace” exhibition in Japan was considered a resounding success, primarily due to the positive spin given to it by the Japanese media, especially the Yomiuri newspaper and NTV network headed by Shoriki.38

Code Name: PODAM

Tetsuo Arima, a professor of media studies at the elite Waseda University in Tokyo, goes where the Japanese mainstream press fears to tread in researching and making public the CIA’s past connections to the media and nuclear power in Japan, having published several books on the subject in recent years. He has visited the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington DC and obtained almost 500 pages of once-secret documents detailing the introduction of atomic energy technology to Japan.39

“Relations with PODAM have now progressed to the stage where outright cooperation can be initiated,” Arima quotes one of those CIA documents as reading, concerning political maneuvering against the Japan Communist Party back in the 1950s.40 Another document approves “PODAM” as being used to gain information about political developments and trends in Japan, along with information on persons working in Japanese newspapers and media. PODAM, the code name of a CIA asset, was none other than Japanese media tycoon Matsutaro Shoriki.41

Indeed, a cursory check of the NARA website (www.archives.gov) reveals Matsutaro Shoriki as being listed under the cryptonym PODAM as well as “POJACKPOT-1.”42 Equally revealing is Shoriki’s TV station, Nippon Television, being listed in the archive’s CIA file index as part of a project called “KMCASHIER.”43 Project KMCASHIER, as Arima notes, was a failed 1953 US plan to construct a massive microwave communications network covering four Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines) as part of a larger international microwave communications network. Japan’s role in KMCASHIER was listed under the CIA code name of “POHIKE.”44 “POBULK” is listed in the archive index as the CIA code name for the Yomiuri, Shoriki’s newspaper.

Arima found also that Shibata, the popular NHK radio newscaster who initially put Shoriki in touch with US senator Mundt of VOA fame, had contacted and met in Tokyo with persons connected with the CIA (presumably on Shoriki’s behalf), both before and after Shoriki obtained the broadcast license for NTV.45 The professor also came across a document dated May 5, 1955—placing it around the time of joint preparations by the USIS and Shoriki’s Yomiuri newspaper for the “Atoms for Peace” exhibition—in which a “provisional” security clearance was sought for Shoriki as an “unwitting cutout.”46 This indicates that Shoriki would have been considered a trusted intermediary for passing along highly sensitive information, yet not necessarily aware of the details of that information or exactly how he was being used for such intelligence purposes.

According to one CIA document that Arima uncovered, Shoriki as atomic energy commissioner was so impatient to get nuclear power online in Japan following the 1955–56 “Atoms For Peace” exhibition that he seriously considered buying a small reactor to power his own home as a public show of atomic energy’s benefits.47 And what was PODAM’s urgent motivation? To help reach his political aspiration of becoming the prime minister of Japan.

The Deep Ties that Bind

Japanese nuclear power, industrial production (especially in electronics), and the news media grew side by side in the critical Cold War years that would see Japan elevated to the status of “economic miracle.” Without doubt, from the end of the Second World War onward, the media industry has been a crucial part of that whole corporate synergy in Japan—not an objective, neutral force standing outside it.48

That is still the situation today for the most part. The electric power companies in Japan advertise widely in the major print and broadcast media companies. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)—operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant and two others—alone spent about ¥27 billion ($330 million) on public relations and other events promoting nuclear energy in 2010, ranking tenth highest among all Japanese corporations in the amount of money spent on such expenses that year.49 Of that amount, TEPCO spent ¥9 billion ($110 million) directly on advertisements placed in the media.50

So what effect does this kind of relationship between nuclear energy and media in Japan have on news coverage? According to author and independent journalist Osamu Aoki, a former reporter for Japan’s Kyodo News wire service, “Newspapers, TV, magazines—it makes no difference: because they receive these huge advertising monies, it’s hard for them to criticize the power companies, especially with nuclear power. It’s a taboo that’s been going on for some time.”51

Where Japan differs from the US and other developed countries is in the sheer breadth and depth of external press controls and media self-censorship in the form of the “kisha club” (reporters’ club) system.52

The kisha clubs are press clubs attached to various Japanese government agencies (from the highest levels of government down to local government agencies), political parties, major corporations, consumer organizations . . . and electric power companies. At last count there were an estimated 800 to 1,000 kisha clubs nationwide. Membership in such clubs is mostly restricted to the big Japanese newspaper and broadcasting companies, with smaller Japanese media and the foreign press normally not allowed in. One important rule: kisha club reporters are not usually allowed to “scoop” fellow club members on any given story, even if they are reporters for rival Japanese news companies. In most cases a kisha club is based on the premises of the institution that the reporters are covering, with the operating expenses of the club paid by that institution. The kisha club rooms generally are off-limits to the average Japanese citizen, even when located inside of public buildings.

TEPCO, like other power companies around Japan, has its own in-house kisha club. And what was the chairman of TEPCO doing at the time of the March 11 quake/tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear plant disaster? He was hosting Japanese journalists on a press junket in China, courtesy of the power company.53

According to an independent journalist attending a press conference hosted by TEPCO soon after the accident on March 11, 2011, not one of the power company’s kisha club reporters got around to asking the TEPCO chairman at press conferences about the possibility of plutonium leaks from the Fukushima plant until the independent journalist himself raised the critical question two weeks after the accident. Another independent Japanese reporter working for Internet media was shouted down by the TEPCO kisha club reporters when he tried to ask the TEPCO chairman a question at the same press conference. These are not uncommon occurrences at kisha clubs in Japan.54

How did all of this translate in terms of Japanese versus overseas reporting on Fukushima soon after the accident? There were often major gaps between the two. On the morning of March 12, the day after the accident, for example, Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK television, was telling evacuees from Fukushima to calmly “walk instead of drive to an evacuation area” while also repeating Japanese government assurances that there was “no immediate danger.”55 That same morning, the tone of reports carried on BBC News, as just one foreign news media source, was one of skepticism of such Japanese government assurances rather than blind acceptance.56 That kind of gap between Japanese and overseas coverage would widen considerably as the Fukushima crisis went on, with the Japanese public increasingly voicing distrust of their government and suspicious that Japan’s media were not reporting the whole story.

That is certainly true for one related issue that has been underreported in Japan for years: the so-called “nuclear gypsies”—the thousands of day laborers, many unskilled and homeless, that make up a large part of the workforce at Japan’s fifty-four nuclear power plants nationwide—and the yakuza (organized crime) syndicates as suppliers of such temporary workers to the industry.57 The underside of Japan’s economic miracle in the postwar era was the existence of pools of cheap, “disposable” labor from the slums of the big cities, such as the Sanya district in Tokyo and Kamagasaki district in Osaka, working in the vast construction industry with which the yakuza have long been aligned. But the electric power companies today also use such day laborers, doing highly dangerous work with little or no job security, and many of these nuclear workers are financially exploited by the yakuza and other labor agents as well.

It has been left mainly to independent journalists in Japan to uncover and expose these facts. One of them, photographer Kenji Higuchi, had worked for decades before Fukushima, trying to tell an indifferent Japanese media and public the stories of these exploited, intimidated nuclear power plant workers and the illnesses that afflicted them after they had worked at the plants. Higuchi’s efforts to get at the truth are the focus of a short documentary film, Nuclear Ginza, broadcasted in 1995 on Britain’s Channel 4 television.58 More recently, another Japanese independent journalist, Tomohiko Suzuki, went undercover as a day laborer at the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the March 2011 accident and found that the yakuza were still recruiting day laborers to work there, with top management at the Fukushima plant—like most construction companies in Japan—not necessarily knowing (or caring) how these workers got hired there in the first place.59

The Selling of a “Miracle Man”

To be fair, the Japanese people are not the only ones who have been sold a bill of goods about nuclear power and been shielded from seeing its dark side by the media. Americans have too, and the US media role over the years is one that has to be acknowledged in this post-Fukushima age. This is most clearly seen in the US media treatment of Matsutaro Shoriki and the vital role he played in bringing US-sponsored atomic energy to Japan during the Cold War years.

In 1946, six months after the American occupation of Japan had begun, the US progressive magazine the Nation correctly noted how “Shoriki’s yellow journalism, combined with the scandalously low wages he paid his newsmen and printers, brought him rich profits, and his fervent support of aggression [in the Pacific War] won him a seat in the House of Peers and a position as Cabinet adviser.”60

Compare that with the glowing coverage a few years later by US mainstream media: Shoriki as “bitterly anti-Communist” ally to the US and Japan’s “most successful publisher,” known “among Western newsmen as the [William Randolph] ‘Hearst of Japan’” (Time magazine, 1954);61 Shoriki as “father of professional baseball in Japan” who nobly sent then–US president Eisenhower an ancient suit of Japanese armor as a show of goodwill (Washington Post, 1954);62 Shoriki as “Japan’s Mr. Atom,” a man who “has made a brilliant success of nearly everything he has tried” and who, “‘if he lives long enough . . . will make Japan one of the leading atomic powers of the world’” (New York Times Magazine, 1957);63 and Shoriki as pioneering TV network president aiming to make Japan the first country in the world to have color television (Time, 1959).64

Then there was the 1963 Time tribute to Shoriki as art connoisseur, head of his Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper’s own symphony orchestra, architect of the “Yomuiri Land” amusement park in Tokyo named for his newspaper, and all-around Man for the Millennium. The article quoted Bob Considine, a well-known columnist for the Hearst media empire in the US, who sounded almost shocked with awe: “[W]henever editors speak of the great press lords of our age, they often mention Hearst and sometimes [Canadian-British tycoon Lord] Beaverbrook. But they always mention Shoriki.”65

Just a few years earlier, this same Hearst underling and ghostwriter, Considine, had written the foreword to the American publishing industry’s own nod to Japan’s premier media baron in a 200-page book titled Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan—A Biography. The book was published in 1957 by Exposition Press, back then a leading publisher of so-called “vanity books” that are essentially paid for by the person who is the subject of the biography—which, in this case, would have been Shoriki himself. The book was coauthored by the publishing company’s president, Edward Uhlan. A New York Times obituary would later list Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan as one of the late Uhlan’s most noteworthy accomplishments.66

All in all, Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan stands out as a cleverly crafted work of disinformation. It covers up Shoriki’s infamous reputation as a police bureaucrat before the Second World War, plays down his wartime role in anti-US propaganda and war-criminal imprisonment by the US after the war, and plays up his subsequent achievements in baseball, news media, and atomic energy in Japan—with a strong line of anticommunist sentiment running throughout. Newspaper, magazine, and book publishing media in the US had now weighed in with Shoriki and his crusade for a pro-America, pro-nuclear Japan, and on the whole found him to be on the right side of the cause.

Epilogue: The Road from Fukushima

When Matsutaro Shoriki died in 1969 at age eighty-four while in office as a representative of Japan’s parliament (and while still NTV network president), his obituary in the Washington Post was surprisingly sparse. Nowhere did the Post mention that Shoriki, as Japan’s first atomic energy commissioner, had been Washington’s point man on nuclear energy development after the war—indeed, he had led Japan to embrace atomic power as a prime energy resource ten years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Also missing was Shoriki’s tainted past as a former police official and as a prisoner during the US occupation of Japan. And of course, there was no mention at all of the CIA’s interest in Shoriki as an asset of the agency.67

Just a few years later in 1976, however, the late Shoriki’s name surfaced in connection with the “Lockheed scandal,” a major political scandal in Japan involving bribe money paid by the US aerospace corporation Lockheed to a former Japanese prime minister. The conservative Yomiuri newspaper denied allegations of Shoriki, its ex-president, having been a past “recipient of CIA favors” and spoke of suing for libel the American publications that carried the stories.68

If most Japanese people know or remember anything at all about the late press lord today, it is probably the “Matsutaro Shoriki Award” bestowed in Shoriki’s name every year with great fanfare to some outstanding Japanese baseball figure by NTV network and Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper—whose circulation of thirteen million readers today makes it reputedly the largest daily newspaper in the world.69 The majority of Americans know even less about Shoriki, including the fact that the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts in Boston today has a respectable chair position named after him.70 And for their part, few if any Japanese mainstream media companies in their news reporting are linking Shoriki to nuclear energy and the Fukushima accident of March 11, 2011—even though it was his influence and vision of a fully atomic-powered Japan, with firm support by the US, that had led Japan as a nation to that place.

Demands have arisen in the wake of Fukushima for Japanese government nuclear regulators and politicians to be more independent of the nuclear power industry that they are supposed to be keeping an eye on.71 But looking to the future, there is one more party that equally needs to be separated from Japan’s nuclear power establishment (or “nuclear power village,” as it’s called), and that is the Japanese press. The media in Japan, like the government regulators, have been intimate with the nation’s atomic energy club from the very start. Until the day when the Japanese news media are finally weaned off the nation’s nuclear power village, the whole truth about nuclear energy—and the corruption and great public dangers surrounding it—will continue to be mostly unseen and unknown in this country. Disengaging the Japanese press from the nuclear powers-that-be will not be easy, but it must be done.

One place to start would be to begin dismantling the Japanese kisha club system. This too will be no easy task, given the deep historical and institutional roots of the system. But if the toothless Japanese lapdog press of today is to regain the public credibility at home and abroad that it lost in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster—and if it is to earn the respect that it would deserve as a true watchdog of the people over Japan’s centers of power in the future—then it is the Japanese news media that must now take the first steps in that direction on this long and uncertain road away from Fukushima.

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BRIAN COVERT is an independent journalist and author based in Kawanishi, western Japan. He has worked for United Press International news service in Japan, as staff reporter for three of Japan’s English-language daily newspapers, and as contributor to Japanese and overseas newspapers and magazines. He is currently a lecturer in the Department of Media, Journalism, and Communications at Doshisha University in Kyoto.

Notes

1. David McNeill, “Fukushima Lays Bare Japanese Media’s Ties to Top,” Japan Times, January 8, 2012,http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120108x3.html.
2. Five of the world’s top ten daily newspapers with the highest circulations are based in Japan. See Jochen Legewie, Japan’s Media: Inside and Outside Powerbrokers, Communications & Network Consulting Japan K.K. (Tokyo, March 2010), 3, http://www.cnc-communications.com/fileadmin/user_upload/Publications/2010_03_Japans_Media_Booklet_2nd_Ed_JL.pdf.
3. Simon Partner, Assembled in Japan: Electrical Goods and the Making of the Japanese Consumer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 74.
4. August Kengelbacher, “Great Kanto Earthquake 1923,”http://www.japan-guide.com/a/earthquake.
5. Sonia Ryang, “The Tongue That Divided Life and Death: The 1923 Tokyo Earthquake and the Massacre of Koreans,” Japan Focus, September 3, 2007, http://www.japanfocus.org/-Sonia-Ryang/2513. For similar accounts, see also Mikiso Hane, Reflections on the Way to the Gallows: Rebel Women in Prewar Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), esp. 171, 176, 191–92; and Asahi Shimbun newspaper, “Murder of an Anarchist Recalled: Suppression of News in the Wake of the 1923 Tokyo Earthquake,” Japan Focus, November 5, 2007, http://www.japanfocus.org/-The_Asahi_Shinbun_Cultural_Research_Center-/2569.
6. Shinichi Sano, Kyokaiden: Shoriki Matsutaro to Kagemusha-tachi no Isseiki (ge) [Biography of Matsutaro Shoriki, vol. 2] (Tokyo: Bungeishunju, 2011), 442.
7. Sano, Kyokaiden: Shoriki Matsutaro to Kagemusha-tachi no Isseiki (jo) [Biography of Matsutaro Shoriki, vol. 1] (Tokyo: Bungeishunju, 2011), 217.
8. “The Press: Lord High Publisher,” Time, August 16, 1954, 74.
9. Partner, Assembled in Japan, 172.
10. Ben-Ami Shillony, Politics and Culture in Wartime Japan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 99.
11. Sano, Kyokaiden [vol. 2], 446.
12. Partner, Assembled in Japan, 76; see also Shillony, Politics and Culture, 105.
13. “1,000 Ask Trial for Publisher,” New York Times, October 30, 1945; see also Sano, Kyokaiden [vol. 1], 438–44.
14. “Yomiuri Chairman Defends Actions in Internal Feud,” Asahi Shimbun, November 29, 2011,http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/AJ201111290056b.
15. Shinsho Hanayama, The Way of Deliverance: Three Years with the Condemned Japanese War Criminals (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950), 4; see also Partner, Assembled in Japan, 73–74.
16. Hanayama, The Way of Deliverance, 5.
17. “Ruth’s Ex-Pal Held as Jap [sic] War Criminal,” Washington Post, December 6, 1945, 15.
18. Ibid.
19. United States Department of State, “Milestones 1945–1952: Korean War and Japan’s Recovery,”http://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/KoreanWar.
20. David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro, Yakuza—The Explosive Account of Japan’s Criminal Underworld (London: Futura Publications, 1987), esp. 69–71, 75–78.
21. Edward Uhlan and Dana L. Thomas, Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan—A Biography (New York: Exposition Press, 1957), 181–82.
22. Partner, Assembled in Japan, 83.
23. Ibid., 78–79.
24. Ibid., 84.
25. Ibid., 78.
26. Ibid., 83–84.
27. Sano, Kyokaiden [vol. 2], 449; see also Partner, Assembled in Japan, 84.
28. Partner, Assembled in Japan, 84–86.
29. Edward F. Ryan, untitled article from Washington Post archives, September 22, 1954, 2.
30. “A Reactor for Japan,” Washington Post, September 23, 1954, 18.
31. “Belgium and Japan Seek 1st ‘A-for-Peace’ Power,” Washington Post, February 15, 1955, 5.
32. Sano, Kyokaiden [vol. 2], 450.
33. Ran Zwigenberg, “‘The Coming of a Second Sun’: The 1956 Atoms for Peace Exhibit in Hiroshima and Japan’s Embrace of Nuclear Power,” Japan Focus, February 6, 2012, http://japanfocus
.org/-Ran-Zwigenberg/3685.
34. Robert Trumbull, “Japan Welcomes Peace Atom Show,” New York Times, November 1, 1955, 14.
35. Tetsuo Arima, Genpatsu—Shoriki—CIA [Nuclear power—Shoriki—The CIA] (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 2011), 119.
36. Japan Atomic Energy Commission, text of letter from US ambassador in Japan John M. Allison to Matsutaro Shoriki, January 13, 1956,http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/about/ugoki/geppou/V01/N01/19560510V01N01.HTML.
37. Yuki Tanaka and Peter Kuznick, “Japan, the Atomic Bomb, and the ‘Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Power,’” Japan Focus, May 2, 2011,http://www.japanfocus.org/-Yuki-TANAKA/3521. See also Zwigenberg, “‘The Coming of a Second Sun,’” Japan Focus.
38. Ran Zwigenberg, “‘The Coming of a Second Sun.’”
39. Tetsuo Arima, Nippon Terebi to CIA—Hakkutsu-sareta “Shoriki Fairu” [NTV and the CIA—The uncovered “Shoriki files”] (Tokyo: Takarajima-sha, 2011), 30.
40. Arima, Genpatsu—Shoriki—CIA, 113; see also “From Hiroshima to Fukushima: The Political Background to the Nuclear Disaster in Japan,” World Socialist Web Site, June 23, 2011,http://wsws.org/articles/2011/jun2011/fuku-j23.shtml. Quotation is retranslated into English from the Japanese original.
41. Arima, Genpatsu—Shoriki—CIA, 112.
42. National Archives and Records Administration, “Cryptonyms and Terms in Declassified CIA Files—Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Disclosure Acts,” dated June 2007,http://www.archives.gov/iwg/declassified-records/rg-263-cia-records/second-release-lexicon.pdf. Accessed on March 13, 2012.
43. Ibid.
44. Arima, Nippon Terebi to CIA, 63; see also Partner, Assembled in Japan, 86–87.
45. Arima, Genpatsu—Shoriki—CIA, 58.
46. Arima, Nippon Terebi to CIA. A copy of the document is partially displayed on the book’s front cover.
47. Arima, Genpatsu—Shoriki—CIA, 110; see also “Tsunami: Japan’s Post-Fukushima Future,” Foreign Policy, 2011, 198,http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/tutEkfeUr4fOa3v/06282011_Tsunami.pdf.
48. Partner, Assembled in Japan, 228.
49. “Advertising Expenditure of Leading Corporations (FY 2010),” Nikkei Advertising Research Institute, http://nikkei-koken.com/surveys/survey14.html.
50. “Toden Kokoku-hi 90-oku en no Hamon” [Ripple effect of Tokyo Electric’s nine billion yen advertising expenses], Tokyo Shimbun, May 17, 2011, 26–27. The figure of nine billion yen is for 2009.
51. Translated commentary by Osamu Aoki on Asahi Newstar cable TV program Nyusu no Me [Eyes of the news], April 7, 2011,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2Ma4eWhX_U&feature=related.
52. For an overview of how the “kisha club” system works and other related issues, see Tomoomi Mori, “Japan’s News Media,” in Censored 2007: The Top 25 Censored Stories, eds. Peter Phillips and Project Censored (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006), 367–82.
53. Kanako Takahara, “Tight-lipped Tepco Lays Bare Exclusivity of Press Clubs,” Japan Times, May 3, 2011,http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20110503f1.html.
54. Ibid.
55. Days Japan magazine, “Genpatsu Jiko Hodo no Kensho Shiryo” [Verified documentation of nuclear accident reporting], February 2012, 41.
56. Kenichi Asano, “BBC ni yoru Jiko Hodo” [Accident reporting by the BBC], Days Japan, February 2012, 60–61; see also “Japan Earthquake: Concerns over Nuclear Power Stations,” BBC News, March 11, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12719707.
57. “Japan’s Desperate Nuclear Gypsies,” Al Jazeera English, June 30, 2011,http://www.aljazeera.com/video/asia/2011/06/2011630173015833205.html.
58. Nuclear Ginza, Small World Productions, Cardiff, England, 1995,http://www.smallworldtv.co.uk/public/main.cfm?m1=c_75&m2=c_2&m3=c_56&m4=e_0. A Japanese subtitled version of the film can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNq0qyQJ5xs.
59. Tomohiko Suzuki, press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Tokyo, December 15, 2011,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_lYwNyTyiU. Suzuki goes into more detail in his book Yakuza to Genpatsu [The yakuza and nuclear power] (Tokyo: Bungeishunju, 2011).
60. Andrew Roth, “Japan’s Press Revolution,” Nation, March 16, 1946, 315.
61. “The Press: Lord High Publisher,” Time, 1954, 76.
62. Herb Heft, “Baseball Men Cite Good-Will Created on Trip by Giants,” Washington Post, February 7, 1954:C2.
63. Foster Hailey, “Japan’s Mr. Atom,” New York Times Magazine, November 17, 1957, SM50.
64. “Show Business: Television Abroad—Come-On in Color,” Time, August 3, 1959, 57.
65. “The Press: Publishers—Bigger & Better than Anyone,” Time, May 24, 1963, 57–58. Emphasis in the original.
66. Edwin McDowell, “Obituaries: Edward Uhlan, 76, Founder and Leader Of Vanity Publisher,” New York Times, October 26, 1988,http://www.nytimes.com/1988/10/26/obituaries/edward-uhlan-76-founder-and-leader-of-vanity-publisher.html.
67. “Matsutaro Shoriki, 84, Dies; Publisher of Japanese Daily,” Washington Post, October 9, 1969, M10.
68. Richard Halloran, “Premier Miki Vows Lockheed Inquiry,” New York Times, April 4, 1976, 2.
69. Legewie, Japan’s Media: Inside and Outside Powerbrokers, 3.
70. ArtDaily.org, “Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Announces New Chair of Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa,” September 20, 2008,http://www.artdaily.com/index.asp?int_new=26246&int_sec=2.
71. Norimitsu Onishi and Ken Belson, “Culture of Complicity Tied to Stricken Nuclear Plant,” New York Times, April 26, 2011,http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/27/world/asia/27collusion.html?pagewanted=all.

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Noam Chomsky on Adam Smith & Invisible Hand

December 31, 2013

americanfeud.org:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaZORYaygo0

The World After Industrial Civilization Goes

December 31, 2013
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by Jan Lundberg
20 October 2011
ImageAuthor Keith Farnish has a problem with Western Civilization. So do I. I mean, Mozart is all well and good, but destroying the planet through industrialism and growth isn’t quite worth civilization’s accomplishments. Or is extinction a small price to pay for our glorious expansion? The downsides are hard-wired to the dominant culture.Even if sustainability were not a critical issue, for anyone to have to pay to live on Earth is a ridiculous notion for a society to undertake. But this is our brilliant system, whereby people are conditioned to compete and buy into their own slavery. Abandoning nature in order to have to buy pieces of it as commodities is inefficiency and waste of the tallest order. Modern man is demonstrably stupid to rely on unnecessary slavery, whereas any animal smart enough to survive in the wild cannot be stupid and is no kind of slave.

One form of human enslavement is to tolerate massive pollution, such as the sum of greenhouse gas output from the technological giants China and the U.S. One can surmise that those of us who sit by and do not lift a finger lack a “survival gene” in our evolutionarily strange times.

Keith asked me, in the spirit of co-liberation for humanity and the species we have enslaved, to furnish a chapter to his upcoming book Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change. Upon reading the introduction he wrote, I’m in support of the project. Here’s what he got from me in early October of this year:

 

The World After Industrial Civilization Goes

Usher in the “new” economics of local self-sufficiency and community cooperation

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man*
– Imagine, John Lennon
*Lest any feminists be offended by the quaintness of the last line, it is worth recalling that Lennon was soon to unleash “Woman is the Nigger of the World.”

I like to think that critics of civilization are above all compassionate, nonviolent and realistic.  So perhaps we can keep in mind that wishing for quick change to save the planet and throw off the shackles of capitalism and authoritarianism has to be weighed with today’s vast dependence on industry.  Yes, the economy will collapse and end most greenhouse gas emissions. But this is not to say everything will be just fine as soon as manufacturing and oil-powered transport stop. There will be severe repercussions to “lifelines” of energy, food and materials being cut or terminated.As industrial civilization is built on exploiting nonrenewable “resources” (many of which should never have been tapped), and human population and consumption of manufactured materials are near peak, the unsustainability of unlimited industrialism should be obvious.

Whether the unsustainability is obvious or not, collapse can be sudden and rapid, as the house-of-cards economy built on cheap, ample petroleum can have the rug pulled out from under it by any break in the chain. Then the infrastructure fails once and for all, beginning the final rusting of the machinery of civilization on all levels.

One can say today, while we still enjoy vast quantities of food shipped great distances, “That’s fine, the Earth needs a break.”  But population die-off has two versions: simple starvation that can be overcome after petrocollapse, or species extinction due to weakening of the gene pool and assaults from nuclear events, disease, and climate destabilization.

If we have simple starvation, and can survive the other assaults, then we can paint a picture of the world after industrial civilization that has a viable human presence.  I am optimistic about it.  A new culture borrowing heavily on traditional ways of various indigenous cultures, with some helpful influences from recent visionaries, will emerge from the rubble of petrocivilization.  The breakdown of the previous global corporate culture and lack of cheap, fast travel will assure a larger world of innumerable autonomous bioregional nations and tribes.

Individually the end of industrial civilization and massive government means being free from jobs, i.e., working for others for their purposes to earn money to buy essentials that nature actually provides freely.  This is unthinkable by many today, but they tend to distrust the masses’ thinking for themselves and managing with self-rule and voluntary cooperation.

Along with rejecting the obvious failures and mistakes of the previous era of growth and “progress,” the new culture will have to find harmony with nature.  This cannot be done with the hierarchal, patriarchal, religious empire-building mindset that ravaged the planet starting with perhaps Sumer.  Therefore the new culture will feature equality, justice, mutual aid, and will refrain from building surpluses for grandiose schemes of expansion or greed.

As to nuts & bolts, or the lack of them, I wrote in January of 2007 in Culture Change Letter #150, “one can visualize local crafts-people soon making due with scrap materials and some renewable resources. The individual’s possessions will not be so voluminous and overbearing when the change comes. There will no longer be a great number of things used daily, because new stuff won’t be available and cheaply shipped to everyone the way it once was. So, re-using finally becomes the rule of the day.”

However, maximizing bicycles and bike-trailers may be a transition phenomenon that lasts only a century at best.  This may not be so terrible: as we become less material oriented we become more spiritual.  It can be argued that nature and spirit are really one.  If a “primitive” and simple life for all sounds objectionable, tough shit.  The question is “what is really ahead?”, not what we feel we are entitled to as modern homo “sapiens.”  As part of the swing of the pendulum, spirituality identified with the Earth will return strongly, as people revere life in part by deploring the past era’s trashing of the living world.

As certain regions will be damaged for centuries by past practices and the distortions of climate change, they cannot provide every essential food or material for sustaining the lives or happiness of the tribe or nation, if isolated.  So trade will be perhaps essential.  Without cheap oil, and in the absence of renewable fuels such as biofuels that still depend on mechanical systems involving high entropy, the low-tech, efficient mode of sailing will return to the fore.  Already it is making itself attractive in a cost sense as the corporate global economy continues to pollute the atmosphere with disastrous bunker fuel and routine oil spills out of view of the news media and public consciousness.

People in temperate and arctic climes can live without coffee, chocolate, and other delicacies now shipped thousands of miles to addicts and bon vivants.  But people prefer not to be deprived: if something can be done, it will be done.  Additionally, a favorable environment here for producing olives, for example, can result in a reasonable surplus to trade for some grain from over there.  Specialization is a questionable reliance, but sharing and assisting other communities will be carried out between peoples who, since the Great Collapse, will be evolving their bioregions into very diverse, unique cultures.  The loss of languages and cultures will be remedied over time.  Sailing will keep up the right level of communication, knowledge, and mutual aid, for the new reduced population size.

That’s if we can survive the undoing of civilization and its toxic and radioactive consequences.

– Depaver Jan Lundberg, independent oil industry analyst
Monterey Bay, California, October 8, 2011

 

Image

from Underminers.org

* * * * *

Further reading:

Keith Farnish’s forthcoming book, has begun online here:Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change. Some of his writings are on Culture Change.

Jan Lundberg’s January 2007 essay: Ending Industrialism: Will peak oil save the climate, or shall we first embrace a new culture?

 

Comments (5)Add Comment

We can hope it will be as peaceful as you portray. All you suggest is possible. I would like to share the first two paragraphs of my essay on the coming new middle ages:
We will go kicking and screaming down the path to the new Middle Ages as fossil fuels desert us. With the decline of available energy, those of most of us who have sat at the top of the energy pyramid will become the new peasants. With the popular view of the Middle Ages as a brutal and dirty time filled with famine and disease and at the mercy of armed overlords. We cringe at the thought.

With great sadness, we must recognize the direct connection between present day population levels and the use of fossil fuels in food production, medical procedures, medicines and hygiene. With the fall in fossil fuel availability there will be a reduction in population. Population soared with the industrial revolution and the development of industrial, fossil fuel based agriculture. It cannot be sustained.
From: The New Middle Ages
http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2011/05/new-middle-ages.html

John Weber

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There are so many illogical and ill thought out arguments in this article it is unbelievable. I’ll highlight JUST one:

“One can say today, while we still enjoy vast quantities of food shipped great distances, “That’s fine, the Earth needs a break.” But population die-off has two versions: simple starvation that can be overcome after petrocollapse, or species extinction due to weakening of the gene pool and assaults from nuclear events, disease, and climate destabilization. ”

What? Assuming that your hypothesis of “simple starvation” happens (which wouldn’t be simple or peaceful), you say you are optimistic of the results. What if it was YOUR entire family that starved to death? Or are you thinking in a western mindset and assuming it will be the third world that dies off, leaving the west to “get in touch with nature, man.”

I’m not sure if you created these arguments as you went along, or if you seriously think that humanity will forgo progress to assume some spiritual ideology you hold to be superior. There are societies that currently exist that you would fit right in, so instead of publishing poorly constructed articles about progress on the internet (dissing progress on your Mac Book Pro?), why don’t you move to an environment better suited to your worldly beliefs? You do realize your proposed policies are half-baked, and anyone with an education understands how ludicrous this article is, right?

PS) You’re advocating a return to sailing and destroying trade specialization? Give me a break!

daftones

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You are dumb daftones. Plain and simple. There is no “argument”. He is saying it is math. This amount of petrol equals this amount of population. Its very easy. Goodbye Petrol= Goodbye petrol dependent monkey-men. And as far as what you deem “progress” (ie starvation at an all time high, nuclear fallout worldwide, a 4th major extinction etc etc etc)it seems there is no arguing that that is just about through. Better get over it buddy.
Zach

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Reading this article, among others on the subject around the net, as well as their respective range of responses, I’m continuously reminded of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which, apparently, is a giant and relatively-permanent storm that forever rages…
It makes me think of our species as Earth’s biological red spot, raging forever on survival’s knife’s edge, never quite disappearing, yet blasting everything within itself and around it… as it wipes out more peaceful, intelligent, and/or mature mutations of us… what can mutually beneficially coexist and integrate with nature, like the honey bees or mycellium…

I try not to think of humans in this way, and used to feel fairly optimistic at my core, but that core’s optimism seems to be eroding, like the death-of-a-thousand-cuts, and soils and environments worldwide, as I continue to witness the dust-devils that increase in size and frequency.

…Perhaps it is just my imagination…

Caelan MacIntyre

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“Therefore the new culture will feature equality, justice, mutual aid, and will refrain from building surpluses for grandiose schemes of expansion or greed.”

This will never happen, look at history – people repeat same mistakes and never learn. After the oil civilization, there will be another similar civilization using other resources and so on…Until the Earth becomes inhabitable for humans and finally cleanses itself from us…

2013 in review

December 31, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,100 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thank you, readers, comment-writers, reporters, news periodicals (OpEd, Common Dreams, Tradingpost, Reader Supported News, Grist, NationofChange, etc.)!

Better New Year!

NAFTA at 20: “Record of Damage” to Widen with “NAFTA-on-Steroids” TPP

December 31, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 30, 2013
3:56 PM

CONTACT: Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA)

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

WASHINGTON – December 30 – The North American Free Trade Agreement took effect on Jan. 1, 1994.

LORI WALLACH, via Joseph Williams, jwilliams at citizen.org,@pcgtw
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, which just released the report “NAFTA at 20″ [PDF]. Wallach said today: “NAFTA’s actual outcomes prove how damaging this type of agreement is for most people, that it should be renegotiated and why we cannot have any more such deals that include job-offshoring incentives, requirements that we import food that doesn’t meet our safety standards or new rights for firms to get taxpayer compensation before foreign tribunals over laws they don’t like. Given NAFTA’s record of damage, it is equal parts disgusting and infuriating that now President Barack Obama has joined the corporate Pinocchios who lied about NAFTA in recycling similar claims to try to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is NAFTA-on-steroids.”

Public Citizen states: “The study tracks the promises made by U.S. corporations like Chrysler and Caterpillar to create specific numbers of American jobs if NAFTA was approved, and reveals government data showing that instead, they fired U.S. workers and moved operations to Mexico. The data also show how post-NAFTA trade and investment trends have contributed to middle-class pay cuts, which in turn contributed to growing income inequality; how since NAFTA, U.S. trade deficit growth with Mexico and Canada has been 45 percent higher than with countries not party to a U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and how U.S. manufacturing and services exports to Canada and Mexico have grown at less than half the pre-NAFTA rate. …

“Public opinion has shifted dramatically, from a narrow divide during the 1993 NAFTA debate to overwhelming opposition today. A 2012 Angus Reid Public Opinion poll found that 53 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should ‘do whatever is necessary’ to ‘renegotiate’ or ‘leave’ NAFTA, while only 15 percent believe the U.S. should ‘continue to be a member of NAFTA.’ That opposition cuts across party lines, class divisions and education levels, perhaps explaining growing controversy over the proposed deepening and expansion of the NAFTA model through the TPP. …

“The export of subsidized U.S. corn did increase under NAFTA, destroying the livelihoods of more than one million Mexican campesino farmers and about 1.4 million additional Mexican workers whose livelihoods depended on agriculture. The desperate migration of those displaced from Mexico’s rural economy pushed down wages in Mexico’s border maquiladora factory zone and contributed to a doubling of Mexican immigration to the U.S. following NAFTA’s implementation.”

###

A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.

Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) Links:

The Shocking Redistribution of Wealth in the Past Five Years

December 31, 2013

Published on Monday, December 30, 2013 by Common Dreams

by Paul Buchheit

Anyone reviewing the data is likely to conclude that there must be some mistake. It doesn’t seem possible that one out of twenty American families could each have made a million dollars since Obama became President, while the average American family’s net worth has barely recovered. But the evidence comes from numerous reputable sources.

Some conservatives continue to claim that President Obama is unfriendly to business, but the facts show that the richest Americans and the biggest businesses have been the main – perhaps only – beneficiaries of the massive wealth gain over the past five years.

1. $5 Million to Each of the 1%, and $1 Million to Each of the Next 4%

From the end of 2008 to the middle of 2013 total U.S. wealth increasedfrom $47 trillion to $72 trillion. About $16 trillion of that is financial gain (stocks and other financial instruments).

The richest 1% own about 38 percent of stocks, and half of non-stock financial assets. So they’ve gained at least $6.1 trillion (38 percent of $16 trillion). That’s over $5 million for each of 1.2 million households.

The next richest 4%, based on similar calculations, gained about $5.1 trillion. That’s over a million dollars for each of their 4.8 million households.

The least wealthy 90% in our country own only 11 percent of all stocks excluding pensions (which are fast disappearing). The frantic recent surge in the stock market has largely bypassed these families.

2. Evidence of Our Growing Wealth Inequality

This first fact is nearly ungraspable: In 2009 the average wealth for almost half of American families was ZERO (their debt exceeded their assets).

In 1983 the families in America’s poorer half owned an average of about$15,000. But from 1983 to 1989 median wealth fell from over $70,000 to about $60,000. From 1998 to 2009, fully 80% of American families LOST wealth. They had to borrow to stay afloat.

It seems the disparity couldn’t get much worse, but after the recession it did. According to a Pew Research Center study, in the first two years of recovery the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%. And then, from 2011 to 2013, the stock market grew by almost 50 percent, with again the great majority of that gain going to the richest 5%.

Today our wealth gap is worse than that of the third world. Out of all developed and undeveloped countries with at least a quarter-million adults, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.

3. Congress’ Solution: Take from the Poor

Congress has responded by cutting unemployment benefits and food stamps, along with other ‘sequester’ targets like Meals on Wheels for seniors and Head Start for preschoolers. The more the super-rich make, the more they seem to believe in the cruel fantasy that the poor are to blame for their own struggles.

President Obama recently proclaimed that inequality “drives everything I do in this office.” Indeed it may, but in the wrong direction.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

Homeless Japanese Being ‘Recruited’ To Clean Up Fukushima Disaster

December 31, 2013
Published on Monday, December 30, 2013 by Common Dreams

Investigation reveals systematic exploitation of homeless by big business and organized crime

– Jon Queally, staff writer

Shizuya Nishiyama, a 57-year-old homeless man from Hokkaido, speaks during an interview with Reuters at Sendai Station in Sendai, northern Japan December 18, 2013. (Credit: REUTERS/Issei Kato)Private labor contractors in Japan are “recruiting” homeless individuals throughout the country, luring them to perform clean-up work in the areas near the destroyed nuclear power plant at Fukushima for less than minimum wage.

That’s the finding of a new special Reuters investigation which says that shady business operators are employing men like Seiji Sasa to “prowl” train stations and other places throughout the country targeting “homeless men” who are “willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.”

The investigation found a shady but systematic labor scheme—much of it run by organized crime but also involving some of the nation’s top construction firms—in which day laborers are exploited by contractors receiving state funds to clean up areas near the plant.

“We’re an easy target for recruiters,” said 57-year-old Shizuya Nishiyama, a homeless man recruited at a train station in the city of Sendai. “We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we’re easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven’t eaten, they offer to find us a job.”

In exchange for bringing workers to the sites, the middlemen receive a cut of their wages.

“I don’t ask questions; that’s not my job,” said Sasa, one of these so-called “middle men,” in an interview with Reuters. “I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That’s it. I don’t get involved in what happens after that.”

Reviewing police records and conducting interviews with some of the people directly involved, Reuters reveals the ongoing and perilous nature of the clean-up work at Fukushima and the ways in which society’s most vulnerable are being exploited for profit in the aftermath of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

According to Reuters, the scheme plays out when large construction firms like Obayashi, the nation’s second biggest and major contractor at Fukushima, employs sub-contractors like Sasa:

Seiji Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station to work in the nuclear cleanup. The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a $1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say. […]

Only a third of the money allocated for wages by Obayashi’s top contractor made it to the workers Sasa had found. The rest was skimmed by middlemen, police say. After deductions for food and lodging, that left workers with an hourly rate of about $6, just below the minimum wage equal to about $6.50 per hour in Fukushima, according to wage data provided by police. Some of the homeless men ended up in debt after fees for food and housing were deducted, police say.

Read the complete investigation here.

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Comment: TEPCO sublet subcontractors (2nd, 3rd, 4th,…) to save moneys, responsibilities, irradiation records, etc.