Archive for February, 2014

Why Governments Promote Deadly Nuclear Energy and Ban Beneficial Hemp

February 28, 2014
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nukes or nugs, now or never
(image by The Enstitue, Sean)

 

By Ethan Indigo Smith

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

It is incredibly difficult to encapsulate lies, spin and omitted truths into a single idea that can be understood by those who are systemically compelled to ingest the results of those lies. But here goes”.

Societal fraud, whether outright lies or omitted truths (which are just clever lies), requires a whole series of resolute paradigm insistence and institutional dictum. Societal fraud essentially says that 2 + 2 = 5, or that what you are seeing clearly is something else entirely. And it is done in such a way that you believe it — or are ostracized for not believing it. Societal lies are so many and so multi-faceted that the truth can be obscured (nearly) completely by specific bogus intricacies — and, as was the intention of those intricacies, most of us are lost in the fog.

There are so many facets and rivets to the mechanical lies that society accepts today, built with so much shoddy misdirecting material, that to deconstruct the machine and understand how we arrived from point A to point C requires an understanding of history, politics, psychology and human behavior that goes way beyond the pale, so to speak. Or we can simply ask the right questions”..

 

Asking the Right QuestionsWe have so much technology and access to information, it is as if we can permeate the  Akashic field  with our fingertips. But without knowing the right question to ask, we ask the questions that lying mechanizations direct. What good is access to information when all one wants to do is play Angry Birds?

Without extensive questioning in the first place, we are left so many degrees of separation away from the information we truly need. With the right frame of reference and the correct questions, the information can be found, the structure of the “lying machine’ becomes evident, and occasionally, one can find out who built it and even why (although these points can be more difficult to source).

While inconvenient information may be obscured by government spin and media selectivity, the truth is all out there. Knowing where to look, how to search, and what questions to ask is the key. For example:

    • Want to see evidence published by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration that demonstrates the ingredients they continue to approve for use in commercial sunscreens, deodorants and medications include substances that cause photosensitivity and which can cause cancer when exposed to the sun?  Click here.
    • Want to see the U.S. company registration documents for the US-based corporation, “Japan”, which most people believe to be a constitutional monarchy?  Click here.
  • Want to see a copy of the legal filings that enacted the lawful (but not physical) foreclosure of your government in October 2012?  Click here.
  • Want to read the Convention document that legally protects the nuclear industry from liability for its disastrous ongoing meltdowns, and attaches the liability to you, the taxpayer? Click here.

There are many ways to see the world. With an open mind and a curious attitude (which requires one to admit there are things one doesn’t know) one can take a look at the world in completely new ways. And with the right tools at your disposal, this will help you come to profound new answers.

Understanding how to think critically is crucial to asking the right questions — and utilizing the basic four types of information can help you do it.

In any situation, where opposing views are presented, one typically asks: “Is it one? Is it the other?” But a critical thinker, with the Matrix of Four at their disposal, asks: “Is it one? Is it the other? Is it neither? Or is it both?”

[Editor: for a detailed examination of this concept, check out Ethan’s book The Matrix of Four, The Philosophy of The Duality of Polarity]

Political Formality vs. TruthTo focus our perspective, we must understand the difference between individuals and institutions. Institutions are increasingly oligarchies – slanted systems that afford power and benefit to “the few’ over “the many’. And t he most dangerous system on Earth, by far, is that of nuclear experimentation.

Nuclear reactions have the potential to permanently endanger our Earth, just as they have already done, and to render it uninhabitable.  So why does our society accept the risks inherent in nuclear industries? The answer is: oligarchical collectivism. Despite its dangers, it is profitable to “the few’.

Pro-nukers will be quick to note the different sub-sets of the nuclear experimentation industry, being power generation and weapon detonation, in an attempt to separate the concept of nuclear power from the dangers of nuclear weaponry. The immediate problem with this thinking is two-fold:

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TV: “Disturbing new development in WIPP radiation leak, surprising words today” — “What went wrong and why, those are some of the questions swirling around” — County official calls it ‘a disaster’ (VIDEOS)

February 28, 2014

Latest Headlines from ENENews


CBC: Radioactive particles arrive ‘far earlier than predicted’ for N. America — Mag: ‘Plumes stretch 4,800 miles across ocean!’ — Experts: There’s great alarm… Legitimate concern… Expected to dilute, but don’t really know — US Govt: ‘Monitoring beaches for debris from Fukushima nuclear disaster’ (VIDEO)

Posted: 28 Feb 2014 12:13 AM PST

Officials: More may be affected by WIPP radiation release — TV: They don’t know how serious it is or how it affects community; Could take months to fix leak — CBS: Ceiling collapse or punctured canister suspected; Still in ‘guinea pig’ stage; EPA monitors requested in area (VIDEO)

Posted: 27 Feb 2014 08:02 PM PST

TV: “Disturbing new development in WIPP radiation leak, surprising words today” — “What went wrong and why, those are some of the questions swirling around” — County official calls it ‘a disaster’ (VIDEOS)

Posted: 27 Feb 2014 05:30 PM PST

Radiation leak affects 13 US plant employees

February 28, 2014
2014-02-27 08:03

The first load of nuclear waste arrives at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site in Carlsbad, N.M., from Los Alamos National Labs. (File, AP)The first load of nuclear waste arrives at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site in Carlsbad, N.M., from Los Alamos National Labs. (File, AP)

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Washington – A total of 13 employees of a New Mexico underground nuclear waste site were exposed to radiation, test results showed on Wednesday.

The workers tested positive for americium-241, an isotope prevalent in the type of radioactive waste – transuranic waste containing mostly plutonium – at the nation’s first underground repository for such material.

The radionuclide is also used in commercially available smoke detectors and is a contaminant in nuclear weapons manufacturing.

But the manager at the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Jose Franco, said the contamination was likely minimal and stressed that more testing would be needed.

“It is premature to speculate on the health effects of these preliminary results, or any treatment that may be needed,” Franco said in a statement.

“Airborne contamination was likely at very low levels.”

Underground blaze

As soon as the airborne radiation was detected on 14 February, WIPP’s ventilation system automatically switched to filtration mode in order to prevent air exchange with the surface.

No employees were working underground at the time, according to officials at the plant.

Department of Energy officials had stressed that there was no danger to human health or the environment.

“There is no risk to family or friends of these employees,” Franco said about those who were exposed to the radiation, adding that more samples would be taken in the coming weeks.

He said the employees were notified within about 12 hours of preliminary sample results.

The workers had been performing above-ground operations and federal oversight duties at the site when the radiation was detected.

The site was shut down and not performing active operations at the time.

“Since the event, only essential personnel have been allowed access to the site,” an Energy Department statement said. “Upon leaving the site, each individual is checked for any external contamination.”

Waste at WIPP is dumped 655m underground in disposal rooms excavated in an ancient, stable salt formation.

Earlier this month, an underground blaze prompted the evacuation of a different part of the site, after a truck hauling salt caught fire.

Several workers suffered smoke inhalation. But officials said the blaze was nowhere near radioactive material.

Workers at the repository mostly seal away plutonium and other radioactive materials used for defence research and the production of nuclear weapons.

Some of the waste comes from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, about 500km away, also in New Mexico.

 

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‘Wake-Up Call’ as Workers Test Positive for Radiation After Nuclear Leak

February 28, 2014
Published on Thursday, February 27, 2014 by Common Dreams

‘Unusually high’ number of employees contaminated at New Mexico site contradicts DOE’s initial claim that workers were not exposed

– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

A shipment of nuclear waste destined for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant located near Carlsbad, New Mexico pictured January 2004. The only underground nuclear waste repository in the United States, WIPP holds military waste from across the country (Photo: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Thirteen workers at an underground nuclear waste dump in New Mexico have tested positive for radiation following a leak of radioactive particles into the air earlier this month, the Department of Energy announcedWednesday.

“That is an unusually high number of workers to be exposed at any given time,” said Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and former senior policy adviser to the secretary of energy under the Clinton administration, in an interview with Common Dreams. “This is very unusual and not supposed to happen. This is a wake-up call.”

The federally-owned Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico holds plutonium-contaminated military waste, generated by nuclear weapons production across the United States, including Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico. It is the only underground nuclear waste dump in the country, storing radioactive material deep beneath the earth’s surface in salt formations. Officials say this facility was never supposed to leak.

The exposed workers were performing “above ground operations” on February 14th at the time the leak was detected, according to a statement by the DOE. “It is premature to speculate on the health effects of these preliminary results, or any treatment that may be needed,” reads the statement, which notes that many more tests are needed to determine the full extent of the workers’ exposure.

Findings that the workers have been contaminated contradict initial claimsby WIPP managers that none of the 139 people working when the leak was detected had been exposed.

Furthermore, the number of workers contaminated could be even higher. “We are still reviewing staff assignments to determine if additional employees will need to be tested,” states the DOE.

The revelation follows an announcement by the DOE on Monday that anunderground leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico had contaminated the surface air, resulting in “slightly elevated levels of airborne radioactive concentrations.” The findings sparked alarm among many residents of the nearby town of Carlsbad.

The DOE claimed in their Wednesday statement that “There is no risk to family or friends” of employees who have tested positive for radiation. The DOE and Nuclear Waste Partnership, the contractor that operates WIPP, have aggressively downplayed the danger and impact of the leak.

Yet Arnie Gundersen, former nuclear industry executive turned whistleblower, told Common Dreams that this claim is premature. “It happens routinely when workers are contaminated that they bring that radiation home,” he said. “The families of the workers need to have their homes tested as soon as possible.”

According to Alvarez, the worker contamination is “a symptom of a larger problem”—a system in which the DOE is responsible for regulating and overseeing itself and “often leaves this responsibility in the hands of private contractors.” The DOE has “steadily demoted its environmental and health oversight function,” said Alvarez. “That’s a real problem. These are high-hazard activities.”

“How many times are we going to allow this to happen?”

_____________________

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Mexico Building latin America’s largest Solar Farm to Replace Old, Dirty Oil-powered Plant

February 27, 2014

Ali Philips
ThinkProgress/News Report
Published: Thursday 27 February 2014
If Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s recent summit with North American leaders is an indication of the significance of the trio’s relationship, then his expected upcoming visit to the Aura I solar farm can be seen as a benchmark on the country’s path to a more renewable future.
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Last week President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Mexico for what’s traditionally called the “Three Amigos” meeting. In the daylong rendezvous, energy issues were slated to play a major role, with Obama and Harper jockeying for room when it comes to the impending decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would bring dirty crude oil down from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

However, Mexico also has some major energy changes in the pipeline, and after decades of state-run oil company PEMEX having sole purview over fossil fuel extraction, international investment and companies will now be let into the mix after recent constitutional reforms. This will increase oil flows from America’s southern neighbor into those same Gulf refineries as Keystone XL might. At the same time renewable energy has started to take off in Mexico, with construction of the biggest solar power plant in Latin America, Aura Solar I — a 30-megawatt solar farm in La Paz, Mexico — the latest signal.

If Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s recent summit with North American leaders is an indication of the significance of the trio’s relationship, then his expected upcoming visit to the Aura I solar farm can be seen as a benchmark on the country’s path to a more renewable future. Mexico is poised to be Latin America’s solar hotbed according to Greentech Media, with the solar market’s installed base expected to quadruple from 60 megawatts to 240 megawatts by the end of this year. Mexico’s energy ministry has set a target for 35 percent of power generation to come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2024.

“The current reform provides a real opportunity, particularly in the electricity reform, to increase investment in renewable energy generation in Mexico by opening up the sector and making other institutional changes,” Christina McCain, Senior Manager for the Latin American Climate Initiative at the Environmental Defense Fund, told ClimateProgress in an email. “Some in Mexico have criticized that the energy reform is missing an opportunity to provide more direct incentives to renewable energy. While the focus of the reform seems to have largely been on the major overhauls we hear most about, there is still opportunity to provide more direct incentives to renewables, as well as leverage existing laws designed to increase renewable sources in Mexico’s energy mix.”

In La Paz, where pollution from a dirty thermoelectric plant creates noxious air impacting resident’s lifestyles and well being, the solar plant is a welcomed clean development. The $100 million project, which includes 132,000 solar panel-modules, is the first Mexican private enterprise of such a size to get a development bank loan and an agreement to sell its electricity to the grid. According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank, gave the project a $25 million credit line and also helped set up another $50 million in loans from the Mexican development bank Nacional Financiera (Nafin).

“The idea is to see how this type of merchant-risk deal can be replicated down the road, not only in Mexico and Latin America, but around the world,” Hector Olea, president and CEO of Gauss Energía, the construction contractor for the project, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Merchant power plants are those that are financed by investors and sell power into competitive wholesale markets, as opposed to rate-based power plants that pay for themselves via long-term utility bills or Purchase Power Agreements (PPAs) in which a contract locks in certain fees over a period of time. Merchant solar markets, where the price of electricity is indexed to spot energy markets in some fashion, are in an especially good position in Latin American.

According to Greentech Media, two numbers explain why the Aura Solar I project in Mexico is going ahead as a merchant solar project. “First, 7.5 kWh/m2/day is how much insolation that Baja California Sur receives:”

This is about three times the average levels in Germany and 50 percent higher than southern California. Higher insolation levels translate to higher output for the power plant — in this case, a capacity factor of about 31 percent.

Second, $230/MWh is the average price of electricity in 2013 at the La Paz node in Baja California Sur, where the Aura I project is connecting. During peak hours in peak months, rates can be as high as $380/MWh. Given the insolation levels,that puts the back-of-the-envelope gross revenue from the plant between $13 million to $14 million in year one.

In countries like Germany, Japan, China, and the U.S., substantial subsidies have boosted solar growth, but in Mexico, merchant solar offers an opportunity for these projects to excel with less use of government coffers. Solar is easy to dispatch, or to non-dispatch, because it has no fuel costs. Peak hours of sun coincide with peak hours of electricity use, aligning it well with the spot market. And the risk of rising fossil fuel prices due to demand or regulation means that solar is likely to get more economically appealing as time goes on. Electricity in Mexico costs 25 percent more than the U.S. average, and annual electricity demand is expected to increase four percent over the next 15 years.

“There has to be people willing to finance solar projects that don’t have a guaranteed price for electricity,” said Adam James, author of Greentech Media Research’s Latin America PV Playbook, about the potential for merchant solar growth in Latin America. “It’s taken a while for people in the finance community to be willing to invest in projects.”

Mexico’s constitutional changes will usher in major reforms in the electricity sector by creating a wholesale power market allowing private companies to compete with the state-owned utility. James says the impact this will have on renewable is still unclear.

“A lot of the reform will boil down to implementation,” he said. “If retail rates are no longer subsidized, then solar might become even more competitive because a larger part of the customer base will have to pay higher rates for electricity. The competitive wholesale market will at least open up for opportunity for solar developers to enter the electricity market.”

In April 2012, Mexico’s former president Felipe Calderon passed the General Law on Climate Change, which calls for a 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and a 50 percent reduction by 2050. McCain sees both challenges and promise in Mexico’s efforts to balance the economic potential of its fossil fuel reserves with its climate goals and established leadership in the area, having also hosted the 2010 COP 16 United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico.

“As the world aspires to transition toward low-carbon economies that are no longer dependent on the fossil fuel reserves so keenly eyed in Mexico, there is significantly under-appreciated opportunity,” McCain said. “Mexico can reduce the environmental impact of old, dirty sources of energy, while taking the long view and building a sustainable future economy.”

How TPP Would Harm You in the Drugstore

February 27, 2014
Dave Johnson
Campaign for America’s Democracy/Op-ed
Published: Wednesday 26 February 2014
Because of these leaks we know that the TPP has an intellectual property section that will override government rules that limit the power giant corporations can wield against smaller competitors and the general public.

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A law affecting content on the Internet that was rejected by Congress shows up in a trade agreement designed to bypass and override Congress. Small, innovative companies that manufacture low-cost, generic drugs find their products blocked.

Those are examples of what is in store based on provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is now being negotiated by the United States and 11 other nations, that have been leaked o the public. The leaks appear to show that provision after leaked provision will take power away from democracy and countries and hand it to the biggest corporations. No wonder these giant, monopolistic corporations want Congress to approve Fast Track before they – and We the People – get a chance to read the agreement.

Because of these leaks we know that the TPP has an intellectual property section that will override government rules that limit the power giant corporations can wield against smaller competitors and the general public. Intellectual property (IP) is a term that covers patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, industrial designs and similar ‘intangible assets.” (Click here for the IP chapter that was leaked to Wikileaks.)

The rigged process in which only giant corporate interests are represented at the talks of course produces results that are more favorable to those giant corporations than to their smaller, innovative competitors and regular people around the world. The rigged “fast track” process enables these interests to push the agreement through Congress before there is time to organize a public reaction.

TPP And Fast Track

TPP is a “trade” agreement that has little to do with trade and everything to do with giving the giant corporations the power to override what governments and their people want. The agreement follows the pattern of the trade agreements that have forced millions of jobs and tens of thousands of factories out of the United States, placed giant corporations in a dominant-power position that is threatening our democracy and sovereignty, and have dramatically accelerated the transfer of wealth from regular people to a few billionaires worldwide.

TPP is being negotiated in secret with consumer, environmental, labor, health, human rights and other “stakeholder’ groups excluded from the table. But the interests of the giant corporations are at the table, with the negotiators either already well-compensated by the corporate interests or in a position to be well-compensated later after leaving government (which many of them tend to do immediately after ending their role in trade negotiations).

To help push TPP through, the giant corporations are trying to get Congress to give up its constitutional responsibility to initiate and carefully consider the terms of trade agreements. The corporations are pushing for Congress to pass “fast track” trade promotion authority, which brings in a process where Congress gets a very limited amount of time after first seeing the agreement to evaluate it and then vote, limits how much they can debate it and prohibits them from amending it in any way. This gives the corporations the opportunity to set up a huge PR campaign to pressure Congress to pass it, before the public has time to organize a response – never mind even read the agreement.

Intellectual Property and Drug Prices

One example of the way the intellectual property provisions favor giant, multinational corporations over smaller, innovative corporations and regular people around the world is in pharmaceutical prices.

A company with a drug patent is granted a monopoly to sell the drug at any price they choose with no competition. Currently a drug might be patented for a limited number of years in different countries. When the patent runs out other companies are able to manufacture the drug and the competition means the drug will sell at a lower cost.

Leaked documents appear to show that TPP will extend patent terms for drugs. Countries signing the agreement will scrap their own IP rules and instead follow those in TPP. So giant drug companies will have the same patent in all countries, for a longer period, and the patent will prevent competition that lowers drug prices.

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Currently smaller, innovative companies can produce “generic” drugs after patents run out. Because of competition these drugs can be very inexpensive. Walmart, for example, sells a month’s supply of many generic drugs for $4, while drugs still under patent protection can cost hundreds or even thousands. This is of particular concern to poor countries that will be under TPP rules.

Please read Expose The TPP’s section The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Public Health, which begins:

The TPP would provide large pharmaceutical firms with new rights and powers to increase medicine prices and limit consumers’ access to cheaper generic drugs. This would include extensions of monopoly drug patents that would allow drug companies to raise prices for more medicines and even allow monopoly rights over surgical procedures. For people in the developing countries involved in TPP, these rules could be deadly – denying consumers access to HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and cancer drugs.

What You Can See, Do And Say On The Internet

Another area where the IP section of TPP could give corporations tremendous power is in deciding what regular people can see, do or say on the Internet. TPP will override our own rules, even imposing laws like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) that Congress have specifically rejected.

You might remember when many websites on the Internet “went dark” for 24 hours to protest the proposed SOPA and PIPA laws. According to the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s (EFF) SOPA/PIPA: Internet Blacklist Legislation,

The “Stop Online Piracy Act”/”E-PARASITE Act” (SOPA) and “The PROTECT IP Act” (PIPA) are the latest in a series of bills which would create a procedure for creating (and censoring) a blacklist of websites. These bills are updated versions of the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” (COICA), which was previously blocked in the Senate. Although the bills are ostensibly aimed at reaching foreign websites dedicated to providing illegal content, their provisions would allow for removal of enormous amounts of non-infringing content including political and other speech from the Web.

… Had these bills been passed five or ten years ago, even YouTube might not exist today — in other words, the collateral damage from this legislation would be enormous.

Larry Magid explained at the time, in What Are SOPA and PIPA And Why All The Fuss?

The bill would require sites to refrain from linking to any sites “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property.” It would also prevent companies from placing on the sites and block payment companies like Visa, Mastercard and Paypal from transmitting funds to the site. For more, see this blog post on Reddit.

The problem with this is that the entire site would be affected, not just that portion that is promoting the distribution of illegal material. It would be a bit like requiring the manager of a flea market to shut down the entire market because some of the merchants were selling counterfeit goods.

… Opponents say it would create an “internet blacklist.”

… There is also worry that SOPA and PIPA could be abused and lead to censorship for purposes other than intellectual property protection.

Congress decided to reject SOPA and PIPA. But the provisions of SOPA and PIPA are back, this time in the TPP, which would override what Congress wants.

Please read the EFF’s Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement page.

We’ve seen how this works too many times. The giant corporations promise jobs and prosperity to get their way, but then We the People end up with fewer jobs and a falling standard of living while a few billionaires and executives pocket the difference. Instead of letting the giant corporations push through yet another job-killing agreement that gives them even more wealth and power let’s take control of things and fix the agreements that have hurt us, our economy and our democracy. Fix NAFTA First!

TV: Most shocking thing is how US gov’t was “very concerned” about Fukushima radiation hitting West Coast and affecting Americans — Public told that everything fine (VIDEO)

February 27, 2014

Latest Headlines from ENENews


 

Posted: 26 Feb 2014 08:12 PM PST

Expert: Gov’t officials ‘very possibly’ know Fukushima is a worldwide disaster and just not revealing it — Columnist: “They can’t neglect the truth because they fear a panic outbreak… I’m panicking because there isn’t a panic” (AUDIO)

Posted: 26 Feb 2014 09:24 AM PST

OT: New Snowden docs reveal gov’t agents “attempting to manipulate & control online discourse with… deception & reputation-destruction” — “Deliberately spreading lies on internet” — Using “‘false flag operations’ & emails to people’s families, friends” (GRAPHICS)

Posted: 26 Feb 2014 06:50 AM PST

Noam Chomsky: Truth to power

February 27, 2014

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Political theorist Noam Chomsky is one of the world’s most controversial thinkers. Ahead of his trip to Tokyo next month, we catch up with the U.S. activist to get his views on recent geopolitical moves in the region

BY DAVID MCNEILL

SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES

Often dubbed one of the world’s most important intellectuals and its leading public dissident, Noam Chomsky was for years among the top 10 most quoted academics on the planet, edged out only by William Shakespeare, Karl Marx, Aristotle.

An unrelenting critic of U.S. foreign policy since the 1960s, much of his intellectual life has been spent stripping away what he calls America’s “flattering self-image” and the layers of self-justification and propaganda he says it uses to mask its naked pursuit of power and profit around the world.

Now aged 85, Chomsky is still in demand across the world as a public speaker. He maintains a punishing work schedule that requires him to write, lecture and personally answer thousands of emails that flood into his account every week. He is professor emeritus of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, where he has been based for nearly 60 years.

Chomsky will make a rare trip to Tokyo in March, where he is scheduled to give two lectures at Sophia University. Among the themes he will discuss are conceptions of the common good, one deriving from classical liberalism, the other from neoliberal globalization that he predicts will lead to disaster very soon if not radically modified.

“That gives the answer to the question posed in the title of the talk: ‘Capitalist Democracy and the Prospects for Survival,’ ” he says. “The quick answer is ‘dim.’ ”

Tell us about your connections to Japan.

I’ve been interested in Japan since the 1930s, when I read about Japan’s vicious crimes in Manchuria and China. In the early 1940s, as a young teenager, I was utterly appalled by the racist and jingoist hysteria of the anti-Japanese propaganda. The Germans were evil, but treated with some respect: They were, after all, blond Aryan types, just like our imaginary self-image. Japanese were mere vermin, to be crushed like ants. Enough was reported about the firebombing of cities in Japan to recognize that major war crimes were underway, worse in many ways than the atom bombs.

I heard a story once that you were so appalled by the bombing of Hiroshima and the reaction of Americans that you had to go off and mourn alone . . .

Yes. On Aug. 6, 1945, I was at a summer camp for children when the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was announced over the public address system. Everyone listened, and then at once went on to their next activity: baseball, swimming, et cetera. Not a comment. I was practically speechless with shock, both at the horrifying events and at the null reaction. So what? More Japs incinerated. And since we have the bomb and no one else does, great; we can rule the world and everyone will be happy.

I followed the postwar settlement with considerable disgust as well. I didn’t know then what I do now, of course, but enough information was available to undermine the patriotic fairy tale.

My first trip to Japan was with my wife and children 50 years ago. It was linguistics, purely, though on my own I met with people from Beheiren (Citizen’s League for Peace in Vietnam). I’ve returned a number of times since, always to study linguistics. I was quite struck by the fact that Japan is the only country I visited — and there were many — where talks and interviews focused solely on linguistics and related matters, even while the world was burning.

You arrive in Japan at a possibly defining moment: the government is preparing to launch a major challenge to the nation’s six-decade pacifist stance, arguing that it must be “more flexible” in responding to external threats; relations with China and Korea have turned toxic; and there is even talk of war. Should we be concerned?

We should most definitely be concerned. Instead of abandoning its pacifist stance, Japan should take pride in it as an inspiring model for the world, and should take the lead in upholding the goals of the United Nations “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The challenges in the region are real, but what is needed is steps toward political accommodation and establishing peaceful relations, not a return to policies that proved disastrous not so long ago.

How in concrete terms, though, can political accommodation be achieved? The historical precedents for the kind of situation we face in Asia — competing nationalisms; a rising undemocratic power with opaque military spending and something to prove in tandem with a declining power, increasingly fearful about what this means — are not good.

There is a real issue, but I think the question should be formulated a bit differently. Chinese military spending is carefully monitored by the United States. It is indeed growing, but it is a small fraction of U.S. expenditures, which are amplified by U.S. allies (China has none). China is indeed seeking to break out of the arc of containment in the Pacific that limits its control over the waters essential to its commerce and open access to the Pacific. That does set up possible conflicts, partly with regional powers that have their own interests, but mainly with the U.S., which of course would never even consider anything remotely comparable for itself and, furthermore, insists upon global control.

Although the U.S. is a “declining power,” and has been since the late 1940s, it still has no remote competitor as a hegemonic power. Its military spending virtually matches the rest of the world combined, and it is far more technologically advanced. No other country could dream of having a network of hundreds of military bases all over the world, nor of carrying out the world’s most expansive campaign of terror — and that is exactly what (President Barack) Obama’s drone assassination campaign is. And the U.S., of course, has a brutal record of aggression and subversion.

These are the essential conditions within which political accommodation should be sought. In concrete terms, China’s interests should be recognized along with those of others in the region. But there is no justification for accepting the domination of a global hegemon.

One of the perceived problems with Japan’s “pacifist” Constitution is that it is so at odds with the facts. Japan operates under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and is host to dozens of bases and thousands of American soldiers. Is that an embodiment of the pacifist ideals of Article 9?

Insofar as Japan’s behavior is inconsistent with the legitimate constitutional ideals, the behavior should be changed — not the ideals.

Are you following the political return of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? His critics call him an ultranationalist. Supporters say he is merely trying to update Japan’s three outdated charters — education, the 1947 pacifist Constitution and the security treaty with Washington — all products of the U.S. postwar occupation. What’s your view?

It makes sense for Japan to pursue a more independent role in the world, following Latin America and others in freeing itself from U.S. domination. But it should do so in a manner that is virtually the opposite of Abe’s ultranationalism, a term that seems to me accurate. The pacifist Constitution, in particular, is one legacy of the occupation that should be vigorously defended.

What do you make of comparisons between the rise of Nazi Germany and China? We hear such comparisons frequently from nationalists in Japan, and also recently from Benigno Aquino, the Philippine president. China’s rise is often cited as a reason for Japan to stop pulling in its horns.

China is a rising power, casting off its “century of humiliation” in a bid to become a force in regional and world affairs. As always, there are negative and sometimes threatening aspects to such a development. But a comparison to Nazi Germany is absurd. We might note that in an international poll released at the end of 2013 on the question which country is “the greatest threat to world peace,” the U.S. was ranked far higher than any other, receiving four times the votes of China. There are quite solid reasons for this judgment, some mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, to compare the U.S. to Nazi Germany would be completely absurd, and a fortiori that holds for China’s far lesser resort to violence, subversion and other forms of intervention.

The comparison between China and Nazi Germany really is hysteria. I wonder whether Japanese readers have even the slightest idea of what the U.S. is doing throughout the world, and has been since it took over Britain’s role of global dominance — and greatly expanded it — after World War II.

Some see the possible emergence of an Asian regionalism building on the dynamic of intertwined trade centered on China, Japan and South Korea but extending throughout Asia. Under what conditions could such an approach trump both U.S. hegemony and nationalism?

It is not just possible, it already exists. China’s recent growth spurt is based very heavily on advanced parts, components, design and other high-tech contributions from the surrounding industrial powers. And the rest of Asia is becoming linked to this system, too. The U.S. is a crucial part of the system — Western Europe, too. The U.S. exports production, including high technology, to China, and imports finished goods, all on an enormous scale. The value added in China remains small, although it will increase as China moves up the technology ladder. These developments, if handled properly, can contribute to the general political accommodation that is imperative if serious conflict is to be avoided.

The recent tension over the Senkaku Islands has raised the threat of military conflict between China and Japan. Most commenters still think war is unlikely, given the enormous consequences and the deep finance and trade links that bind the two economies together. What’s your view?

The confrontations taking place are extremely hazardous. The same is true of China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone in a contested region, and Washington’s immediate violation of it. History has certainly taught us that playing with fire is not a wise course, particularly for states with an awesome capacity to destroy. Small incidents can rapidly escalate, overwhelming economic links.

What’s the U.S. role in all this? It seems clear that Washington does not want to be pulled into a conflict with Beijing. We also understand that the Obama administration is upset at Abe’s views on history, and his visits to Yasukuni Shrine, the linchpin of historical revisionism in Japan. However we can hardly call the U.S. an honest broker . . .

Hardly. The U.S. is surrounding China with military bases, not conversely. U.S. strategic analysts describe a “classic security dilemma” in the region, as the U.S. and China each perceive the other’s stance as a threat to their basic interests. The issue is control of the seas off China’s coasts, not the Caribbean or the waters off California. For the U.S., global control is a “vital interest.”

We might also recall the fate of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama when he followed the will of the large majority of Okinawans, defying Washington. As The New York Times reported, “Apologizing for failing to fulfill a prominent campaign promise, Hatoyama told outraged residents of Okinawa on Sunday that he has decided to relocate an American air base to the north side of the island as originally agreed upon with the United States.” His “capitulation,” as it was correctly described, resulted from strong U.S. pressure.

China is now embroiled in territorial conflicts with Japan and the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea as well as the air defense identification zone on its contested borders. In all of these cases, the U.S. is directly or indirectly involved. Should these be understood as cases of Chinese expansionism?

China is seeking to expand its regional influence, which conflicts with the traditional U.S. demand to be recognized as the global hegemon, and conflicts as well with local interests of regional powers. The phrase “Chinese expansionism” is accurate, but rather misleading, in the light of overwhelming U.S. global dominance.

It is useful to think back to the early post-World War II period. U.S. global planning took for granted that Asia would be under U.S. control. China’s independence was a serious blow to these intentions. In U.S. discourse, it is called “the loss of China,” and the issue of who was responsible for “the loss of China” became a major domestic issue, including the rise of McCarthyism. The terminology itself is revealing. I can lose my wallet, but I cannot lose yours. The tacit assumption of U.S. discourse is that China was ours by right. One should be cautious about using the phrase “expansionism” without due attention to this hegemonic conception and its ugly history.

On Okinawa, the scene seems set for a major confrontation between the mainland and prefectural governments, which support the construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko, and the local population, which last month overwhelmingly re-elected an anti-base mayor. Do you have any thoughts on how this will play out?

One can only admire the courage of the people of Nago city and Mayor Inamine Susumu in rejecting the deplorable efforts of the Abe government to coerce them into accepting a military base to which the population was overwhelmingly opposed. And it was no less disgraceful that the central government instantly overrode their democratic decision. What the outcome will be, I cannot predict. It will, however, have considerable import for the fate of democracy and the prospects for peace.

The Abe government is trying to rekindle nuclear power and restart Japan’s idling reactors. Supporters say the cost of keeping those reactors offline is a massive increase in energy costs and use of fossil fuels. Opponents say it is too dangerous . . .

The general question of nuclear power is not a simple one. It is hardly necessary to stress how dangerous it is after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which has far from ended. Continued use of fossil fuels threatens global disaster, and not in the distant future. The sensible course would be to move as quickly as possible to sustainable energy sources, as Germany is now doing. The alternatives are too disastrous to contemplate.

You’ll have followed the work of committed environmentalists such as James Lovelock and George Monbiot, who say nuclear power is the only way to save the planet from cooking. In the short term, that analysis seems to have some merit: One of the immediate consequences of Japan’s nuclear disaster has been a massive expansion in imports of coal, gas and oil. They say there is no way for us to produce enough renewables in time to stop runaway climate change.

As I said, there is some merit in these views. More accurately, there would be if limited and short-term reliance on nuclear energy, with all of its extreme hazards and unsolved problems — like waste disposal — was taken as an opportunity for rapid and extensive development of sustainable energy. That should be the highest priority, and very quickly, because severe threats of environmental catastrophe are not remote.

Chomsky at Sophia University (Tokyo)

  •  “The Architecture of Language Reconsidered,” 3:30 p.m., Weds., March 5
  •  “Capitalist Democracy and the Prospects for Survival,” 3:30 p.m., Thurs., March 6 (fully booked)

JAPAN’S PLUTONIUM PROBLEM

February 27, 2014

 

FEBRUARY 19, 2014

japan-flag-radioactiveby Shannon Tiezzi / via The Diplomat / According to the Japan Times, both Japanese and U.S. government sources have confirmed that the Obama administration wants Japan to return over 300 kg of plutonium that was given to Japan “for research purposes” during the Cold War. It’s estimated that the plutonium could be used to make between 40 and 50 nuclear weapons. The plutonium is currently kept at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s fast critical assembly.

Japan’s government initially was reluctant to return the plutonium, saying it was needed for research on fast reactors. Now, however, sources say Tokyo has agreed to the request. The U.S. and Japan are expected to reveal a formal deal at next month’s nuclear security summit in the Netherlands.

However, the question of Japan’s plutonium is deeper than arguments over the fate of those 330 kilograms. In addition to the plutonium provided by the U.S. decades ago, Japan also has about 44 tons of lower-quality plutonium, stored both in Japan and abroad. The excess reserves are due to Japan’s policy of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. Rather than storing spent fuel, Japan reprocesses it to separate out plutonium for re-use. Japan is the only non-nuclear weapon state to do so.

Currently, even though Japan has shut down its nuclear reactors (and is not using plutonium), there are plans to open a new reprocessing plant at Rokkasho. According to a report by the International Panel of Fissile Materialsthis new plant would separate out about 8 tons of plutonium each year—enough “to make one thousand Nagasaki-type bombs.”

No one is quite sure what Japan will do with all that plutonium. After the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Japan’s nuclear reactors remain idle. Plutonium that would have been used for power generation thus sits unused, and the reprocessing plan would only add to the stockpile. The excess amounts of plutonium are causing regional worries over Japan’s motives, as well as global concerns over the security of these nuclear fuel reserves.

A symposium (co-sponsored by The Asahi Shimbun Co. and Princeton University) held in early January in Tokyo underlined regional concerns about Japan’s plutonium. Steve Fetter, formerly the White House’s assistant director on the Office of Science and Technology Policy, argued that Japan should not continue to accumulate plutonium without clear plans to use it for power generation. He pointed out that the growing stockpile of plutonium  suggests to other countries that Japan is effectively developing “a type of nuclear deterrent” without actually taking the step of building a bomb. Japan’s actions could also encourage other countries in the region, including South Korea, to push back against the international pressure that killed their own nuclear fuel reprocessing programs.

At the same symposium, former Japanese foreign minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said that Japan would never take the step of developing nuclear weapons. “Going nuclear would mean withdrawing from the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] and facing international sanctions like North Korea and Iran,” she said, adding that Japanese people would never support such a move.

China isn’t convinced, unsurprisingly, as trust between Beijing and Tokyo is hitting rock bottom of late. In Monday’s press conference, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying noted that “China has grave concerns over Japan’s possession of weapons-grade nuclear materials.” Hua urged Japan to return the high-quality plutonium to the U.S. and to reassure the global community regarding its remaining reserves.

Chinese state media took up the issue as well, with a commentary in XinhuaTuesday arguing that Tokyo “owes” the world an explanation for its stockpile of plutonium. The article opened by saying, “If a country claims that it sticks by the three non-nuclear principles but at same time hoards far more nuclear materials than it needs, including a massive amount of weapon-grade plutonium, the world has good reason to ask why.” The author also cited unnamed Japanese experts as saying that Japan could develop nuclear bombs within a year, given the presence of weapons-grade nuclear materials.

There is clear concern in China that Japan’s plutonium reserves could eventually wind up being used to develop nuclear weapons. There’s historical precedent for this—India became a nuclear-armed state after using reprocessing to gain nuclear materials. For China, Japan’s plutonium stockpile is one more piece of evidence that Shinzo Abe is seeking return to Japan’s militaristic glory days.

This accumulation of plutonium also threatens global non-proliferation efforts, and thus runs directly counter to U.S. President Barack Obama’s emphasis on nuclear security. “We simply can’t go on accumulating huge amounts of the very material, like separated plutonium, that we’re trying to keep away from terrorists,” he said in a 2012 speech at Hankuk University in Seoul. The White House has apparently been quietly pressuring Japan to drop the reprocessing plan, and to begin simply storing spent nuclear fuel rather than separating out plutonium.

There are complicated domestic reasons for Japan to continue with the opening of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, including vested interest groups that insist on the economic benefits of continuing with construction. But Tokyo should not overlook the regional and global concern caused by opening a new reprocessing plant when Japan has no concrete plan for using or disposing of its current plutonium stockpiles.

[SOURCE: The Diplomat]

RELATED:

More airborne radiation confirmed near New Mexico nuclear site

February 27, 2014

Published time: February 25, 2014 20:22

AFP Photo/Johannes EiseleAFP Photo/Johannes Eisele

Tags

AccidentEcologyHealth,NuclearSecurityUSA

About one week after a leak resulted in record levels of radiation near the United States’ first nuclear waste depository, more airborne radiation has been detected, according to the Associated Press.

The latest readings were confirmed on Monday by the US Department of Energy, which stated that multiple air tracking stations around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, are monitoring the situation.

Earlier this month, a sharp rise in radiation levels forced WIPP managers to suspend operations at the plant. As RT noted previously, the WIPP is one of three deep nuclear repositories in the world, storing leftover radioactive material 600 meters underground. The cause of the initial spike was linked to a leak inside one of the underground salt tunnels that holds nuclear waste.

Despite the leak, officials said that no employees were underground when the alarm sounded, and no one’s health had been harmed. They added that radiation levels were still significantly below those outlined by Environmental Protection Agency’s safety standards. Even with the new radiation readings, officials said there was no threat to the public.

The new detections came just before those in charge of investigating the leak held a two-hour community meeting aimed at easing local fears of contamination. More than 250 residents attended the meeting and asked questions about the incident.

“I’m just a mom,” said Anna Hovrud at the event, according to a separate AP story, “and my first reaction was to start praying. … Basically I am not understanding about two-thirds of what has been said here. Is there a chance we could be exposed to radiation, that we are being poisoned somehow, while we are waiting for these samples?”

In response, the Department of Energy’s Joe Franco said, “there is no risk from this event that would be a hazard to you or your children.”

Meanwhile, Farok Sharif of the Nuclear Waste Partnership – the organization that operates the plant on a daily basis – said he had been collecting readings at the WIPP without wearing safety gear “because I know it is safe.”

While many reportedly left the meeting satisfied with the explanations given, some were not so convinced. A mayoral candidate named Martin Mills frequently interrupted those speaking to proclaim his outrage with the leak.

“This is like poor management,” Mills stated. “How can this facility be leaking? … It should not be releasing at all.”

The WIPP was also shut down in early February after a salt truck caught fire, though officials said that incident is unrelated and occurred in a different part of the plant.