Daily Archives: September 1, 2014

Experts clash on Fukushima radiation effects

John Boyd
Last updated: 30 August 2014
Some scientists say authorities in favour of nuclear energy tend to deny the negative results of researchers.

In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11 March 2011, the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima was badly wrecked in a series of meltdowns and explosions that severely damaged three reactors and one spent-fuel pool.

The accident released enormous quantities of radionuclides (radioactive material) into the atmosphere and the sea. This led to the government setting up exclusion zones in regions around the plant and the evacuation of over 155,000 residents.

Three years on, calculating the injurious effects of this radiation on plant, animal and human health has become a matter of controversy, as different groups of researchers reach different conclusions.

Negative data ignored?

A broad scientific study by a United Nations committee, released earlier this year, was widely criticized by independent researchers for its generally benign findings and lack of reference to the negative data cited in a number of specific scientific studies published earlier. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) report on the health impact of the Fukushima accident was signed by 80 scientists and published in April.

In respect to plants and animals, for instance, the UN report concluded, “Accumulated doses (of radiation over the first two months following the accident) were estimated to have fallen short of levels found to cause observable effects…” And for longer term effects, the report noted that while some individuals in species may have been harmed, the effects on plants and animals ” at the population level were considered unlikely to be observable.”

But such statements were made “with the complete absence of any supporting documentation”, said Timothy Mousseau, a professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina, one of many researchers troubled by such conclusions.

In response to the criticism, Carl-Magnus Larsson, Chair of UNSCEAR pointed out to Al Jazeera that the committee “used data that had been published in the open literature, and some data that had not been published at the time”, and then, “synthesized it for an overall assessment.” So UNSCEAR’s “mandate is for scientific review” of available scientific findings, not conducting its own field research, Larsson explained.

By contrast, Mousseau, as a member of a multidisciplinary group of scientists called the Chernobyl + Fukushima Research Initiative (CFRI), relies heavily on field studies for its reports. CFRI has extensively studied the consequences of radioactive contamination on animals at Chernobyl, the site of the devastating 1986 nuclear accident in Ukraine, and has conducted 10 similar studies in Fukushima since 2011.

Speaking to the foreign press in Tokyo on August 22, following CFRI’s latest findings, Mousseau noted that some half-dozen studies indicating the negative effects of Fukushima radiation had been released before the UNSCEAR report and many more related to Chernobyl effects, “which are quite similar in terms of the radiation and consequences”. Yet these reports “were clearly ignored” by UNSCEAR, which had to be out of “deliberate ignorance”, Mousseau said.

(read more),

and http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/08/experts-clash-fukushima-radiation-effects-201482912519236690.html

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Big power out, solar in: UBS urges investors to join renewables revolution

World’s largest private bank predicts large-scale power stations will soon make way for electric cars and new solar technologies

Solar-powered houses and entire villages, like the one above in Germany, could make Europe’s big power stations redundant in 10-20 years, UBS argues. Photograph: Ramesh Amruth/Plainpicture

Big power stations in Europe could be redundant within 10-20 years as electric cars, cheaper batteries and new solar technologies transform the way electricity is generated, stored and distributed, say analysts at the world’s largest private bank.

In a briefing paper sent to clients and investors this week, the Zurich-based UBS bank argues that large-scale, centralised power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible, and are “not relevant” for future electricity generation. Instead, the authors expect it to be cheaper and more efficient for households and businesses to generate their own energy to power their cars and to store any surplus energy in their own buildings even without subsidies.

In language more closely associated with green NGOs, the bank with assets of more than $1.5tn says it expects a paradigm shift away from large-scale conventional power plants. “Power is no longer something that is exclusively produced by huge, centralised units owned by large utilities. By 2025, everybody will be able to produce and store power. And it will be green and cost competitive, ie, not more expensive or even cheaper than buying power from utilities,” say the authors, who urge their financial clients to “join the revolution.”

….(read more)

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Climate Change and Sustainable Development Goals in Latin America

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Chris Hedges: The Last Gasp of Climate Change Liberals – Chris Hedges – Truthdig

http://m.truthdig.com/report/item/the_last_gasp_of_climate_change_liberals_20140831

Hedges-March

The climate change march in New York on Sept. 21, expected to draw as many as 200,000 people, is one of the last gasps of conventional liberalism’s response to the climate crisis. It will take place two days before the actual gathering of world leaders in New York called by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the November 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris. The marchers will dutifully follow the route laid down by the New York City police. They will leave Columbus Circle, on West 59th Street and Eighth Avenue, at 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday and conclude on 11th Avenue between West 34th and 38th streets. No one will reach the United Nations, which is located on the other side of Manhattan, on the East River beyond First Avenue—at least legally. There will be no speeches. There is no list of demands. It will be a climate-themed street fair.

The march, because its demands are amorphous, can be joined by anyone. This is intentional. But as activist Anne Petermann has pointed out, this also means some of the groups backing the march are little more than corporate fronts. The Climate Group, for example, which endorses the march, includes among its members and sponsors BP, China Mobile, Dow Chemical Co., Duke Energy, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Greenstone. The Environmental Defense Fund, which says it “work[s] with companies rather than against them” and which is calling on its members to join the march, has funding from the oil and gas industry and supports fracking as a form of alternative energy. These faux environmental organizations are designed to neutralize resistance. And their presence exposes the march’s failure to adopt a meaningful agenda or pose a genuine threat to power.

Our only hope comes from radical groups descending on New York to carry out direct action, including Global Climate Convergence and Popular Resistance. March if you want. But it should be the warm-up. The real fight will come once people disperse on 11th Avenue.

…(read more).

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How to Talk Like a Politician: Propaganda Dictionary of Buzzwords and Double-Talk (1992)


The Film Archives

Published on Apr 26, 2014

As a freelance reporter, Solomon worked for a number of years for Pacific News Service. In 1988, Solomon worked briefly as a spokesperson for the Alliance of Atomic Veterans in Washington, D.C.. He was hired in August 1988 to run the new Washington, D.C., office of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

In 1997, Solomon published The Trouble With Dilbert, in which he said that the popular comic strip Dilbert is a capitalist tool that promotes the evils of corporate America. Dilbert author Scott Adams responded in his 1999 book The Joy of Work, which included an imaginary interview between Norman and Adams’ canine character Dogbert.

A book of Solomon’s collected columns, The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media, won the 1999 George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language. Jonathan Kozol’s introduction to the book noted “the tradition of Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and I. F. Stone does not get much attention these days in the mainstream press … but that tradition is alive and well in this collection of courageously irreverent columns on the media by Norman Solomon….”

In 2000, Solomon teamed up with fellow investigative reporter Robert Parry to write a series of investigative reports on George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Colin Powell, published on consortiumnews.com.[5]
His book Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You (co-authored with Reese Erlich) was published in 2003 and translated into German, Italian, Hungarian, Portuguese, and Korean. War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death appeared in 2005. The Los Angeles Times called the book “a must-read for those who would like greater context with their bitter morning coffee, or to arm themselves for the debates about Iraq that are still to come.”[6] A documentary based on the book was released in 2007.
Solomon is the founder and former executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, an organization founded in 1997 “as a national consortium of independent public-policy researchers, analysts and activists.”[4][7] According to its web site, the mission of IPA is to increase “the reach and capacity of progressive and grassroots organizations (at no cost to them) to address public policy by getting them and their ideas into the mainstream media”.

On April 13, 2011, Solomon officially announced his candidacy for what the open House seat in the newly created 2nd congressional district of California.[8][9] Representative Lynn Woolsey—the incumbent from the former 6th congressional district, which was geographically expanded into the new 2nd district via redistricting—announced her retirement later in June, setting up a competitive Democratic primary in one of the more liberal districts in the country.[10][11]
Observers expected Solomon to position himself to the left of his competitors and as the “philosophical heir” to Rep. Woolsey, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.[12][13][14] In announcing his campaign Solomon himself argued, “After so many years of progressive leadership from Lynn Woolsey, her successor in the House should have a proven commitment to a wide range of progressive values.”[9] Solomon emphasized his strong environmentalist background and particularly his opposition to nuclear power, which he used to differentiate himself from his primary opponent Assemblyman Jared Huffman.[14]
As of late June 2011, Solomon had raised over $100,000 for his campaign.[12] His overall fundraising strategy was patterned after those of Howard Dean and Barack Obama, as he sought to finance his campaign via small but continuous contributions from a large donor pool.[14]
Solomon failed to reach the general election, running third, with 14.9% of ballots cast, in the California state elections, June 2012 behind Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman (37.5%) and Republican Daniel Roberts (15.0%). In California’s newly implemented nonpartisan blanket primary, the top two vote recipients, regardless of party, proceed to compete in the general election.

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How Corporate Money Influences Politics: Can Corporations Be Stopped? Financing Campaigns (2007)


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Published on Aug 29, 2014

The Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), also called the McCain-Feingold bill after its chief sponsors, John McCain and Russ Feingold. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on February 14, 2002, with 240 yeas and 189 nays, including 6 members who did not vote. Final passage in the Senate came after supporters mustered the bare minimum of 60 votes needed to shut off debate. The bill passed the Senate, 60-40 on March 20, 2002, and was signed into law by President Bush on March 27, 2002. In signing the law, Bush expressed concerns about the constitutionality of parts of the legislation but concluded, “I believe that this legislation, although far from perfect, will improve the current financing system for Federal campaigns.” The bill was the first significant overhaul of federal campaign finance laws since the post-Watergate scandal era. Academic research has used game theory to explain Congress’s incentives to pass the Act.

The BCRA was a mixed bag for those who wanted to remove big money from politics. It eliminated all soft money donations to the national party committees, but it also doubled the contribution limit of hard money, from $1,000 to $2,000 per election cycle, with a built-in increase for inflation. In addition, the bill aimed to curtail ads by non-party organizations by banning the use of corporate or union money to pay for “electioneering communications,” a term defined as broadcast advertising that identifies a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or nominating convention, or 60 days of a general election. This provision of McCain-Feingold, sponsored by Maine Republican Olympia Snowe and Vermont Independent James Jeffords, as introduced applied only to for-profit corporations, but was extended to incorporate non-profit issue organizations, such as the Environmental Defense Fund or the National Rifle Association, as part of the “Wellstone Amendment,” sponsored by Senator Paul Wellstone.

The law was challenged as unconstitutional by groups and individuals including the California State Democratic Party, the National Rifle Association, and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), the Senate Majority Whip. After moving through lower courts, in September 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, McConnell v. FEC. On Wednesday, December 10, 2003, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling that upheld its key provisions.

Since then, campaign finance limitations continue to be challenged in the Courts. In 2005 in Washington state, Thurston County Judge Christopher Wickham ruled that media articles and segments were considered in-kind contributions under state law. The heart of the matter focused on the I-912 campaign to repeal a fuel tax, and specifically two broadcasters for Seattle conservative talker KVI. Judge Wickham’s ruling was eventually overturned on appeal in April 2007, with the Washington Supreme Court holding that on-air commentary was not covered by the State’s campaign finance laws (No New Gas Tax v. San Juan County).[6]

In 2006, the United States Supreme Court issued two decisions on campaign finance. In Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., it held that certain advertisements might be constitutionally entitled to an exception from the ‘electioneering communications’ provisions of McCain-Feingold limiting broadcast ads that merely mention a federal candidate within 60 days of an election. On remand, a lower court then held that certain ads aired by Wisconsin Right to Life in fact merited such an exception. The Federal Election Commission appealed that decision, and in June 2007, the Supreme Court held in favor of Wisconsin Right to Life. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court declined to overturn the electioneering communications limits in their entirety, but established a broad exemption for any ad that could have a reasonable interpretation as an ad about legislative issues.

Also in 2006, the Supreme Court held that a Vermont law imposing mandatory limits on spending was unconstitutional, under the precedent of Buckley v. Valeo. In that case, Randall v. Sorrell, the Court also struck down Vermont’s contribution limits as unconstitutionally low, the first time that the Court had ever struck down a contribution limit.

In March 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about whether or not the law could restrict advertising of a documentary about Hillary Clinton.[7] Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was decided in January 2010, the Supreme Court finding that §441b’s restrictions on expenditures were invalid and could not be applied to Hillary: The Movie.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campaign…

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When Stock Markets Around the World Crashed: Alan Greenspan on Black Monday, October 1987 (1988)


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Published on Aug 31, 2014

Alan Greenspan (born March 6, 1926) is an American economist who served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006. He currently works as a private adviser and provides consulting for firms through his company, Greenspan Associates LLC. First appointed Federal Reserve chairman by President Ronald Reagan in August 1987, he was reappointed at successive four-year intervals until retiring on January 31, 2006 after the second-longest tenure in the position.

Greenspan came to the Federal Reserve Board from a successful consulting career. Although he was subdued in his public appearances, favorable media coverage raised his profile to a point that several observers likened him to a “rock star.” Democratic leaders of Congress criticized him for politicizing his office because of his support for Social Security privatization and tax cuts that they felt would increase the deficit. The easy-money policies of the Fed during Greenspan’s tenure has been suggested to be a leading cause of the subprime mortgage crisis, which occurred within months of his departure from the Fed, and has, said the Wall Street Journal, “tarnished his image”.

During his economic studies at New York University, Greenspan worked under Eugene Banks, a managing director at the Wall Street investment bank Brown Brothers Harriman, working in the firm’s equity research department. From 1948 to 1953, Greenspan worked as an economic analyst at The National Industrial Conference Board, a business and industry oriented think-tank in New York City. From 1955 to 1987, when he was appointed as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Greenspan was chairman and president of Townsend-Greenspan & Co., Inc., an economic consulting firm in New York City, a 32-year stint interrupted only from 1974 to 1977 by his service as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Gerald Ford.

In mid-1968, Greenspan agreed to serve Richard Nixon as his coordinator on domestic policy in the nomination campaign. Greenspan has also served as a corporate director for Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa); Automatic Data Processing; Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.; General Foods; J.P. Morgan & Co.; Morgan Guaranty Trust Company; Mobil Corporation; and the Pittston Company. He was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations foreign policy organization between 1982 and 1988. He also served as a member of the influential Washington-based financial advisory body, the Group of Thirty in 1984.

Greenspan describes himself as a “lifelong libertarian Republican”.

In March 2005, in reaction to Greenspan’s support of President Bush’s plan to partially privatize Social Security, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid attacked Greenspan as “one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington”[4] and criticized him for supporting Bush’s 2001 tax cut plan.[5] Then-Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi added that there were serious questions about the Fed’s independence as a result of Greenspan’s public statements.[89] Greenspan also received criticism from Democratic Congressman Barney Frank and others for supporting Bush’s Social Security plans favoring private accounts.[90][91][92] Greenspan had said Bush’s model has “the seeds of developing full funding by its very nature. As I’ve said before, I’ve always supported moves to full funding in the context of a private account.”[93]

Others, like Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, disagreed that Greenspan was too deferential to Bush, stating that Greenspan “has been an independent player at the Fed for a long time under both parties and made an enormous positive contribution”.[94]

Economist Paul Krugman wrote that Greenspan was a “three-card maestro” with a “lack of sincerity” who, “by repeatedly shilling for whatever the Bush administration wants, has betrayed the trust placed in the Fed chairman”.[95]

Republican Senator Jim Bunning, who opposed Greenspan’s fifth reconfirmation, charged that Greenspan should comment only on monetary policy, not fiscal policy.[96] However, Greenspan had used his position as Fed Chairman to comment upon fiscal policy as early as 1993, when he supported President Clinton’s deficit reduction plan, which included tax increases and budget cuts.[97]

In an October 2011 lecture addressing the Occupy movement,[98] Noam Chomsky characterized portions of Greenspan’s February 1997 testimony to the U.S. Senate as an example of the self-serving attitudes of the so-called 1%. In that testimony, Greenspan had stated that growing worker insecurity is a significant factor keeping inflation and inflation expectation low, thereby promoting long term investment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_gre…

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