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FUKUSHIMA: Public health Fallout from Japanese Quake “Culture of cover-up” and inadequate cleanup. Japanese people exposed to “unconscionable” health risks

Posted by Admin on December 31, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28401

by Canadian Medical Association Journal

Global Research, December 30, 2011

Canadian Medical Association Journal - 2011-12-21

A “culture of cover-up” and inadequate cleanup efforts have combined to leave Japanese people exposed to “unconscionable” health risks nine months after last year’s meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, health experts say.

Although the Japanese government has declared the plant virtually stable, some experts are calling for evacuation of people from a wider area, which they say is contaminated with radioactive fallout.

They’re also calling for the Japanese government to reinstate internationally-approved radiation exposure limits for members of the public and are slagging government officials for “extreme lack of transparent, timely and comprehensive communication.”

But temperatures inside the Fukushima power station’s three melted cores have achieved a “cold shutdown condition,” while the release of radioactive materials is “under control,” according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2011/coldshutdown.html).

That means government may soon allow some of the more than 100 000 evacuees from the area around the plant to return to their homes. They were evacuated from the region after it was struck with an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami last March 11.

Although the potential for further explosions with substantial releases of radioactivity into the atmosphere is certainly reduced, the plant is still badly damaged and leaking radiation, says Tilman Ruff, chair of the Medical Association for Prevention of Nuclear War, who visited the Fukushima prefecture in August. “There are major issues of contamination on the site. Aftershocks have been continuing and are expected to continue for many months, and some of those are quite large, potentially causing further damage to structures that are already unstable and weakened. And we know that there’s about 120 000 tons of highly contaminated water in the base of the plant, and there’s been significant and ongoing leakage into the ocean.”

The full extent of contamination across the country is even less clear, says Ira Hefland, a member of the board of directors for Physicians for Social Responsibility. “We still don’t know exactly what radiation doses people were exposed to [in the immediate aftermath of the disaster] or what ongoing doses people are being exposed to. Most of the information we’re getting at this point is a series of contradictory statements where the government assures the people that everything’s okay and private citizens doing their own radiation monitoring come up with higher readings than the government says they should be finding.”

Japanese officials in Tokyo have documented elevated levels of cesium — a radioactive material with a half-life of 30 years that can cause leukemia and other cancers — more than 200 kilometres away from the plant, equal to the levels in the 20 kilometre exclusion zone, says Robert Gould, another member of the board of directors for Physicians for Social Responsibility.

International authorities have urged Japan to expand the exclusion zone around the plant to 80 kilometres but the government has instead opted to “define the problem out of existence” by raising the permissible level of radiation exposure for members of the public to 20 millisieverts per year, considerably higher than the international standard of one millisievert per year, Gould adds.

This “arbitrary increase” in the maximum permissible dose of radiation is an “unconscionable” failure of government, contends Ruff. “Subject a class of 30 children to 20 millisieverts of radiation for five years and you’re talking an increased risk of cancer to the order of about 1 in 30, which is completely unacceptable. I’m not aware of any other government in recent decades that’s been willing to accept such a high level of radiation-related risk for its population.”

Following the 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, “clear targets were set so that anybody anticipated to receive more than five millisieverts in a year were evacuated, no question,” Ruff explains. In areas with levels between one and five millisieverts, measures were taken to mitigate the risk of ingesting radioactive materials, including bans on local food consumption, and residents were offered the option of relocating. Exposures below one millisievert were still considered worth monitoring.

In comparison, the Japanese government has implemented a campaign to encourage the public to buy produce from the Fukushima area, Ruff added. “That response [in Chernobyl] 25 years ago in that much less technically sophisticated, much less open or democratic context, was, from a public health point of view, much more responsible than what’s being done in modern Japan this year.”

Were Japan to impose similar strictures, officials would have to evacuate some 1800 square kilometres and impose restrictions on food produced in another 11 100 square kilometres, according to estimates of the contamination presented by Dr. Kozo Tatara for the Japan Public Health Association at the American Public Health Association‘s 139th annual meeting and exposition in November in Washington, District of Columbia.

“It’s very difficult to persuade people that the level [of exposure set by the government] is okay,” Tatara told delegates to the meeting. He declined requests for an interview.

The Japanese government is essentially contending that the higher dose is “not dangerous,” explains Hefland. “However, since the accident, it’s become clear the Japanese government was lying through its teeth, doing everything it possible could to minimize public concern, even when that meant denying the public information needed to make informed decisions, and probably still is.”

“It’s now clear they knew within a day or so there had been a meltdown at the plant, yet they didn’t disclose that for weeks, and only with great prodding from the outside,” Hefland adds. “And at the same moment he was assuring people there was no public health disaster, the Prime Minister now concedes that he thought Tokyo would have to be evacuated but was doing nothing to bring that about.”

Ruff similarly charges that the government has mismanaged the file and provided the public with misinformation. As an example, he cites early reports that stable iodine had been distributed to children and had worked effectively, when, “in fact, iodine wasn’t given to anyone.”

Public distrust is at a level that communities have taken cleanup and monitoring efforts into their own hands as the government response to the crisis has been “woefully inadequate” and officials have been slow to respond to public reports of radioactive hotspots, Gould says. “That’s led to the cleanup of some affected areas, but there are also reports of people scattering contaminated soil willy-nilly in forests and areas surrounding those towns.”

“In some places, you can see mounds of contaminated soil that have just been aggregated under blue tarps,” he adds.

Even with government assistance, there are limits to the decontamination that can be achieved, explains Hefland. “What do you do with the stuff? Do you scrape entire topsoil? How far down you have to go? And if you wash down the buildings, what do you do with the waste water?”

As well, Ruff argues the government must examine the provision of compensation for voluntary evacuation from areas outside of the exclusion zone where there are high levels of radioactive contamination. Without such compensation, many families have no option but to stay, he says. “At this point, the single most important public health measure to minimize the health harm over the longterm is much wider evacuation.”

The Japanese government did not respond to inquiries.

Global Research Articles by Canadian Medical Association Journal

 

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What Does Fukushima’s New “Level 7″ Status Mean?

Posted by Admin on April 12, 2011

Internationally recognized symbol.

Warning You are repeating the same MISTAKE!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110412/wl_time/httpecocentricblogstimecom20110411whatdoesfukushimae28099snewe2809clevel7e2809dstatusmeanxidrssfullworldyahoo;_ylt=Ak4VUwEjp_Qj2Er6Ly0CkY9vaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTVrYXBtbWdqBGFzc2V0A3RpbWUvMjAxMTA0MTIvaHR0cGVjb2NlbnRyaWNibG9nc3RpbWVjb20yMDExMDQxMXdoYXRkb2VzZnVrdXNoaW1hZTI4MDk5c25ld2UyODA5Y2xldmVsN2UyODA5ZHN0YXR1c21lYW54aWRyc3NmdWxsd29ybGR5YWhvbwRwb3MDNwRzZWMDeW5fYXJ0aWNsZV9zdW1tYXJ5X2xpc3QEc2xrA3doYXRkb2VzZnVrdQ–

By KRISTA MAHR Krista Mahr Tue Apr 12, 6:40 am ET

Japanese officials announced on Tuesday morning that they were planning to raise the event level at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from a 5 to the maximum level of 7, the highest on the international scale for nuclear incidents and the same level assigned to the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

The decision was made after Japan‘s nuclear safety body determined that at one point after the March 11 earthquake, the plant was releasing 10,000 terabecquerels of iodine-131 for several hours; level 7 accidents are defined as releasing tens of thousands of terabecquerels. “The INES rating itself is not an indicator of a daily phenomena, but the assessment after careful consideration and calculation on the event that happened in the past,” Ken Morita of NISA told TIME on Tuesday morning. (See inside Japan’s nuclear wasteland.)

NISA has also noted, however, that the amount of radioactive material being released at Fukushima today is less than 1 terabecquerel. The agency says that, to date, Fukushima has only released about 10% of total radiation released 25 years ago in Chernobyl, or about 1.8 million terabecquerels. About 30 people, mostly workers, died in the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl, though the UN has estimated that the long-term death toll due to exposure could eventually be as high as 4000.

The International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), designed in 1989 by the IAEA and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the OECD, ranges from 1 (anomaly) to 7 (major accident). The scale is intended to help easily communicate with the public to indicate the seriousness of a nuclear event. Chernobyl is the only other nuclear accident to have been given a 7, an accident classified as having a major radioactive release with widespread impact on the environment and public health. According to INES, “Such a release would result in the possibility of acute health effects; delayed health effects over a wide area, possibly involving more than one country; long-term environmental consequences.” (Read the IAEA’s glossary of short- to long-term health effects of radiation exposure here.) (See the world’s top 10 environmental disasters.)

Besides Chernobyl, the only event that’s come close to a 7 before was a 1957 accident at a fuel processing plant (where spent nuclear fuel is recycled into new fuel) in Russia, in which an off-site release of radiation prompted preventative evacuations. The Three Mile Island accident in the U.S. in 1978, in which a reactor core was severely damage but off-site release of radioactivity was limited, was classified as a 5. Almost all reported events at nuclear facilities are a level 3 or under, according to INES.

Tuesday’s announcement comes on the back of a minor fire spotted by workers outside Fukushima’s reactor 4 on Tuesday morning, shortly after the second of three major aftershocks to hit the beleaguered northeast in the space of 24 hours. Three people in Iwaki died in landslides triggered by the 7.1 aftershock on Monday evening. The government also expanded the exclusion zone around Fukushima on Monday to include several towns within a 30-km (19-mile) radius that had formerly been told that they could remain at home, but were recommended to stay indoors. The towns now added to the mandatory evacuation zone were found to have high levels of radiation. (See the battle to hold Fukushima’s cores.)

Meanwhile, Greenpeace has said that in a survey conducted in Fukushima last week, its team of experts found radiation levels 75 times higher than the government recommendation in 11 samples of vegetables from gardens and small farms. The environmental group also announced that it found radiation levels equivalent to an annual exposure of 5 millisieverts – the evacuation threshold for Chernobyl – in a playground in Fukushima City, population 300,000. Greenpeace is urging the government to delay the start of the school year.

Though raising Fukushima’s level to 7 may not herald any immediate worsening of events, it is sure to add to many residents’ growing concern – and feelings of helplessness – over what could happen at dozens of other nuclear reactors spread across this seismic archipelago. On Sunday, over 17,000 people protested at two separate demonstrations in Tokyo against nuclear power. It was the first time that Yohei Nakamura, 45, had ever been to a protest. “For a long time I’ve been suspicious of nuclear power, but now I realize it’s a serious problem,” he said amidst the crowds carrying placards and shouting slogans. He said anti-nuclear demonstrations were undercovered in the Japanese press because of the influence of Tokyo Power and Electric Power Company, which owns Fukushima. “TEPCO is one of the most powerful companies in Japan,” Nakamura said. “They use a tremendous amount of money for adverstising. If the mass media shows anti-nuclear power activities like demonstrations, they risk losing TEPCO as an advertiser.”

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Japan raises nuclear crisis to same level as Chernobyl

Posted by Admin on April 12, 2011

Flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency...

IAEA

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110412/wl_nm/us_japan

By Shinichi Saoshiro and Yoko Nishikawa Shinichi Saoshiro And Yoko Nishikawa 42 mins ago

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan put its nuclear calamity on a par with the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Chernobyl, on Tuesday after new data showed that more radiation leaked from its earthquake-crippled power plant in the early days of the crisis than first thought.

Japanese officials said it had taken time to measure radiation from the plant after it was smashed by March 11′s massive quake and tsunami, and the upgrade in its severity rating to the highest level on a globally recognized scale did not mean the situation had suddenly become more critical.

“The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is slowly stabilizing, step by step, and the emission of radioactive substances is on a declining trend,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a press briefing on Tuesday.

Kan said he wanted to move from emergency response to long-term rebuilding.

“A month has passed. We need to take steps toward restoration and reconstruction,” he said.

He also called on opposition parties, whose help he needs to pass bills in a divided parliament, to take part in drafting reconstruction plans from an early stage.

The operator of the stricken facility appears to be no closer to restoring cooling systems at the reactors, critical to lowering the temperature of overheated nuclear fuel rods. Late on Tuesday, Japan’s science ministry said small amounts of strontium, one of the most harmful and long-lasting radioactive elements, had been found in soil near Fukushima Daiichi.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a deputy director-general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), said the decision to raise the severity of the incident from level 5 to 7 — the same as the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 — was based on cumulative quantities of radiation released.

No radiation-linked deaths have been reported since the earthquake struck, and only 21 plant workers have been affected by minor radiation sickness, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

“Although the level has been raised to 7 today, it doesn’t mean the situation today is worse than it was yesterday, it means the event as a whole is worse than previously thought,” said nuclear expert John Price, a former member of the Safety Policy Unit at the UK’s National Nuclear Corporation.

“NOWHERE NEAR CHERNOBYL”

A level 7 incident means a major release of radiation with a widespread health and environmental impact, while a 5 level is a limited release of radioactive material, with several deaths, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Several experts said the new rating exaggerated the severity of the crisis.

“It’s nowhere near that level. Chernobyl was terrible — it blew and they had no containment, and they were stuck,” said nuclear industry specialist Murray Jennex, an associate professor at San Diego State University in California.

“Their containment has been holding, the only thing that hasn’t is the fuel pool that caught fire.”

The blast at Chernobyl blew the roof off a reactor and sent large amounts of radiation wafting across Europe. The accident contaminated vast areas and led to the evacuation of well over 100,000 people.

Nevertheless, the increase in the severity level heightens the risk of diplomatic tension with Japan’s neighbors over radioactive fallout. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Kan on Tuesday he was “concerned” about the release of radiation into the ocean.

“If Japan mishandles this issue, especially if, to solve its own problems, it affects the safety of neighboring countries, then that will have a bad effect on relations at the government and public levels,” said Sun Cheng, a professor specializing in Japanese politics and Sino-Japanese relations at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing.

Chinese worries have not reached that point yet, he said.

China has so far been sympathetic rather than angry, though it and South Korea have criticized the plant operator’s decision to pump radioactive water into the sea, a process it has now stopped.

HUGE ECONOMIC DAMAGE

The March earthquake and tsunami killed up to 28,000 people and the estimated financial cost stands at $300 billion, making it the world’s most expensive disaster.

Japan’s economics minister warned the damage was likely to be worse than first thought as power shortages would cut factory output and disrupt supply chains.

The Bank of Japan governor said the economy was in a “severe state,” while central bankers were uncertain when efforts to rebuild the northeast would boost growth, according to minutes from a meeting held three days after the earthquake struck.

NISA said the amount of radiation released into the atmosphere from the plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, was around 10 percent that of Chernobyl.

“Radiation released into the atmosphere peaked from March 15 to 16. Radiation is still being released, but the amount now has fallen considerably,” said NISA’s Nishiyama.

Lam Ching-wan, a chemical pathologist at the University of Hong Kong and member of the American Board of Toxicology, said this level of radiation was harmful.

“It means there is damage to soil, ecosystem, water, food and people. People receive this radiation. You can’t escape it by just shutting the window,” Lam said.

(Additional reporting by Risa Maeda, Yoko Kobuta, Linda Sieg, Michael Perry and Nathan Layne in Tokyo, Scott DiSavino in New York, Chris Buckley in Beijing, Tan Ee Lyn in Hong Kong and Ron Popeski in Singapore; Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by John Chalmers and Alex Richardson)

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Radiation inside Japan nuclear plant rises sharply

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110327/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earthquake

By YURI KAGEYAMA and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Yuri Kageyama And Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press 58 mins ago

TOKYOEmergency workers struggling to pump contaminated water from Japan’s stricken nuclear complex fled one of the troubled reactors Sunday after reporting a huge spike in radioactivity, with levels 10 million times higher than normal in the reactor’s cooling system, officials said.

The numbers were so high that the worker measuring radiation levels in the complex’s Unit 2 withdrew before taking a second reading, officials said.

It was not immediately clear, however, how long workers were exposed to the highly radioactive water or how long the levels had been that high at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

But it came as officials acknowledged there was contaminated water in all four of the complex’s most troubled reactors, and as airborne radiation in Unit 2 measured 1,000 millisieverts per hour — four times the limit deemed safe by the government, Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Takashi Kurita said.

Officials say they still don’t know where the radioactive water is coming from, though government spokesman Yukio Edano has said some is “almost certainly” seeping from a cracked reactor core in one of the units.

While the discovery of the high radiation levels — and the evacuation of workers from one reactor unit — again delayed efforts to bring the deeply troubled complex under control, Edano insisted the situation had partially stabilized.

“We have somewhat prevented the situation from turning worse,” he told reporters Sunday evening. “But the prospects are not improving in a straight line and we’ve expected twists and turns. The contaminated water is one of them and we’ll continue to repair the damage.”

The discovery over the last three days of radioactive water has been a major setback in the mission to get the plant’s crucial cooling systems operating more than two weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami.

The magnitude-9 quake off Japan’s northeast coast on March 11 triggered a tsunami that barreled onshore and disabled the Fukushima plant, complicating an immense humanitarian disaster.

The death toll from the twin disasters stood at 10,668 Sunday, with more than 16,574 people missing, police said. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless.

Workers have been scrambling to remove the radioactive water from the four units and find a safe place to store it, TEPCO officials said.

On Sunday night, Minoru Ogoda of Japan’s nuclear safety agency said each unit could have hundreds of tons of radioactive water.

The protracted nuclear crisis has spurred concerns about the safety of food and water in Japan, which is a prime source of seafood for some countries. Radiation has been found in food, seawater and even tap water supplies in Tokyo.

Just outside the coastal Fukushima nuclear plant, radioactivity in seawater tested about 1,250 times higher than normal last week — but that number had climbed to 1,850 times normal by the weekend.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a nuclear safety official, said the increase was a concern, but also said the area is not a source of seafood and that the contamination posed no immediate threat to human health.

Experts with the International Atomic Energy Agency said the ocean would quickly dilute the worst contamination.

Up to 600 people are working inside the plant in shifts. Nuclear safety officials say workers’ time inside the crippled units is closely monitored to minimize their exposure to radioactivity, but two workers were hospitalized Thursday when they suffered burns after stepping into contaminated water. They are to be released from the hospital Monday.

Edano has urged TEPCO to be more transparent about the potential dangers after the safety agency revealed the plant operator was aware of high radiation levels in the air in Unit 3 several days before the two workers suffered burns there.

A top TEPCO official acknowledged Sunday it could take a long time to completely clean up the complex.

“We cannot say at this time how many months or years it will take,” TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto said, insisting the main goal now is to cool the reactors.

A poll, meanwhile, showed that support for Japan’s prime minister has risen as the administration tackles the disasters.

The public opinion poll conducted over the weekend by Kyodo News agency found that approval of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Cabinet rose to 28.3 percent after sinking below 20 percent in February, before the earthquake and tsunami.

Last month’s low approval led to speculation that Kan’s days were numbered. While the latest figure is still low, it suggests he is making some gains with voters.

About 58 percent of respondents in the nationwide telephone survey of 1,011 people said they approved of the government’s handling of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but a similar number criticized its handling of the nuclear crisis.

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The Next Nagasaki – Nuclear Fears Stalk The World-Threat to the American Public

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23788

by Yoichi Shimatsu

Global Research, March 19, 2011

A second Hiroshima is happening with the partial meltdowns at Fukushima 1 nuclear reactors. We can only hope the eventual toll in lives comes nowhere near close to that of the world’s first atomic catastrophe.

The international community is now asking: Where will be the next Nagasaki?

In the US with its 23 aging reactors of identical design as Fukushima’s GE Mark 1 reactors, along with another dozen more of slightly modified design?

In France, the world’s most nuclear-dependent country?

Probably not in Germany or Venezuela, which are cutting back their nuclear programs, nor Britain, the world leader in conversion to offshore wind power. Or even China, a solar-energy paragon now scaling back plans for new nuclear plants.

Many people are also wondering: How can the only nation that ever experienced atomic bombings become so trusting in nuclear energy? The answer is both simple and complicated. In the modern economy, the energy to run machines is intertwined with national security, foreign policy and warfare.

Uranium-based Progress

World War II was in essence a contest for fossil fuel. An energy-hungry Japan invaded China for its coal and Indonesia for oil reserves. Nazi Germany’s blitzkriegs were aimed at oil fields in Romania, Libya and the Caspian Sea region. The United States and Britain fought the Axis Powers to retain their control over the world’s fossil fuel, and they’re still doing the same in conflicts with OPEC nations and to control Central Asia and East Asia’s continental shelf.

To prevent the recurrence of another Pacific War, Washington tried to ween postwar Japan from its dependence on coal and oil. As Japanese industry revived by the time of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the US pushed Japan to adopt the “safe and clean” energy of the future – nuclear power. General Electric and Westinghouse were soon given charge of installing a network of nuclear power plants across the island nation, while Tokyo was inducted into the US-launched International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Unlike older fuel resources, nuclear power was the sole proprietary right of the US, which not only dominated uranium mining but also production of boron, the neutron absorbing mineral needed for controlled nuclear reactions.American labs including Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oakridge are the graduate schools for the world’s nuclear physicists.

In the same period of heady infatuation with technology, the New York World’s Fair of 1964-65 was a debutante ball for a brighter “universal” future based on atom-splitting. The General Electric pavilion was called “Progressland” with a multimedia show featuring a “plasma explosion” of plutonium fusion for awe-struck visitors. Japan served as the model of international citizenship and cooperation under the American aegis of atomic power.The Fukushima nuclear plant designed by GE was commissioned in 1971.

The modern myth of safe nuclear power was alternatively resisted and grudgingly accepted by the Japanese public. In more recent years, once negative perceptions toward nuclear provider Tokyo Electric Power company have shifted. A young computer-graphics designer in Tokyo told me that his generation grew up thinking “TEPCO has a god-like aura of infallibility and power greater than the government.” My experience as an editor inside the Japanese press reveals how its corporate image was cunningly promoted with “greenwash” commercials falsely claiming environmental-friendliness and hefty ad revenues for television and print media.

Atomic Energy in the Cold War

Japan was no stranger to atomic energy. During the Second World War, the Allies and the Axis competed for an exotic new energy source -uranium. While the Manhattan Project was secretly crafting the atomic bomb in New Mexico, Japan opened uranium mines in Konan, North Korea, which now are the source of Pyongyang’s nuclear energy program.

Following the Allied victory, the Soviet Union aimed to break the American nuclear monopoly by establishing a protectorate called the Republic of East Turkestan in China’s northwest province of Xinjiang. The rich uranium deposits near Burjin, in the foothills of the Altai mountains, provided the fissionable material for development of Soviet nuclear capability. The hastily dug Soviet mines left behind the curse of radiation disease for the predominantly Uyghur and ethnic Kazakh inhabitants as well as to downstream communities in eastern Kazakhstan. Kazakh and Chinese scientists have since run soil remediation projects, using isotope-gathering trees to cleanse the irradiated land.

To prevent the Soviets from amassing a nuclear arsenal, the Truman administration initiated a top-secret program to control the world’s entire uranium supply. Operation Murray Hill focused on sabotaging the Altai mining operations. Douglas MacKiernan, operating under the cover of US vice consul in Urumchi, organized a covert team of anticommunist Russians and Kazakh guerrillas to bomb the Soviet mining facilities. Forced to flee toward Lhasa, MacKiernan was shot dead in case of mistaken identity by a Tibetan border guard and is honored as the CIA’s first agent killed in action.

The covert global operations of Operation Murray Hill are carried on today by the CIA’s counter-proliferation bureau. A glimpse into its clandestine operations is provided in “Fair Game”, the book and movie about Valerie Plame, the agent exposed under the Bush administration. Battles open and covert against nuclear foes have been fought as far afield as Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Argentina, Indonesia, Myanmar and Iraq as well as against usual suspects Iran and North Korea.

Threat to the American Public

The partial meltdowns at Fukushima 1 are putting Washington into a quandary. Had these radiation releases occurred in North Korea or Iran, Washington could have summoned UN Security Council sessions, demanded IAEA inspections and imposed tough sanctions and possibly military intervention. The meltdowns, however, are from American-designed reactors operating under protocols created by the US.

The Obama administration has, therefore, downplayed the seriousness of the current nuclear drama shaking its security ally Japan. In an unconvincing defensive tone, the American president has backed nuclear energy as part of “the energy mix” supporting the US economy. His pro-nuclear stance is irrational and irresponsible, when smaller allied countries including Britain, the Netherlands and Germany are making massive investments in offshore wind farms in the North Sea to end their dependency on nuclear and fossil fuels.

The international community is well aware of the double standard in policy. The US quietly applauded Israeli air strikes against Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear-energy plant in 1981 and has since demanded ever-stricter sanctions against Tehran and Pyongyang. Yet Washington refuses to lead by example, shrugging off the anti-nuclear movement’s pleas to stop plans for new reactors and shunning calls from the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for total nuclear disarmament. America’s campaign for an atomic monopoly, or at least nuclear dominance, is driving smaller powers toward obtaining a deterrence capability. These nations aren’t some “axis of evil”; they’re just playing the survival game by the rules – not the words – set by Washington.

In the days and months ahead, America’s own citizens will be cringing from the dreaded arrival of radioactive fallout. Terrorism is now practically forgotten when a much wider threat may soon blanket American skies from “sea to shining sea.” Unless Washington moves rapidly toward repudiation of its own nuclear addiction, the specter of another Nagasaki will overshadow the land of the free and home of the brave.

Yoichi Shimatsu is Former Editor of The Japan Times Weekly

Yoichi Shimatsu is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Yoichi Shimatsu

 

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Nuclear crisis deepens in disaster-struck Japan

Posted by Admin on March 16, 2011

Earthquake and Tsunami damage-Fukushima Dai-Ni...

Earthquake and Tsunami damage to Fukushima reactors

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110316/wl_asia_afp/japanquake

by Hiroshi Hiyama Hiroshi Hiyama Wed Mar 16, 3:44 am ET

SENDAI, Japan (AFP) – Japanese crews grappling with the world’s worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl suspended work due to radiation fears Wednesday as tens of thousands in need after the quake and tsunami desperately appealed for help.

The jittery nation, living in dread of a nuclear catastrophe after Friday’s twin disaster, was also hit by a strong 6.0 magnitude earthquake that swayed buildings in Tokyo, fraying already jangled nerves.

The official toll of the dead and missing after the quake and tsunami flattened Japan’s northeast coast has topped 11,000, with 3,676 confirmed killed, police said.

However, after the Tokyo stock exchange’s biggest two-day sell-off in 24 years sparked a global market rout, the headline Nikkei share index closed up 5.68 percent on bargain hunting.

The Bank of Japan pumped another 3.5 trillion yen ($43.3 billion) into the financial system, adding to trillions spent this week since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and towering tsunami crippled a large swathe of the economy.

The evacuation order at the Fukushima nuclear power plant came as a tall white cloud was seen billowing high into the sky over the stricken complex.

“Around 10:40 am (0140 GMT) we ordered the evacuation of workers… due to the rise in (radioactivity) data around the gate” of the ageing plant, a nuclear safety agency official said at a televised news conference.

Several hours later there was no news on whether the crews had been allowed back into the plant 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Before the evacuation order, crews at Fukushima — who have been hailed as heroes — contended with a new fire and feared damage to the vessel containing one of the plant’s six reactor cores.

A Japanese military helicopter was on its way to dump water on the stricken nuclear plant to help contain the overheating.

The containment vessel around the core of reactor number three may have suffered damage, and the “likeliest possibility” for the white cloud was steam escaping from the vessel, chief government spokesman Yukio Edano said.

The number-three reactor was hit by a blast Monday that tore off the outer structure of the reactor building.

Fire crews fought a new blaze early Wednesday at reactor number four, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said, but it was later extinguished.

Engineers have been desperately battling a feared meltdown at the 40-year-old plant since the earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems and fuel rods began overheating.

There have now been four explosions and two fires at the complex, with four out of its six reactors in trouble.

France’s Nuclear Safety Authority said the disaster now equated to a six on the seven-point international scale for nuclear accidents, ranking the crisis second only in gravity to the level-seven Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

But Yukiya Amano, the Japanese chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, insisted Tuesday there was no comparison to the Chernobyl crisis, when radiation spewed across Europe.

The head of the UN’s atomic watchdog said that unlike Chernobyl, the Fukushima reactors have primary containment vessels and had also shut down automatically when the earthquake hit, so there was no chain reaction going on.

The full tragedy of the quake and tsunami was meanwhile playing out as more details emerge of the staggering death and devastation in the worst-hit northeast.

The small fishing town of Minamisanriku, for example, is believed to be missing about half of its 17,000 people.

“Ten of my relatives are missing. I haven’t been able to get in contact with them,” 54-year-old Minamisanriku resident Tomeko Sato, who lost her house in the disaster, told AFP.

Millions have been left without water, electricity, fuel or enough food and hundreds of thousands more are homeless, stoically coping with freezing cold and wet conditions in the northeast.

Aomori governor Shingo Mimura said he desperately needed central government assistance to get hold of oil and relief supplies.

“We cannot possibly get out to rescue survivors nor reconstruct the devastated areas without oil. Just a tiny bit of oil for today can protect lives,” he said.

“There are a variety of problems, such as shortages of water, food and blankets as well as difficulties in delivering supplies,” added Ryu Matsumoto, state minister in charge of disaster management.

“We will try to figure out how to transport supplies also via air or sea.”

With nerves on edge across the world’s third-biggest economy and beyond, people across Asia have been stripping shelves of essentials for fear of a major emission of radiation from the power plant on the east coast.

The government has warned that panic buying in towns and cities that have not been directly affected by the twin disasters could hurt its ability to provide aid to the devastated areas.

Edano, who is the chief cabinet secretary, said Japan as a whole was amply provided with fuel but stressed that petrol and kerosene were “very short” in the ravaged northeast.

“Those who do not live in disaster-hit areas, please do not buy (fuel) in bulk. We have enough to meet the nationwide demand,” he said, adding that the government was doing its all to get fuel to the north.

The normally heaving streets and subways of Tokyo were quieter than usual on Wednesday morning. The number of people sporting paper face masks has shot up, although the masks offer no real protection against radiation.

Radiation levels in the capital’s vast urban sprawl of 30 million people have see-sawed without ever reaching harmful levels, according to the government.

But it has warned people living up to 10 kilometres (six miles) beyond a 20-kilometre exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant to stay indoors. More than 200,000 people have already been evacuated from the zone.

President Barack Obama, who has dispatched a naval flotilla led by a US aircraft carrier to aid in the quake-tsunami rescue operation, said he was “deeply worried” about the potential human cost of the disaster in Japan.

The government in Tokyo said it was ready to draft in more help from the 49,000 US military personnel stationed in Japan.

Obama also vowed to “further improve” the safety of US atomic facilities, while several European nations announced reviews of their own nuclear installations and Germany temporarily shut down seven reactors.

Hoax emails and text messages warning of radiation drifting south from Japan have set off a run on essentials such as bottled water and fresh milk in places as far afield as the Philippines.

China said it was stepping up checks of travellers and goods inbound from Japan for possible radiation contamination.

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Hybrid Newsletter – 2 for 04.12.2010 A.D

Posted by Admin on December 4, 2010

Memos reveal US-Libya standoff over uranium

By LEE KEATH, Associated Press – 27 mins ago

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101204/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_wikileaks_libya_nuclear

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi

AP – FILE – Seif al-Islam Gadhafi talks to reporters at the ancient city of Cyrene near the city of al-Bayda

CAIRO – As it dismantled its nuclear weapons program, Libya sparked a tense diplomatic standoff with the United States last year when it refused to hand over its last batch of highly enriched uranium to protest the slowness of improving ties with Washington, leaked U.S. diplomatic memos reveal.

The monthlong standoff, which has not previously been made public, was resolved only after a call from U.S. Secretary of State HillaryRodham Clinton to Libya’s foreign minister, apparently to underline Washington’s commitment to warming relations. After the call, Libya allowed Russia to take away the uranium in December 2009.

But for that month, U.S. officials issued frantic warnings that the 11.5 pounds (5.2 kilograms) of highly enriched uranium was vulnerable to start leaking or be stolen, since it was sitting at Libya’s Tajoura nuclear facility with only a single armed guard.

The incident illustrates Libya’s unpredictability as it shakes off its longtime pariah status and rebuilds ties with the U.S. and the world. The series of memos released by the WikiLeaks website to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which published them this week, also shows the efforts of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli — which reopened in 2007 after a closure of nearly 30 years — to track Libya’s opaque and often confusing politics. Several memos speculate on the jockeying for succession to power among the sons of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi — Seif al-Islam, Mutassim and Khamis.

“Burgeoning sibling rivalry between Gadhafi’s progeny is near inevitable,” reads a November 2009 embassy memo. Gadhafi “has placed his sons … on a succession high wire act, perpetually thrown off-balance, in what might be a calculated effort by the aging leader to prevent any one of them from authoritatively gaining the prize.”

Gadhafi’s 2003 decision to renounce terrorism and dismantle Libya’s secret nuclear, chemical and biological weapons development program was a key step in opening the door to normalization with the U.S and the West. Since that time, the U.S., Russia and other countries have been transporting centrifuges, uranium and other nuclear equipment out of Libya. The U.S. and the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, have declared Libya’s nuclear and chemical weapons programs fully dismantled.

The standoff was a last-minute surprise.

On Nov. 23, 2009, a Russian cargo plane landed at Tripoli, expecting to take the last of Libya’s highly enriched uranium, contained in seven containers known as casks. Then the Libyans informed the Russians and Americans that the material would not be handed over — and the plane left without the cargo, according to a Nov. 25 memo from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

The embassy raised the alarm, warning that Tajoura was “lightly guarded” and that U.S. experts had seen “only one security guard with a gun” there. It said it asked the Libyans to beef up security and remove a loading crane at the site “to prevent an intruder from using it to remove the casks.” It also warned that within three months, the casks would start to leak and release radioactive material.

Two days later, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi — seen as a the main reform proponent in Libya — told the ambassador that the shipment was halted because Libya was “fed up” with the slow pace of relations between Tripoli and Washington, another memo reported.

Specifically, he said Libya wanted deals to purchase military equipment and other “compensation” for its dismantled facilities.

More broadly, he said the U.S.-Libyan relationship was “not going well” and pointed to slights against his father during his visit to New York the previous September for the U.N. General Assembly — including protests in several suburbs against Gadhafi’s attempts to pitch a ceremonial Bedouin-style tent to stay in, and the refusal to allow Gadhafi to visit Ground Zero.

In the memo, the embassy recommended that Clinton contact Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa with a “general statement of commitment to work with the Libyans to move the relationship forward,” coupled with a “strong” demand that the uranium be released and “not be held hostage.”

On Dec. 3, Clinton called Kusa with “the statement of commitment,” a later memo said, without specifying the content of the message. Soon after, the embassy reported that the Libyans promised the uranium would be released.

On Dec. 20, the Russian cargo plane returned, the uranium was loaded and taken to Russia the next day.

“Today’s flight marked the successful completion of Libya’s commitments to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs,” the embassy reported.

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Obama, troops cheer each other in Afghan visit

By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent – 1 hr 11 mins ago

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101204/ap_on_re_as/as_obama

Barack Obama

AP – President Barack Obama greets troops at a rally during an unannounced visit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – In a rousing holiday-season visit, President Barack Obama on Friday told cheering U.S. troops inAfghanistan they’re succeeding in their vital mission fighting terrorism. But after he flew in secrecy for 13 hours to get here, foul weather kept him from nearby Kabul and a meeting to address frayed relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Obama’s surprise visit to the war zone, his second as president, came 10 days before he is to address the nation about a new review of U.S. strategy to defeat the Taliban and strengthen the Afghan government so American troops can begin leaving next year.

The trip also came at a particularly awkward moment in already strained U.S. relations with Afghanistan because of new and embarrassing leaked cables alleging widespread fraud and underscoring deep American concerns about Karzai.

There was no mention of that as the president spoke to more than 3,500 service members packed into a huge airplane hangar. After his remarks, he spent more than 10 minutes shaking hands, going around the hangar three times as they grabbed his hand and held cameras and cell phones high to take photos.

Obama stayed on this U.S. military base, the headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division, the entire time he was here, just under four hours. He huddled with U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan and U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. And he visited wounded soldiers at a base hospital, personally dispensing five Purple Hearts to wounded service members.

“Because of the progress we’re making, we look forward to a new phase next year, the beginning of the transition to Afghan responsibility,” Obama told the troops. He thanked them for their efforts, noting the difficulty in being away from home during the holidays, and they repeatedly cheered him in return.

He said the U.S. was continuing “to forge a partnership with the Afghan people for the long term.” And he said, “we will never let this country serve as a safe haven for terrorists who would attack the United States of America again. That will never happen.”

There are now about 150,000 coalition forces in Afghanistan, roughly 100,000 of them Americans. The U.S. and its NATO partners agreed last month in Lisbon, Portugal, to begin turning over control to local Afghan authorities in 2011, with a goal of completing that transition by the end of 2014.

White House officials said gusty winds and swirling dust led them to cancel Obama’s planned helicopter visit to Kabul, about 30 miles north of here. A backup plan for a secure videoconference was also scrapped.

Waheed Omar, a Karzai spokesman, said the Afghan leader was “not upset” that the palace visit was scuttled. He noted that the two leaders had met during the conference in Lisbon and discussed the situation in Afghanistan in detail.

Obama, who has tripled U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan, has come under increasing pressure to demonstrate progress in turning the tide against the Taliban insurgency in the battle that has now gone on for more than nine years. In his remarks to the troops, Obama cited “important progress.”

“We said we were going to break the Taliban’s momentum. And that’s what you’re doing. You’re going on the offense, tired of playing defense, targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds. Today, we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control and more Afghans have a chance to build a more hopeful future,” he said.

He thanked the troops for their work and sacrifice “on behalf of more than 300 million Americans.”

“You give me hope. You give me inspiration. Your resolve shows that Americans will never succumb to fear,” he said to cheers and shouts.

Petraeus, the commander Obama is looking to to turn things around, introduced Obama to the troops and teased the president about the basketball injury to his lip last week. Presenting him with a 101st Airborne T-shirt, Petraeus told the president: “No one will mess with you if you wear this, Mr. President.”

At the base hospital, Obama met with platoon members from the unit that lost six soldiers this week in brazen killings by an Afghan border policeman who turned fire on his U.S. trainers.

Mentioning that visit and his meeting with what Petraeus called “wounded warriors,” Obama told the assembled troops: “I don’t need to tell you this is a tough fight. … It’s a tough business. Progress comes slow. And there are going to be difficult days ahead. Progress comes at a high price.”

Newly leaked U.S. cables show American diplomats portraying Afghanistan as rife with graft to the highest levels of government, with tens of millions of dollars flowing out of the country and a cash transfer network that facilitates bribes for corrupt Afghan officials, drug traffickers and insurgents.

A main concern in the cables appears to be Karzai himself, who emerges as a mercurial figure. In a July 7, 2009, dispatch, Eikenberry describes “two contrasting portraits” of the Afghan president.

“The first is of a paranoid and weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of nation building and overly self-conscious that his time in the spotlight of glowing reviews from the international community has passed,” the cable says. “The other is that of an ever-shrewd politician who sees himself as a nationalist hero. … In order to recalibrate our relationship with Karzai, we must deal with and challenge both of these personalities.”

Obama aides later said the subject of the cables didn’t come up during the Obama-Karzai phone call, which lasted 15 minutes. Ben Rhodes, a White House national security aide, told reporters Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had already spoken to Karzai about WikiLeaks disclosures.

After the long, unannounced flight from Washington, Obama landed in darkness under intense security.

He stepped off Air Force One clad in a brown leather jacket that he was also wearing when he spoke to troops. Plans of his trip into the war zone were tightly guarded.

Despite the upcoming review results, White House officials on the trip played down the significance of his upcoming speech. No big policy changes are expected, they said.

To deal with any doubts about reasons for the Karzai meeting being canceled, reporters traveling with Obama were escorted outside the air field hangar to get a glimpse of the conditions. The wind was blowing strongly, kicking up dust clouds as troops streamed in to hear Obama. An American flag whipped against its pole. At the presidential palace, U.S. armored vehicles were securing entrances. Carpets were ready to be unrolled.

The war in Afghanistan is the nation’s longest after Vietnam, launched in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. This has been the deadliest year to date for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. More than 1,300 have died here since the war began, more than 450 in 2010.

The visit comes a year after Obama announced he was sending an additional 30,000 troops to try to gain control — and then get the United States out — of a worsening conflict. Obama’s plan is to start pulling U.S. forces out of Afghanistan in July.

___

Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann in Kabul and Tom Raum in Washington contributed to this report.

(This version corrects length of flight to 13 hours, not 14.)

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US, South Korea reach highly coveted trade deal

By JULIE PACE and KEN THOMAS, Associated Press – 50 mins ago

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101204/ap_on_bi_ge/us_us_skorea_trade_talks

S.Korea trade deal in limbo after talks failure
S.Korea trade deal in limbo after talks failure

WASHINGTON – The U.S. and South Korea have reached an agreement on America’s largest trade pact in more than a decade, a highly coveted deal the Obama administration hopes will boost U.S. exports and create tens of thousands of jobs at home.

After a week of marathon negotiations, representatives from both countries broke through a stalemate Friday morning on outstanding issues related to the automobile industry, which have been a sticking point in the talks. The agreement would be the largest U.S. trade dealsince the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, with Canada and Mexico and would bolster U.S. ties with the fast-growing South Korea economy.

South Korea is agreeing to allow the U.S. to lift a 2.5 percent tariff on Korean cars in five years, instead of cutting the tariff immediately. The agreement also allows each U.S. automaker to export 25,000 cars to South Korea as long as they meet U.S. federal safety standards and allows the U.S. to continue a 25 percent tariff on trucks for eight years and then phase it out by the 10th year. South Korea would be required to eliminate its 10 percent tariff on U.S. trucks immediately.

President Barack Obama hailed the agreement as a “landmark trade deal” that would support at least 70,000 U.S. jobs.

“We are strengthening our ability to create and defend manufacturing jobs in the United States, increasing exports of agricultural products for American farmers and ranchers and opening Korea’s services market to American companies,” Obama said in a statement.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak praised the deal as bringing huge economic benefits to both countries and further boosting the two nations’ alliance.

“This agreement is meaningful in that it has laid the basis for a mutual win-win by reflecting interests for the two countries in a balanced manner,” Lee said in a statement posted on the presidential website.

The White House had hoped to strike a deal last month during Obama’s trip to Seoul for the G-20 economic summit, but both countries were unable to broker a compromise on issues pertaining to trade of autos and beef. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and his counterpart, Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon, resumed negotiations outside Washington this week.

The agreement did not address issues with the beef trade. The U.S. had sought greater access to the beef market in South Korea, which restricts imports of older U.S. meat. A senior administration official said discussions on beef are ongoing. The official insisted on anonymity to discuss private negotiations.

The wider agreement would eliminate tariffs on more than 95 percent of industrial and consumer goods within five years, a move that the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated would increase exports of U.S. goods by at least $10 billion. The deal would also open up South Korea’s vast $560 billion services markets to U.S. companies.

Lee expressed hope for a quick ratification of the deal by the legislatures of the two countries. Obama administration officials offered no timeline for ratification on Capitol Hill.

The South Korea deal has been widely supported by those in the private sector and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has criticized other administration policies as antibusiness.

“This agreement will create thousands of new jobs, advance our national goal of doubling exports in five years, and demonstrate that America is once again ready to lead on trade,” Chamber president Tom Donohue said Friday. Ford CEO Alan Mulally said the deal was, “a transformational agreement” that would open one of the most closed auto markets in the world to U.S. manufacturers.

The chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, David Ruch, called the trade deal “a historic juncture.” And California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who visited South Korea during an Asia trade mission in September, issued a statement urging Congress to ratify “this vital agreement as soon as possible.”

The deal was a bright spot for Obama on a day the Labor Department reported weak economic weak economic news: the U.S. unemployment rate climbed to 9.8 percent and job growth slowed to a trickle. Obama has pledged to aggressively seek new markets for U.S. exports in South Korea and other countries as a way to spur job growth at home.

The agreement also won Obama some rare support from the GOP.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the agreement was, “a positive development” toward promoting economic growth and private sector job creation. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the agreement would make U.S. exports more competitive and create more opportunities for American companies to create jobs.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he was deeply disappointed that the deal didn’t address the ongoing issues with the beef trade. Baucus said he would reserve judgment on the larger trade agreement until those issues were resolved.

The U.S. and South Korea reached a deal in 2007 that slashed tariffs and other barriers to commerce. But the pact has been in limbo since then, due in part to political changes in both countries and the Obama administration’s demands that South Korea make concessions on trade in autos and beef. Administration officials hoped finalizing the South Korea deal could lead to breakthroughs on other pending agreements with Panama and Colombia.

Bilateral trade between South Korea and the U.S. totaled $66.7 billion in 2009, down sharply from $84.7 billion in 2008 as global commerce suffered during the economic downturn.

The U.S. auto industry would be one of the biggest benefactors of the agreements. Figures compiled by auto industry groups in South Korea show that it exported 449,403 vehicles to the U.S. last year, while South Koreans purchased 6,140 vehicles made by American manufacturers, based on vehicle registrations.

“This trade agreement, once finalized, will provide jobs, products, and renewed sense of partnership to both the United States and South Korea,” said Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association.

But Lori Wallach, director of the liberal-leaning advocacy group Public Citizen, criticized the deal, saying it would lead foreign investors to move U.S. jobs overseas and put Obama’s political future in peril.

“Choosing to advance Bush’s NAFTA-style Korea free trade agreement rather than the new trade policy President Obama promised during his campaign will mean more American job loss and puts the White House at odds with the majority of Americans,” Wallach said in a statement.

___

Associated Press writer Kwang-tae Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

=====================================================================================================================================================

Spain military takes over air traffic control

By ALAN CLENDENNING and HAROLD HECKLE, Associated Press – 1 hr 5 mins ago

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101204/ap_on_bi_ge/eu_spain_airport_closures

Passengers wait for news about their flights at the Barajas airport in Madrid.

Passengers wait for news about their flights at the Barajas airport in Madrid.

MADRID – Spain’s military took control of the nation’s airspace Friday night after air traffic controllers staged a massive sickout that stranded at least 330,000 travelers on the eve of a long holiday weekend, forcing the government to shut down Madrid’s big international hub and seven other airports.

About six hours after the nation descended into total travel chaos, Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba announced that the Defense Ministry had “taken control of air traffic in all the national territory.” He said the army would make all decisions on air trafficcontrol, organization, planning and supervision.

If enough controllers do not show up for work Saturday to restore normal flight operations, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero plans to declare a national emergency that would force them to do so, Rubalcaba said. No-show controllers will face unspecified criminal charges punishable by “serious prison time,” he said.

Spanish flagship carrier Iberia SA said all of its flights in and out of Madrid were suspended until at least 11 a.m. Saturday, but other airlines did not give guidance for when flights might resume.

The controllers abandoned their posts amid a lengthy dispute over working conditions and after Zapatero and his ministers on Friday approved a package of austerity measures — including a move to partially privatize airports and hand over management of the Madrid and Barcelona airports to the private sector.

Angry passengers waited in huge lines for hours until giving up when it became clear their flights would not depart. Air traffic controllers meeting to plot strategy at a hotel near Madrid’s airport were heckled and filmed by stranded passengers as the controllers entered.

“To the unemployment line with you all!” one man yelled at the controllers, in footage shown by Spanish National Television.

Handfuls of passengers made it out of Madrid to destinations like Barcelona and Lisbon, Portugal, on buses provided by airlines. But the vast majority were forced to go home or to hotels with no information on when they might make their canceled flights. Some slept in the airports.

“It’s a disgrace, how can a group of people be so selfish as to wreck the plans of so many people?” said dentist Marcela Vega, 35, unable to travel from Madrid to Chile with her husband, 5-year-old son and baby boy.

Spain’s airport authority, known as Aena, said authorities were in contact with Europe’s air traffic agency,Eurocontrol, and the United State’s FAA about how best to deal with arriving international flights.

Aena chief Juan Ignacio Lema called the sickout “intolerable” and warned controllers to return to work, or face disciplinary action or criminal charges.

“We’re asking the controllers to stop blackmailing the Spanish people,” Lema said.

Spain’s air traffic controllers have been in bitter negotiations for a year with state-owned Aena over wages, working conditions and privileges. The dispute intensified in February after the government restricted overtime, cutting the average annual pay of controllers from about euro350,000 ($463,610) to around euro200,000 ($264,920).

The sickout also closed four airports in the Canary islands off Africa’s coast, a favorite winter destination for sun-seeking Europeans, and airports in prime Mediterranean tourism spots of Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca and Menorca.

Spanish Development Minister Jose Blanco convened an emergency meeting and his ministry announced that “controllers have begun to communicate their incapacity to continue offering their services, abandoning their places of work.” Blanco later told reporters that authorities were forced to close airspace around Madrid for safety reasons.

“We won’t permit this blackmail that they are using to turn citizens into hostages,” Blanco said

The controllers’ union has complained for weeks that many members have already worked their maximum hours for all of 2010, and that all 2,000 are overworked and understaffed. Friday’s sickout was not expected, but the union had warned it could mount one over the Christmas holiday. Spanish air traffic controllers are prohibited by law from going on strike.

Aena said most controllers had left their workstations or never showed up, and that only 10 controllers remained on duty in Madrid to handle emergencies.

Some controllers began to return to work late Friday, including about half of the normal staff in Barcelona, where several flights took off by early Saturday. But Rubalcaba said the number of returning controllers was spotty, and that some who showed up refused to perform their duties.

Madrid’s sprawling Barajas airport was empty after midnight. It had 1,300 flights scheduled for Friday, but it wasn’t clear how many had taken off and landed before the sickout.

More than 5,000 flights were scheduled for the nation Friday, and about 3,000 departed or landed before the sickout began in the late afternoon.

Monday is a national holiday marking the Day of the Spanish Constitution, and Wednesday is a religious holiday. Many Spaniards take advantage of them for a five-day weekend or a week of vacation, and about 4 million people had flights booked for the period in the nation of 46 million.

Many of Spain’s famed football players were forced to head on trains and buses with their teams so they could make it to weekend games.

___

Jorge Sainz contributed from Madrid.

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WikiLeaks fights to stay online amid attacks

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER and PETER SVENSSON, Associated Press 1 hr 6 mins ago

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101204/ap_on_bi_ge/wikileaks

The Internet homepage of Wikileaks is shown in ...

AP – The Internet homepage of Wikileaks is shown in this photo taken in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010

LONDON – WikiLeaks became an Internet vagabond Friday, moving from one website to another as governments and hackers hounded the organization, trying to deprive it of a direct line to the public.

The organization that has embarrassed Washington and foreign leaders by releasing a cache of secret — and brutally frank — U.S. diplomatic cables found a new home after an American company stopped directing traffic to wikileaks.org. Then French officials moved to oust it from its new site.

By late Friday, WikiLeaks was up in at least three new places.

“The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops,” tweeted John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the online free-speech group Electronic Frontier Foundation. His message was reposted by WikiLeaks to its 300,000-odd followers.

Legal pressure increased on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after Swedish authorities revised a warrant for his arrest in response to procedural questions from British officials.

British law enforcement authorities have refused to say if or when Assange would be arrested. His lawyers have said they believe they would be notified of any move to arrest him but had yet to be served with a warrant as of Friday afternoon.

The 39-year-old Australian is wanted on allegations of rape and other sex crimes that emerged after a trip to Sweden in August.

Assange said that his arrest would do nothing to halt the flow of American diplomatic cables being released by his group and newspapers in several countries, and he threatened to escalate the rush of information if he is taken into custody.

Hundreds of cables have been published by WikiLeaks and several newspapers in recent days. Assange said that all of the cables had already been distributed in a heavily encrypted form to tens of thousands of people.

If something happens to him, he suggested, the password needed to decrypt the data will be released and all the secrets will go out at once.

“History will win,” Assange said in a Web chat with readers of The Guardian newspaper, one of the mediaorganizations helping to coordinate the documents’ publication. “The world will be elevated to a better place. Will we survive? That depends on you.”

WikiLeaks doesn’t depend entirely on its website for disseminating secret documents; if it were knocked off the Web, the nationless organization could continue to communicate directly with news organizations. But the site provides a direct line to the public, fulfilling the organization’s stated goal of maximum distribution for the secret documents it receives from mainly anonymous contributors.

In an online chat with readers of The Guardian, Assange promised to improve the availability of the website as soon as possible.

“Rest assured I am deeply unhappy that the 3 1/2 years of my work and others is not easily available or searchable by the general public,” Assange said.

EveryDNS — a company based in Manchester, New Hampshire, that had been directing traffic to the website wikileaks.org — stopped doing so late Thursday after cyber attacks threatened the rest of its network. WikiLeaks responded by moving to a Swiss domain name, wikileaks.ch — and calling on activists for support.

The loss of support from EveryDNS just a minor annoyance because the site can leap from one name to the next, said Fraser Howard, a researcher with Internet security firm Sophos.

“The whack-a-mole analogy is fairly good,” he said.

The Swiss address directs traffic to servers in France, where Industry Minister Eric Besson called it unacceptable to host a site that “violates the secret of diplomatic relations and puts people protected by diplomatic secret in danger.”

The general manager of French web hosting company OVH, Octave Klaba, confirmed that it had been hosting WikiLeaks since early Thursday, after a client asked for a “dedicated server with … protection against attacks.”

He said the company has asked a judge to decide on the legality of hosting the site on French soil.

“It is not up to the political realm or to OVH to request or decide the closure of a site, but rather up to the courts,” Klaba said.

WikiLeaks has been brought down numerous times this week by what appear to be denial-of-service attacks. In a typical such attack, remote computers commandeered by rogue programs bombard a website with so many data packets that it becomes overwhelmed and unavailable to visitors. Pinpointing the culprits is difficult. The attacks are relatively easy to mount and can be performed by amateurs.

The attacks started Sunday, just before WikiLeaks released the diplomatic cables. To deal with the flood of traffic, WikiLeaks moved to Amazon.com’s Web hosting facility, which has vast numbers of servers that can be rented as needed to meet surges.

But Amazon booted WikiLeaks from the site on Wednesday after U.S. congressional staffers started asking the company about its relationship to WikiLeaks. Amazon said it ousted the organization in part because the leaks could endanger innocent people.

The U.S. is conducting a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks’ release of the diplomatic cables. Attorney General Eric Holder said this week that the leaks jeopardized national security, diplomatic efforts and U.S. relationships around the world.

In Washington, the lawmaker expected to take over the House Judiciary Committee in January, Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, said he plans to conduct hearings on the matter.

Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada introduced a bill to amend the U.S. Espionage Act that would give prosecutors more flexibility to pursue a criminal case against Assange and his organization. But there was little chance of passing a new law in the remaining weeks of the congressional session.

Assange also risks legal action in his homeland, where Australia said it would detain Assange if possible in response to the warrant filed in the Swedish case by Interpol.

Wikileaks.ch, is owned by the Swiss Pirate Party, formed two years ago to campaign for freedom of information. Its officials said they gave Assange information on how to seek asylum in Switzerland.

___

Svensson reported from New York. Louise Nordstrom reported from Stockholm, Jenny Barchfield from Paris, Holly Ramer from Manchester, New Hampshire, John Heilprin from Geneva and Larry Margasak from Washington.

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NEWSLETTER CLOSED

 

Posted in Economic Upheavals, Geo-Politics, Press Releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

 
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