"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

How To Destroy Public Education While Making A Trillion Dollars

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Oldspeak:”The U.S is ratcheting up a societal-level war on public education. At issue is whether we are going to make it better — build it into something estimable, a social asset that undergirds a noble and prosperous society — or whether we’re going to tear it down so that private investors can get their hands on the almost $1 trillion we spend on it every year. If America wants better education, it needs to fix the greatest force undermining education, which is poverty. The single most powerful predictor of student performance is the average income of the zip code in which they live. But one out of four American students now live in poverty, and the numbers are growing. One out of two will live in poverty sometime during their lives. Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps. Is it any wonder American school performance is faltering? But poverty is a hard and expensive problem to fix. We prefer easy, painless fixes, or even better, vapid clichés about the “magic of the market” and such.” Robert Freeman, Public School Teacher.  When profit trumps quality free education, the future is very bleak indeed.  When the U.S. Secretary of Education oversaw the conversion of 100 public schools to charter schools while he was superintendent of Chicago Public Schools you can see the writing on the wall. It’s time to erase the blackboard and start with a clean slate. “Ignorance Is Strength”

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When Generosity Hurts: Bill Gates, David Guggenheim, Public School Teachers And The Politics Of Humiliation

By Robert Freeman @ Common Dreams:

The Vietnam War produced more than its share of iconic idiocies. Perhaps the most revelatory was the psychotic assertion of an army major explaining the U.S. bombing of the provincial hamlet of Ben Tre: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” If only such self-extinguishing claims for intelligence were confined to military war.

The U.S is ratcheting up a societal-level war on public education. At issue is whether we are going to make it better — build it into something estimable, a social asset that undergirds a noble and prosperous society — or whether we’re going to tear it down so that private investors can get their hands on the almost $1 trillion we spend on it every year. The tear-it-down option is the civilian equivalent of Ben Tre, but on a vastly larger scale and with incomparably greater stakes: we must destroy public education in order to save it. It’s still early in the game, but right now the momentum is with the wreckers because that’s where the money is. Whether they succeed or not will be up to you.

Here’s a three-step recipe for how to destroy education. It maps perfectly to how to make a prodigious profit by privatizing it. It is the essential game plan of the big money boys.

First, lower the costs so you can jack up the profits. Since the overwhelming cost in education is the salaries of the teachers, this means firing the experienced teachers, for they are the most expensive. Replace them with “teachers” who are young, inexperienced, and inexpensive. Better yet, waive requirements that they have to have any training, that is to say, that they be credentialed. That way, you can get the absolute cheapest workers available. Roll them over frequently so they don’t develop any expectation that they’ll ever make a career out of it.

Second, make the curriculum as narrow, rote, and regimented as you can. This makes it possible for low-skilled “teachers” to “teach.” All they need do is maintain order while drilling students in mindless memorization and robotic repetition. By all means avoid messy things like context, nuance, values, complexity, reflection, depth, ambiguity—all the things that actually make for true intelligence. It’s too hard to teach those things and, besides, you need intelligent, experienced people to be able to do it. Stick with the model: Profitable equals simplistic and formulaic. Go with it.

Finally, rinse and repeat five thousand times. Proliferate franchised, chartered McSchools with each classroom in each McSchool teaching the same thing on the same day in exactly the same way. So, for the math lesson on the formula of a line, you only need develop it once. But you download it in Power Point on the assigned day so the room monitors, i.e., the “teachers,” know what bullets to read. Now repeat this for every lesson in every course in every school, every day. In biology, chemistry, geometry, history, English, Spanish, indeed, all of a K-12 curriculum. Develop the lesson literally once, but distribute and reuse it thousands of times with low-cost proctors doing the supervision. The cost is infinitesimal making the profit potential astronomical.

This is the essential charter school model and the money is all the rationale its promoters need. Think about it. There’s a trillion dollars a year spent on public education in the U.S. and enterprising investors want to get their meat hooks on it. Where else in the world can you find a $1 trillion opportunity that is essentially untouched? Not in automobiles. Not in health care. Not in weapons, computers, banking, telecommunications, agriculture, entertainment, retail, manufacturing, housing. Nowhere.

Oh, to be sure, you have to soften up the public with a decades-long PR campaign bashing teachers, vilifying their unions, trashing schools, and condemning public education in general, all the while promising the sun, moon, and stars for privatization, which is the ultimate charter goal. Voila! You’ve got your chance.

But to really make a killing, you need not just revenues, but profits. That’s why the low cost delivery and “build it once but resell it millions of times” model is so key. It was that very model that made Bill Gates the richest man in the world. It is what earned Microsoft 13 TIMES the rate of profit of the average Fortune 500 company in the 1990s and persuaded the Justice Department to declare it a “felony monopolist”. Gates recognizes the model very well, which is why his foundation is pouring tens of millions of dollars into charters. And you thought it was his altruism.

Of course, anybody who actually knows education, indeed, anybody who is simply intelligent, knows that intelligence does not come from rote repetition or parroting Power Point slides at the regimented direction of a room monitor, no matter how perky or well intended. It comes from an agonizingly complex, intricate, sustained set of challenges to the mind that are exquisitely choreographed over the better part of two decades, all intimately tailored to the specific needs of an individual, inquisitive, aspiring student.

That is what real teachers do. And it is precisely what a cookie-cutter, low-content, low-cost, high-turnover, high-profit money mill cannot do. Because it’s not intended to do that. It’s intended to produce profits. Real education, real intelligence, real character are agonizingly slow, dazzlingly complex, maddeningly difficult things to create. You can’t make a profit off of it, unless you destroy it in the process. That is why not one of the nations of the world that surpass the U.S. in education performance operate charter-based or privatized educational systems.

If America wants better education, it needs to fix the greatest force undermining education, which is poverty. The single most powerful predictor of student performance is the average income of the zip code in which they live. But one out of four American students now live in poverty, and the numbers are growing. One out of two will live in poverty sometime during their lives. Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps. Is it any wonder American school performance is faltering?

But poverty is a hard and expensive problem to fix. We prefer easy, painless fixes, or even better, vapid clichés about the “magic of the market” and such. Why, look what we got from the deregulation of the banking system: the greatest economic collapse of the last 80 years and the greatest plunder of the public treasury in the history of the world.

This is the essential neo-liberal agenda which Obama enthusiastically supports: privatize and deregulate everything, especially public services, so that the money spent on them can be transferred to private hands. This is how Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education, earned his bureaucratic bonafides: he converted more than 100 of Chicago’s public schools to charters while the city’s school superintendent. It’s unbelievable how credulous we are but obviously, propaganda works. That’s why the likes of the Gates Foundation keep pouring money into the cause.

The problem with charter schools is that they simply don’t work, at least not for delivering high quality education. Of course, given their formula, how could they? The most thorough research on charter schools, by Stanford University, shows that while charters do better than public schools in 17% of cases, they actually do worse in 37%, a more than 2-to-1 bad-to-good ratio!

If your doctor injured two patients for every one he cured, would you go to him? If your mechanic wrecked two cars for every one he fixed, would you go to him? Yet that is literally the proposition that charter school operators are peddling. And that 2-to-1 failure rate is after charters have skimmed off the better students and run what can only be called ethnically cleansed schools, counseling out poor performers, special needs cases, and “undesirable” minorities, leaving them for the public schools to deal with. For the data show they do that as well.

The irony of all this, indeed, the hypocrisy, is that America is at least nominally a capitalist county. You would think it would be ok to be honest about your intentions to make money by pillaging children’s futures while looting the public purse. God knows the weapons makers, the banks, the oil companies, the pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and others aren’t bashful about it. But that doesn’t seem to be true here, in education.

Here, it’s all about “the children,” about “streamlining” education, boosting scores, uplifting minorities, making America competitive, and just about every other infantile fairy tale they can invoke to convince the country to hand over the loot. For that’s what it’s really about. The trillion dollars a year to be made by turning “the children” into intellectually impotent dullards but profit producing zombies? Well, that’s just a lavishly fortunate coincidence. Right?

Remember, you can’t save something by destroying it. Which isn’t to say that swashbuckling entrepreneurs aren’t willing to try. All they need is the liberating impetus of that essential American ethic: “I’m getting mine, screw you.” But the cost of this plunder will be incalculable, for it will ripple through the economy for decades. And the damage will be irreversible for, while public education is the most powerful democratizing institution in the world, it only works when the schools work. When they cease to work, it’s over.

So watch out. A destroyed educational system, a desiccated economy, and a debauched democracy are coming soon to a school district near you.

 

 

 

FCC report: Google Engineer Told Officials Street View Cars Collected Private Data Without Permission

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Oldspeak:The report showed an engineer, identified in the report as “Engineer Doe,” appeared to conceive of the Wi-Fi collection software to collect sensitive information that he thought might be useful to the firm for other services.” I wonder what “other services” involve collecting millions of people’s email addresses, email passwords, text messages, from residential and business network, without permission or knowledge of people? What does Google need people’s private information and communications for? And if they needed it, wouldn’t it have been nice to ask, not just steal it, and do god knows what with it?  Google is a key intelligence asset. It has supplied the core search technology for Intellipedia, a highly-secured online CIA system and has shared a close relationship with both the CIA, NSA, and government national security officials. So think of Google as an intelligence gathering platform, where every search is recorded for analysis by the surveillance state. Think about limiting your use of Google and using alternative search engines that don’t collect your private information. I use http://duckduckgo.com/. Also think about the Tor Network, to increase your privacy online and avoid network surveillance of your movements.

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Google announces privacy changes across its products

FCC gives light penalty for Street Views privacy flap

By Cecilia Kang @ The Washington Post:

A Google engineer knowingly created software that would collect sensitive personal information about people without their knowledge, according to an un-redacted version of a federal investigative report.

In a full version of a Federal Communications Commission report, an engineer shared e-mails with other Google officials indicating the company could collect “payload data,” including e-mail addresses and text messages through a program to collect location-based software from residential and business Wi-Fi networks. The company released the full contents of the report, which was heavily redacted by the FCC, except for the names of its employees.

(READ: A timeline of developments related to Google and privacy)

The report, supplied by Google, concluded that the company’s actions do not violate FCC or federal eavesdropping rules. The agency recently fined the company $25,000, however, for being uncooperative in a two-years-long investigation. A separate investigation by the FTC resulted in no fines and was closed in 2010.

With both investigations closed, Google released the full report by the FCC upon the request of reporters. The report showed an engineer, identified in the report as “Engineer Doe,” appeared to conceive of the Wi-Fi collection software to collect sensitive information that he thought might be useful to the firm for other services.

“We decided to voluntarily make the entire document available except for the names of individuals,” a Google spokeswomen said in an e-mailed statement. “While we disagree with some of the statements made in the document, we agree with the FCC’s conclusion that we did not break the law. We hope that we can now put this matter behind us”.

And inconsistent with public remarks, the report showed knowledge within the company that Google officials knowingly collected the payload data with its crews of Street View cars roaming the world for its mapping and location-based services.

(READ: FCC points to rogue Google engineer)

“On at least two occasions Engineer Doe specifically informed colleagues that Street View cars were collecting payload data,” the FCC report said.

So besides e-mail addresses, what could Google derive from its data collection?

In the report, the FCC cited an analysis by French regulators over a sample of Google’s data collection: 72 e-mail passwords, 774 distinct e-mail addresses and, for example, “an exchange of e-mails between a married woman and man, both seeking an extra-marital relationship with first names, e-mail addresses and physical addresses.”

House Passes CISPA (Another) “Big Brother” Internet Surveillance Bill; Garners Broad Support Among Internet/Telecom Corporations

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2012 at 6:32 pm
Congress

Oldspeak:”Internet Privacy? What internet privacy?! CISPA would “waive every single privacy law ever enacted in the name of cybersecurity; allowing the military and NSA to spy on Americans on American soil goes against every principle this country was founded on.”-Rep. Jared Polis, (D) ColoradoOne of the biggest differences between CISPA and its SOPA predecessor is that the Web blocking bill was defeated by a broad alliance of Internet companies and millions of peeved users. Not CISPA: the House Intelligence committee proudly lists letters of support from Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec, Verizon, AT&T, Intel, and trade association CTIA, which counts representatives of T-Mobile, Sybase, Nokia, and Qualcomm as board members.”-Declan McCullagh Why did all these computer, internet and telecom corporations speak out against SOPA and PIPA, but are now falling over themselves to endorse a damn near identical threat to our civil liberties? PROFIT. They’re no longer subject to legal action and damages for sharing your private information with the military and surveillance state. (Which they have been doing unconstitutionally for some time now) “The bill immunizes ISPs from privacy lawsuits for voluntarily disclosing customer information thought to be a security threat. Internet companies are also granted anti-trust protection to immunize them against allegations of colluding on cybersecurity issues. The measure is not solely limited to cybersecurity, and includes the catchall phrase “national security” as a valid reason for turning over the data”-David Kravets. Even though in their earnest and sincere sounding “Privacy Statements” they promise not to.Reminds me alot of how the President uses “Signing Statements” where he’ll decide to veto or pass legislation and then draft a signing statement that expresses his intention to do the exact opposite of his publicly stated decision. Doublespeak par excellence. The internet is the last bastion of free, open, non-corporate controlled thought, news and information. Steps are being taken to change that, under the familiar pretexts of “National Security” and “Counter-terrorism” It must be controlled and surveilled constantly to eliminate potential threats to the Transnational Corporate Network. “Freedom Is Slavery”

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By Declan McCullagh @ CNET News

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a controversial Internet surveillance bill, rejecting increasingly vocal arguments from critics that it would do more to endanger Americans’ privacy than aid cybersecurity.

By a vote of 248 to 168, a bipartisan majority approved the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, which would permit Internet companies to hand over confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency and other portions of the U.S. government.

CISPA would “waive every single privacy law ever enacted in the name of cybersecurity,” said Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, during today’s marathon floor debate. “Allowing the military and NSA to spy on Americans on American soil goes against every principle this country was founded on.”

Americans’ confidential information that could legally provided to the feds would “include health records, it can include firearm registration information, it can include credit card information,” warned Polis, a former Web entrepreneur who was a leader in opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act as well.

CISPA wouldn’t formally grant the NSA or Homeland Security any additional surveillance authority. (A proposed amendment that would have veered in that direction was withdrawn.)

But it would usher in a new era of information sharing between companies and government agencies — with limited oversight and privacy safeguards. The House Rules committee yesterday rejected a series of modestly pro-privacy amendments, which led a coalition of civil-liberties groups to complain that “amendments that are imperative won’t even be considered” in a letter today.

CISPA Excerpts

Excerpts from the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a self-protected entity may, for cybersecurity purposes — (i) use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property of such self-protected entity; and (ii) share such cyber threat information with any other entity, including the Federal Government

The term ‘self-protected entity’ means an entity, other than an individual, that provides goods or services for cybersecurity purposes to itself.”

That prompted some politicians, including House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), to reluctantly oppose the bill. Schiff said that because his proposed amendments were rejected, he had to vote against CISPA “due to my concerns about civil liberties and the privacy of Americans.”

What made CISPA so controversial is a section saying that, “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” companies may share information with Homeland Security, the IRS, the NSA, or other agencies. By including the word “notwithstanding,” CISPA’s drafters intended to make their legislation trump all existing federal and state laws, including ones dealing with wiretaps, educational records, medical privacy, and more.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had predicted earlier in the week he had the votes. And it turned out he did, despite a last-minute surge of opposition that included Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul warning that “CISPA is Big Brother writ large,” a White House veto threat, and 18 Democratic House members saying it “does not include necessary safeguards.”

CISPA is “needed to stop the Chinese government from stealing our stuff,” Rogers said. They’re “stealing the value and prosperity of America.”

Rogers’ position paper on CISPA said the bill is necessary to deal with threats from China and Russia, and that it “protects privacy by prohibiting the government from requiring private sector entities to provide information.” During today’s floor debate, Rogers repeatedly referred to the need for the Feds to share attack signatures with the private sector — but never addressed the privacy criticisms directly, except to say they were invalid.

One of the biggest differences between CISPA and its SOPA predecessor is that the Web blocking bill was defeated by a broad alliance of Internet companies and millions of peeved users. Not CISPA: the House Intelligence committee proudly lists letters of support from Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec, Verizon, AT&T, Intel, and trade association CTIA, which counts representatives of T-Mobile, Sybase, Nokia, and Qualcomm as board members.

CISPA’s authorization for information sharing extends far beyond Web companies and social networks. It would also apply to Internet service providers, including ones that already have an intimate relationship with Washington officialdom. Large companies including AT&T and Verizon handed billions of customer records to the NSA; only Qwest refused to participate. Verizon turned over customer data to the FBI without court orders. An AT&T whistleblower accused the company of illegally opening its network to the NSA, a practice that the U.S. Congress retroactively made legal in 2008.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where related cybersecurity legislation has been stalled for years, and the threat of a presidential veto makes speedy approval unlikely.

“Once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back,” Michelle Richardson, ACLU legislative counsel, said after the House vote. “We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”

Newly-Released Documents Confirm Federal Agencies Coordinated Violent Crackdown Occupy Protesters

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Oldspeak:”China violently cracks down on protesters. Iran violently cracks down on protesters. North Korea violently cracks down on protesters. Syria violently cracks down on protesters. The United States violently cracks down on protesters. Ignore the populist rhetoric. The Obama Administration is no friend of the 99%. It has been working actively to quash dissent, restrict protest, and silence whisleblowers. “What these documents are beginning to reveal is also the coordination between federal law enforcement agencies and private corporate entities representing the 1% that wanted to see the Occupy movement removed from public view and shut out of America’s parks.” -Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. This is what inverted totalitarian kleptocracy looks like. Government and corporate interests working in concert to deprive the people of constitutionally guaranteed rights.  At some point we’ll have to awaken to the reality that our beloved country is not that much different from the ones we’re told demonize. “Freedom Is Slavery”

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FBI To Expand Domestic Surveillance Powers As Details Emerge Of Its Spy Campaign Targeting American Activists

By The Partnership For Civil Justice Fund:

Two days before the NYPD’s eviction of the Occupy Wall Street encampment from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, Brookfield Properties’ security was in direct communications and sharing information with the US Park Police in Washington DC, and communicating with other cities around the country, according to newly released internal documents from the National Park Service.

The documents were released late Friday to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) in response to the civil rights legal group’s FOIA demands to the NPS, FBI, CIA, DHS and other federal law enforcement agencies seeking information about the role of Federal agencies in the coordinated nationwide crackdown that led to the eviction of Occupy encampments in cities throughout the United States. The request was made also on behalf of author and filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee The PCJF is making the documents immediately available for review, and highlighting key initial findings .

“When the PCJF issued this FOIA request we wanted to uncover and expose whether local government and local law enforcement agencies were working in a coordinated way with the federal government to suppress and shut down the Occupy Movement which had inspired the country starting in September, 2011,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “What these documents are beginning to reveal is also the coordination between law enforcement agencies and private corporate entities representing the 1% that wanted to see the Occupy movement removed from public view and shut out of America’s parks.”

These initially released documents show:

  • The private corporate entity Brookfield Properties, which manages Zuccotti Park, had its security agency in communication with cities across the country about police actions designed to evict the Occupy movement and sought information as to Park Police plans to evict in D.C. 48 hours before OWS was evicted.
  • U.S. Park Police were communicating step by step, as they took action in regard to Occupy DC, with the Secret Service, DHS, and other police agencies as well as personnel affiliated with LEO.gov, the FBI’s nationally integrated network and alert system involving all aspects of civilian law enforcement, intelligence agencies and the military. As its website states, “LEO supports the FBI’s ten priorities by providing cost-effective, time-critical national alerts and information sharing to public safety, law enforcement, antiterrorism and intelligence agencies in support of the Global War on Terrorism.”

It is also noteworthy that the DHS has not produced the communications they participated in, in response to FOIA demands, confirming the PCJF’s assertion that the search they have conducted is inadequate. The PCJF has refused to narrow its request to DHS’ initial search and is demanding further disclosure.

More documents are being released to the PCJF. Please click here to be sure that you receive notice as documents become available. To read more about OWS FOIA updates visit www.JusticeOnline.org/ows.

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The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) is a not-for-profit constitutional rights legal and educational organization which, among other things, seeks to ensure constitutional accountability within police practices and government transparency in operations. The PCJF filed the class action suit challenging the NYPD’s October 1 mass arrest of more than 700 protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge. It has brought class action cases in which more than 1,000 persons were falsely arrested during protests in Washington, D.C., resulting in settlements totaling $22 million and major changes in police practices. The PCJF previously brought the successful litigation in New York challenging the 2004 ban on protests in the Great Lawn of Central Park. It is counsel with the National Lawyers Guild in Oakland, CA challenging police mass arrest tactics. It won a unanimous ruling at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals finding the MPD’s unprecedented military-style police checkpoint program unconstitutional. The PCJF previously uncovered and disclosed that the D.C. police employed an unlawful domestic spying and agent provocateur program in which officers were sent on long-term assignments posing as political activists and infiltrated lawful and peaceful groups. For more information go to: www.JusticeOnline.org.

 

 

How The Goldman Vampire Squid Just Captured Europe

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Oldspeak:The Goldman Sachs coup that failed in America has nearly succeeded in Europe – a permanent, irrevocable, unchallengeable bailout for the banks underwritten by the taxpayers. Goldman Sachs and the financial technocrats have taken over the European ship. Democracy has gone out the window, all in the name of keeping the central bank independent from the “abuses” of government. Yet, the government is the people – or it should be. A democratically elected government represents the people. Europeans are being hoodwinked into relinquishing their cherished democracy to a rogue band of financial pirates, and the rest of the world is not far behind.”-Ellen Brown Banks get bailouts while the very governments that issue the bailouts fail because they don’t actually have to money to pay for the bailout. They just run their printing presses and hand over increasingly worthless fiat currency. If you don’t know what quantitative easing, you will soon. Meanwhile, poverty, food, & energy costs grow, while 400 white men get incalculably rich.

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Why Isn’t Wall Street In Jail?

By Ellen Brown @ Truthout:

he Goldman Sachs coup that failed in America has nearly succeeded in Europe – a permanent, irrevocable, unchallengeable bailout for the banks underwritten by the taxpayers.

In September 2008, Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, managed to extort a $700 billion bank bailout from Congress. But to pull it off, he had to fall on his knees and threaten the collapse of the entire global financial system and the imposition of martial law; and the bailout was a one-time affair. Paulson’s plea for a permanent bailout fund – the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP – was opposed by Congress and ultimately rejected.

By December 2011, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, former vice president of Goldman Sachs Europe, was able to approve a 500 billion euro bailout for European banks without asking anyone’s permission. And in January 2012, a permanent rescue funding program called the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was passed in the dead of night with barely even a mention in the press. The ESM imposes an open-ended debt on EU member governments, putting taxpayers on the hook for whatever the ESM’s eurocrat overseers demand.

The bankers’ coup has triumphed in Europe seemingly without a fight. The ESM is cheered by euro zone governments, their creditors and “the market” alike, because it means investors will keep buying sovereign debt. All is sacrificed to the demands of the creditors, because where else can the money be had to float the crippling debts of the euro zone governments?

There is another alternative to debt slavery to the banks. But first, a closer look at the nefarious underbelly of the ESM and Goldman’s silent takeover of the ECB….

The Dark Side of the ESM

The ESM is a permanent rescue facility slated to replace the temporary European Financial Stability Facility and European Financial Stabilization Mechanism as soon as member states representing 90 percent of the capital commitments have ratified it, something that is expected to happen in July 2012. A December 2011 YouTube video titled “The shocking truth of the pending EU collapse!” originally posted in German, gives such a revealing look at the ESM that it is worth quoting here at length. It states:

The EU is planning a new treaty called the European Stability Mechanism, or ESM: a treaty of debt…. The authorized capital stock shall be 700 billion euros. Question: why 700 billion?… [Probable answer: it simply mimicked the $700 billion the US Congress bought into in 2008.][Article 9]: “,,, ESM Members hereby irrevocably and unconditionally undertake to pay on demand any capital call made on them … within seven days of receipt of such demand.” … If the ESM needs money, we have seven days to pay…. But what does “irrevocably and unconditionally” mean? What if we have a new parliament, one that does not want to transfer money to the ESM?…

[Article 10]: “The Board of Governors may decide to change the authorized capital and amend Article 8 … accordingly.” Question: … 700 billion is just the beginning? The ESM can stock up the fund as much as it wants to, any time it wants to? And we would then be required under Article 9 to irrevocably and unconditionally pay up?

[Article 27, lines 2-3]: “The ESM, its property, funding and assets … shall enjoy immunity from every form of judicial process…. ” Question: So the ESM program can sue us, but we can’t challenge it in court?

[Article 27, line 4]: “The property, funding and assets of the ESM shall … be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation, or any other form of seizure, taking or foreclosure by executive, judicial, administrative or legislative action.” Question: … [T]his means that neither our governments, nor our legislatures, nor any of our democratic laws have any effect on the ESM organization? That’s a pretty powerful treaty!

[Article 30]: “Governors, alternate Governors, Directors, alternate Directors, the Managing Director and staff members shall be immune from legal process with respect to acts performed by them … and shall enjoy inviolability in respect of their official papers and documents.” Question: So anyone involved in the ESM is off the hook? They can’t be held accountable for anything? … The treaty establishes a new intergovernmental organization to which we are required to transfer unlimited assets within seven days if it so requests, an organization that can sue us but is immune from all forms of prosecution and whose managers enjoy the same immunity. There are no independent reviewers and no existing laws apply? Governments cannot take action against it? Europe’s national budgets in the hands of one single unelected intergovernmental organization? Is that the future of Europe? Is that the new EU – a Europe devoid of sovereign democracies?

The Goldman Squid Captures the ECB

Last November, without fanfare and barely noticed in the press, former Goldman executive Mario Draghi replaced Jean-Claude Trichet as head of the ECB. Draghi wasted no time doing for the banks what the ECB has refused to do for its member governments – lavish money on them at very cheap rates. French blogger Simon Thorpe reports:

On the 21st of December, the ECB “lent” 489 billion euros to European Banks at the extremely generous rate of just 1% over 3 years. I say “lent,” but in reality, they just ran the printing presses. The ECB doesn’t have the money to lend. It’s Quantitative Easing again.The money was gobbled up virtually instantaneously by a total of 523 banks. It’s complete madness. The ECB hopes that the banks will do something useful with it – like lending the money to the Greeks, who are currently paying 18% to the bond markets to get money. But there are absolutely no strings attached. If the banks decide to pay bonuses with the money, that’s fine. Or they might just shift all the money to tax havens.

At 18 percent interest, debt doublesin just four years. It is this onerous interest burden – not the debt itself – that is crippling Greece and other debtor nations. Thorpe proposes the obvious solution:

Why not lend the money to the Greek government directly? Or to the Portuguese government, currently having to borrow money at 11.9%? Or the Hungarian government, currently paying 8.53%. Or the Irish government, currently paying 8.51%? Or the Italian government, who are having to pay 7.06%?

The stock objection to that alternative is that Article 123 of the Lisbon Treaty prevents the ECB from lending to governments. But Thorpe reasons:

My understanding is that Article 123 is there to prevent elected governments from abusing Central Banks by ordering them to print money to finance excessive spending. That, we are told, is why the ECB has to be independent from governments. OK. But what we have now is a million times worse. The ECB is now completely in the hands of the banking sector. “We want half a billion of really cheap money!!” they say. OK, no problem. Mario is here to fix that. And no need to consult anyone. By the time the ECB makes the announcement, the money has already disappeared.

At least if the ECB was working under the supervision of elected governments, we would have some influence when we elect those governments. But the bunch that now has their grubby hands on the instruments of power are now totally out of control.

Goldman Sachs and the financial technocrats have taken over the European ship. Democracy has gone out the window, all in the name of keeping the central bank independent from the “abuses” of government. Yet, the government is the people – or it should be. A democratically elected government represents the people. Europeans are being hoodwinked into relinquishing their cherished democracy to a rogue band of financial pirates, and the rest of the world is not far behind.

Rather than ratifying the draconian ESM treaty, Europeans would be better advised to reverse Article 123 of the Lisbon treaty. Then, the ECB could issue credit directly to its member governments. Alternatively, euro zone governments could re-establish their economic sovereignty by reviving their publicly owned central banks and using them to issue the credit of the nation for the benefit of the nation, effectively interest free. This is not a new idea, but has been used historically to very good effect, e.g. in Australia through the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and in Canada through the Bank of Canada.

Today, the issuance of money and credit has become the private right of vampire rentiers, who are using it to squeeze the lifeblood out of economies. This right needs to be returned to sovereign governments. Credit should be a public utility, dispensed and managed for the benefit of the people.

To add your signature to a letter to parliamentarians blocking ratification of the ESM, click here.

Financial ‘Reform’ Failure: Chase, Bank Of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs Now 30% Bigger; Control Assests Equal To 56% Of U.S. Economy

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Oldspeak:“Two years after President Barack Obama vowed to eliminate the danger of financial institutions becoming “too big to fail,” & “prevent the further consolidation of our financial system” the nation’s largest banks are bigger than they were before the credit crisis. Five banks – JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. — held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56% of the U.S. economy, according to the Federal Reserve.” Behold! The fruits of toothless, non-regulating financial ‘reform’! Financial oligarchs now control assets equal to a majority of the U.S. economy. They’ve gained complete control of the European economy, and many others around the world. The conditions have been created for a bigger and more devastating global economic crash, that will facilitate the continued consolidation of control over all assets by the International Banking Cartels, and the continued destruction of sovereign states. How long will the rape and pillage of our planet and societies go on? If the Banksters have their way, until there is nothing left.

By Washington’s Blog:

Size of Banks Killing Economy … But Giant Banks Have Only Gotten Bigger Since Financial “Reform” Enacted

For years, many high-level economists and financial experts have said that – unless we break up the giant banks – our economy will never recover, real reform will be blocked, and democracy and the rule of law will be corrupted.

So how did the government respond to the financial crisis which started in 2007?

Let the giant banks get even bigger.

As Bloomberg notes, the five banks that held assets equal to 43% of the US economy in 2007 before the financial crisis and the bank bailout now control assets that equal 56% of the US economy:

Two years after President Barack Obama vowed to eliminate the danger of financial institutions becoming “too big to fail,” the nation’s largest banks are bigger than they were before the credit crisis.

Five banks – JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. — held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the U.S. economy, according to the Federal Reserve.

Five years earlier, before the financial crisis, the largest banks’ assets amounted to 43 percent of U.S. output. The Big Five today are about twice as large as they were a decade ago relative to the economy, sparking concern that trouble at a major bank would rock the financial system and force the government to step in as it did during the 2008 crunch.

“Market participants believe that nothing has changed, that too-big-to-fail is fully intact,” said Gary Stern, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

That specter is eroding faith in Obama’s pledge that taxpayer-funded bailouts are a thing of the past. It is also exposing him to criticism from Federal Reserve officials, Republicans and Occupy Wall Street supporters, who see the concentration of bank power as a threat to economic stability.

***

The industry’s evolution defies the president’s January 2010 call to “prevent the further consolidation of our financial system.” Embracing new limits on banks’ trading operations, Obama said then that taxpayers wouldn’t be well “served by a financial system that comprises just a few massive firms.”

Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, blames a “lack of leadership at Treasury and the White House” for the failure to fulfill that promise. “It’d be safer to break them up,” he said.

***

Regulatory burden could promote further industry consolidation, according to Wilbur Ross, chairman of WL Ross & Co., a private-equity firm.

“We think the little tiny banks, the 90-odd percent of banks that are under $1.5 billion in deposits, are pretty much an obsolete phenomenon,” he told Bloomberg Television on March 14. “We think they’ll all have to merge with each other, be acquired by bigger banks or something.”

***

In 2011, funding costs for banks with more than $10 billion in assets were about one-third less than for the smallest banks, according to the FDIC.

Some presidents of regional Federal Reserve banks have lambasted too big to fail. As Bloomberg notes:

In recent weeks, at least four current Fed presidents — Esther George of Kansas City, Charles Plosser of Philadelphia, Jeffrey Lacker of Richmond and Richard Fisher of Dallas — have voiced similar worries about the risk of a renewed crisis.

But the most powerful Fed bank – the New York Fed – and Bernanke’s Federal Open Market Committee, as well as Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department, have done everything possible to ensure that the the giant banks become too bigger to fail.

San Francisco Bay Area Milk Sample Has Highest Amount Of Cesium-137 Since Last June — Almost DOUBLE EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Oldspeak:” “There is no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water, or other sources. Period.” -Dr. Helen Caldicott and Dr. Chris Busby At what point will this acute ongoing threat to public health be acknowledged? It’s clear, a year later that radiation levels are rising, in major population areas in the U.S. How many extremely vulnerable to contamination children are drinking this radioactive milk? 18,000 have already died as a result of exposure to Fukushima radiation. When will people be given the information to protect themselves and their children?

Related Stories:

“Planetary Genocide”: Fukushima One Year Later : The Poisoning Of Planet Earth Continues

California Slammed With Radiation: Fukushima Radiation Plume Hit Southern & Central California

The Top Short-Term Threat To Humanity: The Spent Fuel Pools Of Fukushima

Title: UCB Milk Sampling Results
Source: UCB Department of Nuclear Engineering
Date: April 9, 2012

4/9/2012 (5:45pm): Three recent milk test results have been posted on the milk sample page with “best by” dates of 3/12, 4/9, and 4/16. Very low levels of Cs-134 and Cs-137 were detected in the samples — the amounts are so small that it would require drinking over tens of thousands of liters of milk to receive the small dose that one receives from a cross-country airplane flight. These isotopes can still be detected in milk because they have long half-lives (2 years and 30 years, respectively) and therefore trace amounts will remain in the grass and hay that the cows feed on.

Best Buy Date of 04/09/2012:

  • Cs-134 @ 0.068 Bq/L
  • Cs-137 @ 0.141 Bq/L
  • Total Cs = 0.209 Bq/L or 5.67 pCi/L (27.1 picocuries = 1 becquerel)

Best Buy Date of 04/16/2012:

  • Cs-134 @ 0.073 Bq/L
  • Cs-137 @ 0.079 Bq/L
  • Total Cs = 0.152 Bq/L or 4.12 pCi/L

The EPA Maximum Contaminant Level for radioactive cesium in milk is 3 picocuries/L:

“EPA lumps these gamma and beta emitters together under one collective MCL [Maximum Contaminant Level], so if you’re seeing cesium-137 in your milk or water, the MCL is 3.0 picocuries per liter; if you’re seeing iodine-131, the MCL is 3.0; if you’re seeing cesium-137 and iodine-131, the MCL is still 3.0.” -Forbes.com

These are the highest cesium-137 levels detected by UCB since last June (Far right column is Cs-137)

Japan Is Poisoning The U.S., Canada, Other Countries By Burning Highly Radioactive Debris

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2012 at 11:36 am

Oldspeak:“Radioactivity from the burnt debris will end up not only in neighboring prefectures in Japan, but in Hawaii, British Columbia, Oregon, Washington and California. Burning radioactive debris is basically re-creating the Fukushima disaster all over again, as it is releasing a huge amount of radioactivity which had settled on the ground back into the air. -Arnie Gundersen, Nuclear Expert Burning radioactive debris will only serve to further randomly spread radiation across Japan, as well as the rest of the world. -Steven Starr – Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Related Stories:

“Planetary Genocide”: Fukushima One Year Later : The Poisoning Of Planet Earth Continues

California Slammed With Radiation: Fukushima Radiation Plume Hit Southern & Central California


By Washington’s Blog:

Fukushima to Burn Highly-Radioactive Debris

Fukushima will start burning radioactive debris containing up to 100,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. As Mainchi notes:

The state will start building storage facilities for debris generated by the March 2011 tsunami as early as May at two locations in a coastal area of Naraha town, Fukushima Prefecture, Environment Ministry and town officials said Saturday.

***

About 25,000 tons of debris are expected to be brought into the facilities beginning in the summer, according to the officials.

***

If more than 100,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium are found per kilogram of debris, the debris will be transferred to a medium-term storage facility to be built by the state. But if burnable debris contains 100,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium or less, it may be disposed of at a temporary incinerator to be built within the prefecture, according to the officials.

Within the 20-km-radius no-go zone spanning across Naraha and five other municipalities along the coast, debris caused by the magnitude 9.0 quake and the subsequent tsunami has amounted to an estimated 474,000 tons, much of remaining where it is.

How much radiation is that?

It is a lot.

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen has said that much lower levels of cesium – 5,000-8,000 bq/kg (20 times lower than what will be allowed to be burned at Fukushima) – would be sent to a special facility in the United States and buried underground for thousands of year. See this and this.

It is comparable to the levels of radioactivity found within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. See this and this.

And even the Japanese – who have raised acceptable levels of radiation to absurd levels – would normally demand that material with this radioactivity be encased in cement and buried:

According to plans by the Ministry of Environment, if the radioactive cesium concentration is less than 8,000 Bq/kg, then it is possible to dispose of it by burying it. Rubble that has 8,000 ~ 100,000 Bq must be encased in cement in order to prevent contact with water before being dumped. For rubble that exceeds 100,000 Bq, it must be encased in concrete walls and stored temporarily. The disposal place must be approved of by the Prefectural Governor.

In addition, some allege that debris surpassing 100,000 bq/kg of cesium will be burned, after being mixed with less-radioactive materials.

And many of the incinerators are located smack dab in the middle of crowded cities, and are not equipped to contain radiation.

Other Parts of Japan Are Also Burning Radioactive Debris

And it’s not just Fukushima.

Tokyo and many other areas in Japan are burning radioactive debris as well. And see this.

Burning to Continue for for Years

Mainichi reports that the radioactive debris will be burned for years … through at least March 2014.

Poisoning Other Countries

Burning radioactive debris does not destroy the radioactivity. It merely spreads it.

Gundersen says that radioactivity from the burnt debris will end up not only in neighboring prefectures, but in Hawaii, British Columbia, Oregon, Washington and California. Gundersen said that burning radioactive debris is basically re-creating the Fukushima disaster all over again, as it is releasing a huge amount of radioactivity which had settled on the ground back into the air.

Steven Starr – Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Director of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, who has advised numerous countries on issues of nuclear non-proliferation – writes:

Burning radioactive debris will only serve to further randomly spread radiation across Japan, as well as the rest of the world. Not only will this lead to more morbidity and mortality within Japan, but it will further complicate epidemiological studies of the Fukushima disaster. Raising “acceptable” levels of radioactive fallout is a false solution to a serious problem. It is possible for the government authorities to do this because radiation is invisible to us, and at lower doses, the consequences of exposure do not manifest themselves for some time . . . thus it is a poison that is easy to hide and ignore. Sadly, the children of Japan will be those most seriously affected by this man-made environmental catastrophe.

It is bad enough that radiation from Fukushima is spreading across the Pacific to the United States through air and water, that the Japanese are underplaying the enormous threat posed by the spent fuel pools, and that the Japanese have engaged in a massive cover-up of the severity of the Fukushima crisis. But intentionally burning radioactive debris to try to cover up the problem – and spreading radiation worldwide in the process – is an entirely separate affront.

Postscript:  In addition to burning radioactive debris, Japan intends to build tents over the leaking Fukushima reactors. While this sounds like a way to contain the radiation, it would actually funnel it straight up and spread it globally:

My reaction [to the announcement that the Fukushima nuclear operator would build giant tents over the reactors] was hope that the tents would at least keep radiation from spreading worldwide through the air, even if they didn’t do anything to prevent contamination of Japan’s groundwater or the Pacific Ocean.

But nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen says that the tents – while helping to protect workers at Fukushima – will actually increase the dispersion of radioactive gases. Specifically, Tepco will pump radiation out through stacks, which will push radiation up to a higher elevation, dispersing it even further around the world.

The Top Short-Term Threat To Humanity: The Spent Fuel Pools Of Fukushima

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Oldspeak:”It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of Japan and the whole world depends on NO.4 reactor – Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata. The U.S. started 2 wars, created new government agencies and has hemorrhaged trillions in military and surveillance spending in response to 9/11 and the deaths of 2,996 people. As many as 18,000 deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to exposure to Fukushima radioactivity. The Pacific Ocean is contaminated with radioactive waste water. The response?  Radiation detectors have been turned off, ‘acceptable limits’ of radiation exposure have been raised, reports of contaminated seaweed, rainwater, milk, seafood products have been largely ignored. This is any existential threat. Why is so little attention being paid to it? Another earthquake in the vicinity of Fukushima could spell the end of civilization as we know it. More energy needs to be put into containing this disaster and preparing for the worst.

Related Stories:

“Planetary Genocide”: Fukushima One Year Later : The Poisoning Of Planet Earth Continues

California Slammed With Radiation: Fukushima Radiation Plume Hit Southern & Central California

By Washington’s Blog:

The Greatest Single Threat to Humanity: Fuel Pool Number 4

We noted days after the Japanese earthquake that the biggest threat was from the spent fuel rods in the fuel pool at Fukushima unit number 4, and not from the reactors themselves. See this and this.

We noted in February:

Scientists say that there is a 70% chance of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hitting Fukushima this year, and a 98% chance within the next 3 years.

Given that nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen says that an earthquake of 7.0 or larger could cause the entire fuel pool structure collapse, it is urgent that everything humanly possible is done to stabilize the structure housing the fuel pools at reactor number 4.

Tepco is doing some construction at the building … it is a race against time under very difficult circumstances, and hopefully Tepco will win.

As AP points out:

The structural integrity of the damaged Unit 4 reactor building has long been a major concern among experts because a collapse of its spent fuel cooling pool could cause a disaster worse than the three reactor meltdowns.

***

Gundersen (who used to build spent fuel pools) explains that there is no protection surrounding the radioactive fuel in the pools. He warns that – if the fuel pools at reactor 4 collapse due to an earthquake – people should get out of Japan, and residents of the West Coast of America and Canada should shut all of their windows and stay inside for a while.

The fuel pool number 4 is apparently not in great shape, and there have already been countless earthquakes near the Fukushima region since the 9.0 earthquake last March.

Germany’s ZDF tv quotes nuclear engineer Yukitero Naka as saying:

If another earthquake occurs then the building [number 4] could collapse and another chain reaction could very likely occur.

(Unit 4 contains plutonium as well as other radioactive wastes.)

Mainchi reported on Monday:

The storage pool in the No. 4 reactor building has a total of 1,535 fuel rods, or 460 tons of nuclear fuel, in it. The 7-story building itself has suffered great damage, with the storage pool barely intact on the building’s third and fourth floors. The roof has been blown away. If the storage pool breaks and runs dry, the nuclear fuel inside will overheat and explode, causing a massive amount of radioactive substances to spread over a wide area. Both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and French nuclear energy company Areva have warned about this risk.

A report released in February by the Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident stated that the storage pool of the plant’s No. 4 reactor has clearly been shown to be “the weakest link” in the parallel, chain-reaction crises of the nuclear disaster. The worse-case scenario drawn up by the government includes not only the collapse of the No. 4 reactor pool, but the disintegration of spent fuel rods from all the plant’s other reactors. If this were to happen, residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area would be forced to evacuate.

Former Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Sumio Mabuchi, who was appointed to the post of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s advisor on the nuclear disaster immediately after its outbreak, proposed the injection of concrete from below the No. 4 reactor to the bottom of the storage pool, Chernobyl-style.

***

“Because sea water was being pumped into the reactor, the soundness of the structure (concrete corrosion and deterioration) was questionable. There also were doubts about the calculations made on earthquake resistance as well,” said one government source familiar with what took place at the time. “[F]uel rod removal will take three years. Will the structure remain standing for that long?

Asahi noted last month that – if Unit 4 pool gets a crack from an earthquake and leaks, it would be the end for Tokyo.

Kevin Kamps said last month:

Unit 4 storage pool… The entire building is listing including the pool. What they have is steel jacks underneath the pool to try to keep the floor from falling out or the pool from flipping over.

If that cooling water supply is lost, it will be just a few hours at most before that waste is on fire. 135 tons outside of any radioactive containment. They would be direct releases into the environment. 100% of cesium-137 could be released to the environment.

Former U.N. adviser Akio Matsumura – whose praises have been sung by Mikhail Gorbachev, U.S. Ambassadors Stephen Bosworth and Glenn Olds, and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and Goldman Sachs co-chair John C. Whitehead – notes:

The unit suffered enormous damage during the tsunami—a hydrogen explosion blew the roof off, leaving the highly radioactive fuel pool exposed to the open air. If another high level earthquake hits the area, the building will certainly collapse. Japanese and American meteorologists have predicted that such a strong earthquake is indeed likely to hit this year.

The meltdown and unprecedented release of radiation that would ensue is the worst case scenario that then-Prime Minister Kan and other former officials have discussed in the past months. He warned during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos that such an accident would force the evacuation of the 35 million people in Tokyo, close half of Japan and compromise the nation’s sovereignty. Such a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe is unimaginable. Hiroshi Tasaka, a nuclear engineer and special adviser to Prime Minister Kan immediately following the crisis, said the crisis “just opened Pandora’s Box.”

The current Japanese government has not yet mentioned the looming disaster, ostensibly to not incite panic in the public. Nevertheless, action must be taken quickly. This website over the last year has published a running commentary from scientists explaining why Reactor 4 must be stabilized immediately, who might be able to accomplish such a task, and why the situation has largely gone unnoticed. We believe an independent, international team of structural engineers and other advisers must be assembled and deployed immediately. Mounting public pressure would force the Japanese government to take action. We hope these resources are helpful in educating the public about the crisis that we face.

As the eminent German physicist Dr. Hans-Peter Durr said ten months ago, if the spent fuel pool spills, we will be in a situation where science never imagined we could be.

Matsumura was told that if the fuel pool at unit 4 collapses or the water spills out, so much radiation will spew out for 50 years that no one will be able to approach Fukushima:

Even more dramatically, Matsumura writes:

Japan’s former Ambassador to Switzerland, Mr. Mitsuhei Murata, was invited to speak at the Public Hearing of the Budgetary Committee of the House of Councilors on March 22, 2012, on the Fukushima nuclear power plants accident. Before the Committee, Ambassador Murata strongly stated that if the crippled building of reactor unit 4—with 1,535 fuel rods in the spent fuel pool 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground—collapses, not only will it cause a shutdown of all six reactors but will also affect the common spent fuel pool containing 6,375 fuel rods, located some 50 meters from reactor 4. In both cases the radioactive rods are not protected by a containment vessel; dangerously, they are open to the air. This would certainly cause a global catastrophe like we have never before experienced. He stressed that the responsibility of Japan to the rest of the world is immeasurable. Such a catastrophe would affect us all for centuries. Ambassador Murata informed us that the total numbers of the spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi site excluding the rods in the pressure vessel is 11,421 (396+615+566+1,535+994+940+6375).

I asked top spent-fuel pools expert Mr. Robert Alvarez, former Senior Policy Adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment at the U.S. Department of Energy, for an explanation of the potential impact of the 11,421 rods.

I received an astounding response from Mr. Alvarez [updated 4/5/12]:

In recent times, more information about the spent fuel situation at the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site has become known. It is my understanding that of the 1,532 spent fuel assemblies in reactor No. 304 assemblies are fresh and unirradiated. This then leaves 1,231 irradiated spent fuel rods in pool No. 4, which contain roughly 37 million curies (~1.4E+18 Becquerel) of long-lived radioactivity. The No. 4 pool is about 100 feet above ground, is structurally damaged and is exposed to the open elements. If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.

The infrastructure to safely remove this material was destroyed as it was at the other three reactors. Spent reactor fuel cannot be simply lifted into the air by a crane as if it were routine cargo. In order to prevent severe radiation exposures, fires and possible explosions, it must be transferred at all times in water and heavily shielded structures into dry casks.. As this has never been done before, the removal of the spent fuel from the pools at the damaged Fukushima-Dai-Ichi reactors will require a major and time-consuming re-construction effort and will be charting in unknown waters. Despite the enormous destruction cased at the Da–Ichi site, dry casks holding a smaller amount of spent fuel appear to be unscathed.

Based on U.S. Energy Department data, assuming a total of 11,138 spent fuel assemblies are being stored at the Dai-Ichi site, nearly all, which is in pools. They contain roughly 336 million curies (~1.2 E+19 Bq) of long-lived radioactivity. About 134 million curies is Cesium-137 — roughly 85 times the amount of Cs-137 released at the Chernobyl accident as estimated by the U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP). The total spent reactor fuel inventory at the Fukushima-Daichi site contains nearly half of the total amount of Cs-137 estimated by the NCRP to have been released by all atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, Chernobyl, and world-wide reprocessing plants (~270 million curies or ~9.9 E+18 Becquerel).

It is important for the public to understand that reactors that have been operating for decades, such as those at the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site have generated some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet.

Many of our readers might find it difficult to appreciate the actual meaning of the figure, yet we can grasp what 85 times more Cesium-137 than the Chernobyl would mean. It would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.

There was a Nuclear Security Summit Conference in Seoul on March 26 and 27, and Ambassador Murata and I made a concerted effort to find someone to inform the participants from 54 nations of the potential global catastrophe of reactor unit 4. We asked several participants to share the idea of an Independent Assessment team comprised of a broad group of international experts to deal with this urgent issue.

I would like to introduce Ambassador Murata’s letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to convey this urgent message and also his letter to Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for Japanese readers. He emphasized in the statement that we should bring human wisdom to tackle this unprecedented challenge.

Ambassador Murata’s letter says:

It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of Japan and the whole world depends on NO.4 reactor. This is confirmed by most reliable experts like Dr. Arnie Gundersen or Dr. Fumiaki Koide.

Anti-nuclear physician Dr. Helen Caldicott says that if fuel pool 4 collapses, she will evacuate her family from Boston and move them to the Southern Hemisphere. This is an especially dramatic statement given that the West Coast is much more directly in the path of Fukushima radiation than the East Coast.

Will humanity rise to the occasion, and figure out how to stabilize fuel pool number 4 before catastrophe strikes?

Or will modern civilization win a Darwin award for failing to pay attention to the real threats?

Human Civilisation Will Collapse Unless Culture Of Greed & Excessive Consumerism Is Stopped, Report Warns

In Uncategorized on April 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Oldspeak:“Infinite ‘Growth’ and unfettered consumption is unsustainable on a finite planet. Despite this obvious and basic fact, many civilizations before ours have tried and failed with this toxic economic model as will ours if we don’t make fundamental changes to our cultures now. The stakes are incalculably higher now as our seemingly incurable strain of virulent capitalism has spread across the globe to most all dominant cultures, even those that have thrived for thousands of years like China & India have adopted a view of greed as success. We are exhausting our planet’s resources much faster than it can replenish them, and its finite resources disappearing ever faster.  This can only go on for so long before supplies are unable to support our careless and voracious demands. We must free ourselves from the crushing yoke of our transnational corporate overseers, driving us relentlessly via their ubiquitous and insidious consumption propaganda networks to work ever harder and longer for ever more fiat currency to consume ever more things we don’t need, creating ever more waste and pollution we’re running out of places to dump. We need Barefoot Economics. Now.

Related Video:

Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef on Barefoot Economics, Poverty and Why The U.S. is Becoming an “Underdeveloping Nation”

By Andrew Hough @ The U.K. Guardian:

The world’s population is burning through the planet’s resources at such a reckless rate – about 28 per cent more last year – it will eventually cause environmental havoc, said the Worldwatch Institute, a US think-tank.

In its annual State of the World 2010 report, it warned any gains from government action on climate change could be wiped out by the cult of consumption and greed unless changes in our lifestyle were made.

Consumerism had become a “powerful driver” for increasing demand for resources and consequent production of waste, with governments, including the British, too readily wanting to promoted it as necessary for job creation and economic well-being.

More than £2.8 trillion of stimulus packages had been poured into economies to pull the world out of the global recession, it found, with only a small amount into green measures.

But the think tank warned that without a “wholesale transformation” of cultural patterns the world would not be able to “prevent the collapse of human civilisation”.

The think tank found that over the past decade consumption of goods and services had risen by 28 per cent to $30.5 trillion (£19bn) – with the world digging up the equivalent of 112 Empire State Buildings of material every day.

The average American consumes more than his or her weight in products each day, many US two year-olds can recognise the McDonald’s “Golden Archers” sign, although they cannot read the letter, and an average western family spends more on their pet than by someone trying to live in Bangladesh.

A cultural shift from consumption to valuing sustainable living was needed because government targets and new technology were not enough to rescue humanity from ecological and social threats.

Without action, humans faced problems including changing climates, obesity epidemics, declines in wildlife, loss of agricultural land and more production of hazardous waste.

Consumerism it said had “taken root in culture upon culture over the past half-century … (and) become a powerful driver of the inexorable increase in demand for resources and production of waste that marks our age”.

Erik Assadourian, the institute’s project director, said it was “no longer enough to change our light bulbs, we must change our very cultures”.

At current consumption rates, 200 square metres of solar panels a second and 24 wind turbines every hour were needed to be built to satisfy energy levels.

The think tank said it was not just the United States that was guilty of a culture of excess with other developing countries such as Brazil, India and China adopting greed as a success symbol.

China, one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emissions producers, recently overtook the US as the world’s top car market.

“More than 6.8 billion human beings are now demanding ever greater quantities of material resources, decimating the world’s richest ecosystems, and dumping billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere each year,” the report said.

This number will only increase as people in the developing world aspire towards a Western-styled consumer lifestyle.

Mr Assadourian added: “Until we recognise that our environmental problems, from climate change to deforestation to species loss, are driven by unsustainable habits, we will not be able to solve the ecological crises that threaten to wash over civilisation.

“We’ve seen some encouraging efforts to combat the world’s climate crisis in the past few years.

“But making policy and technology changes while keeping cultures centered on consumerism and growth can only go so far.”

He said such measures such as banning incandescent light bulbs and steering children away from consumerism through toy libraries would help.

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