Thursday, December 12, 2013

yeah, um no..., ANC and nuclear weapons not a good look....,

wikipedia | The Republic of South Africa's ambitions to develop nuclear weapons began in 1948 after giving commission to South African Atomic Energy Corporation (SAAEC), the forerunner corporation to oversee nation's uranium mining and industrial trade.[1] In 1957, South Africa reached an understanding with the United States after signing a 50-year collaboration under the U.S.-sanctioned programme, the Atoms for Peace.[1] The treaty concluded the South African acquisition of a single nuclear research reactor and an accompanying supply of the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) fuel, located in Pelindaba.[1] In 1965, the American subsidiary, the Allis-Chalmers Corporation, delivered the 20MW research nuclear reactor, SAFARI-1, along with ~90% HEU fuel to South African nuclear authority.[1] In 1967, South Africa decided to pursue the plutonium capability and constructed its own reactor, SAFARI-2 reactor also at Pelindaba, that went critical using 606kg of 2% HEU fuel, and 5.4 tonnes of heavy water, both supplied by the United States.[1]

The SAFARI-2 reactor was intended to be moderated by heavy water, fueled by natural uranium while the reactor's cooling system used molten sodium.[1] However in 1969, the project was abandoned by the South African government because the reactor was draining resources from the uranium enrichment program that was initiated in 1967.[1] South Africa began focusing on the success of its uranium enrichment programme which was seen by its scientists as easier compared to plutonium.[1] South Africa was able to mine uranium ore domestically, and used aerodynamic nozzle enrichment techniques to produce weapons-grade material. South Africa is suspected of having received technical assistance from various sources, including assistance from Israel in building its first nuclear device. In 1969, a pair of senior South African scientists met with Sültan Mahmoud, a nuclear engineer from Pakistan based at the University of Birmingham, to conduct studies, research and independent experiments on uranium enrichment.[3] The South African and Pakistani scientists studied the use of aerodynamic-jet nozzle process to enrich the fuel at the University of Birmingham, later building their nations programs in 1970s.[3] However it is not clear how much knowledge they gained and to what extent they cooperated.[3] South Africa gained sufficient experience with the nuclear technology to capitalize on the promotion of the U.S. government's Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (PNE) program.[1] Finally in 1971, South African minister of mines Carl de Wet gave approval of the country's own PNE programme with the publicly stated objective of using PNEs in the mining industry. The date when the South African PNE programme transformed into a weapons program is a matter of some dispute.[1]

South Africa developed a small finite deterrence arsenal of gun-type fission weapons in the 1980s. Six were constructed and another was under construction at the time the program ended.[4]

 South African forces feared the threat of a "domino effect" in favour of communism, represented in southern Africa by Cuban proxy forces in Angola and threatening Namibia. In 1988 South Africa signed the Tripartite Accord with Cuba and Angola, which led to the withdrawal of South African and Cuban troops from Angola and independence for Namibia. The pre-emptive elimination of nuclear weapons was expected to make a significant contribution toward regional stability and peace, and also to help restore South Africa's credibility in regional and international politics.

South Africa ended its nuclear weapons programme in 1989. All the bombs (six constructed and one under construction) were dismantled and South Africa acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons when South African Ambassador to the United States Harry Schwarz signed the treaty in 1991. On 19 August 1994, after completing its inspection, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that one partially completed and six fully completed nuclear weapons had been dismantled. As a result, the IAEA was satisfied that South Africa's nuclear programme had been converted to peaceful applications.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

in other asia related news....,

HuffPo | The Obama administration appears to have almost no international support for controversial new trade standards that would grant radical new political powers to corporations, increase the cost of prescription medications and restrict bank regulation, according to two internal memos obtained by The Huffington Post.

The memos, which come from a government involved in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, detail continued disputes in the talks over the deal. The documents reveal broad disagreement over a host of key positions, and general skepticism that an agreement can be reached by year-end. The Obama administration has urged countries to reach a deal by New Year's Day, though there is no technical deadline.

One memo, which was heavily redacted before being provided to HuffPost, was written ahead of a new round of talks in Singapore this week. Read the full text of what HuffPost received here. (Note: Ellipses indicate redacted text. Text in brackets has been added by a third party.) Another document, a chart outlining different country positions on the text, dates from early November, before the round of negotiations in Salt Lake City, Utah. View the chart here. HuffPost was unable to determine which of the 11 non-U.S. nations involved in the talks was responsible for the memo.

"These are not U.S. documents and we have no idea of their authorship or authenticity," a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said. "Some elements in them are outdated, others totally inaccurate." The spokesman declined to specify which parts were outdated or inaccurate.
The Obama administration has been leading negotiations on the international trade accord since 2010. The countries involved in the talks include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government, which would allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations. The U.S. has endorsed some corporate political powers in prior trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the scope of what laws can be challenged appears to be much broader in TPP negotiations. Fist tap Dale.

and this would be a problem for us because.....?

wikileaks | On 13 November 2013 WikiLeaks released the draft text of the crucial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) Intellectual Property chapter during the lead-up to a TPP chief negotiators’ meeting in Salt Lake City on 19-24 November 2013. Today, 9 December 2013, WikiLeaks has released two more secret TPP documents that show the state of negotiations as the twelve TPP countries began supposedly final negotiations at a trade ministers’ meeting in Singapore this week.

One document describes deep divisions between the United States and other nations, and "great pressure" being exerted by the US negotiators to move other nations to their position. The other document lists, country-by-country, the many areas of disagreement remaining. It covers intellectual property and thirteen other chapters of the draft agreement. This suggests that the TPP negotiations can only be concluded if the Asia-Pacific countries back down on key national interest issues, otherwise the treaty will fail altogether. Fist tap Dale.

asia all about that hootin and thumpin life right now...,

zerohedge | As fear and nationalism rise in Japan (and Abe's grip on the people founders amid falling approval ratings and underperforming economic indicators such as GDP tonight), so another party has joined the debacle in the East China Sea. As NHK World reports, South Korea has officially announced that it will expand its air defense identification zone, making it partially overlap those of Japan and China. The game of chicken over small islands (and submerged rocks!) in the middle of nowhere continues...

South Korea has officially announced that it will expand its air defense identification zone, making it partially overlap those of Japan and China.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the expansion will go into effect on December 15th.

The move comes after China established its air defense zone over a wide area of the East China Sea last month.

The zone includes the Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Japan and claimed by China and Taiwan.

Seoul has been demanding that Beijing redraw the zone because it partially overlaps the one set by South Korea and includes a submerged rock called Ieodo claimed by both nations. The Chinese call the rock Suyan.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said the expanded zone will also cover 2 small islands whose airspace partially overlaps Japan's defense zone.

The ministry said it briefed Japan, the United States and China on the matter beforehand and the 3 countries suggested that the expansion is in line with international rules and is not an excessive measure.

playing chicken in an increasingly hostile context..,

japantimes | On Nov. 23, China announced the creation of a newly expanded air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, overlapping a large expanse of territory also claimed by Japan. The move has produced a visceral reaction in the Japanese vernacular media, particularly the weekly tabloids. Five out of nine weekly magazines that went on sale last Monday and Tuesday contained scenarios that raised the possibility of a shooting war.

One can only wonder what sort of tale American “techno-thriller” writer Tom Clancy — author of “The Hunt for Red October” (1984, involving the Soviet Union) and “Debt of Honor” (1994, involving Japan) — might have spun from the scenario that’s now unfolding in the East China Sea.
Alas, Mr. Clancy passed away of an undisclosed illness on Oct. 1, so instead the task has fallen to Japan’s gunji hyōronka (military affairs critics) or gunji jānarisuto (military affairs writers), whose phones have been ringing off the hook.

First, let’s take Flash (Dec. 17), which ran a “Simulated breakout of war over the Senkakus,” with Mamoru Sato, a former Air Self-Defense Force general, providing editorial supervision. Flash’s scenario has the same tense tone as a Clancy novel, including dialog. On a day in August 2014, a radar operator instructs patrolling F-15J pilots to “scramble north” at an altitude of 65,000 feet to intercept a suspected intruder and proceeds from there.

Sunday Mainichi (Dec. 15) ran an article headlined “Sino-Japanese war to break out in January.” Political reporter Takao Toshikawa tells the magazine that the key to what happens next will depend on China’s economy.

“The economic situation in China is pretty rough right now, and from the start of next year it’s expected to worsen,” says Toshikawa. “The real-estate boom is headed for a total collapse and the economic disparities between the costal regions and the interior continue to widen. I see no signs that the party’s Central Committee is getting matters sorted out.”

An unnamed diplomatic source offered the prediction that the Chinese might very well set off an incident “accidentally on purpose”: “I worry about the possibility they might force down a civilian airliner and hold the passengers hostage,” he suggested.

beggar thy neighbor is an invitation to war...,

zerohedge | We are in a period that will be characterized by enormous cross-border capital flows. How will it play out? Let’s assume that I’m right about Japan. What happens then? Nominal interest rates in the US and Germany go negative. The Pavlovian response is to fly to perceived safety; this is why we’re not betting against US rates. In fact, we’re receiving rates in Europe and Australia right now because some sort of stagflation will play out first, before you start to see the real problems in Japan. If you look at history and try to understand what has created despotic rulers and wiped out populations financially in the past, and what happens next, the logical conclusion is war.

Drobny: Who is the war going to be between?

Bass: I’m not exactly sure, but it seems to me that the aggressor in Asia is China and they don’t get along with Japan.

Post-World War II, Japan has been constitutionally limited, such that they cannot declare war. But current Prime Minister Abe is talking about rewriting the constitution so that they can actually declare war again. That’s not stabilizing for the region. Nationalism is rearing its head as we speak.
A third of the population in Japan is over the age of 60, and a quarter is over the age of 65. To put this into context, in the broader developed world only about 8% of the population is over 65. At a point when these people need the money the most, they could lose 30-40% of their savings, maybe more in terms of purchasing power. The social repercussions bother us more than the financial repercussions because the social fabric of Japan will either be stretched or most likely torn, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Drobny: Besides Japan, what bothers you?

Bass: There are going to be consequences to central bank balance sheet expansion all over the world. Look at currency cross rates. If all central banks are expanding at the same rate, the cross rates aren’t moving, but your purchasing power, in terms of goods and services in the country where you live, is diminishing. You’re not focused on real returns, you’re preoccupied with the cross rates. It’s a beggar-thy-neighbor policy, but everyone is beggaring thy neighbor.

I really worry about the true cost of goods and services, but people are preoccupied by the dollar/euro exchange rate to gauge the relative strength of the European economy. You see this preconditioned response and even macro players say things like, “Oh, buy the Nikkei at week end.” They’re picking up a dime in front of a bulldozer. Japanese industry has been hollowed out. The exchange rate may stop the decline for a certain period of time but it’s a secular decline. The people that own Japanese equities right now are tourists. But this creates opportunities in the marketplace.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

what those pilonidal teatards have spent 48 years fighting to subvert...,

ablongman | But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now, you are free to go where you want, do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.
You do not take a man who, for years, has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying "you are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe you have been completely fair. 

Thus it is not enough to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates. 

This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity--not just legal equity but human ability--not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and a result. 

For the task is to give twenty million Negroes the same chance as every other American to learn and grow--to work and share in society--to develop their abilities--physical, mental, and spiritual, and to pursue their individual happiness. 

To this end equal opportunity is essential, but not enough. Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth. It is stretched or stunted by the family you live with, and the neighborhood you live in--by the school you go to, and the poverty or richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the infant, the child, and the man. 

This graduating class at Howard University is witness to the indomitable determination of the Negro American to win his way in American life. 

The number of Negroes in schools of high learning has almost doubled in fifteen years. The number of nonwhite professional workers has more than doubled in ten years. The median income of Negro college women now exceeds that of white college women. And these are the enormous accomplishments of distinguished individual Negroes--many of them graduates of this institution.
These are proud and impressive achievements. But they only tell the story of a growing middle class minority, steadily narrowing the gap between them and their white counterparts. 

But for the great majority of Negro Americans--the poor, the unemployed, the uprooted and dispossessed--there is a grimmer story. They still are another nation. Despite the court orders and the laws, the victories and speeches, for them the walls are rising and the gulf is widening. . . . 

We are not completely sure why this is. The causes are complex and subtle. But we do know the two broad basic reasons. And we know we have to act. 

First, Negroes are trapped--as many whites are trapped--in inherited, gateless poverty. They lack training and skills. They are shut in slums, without decent medical care. Private and public poverty combine to cripple their capacities.

We are attacking these evils through our poverty program, our education program, our health program and a dozen more--aimed at the root causes of poverty. 

We will increase, and accelerate, and broaden this attack in years to come, until this most enduring of foes yields to our unyielding will. 

But there is a second cause--more difficult to explain, more deeply grounded, more desperate in its force. It is the devastating heritage of long years of slavery; and a century of oppression, hatred and injustice. 

For Negro poverty is not white poverty. Many of its causes and many of its cures are the same. But there are differences--deep, corrosive, obstinate differences--radiating painful roots into the community, the family, and the nature of the individual. 

These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice, and present prejudice. They are anguishing to observe. For the Negro they are a reminder of oppression. For the white they are a reminder of guilt. But they must be faced, and dealt with, and overcome; if we are to reach the time when the only difference between Negroes and whites is the color of their skin.

the teatards are working to consolidate control of school district revenue streams and enrich their cronies, period

kcstar | Some lawmakers and teachers’ union leaders on Monday called for Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro’s resignation, citing a report in The Star of emails showing a questionable bid process and development of plans for Kansas City Public Schools without the district’s knowledge.

But state school board President Peter Herschend said people are reacting to a planning process for Kansas City that is still evolving and has been — and will be — the responsibility of the state board.

The board has urged the commissioner and the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to bring swift change to the state’s unaccredited school districts, including Kansas City, Herschend said in a prepared statement. This is a time for conversation, he said.

“Some groups are fighting even suggestions of change,” he said. “We ask you that you reserve judgment before any plan has been formulated or even ideas discussed.”

The emails showed a collaboration among Nicastro, the Kauffman and Hall Family foundations and the Indianapolis-based CEE-Trust research group starting in April to prepare a proposal for a new school system for Kansas City.

The records also described a bidding process that gave the work contract to CEE-Trust in August after it had already been working with the state and the foundations.

Eight Democratic lawmakers in a written statement accused Nicastro of abusing her power and asked the state school board to open an internal investigation of the bidding process.

State Sen. Paul LeVota and state Rep. Genise Montecillo of St. Louis County, who have challenged Nicastro previously, were joined Monday by state representatives Reps. Bonnaye Mims of Kansas City, Judy Morgan of Kansas City, Ira Anders of Independence, John Mayfield of Independence and Joe Runions of Grandview, and state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal of St. Louis County.

“It is imperative that she resign immediately as state education commissioner or, if she fails to do so, be removed from her post by the Missouri State Board of Education,” the statement read.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who was asked about Nicastro during a news conference Monday in Fulton, Mo., said that it was a good time for the state Board of Education to “monitor and evaluate” concerns raised about her, The Associated Press reported.

In his statement, Herschend said the board ultimately chose CEE-Trust, agreeing with the department that CEE-Trust was “the clear choice for conducting analyses and making recommendations for transforming Kansas City Public Schools.”

The process was “open and competitive,” he said.

indiana-style, teatard corruption caught by sunshine law disclosures in kansas city...,

kcstar | Backed by two of the most influential foundations in Kansas City, Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro and a state-hired consultant are planning the future of Kansas City Public Schools as a slate wiped clean.

Revelations in emails obtained by The Star and dating to April show a state education department eager to create a new school system, even as the long-beleaguered but stabilized district was preparing to celebrate its best academic improvement in years.

The electronic trail exposes a rushed bidding process, now criticized, that ultimately landed Indianapolis-based CEE-Trust a $385,000 contract to develop a long-range overhaul for the district’s failing schools.

Summer discussions in emails reveal Nicastro’s wish for a statewide district to gather poor-performing schools under new leadership, with an office for innovation and charter school expansion.

In mid-August, days before the state’s district report cards were to be released to the public showing a surprisingly high score for Kansas City, a CEE-Trust partner shared his talking points with Nicastro and staff debunking the performance of a district where 70 percent of the students still perform below proficiency.

“It suggests a conspiracy against our success,” said Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green.

Even as Green and his cabinet gathered in Jefferson City on Sept. 4 with Nicastro and staff to plead Kansas City’s case for provisional accreditation and a reprieve from state intervention, emails show Nicastro had other plans.

Three weeks earlier at the Kauffman Foundation, unknown to Green, Nicastro had introduced her planning team to the person she selected to lead a potential statewide district — Norman Ridder, who is retiring as superintendent of Springfield’s public schools.

Such a district typically would operate many of the state’s low-performing schools, many of them likely in Kansas City.

indiana is a hub of teatard strategery on public education...,

NYTimes | For Glenda Ritz, who took office as Indiana’s top education official this year, the awkward reality of being the lone statewide elected Democrat here did not take long to blossom into all-out combat. 

Now her conflict with Gov. Mike Pence, a conservative former congressman, has become one of the most public and combative political fights to face his new administration. 

Ms. Ritz has accused the governor of creating a new education agency to undermine her office. Mr. Pence says that was not his aim. But the tension, months in the making, has boiled over at monthly State Board of Education meetings, where Ms. Ritz and board members, who are appointed by the governor, continue to wrestle for control over the state’s education policies. 

In recent weeks, Ms. Ritz, the state superintendent of public instruction, has sued the board, walked out of a meeting to prevent a vote and accused Mr. Pence of orchestrating a subversive “power grab” against the Department of Education. 

“I feel he wants to have one agency for education, and that’s going to be the agency,” she said in a recent interview about the governor’s new agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation, known as C.E.C.I. She added, “It is interfering with how I’m operating and how I’m going about making decisions.” 

The center, with fewer than 20 staff members, was created by Mr. Pence’s executive order with the broad mission of better aligning the state’s K-12, higher education and work force development strategies, according to Claire Fiddian-Green, a co-director of the center and a special assistant to the governor. The center also provides staffing for the Board of Education, which previously relied on Ms. Ritz’s 228 employees at the Department of Education for legal counsel and administrative support.

Monday, December 09, 2013

predictable pattern and praxis in the pilonidal precincts....,

Add caption

the bad political fruit of the hon.bro.preznit's epic failures....,

vocativ | What is the Dark Enlightenment? As the term suggests, the Dark Enlightenment is an ideological analysis of modern democracy that harshly rejects the vision of the 18th century European Enlightenment—a period punctuated by the development of empirical science, the rise of humanist values and the first outburst of revolutionary democratic reform. In contrast, the Dark Enlightenment advocates an autocratic and neo-monarchical society. Its belief system is unapologetically reactionary, almost feudal.

The many bloggers who constitute the movement style themselves as “Dark Lords of the Sith,” self-described fearless truth-tellers, who—mixing their cinematic metaphors—offer Matrix-evocative “red pills” of awakening in the form of sulfurous conclusions about the state of the world. Indeed, questioning the prevailing Western narrative is typically a Dark Enlightenment writer’s modus operandi, skewering the values of the liberal establishment.

Where does the term Dark Enlightenment come from? Inspired by the pugnacious writings of Mencius Moldbug, the prolific blogger who serves as the movement’s unofficial center of gravity, the neologism is the creation of philosopher Nick Land. In 2012, Land wrote an impressively thorough manifesto titled simply The Dark Enlightenment, which boldly articulates the movement’s central thesis: “For the hardcore neo-reactionaries, democracy is not merely doomed, it is doom itself. Fleeing it approaches an ultimate imperative.” The essay continues, ”[Neo-reaction] conceives the dynamics of democratization as fundamentally degenerative: systematically consolidating and exacerbating private vices, resentments, and deficiencies until they reach the level of collective criminality and comprehensive social corruption.” No, this isn’t your grandpa’s conservatism. (Unless your grandpa was General Franco.)

As for Mr. Moldbug? Yes, he does exist, and no, that is not his real name. (That would be Curtis Yarvin.) You can find plenty of photos and video that document his many conference appearances. Mostly, though, Moldbug—who lives in the San Francisco area and works in the software industry—blogs and blogs and blogs.

What do they believe? Post-red pill awakening, liberal progressivism is seen as a state religion, an unquestioned humanist ideology that determines all outcomes and silences dissenters through dismissal. It’s a worldview generated and sustained by the mechanisms of the system itself. Moldbug has given that system the ecclesiastical label of the Cathedral. Seeing the Cathedral for what it is marks the first step to becoming darkly enlightened.

What is the Cathedral? According to Land and Moldbug, the Cathedral is a complex ideology network built atop the university system, the media (run and operated by graduates of the former) and employees of the bureaucracy, all of whom grow ever more dependent on the perpetuation of the Cathedral. The leveling mechanisms of democracy—with its race-to-the-bottom vote begging (buying) and illusions of social empowerment—remove any possibility of inventive political solutions, or, eventually, rational analysis. Inside the Cathedral, any questioning of democracy’s legitimacy is sacrilege. Before long, apostates will find penance by buying indulgences (like, say, Obamacare), whether they like it or not.

the hon.bro.preznit's greatest and most damaging failure...,

theatlantic | There's no heartbreak like the heartbreak of first love, and when it comes to politics, no disappointment more bitter than that of a young person who grows up to realize her one-time idol is all too human.

That's the explanation offered by Harvard Institute of Politics pollster John Della Volpe and IOP Director Trey Grayson for the precipitous drop in Millennial generation support for President Obama in this year's annual Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes toward Politics and Public Service.
"We are now seeing a sea change among this critical demographic," Grayson said. "The president has experienced a double-digit drop among Millennials over the past seven months and that rating is now the lowest we've seen during his presidency."

The poll, conducted between October 30 and November 11, found that the president's approval among 18- to 29-year-olds had dropped from 52 to 41 percent over the course of the year, and that younger Millennials—those between 18 and 24—were trending less Democratic. 

"For the better part of four or five years, young people have been the outliers. They've been the folks who have been the most optimistic and most trusting of the president and Congress to actually solve the problems they most care about," Della Volpe said, explaining what happened.

"You have a combination of two things. One is: Expectations [were] incredibly high—not just for the president but for Washington and adults in general—that have been unmet," he said. "And then the second part of it is, you can see that there are very few aspects of the healthcare initiative that they approve of. They think quality will decrease, prices will increase. So it's not surprising that that is taking a significant hit to the president's approval ratings."

Sunday, December 08, 2013

why is violent crime so rare in Iceland? Evangelii Gaudium may have an answer

uscatholic | Earlier this week I read at the BBC about an incident in Iceland and mentally filed it in the category “Stories you’ll never see in the United States.”  From the report: "Icelandic police have shot dead a man who was firing a shotgun in his apartment in the early hours of Monday. It is the first time someone has been killed in an armed police operation in Iceland, officials say."

I had to stop and read it again. The first time someone has been killed in an armed police operation…ever? That couldn’t be right. The article does go on to say that indeed, the incident is “without precedent” in Iceland.

Intrigued, I clicked on a related link that sought to explain “Why violent crime is so rare in Iceland.” I had no idea just how rare. A 2009 United Nations report on homicides lists the following numbers of homicides per country: Brazil - 43,909; United States - 15,24; Iceland – 1. One homicide in an entire year!

Certainly, there are many differences between the United States and Iceland. But as the report pointed out, the reason for the lack of violent crime is not due to a lack of guns--there are actually an estimated 90,000 guns in a country of 300,000 people. The biggest contributing factor? “There is virtually no difference among upper, middle, and lower classes in Iceland," explains the article. "And with that, tension between economic classes is non-existent, a rare occurrence for any country….A study…found only 1.1% of participants identified themselves as upper class, while 1.5% saw themselves as lower class.”

The situation in Iceland came to my mind as I’ve been reading more of Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium. One of the quotes from the recent exhortation says: "When a society--whether local, national, or global--is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility" (59). The pontiff clarifies: It’s not because people who are excluded from systems are provoked to violence; the main issue here is that the system itself is unjust.

It certainly seems that in Iceland, where there are fewer people on the fringes, there seems to be a great deal more tranquility than in the United States, with our huge divide between the wealthiest the poorest, and increasing economic segregation. “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” Pope Francis asks. Will we ever see a day when the system shifts? It’s hard to tell, but if it does, it could help pave the way toward a more peaceful tomorrow.

the playbook we should all be focused on....,

guardianlv | As the saying goes, “there are two sides to every story,” but a more accurate articulation of this phrase would be “in any story, there are multiple sides, viewpoints, opinions and perspectives.” The story in Iceland is no exception. Socialist and Marxist blogs here in the U.S. say that there’s been a massive U.S. news conspiracy and cover up about the revolution in Iceland because the U.S. media is controlled by corporations, including banks, and the “powers that be” don’t want U.S. citizens getting any ideas to stage a revolution of their own. Some conservative Icelandic bloggers claim that while there was, indeed, a revolution, it did not lead to a successful or widely accepted new constitution. 

They say the situation in Iceland is worse than ever, and that international news reports of an effective democratic uprising leading to a better government are simply myths. Social media commenters are scratching their heads over why they were robbed of the story of Iceland’s pots and pans revolution.

As with most narratives, the truth may lie somewhere in the middle of all of these varying perspectives. One thing is clear, though: it’s nearly impossible to find one mainstream U.S. news report of the pots and pans revolution in Iceland, the resignation of Iceland’s entire government, and the jailing of the bankers responsible for the economic collapse there. Whether or not the revolution led to a more fair government or a workable and effective constitution is irrelevant to the fact that the U.S. media has essentially skipped over this story for the past five years.

Is it possible that mainstream media sources purposely covered up the Iceland story to appease their corporate sponsors? It doesn’t seem likely, and yet, what explanation could be given as to why this news never made it to the front pages of our most trusted media organizations here in the U.S.?
As Iceland struggles to regain its footing with a new government, U.S. citizens may or may not be able to look to Iceland as an example of perfect democracy in action. The real question, though, is why weren’t U.S. citizens given the information about the ousting of the Icelandic government and the jailing of the unscrupulous bankers? Are journalists in control of the mainstream media or is there some truth to accusations that big business may, in fact, be strong-arming reporters to keep quiet about world events that could inspire similar actions here in the U.S.?

Friday, December 06, 2013

the hon.bro.preznit makes impotent mouth noises about inequality...,

whitehouse | And that is a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain -- that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.
I believe this is the defining challenge of our time:  Making sure our economy works for every working American.  It’s why I ran for President.  It was at the center of last year’s campaign.  It drives everything I do in this office.  And I know I’ve raised this issue before, and some will ask why I raise the issue again right now.  I do it because the outcomes of the debates we’re having right now -- whether it’s health care, or the budget, or reforming our housing and financial systems -- all these things will have real, practical implications for every American.  And I am convinced that the decisions we make on these issues over the next few years will determine whether or not our children will grow up in an America where opportunity is real.
Now, the premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in the American story.  And while we don’t promise equal outcomes, we have strived to deliver equal opportunity -- the idea that success doesn’t depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit.  And with every chapter we’ve added to that story, we’ve worked hard to put those words into practice.   
It was Abraham Lincoln, a self-described “poor man’s son,” who started a system of land grant colleges all over this country so that any poor man’s son could go learn something new.  
When farms gave way to factories, a rich man’s son named Teddy Roosevelt fought for an eight-hour workday, protections for workers, and busted monopolies that kept prices high and wages low.  
When millions lived in poverty, FDR fought for Social Security, and insurance for the unemployed, and a minimum wage.  
When millions died without health insurance, LBJ fought for Medicare and Medicaid.  
Together, we forged a New Deal, declared a War on Poverty in a great society.  We built a ladder of opportunity to climb, and stretched out a safety net beneath so that if we fell, it wouldn’t be too far, and we could bounce back.  And as a result, America built the largest middle class the world has ever known.  And for the three decades after World War II, it was the engine of our prosperity.  
Now, we can’t look at the past through rose-colored glasses.  The economy didn’t always work for everyone.  Racial discrimination locked millions out of poverty -- or out of opportunity.  Women were too often confined to a handful of often poorly paid professions.  And it was only through painstaking struggle that more women, and minorities, and Americans with disabilities began to win the right to more fairly and fully participate in the economy.  Fist tap Dale.

clever canadians explain how corporate power shapes inequality

bnarchives | Presentation by Jordan Brennan, PhD student at the Department of Political Science, York University and an economist with UNIFOR.

ABSTRACT: 'Economic inequality' has recently appeared on the public radar in North America, but much of the attention has been confined to its ominously high level and its socially corrosive impact. The long-term drivers of inequality, by contrast, have attracted less attention. This presentation will explore the linkages between corporate power and inequality, arguing that both the level and pattern of inequality in Canada closely shadow the differential power of capital.

This presentation is the second in a four-part Speaker Series on the Capitalist Mode of Power. The series is organized by and sponsored by the York Department of Political Science and the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought.

October 29, 2013, York University, Toronto

Thursday, December 05, 2013

if it doesn't predict disease or illuminate neurodiversity, who cares?

This Dillweed Here

discover | It’s been a busy few days in the world of personal genomics. By coincidence I have a coauthored comment in Genome Biology out, Rumors of the death of consumer genomics are greatly exaggerated (it was written and submitted a while back). If you haven’t, please read the FDA’s letter, and 23andMe’s response, as much as there is one right now. Since Slate ran my piece on Monday a lot of people have offered smart, and more well informed, takes. On the one hand you have someone like Alex Tabarrok, with “Our DNA, Our Selves”, which is close to a libertarian cri de coeur. Then you have cases like Christine Gorman, “FDA Was Right to Block 23andMe”. It will be no surprise that I am much closer to Tabarrok than I am to Gorman (she doesn’t even seem to be aware that 23andMe offers a genotyping, not sequencing, service, though fuzziness on the details doesn’t discourage strong opinions from her). An interesting aspect is that many who are not deeply in the technical weeds of the issue are exhibiting politicized responses. I’ve noticed this on Facebook, where some seem to think that 23andMe and the Tea Party have something to do with each other, and the Obama administration and the FDA are basically stand-ins. In other words, some liberals are seeing this dispute as one of those attempts to evade government regulation, something they support on prior grounds. Though Tabarrok is more well informed than the average person (his wife is a biologist), there are others from the right-wing who are taking 23andMe’s side on normative grounds as well. Ultimately I’m not interested in this this argument, because it’s not going to have any significant lasting power. No one will remember in 20 years. As I implied in my Slate piece 23andMe the company now is less interesting than personal genomics the industry sector in the future. Over the long term I’m optimistic that it will evolve into a field which impacts our lives broadly. Nothing the United States government can do will change that.

Yet tunneling down to the level of 23andMe’s specific issues with the regulatory process, there is the reality that it has to deal with the US government and the FDA, no matter what the details of its science are. It’s a profit-making firm. Matt Herper has a judicious take on this, 23andStupid: Is 23andMe Self-Destructing? I don’t have any “inside” information, so I’m not going to offer the hypothesis that this is part of some grand master plan by Anne Wojcicki. I hope it is, but that’s because I want 23andMe to continue to subsidize genotyping services (I’ve heard that though 23andMe owns the machines, the typing is done by LabCorp. And last I checked the $99 upfront cost is a major loss leader; they’re paying you to get typed). I’m afraid that they goofed here, and miscalculated. As I said above, it won’t make a major difference in the long run, but I have many friends who were waiting until this Christmas to purchase kits from 23andMe.

Then there are “the scientists,” or perhaps more precisely the genoscenti. Matt Herper stated to the effect that the genoscenti have libertarian tendencies, and I objected. In part because I am someone who has conservative and/or libertarian tendencies, and I’m pretty well aware that I’m politically out of step with most individuals deeply involved in genetics, who are at most libertarian-leaning moderate liberals, and more often conventional liberal Democrats. Michael Eisen has a well thought out post, FDA vs. 23andMe: How do we want genetic testing to be regulated? Eisen doesn’t have a political ax to grind, and is probably representative of most working geneticists in the academy (he is on 23andMe’s board, but you should probably know that these things don’t mean that much). I may not know much about the FDA regulatory process, but like many immersed in genomics I’m well aware that many people talking about these issues don’t know much about the cutting edge of the modern science. Talk to any geneticist about conversations with medical doctors and genetic counselors, and they will usually express concern that these “professionals” and “gatekeepers” are often wrong, unclear, or confused, on many of the details. A concrete example, when a friend explained to a veteran genetic counselor how my wife used pedigree information combined with genomic data to infer that my daughter did not have an autosomally dominant condition, the counselor asserted that you can’t know if there were two recombination events within the gene, which might invalidate these inferences. Though my friend was suspicious, they did not say anything, because they were not a professional. As a matter of fact there just aren’t enough recombinations across the genome for an intra-genic event to be a likely occurrence (also, recombination likelihood is not uniformly distributed, and not necessarily independent, insofar as there may be suppression of very close events). And this was a very well informed genetic counselor.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

god, dopamine, 3-dimensional space...,

What are God and Heaven doing up in the clouds?
neuropolitics | Space. The final frontier. And when it comes to religiosity, it just might be. Out of the clouds, Fred Previc has constructed an ingenious theory of religiosity based on the multiple mechanisms employed by the brain to map and direct its behaviors in 3-dimensional space. As we shall see, Previc's theory of religiosity has many similarities with Brack's hemisphericity theory of political orientation, both of which propose a key role to the dopaminergic system in the modulation of religiosity (and in our case, political conservatism).
Although our theories were derived independently, Previc's original manuscript, The role of extrapersonal brain systems in religious activity, predates the introduction of our theory (via the web) by several months. Although it does not specifically address political disposition, it is such a theory by proxy, via the strong relationship between religiosity and political conservatism. While Previc's theory makes full use of the large volume of literature implicating the dopamine system in religious behavior, it is a quantum leap in the theory of religiosity, and centered upon the various mechanisms on how the brain behaves in the four 3-dimensional spatial realms it has constructed for itself, and how time itself has become enmeshed with the brain's rendering of space.

Fred Previc knows something about space. Previc was the lead of the United States Air Force's Spatial Disorientation Countermeasures Task Group, which studied pilot spatial disorientation in flight, a major cause of aeronautic accidents. How he has subsequently woven his research and theories on the brain's rendering of space into a theory of religiosity is one the great insights in the history of neuropsychology. But what exactly is Previc's theory?

dopamine hegemony depends on the wattles..., | via Northrup Grumman Information Technology - most fascinating data source research funder...., The neuropsychology of religious activity in normal and selected clinical populations is reviewed. Religious activity includes beliefs, experiences, and practice. Neuropsychological and functional imaging findings, many of which have derived from studies of experienced meditators, point to a ventral cortical axis for religious behavior, involving primarily the ventromedial temporal and frontal regions. Neuropharmacological studies generally point to dopaminergic activation as the leading neurochemical feature associated with religious activity. The ventral dopaminergic pathways involved in religious behavior most closely align with the action-extrapersonal system in the model of 3-D perceptual–motor interactions proposed by Previc (1998). These pathways are biased toward distant (especially upper) space and also mediate related extrapersonally dominated brain functions such as dreaming and hallucinations. Hyperreligiosity is a major feature of mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, temporal-lobe epilepsy and related disorders, in which the ventromedial dopaminergic systems are highly activated and exaggerated attentional or goal-directed behavior toward extrapersonal space occurs. The evolution of religion is linked to an expansion of dopaminergic systems in humans, brought about by changes in diet and other physiological influences.

believer brains vs. non-believer brains - a smidgeon of interesting data...,

plosone | Background - While religious faith remains one of the most significant features of human life, little is known about its relationship to ordinary belief at the level of the brain. Nor is it known whether religious believers and nonbelievers differ in how they evaluate statements of fact. Our lab previously has used functional neuroimaging to study belief as a general mode of cognition [1], and others have looked specifically at religious belief [2]. However, no research has compared these two states of mind directly.

Methodology/Principal Findings - We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure signal changes in the brains of thirty subjects—fifteen committed Christians and fifteen nonbelievers—as they evaluated the truth and falsity of religious and nonreligious propositions. For both groups, and in both categories of stimuli, belief (judgments of “true” vs judgments of “false”) was associated with greater signal in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area important for self-representation [3], [4], [5], [6], emotional associations [7], reward [8], [9], [10], and goal-driven behavior [11]. This region showed greater signal whether subjects believed statements about God, the Virgin Birth, etc. or statements about ordinary facts. A comparison of both stimulus categories suggests that religious thinking is more associated with brain regions that govern emotion, self-representation, and cognitive conflict, while thinking about ordinary facts is more reliant upon memory retrieval networks.

Conclusions/Significance - While religious and nonreligious thinking differentially engage broad regions of the frontal, parietal, and medial temporal lobes, the difference between belief and disbelief appears to be content-independent. Our study compares religious thinking with ordinary cognition and, as such, constitutes a step toward developing a neuropsychology of religion. However, these findings may also further our understanding of how the brain accepts statements of all kinds to be valid descriptions of the world.

just say no...,

NYTimes | One afternoon a few months ago, a 45-year-old sales representative named Mike called “The Dr. Harry Fisch Show,” a weekly men’s health program on the Howard Stern channel on Sirius XM Radio, where no male medical or sexual issue goes unexplored. 

“I feel like a 70-year-old man in a 45-year-old body,” Mike, from Vancouver, British Columbia, told Dr. Fisch on the live broadcast. “I want to feel good. I don’t want to feel tired all day.”
A regular listener, Mike had heard Dr. Fisch, a Park Avenue urologist and fertility specialist, talk about a phenomenon called “low testosterone” or “low T.” Dr. Fisch likes to say that a man’s testosterone level is “the dipstick” of his health; he regularly appears on programs like “CBS This Morning” to talk about the malaise that may coincide with low testosterone. He is also the medical expert featured on, an informational website sponsored by AbbVie, the drug maker behind AndroGel, the best-selling prescription testosterone gel. 

Like many men who have seen that site or commercials or online quizzes about “low T,” Mike suspected that diminished testosterone was the cause of his lethargy. And he hoped, as the marketing campaigns seem to suggest, that taking a prescription testosterone drug would make him feel more energetic. 

“I took your advice and I went and got my testosterone checked,” Mike told Dr. Fisch. Mike’s own physician, he related, told him that his testosterone “was a little low” and prescribed a testosterone medication. 

Mike also said he had diabetes and high blood pressure and was 40 pounds overweight. Dr. Fisch explained that conditions like obesity might be accompanied by decreased testosterone and energy, and he urged Mike to exercise more and to lose weight. But if Mike had trouble overhauling his diet and exercise habits, Dr. Fisch said, taking testosterone might give him the boost he needed to do so.
“If it gives you more energy to exercise,” Dr. Fisch said of the testosterone drug, “I’m all for it.”
Recommendations like Dr. Fisch’s and the marketing of low T as a common medical condition helped propel sales of testosterone gels, patches, injections and tablets to about $2 billion in the United States last year, according to IMS Health, a health care information company. In 2002, sales were reported to be a mere $324 million; around that time, Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which was then marketing AndroGel, began using the term “low T,” replacing a previous euphemism for male aging, “andropause.” Today the low-T trend is global. From 2000 to 2011, there was “a major and progressive increase” in testosterone use in 37 countries, according to a recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

the ways of lust

NYTimes | In 1780, Immanuel Kant wrote that “sexual love makes of the loved person an Object of appetite.” And after that appetite is sated? The loved one, Kant explained, “is cast aside as one casts away a lemon which has been sucked dry.” 

Many contemporary feminists agree that sexual desire, particularly when elicited by pornographic images, can lead to “objectification.” The objectifier (typically a man) thinks of the target of his desire (typically a woman) as a mere thing, lacking autonomy, individuality and subjective experience. 

This idea has some laboratory support. Studies have found that viewing people’s bodies, as opposed to their faces, makes us judge those people as less intelligent, less ambitious, less competent and less likable. One neuroimaging experiment found that, for men, viewing pictures of sexualized women induced lowered activity in brain regions associated with thinking about other people’s minds.
The objectification thesis also sits well with another idea that many psychologists, including myself, have defended, which is that we are all common-sense dualists. Even if you are a staunch science-minded atheist, in everyday life you still think of people as immaterial conscious beings — we inhabit fleshy bodies, but we are not ourselves physical. To see someone as a body is in opposition to thinking of her as a mind, then, and hence a heightened focus on someone’s body tends to strip away her personhood. 

But this analysis is too simple. It’s not literally true that women in pornography are thought of as inanimate and unfeeling objects; if they were, then they would just as effectively be depicted as unconscious or unresponsive, as opposed to (as is more often the case) aroused and compliant. Also, as the philosophers Martha Nussbaum and Leslie Green have pointed out, being treated as an object isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Imagine that you are sitting outside on a sunny day, and you move behind someone so that she blocks the sun from your eyes. You have used her as an object, but it’s hard to see that you’ve done something wrong. 

The real worry that people have with pornography — and with lust more generally — is that the targets of the arousal are seen as losing certain uniquely human traits. They are thought of as lower-status beings, stripped of dignity, more like animals than people. This attitude is well expressed by the misogynist hero of the Kingsley Amis novel “One Fat Englishman” who says that his sexual aim is “to convert a creature who is cool, dry, calm, articulate, independent, purposeful into a creature who is the opposite of these: to demonstrate to an animal which is pretending not to be an animal that it is an animal.” 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

now you just KNOW the pope is on the right track...,

HuffPo | Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh slammed Pope Francis' stance on social justice in his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium," calling the document "pure Marxism" on his show.
Limbaugh went viciously on the attack with the show, titled, "It's Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is (Unless It's a Deliberate Mistranslation By Leftists)." He began:
You know, the pope, Pope Francis -- this is astounding -- has issued an official papal proclamation, and it's sad. It's actually unbelievable. The pope has written, in part, about the utter evils of capitalism. And I have to tell you, I've got parts of it here I can share with you. It's sad because this pope makes it very clear he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth. Wait 'til you hear it.
Though "Evangelii Gaudium" has been lauded by many for its sharp stand for social justice, equality, and economic equity, Limbaugh expressed his disagreements with it, commenting:
Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as 'a new tyranny' and beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality, in a document on Tuesday setting out a platform for his papacy and calling for a renewal of the Catholic Church. ... In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the 'idolatry of money.'"
I gotta be very careful. I have been numerous times to the Vatican. It wouldn't exist without tons of money. But regardless, what this is, somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope. Unfettered capitalism? That doesn't exist anywhere. Unfettered capitalism is a liberal socialist phrase to describe the United States. Unfettered, unregulated.

Monday, December 02, 2013

in praise of greed, envy, IQ...,

guardian | Boris Johnson has launched a bold bid to claim the mantle of Margaret Thatcher by declaring that inequality is essential to fostering "the spirit of envy" and hailed greed as a "valuable spur to economic activity".

In an attempt to shore up his support on the Tory right, as he positions himself as the natural successor to David Cameron, the London mayor called for the "Gordon Gekkos of London" to display their greed to promote economic growth.

Delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture, Johnson also called for the return of a form of grammar schools.

He qualified his unabashed admiration for the "hedge fund kings" by saying they should do more to help poorer people who have suffered a real fall in income in recent years. But he moved to forge his own brand of Conservatism, which contrasts with the early modernising of the prime minister, by claiming that it was "futile" to try to end inequality.

In highly provocative remarks, Johnson mocked the 16% "of our species" with an IQ below 85 as he called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130.

"Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85 while about 2% …" he said as he departed from the text of his speech to ask whether anyone in his City audience had a low IQ. To muted laughter he asked: "Over 16% anyone? Put up your hands." He then resumed his speech to talk about the 2% who have an IQ above 130.

Johnson then told the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, which helped lay the basis for Thatcherism in the 1970s: "The harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top."

from dust-to-dust...,

telegraph | American scientists have made an unsettling discovery. Crop farming across the Prairies since the late 19th Century has caused a collapse of the soil microbia that holds the ecosystem together. 

They do not know exactly what role is played by the bacteria. It is a new research field. Nor do they know where the tipping point lies, or how easily this can be reversed. Nobody yet knows whether this is happening in other parts of the world.
A team at the University of Colorado under Noah Fierer used DNA gene technology to test the 'verrucomicrobia' in Prairie soil, contrasting tilled land with the rare pockets of ancient tallgrass found in cemeteries and reservations. The paper published in the US journal Science found that crop agriculture has "drastically altered" the biology of the land. "The soils currently found throughout the region bear little resemblance to their pre-agricultural state," it concluded.
You might say we already knew this. In fact we did not. There has never before been a metagenomic analysis of this kind and on this scale. Professor Fierer said mankind needs to watch its step. "We really know very little about one of the most productive soils on the planet, but we do know that soil microbes play a key role and we can't just keep adding fertilizers," he said.
The Colorado study has caused a stir in the soil world. It was accompanied by a sobering analysis in Science by academics from South Africa's Witwatersrand University. They fear that we are repeating the mistakes of past civilisations, over-exploiting the land until it goes beyond the point of no return, and leads to a vicious circle of famine, and then social disintegration.

pretending it's not fukushima...,

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Sunday, December 01, 2013

can capitalists afford recovery - the presentation

bnarchives | Theorists and policymakers from all directions and persuasions remain obsessed with the prospect of recovery. For mainstream economists, the key question is how to bring about such a recovery. For Marxist and heterodox critics, the main issue is whether sustained growth is possible to start with. 

But there is a prior question that neither seems to ask: can capitalists afford recovery in the first place?

This presentation is the first in a four-part Speaker Series on the Capitalist Mode of Power, which is organized by and sponsored by the York Department of Political Science and the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought.
Video duration: 2:03 Hours

we are suffering a slow-motion nuclear war...,

eurasiareview |  As staff member of the Hiroshima Peace Institute you are first-rank witness of the severest nuclear catastrophe of modern times. Fukushima typifies several dangers of all things nuclear: The difficulties to control the technology, the recklessness of administrations, both private and public, and the fact that radioactivity does not respect national borders. How do you see the catastrophe?

RJ: I see the catastrophe as absolutely horrifying and ongoing. There is no discernible end in sight to this tragedy, radiation will continue to seep into the Pacific Ocean for decades. I think that there were many instances of negligence that facilitated the disaster. The design of the reactors and site was bad. The maintenance of the plant was neglected for decades. Adequate emergency procedures were never designed or enacted. In many ways, this highlights the problems not just of nuclear power but especially of privately run, for profit, nuclear power plants. In this case profits are raised by lowering costs, a process which both facilitated and accelerated the disaster. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) notoriously has neglected its nuclear plants in honour of increasing profitability.

Beyond this, I would say that we also see illustrated here that the decisions to build nuclear plants are national ones, but when they have problems they are always global in scale. When one considers the time scale of some of the radionuclides that enter the ecosystem from nuclear disasters, they will stay in the ecosystem for thousands of years (as will the radionuclides in the spent fuel rods when they operate without a meltdown). These radionuclides will simply cycle through the ecosystem for millenniums. These toxins will remain dangerous for hundreds of generations and will disperse throughout the planet. At Fukushima the benefits of the electricity generated by the plants will have lasted barely longer than one generation while the sickness and contamination resulting from the disaster will last for hundreds.

‘Cold shutdown’ catastrophe
How do you evaluate the government’s handling of the catastrophe, for instance, the fact that only 12 square kilometres around the site have been evacuated?

RJ: The government’s handling of the disaster is a second disaster. Virtually every decision has been driven by two things: money and public relations. The decision to evacuate only 12 square kilometres was driven by concerns of cost and not by concerns of public health. When the government mandates evacuation they incur financial responsibilities. This is why they limited it to 12 km. They made a “suggested” evacuation area of 20 square kilometres.

Why the difference? Mandatory vs. suggested? The area between 12 and 20 km where evacuation is suggested means that the government bears no fiscal responsibility for those evacuees. If they evacuate, it is their own decision, and must be done at their own cost. These people are in a terrible bind. They know that they must evacuate because of the levels of radiation, but they will receive no assistance. Their homes are now worthless and cannot be sold. They are on their own. They have become both contaminated and impoverished. The other thing guiding decision making by the government is public relations.

While they knew that there had been a full meltdown on the first day of the disaster, and three full meltdowns by the third day, they denied this for almost three months. The reason this was done was to control perceptions. They managed to keep the word “meltdown” off the front pages of the world’s newspapers during the period when they were focused on Fukushima.

When the government acknowledged the meltdowns almost three months later the story was on page 10 or page 12 of international papers. This is a success for them. At the end of 2011 they declared the plants in “cold shutdown.” This is insane. The term cold shutdown refers to the activities of an undamaged and fully functional reactor. A reactor whose fuel has melted and is now located somewhere unknown beneath the reactor building, and that must have water poured on it for years to keep it cool are not in cold shutdown. This was just a way of saying to people that the event was over and everything was under control–absolute conscious lies. These concerns, costs and perceptions have guided the government’s response far more than public safety has.