In the Belly of the Beast: 3/26/11: Japan: hibakusha warn nation and world of Fukushima threat

INDEX

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 110

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Headlines for March 17, 2011

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 110

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Prosser: The women on the court have ‘ganged up’ on me

David Prosser, as you may know, is the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice who is also a candidate for re-election to his own seat on April 5.

Prosser is quite the contentious fellow. He has called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “total bitch” and threatened to “destroy her.”

He also promised to be a “complement” to hard-right Governor Scott Walker and the Republican union-busting legislature. He’s that David Prosser.

So the race is heating up and coming to a head (yes, seriously mixed metaphor, but fun). Prosser recently appeared at a March 22 candidate forum, where he was questioned about his contentious remarks. His reply:

It’s a little disconcerting to me that today they [Abrahamson and Bradley] have ganged up and tried to recruit candidates to run against me and create a foul atmosphere inside the Court.

As David Nir at Daily Kos succinctly notes, “So the ‘bitches’ have ‘ganged up’ on poor David Prosser.” Jeez.

Prosser is no closet Republican. As Wisconsin blogger Jim Rosenberg notes, a pro-Prosser campaign slogan — “Prosser equals Walker” — is now being turned against him, thanks to … well, Walker:

What’s coming out as the bumper sticker message is that “Prosser Equals Walker” – something that might have been okay early last November, but could well be a losing strategy for April 2011, if his detractors can keep that message front and center. (See www.prosserequalswalker.com .)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is heavily financed by right-wing money:

Conservative interests like Club for Growth and the Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers & Commerce all but sponsored two of the last three winners in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court races. While WMC-backed justices Annette Ziegler and Mike Gableman both had issues raised relating to their ethics, they remain on a court that tilts a bit to the right. Prosser made no bones about his right-wing credentials early on.

See here for more about Ziegler and Gableman. Prosser, Ziegler, Gableman and Roggensack are the Republican caucus on the seven-member court, and they make no bones about the pro-business views their business-financed campaigns have enabled. A vote for Prosser really is a vote for Walker. And Walker’s laws will end up before the court.

Goal ThermometerThere are no polls I can find about this race. If anyone does locate one, please post it in the comments. Rosenberg notes, however:

An experienced assistant attorney general, Kloppenburg actually raised more money than Prosser leading up to the primary by a few thousand dollars. But with the well-worn playbook for the conservatives relying on third-party groups to buy up millions in media advertising for their picks and Kloppenburg not being theirs, it didn’t seem like it would matter. While Prosser may still get some help from the usual quarters, it may not be as helpful as it might have been in the past with a tuned-in and enthusiastic opposition group just waiting for evidence that the usual suspects are involved.

With the vote a little more than two weeks away, Kloppenburg is crossing the state and finding herself very welcome. Her name is regularly showing up on the signs of supporters demonstrating in Madison and elsewhere – something that is not lost on her. Kloppenburg’s stump speech is upbeat and she stresses her independence, unlike Prosser’s early stance that relied on his association with the Republicans. The April vote could be substantially heavier than the February primary, with the office of Milwaukee County Executive and Madison mayor on the ballot.

If you’re a Wisconsin voter — organize your friends and vote. And if you like, volunteer to support Kloppenberg. What more can I say?

(For fun, click here to see Prosser in action, to get a sense of the man. It’s a pro-Prosser speech segment in which Prosser criticizes Kloppenberg, once a prosecutor for the Dept. of Natural Resources, for (ready?) prosecuting environmental violations. Yep, an out and proud Republican to be sure.)

Paul Krugman - New York Times Blog

MARCH 26, 2011, 9:03 AM

Worse Is Better

Wow. The GOP prescription for higher employment is actually quite spectacular — it’s a thing of many levels, an ignorance wrapped in a fallacy.

The idea is this: we’ll lay off government workers; this will raise unemployment, putting downward pressure on wages; and lower wages will lead to higher employment.

So, for this to work you first have to have a downward-sloping demand for labor as a function of the nominal wage rate. There’s no reason to believe that’s the case: in a liquidity trap, falling wages probably reduce the demand for labor, because they worsen the burden of debt.

And even if you somehow bypass this objection, the argument is still nonsense: it says that by reducing demand, you cut the price, which increases demand, which means that you end up selling more than before. Um, no — that’s the kind of answer that, in Econ 101, has you suggesting that the student get special tutoring.

Given all that, it’s hardly worth mentioning that they’re appealing to the thoroughly refuted doctrine of expansionary austerity.

As Wolfgang Pauli used to say, what we have here is an argument that isn’t even wrong.

Dave Duerson, former NFL and college star, dies by suicide, OR Should American football be legal?

This is not a sports story, not in the usual sense. It’s not even a story about Duerson primarily. It’s a story about American football as a workplace.

In an earlier story about the coming NFL lockout, which included an interview with The Nation’s sports reporter Dave Zirin, we noted:

▪ The typical player lasts 3.4 years, comes from a poor (and I would add, under-educated) background, and dies 22 years before the average American male.

▪ Zirin’s point (at 4:05 in the interview) that the players are both the labor and the product, both the chef and the steak being served, is striking. I’ve never seen that said before, and I think he’s right.Note that the steak is consumed.

Now comes Duerson, who leaves us in unusual circumstances. Up until a few years ago, Dave Duerson’s life was a real success. From Irish Sports Report (subscription needed; my emphasis throughout):

Duerson, 50, played at [Notre Dame] from 1979–82. He earned team MVP honors in 1982 and was a first-team All-America pick that season. The Bears selected him in the third round of the 1983 draft.

After winning two Super Bowl rings with the Bears in 1986 and the New York Giants in 1991,Duerson served on Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees and was President of the Monogram Club.

This is not your bad boy of sports. Then things started going bad for him, beginning about five years ago, which led to his suicide. Now note this:

The New York times reported that Duerson sent text messages to his family asking that his brain be examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease linked to depression, dementia and suicide.

According to an AP report, Duerson’s brain was expected to undergo studies looking for any disease or abnormality but would focus on CTE, which as been found in a number of former athletes.

Here’s more from that NY Times story referenced above:

As a longtime force in the N.F.L. players union, Duerson, 50, was keenly aware of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease linked to depression, dementia and occasionally suicide among more than a dozen deceased players. He had expressed concern in recent months that he might have had the condition, said one person close to him who spoke on condition of anonymity. …

Duerson’s request to have his brain examined for C.T.E., first reported by The Chicago Tribune, indicates how much acceptance of the disease has changed since it first made headlines in January 2007. That month, it was found in the brain tissue of the former Philadelphia Eagles player Andre Waters, who also had committed suicide.

Lou Somogyi, senior editor at Blue & Gold Illustrated, a Notre Dame sports publication, notes (hard-copy only):

Gradually, though, in the last several years he became agitated and frustrated with blurred vision, headaches, memory lapses, and he spoke to friends specifically about a pain on the left side of his brain. … Suddenly [he] could not spell the simplest of words or recall an elementary detail, according to a Feb. 26 Chicago Tribune report.

Duerson must have known what was ahead for him. It’s not lost on those who knew him that he put the fatal bullet in his chest, not his head. CTE can only be tested posthumously, by studying brain tissue.

To which LA Times writer Bill Dwyre adds simply:

Dave Duerson’s suicide could be a turning point for NFL

Listen again to Sam Seder’s interview with Dave Zirin, linked above, and keep in mind, again, that NFL players earn football money for less than four years. In addition, they die 22 years earlier, on average, than the rest of American males. Duerson was 50.

I’ve been a football fan my whole life, but I would never let my children play the game, at any level. It pains me to ask this, but I must — Should American football be legal?

God bless you, sir.

Portugal’s borrowing costs spike again as bailout nears

It appears that Portugal has a date with destiny. Avoiding a bailout is even less likely following the increase in borrowing costs. Once the bailout money is passed, what then? Before the economy crashed there had been a sense of real progress in Portugal, who used to be known as one of the poorer countries of Europe. While that sense of prosperity was linked to increased credit, people still felt that there was an improvement. Nobody ever likes go from feeling prosperous to being a beggar. Whether it’s in Portugal or even the US where credit was even more excessive, there is a lot more to come. The Guardian:

Portugal’s efforts to avoid joining Ireland and Greece in accessing EU bailout funds appears doomed after investors sent the cost of Portuguese borrowing to a new record on the bond markets.

The resignation of the country’s prime minister and a downgrade by Standard & Poor’s sent the yield on 10-year Portuguese government bonds to a new high of more than 8%. With EU and IMF funds available for between 5% and 7%, there were growing calls for the government to end months of speculation and agree a bailout.

After a downgrade by Fitch on Thursday, S&P cut Portugal’s debt rating by two notches to BBB and kept it on negative watch, warning it could lower the rating a notch once the details of the European Union’s permanent bailout fund are announced.


Radioactive material well above standards in sea water near reactor

That region of Japan is in serious trouble for quite a long time. The sea in this area had previously been an important location for aquaculture but with radioactivity spreading, who would want to consume products from there? Sea life does move around, which is an even scarier thought. It’s not unlike seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, in that they are saying it’s fine for humans to eat, but it still sounds questionable.

According to the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, radioactive iodine-131 at a concentration 1,250.8 times the legal limit was detected Friday morning in a seawater sample taken around 330 meters south of the plant, near the drain outlets of its troubled four reactors.

The level rose to its highest so far in the survey begun this week, after staying around levels 100 times over the legal limit. It is highly likely that radioactive water in the plant has disembogued into the sea, Tokyo Electric Power Co said.

The radiation levels in seawater do not pose an immediate risk to human health, government officials said. But they are well above normal levels and fan concerns over fishery products in northeastern Japan as highly radioactive water has been found leaking near all four troubled reactor units at the plant.

 

Japan: hibakusha warn nation and world of Fukushima threat

from World War 4 Report blogs by Bill Weinberg

Three workers received burn lesions on their legs when they were exposed to highly radioactive water in the basement of the turbine building at reactor Number 3 at Japan’s stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant March 26, but news accounts were typically confused. Various sources put the radiation level the three had been exposed to at anywhere between 170 and 6.000 millisieverts (per hour, presumably), with 250 being the permissible level for workers. Some sources also said the workers likely suffered “beta ray burns.” Two of the workers have apparently been hospitalized after the three underwent examination at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba Prefecture. White smoke was again seen over the plant that morning. Officials said new readings showed Tokyo’s tap water was back to radiaiton levels acceptable for infants, but elevated levels were now detected in the neighboring prefectures of Chiba and Saitama. (NHK World,NHK World, March 26; APWSJ, March 25; AP, March 24)

The voices of aging hibakusha—survivors of the August 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—have started to make their way into the international media regarding the Fukushima disaster. Sunao Tsuboi, who was 20 when he suffered radiation burns at Hiroshima, said: “Nuclear technology cannot coexist with human beings. We need to turn our value system upside down. Life is more important than the economy.”

“The government repeatedly says that the level of radiation that has leaked from the Fukushima plant is not dangerous,” Tsuboi added. “But for those of us who understand what it’s like to be irradiated, it’s very dangerous. People must be told that the after effects last for years, decades. We’ve lived through it.”

Hashizume Bun, the 80-year-old author of The Day the Sun Fell: I was 14 years old in Hiroshima, was less than 1.5 kilometers from the hypocenter of the explosion. “I’ve had health problems ever since,” said Bun, who has spoken in 70 countries about her ordeal. “I still have radioactive elements in my body.”

“I had three sons, and now have four grandchildren. Every time one of them is sick, we’re afraid. This is what awaits the victims of Fukushima, I hope that the Fukushima incident will reverse the global shift towards nuclearization” she said, referring to the anticipated “renaissance” of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. “If we don’t stop this, the world will end up completely irradiated. Nuclear technology is uncontrollable and has no borders.” (AFP, March 25)

Japan’s roughly 227,000 hibakusha have suffered higher cancer rates as a result of the fallout from the twin bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—as well as being ostracized as social outcasts, due to the mistaken belief that they could still contaminate others years after the blasts. “The hibakusha faced an extreme degree of discrimination based on unfounded ideas,” said Koichiro Maeda, director of Hiroshima’sPeace Memorial Museum. “If the public was given a clear explanation of the effects of radiation, this problem would no longer exist.” He fears that workers and residents facing irradiation at Fukushima could suffer a similar fate. Those exposed probably number in the thousands. Passengers arriving from Japan at South Korean airports are being tested for radiation exposure.

Activists around the world are frustrated at the garbled and contradictory accounts of the situation at Fukushima from officials and media alike. “There is incredible information control and manipulation going on at this critical time,” said Satoko Norimatsu, the head of the Vancouver-based Peace Philosophy Centre, an anti-nuclear group. (The Independent, March 24)

HISTORY & ANALYSIS

Somewhere east of Aachen

from Language Log by Mark Liberman

Adam Goodheart, “Civil Warfare in St. Louis“, The American Scholar, Spring 2011:

The leading city in one of the nation’s most populous slaveholding states, St. Louis was a strategic prize like no other. Not only the largest settlement beyond the Appalachians, it was also the country’s second-largest port, commanding the Mississippi River as well as the Missouri, which was then navigable as far upstream as what is now the state of Montana. It was the eastern gateway to the overland trails to California. Last but far from least, the city was home to the St. Louis Arsenal, the biggest cache of federal arms in the slave states, a central munitions depot for Army posts between New Orleans and the Rockies. Whoever held St. Louis held the key to the Mississippi Valley and perhaps even to the whole American West.

[…]
Throughout the winter and early spring of 1861, the Union revolutionaries who would soon fight the battle for Missouri were preparing for the war in hidden corners of the city. They drilled by night in beer halls, factories, and gymnasiums, barricading windows and spreading sawdust on floors to muffle the sound of their stomping boots. Young brewery workers and trolley drivers, middle-aged tavern keepers and wholesale merchants, were learning to bear arms. Most of the younger men handled the weapons awkwardly, but quite a few of the older ones swung them with ease, having been soldiers in another country long before. Sometimes, when their movements hit a perfect synchrony, when their muffled tread beat a single cadence, they threw caution aside and sang out. Just a few of the older men would begin, then more and more men joined in until dozens swelled the chorus, half singing, half shouting verses they had carried with them from across the sea:

Die wilde Jagd, und die Deutsche Jagd,
Auf Henkersblut und Tyrannen!
Drum, die ihr uns liebt, nicht geweint und geklagt;
Das Land ist ja frei, und der Morgen tagt,
Wenn wir’s auch nur sterbend gewannen!

(The wild hunt, the German hunt,
For hangmen’s blood and for tyrants!
O dearest ones, weep not for us:
The land is free, the morning dawns,
Even though we won it in dying!)

These men were part of a wave of German and other Central European immigrants that had poured into St. Louis over the previous couple of decades. By 1861, a visitor to many parts of the city might indeed have thought he was somewhere east of Aachen. “Here we hear the German tongue, or rather the German dialect, everywhere,” one Landsmann enthused.

It’s an extraordinary story, and I’m surprised that I’ve never heard it before. (I’m certainly familiar with the large-scale German immigration to the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries — what was new to me was the nature and scale of the 1861 uprising against the Missouri civic authorities, who were largely pro-secession.) Given recent 1848-like events in the Middle East, it’s especially interesting to learn of this significant delayed impact of the failed European revolutions of 1848 on the development of the American Civil War:

Politically, too, the newcomers were a class apart. Many had fled the aftermath of the failed liberal revolutions that had swept across Europe in 1848. Among those whose exile brought them to Missouri was Franz Sigel, the daring military commander of insurgent forces in the Baden uprising—who, in his new homeland, became a teacher of German and a school superintendent. There was Isidor Bush, a Prague-born Jew and publisher of revolutionary tracts in Vienna, who settled down in St. Louis as a respected wine merchant, railroad executive, and city councilman—as well as, somewhat more discreetly, a leader of the local abolitionists. Most prominent among all the Achtundvierziger—the “Forty-Eighters,” as they styled themselves—was a colorful Austrian émigré named Heinrich Börnstein, who had been a soldier in the Imperial army, an actor, a director, and most notably, an editor. During a sojourn in Paris, he launched a weekly journal called Vorwärts!, which published antireligious screeds, poetry by Heinrich Heine, and some of the first “scientific socialist” writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

I suppose that the burial of this fascinating and important piece of U.S. history is due to some combination of uneasiness about popular rebellion (even if this was an anti-rebellion rebellion, so to speak) and the waves of anti-German cultural erasure associated with the two world wars.

Against this background, it’s relevant to review some of our past posts about German cultural and linguistic assimilation in America. Thus in 1751, Benjamin Franklin asked “Why should Pennsylvania … become a Colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us, instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion?” (More on this here and here.) A Nebraska state law making it a crime to teach German to children was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1923. And in 2004, the NYT noted the passing of a woman whose ancestors had immigrated from East Friesland to rural Illinois in 1841, and who at the age of 100 spoke English only with a thick German accent, although she was born more than 60 years after her great-grandparents arrived the U.S.


The cited marching song was apparently written by Theodor Körner around 1813 to celebrate the Lützowsches Freikorps, “a voluntary force of the Prussian army” which fought against Napoleon. You can hear a bunch of sung versions on YouTube. How (and I suppose in truth whether) it ended up in St. Louis in 1861 is not entirely clear to me, but no doubt some readers can explain it to us.

 

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