INDEX (stories follow)
- Japan Dumps Water on Reactor; Radiation Levels Rise
- Deaths, Arrests in Bahraini Protest Crackdown
- Thousands Protest as Michigan Enacts Emergency Management Laws
- Wisconsin Prosecutor Challenges Anti-Worker Bill
- Florida Advances Restrictions on Teachers
- CIA Agent Accused of Murder Freed in Pakistan
- Hundreds Protest Clinton in Tunisia
- Clinton Visits Tahrir Square; Won’t Stay on Past 2012
- Palestinian Factions to Hold Unity Talks
- Study: 800,000 to Contract Cholera in Haiti
- EPA to Regulate Coal Power Plant Emissions
- Former Chicago Police Commander Begins Prison Term
[In January] the Obama administration has unbelievably chosen to approve three biotech crops, Roundup Ready genetically modified (GMO) alfalfa, Roundup Ready genetically modified (GMO)sugar beets and a new industrial biotech corn for ethanol production. Obama’s recent approval of them will allow them to be planted as early as this spring, despite widespread acknowledgement that these crops are certain to contaminate both conventional and organic farmers non-GMO crops. … [T]he USDA’s approval of the new industrial biotech corn for ethanol production occurred despite massive outcry from major food companies who know that it will contaminate and possibly ruin the food they sell to you everyday.
These decisions are a devastating blow to our democracy and the basic rights of farmers to choose how they want to grow food on their land and the rights of consumers who increasingly choose organic and sustainably grown food for its positive health and environmental impacts.
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa – Jan. 27th, 2011 – Over the objections of hundreds of thousands of American citizens, the White House approved this unnecessary crop – despite the fact that 93% of alfalfa hay grown in the U.S. does not use herbicides and that genetic contamination with conventional, non-GMO and organic alfalfa threatens the livelihoods of tens of thousands of family farmers and the food choices of more than 50 million organic consumers.
It’s appalling. As Mr. Murphy states, Monsanto:
■ Won over Tom Vilsack because of pressure from the White House.
■ Can go into the fields of organic farmers, collect samples, and sue farmers if the fields contain any of Monsanto’s patented products.
(By the way, did you notice how tired he sounds? It’s exhausting work, what he does.)
The beast called Monsanto now has a license to print money, issued by a man (Obama) who represents a corn, wheat, and alfalfa state (Illinois). In that sense, Obama is the “President from Monsanto” in the same way that Joe Biden was the “Senator from MBNA.” (For more on Obama and corn, read the introductory story in this 2006 profile. It’s an eye-opener; and remember, Ken Silverstein wrote it in 2006.)
I’ll say this about food and my fellow countrymen. Americans are not less “moral” about their eating than they were before. We always ate like pigs in the post-war years. Food was cheap and plentiful, and we eagerly ate our fill.
In addition, since most of us came from ethnic-beer backgrounds (German, English, Dutch, Swedish) as opposed to ethnic-wine backgrounds (French, Italian), we tended toward meat-and-potatoes “big” in any case. The combination always produced large Americans. Remember, the all-you-can-eat “smorgasbord” came to the U.S. in 1939. That’s a lot of potatoes ago.
So no, our eating hasn’t changed, but the food sure has. To see the difference — overweight then vs. overweight now — try this experiment. Watch the Lawrence Welk show on PBS (if you can stand it) and notice what “uncomfortably large” looked like for the over-fifty crowd in 1960. Now watch the people in the background ofAntiques Roadshow — or go to the airport — and see what ït looks like today. Literally the difference between soccerballs and beachballs.
It’s not the eating, it’s the food; and the food is killing us. Now that Monsanto has been granted a White House-enabled monopoly on grain-crops — including the ability to force out of business anyone growing from uncopyrighted grains — the future looks even deadlier than the past. Good for corporate profit (or better, CEO compensation); but bad for the whole rest of the world.
So thank you, Mr. President-from-Monsanto. (And nice touch with Michelle’s little victory garden. Smells like … misdirection.)
As the dissident Swiss theologian Hans Kung told the Frankfurter Rundschau: “John Paul II is universally praised as someone who fought for peace and human rights. But his preaching to the outside world was in total contrast with the way he ran the church from inside, with an authoritarian pontificate which suppressed the rights of both women and theologians…. Wojtyla and Ratzinger are the people most responsible for the chronic sickness of today’s Catholic Church.”
Part of that sickness, of course, stems from the sexual abuse scandals that continue to be revealed in one country after another, and to flare anew. There is little doubt that John Paul II was obtuse and derelict in his handling of the crisis, perhaps because, as his defenders argue, sexual misconduct charges were so frequently fabricated against clerics by communist authorities in his native Poland. Still, difficult questions remain about his close association — and that of members of his household — to moneyed sexual predators like the now-disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ.
Equally troubling are continuing attempts to bring the church’s theologians and more outspoken bishops to heel, an effort that began under John Paul II with the repression of Latin America’s leading liberation theologians. Many Catholics worry about a Vatican that fires an Australian bishop for speaking in favor of ordaining women and married men, but declines to act against a Belgian prelate who unapologetically admits to molesting young boys. Many are troubled too by the U.S. Catholic bishops — all conservatives appointed by the last two popes — who attempt to force theologians to resume the old practice of submitting their work to the local prelate for approval before publication.
SPIEGEL: But now President Obama is the big winner…
[Former G.W. Bush chief of staff Andrew] Card: I think he has pounded his chest a little too much. He can take pride in it, but he does not need to show it so much.
SPIEGEL: He didn’t appear triumphant while announcing bin Laden’s death.
Card: I thought his statement was subdued, but I think his schedule is not subdued. Personally, I think it is premature to go to Ground Zero, in New York. I think my role model in this would be George H. W. Bush, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. It was a day to celebrate, but we did not dance on the Wall.
Clearly the GOP talking points have been handed out.
NOTE FROM JOHN: Mind you, this is the crowd that, after criticizing Democrats for having their convention in NYC, that den of depravity, in 1992, suddenly the GOP just had to have their convention in New York in 2004, that patriotic all-American town, to take advantage of September 11. Then there was GOP presidential candidate Rudy “a noun, a verb, September 11” Giuliani.
The Republicans simply can’t handle the fact that Bush let Osama go and Obama got him.
Yesterday, a pilot for a Delta Airlines feeder flight in Memphis threw two Muslim clerics off his plane saying that some passengers “might” be uncomfortable with them aboard. Their crime? They wore “Arab garb.” That’s the sole criteria used by this pilot to determine it was too dangerous to fly with them:
Two Muslim religious leaders say they were removed from a plane in Memphis on Friday and were told the pilot refused to fly with them aboard. One of the imams, Masudur Rahman, said they had cleared security but were asked to leave their Delta Connection flight to Charlotte, N.C. A Transportation Security Administration spokesman confirmed the incident and said it was not initiated by that agency. Delta Air Lines said the flight was operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, which said the inicident is being investigatd. Mr. Rahman said they were told that the pilot refused to accept them because some passengers could be uncomfortable. Mr. Rahman said that he was wearing traditional Indian clothing and that his companion, Mohamed Zaghloul of the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis, wore Arab garb.
I understand a pilot has complete discretion to decide who flies with him and doesn’t have to explain his reasons. But an airline shouldn’t have to explain firing this dude either. And if they don’t I think a boycott against Delta Airlines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines is in order. Against Delta till it cancels its contract with Atlantic Southeast and against the latter for employing this Neanderthal.
If anyone can get me the e mail address for Delta’s and Atlantic Southeast’s CEOs I’d be happy to post them here.
I wish I could say this is the first instance of being guilty of flying while Arab, but alas it isn’t.
- Juan Williams: ‘Muslims Scare Me’ Juan Williams is a “liberal.” FoxNews says so. So does…
- Jews and Muslims, Confronting Islamophobia, Finding Common Cause This is a talk I delivered at the Confronting Islamophobia:…
- Mossad Recruiting U.S. Muslims, CIA Poll Ranks Israeli Intelligence Most Aggressive Within U.S. Jeff Stein, writing about intelligence matters at the Washington Post,…
In her response to the attack, Ancel says:
These videos are no idle prank. They do real harm. Both Don and I are receiving threats and ugly and scary messages. There are death threats against us on Breitbart’s blog.
These videos are an attack on higher education and its mission to working adults, putting labor education programs at risk. They create fear and have an enormously chilling effect on freedom of thought and expression. They seek to undermine the academic freedom that is required to study, better understand, and hopefully improve our conditions of life….
These attacks on me, my colleague, and the students in my course are an affront to democracy and must be challenged by citizens, workers and students, or else they will continue.
While the provost of UM Kansas City denounced Breitbart’s video as “inaccurate and distorted,” officials at UM St. Louis demanded Giljum’s resignation. Hopefully they’ll reconsider that rash and cowardly move.
The American Association of University Professors issued a statement Thursday, strongly condemning Breitbart. AAUP general secretary Gary Rhoades writes:
Breitbart has a right to voice his views; he does not have a right to his own facts. He does not have a right to distort the class in ways that are evident in the video clips and that are detailed by Judy Ancel in her response to the attack. Neither does he have the right to trample on the academic freedom of professors and their students, nor on the privacy rights of students in their classroom work.
For more information, Labor Notes has a comprehensive article about the situation. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to Ancel and Giljum. Free thought and free expression are under attack today in this country. We all need to speak out while we still can.
U.S. Department of Labor adds gender identity and
pregnancy status to its equal employment policy
WASHINGTON, April 28 — The U.S. Department of Labor today announced changes to its equal employment statement, including the addition of gender identity as a protected category. The policy, while internal to the Department of Labor, will apply to all hiring, promotion and disciplinary practices for employees of the agency. The updated policy is part of a continuing trend since the Obama administration’s changes to the federal jobs website USAJOBS equal employment opportunity statement to include gender identity. Pregnancy status will also be added to the department’s equal employment statement. The change was made in part through the advocacy of the New Beginning Initiative, a coalition of 26 organizations convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The New Beginning Initiative advocates for federal policy that is more friendly toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families.
Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
“With this change, the federal government is doing what smart employers in the private sector have been doing for years. They know that in order to attract the best talent they need to show that diversity is important to their companies. The Department of Labor’s announcement makes it clear that it is a place that values diversity and allows people to contribute their talents and skills free from discrimination. We are grateful for the leadership of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis on this issue and look forward to our continuing work with the administration to ensure greater fairness in federal policy.”
Finance ministers from an inner core of eurozone countries were holding secret talks in Luxembourg tonight to discuss a possible debt restructuring for crisis-ridden Greece.
The single currency’s leading creditor nations – Germany, France, Finland and the Netherlands – all attended the meeting, called amid concerns that Greece’s problems were nearing breaking point.
Sources said negotiations centred on the mounting eurozone debt crisis, and included not just Greece but the terms of Portugal’s bailout and Ireland’s demands for easier repayment terms on its loans. But they denied reports coming out of Germany that Athens had floated the idea of leaving the single currency altogether.
CEOs at the nation’s largest companies were paid better last year than they were in 2007, when the economy was booming, the stock market set a record high and unemployment was roughly half what it is today.
The typical pay package for the head of a company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 was $9 million in 2010, according to an analysis by The Associated Press using data provided by Equilar, an executive compensation research firm. That was 24 percent higher than a year earlier, reversing two years of declines.
Executives were showered with more pay of all types – salaries, bonuses, stock, options and perks. The biggest gains came in cash bonuses: Two-thirds of executives got a bigger one than they had in 2009, some more than three times as big.
Geoffrey, with a training in nuclear and reactor physics, long experience inside both the US nuclear-industrial complex (working for the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union) and the downwinder communities of the Western United States and Kazakhstan, helps us think clearly about the news, and the silence, coming out of Fukushima.
Sunday, March 13—I’ve been asked to provide a brief primer on the situation in Japan. I have no special access to news and up-to-date information is scarce so I will not attempt to encapsulate the rapidly changing reports. I will address some background issues and give some prognostication of what might be expected.
Both affected reactors are US-made light-water reactors of the Three Mile Island type, manufactured by GE in the 1960s. The good news is that we are dealing more with a TMI-type disaster than a Chernobyl-type disaster. Chernobyl was not a light-water reactor and its meltdown consequences were of a much greater scale than anything we might expect here, at least in terms of long-range fallout. (Short-range could be very nasty.) That is, the dramatic effects will be limited geographically and we probably will not see problems like the post-Chernobyl contamination of Mediterranean grapes and olives.
The bad news is that the TMI accident in 1979 was relatively easy to control because there had not been a massive earthquake. So TMI could be limited to a partial core meltdown with most infrastructure and some monitoring systems remaining intact. The real problem in Japan as I understand it is that the infrastructure is gone — general power failure, mucked up roads inhibiting the movement of generators, etc. may mean that it’s not even possible to get on-site monitoring systems to function. This is self-escalating because the worse the problem gets, the more impossible it becomes to keep personnel on site. Staying on-site becomes a suicide mission.
In that sense it is like Chernobyl in that Chernobyl was saved from becoming a much greater calamity by the literal sacrifice of about 200 employees, who stayed on-site knowing their radiation doses would be lethal. I interviewed a number of those workers — such courage is not a trait of the post-industrial world. An open question is whether that will be possible in Japan, given cultural factors, etc.
Whether or not the kamikaze mentality remains in Japan, we could well see a full core meltdown, or two — essentially TMI if the worst case had unfolded. Refer to the eerily prescient film China Syndrome for the judgment that an area “the size of Pennsylvania” would be rendered uninhabitable — meaning all northern Japan. But once again, if there’s a silver lining — we would not see as dramatic long-range fallout as we did with Chernobyl, probably. Different isotopes are involved. Californians need not panic.
That two reactors are in crisis suggests we are dealing with that old bane of the nuclear industry — Common Mode Failure or Commode Failure for short. The nuclear industry fended off safety critics by building in redundant safety systems. The problem, as critics have charged for forty years, is that such redundant systems are subject to common causes of failure — like massive earthquakes. You can put a fire alarm in your house, and a second, and a third, but if your house is hit by a meteorite, all bets are off.
It has been an intellectual argument since TMI as to whether the new redundancy systems really solved the Commode Failure problem or not, since engineers got very creative at exorbitant prices. That debate may now be considered resolved.
So beyond the human suffering issues — which I can’t yet estimate or fathom — all those “Nuclear Renaissance” projections are now looking pretty Dark Age. Look for nuclear stocks to tumble like a tumbleweed in a hurricane on Monday.
This is especially true since the accident happened in Japan, which was ballyhooed as the world leader in achieving “safe nuclear power.” “Why can’t we do it like Japan?” — the slogan actually used by the US nuclear industry, now will have quite a different ring. This is even more especially true since the reactors involved are US-made.
From a policy perspective this will be a big challenge for the Obama Administration and Congress, since Obama just proposed in his State of the Union Address a batch of $36 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors. For the federal government to offer a loan guarantee after this Japanese disaster would be like having the government invest treasury funds in an incandescent light bulb factory run by crack addicts.
One might hope that the loan guarantees for this industry will disappear. Then again, I hope for world peace.
If the worst-case scenario does unfold in Japan, we will also see an unprecedented wave of calls for the shutdown of operating light-water reactors, all of which are aging beyond design specifications. The NRC is just now considering issues related to extension of reactor lifetimes. Neither TMI nor Chernobyl involved the full meltdown of a light-water reactor. Certainly such reactors near major cities, like Indian Point, and those in earthquake zones, will have to be shut down. The resulting sudden loss of generating capacity may be one of the biggest effects of this calamity, coming at a time when oil prices are at a peak.
How Japan will now produce its power is an open question, since it had gone to nuclear in desperation. I suppose the possibilities are that Japan might generally “dedevelop” from the combined effects of the earthquake, lack of energy options, and financial crisis. Or Japan could rapidly become a powerhouse of renewable energy, a direction in which it was already heading.
Yet another possibility is that Japan will place the blame on the US light water reactor type and move to shut down only those reactors. In that case this could feed a general world renunciation of US nuclear “assistance” agreements, which would be most interesting in many ways.
— Geoffrey Sea