RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank – Trucker Nazar Zarro hoists himself up into the cab of his articulated lorry loaded with emergency flour supplies bound for the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) food distribution centers in the Gaza Strip.
Zarro makes the 100 kilometer trip from Israel’s Ashdod port to Kerem Shalom crossing — where the boundaries of Gaza, Israel and Egypt meet — five days a week.
The emergency flour rations will be loaded and unloaded eight times — part of a complex system of Israeli security procedures — until they reach food-insecure families in Gaza.
UNRWA’s food distribution to around 750,000 Palestinian refugees across Gaza is a massive operation, requiring more than 270 tons of flour daily to meet the needs.
More than half of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are food insecure, according to World Food Program estimates.
Kerem Shalom is the only crossing point where commercial goods and humanitarian supplies are allowed to enter Gaza, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), under a nearly four-year Israeli blockade of the territory.
“Kerem Shalom is a small crossing — entering 200 trucks per day pushes its capacity,” says Zarro, as he parks in the seemingly endless line of trucks at the crossing. “Karni [crossing] is nearly five times the size of Kerem Shalom and we used to work until midnight to enter 700 trucks daily,” he says. The last time Zorro drove to Karni was in 2006.
The trip from Ashdod to Kerem Shalom is twice as far, and Kerem Shalom closes just after midday.
Karni, controlled by Israel, is the only commercial crossing with the facilities to allow large numbers of trucks to enter Gaza. Closed to trucks since June 2007, the conveyor belt had been operating to transfer wheat grain — until the Israeli authorities announced its complete closure on 2 March.
Transferring wheat grain via Kerem Shalom will add an additional 20 percent to logistics and transportation costs, says UNRWA.
Containers of humanitarian supplies from foreign countries are shipped from Ashdod port to nearby rented UNRWA warehouses, where workers transfer the goods onto pallets by forklift. A second tier of laborers then furiously wraps the goods — mostly food and medical supplies — in plastic by hand to secure them for the long, hot journey under the sun until they reach UNRWA’s 12 distribution centers in Gaza.
UNRWA describes the lengthy process of bringing basic humanitarian supplies into Gaza as unduly complicated and costly.
Despite Israel’s “adjustment” to the blockade in June 2010, which established a “prohibited items” list and technically permitted the entry of any item not on that list, the agency still struggles to import adequate amounts of flour and construction materials as a result of lack of capacity and insufficient operating hours at the crossings, UNRWA says.
UNRWA has received approval for 43 reconstruction projects requiring restricted construction materials, worth about 11 percent of the cost of its entire work plan for Gaza.
According to UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness in Jerusalem, containers of supplies bound for the occupied West Bank are loaded onto UNRWA trucks at Ashdod and unloaded at their final destination. Hence, West Bank supplies are unloaded twice. Gaza-bound supplies are loaded and unloaded eight times before they reach their final destination.
Transporting goods via pallets costs UNRWA twice as much as bringing goods in via 38 cubic meter containers, and the risk of damage to the goods is higher. Additionally, high import fees, aside from taxation, are taken from private companies operating Kerem Shalom.
UNRWA estimates their additional costs for transporting palletized food and non-food items to Gaza, compared to transporting containerized food and non-food items, to be about $2.1 million in 2010, and $730,000 for January and February 2011.
“At a time when UNRWA faces a budget deficit of over $50 million, these costs are significant,” said spokesperson Gunness, adding that the funds could be invested in development and job creation projects in Gaza.
UNRWA has paid about $80,000 to store goods at Ashdod Port since 2007 (such as X-ray equipment and tools for UNRWA’s vehicle repair training centers) marked as potential “dual-use” items by Israeli authorities and still awaiting approval to enter Gaza.
Karni less safe?
Maj Guy Inbar, Israeli coordinator of government activities in the (Palestinian) territories (COGAT), told IRIN Kerem Shalom is the safer crossing to operate due to security threats near Karni crossing.
“Most of the rocket attacks launched in the last month were from the Shajaiyeh area [east of Gaza City] near Karni,” said Inbar.
Israeli truckers (which UNRWA contracts) unload at Kerem Shalom on the Israeli side. COGAT coordinates the entrance of the goods, and Israeli border authorities, under the Defense Ministry, inspect the goods prior to entering Gaza, explained Inbar.
UNRWA trucker Zarro said three secured rooms are located at the crossing to transfer goods — two rooms can hold about 32 truckloads of goods, and the third about 12 truckloads.
“Pallets are unloaded into the rooms, which are closed from the Gaza side, and after inspection the doors open on the Gaza side for Palestinian truckers to receive the shipments,” said Zorro.
“The three rooms allow for the goods to be safely transferred in one place and provide a sterile area,” said Inbar.
Gaza’s commercial traders liken the process to feeding a prisoner.
Israel tightened its blockade of Gaza after Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007. Through prolonged border closures Israel has restricted the import of fuel and commercial goods, as well as most construction and raw materials, and has largely restricted the movement of people, according to OCHA.
UNRWA inspection officers come to Kerem Shalom daily to facilitate the entrance of UNRWA trucks to Gaza.
Truck drivers crowd window
Scores of Israeli truckers crowd the trailer window, seeking approval to transfer their load from the Israeli border authorities. Trucker Zarro secured a stamp of approval for the flour shipment, although several truckers will be turned away after waiting outside for hours.
According to UNRWA, there is no cold storage at Kerem Shalom, damaging medical supplies and decreasing the shelf-life of food items exposed to the desert climate.
“If proper security equipment was present at Kerem Shalom, containers of goods could easily be transferred,” said UNRWA spokesperson Gunness. “This equipment is available and from a logistical point of view it would be safer, easier and more cost effective to scan entire truckloads.”
The Israeli Defense Ministry did not respond to IRIN’s request for comment as to why palletizing goods at Kerem Shalom is a necessary procedure.
A recent survey conducted by the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), representing more than 80 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, found that the cost for international NGOs of dealing with movement restrictions on staff and goods is at least $4.5 million a year. … Full article
As Techdirt recently discussed, the drug pipeline is running dry, as Big Pharma’s patents are beginning to expire, and the drug companies are freaking out. For years they have been spending more money on research and testing and getting fewer results. This year alone they are going to have 11 patents expire on drugs that bring in approximately $50 billion in revenue to the big pharma firms. Of course, the flip side to this is that consumers can start saving about 95% on the price of those drugs, as generics hit the market. The drug companies have gotten to a point where the incremental increases in efficiencies are so small as to be meaningless. What is coming is more personalized and targeted treatments for diseases — treatments that do not require bulk production of a specific chemical, but individual testing and personalized care, and not lifetime treatments and repeat sales, but cures. The treatments will be expensive to begin with, but they will become less expensive over time. The business model of healthcare is about to change dramatically, and Big Pharma needs to do something to maintain their profits. Unfortunately, they seem to have chosen the path of regulating the competition out of existence, rather than competing and innovating.
One way the drug companies have been coping is to repackage and rebrand health food supplements. Drugs like Lovaza, which is nothing more than the fish oil you can get in health food stores, and lovastatin which has been in use for roughly a thousand years (800 AD) in the form of red yeast rice. In the case of lovastatin, the FDA banned the supplements because they are “identical to a drug and, thus, subject to regulation as a drug.” That is very convenient for the drug company, which now charges monopoly rents on the product — which can increase prices at ridiculous levels.
More recently, the FDA banned 500 prescription drugs that had been on the market and working for years. To be fair, it was really 50-100 drugs (pdf), made by different companies, but that just highlights how there was actual competition in the marketplace for these drugs, which has now been removed. For all of the drugs, there is either a high-priced prescription version, or all the small manufacturers have been removed, leaving a virtual monopoly for one or more larger companies. This process began in 2006 when the FDA decided to remove marketed unapproved drugs (pdf).
The reasoning is that these drugs weren’t ever technically “approved” by the FDA. While the FDA has been around for about a century, the business of having the FDA first approve drugs before they could go on the market came about closer to fifty years ago, and a bunch of “unapproved drugs” that were in common usage before that never got approved. The FDA is targeting many of those, even if they have a long history in the marketplace. Conveniently, of course, there always seems to be a pharma company with a monopolized substitute ready.
In 2006 the first “new” monopoly that was created by this FDA process was for the malaria drug quinine sulfate. This left only Mutual Pharmaceutical Company to manufacture quinine in the US (pdf). While malaria is not a disease that affects many people in the US, it is big business worldwide. Malaria causes 300 to 500 million infections and over 1 million deaths each year. Treating this disease with quinine used to cost pennies a day. In fact, the British turned this treatment into a cocktail, the gin and tonic (quinine water).
Another drug removed was the antihistamine carbinoxamine, which was created prior to needing FDA approval, in the early 1950s. It was approved by the FDA in a slightly modified form in 2006. It is now sold exclusively by Mikart, Inc and Pamlab, LLC with no future competition because the FDA has banned all 120 other versions of carbinoxamine. You can imagine just how much that must increase the profits for Mikart and Pamlab on carbinoxamine, though that seems to come at the expense of consumers.
It’s really nice being granted a government monopoly.
As for the drugs now being banned in this latest purge, you can argue that it’s not really 500 drugs, because many are different combinations of the same 50 to 100 drugs. To be sold, these disapproved drugs will require drug trials and certification — a massive and expensive process. Under current law, after successful completion of FDA trials these drugs will be granted approval. But in every case these trials are almost certainly not necessary. And, “coincidentally” in almost every case, there is a chemically similar patented version ready to go. This is a pure money grab: replacing old tried and true drugs, with monopoly priced prescription drugs. It just requires removing competing drugs from the market to increase profits.
At approximately 7 am this morning the Israeli army entered the village of Al Jiftlik. Soldiers went door to door ordering all tractor owners to bring their farming vehicles to the closed military zone between Miswa settlement and a nearby Israeli army base, where they had set up a temporary base.
The Palestinian farmers and their tractors were forcibly escorted to the temporary military base in the closed military zone. There they were kept under the surveillance of Israeli soldiers, police, and a private military company. Approximately forty tractor owners were questioned, and their ID’s and vehicle ownership were checked. They were made to stand next to their tractors, after which soldiers photographed and filmed the men with their vehicles. All people were informed that their tractors would be confiscated if they proved unable to provide proof of ownership.
The forty farmers had to wait in the sun for up to 7 hours to find out the army’s decision on what would happen to their farming vehicles. At 3 pm four owners were ordered to drive their tractors into the military camp (next to Al Jiftlik), escorted by military police and police vehicles. When one of the farmers refused to do so he was arrested, but released several minutes later on the condition that he would drive his tractor to the camp anyway, which he did. The four tractors were confiscated and kept inside the military camp after the farmers brought them there.
Faris, one of the farmers who had to bring his tractor into the military camp, said his tractor cost him 40.000NIS; “all the money I collected from farming, I put into the tractor.” He also indicated that he will be unable to continue farming his land without having a tractor.
As Americans focus on March Madness and Dancing With the Stars instead of the radioactive plume spreading all across the country, the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is attempting to make the mainstream media cover up of the Fukushima cloud a bit easier.
The agency now notorious for its infamous claim that the air was safe to breathe after 9/11 is now seeking to raise the PAGs (Protective Action Guides) to levels vastly higher than those at which they are currently set allowing for more radioactive contamination of the environment and the general public in the event of a radioactive disaster.
PAGs are policies established by the EPA that guide the agency in enforcing the various environmental laws such as the Clean Air and Water Act in the invent of a radioactive emergency such as a nuclear/dirty bomb or factory meltdown like that occurring in Japan.
The EPA had already established PAGs in this area in 1992. They can be found here. However, the agency now plans to amend and revise these standards this year.
Because regulatory agencies form their own policies (although they can be directed by either the President or the Congress), there is no requirement to seek Congressional approval for these changes. All that is required is that the agency place the proposed changes in the Federal Register for public comment before it finalizes its draft into legal policy.
According to PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the new standards would drastically raise the levels of radiation allowed in food, water, air, and the general environment. PEER, a national organization of local, state, and federal employees who had access to internal EPA emails, claims that the new standards will result in a “nearly 1000-fold increase for exposure to strontium-90, a 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for exposure to iodine-131; and an almost 25,000 rise for exposure to radioactive nickel-63” in drinking water. This information, as well as the emails themselves were published by Collapsenet on March 24.
In addition to raising the level of permissible radiation in the environment, PEER suggests that the standards of cleanup after a radioactive emergency will actually be reduced. As a result, radioactive cleanup thresholds will be vastly lowered and, by default, permissible levels of radiation will be vastly increased in this manner as well.
As Michael Kane writes for Collapsenet, the current EPA numbers, as well as those generally agreed upon in the international radiation assessment community, all point to the fact that these increases in permissible levels would create a level of radiation where approximately 1 in 4 people would contract cancer from exposure to them.
The changes to the 1992 PAGs are not a new attempt by the EPA. The agency attempted similar changes in 2009 but the revisions were stopped largely by a barrage of FOIA requests and a lawsuit filed by PEER. However, in 2009 there was no massive radiation disaster the EPA needed to cover up as there is at the current time. In 2009, the EPA could afford to back off, regroup, and try again at a later date. Unfortunately, it is not likely to react the same way this time around.
As of the time of this writing, a toxic cloud of radiation has not only reached the US West Coast, but has spread all the way across the country to states like South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Massachussetts. Both the US government and the mainstream media have largely denied any risk associated with the radiation and have actively engaged in covering up the extent to which it has spread across the country.
In the event of any real journalism, the revelation of the danger and scale of the Japanese radiation cloud could be disastrous for those who hide the truth from the people who are sure to suffer the consequences. Indeed, the revelation that a toxic cloud of cancer-causing particles is littering the United States (especially in real time) might even be too much for the average television- and sports-obsessed American to handle.
However, the lowering of safety standards for radiation contamination would be a major victory for those wishing to cover it up. After all, the talking heads would then be able to claim that the radiation levels are within the safety range set by the EPA.
No cause for worry.
Regardless of the motivation behind these new changes, they must be actively opposed. We cannot allow the veil to be pulled even further over the eyes of the American people. At the very least, we cannot allow an agency charged with protecting both the environment and the people who live in it to set standards alleviating itself of that responsibility.
Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Mullins, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University where he earned the Pee Dee Electric Scholar’s Award as an undergraduate.
Living and Dying Downwind
When the dangerous dust and gases settle and we discover just how much radiation escaped the damaged Fukushima reactors and spent fuel rods, we may never know how many people are being exposed to radiation from the burning fuel rods and reactor cores, and how much exposure they will receive over time. Minute and above-background traces of Iodine-131 are already showing up in Tokyo’s water supply – 150 miles southwest of the leaking reactors – and in milk and spinach [with a dash of Cesium-137] from 75 miles away. The Japanese government has recently warned pregnant women and children to avoid drinking Tokyo tap water, and I-131 levels 1,200 times above background levels were recorded in seawater near the reactors.
Aside from sharing the dubious distinction of both nations having been at the receiving end of America’s nuclear weapons, Japan and the Marshall Islands now share another dubious distinction. The unleashed isotopes of concern from the damaged Japanese reactors – Iodine-131, Cesium-137, Strontium-90 and Plutonium-239 – are well known to the Marshall Islanders living downwind of the testing sites at Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the central Pacific, following sixty-seven A- and H-bombs exploded between 1946-58. In fact, it is precisely these isotopes that continue to haunt the 80,000 Marshallese fifty-three years after the last thermonuclear test in the megaton range shook their pristine coral atolls and contaminated their fragile marine ecosystems.
In fact, it was the irradiated downwind Marshallese on Rongelap and Utrik in 1954 caught in the Bravo fallout – and I-131 – that taught the world about the thyroid effect from the uptake of radioactive iodine.
The U.S.’ largest [fusion] hydrogen bomb – Bravo – was 1,000 times the Hiroshima atomic [fission] bomb, and deposited a liberal sprinkling of these and a potent potpourri of 300 other radionuclides over a wide swath of the Central Pacific and the inhabited atolls in the Marshalls archipelago in March 1954 during “Operation Castle.”
The Rongelap islanders 120 miles downwind from Bikini received 190 rems [1.9 Sv] of whole-body gamma dose before being evacuated. The Utrik people 320 miles downwind received 15 rems [150 mSv] before their evacuation. Many of the on-site nuclear workers at Fukushima have already exceeded the Utrik dose in multiples.
Also entrapped within the thermonuclear maelstrom from Bravo was the not-so-Lucky Dragon [Fukuryu Maru] Japanese fishing trawler with its crew of twenty-three fishing for tuna near Bikini [see The Voyage of the Lucky Dragon by Ralph Lapp]. As the heavily exposed fishermen’s health quickly deteriorated after Bravo, the radio operator Aikichi Kuboyama died of a liver illness six months after his exposure; his is now a household name in Japan and is associated with the “Bikini bomb.”
Meanwhile, the Japanese fishing industry was rocked when Geiger counters registered “talking fish” [what the Japanese called the clicking sound of the contaminated fish being monitored] from the 800 pounds of tuna catch of the Lucky Dragon in Yaizu and in local fish markets. Much of the Japanese tuna at the time was caught by a fleet of 1,000 fishing boats operating in the fertile tuna waters near the U.S.’ Pacific Proving Ground in the Marshalls.
In response to the plight and symbolism of the Lucky Dragon, Japanese women collected 34 million signatures on petitions advocating the immediate abolition of both atomic and hydrogen bombs in 1955. Pugwash, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning anti-nuclear organization was founded in 1955 by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in response to Bravo. The dangers of radioactive fallout from Bravo inspired Nevil Shute’s classic nuclear dystopia On the Beach, as well as Godzilla.
To quell the diplomatic furor – whereby the Japanese representative to the U.N. accused the U.S. in March 1954 of “once again using nuclear weapons against the Japanese people” – the U.S. paid two million dollars to the fishing company which owned the Lucky Dragon; each of the 23 fishermen ended up with the princely sum of $5,000 in 1956 and the tuna company kept the rest.
AEC chair Lewis Strauss (who originally proposed nuclear energy “too cheap to meter” in the post-War Atoms for Peace program) told President Eisenhower’s press secretary James Hagerty in April 1954 that the Lucky Dragon was not a fishing boat at all – it was a “Red spy outfit” snooping on the American nuclear tests.
The legacy of latent radiogenic diseases from hydrogen bomb testing in the Marshall Islands provides some clues about what ill-health mysteries await the affected Japanese in the decades ahead. Also, the Marshall Islands provide insight about ecosystem contamination of these dangerous radioactive isotopes, and what this means for the affected Japanese.
Profiles of the four isotopes
o Iodine-131 [radioactive iodine] has a half life of eight days, and concentrates in the thyroid gland about 5,000 times more efficiently than other parts of the body. Traces of I-131 have been discovered in Tokyo drinking water and in seawater offshore from the reactors. It took nine years for the first thyroid tumor to appear among the exposed Marshallese and hypothyroidism and cancer continued to appear decades later.
o Cesium-137 has a half life of thirty years and is a chemical analog of potassium; Cs-137 concentrates in muscle and other parts of the body. Rongelap Island has a new layer of topsoil containing potassium to help neutralize the Cs-137 left over from the H-bomb tests, but the Marshallese residents remain unconvinced and suspicious about the habitability of their long abandoned home atoll. Meanwhile, the U.S. is pressuring hard for their repatriation despite the fact that most islands at Rongelap will remain off limits for many decades with strict dietary restrictions of local foods.
o Strontium-90 has a half life of twenty-eight years, is a chemical analog of calcium and is known as a “bone seeker.” Rongelap and the other downwind atolls have residual Sr-90 in their soils, groundwater and marine ecosystems.
o Plutonium-239 has a half life of 24,000 years, is considered one of the most toxic substances on Earth, and if absorbed is a potent alpha emitter that can induce cancer. This isotope too is found in the soils and groundwater of the downwind atolls from the Bikini and Enewetak H-bomb tests.
Lessons from the Marshall Islands
* It took nine years after exposure to the 1954 Bravo fallout for the first thyroid tumor and hypothyroidism to occur in an exposed Utrik woman from the I-131. Several more tumors [and other radiogenic disorders] among the exposed people appeared the following year and every year thereafter. The latency period for thyroid abnormalities and other radiogenic disorders [see below] endures for several decades.
* Because a child’s thyroid gland is much smaller than an adult’s thyroid, it receives a higher concentration of I-131 than an adult dose. Also, because a child’s thyroid gland is growing more quickly than an adult’s, it requires and absorbs more iodine [and I-131] than an adult thyroid gland. That is, the thyroid effect is age-related.
* Radioactive Iodine-129 with a half-life of 15 million years and a well-documented capacity to bioaccumulate in the foodchain, will also remain as a persistent problem for the affected Japanese.
* The Majuro-based Nuclear Claims Tribunal was established in 1988 to settle all past and future claims against the U.S. for health injury and property loss damages from the nuclear tests. As of 2006, the NCT had paid out $73 million [of the $91 million awarded] for 1,999 Marshallese claimants. There are thirty-six medical conditions that are presumed to be caused by the nuclear tests [http://www.nuclearclaimstribunal.com]. Eligibility for Marshallese citizens consists of having been in the Marshall Islands during the testing period [1946-58] and having at least one of the presumptive medical disorders.
* The sociocultural and psychological effects [e.g., PTSD] of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will be long-lasting, given the uncertainty surrounding the contamination of their prefecture and beyond. Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton eloquently detailed this uncertain future and fears about “invisible contamination” concerning the Hiroshima and Nagasaki “hibakusha” ["A-bomb survivors"] in his award-winning 1968 magnum opus Death in Life.
* Noted radiation experts John Gofman [co-discoverer of U-232 and U-233 and author of Radiation and Human Health], Karl Z. Morgan [a founder of health physics] and Edward Radford [Chair of the National Academy of Sciences' BEIR III committee and advisor to the Nuclear Claims Tribunal] stated that there is no threshold dose for low level ionizing radiation:
Any amount of ionizing radiation – which is cumulative – can pose a health threat for certain individuals, and especially those with compromised immune systems.
Glenn Alcalay is an adjunct professor of anthropology at Wm Paterson Univ. and Montclair State Univ. in New Jersey. Alcalay was a Peace Corps volunteer on Utrik Atoll in the Marshalls, speaks fluent Marshallese, and has conducted anthropological research re: reproductive abnormalities among the downwind islanders. He can be reached at: email@example.com
There is no safe dose of radiation.
We do not x-ray pregnant women.
Any detectable fallout can kill.
With erratic radiation spikes, major air and water emissions and at least three reactors and waste pools in serious danger at Fukushima, we must prepare for the worst.
When you hear the terms “safe” and “insignificant” in reference to radioactive fallout, ask yourself: “Safe for whom?” “Insignificant to which of us?”
Despite the corporate media, what has and will continue to come here from Fukushima is deadly to Americans. At very least it threatens countless embryos and fetuses in utero, the infants, the elderly, the unborn who will come to future mothers now being exposed. (http://nukefree.org/arnie-gundersen-radiation-dangers )
No matter how small the dose, the human egg in waiting, or embryo or fetus in utero, or newborn infant, or weakened elder, has no defense against even the tiniest radioactive assault.
Science has never found such a “safe” threshold, and never will.
In the 1950s Dr. Alice Stewart showed a definitive link between medical x-rays administered to pregnant women and the curse of childhood leukemia among their offspring.
After a fierce 30-year debate, the medical profession agreed. Today, administering an x-ray to a pregnant woman is universally understood to be a serious health hazard.
Those who pioneered the health physics profession—towering greats like Dr. Karl Z. Morgan and Dr. John Gofman—set a definitive, impenetrable standard. A safe dose of radiation does not exist. All doses, “insignificant” or otherwise, can harm the human organism.
That has been repeatedly shown in major studies—done most notably by Dr. ErnestSternglass, Jay Gould, Joe Mangano, Arnie Gundersen, Dr. Steven Wing (http://nukefree.org/tmia-bloomberg-dr-ed-lyman-developments-fukushima )and others—showing that among human populations near commercial reactors, infant death rates plummet once the reactors shut down.
In 1979, 32 years ago this March 28, the owners of Three Mile Island said therewas no meltdown, no serious radiation release and no need for evacuation.
All were lies.
To this day no one knows how much radiation was released or where it went or who it killed.
TMI’s owners ran ads dismissing the emissions as the equivalent of a single chest x-ray given to everyone within a ten mile radius.
But that included all the pregnant women.
Soon infant death rates soared in nearby Harrisburg. Some 2400 central Pennsylvania families sued based on the health impacts.
In 1980 I interviewed dozens of these people. Cancer, leukemia, birth defects, stillbirths, sterility, malformations, open lesions, hair loss, a metallic taste and much more were among the symptoms. (http://www.loran-history.info/health/Killing_Our_Own.pdf )
The death and mutation rate among farm and wild animals was also thoroughly documented by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and a team of investigators from the Baltimore News-American.
We were again told there were “no health dangers” from radiation that hit California from Chernobyl ten days after that 1986 explosion. But bird births at the Point Reyes National Seashore quickly dropped 60% from the levels that had been carefully monitored and recorded through the previous decade.
The cloud then crossed the northern tier of the United States. Heightened radiation levels were found in milk in New England—as they were throughout Europe from clouds that had blown from Chernobyl in the other direction.
The doses were neither “insignificant” nor “safe” to those far or near.
In Russia ten years later, I interviewed dozens of downwind victims, and many of the 800,000 “liquidators” who ran into Chernobyl’s seething corpse to helpclean it up. After TMI, it was déjà vu all over again.
The most recently published findings, from a compendium of more than 5,000 studies, indicate a global Chernobyl death toll in excess of 985,000, and still counting. ( http://www.nukefree.org/node/1828 ).
Today we are assaulted by yet another radioactive death cloud from yet another “perfectly safe” nuclear plant.
Fukushima’s radiation is pouring into the air and water. The operators have reported radiation levels a million times normal, then retracted the estimate to a “mere” 100,000. Workers are being exposed to doses that are certain to be lethal. At least three of the reactors, and one or more of the spent fuel pools, hover at the brink of catastrophe.
Fukushima’s radiation has now been detected in Los Angeles and Sacramento, and has blown east across North America. It has also been detected in Sweden, which means it’s blowing across Europe as well.
Radiation is not being released as a single puff. Rather it’s a steady stream that could yet turn into a tsunami.
Fukushima’s worst may be yet to come. Its collective emissions are virtually certain to exceed Chernobyl’s.
And yet we continue to hear smug, misinformed “experts,” TV meteorologists and industry talking heads saying these are “safe” doses.
The response of the Obama Administration has been beyond derelict. As the accident began, the President went on national television to assure us there was nothing to worry about, and that he would continue to demand $36 billion in loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants.
Since then, even as the Fukushima crisis mounts, President Obama has remained silent.
Millions of Americans have heard about potassium iodide (KI), which can be used block the uptake of radioactive iodine and perhaps protect the thyroid.
But KI can have potential medical side-effects for some individuals. And timing can be critical. To say the least, we need to know when the radioactive fallout is present.
Yet the administration has not provided us with a national supply of KI, or guidance for using it.
At very least we need reliable real-time mapping of the radioactive clouds as they cross the nation. Every American should be issued a mask, and sufficient KI pills with directions on how to use them, if necessary.
Above all, we need national leadership that puts the health of our people first and foremost.
Americans who are of reproductive age—and their unborn, our babies, the elderly, those of us who may be especially sensitive—we all deserve better.
As we have learned so tragically from Drs. Stewart, Morgan, Gofman and Sternglass, from Gundersen and Mangano and so many other researchers, from TMI and Chernobyl, and from the on-going operation of nuclear plants where infant death rates continue to be affected—a “perfectly safe” dose of radiation does not exist.
No truly informed or responsible scientist, medical doctor, health researcher, TV weatherman, bloviating “expert” or on-the scene reporter would ever tell you otherwise.
The prime minister of Japan has said that his government is “not in a position where we can be optimistic” about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Is there any logical conclusion to draw from that statement other than that a large chunk of Japan is going to be uninhabitable?
They’ve got four nuclear reactors right next to each other in various states of disaster and probably meltdown. Two more are damaged. The workers on site are exhausted, sick and dying. The ocean and air around the plant are highly radioactive. The surrounding farms are producing radioactive vegetables. The drinking water in Tokyo is radioactive. If the Fukushima reactors keep exploding and burning and blowing radiation into the reservoirs, how long before Tokyo becomes Jonestown with a population of 13,000,000?
Michio Kaku, the physicist and author, has suggested on CNN that the best option right now is entombment. There’s nothing to salvage, he said, so the Japanese government should get some shielded helicopters and dump sand, boric acid, dolomite and concrete on the reactors and bury them for eternity. This could be done in ten days, he said, if they just got the materials together, which they aren’t doing because the government is not facing the implications of its own declared lack of optimism.
I’m not a physicist, but entombment at Chernobyl was vastly more complicated than Kaku was able to discuss in the time limits of American television. The Chernobyl reactor had to be mostly neutralized before being permanently buried, which meant that 800,000 or so “liquidators” had to run into the plant, perform some menial task in the presence of boiling nuclear waste for a minute or two, and then run out. Most of them are now sick, dying or dead from radiation poisoning.
Perhaps burying Fukushima will be a simpler process, because of robots or other technological developments. Perhaps burying Fukushima will be a more complicated process, because it has a lot more waste lying around and four out-of-control reactors while Chernobyl had just one. I don’t know. Either way, there is a moral problem that needs to be discussed.
Who will be the liquidators?
Whether Japan needs a few hundred volunteers to shovel boric acid on burning plutonium, or whether Japan needs 800,000 draftees, as in the Soviet Union, somebody’s got to do it.
Michio Kaku suggested the Japanese military, presumably because they are available and can fly helicopters. One could also argue that soldiers are paid to risk their lives for their country, and Japan has never needed them more.
Lets think about this, I say. The Japanese military is constitutionally forbidden to make war on anyone, so they are probably the nicest military in the world. And like every other military, it is full of young men who aren’t paid much, who haven’t lived much, who haven’t even started their families yet. Most important, Japanese soldiers bear no moral responsibility at all for the problem. Why should they die to solve it?
If someone has to die an agonizing, terrifying, nauseating, blistering, stinking, metastasizing death, who should be first guy to run into the Fukushima reactors with a bucket of wet cement?
I nominate Jeffrey Immelt.
Immelt is chairman and CEO of General Electric. General Electric designed all six of the faulty Fukushima reactors. General Electric built three of them. General Electric claimed it was safe to build these reactors next to the ocean in an earthquake zone. General Electric built 23 reactors in the United States exactly like the ones melting down right now in Japan. General Electric has made colossal profits promoting nuclear power in Japan and around the world. Jeffrey Immelt made $15.2 million last year.
He makes the most money, it’s his company, and he tells everyone else what to do. At any time since taking over GE in 2000, he could have said, “Those plants are too dangerous. We sold them to Japan. We need to shut them down.” He didn’t do that. Hence the nuclear waste in Tokyo’s drinking water belongs to Jeffrey Immelt.
This is what Immelt says on the GE website: “I’m out talking about this company seven days a week, 24 hours a day, with nothing to hide. We’re a 130-year-old company that has a great record of high-quality leadership and a culture of integrity.”
That is the statement of a moral turd. A shameless, sociopathic, moral turd. GE ran the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, one of the most polluted places on the planet. GE has paved parking lots with nuclear waste. GE has released vast clouds of radiation on innocent, unwarned people in United States just to see what would happen. GE has done radiation experiments on the testes of prisoners without properly warning them. GE dumped 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River, making it poisonous for generations. GE has refused to clean up the PCBs in the Hudson and elsewhere. GE has lied repeatedly about the PCBs. GE is a serial polluter of ground water. GE takes enormous pride in paying no corporate taxes in the United States. GE has been fined many times for defrauding the the Defense Department. GE has been fined many times for design flaws and safety violations at its nuclear plants in the United States. GE has shipped most of its operations overseas so it can pay workers less and get fined less. GE owns a big chunk of NBC and MSNBC, which has been covering Japan less and less as the meltdown gets worse and worse. GE sees to it that all those NBC Dateline true crime documentaries don’t inform anyone about GE crimes. And last, but far from least, GE launched the political career of Ronald Reagan.
For all that, GE has been named “America’s Most Admired Company” in a poll conducted by Fortune magazine.
For all that, Jeffrey Immelt has been named Chairman of Obama’s Economic Advisory Panel.
For all that, I say give Jeffrey Immelt a one-way ticket to Fukushima and a bucket of wet cement. While he’s pouring it on the burning fuel rods, he can throw in his MBA from Harvard.
Then give another one-way ticket and bucket of wet cement to Jack Welch, who was head of GE from 1981 to 2000. He can toss his #1 best-selling autobiography, Jack: Straight from the Gut, onto the fuel rods as well.
Then the Japanese get to pick between their prime minister and the head of the Tokyo Electric Power Company. But GE should go first. It’s the honorable way. Harakiri for the 21st century.
The unsavory performer Gene Simmons has called artists boycotting Israel “fools.” (Vitoria Gasteiz)
Gene Simmons has been known for a lot of less-than-savory things. His long tongue is probably his most infamous, and yet few have said much about his big, bigoted, misogynist mouth. The Kiss front-man, who was born Chaim Witz near Haifa, recently opened that mouth to call artists boycotting Israel “fools.”
Simmons is currently in Israel to film scenes for his reality show, Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels. In an interview with the Associated Press, he gave some rather condescending advice to those same artists: “The countries they should be boycotting are the same countries [where] the populations are rebelling … People long to be free … And they sure as hell don’t want somebody who’s a ruler who hasn’t been elected by them” (“AP Interview: Kiss bassist Gene Simmons says boycotters of Israel are ‘fools’,” 22 March 2011).
For his own part, Simmons has been a long and vocal supporter of Israeli and American foreign policy. He loudly stumped for both the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and in 2006, as Israel bombed Lebanon, he sent messages of support to Israeli soldiers. And his supposed liberalism hasn’t prevented him from describing Islam as a “vile culture” to The Sydney Morning Herald in 2004.
Now he’s directed this same bile at some of music’s most legendary figures. The Pixies, Gil Scott-Heron, Carlos Santana and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters are only a few of the personalities who have lent their names to the cultural boycott over the past few years.
The call for an economic, academic and cultural boycott goes back to 2004, when groups, intellectuals and activists from within Palestine issued the call (“Call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel“). The past nine years have seen the call supported by a growing number of groups world-wide and since Israel’s lethal attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May 2010, the amount of cancelled gigs has greatly increased. Elvis Costello, who pulled out of two shows in Tel Aviv after the raid, explained his rationale on his website:
“One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament … Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent” (“It is After Considerable Contemplation …“).
Costello, along with many other artists like him, have been lambasted by countless voices both in the mainstream press and the world-wide blogosphere. Right-wing columnist and radio host Debbie Schlussel labeled him “scum,” and accused him of “appeasing” Hamas. Shuki Weiss, a high-profile Israeli concert promoter, called the boycott “cultural terrorism.” Indeed, Gene Simmons’ own words highlight the momentum that the cultural boycott of Israel has gained lately — and what a potential problem it’s become for Israel’s public image abroad.
Simmons is notably careful to put the whole question in terms of “freedom,” a rather oblique word that any politician is ready to trot out at a moment’s notice. The same interview notes that his own mother was a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, which once again pulls the whole conversation about Palestine and Israel away from the realities of colonialism and boils the conflict down to a matter of “Jew vs. Muslim.” It’s a mistaken notion that nonetheless seems to jive with Simmons’ own “clash of civilizations” worldview.
Of course, at least in the interview, there’s no mention of the boycott on its own terms, no mention of the one word that Israel and its backers fear: apartheid. After all, to do so might put Simmons on history’s bad side.
It’s a potent line to cross. Those who struggled against apartheid in South Africa no doubt remember the loud and proud role that music played. Artists United Against Apartheid, launched in 1985 by Little Steven Van Zandt, garnered support from countless musicians. Run-DMC, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Herbie Hancock, Joey Ramone, George Clinton, Peter Gabriel are just a few of the musicians who famously refused to play South Africa while apartheid remained intact.
Simmons wasn’t part of AUAA. But then, “integrity” has never been the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Kiss, a group who have eagerly lent their image to anything that will make them money — lunch-boxes, action figures, cartoons, soda commercials and credit cards have all been deemed worthy of the Kiss “brand,” but alas, not the struggle for human rights.
The real insult, however, comes in his insistence that artists should be boycotting the “countries [where] the populations are rebelling.” He conveniently skips over the fact that Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and most of the other Middle East dictatorships have survived through steadfast support from Israel and the US. An example of this would be one of the key demands being fought for by those still struggling in Egypt — opening the border with Gaza!
You have to hand it to him though; Simmons has impeccable timing. His comments and visit to Jerusalem come right as Israel has launched a spate of fresh bombings of Gaza. Simmons, it seems, may have front-row seats to a crime against humanity. No doubt these particular segments of Family Jewels are going to be particularly stomach-turning. But while he runs his mouth off to no end, the fact remains that a growing number of musicians have decided Israel deserves nothing but silence from them.
Alexander Billet is a music journalist and activist living in Chicago. He runs the website Rebel Frequencies (http://rebelfrequencies.blogspot.com), and is a columnist for SOCIARTS. He has also written for Z Magazine, PopMatters.com, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at rebelfrequencies A T gmail D O T com.
At 7:00 am on the morning of March 29th 2011 the Israeli military demolished the village of Amniyr , destroying seven tent dwellings and confiscating the remains. This is the second time in just over a month that the Israeli army has demolished the village. After the last demolition, villagers built new tent dwellings a few days later with the help of the Israeli human rights group Ta’ayush and the International Red Cross.
Five residents were transported to the hospital with injuries incurred when soldiers forcibly removed residents from their homes. One resident was injured by a blow to his had by the butt of a gun, and four required treatment for inhalation of teargas used by the soldiers.
Israel does not deny that the demolished homes are on private land owned by the village’s Palestinian residents. Israel simply prohibits the residents from constructing any dwellings, cisterns, or structures of any kind, essentially making it “illegal” for these villagers to live on their land.
Immediately after the demolitions were finished, villagers began to reconstruct what they could of the rubble. As residents started gathering stones from a demolished sheep pen, the sounds of an Israeli bulldozer could be heard across the valley as it continued to excavate new construction for the illegal Israeli settlement of Susiya.
Additional photos are available here.
“If Tunisia can move toward democracy, Algerians and Egyptians and even Libyans will wonder why they cannot. This kind of thing may catch on.” – Elliott Abrams, January 7, 2011
Degenerate globalist co-conspirator Elliot Abrams, has been consistently supporting the recent conflagration throughout the Arab world and is pushing for ever-expanding US meddling in the region. In his recent piece, featured in the Washington Post titled “Ridding Syria of a Despot,” he fleshes out what is a fairly predictable plan of action already taking shape against the Bush-era “Axis of Evil” member.
Elliot Abrams is a member of the corporate-financier Council on Foreign Relations, a Project for a New American Century signatory, and former deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush. He was convicted for his involvement in the Iran-Contra conspiracy and promptly pardoned by George Bush Sr. He would later go on to be implicated for his involvement in the 2002 Venezuela coup attempt against Hugo Chavez. His history of betraying and disgracing his country, and getting away with it, is probably why he feels perfectly comfortable making broad, sweeping threats toward entire nations today.
Elliot Abrams recently issued a personal threat to Libya’s Qadaffi and his intelligence chief, stating that they would both meet the “same fate as Saddam Hussein” if any American is attacked in the wake of increasing US threats and actions against Libya. He also had weighed in on Egypt in his piece “Less ‘Engagement,’ More Democracy” in the New York Times. In this piece he criticizes the current policy of engaging as equals with nations he deems as repressive regimes and calls for a revisit to George Bush’s “freedom agenda.” In other words – the export of “democracy” that has brought America the trillion dollar military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya at the cost of thousands of US soldiers’ lives and the lives of millions of foreigners killed, maimed, or displaced.
It should be no surprise then that Abrams, who has never shouldered a rifle for his nation himself, is more than eager to move on to Syria with a myriad of aggressive attacks on its sovereignty prepared and ready in hand.
Abrams calls on the White House and Congress to condemn Syria, in particular the Assad government. He suggests that Syria be immediately brought before the UN Security Council, who just recently finished extra-legally ordaining the war with Libya. The Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court are also mentioned as possible avenues to pressure Assad and the Syrian government.
Regarding the newly US-reordered Tunisia and Egypt, Abrams suggests they convene the Arab League and expell Syria as a member, as he claims they just did to Libya. Abrams’ suggestion echos fellow globalist policy wonk Kenneth Pollack’s proposal in his Brookings Institute report, “Bifurcating the Middle East.” Bifurcate, meaning to “divide,” indicates the classic gambit of divide and conquer is in play. Pollack, like Abrams, suggests that the “Arab street” after being “reformed” be rallied against states like Libya, Syria, and of course, Iran.
Abrams also suggests that Europe begin acting against Syria. Nicolas Sarkozy of France seems to have gotten the memo and is already making lofty threats toward Syria, including threats of military action, citing the ongoing atrocity in Libya as a stern warning for other Arab nations to consider. Sanctions are also being pushed by Abrams, but to what extent the Europeans are willing to carry them out remains to be seen.
Finally, Abrams suggests that the US pull its ambassador from Syria, reiterating his belief that it was a mistake in the first place to show this token sign of mutual respect for the sovereign nation. He concludes with a breathtakingly absurd display of patriotism and propaganda by stating, “Our principles alone should lead us to this position, but the memory of thousands of American soldiers killed in Iraq with the help of the Assad regime demands that we do all we can to help the Syrian people free themselves of that evil dictatorship.” And ‘help’ the US is doing, with the entire opposition being funded, defended, supported, and even partially based out of the United States and England.
Strange that Abrams has implicated Assad as complicit in killing US troops in Iraq, when Abrams himself and his “Neo-Con” cabal have hands-down done more to send US troops off to their needless deaths with their willful lying regarding WMD’s, than any Arab with a Kalashnikov. Also interesting, considering his statement, is Abrams’ support for the armed campaign in Libya, where the US is currently providing air support and arms for Al Qaeda linked rebels who themselves have sent fighters to Iraq to kill American troops, on record.
Of course, Abrams is writing for the impressionable readership of the Washington Post, so this blinding hypocrisy is most likely fodder strictly for the public’s consumption. However, sweeping aside the propaganda, we see a very real strategy already beginning to play out in regards to Syria. Let us remember that this is already a plan in motion, and recognize the surprise displayed by our feckless “leadership” as the poorly-feigned act that it is.
Upwards of 60 individuals were detained, in the village of Awarta on Tuesday, and were forced to give samples of their DNA. The incident follows the murder of 5 members of a family of settlers, in Itamar, near to the village.
The deputy mayor of the town, and two of his brothers were amongst those detained, during which the DNA samples were taken, and the interrogations were conducted. Some residents of the village have been released, but some remain in detention.
These events follow two periods of curfew imposed during the weeks after the murders, the first of which lasted 5 days. 40 residents have already been detained in the course of the Israeli military’s investigation prior to Tuesday.
Currently the State of Israel is imposing a gag order on the Israeli press, not allowing any information to be published other than that which is covered in the international press. Israel has yet to provide any evidence of Palestinian involvement, despite members of the Knesset denouncing the murders as an act of Palestinian terror.
News reports broke two weeks ago, that the murdered family had owed immigrant workers from Thailand the sum of NIS 10,000, and that, allegedly, the workers had threatened to kill the family if they did pay the debt.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Monday that reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas could spell the end of the so-called peace process, after an aide to Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinian president would be willing to give up U.S. aid if needed to secure unity with the rival faction, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.
“You can’t have peace with both Israel and Hamas,” Netanyahu said. “Choose peace with Israel.”
Abbas is making a heavy push for reconciliation with Hamas, and a senior adviser said Monday that he was prepared to give up hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid if that was what it takes to forge a Palestinian unity deal.
“Of course we need the American money. But if they use it as a way of pressuring us, we are ready to relinquish that aid,” said adviser Azzam Ahmed.
The Palestinian unity government is “isolated internationally” because of Hamas’ refusal to recognize the Zionist entity.
Abbas has offered to visit Gaza to lay the groundwork for national elections. Over the weekend, he met with local Hamas officials in the West Bank.
“The president is working hard in order to bring about a unified Palestinian territory before he goes to the UN,” Ahmed said.
“This visit should be for the sake of achieving progress on the ground and not only for photos and media coverage, said Mushir al Masri,” a Hamas spokesman in Gaza. “The problem is not in forming the government; it’s in reaching an agreement.”
The Palestinians receive more than $470 million a year in direct financial assistance from the U.S. The U.S. hasn’t said what it will do if Hamas returns to power in the West Bank, but it will likely cut off the funds unless Hamas agrees to renounce “violence” and recognize “Israel”. Hamas has given no indication it is prepared to do either, according to Haaretz.