On 29 March 2011, students at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, shut down the scheduled Board of Governors (BoG) meeting after the body refused to consider a motion calling for divestment of pension stock from four companies implicated in Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
The direct action was led by Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), and received the support and participation of 25 allied campus student groups, as well as faculty, staff and community members.
For more information on SAIA, please see: http://carleton.saia.ca
For more information on the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, please see: http://bdsmovement.net
Voiceover for this video was provided by the Five O’Clock Train, a radio program on CHUO 89.1 FM (Ottawa) hosted by Denis Rancourt. The full interview with SAIA members is provided here: http://trainradio.blogspot.com/2011/03/students-against-israeli-apartheid.html
Special thanks to Sigur Ros (http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/sigur-ros/id73720797) and David Rovics (http://itunes.apple.com/ca/artist/david-rovics/id15370164) for the music.
Special thanks as well to the Active Stills collective (ActiveStills.org) for photography from Palestine.
We are now on the brink of the mother of all meltdowns in more ways than one.
Last weekend, The Times quoted Alan Hansen, a nuclear engineer and executive vice president of Areva NC, a unit of Areva, a French group that supplied reactor fuel to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plan, who spoke before a private gathering at Stanford University. “Clearly,” he summarized, “we’re witnessing one of the greatest disasters in modern time.” What the on-going release of cancer-causing radioactive fragments means in terms of human health and the environment is only beginning to come to light.
It’s certainly not my expertise. What I do know is that, on top of the terrible calamities brought on by the tsunami and the scary portents of the radiation spewing into the air, the ocean, and into the ground surrounding Fukushima and beyond, we are facing an economic juggernaut that is likely to shatter the world’s fragile recovery. You don’t take out the world’s third biggest economy – until recently, the second — with no impact, despite the recent assurance by that reliable sage Timothy Geithner that the crisis in Japan would not hinder the U.S. recovery. (Meanwhile, Tim’s banking buddies are busy reviewing their clients’ exposure.)
Up until the last few days, media and stock market pundits continue to drool over the prospect of some $310 billion worth of new business anticipated to rebuild earthquake and tsunami-ravaged Japan. Newsweek featured an article by Bill Emmott, a former editor of The Economist, stating:
“Typically, if economic effects are measured simply by gross domestic product, natural disasters cause a short-term loss in output, thanks to the destruction of offices and factories and the disruption to transport links, but after just a few months they actually act like an economic stimulus package.”
Needless to say, these are far from typical times, and this is no typical disaster. Faced with the loss of a critical supply partner, many companies around the world are confronting a quite different reality. Japan is suffering huge shortages as production capacity shrivels and logistical issues mount–particularly in the are of transportation. The Financial Times reports that Japanese manufacturing activity plummeted to a two-year low in March, according to the Markit/JMMA purchasing managers’ index, which hit its worst low since its inception in 2001.
We’re not just talking about the now infamous Japan-made five components that go into the iPad 2 or the wafer material needed to manufacture semiconductor chips or the metallic paint needed to produce shiny red and black cars. I can attest that companies of all sizes find themselves in the same pickle, with normally efficient Japanese production and transportation chains hobbled by power interruptions, radiation fears, earthquake damage, and severe after-shocks. These days, many global shipping lines won’t even dock at Japan’s busiest ports, Tokyo and Yokohama, for fear of radioactive contamination. And that’s not just being paranoid. If their hulls pick up any radioactivity, they could be barred later from other ports, for example in the U.S.
Meanwhile, we’re scrambling here in the US. I can tell you first-hand, it’s not so easy to just trip over to Europe or China, and duplicate parts and processes proprietary to the secretive and justifiably possessive Japanese. It will take at least some months or more for global factories, big and small, that rely on their goods and expertise for even a small fraction of their processes to retool.
March’s U.S. employment numbers may look good to some, but wait until the impact of this economic tsunami starts to hit. Already, automakers as far afield as Louisiana, Mexico and Belgium are facing temporary shutdowns due to lack of parts. What happens when government treasuries already drained by the global banking industry have only empty hands to show the long-term and newly unemployed?
Worse, we face the specter of growing inflation as goods grow scarcer and the costs of developing alternative supply chains start to kick in. Semiconductor chip prices, which affect the price of everything from cars to iPods, already rose in March as a direct result of earthquake-induced scarcities, according to iSuppli Market Research. Compounding the problem, China is already resorting to price controls in a futile bid to quell its soaring inflation and, equally contrived, the U.S. Fed continues to pump cash and dump it into our non-performing banks.
Oh, and what about that big payday when we all get to rebuild the land of the rising sun? This goes way beyond scorched earth, people. Even if that private gathering of nuclear wonks at Stanford was wrong, and the environmental and health impacts in northern Japan prove to be negligible, there is still the question of how they are going to muster the moohlah for a vast reconstruction project. That’s on top of sharing the insurance burden of Fukushima with Tepco, the utility that owns the plant.
Newsweek’s Emmott is sanguine on this score: “Insurance pays for some of it, government spending and private investment the rest.” Already, the Japanese central bank offered a loan program worth $11.7 billion to financial institutions in the disaster area. But, bear in mind that the Japanese government has the highest debt of any developed country, running 200% of GDP.
Of course, Emmott has an answer for this too, suggesting the Japanese simply “borrow more” (sure ‘nuff) and impose a “special reconstruction tax”, assuming that the “Japanese people will be entirely prepared to make sacrifices and share the burdens”. Go tell that to the angry hoards gathering daily outside Tepco headquarters.
It’s possible the government will have to start cashing out their U.S. T-bills, which is a whole other story, since Japan and China have financed our government’s profligate ways for the past decade or so. One thing for sure is that foreign governments are not likely to rush into Japan with huge coffers of cash any time soon. The U.S. and European taxpayers are in no mood to spring for someone else’s Marshall Plan. And given their wretched history, China would be an unlikely savior for Japan, although strange things do happen.
To be fair, Emmott did get one thing right when he asserted, “The first, and most fundamental, lesson from other natural disasters is that the economy is the least important thing to worry about.” Under the circumstances, it’s not all that comforting a thought.
*The anonymous author is a journalist and businesswoman who lives in the Philadelphia area, who contributes occasionally to This Can’t Be Happening.
Measuring 7.1 (one or more other reports said 7.4), rocked northeast Japan, causing more damage and disruption to a devastated area. It cut electricity to four million homes, disrupted power at two nuclear facilities, and according to Kyodo News:
“Radioactive water spilled from pools holding spent nuclear fuel rods at the Onagawa power plant in Miyagi Prefecture,” according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA).
For up to 80 minutes, power was lost at Onagawa and the Higashidori nuclear facility. “A small amount of contaminated water spilled on the floor (inside) all three (Onagawa) reactors….In all, water spilled or leaked at eight sections of the plant,” also run by Tokyo Electric (TEPCO). In addition, blowout panels designed to control pressure were damaged in reactor number three’s turbine building, TEPCO saying a complete damage assessment was ongoing.
Moreover, a Rokkasho village (Aomori Prefecture) spent nuclear fuel disposal facility also lost power temporarily. The extent of nuclear facility damage is unknown, except for sketchy and unreliable official reports.
As always, they say damage, new or earlier, poses no dangers. Already, in fact, Fukushima caused potentially apocalyptic ones, covered up to conceal their gravity, extending far beyond Japan and the Pacific rim.
Other reports also downplay them, including from The New York Times and Al Jazeera, often indistinguishable from and as unreliable as BBC, headlining (on April 8) “Japan quake causes radioactive spill,” saying:
“A powerful earthquake in northeast Japan rocked a nuclear plant, causing a small amount of radioactive water to spill, but the operator said there was no immediate danger,” case closed.
On April 8, New York Times writers Hiroko Tabuchi and Andrew Pollack were just as deceptive, headlining, “Millions Without Power After Japan Aftershock,” saying:
TEPCO said “it had found no new damage (and no) increase in radiation levels” at any plant affected. Instead of explaining the situation’s gravity, the report merely said concerns “remain high.”
On the Progressive Radio News Hour’s April 7 broadcast, nuclear expert Karl Grossman discussed worrisome issues raised by his mentor, nuclear physicist Dr. Richard E. Webb, the world expert on nuclear plant explosions. In his work, writings and 1976 book titled, “The Accident Hazards of Nuclear Power Plants,” he explained the dangers, saying in his introduction:
“Nuclear power plants present a hazard to the health and safety of the public because they are subject to accident, such as an explosion, in which harmful substances called radioactivity could be released to the atmosphere as dust and expose a large population to lethal or injurious radiation.”
His main conclusion was that “the full accident hazard of each type nuclear power reactor has not been scientifically established, even for the most likely of serious accidents.”
Specifically, “the theory underlying the industry’s safety calculations has not been experimentally verified, nor are the necessary experiments planned….This shortcoming is one of the two chief concerns of this book.”
“The other, and more important, concern is that there are accident possibilities not considered for licensing which are more severe than the design basis accidents and that these have not even been theoretically investigated for the course they each could take….”
In other words, reactor containment systems aren’t designed for the worst potential accidents. As a result, each operating reactor anywhere “appears to have an enormous potential for public disaster.”
Thirty-five years later, little has changed. Many American reactors are as vulnerable as Fukushima’s, and no plans are in place to handle worst case scenarios, too potentially catastrophic to imagine but are very real, likely, and sooner or later, inevitable as long as nuclear plants keep operating.
Webb estimated the “theoretical magnitude of the worst consequences of the worst conceivable reactor accident,” a disturbing consideration but important. Moreover, he said it’s not as unlikely as might appear, given America’s passion with nuclear roulette – a ticking time bomb technology, accidents waiting to happen.
Widespread fallout depends on rainfall, he explained. Without it, contamination is better contained. Nonetheless, his worst possible accident scenario is as follows:
(1) a lethal radiation cloud a mile wide, extending 75 miles;
(2) evacuation or severely restrictive living conditions for an area the size of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio combined (120,000 square miles), lasting a year or longer; and
(3) severe long-term agricultural restrictions because of strontium 90 fallout over a land mass the size of half the land east of the Mississippi River (500,000 square miles), lasting one or more years, with dairy farming prohibited “for a very long time” over a 150,000 square mile area.
Other considerations involve genetic damage and LMFBR (Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor) accident consequences, especially for plutonium, the most toxic substance known by far. A millionth of a gram ingested can kill.
In addition, “the maximum distance downwind from a reactor accident” related to the above estimates is about 1,500 – 2,000 miles. “Hence, a nuclear reactor accident can affect distant communities as well as those nearby.”
Moreover, the above estimates aren’t maximum ones, as weather conditions can raise them. As a result, disaster levels depend on the amount of released radioactivity into the atmosphere “in the form of a very fine, light dust (particles one micron diameter in size) so that it can disperse over a wide area before fallout.”
Also, the higher the fuel temperature, the stronger the explosion and greater fractional radioactivity release in the form of a finer dust. Contingency plans don’t take these factors into consideration or the effects on food, water and human health.
On April 4, the web site eyreinternational.com quoted Webb’s analysis of a spent fuel rod accident, what occurred disastrously at Fukushima, saying:
“160,000 square miles (is) rendered uninhabitable (the size of California) by Cesium-137 alone; 338,000 acres of land ruined agriculturally because of Strontium-90 fallout; 200,000 square miles ruined by plutonium contamination alone – a lung cancer dust hazard.”
The site says after making these calculations, Webb concluded that radiation is much more harmful than he assumed, believing that within 48 hours of a major reactor accident, 30 – 100 million people potentially could be harmed by radioactive atmospheric, water and soil contamination. In other words, the most dire scenario is too frightening to imagine. Possibly it’s now unfolding in Japan, what the fullness of time will reveal.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
The people of Indian-administered Kashmir have gone on a complete shutdown strike in response to the killing of a Muslim cleric in the Himalayan valley.
The strike paralyzed much of the region as most shops, businesses, schools and offices in Srinagar and other major towns were closed on Saturday, a Press TV correspondent reported.
The strikes are in protest at the killing of Muslim cleric Moulavi Shoukat Ahmad Shah on Friday. He was killed and several others were injured in a powerful explosion outside a mosque in Srinagar.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, a Pakistan-based Kashmir group has blamed it on “Indian agencies.”
The prominent leader was a well-known supporter of the separatist movement, which wants independence from India.
The region’s influential separatist politicians have described the killing as an “attack on the Kashmiri freedom movement.”
“It’s nothing but a conspiracy to deprive us of our religious and political leaders,” said a Muslim cleric and an influential moderate separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
“The killing has broken our back. We will expose those responsible,” said Yaseen Malik, head of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front.
Kashmiri protesters chanted anti-Indian slogans and threw stones during clashes with Indian troops in several towns across the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley over the past 24 hours. This comes as there have been almost daily demonstrations against Indian rule in the region since June 2010, when security forces killed a teenage protester.
Since then violent street protests and crackdowns have left more than 110 people dead.
Kashmir lies at the heart of more than 60 years of hostility between India and Pakistan. Both countries claim the region in full but have partial control over it.
Political analysts say the frequent street protests of the past two years are giving new life to the Kashmir liberation struggle.
New Delhi has been repeatedly criticized for resorting to force rather than finding a diplomatic solution to the dispute.
The conflict in Kashmir has left tens of thousands of people dead over the past two decades.
Who Profits from the Occupation | March 2011
Despite being part of the Zionist colonization project as early as the mid-nineteenth century, the Israeli wine industry as we know it today is a fairly new development and was only established in the 1980′s. Currently, the Israeli wine industry comprises six large wineries (Carmel, Barkan, Golan Heights, Teperberg 1870, Binyamina and Tishbi) and dozens of medium and small wineries, totaling over 150 wineries, and about 12,000 acres of vineyards.
This report provides detailed information about these wine producers and their connection to the settlement wine industry. Additionally, it includes a survey of almost all of the settlement wineries in the Golan Heights and in the West Bank.
While the wine industry is known for being very meticulous in providing information about the origin of grapes that are used in the production of wine, there are several methods which are used in the Israeli wine industry to conceal information concerning the use of grapes from settler vineyards in occupied territory. Investigating the connections of the Israeli wine industry to settler vineyards, we found that while grapes from the Golan Heights are used quite openly, the wineries that use grapes from West Bank vineyards most often use a myriad of methods to conceal their origins.
Our report describes some of these methods, from those used by government export agencies to those used by individual exporters. For instance, the Israeli export institution redraws the map of the wine regions of Israeli wine in a way that deliberately blurs the distinctions between areas inside the State of Israel and areas of occupied territory. Israeli manufacturers of wine conceal information concerning the exact location of the vineyards from which they receive the grapes, by using vague descriptions, by not providing full disclosure of the location of vineyards or by detailing vineyards in the West Bank only in their publications in Hebrew.
This report also provides a comprehensive portrayal of the incentives of the Israeli wine industry to cultivate grapes and to develop wineries in occupied territory. Our report has found that in addition to the benefits that all commercial activities in settlements enjoy, including readily accessible land, tax benefits and other financial incentives provided by the Israeli government, the wine industry in the West Bank enjoys particular benefits and support from several government offices.
For instance, Israelis who cultivate vineyards on occupied territory are allocated subsidized water quotas; they receive funds from the Ministry of Agriculture for planting and building agricultural facilities, from the Ministry of Defense for paving roads and for fencing in the plots and from the Ministry of Tourism for turning the vineyards and wineries into tourist attractions.
Developing vineyards and wineries provide additional advantages for settlers in the West Bank. Due to a combination of legal and physical conditions, the planting of vineyards is a relatively easy and highly accessible means for taking over Palestinian land. Additionally, settlers both in the West Bank and in the Golan Heights have found that the wine industry can be used in order to develop tourism to the settlements, for local and international visitors alike. Tourist attractions do not only serve as an additional source of income for the settlements, but, more importantly, they operate to normalize and promote the entire settlement enterprise.
The full report is available at: http://www.whoprofits.org/articlefiles/WhoProfits-IsraeliWines.pdf
Iraq’s influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has warned that resistance against US forces will increase if the occupiers fail to leave by their deadline at the end of 2011.
In a statement read at an anti-US demonstration in Baghdad on Saturday, Sadr said that Iraqis will “escalate military resistance” to the US occupation after the deadline, Reuters reported.
Some Iraqis held signs reading, “Occupiers Out” and “No to America,” while others burned US, Israeli and British flags.
“They, the Iraqi government, agreed with the occupiers that they would leave within months from this homeland, according to an unfair agreement that we did not and will never accept,” spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi read to tens of thousands of supporters.
“We wait for one thing, their full withdrawal from Iraq, and [the departure of] their last soldier and base from these holy and great lands,” he added.
The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between Baghdad and Washington in 2008 mandates the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by the end of 2011.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said Washington will keep its nearly fifty-thousand troops in Iraq if Baghdad asks for additional help. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, however, has rejected the offer.
Sadr, well-known for his anti-US stance, along with his political bloc has vehemently opposed the signing of the SOFA with the US, which extends the presence of US troops in Iraq.
Initially the pact was expected to be put to a nationwide vote. However, the Iraqi government, under US pressure, decided against the referendum.
At least two people have been killed and 18 others injured as thousands of Egyptians are calling for trial of ousted President Hosni Mubarak clashed with security forces in Cairo’s’ Liberation Square.
On Saturday, security forces faced off with Egyptian protesters, who converged onto the iconic square to ask for the immediate prosecution of Mubarak and his henchmen, AFP reported.
The protest turned violent as anti-riot police fired into the air, the report added.
The angry crowd on Saturday promised to remain relentless in the pursuit of their demands, including the social reforms and the prosecutions of former regime figures.
They also want the Egyptian army to hand over power to a civilian government as part of the promised reforms.
The protests come weeks after Mubarak handed over power to Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is headed by Defense Minister Gen. Mohammed Tantawi.
Activists demand the release of political prisoners, the lifting of a 30-year-old state of emergency and the disbandment of the military court.
The emergency law, in place since former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated and Mubarak assumed power, allows authorities unfettered power to arrest people without charge and ban protests.