Posts Tagged ‘United States’
Trying to wash away radioactive contamination on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan
A stunning new report indicates the U.S. Navy knew that sailors from the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan took major radiation hits from the Fukushima atomic power plant after its meltdowns and explosions nearly three years ago.
If true, the revelations cast new light on the $1 billion lawsuit filed by the sailors against Tokyo Electric Power. Many of the sailors are already suffering devastating health impacts, but are being stonewalled by Tepco and the Navy.
The Reagan had joined several other U.S. ships in Operation Tomodachi (“Friendship”) to aid victims of the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami. Photographic evidence and first-person testimony confirms that on March 12, 2011 the ship was within two miles of Fukushima Dai’ichi as the reactors there began to melt and explode.
In the midst of a snow storm, deck hands were enveloped in a warm cloud that came with a metallic taste. Sailors testify that the Reagan’s 5,500-member crew was told over the ship’s intercom to avoid drinking or bathing in desalinized water drawn from a radioactive sea. The huge carrier quickly ceased its humanitarian efforts and sailed 100 miles out to sea, where newly published internal Navy communications confirm it was still taking serious doses of radioactive fallout.
Scores of sailors from the Reagan and other ships stationed nearby now report a wide range of ailments reminiscent of those documented downwind from atomic bomb tests in the Pacific and Nevada, and at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. A similar metallic taste was described by pilots who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and by central Pennsylvanians downwind of Three Mile Island. Some parts of the atolls downwind from the South Pacific bomb tests remain uninhabitable six decades later.
Among the 81 plaintiffs in the federal class action are a sailor who was pregnant during the mission, and her “Baby A.G.,” born that October with multiple genetic mutations.
Officially, Tepco and the Navy say the dose levels were safe.
But a stunning new report by an American scholar based in Tokyo confirms that Naval officers communicated about what they knew to be the serious irradiation of the Reagan. Written by Kyle Cunningham and published in Japan Focus, “Mobilizing Nuclear Bias” describes the interplay between the U.S. and Japanese governments as Fukushima devolved into disaster.
Cunningham writes that transcribed conversations obtained through the Freedom of Information Act feature naval officials who acknowledge that even while 100 miles away from Fukushima, the Reagan’s readings “compared to just normal background [are] about 30 times what you would detect just on a normal air sample out to sea.”
On the nuclear-powered carrier “all of our continuous monitors alarmed at the same level, at this value. And then we took portable air samples on the flight deck and got the same value,” the transcript says.
RTFA. Lots to read. If you’re as cynical as I there will be no surprises. That doesn’t reduce the anger that swells in my heart, contempt for the tame military and civilian bureaucrats who ignore the criminal damage done to those who depended on them for safe guidance.
Their shame must lead to official and public condemnation – and sincere efforts to remedy the harm.
Once again, all eyes are on emerging markets. Long the darlings of the global growth sweepstakes, they are being battered in early 2014. Perceptions of resilience have given way to fears of vulnerability.
The US Federal Reserve’s tapering of its unprecedented liquidity injections has been an obvious and important trigger. Emerging economies that are overly dependent on global capital flows – particularly India, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, and Turkey – are finding it tougher to finance economic growth. But handwringing over China looms equally large. Long-standing concerns about the Chinese economy’s dreaded “hard landing” have intensified.
In the throes of crisis, generalization is the norm; in the end, however, it pays to differentiate. Unlike the deficit-prone emerging economies that are now in trouble – whose imbalances are strikingly reminiscent of those in the Asian economies that were hit by the late-1990’s financial crisis – China runs a current-account surplus. As a result, there is no risk of portfolio outflows resulting from the Fed’s tapering of its monthly asset purchases. And, of course, China’s outsize backstop of $3.8 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves provides ample insurance in the event of intensified financial contagion.
Yes, China’s economy is now slowing; but the significance of this is not well understood. The downturn has nothing to do with problems in other emerging economies; in fact, it is a welcome development…Yet a superficial fixation on China’s headline GDP growth persists, so that a 25% deceleration, to a 7-8% annual rate, is perceived as somehow heralding the end of the modern world’s greatest development story…
The Netherlands is No. 1 in the world for having the most plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable diet, beating France and Switzerland into second place. Chad is last in 125th spot behind Ethiopia and Angola, according to a new food database by worldwide development organization Oxfam.
European countries occupy the entire top 20 bar one – Australia ties in 8th place – while the US, Japan, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada all fall outside. African countries occupy the bottom 30 places in the table except for four – Laos, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India are there too.
Oxfam’s “Good Enough to Eat” index [.pdf] compares 125 countries where full data is available to create a snapshot of the different challenges people face in getting food. Oxfam’s GROW campaign is calling for urgent reform to the way food is produced and distributed around the world to end the scandal of one in eight people going hungry despite there being enough to feed everyone. The new index looks at whether people have enough to eat, food quality, affordability, and dietary health…
The countries whose citizens struggle for enough food, with the worst rates of malnourishment and underweight children, are Burundi, Yemen, Madagascar and India. On the other side of the table, Cambodia and Burundi are countries that score better by having among the lowest levels of obesity and diabetes in the world, while US, Mexico, Fiji, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia score most poorly with high rates of obesity and diabetes.
Iceland scores a perfect mark for the quality of its food, in terms of nutritional diversity and safe water. Iceland’s obesity and diabetes levels push it down the table, to 13th spot. Similarly, unhealthy eating pushes the US down to 21st place.
Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: “This index lays bare the common concerns that people have with food regardless of where they come from. It reveals how the world is failing to ensure that everyone is able to eat healthily, despite there being enough to go around.”
“Poverty and inequality are the real drivers of hunger. Hunger happens where governance is poor, distribution weak, when markets fail, and when people don’t have enough money and resources to buy all the goods and services they need,” she said. “Having sufficient healthy and affordable food is not something that much of the world enjoys.”
RTFA for a snapshot of the report and a modicum of detail. Go on to the .pdf report in depth on 125 countries.
The first thing that jumps out at me is the unity between a sound diet and exercise. The pairing that makes extra sense for health in the Netherlands – and probably the opposite for Iceland in my meager experience. A lot of exercise in Iceland is the same as Scotland, e.g. elbow-bending.
Fact remains, this sort of knowledge helps any of us at the individual level. You won’t be doing yourself any harm by comparing your own lifestyle with the models appropriate to the nations doing well. Especially if you fit the failed model of nations like the US.
Several new high-speed railway links in China are expected to start operations by the end of 2013, extending the network to over 12,000 kilometers, more than half of the world total…
It is the last link in the chain between the most dynamic cities and manufacturing centers in east and south China, with a population over 700 million, and almost as large as Europe…”Convenient transport will…strengthen the links between the economic engines,” said Long Guanghui, director of DTZ Shenzhen.
The “engines” Long refers to are the Yangtze Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the Western Taiwan Strait Economic Zone, which are connected by several high-speed rail links now, and may turn into a world-class urban belt on a par with the northeast coast of the United States, or the Seto Inland Sea of Japan, according to Chen Hongyu, counselor of Guangdong provincial government.
Other new high-speed rail lines which began services on Saturday include one in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, starting point of the ancient Silk Road, and another in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the bridgehead of China-ASEAN cooperation…
Huge shadow was cast in 2011 when a crash claimed 40 lives in east China. Since then, a series of corruption scandals have brought about the arrest of the former railways minister, Liu Zhijun, on charges of corruption and abuse of power…
“The former railways ministry was a mixture of administrative and commercial operations and a monopoly. It was a hotbed of corruption,” said Xiao Jun, a professor at Shenzhen University. “Besides investigating the accident and scandals, the government has taken action to solve institutional problems…”
Xiao Jun believes that what happened in the high-speed rail sector proves that fighting corruption will not hamper economic development…”On the contrary, it is the zero-tolerance of corruption and the improvement of systems that restored public confidence in the industry,” Xiao added.
He stressed that the world’s largest constructor and operator of high-speed rail must continuously eliminate institutional flaws, carry on the separation of government and enterprise, and enforce supervision of investment in the public sector.
It’s difficult for Western rail builders to compete when your country hasn’t suitable track or the inclination to build their own high speed rail system. France can compete – and does. The United States hasn’t a clue.
Yes, there are people in government, members of Congress who are fully aware of the benefits of high speed rail for transport as well as the commercial possibilities for domestic and mostly foreign consumption. They could probably carry enough votes to change the name of a railroad station somewhere on one of the coasts.
That’s it, folks.
WARNING: SOME IMAGES CONTAIN GRAPHIC CONTENT OR NUDITY In this showcase of some of Reuters’ most memorable photos, the photographers offer a behind the scenes account of the images that helped define the year. 93 PHOTOS
I’ve featured a few of these over the year. Here’s a link to all 93. So far, the Thomson Group’s purchase of the venerable news organization hasn’t screwed-up their reputation for news photos – gathering and distribution. I wish I could say the same about the quality and neutrality of the news articles.
Things looked as if there wouldn’t be any negative conservative changes – the neutral character of Reuters news gathering was, after all, part of the value of the company. To my mind, they’re on the way to doing the same crap that will diminish a wonderful history the same way Rupert Murdoch has crushed the WALL STREET JOURNAL.
Back to the point. A couple of samples of the photos:
A man runs up the “gostra”, a pole covered in grease, during the religious feast of St Julian
Members of the North Florida Survival Group wait with their rifles before heading out to perform enemy contact drills
The hand of a garment worker is seen among the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building…
US pregnancy rates continue to decline, with only 102 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 2009, a 12-year low.
According to the report released by the National Center for Health Statistics, a steady decline in pregnancy rates has been observed from 1990, when the rate was 116 per 1,000 women. The lowest pregnancy rate in the last 30 years was in 1997 when the rate was 101.6 per 1,000 women.
Since 1990, the rate of pregnancy has fallen for women in their 20s, the largest group of pregnant women, and teens, while the pregnancy rate among women over 30 has increased steadily with every passing year.
“What happened was a postponement of births among younger women with a longer time horizon,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. “Women over 30 couldn’t wait that much longer.”
According to Sally Curtin, one of the report’s authors, part of the drop can be attributed to fewer teenagers having sex, and greater contraceptive use among those who do have sex.
The birth rate for married women was higher than the rate for unmarried women, while the abortion rate for unmarried women was almost five times higher than the rate for married women.
The 2009 abortion rate among teenagers, around 16 percent, has dropped to less than half the rate in 1990, which was 40.3 percent.
The original detailed study is over here.
American neo-cons fear informed, educated decisions. So much of the economics and ideology they believe can’t stand any sort of thorough examination much less the test of time. Ideology intertwined with religious beliefs that haven’t strayed far from the 14th Century. They really fear American women making those decisions.
But, women with education and understanding of their reproductive rights, constitutionally-guaranteed equal opportunity, the same rights to a career, family and individual achievement – throughout the industrial world – women often opt first and foremost to limit the time and circumstances of their life dedicated to child-bearing, child-rearing.
Nothing new about that. Though soft-minded journalists – usually male – can waste reams of newsprint and electrons in wonderment. Self-concern, self-guidance, occurs to women as readily as it does to men. It’s only a dazzling new phenomenon in a society which has bumbled along for millennia guided by only half the population. The half that doesn’t get pregnant.
The US government has agreed to pay $50 million after it was said to have pirated “thousands” of copies of military software.
Apptricity, based in Texas, has provided logistics programs to the army since 2004…The company said it had discovered last year the software had been installed on many more machines than had been licensed.
The Department of Justice has not commented on the settlement.
The Dallas Morning News reported a DoJ spokeswoman had confirmed the agreement, but would not give more details.
Apptricity’s software allows the military to track the movements of soldiers as well as key supplies…
According to court documents filed in 2012, the deal with the military meant up to 500 named users could access the software.
Apptricity later estimated that 9,000 users were accessing the program, in addition to the 500 that had been paid for.
The unauthorised copying only came to light after a US Army official mentioned “thousands” of devices running the software during a presentation on technology.
Apptricity called for $224 million to be paid to cover costs…The settlement of $50 million falls some way short – but in a statement the company said Apptricity would spend the sum on expanding the company…
In recent years, the US government has stepped up efforts to combat piracy, announcing a wide-ranging strategy for clamping down in 2010.
“Piracy is theft, clean and simple,” remarked vice-president Joe Biden at the time.
Don’t you love it when the crooks don’t read the script. Like – if you’re an officer it somehow ain’t theft. The same holds true for the folks under your command.
The rest of us poor SOB’s not only get to pay retail – we pay the salaries of the brass hats who boosted the software.
British and U.S. intelligence officials say they are worried about a “doomsday” cache of highly classified, heavily encrypted material they believe former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has stored on a data cloud.
The cache contains documents generated by the NSA and other agencies and includes names of U.S. and allied intelligence personnel, seven current and former U.S. officials and other sources briefed on the matter said.
The data is protected with sophisticated encryption, and multiple passwords are needed to open it, said two of the sources, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
The passwords are in the possession of at least three different people and are valid for only a brief time window each day, they said. The identities of persons who might have the passwords are unknown…
One source described the cache of still unpublished material as Snowden’s “insurance policy” against arrest or physical harm.
U.S. officials and other sources said only a small proportion of the classified material Snowden downloaded during stints as a contract systems administrator for NSA has been made public. Some Obama Administration officials have said privately that Snowden downloaded enough material to fuel two more years of news stories.
“The worst is yet to come,” said one former U.S. official who follows the investigation closely.
Lots more in the article if you need to be updated on this part of the Snowden affair.
I have to laugh over the inevitably-unnamed American officials who qualify “truth” as the same as the “worst”.
William Burns, Wendy Sherman, Jake Sullivan – negotiators in secret
The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned.
The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West.
But the secrecy of the talks may also explain some of the tensions between the U.S. and France, which earlier this month balked at a proposed deal, and with Israel, which is furious about the agreement and has angrily denounced the diplomatic outreach to Tehran.
President Barack Obama personally authorized the talks as part of his effort – promised in his first inaugural address – to reach out to a country the State Department designates as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism.
The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.
The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran’s reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva among the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran…
The AP was tipped to the first U.S.-Iranian meeting in March shortly after it occurred, but the White House and State Department disputed elements of the account and the AP could not confirm the meeting. The AP learned of further indications of secret diplomacy in the fall and pressed the White House and other officials further. As the Geneva talks appeared to be reaching their conclusion, senior administration officials confirmed to the AP the details of the extensive outreach.
The Geneva deal provides Iran with about $7 billion in relief from international sanctions in exchange for Iranian curbs on uranium enrichment and other nuclear activity. All parties pledged to work toward a final accord next year that would remove remaining suspicions in the West that Tehran is trying to assemble an atomic weapons arsenal.
Iran insists its nuclear interest is only in peaceful energy production and medical research.
The diplomatic gamble with Iran, if the interim agreement holds up and leads to a final pact preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, could avert years of threats of U.S. or Israeli military intervention. It could also prove a turning point in decades of hostility between Washington and Tehran – and become a crowning foreign policy achievement of Obama’s presidency.
First off, RTFA for the details. The AP has done a professional job outlining the chronology of this comparatively recent – and successful – effort.
The rest of the world will keep the whole history of relations between Iran and the United States in mind even though the average American hasn’t a clue. A condition perpetuated by what passes for news in our media-as-entertainment only, history in our schools.
It starts with the United States, the CIA and Iranian royalists combining to crush the first democratically-elected government in Iran back in 1953. No one in Iran, no one in the Middle East forgets how American greed for oil trumped democracy with violence. No one in the world seriously believes the United States has abandoned the imperial premises that brought about that coup.
The possibility of the detente that started during the Clinton years continuing – were abruptly halted, intentionally or otherwise – by George W. Bush announcing to the world how he demanded the Iranian people vote in elections in 2005. Only an old-fashioned fool in the mold of Colonel Blimp would expect a nation to bow their heads and say, “Yes, boss” to such arrogance. And, so, the Iranian nation ended up with a fool in charge to match the clown in the White House.
We are fortunate that one of the few promises kept by Barack Obama since his election was the one made about negotiating with Iran. No less arrogant than George W, as dedicated as ever to the premises that keep a right-wing government in power in Israel, nevertheless, through the good graces of the Sultan of Oman – communications were continued and expanded until this important first step moved forward yesterday evening.
The usual shitheads are upset. From Lindsay Graham in South Carolina to Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, from Tea Party trollops to Chuck Shumer, the senator from Tel Aviv – right-wingers and liberals alike in their dedication to imperial greed from the United States and our client state in Israel are pissed off.
That is as it should be. Another sign of positive accomplishment.