Japanese electric utility admits to coverup during Fukushima nuclear meltdown

Warning sign on the road to Fukushima

The utility that ran the Fukushima nuclear plant acknowledged Tuesday its delayed disclosure of the meltdowns at three reactors was tantamount to a coverup and apologized for it.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) president Naomi Hirose’s apology followed the revelation last week that an investigation had found Hirose’s predecessor instructed officials during the 2011 disaster to avoid using the word “meltdown.”

I would say it was a coverup,” Hirose told a news conference. “It’s extremely regrettable.”…

And it only took five years and information released in an investigation to prompt a moment of honesty.

TEPCO instead described the reactors’ condition as less serious “core damage” for two months after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, wrecked the plant, even though utility officials knew and computer simulations suggested meltdowns had occurred.

An investigative report released last Thursday by three company-appointed lawyers said TEPCO’s then-President Masataka Shimizu instructed officials not to use the specific description under alleged pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, though the investigators found no proof of such pressure.

The report said TEPCO officials, who had suggested possible meltdowns, stopped using the description after March 14, 2011…Shimizu had a company official show Muto his memo and tell him the Prime Minister’s Office has banned the specific words.

Government officials also softened their language on the reactor conditions around the same time, the report said…Former officials at the Prime Minister’s Office have denied the allegation…

Deny, deny, deny. Political hacks, corporate hacks, still rely on the Big Lie to cover their tracks. If you do a crappy job at preserving the safety of ordinary citizens, you lie and deny – unless you can find someone else to blame.

Rooftop solar so popular in Western Australia power privatisation not an option

Western Australia would not be able to privatise its electricity assets “even if they gave it to them for nothing” because the popularity of rooftop solar panels has made state-owned power stations unprofitable, a renewable energy expert has said.

Prof Philip Jennings, a lecturer in energy and physics at Murdoch University, said the uptake of solar was a looming problem for the Barnett government, which has indicated it may consider privatising some or all of its energy assets after the 2017 state election.

An analysis of energy regulator data by Curtin University found that rooftop solar panels had the capacity to produce more electricity than any power station servicing the Perth grid.

WA’s electricity network is 66% over capacity, thanks in part to an unexpected increase in rooftop solar.

❝“Effectively we have built another very large power station on the rooftops of Perth, and that is what has thrown the government’s calculations out because they didn’t factor it into their calculations when they decided to go in and bring [coal-fired power stations] Muja A and B back online,” Jennings told Guardian Australia…

They are used intermittently at high-demand times.

The power stations, which Jennings described as “not particularly clean and not particularly efficient”, were tipped to be among the state assets up for sale in a bid by the treasurer, Mike Nahan, to curb WA’s credit rating.

But Jennings said unless the state’s energy profile changed, investors were unlikely to be interested in Muja or any other assets.

The cost of electricity in WA has increased 85% since 2008, and the number of houses with solar panels has increased by 40%.

“Every time they put up the tariff for coal-fired power in WA it just encourages people to put solar on their rooftops,” he said. “We’re not talking solar panels in Cottesloe [the beachfront inner-city suburb where the state premier, Colin Barnett, lives]. The general take-up rates are not in the wealthy suburbs, they are in the mortgage belt. People factor it into the cost of building a house.”

Backwards, greedy public utilities [is there any other kind] throughout the industrialized world face the same problem. Those with a significant number of politicians in their deep pockets try for the most egregious of solutions – for their balance sheet. They get the state to tax homeowners an exorbitant amount for the privilege of semi-independence from the “requirements” of the electric grid.

We face the same here in New Mexico even though solar power is a natural and the state engineer’s office determined decades ago we could be an electricity-exporting state on wind power alone. But, our utility is into coal – lousy quality coal at that – up to their conservative eyebrows.

Thanks, Honeyman

A chart putting mass incarceration in historical context


The US prison population has exploded over the past few decades, creating the modern era of mass incarceration. But what’s less well-known is that the current incarceration rate isn’t just higher than what came immediately before it — it’s drastically higher than at any other time in American history.

This chart is based on the number of people in state and federal prisons, per 100,000 adult US residents at the time. That’s one major way the incarceration rate was measured during the early 20th century. (Unfortunately, the government wasn’t as consistent in recording the jail population, so that’s not included here — but rest assured that there are a lot more people in jail than ever before, as well.)

Recently, the government has stopped reporting the incarceration rate this way: partly because it’s better at recording how many people are in jail, on probation, or on parole as well as in prison, but partly because the incarceration rate is so damn high that it’s better expressed as a percentage — X per 100 — than as X per 100,000. We calculated the prison rate in recent years by dividing the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ stats for state and federal prisoners by its estimate (and the Census Bureau’s) of adult US residents.

RTFA if you think the details are needed. The process, the politics that lead to this situation – the war on Drugs, the War on Non-White Citizens, all stink on ice.

Icelanders have a bigger heart than their government anticipated

A double rainbow at Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland

Thousands of Icelanders have called on their government to take in more Syrian refugees – with many offering to accomodate them in their own homes and give them language lessons.

Iceland, which has a population of just over 300,000, has currently capped the number of refugees it accepts at 50.

Author and professor Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir put out a call on Facebook on Sunday asking for Icelanders to speak out if they wanted the government to do more to help those fleeing Syria. More than 12,000 people have responded to her Facebook group “Syria is calling” to sign an open letter to their welfare minister, Eygló Harðar.

Speaking on Iceland’s RÚV television, Bjorgvinsdottir said her country’s attitude was being changed by the tragic news reports. “I think people have had enough of seeing news stories from the Mediterranean and refugee camps of dying people and they want something done now,” she said…

Many of those posting on the group have said they would offer up their homes and skills to help refugees integrate. “I have clothing, kitchenware, bed and a room in Hvanneyri [western Iceland], which I am happy to share with Syrians,” one wrote. “I would like to work as a volunteer to help welcome people and assist them with adapting to Icelandic society.”

“I want to help one displaced family have the chance to live the carefree life that I do,” another wrote. “We as a family are willing to provide the refugees with temporary housing near Egilsstaðir [eastern Iceland], clothing and other assistance. I am a teacher and I can help children with their learning.”…

The Facebook Syrian letter says it best: “Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, or soulmates, the drummer for the band of our children, our next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finished the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, the fireman, the computer genius, or the television host.”

Would your city, your state, your nation do the same? Ot would it build a wall?

Security breach exposes spy software used around the world

One of Hacking Team’s happy spy customers

A dramatic breach at an Italian surveillance company has laid bare the details of government cyberattacks worldwide, putting intelligence chiefs in the hot seat from Cyprus to South Korea. The massive leak has already led to one spymaster’s resignation and pulled back the curtain on espionage in the iPhone age.

More than 1 million emails released online in the wake of the July 5 breach show that the Milan-based company Hacking Team sold its spy software to the FBI and to Russian intelligence. It also worked with authoritarian governments in the Middle East and pitched to police departments in the American suburbs. It even tried to sell to the Vatican — all while devising a malicious Bible app to infect religiously minded targets

Hacking Team’s spyware was used by a total of 97 intelligence or investigative agencies in 35 countries, according to South Korean National Intelligence Service chief Lee Byoung Ho, who briefed lawmakers Tuesday after it became clear his organization used the technology…

Bills from Hacking Team to Sudan’s intelligence service and a Russian arms conglomerate have critics — including a European parliamentarian — asking whether the company flouted international sanctions. A client list that includes Uzbekistan, Egypt and Azerbaijan has reinforced worries from groups such as Privacy International that the spyware is being used to silence dissidents. And ‘we-love-your-stuff’ emails from sheriffs, police and prosecutors across the United States suggest local law enforcement is eager to give the program a test drive.

Hacking Team’s spyware is called Remote Control System and is delivered to targets through a mix of malicious links, poisoned documents and pornography, the emails show. Booby-trapped programs could be tailored to targets of any persuasion. Some messages appear to show Hacking Team working on apps named “Quran” and “DailyBible.”

Once secretly installed, the spyware acts as a track-anything surveillance tool…

Mexico is a particularly aggressive user of the technology, according to a leaked client list. In Ecuador, evidence that Hacking Team’s spyware was used by the country’s SENAIN spy agency has caused an uproar.

Senior police and intelligence figures have been quizzed about Hacking Team by lawmakers in Italy and the Czech Republic. Revelations that the Cyprus Intelligence Service has been secretly using the spyware prompted the resignation of the agency’s boss, Andreas Pentaras, over the weekend.

What you will see and hear from our “fair and balanced” TV talking heads is more of the fear and trembling about foreign powers hacking our government, corporate barons and maybe your grocery list. You will not be reminded of everyone from our federal government – down through governors and state police – to your friendly neighborhood sheriff snooping through your email and cellphone calls.

That would be way too courageous.

Colorado Republican says government is cooperating with demonic spirits

Republican nutball

Republican Colorado state Rep. Gordon James Klingenschmitt accused the U.S. government of cooperating with demonic spirits this week after the Supreme Court refused to overturn a ban on so-called “cures” for homosexuality…

On his Monday Pray in Jesus Name broadcast, Klingenschmitt argued that Christian psychotherapists had been stripped of their “free speech rights” because they could no longer use reparative therapy…to heal the homosexual of the sinful addiction,” Klingenschmitt explained. “And yet, there is a demonic spirit inside of the addict that is controlling their voluntary choices or, at least, has contracted with them and is manifesting through them in this sinful addiction.”

“What the lower court judges are doing is they are cooperating with the demonic spirit inside of the homosexual addict, and those judges are now reinforcing the sin,” he insisted. “That’s what these bad judges have done.”

Reflect for a moment on the number of Looney Tunes-voters who showed up to elect a nutball like this. Even in the sort of low turnout elections today’s make-believe Republicans plan for and plot to control – no different from Boss Tweed or Mayor Daley in their own corrupt histories..

Mexico — Evidence of the missing

memories of murder

The view from the hills around Iguala, Mexico, was stunning. But the more Christopher Gregory walked along the paths, the more his eye was drawn to the objects scattered along the way: scraps of clothing, beer bottles, trash. To him, these castoff items were possibly linked to the hundreds of people reported missing — presumably kidnapped, if not killed — by drug cartels that have long operated with impunity…

Little more than six months after 43 students were abducted and presumably killed in Iguala in Guerrero State, Mr. Gregory is wondering about all the other people who have vanished in that region. He had wanted to do a project on the missing students, but abruptly changed his mind when, during the early stages of the search, a mass grave was found with the remains of 28 people.

None of them were the students.

That became a flash point for him and Jeremy Relph, a writer with whom he had teamed up for the story. Once they got to Iguala, they discovered that disappearances had been going on for years, and on an alarming scale. While the government has put the tally of missing people in Guerrero State at about 120 from January to November of last year, local advocates working with families reported that some 400 people had been reported missing in Iguala alone in recent years.

“The photo is an evidentiary document,” he said. “There is no way to witness these kidnappings or document these violations of human rights, other than to point at the residue and try to have a conversation about what it means, how it looks like and how do we navigate these complex social and political issues, as well as the psychological issues. You can’t believe anybody or trust anybody in these areas because for all intents and purposes, they’re lawless.”

RTFA. Take a good look at what lawless means. You don’t need to go to the Arabian Peninsula or the Horn of Africa.

Banking security stronger — and scarier!

masked fraud

The caller said her home had burned down and her husband had been badly hurt in the blaze. On the telephone with her bank, she pleaded for a replacement credit card at her new address.

“We lost everything,” she said. “Can you send me a card to where we’re staying now?”

The card nearly was sent. But as the woman poured out her story, a computer compared the biometric features of her voice against a database of suspected fraudsters. Not only was the caller not the person she claimed to be, “she” wasn’t even a woman. The program identified the caller as a male impostor trying to steal the woman’s identity.

The conversation, a partial transcript of which was provided to The Associated Press by the anti-fraud company Verint Systems Inc., reflects the growing use of voice biometric technology to screen calls for signs of fraud.

Two major U.S. banks, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co., use voice screening, also known as voice biometric blacklists, according to three people familiar with the arrangements, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because the system was meant to remain secret…

A recent AP survey of 10 leading voice biometric vendors found that more than 65 million people worldwide have had their voiceprints taken, and that several banks, including Barclays PLC in Britain and Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, are in the process of introducing their customers to the technology.

Like that phrase? “Introducing their customers to the technology?” Asking the banks for more info gets answers like…”sharing any information about our fraud prevention measures would jeopardize their effectiveness”.

Neither Wells Fargo nor Chase responded to questions specifically addressing the legality of their voice harvesting.

Meanwhile, our state and federal elected officials have done nothing about implementing oversight or regulation of the uses of this technology.

The technology, of course, isn’t the villain in the piece. Products like this or any other aren’t inherently good or evil. The people using them determine the conditions for that value judgement.

Lindsay and Edward together in Moscow

The mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden’s long-time girlfriend is solved in a documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night: she has been living with the national security whistleblower in Russia since July.

The surprise revelation in the documentary, filmed by Laura Poitras, upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US.

Since Snowden, a former NSA contractor, outed himself last year as being behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history, Mills has remained silent, giving no interviews or any hints of her feelings on the subject of her boyfriend or his actions.

The two-hour long documentary, Citizenfour, shows Mills living in Russia with Snowden…

Citizenfour offers a fly-on-the wall account of Snowden. Poitras filmed him at the Mira hotel in Hong Kong last year during interviews with journalists that resulted in a series of stories in the Guardian about the extent of surveillance by the US and British intelligence agencies as well as the internet and telecom companies. The revelations started a worldwide debate about the balance between surveillance and privacy.

Poitras captures the tension in his room at the Mira – where then-Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and I interviewed him – and in his final minutes at the hotel before he fled after being tipped off that hordes of media were about to arrive. She also filmed at the Guardian in London ahead of publication of one of the most explosive of the stories arising from Snowden’s revelations, and in Moscow, where Snowden is now in exile.

Snowden has been reluctant to talk about his personal life, preferring the media focus to be on wider debate about surveillance rather than him. But Poitras’s portrayal is both personal and sympathetic.

In his first comment about the documentary, which Poitras had shown to him in advance, Snowden told the Guardian: “I hope people won’t see this as a story about heroism. It’s actually a story about what ordinary people can do in extraordinary circumstances.”

I wish more Americans had the courage of Edward Snowden. I’ve known a few, folks who became left-wing activists on behalf of civil rights, peace and national liberation BITD. Two in particular who worked for military intelligence, who left the military and returned to the United States to become active in very different ways. Like Snowden, revulsion at the lies and deceit of our government, our “leaders” patronizing attitude towards the American people, lies in support of an imperial foreign policy – turned them into activists against political corruption.

And Lindsay Mills – I know nothing more than what little I read in newspapers like the GUARDIAN. Most of what appears here in the States, from the TIMES to TV talking heads, you can presume to be crap, lies and more crap. Mostly motivated by dedication and subservience to the Washington establishment. I accept her private life with Edward Snowden as her own.

I accept their life together as a reflection of the proto-existential dicho, “what is done out of love takes place beyond good and evil”. Snowden, for love of his country and its Constitution. Mills, for love of her man.