Category Archives: International

Fukushima: Six Years and Counting

March 11, 2017

On this, the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” have come no closer to locating molten fuel slugs and securing the environment from further contamination.

Secondary impacts from the disaster including economic strain, scandal; and social stresses, like bullying and prejudice directed at evacuees, have begun to reshape Japan’s legendary culture of unflappable civility. Evacuees feel they are being ‘forced’ to return to an unsafe environment. The underlying social contract that once saw Japan rise to a peak of prosperity in the world, has come undone.

Over the island nation, the specter of nuclear contamination hangs like a caul, lending an ominous tinge even to anticipation of the prestigious 2020 Olympics.

Meanwhile, more or less oblivious to the memory of the biggest industrial disaster in history and its ongoing legacy of deadly contamination still unfolding in Japan, the rest of the world has grown politically more perilous. Saber rattling has escalated to the point that represents the greatest threat of nuclear war since the 1960’s.

Hate-filled outlaw groups of every stripe exploit the recruiting potential of the world-wide web, plotting and planning to seize any opportunity that should present itself to rain terror on a hapless population.

A compulsive liar occupies the most powerful position on earth, as president of the United States.  He is juxtaposed by a xenophobic madman on the other side of the globe in North Korea.

Even without a resolution to the crisis at Fukushima, and having found no practical solution to the strategic and environmental threat of nuclear waste, the nuclear industry attempts to justify continued operation of nuclear reactors, making ill-supported promises that safer nuclear options are “just around the corner”…a corner that grows decades further away with each attempt.

With or without leadership from the U.S., the world will inevitably continue to evolve toward truly clean, truly safe energy production, just as surely as technology in other areas has leapfrogged forward across the globe.

The sooner that we leave the ill-conceived “Nuclear Age” behind us, the better it will be for the entire planet.

Just ask the survivors of Fukushima.

ACLU to Donald Trump: “I hope he enjoys losing…” (Updated)

[Update: Congressional Democrats’ reaction below, at end of diary.]

That’s the ACLU’s national political director Faiz Shakir speaking about his organization’s success at temporarily halting Trump’s immigration ban.

Here is ACLU’s Shakir comment in full“I hope Trump enjoys losing. He’s going to lose so much we’re going to get sick and tired of his losing,”

On his seventh full day in office (a Friday, also Holocaust remembrance day) Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting refugees and migrants entering the United States from seven mostly Muslim nations. Notably, none of these seven countries have business ties to Trump’s private businesses.trumpshortfinger

Quickly, it became clear how sweeping Trump’s directive was: […] administration officials confirmed that the sweeping order also targeted U.S. legal residents from the named countries — green-card holders — who were abroad when it was signed. Also subject to being barred entry into the United States are dual nationals, or people born in one of the seven countries who hold passports even from U.S. allies, such as the United Kingdom.

Spontaneous demonstrations against Trump’s Muslim ban at many U.S.International airports quickly started and grew in size over the day Saturday as confusion and fear mounted among immigrant travelers. At JFK more than a thousand people turned out to protest and Taxi drivers joined in, protesting the ban by refusing to take fares from the airport.

And finally, following a complaint filed by the ACLU in New York Federal Court against enforcement, a judge in Brooklyn granted a stay, temporarily halting the DHS from enforcing Trump’s immigration ban.

It was a first step, and more battles with the new administration will follow. But seven days in and it looks like the good guys gained a little — won one — against Trumpism.

UPDATE: Democrats react to Trump’s order-

By Sunday afternoon, nearly every congressional Democrat had condemned the executive order, including Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who faces a 2018 reelection campaign in a state Trump carried by 35 points. None defended it, but several remained silent. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, cautioned that Democrats can only do so much to try to stop Trump, given their diminished powers on Capitol Hill.

Donald Trump: Yes, to Beans, No to Don’s Johns

The Office of Governmental Ethics issued a general reminder to the incoming administration that government officials should refrain from endorsing any product, company or service days after Donald Trump tweeted we should go out and buy LL Bean products. Is it possible they have taken it to heart? Or is Team Donald simply picking winners and losers: ‘Yes’ to Beans and ‘No’ to Don’s Johns ?donaldsjohns

 

In an “unpresidented” move, the logo reading “Don’s Johns” (Motto: We’re #1 in #2 ) on almost three thousand portable toilets rented by the government for use along the National Maul during the inauguration are having their logos hidden from view with tape.

Don’s Johns has provided portable toilets for many large events in Washington, including the 2009 and 2013 inauguration ceremonies for President Barack Obama, Weghorst said. No logos were taped over during those events, he said. And here is Don’s Johns homepage  — he has testimonies and a blog … really!

The Washington Post reports the Architect of Capitol has come clean and is taking responsibility for ordering the cover-up, which, they say, will bring the toilets into compliance with previously ignored restrictions on Don’s Johns logo “advertizing”.

It could be sensitivity to the Ethics Office warning. Or perhaps someone in the Trump camp is hyper-sensitive after his rumored Russian hotel exploits to the possibility of  the logo Don’s Johns  being shown around the world and permanently associated with Donald’s Presidential inauguration ceremony. Always protect the TRUMP™ brand — keeping him #1.

Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and a popular idiom

The newspaper editor decided to devote more space to photographs of the disaster than to text, since a picture is worth a thousand words.

trumpboris

In the aftermath of the UK Brexit vote to leave the EU, Donald Trump promoted his Golf course in Scotland; he seemed stunningly unaware the Scots had voted against it and were furious with the result. “They took their country back …” he happily tweeted and later said it would be good for his businesses.

And Boris Johnson … well how about Boris Johnson? Well,that’s Johnson stuck,hanging on a zipline in 2012 when he was Mayor of London. He was celebrating Great Britain’s Olympic victories. The Guardian described the event:

But after a promising start gliding along happily waving his flags, he lost momentum and came to a halt, dangling over a crowd of people, for a long and somewhat awkward moment.

Trump’s blather sounds a little like the way Boris’ Brexit victory may be remembered: a long awkward moment until he falls.

Peter Galbraith: “Galbraith to enter Democratic Primary for Governor”

After weeks of hints and waiting, Peter Galbraith, yes Peter Galbraith will announce today that he,Peter Galbraith will enter the Democratic gubernatorial primary race.PGalbraith3

After extensive consultation with Peter Galbraith, Peter Galbraith has concluded the time is right to offer Peter Galbraith’s leadership to the state of Vermont. Peter Galbraith will be holding a news conference at the Vermont State House today.

Former Vermont Democratic State Senator Peter Galbraith has retained former Republican Roger Albee as Peter Galbraith’s campaign treasurer.

Neal Goswami of Vermont News Bureau tweeted that Peter Galbraith’s announcement was emailed to him by Ian Moskowitz who recently was political director for the New Hampshire Democratic Party and most recently emailed Peter Galbraith’s gubernatorial announcement email.

Peter Galbraith will be joining Sue Minter and Matt Dunne who entered the race prior to Peter Galbraith’s announcement later today.

Fukushima’s invisible victims

It’s been a while since we last discussed the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown.  That is not for lack of issues; it is primarily for lack of any meaningful progress in the ongoingdisaster.

We have just passed the fifth observance of the first catastrophic day, March 11, 2011 and pretty much all of nuclear safety expert Arnie Gundersen’s grim predictions of what we would learn in the aftermath have come to pass.

What Arnie could not have predicted iin 2011 is how unwilling both TEPCO and Japan’s government officials have been to learn from this disaster, and how persistent the effort would be to suppress important radiological and epidemiological information.

Without accountability, deaths of citizens who lived near the doomed reactors following the triple meltdown have simply been attributed to the stress of evacuation, and supposedly no one has been harmed by radiation.  In an unbelievable extrapolation of a convenient myth, there has been a major government effort, supported by the atomic power industry, to increase allowable levels of radiation exposure and dismiss the need for future costly evacuations as harmful and unnecessary.

It was only a little over a week ago, that anyone in an official position at TEPCO was finally held accountable under the law.   I find it unbelievable that only three individuals can be held responsible for the cascade of unaddressed design flaws, corruption, lax regulation, human error and human arrogance that all contributed to making a bad situation much, much worse.

Now we are learning of an even more egregious breach of the public trust and social justice at Fukushima.

Individuals who have exhibited symptoms of radiation poisoning and other illnesses are apparently being shunned by some of their neighbors and dismissed by the medical establishment without appropriate care and without acknowledgment in their medical records.

This mistreatment specific to radiation victims is apparently not without precedent in Japanese history.

On his current speaking tour of Japan, Arnie Gundersen has had the privilege of speaking with a small group of survivors of the 1945 bombing at Hiroshima who share a unique perspective on what may lie ahead for the people of Fukushima

Hiroshima survivor, Tomiko Matsumoto, 85, recalls being a schoolgirl following that inhuman bombing.  Of the 80 students at her school, only thirty survived the blast.  Tomiko could be said to have been one of the “lucky” ones, but mere survival is a pretty poor kind of ‘luck.’

Still traumatized by the mental and physical horrors of the blast experience, she recalls that there was no proper care provided for the injured who were regarded with suspicion and hostility by their neighbors and callous indifference or unfeeling curiosity by their occupiers, upon whom they depended for any care that they could get.

The discrimination must have been the hardest for a young girl with no surviving family to bear:

“I was shocked because I was discriminated against by Hiroshima people. We lived together in the same place and Hiroshima people know what happened but they discriminated against each other. ..I was shocked.”

“There were so many different kinds of discrimination. People said that girls who survived the bomb shouldn’t get married. Also they refused to hire the survivors, not only because of the scars, but because they were so weak. Survivors did not have 100 percent energy.”

“There was a survivor’s certificate and medical treatment was free. But the other people were jealous. Jealous people, mentally discriminated. So, I didn’t want to show the health book sometimes, so I paid. Some of the people, even though they had the health book, were afraid of discrimination, so they didn’t even apply for the health book. They thought discrimination was worse than paying for health care.”

The mistreatment and insensitivity experienced by survivors continued into Tomiko’s adulthood. She was the victim of employment discrimination and personal shame.

Though she was lucky enough to bear children, both of her daughters are sterile and one suffers from anemia. Doctors have dismissed the possibility that the family’s health issues might be linked to her exposure to radiation from the atomic bomb blast.

It may be precisely because of their uniquely traumatic history of nuclear attack that modern Japanese society is ill-prepared to challenge the current meme being promoted by TEPCO and the Abe government, that no one was harmed by the triple meltdown at Fukushima and there is no cause for concern about using atomic power as an energy source.

Having emerged from beneath the cloud of WWII, they want to view themselves  under the lens of success and progress, not to revisit the shameful legacy of nuclear radiation sickness that they had hoped to leave behind.

Sadly, neither TEPCO nor the Abe government and functionaries right down to the regional level can be trusted to reveal the truth about radiation from Fukushima Daiichi and how it’s shadow has now been irreversibly cast over the Prefecture, marring the future of Japan.

So survivors of Fukushima, like those of Hiroshima before them are left to face unfolding health issues and despair in the friendless vacuum of their own thoughts and care.

(I am pleased to be a non-technical member of the Fairewinds Energy Education crew, but my posts on GMD are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fairewinds.)

Syrian Refugees and Scar(e)city

I’ve had occasion to spend some time driving around the state for work and I’ve been listening to reports on VPR about Syrian refugees- and our politicians responding to the situation. It’s been a divisive issue, with a few leaders stepping up to welcome refugees- like Governor Shumlin and President Obama– and a few leaders fanning the flames of fear- like Sen. Lindsey Graham, Gov. Bobby Jindhal, and our own Vermont Republican gubernatorial candidates.

The UN estimates there are over 4 million refugees from the civil war in Syria. Most of them are in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. In recent months tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have left crowded camps in the region and struck out for Europe- often paying smugglers to guide them on dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean. Many have died just trying to make the trip.

So what is our response? Many politicians have engaged in disgusting pandering and fear-mongering- including gubernatorial candidates Bruce Lisman and Lt. Governor Phil Scott. I applaud Gov. Shumlin for his leadership on this issue, and I was glad to see Matt Dunne making a strong statement of support for Vermont hosting Syrian refugees.

“I would have hoped that Phil [Scott] would be someone who would not just fall in line with the right-wing Republicans in Congress.”- Matt Dunne

President Obama has been making the case for welcoming Syrian refugees to the United States, but he was defied by 47 Democrats in the House who sided with Republicans in an effort to halt refugee resettlement in the wake of the attacks in Paris last week. It turns out the “Syrian” in the group of attackers probably wasn’t Syrian at all and was in the possession of a forged passport.

Over the last few weeks in my church, our pastor has been talking about moving out of an attitude of Scar(e)city into an attitude of Abundance. Is it good for us to protect what we have at the expense of our neighbors? Are we really willing to reject our obligations to other human beings when we have been blessed with so much? I can’t imagine that our free society, with all of its diversity, could be diminished by including a few thousand people who are fleeing a war-ravaged land. With all of the abundance in the United States of America, and here in Vermont, can we really turn away these refugees with a clear conscience?

My answer is emphatically no. We’ll all benefit from having open doors and open hearts in a world that has seen so much violence. If we turn our backs on Syrian refugees, like we did so many Jewish refugees fleeing the rise of the Third Reich in the late 1930s, we sacrifice all of the moral high ground and good will that we so often claim in the world.

I hope compassion wins out, and that we do take in a good number of Syrians who want safety and freedom and have had to wait, fight and sometimes die to have a chance to get it. We have so much to be thankful for in America, and in Vermont. How dare we pretend to live in a world of scarcity when our freedom, compassion and opportunities are so abundant?

Thinking of you.

Lonely men with lonely eyes are seeking her in vain
Her streets are where they were, but there’s no sign of her

She has left the Seine

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,
I heard the laughter of her heart in every street cafe.

The last time I saw Paris, her trees were dressed for spring,
And lovers walked beneath those trees and birds found songs to sing.

I dodged the same old taxicabs that I had dodged for years.
The chorus of their squeaky horns was music to my ears.

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,
No matter how they change her, I’ll remember her that way.

I’ll think of happy hours, and people who shared them
Old women, selling flowers, in markets at dawn

Children who applauded, Punch and Judy in the park
And those who danced at night and kept our Paris bright

‘Til the town went dark.
-Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II