Monthly Archives: March 2011

(eagainst) Japanese officials have conceded that the battle to salvage four crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant has been lost. The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco], said the reactors would be scrapped, and warned that the operation to contain the nuclear crisis, now well into its third week, could last months. Tepco’s announcement came as new readings showed a dramatic increase in radioactive contamination in the sea near the atomic complex. The firm’s chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, said it had “no choice” but to scrap the Nos 1-4 reactors, but held out hope that the remaining two could continue to operate. It is the first time the company has conceded that the at least part of the plant will have to be decommissioned. But the government’s chief spokesman, Yukio Edano, repeated an earlier call for all six reactors at the 40-year-old plant to be decommissioned. “It is very clear looking at the social circumstances,” he said.Tens of thousands of people living near the plants have been evacuated or ordered to stay indoors, while the plant has leaked radioactive materials in to the sea, soil and air.

On Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] suggested widening the 30-kilometre exclusion zone around the plant after finding that radiation levels at a village 40 kilometres from the plant exceeded the criteria for evacuation.”We have advised [Japanese officials] to carefully assess the situation, and they have indicated that it is already under assessment,” Denis Flory, a deputy director of the IAEA, said.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was due to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday to show support for the Fukushima operation and for talks with his Japanese counterpart, Naoto Kan. Sarkozy, the current G8 chair, is the first foreign leader to visit Japan since the 11 March earthquake and tsunami.

An emotional Kastumata apologised for the anxiety the crisis has caused.

We apologise for causing the public anxiety, worry and trouble due to the explosions at reactor buildings and the release of radioactive materials,” he told reports in Tokyo late on Wednesday. “Our greatest responsibility is to do everything to bring the current situation to an end and under control.

He said the “dire situation” at the plant was likely to continue for some time.The pressure to make progress also took its toll on Tepco’s chief executive, Masataka Shimizu, who is in hospital being treated for exhaustion.The country’s nuclear and industrial safety agency, Nisa, said on Thursday radioactive iodine at 4,385 times the legal limit had been identified in the sea near the plant, although officials have yet to determine how it got there. On Wednesday the measurement had been 3,355 times the legal limit.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nisa spokesman, said fishing had stopped in the area, adding that the contamination posed no immediate threat to humans. “We will find out how it happened and do our utmost to prevent it from rising,” he said.The government’s acceptance of help from the US and France has strengthened the belief that the battle to save the stricken reactors is lost.

On Tuesday, a US engineer who helped install reactors at the plant said he believed the radioactive core in unit 2 may have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor.While Nisa officials attempted to play down the contamination’s impact on marine life, any development that heightens health concerns among consumers will dismay local fishermen, many of whom already face a long struggle to rebuild their businesses after the 11 March earthquake and tsunami.

Experts say the radiation will be diluted by the sea, lessening the contamination of fish and other marine life. Robert Peter Gale, a US medical researcher who was brought in by Soviet authorities after the Chernobyl disaster, said recent higher readings of radioactive iodine-131 and caesium-137 should be of greater concern than reports earlier this week of tiny quantities of plutonium found in soil samples.But he added: “It’s obviously alarming when you talk about radiation, but if you have radiation in non-gas form I would say dump it in the ocean.”

Gale, who has been advising the Japanese government, said: “To some extent that’s why some nuclear power plants are built along the coast, to be in an area where the wind is blowing out to sea, and because the safest way to deposit radiation is in the ocean. The dilutional factor could not be better – there’s no better place. If you deposit it on earth or in places where people live there is no dilutional effect. From a safety point of view the ocean is the safest place.” Criticism of Tepco is building after safety lapses last week put three workers in hospital – all have been discharged – and erroneous reports of radiation data.

Shimizu, 66, has not been seen since appearing at a press conference on 13 March, two days after the disaster.

He had reportedly resumed control of the operation at the firm’s headquarters in Tokyo after suffering a minor illness, but on Tuesday he was admitted to hospital suffering from high blood pressure and dizziness. Tepco said on Wednesday that he was not expected to be absent for long. The hundreds of workers at the plant must now find a balance between pumping enough water to cool the reactors and avoiding a runoff of highly radioactive excess water. As yet they do not have anywhere to store the contaminated water.The options under consideration were to transfer the water to a ship or cover the reactors to trap radioactive particles, Edano said.

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( A motion passed by EuroAnarkismo conference which met in London (UK) in February 2011.

I. Analysis of the current situation

Already a few months ago, we were told about the end of the economic crisis. What happened in Greece was said to be only an unfortunate episode, soon to be overcome by the generosity of Greece’s European “partners”. But catastrophist announcements are falling like rain again all over Europe, and new recovery plans, by the EU or the IMF, are being prepared. Unsurprisingly, they are in fact austerity plans which unfortunately are very similar to the Structural Adjustment Programs imposed on some developing countries by the IMF in the 1980s and 1990s. For capitalists, the current situation of budget crisis is an opportunity to impose their neo-liberal agenda on the people, as was the case with the crisis in Argentina in 1998.

As a matter of fact, these austerity plans are not at all aimed at facilitating economic recovery, but quite the contrary. The way European leaders are dealing with the current crisis can only lead to entrapment in a vicious circle of recession: repeated austerity measures enforced in the different countries contribute to slowing down the economy a little more by creating an even stronger contraction of demand. Yet, in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, governments rather announced recovery plans based on a Keynesian approach quite distant from the neo- liberal orthodoxy which structures the economic convergence policy of the states of the Euro- zone through the Stability Pact (which imposes extremely strict budget austerity criteria: 3% of GDP for public deficit and 60% of GDP for public debt). Read More

( Writing in The American ConservativeWilliam Lind bemoans the tendency revealed by current upheavals in the Middle East. “[T]he worst possible outcome … is the disintegration of states and their replacement either by statelessness — as we see in Somalia — or by fictional states, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

But what’s so bad about that? Let’s look at a couple of Lind’s objections:

“Within the territories that were formerly real states,” he writes, “power devolves to many non-state entities.”

Color me clueless, but isn’t that exactly what “limited government conservatives” usually claim to be for?

Isn’t that, in point of fact, precisely the goal Lind himself pursued as Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation? That institution’s “Declaration of Cultural Independence” swears off state politics and commits its adherents to “the creation of a complete, alternate structure of parallel cultural institutions.” Moreover, those “parallel cultural institutions” are of a specifically “Judeo-Christian” variety. But these days Lind lists, among his fears, the possibility that power will devolve to “religions and sects.”

“Internally, war becomes a permanent condition,” he warns. To which I can only reply, “was it not ever so?” Hobbes’s “war of all against all,” if ever that war truly raged, didn’t end with Leviathan’s appearance on the scene. The modern state merely armed the political class at the expense of the productive class, then proceeded to systematize the slaughter and — with spectacular exceptions like Hitler’s Holocaust, Stalin’s reign of terror, Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Pol Pot’s “Killing Fields” — regulate its domestic intensity to a more bearable and sustainable level than that of all-out war between states.

It’s questionable, though, whether the “war of all against all” ever took place, at least at any thing like the level of horror Hobbes claimed. Lind invokes Somalia as a modern-day equivalent, but the most notable characteristic of Somalia is how peaceable the place is when foreign states and their domestic quislings aren’t trying to impose themselves in place of its loose non-state clan social structure.

The real nut of Lind’s objection to anarchy seems to be that “externally there is no one with whom other states can deal.” He treats this as a bug. I consider it a feature.

What kind of “dealing” takes place between states? The least onerous form of trade between states — the baseline — is a continuous barter, between their political classes, of wealth stolen from their productive classes.

From there, it only gets worse, up to all-out war that makes any conceivable stateless “war of all against all” look like a friendly game of flag football: Massive armies (cajoled or even conscripted from among the productive class, of course — if you’re looking for the political class, consult your directory of “undisclosed locations”) arrayed against each other, brandishing terrible weapons that only acolytes of the state could manage the psychosis necessary to imagine, or work up the hubris to invest the massive amounts of unearned wealth required to develop.

Do I really need a state to “deal” in my name? Here’s a little bit of that Judeo-Christian lingo for Lind:

“Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves …” (Isaiah 28:15)

That’s the bargain Lind proposes as a bulwark against good, clean anarchy. Thanks, but no thanks.


( On 25 March 2011, human rights defender Mr Liu Xianbin was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment by the Suining Intermediate People’s Court in Sichuan Province. Liu Xianbin is a veteran democracy and human rights activist who was a founding member of the Sichuan branch of the China Democracy Party (CDP) in 1998, and has previously served two terms in prison for his activism. He has been in detention since his arrest on 28 June 2010 (see Front Line Urgent Appeal dated 7 July 2011).

Further Information

Following a trial which lasted approximately two hours, Liu Xianbin was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power”, charges which relate to articles he wrote online and for overseas Chinese publications advocating democratic reforms. It is reported that one of the articles introduced as evidence against Liu Xianbin was a piece he had written in February 2010 arguing that non-violent street protests were a necessary and inevitable stage of democratisation. According to his wife, Ms Chen Mingxian, during the trial Liu Xianbin was refused permission to make a closing statement by the judge. His lawyer was also reportedly interrupted continuously by the presiding judge when trying to present a defence.

In 1991, Liu Xianbin was arrested and subsequently sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. On his release from prison, Liu Xianbin continued his activism and in 1998 he helped found a local branch of the CDP in Sichuan province. The following year he was convicted of ‘subversion of state power’ and sentenced to 13 years in prison and an additional three years’ deprivation of political rights.

Liu Xianbin was released in November 2008 and once again resumed his human rights defence. He was an initial signatory of Charter ’08 a month after his release from prison. He also wrote in support of fellow human rights defenders who had been imprisoned, including Mr Tan Zuoren, an activist jailed after documenting the poor construction of buildings which contributed to the death toll in China’s 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province.

Front Line believes that the sentencing of Liu Xianbin is directly related to his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.


( Springtime in the Arab world is looking bleaker now that despots in Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen and reactionary elements in Egypt have gained an upper hand against the pro-democracy protesters who have inspired the world. And the Internet, hailed sometimes in excess as a potent tool for these movements, has itself come under increasing fire from these and other autocratic states seeking to crush popular dissent.

In Libya, the Gaddafi regime plunged the nation into digital darkness during the first week of March, where it has remained. In Bahrain, the kingdom reacted swiftly to pro-democracy demonstrations by filtering sites that let locals share cell phone videos, blocking YouTube pages containing videos of street protests, and taking down a large Facebook group that called for more demonstrations. And even in Egypt, despite the departure of Mubarak, the interim military authority has taken a harsh stand against pro-democracy activists, while trying to stop the sharing of looted state security files, which reveal the extent to which the government uses the Web to spy on Egyptians.

These accounts of Internet abuse have not gone unnoticed. Less known, however, is the degree to which U.S. and European companies have enabled the crackdown.

Corporate Enablers

Egypt’s Internet crackdown appears to have been aided by Narus, a Boeing-owned surveillance technology provider that sold Telecom Egypt “real-time traffic intelligence” software that filters online communications and tracks them to their source.

Israeli security experts founded Narus to create and sell mass surveillance systems for governments and large corporate clients. It is known for creating NarusInsight, a supercomputer system that is allegedly being used by the National Security Agency and other entities to provide a “full network view” of suspected Internet communications as they happen.

Narus has also provided surveillance technology to Libya, according to James Bamford, author of 2008’s The Shadow Factory. In 2005, the company struck a multimillion-dollar agreement with Giza Systems of Egypt to license Narus’ Web-sleuthing products throughout the Middle East. Giza Systems services the Libyan network.

British-owned Vodafone shut down its Egypt-based cellphone network following a request from the Mubarak regime and then restored it only to send pro-Mubarak propaganda to text-messaging customers across the country. When digital rights groups like protested Vodafone’s actions, the company stated that it could do nothing to stop those texts, because it was forced to abide by the country’s emergency laws.

Bahrain reportedly filtered and blocked websites using “SmartFilter” software supplied by the U.S. company McAfee, which Intel acquired late last year. Despite widespread reports of its use, company executives claim that they have “no control over, or visibility into how an organization implements its own filtering policy.”

Cisco Systems, a leading manufacturer of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) systems , a content-filtering technology that allows network managers to inspect, track, and target content from users of the Internet and mobile phones, is a major partner in Bahrain. In 2009, the San Jose, California-based company joined with the kingdom to open an Internet Data Center in Bahrain’s capital “as an essential component in the drive to improve government services to the populace.”

The extent to which Cisco’s own DPI products are part of this deal remains to be seen. Executives at Cisco would not return our requests for comment on the nature of its involvement in Bahrain.

Nokia and Siemens also support Libya’s cell phone network.  A joint venture between these two firms was heavily criticized in 2009 for reportedly assisting the Iranian regime’s crackdown against cyber-dissidents. It’s difficult to know whether they assisted the Libyan government, since Nokia Siemens’ PR didn’t return our call, either.

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Traces of Radiation Detected in U.S. Rainwater (AP):

Trace amounts of radiation from damaged nuclear-power facilities in Japan have been detected in rainwater in the U.S., but pose no health risks, officials said.

Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Nevada and other Western states are among the states that have reported minuscule amounts of radiation.

Nuclear-plant operators Progress Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp. in North Carolina and South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. also said they have detected trace amounts of radiation.

Nuclear experts and health officials said there is no public-health risk. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said people are exposed to much more radiation on an international airline flight.

Progress Energy said it picked up low levels of iodine-131, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear fission, at its nuclear plant in South Carolina and a Florida plant.

Pennsylvania government officials said follow-up testing over the weekend showed normal levels of radioactivity in public-drinking water.

Gov. Tom Corbett said Monday the tests were performed after rainwater samples collected on Friday at the state’s nuclear-power plants registered very low concentrations of radiation, apparently from the Japanese nuclear plant damaged by an earthquake and tsunami.

Low-level radiation in Massachusetts rainwater (Reuters):

Trace amounts of radioactive iodine linked to Japan’s crippled nuclear power station have turned up in rainwater samples as far away as Massachusetts during the past week, state officials said on Sunday.

The low level of radioiodine-131 detected in precipitation at a sample location in Massachusetts is comparable to findings in California, Washington State and Pennsylvania and poses no threat to drinking water supplies, public health officials said.

Air samples from the same location in Massachusetts have shown no detectable radiation.

The samples are being collected from more than 100 sites around the country that are part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Radiation Network monitoring system.

“The drinking water supply in Massachusetts is unaffected by this short-term, slight elevation in radiation,” said Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach.

“We will carefully monitor the drinking water as we exercise an abundance of caution,” he said.

At concentrations found, the radioiodine-131 would likely become undetectable in a “relative short time,” according to a statement issued by agency.


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