Saturday, March 31, 2012

EPA Facing Reversals of Environmental Regulation Efforts, FDA Couldn't Care Less...

Judge Overrules EPA Denial of Mountaintop Removal Coal PermitBy Matt Bewig, AllGov
30 March 12

[Excerpted] "Despite a recent study showing that mountaintop removal coal mining - in which coal companies literally remove the tops of mountains, dump the tons of debris into nearby streams and then strip mine the underlying coal - causes children born nearby to suffer higher rates of birth defects, a federal district judge last week held that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could not revoke a permit for one such large project..."


"EPA backpedals on Fracking" Wall Street Journal March 31 2012 p. A3 by D. Gilbert & R. Gold

[Excerpt] "The EPA has dropped its claim that an energy company contaminated drinking water in Texas, the third time in recent months that the agency has backtracked on high-profile local allegations linking natural gas drilling and water pollution..."

Majia here: These articles are extremely disconcerting. The EPA would not have attempted to regulate mountain top mining and fracking if it did not have very good science backing its stated concerns.

These reversals indicate that the political pressure being brought to bear on the EPA far surpasses the agency's commitments to protect public health.

The Obama administration surely is responsible for allowing this to occur.

The final bit of news concerns the FDA, which has failed to protect the public health for decades.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the following: "U.S. Says Too Little Data to Ban Plastics Additive" March 31, 2012 p. A3

[Excerpt] "The Food and Drug Administration said Friday it lacks the scientific information to ban the chemical Bisphenol A from being used in food containers. The chemical, known as BPA, has been linked to possible health problems of the brain, breast and prostate..."

Majia here: This is ridiculous. There are countless scientific studies now that document the effects of BPA on the endocrine system. If you search BPA on my blog you will see how many times I've reported on BPA research. There is very conclusive research on this chemical.

The FDA is completely morally bankrupt.

Thankfully a number of companies have already phased BPA out of their products, including H. J. Heinz. Campbell Soup reports that it is currently phasing out the use of BPA and expects its soup to be BPA free by July 2013.

Sadly, these news articles illustrate how BROKEN our REGULATORY SYSTEM is...

Political appointees, Revolving doors, and Lobbying Pressures have corrupted the government agencies tasked with protecting human health.

US Approves 4 New Nuclear Reactors in South Carolina

As Fukushima Worsens, US Approves New NukesBy Common Dreams. March 31. 

The NRC has approved two new nuclear power plants in South Carolina. (photo: Dunya News)

Excerpt: "Despite reports this week that the Fukushima nuclear situation may be even worse than previously thought, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has given approval today for two combined licenses for two nuclear reactors in South Carolina, only the second time in the last three decades that new nuclear plants have been approved in the nation....

"The NRC's decision to approve the license passed by a 4-1 vote, with the lone dissent vote coming from NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko due to safety measures raised by the Fukushima disaster. Jaczko wrote in his dissent, "I continue to believe that we should require that all Fukushima-related safety enhancements are implemented before these new reactors begin operating....

Common Dreams references a number of related articles, including one by Amy Goodman on the Obama Administration's cozy relationship with nuclear

The Wall Street Journal has the same news, but more information on financing: "US Approves Nuclear Plants in South Caroline" 3/31/2012 p. B3.

The WSJ article does note that "Industry officials say these four new reactors are likely to be the last to move forward for some time owing to the low price of natural gas."

The WSJ article also explains that ownership of the reactors is 55% held by Scana (South Carolina Electric and Gas) and 45% by the state-owned utility of Santee Cooper.

Santee Cooper is use tax-exempt bonds to pay for its 45% of the project, meaning that the public will pick up this tab.

Already the project has had to add $138 million in added costs.

Scana has not yet secured adequate funding for its 55% share, but construction is already underway.

Washington's Blog Summary of Radiation Found in CA

California Slammed With Fukushima Radiation

Friday, March 30, 2012

High Levels of Cesium Found in Tanks at 18 Yokohama Schools

High levels of cesium found in tanks at 18 Yokohama schools
National Mar. 31, 2012 - 03:19AM JST

[excerpted] ..."According to the board, 44 schools in the city use rainwater for flushing toilets. The rainwater is first stored in underground tanks.

Between last November and December, the city checked the sludge in the underground tanks and found radioactive cesium measuring more than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram at 18 schools...

A junior high school in Tsurumi Ward measured 16,800 becquerels, which was the highest level of cesium found in the schools...."

Majia Here: I sure hope the water was used only for flushing toilets...

Japanese Government's Evacuation Standard is 20 Millisieverts a Year

from background radiation alone.

Source article:

Gov't to revise evacuation zones in 3 Fukushima municipalities

What are the implications of this ridiculously high levels for adults?
"For every 10 mSv of low-dose ionizing radiation, there was a 3% increase in the risk of age- and sex-adjusted cancer over a mean follow-up period of five years (hazard ratio 1.003 per milliSievert, 95% confidence interval 1.002–1.004)." 

Source: Cancer risk related to low-dose ionizing radiation from cardiac imaging in patients after acute myocardial infarction. By M J. Eisenberg, Jonathan A., P.  R. Lawler, M. Abrahamowicz , Hugues R., L. Pilote

Majia here: Japan Today is running essentially the same story:

Gov't eases limits in nuclear no-go zone for 1st time. By Mari Yamaguch

[excerpted] "A 20-kilometer zone around the plant has been off-limits to about 100,000 residents for more than a year because of radiation contamination. But the plant was declared stable in December, with leaks substantially subsiding, and that let officials focus on how to clean up the contamination and allow some people to return.
On Friday, the government said it was rearranging the evacuation zone based on three categories of contamination, rather than by distance... The change affects three of the 11 municipalities inside the former evacuation zone..."

Majia here: Notice that this article in Japan Today reinforces the "cold shutdown" mythos?

Surprisingly (given the perpetuation of the "cold shutdown" mythology), today's New York Times is reporting that the disaster could be "worse" than previously thought.

One had to wonder why this type of "worse" report is circulating, especially in the context of the article above that re-asserts the cold shutdown mythos?

Japan Nuclear Plant May Be Worse Off Than Thought
By HIROKO TABUCHI March 29, 2012

TOKYO — "The damage to one of three stricken reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant could be worse than previously thought, a recent internal investigation has shown, raising new concerns over the plant’s stability and complicating the post-disaster cleanup..."

Worsening Health Conditions in Japan

Financial Malfeasance

Three Major Banks Prepare for Possible Credit Downgrades

[excerpted] "Some of Wall Street’s biggest banks are bracing for fallout from a possible cut in their credit ratings.

Moody’s Investors Service, one of the two big ratings agencies, has said it will decide in mid-May whether to lower its ratings for 17 global financial companies. Morgan Stanley, which was hit hard in the financial crisis, appears to be the most vulnerable. Moody’s is threatening to cut the bank’s ratings by three notches, to a level that would be well below the rating of a rival like JPMorgan Chase.

Bank of America and Citigroup may also fall to the same level as Morgan Stanley, but those two are helped by having higher-rated subsidiaries...."

Majia Here: Matt Taibbi's new rant is instructive in relation to the NYT's coverage of Bank of America's potential credit downgrade:

Matt Taibbi: BofA: Raging Hurricane of Theft and FraudBy Matt Taibbi, Foreclose The Banks
29 March 12 

[Excerpted] "Here are two things every American needs to know about Bank of America.

The first is that it's corrupt. This bank has systematically defrauded almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, homeowners, shareholders, depositors, and the state. It is a giant, raging hurricane of theft and fraud, spinning its way through America and leaving a massive trail of wiped-out retirees and foreclosed-upon families in its wake.

The second is that all of us, as taxpayers, are keeping that hurricane raging. Bank of America is not just a private company that systematically steals from American citizens: it's a de facto ward of the state that depends heavily upon public support to stay in business. In fact, without the continued generosity of us taxpayers, and the extraordinary indulgence of our regulators and elected officials, this company long ago would have been swallowed up by scandal, mismanagement, prosecution and litigation, and gone out of business. It would have been liquidated and its component parts sold off, perhaps into a series of smaller regional businesses that would have more respect for the law, and be more responsive to their customers....

...The inevitable result of that new form of corruption is this bank, whose continued, state-supported existence should naturally outrage all Americans, be they conservative or progressive..."

Read Taibbi's entire rant. I love his work!

Wake Up Call: 1 in 88 Kids With Symptoms of Autism!

Washington Post: Federal study estimates 1 in 88 children has symptoms of autism

[excerpt]"The CDC study surveyed 14 states — including Maryland — for the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among 8-year-olds in 2008. The prevalence that year of 11.3 cases per 1,000 children was 23 percent higher than in 2006. It was 78 percent higher than in 2002, when the survey began. Autistic children received their diagnosis at age 4 on average — six months earlier than in 2006, but not early enough for optimal therapy, according to many experts.

The survey found large unexplained differences between sexes, among ethnic groups and in states."

Majia Here: I've written quite a bit about autism. My 2005 book on the subject is a comprehensive analysis of how autism emerged as a diagnostic category and how the disorder has been constructed in psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and genetics across the 20th century.

I think there is no doubt that part of the increase in autism diagnoses stems from changing understandings of childhood and the medicalization of perceived deviance.

However, that said I also believe that there is a REAL increase in autistic symptoms in children and that increase is a direct function of environmental factors.

For instance, the correlation between aging fathers and autism diagnoses can be explained by damage by ionizing radiation to germ cells.

Ionizing Radiation and Germ Cell Damage: Link to Autism?

Ionizing radiation could also cause autism through other pathways, explained here:

Furthermore, new research has demonstrated that living near a major road or freeway increases likelihood for an autism diagnosis

We also know that many common chemicals found in our everyday products are endocrine disruptors, which have the potential to cause birth defects:

BPA, Round-Up, and phthalates are endocrine disruptors: Round up and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark 

Research looking for the role of environment are finding clear evidence, as illustrated in this account of 2 studies emphasizing environmental contributions to autism


Landrigan, Philip J. What causes autism? Exploring the environmental contribution. Current Opinion in Pediatrics: 16 January 2010.
A review of the Landrigan's essay is available here by Steven Higgs:

Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto: Environmental Factors in Autism - Separating Evidence from Conjecture
Dr. Hertz-Picciotto was lead author on the paper, "Rise in Autism and the Role of Age at Diagnosis." The study found the seven- to eight-fold increase in the number of children born in California with autism since 1990 cannot be explained either by changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted. Published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology, results from the study suggest that research should shift from genetics to address the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely to be found at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California's children. A UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute researcher, Hertz-Picciotto concluded 'It's time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable.

What is the National Defense Authorization Bill Really About

Majia here: A group of activists comprised of both academics and journalists is combating the NDAA with a legal challenge. In the US, the law violates our First Amendment right. Below find a brief excerpt from an article on the legal challenge and an analysis of the cultural and economic factors that contributed to the production of this Constitutionally-violating bill.

Chomsky, Journalists Challenge US Terrorism LawBy Paul Harris, Guardian UK 30 March 12

[excerpt] "A group political activists and journalists has launched a legal challenge to stop an American law they say allows the US military to arrest civilians anywhere in the world and detain them without trial as accused supporters of terrorism.

The seven figures, who include ex-New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, professor Noam Chomsky and Icelandic politician and WikiLeaks campaigner Birgitta Jonsdottir, testified to a Manhattan judge that the law – dubbed the NDAA or Homeland Battlefield Bill – would cripple free speech around the world.

They said that various provisions written into the National Defense Authorization Bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama at the end of 2011, effectively broadened the definition of "supporter of terrorism" to include peaceful activists, authors, academics and even journalists interviewing members of radical groups."

Majia here: Strategic US policy makers have been anticipating civil unrest in the U.S. because of growing inequality, lack of economic opportunity (particularly for young people and returning veterans), and outright desperation among the poor.

Militarization of police and the curtailment of civil liberties - such as free speech - are designed to suppress "civil unrest," which has been defined broadly in relation to peaceful demonstrations (see the ACLU documented cited at the bottom of this post). 

US strategic documents anticipated unrest and outlined the conditions under which US military forces could be deployed on US soil

In what follows I provide some background, drawing upon my book Governing Childhood:

In November 2008 the Strategic Studies Institute issued a report titled “Known Unknowns: Uncoventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development” authored by Nathan Freier. The report summary explains its objectives to anticipate and develop contingency plans for unconventional “dangerous future shocks” that “manifest themselves in ways far outside established defense convention” (vii). Although most of the shocks are anticipated to be “nonmilitary in origin and character,” Department of Defense (DoD) planning is recommended. The types of shocks included in this planning document include the following:

Threats of context might include but are not limited to contagious un- and under-governance; civil violence; the swift catastrophic onset of consequential natural, environmental, and/or human disaster; a rapidly expanding and uncontrollable transregional epidemic; and the sudden crippling instability or collapse of a large and important state. Indeed, pushing at the boundaries of current convention, it would be prudent to add catastrophic dislocation inside the United States or homegrown domestic civil disorder and/or violence to this category as well. (p. 17)

The report explains that most of these “contextual threats” are the origins of shocks since they operate as triggers or catalysts. The DoD will be forced to “fundamentally reorient strategy, capabilities, investments, and concepts in response” (p. 18). Shocks emerging within or external to the U.S. would force the DoD “to radically re-role for domestic security, population control, consequence management, and stabilization” (p. 18).

Paths to domestic civil violence that would require the DoD to reorient priorities “to defend basic domestic order and human security” include deployment of “weapons of mass destruction, unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and economic order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency,” etc (p. 32). 

Civil violence might require the “use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States” (p. 33). Moreover, the DoD “would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance” (p. 33). In other words, the report outlines when and how the DoD would assume responsibility for direct domestic governance

The American Civil Liberties Union reports that DoD terrorism training materials currently employed describe public protests as “low level terrorism” (“ACLU Challenges”). Additionally, the Pentagon plans to have 20,000 uniformed trained troops inside the U.S. by 2011, purportedly to help state and local officials respond to a terrorist attack or some other domestic catastrophe (Hsu and Tyson A1). The Washington Post reports resistance to this plan:

Domestic emergency deployment may be "just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority," or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU's National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of "a creeping militarization" of homeland security. (Hsu and Tyson A1)

End of Excerpt

We saw the militiarization of domestic policing in the heavy-handed police response to Occupy activities, as illustrated in these 2 citations:

Images of Assaults Against Demonstrators

Raids on OWS coordinated with Obama’s FBI, Homeland Security & others 
Update: ‘Occupy’ crackdowns coordinated with federal law enforcement officials Minneapolis Top News ExaminerNovember 15, 2011
"Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict “Occupy” protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night’s move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.

"The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.

"According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present."

We see in this article above how local policing is being guided on how to crack down on dissent by federal agencies. 

The National Defense Authorization Bill provides government with a ready tool to crack down on internet and print activism. 

On the one hand, I think it unlikely that the bill will be used presently to crack down on activists for criticizing government policy; but, on the other hand, any future shock to the system that further exacerbates the growing economic and social tension may result in rapid escalation of government censorship and repression. 

The bill makes it possible for the government to take immediate action to detain without due process any party linked to civil unrest. Thus, the mere existence of this legislation is a threat to our Constitution and Republic. 

The extend and pretend policies that have been used to handle the last three major crises -- the financial crisis, the BP oil crisis, and the Fukushima crisis -- demonstrate rather conclusively that our society lacks the capacity to confront openly and directly major challenges. 

A governing logic of extend and pretend means that those who speak truth to power by declaring that the "Emperor has No Clothes" threaten the facade of normality and thus, are by definition, threats to "security."

Majia's book

ACLU. “ACLU Challenges Defense Department Personnel Policy To Regard Lawful Protests As ‘Low-Level Terrorism.’”ACLU. 10 June 2009. 24 June 2009

Freier, Nathan. “Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development.” Strategic Studies Institute November 2008. 12 December 2008

Hsu, Spencer S., and Ann S. Tyson. “Pentagon to Detail Troops to Bolster Domestic Security.” The Washington Post 1 December 2008: A1.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” U.S. Department of Homeland Security 7 April 2009. 3 May 2009

Thursday, March 29, 2012

We Must End Nuclear Brinksmanship

Common Dreams: For Nuclear Security Beyond Seoul, Eradicate Land-Based 'Doomsday' MissilesBy Daniel Ellsberg and David Krieger, 28 March 12

[excerpted] "Last month we were among 15 protesters who were arrested in the middle of the night at Vandenberg Air Force Base, some 70 miles north of Santa Barbara, Calif. We were protesting the imminent test flight of a Minuteman III inter-continental ballistic missile.

The Air Force rationale for doing these tests is to ensure the reliability of the US nuclear deterrent force; but launch-ready land-based nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are the opposite of a deterrent to attack. In fact, their very deployment has the potential to launch World War III and precipitate human extinction - as a result of a false alarm.

We're not exaggerating. Here's why: These nuclear missiles are first-strike weapons - most of them would not survive a nuclear attack. In the event of a warning of a Russian nuclear attack, there would be an incentive to launch all 450 of these Minuteman missiles before the incoming enemy warheads could destroy them in their silos.

If the warning turned out to be false (there have been many false warnings), and the US missiles were launched before the error was detected, World War III would be underway. The Russians have the same incentive to launch their land-based missiles upon warning of a perceived attack.

...This is because smoke from the enormous nuclear firestorms created by even a "successful" US nuclear first-strike would cause catastrophic disruption of global climate and massive destruction of the Earth's protective ozone layer, leading to global famine.

Recent peer-reviewed studies, done by atmospheric scientists Alan Robock (Rutgers), Brian Toon (University of Colorado-Boulder), Richard Turco (UCLA) and colleagues, predict that such an attack would create immense firestorms that would quickly surround the planet with a dense stratospheric smoke layer...."

Majia here: Think again, everyone who thought that nuclear brinksmanship ended with the Cold War.

Succeeding Where Bush Failed: The Obama Administration's Nuclear Weapon Surge. Counterpunch. By Darwin Bond-Graham

[excerpted] "Obama's first term will go down in history, however, as containing one of the single largest spending increases on nuclear weapons ever. His administration has worked vigorously to commit the nation to a multi-hundred-billion-dollar reinvestment in nuclear weapons, mapped out over the next three-plus decades.At the center of Obama's ambitious nuclear agenda is the expansion of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex via a multibillion-dollar construction program.

...Also, at the center of Obama's nuclear agenda is a commitment of tens of billions of dollars to designing and building the next generation of nuclear submarines, ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers. Stockpiled nuclear warheads will receive billions more in refurbishment and new components. All of this is now underway. Completion dates for various pieces of this puzzle span the next half-century. Finally, Obama's nuclear policies have been designed to leave the door open to new weapons at some future date..."

Majia here: Hence, the US has actually been building up, rather than down, its nuclear arsenal (especially under Obama)

China is serving as the primary adversary, at least the overt primary adversary, in this new cold war

and Japan seems happy to play also in this dirty game of death


Nuclear Power is Not Cost Effective

Japan today TEPCO asks for Y1 tril in public funds in exchange for giving gov't 51% control

[excerpted] "The operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant on Thursday asked the Japanese government for a capital injection of 1 trillion yen in a bid to avoid insolvency.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) officially requested the funds because it is in a “very serious financial condition,” President Toshio Nishizawa told a news conference.

The firm separately asked a state-backed entity for an additional 846 billion yen in financial aid to pay ballooning compensation bills to victims of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant after last year’s earthquake-tsunami disaster...."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Could Explosion Result from Gas Leak in North Sea Oil Rig?

Published on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 by Common Dreams: 'In the Realms of the Unknown': North Sea Gas Leak Enters Day 4

French gas giant dismissed concerns that the oil rig could explode  

[excerpted] "Four days into a gas leak which forced the evacuation of an oil rig in the North Sea, the French energy giant, Total, has said it "may be months" before the leak stops. The leak has led to, according to Reuters, a "cloud of explosive natural gas boiling up from the North Sea."

Hat tip Lloyd Marabet

Public Relations is Propaganda

I teach public relations so I know how it works.

One of the "Fathers" of public relations is Edward Bernays. 

The incredibly interesting video, "The Century of the Self" by Adam Curtis, explicates Bernay's role in "engineering consent" in the US in the first half of the 20th century.

We read Bernay's book, Propaganda, in the public relations class that I teach.

Here are a few excerpts from that book, Propaganda, written by Edward Bernays:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society”
“Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country”

“To avoid such confusion [of endless testing of options] society consents to have its choices narrowed to ideas and objects brought to its attention by propaganda of all kinds” p. 39

At a most basic level, Bernays defines propaganda as an “organized effort to spread a particular belief or doctrine” (48) / a “consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group

Bernays encouraged political leaders to promote the fear of communism in order to make the American public more malleable.

Propaganda has also been used to sell nuclear energy from the "Atoms for Peace" speech onward.

This week I've seen plenty of propaganda about nuclear energy.

In Bloomberg's BusinessWeek there is an advertisement for nuclear energy reading:

"Made in America: Nuclear Energy Produces Thousands of Jobs" with the catch phrase "Nuclear, Clean Air Energy"

Majia here: Nuclear energy may produce thousands of jobs, but the jobs it produces involved in building and running the plants are far fewer than the jobs it produces involved in treating cancer, birth defects, and circulatory diseases.

I also saw a Hitachi ad in the same issue of the BusinessWeek.

The Hitachi ad featured windmills, electric trains, a butterfly and a gleeful, running boy. The ad claims that the company "improves the environment...for future generations"

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Hitachi:
"GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is a provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services. It is located in Wilmington, N.C.. Established in June 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by General Electric and Hitachi. In Japan, the alliance is Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd.[1]

Hitachi would rather us forget that it is directly involved in nuclear.

Finally, I saw in Monday's Wall Street Journal (March 26 p. B5) a "special advertising section" that reads: 
"Korea 2012 Nuclear Security Summit: Nation's Latest Export: Nuclear Power Stations"

The text below states proudly that "South Korea is the fifth--and most recent--nation to become a nuclear power exporter, after Canada, France, Russia and the US. That status was won following 2009's mega-deal to supply four atomic power-stations, worth $18.6 billion, to the United Arab Emirates"

Together, this collection of advertisements constitute an impressive public relations assemblage.

American readers are encouraged to equate economic development [i.e., progress] with nuclear power in Taiwan.

They are encouraged to equate companies that build nuclear power plants with sustainability for future generations.

And they are encouraged to see nuclear energy as a source for job creation in the US.

All of these presumptions rest on erroneous assumptions about the net power gains (versus expenditures) involved in building, operating, maintaining, and decommissioning nuclear power plants.

Empirical analyses of the total costs, including decommissioning and health costs, of nuclear power establish that this power source is neither cost-effective, nor sustainable.

The only reason nuclear energy is profitable for the  producers is because nearly all of its costs have been externalized to various publics, including the health and environmental costs of mining, storing waste, decommissioning plants, and cleaning up mega-disasters such as Fukushima and Chernobyl.

The health costs of nuclear power are simply beyond calculation when one includes all of the lives ended prematurely.

Dr. Peter Bossew explains the false premises that nuclear power has been promoted upon in this lecture available online:

The True Price of Nuclear Power  The Economic, Environmental and Social Impacts of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Peter Bossew, Austria. Physicist, member of the Austrian Ecological Institute for Applied Environmental Research and the Institute for Gamma Ray Measurement, Vienna.

[excerpted] "Four theses are as follows:

            1) Nuclear power is more expensive than it is usually declared to be. And we can assume that it will become even more expensive due to the costs of the nuclear fuel cycle, for example, the costs of disposal which will continue to escalate as they have over the last decades.

            2) Atomic electricity, that is, electricity from nuclear power plants, is at least as expensive as the electricity from comparable sources of energy. For a long time, atomic power was supposedly preferable because it was not only cleaner, safer, etc., but also cheap. This is not true.

            3) In terms of environmental impact, it has often been claimed -- and it is still claimed -- that atomic power is the solution to the global warming problem, the green house effect. This is not true, it's wrong, it's ideology and propaganda. On the contrary, other sources of electricity are considerably more effective in reducing the green house effect.

            4) The most efficient method of supplying power, economically as well as ecologically, and in terms of social effects, is power that is not put to use, meaning an efficient power usage. 

Majia here: Dr. Bossew's lecture and numerous other analyses demonstrate empirically that nuclear power is not sustainable and not energy efficient.

Yet, propagandistic public relations messages by the nuclear industry strive to shape the public mind on this issue, even in the wake of the largest and unresolved industrial disaster ever (Fukushima).

Truth and fact are ignored or denied in this concerted propaganda campaign I've outlined above.

We are truly lost if the public mind is indeed as malleable as Bernays claims....

Washington Post: Japan has lots of plutonium on hand, little way to use it

By Chico Harlan, Published: March 27 The Washington Post SEOUL
[excerpt] — The plutonium Japan has stockpiled for decades was supposed to be a smart energy source for the resource-poor nation.

But last year’s earthquake-triggered nuclear accident, along with growing global anxiety about extremists gaining access to radioactive material, is turning a potential asset into a liability....

President Obama noted Monday that the “smallest amount of plutonium — about the size of an apple — could kill hundreds of thousands and spark a global crisis.

....Japan has more plutonium on its hands than any other non-weapons state, according to a 2011 report from the panel. Three-quarters of Japan’s plutonium is stored in other countries, but Japan holds nearly 10 tons, enough for more than 1,000 weapons, in various storage facilities and nuclear reactors across the country.”

Majia here: See my posts on plutonium

Data Analyses of Plutonium Transport from Fukushima

Plutonium from Fukushima Found in Lithuania

Plutonium: Not Our Friend

Article on Plutonium Transport

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Patenting Genes -- The Commercialization of Life

[excerpted] "The Supreme Court on Monday ordered an appeals court to reconsider its decision to uphold patents held by Myriad Genetics on two genes associated with a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer...."

Majia here: This is an important case because it addresses the issue of whether genes can be patented.

The law currently stipulates that products of nature cannot be patented.

However, universities and companies seeking to patent genes have in the past argued successfully to the courts that the process of sequencing a gene is distinct from the gene itself and that the sequencing is an artificially derived product that can be patented.

Below find an excerpt from my book Governmentalilty, Biopower, and Everyday Life in which I discuss patenting of genes. 

I argue critically that patenting life itself illustrates the commercialization of nearly all aspects of society under neoliberalism.

[excerpted from my book] Critics express concerns over the commercial patenting of the human genome. In 2005, The Wall Street Journal reported at least 18.5% of human genes were covered by U.S. patents (Westphal, 2005). 

Science Magazine concluded many patents were granted improperly and in “an overly broad manner” consequently limiting research on gene sequences by those other than the patent holder (Paradise, Andrews, & Holbrook, 2005, p. 1566). Critics fear commercial patenting will limit the scope of medical investigation to only those research trajectories promising significant financial returns.
Currently, utility patents are available for the following biotechnological innovations:
•    A process of genetically altering or otherwise inducing a single or multi-celled organism to:
o    Express an exogenous nucleotide sequence
o    Inhibit, eliminate, augment, or alter expression of an endogenous nucleotide sequence
o    Express a specific physiological characteristic not normally associated with that organism
•    Cell fusion procedures yielding a cell line that expresses a specific protein (e.g. monoclonal antibody)
•    A method of using a product produced by the above manipulations. (“What can be,” n.d.)
Plant patents can also be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces distinct and new varieties of plants. In September 2005, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a previous ruling that patents could not be granted on DNA strands binding genes whose functions are unknown (Kintisch, 2005). In a dissent, federal Judge Rader claimed the decision would harm support for early-stage research providing “a cognizable benefit for society” (cited in Kintisch, 2005, p. 1799).
Not surprisingly, the patenting of life forms, whether human, animal, or plant, DNA or RNA, produces considerable controversy. Are the basic elements and processes of life subject to capitalization? U.S. courts have ruled affirmatively. 

In 1976, the state of California’s Supreme Court concluded a cancer patient, Mr. Moore, had no control over a cell line called “MO” that had been removed from his spleen because products of nature are patentable once isolated to produce forms not found outside of laboratory conditions (Council for Responsible Genetics, 2000). The abstraction of the sequence in the form of “information” renders the process impersonal and almost “virtual,” and has the odd effect of depoliticizing the commoditization because of these characterizations.
The market potential of genetic innovations results in huge capital investments by for-profit corporations (mainly pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and genomic start-up firms) and by public universities seeking to subsidize their operations through government grants and private research funds. 

Justification for genetic capitalization comes in all forms. Pharmaceutical companies will develop drugs for previously untreatable diseases such as cancer. Biotechnology companies will genetically engineer bacteria capable of breaking down pollutants (Fialka, 2004). Economic security, national competitiveness, and health maximization are represented as contiguous terms in neoliberal formulations of health marketization....

...Genetic engineering, involving recombinant DNA and cloning, is employed to develop new forms of “biocapital,” as explicated recently by Kaushik Rajan (2006) in his genealogy of postgenomic bioengineering. Recombinant DNA has produced bioengineered agricultural crops such tomatoes, rice, and cotton. 

Opportunities for bio-capitalization today govern genetic engineering’s approach to studying human diseases, susceptibilities, and “traits.” Consequently, pharmaceutical applications dominate bioengineering agendas pursued by both biotech and pharmaceutical companies. As explained by Rajan, “upstream” research, which identifies lead compounds, is primarily pursued by biotech companies; while “downstream” research, which manufactures and markets therapeutic molecules, is primarily pursued by established pharmaceutical companies (p. 21).

Majia here again. In my essay "The Biopolitics and Bioeconomics of Autism" I address the problems stemming from patenting genes:

[excerpted] The search for gene alleles, SNPs, and mutations implicated in conferring risk for developing the constellation of symptoms described as autistic mesmerizes the market and the popular imagination. Many genomic researchers acknowledge the mediating role of (unknown) environmental “factors,” but are transfixed by the agentive power of gene alleles in shaping “autistic” outcomes. The discourse of the gene seduces, promising simultaneous cure and capitalization.
Autism susceptibility genes are biocapital. Once sequenced in the laboratory they can be patented. The World Intellectual Property Organization recognizes patents on at least two autism susceptibility genes (Application No. PCT/1B2005/002630 and Application No PCT/1B2005/002319). The U.S. Patent office has patented a method for screening genetic markers associated with autism (Application No. 95117 filed in 1998).
Patents dictate and restrict research trajectories. Patents on autism genes can be used to generate revenue streams. Autism is big business for bioengineering and pharmaceutical companies. Autism circulates in a growing bio-economy that is viewed as vital to re-establishing national economic competitiveness. 

Although geneticists studying autism formally acknowledge the role of environmental mediations, it is their ability to target susceptibility genes (over environmental contributions) that produces commercial revenue streams.
Marketization of autism seduces because it promises products, magical devices, for normalizing impaired children, while simultaneously stimulating economic development of the biotech sector. In effect, marketization of autism promises to reduce the economic burden of autism for the state as market forces are positioned as the agents for redressing autistic deficits. Furthermore, within neo-mercantile logics, the growths of industries that specialize in biocapital enhance national economic competitiveness. 

Additionally, by shifting our focus from environment to genes, the marketization of autism absolves the state of regulatory responsibility for monitoring and governing those diverse contaminants known also to confer risk and susceptibility to development disorders, such as lead, mercury, etc.

Shedding the Vestiges of Democracy

[Enenews]: Atlantic: Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor’s Anti-Nuclear Speech — “Seemed to suggest that the nuclear crisis is not over” — Left out of all major evening news programs (VIDEO)

The Enenews headline came from an Atlantic article: "Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor's Anti-Nuclear Speech"

[Majia here] One has to read the Atlantic article, but the main point is that the Emperor of Japan acknowledged in a specific passage of his public communication that the Fukushima plant crisis remains out of control and that the contaminated areas are too dangerous for people to inhabit safely.

This passage in the Emperor's speech was delivered in an indirect manner but, nonetheless, was censored by the Japanese media. 

The Atlantic article analyzes the speech's nuances. It was authored by a Japanese producer, film maker and media personality, Michael McAteer, who inhabits Japan and New York.

McAteer explains the significance of the Emperor's remarks in the context of the Japanese tradition of understatement and he stresses the cultural significance of media censorship of the Fukushima passage.

From McAteer's analysis we come to understand that Japan is in full lock-down mode.

So easily does Japan shed its vestiges of democracy?

Michael McAteer has written also on Japanese punk music's resistance to the Fukushima crisis.

I love punk, but this band about which McAteer writes, the Frying Dutchman, is something else; it is incredible! One must watch the video for at least 4 minutes.

Frying Dutchman's song "Human Error" is part philosophy, part theology, and part pure performance.

I think it offers many truths.

However, I diverge from the song's lyrics in that I don't think we fell from grace. 

I think Frying Dutchman has too much faith in our origins myths: I don't believe there ever was a Garden of Eden.

Rather, I contend that a (scaled down) garden of Eden is what we are promised if we can learn to live in harmony with one another and our environment.

So, we should not be looking backwards, but instead need to be looking forward at what we need to fix quickly before it is too late to ensure our long-term survival.

Unfortunately, the story of the censorship of the Japanese Emperor indicates that we are simply unable to confront openly the perils we have produced because our governments and powerful institutions are so corrupted by greed and self-serving ends.
The denial of truth about a disaster of Fukushima's scale produces a literal and figurative cancer at the heart of society because it is a lie that demands ceaseless others, and each one further destroys our semblances of democracy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Asahi: "Noda to put full weight behind campaign for Oi nuclear restart"

Mainichi: "Nuclear Industry Group Paid 7.9 Million Yen to 4 Scholars on Fukui Panel"

[excerpted] FUKUI -- "An Osaka-based nuclear power industry group with strong ties to Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) paid four members of a 12-member Fukui prefectural nuclear safety advisory panel a total of 7.9 million yen in contributions between fiscal 2006 and 2010, the Mainichi has learned...

The Kan Gen Kon [Osaka-based Kansai nuclear power council] says it is giving research grants to scholars who have made contributions to the promotion of nuclear power and the use of radiation and are conducting promising research. It added it is operating independently of KEPCO.... "

How science is bought through research grants...

Income Inequality Growing

The Rich Get Even Richer. The New York Times. By STEVEN RATTNER Published: March 25, 2012
[excerpt] "In 2010, as the nation continued to recover from the recession, a dizzying 93 percent of the additional income created in the country that year, compared to 2009 — $288 billion — went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with at least $352,000 in income. That delivered an average single-year pay increase of 11.6 percent to each of these households...."

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Affective at Low Doses

Scientists Warn of Low-Dose Risks of Chemical ExposureBy Elizabeth Grossman, Yale Environment 360 26 March 12

[paraphrasing] Chemicals studied include BPA; commonly used pesticides, including atrazine and chlorpyrifos; methyl paraben, a preservative used in cosmetics and personal care products; triclosan, antibacterial agent used in soaps and toothpaste; nonylphenol, a detergent ingredient; the flame retardant PBDE-99; perchlorate, a fuel compound; and dioxin, an industrial and incineration by-product; DDT, and PCBs.
[excerpted] "the ...research, based on a review of 800 scientific studies, concludes that it is "remarkably common" for very small amounts of hormone-disrupting chemicals to have profound, adverse effects on human health. Hormone- disrupting chemicals, the paper explains, challenge a fundamental tenet of toxicology - "the dose makes the poison" - which contends that the greater the dose, the greater the effect. Hormone-disrupting chemicals don't necessarily behave like this. Significant health effects, the researchers say, sometimes occur at low rather than high doses.

"Whether low doses of endocrine-disrupting compounds influence human disorders is no longer conjecture, as epidemiological studies show that environmental exposures are associated with human diseases and disabilities," the paper's authors write. The study, published in the journal Endocrine Reviews, maintains that the low-dose and special dose-response effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals means that "fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health..."

"...A key concept of the paper is that endocrine-disrupting chemicals are non-monotonic, meaning that the responses of animals or people to the chemicals do not necessarily intensify or diminish based on the dose..."

This important  study Hormones and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Low-Dose Effects and Nonmonotonic Dose Responses, by Vandenberg et al  can be found here at at the journal, Endocrine Reviews:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Radioactive Brocolli? Video Taken in Southern California

Hidden Tritium

Majia here

After corresponding with Ret Cap Clyde Stagner for over a year about radiation, we had the opportunity to meet last month. He and his wife are extremely scientifically minded and very well-educated. 

Their knowledge and expertise were simply extensive. I could have asked questions for hours because I was learning so much (my husband and sons concur).

Deep into retirement, Clyde has published yet another book. I sure hope I can publish such quality work in my retirement.

Here is the PREFACE and the outline (but not details) of the book.

Hidden Tritium by Clyde Stagner


Phoenix, AZ has a blanket of tritium hidden from view which reaches a multitude of residents.

Insidious, and manipulated by nature and unknowingly by humans, tritium, each half of which remains potentially abusive for 12.3 years. Tritium is a threat to human health wherever water is present.

During the years 1985 through 2010, the EPA periodically measured tritium in the rainfall descending on Phoenix and collected by the Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency, ARRA.

The monitored tritium concentrations were considered outside the realm of adverse human health effects.

Appendix A, of this publication, contains all known EPA tritium precipitation monitoring results for the years indicted. The EPA data, Appendix A, has been used to ascertain the presence and effects of tritium on the residents of Phoenix of which pregnant women, babies, and children are the most vulnerable

Since December 2011, there has been no known monitoring or reporting of tritium in the precipitation of Phoenix and its adjoined cities.


Outlines known facts about tritium as an isotope and its impacts on human health.

The chapter also addresses known research about leukemia and congenital aberrations causing stillbirths and infant deaths occurring in populations living near nuclear plants.

Tritium is a likely culprit for these problems because, as a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, it is very difficult to contain and nuclear plants release it (nearly continuously).

It is also a beta particle.

Its effects have been underestimated, and now researchers are beginning to recognize the dangers it poses for human health.


Outlines collected EPA data about specific types of radiation levels in Phoenix (including Uranium, Cesium, and Plutonium) and argues that radiation in Phoenix is being influenced by the local nuclear plant, Palo Verde.


Outlines EPA’s history of tritium monitoring and the exemption of Phoenix data.  [MAJIA HERE: NOT PRETTY!)


Outlines how tritium pervades local water and air and explains how it gets incorporated in the atmosphere of the home and the body.


Outlines spread of tritium into environment through precipitation, including uptake by plants.


Concludes that established laboratory research on the adverse health effects of tritium on cells warrants that the EPA establish extensive monitoring of tritium level exposures in AZ .

The same would be advised of other areas of the US that are located reactors.

Majia here: Clyde Stagner's book demonstrates that the EPA, for some reason, is failing to protect the public health despite the known pervasiveness and health risks of tritium.

Why is the EPA failing to take protective action now that we know so much about the health effects of various chemicals and radionuclides?

In its partial defense, please note that every time the EPA takes protective action, it gets sued by some industry coalition or some particularly powerful corporation