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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Amnesty International: Japan Minister Must Not Cave in to Pressure on Death Penalty, says Amnesty International

Japan Minister Must Not Cave in to Pressure on Death Penalty, says Amnesty International

WASHINGTON - October 28 - Japan’s justice minister should not sign execution warrants, Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network said today, following the minister’s announcement that he does not intend to end capital punishment, despite saying last month that he would not approve executions.

Justice Minister Hideo Hiraoka said Friday he would look at each death row case individually, after a prominent politician reportedly had encouraged him to exercise his power to authorize executions.

"After showing reluctance to sign execution warrants last month when he first took office, it is deeply alarming that Minister Hideo Hiraoka now seems to be under pressure to approve executions despite his own calls for caution," said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Asia and the Pacific. "The minister must stand by his original commitment which was to suspend executions until Japan’s application of the death penalty can be more carefully considered."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura reportedly encouraged Minister Hiraoka at a parliamentary committee on Wednesday to press ahead with executions.

The last executions in Japan were carried out on July 28, 2010, when Ogata Hidenori and Shinozawa Kazuo were hanged in the Tokyo detention center.

A study group on the death penalty was established by the former Minister of Justice Keiko Chiba in 2010. The study group is continuing to work under the current Minister, Hideo Hiraoka, who encouraged discussions on the subject both in public and within his ministry, taking into account international trends and opinions.

No date for its report has been announced.

There are currently 126 people on death row in Japan.

Executions in Japan are by hanging and are typically carried out in secret. Death row inmates are only notified on the morning of their execution and their families are usually informed only after the execution has taken place.

This means that death row prisoners live in constant fear of execution. Enduring these conditions for years or even decades has led to depression and mental illness among many death row inmates.

More than two thirds of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific, 17 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, nine are abolitionist in practice and one – Fiji – uses the death penalty only for exceptional military crimes.

This means that less than half of the countries in that region still use this ultimate and irreversible punishment. Of the G8 nations, only Japan and the United States still use capital punishment.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty as a violation of the right to life in all cases, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

"Japan should immediately commute all death sentences and introduce an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty," said Baber.

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yoshio Shimoji: U.S. violated human rights & property rights under int. law in seizure of Okinawan property for U.S. bases


(U.S. military bases located on property belonging to more than 40,000 Okinawan landowners)


In “Futenma: Tip of the Iceberg in Okinawa’s Agony," his latest article for The Asia-Pacific Journal, University of the Ryukyus Professor Emeritus Yoshio Shimoji focuses on the root of Okinawan resentment against U.S. military bases on their islands: The U.S. violated human rights and property rights under international law when the U.S. military seized Okinawan property by force to make way for U.S. bases.

Shimoji asserts: "...the U.S. military seized the land in clear violation of Article 46 of The Hague Convention, which states: 'Family honor and rights, the lives of persons, and private property, as well as religious convictions and practice, must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated.'

"There are presently more than 3,000 so-called “military base landowners” for Futenma Air Base alone and more than 40,000 for all bases and installations in Okinawa."

Shimoji details how U.S. bases in Okinawa were established by "land requisitions...executed at bayonet-point and by bulldozer, leveling houses and destroying farms in the face of protesting farmers, mothers, children and their supporters."
When they were finally freed and allowed to return home, they found that their villages and rich farmland had disappeared without a trace, incorporated within a vast air base. Reluctantly, they settled down outside the fenced-off compound in areas designated by the U.S. military as settlement areas with no regard to property rights of landowners.

Iha Yoichi, former Ginowan City Mayor and a native of Ginowan Village (now Ginowan City), writes in his book (Futenma Air Base is in Your Neighborhood — Let’s Remove It Together, p.15), that “when the war was over and people were allowed to go home, they found their villages had disappeared completely, the area transformed into a vast base.”
Shimoji's conclusion: "The U.S. violated international law when its military encroached upon private lands with impunity and built the base. On what legal and moral basis, then, can it demand its replacement?"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Homeless people in Tokyo's Shibuya district face eviction from communal kitchen/ resting area: Please voice your support by October 26th!



Dear Friends,

Homeless persons in Shibuya are faced with the threat of permanent eviction from the Tokyo Metropolitan Children's Hall. This is a highly valuable public space where persons on the street can stop and get some rest—a rarity in Shibuya's extremely urbanized landscape. Should this eviction take place, a "communal kitchen" run by and for homeless persons that has been operating since the 1990s would also be put to an end. In other words, homeless persons in Tokyo are now faced with the possible devastating loss of a space to rest, share information, and eat.

Over the years, the Children's Hall has served as a valuable base for Nojiren's communal kitchen, and as a sleeping space for countless persons. As a result, Nojiren would like to thank every single one of the 191 individuals and 61 organizations that signed on to our recent petition protesting the construction of an enclosure around the Tokyo Metropolitan Children's Hall.

On October 21st, Nojiren submitted our petition to the Tokyo Metropolitan Children's Hall and the Family Support Division of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Public Health, which administers Hall matters. As we stood along with 30 of our homeless friends from Shinjuku and Shibuya before the Metropolitan City Hall to speak with Division Head Kashiwabara, however, he unfortunately did nothing more than insist that "experts have assessed that the premises are dangerous, so construction will proceed as planned." We reminded him that only some parts of the building need repair, and since there is still time for adjustments, we urged him to change plans for construction in order to allow for continuation of the communal kitchen and Nojiren's encampment.

According to their plans, the enclosure will be built from June 26 through June 28. Since there is not much time left, we will be more vigilant than ever in keeping an eye on our encampment. You can help us protect our communal kitchen and the encampment by sending a message by October 26th to the metropolitan Family Support Division voicing your opposition to the eviction of homeless persons from the Children’s Hall (“Jido Kaikan”) in Shibuya. Contact information is as follows:

Email: koe@metro.tokyo.jp
Telephone: +81-3-5320-4032
Fax: +81-3-5388-1400

From Wednesday October 26 until Friday, October 28, Nojiren will be in Mitake Park (a 5-minute walk from Shibuya Station) monitoring our encampment as construction of the enclosure begins. Persons wishing to join should contact us at: 080-3127-0639 (Japanese only).

Donations may also be sent to: Japan Post Bank 00160-1-33429 {Nojiren}
Thank you very much for your continued support!!

Shibuya Free Association for the Right to Housing and Well-being of the HOMELESS (NOJIREN)
1-27-8 (202) Higashi
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
E-mail: nojiren@jca.apc.org
Fax: +81-3-3406-5254

Text of recently submitted petition:

(Addressed to the director of the Shibuya Children’s Hall and the head of the Family Support Division at the Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health)

In Shibuya lies the Tokyo Metropolitan Children’s Hall. After closing hours, homeless persons come to the premises for a place to rest, or to take part in a once-weekly communal kitchen. In the past, homeless persons had been threatened with eviction numerous times, but each time, after we explained the reasons and circumstances behind homelessness, the facility and its director have given us tacit permission to stay.

This past March, immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Children's Hall was closed. In April, a rope barrier was suddenly raised preventing entry into the premises and we were informed that, "The Children’s Hall has been temporarily and fully cordoned off for an assessment of earthquake damage.” Later on, the director apologized to us and said, "We won’t be cordoning off the area for review. “I see no problem in you resting here or holding a communal kitchen here after hours." We asked the director that if, as a result of the review, repair work was deemed necessary and the area must be cordoned off again, to inform immediately. He consented to our request.

Then, on September 27, we were suddenly notified by the director that, “The damage assessment results are in and it has been decided that we’ll be enclosing the area to start repairs. I’ll explain in more detail on the 29th." On the 29th, we were provided with papers indicating that construction would begin on October 5th. The director added, "Closure of the Children’s Hall had already been scheduled for next year, so it is likely that the building will be demolished. In that case, the cordon will not be removed, even after repair work is complete.”

We questioned the director as to why repair work would be carried out prior to a demolition. And how he could tell us to leave with less than a week’s notice, despite the importance of this location as a place to rest and gather. In response, he simply stated "You already knew that we may temporarily enclose the area.” In addition, according to the damage assessment, the only parts needing renovation are the exterior walls and the auditorium ceiling, not the front entrance that we primarily use. There is no need for a total temporary enclosure. Moreover, it’s hard to comprehend why the cordon would not be removed after repair work is complete seeing as how a demolition has not been actually confirmed. The installation of a cordon is a clear attempt at evicting homeless persons and depriving them of a place for their communal kitchen.

On October 3, we submitted a formal petition to both the Children’s Hall director and the head of the Family Support Division at the Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health. However, each of them informed us that, "Everything has already been settled" and "There is no room to consider your claims." On October 5th, as we protested, construction began right in front of our eyes.

The homeless people who come to rest at the Children’s Hall are just as much victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake as anyone else. Moreover, they are also “structural victims” of a society that has cast them out. How can the city of Tokyo reconcile the fact that it provides much-needed places of refuge to earthquake victims at the same time that it treats people living on the streets with only evictions? How can it not work to guarantee homeless persons’ right to life, as well as the underlying fundamental right of abode? The Children’s Hall director and the head of the Family Support Division have said, "If you have nowhere to sleep, inquire with the Shibuya welfare office.” However, more than a few homeless persons believe that struggling to survive on the streets is still better than the alternatives of being trapped in a dormitory-style facility or living off welfare. With the recent move to turn the public Miyashita Park into “Nike Park” as one example, redevelopment of the area surrounding Shibuya Station is accelerating at a rapid pace. Does redevelopment require that we see homeless persons as only being “in the way”?

We are opposed to the temporary full enclosure at the Children’s Hall and the eviction of homeless persons that it represents. We demand that talks be held and the extent of the enclosure be changed.

October 10, 2010
Shibuya Free Association for the Right to Housing and Well-http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifbeing of the HOMELESS (NOJIREN)
1-27-8 (202) Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo             

Translation by Rayna Rusenko

Also see this powerful article by Barbara Ehrenreich on the Occcupy Wall Street movement and issues facing homeless persons in the United States.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Okinawa Governor Nakaima: Washington & Tokyo “should stop doing deals and return the bases promptly”

(Since 1996, Okinawans have told Washington & Tokyo "NO" to the proposed new mega-military base in Henoko. Since 2008, Okinawans have repeatedly responded with "No, You Can't" to the Obama administration. This photo is of Henoko elders spelling "NO" out with empty cans for former Prime Minister Kan to see from his airplane window during his 2010 visit to the beleaguered prefecture.)

In “Discordant Visitors: Japanese and Okinawan Messages to the US,” Satoko Norimatsu and Gavan McCormack quote Governor Nakaima’s September 2011 speech at George Washington University in their commentary on the bizarre incongruity between official Japanese and Okinawan prefectural stances on the U.S. military’s proposed destruction of Oura Bay and Henoko to make way for a U.S. mega-military base.

Opposed by Okinawan civil society and global environmentalists since 1996, the U.S. base proposal follows a historical pattern of violently and undemocratically established U.S. military bases in Okinawa prefecture. During and after the Battle of Okinawa, U.S. soldiers seized Okinawan property (and imprisoned the owners in camps) to make way for bases to support Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan. When that plan was abandoned, Okinawans were kept imprisoned while U.S. soldiers transformed the bases into permanent bases. In the 1950′s, U.S. marines (by use of “bayonets and bulldozers”) seized private property by dragging Okinawan women and children from homes and destroying farms and livestock to make way for more U.S. bases. Despite Okinawan protests dating back to the end of the World War II, the U.S. government has refused to remove unwanted military bases from Okinawa.

In recent years, the Okinawan movement has garnered worldwide attention, with some observers comparing the Okinawan struggle for human rights and democracy to movements in Eastern and Central Europe during Soviet military rule, before Glastnost. Since the 3/11 Triple Disaster, Japanese citizen “tomodachi” appeals to Washington to forego costly military subsidization by Japanese taxpapers have grown more urgent. Although U.S. congressional leaders have responded to Okinawan and Japanese calls for “change”; thus far the Obama administration has ignored requests to rein in U.S. military demands for Japanese taxpayer subsidization of proposed new base construction in Okinawa, Guam, the Japanese mainland, and continued “sympathy” subsidies to the U.S. military.

In September, Okinawa Govenor Nakaima, in conjunction with an Okinawan ad campaign in The New York Times, stated his case directly to Americans in Washington, D.C. Norimatsu and McCormack explain:
Nakaima declared that opposition in Okinawa to the Okinawan base project was almost total. He spoke of the unanimous declaration within the prefectural parliament (the Prefectural Assembly), and the explicit opposition of all 41 local government mayors and heads, including the mayor of the city of Nago, the designated site for the new base. Nakaima told his Washington audience that the relocation plan ‘must be revised,’ continuing that Futenma was ‘not an acceptable option’ and that if the national government was to choose to proceed ‘against the will of the local citizens,’ it might lead to ‘an irreparable rift … between the people of Okinawa and the US forces in the prefecture.’

(US military bases in Okinawa)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Zen priest in Fukushima plants flowers that absorb radiation & accepts radioactive topsoil at temple grounds

"Invisible snow" by Reuters Tokyo Pictures, Aug. 19, 2011

In August, Mike Willacy of ABC (Australian Broadcasting) reported that communities near the plant are reporting radiation at Chernobyl levels.  He spotlights one of many examples of Fukushima residents  have necessarily engaged in their own disaster response: A Zen Buddhist priest is now accepting highly radioactive topsoil on temple property:
He is the chief monk of Fukushima's 400-year old Joenji Temple and this is a sutra for peace and rebirth, a prayer for the resurrection of an entire community choked in radiation.

KOYU ABE, BUDDHIST MONK (voiceover translation): This radiation is like an invisible snow. It's fallen and brought us a long winter. But eventually the snow will melt and spring will come.

MARK WILLACY: To help his community rid itself of this invisible snow, Monk Abe is allowing people to dump their radioactive topsoil on temple land.

Armed with his four Geiger counters, he shows me just how contaminated this earth is.

The Japanese-made Geiger counter quickly blasts off the scale. The others reveal radiation levels ten times beyond what's considered safe.

KOYU ABE, BUDDHIST MONK (voiceover translation): The radiation level here is so high that some of the Geiger counters can't measure it. But I still accept this contaminated soil.
---

Abe described the radiation particles as an “invisible snow”, “A snow you can’t see has covered the area, and has brought a long, long winter to Fukushima,” he said.

Abe’s organization called, “Make a wish upon flowers,” aimed to reduce the volume of radiation in Fukushima by using certain plants’ natural ability to reduce toxic materials in the ground. With his volunteer group, comprised of about 100 members, he planted sunflowers where radiation levels were high.

Abe hoped to lower the level of radiation and through that ease stress and anxiety experienced by the residents. He also strongly believed that his actions will tackle the prevalent sense of stagnation and help cultivate a sense of hope...

What moved me most was to see the residents not give up their hopes and strive to overcome their predicament. The three days that I spent with the monk’s family were very moving. They were like a blessing to me.

The monk also had his motives to tell me his story. He looked into my eyes and said: “Media outlets have the obligation to reveal and bring everything into the light, so that the people can make their decisions.” By making everything clear, the media can help stop the spread of bad rumors and lower the anxiety while speeding up the recovery process, he said.

---

UPDATE: On Feb. 10, 2012, Yuriko Nakao updated her coverage on Koyu Abe's radiation clean-up efforts: Japan priest fights invisible demon: radiation:
On the snowy fringes of Japan's Fukushima city, now notorious as a byword for nuclear crisis, Zen monk Koyu Abe offers prayers for the souls of thousands left dead or missing after the earthquake and tsunami nearly one year ago.

But away from the ceremonial drums and the incense swirling around the Joenji temple altar, Abe has undertaken another task, no less harrowing -- to search out radioactive "hot spots" and clean them up, storing irradiated earth on temple grounds...

"You can't see it. Nothing looks as if it's changed, but really, radiation is floating through the area. It's hard for those hit by the tsunami, but it's hard to live here too."

Last summer, Abe grew and distributed sunflowers and other plants, such as field mustard and amaranthus, in an effort to lighten the impact of the radiation and cheer local residents.

Now he is trading his ceremonial robes for a protective mask, working with volunteers to track down lingering pockets of radiation and cleaning them up...

Abe said he and the other monks are storing the soil on a hill behind the temple as neither the government nor the nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) are helping with the clean-up.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Oct. 21, 1995 Okinawa People's Rally: "Deliver the Spirit of Okinawa to the World"


(Oct. 21, 1995 Okinawa People's Rally)

It's the 16th anniversary of the historic Okinawa-wide protest of the 1995 kidnapping, beating, and gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by 3 U.S. servicemen. The protest launched an ever-deepening Okinawan movement for democracy, human rights, and the indigenous Okinawan culture of peace.

Here is their 1996 statement, a prayer for world peace at many levels:
Deliver the Spirit of Okinawa to the World

The citizens of Okinawa are a people who hope for peace.

Peace is the backbone which has supported Okinawa throughout history and has become something even more powerful to those who experienced the unprecedented Battle of Okinawa. It is also the basis for their view of the world, in which they are very confident.

The words "nuchi-do-takara" (Life is the greatest treasure) which symbolizes this reverence for peace, will surely last forevermore. The saying "ichariba-chode"(Once we have met, we are like brothers and sisters) has been carried down through the ages and represents the spirit of Okinawa. The spirit of "yuimaru" or helping, supporting and coexisting with one another, has overcome the ups and downs of history, and is considered to be a great asset to the Okinawan people.

Throughout history we have realized that our nation and humanity as a whole, should advance not in the direction of military power, but rather towards friendship and goodwill by accepting, trusting and helping one another. This rich culture which has made flowers bloom in the southern islands, is the essence of the history of the Okinawan spirit.

50 years ago, while the dust of combat had not yet disappeared, the first thing we set our minds on was the reconstruction of the peaceful islands of Okinawa, whose culture was reared by our ancestors. However, as if to laugh at the peaceful intentions of our people, the world took up nuclear arms and rushed into the winter known as the Cold War. Furthermore, like in the case of Korea and Vietnam, we have been forced to get involved in issues of war. And now, 50 years since the end of World War II, the situation regarding the bases has not yet changed in the slightest.

Approximately 20% of the main island of Okinawa, a prefecture which accounts for a mere 0.6% of the nation's total area, continues to be taken up by the huge bases and is forced to bear the burden of 75% of all US military installations in Japan. This provides clear evidence of the stagnant state of base affairs. The peace dividend that the people of Okinawa Prefecture have been hoping and waiting for has been continuously denied to them. The Okinawan people have not yet been allowed to benefit in the slightest from this peace, On the contrary, the one thing we are allowed to have is the unwelcomed presence of repeated military aircraft crashes and other such terrible occurrences. We are also "rewarded" with the destruction of our environment, including noise pollution and live firing exercise which destroy the forests that are important to the accumulation of our water resources.

Since the [1972] reversion to Japan, there have been approximately 4700 cases of base-related crime. These incidents pose a clear threat to the way of life and precious existence of the Okinawan people. And then of September 4, 1995, just as the people of Okinawa Prefecture had feared, yet another detestable and disastrous incident occurred. This brutal act, committed by three young American servicemen, is absolutely inexcusable.

We know the real evil and the fundamental cause of this incident because we have experienced it during the Battle of Okinawa and the US military occupation.

We saw the nature of the military on the battlefield during the Battle of Okinawa and under the 27-year-long US military occupation. Their inhuman behavior was a disregard for, and a complete desecration of human dignity. It contradicts the Okinawan spirit which is symbolized in sayings such as "Life is the greatest treasure," "Once we have met, we are like brothers and sisters," etc.

Through the sacrifice of many precious lives and a lot of bloodshed, we have reconfirmed our ancestors' unequivocally correct choice not to bear arms and to deny the use of military power as a means of diplomacy.

This year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, "The Cornerstone of Peace" was constructed in the Peace Memorial Park in Mabuni, Itoman, the place of the last and fiercest battle of World War II, the Battle of Okinawa, in order to pray for the souls of all those who lost their lives during the war and to pray for everlasting world peace. Over two hundred thirty thousand names are inscribed on "The Cornerstone of Peace", irrespective of nationality.

Our heartfelt hope is to build a peaceful Okinawa and a world without weapons. We are certain that this is the only way that the over one million two hundred thousand Okinawans as well as all the people living in Asia and the rest of the world, can coexist as human beings and live together on the earth in the future. We appeal to the world to accept the Okinawan spirit as its own in order to ensure that the tragedy that this young Okinawan girl experienced is not repeated, and so that no one will commit such terrible crimes ever again.

October 21, 1995

Okinawan People's Rally
Denunciation of the assault committed by the American servicemen
Demanding the reversion of the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Women for a Nuclear-Free Future: Sit-In Protest in Tokyo, Oct. 27-30, 2011: Evacuate children of Fukushima & no resumption of nuclear plant operation!



Women from Fukushima will be sitting in at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry office in Tokyo from October 27th to 29th to demand the evacuation of Fukushima children and no resumption of nuclear power plant operation. (43 of the 54 reactors are currently shuttered for scheduled maintenance.)

The women of Fukushima are calling on women around the world to act in solidarity with similar actions at the same time – (demonstrating in front of Japanese embassies or consulates).

They are launching Women for a Nuclear-Free Future in Sapporo, Osaka, and Tokyo on October 23-24; and are asking women from all over Japan to join the sit-in on October 30th. The women state that seven months of government refusal to evacuate Fukushima children is a crime against humanity, and it can no longer be tolerated.

Send a message of solidarity via Greenpeace.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Global World Food Sovereignty Day: "From Food Monopolies to Food Commons"


( Family garden on an island in the Inland Sea. Photo: JD)

Comprehensive analysis of the engineered global food price hikes, the global food crisis, and how to fix it (agro-ecology, food democracy) at Slow Food International. (The author explains why US Big Ag is pushing so hard to force open markets in Asia (and Africa)): "From Food Monopolies to Food Commons" by Eric Holt-Giménez, Ph.D.:
Calls for food sovereignty, food justice and even “food democracy” are ringing from fields to kitchens around the world. In the face of the recurrent food and diet crises plaguing our planet, farmers, farm and food workers, consumers—politically engaged citizens—are struggling to regain control over their food systems. Why?

Because the “solutions” to these crises offered by governments, agri-food monopolies and multilateral institutions—e.g., more “free” trade, genetically engineered crops and the spread of giant retail chains—brought on the crises to begin with. With a billion people “stuffed” and a billion “starved” on the planet, why do the G-8 countries, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization continue to prescribe catastrophic solutions to catastrophe?

The answer is simple: the oligopolies dominating our global corporate food regime are also in crisis. The record profits and massive wealth they accumulated during the 2008 and 2011 food price inflation crises must be re-invested in order to maintain a compound rate of growth... Where can they re-invest their vast amounts of accumulated wealth? The monopolies have what is called a crisis of over-accumulation.

Who will solve the crisis of over-accumulation for the monopolies? The poor.

The poor are not getting any richer, but as a group they are growing at the rate of 8% and because they make up nearly half of the world’s population they offer a vast, expanding market opportunity for the agri-food monopolies. With the promise of “saving the world from hunger,” these corporations are now busy leveraging public development funds of northern governments to open new markets in Africa and Asia. Foreign food and development aid—which is fuelled by public money—is being directed to poor countries so that they can buy GM grain, fertilizers, pesticides, and genetic engineered seeds from the northern monopolies.

Many studies and reports have shown that agroecology is the best answer to hunger and climate change in the Global South. Poor countries also have to be allowed to protect their own agriculture. The oligopolies controlling our food systems are not solving the problem of hunger—rather, hunger is being used to solve the problem of over-accumulation for the oligopolies...

Over the last three decades the waves of neoliberal globalization has not only ruined local and regional food systems...

Food sovereignty, food justice and food democracy are movements of people that seek other solutions. They seek to re-open public spaces of decision so that people rather than monopolies decide what we eat, how it is grown, and how the multi-trillion dollar wealth of our world food systems is distributed. How can our movements make sure that our public resources are used for the public good rather than monopoly interests? By re-establishing the public sphere within our food systems—by taking back the “food commons.”

A food commons is not only a physical place where food is produced, processed, sold or consumed; it is also a social space where decisions are made in the interest of the common good. Whenever food activists take back a part of the food system in the interest of the common good, they are constructing a food commons. This is why food sovereignty as an organizing concept and precondition for food justice, food democracy and the right to food is so important: it implies a space that is sovereign to the corporate food regime. It is a space in which people—not corporations—decide...

The social construction of food commons is taking place around the world in the nooks and crannies of the existing corporate food regime. Little by little, the different experiences of community gardens, fair trade, community service agriculture, food policy councils, farmer’s movements and consumer movements are slowly converging in their efforts to build a better food system.
Read the entire article here.

Slow, Fair, Humane, Healthful Food: "Occupy the Food System"

Slow Food USA's blog: "Occupy Wall Street: What’s food got to do with it?"
...good, clean, and fair food IS a value of the activists. But what does it have to do with Wall Street?

Food justice writer and activist Jan Poppendeick says the connection is corporate control of agriculture. The statistics are staggering (90% of the corn market is dominated by 3 companies, for example) and the resulting degradation of human health and the environment endangers our health, and the future health of our food supply.

Reclaiming control of the food system from corporate entities is one of the written tenets of the OWS declaration: “[corporations] have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.” Another tenet speaks to animal cruelty inflicted by the common industrial practice of confining animals into tight quarters with abhorrent conditions...

With so many messages on t-shirts and banners it’s hard for any one to rise to the top, but it’s clear that food activists are present on the scene. As Sheila Salmon Nichols noted on our Facebook page, “We might not all agree on all the ideologies of OWS…however, their position on what is happening to our food system is spot-on! Hopefully, this collective energy will move our country/world in a more positive, peaceful, and sustainable direction!”
Comment: The connection between the poor quality of the culture of food in the US and control of our food systems by extremely large companies as mentioned above is spot on. Major advertising budgets target children and adults with ads that have almost nothing to do with health, community or long term life-satisfaction.

"Food Inc." pointed out some of the ways that large companies are willing to directly harm small farmers - who are the best chance for renewed innovation and responsibility in agriculture - for the sake of a few more pennies profit, and increased control over farmers seeds and practices. I strongly support Occupy Wall Street for the simple reason that they are helping all of us to understand the connections between the systems we’ve created and our current reality...

Comment: Many of the rank and file dairy farmers are supportive of Occupy Wall Street.

We have watched as a handful of companies have come to dominate the prices that we receive for our milk. A handful of traders control the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that sets the price of cheese that tranlates into milk price formulas. The most spectacular display of greed was in 2009 when dairy farmers were committing suicides from milk prices that dropped to $9 0r $10 for 100 pounds of milk. There are 8.6 pounds of milk in a gallon) You, the consumer, continued to pay the same in the store. Farmers were committing suicide in rural areas. The CEO of Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk processor, took home a cool $66,000,000 that year according to Bloomberg.

As markets have become more consolidated, the companies have tightened their grip on us, the average farmers. Our share of the dairy retail dollar has dropped tremendously over the past decade. The leaders of even the largest cooperatives will tell you that Walmart has big power to push us back and down in price. The biggest dairy companies in the US have just piloted an ad campaign to force the prices paid down to the farmers.

Where will this all end? Thank you, Occupy Wall Street. Some of us will try to get to smaller occupy wall street demonstrations since it is hard for us to leave the cows, it is difficult to travel to big cities, but we are with you.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Writers in Support of the Occupy Movement

3,227 Writers in Support of the Occupy Movement: http://occupywriters.com:
We, the undersigned writers and all who will join us, support Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement around the world.
Includes Alicia Bay Laurel (beloved by Japanese eco-peace supporters), Naomi Klein, Alice Walker (published in Japanese in Japan, where she has a huge following), Francine Prose, Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie, Eve Ensler, and Jane Hirschfield (poet and translator of Japanese poetry).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Robert Thurman @ Occupy Wall Steet: "This planet is in jeopardy because of the military-industrial machine that is beyond East & West."



Via filmmaker Velcrow Ripper, chronicler of nonviolent faith-based social movements, at his latest blog—Occupy Love: Robert Thurman, engaged Buddhist scholar and friend of the Dalai Lama, calling for a "cool revolution", compassion, meditation (to create psychological strength & focus) to challenge the organized greed and high-tech violence of the less than 1%.)

Robert Thurman shares wisdom at Occupy Wall Street: "We need a cool revolution!":
By "cool" I mean...without getting angry, without indulging in hatred...

Here we are at Liberty Plaza and we're trying to keep liberty keep growing on this planet. Actually this planet is in dire jeopardy because of the military-industrial machine that is beyond East and West.

The industrial part has to do with organized greed. It combines individuals' limitless greed with high-tech power and it's transcending the capacity of the planet. Pollution, global warming, over-population all comes from this technological expansion of greed.

On the other side you have hatred which necessarily goes along with greed because a greedy person hates the other greedy person whom he feels is trying to take away whatever he wants.

So we need to control both of these problems. Therefore, in order to do this, every person has to control the inside of their own mind.

No one should be protesting the nasty bankers if they truly hate them. They are not worthy of being hated. They are just like us. They are just luckier at the moment and unluckier in the long run because they are taking away too much from too many. This makes them paranoid. They never can have any fun because they think we're going to pick their pockets. And one billion is not enough. Even ten...twenty...one hundred billion...By that time, they're reduced to a pile of shivering paranoia...Therefore we have to be sympathetic to them. We don't hate them. We feel sorry for them...

However the corporatocracy has taken over the mass media and the electoral process and so they are defeating your will. Every poll says 70% of us wants social security without problems; want a single-payer medical system; want to have bankers and insurers know they work for us. They are service industries: they serve us, we don't serve them.

The corporatocracy are a bunch of wimpy guys with a couple of token girls who don't actually know how to make anything. But they know how to sign checks and push papers which my pathetic university taught them, without properly teaching them ethics...But one thing they're good at is not wanting to pay people to make things. An honest wage, a decent job. So they support dictatorships like China to keep slaves on tap for them for a dollar a day so they can bust the unions here and export all our jobs and even get tax breaks for it. This has to stop.

You have to vote the congresspeople who are corrupt out of office so that 70% of the wishes of the American people will be honored by them. They should serve their constituents and not their [campaign] contributors like the people up there in those buildings [pointing at Wall Street buildings], who are the 1% or less...

Don't be brainwashed by political propaganda like Fox News...who lull us into complacence, which now you all are not doing...

Let's all meditate everyday. But not just "Duh...I didn't think anything. Oh that felt so good, I didn't think anything." That can be nice, like Prozac or something...But it can be a little addictive. It doesn't really bring you insight.

And, indulge your compassion. Indulge your intelligence: what you really need. So when you meditate, think about compassion. Here we are free to take our time, envisioning a happier world...a world with gross national happiness...
Erric Solomon posted the entire talk (with good sound) at whatmeditationreallyis.com. Solomon also posted on the group of about 100 meditators at Occupy, with a link to organizer Anthony Whitehurst.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tim Shorrock: "Korea-US Trade Agreement: The Hidden History"


(Photo: Korea Policy Institute)

Despite widespread opposition from family farmer, labor, human rights, environmental, and Korean American groups, the US House of Representatives (in the wake of K Street's expensive lobbying for Seoul's and Wall Street's 1%) overrode the interests of the 99% and approved KORUS (the US-South Korea FTA) last night.

Main Street Americans have shifted their focus to the Senate...

Immediately after the House vote, Tim Shorrock posted this analysis (originally published at Foreign Policy in Focus in 2007) "Korea-US Trade Agreement: The Hidden History" which reveals the interconnections of U.S. military and economic neo-colonialism in a nation where the majority of people have challenged both for six decades:
The pact was approved along with treaties with Panama and Columbia – but those agreements pale against KORUS, which is the largest trade deal passed since NAFTA was signed by President Clinton in 1995

In fact, KORUS represents a major victory for U.S. multinational corporations, banks and financial institutions, which have lobbied intensively for the pact for more than half a decade. It’s also a major setback for Korean and American unions.

Raw Deal Between Washington and Seoul (April 2007)

The South Korean-U.S. free trade agreement (KORUS) cannot be seen apart from U.S.-South Korean security ties, the presence in South Korea of more than 30,000 U.S. troops and a 50-year economic relationship that has been heavily weighted towards American interests. From this perspective, KORUS is the fourth attempt by the United States to force its economic will on South Korea over the past half-century.The trade deal still has to pass in South Korea, where Lee does not enjoy widespread support. Among numerous questionable policies, Lee initiated the environmentally massively destructive "Four Rivers" construction project (he is compared to 1970's-era Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka for his use of public office to push through construction boondoggles) and has contravened democratic process to force the seizure and demolition of private property on Jeju island, a World Natural Heritage Site, to make way for a naval base.
Sakai Tanaka's "How Long Will US Forces Continue to Occupy Japan and Korea? China, the US and the New Division of Power in the Asia-Pacific" published at The Asia-Pacific Journal last year also takes a close look at the wider geopolitical and military contexts of KORUS.

More perspectives from the broad spectrum of American groups opposing KORUS:

• Environmentalists: "Friends of the Earth denounces passage of unjust trade agreements: President Obama broke his campaign promises in backing Bush-era trade pacts that repeat mistakes of NAFTA" (Oct. 13, 2011)

• Traditional Conservatives: "Why Conservatives Should Oppose KORUS Part I: Sovereignty" (Conservative Times, Feb. 17, 2011)

• Unions: "South Korea ‘Free Trade’ Deal: Another Funnel for Exploitation" (In These Times, June 3, 2011)

• Korean American organizations: "Why We Must Oppose the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement" ( Korea Policy Institute, May 25, 2011)

• Peace and Social Justice advocates: "Legal protest dispersed during S.Korea-U.S. summit: Secret Service shuts down protest of KORUS FTA and Jeju naval base in front of the White House" (The Hankyoreh, Oct. 17, 2011):
According to John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, the fates of the U.S. and South Korea are more interconnected than most realize.

“The United States and South Korea are celebrating the passage of the [free trade agreement] and a very close military alliance,” said Feffer, who attended Thursday’s protest. “But the relationship between the two leaders conceals a number of unfortunate failings: a trade agreement that will throw a lot of workers out of jobs, a shared North Korea policy that has done nothing to improve peace and security on the peninsula, and a project to build a naval base at Jeju that will further jeopardize regional stability. What many observers have called a win-win set of U.S.-South Korea deals has actually been lose-lose for a lot of people in the region. And that’s what people were protesting in D.C. during Lee’s visit.”
• Family Farmers: "Korea US Free Trade Agreement Another Cash Cow for Corporations" (Familyfarmers.org, April 11, 2011)

Short investigative report on corporate media coverage of the FTAs with South Korea, Columbia, and Panama: "Bait-and-Switch Boosterism on Trade Pacts" (Janine Jackson, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), Oct. 13, 2011):
What else but blind faith would allow a story to carry a line like one in the October 12 New York Times, about textile industry opposition to the new deal with South Korea: "The production of shirts and sheets has shifted steadily from the United States to countries with lower-cost labor. Economists argue that this process strengthens the economy as companies and workers shift to more productive and lucrative kinds of work." Of course, if the Times has evidence of laid off textile workers' mass movement to more lucrative work, they're sitting on the scoop of the century...

Then you get a line, like that in the October 13 New York Times, once the deals have passed and been heralded as a "rare moment of bipartisan accord," that "the passage of the trade deals is important primarily as a political achievement, and for its foreign policy value in solidifying relationships with strategic allies. The economic benefits are projected to be small."
Also see more at this compilation post: "Worse than NAFTA: S. Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) would hurt U.S. & S. Korean small farmers and workers; Burmese, N. Korean slave laborers" (TTT, June 21, 2011)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Korean American @ Occupy Wall Street: "The FTA with S. Korea represents...exactly the types of agreements everyone at Wall Street is opposed to."

Democracy Now! interviews Korean-American, Columbian, and Panamanian fair trade advocates @ Occupy Wall Street - "Colombian, Korean and Panamanian Activists Condemn White House Support for New "Free Trade" Deals":
Organizers from Colombia, Panama and South Korea held a teach-in at Occupy Wall Street on Monday about "free trade agreements" now pending in Congress that will expand the market for national corporations and financial corporations from the United States.

"Essentially, it tries to institute once more the things that caused this financial crisis in the first place," says Sukjong Hong, an organizer with Nodutdol for Korean Community Development.

"It also opens the door to outsourcing more American jobs." Carlos Salamanca, member of AFSCME Local 372, adds that the Colombian free trade agreement is "the continuation of what’s going on in Colombia, supporting the government who are not doing anything to stop the killing of workers in Colombia, the union members, the human rights activists, and the persecution against the indigenous and Afro-Colombians’ leadership over there."

AMY GOODMAN: We’re here in Freedom Plaza, just around the corner from Wall Street, and a teach-in just finished up with three people who are here from three different countries talking about so-called free trade agreements. Why don’t you introduce yourselves and talk about where you’re from?...

SUKJONG HONG: Hi. My name is Sukjong Hong. And I’m with Nodutdol for Korean Community Development and an organization that’s national called Korean Americans for Fair Trade. And I’m a second-generation Korean American.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re here in Freedom Plaza, just around the corner from Wall Street, and a teach-in just finished up with three people who are here from three different countries talking about so-called free trade agreements. Why don’t you introduce yourselves and talk about where you’re from?

...SUKJONG HONG: Hi. My name is Sukjong Hong. And I’m with Nodutdol for Korean Community Development and an organization that’s national called Korean Americans for Fair Trade. And I’m a second-generation Korean American.

SUKJONG HONG: Yes. Well, for myself and many Americans who are also tied to Korea, the free trade agreement with South Korea represents this—exactly the types of agreements that everyone here at Wall Street is opposed to.

Basically, it bans the limit on the size of financial institutions. It bans any limit on capital flows. It bans deregulation—it bans any regulation on derivatives. So, essentially, it tries to institute once more the things that caused this financial crisis in the first place. And it also opens the door to outsourcing more American jobs.

And it has caused a lot of depressing of the standards of life and of the laws in South Korea, as well. They had to lower their emissions standards. They had to lift their ban on GMOs...Basically, a lot of the laws that both Americans and Koreans have fought for are going to be—basically become meaningless in the face of these free trade agreements.

And just last week, 10,000 people in South Korea went to the streets to protest these free trade deals. But both governments seem very intent on pressing forward. And I think not enough Americans know about the damage that these free trade agreements will cause, and really not really looking even in their own backyard at what NAFTA has done.
Read the rest of the interview with Carlos Salamanca from Columbia and Sunyata Altenor from Panama (who describe how these FTAs are related to the persecution and killings of human and labor rights advocates and indigenous people in Columbia; and the unrestrained exploitation of natural resource and worker in Panama) here.

More from Kristen Beifus and Christa Hillstrom at Yes!: "The Tricks of the Trade Deals: This week, Congress will vote on three Free Trade Agreements that are predicted to kill jobs and solidify corporate power. It's our turn to have a say in how we trade.:
Last week, President Obama submitted to Congress no fewer than three "hangover" free trade agreements (FTA's) originally negotiated by the Bush administration. All three bills have been widely opposed by labor organizations, environmental groups, human rights activists, and others for their strong likelihood of offshoring U.S. jobs, further deregulating the corporate sector, hurting the livelihoods of farming communities, and ignoring labor and environmental standards and human rights. They are expected to be voted on Wednesday.

Since negotiations on it first began, more than 700,000 South Koreans have protested the largest of the three pending agreements, the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, or KORUS...

Right now, tens of thousands of Americans—from New York to Seattle to St. Louis—are in the streets for a related reason: standing up to the control corporations have over the political process. Perhaps nowhere is this manipulation better exemplified than in the realm of global trade.

In the past 20 years, the U.S. has consistently instated international trade policies that secure the “rights” of corporations over those of workers and indigenous communities; that protect intellectual property, but not farmers' land, workers' health, or communities' water and air; that appropriate taxpayer money to bolster industries that shift production overseas, leaving a wake of unemployment at home...

But human rights concerns under KORUS reach further.

About 40 miles north of Seoul, and 10 miles over the border with North Korea, is a complex of sweatshops where 44,000 North Korean workers labor in factories for as little as 25 cents an hour—about half of which is directly paid to the North Korean state. This, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, is a South Korean free trade zone, where 120 corporations like Hyundai use disgracefully cheap labor to manufacture products intended for export—exports that may soon enter the U.S. duty-free. On top of that, KORUS' "Rule of Origin" states that fully two-thirds of a product can be made outside of the country and still have the label "Made in Korea," and enter the U.S. without tariffs...

We need to continue to build and nourish natural alliances—across industries, across countries, across unions; between faith, farm, and migrant communities; among students and small and medium businesses—so our voices are at the decision-making table ensuring that trade policy benefits our communities...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

6,000 family farmers protest in Seoul against US-South Korea FTA (KORUS) which would destroy what's left of South Korean agriculture


(Image: Nile Int. (Egyptian TV channel) via APTN)


On Oct. 6, 2011, 6,000 South Korean family farmers protested against the proposed US-South Korea FTA (KORUS), stating the agreement will endanger their livelihood by flooding the South Korean market with cheaper, government subsidized U.S. agricultural products.

Martin Frid, who participated in an organic farming conference in Korea earlier this month, posted on the incredible amount of food that South Korea imports: 80-90%. Most of it comes from the U.S, followed by China.

This is by design and parallels political economic shifts in other countries. The South Korean government uses state policy to intentionally undermine small family farmers (and traditional landed culture), similarly to the U.S. in the 1970's and Japan in the 1990's (when the USTR forced Japan to open its previously fiercely protected rice market). The common agenda against family farmers in these countries (and elsewhere) was and is to enlarge markets and profits for global (especially US) agribusiness ("Food Inc".); alter traditional (local) food production in favor of neoliberal agricultural (plantation monoculture) food production; and to diminish the political influence of family farmers.

In "Crisis at Daechuri - the latest phase of the Korean War," which explores the back stories behind Seoul's forced, violent seizure of farmland to expand a U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek, Brian Mac Grath describes the long domestic war against Korean farmers:
The political activism of Korean farmers has long been a thorn in the side of the global agricultural industry and as such is consistently denounced by the media. After the Korean War, South Korean agriculture was sacrificed to enable industrialization to take place, with land nationalization less thorough and complete than it appeared on the surface.

US agribusiness has gradually gained total access to the South Korean agricultural market, with over half of Koreas food imports now coming from the US. The result could be the total disappearance of the small farmers who are the backbone of Korean agriculture. If the farmers of South Korea can be successfully defeated through the subtle warfare of international trade, and the less-subtle warfare of outright land seizure at Daechuri and Doruri, then Korean nationalism will of itself wither and die, as the South Korea industrial economy is increasingly absorbed into that of the US.

The destruction of South Korean agriculture is a vital stage in increasing the dependency of the peninsula as a whole upon the United States, given the disastrous condition of North Korean agriculture, as a result of flooding, state mismanagement, and international sanctions imposed by the US.
In-depth 2008 reports at Grain.org on U.S. agribusiness introduction of GMO foods into South Korea: "Food Safety on the Butcher's Block" and Daewoo's attempted immense land-grab in Africa for corn and palm oil plantations: "Korean women farmers on the Daewoo/Madagascar land deal" (The deal was rescinded in 2009 by the president of Madagascar who replaced the president who was forced from office (in part for outraging citizens by leasing half of Madagascar's arable land to Daewoo.))

For a compilation of articles on KORUS, please see this post: "Worse than NAFTA: S. Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) would hurt U.S. & S. Korean small farmers & workers; Burmese, N. Korean slave labor"

Some background on petrochemical-intensive industrial agriculture from Fritjof Capra's The Turning Point:
Three million American farms have been eliminated this way since 1945...

The farmers who were able to remain on the land had to accept a profound transformation of their image role, and activities. From growers of edible foods, taking pride in feeding the world's people, farmers have turned into producers of industrial raw materials to be processed into commodities designed for mass marketing. Thus corn is converted to starch or syrup...it is not surprising that many children today grow up believing that food comes from supermarket shelves...

In this industrialized system, which treats living matter like dead substances and uses animals like machines, penned in feedlots and cages, the process of farming is almost totally controlled by the petrochemical industry...Nevertheless, a growing number of farmers have become aware of the hazards of chemical farming and are turning back to organic, ecological methods.
In-depth analysis of KORUS: "Capitalism, the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement, and Resistance" by Martin Hart-Landsberg, temporarily available as a free download at the Critical Asian Studies website.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Americans need to occupy K Street too: Seoul's 1% spends millions on K Street South Korea Lobby (& US campaign contributions?) for KORUS

I wish the Occupy Wall Street movement would understand this is the street they need to focus on…

The street that passes the money from the corporations to the politicians…

I understand they are going to protest there today…this is the protest I would like to see take hold.

Obama promised to reign in K street and has done nothing…it is not the $20 gifts that the people are objecting to. It is things like this article is about.

Shut down K street all together.

BY jb on 10/06/2011 at 07:25 (Comment at "Trade deals were cash cow for K Street" by Kevin Bogardus, 10/10/11, The Hill)
It's not just the 1% at Wall Street that 99% of ordinary Americans are up against...

They are also up against the foreign 1% represented by K Street lobbyists. South Korean corporate interests have spent millions on K Street lobbyists since 2006 to push through a free trade deal opposed by the majority of U.S. and South Korean citizens (family farmers, labor rights, environmentalists, human rights and consumer advocates).

Kevin Bogardus' Oct. 10, 2011 "Trade deals were cash cow for K Street" published at The Hill on Oct. 10, 2011 charts some of the behind-the-scenes manipulation of the U.S. government by foreign lobbies (of course U.S. corporations and banks do the same overseas):
The Korean government was the biggest spender among the three, with close to $6.3 million spent on lobbying and PR from 2006 into 2011.

Not included in the Hill’s analysis was lobbying and PR spending recorded in Justice records by any private groups — such as the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, a quasi-governmental agency — or government agencies not connected to the trade agreements.

Opponents of the trade deals are still lobbying hard against the agreements and said there will be nothing to celebrate if the president signs them.

“With the projections that hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers will lose their jobs from the pending trade pacts, it’s hard to work up too much sympathy for the relative handful of lobbyist contracts that may expire after Congress votes on the deals,” said Todd Tucker, research director for Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch...

In a July 2010 letter to the Korean ambassador on file with Justice, Akin Gump laid out a month-by-month strategy to pass the country’s trade deal. The plan included hosting social gatherings at the embassy; exploring hosting an event in Napa Valley to coincide with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) retreat; reaching out to national security experts at think tanks like the Center for American Progress and Third Way; and organizing the ambassador’s visits to California, Illinois, Michigan and Washington state.
Ben Freeman, Lydia Dennett, and Dahna Black at The Project on Government Oversight have written an in-depth report that addresses foreign campaign contributions , "Super Committee: Under the (Foreign) Influence?":
...For instance, lobbyists for South Korea have muscled in on Super Committee action. The top foreign lobbying firm in the U.S., Patton Boggs, LLP, was hired in February 2010 on behalf of both the non-profit Korean International Trade Association and the Embassy of South Korea to advocate for passage of the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement. They targeted committee co-chair Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in a September 14, 2011 letter at least partly on the basis of her work on the Super Committee. The letter from Patton Boggs’ senior partner Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., to Murray states:

Ambassador Han would like to discuss the status of the pending US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), including in the context of the ongoing deficit reduction discussions in which you play a crucial role…The Ambassador is anxious to discuss these matters, as well as to update you on KORUS's benefits for the United States, particularly the State of Washington...

Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC) and Patton Boggs, have a similar track record. The firm contacted Clyburn’s office about the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement more than any other representative in the past year and these contacts often coincided with campaign contributions the firm made to Clyburn. For example, on September 21, 2010 Patton Boggs lobbyists met with a Clyburn staffer to discuss the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The following day, Patton Boggs PAC made a $5,000 contribution to the Senator, and the day after that Clyburn received an additional $500 from a Patton Boggs foreign lobbyist – a week later the firm got a face-to-face meeting with Clyburn to discuss the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement.

Clyburn may have had extra encouragement to take this meeting from Patton Boggs employees who don’t work as foreign lobbyists. In addition to the $5,500 Clyburn received from the firms’ PAC and a foreign lobbyist, employees of the firm made contributions to Clyburn of $500 on September 27th and $1,000 on the 30th, the same day that the Congressman met with their Patton Boggs colleagues. Prior to these contributions in September neither Patton Boggs PAC nor any of its employees had made a contribution to Clyburn in more than six months, according to CRP data.  Yet, in just nine days, from the time Patton Boggs first met with Clyburn’s associates until the day they met with the Representative himself, Clyburn received $7,000 in direct contributions from Patton Boggs and its employees.

Clyburn continued to promote the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. Just this past April, the Korean Ambassador to the U.S., Han Duk-soo, and Clyburn attended a fundraiser in the Representative’s home district in South Carolina, where sponsors contributed up to $5,000. With echoes of lobbyist Tommy Boggs’ September 2011 letter to Senator Murray cited earlier, at the event the Korean Ambassador to the U.S. gave a keynote address on “the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement and the benefits for South Carolina's economy.”

Patton Boggs declined to comment.

A Loophole for Contributions from Foreign Nationals?

Was it just a coincidence that within days of meeting with Clyburn to discuss the Korea Free Trade Agreement Patton Boggs contributed $7,000 to his campaign? Were the contributions Baucus received from Akin, Gump completely independent of the United Arab Emirates? Perhaps, and it would be incredibly difficult to prove otherwise. While the relationships between Clyburn, Baucus and foreign lobbyists are not shining examples of democracy in America, these exchanges are considered legal based upon current campaign finance and foreign lobbying regulations. Lobbyists working on behalf of foreign governments, just like any other U.S. citizen, are free to make political contributions. Their foreign clients, however, are explicitly prohibited from making any political contributions in the United States.

These foreign lobbying relationships then lead to a legal paradox – foreign entities hire agents who can commit acts they otherwise legally could not. Each year, foreign lobbyists are paid hundreds of millions of dollars by their foreign clients and they make millions of dollars in contributions to politicians. Yet American citizens are asked to naively believe that foreign lobbyists never use foreign money to influence the U.S. political process.
For a compilation of articles on KORUS, please see this post: "Worse than NAFTA: S. Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) would hurt U.S. & S. Korean small farmers & workers; Burmese, N. Korean slave labor"

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Organic farmer from Fukushima & Hokkaido activists share their experiences & demand the evacuation of children from Fukushima & nuclear-free Japan



Via Beyond Nuclear: Aileen Mioko Smith (executive director of Green Action); Sachiko Sato (organic farmer from Fukushima); Kaori Izumi (director of Shut the Tomari Reactor); Yukiko Anzai (organic farmer from Hokkaido); and Kevin Kamps (Beyond Nuclear)...

See also: "Bringing the Plight of Fukushima Children to the UN, Washington and the World" (Aileen Mioko Smith with Mark Selden, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Oct. 10, 2011)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thyroid gland dysfunction found in Fukushima child evacuees

Kyodo via Mainichi on Oct. 4, 2011: Thyroid gland irregularities found in young evacuees from Fukushima:

A government map displaying radiation levels in the area around the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
Hormonal and other irregularities were detected in the thyroid glands of 10 out of 130 children evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture, a Nagano Prefecture-based charity dedicated to aid for the victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident said Tuesday.

The Japan Chernobyl Foundation and Shinshu University Hospital did blood and urine tests on youngsters aged up to 16 including babies under the age of one for about a month through the end of August in Chino, Nagano, when the children stayed there temporarily after evacuating from Fukushima...

Three of the 10 children used to live within the 20-km no-go zone around the nuclear plant and one was from the so-called evacuation-prepared area in case of emergency in areas between 20 and 30 kilometers from the plant, while six others were from towns outside such zones...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fukushima resident expresses faith in grassroots change at "Goodbye Genpatsu" demonstration on Sept. 19, 2011: "Please don't forget Fukushima."


The following is the English translation of a powerful speech delivered by citizen activist Ruiko Muto at the recent Goodbye Genpatsu demonstration held on September 19th. Muto herself is from Fukushima, and had ironically been working to help decommission the Dai-ichi nuclear plant at the time of the accident last March. These words provide a crucial perspective from someone who experienced the Fukushima catastrophe firsthand, which those us who are not there will never be able to fully comprehend.
Hello everyone. I came here today from Fukushima.

I came along with many busloads of my companions, both from Fukushima prefecture itself and from the places to which we have evacuated. For many, this is the first time to participate in a rally or demo. We reached out, invited each other along, and came here today because we want to tell you about the grief caused by the accident at the nuclear plant in Fukushima; and because we are determined that we, of all people, will raise our voices to say that we do not want nuclear reactors.

There are a few things I would like to say at the start.

I want to express my deep respect for each one of you, who have tackled so many things each day, in the midst of this difficult period since 3/11, in order to protect life.

I also want to express my gratitude to all of you who have warmly reached out to connect with the people of Fukushima prefecture and to support us in various ways. Thank you.

And to all the children and young people whom this accident has forced to shoulder a heavy burden, I want to apologise from my heart on behalf of the generation that brought about such a situation. I am truly sorry.

I want to tell you all that Fukushima is a very beautiful place. To the east, the Hamadori region gazes out across the deep blue Pacific Ocean. The Nakadori region is a treasure-house of fruits: peaches, pears and apples. Golden rice stalks droop their heads on the Aizu plain, around Lake Inawashiro and Mount Bandai, while the far side is framed by deep mountain ranges. This land, with its blue mountains and clear water, is our homeland.

The nuclear accident of 3/11 was a turning-point. Radiation, invisible to the eye, descended on this landscape, and we too became “hibakusha” *.

In the midst of widespread confusion, various things happened to us.

Caught between a rapidly rolled-out "safety campaign" and feelings of alarm, the connections between people were torn apart. Who can say how many people worried and grieved: in our localities, our workplaces, our schools, our homes? Day after day, many inescapable decisions were forced upon us. To flee, or not to flee? To eat, or not to eat? To hang the laundry outside, or not to hang it outside? To make our children wear masks, or not to make them? To plough our fields, or not to plough them? To speak out about something, or to remain silent? There were various agonising decisions.

And now, here we are.

During the past half year, the following things have become clear:

The truth of the situation is being hidden

The country is not protecting its citizens

The accident is still not over

The inhabitants of Fukushima prefecture are being made the subjects of a nuclear experiment

A huge volume of radioactive waste remains

Despite the enormous price that we have already paid, there are powers that are intent on driving nuclear power production forward.

We have been discarded.

We heave deep sighs of exhaustion and overwhelming sadness. But the words that spill from our mouths are "Don't you dare treat us like fools!", "Don't snatch away our lives!"

In the midst of our anger and grief, we, the citizens of Fukushima prefecture, are quietly rising up:

Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, wanting to protect their children...

The young generation, fighting to stop their future from being stolen...

Workers trying to help those cleaning up the stricken nuclear plant, exposed to huge doses of radiation in the process...

Farmers filled with despair at the contamination of their land...

People with disabilities, determined that the radiation should not give rise to a new discrimination and separation...

One by one, each of us citizens is asking questions about the responsibility of the state, and of TEPCO **. And we are raising our voices to say "No more nuclear reactors!"

We have become the ogres of Tohoku***, quietly burning with fury.

We, the people of Fukushima, want to share our suffering, responsibility and hope, and to support each other as we move forward with our lives, whether we have left our hometowns or have stayed in our land. Please join with us. Please take note of the action that we are undertaking. We are learning about negotiations with the government, evacuation rulings, temporary evacuation, recovering our health, decontamination, measurement of radiation levels, nuclear reactors and radioactivity. And we are going everywhere to tell people about Fukushima. Today, companions of ours are giving a speech in New York. We are working on this in every way we can think of. Please help us. Please don't forget Fukushima.

There is one more thing that I want to talk about, which is how we each live our lives. We need to imagine the world on the far side of that socket into which we plug things so heedlessly. We need to put our minds on the fact that convenience and development come at the price of discrimination and sacrificing people. Nuclear power plants are on the far side of that socket. The human race is no more than one species among the living creatures on this earth. Is there any other species that usurps its own future? I want to live as a living being should, in harmony with this beautiful planet. Although it may be a small thing, I want to treat energy as a precious resource, and weave an ingenious, rich, creative life.

How can we build a new world that is the polar opposite of one reliant on nuclear reactors? Nobody knows the full answer to that. What I think we can do is for each one of us, in complete and total earnest, to think with our own minds, make sure to open our eyes wide, decide what we can do, and act on it, rather than following what someone else has decided. Let us remember that each one of us has that power.

Every one of us has the courage to change. Let us reclaim the confidence that was taken from us. And then, let us connect with each other. If the power that even now aims to advance nuclear plants is a vertical wall looming over us, our power extends horizontally, without limits, through our ongoing connection.

Try reaching out and gently holding the hand of the person next to you. Let's look at each other, and listen to each other's pain. Let's allow each other's anger and tears. Let's spread the warmth of these hands we're holding now throughout Japan and the world.

However overwhelmingly heavy the burden each one of us has to bear, however rough the road that we have to travel, let us support each other so that we do not lose sight of our goal, and let us live through this time freely and blithely.

Muto Ruiko
Fukushima, Japan
Translated by Emma Parker
Translator's notes:

* The "hibakusha" are the victims of the atomic bombings of 1945. The use of this term for the victims of the nuclear accident last March makes this one of the most emotionally and politically charged sentences of the speech. The moral position of the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is unassailable; no Japanese politician would dare be seen to belittle their suffering. Placing the victims of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident in the same category, however, emphasises that the lack of action by the government and TEPCO is just as inexcusable.

Also, the Japanese government was only able to obtain public acceptance of its nuclear power programme by acting as though nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation were two completely unrelated questions. Although many of the hibakusha have long been anti-nuclear weapons activists, few have been involved in the opposition to nuclear power. The accident of3/11 changed this situation, with many more people questioning whether any use of nuclear energy can really be safe, and the two movements are finally beginning to join forces.

** Tokyo Electric Power Corporation, the company that owns the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant

*** Additional explanation from Ruiko: the people of Tohoku were first called "ogres" by Sakanoueno Tamuramaro, an eighth-century general, because of their resistance to his attempts to bring them under the rule of the Kyoto-based court. In Tohoku, ogres are not seen primarily as scary creatures, but as figures of resistance with whom people sympathise. For example, there are many dances that depict them in this way. During centuries of exploitation and marginalization, the people of Tohoku have not been able to express their anger openly; but now they are becoming "ogres" once more.

Ruiko Muto is a key member of Hairo Action Fukushima (http://hairoaction.com/), an organization set up by a group of Fukushima citizens in October 2010, to plan and implement a "decommission the reactors action year" beginning on March 26 2011, the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Michio Kaku on Fukushima's status & containment; parallels with BP Oil & Katrina; citizen-based radiation monitoring; clean energy; & Einstein

Some excerpts from Cindy Sheehan's interview with theoretical physicist Michio Kaku:
...Well I just got back from my 2-week trip to Japan and it was a grueling and exhausting trip. I ended up getting a high fever and having to stay in bed for a few days. Besides all that it was a very good trip and I learned so much about what is happening there with the Fukushima reactor meltdown and the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.

But also about the very committed and dedicated organizing that’s happening there to organize and revitalize a new movement against nuclear power and of course nuclear bombs. It was very inspirational for me to be in Japan in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the days that my country dropped two weapons of mass destruction on innocent populations there and to see how the survival instinct in human beings is so great and the way people worked together and rebuilt those cities and their lives after the disaster.

I think it should give the people of Fukushima a lot of inspiration and hope too that recovery from this disaster is possible...

Now remember that three of the cores have experienced 100 percent core melts and the only reason why we didn’t have a catastrophe beyond human imagination is because one of the reactor operators flooded the reactors with sea water going against the orders of his superior. So he actually went against the orders of a superior, flooded the reactor with seawater, destroyed the reactor as a consequence but managed save the reactors from breech of containment which would have been catastrophic.

CS:..I saw you on CNN saying that the people of the world have been lied to about what has been happening in Fukushima. What are your personal thoughts about that?

DMK: You know the Japanese people have been very trusting of their government up to a point. But they were lied to so many times, for so many people it’s the last straw. They’re buying Geiger counters...they’re buying radiation meters on their own. So they simply don’t trust the government anymore...

Radiation levels as you know are being picked up all over the city. Tokyo is 150 miles from the Fukushima site so radiation levels are low let’s be clear about that. However, radiation levels have been detected 200 miles away from the reactor site way past Tokyo...

I think it’s a national scandal the fact that the government is not supplying radiation counters for children in the area. The local governments are taking the initiative. On local government in the Fukushima area has bought toximeters for children as young as kindergarten age. Can you imagine a kindergarten child going to school with a radiation badge and having to be briefed by parents on what this radiation badge does?

So again, people are taking their own initiative. They don’t trust the government anymore. By the way, as the reactor accident took place back in March we physicists in the United States have our own computer codes and we were running simulations of the accident in the United States and we clearly realized that the government was either lying or deliberately withholding information or were simply incompetent concerning their press releases.

We knew there was significant core damage even when the government was saying there was almost no damage whatsoever. We knew how significant it was because of the radiation that came out of the reactor and with our own computers we could then show that the Japanese government and TEPCO were either deceiving the people or were simply incompetent. This information is now available and again it adds to the distrust of the people towards the government and towards TEPCO. The fact that they were lied to and the fact that people put their trust in the government and the utility only now, months later to find out they were exposed to large quantities radiation when it was totally unnecessary.

The latest scandal just a few days ago was the fact that as the accident was progressing the government was withholding data and not dispersing radiation counters especially in areas where the radiation was quite high. So the people were needlessly exposed to high levels of radiation in the opening hours of the accident.

CS: Do you compare or draw parallels between what happening in Fukushima to what happened between BP and the Gulf of Mexico disaster where the people of the United States and the people of the area were also purposely, or because of stupidity, not given the correct information?

DMK: Yes, and you can also make a parallel with Katrina and what happened there. Engineers who build these reactors who build these dykes and levees simply don’t believe that the hundred-year storm will take place in their lifetime. So at Katrina in New Orleans for example the engineers realized that their levees could not withstand a hundred year storm. But their attitude was, well it is a hundred year storm it’s not going to happen in their lifetime, it’s not going to happen in their grand kids lifetime so why worry about it. Then of course the hundred-year storm hit.

Same thing with the Fukushima reactor accident. Engineers clearly realized that giant tsunamis could overwhelm their facilities. But again, it’s not going to happen in their lifetime or their grand kids lifetime so why should they worry? So then of course there we have it. And of course of you prepare for the hundred year storm it’s very expensive and nuclear power would be economically unviable if people had to prepare for the hundred year earthquake, the hundred year storm, the hundred year disaster it would make nuclear power uneconomical if they had to meet those standards

Realize that we have five reactors in various stages of degradation in the area. The accident is not over my any means. The accident could start up all over again if there is a secondary earthquake or another pipe break. In a worse case scenario if there is a major pipe break or a second earthquake you would have to evacuate the workers. Because the pumps are not working at the site it means you have to manually insert the water over the reactors and without the workers it would be in free fall. At that point with an evacuation of all the workers water levels would begin to drop, the reactors would begin to melt again and we would have breech of containment. That is release of uncontrolled amounts of radiation into the environment and that is a catastrophe beyond comprehension.

Realize that at Chernobyl, 25 years ago, we only had one reactor and only 25 percent of the core vaporized and was sent into the air. Here we have three reactors with 100 percent core melt, various stages of melting through the containment structure and if it were to start again it could be much worse than Chernobyl, many times worse than Chernobyl.

Realize that even at Chernobyl it took 600 thousand workers. Let me repeat that number again, 600 thousand workers over a half a million workers to finally bring that reactor in to a semi state of stability. The accident at Chernobyl is not over by the way. The reactor continues to melt, the core continues to melt into the ground at Chernobyl but it took over a half million workers. Many workers only going in a few minutes at a time because of the high levels of radiation. Everyone got a badge and a metal from Gorbachev. But this is certainly no way to build a nuclear power plant.

In Japan we have 3 reactors in very bad shape and it’s not stable because the pumps are not working yet and it means that the accident could start up all over again.

CS: What is the solution Dr. Kaku?

DMK: Yeah, let me say that right now Unit 1 is being encased in plastic like saran wrap in order to at least contain some the radiation that continues to be emitted from Unit 1 because of a partial breech of containment. Now Hewlitt corporation has estimated that 10 years will be required for the clean up. Nobody believes that number because it took 25 years at Chernobyl and that accident is still not over. It took 14 years for Three Mile Island to be brought under control. The Hitachi corporation made an estimate of 30 years to finally clean up the 3 reactor accidents.

But privately in the United States many engineers are saying 50 to 100 years. 50 to 100 years to finally clean up these accidents. First they have to put a TV camera into the core to photograph the extent of the melting. Then you insert hacksaws to cut up the core into pieces. Then you have to extract each piece from the reactor. All of this done under water because it’s too radioactive to be exposed to the air. As you can imagine this will take decades to bring under control...

DMK:...maybe the United States can take a cue from what’s happening in Europe. The Germans have pretty much thrown in the towel after initially backing nuclear power. The government has decided now to phase out all nuclear power plants in Germany. Switzerland has decided to follow suit and follow the example of the Germans. Italy right now is teetering on the brink of following Germany’s example. And right now in the United States Barack Obama is going to have to decide what to do with the revival of nuclear power within the United States.

CS: Like in Japan, we need to revive our anti-nuclear power movement, which had a lot of success here in the United States, and I think this is a time when we can do it.

DMK: Also remember that Barack Obama has shut down the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository. This means at the present time there is no federal waste dump to put high-level nuclear waste from over 100 commercial reactors and also military reactors. So we are suffering from a case of nuclear constipation form nuclear waste that is backing up at every single nuclear site in the United States. And we’re storing it, storing it on site, which I think is a very dangerous procedure. This means that nuclear power cannot move forward until we have some resolution to the nuclear waste issue.

CS: What if your opinion about the Sun obviously has an unlimited potential to be harnessed then use that energy for our increasing power needs. What do you think is the viability of that technology?

DMK: As you mentioned, the Sun is going to shine for another five billion years till it finally uses up it’s hydrogen fuel and of course the Earth only uses a fraction of the sunlight that hits it from the Sun. Right now solar costs are still more expensive than fuel fossil costs. But fossil fuels are limited in quantity and quite erratic in price. Prices are rising while the cost of solar keeps dropping every year. At some point the two curves will cross and at the point renewable solar, hydrogen and wind technology will become just as competitive in the market place as nuclear.

Remember now to build a nuclear power plant takes at least 10 years. So this means you have to look at the economics not today, but the economics 10 years from now. And the economics 10 years from now for solar, hydro, geothermal, wind power is quite attractive. For example, people are buying up solar rights to the Sahara Desert now in order to build plants sometime on the future when prices go down for Europe. So some European investors are saying the even though today it’s not economical to solarize the Sahara Desert in the future it will be. And in the future they want to make sure they have the rights to capture sunlight in the Sahara Desert.

So I think that is what we are going to see. We are going to see markets forces kick in because people will realize 10 years from now solar power is extremely competitive with fossil fuel in all aspects and somebody’s going to make a lot of money because at that point renewable technology will be every bit as competitive as fossil fuels.

CS:... One of my heroes is Dr. Albert Einstein and I know you continue his work trying to find a unified theory. But Dr. Einstein also became increasingly a pacifist and he had a lot of pacifist rhetoric towards the end of his life and I’d like you to comment on that.

DMK: Well, I wrote a biography about Albert Einstein and, first of all, you have to realize when he was a teenager he was a draft resistor. Refused to be drafted into the Germany Army. So he was a man, even as a teenager, who put some of his political philosophy into play during World War 1. He was one of very few intellectuals to sign a manifesto against German entry into WWI. There were 100 German intellectuals who signed a manifesto for German entry--there were only three intellectuals including Einstein who signed the manifesto against WWI. During WWII he began to modify his position a bit and say that the German Army should be opposed, you simply can do nothing and allow this racist totalitarian entity to start to take over the world.

Then right after the bombing of Hiroshima he founded the first anti-nuclear organization. It was called the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists and it was the very first anti-nuclear organization formed right after the bombing of Hiroshima by Albert Einstein...

My favorite Einstein quotes is that “if a theory can not be explained to a child then the theory is probably useless." So all great theories, the theories of Newton, Einstein, all these great theories in principle can be explained to a child.

Hopefully in my I work I try to explain the excitement that we feel converging on this great theories that will one day answer these enormously important questions that even bedeviled Einstein. Is time travel possible? Are there other dimensions? Are there gateways to other universes? These are questions that Einstein actually wrote about and these are actually questions in principle that we can solve using string theory. So I think that we are in a great position now.