Saturday, November 2, 2013

(OT) ABC News Exclusive: Secretary General of Interpol Wonders Aloud If Armed Citizenry Is More Necessary Now, Instead of Gun Control

I don't believe this article got much coverage, given how it is under the Obama administration when it comes to armed citizenry.

For my record, from ABC News (10/21/2013; emphasis is mine):

Exclusive: After Westgate, Interpol Chief Ponders 'Armed Citizenry'

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said today the U.S. and the rest of the democratic world is at a security crossroads in the wake of last month's deadly al-Shabab attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya – and suggested an answer could be in arming civilians.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Noble said there are really only two choices for protecting open societies from attacks like the one on Westgate mall where so-called "soft targets" are hit: either create secure perimeters around the locations or allow civilians to carry their own guns to protect themselves.

"Societies have to think about how they're going to approach the problem," Noble said. "One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves are so secure that in order to get into the soft target you're going to have to pass through extraordinary security."

Noble's comments came only moments after the official opening of the 82nd annual gathering of the Interpol's governing body, the General Assembly. The session is being held in Cartagena, Colombia, and is being used to highlight strides over the last decade in Colombia's battle against the notorious drug cartels that used to be the real power in the country.

The secretary general, an American who previously headed up all law enforcement for the U.S. Treasury Department, told reporters during a brief news conference that the Westgate mall attack marks what has long been seen as "an evolution in terrorism." Instead of targets like the Pentagon and World Trade Center that now have far more security since 9/11, attackers are focusing on sites with little security that attract large numbers of people.

At least 67 were killed over a period of days at the Westgate mall, more than 60 of the dead were civilians. The Somalia-based al Qaeda-allied terror group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack as it was ongoing but investigators are still trying to determine exactly who planned the strike, where they are and what is next for them. U.S. authorities in Uganda, fearing another similar incident in Africa, issued a warning late last week.

Citing a recent call for al Qaeda "brothers to strike soft targets, to do it in small groups," Noble said law enforcement is now facing a daunting task.

"How do you protect soft targets? That's really the challenge. You can't have armed police forces everywhere," he told reporters. "It's Interpol's view that one way you protect soft targets is you make it more difficult for terrorist to move internationally. So what we're trying to do is to establish a way for countries … to screen passports, which are a terrorist's best friend, try to limit terrorists moving from country to country. And also, that we're able to share more info about suspected terrorists."

In the interview with ABC News, Noble was more blunt and directed his comments to his home country.

"Ask yourself: If that was Denver, Col., if that was Texas, would those guys have been able to spend hours, days, shooting people randomly?" Noble said, referring to states with pro-gun traditions. "What I'm saying is it makes police around the world question their views on gun control. It makes citizens question their views on gun control. You have to ask yourself, 'Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past with an evolving threat of terrorism?' This is something that has to be discussed."

"For me it's a profound question," he continued. "People are quick to say 'gun control, people shouldn't be armed,' etc., etc. I think they have to ask themselves: 'Where would you have wanted to be? In a city where there was gun control and no citizens armed if you're in a Westgate mall, or in a place like Denver or Texas?'"

Prior to the Westgate attack, the gun control debate has been ignited time and time again in the U.S. in the aftermath of a series of mass shootings, including one in a movie theater in Aurora, Col., a suburb of Denver.

(I think I can tell the answer by the majority of Japanese: they'd rather be in a city with the strictest gun control and absolutely no citizens armed when shooting starts in a big shopping mall...)

(OT) Saturday Humor: You Will Never Look at Australia the Same Way Again...

Note the cat food.

From @BJMendelson:

(h/t @Kontan_Bigcat)

(UPDATED) Reuters: #Fukushima Worker Exploitation "60 Dollars a Day, Nowhere Else to Go"

(UPDATE 11/2/2013) There are some minor differences between the English article and the Japanese article, probably due to different editors for each language version. I highlighted the sections that only appear in the English article, in blue. I thought it was interesting editing.


The video (dubbed with English subtitles) and the accompanying highly detailed report (both in English and in Japanese) were published on October 25, 2013. Judging from the number of tweets (zero, until I tweeted just now) of the Japanese report, hardly anyone paid any attention in Japan.

"We knew that. There's nothing new..." And so we continue to leave these workers to their misery while being busy shouting anti-nuclear slogans or praising alternative energy.

Unlike Japanese media (like Gendai the other day), Reuters is naming names - of layers of subcontractors that exploit the workers by design.

Unlike Japanese media, Reuters talked to more than 80 people - workers, subcontractors, government officials. Their article is about "yakuza and rank amateur" workers at the plant that anonymous workers were lamenting in the Gendai article the other day.

The most humorous passage to me in the article below was a comment by one of the largest construction companies in Japan - Obayashi:

A spokesman for Obayashi said the company "did not notice" that one of its subcontractors was getting workers from a gangster.

Right. Who could have known? The word "subcontracting pyramid" exist to describe decades-old (if not centuries-old) practice in the Japanese construction industry.

The former US nuclear regulator's comment was also interesting. He sure knows Japan well when he said,

"There's been a century of tradition of big Japanese companies using contractors, and that's just the way it is in Japan"

But then, he continued,

"I think you have to adapt"

So, Hayashis and Goshimas and other "yakuzas and rank amateurs" working for subcontractors of subcontractors of subcontractors of subcontractors of subcontractors... at Fukushima I Nuke Plant just have to put up with it, because it is a culture so ingrained that it's not likely to change in their lifetime. No wonder Mr. Barret serves as TEPCO's advisor.

From Reuters (10/25/2013):

Special Report: Help wanted in Fukushima: Low pay, high risks and gangsters

Oct 25 (Reuters) - Tetsuya Hayashi went to Fukushima to take a job at ground zero of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. He lasted less than two weeks.

Hayashi, 41, says he was recruited for a job monitoring the radiation exposure of workers leaving the plant in the summer of 2012. Instead, when he turned up for work, he was handed off through a web of contractors and assigned, to his surprise, to one of Fukushima's hottest radiation zones.

He was told he would have to wear an oxygen tank and a double-layer protective suit. Even then, his handlers told him, the radiation would be so high it could burn through his annual exposure limit in just under an hour.

"I felt cheated and entrapped," Hayashi said. "I had not agreed to any of this."

When Hayashi took his grievances to a firm on the next rung up the ladder of Fukushima contractors, he says he was fired. He filed a complaint but has not received any response from labor regulators for more than a year. All the eight companies involved, including embattled plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, declined to comment or could not be reached for comment on his case.

Out of work, Hayashi found a second job at Fukushima, this time building a concrete base for tanks to hold spent fuel rods. His new employer skimmed almost a third of his wages - about $1,500 a month - and paid him the rest in cash in brown paper envelopes, he says. Reuters reviewed documents related to Hayashi's complaint, including pay envelopes and bank statements.

Hayashi's hard times are not unusual in the estimated $150-billion effort to dismantle the Fukushima reactors and clean up the neighboring areas, a Reuters examination found.

In reviewing Fukushima working conditions, Reuters interviewed more than 80 workers, employers and officials involved in the unprecedented nuclear clean-up. A common complaint: the project's dependence on a sprawling and little scrutinized network of subcontractors - many of them inexperienced with nuclear work and some of them, police say, have ties to organized crime.

Tepco sits atop a pyramid of subcontractors that can run to seven or more layers and includes construction giants such as Kajima Corp and Obayashi Corp in the first tier. The embattled utility remains in charge of the work to dismantle the damaged Fukushima reactors, a government-subsidized job expected to take 30 years or more.

Outside the plant, Japan's "Big Four" construction companies - Kajima, Obayashi, Shimizu Corp and Taisei Corp - oversee hundreds of small firms working on government-funded contracts to remove radioactive dirt and debris from nearby villages and farms so evacuees can return home.

Tokyo Electric, widely known as Tepco, says it has been unable to monitor subcontractors fully but has taken steps to limit worker abuses and curb the involvement of organized crime.

"We sign contracts with companies based on the cost needed to carry out a task," Masayuki Ono, a general manager for nuclear power at Tepco, told Reuters. "The companies then hire their own employees taking into account our contract. It's very difficult for us to go in and check their contracts."

The unprecedented Fukushima nuclear clean-up both inside and outside the plant faces a deepening shortage of workers. There are about 25 percent more openings than applicants for jobs in Fukushima prefecture, according to government data.

Raising wages could draw more workers but that has not happened, the data shows. Tepco is under pressure to post a profit in the year to March 2014 under a turnaround plan Japan's top banks recently financed with $5.9 billion in new loans and refinancing. In 2011, in the wake of the disaster, Tepco cut pay for its own workers by 20 percent.

With wages flat and workers scarce, labor brokers have stepped into the gap, recruiting people whose lives have reached a dead end or who have trouble finding a job outside the disaster zone.

The result has been a proliferation of small firms - many unregistered. Some 800 companies are active inside the Fukushima plant and hundreds more are working in the decontamination effort outside its gates, according to Tepco and documents reviewed by Reuters.

Tepco, Asia's largest listed power utility, had long enjoyed close ties to regulators and lax government oversight. That came under harsh scrutiny after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a massive tsunami hit the plant on March 11, 2011. The disaster triggered three reactor meltdowns, a series of explosions and a radiation leak that forced 150,000 people to flee nearby villages.

Tepco's hapless efforts since to stabilize the situation have been like someone playing "whack-a-mole", Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi has said.


Hayashi is one of an estimated 50,000 workers who have been hired so far to shut down the nuclear plant and decontaminate the towns and villages nearby. Thousands more will have to follow. Some of the workers will be needed to maintain the system that cools damaged fuel rods in the reactors with thousands of tonnes (1 tonne = 1.102 metric tons) of water every day. The contaminated runoff is then transferred to more than 1,000 tanks, enough to fill more than 130 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Dismantling the Fukushima Daiichi plant will require maintaining a job pool of at least 12,000 workers just through 2015, according to Tepco's blueprint. That compares to just over 8,000 registered workers now. In recent months, some 6,000 have been working inside the plant.

The Tepco hiring estimate does not include the manpower required for the government's new $330 million plan to build a massive ice wall around the plant to keep radiated water from leaking into the sea.

"I think we should really ask whether they are able to do this while ensuring the safety of the workers," said Shinichi Nakayama, deputy director of safety research at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

Japan's nuclear industry has relied on cheap labor since the first plants, including Fukushima, opened in the 1970s. For years, the industry has rounded up itinerant workers known as "nuclear gypsies" from the Sanya neighborhood of Tokyo and Kamagasaki in Osaka, areas known for large numbers of homeless men.

"Working conditions in the nuclear industry have always been bad," said Saburo Murata, deputy director of Osaka's Hannan Chuo Hospital. "Problems with money, outsourced recruitment, lack of proper health insurance - these have existed for decades."

The Fukushima project has magnified those problems. When Japan's parliament approved a bill to fund decontamination work in August 2011, the law did not apply existing rules regulating the construction industry. As a result, contractors working on decontamination have not been required to disclose information on management or undergo any screening.

That meant anyone could become a nuclear contractor overnight. Many small companies without experience rushed to bid for contracts and then often turned to brokers to round up the manpower, according to employers and workers.

The resulting influx of workers has turned the town of Iwaki, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the plant, into a bustling labor hub at the front line of the massive public works project.

In extreme cases, brokers have been known to "buy" workers by paying off their debts. The workers are then forced to work until they pay off their new bosses for sharply reduced wages and under conditions that make it hard for them to speak out against abuses, labor activists and workers in Fukushima said.

Lake Barrett, a former U.S. nuclear regulator and an advisor to Tepco, says the system is so ingrained it will take time to change.

"There's been a century of tradition of big Japanese companies using contractors, and that's just the way it is in Japan," he told Reuters. "You're not going to change that overnight just because you have a new job here, so I think you have to adapt."

A Tepco survey from 2012 showed nearly half of the workers at Fukushima were employed by one contractor but managed by another. Japanese law prohibits such arrangements, in order to prevent brokers from skimming workers' wages.

Tepco said the survey represents one of the steps it has taken to crack down on abuses. "We take issues related to inappropriate subcontractors very seriously," the utility said in a statement to Reuters.

Tepco said it warns its contractors to respect labor regulations. The company said it has established a hotline for workers, and has organized lectures for subcontractors to raise awareness on labor regulations. In June, it introduced compulsory training for new workers on what constitutes illegal employment practices.

Tepco does not publish average hourly wages in the plant. Workers interviewed by Reuters said wages could be as low as around $6 an hour, but usually average around $12 an hour - about a third lower than the average in Japan's construction industry.

Workers for subcontractors in the most-contaminated area outside the plant are supposed to be paid an additional government-funded hazard allowance of about $100 per day, although many report it has not been paid.

The work in the plant can also be dangerous. Six workers in October were exposed to radioactive water when one of them detached a pipe connected to a treatment system. In August, 12 workers were irradiated when removing rubble from around one of the reactors. The accidents prompted Japan's nuclear regulator to question whether Tepco has been delegating too much.

"Proper oversight is important in preventing careless mistakes. Right now Tepco may be leaving it all up to the subcontractors," said the head of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority, Shunichi Tanaka in response to the recent accidents.

Tepco said it will take measures to ensure that such accidents are not repeated. The utility said it monitors safety with spot inspections and checks on safeguards for workers when projects are divided between subcontractors.

The NRA, which is primarily charged with reactor safety, is only one of several agencies dealing with the Fukushima project: the ministries of labor, environment, trade and economy are also responsible for managing the clean-up and enforcing regulations, along with local authorities and police.

Yousuke Minaguchi, a lawyer who has represented Fukushima workers, says Japan's government has turned a blind eye to the problem of worker exploitation. "On the surface, they say it is illegal. But in reality they don't want to do anything. By not punishing anyone, they can keep using a lot of workers cheaply."

Economy Minister Motegi, who is responsible for Japan's energy policy and decommissioning of the plant, instructed Tepco to improve housing for workers. He has said more needs to be done to ensure workers are being treated well.

"To get work done, it's necessary to cooperate with a large number of companies," he told Reuters. "Making sure that those relations are proper, and that work is moving forward is something we need to keep working on daily."


Hayashi offers a number of reasons for his decision to head to Fukushima from his home in Nagano, an area in central Japan famous for its ski slopes, where in his youth Hayashi honed his snowboarding skills.

He says he was skeptical of the government's early claim that the Fukushima plant was under control and wanted to see it for himself. He had worked in construction, knew how to weld and felt he could contribute.

Like many other workers, Hayashi was initially recruited by a broker. He was placed with RH Kogyo, a subcontractor six levels removed from Tepco.

When he arrived in Fukushima, Hayashi received instructions from five other firms in addition to the labor broker and RH Kogyo. It was the sixth contractor up the ladder, ABL Co. Ltd that told him he would be working in a highly radioactive area. ABL Co reported to Tokyo Energy & Systems Inc, which in Fukushima manages some 200 workers as a first-tier contractor under Tepco.

Hayashi says he kept copies of his work records and took pictures and videos inside the plant, encouraged by a TV journalist he had met before beginning his assignment. At one point, his boss from RH Kogyo told him not to worry because any radiation he was exposed to would not "build up".

"Once you wait a week, the amount of radiation goes down by half," the man is seen telling him in one of the recordings. The former supervisor declined to comment.

The statement represents a mistaken account of radiation safety standards applied in Fukushima, which are based on the view that there is no such thing as a safe dose. Workers are limited to 100 millisieverts of radiation exposure over five years. The International Atomic Energy Agency says exposure over that threshold measurably raises the risk of later cancers.

After Hayashi's first two-week stint at the plant ended, he discovered his nuclear passbook - a record of radiation exposure - had been falsified to show he had been an employee of larger firms higher up the ladder of contractors, not RH Kogyo.

Reuters reviewed the passbook and documents related to Hayashi's employment. The nuclear passbook shows that Hayashi was employed by Suzushi Kogyo from May to June 2012. It says Take One employed Hayashi for ten days in June 2012. Hayashi says that is false because he had a one-year contract with RH Kogyo.

"My suspicion is that they falsified the records to hide the fact that they had outsourced my employment," Hayashi said.

ABL Co. said Hayashi had worked with the firm but declined to comment on his claims. Tepco, Tokyo Energy & Systems, Suzushi Kogyo and RH Kogyo also declined to comment. Take One could not be reached for comment.

In September 2012, Hayashi found another job with a subcontractor for Kajima, one of Japan's largest construction companies. He didn't want to go back home empty-handed and says he thought he might have been just unlucky with his first bad experience at the plant.

Instead, his problems continued. This time a broker who recruited several workers for the subcontractor insisted on access to his bank account and then took almost a third of the roughly $160 Hayashi was supposed to be earning each day, Hayashi says.

The broker, according to Hayashi, identified himself as a former member of a local gang from Hayashi's native Nagano.

Ryo Goshima, 23, said the same broker from Nagano placed him in a crew doing decontamination work and then skimmed almost half of what he had been promised. Goshima and Hayashi became friends in Fukushima when they wound up working for the same firm.

Goshima said he was fired in December after complaining about the skimming practice. Tech, the contractor that had employed him, said it had fired another employee who was found to have skimmed Goshima's wages. Tech said Goshima left for personal reasons. The firm paid Goshima back wages, both sides say. The total payment was $9,000, according to Goshima.

Kajima spokesman Atsushi Fujino said the company was not in a position to comment on either of the cases since it did not have a contract with Hayashi or Goshima.

"We pay the companies who work for us and instruct those companies to pay the hazard allowance," the Kajima spokesman said in a statement.


The complexity of Fukushima contracts and the shortage of workers have played into the hands of the yakuza, Japan's organized crime syndicates, which have run labor rackets for generations.

Nearly 50 gangs with 1,050 members operate in Fukushima prefecture dominated by three major syndicates - Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai, police say.

Ministries, the companies involved in the decontamination and decommissioning work, and police have set up a task force to eradicate organized crime from the nuclear clean-up project. Police investigators say they cannot crack down on the gang members they track without receiving a complaint. They also rely on major contractors for information.

In a rare prosecution involving a yakuza executive, Yoshinori Arai, a boss in a gang affiliated with the Sumiyoshi-kai, was convicted of labor law violations. Arai admitted pocketing around $60,000 over two years by skimming a third of wages paid to workers in the disaster zone. In March a judge gave him an eight-month suspended sentence because Arai said he had resigned from the gang and regretted his actions.

Arai was convicted of supplying workers to a site managed by Obayashi, one of Japan's leading contractors, in Date, a town northwest of the Fukushima plant. Date was in the path of the most concentrated plume of radiation after the disaster.

A police official with knowledge of the investigation said Arai's case was just "the tip of the iceberg" in terms of organized crime involvement in the clean-up.

A spokesman for Obayashi said the company "did not notice" that one of its subcontractors was getting workers from a gangster.

"In contracts with our subcontractors we have clauses on not cooperating with organized crime," the spokesman said, adding the company was working with the police and its subcontractors to ensure this sort of violation does not happen again.

In April, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare sanctioned three companies for illegally dispatching workers to Fukushima. One of those, a Nagasaki-based company called Yamato Engineering, sent 510 workers to lay pipe at the nuclear plant in violation of labor laws banning brokers. All three companies were ordered by labor regulators to improve business practices, records show.

In 2009, Yamato Engineering was banned from public works projects because of a police determination that it was "effectively under the control of organized crime," according to a public notice by the Nagasaki-branch of the land and transport ministry. Yamato Engineering had no immediate comment.

Goshima said he himself had been working for the local chapter of Yamaguchi-gumi since the age of 14, extorting money and collecting debts. He quit at age 20 after spending some time in jail. He had to borrow money from a loan shark to pay off his gang, which demanded about $2,000 a month for several months to let him go.

"My parents didn't want any problems from the gang, so they told me to leave and never return," Goshima said. He went to Fukushima looking for a well-paying job to pay down the debt - and ended up working for a yakuza member from his home district.


In towns and villages around the plant in Fukushima, thousands of workers wielding industrial hoses, operating mechanical diggers and wearing dosimeters to measure radiation have been deployed to scrub houses and roads, dig up topsoil and strip trees of leaves in an effort to reduce background radiation so that refugees can return home.

Hundreds of small companies have been given contracts for this decontamination work. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed in the first half of 2013 had broken labor regulations, according to a labor ministry report in July. The ministry's Fukushima office had received 567 complaints related to working conditions in the decontamination effort in the year to March. It issued 10 warnings. No firm was penalized.

One of the firms that has faced complaints is Denko Keibi, which before the disaster used to supply security guards for construction sites.

Denko Keibi managed 35 workers in Tamura, a village near the plant. At an arbitration session in May that Reuters attended, the workers complained they had been packed five to a room in small cabins. Dinner was typically a bowl of rice and half a pepper or a sardine, they said. When a driver transporting workers flipped their van on an icy road in December, supervisors ordered workers to take off their uniforms and scatter to distant hospitals, the workers said. Denko Keibi had no insurance for workplace accidents and wanted to avoid reporting the crash, they said.

"We were asked to come in and go to work quickly," an executive of Denko Keibi said, apologizing to the workers, who later won compensation of about $6,000 each for unpaid wages. "In hindsight, this is not something an amateur should have gotten involved in."

In the arbitration session Reuters attended, Denko Keibi said there had been problems with working conditions but said it was still examining what happened in the December accident.

The Denko Keibi case is unusual because of the large number of workers involved, the labor union that won the settlement said. Many workers are afraid to speak out, often because they have to keep paying back loans to their employers.

"The workers are scared to sue because they're afraid they will be blacklisted," said Mitsuo Nakamura, a former day laborer who runs a group set up to protect Fukushima workers. "You have to remember these people often can't get any other job."

Hayashi's experiences at the plant turned him into an activist. He was reassigned to a construction site outside Tokyo by his second employer after he posted an online video about his first experiences in the plant in late 2012. After a tabloid magazine published a story about Hayashi, his managers asked him to leave. He has since moved to Tokyo and filed a complaint with the labor standards office. He volunteered in the successful parliamentary campaign of former actor turned anti-nuclear activist, Taro Yamamoto.

"Major contractors that run this system think that workers will always be afraid to talk because they are scared to lose their jobs," said Hayashi. "But Japan can't continue to ignore this problem forever."

(Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki, Sophie Knight and Chris Meyers in Tokyo and Yoshiyuki Osada in Osaka; Editing By Bill Tarrant)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Vice Prime Minister/Finance Minister Taro Aso Strikes Again: "Keep TEPCO Alive to Keep Electricity Coming"

Mr. Taro Aso (pictured here, one of his better ones - probably the best one I've seen), elite fifth-generation politician and Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister in the Abe administration, is well-known for his very candid remarks.

The last I heard him say was "Learn from Nazis" on how to change the Constitution on stealth.

From unabashedly pro-LDP Sankei Shinbun (11/1/2013):


During the press conference after the cabinet meeting on November 1, Finance Minister Taro Aso commented on the proposal approved by LDP's Headquarters for Accelerating Reconstruction from Great East Japan Earthquake to inject the government money in decontamination, and said "Unless we properly keep the company of TEPCO alive, no electricity will come. We will consider (injecting the government money) given such circumstances," indicating his favorable stance [on injecting the government money in decontamination].

Isn't the name great? "Headquarters for Accelerating Reconstruction from Great East Japan Earthquake"? (My translation, though, not official.) This administration sure likes talking about "accelerating" and "ahead of schedule" particularly when they are not the ones who actually do anything.

But what Aso says sounds all too familiar. Where have I heard this before?

Most recently, it was September/October 2008. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson threatened the Congress and American people with the immediate collapse of the US and global financial system unless they were given 700 billion dollars of taxpayers' money so that they could "save" the some of the world largest banks and financial institutions who had made many billions creating the housing bubble with the Fed and the government and busting the bubble, selling financial shenanigans like MBS (mortgage-backed securities many of which turned out to be backed by no mortages), CDOs (square and cube included), CDS (credit default swap), etc., thanks in part to very lax oversight by the government regulators.

"It would be very inconvenient if there was no bank, wouldn't you agree?"

That was the message by the powerful duo, and that was what the media hyped at that time to pressure the Congress to do what Ben and Hank were saying. (It was in fact more like the foul messenger from Mordor, visiting the Dwarf King and offering friendship and wealth in exchange for information of Bilbo Baggins - "But refuse, things will not be so well. Do you refuse?")

Still, the House of Representatives dare voted down, and they duly punished them by tanking the stock market. (Instead of PPT, plunge protection team, it was PT, plunge team, in those days.) The House of Representatives folded in the second vote.

Going back in Japanese history, I have heard the similar story over Chisso, the company that polluted the Minamata bay with mercury. To pay compensations to the mercury-poisoning victims (the company and the government fought hard against), Chisso was kept alive as a corporation, instead of being declared bankrupt and having shareholders and debt holders take the hit. The national and local governments injected money into the company so that the company could keep making profit to pay the victims.

Just like Wall Street banks in 2008 and TEPCO today, taxpayers ended up paying for the mistakes of Chisso and failure of the governments to properly regulate the company.

History does repeat, even if no one pays attention.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Anonymous Workers at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Blast Government, TEPCO, Speak of Radiation Dangers at the Plant: "It's Yakuza and Rank Amateurs at the Plant"

Shukan Gendai weekly magazine online has an article featuring four workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant telling the magazine that it's yakuza-and-rank-amateur hour over there.

Unlike interviews done by foreign media where the plant workers and TEPCO managers reveal their names and face no obvious repercussions, Japanese media almost always quote workers anonymously; Gendai is no exception.

There is no way of proving or disproving what they are saying, and there were in the past some extremely tall tales supposedly coming from the anonymous plant workers (particularly in the first year of the accident). But their comments in the Gendai article are still extremely revealing, and they do put things in a certain perspective (like those dead rats in the switch boxes - here and here).

Toward the end, one worker says, "At this rate, not even yakuza nor amateurs will remain at Fukushima I Nuke Plant."

Uh oh...

My quick translation (subject to later revision) from Shukan Gendai (10/22/2013; part):

(Title) 福島第一原発作業員 緊急座談会「汚染水処理の現場はヤクザとど素人だけになった」

Roundtable of workers at Fukushima I NPP "There are only yakuza and rank amateurs dealing with the contaminated water problems"

作業員B 作業員の士気、相当低いからね。とにかくコロコロ人が替わるから、責任感みたいなものがない。いま一緒に作業しとる仲間の前職は新宿の居酒屋店員、プールの監視員、塾の講師、トラック運転手と、ど素人ばかり。熟練さんがおらん。

Worker B: Morale of the workers are very low. Turnover is very high, and there is no commitment to the job. People whom I'm working with right now are a former worker at a pub in Shinjuku, a life guard at a swimming pool, a cram school teacher, a truck driver. In other words, rank amateurs. There is no skilled worker.

作業員B 現場でも東電が作業員に直接指示を出すことは、ほとんどない。あっても「早くしろ」「時間がない」くらいやね。こないだ安倍さんが視察に来たけど、ホンマ、大迷惑でした。というのも「安倍さんに汚いところを見せられない。ガレキを片付けろ!」と東電に言われ、1週間もかけて現場の掃除をやらされたんです。掃除で作業が滞るというアホらしさ。安倍さんが見たのはほんとのイチエフ(福島第一原発)の姿やないですよ(笑)。

Worker B: It is rare that TEPCO orders workers directly at the plant. When they do, it is nothing more than "Hurry up" or "We're running out of time". Mr. Abe came to the plant the other day, and that was a major headache for us. TEPCO ordered us to clean the site for one week, because "We can't let Prime Minister Abe see the dirty site. Clear the debris!" It was stupid. Because of the cleanup job, the work at the plant was delayed. What Mr. Abe saw was not the real Ichi-F [F1, Fukushima I NPP].

作業員D 汚染水タンクの配管も、どれだけ傷んでいるか想像もつかないですよね。とにかく「急げ、急げ」と急かされて作ったから、純正品ではなく、既製品を組み合わせている。

Worker D: I have no idea how damaged the pipes for the contaminated water storage tanks are. They were built in a great hurry, and they are not genuine products but off-the-shelf products.

作業員C 汚染水タンクの設置当初から水漏れは懸念されていましたけど、そうした声は東電に伝わらない。東電はタンクをパトロールしていると言ってますが、1000基あるタンクを二人で2~3時間で見るわけでしょ? 長く見積もっても1基あたり30秒弱。連結部分は数万ヵ所あるわけで、とてもチェックできない。

Worker C: From the time when the contaminated water storage tanks were first installed, people have been worried about leaks. But those worries don't reach TEPCO. TEPCO says they are patrolling the tank areas, but 1,000 tanks per two workers in 2 to 3 hours? At most, less than 30 seconds per tank. There are tens of thousands of joints, and it is impossible to check them all.

作業員B せんだって、台風が上陸したときなんて、大雨で側溝の水が溢れそうになったので、海に捨てました。流した水の放射線量を測定しなかったことを責められましたが、あえて測定せんのですよ。数値によっては犯罪になってまうから。

Worker B: The other day when a typhoon hit, heavy rain almost caused the water in the drain to overflow. So we released the water into the ocean. We were accused of not measuring the radiation before we released, but there was a reason why we didn't measure; depending on the result of the measurement it would have been a criminal act.

作業員B でも、福島第一原発には、地雷みたいに、とんでもない高線量のところがまだまだある。原子炉建屋の山側の道を車で走ると、いまもピューッと線量があがりますよ。特に2号機と3号機の間。あそこは加速して突っ切ります。3月にネズミが仮設の配電盤をかじって停電したよね? どこが停電したか、みんなわかっとったけど、線量が高いと有名なところだったから、誰も現場に行きたがらんかった。

Worker B: There are still many locations with extremely high radiation at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, like landmines. When we drive on the road on the mountain-side [west] of the reactor building, the radiation level rises rapidly. Particularly between Reactor 2 and Reactor 3. We put on the gas and drive fast there. Remember the power outage in March, caused by a rat chewing the wires in a temporary switch board? We all knew the location, which was famous [among the workers] for high radiation. No one wanted to go there.

作業員A 熟練作業員の不足は深刻。素人が10人いるより、技術を持った一人のほうが仕事は捗る。震災後、原発作業員の年間被曝量の上限が50から250ミリシーベルトに上げられたけど、福島第一原発ではそれでもすぐ、被曝限度を喰ってしまって、働けなくなる。熟練工は『高線量部隊』と呼ばれる、原発により近い現場で働くので、だいたい1~2週間で限度オーバーになってしまう。

Worker A: Lack of skilled workers is very serious. More work gets done by one skilled worker than by 10 amateurs. After the March 11, 2011 disaster, the upper limit of annual radiation exposure for nuclear plant workers was raised from 50 millisieverts to 250 millisieverts. But at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, workers reach the limit very quickly and cannot work any more. The skilled workers are called "high radiation corps". They work closer to the reactors, and they exceed the limit in one to two weeks.

作業員C 作業員には通いと泊まりがありますが、小さい下請けに入ってしまうと、16時間も拘束されることがある。長時間労働、低賃金、残業手当なしの世界。

Worker C: There are workers who commute, and there are those who stay in dorms. At a small subcontractor, the total hours spent at work may be 16 hours. Long hours, low pay, no overtime benefit.

作業員B ウチの会社はプレハブの寮に住んでいる人が多いかな。事故直後は地元の温泉街の宿やったから、ランクは相当落ちた。それにこの寮というのが、メシがまずくてね。「東電が全然、お金をかけてくれない」って食堂のオバちゃんが嘆いてた。

Worker B: At my company, many live in the prefab dorm. Right after the start of the accident, we got to stay at a local onsen [hot spring] resort. So it's been downgraded significantly. On top of that, the food at this dorm is awful. "TEPCO is not giving us any money [for better food]," says the aunty in charge of the kitchen.

作業員D ケアの面もどんどん悪くなってます。以前は線量オーバーで離職した人間は、半年か年に1回は人間ドックを受けられたり、無料の健康相談があった。それがいまはよほど高い線量で被曝したケースじゃないと、そういうケアはない。私は最近、すごく風邪をひきやすくなった。過労のせいもあるだろうけど、すごく不安です。

Worker D: The health care is progressively getting worse. Before, those who left work after exceeding the radiation exposure limit used to receive a complete medical checkup once in half year or a year. There was a free health consultation. But now, there is no such care unless your radiation exposure is significantly high. As for myself, I catch cold more often these days. It may be partly because of overwork, but I am very worried.

作業員C 使い捨てにされてる感がありますね。作業員は原発内のプレハブで休憩したり、食事をしたりするんですが、誰がどこで何の作業をしていたか、一切知らされない。僕はそんな作業員たちが着ていたものの廃棄や処分をやるんです。...一番ヒヤリとしたのは、作業中に何かが指に刺さって血が出たとき。トラブルが表沙汰になれば現場責任者も咎められるから、黙ってました。

Worker C: It feels like we are treated as disposable. Workers rest and eat inside the prefab buildings inside the plant, but we're not told who did what where. I am in charge of disposing the clothing of the workers. I was most scared when my finger bled when it caught something [in the clothing]. If I spoke up about the problem the site manager would be in trouble. So I kept quiet.

作業員B 汚染水処理にしたって、いまはそれを最優先にしているけど、肝心の汚染水を流すホースさえ、事故当時のまま使っているから、劣化が激しく、あちらこちらから水漏れする有り様。原子炉建屋もボロボロのまま。満身創痍ですわ。3号機なんていまも、原子炉の中がどうなってるかわからないですからね。放射線量が高すぎて、ロボットも入れない。

Worker B: Take contaminated water processing. It is given the high priority now, but the hoses used to transfer contaminated water have been used since the start of the accident. They have deteriorated much, and leaking. Reactor buildings remain tattered. It's like being covered with wounds all over the body. We still don't know what is like inside the reactor at Unit 3. Radiation is too high, and not even a robot can enter.

作業員A 東京オリンピック招致に際して、安倍首相が「状況はコントロールできている」と安全宣言したけど、あれはどこの話なんですかね。それどころか、ゼネコンが集めてくる作業員たちはいずれオリンピック関連工事に取られると思う。安倍は無責任すぎるよ。

Worker A: To win 2020 Olympic to Tokyo, Prime Minister Abe made a safety declaration that "situation is under control". What is he talking about? On the contrary, I think workers hired by major construction companies will eventually be diverted to construction projects related to the Olympic. Abe is too irresponsible.

作業員D もちろん、我々にもやらなくちゃいけないという思いはあるんですが、正直キツい。作業員の数は変わらないのに、仕事は増えていくばかり。トラブルが起きれば、その対応でまた仕事量が増える。キャパシティを超えて、みんな疲れきっています。「汚染水を処理する」ことばかり注目されていますが、現場の感覚からすると、放射性物質を取り除いた低濃度の汚染水を海に流せるように政治の力で話をつけてもらわないと意味がない。処理後の汚染水が貯まる一方で、いまでもタンク工場みたいになっている。

Worker D: Of course we feel we have to do it, but honestly, it is tough. More work for the same number of workers. When there's a trouble, the work increases further to respond to the trouble. It's beyond everyone's capacity, and we are dead tired. Focus has been only on "contaminated water treatment", but from our perspective at the plant, unless the government makes a political decision so that the low-contamination water after radioactive materials are removed [with the exception of tritium] can be released into the ocean, it is meaningless. Low-contamination water after the treatment keeps accumulating, and the plant looks like a storage tank factory.

作業員B あとは作業員を増やすべき。特に熟練工を福島に戻さんと。

Worker B: And the number of workers should be increased. In particular, skilled workers should be brought back to Fukushima.

作業員D 東電は、最初は威勢のいいことを言うんです。『お金がかかってもいいから、ちゃんと収束させましょう』と。ところが、実態が伴わない。これから廃炉まで30年も40年もかかるのに、作業員の詰め所はプレハブにクッションシートを敷いた簡素なもの。

Worker D: TEPCO says things like "Let's restore the plant, no mater how much it may cost," but that is not accompanied by action [money]. It will take 30, 40 years to decommission, and the workers' station is a prefab building with filler sheets on the floor.

作業員C 一部の東電の協力会社がバカみたいな安い値段で入札して、イチエフの労働価格のデフレを引き起こしたのも問題。労働者の中には借金などでヤクザに送り込まれた人や食い詰めたヤクザ本人がいる。現場はヤクザとど素人ばかりです……。

Worker C: Some of TEPCO's affiliate companies put in the bid with ridiculously low price and caused the deflation of labor cost at Fukushima I. Workers include people sent here by yakuzas for their debts and down and out yakuzas themselves. The site is full of yakuzas and rank amateurs...

作業員B 原発に潜入したジャーナリストが「作業員の1割はヤクザ」と本で書いとったけど、たしかにヤクザ者は増えた。刺青入れた作業員にも会ったことあるわ。安く人を派遣して中抜きしたり、単純にシノギとして若い衆を派遣したりしとるんやろね。一方でヤクザに頼りでもしないと、人が集まらんのも事実。

Worker B: A journalist who smuggled himself into the plant wrote in his book that "10% of workers are yakuza". I do see more yakuzas. I have met workers with tattoo. They may be sending cheap workers and skimming the wages, or sending young yakuzas simply as means to make money. On the other hand, it's a fact that they can't secure workers unless they rely on yakuza.

作業員D そもそも事故対策を考えてなかった会社に事故対応をやらせることが間違い。しかもプライドは高いから「このままでは無理です」と頭を下げることもできない。汚染水はどんどん増えるのに、作業員はどんどん減っていく。それなのに子ども・被災者支援法はあっても被曝労働者の支援法はないというんだから、そのうち素人もヤクザもイチエフからいなくなってしまいますよ。

Worker D: To begin with, it is a mistake to let a company handle the accident when that company didn't even have countermeasures in case of an accident. They are too proud to admit they can't do it under the current condition. Contaminated water keep increasing, workers keep decreasing. There is a law for supporting children and disaster victims, but there is nothing for radiation-exposed workers. Soon, not even yakuza nor amateurs will remain at Fukushima I Nuke Plant.


Worker A: man in his 30s from Kanagawa Prefecture. Volunteered to work at Fukushima I NPP right after the accident.
Worker B: man in his 40s from Osaka Prefecture. Commutes to the plant from his dorm in Iwaki City.
Worker C: man in his 20s from Tokyo. Decided to change his job after being recruited on the street.
Worker D: veteran worker from Fukushima, who have been working at the plant since before the accident

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nuclear Japan: Mitsubishi-AREVA JV Won Turkish Contract to Build 4-Reactor Nuclear Plant in Sinop on Black Sea

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in Turkey. On October 29, 2013, according to Jiji Tsushin (10/30/2013), he and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan welcomed the effective start of the nuclear project to build a 4-reactor nuclear power plant in the city of Sinop in northern Turkey on the Black Sea.

Atmea, a joint venture between Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and France's AREVA, will be the main contractor who will supply the generation III pressurized water reactors.

Prime Minister Abe said, according to Jiji (10/30/2013):


"It is our nation's responsibility to strive for enhancing nuclear safety by sharing with the world the lessons from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident."

Note the word "strive". Japan will make effort, but if the effort fails, well that's too bad.

To that, Prime Minister Erdoğan said:


He praised the highly developed technology of Japan, and said "Because we believe we need a nuclear power plant, we will proceed."

What lessons, you may ask? I am at a loss where to begin, but what I consider the lessons is probably not what Mr. Abe has in mind.

Here's from Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News (10/30/2013; emphasis is mine):

Turkey and Japan sign formal agreement to build second nuclear plant in Sinop

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe signed on Oct. 29 the official agreement for building Turkey's second nuclear plant in the Black Sea province of Sinop.

The two countries signed a $22 billion deal in May for the construction of a plant with a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts (mW), by a Japanese-French alliance of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and French firm Areva.

Abe came to Istanbul to attend the official opening ceremony of the Marmaray tunnel, which has also been built by a Japanese firm.

Erdoğan told reporters during a joint press conference after the Marmaray's opening ceremony that the nuclear plant would be built with the most developed technology.

"We know that it is impossible to say something like 'accidents will never happen.' Even if it is one in a million, such a danger, such an accident, might occur, and it is impossible to ignore this," Erdoğan said, commenting on the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

"There is no investment without risks, in any field. But every firm, every company should take 100 percent security measures. The ideal thing is without a doubt to minimize the margin of error," he added.

"Moreover, I believe that Japan will put forward the most developed technology in the works that we will undertake together at the Sinop nuclear plant. This is necessary for both Japan and Turkey," the prime minister said.

The first unit of the nuclear plant is set to be active by 2023, while the last unit will come online by 2028.

Turkey's first nuclear plant is being constructed in Akkuyu in the southern province of Mersin by the Russian state atomic energy corporation. The plant will be made with four reactors and will have a total installed power of 4,800 mW.

What Japan's most developed technology, you may further ask? I am at a loss here, too. Maybe he's referring to the ingenuous system of nuclear power plant building and maintenance subcontracting pyramid, where every contractor gets to profit by skimming the workers' pay, and where none will be held accountable in case of a nuclear accident, as they can each claim plausible deniability.

No investment without risks, says the Turkish prime minister. Maybe he gets lucky. It may indeed be several decades before there is a major nuclear accident.

Russians (Rosatom) are already building Turkey's first nuclear power plant, Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, also with four reactors, in southern Turkey facing the Mediterranean Sea.

City of Sinop looks like a beautiful place, with Cape Sinop jutting into the Black Sea. From the looks of Cape Sinop, I suspect the nuclear power plant will be built right at the tip of Cape Sinop... (Does anyone know the exact location?)

(OT) H.R.3293 Debt Limit Reform Act Proposes to Stop Counting Intragovernmental Debt

As if that reduces the actual amount of the national debt.

I thought it was a joke when I saw the headline at Zero Hedge, so I followed the link in the article. And there it was, the bill by Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings (who happens to be one of only eight federal officials in the US history to be impeached and removed from office - he was a Judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida).


HR 3293 IH
1st Session
H. R. 3293
To reform the public debt limit.

October 15, 2013

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means

To reform the public debt limit.
    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the ‘Debt Limit Reform Act’.


    (a) Authority of President To Increase Public Debt Limit- Section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
    ‘(d) The dollar amount in effect under subsection (b) shall be increased at such times and in such amounts as the President of the United States, or his designee, may provide.’.
    (b) Government-Held Debt Not Taken Into Account for Purposes of the Public Debt Limit- Section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, as amended by subsection (a) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
    ‘(e) Obligations held by the United States Government (including any obligation which is classified as an intragovernmental holding by the Secretary of the Treasury or which is held by any agency or instrumentality of the United States) shall not be taken into account for purposes of applying the limitation imposed under subsection (b).’.

Monday, October 28, 2013

(OT) Million Lines of Code Pictorial, and Obamacare Has 500 Million Lines

Good luck Mr. President "fixing" the mess of Obamacare code (at the very bottom in the graphic below) by December 1, 2013.

Oh I forgot. He didn't know. He didn't know this either. (What DOES he know anyway?)

(What did they use? Cobol? Fortran? Basic? Stacks of punch cards?)

From Information Is Beautiful:

Reuters' Interview of Governor of Niigata: "Tepco can't yet be trusted to restart world's biggest nuclear plant (Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP)"

Governor of Niigata Prefecture Hirohiko Izumida continues to make media rounds after he finally "allowed" (he has no legal authority either way) TEPCO on September 25, 2013 to apply for inspection of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant by Nuclear Regulation Authority, a prerequisite for the restart of the 7-reactor plant with the capacity of 7,965 MW.

In his interview with Reuters, he continues his spiel of "TEPCO is lying" and "cannot be trusted".

One thing that got my attention in the Reuters' article in English is an erroneous mention by Reuters as Governor Izumida having authority to approve or disapprove the restart:

Izumida must approve the embattled utility's plans to restart the reactors at Kashiwazaki Kariwa, the world's biggest nuclear complex on the Japan Sea coast some 300 kms (180 miles) northwest of Tokyo.

Well that's wrong; he isn't required to "approve" anything at all, as his "agreement" with TEPCO is nothing but a "gentlemen's agreement" with no legal binding. The above mention is absent in Reuters' Japanese article.

Besides, local officials in Kashiwazaki City and Kariwa-mura are in favor of the restart.

From Reuters English (10/28/2013; emphasis is mine):

Tepco can't yet be trusted to restart world's biggest nuclear plant: governor

(Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co must give a fuller account of the Fukushima disaster and address its "institutionalized lying" before it can expect to restart another nuclear station, the world's largest, said a local government official who holds an effective veto over the utility's revival plan.

"If they don't do what needs to be done, if they keep skimping on costs and manipulating information, they can never be trusted," Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

Izumida must approve the embattled utility's plans to restart the reactors at Kashiwazaki Kariwa, the world's biggest nuclear complex on the Japan Sea coast some 300 kms (180 miles) northwest of Tokyo.

A former economy and trade ministry bureaucrat who has emerged as a leading critic of Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, Izumida said he would launch his own commission to investigate the causes and handling of the Fukushima crisis and whether strengthened regulatory safeguards were sufficient to prevent a similar disaster.

Izumida, 51, declined to provide a timetable for completing that review - a process that could force the utility to scrap or abandon one of the key assumptions behind its turnaround plan.

"If Tokyo Electric doesn't cooperate closely with the prefecture nothing will be solved," he said. "Unless we start we won't know," he added when asked how long his review could take. "If they cooperate with us, we will be able to proceed smoothly. If not, we won't."

Even if Japan's nuclear safety regulators approve Tepco's restart plans for its Niigata reactors, Izumida can effectively block it because of the utility's need to win backing from local officials. That gives Izumida, a political independent, a platform for calling for a wider reform of Asia's largest listed electricity utility, which provides power to 29 million homes and businesses in and around Tokyo.


Izumida urged Japan's government to strip Tepco of responsibility for decommissioning the wrecked Fukushima reactors, and consider putting it through a taxpayer-funded bankruptcy similar to the process used to restructure Japan Airlines.

Without that kind of sweeping restructuring, Izumida said, Tepco could be left without the resources needed to ensure the safety of its remaining nuclear plants.

In its current form, the utility threatens to be distracted by how to fund the dismantling of the Fukushima reactors over the next 30 years and the more immediate problem of containing contaminated water at the Fukushima site, Izumida said.

"Unless we create a situation where 80-90 percent of their thinking is devoted to nuclear safety, I don't think we can say they have prioritized safety," he said.

Izumida also called on the government to make more than 6,000 workers involved in decommissioning at Fukushima public employees. A Reuters investigation of working conditions at the plant found widespread abuses, including skimmed wages and the involvement of illegal brokers.

"The workers at the plant are risking their health and giving it their all. They are out in the rain. They are out at night," Izumida said. "The government needs to respect their efforts and address the situation."

A Tepco spokesman said the utility would cooperate with Izumida's investigation. "Safety is our utmost priority and we are not acting on an assumption of nuclear restarts," said Yoshimi Hitotsugi. "We want to work on this issue while gaining the understanding of the local population and related parties."


Tepco has posted more than $27 billion in losses since a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The disaster knocked out cooling systems, triggered meltdowns in three reactors and a radiation release that forced more than 150,000 people from nearby towns to evacuate.

It is behind schedule on its initial business turnaround plan, which had called for firing up at least one reactor at Kashiwazaki Kariwa by April.

The utility says it can return to profitability in the business year to March without restarting the sprawling complex. But if all seven of the Niigata reactors were operational, Tepco says it would save $1 billion in monthly fuel costs.

The utility's admission in July - following months of denials - that the Fukushima plant was leaking radioactive substances into the Pacific Ocean was evidence that Tepco has not changed, Izumida said, adding the utility developed a culture of "institutionalized lying."

He said that unless the utility changes its corporate culture he won't be able to trust it to run the nuclear plant in the prefecture.

"There are three things required of a company that runs nuclear power plants: don't lie, keep your promises and fulfill your social responsibility," Izumida said.

(Editing by Kevin Krolicki, Edmund Klamann and Ian Geoghegan)

For a Japanese politician to accuse a large Japanese corporation of "institutionalized lying" seems to me the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. But his fans in Japan continue to make an exception out of Mr. Izumida, a career elite bureaucrat turned politician.

His fans adore him no matter what, and they have been coming up with tortuous articles and blogposts trying to rationalize Izumida's decision in September to "approve" the application so that Izumida somehow comes out as a champion for the anti-nuclear crowd. Their logic (or lack thereof) is so tortuous I have given up trying to understand.

I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Izumida is contemplating a run for the national office, probably Upper House seat as a national candidate to capitalize on his fame as anti-TEPCO politician "who really cares for us", as per many of his fans.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Japan's Emperor to Minamata Disease Victims: "I Would Like to Build a Society with You Where We Can Live in Truth"

His Majesty's remark was unscheduled, and frighteningly candid particularly when a new national security legislation is slated to become the law of the land despite 80% of unprecedented 90,000 public comments received by the national government in 15 days in September this year are against hasty adoption of the law.

Asahi Shinbun (10/28/2013) reports that the Emperor and the Empress visited Minamata City in Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu for the first time and spoke with the victims of Minamata disease - neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning caused by the release of methylmercury in the industrial wastewater from the Chisso Corporation's chemical factory, which continued from 1932 to 1968.

His word about a society where people can live in truth came after talking with the victims, many of whom hid the disease and didn't apply for recognition as the disease victim in fear of discrimination.

From Asahi Shinbun, the emperor's words, after he heard one of the victims who hid his disease:


I can't even begin to imagine how you must have felt. I would like to build a society with everyone where we can live in truth.


I am deeply feeling [your pain] that you have lived with so many thoughts and feelings.


I hope that the future Japan will become a society where one can be his/her true self. I pray that we can all move toward that direction.

The maternal grandfather of the Crown Princess was the president of Chisso Corporation from 1964 to 1971. Some hold him responsible for the delay in saving and compensating the victims.

Just like TEPCO today, Chisso was kept as a corporation, instead of bankruptcy, under the pretext that Chisso needed to make money so that it could pay the victims.

(OT) US House Intelligence Committee Chair to France: Celebrate! Pop Champagne Over NSA Spying on French!

Republican Representative Mike Rogers represents Michigan's 8th congressional district, and the current chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

According to an Agence France-Presse article that appeared on Raw Story, he is urging French citizens to celebrate NSA spying on them because it keeps them safe.

What do you say, French readers? Agreed?

Mr. Rogers further asserts that the rise of fascism and communism in the early 20th century took place because the US wasn't spying enough on Europeans.

And of course, the media is blowing things out of proportion.

From AFP, via Raw Story (10/27/2013):

Rep. Mike Rogers: France should be ‘popping champagne’ over NSA spying

US intelligence is better than in Europe, and snooping at the heart of a widening scandal helps keeps the world safe, a top US lawmaker declared Sunday amid a widening spying row.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers also suggested there was nothing surprising in revelations that the United States was monitoring communications of several dozen world leaders and ordinary citizens, and blamed the news media for getting the story wrong.

“I think the bigger news story here would be… if the United States intelligence services weren’t trying to collect information that would protect US interests both (at) home and abroad,” the Republican told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“We need to make sure that we’re not collecting information we don’t need. But we should collect information that is helpful to the United States’ interests.”


But Rogers said that French citizens would celebrate US phone intercepts in their country if they realized how the practice keeps them safe.

“If the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks. It’s a good thing. it keeps the French safe. It keeps the US safe. It keeps our European allies safe,” he added.

“This whole notion that we’re going to go after each other on what is really legitimate protection of nation-state interest, I think is disingenuous.”

Rogers called for improved intelligence oversight in European capitals, contrasting allies’ approaches to the United States, where he stressed the government must first obtain approval from a special court to monitor communications.

European countries “don’t have necessarily the same type of oversight of their intelligence services that we do,” Rogers said.

“They need to have a better oversight structure in Europe. I think they would be enlightened to find out what their intelligence services may or may not be doing.”

The Republican lawmaker said the news media was “100 percent wrong” in suggesting that the NSA monitored up to 70 million French telephone records in a single month.

“They’re seeing three or four pieces of a 1,000-piece puzzle and wanted to come to a conclusion,” he added, insisting the records collection was a counterterrorism program that did not target French citizens.

Rogers also suggested that US leaders failed to foresee the rise of fascism and communism in early 20th century Europe because American spies were not spying extensively on European allies’ communications.

“In the 1930s, we had this debate before. We decided we were going to turn off our ability to even listen to friends,” he said.

“Look what happened in the 30s, the rise of fascism and communism. We didn’t see any of it. It resulted in the death of really tens of millions of people.”

But the lawmaker stressed that any intelligence activities between allies should remain “respectful” and “accurate,” as well as be subjected to proper oversight.

(Full article at the link)

France had the superb spy-master in the person of Joseph Fouché. To be lectured by the likes of Mike Rogers must be an insult.