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Bizarre twists in USA’s war on Julian Assange and Wikileaks

Britain’s Guantanamo: is Julian Assange a terrorist?  https://www.michaelwest.com.au/britains-guantanamo-is-julian-assange-a-terrorist/ By Gary Lord|October 18, 2021  

As Julian Assange prepares to face a British court for possibly the last time, threatened with up to 175 years detention in a US supermax prison, journalist Gary Lord, explores the latest bizarre twists in the US effort to extradite the Wikileaks founder and the silence of global media.

Julian Assange likes to say that censorship is “always an opportunity” that should be welcomed because it indicates that “there is something worth looking at”. He also says that it is a sign of weakness because it “reveals a fear of reform”. 

So it’s interesting that recent bombshell stories about Assange himself are being censored by global media giants. As the WikiLeaks founder prepares to face a British court for possibly the last time on October 27, threatened with up to 175 years detention in a US supermax prison, perhaps this media censorship is something worth looking at?

wo major stories have emerged since a UK judge ruled against Assange’s extradition to the United States (on health grounds only) at the start of this year.

Firstly, Icelandic media revealed in June that the US prosecution’s prize witness, a convicted pedophile and fraudster who has since been jailed, had withdrawn his testimony against Assange. 

Sigurdur Thordarson, who worked for Wikileaks in 2010 but embezzled over $50,000 from the organization, admitted to fabricat­ing key accusati­ons in the US indict­ment. This important story was almost totally ignored by global media.

Secondly, some 30 anonymous US officials recently confirmed that CIA boss Mike Pompeo, US President Donald Trump, and other staff “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration actively discussed assassinating Julian Assange, and even enlisted UK government support to shoot out airplane tyres if required. 

The US government officially designated WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” in order to provide legal cover for any violent action, with “sketches” including possible shootouts with Russian agents on the streets of inner London.

The USA’s FAIR media watch group investigated the extraordinary lack of media coverage this astonishing revelation received, noting that “BBC News, one of the most-read news outlets in the world, appears to have covered the story just once — in the Somali-language section of the BBC website”.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other major media outlets totally ignored it. The Guardian published just two articles about it; by comparison, they devoted 16 articles to alleged Russian government attempts to murder Alexei Navalny.

Sadly, this media censorship of Assange is not new, even if it does appear to be reaching new heights of absurdity. Another widely ignored story is the relentless and invasive spying on Assange and his visitors – including lawyers, family and journalists – while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy. 

A Spanish court is currently investigating allegations that UC Global, the company that supposedly provided “security” at the behest of the Ecuadorian government, was secretly working for the CIA as a client of former Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Donald Trump. 

Max Blumenthal first reported back in May 2020 that these spies also discussed plots to kidnap or poison Assange.

A “fix” or media apathy?

How to explain the widespread lack of mainstream media interest in such shocking news stories which could easily be given front page importance? 

Are we to assume that “the fix is in”? Is this part of a deliberate effort to suppress public support for Assange, ahead of his inevitable extradition? If so, who is behind it, and what does it say about the politicisation of the British court system, never mind global media organisations? If not, how else can we understand it?

It’s well known that Assange fell out with many of his old media partners following the 2010 Cablegate publications, but most of those journalists still argue that the Australian should not be extradited for the “crime” of journalism. 

Editorials in the Guardian, New York Times, the Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers have called for the US extradition case to be dropped. But the media fraternity’s “support” for Assange has never extended to a full-blown campaign, such as we saw when (for example) Peter Greste was jailed.

In fact, there has been a remarkable lack of Western media interest in Assange’s court case – coupled with smearslies and poor reporting – for over a decade.

Italian journalist Sefania Maurizi, who has worked closely with WikiLeaks for many years, appears to be the only journalist who bothered to lodge Freedom of Information requests about the Assange case with the British and Swedish governments. 

A “non-state hostile intelligence service”

She discovered that the Crown Prosecuting Service, which was then controlled by Sir Keir Starmer (now UK Labour Party leader), advised Swedish prosecutors not to come and question Assange in London, and not to “get cold feet” and close the case. “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition,” they wrote – then they deleted all their emails!

In Australia, lawyer Kellie Tranter has been putting Aussie journos to shame by lodging her own FOI applications and sharing the results. Maurizi also has FOI applications lodged with the Australian and US governments, but they have been stalled for years with no explanation.

Assange and WikiLeaks still enjoy huge public support around the world. So why don’t big media organisations want more online clicks from readers digging into these amazing stories?

A clue may come from the CIA’s determination to get WikiLeaks officially designated a “non-state hostile intelligence service”. This legal designation would surely make media reporting on WikiLeaks the subject of increased government attention and maybe even censorship.

All the AUKUS countries have now adopted extreme new “anti-terror” laws that include Orwellian restrictions on the media. Maybe it’s time for AUKUS journalists to ask whether WikiLeaks is also officially designated a “non-state hostile intelligence service” in Canberra and London?

Is it possible that Julian Assange – who has been held in “Britain’s Guantanamo Bay” since 11 April 2019 – has been secretly defined as some new form of “information terrorist“? And if so, would our media today even be allowed to report it? Gary Lord is the author of Julian Assange biography “Wikileaks: a True History

October 18, 2021 Posted by | media, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Deathly Silence: Journalists Who Mocked Assange Have Nothing to Say About CIA Plans to Kill Him

Deathly Silence: Journalists Who Mocked Assange Have Nothing to Say About CIA Plans to Kill Him  https://fair.org/home/deathly-silence-journalists-who-mocked-assange-have-nothing-to-say-about-cia-plans-to-kill-him/, JOHN MCEVOY,YAHOO! NEWS (9/26/21) A BOMBSHELL REPORT DETAILING THE US CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY’S “SECRET WAR PLANS AGAINST WIKILEAKS,” INCLUDING CLANDESTINE PLOTS TO KILL OR KIDNAP PUBLISHER JULIAN ASSANGE WHILE HE TOOK REFUGE IN THE ECUADORIAN EMBASSY IN LONDON.

Following WikiLeaks‘ publication of the Vault 7 files in 2017—the largest leak in CIA history, which exposed how US and UK intelligence agencies could hack into household devices—the US government designated WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” (The Hill4/13/17), providing legal cover to target the organization as if it were an adversarial spy agency.

Within this context, the Donald Trump administration reportedly requested “sketches” or “options” for how to kill Assange, according to the Yahoo! expose (written by Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff), while the CIA drew up plans to kidnap him. (Assange was expelled from the embassy in 2019 and has since then been in British prison, fighting a demand that he be extradited to the US to face charges of espionage—FAIR.org11/13/20.)

Shortly after publication, former CIA director Mike Pompeo (Yahoo! News9/29/21) seemed to confirm the report’s findings, declaring that the former US intelligence officials who spoke with Yahoo! “should all be prosecuted for speaking about classified activity inside the CIA.”

Ghoulish indifference

   It would seem that covert plans for the state-sanctioned murder on British soil of an award-winning journalist should attract sustained, wall-to-wall media coverage.

The news, however, has been met by Western establishment media with ghoulish indifference—a damning indictment of an industry that feverishly condemns attacks on press freedom in Official Enemy states.

BBC News, one of the most-read news outlets in the world, appears to have covered the story just once—in the Somali-language section of the BBC website (Media Lens on Twitter9/30/21).

Neither the New York Times or Washington Post, two of the world’s leading corporate news organizations, have published any articles about Assange since July 2021.

To its credit, since the story first broke on September 26, the Guardian has reported twice on the CIA-led conspiracy to kill or kidnap Assange. But to offer perspective, during the week after Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was reported to have been poisoned by the Russian government, the Guardian published 16 separate pieces on the issue, including video reports and opinion pieces.

Similarly, a Nexis search of British newspapers for the word “Navalny” brings up 288 results from August 20–25, 2020. The same search for “Assange” between September 26–October 1, 2021, brings up a meager 29 results—one of which, a notable exception, was a Patrick Cockburn piece in the Independent (10/1/21).

Crucial relief

As is typical of stories that embarrass the Western intelligence services, independent media provided crucial relief to the backdrop of chilling indifference, with the Grayzone’s Aaron Maté (YouTube9/30/21) conducting a rigorous interview with one of the report’s authors, Michael Isikoff.

Indeed, the Grayzone (5/14/20) was the first outlet to provide evidence of a CIA-linked proposal to “kidnap or poison Assange” in May 2020. The story, however, was almost universally ignored, suggesting that, as Joe Lauria wrote in Consortium News (10/2/21), “until something appears in the mainstream media, it didn’t happen.”

One thing the corporate media cannot be accused of with regards to Assange, however, is inconsistency. After a key witness in the Department of Justice’s case against the publisher admitted to providing the US prosecution with false testimony, a detail that should

ordinarily turn a case to dust, the corporate media responded by ignoring the story almost entirely. As Alan MacLeod wrote for FAIR.org (7/2/21):

The complete uniformity with which corporate media have treated this latest bombshell news raises even more concerns about how fundamentally intertwined and aligned they are with the interests of the US government.

Even after it was revealed that the UC Global security firm that targeted Assange had also spied on journalists at the Washington Post and New York Times, neither outlet mounted any

protest (Grayzone9/18/20).

Perhaps most remarkably, UK judge Vanessa Baraitser relied on a falsified CNN report (7/15/19)  to justify the CIA’s spying operation against Assange (Grayzone5/1/21). Now, CNN’s website contains no reports on the agency’s plans to kill or kidnap Assange.

The prevailing silence has extended into the NGO industry. Amnesty International, which refused in 2019 to consider Assange a prisoner of conscience, has said nothing about the latest revelations. Likewise, Index on Censorship, which describes itself as “The Global Voice of Free Expression,” hasn’t responded to the story.

The establishment media’s dismissal of Assange supports Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s framework of “worthy” and “unworthy” political dissidents, with Assange situated firmly in the latter camp.

The present circumstances become even more deplorable upon consideration of the corporate journalists who arrogantly diminished, or even delighted in, Assange’s concerns for his own safety.

Continue reading

October 11, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, media | Leave a comment

The CIA Plot to Kidnap or Kill Julian Assange in London is a Story that is Being Mistakenly Ignored   

The CIA Plot to Kidnap or Kill Julian Assange in London is a Story that is Being Mistakenly Ignored      https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/10/05/the-cia-plot-to-kidnap-or-kill-julian-assange-in-london-is-a-story-that-is-being-mistakenly-ignored/?fbclid=IwAR3t BY PATRICK COCKBURN  5 October 21,  Three years ago, on 2 October 2018, a team of Saudi officials murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The purpose of the killing was to silence Khashoggi and to frighten critics of the Saudi regime by showing that it would pursue and punish them as though they were agents of a foreign power.

It was revealed this week that a year before the Khashoggi killing in 2017, the CIA had plotted to kidnap or assassinate Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who had taken refuge five years earlier in the Ecuador embassy in London. A senior US counter-intelligence official said that plans for the forcible rendition of Assange to the US were discussed “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration. The informant was one of more than 30 US officials – eight of whom confirmed details of the abduction proposal – quoted in a 7,500-word investigation by Yahoo News into the CIA campaign against Assange.

The plan was to “break into the embassy, drag [Assange] out and bring him to where we want”, recalled a former intelligence official. Another informant said that he was briefed about a meeting in the spring of 2017 at which President Trump had asked if the CIA could assassinate Assange and provide “options” about how this could be done. Trump has denied that he did so.

The Trump-appointed head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said publicly that he would target Assange and WikiLeaks as the equivalent of “a hostile intelligence service”. Apologists for the CIA say that freedom of the press was not under threat because Assange and the WikiLeaks activists were not real journalists. Top intelligence officials intended to decide themselves who is and who is not a journalist, and lobbied the White House to redefine other high-profile journalists as “information brokers”, who were to be targeted as if they were agents of a foreign power.

Among those against whom the CIA reportedly wanted to take action were Glenn Greenwald, a founder of the Intercept magazine and a former Guardian columnist, and Laura Poitras, a documentary film-maker. The arguments for doing so were similar to those employed by the Chinese government for suppressing dissent in Hong Kong, which has been much criticised in the West. Imprisoning journalists as spies has always been the norm in authoritarian countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, while denouncing the free press as unpatriotic is a more recent hallmark of nationalist populist governments that have taken power all over the world.

It is possible to give only a brief precis of the extraordinary story exposed by Yahoo News, but the journalists who wrote it – Zach Dorfman, Sean D Naylor and Michael Isikoff – ought to scoop every journalistic prize. Their disclosures should be of particular interest in Britain because it was in the streets of central London that the CIA was planning an extra-judicial assault on an embassy, the abduction of a foreign national, and his secret rendition to the US, with the alternative option of killing him. These were not the crackpot ideas of low-level intelligence officials, but were reportedly operations that Pompeo and the agency fully intended to carry out.

This riveting and important story based on multiple sources might be expected to attract extensive coverage and widespread editorial comment in the British media, not to mention in parliament. Many newspapers have dutifully carried summaries of the investigation, but there has been no furor. Striking gaps in the coverage include the BBC, which only reported it, so far as I can see, as part of its Somali service. Channel 4, normally so swift to defend freedom of expression, apparently did not mention the story at all.


In the event, the embassy attack never took place, despite the advanced planning. “There was a discussion with the Brits about turning the other cheek or looking the other way when a team of guys went inside and did a rendition,” said a former senior US counter-intelligence official, who added that the British had refused to allow the operation to take place.

But the British government did carry out its own less melodramatic, but more effective measure against Assange, removing him from the embassy on 11 April 2019 after a new Ecuador government had revoked his asylum. He remains in Belmarsh top security prison two-and-a-half years later while the US appeals a judicial decision not to extradite him to the US on the grounds that he would be a suicide risk.

If he were to be extradited, he would face 175 years in prison. It is important, however, to understand, that only five of these would be under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, while the other 170 potential years are under the Espionage Act of 1917, passed during the height of the patriotic war fever as the US entered the First World War.

Only a single minor charge against Assange relates to the WikiLeaks disclosure in 2010 of a trove of US diplomatic cables and army reports relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars. The other 17 charges are to do with labeling normal journalistic investigation as the equivalent of spying.

Pompeo’s determination to conflate journalistic inquiry with espionage has particular relevance in Britain, because the home secretary, Priti Patel, wants to do much the same thing. She proposes updating the Official Secrets Act so that journalists, whistle-blowers and leakers could face sentences of up to 14 years in prison. A consultative paper issued in May titled Legislation to Counter State Threats (Hostile State Activity) redefines espionage as “the covert process of obtaining sensitive confidential information that is not normally publicly available”.

The true reason the scoop about the CIA’s plot to kidnap or kill Assange has been largely ignored or downplayed is rather that he is unfairly shunned as a pariah by all political persuasions: left, right and centre.

To give but two examples, the US government has gone on claiming that the disclosures by WikiLeaks in 2010 put the lives of US agents in danger. Yet the US Army admitted in a court hearing in 2013 that a team of 120 counter-intelligence officers had failed to find a single person in Iraq and Afghanistan who had died because of the disclosures by WikiLeaks. As regards the rape allegations in Sweden, many feel that these alone should deny Assange any claim to be a martyr in the cause of press freedom. Yet the Swedish prosecutor only carried out a “preliminary investigation” and no charges were brought.

Assange is a classic victim of “cancel culture”, so demonised that he can no longer get a hearing, even when a government plots to kidnap or murder him.

In reality, Khashoggi and Assange were pursued relentlessly by the state because they fulfilled the primary duty of journalists: finding out important information that the government would like to keep secret and disclosing it to the public.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).

October 7, 2021 Posted by | media, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Norway led the way in 25 years of clean-up of Russia’s dead nuclear submarine radioactive trash

Andreyeva Bay evolved into a dumping ground for 22,000 spent nuclear fuel assemblies offloaded from hundreds of Soviet submarines. Cracks in storage pools made worse by the hard Arctic freeze threatened to contaminate the Barents Sea. At one point, experts even feared the radioactive morgue might spark an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.

Norway has led the pack by far, contributing some $220 million over the past 20 years toward safely removing Andreyeva Bay’s spend nuclear fuel – a national movement spawned when Bellona published its first report on Northwest Russia’s nuclear hazards in 1996.

Norway and Russia mark 25 years of cooperative work on radiation security https://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2021-10-norway-and-russia-mark-25-years-of-cooperative-work-on-radiation-se 4 Oct 21

Two and a half decades ago, a green four-car train would make the rounds every few months of Russia’s icy Kola Peninsula to cart nuclear fuel and radioactive waste 3,000 kilometers south to the Ural Mountains. October 4, 2021 by Charles Digges

Two and a half decades ago, a green four-car train would make the rounds every few months of Russia’s icy Kola Peninsula to cart nuclear fuel and radioactive waste 3,000 kilometers south to the Ural Mountains.

At the time, that lonely rail artery was the center of a logistical and financial bottleneck that made Northwest Russia – home of the once feared Soviet nuclear fleet – a toxic nuclear dumping ground shrouded in military secrecy.

Nearly 200 rusted out submarines bobbed in icy waters at bases throughout the region, their reactors still loaded with nuclear fuel, vulnerable to sinking or worse. Further from shore and under the waves laid other submarines and nuclear waste intentionally scuttled by the Soviet navy. Still more radioactive spent fuel was piling up in storage tanks and open-air bins on military bases and in shipyards.

One of those places was Andreyeva Bay, a run-down nuclear submarine maintenance yard just 55 kilometers from the Norwegian border.

Since the birth of the nuclear navy in the 1960s, Andreyeva Bay evolved into a dumping ground for 22,000 spent nuclear fuel assemblies offloaded from hundreds of Soviet submarines. Cracks in storage pools made worse by the hard Arctic freeze threatened to contaminate the Barents Sea. At one point, experts even feared the radioactive morgue might spark an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.

Infrastructure, technology and the Kremlin were failing to keep up with the mushrooming catastrophe. That green nuclear fuel train could only bear away 588 fuel assemblies at a time three or four times a year – little more than the contents of one nuclear submarine per trip. Even if the train ran on schedule, removing broken or deformed nuclear fuel elements at Andreyeva Bay was still seen as impossible

In the bleak and politically chaotic late 1990s, many feared that the carcinogenic remains of the Cold War would lie neglected at Andreyeva Bay for decades more.

“Now, after more than two decades of international effort spearheaded by Bellona, nearly all of those threats are already – or nearly – the stuff of history,” says Oskar Njaa, Bellona’ general manager for international affairs.

Those efforts have been backed by more than $200 million in funding from Norway, which, in 1996, became the first western government to recognize the new Russia’s emerging crisis over its radioactive legacy.

Norway’s financial foray into northwest Russia paved the way for yet more funding from the West, as numerous other European nations pitched in to help.

Last week, officials from both sides of the border gathered at Andreyeva Bay ­– now the flagship project between the two nations – to mark the 25th anniversary of the Norwegian-Russian Commission on Nuclear Safety.

“Bellona became the first organization in the world to publish such a name ‘Andreyeva Bay,’ and also told about the facility itself and its condition, ”said Alexander Nikitin, who directs Bellona’s St Petersburg offices, and was the first to sound the alarm.
“It was in 1996. After that, the object drew the close attention of the international community and international projects began.”

The first containers of Andreyeva’s accumulated waste were packed up in 2017 and borne away on a specially outfitted ship called the Rossita ­– itself a bit of expertise donated by Italy under the Northern Dimensions Environmental Partnership, an enormous Russian nuclear cleanup fund managed by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

To date, the Rossita has made 15 trips, bearing away 10,000 spent nuclear fuel assemblies for reprocessing in the Urals, representing 45% of the total assemblies at the site.

According to Anatoly Grigoriev, who heads up the international projects division of Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, the cleanup will continue for another six to seven years.

“Andreyeva Bay has been a daunting task for Norway,” said Per Einar Fiskebek, an advisor to the governor of Tromsø and Finnmark Counties, the Norwegian border region closest to Andreyeva Bay. “It is especially important for us that the work be carried out absolutely safely for the personnel, who have been professionally coping with it even in a pandemic. Norway and Russia are good neighbors with a common border and nature. I can assure you that Norway will remain with Russia until the end, until Andreeva Bay becomes absolutely clean.”

Cracks and contamination

Andreyeva Bay had been piling up spent nuclear submarine fuel for more than two decades when its troubles began in earnest in 1982.

That year, a crack developed in its now-notorious Building 5, a storage pool for thousands of spent fuel assemblies. The ensuing leak threatened to dump a stew of plutonium, uranium and other fission products into Litsa Fjord, fouling the Barents Sea.

The water was drained and the fuel painstakingly moved, but that revealed other problems. The fuel elements from Building 5 needed somewhere to go, so they were rushed into hastily arranged storage facilities that were meant only to be temporary.

Technicians stuffed the fuel elements into three dry storage buildings and cemented them in. The temporary storage solution has now spanned the last 30 years. . Meanwhile the leaking radioactive water contaminated much of the soil around Building 5.

It took the government years to catch up to the problem. In 1995, the Murmansk regional government paid it first visit to the secretive military site and, based on what it saw, shut down its operations. Five years later Moscow finally got involved, taking Andreyeva Bay out of the military’s hands, and giving it to the mainly civilian Ministry of Atomic Energy, now Rosatom.

Rosatom helped create a nuclear waste-handling agency in Murmansk, called SevRAO, to deal with the problem. Yet even in 2000, SevRAO was essentially working from scratch. Rosatom officials noted that there weren’t even documents detailing what waste and fuel was stored where at the site, much less an infrastructure to help safely get rid of it.

Bellona leads the charge

Norway, at Bellona’s urging, led the charge to pitch in.

Finally, in 2001, an enclosure was built over the three storage buildings to prevent further contamination while technicians worked to remove the spent fuel and load it into cases. Roads were built and cranes were brought in. Personnel decontamination posts went up, along with a laboratory complex and power lines.

A host of nations pumped funding into the burgeoning city whose central industry was safely packing up decades of nuclear fuel from Russia’s past nuclear soldiers. Starting in 2003, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and Great Britain, joined by Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and the European Commission pooled resources for a total contribution of $70 million over several years.

But Norway has led the pack by far, contributing some $220 million over the past 20 years toward safely removing Andreyeva Bay’s spend nuclear fuel – a national movement spawned when Bellona published its first report on Northwest Russia’s nuclear hazards in 1996.

“I hope that the system will take care of the future nuclear legacy without waiting for it to be accumulated,” Nikitin told The Independent Barents Observer. “Nuclear and radioactive waste should be dealt with before it reaches a situation as we had in Soviet times.”

As the project continues, Nikitin said he is pleased to see how the work has progressed.

“Bellona started it, and we have to finish it,” he told the portal.

October 5, 2021 Posted by | EUROPE, media, politics international, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Japan’s independent English language newsletter, analysing nuclear issues, is struggling to survive

Japan NPO on nuke power issues struggling to retain English newsletter

September 27, 2021 (Mainichi Japan    TOKYO (Kyodo) — A citizens’ organization in Japan that publishes independent analysis in English on nuclear power issues is struggling financially, threatening its ability to remain the major source of specialized public information on Japan’s nuclear industry for an international audience.

The Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center based in Tokyo has published the free bimonthly English newsletter Nuke Info Tokyo since 1987 but is having to crowdfund to keep publishing amid financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The nonprofit organization, which also produces a monthly newsletter in Japanese for a domestic audience, had previously financed the cost of the English publication by holding paid seminars at which it also solicited donations and sold books, as well as collecting membership fees.

But it has been unable to hold the events since early 2020 when coronavirus infections began to impact Japan, Hajime Matsukubo, CNIC secretary general, told Kyodo News.

Membership — already in decline — has also dropped further amid the pandemic and its effect on the economy, he said.

“Membership decreased by about 100 last year alone under the coronavirus outbreaks and (membership) is around 2,100 now,” Matsukubo said, admitting the decline in membership also owed to a waning of public interest in nuclear issues in recent years.

…………. Philip White, a former editor of Nuke Info Tokyo, wrote that he fielded calls around the clock from the foreign media by referring to the archived English-language articles at the time of the disaster.

“The international media was hungry for critical information to counter the sanitized version offered by the government and the nuclear industry. Our English website offered clearly referenced Nuke Info Tokyo articles,” he wrote……………

Matsukubo argues that the government and electric power companies operating nuclear plants tend to withhold information, not just when accidents occur but also in normal times.

Although the government has said the Fukushima plant is under control, it is uncertain how many more years it will take to deal with over a million tons of treated radioactive water from the plant and decommission damaged reactors.

The government continues to deem nuclear power a major energy source, although, since 2014, it has said it aims to decrease its reliance on such power.

Running the English newsletter, staffed by Stronell, four freelance translators, and an editor who is also co-director of the group, costs around 1.5 million yen ($13,700) per year. While the translators used to work voluntarily, CNIC started to pay them in 2009 — though they receive half or less than the market rate.

At this time, the newsletter, which had been printed and mailed to readers with a postage fee charged only to readers in Japan, was made available for free online. Several hundred readers regularly refer to the newsletter, among them journalists, NGO staff, and academics.

Another co-director of CNIC, Hideyuki Ban, said that researchers worldwide have quoted Nuke Info Tokyo in their work.

“Nuke Info Tokyo is the only newsletter in English that specializes in the situation of nuclear power in Japan and has covered a wide range of issues from citizens’ standpoints for decades,” Ban said.

CNIC was founded in 1975 by scientists, including the late Jinzaburo Takagi, a nuclear chemist who began his career in the nuclear industry but later voiced concerns about atomic power……..

To coincide with the policy discussion, CNIC held a virtual seminar on Friday to draw attention to the issues and help people make up their minds on the right policy for Japan.

Stronell said she hopes to run an article on the seminar given by experts in the newsletter.

“I think the most important thing is having independent experts’ information on nuclear power accidents like Fukushima and other problems to let people make decisions about their own health and future,” Stronell said. “And so for us to continue to do this, and that’s what the crowdfunding project is about, any support is very much appreciated.” https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20210927/p2g/00m/0na/078000c

October 1, 2021 Posted by | Japan, media | Leave a comment

Vested interests — controlling the news about nuclear safety

Who controls the truth about a nuclear disaster?

The end of the monopoly of these experts would allow a proper debate on the risks of nuclear energy. At a time when many voices are speaking out in favor of the development of atomic energy as the lesser evil in the face of climate change, such a debate is urgent.

How monolithic institutions decide what is safe for the rest of us, Beyond Nuclear, By Christine Fassert and Tatiana Kasperski, 12 Sept 21,

In December 2020, twenty years after the final closure of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine announced its intention to prepare an application to include certain objects in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl in the UNESCO World Heritage List….

The Chernobyl site would symbolize the long history of accidents that have marked the atomic age, from Kychtym and Windscale (1957), to Three Mile Island (1979) and Fukushima (2011), whose tenth anniversary we commemorated this year.

Moreover, the Chernobyl accident constitutes a particular moment in this history, namely the beginning of the institutionalization of the international management of the consequences of nuclear accidents, whose impact became fully apparent at the time of the Fukushima accident.

A small group of organizations

If the origins of accidents are most often explained by factors related to the development of the nuclear industry and its regulatory bodies at the national level, the “management” of their consequences gradually extends beyond national borders

In this respect, Chernobyl established the monopolization of the authoritative knowledge of ionizing radiation by a small group of organizations — the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).

Through a series of alliances and co-options, these organizations formed a monolithic bloc on the issue of radiological risk.

Relegated to a militant marginality

From that moment on, divergent points of view were de-legitimized and relegated to a form of militant marginality. These included the positions of such individuals as “dissident” scientist Keith Baverstock who directed the radiation protection program at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe, and those of such organizations as the International Association of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

This monopoly translates into an internationalization of accident management that relies on a series of tools designed to establish a “normalization” of the post accident situation through the depoliticization of the management of risks related to radioactive fallout. They enshrine the power of experts close to international nuclear organizations to determine what sacrifices in terms of health and the environment are acceptable.

As physicists Bella and Roger Belbéoch point out:

“Far from calling into question the power they have secured for themselves in society, the nuclear disaster allows them to constitute themselves into a unified international body with even greater powers. It is at the moment when the scientific experts can no longer promise anything other than disaster management that their power inevitably takes hold.”

Fukushima

This monopoly over knowledge and management of an accident was very much present in Japan in 2011, when the Japanese authorities put in place measures, which, by largely referring to international standards, warded off objections: the accident was dealt with by the experts.

However, a shift occurred in this monopoly when a UN rapporteur, Anand Grover, severely criticized Tokyo’s management of the disaster. 

At the same time, new conceptual tools proposed by the social sciences, such as the “production of ignorance”, offer a framework for analysis that makes it possible to extend the criticisms beyond the domain of a purely expert debate, opening the way to a re-politicization of the accident and its consequences.

Making nuclear accidents manageable

But, first of all, how can you make a nuclear accident manageable when, as was the case at Chernobyl and Fukushima, it causes very large releases of radioactive particles, spreading around the globe and causing long-term contamination of tens of thousands of square kilometers?

Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated or relocated from these territories, and hundreds of thousands of others continue to live in an environment affected by radioactivity.

Zoning, that is, the division of these territories into several “zones” according to the density of contamination and the necessary protective measures, was the first instrument that made it possible, in Japan and in the former Soviet Union, to make the accident manageable……

This zoning mechanism set up by the Japanese government is part of a regulatory framework established by the two major international nuclear institutions, the IAEA and the ICRP. The ICRP sets the dose limit for the public at 1 millisievert (mSv)/year. Since 2007, the ICRP has authorized  government authorities to raise this threshold (from 1 to 20 mSv/year) in the case of a nuclear accident.

When the Japanese authorities, like the Soviet authorities in 1986, chose to raise the threshold following the accident, they justified it in terms of the virtual absence of any health risks.

The radiological threshold

The mechanism is based in particular on the choice of a radiological threshold from which the population will be evacuated.

In Japan, government officials consider that the risk of developing cancer from exposure to a dose of 100mSv or less is so low according to “the international (scientific) consensus, (that) it is made undetectable by the carcinogenic effects of other factors.”

Limiting evacuations and compensations

The sociologist and historian of science Sezin Topçu shows how this zoning mechanism, which has become an indispensable element of nuclear accident management, is above all a way of limiting evacuation and compensation for damage caused by an accident, since its costs (economic, political or social) would be prohibitive for the nuclear industry and the State.

This optimization approach is also enshrined at the international level in the recommendations issued by the IAEA and the ICRP.

For example, in the case of Japan, the threshold of 20 mSv/year appears to have been chosen in part to avoid evacuating the Naka Dori region and its major cities: the established zone borders made it possible to exclude such cities in the center of the prefecture, including Fukushima, from evacuation orders…………………………..

Mechanisms of ignorance production

More recently, however, various social scientists have proposed an analysis of the promotion of a reassuring stance on these dangers as part of the mechanisms of ignorance production.

The production of ignorance, which can be both involuntary and intentional, was initially studied for a number of risks, such as tobacco.

Approaching radiological risks in terms of the production of ignorance makes it possible to break with the “exceptionalism” with which the nuclear issue has long been associated, and to consider the dangers of ionizing radiation within the broader field of health risks and its banal issues of power.

Minimizing gravity

The internationalized management of nuclear disasters is in fact based on various mechanisms of ignorance production. For instance, the sociologist of science, Olga Kuchinskaya,- describes the “politics of invisibility” that were adopted after the Chernobyl disaster.

She points out that the public visibility of the effects of ionizing radiation depends on the existence of material infrastructures – such as measuring devices, information systems and equipment — but also institutional infrastructures (for example, following a cohort of people in order to make health effects visible depends on this articulation between material and institutional elements).

This infrastructure is very costly and, in the case of Chernobyl, has not been maintained over time. Moreover, the assessment of the effects of radiation was essentially taken care of by international institutions, while local doctors and researchers, for their part, revealed a completely different and much more alarming picture of the health situation.

Kate Brown describes how various international bodies, primarily the IAEA and WHO, worked to redefine the health effects of Chernobyl, to minimize their severity, and thus actively to produce “ignorance” about the impact of the disaster.

This non-knowledge was in fact a crucial instrument that made the disaster “manageable” and allowed, as Adriana Petryna points out, “the deployment of authoritative knowledge, especially when applied to the management of the exposed population”.

The monopoly of international experts, until when?

By addressing the “exceptional” character of nuclear energy and ionizing radiation, these criticisms, whether they are made within UN bodies or by social science researchers, open the way to questioning the monopoly of international nuclear institutions in assessing radiological risk and framing so-called “post-accident” policies.

A re-politicization of the management of accident consequences that brings the “management” of a nuclear accident into the broader framework of human rights therefore becomes possible.

When the next nuclear accident occurs, it is not a given that citizens will accept the “inevitability” of the power of international experts to decide, on their behalf, what constitutes an acceptable risk.

The end of the monopoly of these experts would allow a proper debate on the risks of nuclear energy. At a time when many voices are speaking out in favor of the development of atomic energy as the lesser evil in the face of climate change, such a debate is urgent.

This article was first published in The Conversation in French on April 26, 2021, as well as on Beyond Nuclear International. English translation provided by the authors.

Christine Fassert is a social anthropologist at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-SorbonneTatiana Kasperski is a research associate– Department of Humanities at Universitat Pompeu Fabra   https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2021/09/12/vested-interests/

September 13, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, media, radiation, safety, spinbuster | Leave a comment

”Fossil Free Media” aims to redress the balance of well-funded press that opposes action on climate change.

Jamie Henn, a co-founder of the climate group 350.org, had for a long time noticed a gap in climate advocacy that many had overlooked: while the fossil fuel industry pours money into ad campaigns, much of the climate movement simply doesn’t have the resources to do that work.

Inspired to change that, Henn launched Fossil Free Media to give public relations and communications support to grassroots groups taking on the fossil fuel industry and campaigning for climate justice. Fossil Free Media is also
trying to change the wider PR and advertising industry through its Clean Creatives campaign, pressuring agencies to break their ties with the fossil fuel industry.

 Guardian 11th Sept 2021

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/11/greenwash-fossil-fuels-ad-agencies

September 13, 2021 Posted by | climate change, media | Leave a comment

The real-life anti-nuclear peace camp that is the subject of BBC drama ”Vigil”

‘BAN THE BOMB’ Inside real-life anti-nuclear peace camp that inspired Vigil’s Dunloch from mass arrests to blockades  BBC drama Vigil has had viewers glued to their screens. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/16093525/real-nuclear-peace-camp-vigil-faslane/

The series, which pulled in 5.4 million viewers with its second episode, stars Suranne Jones as a detective sent on to a Trident submarine after the death of a sailor.

While Suranne’s character DCI Amy Silva has been trying to uncover who murdered Craig Burke underwater, her colleague and lover DS Kirsten Longacre, played by Rose Leslie, has been visiting the fictional Dunloch camp to probe possible links to a cover-up.

And it turns out that Dunloch was based on the world’s longest-running anti-nuclear peace camp in Scotland, Faslane, set up in 1982.

The camp only has three members left now – but used to have thousands of occupiers.

Faslane was set up in 1982 by anti-nuclear campaigners Margaret and Bobby Harrison, in response to the decision by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to replace the ageing Polaris submarines with Trident – which were even bigger.

It began as just a couple of tents pitched outside the Faslane naval base, then slowly evolved into more permanent shacks, huts and caravans.

Margaret and Bobby eventually left after a few months – but thousands of other activists have held the fort over the years.

Nicola Sturgeon protested

In its four decades, the camp has lived on through the end of the Cold War and changes in government on either side of the Scottish border.

It has been the focus of a great number of protests at the naval base.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, and her deputy John Swinney are just two of the politicians who’ve joined protests at Faslane

In 2001’s “Big Blockade”, left-wing rebels Tommy Sheridan and George Galloway were among 300 arrested, along with 15 church ministers.

In 1983, an Easter march by 1,500 Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament supporters, all singing and dancing, led to five arrests, including two women dressed as Easter bunnies.

Year-long protest

But the last major event at the camp was Faslane 365 – which was originally meant to be a year-long protest running from 2006 to 2007.

The protest, which was in response to Labour PM Tony Blair ’s decision to replace Trident with more modern nuclear weapons rather than get rid of it, saw police arrest 1,110 people over 190 days.

On 7 January 2007, a group of around 40 world-renowned academics including Sir Richard Jolly and 25 students from OxfordCambridgeSussex and Edinburgh held a seminar discussing the replacement of the Trident missiles at the base. 

Protesters subsequently managed to stage the most successful blockade of the campaign, closing the North Gate for six hours. 

All those who blockaded were arrested and held overnight. 

The vast majority of arrested protesters were released, receiving a letter from the Procurator Fiscal’s office explaining that although “evidence is sufficient to justify my bringing you before the Court on this criminal charge”, the Procurator Fiscal has “decided not to take such proceedings”.

Dwindling members

Since then, the more urgent climate emergency has been a focus for the peace camp, and, by 2017, the camp only had 10 residents.

It now has just three – however just one woman is still permanently living there, Willemein Hoogdendoorn.

She is on remand awaiting trial after refusing bail conditions following her arrest last month at a blockade on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb.

Despite the dwindling number of members, Faslane still definitely cares about stopping nuclear weapons.

One banner at the camp reads: “£200billion Trident Renewal. Let’s fund our NHS instead”. 

A bus is colourfully graffitied with the words “Ban the bomb”.

‘We don’t want to be misrepresented’

Camp dwellers turned away Vigil producers hoping to film on location at the camp, claiming the plot is “unrealistic”.

Johnny Rodgers, 36, from Bingley, West Yorks, told the Mirror: “The BBC came and offered £500 to film on site.

“When we saw the script we said, ‘No, that’s not realistic. We don’t want to be misrepresented’.”

‘Vigil is unrealistic’

Another protester, Andy – who has lived there on and off for 15 years – claimed Vigil is unrealistic due to the fact that sailor Craig Burke was secretly dating peace camp protester Jade Antoniak.

He added:  “We were told one of the women from the camp falls in love with a submariner. That just isn’t ­realistic.

“Sailors aren’t even allowed to come here any more as far as I’m aware, or they’d get into trouble.

“They stay at the base and we stay here, there’s no fraternisation at all.”

Michael McGuinness, 35, from nearby Helensburgh, agreed.

He said no sailors have visited in more than a decade. 

He recalled: “Back in 2006 you’d have all the drunk sailors in. They’d sit and have a laugh with you.”

The remaining Faslane residents may not be onboard with Vigil, but there’s no denying the BBC drama has put it firmly back on the map.

September 13, 2021 Posted by | media, UK, weapons and war | 2 Comments

How America’s war machine is bankrupting us, both financially and morally

“Napoleon said that it’s not necessary to censor the news. It’s more efficient to delay it until it no longer matters. In terms of the dead, it no longer matters.”

Norman Solomon on what the media won’t say: “The American people live in a warfare state” by Chauncey DeVaga — Rise Up Times

Author and activist Norman Solomon on how America’s war machine is bankrupting us, both financially and morally, By CHAUNCEY DEVEGA  Salon  September 8, 2021 ” …………….. America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan is now technically over.

…………………The Afghanistan war cost the American people at least $2 trillion. That amount will increase significantly from the interest paid on the massive debt incurred by the war over the next few decades.

America’s ugly withdrawal from Afghanistan leaves behind many “what ifs” that will haunt the nation’s collective memory for years to come. For example, what if the terrorist attacks of 9/11 had been treated as a law enforcement problem and not a military crisis that led to the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq? (Especially since the latter nation had no connection to al-Qaida or the 9/11 attacks.)

What role did the War on Terror and its thousands of U.S. casualties (disproportionately concentrated in the Rust Belt and the American South) play in the election of Donald Trump and the rise of American neofascism? Would Trump ever have become president if there had been no endless war in the Middle East?

The withdrawal from Afghanistan also illustrates how poorly America’s collective memory reflects facts and history. Too many members of the media and political classes, still haunted by the ghosts of Vietnam, the Afghan retreat is being invoked as somehow equivalent to the fall of Saigon in 1975. It is not.

………. These first drafts of history about America’s retreat from Afghanistan are very much works in progress.

As writer and cultural critic Gore Vidal once observed, “We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn nothing because we remember nothing.” To that point, the American people will not be asked to make sense of Afghanistan and the War on Terror in the context of a much larger history. (And if they were asked, would not generally be able to answer, or interested in doing so).

Here is the central question that is being avoided: What does all this illustrate or exemplify? The answer: America is addicted to war. Since the end of World War II, the country has been involved in dozens of conflicts and interventions around the world. In that sense, America’s war in Afghanistan is part of a much older and much longer story.

To discuss both that longer story and the one before us now, I recently had a conversation with author, activist and journalist Norman Solomon (a frequent contributor to Salon). He is the author of many books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.” Solomon is the national director and co-founder of the online activist initiative RootsAction.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy,

In this conversation, Solomon explains how he believes the American people are propagandized into supporting war by political leaders, the mainstream news media and other elites. He also reflects on how Afghanistan, Iraq and the larger War on Terror have been counterproductive on their own terms — leaving the American people less safe and less secure — as well as profoundly immoral and ruinously expensive.

He explains how human rights and justice demand that the American people learn to practice radical empathy for the Afghan people and others around the world who have suffered immeasurably from American military power. Toward the end of this conversation, Solomon explains that the lives of average Americans could be greatly improved if the U.S. did not spend vast sums of money on a military machine used almost entirely for destructive ends.

As a whole, the news media and the pundit class are generalists and professional “smart people.” They have little specific policy expertise on America’s forever wars or the Middle East, yet are presented as authoritative voices on that subject and too many others. How does the business of “expertise” and “punditry” actually work?

The qualification is largely that you have some type of institutional credential or be in a powerful position in Washington. You also have to stay more or less within the parameters of the bipartisan consensus about American politics, especially in terms of foreign policy.

What is verboten in such conversations?

In terms of U.S. foreign and military policy, there is a type of mass media housekeeping seal of approval. It is not completely monolithic. There are cracks in the wall. However, just because there are cracks does not somehow mean that the wall no longer exists.

The essence of propaganda is repetition. I believe there is a paradigm, a rule where there’s terrain that the corporate media tends to be very comfortable having discourse and debate on and within. Essentially, the mass media are part of the war-making apparatus.

How do you make sense of this public rehabilitation project for the likes of George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, two of the most prominent figures who made the decisions that led to these disastrous wars?

Consider all the praise, for example, that was visited on the late Donald Rumsfeld during his obituary period. There were so many members of the mainstream American news media who just basically licked Rumsfeld’s boots when he was giving his daily briefings during the war. Top journalists in the United States, on camera, were saying to Rumsfeld that he was like a “rock star,” that he was a “stud,” because he was articulating U.S. policy so well during those first weeks of the bombing of Afghanistan. I think of that spectacle all the time, where the media bows down to the warmakers in this country………..

The press is supposed to help the public understand current events so they can make better decisions about government, policy and leadership. But relatively few in the mainstream news media gave extensive coverage to the “Afghanistan Papers,” which were leaked not long ago and extensively documented that the war in Afghanistan had been lost for years. There is much fake surprise about the sudden end of the war and the Taliban taking over so quickly. The United States government knew of this highly probable outcome some time ago.

There is tremendous conformity-pressure. Being ahead of the discernment curve is very rarely a career enhancement. Whereas going with the herd, or being a little ahead of the curve but not going too far out on a limb, is a winning strategy for so many people who have risen through the ranks in mass media — and for that matter in government.

Napoleon said that it’s not necessary to censor the news. It’s more efficient to delay it until it no longer matters. In terms of the dead, it no longer matters. The last mistake is chalked up as in fact being just an error. But people who are going deeper in the analysis are saying, “There’s a fundamental dynamic here.”

We, the American people, live in a warfare state. As President Dwight Eisenhower warned as he was leaving office, we have a military-industrial complex. It’s striking how rarely we even hear that term being uttered by a prominent Democratic or Republican leader in Washington. It’s almost verboten………..

How do we better explain to the American people the role of profiteering by private interests and big business in the country’s wars?

When we hear that the war in Afghanistan was a “failure,” it really depends on what vantage point one is talking about. Every war is a colossal success for the military-industrial complex and huge numbers of Pentagon contractors. We call it the “defense industry.” That is a benign term.

I’m not against a defense budget. Too bad we don’t have one! We have a military budget that’s so much larger than a genuine defense budget would be. The profit-taking is enormous.

Where does the $700-something billion a year from the Pentagon go? Add in nuclear weapons and other items that are outside the Pentagon budget, and the number rises to $1 trillion. So much of that money is just going to these huge corporations. How often do we see a serious examination in the mainstream news media of the corporations that are making a killing, literally and figuratively, from the misery and death that’s part of the U.S. warfare state?

How has war been sold to the American people by the country’s leaders? What narratives are used to propagandize them into supporting American empire and war-making?………

Has the mainstream news media ever seen a war they didn’t like?

If there’s a deep division on Capitol Hill within or between the two parties, then the mass media, to some significant extent, might be against it. Again, war is framed around the question, “Is it winnable?”

Ultimately, that is the wrong question. Even now there are critics of the Afghanistan war saying, “It was a terrible idea. It could have never been won.” I can reasonably conclude that the seven-year-old girl I met with one arm didn’t really care if the U.S. won or lost. She didn’t care that Barack Obama was a Democrat overseeing the air war that took one of her arms.  https://riseuptimes.org/2021/09/09/norman-solomon-on-what-the-media-wont-say-the-american-people-live-in-a-warfare-state-by-chauncey-devaga/

September 11, 2021 Posted by | media, politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA Bill to protect journalists – EXCEPT FOR JULIAN ASSANGE

press freedom advocates, while supportive of the press freedom bill, said that the legislation would yield the biggest impact if the U.S. followed its own policies.

“Anytime we, or the U.S. government, or members of Congress are talking about press freedom internationally, it’s, in my mind, a good thing,” said Trevor Timm, co-founder and executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “But for any of that advocacy to be remotely effective, it’s important for the U.S. to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.”

PRESS FREEDOM BILL WOULD PROTECT JOURNALISTS FACING PERSECUTION — BUT NOT JULIAN ASSANGE  https://theintercept.com/2021/09/08/julian-assange-international-press-freedom-act/ 8 Sept21,

Senators say they want to protect foreign journalists from government aggression. But what happens when the U.S. is the aggressor? Rose Adams

September 8 2021, EARLIER THIS YEAR, just days before World Press Freedom Day, Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined forces to introduce the International Press Freedom Act of 2021, a bipartisan bill to protect at-risk journalists working in highly censored countries. The legislation is predicated on the idea that the United States is a uniquely safe place for journalists — but that notion doesn’t always hold up under scrutiny.

Introduced on April 29, the International Press Freedom Act is one of at least three press freedom bills that Congress has considered since Saudi authorities killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018. But while other bills have proposed piecemeal protections — such as sanctions on restrictive governments or a government office for threatened journalists — Kaine and Graham’s bill takes a more comprehensive approach. In addition to directing State Department funds toward investigating and prosecuting crimes against journalists abroad, the law would create a new visa category for threatened reporters and open a State Department office with a $30 million annual fund to help journalists report safely or relocate.

Press advocacy groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists have praised Kaine and Graham’s bill, claiming that the legislation would “bolster U.S. foreign diplomacy on global press freedom.” In a statement, Kaine emphasized the U.S.’s responsibility to spread its free speech ethos.

“Enshrined in both our Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, press freedom is a core American value that we must constantly promote around the globe,” he said in a press release. “With this bill, our country will let journalists know that we will protect their right to report and offer safe harbor when they are threatened.”

But that safe harbor doesn’t seem to apply to foreign journalists the U.S. government itself has threatened. For years, the Justice Department has worked to extradite and prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing Army war logs provided by Chelsea Manning in 2010, and increased the pressure following his 2016 publication leaked Democratic Party emails that the Justice Department said were hacked by Russia. And though the government’s extradition efforts are inching closer to fruition amid several U.S. appeals, Kaine and Graham have remained silent.

Continue reading

September 9, 2021 Posted by | civil liberties, media, politics | Leave a comment

Media Coverage of Fukushima, Ten Years Later.

Martin Fackler

Abstract: When taking up the unlearned lessons of Fukushima, one of the biggest may have been the need for more robust oversight of the nuclear industry. In Japan, the failure of the major national news media to scrutinize the industry and hold it accountable was particularly glaring. Despite their own claims to serve as watchdogs on officialdom, the major media have instead covered Japan’s powerful nuclear industry with a mix of silent complicity and outright boosterism. This is true both before and after the Fukushima disaster. In the decades after World War II, when the nuclear industry was established, media played an active role in overcoming public resistance to atomic energy and winning at least passive acceptance of it as a science-based means for Japan to secure energy autonomy.

During the Fukushima disaster, the media served government objectives such as preservation of social order by playing down the size of the accident and severity of radiological releases, resulting in widely divergent coverage from serious overseas media. While a short-lived proliferation of more critical and independent coverage followed the disaster, the old patterns returned with a vengeance after the installment of the pro-nuclear administration of Abe Shinzō. This article will examine the roots of the Japanese media’s failure to challenge or scrutinize the nuclear industry, and how this complicity has played out in the post-Fukushima era. It will use a historical analysis to look at how the current patterns of media coverage were actually established in the immediate postwar period, and the formation of public support for civilian nuclear power. 

During my 15 years as a foreign correspondent in Tokyo, including a six-year stint as Tokyo bureau chief of The New York Times (2009-2015), I often covered the same news events as Japanese journalists, standing shoulder-to-shoulder at more press conferences than we’d care to count. While I admire many Japanese colleagues individually as journalists, I was frequently struck by the shortcomings of Japan’s big domestic media and Japanese journalism as an institution. 

But never did I feel these structural weaknesses as keenly as I did in the tense weeks that followed the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

In Minami-soma, a city 25 kilometers north of the stricken plant, where some 20,000 remaining residents were cut off from supplies of food, fuel and medicines, I discovered that journalists from major Japanese media were nowhere to be seen. They had withdrawn from Minami-soma, forbidden by their editors in Tokyo from approaching within 30 or 40 kilometers of Fukushima Daiichi. 

By doing so, they had essentially abandoned the already isolated residents. But you would never know that from the media’s stories, which made no mention of their own pull out or the perceived risks that had prompted this retreat. Instead, the main newspaper articles uniformly repeated official reassurances that there was no cause for alarm because the radiation posed “no immediate danger to human health,” as the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Edano Yukio, so famously put it.1

The mismatch between word and deed—between what the newspapers were telling their audiences and what they were actually doing to protect their own journalists—was glaring. It turned out that this was only the first of several instances during the Fukushima disaster where I witnessed Japan’s major media adhering to the official narrative regardless of the facts on the ground. I refer to this phenomenon as “media capture,” borrowing from the more widely used term “regulatory capture,” which is used to describe a similar failure of government oversight of the nuclear industry.

Over the months and years that followed the meltdowns, I saw numerous instances of national media refusing to take a critical or distanced stance in their coverage of the nuclear industry and its government regulators. Instead, they repeatedly chose to internalize the official narratives and even adhere to the government-approved language. We saw this is the widely diverging narratives that started appearing in the serious foreign press versus the major domestic media as the accident worsened. 

To cite a straightforward example, we started using the word “meltdown” within hours of the first reactor building explosion at the plant, reflecting the almost unanimous view of outside experts that a melting fuel core was the only realistic source of the hydrogen that caused the blast. However, the domestic national dailies and NHK avoided the word “meltdown” (in Japanese, merutodaun) for months, following the insistence of the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry (METI), the powerful government agency that both promoted and regulated Japan’s nuclear industry, that a meltdown had not been confirmed. The big Japanese media used other official euphemisms as well, including “explosion-like event” to describe the massive blast at the Unit 3 reactor building, which blew chunks of concrete hundreds of feet into the air. 

In fact, I even had Japanese journalists calling me to berate me and my newspaper for using the M-word without METI’s permission. Readers of the Japanese national dailies didn’t see the M-word until mid-May, when METI and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. or TEPCO, conceded in public that Fukushima Daiichi had indeed suffered a meltdown in mid-March—three meltdowns, in fact.

In the chapter that I wrote for Legacies of Fukushima: 3.11 in Context, I tried to explain some of the reasons why the civilian nuclear power industry could have such a peculiarly strong grip on the media and their narratives. The nuclear industry was a national project that was promoted by the powerful central ministries as a silver bullet for resource-poor Japan’s dependence on imported energy. This gave it an elevated status as the elite bureaucrats guided Japan’s postwar recovery and economic take-off.

I looked at the media’s dependence on Tokyo’s powerful central ministries, which takes its most visible form in the so-called kisha kurabu, or “press clubs.” These are arrangements that allow national media to station their journalists inside the ministries and agencies, where they are given their own room and exclusive access to officials. Much of the reporting by the major Japanese media starts in the kisha kurabu, where journalists gather to wait for the next press conference or off-record briefing from officials. The kisha kurabu system fosters a passive form of journalism, in which reporters become dependent on the ministry within which they are embedded. In pursuit of a scoop that can make or break a career, the journalists compete for handouts from ministry officials. All too often, they enter a Faustian bargain in which the journalists swap narrative control in exchange for exclusive access to information. The result is a passive form of access journalism that ends up repeating spoon-fed official narratives. 

I also looked to the past at the emergence of newspapers like the Asahi Shimbun during the early to mid-Meiji era, when the national priority was to protect autonomy by finding a way to catch the industrialized West. I argued that this history baked into the mindset of Japanese journalists a feeling of responsibility for the fate of their nation, including its vital energy needs. It also led to an identification with the government, and particularly the elite officialdom, as protectors of Japan and its people from predatory foreign powers. This inclination to side with the state has continued in the postwar period, when journalists have clearly seen themselves as members of a national elite attached to a broader bureaucratic-led system. 

One point that I wanted to underscore was that this media capture was not something so simple or venal as corruption. This is how it is often portrayed by critical Japanese writers, usually freelancers and book authors, who focus on the so-called Nuclear Village, a nexus of business, government, labor unions, academia and news media linked by the cash flowing out of the highly profitable nuclear plants. While money doubtlessly plays a role in many of these relationships, including perhaps the for-profit commercial TV broadcasters, I see no direct evidence that it sways the coverage of the national newspapers. These are privately held companies for whom advertising is a much less important revenue source than subscriptions (or the rent from their valuable real estate holdings in central Tokyo and Osaka).

Regardless of the cause, the result has been generations of postwar journalists who have consistently failed to serve as watchdogs on one of the nation’s most politically powerful industries.2 Starting in the 1990s, public scandals started plaguing the industry, and TEPCO in particular. In 2002, government inspectors announced that TEPCO had been routinely falsifying safety reports to hide minor incidents and equipment problems at reactors including several at Fukushima Daiichi. TEPCO eventually admitted to more than 200 such violations stretching back to 1977. Five years later, TEPCO revealed even more cover-ups of safety issues, which the company had failed to report in the previous inquiry. 

Despite what was clearly a chronic and systemic failure of both internal compliance and government oversight, no one was arrested or charged, and the existing regulatory framework left unchanged. The media could have played a role of holding the regulators’ feet to the fire by exposing the structural problems behind this abysmal record of obfuscation and cover-ups. Instead, the watchdogs chose to remain largely silent, reporting on the government’s revelations, but making few efforts at independent investigative reporting.

Of course, such criticisms enjoy the benefits of hindsight, with the accident in 2011 making it easier to see these failures as part of a broader narrative that leads inevitably to Fukushima. But how about after 2011, when the severity of the disaster led to numerous calls for reform? During that time, the national media have also been held up to uncomfortable scrutiny by a jaded and distrustful public, who felt betrayed by their early coverage of the accident. 

Unfortunately, ten years later, nothing seems to have changed.

This was apparent in mid-April of 2021, when the Japanese government announced a decision to release into the Pacific Ocean more than 1.2 million tons of radioactive water that has been building up in hundreds of huge metal tanks on the grounds of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. (The accumulation of contaminated water has plagued the plant from the early days of the disaster. TEPCO has resorted to some high-tech solutions with mixed results, including a mile-long “ice wall” of frozen dirt that failed to fully block the water, much of which flows into the plant from underground.) 

The water stored in these tanks contains tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is best known for its military use as the fuel for thermonuclear warheads (hence the term “hydrogen bomb”). On the spectrum of radioactive substances, tritium emits relatively low levels of radiation in form of beta particles. But it is a radioactive substance nonetheless, a fact that major media played down or even omitted by choosing, once again, to adopt the industry and government’s language to describe the dump. The main news stories in the major national newspapers and TV broadcasts used the official term for this water, which is shorisui, or “treated water.”

While technically correct, this term euphemistically glosses over the fact that this is not the same as, say, treated sewage water. Nor does treated water convey the fact that this water still contains a radionuclide that emits beta radiation. 

One result was an interesting battle of words that pitted the mainstream media, which used the approved “treated water,” against journalists who were outside the press club’s inner circle. These publications and web sites chose to use clearer terms such as osensui, or “contaminated water.” The leftist daily Tokyo Shimbun, a smaller regional newspaper that has stood out for its more critical coverage of the nuclear disaster, compromised by calling the water osenshorisui, or “contaminated treated water.”3

More eye-opening was the fact that there were actually efforts to enforce use of the officially approved term. As many journalists discovered, there was an army of social media trolls at ready to pile onto anyone with the temerity to use more critical terminology, and particularly “contaminated water.” TEPCO and the government mobilized university experts and PR professionals to police the public sphere for use of words that were deemed “unscientific” and “ideological.”

Of course, the choice of the word “treated” is itself also highly political. It buttressed the larger message put forth by the government and the plant’s operator that the release of this water was no cause for alarm, but something very common and normal that nuclear plants around the world do all the time. By accepting the official terminology, the media were implicitly adopting this framing of the issue, which focused on the claim that the water could be diluted to the point of being harmless when dumped into the Pacific.

Scientifically, this is a valid claim. My point here is not to take sides. Rather, I am criticizing the large domestic media for failing to do the same: i.e., not take sides. By adopting the official narrative, the media were complicit in the government’s and TEPCO’s exclusion of other, also valid counterarguments. One of the biggest is the fact that this release is anything but normal. No nuclear plant has ever conducted an orchestrated release of such a huge quantity of tritium-laden water. (At the time of writing, the amount, 1.2 million tons, is enough to fill almost 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.) Worse, the release is to be carried out in the same closed, opaque manner as the rest of Japan’s decade-long response to the disaster. Unless TEPCO and METI break with past precedent to allow full international oversight to verify that the water is as clean as they claim it is, we are left once again to trust actors who have consistently violated public faith. 

Just as importantly, there are valid reasons to at least question whether the water is as clean as TEPCO says it is. The company has been telling us for years that it has installed state-of-the-art treatment and filtration technologies that scrub the water of every radioactive particle except tritium. However, in 2018, the plant operator suddenly revealed that 75% of the treated water at the plant still contained excessive amounts of other, more radioactive substances including strontium 90, a dangerous isotope that can embed itself in the living tissue of human bones.4

To be fair, TEPCO may be right in its assessment of the water’s safety. Even so, it is the job of conscientious journalists to take a skeptical attitude toward such claims until they can be independently verified. The media also need to remind why this is necessary, given the company’s and the industry’s history of cover-ups. My goal here is to fault the major domestic media for once again failing to do this, despite the bitter lessons of 2011. Adopting the language of METI and TEPCO privileges the official perspective over others. It shows that the journalists are internalizing the official framing of the event and how it should be discussed and understood. 

Officialdom is thus allowed to set the boundaries of public debate, excluding more critical perspectives as “political,” “unscientific” or even “foreign.” The last characterization reflects the fact that the Chinese and South Korean governments raised some of the loudest objections to the release. The media have tended to frame these as the latest in a litany of self-serving complaints by Asian rivals that like to accuse Japan of failing to apologize for World War II-era atrocities. While Beijing and Seoul may have political motives for seizing on the water issue, this shouldn’t be a reason for journalists to avoid taking up more substantive criticisms about the release. Opposition has appeared in many other countries and reflects the failure of Japan to consult with other nations that share the Pacific Ocean, which will be the site of the mass water dump. 

This is a failure by media, once again, to inform their readers of the existence of alternative narratives that take a dimmer view of the actions taken by Japan’s officialdom, or that point out where government interests diverge from those of Japan’s public. This is also a failure of a different sort: of media to protect their own intellectual independence. By uncritically adopting the official narratives, the journalists are relinquishing the right to frame in their issues. This surrendering of agency is the central fact of the media capture that I described above.

To be clear, Japan is not unique in suffering from the problem of media capture. The press in other democratic countries face similar challenges. In the United States, we use the term “access journalism” to describe the pitfalls of journalists, often in Washington, who trade autonomy for exclusive access to official sources. However, Japan’s version of access journalism is more extreme, producing a uniformly monolithic coverage closer to that in non-democratic societies. The most apt American equivalent may be the period of extreme patriotic fervor between the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, when U.S. media failed to adequately challenge the erroneous claims of the Bush administration that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

In Japan’s ongoing Fukushima disaster, this lack of agency manifests itself as a failure to not only set the narrative, but even to decide what is newsworthy. Most of the coverage is essentially an act of regurgitating the information that was distributed at the ministry’s kisha kurabu. Since the news reports are based on information received from ministry officials, not surprisingly they usually showcase the actions of those officials. Both the pages of Japan’s national dailies and the evening news broadcasts of NHK are filled with stories of Japanese officialdom in action, solving some problem or punishing some wrongdoer. Most news reports are mini-dramas in which officials play the starring role. As such, they serve as demonstrations that agency lies in the elite bureaucracies at the center of the postwar Japanese state, and not the major media, which seems to serve as an appendage. 

Even when critical stories appear, they are rarely the work of enterprising reporters unearthing facts that the powerful would rather keep covered. Rather, the revelations tend to come from official actors when they have decided to take action against malfeasance. One example was TEPCO’s cover-ups, mentioned earlier, which were exposed by nuclear regulators, not investigative reporters. A more recent example is revelations that started to become public in March 2021 of years of security lapses at the huge Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata, facing the Sea of Japan. Over the next two months, news stories dribbled out about workers who were able to access the sensitive areas around the plant’s nuclear reactors without proper ID. In one case in 2015, a man entered the reactor area using the ID of his father, who also worked at the plant. Once again, there lapses were not exposed by intrepid reporters but regulators themselves, who leaked them to prepare the public for their decision to reject TEPCO’s request to restart the plant.5

The lack of media agency is all the more glaring because there have been very notable exceptions. Japan’s journalists have shown that they are capable of true investigative reporting that can define and drive the public narrative. For a brief window of time during the early years of the Fukushima disaster, some major Japanese media experimented with more autonomous journalism. This began in the late summer of 2011, as public disillusionment in the domestic press’s compliant coverage grew. This prompted some media to try to re-engage readers with more hard-hitting reports that challenged the official claims.

The most notable of these efforts was launched by the Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second-largest daily, which beefed up a new reporting group dedicated to investigative journalism. (By investigative journalism, I mean journalists taking the initiative to pry out hidden truths and assemble these into original, factual narratives that challenge the versions of reality put forth by the powerful.) The Asahi’s investigative division got off to a strong start by winning Japan’s most prestigious press award two years in a row. It scored what it trumpeted as its biggest coup in May 2014, when two of its reporters wrote a front-page story that exposed the dangerously poor crisis management at the plant as it teetered on the brink of catastrophe. The story revealed that the government had hidden testimony by the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s manager during the accident, Yoshida Masao, who later died of cancer. It also recounted what it said was the most explosive revelation of this secret testimony: that hundreds of workers and staff had fled the crippled plant at the most dangerous point in the disaster, despite the fact that Yoshida never gave them the order to leave.

However, the Asahi erred by giving the story a misleading headline, which left readers with the impression that the workers had fled in defiance of Yoshida’s order to stay. (In fact, Yoshida himself says in the testimony that his order didn’t reach these workers—a stunning breakdown in command and control that was lost in the subsequent blow up over the article.) This misstep gave critics the opening that they needed to try to discredit the entire story, and by extension the newspaper’s proactive coverage of the disaster. A host of critics, including the prime minister himself and the rest of the mainstream media, set upon the Asahi with unusual ferocity. After weeks of withering attacks, which essentially accused the newspaper of lacking patriotism and of belittling the heroic plant workers, the Asahi’s president made a dramatic surrender in September 2014, retracting the entire article, gutting the investigative team and resigning his own job to take responsibility for the fiasco.6

Thus marked the end of the Asahi’s short-lived foray into investigative journalism, which I have described in more detail in this journal.7 Suffice it to say here that when forced to make a choice, the Asahi, the nation’s leading liberal voice favored by the intelligentsia, chose to remain on the boat. To preserve the privileged insider status as a member of the kisha kurabu media, the newspaper chose to sacrifice not only its biggest reporting accomplishment of the disaster, but also the journalists who produced it, who were sent into humiliating internal exile. For years afterward, the newspaper shunned proactive reporting on Fukushima, staying within safe confines of the official storyline.

The Asahi’s biggest mistake was its failure to stand behind its journalists. Investigative reporting is by nature a highly risky undertaking, and one that pits a handful of underpaid journalists against some of the most powerful members of society. By not only failing to stand up for its investigative reporters but trying to scapegoat them by punishing them for the mistakes in coverage, the Asahi sent a chilling message to all mainstream journalists: Newspapers don’t have your back. In such an environment, what journalists in their right mind would want to challenge the powers that be?

Admirably, some of the Asahi’s investigative reporters did stand their ground even at the cost of their careers at the newspaper. Soon after the debacle, two of the investigative group’s top reporters quit to launch Japan’s first NGO dedicated to investigative journalism, which in 2021 was renamed Tokyo Investigative Newsroom Tansa.8 Another resigned to join Facta, a Japanese magazine dedicated to investigative coverage (and offering stories that cannot be found in the large national newspapers). These decisions to place principle over company and career underscore my broader point: The sources of Japan’s media capture are bigger than the individual reporters and embedded in the structure of media institutions and the practice in Japan of journalism itself. 

The Asahi’s capitulation in 2014 marked the end of not just the Asahi’s but all the mainstream media’s efforts to create new, more critical narratives of the Fukushima disaster. These days, most reporting tends to fall into one of a few prepackaged, safely uncontroversial storylines. There is the Fukushima 50 narrative of successfully overcoming Japan’s biggest trial since World War II. Another is the “baseless rumors” (fuhyō higai) narrative, which casts fears of radiation as over-exaggerated, and usually the creation of women, leftists and foreigners. 

Journalists have told me that the Asahi’s surrender created a powerful prohibition on critical coverage. Having seen what happened to Japan’s leading liberal newspaper, and the star reporters there who lost their careers, few journalists have the stomach to challenge the status quo. The result is a grim new conformity. 

Adding to the pressure to toe the line has been the appearance post-Fukushima of another new, problem-plagued national project: the Tokyo Summer Olympics, originally scheduled for 2020. Coverage of the Olympics has again tended to adhere to official narratives, even as public misgivings grew in Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s decision to go forward with the Games a year later, in 2021, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

From the start, the government has used the Olympics to divert attention from Fukushima while proclaiming that the disaster is now in the past. While there has been critical coverage, it has been the exception and not the rule. Indeed, the media’s silence was deafening when the previous prime minister, Abe Shinzō, told the International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires in September 2013 that the plant’s “situation was under control,” even as contaminated water was then still bleeding into the Pacific. 

By failing to take the initiative in Fukushima, the media have ended up supporting official efforts to use the Games to put the lid back on the nuclear disaster. The Olympics have become yet one more means for Japan’s elites to regain control of the public sphere, or at least the part of it controlled by the big legacy media. (They have had less success asserting control over the much more anarchic and anonymous world of social media.)

The media’s reluctance to challenge the government has also been apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic. I’m still waiting for the investigative articles that expose the truth behind Tokyo’s biggest failures during the pandemic. The major media emitted barely a peep in response to the government’s blatantly discriminatory decision during the first six months of the pandemic to close Japan’s borders to all foreign nationals, including long-term residents, while allowing Japanese nationals to come and go. More importantly, I would be the first in line to read an investigative exposé into what delayed the roll out of vaccines in Japan.

All too often, coverage of COVID-19 ended up repeating the pattern that we saw in Fukushima. The media once again surrendered their biggest public asset: their power to challenge the official narrative and expose the facts that officials don’t want us to know. Instead, the major domestic media once again show themselves more interested in preserving their privileged insider status. By doing so, they once again do a disservice of their readers.

The need to serve their readers by finding an independent and critical voice should have been the media’s biggest takeaway from Fukushima. Instead, they appear to be merely repeating the mistakes of a decade ago.

References

Brown, A. and Darby, I. (2021) ‘Plan to discharge Fukushima plant water into sea sets a dangerous precedent’, The Japan Times, April 25 [Online]. Accessed: June 25, 2021.

Fackler, M. (2016) ‘Sinking a bold foray into watchdog journalism in Japan’, Columbia Journalism Review [Online]. Accessed: June 25, 2021.

Fackler, M. (2016) ‘The Asahi Shimbun’s failed foray into watchdog journalism’, The Asia Pacific Journal Japan Focus, 14(24) [Online]. Accessed: June 25, 2021.

Jomaru, Y. (2012) Genpatsu to media shinbun jānarizumu ni dome no haiboku [Nuclear Power and the Media: The Second Defeat of Newspaper Journalism]. Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun Shuppan.

Kyodo. (2021) ‘Another security breach at Tepco nuclear plant uncovered’, The Japan Times, May 9 [Online]. Accessed: June 25, 2021. 

Ogawa, S. (2021) ‘Fukushima dai ichi genpatsu no osen shorisui, seifu ga kaiyō hōshutsu no hōshin o kettei e 1 3 nichi ni mo kanei kakuryō kaigi [Government Moving Toward Decision to Release the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant’s Contaminated Treated Water in the Ocean], Tokyo Shimbun, April 9 [Online]. Accessed: June 25, 2021.

Tansa. (2021) Tokyo investigative newsroom Tansa [Online]. Accessed: June 4, 2021.

Notes

1

SankeiNews (2011). “Edano kanbōchō kankaiken No1 ‘Tadachi ni kenkō shigai wa denai…’” [Chief Cabinet Secretary Press Conference Edano No1 ‘No Immediate Health Damage’]) [Online Video]. Accessed: August 23, 2011.2

Jomaru, 2012.3

Ogawa, 2021.4

Brown and Darby, 2021.5

Kyodo, 2021.6

Fackler, 2016.7

Fackler, 2016.8

Tansa, 2021.

https://apjjf.org/2021/17/Fackler.html

September 8, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021, Japan, media | , , | Leave a comment

Murdoch’s news media hasn’t seen the light on climate – they’re just updating their tactics —

Is News Corp really seeing the light on climate? More likely it’s pivoting to a modern style of greenwashing and delay, just like Morrison. .

What might reasonably seem like a surprising change of heart in News Corp’s stance on climate is actually a long-term tactical shift that has been occurring for at least a few years. Whatever policies they failed to destroy through their earlier campaigns, they will try and reframe through racist, nationalistic, technocratic and pro-business frames.

Whatever policies they can delay or destroy, they’ll simply keep running scare campaigns about, insisting that ‘the balance isn’t right’, and that the threat of climate action is greater than climate change, as they always have (in Australia, News Corp’s partnerships with Google and Facebook mean these campaigns to destabilise climate action are growing more powerful and more harmful every day). When the next federal election comes around, the “COSTS OF NET ZERO” scare campaigns will ramp up in Australia as they are in the UK, and News Corp will be at the forefront, pleading that acting too fast will cause catastrophe. Absolutely mark my damn words: this is what will happen.

Net zero by 2050 isn’t enough. We’ll know that the denialism has truly ended when organisations like News Corp treat the IPCC’s latest report like it’s real.

Delay is the main game

There are many substantial recent examples of this. A good one was the severe blackouts that spread across Texas in February this year, which were immediately blamed on wind power failures, alongside easily debunked claims that snows and ice were blocking solar panels and freezing up wind turbines in Texas and around the world.

This isn’t climate change denial: it’s “mitigation denial“. That is, a move away from denying the problem exists and towards decrying its solutions as utterly unacceptable. An important part of this performance is pretending to have a moment of having seen the light, but then continuing to commit the same acts of delay as before.

News Corp hasn’t seen the light on climate – they’re just updating their tacticshttps://reneweconomy.com.au/news-corp-hasnt-seen-the-light-on-climate-theyre-just-updating-their-tactics/, 5 Sept 21, Have you heard the good news? One of the key institutions holding back climate action in Australia – Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation – is suddenly on Team Climate Action! Today, the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that the company’s Australian outlets are set to launch a campaign urging “the world’s leading economies” to embrace a target of net zero emissions by 2050; to be fronted by columnist Joe Hildebrand. The details aren’t out yet, but I contend that we can comfortably predict what it will look like.

It will be a centrist, pro-business approach to climate action. It will make a show of dismissing the “hysterics” of climate activists, while urging governments, including Australia’s, to set distant, meaningless and non-binding climate targets. It won’t allow any room for emissions reductions in line with the 1.5C goals or the Paris agreement; no short-term meaningful targets or actions such as those highlighted in the IEA’s recent ‘net zero’ report. It won’t argue for a coal phase-out by 2030, or the end of all new coal, gas and oil mines in Australia, or a ban on combustion engine sales by 2030-2035; all vital actions if Australia is to align with any net zero target.

It’ll champion controversial technologies like CCS and fossil hydrogen. It’ll highlight personal responsibility: tree planting, recycling and electric vehicle purchases. It will not propose or argue in favour of any new policies; at least none that might reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

How can we know all this before we’ve seen the actual campaign? It’s easy – let me explain.

Done with denial

Here’s a remarkable statistic for you. In the month of August this year, global media coverage of climate saw its highest volume since the December 2009 Copenhagen climate meetings. That’s partly down to the release of the IPCC’s AR6 Working Group one report into climate change, six years in the making.

That report reiterated something extremely important: every single tonne of carbon dioxide does damage. Actions must be immediate and aggressive to align with the most ambitious pathways. Delay is deadly.

No media coverage records for Australia: coverage of climate change has dropped almost entirely off the radar relative to the high volumes of late 2019 and early 2020 (partly driven by the Black Summer bushfires).

During the Black summer bushfires of 2019-20, I did a few interviews about Australia with baffled and perplexed international reporters. “What is going on over there? Why did the people elect such a climate laggard?”. A key part of my response was to pin blame on Australia’s media industry. Mostly on News Corp, which dominates the country’s uniquely concentrated media landscape, and which is notorious for its heavily politicised climate views. In fact, a recent study quantified this in historical terms, analysing media coverage within Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia for its climate science accuracy.

By a comfortable margin, News Corp’s Daily Telegraph and the Courier Mail scored the second and fourth worst among every media outlet analysed between 2005 and 2019 (The Australian wasn’t included in the analysis). Australia has, in general, seen the least accurate climate science coverage from 2013 onwards, despite a general rising trend in scientific accuracy over the past decade. For a decade and a half, News Corp lied about climate science with the blatant aim of protecting the revenue streams of the fossil fuel industry, and protecting its political allies.

This is important as a historical study, but today, it’s increasingly irrelevant. As the study points out, the accuracy of climate science has essentially plateaued in media coverage, with outright denial consigned to the dustbin.

The authors highlights that “the terrain of climate debates has shifted in recent years away from strict denial of the scientific consensus on human causes of climate change toward ‘discourses of delay’ that focus on undermining support for specific policies meant to address climate change”. The fundamental goal is the same – staving off action – but the way it manifests is very different.

Delay is the main game

There are many substantial recent examples of this. A good one was the severe blackouts that spread across Texas in February this year, which were immediately blamed on wind power failures, alongside easily debunked claims that snows and ice were blocking solar panels and freezing up wind turbines in Texas and around the world.

This isn’t climate change denial: it’s “mitigation denial“. That is, a move away from denying the problem exists and towards decrying its solutions as utterly unacceptable. An important part of this performance is pretending to have a moment of having seen the light, but then continuing to commit the same acts of delay as before.

Murdoch’s The Sun, in the UK, did precisely this. In October 2020, The Sun launched a ‘Green Team‘ campaign that focused on ‘individual responsibility’ in the lead-up to COP26, to be held in Glasgow at the end of this year. It wasn’t long until they were celebrating their own victory in freezing fossil fuel taxes.


how it started how it’s going pic.twitter.com/p1ZVOnOKmX

— Zach Boren (@zdboren) March 3, 2021

The UK’s Daily Express, another hyper-conservative outlet that ‘saw the light’, continues to publish articles attacking climate activism and, more significantly, framing climate action in an explicitly “eco nationalist” way, as UK writer Sam Knights highlights in this article in Novara media. He says,

“Make no mistake: these newspapers are not your friends. They are not your allies. Their politics are not in any way ecological. They are deeply racist, reactionary, right-wing publications. Their sudden interest in climate change is not to be celebrated – it is a terrifying indication of things to come:”

Last week, @GreenpeaceUK@WWF@nationaltrust, and @friends_earth signed up to the “green crusade” of the Daily Express. Just ten days later, the rightwing newspaper has already run two articles attacking Greta Thunberg… Surely these charities will now withdraw their support? pic.twitter.com/Xz5NcjLu8N

— Sam Knights (@samjknights) February 18, 2021

It’s notable that these examples seem to manifest in the UK, and less so in similar anglophone countries like Canada or the US or New Zealand. Those are led by centre-left parties and politicians, but the UK’s conservative embrace of climate action is surely a model that Australia’s PM Scott Morrison pines to replicate. Sure, the UK certainly is miles ahead of Australia in terms of climate action – but there remains a very significant gap between Boris Johnson’s climate policies and where the country actually needs to be to align with the carbon budget that its independent climate advisor body has laid out.

A technocratic, rich white country with a government more concerned with optics than doing what needs to be done to protect people from being hurt by fossil fuels. Morrison’s obviously inspired by the UK, but Australia’s conservative media outlets are increasingly inspired, too.

Net zero by sometime after I retire, please

This is all coming to a head at COP26. George Brandis, Australia’s attorney general, who once declared that “coal is very good for humanity indeed”, is now High Commissioner for Australia to the UK, and has significantly ramped up the broader greenwashing exercise that the government has been enacting over the latter half of last year and most of this one. As I wrote in RenewEconomy, that means creative accounting, dodgy charts and deceptive framing, all designed to paper over Australia’s significant failure to reign in emissions.

Morrison will almost certainly set a net zero by 2050 target before COP26, but it’ll be packaged with a collection of loop holes that allow for rising emissions in the short term. It is dawning on the government just as it is dawning on News Corp: the best way to protect the fossil fuel industry today is not to deny the science, but to pretend to accept it. This is not the end of climate denial. It’s evolution from a common ancestor.

That this effort will be lead by Joe Hildebrand is telling enough. His previous work on climate change does exactly what a centre-right campaign like this would be best at – decrying both sides as ‘hysterical’ while failing to propose anything meaningful or substantial.

This @Joe_Hildebrand piece is a near-perfect example of what I mean when I say that this is more about reassurance and excuses than it is about persuasion.

This is about figuring how to be internally okay with their own antagonism towards climate action.https://t.co/TLiiIVY2ih pic.twitter.com/k1HIoxUFIR

— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) October 6, 2019

We can also see hints of what a conservative climate message looks like in a previous editorial from the more progressive News Corp outlet, NT News, which – of course – continues to host syndicated climate denial from the Sky News Australia channel. Ditto for News dot com.

This is News Corp’s northern territory outlet.

Note the ‘affordable’ – a reference to the conservative meme that decarbonisation is bad because it’s too expensive.

Even in accepting the need for action, they need to throw in messaging from previous fossil fuel advocacy. https://t.co/HifYmyX2R3

— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) January 15, 2020

What might reasonably seem like a surprising change of heart in News Corp’s stance on climate is actually a long-term tactical shift that has been occurring for at least a few years. Whatever policies they failed to destroy through their earlier campaigns, they will try and reframe through racist, nationalistic, technocratic and pro-business frames.

Whatever policies they can delay or destroy, they’ll simply keep running scare campaigns about, insisting that ‘the balance isn’t right’, and that the threat of climate action is greater than the threat of climate change, as they always have (in Australia, News Corp’s partnerships with Google and Facebook mean these campaigns to destabilise climate action are growing more powerful and more harmful every day). When the next federal election comes around, the “COSTS OF NET ZERO” scare campaigns will ramp up in Australia as they are in the UK, and News Corp will be at the forefront, pleading that acting too fast will cause catastrophe. Absolutely mark my damn words: this is what will happen.

Net zero by 2050 isn’t enough. We’ll know that the denialism has truly ended when organisations like News Corp treat the IPCC’s latest report like it’s real. That is, when they acknowledge that every additional unit of greenhouse gases causes harm to life on Earth, and that actions to stop their release must be as fast as possible. That climate change is an emergency that requires rapid action to wind down the fossil fuel industry in a just and equitable way, and that its replacement must be grown to full size with just as much passion and urgency.

This campaign won’t look anything like that. We know what it will look like – and it won’t be anything surprising at all.

September 6, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, media | Leave a comment

The Faslane Peace Camp inspired the BBC drama Vigil

Meanwhile the series recalls the real drama

 Sitting on Scotland’s strikingly beautiful west coast, the world’s longest-running anti-nuclear peace camp has been uniting protesters for 39 years. But after dropping out of the headlines as its numbers dwindled from 400 to just three, Faslane Peace Camp has the nation’s attention once more – as the inspiration for gripping BBC drama Vigil.

 Mirror 4th Sept 2021

https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/inside-worlds-longest-running-anti-24909945

September 6, 2021 Posted by | media, UK, weapons and war | 2 Comments

International Uranium Film Festival free online screenings September 13 – 19

34 YEARS RADIOACTIVE ACCIDENT OF GOIÂNIA FREE ONLINE SCREENING SEPT. 13-19(LINK IS EXTERNAL)

The International Uranium Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro remembers „Brazil’s Chernobyl“, the worst radiological accident in Latin America that took place in September 1987 in the city of Goiânia in central Brazil. From September 13th to 19th, 2021, the festival will show online and free of charge eight documentaries and movies about this accident caused by the release of highly radioactive Cesium-137. An online meeting with one of the surviving victims, Odesson Alves Ferreira, three filmmakers from Goiânia and producer Laura Pires from Bahia marks the opening of this virtual film event that is supported by the Cinematheque of Rio’s Modern Art Museum (MAM Rio).

34 years ago, on September 13, 1987, two young men in search of junk entered the unsecured ruins of the Goiano Radiation Therapy Institute, a former cancer treatment clinic, in the city of Goiânia. They found an abandoned radiation therapy unit with a heavy lead capsule that contained 19 grams of cesium-137. Without knowing the risks of radioactivity or even the name “radioactive”, they took the capsule, dragged it home in a wheelbarrow and sold it to a scrap dealer six days later. The curious scrap dealer breaks open the capsule and discovers the white crystal powder that glows bluish in the dark, cesium-137 chloride – the death glow! It was not until September 29, when dozens of sick people with strange symptoms were already filling the hospitals in Goiânia, that the nuclear authorities became aware of the radioactive accident. At that time the cesium-137-crystals were already spread unknowingly widely over the quarter, hundreds of people became contaminated and thousands were unknowingly exposed to gamma rays. The authorities recognized officially only four deaths caused by radiation. But surveys by unions and surviver associations indicate at least 66 deaths and around 1,400 contaminated victims.

Just 19 grams of cesium-137 not only caused endless suffering to the victims, but also generated in Goiânia more than 6,000 tons of radioactive waste that is dangerous for over 200 years and is stored today in the radioactive waste repository of Abadia de Goiás, a suburb just a few miles outside of the City. Cesium-137 is a highly radioactive and unnatural nuclide with a half-life of 30 years. It is a fission product of uranium-235 and is created by the explosion of atomic bombs or in nuclear power plants as radioactive waste. Instead of storing it, cesium-137 was sold for decades around the globe to irradiate cancer cells. The radiation source of the Goiânia accident was thought to have been made in the U.S. at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Top photo: Street 57, Number 60 was in September 1987 one of the two most radioactive places in Goiânia city.) 


PROGRAM

September 13th, Monday, 4pm / Opening Live:  To not forget  An online meeting with one of the victims of cesium-137, former long-standing president of the Association of Cesium Victims of Goiânia (AVCésio) Odesson Alves Ferreira (photo), the filmmakers Angelo Lima, Benedito Ferreira and Michael Valim from Goiânia and Bahian producer Laura Pires. Moderation: Márcia Gomes de Oliveira. (Live in Portuguese on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WysMZbmfkzw(link is external)

September 13 -19 / 7 Days 24 Fours Free Online Screening  AMARELINHA (HOPSCOTCH)…………………. https://uraniumfilmfestival.org/en/to-not-forget

September 6, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, media, Resources -audiovicual | 1 Comment

Oblivion and 9 Other Best Dystopian Films About Nuclear War

Oblivion & 9 Other Best Dystopian Films About Nuclear War

Whether they show the build-up, detonation, or aftermath of a nuclear war, these movies portray those disasters better than others. Screen Rant BY TRICIA MAWIRE, 1 Sept 21,  Nothing is more thrilling and simultaneously terrifying like a film about nuclear war. From the build-up to the detonation and aftermath of the attack, every minute is an emotional experience using fiction to show the grim reality of such a disaster. Although not all these movies show a post-apocalyptic dystopian world, those that do paint quite a picture of what life would be like when disaster strikes.

……On The Beach (1959)………………    . With the central theme being the end of the world, there are no happy endings in this one, even for the romance storyline which has a tragic ending.   


Dr. Strangelove (1964)……….  As one of Stanley Kubrick’s best productions, the film combines humor and the doom and gloom of nuclear warfare to create a feeling of comic dread throughout its run. ……..


Testament (1983)…………. Testament is an emotionally devastating film with an accurate depiction of the fallout of a nuclear war. The factual accuracy of the impact and effects of such a disaster are haunting, leaving a heartwrenching image in the minds of all who watch the movie.

Special Bulletin (1983)………. a group of terrorists threatens to detonate a homemade nuclear device if the U.S. government doesn’t agree to hand over the triggers for their nuclear weapons. 
The Day After (1983)………  depicts ordinary people living their lives, the terrifying build-up to the disaster, and the aftermath of the nuclear attack. This approach shows the audience how easily an ordinary day can turn tragic within seconds.

Threads (1984)……….. 
 struggles to survive the post-apocalyptic world where food has become the only thing of value and the cause of many fights……  Most dystopian movies about nuclear war have a grim tone, but Threads takes it a notch higher. It shows the horrifying reality of a nuclear war, highlighting the message that no one wins when it comes to such a tragedy. From the beginning right until the heartbreaking end, Threads is unrelentingly dreadful.

When The Wind Blows (1986)……..Despite the animated nature of the film, it captures the couple’s emotions throughout the attack in a way that’s touching and relatable……Miracle Mile (1988)………. mainly focuses on the leading moments before the attack, capturing Harry’s panic and the doubts of the unconfirmed attack he keeps warning others about….

The Divide (2011) ………. an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic world that captures the sentiment “survival of the fittest” in a brutal way. It holds the audience’s attention but is one of those creepy movies fans wouldn’t watch twice.

Oblivion (2013)……  
 The post-apocalyptic action flick paints a gruesome picture of a war-torn planet….  https://screenrant.com/oblivion-best-dystopian-films-about-nuclear-war/

September 2, 2021 Posted by | media, USA | Leave a comment