Thursday, March 17, 2011


Housing starts see biggest drop since 1984

(Reuters) - Housing starts posted their biggest decline in 27 years in February while building permits dropped to their lowest level on record, suggesting the beleaguered real estate sector has yet to rebound from its deepest slump in modern history.

Groundbreaking on new construction dropped 22.5 percent last month to an annual rate of 479,000 units, according to Commerce Department data released on Wednesday. This was just above a record low set in April 2009 and way below the estimates of economists, who had been looking for a smaller drop to 570,000.

January's figure was revised up to 618,000 units from 596,000. But that did not change the tenor of the report, which confirmed that the sector is failing to recover despite interest rates near record lows.

Building permits, a hint of future construction demand, fell to a record low of 517,000 units from a revised 563,000, and were down by about 20 percent from levels seen in February 2010.

Housing was at the epicenter of the financial crisis of 2007-2009.

One key impediment to the sector's recovery is a vast backlog of unsold inventory, while a shaky job market has also made consumers reluctant to embark on any major new financial commitments. Making matters worse, a glut of foreclosures, stalled in recent months by revelations of improper loan documentation, is depressing the market.

(Reporting by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Foreign bankers flee Tokyo as nuclear crisis deepens

By Nachum Kaplan and Denny Thomas

(Reuters) - Foreign bankers are fleeing Tokyo as Japan's nuclear crisis worsens, scrambling for commercial and charter flights out of the country and into other major cities in the region.

BNP Paribas , Standard Chartered and Morgan Stanley were among the banks whose staff have left since Friday's earthquake and tsunami, and now a nuclear plant disaster, according to industry sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Expatriate staff at most foreign banks in Tokyo make up a small portion of the total, by some estimates less than 10 percent. But many are often in senior positions so their departure can have a significant impact.

And while Japan's investment banking market is famously tough, it's an essential place for large banks to be and can produce hefty fees.

"The foreign banker presence on the ground in Tokyo now is very thin and depending on how long it takes them to return there could be lasting implications of that," said one banker. "Every time there's a washout of foreigners in Japan they never quite return in the same numbers."

With bankers joining the growing exodus, private jet operators reported a surge in demand for evacuation flights which sent prices surging as much as a quarter. One jet operator said the cost of flying 14 people to Hong Kong from Tokyo was more than $160,000.

"I got a request yesterday to fly 14 people from Tokyo to Hong Kong, 5 hour 5 minutes trip. They did not care about price," said Jackie Wu, COO of Hong Kong Jet, a newly established private jet subsidiary of China's HNA Group.


Radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear power plant spread panic across the country, emptying out Tokyo's normally bustling streets. Scores of flights to the city were halted and embassies warned citizens to leave or avoid the region.

The Tokyo-based International Bankers Association (IBA), which represents 16 major investment banks, issued a statement on Tuesday saying that none of them had closed business or ordered evacuations.

"We are watching the situation as it unfolds, but right now, it's business as usual," Christopher Knight, Japan CEO for Standard Chartered, told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that his office was staffed and open.

Other banks, including Citigroup , J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley, also told Reuters that business was operating as usual.

While Japan markets remained open, and banks were indeed open, many financial professionals, particularly those from outside Japan, were doing everything they could to get out of the country.

IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication, spoke with 14 bankers from the bond syndicate and equities desks of Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank , Morgan Stanley, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and BNP Paribas who had fled for the safety of Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul through the week or were trying to get out.

Foreign bankers choosing to remain in Tokyo and Japanese bankers said that it was anything but business as usual at the moment with communications patchy, rolling blackouts, thinly-manned desks and so many people looking to leave.

"It's been almost impossible to get hold of investors since the quake hit," said one syndicate banker at a U.S. house from the safety of Hong Kong.

While the banks were not officially relocating people, they were accommodating employees and their families who wanted to leave.

"At the end of the day, it's the employees choice whether they flee or stay back," a banker at a European investment bank said. Asked who was taking up the option to leave, he said: "Who isn't? Everyone is trying to get out. Wouldn't you?"


Several bankers compared the situation to the outbreak of SARS in 2003. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) emerged in southern China in 2002, swept through Guangdong province and Hong Kong before spreading globally in 2003. It infected some 8,000 people and killed around 800, which prompted hordes of foreign professionals to leave Hong Kong.

Morgan Stanley had moved its credit team out of Tokyo, a person with knowledge of the matter told IFR. Morgan Stanley's spokesman denied the bank had moved any staff out of Japan.

BNP Paribas has moved about 10 people away from Japan for business continuity purposes out of a staff of about 900, according to the bank's spokesman, Daniel Boyd.

A number of senior Standard Chartered staff left Japan on Saturday morning for Hong Kong and Singapore, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said.

"We have contingency plans and if the situation changes this may involve moving some staff to other locations as needed to ensure business continuity," a Citi spokesman said.

A J.P. Morgan spokeswoman said "no business, teams or desks had been relocated" out of Japan.

The low foreign banker presence in Tokyo has also been exacerbated by many bankers on business trips abroad not returning to Tokyo. "If you're a Japan banker that's just done a trip to Mumbai, you can bet they're calling their home base to see if they can stay a while longer," another banker told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Rogers; Stephen Aldred, Elzio Barreto, Kelvin Soh and Haruya Ida; Editing by Michael Flaherty and Lincoln Feast)

Copyright 2011 Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Fukushima: Mark 1 Nuclear Reactor Design Caused GE Scientist To Quit In Protest

Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing -- the Mark 1 -- was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident.

Questions persisted for decades about the ability of the Mark 1 to handle the immense pressures that would result if the reactor lost cooling power, and today that design is being put to the ultimate test in Japan. Five of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been wracked since Friday's earthquake with explosions and radiation leaks, are Mark 1s.

"The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant," Bridenbaugh told ABC News in an interview. "The impact loads the containment would receive by this very rapid release of energy could tear the containment apart and create an uncontrolled release."

The situation on the ground at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is so fluid, and the details of what is unfolding are so murky, that it may be days or even weeks before anyone knows how the Mark 1 containment system performed in the face of a devastating combination of natural disasters.

But the ability of the containment to withstand the events that have cascaded from what nuclear experts call a "station blackout" -- where the loss of power has crippled the reactor's cooling system -- will be a crucial question as policy makers re-examine the safety issues that surround nuclear power, and specifically the continued use of what is now one of the oldest types of nuclear reactors still operating.

GE told ABC News the reactors have "a proven track record of performing reliably and safely for more than 40 years" and "performed as designed," even after the shock of a 9.0 earthquake.

Still, concerns about the Mark 1 design have resurfaced occasionally in the years since Bridenbaugh came forward. In 1986, for instance, Harold Denton, then the director of NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, spoke critically about the design during an industry conference.

"I don't have the same warm feeling about GE containment that I do about the larger dry containments,'' he said, according to a report at the time that was referenced Tuesday in The Washington Post.

"There is a wide spectrum of ability to cope with severe accidents at GE plants,'' Denton said. "And I urge you to think seriously about the ability to cope with such an event if it occurred at your plant.''


A MASSIVE £20billion was wiped off the value of UK shares yesterday because of the Japanese disaster, hitting pension holders and ­savers.

The FTSE 100-share index crashed more than 150 points (three per cent) in early trading. It rallied but finished down 80 points.

It came a day after a fall of 53 points, worth about £10billion.

Traders admitted panic had spread to London and across the world amid Japan’s growing nuclear ­crisis. David Jones, chief market strategist of spread-betting firm IG Index, said: “After another explosion at the ­Fukushima nuclear plant increased radiation worries, and triggered a steep sell-off again in Asian markets, investors in the UK have caved in. All but one of the FTSE 100 constituents was in the red, following concerns the ­disaster could have a bigger-than-expected impact on the global recovery.”

Japan’s quake and tsunami may be the costliest natural disaster in history, with a repair bill of £100billion. Hurricane Katrina cost £77billion, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia £9.5billion and last month’s New Zealand quake an estimated £7.5billion.

Something just happened to the DOW!

Basic ChartGet Basic Chart(s) for:
Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) Edit
Range:1d 5d 3m 6m 1y 2y 5y max Type:Bar | Line | CandleScale:Linear | LogSize:M | L
Compare:^DJI vs S&P 500 Nasdaq Dow
Chart forDow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI)

Dow Jones Industrial Average

(DJI: ^DJI )
Index Value:11,613.30
Trade Time:4:04PM EDT
Change:Down 242.12 (2.04%)
Prev Close:11,855.42
Day's Range:11,555.48 - 11,856.70
52wk Range:9,596.04 - 12,418.00

US bank bailout was 'critical': Congress watchdog

© AFP/File Nicholas Kamm

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US government's multi-billion-dollar bank bailout helped avert a second Great Depression and cost taxpayers much less than expected, but was far from perfect, a congressional watchdog said Wednesday.

The Congressional Oversight Panel said the controversial $700 billion dollar bailout, launched in 2008, provided "critical" support for financial markets at a key time and will cost $25 billion -- a fraction of the original estimate.

The Troubled Asset Recovery Program (TARP), which was signed into law by then president George W. Bush and taken up by Barack Obama, "provided critical support to markets at a moment of profound uncertainty," it said in its final report.

The comments come nearly three years after the government stepped in to oil the wheels of the financial markets after Lehman Brothers' collapse prompted vital inter-bank lending to dry up, leaving many household names in jeopardy.

TARP's main success, according to the report, came not just through the massive sums injected but "by demonstrating that the United States would take any action necessary to prevent the collapse of its financial system."

"Through a combined display of political resolve and financial force, the TARP quelled the immediate panic and helped to avert an even more severe crisis."

"TARP will cost taxpayers $25 billion -- an enormous sum, but vastly less than the $356 billion... initially estimated," it said.

The Treasury Department, according to the panel, deserved credit for lowering costs through the "diligent" management of assets and "careful restructuring" of AIG, Chrysler, and GM.

But the oversight panel was not wholly supportive of the policy.

"Although this much-reduced cost estimate is encouraging, it does not necessarily validate Treasury's administration of the TARP," it added, citing poor transparency and the failure of some programs.

The policy was a dangerous gamble with taxpayers' money, the congressional watchdog concluded.

The panel detailed how 18 large financial institutions at one stage received a staggering $208.6 billion in TARP funding almost overnight as the government tried to prop up the system.

"At one point, the federal government guaranteed or insured $4.4 trillion in face value of financial assets.

"If the financial system had suffered another shock on the road to recovery, taxpayers would have faced staggering losses."

TARP was also criticized for compounding the sense that some "too-big-to-fail" banks can get away with wildly reckless trading.

"By protecting very large banks from insolvency and collapse, the TARP also created moral hazard," the report said.

"Very large financial institutions may now rationally decide to take inflated risks because they expect that, if their gamble fails, taxpayers will bear the loss."

But whatever the report's verdict, the bailout is unlikely to become popular among US taxpayers and voters.

With nearly 14 million workers unemployed, it is widely seen as a Washington sop to vested interests on Wall Street that did little to help Main Street.

"Because the TARP was designed for an inherently unpopular purpose -- rescuing Wall Street banks from the consequences of their own actions -- stigmatization was likely inevitable," the report noted.

It added that the Treasury Department's failure to clean out failed executives and clamp down on high salaries added to the stigma.

© AFP -- Published at Activist Post with license

Currency Meltdown Coming

Greg Hunter
USA Watchdog

The situation in Japan is getting worse, not better. There are shortages in food, fuel and warm dry shelter. To make matters exponentially worse, nuclear power plants there continue to burn out of control and emit high levels of radiation. Japan is a stark reminder of how fast a modern technologically advanced society can be brought to its knees by an unforeseen calamity.

On the other side of the Pacific, the devastating pictures from that island nation are taking the attention away from our own, much more predictable, calamity coming from a tsunami of debt. As the U.S. and other world governments continue to print money to keep the banks and system solvent, a ball of debt is growing. It is on course to swamp the system. In his latest report, Martin Armstrong, former Chairman of Princeton Economics and an expert in the study of economic cycles, said events happening in places like Japan or the Middle East are not the main issue the world is facing.

Armstrong said, “This is coming at a time when governments are broke. We have state and local governments in a debt crisis and that meltdown is very real!!!!!!! Government is collapsing. That is the issue.” Armstrong says because of all the money created to bail out failing banks, gold is gaining in price. “This is not just inflation. We are on the verge of a currency meltdown this time,” said Armstrong. (Click here to read the latest report from Martin Armstrong.)

The latest analysis from economist John Williams of agrees with Armstrong.

Read Full Article

'Blood Money' Frees CIA Contractor In Pakistan

Contractor Had Been Detained On Suspicion Of Murder

A CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistani men was freed from prison on Wednesday after the United States paid $2.34 million in "blood money" to the victims' families, Pakistani officials said, defusing a dispute that had strained ties between Washington and Islamabad.In what appeared to be carefully choreographed end to the diplomatic crisis, the U.S. Embassy said the Justice Department had opened an investigation into the killings on Jan. 27 by Raymond Allen Davis. It thanked the families for "their generosity" in pardoning Davis, but did not mention any money changing hands.The killings and detention of Davis triggered a fresh wave of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and were testing an alliance seen as key to defeating al-Qaida and ending the war in Afghanistan.The tensions were especially sharp between the CIA and Pakistan's powerful Inter Services Intelligence, which says it did not know Davis was operating in the country. One ISI official said the agency had backed the "blood money" deal as way of soothing tensions.Small groups of protesters took to the street in major cities after nightfall, briefly clashing with police outside the U.S. consulate in Lahore, where officers fired tear gas at men burning tires and hurling rocks. Some called for larger protests Friday after noon prayers.Davis, a 34-year-old Virginia native, claimed he acted in self-defense when he killed the two men on the street in the eastern city of Lahore. The United States initially described him as either a U.S. consular or embassy official, but officials later acknowledged he was working for the CIA, confirming suspicions that had aired in the Pakistani media.The United States had insisted Davis was covered by diplomatic immunity, but the weak government here, facing intense pressure from Islamist parties, sections of the media and the general public, did not say whether this was the case.The payment of "blood money," sanctioned under Pakistani law, had been suggested as the best way to end the dispute.Given the high stakes for both nations, few imagined either side would allow it to derail the relationship. The main question was how long it would take to reach a deal.Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said Davis was charged with murder Wednesday in a court that was convened in a prison in Lahore, but was immediately pardoned by the families of the victims after the payment.Reporters were not allowed to witness the proceedings."This all happened in court and everything was according to law," he said. "The court has acquitted Raymond Davis. Now he can go anywhere."U.S. officials said Davis left the country soon after his release from jail.Raja Muhammad Irshad, a laywer for the families, said 19 male and female relatives appeared in court to accept the $2.34 million.He said each told the court "they were ready to accept the blood money deal without pressure and would have no objection if the court acquitted Raymond Davis."Representatives of the families had previously said they would refuse any money.Arsad Mansoor Butt, who had earlier represented the families, accused Pakistan's government of pressuring his former clients; he gave no details.Some media reports said the some of the families had been given permission to live in the United States.Irshad said that was not discussed in court.The case dominated headlines and television shows in Pakistan, with pundits using it to whip up hatred against the already unpopular United States. While the case played out in court, many analysts said that the dispute was essentially one between the CIA and the ISA, and that they would need to resolve their differences before Davis could be freed.One ISI official said CIA director Leon Panetta and ISI chief Gen. Shuja Pasha talked in mid-February to smooth out the friction between the two spy agencies. A U.S. official confirmed that the phone call took place.Pasha demanded the U.S. identify "all the Ray Davises working in Pakistan, behind our backs," the official said.He said Panetta agreed "in principle" to declare such employees, the official said, but would not confirm if the agency had done so.A second ISI official said as a result of that conversation the ISI - which along with the army is a major power center in the country - then backed an effort to help negotiate the "blood money." The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to give their names to the media.CIA Spokesman George Little said the two agencies had had "a strong relationship for years.""When issues arise, it is our standing practice to work through them. That’s the sign of a healthy partnership, one that is vital to both countries, especially as we face a common set of terrorist enemies," he said.Davis' wife, Rebecca, speaking outside her home in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, said she had heard of the release of her husband but did not have time to speak._____

Iran non-oil exports to hit $40bn

An Iranian official says non-oil exports will reach more than $40 billion by the end of the year.
Iran has announced its non-oil exports will exceed $40 billion by the end of the current Iranian year (ending March 20).

Deputy of Iran's Trade Promotion Organization Kiumars Fathollah Kermanshahi said on Friday that exports of technical and engineering services would amount to $3.3 billion by the end of the Iranian year.

He said the volume of the non-oil exports stands at $29 billion and $24 billion respectively with and without inclusion of the revenue from gas condensates during the past 11 months.

Kermanshahi pointed out that the new figure comes despite several rounds of Western sanctions imposed against Tehran over its civilian nuclear program.

"The 149 percent growth in non-oil exports is one of the significant achievements that have been celebrated under the pressure of threats and different crises," he said.

Last year, Iran exported $28.4 billion worth of non-oil products together with technical and engineering services, as well as $66.21 billion worth of oil and gas products.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Iran is the third largest country in the Middle East and Central Asia in terms of exports and imports.


Windmills which can only be moved by the wind of change ..By: Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

By: Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Ernesto Che Guevara once said, “revolutions are made by adventurers and manipulated by opportunists”. I recalled this statement while following up Western analyses of Arab revolutions. I found that the thing which strikes Western strategic analysts is this sudden and dramatic change in the Arab mood, so they cannot wait for regimes to change. They want change now. After much shock and hesitation regarding revolutions in the Arab world against despotism, poverty, unemployment, corruption and the monopoly imposed by the elite circle around rulers over the returns of development, Western powers, led by the United States, have regained the initiative wetting their appetite for military intervention in countries which were ‘friendly’ and ‘stable’ and have become ‘unstable’, as described by Western media, concerned about the flow of cheap oil and acting to protect Israeli expansion. Now we hear threats of using warships and taking ‘tough’ stances in support of the forces of change in Arab societies. Political and intelligence circles have started to contact elements of change and study how demonstrations work.

The fear now over this historic uprising of the Arab nation is of a return of these hostile powers, known for their oppression of the Arab renaissance at the beginning of the 20th century. There is every cause to fear that they will, again, play their usual role in obstructing every positive change in the Arab world, distorting or sidetracking it. These same powers have kept silence regarding the ugliest Israeli oppression, for over sixty years, of Palestinians’ rights and freedom; while supporting, till now, the despotic and corrupt regimes which have become like rusty windmills that can only be moved by the winds of change.

These powers do not see an Arab people rising to build a free and democratic Arab society which enjoys the tremendous wealth of their land. They only see a geographical area delineated by the Sikes-Pico agreement. They act to maintain the current divisions to promote their interests, secure the flow of cheap Arab oil and gas without which Western civilization cannot be maintained and protect their protégé, Israel, against accounting for its crime of depriving the Palestinian people of freedom and destroying their young democracy. These powers have never showed interest in the poverty, oppression, occupation, tyranny and corruption inflicted on the Arabs. The fear today is for the dictators, Israel ’s ‘friends’ of yesterday, to depart and be replaced by a worse type, and for governments to be replaced by more submissive ones. Israel and the United States are acting today not only to exploit Arab wealth, but also to get rid of the elements which resist their Middle Eastern policies based on protecting Israeli expansion and continuing their support of friendly regimes with advice and expertise to keep corrupt and despotic, but more modern, regimes in other guises.

In a quick review of the 2011 revolutions which have been difficult to imagine in the last quarter of 2010, we can say that these revolutions have shown that the cause of poverty is siphoning the returns of development outside the Arab world, and that the main cause of youth unemployment is that hundreds of billions of Arab money lie in foreign banks and contribute to Western economies which squeeze Arab youth in the West in the worst neighborhoods and allow them only the very worst menial jobs. They have also shown that at the time that Zionist money is flowing into Palestine to buy Arab neighborhoods, no Arab is giving anything to the Palestinians standing fast in East Jerusalem or blockaded in Gaza and other Palestinian cities and villages while billions of Arab money lie in foreign banks and used to buy Arab houses for the Jews, destroy the remaining houses and build settlements in their place. They also showed that the collapse of universities deprived this generation of education and well-trained leaders of social movements. That is why we see that the revolutions are not decided in favor of the objectives of achieving constitutional and political change. The fear is for the revolution to be hijacked by an expert power which will shift it in the direction contrary to the people’s wishes.

We have discovered that our Arab people, from the Atlantic to the Gulf, feel the same pain and have the same destiny and aspiration. They long to strengthen the ties of freedom among their members after long division and fragmentation. If their enemies have described them for the past decades as terrorists, fanatics, extremists and of being submissive, these revolutions have shown the whole world the energy and the love of freedom Arabs have and their willingness to die for it, in their fight against tyrants, local and foreign alike.

This Arab revolution has also shown that, like the similar revolution in the first decade of the twentieth century, that the West’s main concern is undermining Arab’s freedom and preventing them to regain their capabilities and take pride in their civilization and history, because these elements will transform them into a global economic and political power to reckon with.

The Arab revolution at the beginning of the 21st century is a revolution against corruption and oppression; but it is also a revolution which aims at regaining self respect, national pride and geographical and historical unity. It aims at rewriting Arab history after it has been written by the ‘occupying allies’ when they used to control geography, so we only see division, and history, so that we only see sedition. This is a revolution against the enemies, their assistants and effects. That is why the results of this victory will extend to the future. However, revolutionary consciousness and caution against enemy plans are all necessary to insure that the revolution is not sidetracked by well-known ‘unknown’ actors who crave our resources, are hostile to the aspirations, rights and freedom of our peoples. Peace be upon the martyrs of the revolution and the revolutionaries who opened the way to a better future for this nation away from submission to foreign powers and away, in equal measure, from tyranny and suppression of freedom.

Source: Bouthaina Shabaan

Class Warfare, the Final Chapter

. (Photo: Pete Souza / Official White House Photo)
By Michael Pirsch at

President Barack Obama holds the door while talking to Chief of Staff Bill Daley inside his office in the West Wing of the White House, March 8, 2011

"There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." -Warren Buffett to The New York Times, November 26, 2006

There is overwhelming evidence that we are entering the final chapter of class warfare in the US. Today, in the "public arena," it is forbidden to say class warfare, and many citizens do not regard themselves as working class. The assault on language comes compliments of the propaganda apparatus, which includes: public relations, marketing, corporate media and the entertainment industry, universities, think tanks and so on. Its purpose is to distract our attention from serious matters so we can focus on trivial matters - usually involving consuming. Edward Bernays, the founder of the modern propaganda industry, described the process:
Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government. We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men we have never heard of ... in almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.[1]
In addition to inventing the propaganda model still in use today, Bernays' model created support for World War I, first in England and then in the US, calling the war to save Morgan's billions the war for "making the world safe for democracy."
We have been overwhelmed by the propaganda apparatus to the point that it controls our thought processes, causing us to become relentless shoppers, even against our own interests. It controls our thinking in the public sphere so that we support the wealthy elite, even against our own interests. Far too many of us have been rendered thoughtless and clueless as to what it means to live in a democratic society. It is not democracy because the government says it is; it is democracy when the masses are informed and act through their delegates to develop policy that promotes the general welfare. Today there are two sovereign nations that exhibit more democratic tendencies than all others: Venezuela and Bolivia. Because of their efforts to build democracy, both sovereign nations have been under attack by the US. In Venezuela, the US sponsored a coup in 2002. In Bolivia, the US government has sponsored a secessionist movement made up of the wealthy elite, whose tactics includes murder of government supporters. The Bolivian government expelled the US ambassador for his role in the destabilization attempt. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have adopted new constitutions which were the result of a process that involved all citizens and especially both countries' indigenous populations, who were previously completely excluded from any role in government. Both countries have improved access to their medical systems, increased literacy and established local spaces where democracy can be practiced. This shift causes the US empire considerable distress, because the empire fears the spread of real democracy more than anything else.

An essential element in a democracy is the development of a critical consciousness that allows us to resist succumbing to the siren call of the propaganda apparatus. Hugo Chavez, in a 2003 interview, spoke of the need to develop critical thinking:
It seems to be part of a larger social defect in the US - that's a society that should really develop some kind of response to the intellectual battering that seems to take place daily. I sincerely hope that one day the US public will develop some kind of critical consciousness, that they will remove the veil from their eyes and see the media powers for what they are. No part of the human community can live entirely on its own planet with its own laws of motion and cut off from the rest of humanity. They must be critical, and make it their personal responsibility to humanity and morality to discover the truth.[2]
Eduardo Galeano, well-known Latin American author and critical thinker, continued in the same vein:
Never have so many been held incommunicado by so few. More and more have the right to hear and see, but fewer and fewer have the privilege of informing, giving their opinion and creating. The dictatorship of the single word and the single image, much more devastating than that of the single party, is imposing a life whose exemplary citizen is a docile consumer and passive spectator. Never before have so few fooled so many.[3]
What better time than now for the wealthy elite to crush any chance of developing any critical thought. A substantial majority in the US have been so overwhelmed by the consumer/celebrity culture that distracts from the real situation that they are now fearful of harboring a critical thought, let alone speaking critically about the surrender of democracy to the wealthy elite. No matter what outrage the wealthy elite throws at us all, every indicator suggests there would be little, if any, resistance to that outrage. In fact, now is the best time for the wealthy elite to finally win the war and put into action all the highly repressive measures passed by Congress this decade. The repression already authorized, if put into full effect, would make the US a recognizably totalitarian state.
The goal of winning the war is to control all of the wealth and all of the people in the US and in the rest of the world, including, of course, governments. This victory is being accomplished by the combination of the financial services and military-related industries, which, in addition to lobbying for the continuation of several wars in the Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Iran, etcetera) is now also engaged in stealing government benefits from the citizens of Ireland, Spain, Greece, Latvia, England, France and the US. All governments are cooperating with the market (primarily Wall Street and London banks) by terminating long-running programs designed to promote the general welfare. The stolen money is being given by the governments to Wall Street and its felonious partners in European banks - however, large, passionate demonstrations and massive student and worker strikes mark the reaction in Europe.

Our time is coming. Soon, Congress will once again deliver more tax cuts to the wealthiest people on the planet, at a time when perhaps more than 60 percent of the American people is at severe economic risk. This time also marks the beginning of the process of ending Social Security and replacing it with mandated contributions to Wall Street, which - for a fee, and with no guaranteed return - manage individual workers' retirement accounts. Wall Street's management of what used to be Social Security will - through commissions and other fees that are not a cost in the present Social Security system - reap an obscene amount of money, maybe in the hundreds of billions annually.
In addition to depriving the federal budget of the income necessary to provide the most basic services by eliminating taxes for the wealthy elite, we have committed ourselves to conducting "endless war" wherever and whenever it suits the wealthy elite's purpose. The combination of tax cuts and funding for the endless wars during a "jobless" recovery ensures we will have a citizenry best described as desperate and clueless. The "endless" war is one of the greatest frauds perpetrated upon the citizens of the US. A failed trillion dollar intelligence and defense system results in 9/11; then, lies are perpetrated by the president, the Congress, the military and the intelligence apparatus; those lies are, in turn, supported enthusiastically by the propaganda apparatus, and we commit international war crimes by invading Iraq and Afghanistan. The US's empirical bullying has made the world much more dangerous, not safer. The more we terrorize people, the more terrorists we create. Our feeding of the financial services and military industries is sucking the spiritual, economic and physical life out of us - just as Dwight D. Eisenhower predicted.
During the summer of 2009, the Obama administration fired the first volley in the renewed battle led by the wealthy elite to eliminate Social Security. It announced a freeze in the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to Social Security recipients for the years 2010 and 2011. This was the first time in 30 years no COLA would be received. Never mind the cost increases in all necessities and the fact that no one was publicly calling for a freeze. The freeze was absolutely unnecessary and cruel. Social Security recipients are also required to pay more each month for basic Medicare coverage. Many elder workers are fired or laid off well in advance of their retirement age. It is cheaper to hire someone to work for less than the eliminated elder worker. The consequences of refusing increases to Social Security, raising the retirement age and lowering benefits is a recipe for eldercide.
Social Security is not a government-funded program. Employees' deductions are matched 100 percent their employers. There is simply no other tax money involved with Social Security. Medicare is something else, although funded with part of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. Private insurers and the pharmaceutical industry were allowed to participate in Medicare and could be considered somewhat responsible for the miserable shape it is in.
Obama is setting up this system on behalf of the wealthy elite, who were among his earliest and largest financial backers in 2008. According to the Congressional Budget Office and the Social Security Administration, with no changes whatsoever, Social Security will remain solvent until 2037. That is 27 years from now. Even with unemployment projected to remain at 20 percent or higher - which means FICA receipts will remain low or decrease further - Social Security is not the problem it is made out to be, especially considering all the current crises, such as endless war, global climate change catastrophes, jobless recovery and so on. So, why did Obama propose a two percent cut in FICA for employees? If you earn $1,000 per paycheck, you will receive a $20 "bonus" each payday. However, if Obama's proposal of a federal sales tax passes, that $20 will go right back to the US Treasury. That two-percent cut will definitely speed up the day when Social Security outgo exceeds income. At that time, the entire propaganda apparatus will be let loose to clear the way for Wall Street to take over Social Security. What a deal! You give me about $480 per year (unless there is a federal sales tax) and I give you several trillions of dollars to burn through. This is why critical thinking is so important. The wealthy elite dangle about $40 a month in front of debt-ridden, have-a-job-but-afraid-of-losing-it people, get hundreds of bought members of Congress to shill for it and, bingo, the door to steal Social Security is wide open.
On the other side of the coin, raising the dollar limit upon which FICA is taxable (right now, nothing above $106,000 is taxed) would keep Social Security solvent into the next century. A simple solution to a projected problem, but politically impossible because, although 70 to 80 percent of the population might support this, what counts is what the top one percent wants.
Why all this fuss over something that might pose a problem 27 years from now? The wealthy elite passionately hate Social Security because it represents a major victory by the rest of us during the classic battles of class warfare during the 1920's to the 1940's. It represents fruit from the tree of democracy. People who were in nearly the exact position we find ourselves today - except that they had no safety net at all - organized, agitated for and won a federal jobs program, a mortgage foreclosure moratorium, unemployment insurance, minimum wage and Social Security, among many other benefits they fought for and won. That era represents a major retreat for the wealthy elite in its relentlessly waged class war in the US. The wealthy elite hate democracy unless they can own it.
Another motive just might be the trillions of dollars Wall Street would like to get its hands on. Most private sector defined pension plans have been dumped on the federal pension guaranty corporation (which pays pennies to the dollar on what pensioners previously received). Public pension plans are also being targeted, feeding the insane position that goes something like this: "if I am down, I am going to drag down everybody like me." How else to explain the media and political flacks droning on and on about spoiled, bloated public workers with fat pension plans? Obama's cynical ploy of freezing federal employees' pay is a bow to these tactics. It is amazing how often we hear of the great financial sacrifices made by presidential appointees and how much more they could earn in the private sector. Of course, the benefits accruing from their corrupt behavior while in public office are not factored in. The fate of 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts must not be discussed as Wall Street awaits its chance to steal from the poorest citizens of the US.
Other crises that seem to be forgotten include: the Savings and Loan rip-off following deregulation by Reagan (cost: over $500 billion); the stock market bubble of the Clinton-Bush years (401(k)s and IRAs wiped out); corporate manufacturing's flight from about 1975 on (and the associated loss of middle-class jobs and status); and the most recent fraud visited upon us, the fraudulent mortgage-backed securities bubble made possible by Clinton administration deregulation (its related losses still unfolding).

Clinton's current financial situation is suggestive. When he left office in 2001, reports had him owing $10-15 million in legal fees. Since then, thanks to speaking fees, a salary from his nonprofit foundation and investments, he can afford to blow $5 million or more on his daughter's wedding. One is left to imagine Obama's hidden retirement plan should he deliver Social Security (after George W. Bush's failure to do so became the "greatest disappointment" of his presidency). All former members of Congress, the president, vice president and cabinet officials should be required to submit detailed financial reports for at least five years after they leave office. If it seems they have become unusually rich (like Clinton), they should be investigated and, if warranted, indicted.
The list of priorities that need to be addressed in the federal budget should not in any way, shape or form include Social Security, unless the real intent is to steal it. Once the deed is done, it is all over.
Tax cuts are vital to the wealthy elite. They hate the federal income tax and have opposed it since its enactment in 1916. Beginning in the Carter era, the wealthy elite have been blasting away at what remains of their meager tax rates (that is, the maximum marginal rate after custom-made individual deductions). Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama all have participated in the endgame for progressive taxation. Obama has even gone so far as to reduce the estate tax, which only applies to about 2 percent of taxpayers. Ironically, reducing the estate tax has come to be very important to many who will never inherit an estate that would qualify to be taxed: the power of the propaganda apparatus again.
There was a time when the wealthy elite actually paid substantial taxes. The purpose of taxing the extraordinarily rich is to prevent an aristocracy from developing and to maintain a true democracy, a feat Aristotle recognized as impossible in the face of great income inequalities. Now, after over 35 years of cut, cut, cut for the rich, we have the most powerful aristocracy in history, and they are waging war against the rest of us. If you follow the results of studies that show the disparity of wealth in the US, you will see the flow of money from the bottom 90 percent to the top 1 percent over the 60 years between 1950 and 2010. The statistical evidence of the existence of class war is the direct result of the wealthy elite's ownership of Congress, the executive branch and the courts.
Wealth is the value of everything you own minus debt.
Disparity of Wealth
In 1933, the wealthiest one percent of the population held 33.3 percent of the wealth. In 1974, the wealthiest one percent held 19.9 percent of the wealth.

In 2007, the wealthiest one percent held 65.4 percent of the wealth.
In 1933, the bottom 90 percent held 66.7 percent of the wealth.

In 1974, the bottom 90 percent held 80.1 percent of the wealth.

In 2007, the bottom 90 percent held 34.6 percent of the wealth.
Federal Tax Rates (after custom-made individual deductions)
1974 Capital gains tax rate: 35 percent

1950 Highest marginal tax rate: 90 percent
2005 Capital gains tax rate: 15 percent

2005 Highest marginal tax rate: 34 percent
Average Real Income Change 1973-2000

Average real income of bottom 90 percent: -7 percent

Average real income of top 1 percent: + 148 percent

Average real income of top 0.1 percent: + 343 percent


Average Amount of Wealth Held by Persons: 2009 Census
Single Black Women: $100

Single Hispanic Women: $120

All White Men: $43,800

All White Women: $41,500

All Black Men: $7,900
Amount of Wealth Held by Families: 2009 Census
1986 Black Family Wealth: $2,000

2009 Black Family Wealth: $5,000

1986 White Family Wealth: $22,000

2009 White Family Wealth: $100,000
Full-Time Minimum Wage, Adjusted for Inflation
1968: $18,262

2004: $10,712

There is a common thread running through these statistics: the events that have eroded our quality and quantity of life have been controlled and orchestrated by the wealthy elite, and they are not finished yet. The picture is one dominated by racism, militarism and corporate control of government - three vital ingredients of fascism. Post-racism, indeed.
The story of class warfare would not be complete without a look at the behemoth military-security apparatus. A bipartisan Congress has passed draconian legislation during the past nine years that essentially leaves our Constitution with rights intact - at least, the right to own guns, and the unlimited corporate right to influence elections. All totalitarian repressive tactics such as unchecked surveillance, imprisonment without charge, summary execution, the right to a lawyer, the right to know the charges brought against you and confront your accuser, and so on, have been destroyed by legislation and presidential fiat. In addition, the military and military tactics and equipment have been inserted into local law enforcement, with the purpose of shutting off avenues of dissent and/or dealing with dissent by the use of overwhelming force (think Pittsburg G-20). We live inside a nation that has already built the legal and physical infrastructure (the latter partly contracted to Halliburton) so that hundreds of thousands can be pulled off the street in a single day, imprisoned without charge and denied access to contact with family and legal representation.
When Obama announced his creation of the deficit commission, he suggested all military and domestic security spending were off limits for discussion. If a candidate proposes serious reductions in military and domestic security spending, that candidate is toast. The pols whimper that it is political suicide to propose serious cuts in military and domestic security spending; not doing so guarantees the slaughter of millions - as we have seen in the Middle East and every other place our war-happy generals practice their craft.
The US empire has expanded to include over 800 overseas military facilities, ranging from city-sized bases to single building outposts in 63 countries - not counting the bases in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.[6] The US empire military budget including cost of war (which is not included in the annual defense budget) is over $1 billion, slightly less than one-half (46.4 percent) of what all other countries on the planet combined spend.[7]
The power the US military wields is felt in every country on the planet. The US military is "supported," with hardly any dissent, not only by the Democrat and Republican members of Congress, but also, presumably, by over 90 percent of the electorate, if you count total votes in each Democrat versus Republican race for House, Senate and president. This one-party/war-party system has produced unconditional love of war and expansion of empire. Thus, a vote for Democrats or Republicans is an endorsement of empire. There is no question that the one-party system has consistently supported military expansion across the globe. While many of the people who voted for Democrats may be offended by a claim that their votes endorsed empire, that is the result, if not the intent, of their votes. Meanwhile, polls show that more than half of those polled do not support an American empire. Count one more success for the propaganda apparatus.

Perhaps you might remember the $12 billion "lost" in Iraq in 2002.[8] The money was shipped from the US to the Green Zone in Baghdad. The money arrived shrink-wrapped on pallets and disappeared. No real investigation took place, but why investigate what was already known? The scandal didn't get much play in the media either. A lack of media play creates a lack of concern by the masses. That $12 billion could certainly fill a lot of holes in a budget whose deficit is tirelessly evoked, alongside a "perception managed" campaign against Social Security, in one of the last gambits in the 160-year-long class war. But promoting the general welfare is not one of the wealthy elite's concerns.
That the wealthy elite hate democracy is beyond question. The WikiLeaks of State Department cables exposed that hatred over and over again. All governments are expected to do the bidding of the US empire, especially when those demands are contrary to the actions and thoughts of that government's own citizens. Specific examples of the hatred of democracy include: the 2000 vote in Florida; the kidnapping , during a US-backed coup in Venezuela, of President Chavez in 2002; the 1992 and 2004 kidnapping of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Aristide won the 2002 election with over 92 percent of the vote); the allowing of the criminalization of Aristide's political party, Famni Lavalas; the support for the ouster of Honduras President Manuel Zelaya and for the resultant coup government; the support for Israel's policies of overturning the most democratic election in Arab history in Palestine by jailing victorious Hamas legislators and exacting severe collective punishments against the Palestinians in Gaza by blockade, and, later, by a massacre.
Another example of elite disgust with democracy was offered during September 2008, when Congress was ordered to bail out the wealthy elite's bankers. Prior to the first vote, I called over 120 Congresspeople at their Washington offices. After the House rejected the bailout, I called about 20 Senators. The calls to the House revealed that each member's office was receiving a torrent of phone calls. These calls were not part of an organized effort, but came out of genuine and passionate opposition. I was informed by the staff of various members that over 90 percent of the callers opposed the bailout. After a few phone calls to Senate members, it became apparent that the senators would not listen to the people and would follow the orders of the wealthy and bail out the banks.
Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California's 27th District (comprising Sherman Oaks and Northridge) spoke on the House floor during the second attempt to pass the bailout. He revealed that more than one House member was told that martial law would be declared if the House failed to pass the bailout.[9] The obscene wealth of the elite was threatened by democratic activity of the nation's citizens. The bailout and how it was executed remains one of many examples that our wealthy elite hates democracy.
We really have very little space in our lives to practice democracy as it is meant to be practiced. The union movement has engaged in sporadic dances with democracy, but those were finished with the creation of mega-size "local" unions. Nearly all of the successes by the rest of us in this class warfare have been due in no small part to the extent that democracy still exists in the unions. Now, there are still a few locals that practice real democracy internally, and they are the most successful unions today. Our greatest achievement in the class struggle took place during the staggering increase in union membership that took place between 1933 and 1947. Our long slide to the bottom began with the anti-solidarity Taft-Hartley legislation that severely limited freedom of association and expression for all citizens except the wealthy elite. It continued with the Red Scare, which drove some of the most dedicated, compassionate organizers in the US out of jobs and careers - a brilliant tactic by their adversaries because it also effectively disappeared from our knowledge the notion of organizing for positive social change. The legacy of the Red Scare continues today as dissidents are conflated with terrorists. Fear and more fear keeps us under control.
Union members did not reject democracy. Rather, following the New Deal and World War II, an all-out attack was waged against union activists, with the assistance of Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)-affiliated leaders. This turnabout involved a self-cleaning of the CIO on behalf of the wealthy elite. Unions were kicked out of the CIO for being deemed too radical, and some of the radical unions changed their philosophy to get along. Union democracy has been the main victim, since union members are more radical than their leaders and allowing democratic decisions to be made would disrupt the leaders' cozy relationship with the wealthy elite.

So, today, we are left with no place to learn about and practice democracy except in our neighborhoods (the physical, not the virtual, ones). The rest of us cannot begin to compete with the wealthy elite for access to the media; we cannot compete with the wealthy elite in the ability to control the propaganda apparatus and the wealthy elite cannot compete with us in our neighborhoods.
A vital instrument in the propaganda apparatus' control of our thinking and thought processes is the television. More than 80 percent of the funds spent in the 2010 election were spent in the realm of television. Imagine what would happen if we didn't watch it. Billions of dollars would be wasted because the voters did their own research and, through discussions with their neighbors, decided on the candidate with the best program, not the best television ads. An achievable dream, as long as there is unfettered access to a neutral Internet?
Typically, in difficult times, it is neighbors who come to offer assistance. When floodwaters threaten your home and the military has come, not to help, but to provide "security." Our Internet and other long-distance friends will not be able to help in the wonderful way of neighbors who cooperate to help each other. We can organize in our neighborhoods to deal with our common struggles, and, from that, democracy will grow and grow, until it engulfs the whole nation.
Becoming informed, educating each other, agitating on issues and organizing can create a sustainable economy through ideas such as Gardens Not Lawns, Food Not Bombs, community radio, free health clinics (many doctors would be happy to volunteer), free legal clinics, transportation cooperatives - the list is as boundless as our collective imagination. Beginning in our neighborhoods, it is possible to form an organic, progressive political movement to sweep the land.
The question remains: will we allow the story to be "Class Warfare: The Final Chapter," or will we create the alternative by beginning the class struggle? The base of the wealthy elite has always been led by the House of Morgan (J. Pierpont Morgan) which lives as a corporate person in the forms of Morgan Stanley and Morgan Chase, preeminent leaders in the world's financial markets. Yes, the very markets that are "nervous" and "jittery" (real human traits) about countries that owe them money. Plagued by nerves and jitters, the markets are busy raiding old-age pensions, family assistance programs and the like all over Europe - the same prescription followed for years in the so-called third world and in the US right now.
"Power concedes nothing without a demand - it never has and it never will...." These are still powerful words spoken by one of our greatest Americans, Frederick Douglass. The sad truth is that we have not made any demands since the Civil Rights struggle and the anti-Vietnam War struggle during the 1950-1970's. We are at the fork in the road: to the right is class warfare - the final chapter - and to the left, the class struggle begins.
A grassroots-based movement, as opposed to the billionaire-controlled, top-down Tea Party, will be able to effect progressive rather than regressive programs. It is ironic that the wealthy elite recognize the value of neighborhood organizing while the left ignores this base. The Koch brothers-sponsored Tea Party was using tactics advocated by Saul Alinsky, one of our greatest radical neighborhood organizers. They used the tactics; what they did not do was hand out Alinsky's book, "Reveille For Radicals." If they had, the Tea Party could have transformed itself into a truly progressive force.
Finally, it is our right and our duty to replace the corrupted government with one that works for the public welfare, ensuring that the wealthy elite never again endanger all life on this planet or destroy our collective humanity. We are "endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights ... among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." We must recognize our government has become destructive of those ends and reform it. The Declaration of Independence goes on to say, "mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuse and usurpations ... reduce them under absolute despotism... " we must then accomplish wholesale change. Have you suffered enough, or do you want more?
[1] Sandy Leon Vest: "Consumers Are Sleeping With the Enemy - and Paying For It," Common Dreams, February 26, 2010.

[2] Mark Weisbrot: "Interviewing Chavez," North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA); February 12, 2003.
[3] Media in the Americas; (date unknown); NACLA Report on the Americas, page 14; (Ibid).
[4] G. William Domhoff: "Who Rules America? Wealth, Income, and Power," September 2005; (updated November 2010).
[5] Julie Hollar: "Wealth Gap Yawns and So Do Media: Little Interest in Study of Massive Race/Gender Disparities," EXTRA!, a publication of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR); February 6, 2010.

[6] Jules Dufour: "The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases: The Global Deployment of US Military Personnel," January 7, 2007; Global For Research on Globalization.

Additional Reading
Randy Stoecker: Defending Community: The struggle for alternative redevelopment in Cedar-Riverside; Temple University Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1994.
P.A. Payutto: Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way For the Marketplace; Buddhadhamma Foundation, Bangkok,Thailand.
E.F. Schumacher: Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered; Blond&Buggs Ltd., London, 1973.
Saul Alinsky: "Reveille For Radicals" and "Rules For Radicals," Vintage Books, division of Random House, Inc. New York, New York.

Don't Be Silly

Japanese Red Cross Quake Relief Fund


We heartily appreciate your kind offer of donation.

If you want to donate money to the affected population of earthquake and tsunami, please contact your national Red Cross/Crescent society, which may have already launched fundraising campaign within your country.

If your national society doesn’t collect donation or you wish to send your donations directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society, please direct your fund to the following bank account. If you need the receipt of your fund, please state so clearly in the comment section of the bank transfer order. All the fund received under this account will be transferred to the Distribution Committee, which is formed around the local government of the disaster-affected prefecture and to be distributed directly among the affected population of earthquake and tsunami,

 Name of Bank: Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation
 Name of Branch: Ginza
 Account No.: 8047670 (Ordinary Account)
 Payee Name: The Japanese Red Cross Society
 Payee Address: 1-1-3 Shiba-Daimon Minato-ku, Tokyo JAPAN

Thank you once again for your generous offer. It is surely the source of encouragement for the affected population in Japan.

Fukushima Workers Withdraw From Nuclear Power Plant After Radiation Rises – Live Updates

This will be the last update until tomorrow morning. Please take the time to read this article on the amount of spent fuel rods that were stored at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and what their implications could mean. Also take the time to look at this powerpoint:

Spent Fuel Rods Stored On TOP Of Containment Vessel - NPR Graphic

Update: 12:22pm PST – VIA Steve Herman of Voice of America: Australia says 2 of its rescuers in Fukushima-ken exposed to low levels of radiation. Their base of ops 100km from nuke plant.”

Update: 12:19pm PST – Multiple twitter reports indicate that it has started snowing in the Fukushima area.

Update: 11:59pm PST – Helicopters are reportedly planning on dropping water onto reactor #3. France has asked their people to leave Tokyo for France or to the south in Japan. The Daini plant, the second nuclear plant in the Fukushima region is reporting fluctuating temperatures.

Update: 10:57pm PSTCNN’s live blog is reporting that workers have returned to the nuclear power plant. Remember the power plant in question has a long history of cover ups. This is an openly admitted fact.

Update: 10:46pm PST -Japanese Officials have decided to accept forum help. The fact that workers have had to suspend operations shows that this situation has turned VERY serious. Reporters on CNN seem eerily scared. Japan is expected to ask the U.S. military for help.

“The workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now,” Edano said. “Because of the radiation risk we are on standby,” reported The Associated Press.

Fukushima Workers Withdraw After Radiation Spikes


A rise in radiation levels at Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant has forced workers to suspend operations, a government spokesman says.

He was speaking after smoke was seen rising from reactor three. Earlier, a blaze struck reactor four for the second time in two days.

Friday’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, which killed thousands, damaged the plant’s cooling functions.

Read Entire Article

Level 6 Event – Radiation Levels Soar As Radioactive Winds Sweep Toward Tokyo

Source of Graphic: Rense (Click To Enlarge)

According to our sources this is now a Level 6 event and readings will be fluctuating and rising rapidly.

At this time it is openly admitted that readings are 400 mR/hr at 20 miles out from the source.

It is now openly admitted that radioactivity has reached dangerous levels in the area. There is now a 20 mile diameter perimeter (HIGH-RAD AREA) established around the Fukushima reactor.

Local weather patterns are reported to have now changed course to a southerly direction sweeping nuclear winds toward Tokyo as locals fear radiation poisoning.

Moscow has reported a spike in sales of gieger counters and iodine pills are reportedly hard to get as prices rise.

Residents of Hawaii should stay posted.

The following is an AP excerpt;

Japan races to contain nuclear threat after quake

(AP) – SOMA, Japan – Dangerous levels of radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear plant forced Japan to order 140,000 people to seal themselves indoors Tuesday after an explosion and a fire dramatically escalated the crisis spawned by a deadly tsunami.

In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said radiation had spread from the four stricken reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant along Japan’s northeastern coast. The region was shattered by Friday’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that is believed to have killed more than 10,000 people, plunged millions into misery and pummeled the world’s third-largest economy.

This disaster is reaching unprecedented levels on a world scale and escalating rapidly. The Intel Hub urges you to you critical thinking skills when considering what is at hand along with options and what is to come. Be alert.

URGENT: Fuel rods damage at Fukushima's 2 reactors estimated at 70%, 33%

An estimated 70 percent of the nuclear fuel rods have been damaged at the troubled No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant and 33 percent at the No. 2 reactor, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday.

The reactors' cores are believed to have partially melted with their cooling functions lost after Friday's magnitude 9.0 earthquake rocked Fukushima Prefecture and other areas in northeastern and eastern Japan.


Japan scrambles to pull nuclear plant back from brink

1 of 27

By Shinichi Saoshiro and Chisa Fujioka

TOKYO (Reuters) - Operators of a quake-crippled nuclear plant in Japan said they would try again on Thursday to use military helicopters to douse overheating reactors and avert disaster after an earlier attempt was abandoned because of high radiation at the site.

While officials scrambled to contain the nuclear crisis with a variety of patchwork fixes, health experts said panic over radiation leaks from the Daiichi plant may divert attention from potentially worse threats to survivors of Friday's 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami, such as the cold or access to fresh water.

The head of the world's nuclear watchdog, meanwhile, said while it was not accurate to say things were "out of control" in Japan, the situation was "very serious," with core damage to three units at the plant.

Japan's government said radiation levels outside the plant's gates were stable but, in a sign of being overwhelmed, appealed to private companies to help deliver supplies to tens of thousands of people evacuated from around the complex.

Bulldozers attempted to clear a route to the reactor, about 240 km (150 miles) from Tokyo, so firetrucks could gain access and try to cool the facility using hoses.

"People would not be in immediate danger if they went outside with these levels. I want people to understand this," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference, referring to people living outside a 30-km (18-mile) exclusion zone.

High radiation levels on Wednesday prevented a helicopter from dropping water into the No. 3 reactor to try to cool its fuel rods after an earlier explosion damaged the unit's roof and cooling system.

Officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said shortly after midnight (1 p.m. EST) that they would ask the military to make a second attempt later on Thursday.

The plant operator described No. 3 -- the only reactor at that uses plutonium in its fuel mix -- as the "priority." Plutonium, once absorbed in the bloodstream, can linger for years in bone marrow or liver and lead to cancer.

The situation at No. 4 reactor, where the fire broke out, was "not so good," the plant operator added, while water was being poured into reactors No. 5 and 6, indicating the entire six-reactor facility was now at risk of overheating.

"Getting water into the pools of the No.3 and No.4 reactors is a high priority," Said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a senior official at Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Administration, adding the pool for spent fuel rods at No. 3 was heating up while No.4 remained a concern.

"It could become a serious problem in a few days," he said.


Nuclear experts said the solutions being proposed to quell radiation leaks at the complex were last-ditch efforts to stem what could well be remembered as one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

"This is a slow-moving nightmare," said Dr Thomas Neff, a physicist and uranium-industry analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Japanese Emperor Akihito, delivering a rare video message to his people on Wednesday, said he was deeply worried by the crisis which was "unprecedented in scale."

"I hope from the bottom of my heart that the people will, hand in hand, treat each other with compassion and overcome these difficult times," the emperor said.

Panic over the economic impact of last Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami knocked $620 billion off Japan's stock market over the first two days of this week, but the Nikkei index rebounded on Wednesday to end up 5.68 percent.

Nevertheless, estimates of losses to Japanese output from damage to buildings, production and consumer activity ranged from between 10 and 16 trillion yen ($125-$200 billion), up to one-and-a-half times the economic losses from the devastating 1995 Kobe earthquake.

The catastrophe risk modeling firm Eqecat said Friday's earthquake caused insured losses of between $12 billion and $25 billion, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in history for global insurers.

Damage to Japan's manufacturing base and infrastructure is also threatening significant disruption to the global supply chain, particularly in the technology and auto sectors.


Scores of flights to Japan have been halted or rerouted and air travelers are avoiding Tokyo for fear of radiation. On Thursday the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo urged citizens living within 50 miles of the Daiichi plant to evacuate or remain indoors " as a precaution."

The warning was not as strong as those issued earlier by France and Australia, which urged nationals in Japan to leave the country. Russia said it planned to evacuate families of diplomat on Friday.

In a demonstration of the qualms about nuclear power that the crisis has triggered around the globe, China announced that it was suspending approvals for planned plants and would launch a comprehensive safety check of facilities.

China has about two dozen reactors under construction and plans to increase nuclear electricity generation about seven-fold over the next 10 years.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said nuclear power was safe provided power stations were built in the right place and designed and managed properly. Russia ordered checks at nuclear facilities on Tuesday.

In Japan, the plight of hundreds of thousands left homeless by the earthquake and devastating tsunami that followed worsened following a cold snap that brought snow to worst-affected areas.

Supplies of water and heating oil are low at evacuation centers, where many survivors wait bundled in blankets.

"It's cold today so many people have fallen ill, getting diarrhea and other symptoms," said Takanori Watanabe, a Red Cross doctor in Otsuchi, a low-lying town where more than half the 17,000 residents are still missing.

The National Police Agency said it has confirmed 4,314 deaths in 12 prefectures as of midnight Wednesday, while 8,606 people remained unaccounted for in six prefectures.

Japanese officials said they were talking to the U.S. military about possible help at the plant.

Concern has mounted that the skeleton crews dealing with the crisis might not be big enough or were exhausted after working for days since the earthquake damaged the facility.

Authorities withdrew 750 workers for a time on Tuesday, briefly leaving only 50. All those remaining were pulled out for almost an hour on Wednesday because radiation levels were too high, but they were later allowed to return. By the end of the day, about 180 were working at the plant.


In the first hint of international frustration at the pace of updates from Japan, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he would fly to Japan as soon as possible to glean first hand information on the crisis.

Several experts said the Japanese authorities were underplaying the severity of the incident, particularly on a scale called INES used to rank nuclear incidents. The Japanese have so far rated the accident a four on a one-to-seven scale, but that rating was issued on Saturday and since then the situation has worsened dramatically.

France's nuclear safety authority ASN said on Tuesday it should be classed as a level-six incident.

At its worst, radiation in Tokyo reached 0.809 microsieverts per hour on Tuesday -- 10 times below what a person would receive if exposed to a dental x-ray. For Wednesday, radiation levels were barely above average.

But many Tokyo residents stayed indoors. Usually busy streets were nearly deserted. Many shops and offices were closed.

There have been hundreds of aftershocks and more than two dozen were greater than magnitude 6, the size of the earthquake that severely damaged Christchurch, New Zealand, last month -- powerful enough to sway buildings in Tokyo.

About 850,000 households in the north were still without electricity in near-freezing weather, Tohuku Electric Power Co. said, and the government said at least 1.5 million households lack running water. Tens of thousands of people were missing.

(Additional reporting by Nathan Layne, Linda Sieg, Risa Maeda, Isabel Reynolds, Dan Sloan and Leika Kihara in Tokyo, Chris Meyers and Kim Kyung-hoon in Sendai, Taiga Uranaka and Ki Joon Kwon in Fukushima, Noel Randewich in San Francisco, and Miyoung Kim in Seoul; Writing by David Fox; Editing by Andrew Marshall)