Japan Accused of Coercing Fukushima Refugees to Return to Unsafe Homes

Greenpeace charges that pro-nuclear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cares more about politics than public health

by: Sarah Lazare

As the Japanese government moves to accelerate the return of Fukushima refugees to their homes, environmental advocacy organization Greenpeace warned Tuesday that radioactive contamination remains “so widespread and at such a high level that” that it will be impossible for people to safely go back.

Four years after an earthquake and tsunami touched off the nuclear meltdown, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pressing to lift evacuation orders by March 2017 and cut off compensation to victims of the disaster by 2018. The move would allow—and some say force—tens of thousands of refugees to go back to their homes.

The pro-nuclear prime minister says that the move, proposed in June, is aimed at speeding up Fukushima’s “reconstruction.”

Greenpeace, however, warns that such a development would be reckless and dangerous. The organization evaluated radiation contamination in Iitate, a forested 75-square-mile district in the Fukushima prefecture, and found that even after “decontamination,” the radiation level remains at 2uSv/h—or ten times the maximum deemed safe for the public.

“The forests of Iitate are a vast stock of radioactivity that will remain both a direct hazard and source of potential recontamination for hundreds of years.”
—Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace

“Prime Minister Abe would like the people of Japan to believe that they are decontaminating vast areas of Fukushima to levels safe enough for people to live in,” said Jan Vande Putte, radiation specialist with Greenpeace Belgium, in a press statement. “The reality is that this is a policy doomed to failure. The forests of Iitate are a vast stock of radioactivity that will remain both a direct hazard and source of potential recontamination for hundreds of years. It’s impossible to decontaminate.”

According to Greenpeace, the elimination of compensation would effectively force people back into an environment that is dangerous for their health.

“Stripping nuclear victims of their already inadequate compensation, which may force them to have to return to unsafe, highly radioactive areas for financial reasons, amounts to economic coercion,” said Putte. “Let’s be clear: this is a political decision by the Abe Government, not one based on science, data, or public health.”

Meanwhile, nuclear refugees from Iitate are fighting for adequate compensation through an Alternative Dispute Resolution process. Their lawyer, Yasushi Tadano, said: “The Iitate people’s fate is another of numerous cases in the past where Japan abandoned its people, as with the Ashio mining pollution and Minamata disease. We can not allow this to happen again.”

Residents across Japan have staged protests and filed lawsuits to block nuclear restarts, andpolls show that, in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster, a clear majority of the Japanese public opposes nuclear power. In addition, surveys reveal low public confidence in the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Co.—the company behind the Fukushima Daiichi plant that continues to release radiation into the ecosystem.

Despite public opposition, Abe is aggressively pursuing a return to nuclear power. Earlier this month, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party revealed that it aims to have 20 percent of the country’s electricity supplied by nuclear power by 2030. 

Source: Japan Accused of Coercing Fukushima Refugees to Return to Unsafe Homes | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

As Presidential Bid Takes Off, Scott Walker Takes Aim at Women’s Rights?

Governor signs abortion ban that was opposed by several medical and reproductive rights groups, who say that ‘fetal pain’ claim is unfounded

by: Nadia Prupis

In a move that was blasted by reproductive rights groups and the state’s medical community, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Monday signed a bill that bans abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with only a narrow allowance for medical necessity.

The ban makes some exceptions when the woman’s life is in danger, but not for cases of rape, incest, or when the fetus has severe abnormalities.

Walker, a Republican who is running for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination, said he signed HB179 because he believes that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks—a controversial notion that is often held up by the pro-life sector and which has little medical or scientific basis.

According to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, the law is set to go into effect next year. It will make it a felony to perform an abortion after 20 weeks. Doctors who perform the procedure could face up to 3 1/2 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

As the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) pointed out in a statement on Monday, the bill was opposed by groups like the Wisconsin Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, and the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Wisconsin politicians have criminalized safe, legal abortion services at the same time they are attempting to eliminate all abortion services by shutting down clinics with sham laws and red tape,” said CRR president and CEO Nancy Northup. “With this law, women in Wisconsin will soon face a catch-22 of shrinking options earlier in pregnancy and a complete ban on services later in pregnancy. Women deserve to make their own health care decisions with the medical professionals she trusts, not interference from her governor or legislature who presume to know better.”

Opponents sent a letter to the Wisconsin legislature urging them to vote against the bill, which passed the state assembly earlier this month. “This bill would undoubtedly place us in the unconscionable position of having to watch our patients and their loved ones undergo emotional trauma, illness and suffering during what is already a difficult time,” the letter, signed by 100 obstetrician-gynecologists, stated.

In addition, they said, U.S. Supreme Court cases such as Roe v. Wade have consistently held that states cannot ban abortion before viability.

But their appeal went unheard.

Abortions after 20 weeks make up less than one percent of all abortions and is most often undertaken by women who discover a fetal abnormality that was not previously detectable.

According to RH Reality Check, similar bans “with varying exceptions have been enacted in 15 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. Laws banning abortion at 20 weeks have been blocked in three states: Arizona, Georgia, and Idaho. As a result of litigation, therefore, a total of 12 such bans were in effect as of April 29, 2015.”

Source: As Presidential Bid Takes Off, Scott Walker Takes Aim at Women’s Rights? | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Creative Hoax Asks Why Free College Tuition Not Up for Discussion

Anti-debt campaigners falsely announce receipt of award from student “aid” industry for proposal to make higher education free

by: Sarah Lazare

A group of anti-debt camaigners pulled off a creative hoax on Monday by falsely announcing it had won a coveted prize offered by the nation’s student “aid” industry with this innovative proposal: “end student debt for good by making higher education tuition free for all.”

Debt Collective, which is a new debtors’ union that formed as an offshoot of Strike Debt, created a fake Twitter handle, blog post, and image announcing the group’s receipt of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ Big Idea award.

The announcements were released right in the middle of a New Orleans conference of the NASFAA, which says it represents “20,000 student financial assistance professionals at approximately 3,000 colleges, universities.”

While Debt Collective’s award announcement was fake, their proposal was completely real.

“You may be asking how we can afford to completely fund public education,” said the organization in a blog post. “Our research shows that after stripping off the amount that the government already spends to subsidize higher education—including at predatory for-profit institutions—the total amount of new money necessary would be as little as $15 billion a year. Fifteen billion is a fraction of one percent of yearly government spending; it is merely a rounding error in the federal budget, less than the government currently spends on tax breaks for just 20 corporations.”

Debt Collective’s publicly available proposal, which was not formally submitted to the conference, declares: “Free higher education is possible. In fact, many countries around the world fund public universities, and college was low-cost or free in the United States for much of the 20th century.”

“Our message is that there is this huge industry, with thousands at the conference and all talking about supposedly innovative solutions and student debt. But they are ignoring the most simple and affordable option: make college free.”
—Ann Larson, Debt Collective
The Big Idea prize is advertised by NASFAA as “a game show-style event where financial aid administrators, researchers and other interested stakeholders will have the chance to present their innovative policy ideas to reform and improve federal student aid programs and policies.” The conference itself is sponsored by numerous big banks and student loan companies.

NASFAA, which claims to advocate for “public policies that increase student access and success,” was not amused by the trick. “NASFAA has not given any awards to the organization Debt Collective, despite its false claims on a phony Twitter account,” NASFAA told Common Dreams over Twitter.

Ann Larson, a New York-based organizer with the Debt Collective, told Common Dreamsthat the spectacle was aimed at “countering the narrative” of the conference.

“The narrative is that they are coming up with innovative solutions and payment plans, allowing people who couldn’t go to college to afford to do so,” said Larson. “Our message is that there is this huge industry, with thousands at the conference and all talking about supposedly innovative solutions and student debt. But they are ignoring the most simple and affordable option: make college free. The fact that there is an entire industry built around ignoring that solution strikes us as astounding.”

Source: Creative Hoax Asks Why Free College Tuition Not Up for Discussion | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community