Anti-GMO fight centers in Hawaii

SOURCE: Andy Parx (
SUBHEAD: Companies like Monsanto are often depicted as boogeymen who must be driven from Hawaii.

By Derrick DePledge on 29 September 2013 for the Star Advertiser -

Image above: Destination of the Mana March at the Old County Building in Lihue Kauai in support of Bill 2492. From (

Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser described the anti-GMO march in Lihue this month as the greatest show of grass-roots democracy in the island's history.

Thousands of people filled the streets to protest the spread of genetically modified organisms and pesticide use, the most visible expression of activism in a year when legislation to restrict GMOs gained traction on Kauai, in Hawaii County and at the state Legislature.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has stepped into the fray with a promise that the state would set guidelines for biotechnology companies to voluntarily disclose the amount of restricted-use pesticides applied on Kauai and to agree to setbacks near schools and hospitals.

While the fear of GMOs might on the surface appear new — the latest outrage for environmentalists — the movement has been quietly building in Hawaii for a decade. It burst into public view this year because of a confluence of factors:
  • Newly elected county council­members on Kauai and in Hawaii County and a change of leadership in the state House have given anti-GMO activists allies in positions of power.

  • Anti-GMO websites and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become incubators for grass-roots organizing, empowering activists with the belief that they are part of a national and global movement. The successful, social media-driven campaign that helped take down the Public Land Development Corp. this year also brought energy to the anti-GMO fight, which involves many of the same activists.

  • Wealthy mainland philanthropists who underwrite environmental causes have donated significant amounts of money over the past several years to help Hawaii activists and educators raise awareness about GMOs, seed preservation and food sustainability.
"When we started organizing three or four years ago, we had a handful of people," said Walter Ritte, a Native Hawaiian activist on Molokai and board member for Hawai‘i SEED, a Koloa-based nonprofit aligned with GMO-Free Kaua‘i, GMO-Free Oahu, GMO-Free Maui and other leaders behind the movement. "And this year it just ballooned out. It just exploded."

Hawaii is an ideal stage for the GMO debate.

Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and BASF own or lease 25,000 acres across the islands, about 5 percent of prime agricultural land, according to the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association. Seed, primarily corn, is a $250 million-a-year industry in Hawaii with about 2,000 jobs. The islands also have vocal environmental and progressive activists who have increasingly asserted their influence among the Democrats who dominate state politics.

The anti-GMO movement in Hawaii does not have the financial clout that the biotech giants can devote to public relations, lobbying and political campaign contributions, but wealthy mainland philanthropists, largely hidden from public view, have had an important hand in the groundwork.

The Ceres Trust, a Northfield, Minn.-based private foundation led by Kent Whealy, a seed preservation activist, and Judith Kern, a philanthropist, donated $145,490 to Hawai‘i SEED in 2011, federal tax filings show. The trust also gave $550,000 in 2011 and $650,000 in 2010 to the Center for Food Safety, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that has fought the GMO industry.

Tax records for 2012 and 2013 are not yet public — and Whealy and Hawai‘i SEED did not respond to interview requests about philanthropy — but the Ceres Trust was listed as a sponsor for a speaking tour in Hawaii in January that featured Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist from India; Andrew Kimbrell, an environmental attorney and the executive director of the Center for Food Safety; and Ritte. The speaking tour, emceed by Nancy Redfeather, an organic farmer and educator, coincided with a march and rally against GMOs at the state Capitol on the opening day of the Legislature.

The Sacharuna Foundation, a Virginia-based private foundation started by Lavinia Currier, an heiress, filmmaker and philanthropist who lives in The Plains, Va., and has ranch property on Molokai, donated $68,750 to Hawai‘i SEED from 2005 to 2011. The foundation, tax filings show, also donated $257,400 to the Center for Food Safety from 2005 to 2010. Currier could not be reached for comment.

Ritte said the grant money has helped activists travel between the islands and with organizing. Hooser, who proposed a bill to regulate GMOs and pesticide use on Kauai, said he consulted with the Center for Food Safety on his legislation, along with local attorneys for Earthjustice and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.

The Ceres Trust and the Sacharuna Foundation have also made sizable grants in Hawaii to promote seed preservation and food sustainability.

In 2011, tax filings show, the Ceres Trust gave $340,307 to E Kupaku ka ‘Aina — Hawaii Land Restoration Institute, a Wailuku-based effort to restore native ecosystems. Penny Levin, the institute's executive director who has spoken out against genetically modified taro, has been a leader in research to protect taro from pests and to preserve taro varieties.

The Sacharuna Foundation donated $53,000 from 2005 to 2011 to Ka Ohana o na Pua, Redfeather's Kealakekua-based nonprofit that does agricultural education and promotes school gardens. The Ceres Trust donated $40,000 in 2011 to The Kohala Center in Waimea for seed preservation. Redfeather, known for her organic Kawanui Farm, works with The Kohala Center.

"This is not anti-GMO education," Redfeather said in an interview. "This is agricultural education that is totally outside that realm."

Education on seed preservation and food sustainability has been overshadowed by some of the sharp-edged activism of the anti-GMO movement.

Using anti-GMO websites, Facebook pages and Twitter, activists have created an online echo chamber where biotech companies like Monsanto are often depicted as boogeymen who must be driven from Hawaii. Politicians, state and county administrators and agricultural researchers who do not fully share the activists' views are often portrayed as corrupt shills for the biotech industry.

Despite biotech's overwhelming financial advantage — and recent signs that the industry might be fighting back with similar guerrilla tactics — some biotech advocates say privately that the companies may have already lost the public-relations battle and that the debate in Hawaii has been defined by the activists.

The Public Land Development Corp., which was unanimously repealed this year by the Legislature, was derailed in part by a similar strain of activism. Environmentalists, Native Hawaiians and labor raised legitimate policy objections to the PLDC — a public-private partnership intended to develop underused public land — but it was the exaggerated, over-the-top rhetoric by activists that helped make the new agency politically toxic before it could launch a single project.

Anti-GMO activists, including many who have no background in science or agriculture, are making increasingly alarming and unverified claims about the health and environmental threats from GMO crops and pesticide use. Some who share the movement's goals worry privately that such rhetoric could undermine the movement's ability to reach the broader public, where issues like greater disclosure about GMO and pesticide use have appeal.

Ritte and other organizers, however, say the movement has already broken through and will keep building momentum if government and biotech companies resist greater disclosure.

"And the more they resist, the bigger the wave is going to get," he predicted. "I'm an organizer, you know. I'm thinking to myself, ‘Well, these guys are just playing right into our hands.' This thing is going to get bigger and bigger."

A DRIFT to the left in Democratic Party politics over the past several years has given anti-GMO activists an opening. Few Democrats, especially those with leadership aspirations, are willing to alienate the party's environmental and progressive wings by publicly dismissing or minimizing concerns about GMOs.

Many of the progressive Democrats who formed the coalition with minority Republicans behind new state House Speaker Joseph Souki in January support GMO restrictions. While there was some internal hesitation, the coalition named Rep. Jessica Wooley (D, Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe), a progressive who favors GMO labeling, as chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Wooley helped steer an admittedly flawed bill through the House that would impose labeling requirements on GMO produce sold in the state. The bill did not move through the Senate, but House leaders used the legislation as an example of progress under the new coalition.

"I think it's the public's persistent concern about their right to know," said Wooley, who plans to try again next session. "People aren't going to back off on this issue, I think, until they're given some basic information."

The failure of the GMO labeling bill at the Legislature helped ignite the issue at the county level, where anti-GMO activists have friends in newly elected councilmembers.

Hawaii County Councilwoman Margaret Wille, an attorney and community activist elected last November, said she is motivated by what she believes is arrogance by the biotech companies and acquiescence by the Legislature.

"I think some of us — Gary Hooser, myself — just said, ‘You may run over us but we're just not going to roll over,'" said Wille, who introduced one of two bills before the Hawaii County Council that would ban new GMO crops.

Hooser, a former state Senate majority leader and former director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control, was elected to the Kauai County Council last November and proposed the most far-reaching GMO and pesticide regulation bill.

The bill, which was amended by a council committee on Friday night by a 4-1 vote, now goes before the full council.

Hooser said the bill, if passed, could have statewide repercussions. But he said the legislation is in response to immediate concerns about biotech and pesticide exposure on Kauai.

"It really is about the local impacts," he said. "The urgency to deal with this issue does not exist in Hawaii Kai or Moiliili or McCully or Manoa or Kailua."


Expired Food Sale

SUBHEAD: Tortilla chips aren’t going to make you sick after a month, although they might start tasting stale.

By Natasha Hakimi on 29 September 2013 for TruthDig - (

Image above: Expired food in one American kitchen. From (

Former Trader Joe’s President Doug Rauch has found a use for products past their “sell by” date. He’s opening a bargain market near Boston early next year that will serve expired food, since the dates stamped on many goods often don’t indicate that they’ve actually rotted. They simply suggest the food will taste differently.

Meanwhile, thanks to these date codes, people often throw out perfectly edible products—in fact, 40 percent of food is disposed of every year in the U.S.

According to the BBC, here are some things you can eat long after their “best by” date, and why:
Tortilla chips aren’t going to make you sick after a month, says Gunders, although they might start tasting stale. Putting them in an oven with oil will re-crisp them again, while storing in a sealed container extends their life by keeping moisture out. Gunders says yogurt can last beyond six weeks and she often scrapes off the mould. “I eat yogurt months past its date, I haven’t ever had a problem.”

Chocolate can last a long time, she adds, but it often develops a white coating, known as the “bloom”, when it’s exposed to the air. This happens when some of the crystalline fat melts and rises to the top. It’s not mould, she says, and it’s fine to eat.

People throw out eggs much earlier than they need to, says Gunders - they can last 3-5 weeks. But keep them at a temperature below 5C (41F), says Ted Labuza, a professor of food science at the University of Minnesota, because that helps prevent potential growth of Salmonella enteritidis.

Milk will smell or taste bad long before it makes you sick, says Labuza. Don’t let the container sit out at room temperature because microbes in the air will spoil the milk - close it up quickly and return it to the refrigerator, which should be set at around 2C (36F) to help prolong its life.
Rauch hopes to put food on the table at super low prices during a time when a lot of people are finding healthy products unaffordable.


Peak Walmart

SUBHEAD: The Superstore assumes you drive there. Walmart's decline will undoubtedly parallel the End of Driving.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 30 September 2013 for of Two Minds -

Image The entrance to a Dollar General store. above: From (

Walmart's growth model may be peaking due to structural declines in miles driven, income of its customer base and rising competition from dollar stores.

Structural declines in miles driven, middle and working-class income and rising competition from dollar stores may be leading to Peak Walmart. Walmart's model of superstores built on the edge of town with an inventory/distribution system based on high turnover may have reached the point of diminishing returns.

There are various signs of this, for example: Wal-Mart Nails The "Consumer Recovery" Coffin Shut (Zero Hedge)

Correspondent Mark G. ties together the long-term dynamics in this insightful analysis:  The proliferation of Walgreens & CVS standalone pharmacies, plus new construction standalone Dollar General and Family Dollar stores is reaching something of a critical mass.

The only real difference between the first pair and the second pair of chains is Walgreens & CVS have a prescription drug department. Otherwise all four are nearly identical in format and product lines, including complete small grocery departments of dry goods and dairy products. These product lines are so low margin they haven't interested the Brown Truck Store (UPS) so far.

I've observed a rising number of young mothers pushing strollers in the neighborhoods where these standalone dollar format stores are appearing--in other words, car-less consumers.

I also note that all four chains prefer to build new stores in or on the edge of downscale neighborhoods. They do this rather than occupy the rapidly rising number of empty units at strip centers. And in point of fact Walgreens actually vacated a long-time unit at a local shopping center. CVS had built a standalone store on the corner across the street. Walgreens did the same a few miles down the road and also directly across from a Walmart Supercenter. The older Walgreen unit was then closed.

As Orlov and I learned in the USSR, you collapse with the infrastructure you have. Since consumers are having more trouble now getting to the stores, the stores are physically moving back to the consumers. Here we have stores proliferating that can be patronized and staffed by people without dedicated autos who instead walk or bike.

Car-less lower income consumers (and workers) look like major trouble for Walmart. A couple weeks ago in Fort Myers (FL) I noticed another of Walmart's "neighborhood" grocery store size format stores located in a strip center. The thought occurred to me that Walmart is doing poorly in an increasingly diverse array of activities. What's the point of moving into strip centers if Walgreens and CVS are moving out to be closer to their customers?

This theme also suggests a different angle for interpreting Walmart's tentative moves into Internet ordering and home delivery. Under this theory Walmart is principally worried about the proliferation of walking/biking distance neighborhood dollar stores.

Taken as a complete group these stores constitute a "Second Walmart" emerging to directly compete with the first Walmart at the bottom rung of the income ladder.

This makes more sense than imagining Walmart trying to compete with Amazon's wide inventory of high margin and low total national turnover items. That product array demands a compact warehouse distribution network to minimize inventory costs. Walmart's warehouse distribution network is instead optimized to throughput high turnover items.

The neighborhood dollar store story is ominous news for Walmart. The "Dollar Store" story suggests the bottom 25% of Walmart's demographic are losing their cars by force of economic circumstances. This is not something Walmart can do much about, if anything. As a result, Walmart is having its middle-class cream skimmed by Target while its base is being drained by car loss and the "Neighborhood Dollar Stores".

The question is not whether Walmart can survive another downturn but whether it can survive highly skewed recoveries like we're having.

Walmart's rise paralleled the rise of the one car per person household. The fundamental proposition of the Supercenter is you have to drive to get there. Therefore Walmart's decline will undoubtedly parallel the End of Driving.

I prepared the following spreadsheet to highlight the size and growth rate of "the second Walmart":

 "The First Walmart"

Company Ticker Price Employees Stores Annual
Quarterly Growth
Target TGT 63.24 361000 1856 $73.48 2.00%
Walmart WMT 74.65 2200000 10800 $473 2.30%

"The Second Walmart" 
Company Ticker Price Employees Stores Annual
Revenues (Billions)
Quarterly Growth
Walgreen WAG 54.85 171000 8117 $71.35 3.20%
CVS Caremark CVS 57.78 203000 7458 $123.63 1.70%
Rite Aid RAD 4.89 50730 4615 $25.26 0.80%
Dollar Tree DLTR 57.44 15380 4700 $7.69 8.80%
Dollar General DG 57 90500 10866 $16.80 11.30%
Family Dollar FDO 72.57 33000 7600 $10.25 9.00%
Big Lots BIG 37.19 13100 1514 $5.42 0.60%
576710 44870 $260.40

Look at the revenue growth rates of the three non-pharmacy "dollar stores" in particular. (Big Lots is an older chain, and the ones I know of are all located in strip centers.) This is what is handicapping them. The three boldfaced "Dollar" stores are all opening standalone stores in residential neighborhoods. The first three drug store/variety store chains are also fairly included since Walmart also has pharmacies in most of its stores now.

For Walmart, peak driving means very serious trouble ahead. The "dollar stores" have four times as many outlets, and they're opening more at a far faster rates.

Thank you, Mark, for an insightful analysis of primary trends in miles driven, income, demographics and retail. Peak Walmart may also presage Peak Mall Shopping and Peak Retail in general. The poaching of competitors' customers appears to be replacing real growth, and perhaps the impending demise of JC Penny is simply the first of many such victims of the retail shark pool.


What Then?

SUBHEAD: Does congress really want to play games with the only thing that supports the market for US Treasury paper.

By James Kunstler on 30 September 2013 for -

Image above: Gunfight at the OK Corral on October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona between the Earp's and the Clantons. From (

A theme in my 2005 book, The Long Emergency, was the counter-intuitive idea that the federal government, rather than becoming the omnipotent Big Brother Moloch so many feared, would instead spiral into impotence and become too incompetent and ineffectual to run everybody’s life. Another theme was that the USA was entering a political impasse comparable to the years that preceded the civil war, with many of the same old grudges playing out in disguise. 

What we’re seeing is an empire that had grown too quickly to even acknowledge it had become an empire, enter, just as quickly, the throes of contraction.

Hence, the great unacknowledged task before the leadership class is managing contraction. The radical Republicans, even in their Jeezus-driven transports of Dixieland retribution and John Bircher paranoia, come a little closer to recognizing the situation than the Democrats with their Leviathan problem — their nanny-state grandiosity. So, those red state radicals are gonna run that ole ‘possum up a gum stump now and see what happens.

What will happen is whole lot of uncertainty that will further undermine a faith-based economic system lurching on the fumes of legitimacy, especially where money and banking are concerned. The trouble with this kind of brinksmanship is that it is bound to produce unanticipated consequences. When the Carolina secessionists bombarded Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, they didn’t have in mind the carnage-to-come of Spotsylvania and Chancellorsville. Similarly, the genteel spectators who rode carriages out of Washington to observe the doings at Bull Run as if it were the NFL season opener. 

In short, neither the Union or the Confederacy had a clue that they were entering upon the world’s first extravaganza of industrial mass slaughter. So, one wonders if their descendents today realize that are toying with the financial suicide of an advanced technocratic society.

The merits of the case for or against Obamacare are almost impossible for even well-informed and educated citizens to parse. You start with a law roughly 2,000 pages long, cobbled together largely by lobbyists for the insurance and medical industries, both of them hideous rackets, and move to a labyrinth of 50 different state’s systems for administering the darn thing, and then consider the supposed beneficiaries, namely young people so burdened by college loans in an economy that only offers minimum wage scut-jobs that, from one day to the next, they probably don’t know whether to shit or go blind. 

They don’t even have the scratch to pay the opt-out tax, let alone purchase an insurance policy.

Beyond that kind of uncertainty is the certainty that a whole lot of things are primed to shake loose. One that deserves the anxiety it is generating is the question of US debt, which translates directly into the question of US currency, i.e., the fate of the dollar. Does the legislative branch want to play games with the only thing that supports the market for US Treasury paper — the dollar’s proxy — which is the generally-held notion that the full faith and credit of the nation stands behind promises to pay? 

Two-hundred measly basis points in the ten-year note is all that stands between the pretense of economic stability and some pretty serious chaos in the government / banking matrix. The one-two punch of the continuing resolution for appropriations and the imminent debt ceiling crunch may rip the fabric of our constructed financial reality and open a black hole into which the wealth of nations disappears forever.

Some observers think a government shutdown would be salutary, the beginning of a wholesale house-cleaning of federal agencies and pain-in-the-ass public employees who get paid too much, enjoy too many benefits, and work strenuously to impede honest enterprise. There may be something to that. But the current actions in congress are more likely to produce a kind of epileptic seizure of all economic activity, public and private.

If congress is really hot to de-fund something, I suggest they start with defunding suburban sprawl, which enjoys more direct government subsidy than even the medical racket. 

I bet that would not go over so well in the big red Nascar states of Dixie, where driving in a car to do anything has been more-or-less mandatory for decades. This is the kind behavior that is truly killing American civilization, but it’s the last thing we will pay attention to.


At the End of the Night a Good Day

SUBHEAD:  Bill 2491 amended so that pesticide disclosure requirement bolstered, buffer zones remain.

By Gary Hooser on 28 Seltember 2013 for GaryHooserBlog -

Image above: Proponents and opponents of Kauai County Council Bill 2491 wait to enter the council chambers, Friday ahead of a meeting to discuss the bill at the historic County Building. From (

Last night (Friday, Sept 27th), after an exhausting 12 hour meeting, the Kauai County Council Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Sustainability voted 4 to 1 to amend and to pass out of committee Bill 2491. The full Council will now consider and vote on the amended Bill. That Council meeting has yet to be scheduled but could occur within the next 7 to 10 days.

Was this a victory? The answer is a resounding YES.

Is this enough? The answer is a resounding NO.

While I continue to review the details of the entire very comprehensive and complex amendment that was passed last night – it appears that 50% of the Bill survived the amendment process.

The key and heart and soul of the entire effort, “the right to know” disclosure provision was made even stronger than originally introduced.

The disclosure provision is arguably the most important element of the Bill and is what the agrochemical companies are most concerned about – and this provision emerged from the process robust and strong. The buffer zones are intact but need to be strengthened. The EIS provision was converted into an alternative study but I believe will serve the purpose needed to determine health and environmental impacts of this industry. The moratorium did not make the cut but interestingly the companies seem to be willing to sign an agreement limiting expansion.

Thank you to all who have worked so hard on this effort. Yesterday’s outcome was a significant win but much work is needed to strengthen the Bill that now moves to the full Council.

You can be sure that the industry pushback will be strong and swift. It is likely we will hear from their lawyers again as they renew their effort to bully the County into submission. It is also likely that there will be more press releases, more pronouncements’ from State government officials, more full page ads in the newspaper and more letters from the Chamber of Commerce.

Please let Council Members JoAnn Yukimura and Nadine Nakamura how much their work is appreciated in helping to pass Bill 2491. Without their willingness to do the heavy lifting and writing of the amendments, this very important measure could have remained in limbo for a long, long time. Tell them mahalo…and yes please tell them we need a stronger version that includes better buffer zones and a moratorium commitment that includes the entire island of Kauai. Even though he is not on the Committee and was not able to vote last night, Bill 2491’s co-introducer Council Member Tim Bynum provided invaluable support during last nights deliberations and deserves a huge mahalo as well.

To be clear: Bill 2491 can be further amended during the full Council meeting that will be scheduled in the near future. It can be made stronger or it can be made weaker during this meeting and this effort is not over until the full Council votes and the Mayor signs Bill 2491 into law.

Imua! gh


1) The core of the issue – “The Right To Know” was preserved and strengthened. Should Bill 2491 pass out of the full Council in its present amended form companies will have to disclose to the world the chemicals they are using on our island. They will have to tell us what pesticides they are using, how much they are using and where and when they used it. And they will have to tell us what GMO crops they are growing as well.

2) Buffer Zones – While I believe this section needs significant strengthening, the amended Bill includes buffer protection zones around schools, hospitals, homes and many other areas. To be clear this section IMHO needs to be expanded and I am hopeful this can be done in the upcoming Council meeting.

3) Health/Environmental Impact Study – The amended Bill requires the County to conduct a study following a comprehensive process designed to ensure the end product is comprehensive and includes the detailed medical and environmental data gathering and analysis required for solid future decision making. While not following the 343 EIS process which I preferred and was outlined in the Bill, this is an alternative path to the same objective.

4) Prohibition of open air testing of experimental pesticides and experimental GMO’s – These provisions were deleted and are not included in the “moving forward Bill 2491”.

5) Permitting – This provision was deleted. I attempted unsuccessfully to retain this provision by amending the words “shall” to “may” and thus retaining the option of the County to implement permitting. However, those introducing the amendments decided this provision could be passed into law at a future date, after the study was completed and if the study showed a specific need for permitting.

6) Moratorium – This provision was deleted and was perhaps my biggest disappointment. However apparently the 4 agrochemical companies are prepared to sign a written agreement that they will not expand their operations north of the Wailua River for a period of time that I believe was two years or until the County Health and Environmental study was completed. While at first it may seem like a welcome offer to those who live on the north and east shore, this proposal is offensive and unacceptable – and must include the entire island.

Christie's marijuana plea strategy

SUBHEAD: Roger Christie, founder of The Hawaii Cannabis (THC) Ministry enters a plea on marijuana.

By John Burnett on 28 September 2013 for Hawaii Tribune -

Image above: Roger and Share Christie before his three year incarceration without bail. From (

The founder of a Hilo ministry that openly promoted marijuana use as a sacrament pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to possession of almost 300 pot plants but reserved the right to appeal his case based on religious grounds.

Roger Christie, who founded The Hawaii Cannabis (THC) Ministry entered a plea to one count of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana and two counts of failing to file tax returns, for the years 2008 and 2009.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 22 at 2:45 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi, and Roger Christie faces up to 20 years imprisonment on the marijuana charge, with a mandatory minimum term of five years. The maximum term of imprisonment on each tax offense is one year.

As part of the plea deal, Christie will forfeit his Wainaku apartment and $21,494 confiscated by the feds during a raid in 2010. Other marijuana-related charges were dropped in return for the plea.

Christie’s wife, Sherryanne “Share” Christie, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana. Share Christie, who appeared in court holding a white purse adorned with an embroidered marijuana leaf, also reserved the right to appeal her case on religious grounds. She could receive up to 20 years in prison.

“Roger and Share are not giving up their fight today. They’re simply taking their fight to a higher court,” said lawyer Thomas Otake, who represents Roger Christie.

His client decided to plead guilty, Otake said, after Kobayashi ruled against allowing a defense based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which allows certain Native American religions to use the hallucinogens peyote and ayahuasca as sacraments.

Otake said the ruling put the Christies at a disadvantage and they decided to take the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Federal sentencing guidelines could allow Roger Christie to be released from custody in about six months, with credit for more than three years he has served while being held without bail, Otake said.

Share Christie, 62, has been free on bail since 2010, when federal agents arrested the couple and 12 other people. She’ll remain free on bail while she appeals. She and her lawyer, Lynn Panagakos, left court without commenting.

The charges stemmed in part from wiretaps on Christie’s business and personal telephones, as well as the searches of his home and safe deposit box.

Federal authorities said they seized 3,000 plants with a retail value of $4.8 million during raids on the Christies and their co-defendants three years ago. They also said they recovered nine firearms.

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara, said there was little religion in Roger Christie’s ministry.

“We believe, and from the undercover wiretapping investigation that we did in this case, that the religious idea is merely a front that camouflaged a long-term marijuana trafficking operation,” Kawahara said.

Under Christie’s “express” orientation to the ministry, started in 2009, new members just showed their ID card, paid the full donation price for marijuana, then walked off with their “sacrament,” he said.

Otake said Kawahara’s claim contradicted the judge’s ruling, which he said accepted the church as a legitimate ministry but stated that the government had a compelling interest in regulating it.

Roger Christie’s cause has received national attention, with marijuana advocates saying his pretrial detention without bail was unconstitutional. Some called him a political prisoner in the feds’ “war on drugs.”

During Christie’s incarceration, voters in Colorado, where Christie was born, and Washington, have passed initiatives legalizing adult personal use of marijuana.

GMO Papaya Trees Cut Down

SUBHEAD: About 100 papaya trees were cut down with machetes overnight on Thursday in the Big Island's Puna moku.

By Sophie Cocke on 27 September 2013 for Civil Beat -

Image above: Thailand threatened with contamination from GMO papayas. From (

About 100 papaya trees were cut down with machetes overnight on Thursday in the Big Island's Puna District, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

The papaya trees, which were three to four feet tall and valued at $3,000, were on the J and L Papaya Farm off of Highway 132, according to Capt. Samuel Jelsma.

The incident comes as the Big Island community is considering the future of biotech on the island. Two bills are currently up for debate by the county council that would impose restrictions on biotech. One bill, introduced by Councilwoman Brenda Ford, would require that the island's GMO papaya fields be cut down. Farmers or landowners growing GMO papaya would face jail and fines.

Almost all of the papaya grown on the Big Island is from seeds that were genetically altered in the 1990s to protect the crop from a devastating ringspot virus.

Jelsma has heard theories that anti-GMO protestors cut down the papaya trees, but said he wasn't going to speculate. "At this point, we have nothing to show the motives," he said.

This isn't the first time that the Puna district's lush papaya fields have been attacked with machetes.

In 2011, about 10 acres of trees were cut down on three adjoining papaya farms. The year before, some 8,500 papaya trees were cut down.

Some believed the incidents were the work of GMO protestors.

The police department never solved the cases, said Jelsma.


David 5, Goliath 0 (and Counting)

SUBHEAD: Love the underdog? Well, get this - people around the globe are going up against Big Oil and Big Mining—and winning.

By George Black on 25 September 2013 for OnEarth -

Image above: Baker River which run through the remote fjords, icefields, and rainforests of southern Chilean Patagonia. Photo by Juan Pablo Garnham. From original article.

Okay, so we’re all depressed. The planet is going to hell in a bucket, Congress is a train wreck, the fossil fuel lobby is stomping us into the ground, the Keystone XL pipeline means game over for climate change.

Right? No, wrong. And here’s why. I’ve never been a Pollyanna, but all over the world I see remarkable things happening. In one multi-billion dollar mega-project after another, David is standing up to Goliath—and winning. These projects run the whole gamut of dirty and destructive development, from coal and oil to open-pit mines and giant dams. In many cases, they involve stories I’ve reported on in the past few years for OnEarth.

Let’s start with the extraordinary announcement last week that the mining company Anglo-American (market cap $35.5 billion) is pulling out of the partnership that has been planning to build the gargantuan Pebble Mine on the pristine headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay. With an estimated $300 billion in recoverable reserves of gold, copper, and molybdenum, Pebble would be one of the richest mines in the world. Now Anglo-American, which held a 50 percent share in the project, is writing off losses of more than half a billion dollars.

The environmental threat posed by the mine, especially to the world’s largest wild salmon runs, was clear from the start. But who could stand in the way of such a colossus? A bunch of cantankerous local fishermen? A few native peoples, whose views have never counted for much? Yet that ragtag assortment of dissenters has morphed over the years into a diverse and vocal opposition movement that drew in guides and outfitters, anglers and hunters, bush pilots and storekeepers, and big NGOs such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth). Polls of Bristol Bay residents show 80 percent opposed to the mine.

Already pushed to the wall by this wave of opposition, Anglo-American and its partner, Northern Dynasty, were then hit by a second setback. The unprecedented decade-long boom in gold and copper prices has suddenly turned sour. Two years ago, gold almost broke the magic barrier of $2,000 an ounce. Copper was trading at $4.50 a pound. Those numbers today? $1,312 and $3.19 respectively.

True, the fight over Pebble Mine is far from over. But this setback to the mining companies’ plans is not an isolated case, far from it. Here are some more in the same vein.

Revenge of the Incas
Let’s stay with mining for a moment. For the past 20 years, Newmont, the third-biggest gold-mining company in the world, has operated a huge mine in northern Peru called Yanacocha. Several years ago, it announced plans to build a new $5 billion mine, Conga, right next door.

Ranged against the expansion were a local priest, the tiny NGO he created, a few university students, and some disgruntled peasant farmers, descendants of the Incas, many of whom didn’t even speak Spanish.

But as in Alaska, this motley opposition grew and prospered, and at the end of 2011 Newmont was forced to halt work on the project. In July 2012, on the day I visited the Conga site, riot police shot dead five protesters.

Despite this intimidation, the protests have not abated. This summer, thousands of peasants occupied a sacred lake that Newmont wants to turn into a tailings pit. Polls show that 78 percent of people in the region oppose the mine. The project remains paralyzed.And the protests have spread nationwide.

A report by Standard and Poor’s last month predicted that community opposition might lead to other mega-mines in Peru being scrapped. And Newmont CEO Richard O’Brien announced in July that the company had suffered second-quarter losses of almost $2 billion.

Damn the Dams
The most conflict-ridden hydropower project in the world is called HidroAysén. Costing $10 billion, it would erect five giant dams on two of the most beautiful and unspoiled rivers in the world, the Baker (pictured above) and the Pascua, which run through the remote fjords, icefields, and rainforests of southern Chilean Patagonia. These dams would be connected to the capital, Santiago, by a 1,400-mile transmission line, largely to serve the mining industry.

When I started covering this story, back in 2006, the debate seemed hopelessly lopsided. On one side was a consortium of powerful corporate interests that controlled almost unlimited rights to develop the country’s rivers, thanks to a law passed during the Pinochet dictatorship. On the other were a few lonely environmentalists in Santiago and an assortment of unhappy locals in the small Patagonian town of Coyhaique.

But again, something happened here. That fragile coalition became a national movement that staged the biggest street demonstrations since the Pinochet era. Polls showed anywhere from 67 to 74 percent of Chileans opposed to HidroAysén. Opinion has shifted steadily toward support for the country’s abundant supply of renewable energy—solar, wind, and geothermal.

The mega-dams have been fought to a standstill, and now Michelle Bachelet, the prohibitive favorite to win Chile’s presidential election in November, has declared that “HidroAysén is not viable, it should not go on.”

Pebble: 80 percent opposed. Conga: 78 percent. HidroAysen: 74 percent – these are huge, perhaps insuperable, majorities.

Turkish Delight
Next, on to fossil fuels. Istanbul hit the front pages this summer after a small group of environmentalists occupied Gezi Park, an oasis of green in the concrete heart of the city, protesting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan to raze the park and replace it with a replica of an Ottoman-era army barracks. As in Peru, I happened to get there on the very day riot police stormed the park and destroyed the protesters’ encampment with great brutality.'

We all read about the violence in Istanbul. But has anyone ever heard of Gerze? It’s a small town, population 12,000, on Turkey’s forested Black Sea coast. Yet what just happened there is in some ways more momentous than the events at Gezi Park. For the past two years, local people have occupied the site of a proposed 1,200-megawatt (i.e. really big) coal-fired power plant. Last month, for the fourth time, a court rejected the developer’s environmental impact assessment, and the project may now be dead.

And as public sentiment turns against coal, Gerze is not an isolated case. An even larger plant, the $12 billion Afsin-Elbistan, which would be one of the biggest in the world, is also in deep trouble. Last month, its biggest investor, a company from the United Arab Emirates, announced that it was postponing (widely rumored to mean withdrawing) its $8 billion investment.


When I reported in 2011 on the plans of industry giants like Peabody Energy and Arch Coal to export hundreds of millions of tons of coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin to serve roaring demand in Asia, the two sides again seemed grossly mismatched. Big Coal, like Big Gold, was rubbing its hands at an unprecedented bull market that seemed to stretch into the future as far as the eye could see.
The opposition? Mainly activists in a few small towns along the Columbia River and on the Pacific Northwest coast, places like Longview, Oregon and Bellingham, Washington that were slated for possible coal export terminals. They marshaled their arguments as best they could: did people really want mile-and-a-half-long coal trains rumbling through their towns day and night, spewing coal dust?

But here too, the protests mushroomed into something much bigger. The Pacific Northwest roils with debate about whether it wants to trade its proud tradition of being the greenest region in America (both Oregon and Washington State are committed to the elimination of coal-fired power plants) for a new identity as a conveyor belt for global CO2 emissions. Six prospective coal ports have been blocked.

And the demand side for coal has collapsed. The world market is glutted, and China, the main customer, is reducing its demand for imports by retooling its own mines and power plants and stepping up the development of renewables. Companies like Arch and Peabody have seen their revenues and stock prices tumble.

The Big Enchilada
All of which, of course, brings us back around to the biggest fight of all: TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry filthy diluted bitumen from the tar sands of Alberta to Port Arthur, Texas—most of it destined for export and not, as its advocates claim, to promote U.S. “energy independence.” Once again, this battle seemed unequal.

On one side, several of the most powerful oil companies in the world, their supporters in Washington, and the ambitions of Prime Minister Stephen Harper of turning Canada into the next Saudi Arabia.

On the other, environmental groups like NRDC; Nebraska farmers and landowners unnerved by the threat of a pipeline spill that could affect the Ogalalla aquifer; a vibrant local group called BOLD Nebraska; and an organization named, created by author-activist (and OnEarth contributing editor) Bill McKibben and a small number of his students at Middlebury College.

Yet from these modest beginnings, something remarkable has grown. In February, outside the White House, all these anti-Keystone XL forces came together to stage the largest climate rally in U.S. history.

Even so, was this enough? The conventional wisdom was still that presidential approval of Keystone XL was a foregone conclusion. But then, in April, the EPA challenged the State Department’s favorable review of the project. And in June President Obama shocked Harper, TransCanada, and the fossil fuel industry by declaring that the pipeline would be built “only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon emissions.”

The protests continue to gather force: this past weekend, under the rubric “Draw the Line,” people took to the streets in 200 locations nationwide, from the farmlands of Nebraska to the coal-train tracks of Seattle to the streets of New Orleans.

So what about the Goliaths? How have they reacted to this chain of events, all of them unfolding in just a matter of months? I’d divide their responses into three categories:

Putting on a Brave Face: Northern Dynasty, the remaining partner in the Pebble Mine consortium, declared that Anglo-American’s departure “opens the door to a number of exciting possibilities.” (Uh, really? Northern Dynasty’s stock plunged by 30 percent after the announcement.)

Panic and Bluster: In Turkey, Erdogan lashed out at his environmental critics as “terrorists.” In Chile, Fernando Gardeweg, CFO of the majority partner in the HidroAysén consortium, ripped into “environmentalist paranoia” and howled that some people think “building a power plant is like committing a mortal sin.”

Running Scared: Last month, Harper wrote to Obama with a vague offer of “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector.” You might call this do anything—or rather, say anything—to get Keystone XL approved. Meanwhile, Harper, TransCanada, and the fossil fuel lobby continue to repeat the canard that blocking the project will cost 20,000 jobs. But Obama thoroughly debunked this in July when he declared that the pipeline “may only create about 50 permanent jobs.”
So, David 5, Goliath 0. And Keystone? Bring it on.


Fuel Danger at Fukushima

SUBHEAD: Before it's too late, let's immediately start removing all intact fuel rods from Fukushima Daiichi site.

By Juan Wilson in 27 September 2013 for Island Breath -

Image above: A view of nuclear plant from northern Fukushima province or a dirt road sunset at Yellowstone Park? From (

In November TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) is scheduled to begin removing fuel from the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor #4 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. For the whole world this is a vitally important and necessary task.

However, to date Tepco has shown incompetence and deceit in handling the events at Fukushima following the tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011. Read the two articles below and you will see that the world faces an existential crisis. One that could make much of the northern hemisphere a deadly place to live.

This may be the scourge that "fixes" the human population "problem". If you'd rather find another way forward I recommend that before Tepco tries removing the crumbling fuel rods from Reactor Building #4, that an international body. United Nations ought step in and take over operations. See also Ea O Ka Aina: Dear Ban Ki-moon, about Fukushima.

Moreover, the Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) should immediately identify all available nuclear fuel cooling ponds in Japan and with the full help of the other nations with nuclear experience begin an emergency relocation of all Fukushima Daiichi intact fuel rods to those cooling ponds. This should include the Untied States, France, Russia, Germany, England etc.

This process should begin now and be on a critical path schedule for completion as soon as possible. All heavy equipment, personnel and supplies needed for this task should be appropriated by the Japanese and other governments as required.

The Reactor #4 fuel pool must be emptied now, but the risk of any accident that would make the overall site too radioactively dangerous for human entry will be worse than just Reactor #4 a nuclear criticality, fire or explosion... by an order of magnitude.

There would be six reactor buildings with nuclear material plus the common fuel pool that could not be maintained by humans or even robots.

Removing nuclear fuel from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY for humanity at this time.

If we can accomplish this goal we can later worry about cleaning up the mess and decommissioning all nuclear plants after Reactor #4 Spent Fuel Pool is emptied (or goes critical).

It is ridiculous for the world to sit by as the Japanese government and Tepco play down the risks and underestimate the mistakes they have made handling this disaster. Is it to save face?

That would more than just doom Japan, it would doom the world. I don't want Japan committing harikari and taking us all with them. At this point there is no more face to save... only lives.

If there was ever a poster-child for closing down all the world's nuclear power plants - Fukushima is it. Could no engineer see that the failure of a few diesel electric generators in some seaside nuke plant in a below grade basement could very well end human civilization? If not, we shouldn't be building such stupid contraptions.

If we continue with nuclear power there will be no end to the mistakes or the magnitude of the failures. Forget about Global Warming (for now). Human extinction is a real possibility. Let's get on this.

One Wrong Move by Tepco
SUBHEAD: A mistake removing Reactor #4 fuel rods could unleash a nuclear disaster equivalent to 85 Chernobls.

By Brian Kloniski on 26 September 2013 for RYOT News -
See also (

Image above: Workers in protective suits and masks wait to enter the emergency operation center at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station in Okuma, Japan, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. From original aticle.

More than two years after a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, the Fukushima power plant sits in ruins, leaking 300 tons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean every day. But that’s small potatoes compared to what might happen in November.

In what could be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co). — the Japanese company that owns the Fukushima power plant — will attempt to remove approximately 1,300 fuel rods from the heavily damaged Reactor Unit 4. Why should you care? Because many experts feel that neither TEPCO nor Japan have the scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle the repair. And you know what happens if they screw up? Nuclear disaster.

We’re talking more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released during the bombing of Hiroshima in WWII. That’s the equivalent of 85 Chernobyl disasters.

So what’s the problem? Essentially, the damaged fuel rods are submerged in a chamber near the top of Reactor Unit 4. There’s no roof. The chamber is crumpled. The integrity of the entire building and even the fuel rods themselves is dubious at best. The situation needs to be corrected. If it isn’t, another earthquake, tsunami or even strong winds could force the pool to collapse, exposing the the fuel rods to air and causing them to ignite, which would release ridiculous amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. It would be an unprecedented event.

But if TEPCO doesn’t have its sh*t together, like many people feel they don’t, the rods could touch one another or break during the removal process, exposing the radioactive material to air — the likelihood of which is considered high. In that case, sparks fly, things start to blow up and radiation takes to the air like a flock of desperate birds released from a cage. Only these aren’t pigeons; they’re radioactive, cancer-causing, death birds.

Don’t believe us? OK. Here’s what Yale Professor Charles Perrow has to say about the matter:

[...] Much more serious is the danger that the spent fuel rod pool at the top of the nuclear plant number four will collapse in a storm or an earthquake, or in a failed attempt to carefully remove each of the 1,535 rods and safely transport them to the common storage pool 50 meters away. Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years. [...]
The extent of the devastation depends on what, exactly, blows up. If it’s just Reactor Unit 4, then Japan and neighboring countries will be at risk. The Tokyo metropolitan area —  home to 35 million people — may even have to be evacuated, according to the Japan Times.

In November, Tepco plans to begin the delicate operation of removing spent fuel from Reactor No. 4 [with] radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. …. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction. Removing its spent fuel, which contains deadly plutonium, is an urgent task…. The consequences could be far more severe than any nuclear accident the world has ever seen. If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks or becomes entangled while being removed, possible worst case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large fire. Any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.

The explosion of Reactor Unit 4 would also be bad news for Americans. Nuclear dust would likely ride wind currents across the Pacific, bringing radiation to the West Coast of the U.S. Americans living there would be forced to remain indoors with their windows closed, according to

But here’s the thing. Fukushima is littered with spent fuel assemblies submerged in unprotected pools. These assemblies are essentially clusters of rods containing spent nuclear fuel that remains highly radioactive. They’re just laying there in big puddles of water. If Reactor Unit 4 blows up during TEPCO’s attempted removal of the spent fuel rods, it’s entirely conceivable the blast could trigger an even larger explosion that engulfs all of Fukushima (including all those fuel assemblies, of which there are 11,000), leading to the release of nuclear contaminants on an unimaginable scale.

How bad would it be? One scientist, who lives in Boston, plans to move her family to the Southern Hemisphere (which is expected to receive much less radiation) if the Fukushima Doomsday scenario were to unfold. The exact implications aren’t clear, but we’re looking at a centuries-long spate of poisonous, nuclear materials, which would prompt mass evacuations throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

And just to be clear, this isn’t a conspiracy theory. Fuel Pool Number 4 has been called the greatest short-term threat to humanity. A U.S. Senator considers Fukushima a national security risk. Nuclear experts have cautioned that the Northern Hemisphere should be evacuated if the fuel pool collapses. Former U.N. adviser Akio Matsumura calls the impending removal of the fuel rods an issue of human survival.

In other words, this is for real.

The heart of the issue now centers on who has the authority, responsibility and skills to safely handle the removal of the fuel rods. Japan has already ceded control of the project to TEPCO, which has thus far proven to be incompetent and irresponsible. Progressive outlets are clamoring for a global takeover of the delicate project, but the mainstream media has failed to adequately cover the story.

So here’s where we’re at: TEPCO is slated to begin removing the spent fuel rods from Reactor Unit 4 in November, people are starting to freak out and nobody is really taking command of the situation.

Will President Obama step up? How about the UN? Maybe Japan will come to its senses, realize the gravity of the situation, fess up to their inability to deal with the task at hand and ask for help. At this point, it’s unclear.

The greatest nuclear disaster in history is quietly unfolding, and the clock continues to tick, tick, tick away.

Risk of Removing Reactor #4 Fuel

SUBHEAD: Risky repair of Fukushima could spill 15,000x radiation of Hiroshima, create 85 Chernobyls.

By Gaius Publius on 23 September 2013 for America Blog -

Does the planned November 2013 removal of the spent fuel rods stored at Fukushima’s heavily damaged Reactor 4 need a global intervention, or should TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company, a for-profit company) be allowed to go it alone?

So far, the Japanese government is allowing TEPCO to handle it. Why should you care? Read on.
As you should know by now, the nuclear power plant at Fukushima underwent a great deal of damage in 2011 due to an earthquake and a tsunami. Wikipedia (my emphasis; some reparagraphing):
The plant comprised six separate boiling water reactors originally designed byGeneral Electric (GE) and maintained by the Tokyo Electric Power Company(TEPCO). At the time of the earthquake, reactor 4 had been de-fueled and reactors 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for planned maintenance.

Immediately after the earthquake, the remaining reactors 1–3 shut down the sustained fission reactions automatically, inserting control rods in what is termed the SCRAM, following this, emergency generators came online to power electronics and coolant systems. The tsunami arrived some 50 minutes after the initial earthquake.

The 13m tsunami overwhelmed the plant’s seawall, which was only 10m high, quickly flooding the low-lying rooms in which the emergency generators were housed (The tsunami was photographed). The flooded diesel generators failed, cutting power to the critical pumps that must continuously circulate coolant water through a Generation II reactor for several days to keep it from melting down after shut down.

After the secondary emergency pumps (run by back-up batteries) ran out, one day after the tsunami, the pumps stopped and the reactors began to overheat due to the normal high radioactive decay heat produced in the first few days after nuclear reactor shutdown (smaller amounts of this heat normally continue to be released for years, but are not enough to cause fuel melting).
We want to focus on reactor unit 4. Here’s a schematic of what one of these reactor units looks like (skillfully designed by GE, who wants you to know they “bring good things to life”):

Image above: Schematic section of Fukushima Mark I-style reactor and  fuel storage unit. From original article.

What you care about is ” SFP,” where the fuel rods are stored. 

Here’s the legend provide with this sketch:
Rough sketch of a typical Boiling water reactor (BWR) Mark I Concrete Containment with Steel Torus including downcomers, as used in the BWR/1, BWR/2, BWR/3 and some BWR/4 model reactors.
DW = Drywell
WW = Wetwell
SFP = Spent Fuel Pool
RPV = Reactor Pressure Vessel
SCSW = Secondary Concrete Shield Wall
Notice where the fuel rods are stored — high off the ground and in water, in the area marked SFP.

Here’s what Fukushima unit 4 looks like today:

Notice that it has no roof. The spent fuel rods (and about 200 “fully loaded” unspent rods — remember that “reactor 4 had been de-fueled” prior to the accident) are stored in a water-containing chamber high off the ground in a crumbling room and building without a roof.

How will “they” get the damaged fuel rods out of that crumbling room?

This is the problem today. There are about 1300 fuel rods stored in that room, packed together vertically in racks. Think of a pack of cigarettes standing upright with the top of the pack removed. Normally, the movement of fuel rods is done by a computer-driven machine that reaches into the room from above and removes or replaces a fuel rod by drawing it upward or lowering it downward.
The machine knows to the millimeter where each fuel rod is located. Also, the rods are undamaged — perfectly straight.

The problem is that this pack of cigarettes is crumpled, and the process must done manually. Therefore, the likelihood that some of the fuel rods will break is high. If that happens and fuel rods are exposed to the air — BOOM. What does “boom” look like?
Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.
Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.

Meanwhile, at the rest of the site:
More than 6,000 fuel assemblies now sit in a common pool just 50 meters from Unit Four. Some contain plutonium. The pool has no containment over it. It’s vulnerable to loss of coolant, the collapse of a nearby building, another earthquake, another tsunami and more.

Overall, more than 11,000 fuel assemblies are scattered around the Fukushima site. According to long-time expert and former Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, there is more than 85 times as much lethal cesium on site as was released at Chernobyl.
If the whole site blows, “boom” could mean the release of 85 times as much radioactive cesium into the air as was released at Chernobyl. Into the air. Into a stiff cross-Pacific breeze.

There are a number of people warning of this danger; none are getting much play. For example, this from the Japan Times (quoted here):
In November, Tepco plans to begin the delicate operation of removing spent fuel from Reactor No. 4 [with] radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. …. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction. Removing its spent fuel, which contains deadly plutonium, is an urgent task….

The consequences could be far more severe than any nuclear accident the world has ever seen. If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks or becomes entangled while being removed, possible worst case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large fire. Any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.
A lot depends on what blows up, if anything. If only Unit 4 blows up, Japan is at risk, including Tokyo, and the nuclear dust will pass across the Pacific to the U.S. People on the West Coast will be warned to keep their windows closed for a while.
If the whole facility blows up, one scientist is talking about moving her family to the southern hemisphere. From the article quoted above:
Chernobyl’s first 1986 fallout reached California within ten days. Fukushima’s in 2011 arrived in less than a week. A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries.
We’re in very apocalyptic territory, with a wide and unknown range of outcomes. Take that for what it’s worth — little could go wrong, or much.

Should TEPCO be allowed to attempt this on its own? Should Japan be allowed to attempt this on its own?

This is the heart of today’s problem. In reality, the events that are about to unfold at Fukushima in the next 60 days will affect much of the world. They could in fact change life in the northern hemisphere, if the worst of the worst occurs.

The Japanese government has ceded control of the next phrase — removing more than 1300 fuel rods from Reactor 4 — to TEPCO. (Seems that Japan has a “corporate capture of government” problem similar to our own.) Reuters (quoted here):
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) is already in a losing battle to stop radioactive water overflowing from another part of the facility, and experts question whether it will be able to pull off the removal of all the assemblies successfully.

“They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods,” said Arnie Gundersen, a veteran U.S. nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, who used to build fuel assemblies.

The operation, beginning this November at the plant’s Reactor No. 4, is fraught with danger, including the possibility of a large release of radiation if a fuel assembly breaks, gets stuck or gets too close to an adjacent bundle, said Gundersen and other nuclear experts. … The utility says it recognizes the operation will be difficult but believes it can carry it out safely.

Nonetheless, Tepco inspires little confidence. Sharply criticized for failing to protect the Fukushima plant against natural disasters, its handling of the crisis since then has also been lambasted.
Who has sovereignty here? Who has control? Better, who should have sovereignty and control?
TEPCO has sovereignty, ceded by the government of Japan. But should Japan itself be allowed sovereignty, or should “the world” take over the problem in its own interest?

Theoretically, it’s an interesting question, since we don’t generally talk about removing sovereignty from other first-world nations — only little guys in places like the Middle East or Latin America who bother us. Yet some writers are in fact worried that the consequences for Japan include bankrupting the economy and … loss of sovereignty. Japan Focus:
This is literally a matter of national security – another mistake by TEPCO could have incredibly costly, even fatal, consequences for Japan.
And according to former U.N. adviser Akio Matsumura (quoted here):
The meltdown and unprecedented release of radiation that would ensue is the worst case scenario that then-Prime Minister Kan and other former officials have discussed in the past months. He [Kan] warned during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos that such an accident would force the evacuation of the 35 million people in Tokyo, close half of Japan and compromise the nation’s sovereignty.

Such a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe is unimaginable. Hiroshi Tasaka, a nuclear engineer and special adviser to Prime Minister Kan immediately following the crisis, said the crisis “just opened Pandora’s Box.”
That’s then-Prime Minister Kan quoted in the bolded comment. As I said, it’s an interesting theoretical problem. Too bad it’s not just theoretical. This will all happen in November.

Bottom line — Should TEPCO be allowed to manage the removal of the fuel rods in November?

It comes down to this — TEPCO has shown itself to be both incompetent and deceitful. The government of Japan has shown itself willing to allow TEPCO to control the “cleanup” and “decommissioning” of the Fukushima facility.

Who should have control at Fukushima? TEPCO (after all, they “own it”)? The government of Japan (after all, it’s “their” country)? Or others in the world, acting in their own real interest? Harvey Wasserman, writing in Common Dreams (my emphasis and paragraphing):
We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis. There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focused on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4. … Neither Tokyo Electric nor the government of Japan can go this alone. There is no excuse for deploying anything less than a coordinated team of the planet’s best scientists and engineers. …

We have two months or less to act. For now, we are petitioning the United Nations and President Obama to mobilize the global scientific and engineering community to take charge at Fukushima and the job of moving these fuel rods to safety.
If you have a better idea, please follow it. But do something and do it now. The clock is ticking.
I swear, the world is closer and closer to reading like a series of thrillers, isn’t it? I’m not sure what to make of all this.

If you want to read more, your key articles (including lots of embedded links) are these:

Guess we’ll find out in November whether this works out or not. In the meantime, I thought you should know that some people are having this discussion, even if it’s not happening on TV, yet. (Know anyone at MSNBC you’d like to alert? Feel free; you don’t need permission to talk to the media.)

See also: (only some of posts with "Fukushima" in title)
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima is Not Going Away  9/9/13
Ea O Ka Aina: X-Men like Ice Wall for Fukushima  9/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima out of control 9/2/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radioactive Dust 8/20/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Apocalypse  8/21/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima House of Horrors  8/21/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima radiation coverup 8/12/13
Ea O Ka Aina: G20 Agenda Item #1 - Fix Fukushima  8/7/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Leakage at Fukushima an emergency 8/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Burns on and On 7/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Unit 4 Danger  7/22/13
Ea O Ka Aina: What the Fukashima? 7/24/13
Ea O Ka Aina: What the Fukushima? 7/11/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Spiking 7/12/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Nuclear Power on the Run 7/18/13
Ea o Ka Aina: Techno-optiminst & Nuke Flack views 7/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima & Hypothyroid in Hawaii 4/1/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Fallout  9/14/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima worse than Chernobyl  4/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan condemns Fukushima children 3/8/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima fights chain reaction 2/7/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima dangers continue  12/4/11
Ea O Ka Aina: The Non Battle for Fukushima 11/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Deadly Radiation at Fukushima 8/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radiation Danger 7/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: New Fukushima data discomforting 6/7/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima #2 & #3 meltdown 5/17/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima sustained chain reaction 5/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Chernobyl & Fukushima 4/26/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Ocean Radioactivity in Fukushima 4/16/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima No Go Zone Expanding  4/11/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Abandoned 4/8/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Poisons Fish 4/6/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Leak goes Unplugged 4/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima reactors reach criticality 3/31/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Non-Containment 3/30/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Water Blessing & Curse 3/28/11 


Dear Ban Ki-moon, about Fukushima

SOURCE: Brad Parsons (
SUBHEAD:  It's clear that the situation at the Fukushima plant is progressively deteriorating, not stabilizing.

By Staff on 23 September 2013 write to Nuclear Info & Resource Service -

Image above: Article that is source of photo claims "Fukushima operator pleads for international help as radiation crisis deepens". From (

September 13, 2013

The Honorable Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General
 The United Nations
c/o United National Non Government Liaison Service

Dear Secretary,

We write to you in urgency. The situation around the world at radioactively contaminated sites is not good, and it is clear that the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor site is progressively deteriorating, not stabilizing. We write because of your personal interest in a sustainable future, but also because you are the Executive for global organizations charged with protection of the public's health, public safety and the common good when it comes to radioactivity, radiation and nuclear technology. Together we call upon you to act immediately to:

1. Prevail upon international organizations and Japan to replace TEPCO with a worldwide engineering group to take charge of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

2. Appoint a group of experts independent from either TEPCO or IAEA to advise the new engineering group to establish a risk informed stabilization, containment and remediation plan for Fukushima.

3. Create a well-funded oversight panel of local citizens and local elected officials to ensure transparency and accountability of both of the above groups, as well as to facilitate well-informed self-determination and further recovery of the impacted populations.

4. Call upon the Japanese government to admit financial costs in excess of $500B USD.; And Gundersen, Arnold,福島第一原発-―真相と展望-集英社新書- アーニー・ガンダーセン/dp/4087206289/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378938739&sr =8-1&keywords=gundersen

5. Call upon the Japanese government to assure adequate funding for decontamination of the prefecture and site.

6. Call upon the Japanese government to cease the massive incineration program underway in Japan which carts and burns rubble from the earthquake and tsunami, much of it toxic and some of it radioactive, in municipal incinerators.
In addition to the action plan outlined above, we have broader concerns about radiological accounting and regulation that United Nations agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) have already engaged in. With regard to the Fukushima nuclear disaster other UN Agencies, like the High Commission on Human Rights, have recognized how this accounting is not serving humanity.

7.  Any projection of total cancers or deaths from the Fukushima disaster is premature; and any previous publications need to be viewed as "speculative" at best. It is clear now that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is far from over, and that there can be no credible estimate of total environmental or human health impacts because the radiological release has not ceased and the outcomes from exposing large populations to low doses over long time frames is unclear. A final estimation of the radiological release from the Fukushima Daiichi site, of necessity lies in the future; perhaps the distant future. Therefore, it remains of utmost importance to monitor radioactivity and provide and increase protective measures to individuals and communities. When future updates to such studies are done, it must be incumbent upon the researchers to revise previous findings, not merely extend them, since it is known that key data from the past were not included--such as the World Health Organization omitting the radiation exposures to members of the public prior to being evacuated (the first 4 days of the disaster; Becker, Oda 2012: 2_OdaBecker.pdf ). In addition Japanese physicians and scientists in Japan must be allowed and supported to treat and report Fukushima related health consequences. Nuclear calamities to date result in institutional pressure to under report and even distort patient health data and other evidence (see, for example: The Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, Final Report and) Such institutional pressure is now contributing to a downplaying of the true impact of the Fukushima accident. Further, slavish reliance on past exposure assumptions is not advisable, not only because these assumptions could have been subject to this type of pressure, but also because every nuclear catastrophe/exposure is different; according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Health, who references applicable research in his report: “Though experiences from the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents provide invaluable guidance, a narrow appreciation of the accidents would not provide proper guidance.” [Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Anand Grover, Mission to Japan (15 - 26 November 2012) p 9]

8.    A new formulation of the radiological risk coefficient assigned to radiation exposure is needed, as well as a rigorous discussion of the option for more than one such coefficient. Unfortunately, outdated assumptions are still being applied to what is happening to the people of Japan, and others being exposed to radioactivity from Fukushima (and elsewhere). More accurate understanding of the impact of ionizing radiation from both internalized radionuclides, and also across the life-cycle, has not yet been incorporated into risk estimates.“Old” (inaccurate) assumptions do not account for disproportionate harm to females in general, and young children in particular (National Academy of Sciences, BEIR VII page 311, Tables 12D-1 and 12D-2 Lifetime Attributable Risk of Cancer Incidence and Mortality). Official estimates are beginning to acknowledge this reality [World Health Organization, 2013, Health risk assessment from the nuclear accident after the Great East Japan Earthquake... see page 54 section 5.2.2 Results of lifetime risk calculations. dex.html ; UNSCEAR press release ( and video (] however, this impact is not yet incorporated in the regulation of radiation exposure worldwide. In addition, it is no longer valid to omit the impact of internal exposure; risk estimates can no longer assume different types of radiation outside the body have equivalent health impact once inside the body. (See: Yablokov, 2013, "A Review and Critical Analysis of the “Effective Dose of Radiation” Concept" Journal of Health & Pollution Vol. 3, No. 5 — pg 13--28.) Finally, it is not clear that exposures in utero, during the initial phases, or over time will be included in the estimate of health risk or consequences from Fukushima. Steven Wing et al. (1997). "A reevaluation of cancer incidence near the Three Mile Island nuclear plant: the collision of evidence and assumptions". Environmental Health Perspectives (Brogan & Partners) 105 (1): 52–57.

9.  The global organizations charged with radiological analysis and regulation should be generating a real base of monitoring data from Fukushima. Contamination levels in both humans and the environment need to be woven into any health assessments. Reliance on dose reconstruction alone is insufficient and collection of biological data will help researchers observe, not just predict, health outcomes. It is incumbent upon these global organizations, given the amount of information now known about disproportionate impacts from internal exposure; and the disproportionate harm across the lifecycle (human and otherwise) to collect data and calculate exposures directly, not from extrapolations mired in outdated and incorrect assumptions. The UN Special Rapporteur supports collection of biological data to assess internal exposure: "Refrain from restricting examination for internal exposure to whole-body counters and provide it to all affected population [sic], including residents, evacuees, and to persons outside Fukushima prefecture;" (Grover 2013, p 23)

10. In general, public health concerns need to drive public spending and health assessments; principles of biology need to drive health research not scientific investigation for science's sake. People need proper medical treatment, not data-mining. Japanese People, especially parents, should be told the truth about the medical effects of radiation exposure and have full and open access to the tests that are being performed on them to detect health abnormalities, such as thyroid cancer. All investigations into health abnormalities should include all cancers and other diseases related to radiation exposure. The world must not re-commit the post-war crimes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the radiation victims known as Hibakusha, were only studied by the West rather than helped to heal.

11. Where biological mechanisms or results are unclear, precaution should be used and not be superseded by principles of physics alone because physics is only one of the forces acting to impact health. Research finding negative health impacts of low doses should be accounted for, not disregarded. The UN Special Rapporteur, after reviewing such research, recognizes this: “...disregarding these findings diminishes the understanding of and increases vulnerability to health effects of long-term exposure to low-dose radiation.” (Grover 2013, p 6) Unfortunately these concerns extend far beyond Japan today, and per new projections (shown graphically here), impacts are still expanding:

12. Those who are displaced from their homes due to radioactivity need to have good options regarding how and where to live that are respectful of their culture and traditions. Consequently, the Special Rapporteur’s report says any relief package should “(i)nclude cost of reconstruction and restoration of lives” (Grover 2013 p 24) This starts by providing them information about radiation in the context of other determinants to health, and this information should not be in the control of parties with financial interests in the nuclear industry.

13. The Fukushima disaster has inflicted suffering from family, social and economic disruption and loss of cultural traditions including food sources and family shrines. These losses are causing visible impacts on the mental and physical health of children, parents, grandparents, and whole communities. While it is radioactivity that will prevent their return to that life, there are many dimensions in which harm has been done. Those responsible for constructing and operating the reactors, and accumulating irradiated fuel, should be accountable to the people impacted. The Special Rapporteur’s report says legal structures should “(e)nsure that TEPCO and other third parties are held accountable for the nuclear accident and that their liability to pay compensation or reconstruction efforts is not shifted to taxpayers.”

14. The Uranium that was in the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi originated from Aboriginal Lands in Australia, where the traditional people opposed the uranium ever being removed from the ground. It is time for the decision structure of our United Nations to honor and include the wisdom of those who truly, if heard, could have prevented this disaster.
15. The Memorandum of Understanding between the World Health Organization and International Atomic Energy Agency should be dissolved permanently. The charge of the IAEA is to spread “peaceful” uses of nuclear technology. This official mandate prevents IAEA from being independent assessors of health impacts of the same technology.

Secretary, it is your job to ensure that these reasonable concerns are addressed by action.

Thank you,

Helen Caldicott, M.D.
Founding President of Physicians for Social Responsibility

Alexey Yablokov, Dr. Biology
Chair, Programme for Nuclear and Radiation Safety
International Socio-Ecological Union, Moscow

Yuri Scherbak
Ambassador of Ukraine
Member of the World Academy of Art and Science
Author of "Chernobyl: a documentary story" and report on Fukushima

Dr. Sebastian Pflugbeil
President, German Society for Radiation Protection

Arnie Gundersen
Chief Engineer, Fairewinds
Burlington, Vermont

S. David Freeman
Consultant; Formerly Chairman Tennessee Valley Authority, and General Manager
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, New York Power Authority and
Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Steve Wing, Ph.D.
Department of Epidemiology
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Steven Starr
Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility
 Clinical Laboratory Science Program Director
University of Missouri

Dr. Natalia Mironova
President of the Movement for Nuclear Safety
Natalia Preobrazhenskaya, D. Ph Biology
Chair, The Save Children of Ukraine from Chernobyl Catastrophe Charitable Fund
Member, The Public Council of the Ministry of Health, Ukraine, and Peace Ambassador

Benjamin K. Sovacool, Ph.D
Professor of Business and Social Sciences
Director of the Center for Energiteknologier Danmark
Associate Professor of Law, Institute for Energy and the Environment
Vermont Law School

Jeffrey J. Patterson, DO
Professor Emeritus, UW School of Medicine and Public Health
President, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Alfred C. Meyer,
Board Member Physicians for Social Responsibility
Friends of Chernobyl Centers U.S.

Dr. Alfred Koerblein
Senior Scientist, Umweltinstitut Muenchen, retired

Lynn Howard Ehrle, M. Ed,
Chair—International Science Oversight Board
Plymouth Michigan

Wolfgang Koehnlein
Retired, University of Muenster Professor of Radiation Biology and Biophysics

D. M. Grodzinsky, DrSci.
Full Member and Councillor of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Professor, and Head of the Department of biophysica and radiobiology of Institute of cell biology and genetic engineering of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and Ex-Head of the National Commission on Radiological Protection of Ukraine

See also: (only some of posts with "Fukushima" in title)
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima is Not Going Away  9/9/13
Ea O Ka Aina: X-Men like Ice Wall for Fukushima  9/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima out of control 9/2/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radioactive Dust 8/20/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Apocalypse  8/21/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima House of Horrors  8/21/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima radiation coverup 8/12/13
Ea O Ka Aina: G20 Agenda Item #1 - Fix Fukushima  8/7/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Leakage at Fukushima an emergency 8/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Burns on and On 7/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Unit 4 Danger  7/22/13
Ea O Ka Aina: What the Fukashima? 7/24/13
Ea O Ka Aina: What the Fukushima? 7/11/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Spiking 7/12/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Nuclear Power on the Run 7/18/13
Ea o Ka Aina: Techno-optiminst & Nuke Flack views 7/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima & Hypothyroid in Hawaii 4/1/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Fallout  9/14/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima worse than Chernobyl  4/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan condemns Fukushima children 3/8/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima fights chain reaction 2/7/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima dangers continue  12/4/11
Ea O Ka Aina: The Non Battle for Fukushima 11/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Deadly Radiation at Fukushima 8/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radiation Danger 7/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: New Fukushima data discomforting 6/7/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima #2 & #3 meltdown 5/17/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima sustained chain reaction 5/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Chernobyl & Fukushima 4/26/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Ocean Radioactivity in Fukushima 4/16/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima No Go Zone Expanding  4/11/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Abandoned 4/8/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Poisons Fish 4/6/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Leak goes Unplugged 4/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima reactors reach criticality 3/31/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Non-Containment 3/30/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Water Blessing & Curse 3/28/11