International Journal of Health Services[PDF]
Joseph J. Mangano
Janette D. Sherman
The multiple nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima plants beginning on
March 11, 2011, are releasing large amounts of airborne radioactivity that has
spread throughout Japan and to other nations; thus, studies of contamination
and health hazards are merited. In the United States, Fukushima fallout
arrived just six days after the earthquake, tsunami, and meltdowns. Some
samples of radioactivity in precipitation, air, water, and milk, taken by the
U.S. government, showed levels hundreds of times above normal; however,
the small number of samples prohibits any credible analysis of temporal
trends and spatial comparisons. U.S. health officials report weekly deaths by
age in 122 cities, about 25 to 35 percent of the national total. Deaths rose
4.46 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the 14 weeks after the arrival of Japanese
fallout, compared with a 2.34 percent increase in the prior 14 weeks. The
number of infant deaths after Fukushima rose 1.80 percent, compared
with a previous 8.37 percent decrease. Projecting these figures for the entire
United States yields 13,983 total deaths and 822 infant deaths in excess of
the expected. These preliminary data need to be followed up, especially in the
light of similar preliminary U.S. mortality findings for the four months after
Chernobyl fallout arrived in 1986, which approximated final figures.
We recently reported on an unusual rise in infant deaths in the northwestern
United States for the 10-week period following the arrival of the airborne radioactive
plume from the meltdowns at the Fukushima plants in northern Japan.
This result suggested that radiation from Japan may have harmed Americans,
thus meriting more research.
All 104 nuclear reactors currently operational in the US have irreparable safety issues and should be taken out of commission and replaced, former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory B. Jaczko said.
The comments, made during the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, are “highly unusual” for a current or former member of the safety commission, according to The New York Times. Asked why he had suddenly decided to make the remarks, Jaczko implied that he had only recently arrived at these conclusions following the serious aftermath of Japan’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daichii nuclear facility.
“I was just thinking about the issues more, and watching as the industry and the regulators and the whole nuclear safety community continues to try to figure out how to address these very, very difficult problems,” which were made more evident by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, he said. “Continuing to put Band-Aid on Band-Aid is not going to fix the problem.”
According to the former chairman, US reactors that received permission from the nuclear commission to operate for an additional 20 years past their initial 40-year licenses would not likely last long. He further rejected the commission’s proposal for a second 20-year extension, which would leave some American nuclear reactors operating for some 80 years.
Jaczko’s comments are quite significant as the US faces a mass retirement of its reactors and nuclear policy largely revolves around maintaining existing facilities, rather than attempting to go through the politically hazardous process of financing and breaking ground on new plants.
Though the US maintains a massive naval nuclear program, all of the country’s current civilian reactors began construction in 1974 or earlier, and a serious incident at Three Mile Island in 1979, along with an economic recession, essentially caused new projects to be scrapped.
A modest revival of enthusiasm for nuclear power emerged in the early part of the last decade, leading to the construction of four reactors at existing facilities within the last three years, slated to be completed by 2020. Despite the lack of new projects, the US is still the world’s biggest producer of nuclear power, which represents 19% of its total electrical output.
Fittingly, Jaczko’s comments came during a panel discussion of the Fukushima incident, which has brought greater attention to aging US reactors – some of which were quite similar to the General Electric-designed models overwhelmed by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011.
In response to those comments, Marvin S. Fertel, president and chief executive of the Nuclear Energy Institute, told the Times that the country’s nuclear power grid has, is, and will operate safely.
“US nuclear energy facilities are operating safely,” said Fertel. “That was the case prior to Greg Jaczko’s tenure as Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman. It was the case during his tenure as NRC chairman, as acknowledged by the NRC’s special Fukushima response task force and evidenced by a multitude of safety and performance indicators. It is still the case today.”
Since the first nuclear reactor went operational in the US, there have been very few fatal incidents at nuclear power facilities, though there were a number of high profile stories written over the inherent dangers of large nuclear reactors during the mid-1970s. One of the most recent incidents at a US reactor was in April of 2013, when an employee was killed at the Arkansas Nuclear One plant while moving part of a generator.
Jaczko served as chairman of the nuclear regulatory agency since 2009, and according to the Times resigned in 2012 following conflicts with colleagues. He was seen as an outlying vote on a number of safety issues, and had advocated for more stringent safety improvements during his tenure.
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Radiation from Japan’s nuclear disaster is being looked at as one possible cause for what some experts are declaring an “unusual mortality event” after hundreds of ailing sea lion pups washed ashore in Southern California.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has assembled a team that includes biologists, veterinarians and public health officials, among others.
The team will investigate why so many sick and dying sea lions have turned up on the beaches of Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Diego counties.
Since Jan. 1, more than 900 sea lions have been admitted to rehabilitation facilities, far outpacing historical stranding rates for 2008 to 2012, according to NOAA.
The agency says it’s unlikely that radiation is to blame but it hasn’t been ruled out.
From: Environment News Service <www.ens-newswire.com
EPA UNIONS CALL FOR NATIONWIDE MORATORIUM ON FLUORIDATION, CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON ADVERSE EFFECTS, YOUTH CANCER COVER UP
WASHINGTON, DC, August 30, 2005 –/WORLD-WIRE/– Eleven EPA employee unions representing over 7000 environmental and public health professionals of the Civil Service have called for a moratorium on drinking water fluoridation programs across the country, and have asked EPA management to recognize fluoride as posing a serious risk of causing cancer in people. The unions acted following revelations of an apparent cover-up of evidence from Harvard School of Dental Medicine linking fluoridation with elevated risk of a fatal bone cancer in young boys.
The unions sent letters to key Congressional committees asking Congress to legislate a moratorium pending a review of all the science on the risks and benefits of fluoridation. The letters cited the weight of evidence supporting a classification of fluoride as a likely human carcinogen, which includes other epidemiology results similar to those in the Harvard study, animal studies, and biological reasons why fluoride can reasonably be expected to cause the bone cancer – osteosarcoma – seen in young boys and test animals.
The unions also pointed out recent work by Richard Maas of the Environmental Quality Institute, University of North Carolina that links increases in lead levels in drinking water systems to use of silicofluoride fluoridating agents with chloramines disinfectant.
The letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson asked him to issue a public warning in the form of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking setting the health-based drinking water standard for fluoride at zero, as it is for all known or probable human carcinogens, pending a recommendation from a National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council committee. That committee’s work is not expected to be done before 2006.
The unions also asked Congress and EPA’s enforcement office, or the Department of Justice, to look into reasons why the Harvard study director, Chester Douglass, failed to report the seven-fold increased risk seen in the work he oversaw, and instead wrote to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the federal agency that funded the Harvard study, saying there was no link between fluoridation and osteosarcoma. Douglass sent the same negative report to the National Research Council committee studying possible changes in EPA’s drinking water standards for fluoride.
The unions who signed the letters represent EPA employees from across the nation, including laboratory scientists in Ohio, Oklahoma and Michigan, regulatory support scientists and other workers at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. and science and regulatory workers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and San Francisco.
They are affiliated with the National Treasury Employees Union, the American Federation of Government Employees, Engineers and Scientists of California/International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, and the National Association of Government Employee/Service Employees International Union.
The unions’ letter is online at: http://nteu280.org/Issues/Fluoride/fluoridesummary.htm
FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
Dr. William Hirzy Vice-President, NTEU Chapter 280
Phone (cell) 202-285-0498 This is complete notice.
USA Citizens can easily back-up the 7,000 EPA ‘career employees.’ Consider, you and your family need CLEAN & SAFE Drinking Water, every day. This is your opportunity to back those 7000+ EPA union members that care about scientific integrity and exposing the truth about ‘corporate hazardous waste fluorosilicates’ being metered into our drinking waters. Their common sense demand for a ‘moratorium on fluoridation’ along with Congressional Investigation incl. ‘under oath’ hearings is critical!
We, the undersigned, join with members of eleven EPA unions in their call for an immediate Congressional act placing a national moratorium on water fluoridation pending a full Congressional investigation into this public policy, which affects – directly and indirectly – every resident of the United States.
Read & Sign Citizens PETITION at: http://petition.powalliance.org/index.html
Warning, disturbing images!
Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre provides what it claims is clinching evidence that incendiary bombs known as Mark 77, a new, improved form of napalm, was used in the attack on Fallujah, in breach of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1980, which only allows its use against military targets.
An Arizona appeals court has ruled that marijuana users don’t need to be actually impaired to be successfully prosecuted for driving under the influence. The common sense-defying ruling came Tuesday in the case of a man who tested positive for an inactive marijuana metabolite that remains in the body for weeks after the high from smoking marijuana has worn off.
The ruling in Arizona v. Shilgevorkyan overturned a decision by a superior court judge who said that it didn’t make sense to prosecute people for driving under the influence if they’re not actually under the influence.
The ruling turned on a close reading of legislative intent in writing the state’s DUID law. The legislation specified the presence of “the metabolite” of THC, and Shilgevorkyan had argued that lawmakers meant “hydroxy-THC, the metabolite which would indicate current impairment, not carboxy-THC, an inactive metabolite that indicates only usage some time in the past.
The appeals court disagreed, citing its decisions on earlier challenges to the DUID. “The legislature intended to create a ‘per se prohibition’ and a ‘flat ban on driving with any proscribed drug in one’s system,” the court noted. “We determined that the legislative ban extends to all substances, whether capable of causing impairment or not.”
Because the law was drafted to protect public safety, the appeals court said, it should be interpreted broadly to include inactive as well as active compounds.
But Superior Court Commissioner Myra Harris, who had ruled on Shilgevorkyan’s behalf, warned in her earlier opinion that the appeals court’s interpretation of the law would result in people, including out of state medical marijuana patients, being charged with DUI when they are not impaired.
“Residents of these states, particularly those geographically near Arizona, are likely to travel to Arizona,” Harris said in her 2012 ruling upholding the dismissal. “It would be irrational for Arizona to prosecute a defendant for an act that might have occurred outside of Arizona several weeks earlier.”
Shilgevorkyan’s attorney said he plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The US Department of Justice on Monday filed a civil suit in Los Angeles charging Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, the world’s biggest credit rating agency, with defrauding investors and the public by inflating the credit ratings it gave to subprime mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.
The suit was announced Tuesday at a Washington press conference presided over by Attorney General Eric Holder. He indicated that the government would seek damages of at least $5 billion from S&P, a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have joined the federal suit.
Coming nearly four-and-a-half years after the Wall Street crash, the suit is the first federal action against a credit rating firm. S&P and its main competitor, Moody’s Investors Service, played a critical role in the vast edifice of financial speculation and fraud that came crashing down following the bursting of the housing bubble in 2007.
S&P, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings are all private, for-profit companies. As previous US government investigations have documented, S&P and Moody’s made huge profits between 2004 and 2008 by landing contracts from Wall Street banks to rate residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which were assembled by the banks from home loans and sold to other financial institutions and investors around the world.
Wall Street drove mortgage lenders to sell high-risk, high-interest subprime home loans to people who could not afford them, bought up the loans from the mortgage companies, bundled them into RMBS and CDOs, and sold off these toxic investments, making massive profits in the process. The entire US and global financial system was infected as a result by what was, in essence, a vast Ponzi scheme.
While US bank regulators looked the other way, the credit rating firms facilitated the fraud by giving triple-A ratings to RMBS and CDOs backed by mortgages they knew were headed for default.
The credit rating firms had a financial interest in inflating the ratings on RMBS and CDOs, since they were paid by the banks whose securities they were rating. Under the inherently corrupt, deregulated system for rating securities—a system that serves the interests, in the first instance, of Wall Street—banks shop around for the credit rating firm most likely to give their products the highest rating. Consequently, the credit rating firms compete for a share in the lucrative financial derivatives market, which includes mortgage-backed securities, by proving to their bank paymasters that they will deliver the top ratings the banks need to maximize their profits.
At the Justice Department press conference, Holder and other officials painted a picture of pervasive and deliberate fraud, costing investors and taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Between 2004 and 2007, Holder said, “S&P executives made false representations to investors and financial institutions, and took other steps to manipulate ratings criteria and credit models to increase revenue and market share.”
“Put simply,” he declared, “this alleged conduct is egregious—and it goes to the very heart of the recent financial crisis.”
Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West described how the major banks, beginning in 2007, worked furiously to package their failing subprime home loans into CDOs and offload the CDOs to investors, in order to get the bad loans off of their books. “And we have evidence,” he said, “that S&P not only knew this is what the banks were doing; S&P helped them to do it.
“As our complaint explains, through the spring and summer of 2007, S&P moved at a record pace, rating hundreds of billions of dollars worth of CDOs packed with subprime mortgage bonds… S&P gave triple-A ratings to nearly all of the CDOs it rated during this time—and they did this despite their own internal reports which showed that the ratings on the mortgage bonds on which the financial quality of these CDOs depended would not hold.”
Despite this narrative of outright criminality, amply documented in the 119-page complaint filed by the Justice Department in US District Court, the government does not name a single individual in its legal brief, nor has it pressed criminal charges. The Obama administration is thus maintaining its record of refusing to criminally prosecute a single leading figure on Wall Street for illegal actions that brought the US and world economy to the brink of collapse and triggered the deepest slump and highest unemployment since the Great Depression.
The government spent four months in talks with S&P in an attempt to reach a settlement and avoid going to court, as it has done in dozens of previous financial fraud cases. Talks reportedly broke down in the last two weeks when S&P rejected any deal requiring it to admit wrongdoing and objected to a cash payment above $100 million.
The Justice Department’s legal complaint cites internal emails, messages and reports demonstrating that the company was well aware it was violating its own standards and giving securities inflated ratings. The legal brief focuses on 40 CDOs S&P rated between March and October of 2007.
The document cites one S&P analyst who wrote in 2006 that the company had loosened its criteria for CDOs to create “a loophole big enough to drive a Mack truck through.” In December of 2006, an S&P employee wrote in an internal email: “Rating agencies continue to create an even bigger monster—the CDO market. Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.”
In April 2007, one S&P analyst told another, “We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.”
In a July 2007 exchange between an S&P analyst and an investment banking colleague, the banker wrote: “I mean, come on, we pay you to rate our deals, and the better the rating the more money we make?!?! What’s up with that? How are you possibly supposed to be impartial????”
The complicity of the credit rating agencies was previously documented in extensive government reports on the financial crisis. “The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report,” issued in January of 2011 by a commission established by Congress in 2009, wrote: “The three credit rating agencies were key enablers of the financial meltdown. The mortgage-related securities at the heart of the crisis could not have been marketed and sold without their seal of approval.”
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations devoted 75 pages of its 639-page report on the Wall Street crash, released in April of 2011, to the role of S&P and Moody’s in facilitating the subprime mortgage swindle. It wrote: “It was not in the short-term economic interest of either Moody’s or S&P, however, to provide accurate credit ratings for high-risk RMBS and CDO securities, because doing so would have hurt their own revenues.”
The Senate report found that more than 90 percent of triple-A ratings given to mortgage-backed securities in 2006 and 2007 were eventually downgraded to junk status.
Whatever the outcome of the suit filed on Monday, the Obama administration has systematically worked, and will continue to work, to shield the banks and their accomplices from any accountability for their crimes, and create conditions for Wall Street to make more money than ever.
The same credit rating system—unregulated and dominated by the banks—remains in place today. The same credit rating companies continue to make millions by giving top ratings to high-risk bonds and derivatives and helping conceal violations of securities laws by the banks, creating the conditions for another, even more catastrophic financial crisis.