Posts Tagged ‘news’

I’m writing here in response to my classmate Shu-Chen’s post, which is a response to my post on Mubarak. In her post, Shu-Chen hit on so many of the problems facing anyone on a quest for the facts. There are so many articles, so many points of view, so many details to read and store and compare new information to. In any new event that comes up the amount of information that must be sifted through looking for the facts is enough to discourage many who would strive for peace if only they knew who represents peace and who represents war. In the recent events in Egypt that Shu-Chen mentioned, we have the western mass media view of an unpopular politician being overthrown by his people, who are reaching for democracy, and we are encouraged to celebrate this. In my view, and the view of some others, the NED “encouraged” opponents to rise against Mubarak in a plan supported and initiated by the US government in order to get rid of a ruler who was becoming inconvenient for US policy in the area. Mubarak was resisting the push for war against Iran, as was Gaddafi.

If we are talking about military action, then the question will be who will take this military action? Who will do it and who has the right to do so?” Gaddafi told the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in New York. Gaddafi said action against Iran could set a dangerous precedent, noting that other countries including India, Pakistan, China, Russia, the United States and Israel have — or in Israel’s case are assumed to have — atomic weapons. “All of them have nuclear bombs. Why not take military action against them?” Gaddafi said.

The current war against Libya is another “regime change” being attempted by the west. The western mass media claims that Gaddafi used air strikes against his own people, but there is evidence against these claims. See this video by one of the major alternative news sources, RT (Russia Today) “Airstrikes in Libya did not take place” – Russian military.

I had planned to write a post about recent events in Libya but then realized that I was no longer writing a Learning Journal but a political blog (and my time is limited and I have a final paper due soon) so I stopped. But what is important about this, and why I’m raising the issue now, is that this all comes down to the ever-increasing question of “How do we know that what we think is true is really true?” This question is so important today, as country after country is tossed into turmoil and bloodshed mounts, all for what? Are the people of these countries really rising democratically against their leaders? Or are they being manipulated by the west, as so many other countries have been? I will leave it up to you to answer this question to your own satisfaction, but if you’d like a few references, I’d start with Killing Hope by William Blum, Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein and the alternative news websites RT, GlobalResearch, and VoltaireNetwork. By the way, on the topic of Mubarak, Voltaire Network has a recent article titled, “In Egypt, a New Guard” that begins with these lines, “In Egypt, so far not so good despite the recent change of faces. With Egyptian armed forces being a virtual extension of the Pentagon and Washington’s agents preparing to funnel funds to boost pro-US political parties, Steven Gowans doubts that whatever change the Egyptian rebellion will bring about could amount to anything more than a new form of Mubarakism without Mubarak.” And, by the way, who is supplying the Libyan rebels with arms? Egypt. Would Egypt have done this under Mubarak? Not likely. Who is making money from this new war? So far, just the ones who make the weapons, in this case the US. Later there will be reconstruction costs and maybe Dick Cheney’s outfit can help us out with that. Who is paying for the weapons, and who will pay for the reconstruction? The American taxpayers. How much have the war in Iraq and its reconstruction cost Americans? About 781 billion dollars, so far.

While the official reason for this war is “humanitarian” concerns, there is evidence for other motivations. In this video, RT documents the gold dinar as the currency being promoted by Gaddafi and other African nations. The theory that replacing the American dollar with the gold dinar in oil-wealthy countries being the reason for war cannot be easily dismissed, as both Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi tried to introduce new currencies in their countries, coincidentally only months before wars were initiated by the west in both Iraq and in Libya.

The battle for the control of information has led to a website called InfoWars (see the recent article there by historian Webster Tarpley titled Obama’s Bay of Pigs in Libya: Imperialist Aggression Shreds UN Charter). Even Hillary Clinton has acknowledged the huge impact that Russia Today (alternative news site has on the world, with 300,000,000 viewers on YouTube and CNN (mainstream news site) with a mere 1% of that at 3,000,000. See RT Win: Clinton asks for cash as US ‘losing world info war’ for her speech requesting Congress to increase funding for the US to push more of its own propaganda.

We are awash with propaganda, and as Shu-Chen insightfully pointed out, the victim is truth. Covered by layers of spin, twisted and distorted by the western mass media until it is unrecognizable, truth has to be rediscovered in ways that were not possible before, and few of us have the time to do it. Shu-Chen wrote, “Experts spend lifetimes becoming conversant with the relations between and within countries such as those now in the news. Can media technology short-circuit this process so that the masses can be educated to the point that they can meaningfully participate?” This is the main point exactly. Yes, the information is out there, and we don’t have to be experts to inform ourselves. Once we begin to make our way through the mass of information, certain paths become clearer. The hardest part is realizing that we are being lied to, again and again, constantly, and taking the first step against this, which is doing our own independent reading of multiple perspectives of history and current events. In this way, we take the first steps towards becoming informed and therefore responsible.

We have been facing increasing propaganda and lies ever since the end of WW2, well, even before that, but it seems to have gotten much worse since then. Worse because the US and its western allies are fighting war after war for no other reason than financial gain. Words like democracy and terrorism have taken on new meanings in a vision similar to that of 1984. Democratic nations are those who welcome US foreign policy and free trade, and terrorist nations are those who oppose it. Gaddafi opposes war in Iran, his country has oil, and the US is looking for ways to get an entry into Africa to loot more natural and mineral resources there and therefore it’s time for war in Libya. Could this war really be about bringing democracy to people? How can we be saving lives by shooting missiles? How naïve is anyone who believes in this convenient lie.

What does all of this have to do with education? Well, it has a lot to do with history and social studies, global issues, geography, and current events. And it has something to do with the way we learn, the way we look for facts. If we consider only the mass media view, we’ll be obedient citizens and nod in agreement as more missiles are launched against peaceful people, and civilian casualties are mounting already in Libya. But like Clare said in her video for Week 9, teachers should model appropriate learning strategies for their students, which for me means going beneath the surface layers of easily painted stories and digging for truth.

I don’t say that what I believe is the truth. As Shu-Chen writes, how can anyone really know the truth unless they are working “… in some diplomatic capacity and to have real everyday access to insider knowledge.” But even then you may have more access to one side of the story than another.

The key is something that we have discussed before – multiple perspectives, and we have access to multiple perspectives on the Internet in articles and videos, and we have access to multiple perspectives by choosing a wide variety of books that focus on the issues at hand. We all know the official stories because we are faced with them every day on TV, in newspapers and on radio stations. Official stories are promoted by official media that are owned by those who profit from providing only one side of the story – the side that benefits the US and makes an enemy of anyone who protests against US foreign policy. This is not limited to the US, of course, but extends to Canada, the UK, France, Germany, most of Europe in fact, most of the west in fact. Who doesn’t support American and western foreign policy?

Well, the American people don’t, for one. And neither do Brits, or French, or Germans, or Canadians. 65% of Americans oppose the current intervention in Libya. The majority of citizens of all of these countries are opposed to war. We all want peace. But still we believe our leaders when they come up with stories of “weapons of mass destruction” (have you seen the video of where Bush pretends to be looking for them? Warning: it’s offensive, and there are some graphic photos as well), of bearded men in caves destroying World Trade Center buildings (watch Blueprint for Truth and then try to tell me that airplanes brought down the World Trade Center buildings), we believe them when they say this leader in that country is doing such-and-such and must be stopped. And millions die, and US territory grows, and geopolitically strategic locations and those with significant natural resources are one by one conquered by the rich west. We are back in the times of pillaging and looting, and the worst part of it is that it’s the rich west looting developing countries, and killing civilians in the process. And we support it by paying for it with our tax dollars. We support it by not protesting.

Sorry, I’ll stop here. Watch (and read) John Pilger, read William Blum, Naomi Klein, Michel Chossudovsky, Webster Tarpley, Howard Zinn and Anthony Sutton. This would be just a beginning, but a good one. For a more complete list, see How the World Really Works (excerpts from many useful books are available at this website). The amazing thing about the Internet is that so much information is available there, for anyone who takes the time to go through it. The Internet alone is not enough, though. If we really want the details, we need a multitude of books as well. Yes, it takes a lot of time. But if you really want to know what is going on in the world, if you care about the bombs that are falling on strangers halfway around the world, if you wonder why Muslim countries seem to be taking all the heat these days, read on. I can guarantee that it is not a waste of time, and will change the way we see the world. It is not a world of black and white but grey, so many shades of grey. But the truth is in there somewhere, if only we will take the first step and read.

Shu-Chen wrote, “In considering these three options I am struck by the irony that having given us the possibility of mass participation the actual effect of technological progress may result in increasing numbers of people opting out of the political system…To the extent this occurs the net effect for these countries will have been to exchange a wealth/military autocracy for an autocracy of knowledge.”

The majority of people in our countries oppose war. If only we could arm ourselves with knowledge, perhaps we could challenge our own leaders, instead of fighting against people we have no quarrel with, half a world away.

I’d like to focus on something that has become even more clear to me over the past week since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant crisis began on March 11, 2011 – the need to get your information from a wide variety of sources.

Because we live in northern Japan, we (my family and I) need access to accurate information. We got information from dozens of sources, including text, photos, and videos. What became clear is that if you were relying on only one source of news, you’d get a very limited view of the truth. Here are a couple of the contradictions I’ve noticed over the past week:

1. The severity of the situation at the Fukushima power plants

While Japanese officials have rated the situation at Fukushima at level 4 of 7 levels, the French nuclear safety authority has rated it at level 6 according to the “International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — or INES – which goes from Level 1, which indicates very little danger to the general population, to Level 7, a “major accident” in which there’s been a large release of radioactive material and there will be widespread health and environmental effects”. Chernobyl was level 7. According to this CNN article, experts themselves disagree over how serious the situation is. This gives rise to a wide variety of interpretations in the press from Armageddon to, the Christian Science Monitor’s claims of exaggeration. I am a native speaker of English and thus I have access to reports from countries other than Japan. Many Japanese do not have an English level high enough to read English, so they are dependent on Japanese sources alone. I am trying to find out if outside sources are being translated into Japanese for Japanese websites.

2. TEPCO’s safety record and its past involvement in cover-ups

The Japanese press seems to be just reporting what TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) is telling them. According to Yoichi Shimatsu writing for GlobalResearch.ca, “Japanese agencies are no longer releasing independent reports without prior approval from the top. The censorship is being carried out following the imposition of the Article 15 Emergency Law.” Thus Japanese news media are even less free to report than usual.

TEPCO has a vested interest in making themselves look professional and competent, while inside and outside sources say that TEPCO has been involved in a number of cover-ups over the years. According to The Australian, TEPCO falsified inspection records in 1989. According to Rachel Maddow at MSNBC, in 2002, the president of TEPCO and four top officials were forced to resign after it was discovered that TEPCO had been falsifying safety records at its nuclear plants for years, dating back to the 1980’s.” Youichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times, says that a massive cover-up is now underway in Washington and in Tokyo. Instead of sending representatives of the Department of Energy or from the Nuclear Safety Agency, “they sent members of USAID, which is basically intelligence officials. Already the cover-up is going on at very high levels in Washington and in Tokyo.” (This video made by CCTV News (China Central Television) has been removed from many sites including YouTube but is now back on at YouTube, perhaps temporarily.)

There is more bad news on cover-ups, this time by the government. According to the same Yoichi Shimatsu, this time back at GlobalResearch.ca, “Back in 1996, amid a reactor accident in Ibaraki province, the government never admitted that radioactive fallout had drifted over the northeastern suburbs of Tokyo. Our reporters got confirmation from monitoring stations, but the press was under a blanket order not to run any alarming news, the facts be damned.” As well, Rachel Maddow reports that in 1995 government officials tried to cover up how bad the fire was by releasing a doctored video. According to CBS News in an article titled “Scandal-ridden energy company behind Japan’s nuke crisis”, a worker was told to “edit out footage showing cracks in plant steam pipes in video being submitted to regulators.” As well, in addition to other accidents and cover-ups, “In 1999, fuel-reprocessing workers were reported to be using stainless steel buckets to hand-mix uranium in flagrant violation of safety standards at the Tokaimura plant. Two workers later died in what was the deadliest accident in the Japanese industry’s history.” In another case, “at least 37 workers were exposed to low doses of radiation at a 1997 fire and explosion at a nuclear reprocessing plant operated in Tokaimura, northeast of Tokyo. The operator, Donen, later acknowledged it had initially suppressed information about the fire.”

All of this points to an incompetent industry and lax government oversight. How many of the current problems at the Fukushima power plants could have been avoided if the safety checks had been carried out properly? According to Greg Palast at Truthout, “Last night, I heard CNN reporters repeat the official line that the tsunami disabled the pumps needed to cool the reactors, implying that water unexpectedly got into the diesel generators that run the pumps. These safety backup systems are the “EDGs” in nuke-speak: Emergency Diesel Generators. That they didn’t work in an emergency is like a fire department telling us they couldn’t save a building because ‘it was on fire’.” Were these failed EDG’s checked according to industry standards? With the record TEPCO has, we can suspect that they were not. But with the CIA counselling the Japanese government, we will never know.

The point I’d like to make is that it took a lot of searching to gather this information. If I hadn’t done it, I’d probably be thinking, like most of the world, that this critical event at Fukushima is happening because of an unavoidable act of nature. Well, there are many who would say why build a nuclear reactor close to a fault line, and I’d have to agree with them. But without looking thru the “mass of media” I would not have known about the scandals behind the nuclear power industry in Japan, nor of the cover-ups by the government. I’m more inclined now to trust outside sources who say that Fukushima is experiencing a level 6 nuclear disaster out of 7, and I’m less likely to believe any news coming from Japan on this topic.

Since we live in Japan, it’s vital to get reliable information regarding the amount of radiation being released. The problem is that I know that I cannot trust the Japanese media to accurately report on this, and western media does not have enough access to reliable data either. So we are in a bit of a twilight zone, something of a blackout. People’s lives are on the line at the Fukushima power plants, and this is the result of carelessness on the parts of TEPCO and the federal government. With a cover-up going on, we may never get accurate information regarding this “accident”, which could have been prevented if proper safety checks had been carried out.

Some, if not all, of the workers who are presently working under very hazardous conditions at Fukushima will develop radiation sickness, and some will likely lose their lives. While I agree that these workers are heroes, their families have a right to be extremely angry with both TEPCO and the federal government for allowing this to happen. A class-action suit against both TEPCO and the federal government would be the most likely course of legal action, but it will not prevent radiation sickness and loss of life.