Today is the federal holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was born January 15th, 1929. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor and organized the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. Dr. King was also a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War. We play his "Beyond Vietnam" speech, which he delivered at New York City’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, as well as his last speech, "I Have Been to the Mountain Top," that he gave on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated. [includes rush transcript]
Safecast is a network of volunteers who came together to map radiation levels throughout Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. They soon realized radiation readings varied widely, with some areas close to the disaster facing light contamination, depending on wind and geography, while others much further away showed higher readings. Safecast volunteers use Geiger counters and open-source software to measure the radiation, and then post the data online for anyone to access. Broadcasting from Tokyo, we are joined by Pieter Franken, co-founder of Safecast. "The first trip we made into Fukushima, it was an eye-opener. First of all, the radiation levels we encountered were way higher than what we had seen on television," Franken says. "We decided to focus on measuring every single street as our goal in Safecast, so for the last three years we have been doing that, and this month we are passing the 15 millionth location we have measured, and basically every street in Japan has been at least measured once, if not many, many more times."
Recent moves by the Japanese government to restart the country’s nuclear power plant facilities have been met by growing protests. "I think this is a problem of the world, not just of Japan," Kato Keiko told Democracy Now! at a protest outside the prime minister’s private residence in Tokyo. She describes how there is increasing expectation that voters will decide which candidate to choose in the upcoming election based on their position on nuclear power.
We speak with Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of the town of Futaba where part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located. The entire town was rendered uninhabitable by the nuclear disaster. We ask him what went through his mind after the earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011. "It was a huge surprise, and at the time I was just hoping nothing that had happened at the nuclear power plant. However, unfortunately there was in fact an accident there," Idogawa recalls. He made a decision to evacuate his town before the Japanese government told people to leave. "If I had made that decision even three hours earlier, I would have been able to prevent so many people from being exposed to radiation." For years he encouraged nuclear power development in the area; now he has become a vocal critic. He explains that the government and the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company, always told him, "’Don’t worry, Mayor. No accident could ever happen.’ Because this promise was betrayed, this is why I became anti-nuclear."
On our final day of our special broadcast from Tokyo, we speak with a Japanese resident from the town that housed part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant who is participating in weekly protests against the resumption of nuclear power in her country. "We couldn’t bring anything from our houses. We didn’t have a toothbrush. We didn’t have a blanket. We didn’t have towels. We had nothing. It was truly hell, and we thought it would be much better to die. But now, we are here, and we can’t really give up. We want to fight for this cause," Yukiko Kameya said as she attended a demonstration outside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence. "We told the prime minister many times, every week here, that we are against the reopening of the nuclear facilities, but it doesn’t seem that he gets it. He just does whatever he wants to do anyway.”
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Japan Remains Hotbed of TPP Protest as U.S. Tries to Fast-Track Trade Deal, Crush Environmental Laws
Japan has been a hotbed of protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would establish a free-trade zone stretching from Japan to the United States to Chile, and encompass nearly 40 percent of the global economy. Now, new documents released by WikiLeaks show the White House may be ready to backtrack on a series of critical regulations in order to secure a deal on the trade pact, including legally binding requirements for pollution limits, logging standards, and a ban on the harvesting of shark fins. The draft version of the "environmental chapter" also reveals that the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations that are party to the TPP would rely on trade sanctions instead of fines if a country violates its obligations. The Sierra Club responded to the latest news saying that if the draft report were to be finalized, "President Obama’s environmental trade record would be worse than George W. Bush’s." Meanwhile, hearings begin today in Congress on legislation to establish fast-track authority that would allow Obama to sign the TPP before Congress votes on it. Broadcasting from Tokyo, we’re joined by Nobuhiko Suto, a former member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in Japan’s House of Representatives, where he was among the first legislators to point out the dangers of the TPP. He is the secretary-general of the group, Citizen’s Congress for Opposing the Transpacific Partnership. We’re also joined on the phone by Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch based in Washington, D.C.
In 1983, a group of Japanese students formed Peace Boat as a response to government censorship of history books regarding Japan’s past military aggression in the Asia Pacific. They chartered a ship to visit neighboring countries and build people-to-people exchanges. Three decades later, Peace Boat now operates a chartered passenger ship that travels the world on peace voyages. The group also organizes against the use of nuclear weapons, nuclear power and other forms of militarism. After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Peace Boat’s Disaster Relief Volunteer Center organized thousands of volunteers to help in the relief and rebuilding effort. Peace Boat founder Tatsuya Yoshioka joins us in Tokyo.
Nearly 70 years ago the United States took over the Japanese island of Okinawa after one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. More than 200,000 people died, mostly Japanese civilians. Today the United States operates 34 bases on the island and is planning to build a new state-of-the-art Marine base, despite mass protests. A multi-decade movement of Okinawa residents has pushed for ousting U.S. forces off the island, citing environmental concerns and sexual assaults by U.S. soldiers on local residents. Broadcasting from Tokyo, we are joined by two guests: Kozue Akibayashi, a professor and activist in Japan with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Women’s International Network Against Militarism; and John Junkerman, a documentary filmmaker currently working on a film about U.S. military bases in Okinawa.
- Tens of Thousands Without Tap Water as West Virginia Slowly Eases Ban
- Jobless Benefits Scrapped in Senate Vote
- House Approves Spending Bill in Tea Party Rebuke
- Iraqi PM Appeals for International Help as Violence Kills Dozens
- Photos Show Marines Burning Bodies in Iraq
- Egyptian Voters Approve Constitutional Referendum
- Justice Dept. to Expand Anti-Profiling Guidelines
- Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones
- Air Force Nuclear Unit Suspends 34 for Cheating
- Senate Probe: Benghazi Attack was Preventable
- Chicago Archdiocese Releases Docs on Sexual Abuses
- 3 Dead in Shooting at Indiana Supermarket
- New York City Finalizes $18 Million Settlement over RNC Arrests
We continue to look at the fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant crisis in 2011 with a documentary about the former residents of Futaba, where the facility is located. "Nuclear Nation: The Fukushima Refugees Story" follows them in the first year after the disaster as they live communally in an abandoned school near Tokyo. Many mourn the loss of family members and their homes, and worry about the impact of radiation exposure on their health. We play excerpts from the film and are joined by director Atsushi Funahashi.
Japan is getting ready to mark the third anniversary of one of the world’s worst atomic disasters. It was March 11, 2011, when a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that struck Japan’s northeast coast. The twin disasters triggered a meltdown at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The radiation that spewed from the plant stranded more than 315,000 evacuees. In the years following the Fukushima disaster, tens of thousands of Japanese have taken to the streets to march in opposition to nuclear power. In the nearly three years since the disaster, the Fukushima cleanup and decommissioning efforts have been complicated by leaks of highly radioactive water. The effort has also suffered from a lack of oversight and a shortage of workers, which Reuters reports has led to Japan’s homeless population being easy prey for recruiters. Following the disaster, Japan halted nearly all nuclear-related projects. However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party reversed its campaign pledge to move Japan away from nuclear power just one week after coming into power in December 2012. Today, Japan’s trade ministry said it would approve a revival plan for the utility responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster: Tokyo Electric Power Company. This will be the second attempt to restore the utility’s depleted finances. We speak with David McNeill, a longtime foreign correspondent based in Japan who writes for The Independent of London, The Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications. McNeill is co-author of the book, "Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster."
Democracy Now! is broadcasting from Tokyo, Japan, today in the first of three special broadcasts. At a critical time for Japan and the region, we begin our coverage looking at the country’s rightward political shift under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was re-elected just over a year ago. As head of the Liberal Democratic Party, Abe is known as a conservative hawk who has pushed nationalistic and pro-nuclear policies. In December, he visited the controversial Yasukuni war shrine, which honors Japanese soldiers who died in battle, including several war criminals who were tried by the International Military Tribunal after World War II. The visit sparked outrage from China and South Korea, who consider the shrine a symbol of Japanese militarism and its refusal to atone for atrocities committed in the first half of the 20th century. We speak about Japan’s increasingly pro-nuclear, nationalistic stance with Koichi Nakano, professor at Sophia University in Tokyo and director of the Institute of Global Concern.
- White House Panel Refutes NSA Claims
- NSA Using Radio Waves to Hack Into Computers Worldwide
- Report: "No Spy" Agreement Nears Collapse over U.S. Refusal to End Spying on Germany
- Federal Court Strikes Down Net Neutrality Rules
- 52 Killed in Iraq Violence
- 11 Killed in Clashes over Egypt Referendum Vote
- Israeli Defense Minister: Kerry "Incomprehensible, Messianic"
- 2 Children Seriously Wounded in New Mexico School Shooting
- Judge Overturns Oklahoma Gay Marriage Ban; Utah Unions Get Federal Recognition
- Photos Tie Christie to Official in Bridge Scandal
- Report: U.S. Prepared to Scrap Environmental Rules to Win TPP Deal
Two months after 47 million food stamp recipients were hit with $5 billion in cuts, more are on the way as lawmakers finalize a new farm bill. The measure is likely to slash another $9 billion in food stamps over the next decade, depriving more than 800,000 households of up to $90 in aid per month. We look at how politicians have used coded racial appeals to win support for cuts like these and similar efforts since the 1960s with Ian Haney López, author of the new book, "Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked the Middle Class." A senior fellow at Demos and law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, López argues that "this is about race as it wrecks the whole middle class. This sort of racism is being used to fool a lot of whites into voting for Republicans whose main allegiance is to corporate interests."
The Freedom Industries site behind the West Virginia chemical spill is just a mile upriver from the state’s largest water treatment plant, owned by American Water. But despite the obvious dangers to the source of 16 percent of West Virginia residents’ water supply, the spill has exposed major holes in how the state regulates the dangerous chemicals used coal mining and processing, its leading industry. The chemical, 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (crude MCHM), does not receive close federal or state oversight. Environmental inspectors have not visited the Freedom Industries facility since 1991. Under West Virginia law, chemicals storage facilities are not even subject to inspections. The plant also had no groundwater protection plan in place. We speak with Mike Elk, a labor reporter for In These Times magazine who has extensively covered chemical regulation in the United States, including at the West, Texas, fertilizer plant where 15 people died in an explosion last year. And we’re joined from West Virginia by Erin Brockovich, the renowned environmentalist and consumer advocate.
West Virginia has begun partially lifting its ban on tap water five days after a chemical spill in the Elk River. More than 300,000 residents have been unable to use their water for drinking, cooking or bathing since Thursday, when the company Freedom Industries leaked up to 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (crude MCHM), an agent used in coal extraction, into the water supply. Scores of schools and businesses have been closed, including in the state capital, Charleston. The ban has been lifted in four zones so far, but is still in effect for a vast majority of residents. Dozens of people have been hospitalized since the spill, with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, rashes and reddened skin. We get reaction from Erin Brockovich, the renowned environmentalist, consumer advocate and legal researcher. While a single mother of three working as a legal assistant, she helped win the biggest class action lawsuit in American history, holding the California power company Pacific Gas & Electric Company for polluting a city’s water supply. Her story was told in the Oscar-winning film "Erin Brockovich." Today, Brockovich and her team are investigating the spill in West Virginia. On Monday evening, she held a town hall meeting in Charleston to discuss the spill with local residents. "They’re banding together stronger than I’ve ever seen before," Brockovich says of West Virginians self-organizing in the spill’s aftermath.
- South Sudan: 200 Drown in Ferry Accident While Fleeing
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- Thailand: Mass Opposition Protests Continue in Bangkok
- Lawmakers Reach Deal on $1 Trillion Gov't Spending Bill That Allows Aid to Egypt
- California: Police Officers Acquitted in Beating Death of Homeless Man
- Senate Confirms Obama Pick for Key Appeals Court; High Court Hears Case on Obama Appointments
- Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Reinstate Arizona 20-Week Abortion Ban
- Mexico Sends Troops to Michoacán After Self-Defense Groups Rise Up Against Cartels
- Report: U.S. Drug Agents Met Extensively with Mexican Cartel Leaders
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- Nigeria's President Signs Harsh Anti-Gay Law
- New Mexico Ruling Lets Doctors Help Terminally Ill Patients Die
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Rashid Khalidi & Noam Chomsky: For Peace Today, US Must End Support for Sharon's Expansionist Legacy
Upon the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, we look at how his legacy of separating Gaza from the West Bank and building a "separation wall" to seal off Israeli settlements has impacted the peace process in the Middle East today. We speak with Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and Institute Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University; and Avi Shlaim, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, widely regarded as one of the world’s leading scholars on the Israeli-Arab conflict. "What [Secretary of State] John Kerry should do is insist on implementing a very broad international consensus, virtually universal, calling for a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border," Chomsky says. "This is supported by the entire world; it’s been blocked by the United States for 35 years. We should shift that policy, join the world, and carry out measures which might conceivably bring a semi-decent peace."
We look at one of the most shocking incidents in the career of the late former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Up to 2,000 Palestinians died on Sept. 16-17, 1982, when the Israeli military allowed a Christian militia to attack the camp. Then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was forced to resign after a special Israeli investigative panel declared him to be "personally responsible" for the massacre. We air a description of the killings by Ellen Siegel, a Jewish-American nurse who was working at Gaza Hospital at the Sabra camp at the time of the attacks, and speak with Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, and Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and Institute Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.