‘Challenging the Corporate Media’ Category Archives
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on Civil Liberties, Challenging the Corporate Media
Curious how the mainstream media is willing to talk about Team Obama’s cynical use of data mining to win tomorrow’s election – in New Zealand – but not in the US. Radio New Zealand commentator Katherine Ryan interviewed US political analyst Michael Cornfield on her “Nine to Noon” program this morning. Cornfield founded the Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet at George Washington University
According to the New Zealand Listener, which also published an article this week about “quantitative behavioral targeting,” both campaigns “are reluctant to talk about the behind-the-scenes digital manoeuvring that some voters might find sinister (you think?), such as data mining, “micro targeting” and its even more precise cousin, “nano-targeting.”
Sinister? What an understatement. In her interview Ryan refers to Obama’s slick campaign strategy – of exploiting potential voters’ on-line behavior – as a “dog whistle.” For people unacquainted with the term, it’s used to describe subliminal messaging a target responds to unknowingly – much as a dogs respond to high pitched whistles undetectable by the human ear.
Here’s a rather frightening excerpt from the Listener article, which makes the point that Obama’s technical outreach is “light years” ahead of Romney’s:
BIG DATA IS WATCHING YOU
Everything about how campaigns at a presidential level are getting out the vote has changed,” says Michael Cornfield, an expert on politics and the internet at George Washington University. Every time someone uses social media, they leave a digital trace, and all those traces are being collected and cross-checked against voter files. States keep rolls of who is registered and who shows up to vote, and some also include party affiliation, giving campaigns an extra piece of vital information. The scope for picking up information from these digital traces is huge. About 60% of American adults use social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, according to a survey by the Pew Research Centre’s Internet & American Life Project. It also found that two-thirds of these users – or four out of every 10 American adults – have used social media for civic or political activities.
“All this demographic and behavioural information – the websites you’ve been to, the pages you’ve liked – is now fodder for the campaigns as they attempt to get out the vote. That’s a big change,” Cornfield says. For example, a mother in Wisconsin who orders eco-friendly nappies and drives a Toyota Prius might see a banner ad featuring Michelle Obama, and a Latina student in Nevada who visits TMZ, the celebrity gossip site, might see an ad in Spanish. The Obama campaign might not even bother with a middle-aged man in Virginia who has a gas-guzzling SUV and gets his news from Fox, the conservative channel. Tailored messaging does not end with the computer screen. It is all linked so volunteers who head out with clipboards know who lives in a house before they knock on the door and they are told what points to emphasise to appeal to that particular voter.
To hear the Katherine Ryan interview go to http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon and click on “The digital strategies used by the US presidential campaigns.” The easiest way to hear the interview is to download the MP3 file.
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media
If video won’t play go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p_NretS7To
Brilliant news summary by Wide Awake News anchor Charlie McGrath. McGrath reminds us that the garbage the mainstream media feeds us regarding the US political system, the US economy and the war on terror is nothing but a tissue of lies. It’s stuff like this that reminds us why TV news and newspaper are losing their audience to Internet radio and TV.
Political lies: McGrath reminds us that the Red and Blue team both bat for the same side – that Obama continued all George W Bush’s policies and that Romney, if elected, will merely continue Obama’s. He compares the presidential debates to a “made for TV” sporting event in which both the Republican and Democratic Party agree not to address the important issues affecting Americans.
Economic lies: He reminds us that the US economy is controlled by the Federal Reserve and private banks, that there is no recovery, that our savings and pensions are being steadily wiped by inflation, that global debt can’t ever be repaid and that the banksters who collapsed the economy in 2008 haven’t gone anywhere – if anything they have merely consolidated their control over the banking and monetary system.
The ludicrous war on terror: An American is five times more likely to be struck by lightening than to be killed by a terrorist. Yet the US continues to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to spread democracy by torturing and assassinating people. We pretend we’re getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, just like we pretend we’re getting out of debt. No one ever mentions the 137,000 private contractors who have replaced the US troops in Iraq.
The funny thing is that most Americans already seem to know this stuff, which is why they have the poorest voter turnout of all industrialized countries. During most presidential elections, slightly over half of eligible US voters vote. During non-presidential years, the turnout is 36-38%. Americans already know that nothing they do in the voting booth will make a damn bit of difference to their lives.
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, The Wars in the Middle East
(This second post relates to US media censorship of Obama’s hypocritical policy towards Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement.)
For the most part, the US media has been totally silent on the Bahraini pro-democracy movement and Obama’s decision to back the repressive regime that seeks to crush them. On September 4th, Glenn Greenwald published an opinion piece in the Guardian blasting CNN International (CNNi), the most watched English language network in the Middle East, for refusing to air the hour long documentary their own crew –led by investigative correspondent Amber Lyon – filmed in Bahrain in the aftermath of the government crackdown. As Greenwald reports, the commentary features graphic video footage of regime forces arresting and shooting peaceful, unarmed demonstrators, as well as explicit descriptions by pro-democracy activists of the torture they received at the hands of police and security officials.
The video footage was obtained at great cost, both to the CNN crew and the activists who consented to talk to them. While they were filming, Lyon and her cameramen were violently detained by 20 heavily-armed men in black ski masks who forced them to the ground with machine guns, seized their cameras. They were then forcibly transported to detention facility and interrogated for the next six hours.
CNN International Suppresses “iRevolution”
On 19 June 2011 at 8pm, CNN’s domestic outlet in the US aired “iRevolution” for the first and only time. According to Lyons, the documentary was deliberately aimed at an international audience. Yet despite receiving several prestigious journalism awards, and despite the dangers their own journalists and their sources endured to produce it, CNN International (CNNi) still refuses to broadcast the documentary.
In March 2012, Lyon was laid off from CNN as part of an unrelated move by the network to outsource its investigative documentaries. Last month the investigative journalist, who has more than 20,000 followers, began tweeting about CNN’s blatant censorship. “CNNi’s refusal to broadcast ‘iRevolution’, she tweeted on August 16th, “baffled producers”. Linking to the YouTube clip of the Bahrain segment, she added “the censorship was devastating to my crew and activists who risked lives to tell [the] story.
The following day, a representative of CNN’s business affairs office called Lyon’s acting agent, George Arquilla of Octagon Entertainment, and threatened that her severance payments and insurance benefits would be immediately terminated if she ever again spoke publicly about this matter, or spoke negatively about CNN.
King Hamad’s $32 Million PR Campaign
Greenwald believes the call is inked to a massive, well funded PR campaign, the Bahraini Royal family has undertaken to improve its image. As reported by Bahrain Watch, the regime has spent more than $32 million in PR fees since the Arab Spring began in February, 2011. One of the regimes largest contracts was with the Washington DC firm Qorvis Communications. As Time reported last November, Qorvis also does extensive PR work for Bahrain’s close allies, the Saudi royal family. Some leaked a CNN internal email to the Guardian about a Qorvis representative calling about excessively favorable mention of neurosurgeon Dr Nabeel Rajab (see prior post).
CNN’s Business Relationship with Bahrain
While it’s common for US mainstream outlets to bend over backwards to portray White House policy (in this case backing repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain), Greenwald suggests that CNN also had powerful commercial reasons for suppressing Lyon’s documentary footage. Greenwald’s article about “iRevolution” is accompanied by a backgrounder outlining CNN’s business relationships with the Bahraini monarchy. At the same time as CNN was supposedly covering the Arab Spring, Bahrain was a major participant in CNN’s various “sponsorship” opportunities – i.e. paid “informercials” dedicated at improving the nation’s image around the world. As Greenwald documents in the second piece, the result was a number of propagandistic documentaries – promoting Bahrain as an attractive haven for western investors and King Hammad as an avid environmentalist. All were broadcast with no or minimal disclosure that the government of Bahrain had paid for the programming.
The 13 minute segment produced in Bahrain is available at i-Revolution
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, The Wars in the Middle East
Legendary Middle East reporter Robert Fisk, the first western eyewitness to enter the massacre town of Daraya, writes in the Independent about eyewitness reports that Syrian rebels, not government forces, are responsible for the mass killing of 245 Darayan men, women and children. This contrasts with the version being told in rest of the western media, which predictably blames President Assad for the deaths.
Fisk links the massacre to a failed prisoner exchange between the Free Syrian Army and the government army. Residents told him about the Free Syrian Army kidnapping a number of civilians and off-duty soldiers when they first seized Daraya (six miles from center of Damascus) – how both sides subsequently engaged in talks about exchanging them for prisoners in the army’s custody. According to the witnesses he spoke to, when talks broke down, the government army stormed the town to take it back from rebel control.
One woman Fisk spoke to insists the killings were carried out by armed insurgents wearing hoods while the rebels still held the town. A second witness, a man, talks about the rebels targeting off-duty conscripts and government workers for assassination. He describes the “Free Army” forces taking over the home of a friend to use as a base, smashing the family crockery, burning carpets and beds and tearing the parts out of laptops and TV sets in the home.
Maybe with a credible, non-embedded reporter like Fisk on location in Syria, the western world will finally learn the truth about what’s happening there. Unless, of course, the Saudi-funded CIA-trained rebels decide to take him out, too. A pity there were no reporters of Fisk’s caliber in Libya.
Read more here
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media
I have recently returned from a week in Australia, where I was pleasantly surprised by the extensive coverage of “current” (government) affairs on mainstream TV and in the major newspapers. Current affairs programming is very much lacking in New Zealand, as in Canada and the US. For younger readers, who may be unfamiliar with the concept of current or public affairs, these were programs and/or newspaper articles offering in-depth investigative reporting and/or diverse views on important aspects of public policy. The PBS program Bill Moyer’s Journal, which aired for the last time in April 2010, was an excellent of current affairs programming.
Prior to the corporate consolidation of the mainstream media, all the major American TV and radio networks, including PBS and NPR, offered at least a half dozen current affairs shows every week. Most featured wide ranging debate between experts and “analysts” representing a wide diversity of perspectives. In the last two decades, this diversity has totally vanished from the mainstream airwaves and major dailies. Instead what we get is universally pro-Wall Street and pro-corporate news and opinion. Given that most federal policy is pro-Wall Street and pro-corporate, it’s also strongly pro-government .
Because most western democracies have experienced the same media consolidation as the US and Canada, I expected to find more of the same in Australia, especially as the main news item for the week concerned the privatization of education (i.e. the diversion of taxpayer money to support private schools). Over the past year, this issue has also received major media attention in the US – both in the form of attacks on teachers and teachers’ unions and unabashed boosterism for (publicly funded) privately run charter schools and (publicly funded) voucher schemes making taxpayer money available to parents who send their kids to private schools. Thanks to major lobbying by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch Brothers and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the US media has been pretty unified that poorly funded, poorly performing inner city public schools should be punished by having their funding cut still further – if not instantly shut down and transformed into privately run charter schools.
The Gonski Report and Public Funding of Private Schools
In Australia, in contrast, the mainstream media is far more willing to look at factual evidence, i.e. what statistical studies actually reveal. The issue of school privatization was all over the Australian news last week owing to the release of the Gonski Report. The Australian government commissioned prominent businessman and philanthropist David Gonski to undertake an analysis of why student academic achievement is declining in Australia. The report’s conclusions were unequivocal: 1) student achievement in well-funded government and private schools meets or exceeds international standards, 2) by age 15, students from poorly funded schools are more than two years behind their well-off contemporaries, 3) the only way to improve academic achievement in low socioeconomic schools is to increase per-pupil funding to the level of well-funded (government and private) schools, and 4) Australia has no hope of maintaining its global economic dominance with a large uneducated underclass.
Funding Education: An Economic Investment
Given that similar studies in the US, Canada and New Zealand show that students in poorly funded schools perform worse than their counterparts in well-funded schools, these findings and conclusions seem eminently logical. Mind you Gonski isn’t some bleeding heart liberal urging better funding for low socioeconomic schools because of his progressive ideological beliefs. This is a prominent industrialist asserting that improving the academic achievement of all Aussie children is an investment in Australia’s economic future.
Australia’s mainstream press was quick to pick up on number four – the importance of educational reform to the country’s economic future. An editorial in the August 27th Sydney Morning Herald is an excellent example. Recipe for Education Apartheid starts out “The achievement gaps between rich and poor exposed by Gonski are nothing less than a national scandal.” It’s typical of the commentary I read in a number of papers and watched on Australian TV. Can you imagine reading something like that in the New York Times? It wouldn’t happen.
Could you even imagine the Obama administration ever funding a Gonski-type study? Forget it. That wouldn’t happen, either. The President, along with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, supports an aggressive school privatization agenda and is too busy pressuring states to transfer even more money from public to unproven charter schools. As with most of Obama’s neoliberal agenda, there is big money in privatizing public programs and transferring taxpayer dollars to private corporate coffers. We’ve already seen it with his giant insurance and drug company welfare program known as Obamacare and with his rapid “corporatization” of the US military, resulting in the transfer of trillions of taxpayer dollars to dubious private contractors like Blackwater and Halliburton.
American Readers Abandon the Pro-Corporate Dailies
Even if the US government (or one or more states) did undertake their own Gonski study, we could count on the mainstream media to bury it. American academics have performed numerous studies that definitively link public school funding with achievement, as well as documenting low academic performance in low socioeconomic students who attend charter schools. None of this receive mainstream coverage. The mainstream media is too busy pushing their pro-privatization agenda to care about the evidence.
It pleases me immensely to see the American public wising up to to the pro-Wall Street propaganda peddled by the corporate media. Big city newspapers are dying like flies, as former readers flock to the Internet to find out what’s really happening in the world. I call this poetic justice.
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, Things That Aren't What They Seem
In an scorching indictment of Obama’s first four years as president, Black Panther veteran Larry Pinkney (former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa) weighs in on the betrayal of African Americans by Obama and the black “intelligentia.”
At his website Intrepid Report, Pinkney castigates Black America’s so-called intelligentsia for placing “pigmentation and hollow pride” above principles and selflessness.
According to Pinkney, “They have betrayed (and continue to betray) the masses of everyday ordinary Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow people in this nation and throughout Mother Earth. What they have done and who they are must never be forgotten.”
The article continues: “The Black intelligentsia (Pinkney identifies Cornell West and Angela Davis by name) knew, or should have known, better than many, that any person, irrespective of color or gender, who rises to become the head (i.e., chief executive) of the U.S. Empire would not hesitate to:
1) Give trillions of dollars of the people’s money to corporate banksters and other Wall Street robber barons.
2) Federally eliminate the much needed single payer universal health care option.
3) Militarily bomb Africa.
4) Murder women, men and children with incessant predator drone missile strikes upon other sovereign nations.
5) Utilize a self-legitimized ‘kill list’ to commit extrajudicial murders of Americans and non-Americans alike, without the bother of legitimate due process.
6) Sign into law the draconian NDAA—which calls for the indefinite detention in this nation of U.S. citizens—without charge, trial, judge, jury, or legal defense.
7) Continue operating the torture chamber at the U.S. gulag known as Guantanamo.”
Later he writes, “Notwithstanding his double-speak political rhetoric, Barack Obama has indeed ‘redistributed the wealth’ of this nation. He has massively redistributed the wealth from the public sectors, the dwindling middle classes, and the poor to the super-rich corporate/military elite—which is a fact which cannot possibly escape the awareness of the Black intelligentsia and which is precisely why he was overwhelmingly supported by the corporate elite of Lockheed, Goldman Sachs, and the assorted and sordid banking and pharmaceutical multinationals of Wall Street, etc.”
Read more here.
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, Mind Control and Disinformation
George Washington has written a great post – Why Do Progressive Liberals Fall for Humanitarian War? – on Zero Hedge. It’s quite an an interesting site dedicated to “widening the scope of information available to the investing public.” All posts are submitted under fictitious names. In general the perspective offered contrasts drastically with the mainstream business press.
George Washington makes some great points, starting with reminders of warnings from US founding fathers regarding the tyranny of standing armies and from liberal economists (like Galbraith and Stiglitz) that large military budgets destroy our economy and help the rich at the expense of everyone else.
- Suicide bombings have never been uniquely Islamic and more than 95% occur in response to foreign occupation.
- Regime change (in Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc) is a very old strategy pursued by the neoconservatives who wrote The Project for a New American Century.
- In Syria we are fighting on the same side as the al Qaeda terrorists who comprise the majority of the Syrian opposition.
He finishes off with a discussion of the role of the mainstream media – which starts back in 1917 with Edward Bernays, Woodrow Wilson and the birth of the public relations industry – in hoodwinking liberals into taking a position on foreign military intervention that is contrary to their basic value system.
The article is well researched and has extensive links to supporting documentation.
Read more here
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media
RT reports on a recent Gallup poll showing that only 20% of the public trusts the mainstream news, owing to bias and bungled reporting and the rise of citizen journalism (i.e blogs like this). They quote one viewer who says something’s terribly wrong when there are major revolutions occurring across the globe – and the main headline on all the mainstream outlets concerns the break-up of Tom Cruise’s marriage.
If video won’t play go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLW_VOciufY
“Bias and bungled reporting on US news networks are behind plummeting audience numbers, according to the Gallup Poll. RT’s Marina Portnaya looks at a cutting-edge project that’s encouraging ordinary Americans to drive their country’s news agenda instead.”
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, The Wars in the Middle East
Riad Farid Hijab is the former agriculture minister President Assad recently appointed as Syria’s new prime minister. Syrians went to the polls to elect a new parliament last month, and Assad has asked Hijab to form a new government. In Syria, as in Russia, the position of prime minister is mainly administrative, with the president holding ultimate authority as head of state.
Until yesterday, I was totally unaware that Syria held parliamentary elections last month, the first elections in the country’s history in which non-Baathist opposition parties were allowed to stand candidates in all provinces. The election was held under Syria’s revised constitution, which for the first time allows non-Baathist parties to serve in government. Although Hillary Clinton and other western leaders have had a lot to say about Syria in the last few months, I can’t recall any of them mentioning the Syrian elections. It must have slipped their minds.
Participation of Opposition Parties in the Elections
According to Alakbhar English, which offers the most comprehensive English coverage of the elections, the hopelessly divided Syrian opposition approached the parliamentary elections in three totally divergent ways. One group called for entering the parliamentary elections, based on their view that it would increase the public profile of opposition parties. Two parties that took this position – the People’s Will Party and the SSNP (Popular Front for Change and Liberation) – fielded 45 candidates.
The second group, consisting mainly of the Syrian Nation Council (SNC), the Building the Syrian State movement and similar opposition parities and figures, called for a complete boycott of the elections on the basis that participating would mean compromising with the regime and recognizing its legitimacy.
The third group, which calls themselves the “Muhammad Brigades,” belongs to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). They vowed to carry out assassinations against candidates who participated in the elections. In a FSA video released online the stated, “If they do not withdraw, we will make them withdraw by force.”
Candidates from the National Progressive Front (NPF), the only opposition party recognized prior to the constitutional reforms, stood in the May 7th elections as the National Unity coalition. In past elections, the NPF included the parties of Syria’s workers and farmers. Yet previously no party other than the Baath Party was allowed to field candidates in all Syrian provinces. The Communists and the Syrian Social Nationalist (SSNP) parties also had a modest showing in last month’s elections, as they are old established parties, despite the prior restriction on their ability to field candidates. Other opposition parties, many of which are less than a year old, had far less funding for advertising and faced a major uphill battle in getting their principles and goals in front of the Syrian public.
A Political Loss for Assad
Karl Sharo, who covered the election returns for Alakbhar English feels the elections, which were intended to bolster support for the Assad government, did just the opposite. The turn-out for the elections was a pitiful 51%. This related in part to the SNC boycott and, in part, to the impracticality of setting up polling stations in areas of active conflict, such as Hama and Homs. Assad’s Baathist party reportedly won 183 seats out of 250, giving it a commanding 73% share of the new parliament. Crucially, none of the new parties that were established in the lead up to the elections managed to win a single seat.
Sharo feels that the timing of the elections, while opposition strongholds like Hama and Homs remain active combat zones, suggests Assad has already accepted Syria as a divided country. He sees this, along with the low turn-out, the abysmal showing of reform parties and widespread allegations of electoral fraud by opposition candidates who previously subscribed to his reforms, as a clear sign of Assad’s weakening political influence.
Given the parallel, equally dysfunctional process operating in the Syrian National Council (SNC), the umbrella opposition group seeking to oust Assad, Sharo is troubled by the current political vacuum in Syria. He describes the current disarray in the SNC, sparked by the reelection of Burhan Ghalioun as leader, and which ultimately culminated in his resignation. Sharo feels the sectarian infighting reflects growing frustration among youthful opposition protestors with the SNC’s inability to transform their organizing efforts into political gains.
The SNC: a Creation of the Council on Foreign Relations
This might relate to the rarely reported fact that the SNC is a creation of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a highly secretive elite roundtable group founded in 1921 by the Rockefeller family. According to Charlie Skelton, one of the few “mainstream” reporters to cover the recent Bilderberg conference in Chantilly Virginia, Basma Kodmani, a SNC co-founder and executive committee member, is also a member of the CFR. She was an invited guest at last week’s Bilderberg (another secretive roundtable elite) conference, as well as the 2008 Bilderberg Group meeting.
Skelton refers readers to the Syrian National Council website, which indicates the SNC is a non profit public policy research organization registered in the District of Colombia and headquartered in Washington DC. Sounds to me like a puppet government in waiting to oversee a US/NATO occupation of Syria – just like the ones the Bush administration installed to oversee the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, Medical Censorship
Nightmare Nuclear Waste
If film fails to play, go to free link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv73MfgZWdg
Click on the CC button at lower right to see English subtitles.
In the face of growing international concern about an impending nuclear holocaust at Fukushima Reactor 4 (see Fukushima Reactor 4), an excellent 2009 French/German film (with English subtitles) about nuclear waste has been re-released and is making the rounds of cyberspace. This is truly a life and death issue, owing to the research evidence linking increasing radionucleotide levels in the environment and the cancer epidemic. Important facts come out in this film that the nuclear industry and government are doing their best to conceal:
1. The whole issue of nuclear waste is characterized by secrecy, cover-up, lies and deception by the nuclear industry and pro-nuclear governments (including the extremely pro-nuclear Obama administration).
2. As the world waits with baited breath for the nuclear industry to come up with a permanent solution for deadly waste that will take 100,000 years to decontaminate, massive amounts have been dumped in the ocean, released to the air or stored in leaky containers that are contaminating groundwater and rivers. In La Hague France a nuclear energy company called Areva is releasing it into the air and into the English Channel through a drain pipe d water or open air storage pools. In La Hague France a nuclear energy company is releasing it into the English Channel through a drain pipe (as of 2009, when this film was made).
3. The US and Russian government are covering up the devastating health impacts of the world’s two most contaminated nuclear sites: the Hanford nuclear reservation in Eastern Washington and the Chelyabinsk region in the former Soviet Union. The latter experienced massive contamination when a nuclear waste dump at the Mayak nuclear facility exploded in 1957. The very first nuclear disaster in history was covered up by both the Soviets and, at the behest of America’s fledgling nuclear power industry, the CIA
4. There has never been full disclosure about the 100,000 tons of nuclear waste dumped into the ocean prior to 1993 (as the film was made in 2009, this number excludes massive quantities dumped into the ocean at Fukushima), when the practice was banned by international treaty. Nor has there been any effort to investigate where these radionucleotides ended up or whether they have contaminated the food chain.
4. The nuclear industry – and government – are willfully ignoring the “no threshold model” doctors use to evaluate cumulative radiation risk when they assure us that occasional releases from nuclear power plants are no more harmful than a “transatlantic jet flight” (due to higher radiation levels in the outer atmosphere) Under this model every exposure – no matter how small – increases your risk of developing cancer or having children with birth defects.
Is the Columbia River Contaminated?
As a former twenty-year Washington state resident, I was particularly concerned about the segment on Hanford, the desert site where the Manhattan Project secretly produced the plutonium used in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, as well as the vast majority of plutonium for America’s cold war arsenal. Hanford has stored most of its nuclear waste in 170 temporary underground concrete tanks. , which were meant to be temporary until a permanent storage solution could be found. Beginning in 2001 the tanks, which were only built to last twenty years, were found to be leaking radionuclotides into the groundwater adjacent to the Columbia River.
According to the US Department of Energy, which is responsible for the Hanford clean-up, there are no nuclear contaminants in the Columbia River. It’s a claim that’s virtually impossible for independent scientists to verify, as anyone trespassing on the Hanford reservation is subject to arrest and prosecution. The filmmakers accompanied an activist who entered the reservation secretly via the river, which passes through one of Hanford’s most contaminated areas, to take soil and water samples. French scientists at CRIIRAD (Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur la Radioactivité) who tested the samples found high levels of tritium (exceeding the drinking water standard), Iodine 129, Technetium 99 and Europium 152. The film also talks about an independent study local activists did in 2002, in which the majority of Columbia River fish they sampled contained high levels of Strontium 90.
In addition to the leaking tanks, CRIIRAD scientist believe there is a permanent bed of radioactive sediment at the bottom of the Columbia, owing to the many years Hanford discharged nuclear waste directly to the river.
The People in Muslimovo Who Are Waiting to Die
The situation of Russian farmers living adjacent to the Techa River Chelyabinsk is far more tragic. After more than fifty years the river, which locals use to water their crops and pastures (because they have no other option) remains contaminated with high levels of Cesium 137, tritium, Strontium 90 and Plutonium 239 and 240 – as do vegetables and milk produced in the region.
The residents are all fully aware of the bleak future they face, as they watch family, neighbors and even their children and grandchildren succumb to cancer. Instead of forcibly evacuating them, the only action taken by the Soviet and Russian government is to give them yearly blood tests. The residents talk about being offered 20,000 Euros (about $25,000) to abandon their land and homes and voluntarily relocate – a paltry sum that will support them a few months at most. The government also tells them not to eat locally grown food. However with incomes averaging 80 euros a month, eating food brought in from elsewhere is also an unaffordable luxury. As one local woman states, “We have no choice but to stay here until we die.”