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Japan pushing on with military reform despite fiery suicide bid

Source: Agence France-Presse

Japan's government will press ahead with divisive plans to loosen restrictions on its military, a top government spokesman said Monday, despite widespread public anger and a protester's horrific suicide bid.


The dramatic suicide attempt was widely discussed on social media in both English and Japanese, with numerous videos and photographs posted by onlookers.


The government's chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga on Monday refused to comment on the protester's suicide attempt, which he said was a police matter, but confirmed that the cabinet would push ahead Tuesday with plans to change the interpretation of part of the pacifist constitution.


The liberal Mainichi newspaper said at the weekend that 58 percent of voters are opposed, while the Nikkei business daily, in its poll published Monday, said 50 percent of respondents were against the change.


The suicide bid received scant coverage in the mainstream media -- which is sometimes criticised as servile -- with none of the national newspapers using a picture in their short reports.


Read more: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Japan_pushing_on_with_military_reform_despite_fiery_suicide_bid_999.html

*WARNING! GRAPHIC!* Man sets himself on fire protesting Abe's militaristic policies

Apparently he survived and is in the hospital.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a far-right neocon who is taking the country down a dangerous path.

Story in LBN: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1014836224
The man is currently in hospital with serious burns after being extinguished by firefighters soon after his extraordinary act.

Before his self-immolation the man used a megaphone to vent his anger at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's desire to reinterpret Japan's strict pacifist constitution.

Opponents claim the move renounces Article 9 of the Japanese constitution which was introduced in the wake of World War Two.

The Dark Knight of the Soul


The Dark Knight of the Soul
For some, meditation has become more curse than cure. Willoughby Britton wants to know why.
Tomas Rocha Jun 25 2014, 8:45 AM ET

Set back on quiet College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, sits a dignified, four story, 19th-century house that belongs to Dr. Willoughby Britton. Inside, it is warm, spacious, and organized. The shelves are stocked with organic foods. A solid wood dining room table seats up to 12. Plants are ubiquitous. Comfortable pillows are never far from reach. The basement—with its own bed, living space, and private bathroom—often hosts a rotating cast of yogis and meditation teachers. Britton’s own living space and office are on the second floor. The real sanctuary, however, is on the third floor, where people come from all over to rent rooms, work with Britton, and rest. But they're not there to restore themselves with meditation—they're recovering from it.


Britton, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior, works at the Brown University Medical School. She receives regular phone calls, emails, and letters from people around the world in various states of impairment. Most of them worry no one will believe—let alone understand—their stories of meditation-induced affliction. Her investigation of this phenomenon, called "The Dark Night Project," is an effort to document, analyze, and publicize accounts of the adverse effects of contemplative practices.


Fisher also emphasizes two categories that may cause dark nights to surface. The first results from "incorrect or misguided practice that could be avoided," while the second includes "those [experiences] which were necessary and expected stages of practices." In other words, while meditators can better avoid difficult experiences under the guidance of seasoned teachers, there are cases where such experiences are useful signs of progress in contemplative development. Distinguishing between the two, however, remains a challenge.


In part because university administrators and research funders prefer simple and less controversial titles, she has chosen to rename the Dark Night Project the "Varieties of Contemplative Experience."


The identities of Britton's subjects are kept secret and coded anonymously. To find interviewees, however, her team contacted well-known and highly esteemed teachers, such as Jack Kornfield at California's Spirit Rock and Joseph Goldstein at the Insight Meditation Center in Massachusetts. Like many other experienced teachers they spoke to, Goldstein and Kornfield recalled instances during past meditation retreats where students became psychologically incapacitated. Some were hospitalized. Says Britton, "there was one person Jack told me about [who] never recovered."


First Nations, first dibs, says Canada’s Supreme Court

Source: Grist

With just one court ruling, the situation of pipelines in Canada has changed in a big way.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on a 14-year-old battle over logging rights on Tsilhqot’in Nation territory in British Columbia. Its decision says that any First Nation land that was never formally ceded to the Canadian government cannot be developed without consent of those First Nations who have a claim to it.

To say that this has huge implications for the Canadian oil industry is an understatement. The only thing that stands between Alberta, the province that is the hub of the country’s oil boom, and the Pacific Ocean, which connects Canada to the lucrative oil markets of Asia, is unceded First Nations territory. The Northern Gateway pipeline, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved earlier this week, runs along a route that First Nations have already begun blockading, a full 18 months before the pipeline is expected to begin construction.


There was also an unexpected vote a few days ago by the Vancouver City Council that the city — some of the most valuable real estate in the world — is located on unceded territory. The council declared that it would work with representatives from First Nations to determine “appropriate protocols” for conducting city business.


Read more: http://grist.org/climate-energy/first-nations-first-dibs-says-canadas-supreme-court/

TEPCO 'breaks vow,' refuses more compensation for Fukushima nuclear victims

Source: Asahi Shimbun

The operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has rejected requests for additional compensation from residents forced to evacuate because of the nuclear disaster, defying a government mediation center, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.


“Its response substantively represents the absolute refusal of the proposal,” Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba commented the following day. “It does not understand the pain of victims at all.”

Because TEPCO has said it would honor compromise settlements proposed by the mediation center, Baba criticized the plant operator for “breaking its vow.”


TEPCO also took issue with the dispute resolution center’s argument that the utility should provide additional compensation because evacuees “are currently living in an extremely unstable condition where they cannot see any future prospects.”


Read more: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201406270055

Ukraine shows uselessness of NATO nukes in Europe


Ukraine shows uselessness of NATO nukes in Europe
Tom Sauer

Many people in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands wonder why there are still US tactical nuclear weapons on their soil. These B-61 nuclear gravity bombs were stationed in Europe during the Cold War to deter the Soviet threat, but while this may (or may not) have once made sense, most pundits nowadays agree that at least from a military point of view, the weapons are irrelevant.

Or should I say "agreed?" Russian President Vladimir Putin's expansionist policy over recent months is not of much help to those who would like to see the B-61 bombs withdrawn. “Prospects for nuclear reductions in Europe are bleak," as Polish expert Lukasz Kulesa recently wrote. Even before the crisis in Ukraine, Eastern European NATO members, and especially the Baltic states, resisted withdrawal. The issue was at the heart of the internal deliberations of the NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture Review in 2011-2012. At that time, Germany asked for the warheads to be withdrawn, while the Baltic states (supported by France) preferred the status quo. Others held in-between positions.

With the crisis in Ukraine, opponents of withdrawal appear at first glance to have been right. Russia's invasion of Crimea and its provocations in the eastern part of Ukraine prove that the threat has not gone, and that Russia should be contained and deterred, just like during the Cold War—or so the argument goes. The deterrent should include a nuclear component, some argue, preferably as close as possible to the Russian border. For those in Western Europe who had already been skeptical of the idea of withdrawal out of solidarity with their eastern neighbors, the issue is dead.

They may be wrong. The cost-benefit calculus over whether to keep these Cold War weapons in Europe has not fundamentally changed, even after the crisis in Ukraine. In fact, the only political argument of the last couple of years in favor of keeping the nuclear warheads deployed—that doing so was necessary to reassure the Baltic States—has failed dramatically with the recent crisis. Despite the remaining US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, the Baltic states do not feel reassured at all. Though they are NATO members, protected by the organization’s security guarantee, they constantly seek clues that the guarantee will actually be honored if their territory is attacked. Apparently, these three states are unconvinced that NATO's nuclear umbrella "works."

The reaction by the West to the crisis and to the demands of the Baltic States shows that these nuclear weapons are indeed irrelevant.


The EPA carbon plan: Coal loses, but nuclear doesn't win - by Mark Cooper


The EPA carbon plan: Coal loses, but nuclear doesn't win
Mark Cooper

The claims and counterclaims about EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standards have filled the air: It will boost nuclear. It will expand renewables. It promotes energy efficiency. It will kill coal. It changes everything. It accomplishes almost nothing.

Evaluating the impact of the so-called Clean Power Plan requires a clear view of how the new rule will work. The plan centers on performance standards, which have yielded effective outcomes in other energy areas—such as appliance efficiency standards and fuel economy standards for light-duty vehicles. It sets a moderate, mid-term target for carbon reductions, but allows for flexibility because it does not dictate the use of specific technologies or products. States are allowed to design programs in response to local conditions.

The EPA plan picks a loser: coal. It does not, however, pick winners among the low-carbon options available. It does not offer much in the way of sweeteners for any specific technology. Assuming that states generally adhere to the prime directive of public utility resource acquisition—choosing the lowest-cost approach—the proposed rule will not alter the dismal prospects of nuclear power, which will therefore play no role in the reduction of carbon emissions from power plants.

EPA’s analysis of the proposed carbon pollution guidelines reflects this reality. EPA forecasts for nuclear power are flat-lined, which means that other resources—including energy efficiency, natural gas, wind, and solar—will carry the full weight of carbon reductions.


Obama Said to Ready Sanctions on Russian Industries

Source: Bloomberg

The U.S. is preparing sanctions aimed at specific areas of the Russian economy, including energy and technology, as the Obama administration readies the next steps to pressure Russia over the Ukraine crisis, according to three people briefed on the plans.

The sanctions would apply to technology used to explore, produce, transport, or deliver natural gas, crude and their refined products, according to two of the people, who asked for anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the deliberations.

Further U.S. action may await the results of a European Union summit scheduled to begin tomorrow. President Barack Obama is counting on support from the EU, which has deeper economic ties with Russia than the U.S., to make any wider sanctions more effective.


While some EU members have expressed concern about the impact of new sanctions on their economies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament today that broader penalties against Russia are “back on the agenda” if progress isn’t made to end the Ukrainian conflict. Germany is Russia’s largest trading partner.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers are preparing to run newspaper advertisements tomorrow in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, warning that more sanctions risk harming U.S. workers and businesses, said a person familiar with the plans, who asked not to be identified to discuss private deliberations.


Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-25/obama-said-to-ready-sanctions-on-russian-industries.html

NRC raises risk significance for 2013 Arkansas nuclear plant accident

Source: Reuters

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said on Tuesday that after a series of investigations, it has declared a 2013 incident at an Arkansas nuclear power plant to be of substantial safety significance.

An industrial accident at Entergy Corp's Arkansas Nuclear One plant in Russellville killed one worker and injured eight others on March 31 last year, when a generator fell as it was being moved out of the turbine building.

The accident was initially classified as an unusual event, the lowest of four emergency classifications, because the incident caused a small explosion inside electrical cabinets.

The incident caused unit 2 of the plant to automatically shut down when a reactor coolant pump tripped due to vibrations caused by the heavy component hitting the turbine building floor, damaging electrical cables and equipment, leading to a loss of off-site power.


Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/25/utilities-operations-entergy-arkansas-co-idUSL4N0P53SQ20140625

Palisades Nuclear Plant's actions 'insufficient' to correct chilled work environment in Security

Source: MLive.com

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant did not "demonstrate a strong commitment to effectively improve" the safety culture in the "chilled work environment" in its security department, according to a letter the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent June 20 to plant management.

The NRC acknowledged that the plant, which is owned by Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc., had completed the steps outlined in its original action plan. But it isn't satisfied that results have addressed the root cause of the underlying problem.


Entergy has 30 days to provide its response detailing further steps the company intends to take to address the problem, according to the letter.

The NRC said it would be discussing the results of its inspections at Thursday's public open house in South Haven and requested that Palisades officials be able to address the following at that meeting:
• The root cause of the chilled work environment within the security department
• The plant's progress in addressing the "safety conscious work environment concerns"
• Any additional actions planned and/or implemented to address the problem


Read more: http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2014/06/palisades_nuclear_plants_actio.html

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