Playing Nuclear Chicken in Kiev

Playing Nuclear Chicken in Kiev

pacificfreepress

by Robert Parry – Consortium News

Ready for Nuclear War over Ukraine?

Nazi symbols on helmets worn by members of 

Ukraine’s Azov battalion. (As filmed by a 
Norwegian film crew and shown on German TV.)
A senior Ukrainian official is urging the West to risk a nuclear conflagration in support of a “full-scale war” with Russia that he says authorities in Kiev are now seeking, another sign of the extremism that pervades the year-old, U.S.-backed regime in Kiev.
During a recent visit to Canada, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told CBC Radio that “Everybody is afraid of fighting with a nuclear state. We are not anymore, in Ukraine — we’ve lost so many people of ours, we’ve lost so much of our territory.”
Prystaiko added, “However dangerous it sounds, we have to stop [Russian President Vladimir Putin] somehow. For the sake of the Russian nation as well, not just for the Ukrainians and Europe.” The deputy foreign minister announced that Kiev is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia and wants the West to supply lethal weapons and training so the fight can be taken to Russia.
“What we expect from the world is that the world will stiffen up in the spine a little,” Prystaiko said.
Yet, what is perhaps most remarkable about Prystaiko’s “Dr. Strangelove” moment is that it produced almost no reaction in the West. You have a senior Ukrainian official saying that the world should risk nuclear war over a civil conflict in Ukraine between its west, which favors closer ties to Europe, and its east, which wants to maintain its historic relationship with Russia.
Why should such a pedestrian dispute justify the possibility of vaporizing millions of human beings and conceivably ending life on the planet? Yet, instead of working out a plan for a federalized structure in Ukraine or even allowing people in the east to vote on whether they want to remain under the control of the Kiev regime, the world is supposed to risk nuclear annihilation.
But therein lies one of the under-reported stories of the Ukraine crisis: There is a madness to the Kiev regime that the West doesn’t want to recognize because to do so would upend the dominant narrative of “our” good guys vs. Russia’s bad guys. If we begin to notice that the right-wing regime in Kiev is crazy and brutal, we might also start questioning the “Russian aggression” mantra.
According to the Western “group think,” the post-coup Ukrainian government “shares our values” by favoring democracy and modernity, while the rebellious ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine are “Moscow’s minions” representing dark forces of backwardness and violence, personified by Russia’s “irrational” President Putin. In this view, the conflict is a clash between the forces of good and evil where there is no space for compromise.
Yet, there is a craziness to this “group think” that is highlighted by Prystaiko’s comments. Not only does the Kiev regime display a cavalier attitude about dragging the world into a nuclear catastrophe but it also has deployed armed neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists to wage a dirty war in the east that has involved torture and death-squad activities.

Not Since Adolf Hitler

No European government, since Adolf Hitler’s Germany, has seen fit to dispatch Nazi storm troopers to wage war on a domestic population, but the Kiev regime has and has done so knowingly. Yet, across the West’s media/political spectrum, there has been a studious effort to cover up this reality, even to the point of ignoring facts that have been well established.

The New York Times and the Washington Post have spearheaded this journalistic malfeasance by putting on blinders so as not to see Ukraine’s neo-Nazis, such as when describing the key role played by the Azov battalion in the war against ethnic Russians in the east.
On Feb. 20, in a report from Mariupol, the Post cited the Azov battalion’s importance in defending the port city against a possible rebel offensive. Correspondent Karoun Demirjian wrote:
“Petro Guk, the commander of the Azov battalion’s reinforcement operations in Mariupol, said in an interview that the battalion is ‘getting ready for’ street-to-street combat in the city. The Azov battalion, now a regiment in the Ukrainian army, is known as one of the fiercest fighting forces­ in the pro-Kiev operation.
“But … it has pulled away from the front lines on a scheduled rest-and-retraining rotation, Guk said, leaving the Ukrainian army — a less capable force, in his opinion — in its place. His advice to residents of Mariupol is to get ready for the worst.
“‘If it is your home, you should be ready to fight for it, and accept that if the fight is for your home, you must defend it,’ he said, when asked whether residents should prepare to leave. Some are ready to heed that call, as a matter of patriotic duty.”
The Post’s stirring words fit with the Western media’s insistent narrative and its refusal to include meaningful background about the Azov battalion, which is known for marching under Nazi banners, displaying the Swastika and painting SS symbols on its helmets.
The New York Times filed a similarly disingenuous article from Mariupol on Feb. 11, depicting the ethnic Russian rebels as barbarians at the gate with the Azov battalion defending civilization. Though providing much color and detail – and quoting an Azov leader prominently – the Times left out the salient and well-known fact that the Azov battalion is composed of neo-Nazis.
But this inconvenient truth – that neo-Nazis have been central to Kiev’s “self-defense forces” from last February’s coup to the present – would disrupt the desired propaganda message to American readers. So the New York Times just ignores the Nazism and refers to Azov as a “volunteer unit.”
Yet, this glaring omission is prima facie proof of journalistic bias. There’s no way that the editors of the Post and Times don’t know that the presence of neo-Nazis is newsworthy. Indeed, there’s a powerful irony in this portrayal of Nazis as the bulwark of Western civilization against the Russian hordes from the East. It was, after all, the Russians who broke the back of Nazism in World War II as Hitler sought to subjugate Europe and destroy Western civilization as we know it.
That the Nazis are now being depicted as defenders of Western ideals has to be the ultimate man-bites-dog story. But it goes essentially unreported in the New York Times and Washington Post as does the inconvenient presence of other Nazis holding prominent positions in the post-coup regime, including Andriy Parubiy, who was the military commander of the Maidan protests and served as the first national security chief of the Kiev regime. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass.”]

The Nazi Reality

Regarding the Azov battalion, the Post and Times have sought to bury the Nazi reality, but both have also acknowledged it in passing. For instance, on Aug. 10, 2014, a Times’ article mentioned the neo-Nazi nature of the Azov battalion in the last three paragraphs of a lengthy story on another topic.

“The fighting for Donetsk has taken on a lethal pattern: The regular army bombards separatist positions from afar, followed by chaotic, violent assaults by some of the half-dozen or so paramilitary groups surrounding Donetsk who are willing to plunge into urban combat,” the Times reported.

“Officials in Kiev say the militias and the army coordinate their actions, but the militias, which count about 7,000 fighters, are angry and, at times, uncontrollable. One known as Azov, which took over the village of Marinka, flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Whites Out Ukraine’s Brownshirts.”]Similarly, the Post published a lead story last Sept. 12 describing the Azov battalion in flattering terms, saving for the last three paragraphs the problematic reality that the fighters are fond of displaying the Swastika:

“In one room, a recruit had emblazoned a swastika above his bed. But Kirt [a platoon leader] … dismissed questions of ideology, saying that the volunteers — many of them still teenagers — embrace symbols and espouse extremist notions as part of some kind of ‘romantic’ idea.”
Other news organizations have been more forthright about this Nazi reality. For instance, the conservative London Telegraph published an article by correspondent Tom Parfitt, who wrote: “Kiev’s use of volunteer paramilitaries to stamp out the Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk ‘people’s republics’… should send a shiver down Europe’s spine.
“Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming. The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites.”
Based on interviews with militia members, the Telegraph reported that some of the fighters doubted the Holocaust, expressed admiration for Hitler and acknowledged that they are indeed Nazis.
Andriy Biletsky, the Azov commander, “is also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly,” according to the Telegraph article which quoted a commentary by Biletsky as declaring: “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”
The Telegraph questioned Ukrainian authorities in Kiev who acknowledged that they were aware of the extremist ideologies of some militias but insisted that the higher priority was having troops who were strongly motivated to fight.
Azov fighters even emblazon the Swastika and the SS insignia on their helmets. NBC News reported: “Germans were confronted with images of their country’s dark past … when German public broadcaster ZDF showed video of Ukrainian soldiers with Nazi symbols on their helmets in its evening newscast.”
But it’s now clear that far-right extremism is not limited to the militias sent to kill ethnic Russians in the east or to the presence of a few neo-Nazi officials who were rewarded for their roles in last February’s coup. The fanaticism is present at the center of the Kiev regime, including its deputy foreign minister who speaks casually about a “full-scale war” with nuclear-armed Russia.

An Orwellian World

In a “normal world,” U.S. and European journalists would explain to their readers how insane all this is; how a dispute over the pace for implementing a European association agreement while also maintaining some economic ties with Russia could have been worked out within the Ukrainian political system, that it was not grounds for a U.S.-backed “regime change” last February, let alone a civil war, and surely not nuclear war.

But these are clearly not normal times. To a degree that I have not seen in my 37 years covering Washington, there is a totalitarian quality to the West’s current “group think” about Ukraine with virtually no one who “matters” deviating from the black-and-white depiction of good guys in Kiev vs. bad guys in Donetsk and Moscow.
And, if you want to see how the “objective” New York Times dealt with demonstrations in Moscow and other Russian cities protesting last year’s coup against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, read Sunday’s dispatch by the Times’ neocon national security correspondent Michael R. Gordon, best known as the lead writer with Judith Miller on the infamous “aluminum tube” story in 2002, helping to set the stage for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Here’s how Gordon explained the weekend’s anti-coup protests: “The official narrative as reported by state-run television in Russia, and thus accepted by most Russians, is that the uprising in Ukraine last year was an American-engineered coup, aided by Ukrainian Nazis, and fomented to overthrow Mr. Yanukovych, a pro-Russian president.”
In other words, the Russians are being brainwashed while the readers of the New York Times are getting their information from an independent news source that would never be caught uncritically distributing government propaganda, another example of the upside-down Orwellian world that Americans now live in. [See, for example, “NYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop.”]
In our land of the free, there is no “official narrative” and the U.S. government would never stoop to propaganda. Everyone just happily marches in lockstep behind the conventional wisdom of a faultless Kiev regime that “shares our values” and can do no wrong — while ignoring the brutality and madness of coup leaders who deploy Nazis and invite a nuclear holocaust for the world.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

RAGE—because there is no rage

[The following was sent by a reader of the site.  I sympathize with Al, but, for a man with his varied political interests, one would think that his disillusionment with the left would have set in during Obama’s first term.  I have two suggestions–stop reading anyone related to the London School, and look for different sources (Chossudofsky banned me from Global Research years ago).  You have been officially marginalized.  You will have zero chance of being heard, unless you manage to arrange a very public heckling arrest.  If that happens, let me know and I will let others know.    Peter]

RAGE—because there is no rage

-al perry

NEWS FROM THE STREET #2
(february 16, 2015)
wow…what a night…i found out a few days ago that world-renowned leftist and co-editor of new left review (a publication i subscribed to for 10 years) tariq ali was to appear at a bookstore on the lower east side…i’m a long time fan but have never met him or heard him speak in public…ever since 2000 or 2001 i’ve occasionally provided links from my band’s website to his essays and articles…one particular article he wrote, a scathing critique of obama’s first term, i must have read over 10 times…so i was excited to hear he’d be in new york today….
i packed a bottle of water, a used marcuse book to read on the journey, and a whole bunch of cd’s of my, now defunct, folk rock band, “losing touch”…our cd was entitled”with time” and was released in 2002…i have quite a few left gathering dust and figured i can hand some out for free to friends i may make, including possibly tariq, along the way…my band and i performed a few gigs in manhattan and new jersey at the time but i hated performing (i’m the singer and acoustic guitarist) so we got nowhere…well, actually we were played several times on a commercial rock station in n.j., wdha…quite a feat for an unsigned band…we also received kudos from some big names like neal casal (of the chris robinson brotherhood), evan dando of the lemonheads, and even actress ally sheedy…i know this may seem like i’m trying to brag or something, but i’m not…i feel i have to get in a quick bio because many on the left, it seems, think i’m some kind of informant…or maybe agent provocateur…nothing could be further from the truth…true, i do not disguise my rage but a cold hard look at today’s political climate should have ANY sensitive individual GOING INSANE!…
 i’m a lifelong chronic depressive and anti-depressants, and even medical marijuana!, have unpleasant effects on me – they don’t work…in 2005 i moved to tucson, arizona and became more of a recluse…luckily my mother moved out there too so by the time i left and returned to the east coast my social circle was composed of 2 people…3 if you count me…i had to leave tucson – the police didn’t like my one man protesting with my guitar…they even locked me up a couple of times…i decided to protest in the rich part of town…one time they followed me with a crime chopper!…
well, i returned to the east coast, after some failed attempts at trying to feel better in n.j. and killorglin, ireland…the state i was raised in, n.j., was way too expensive for a guy like me to live in…i had to stop working in 2010…i couldn’t function even as a night security guard…food stamps and family charity – the feds won’t give me cash assistance and i’ve been waiting for years now for disability assistance but nada…i guess they don’t like radicals…having an outstanding warrant for my arrest in the state of arizona, i guess, doesn’t help…it’s only a misdemeanor so it’s not extradictable…i refused to leave the entrance of a church because they locked the door on me and wouldn’t tell me why they wouldn’t let me in…the police told me to move along but i refused until i received a proper reply…shockingly, it was not forthcoming!…the religious hypocrites would rather have me in jail than answer any questions!…i didn’t show up at the trial…the state already wanted me badly and i know when i’m being railroaded…this all involved my exposing of the pax americana…and 911…my one friend chuck aubrey, himself a rabble rouser, was often there for support…he’s got a clip on youtube where he’s interviewing richard gage of 911 truth…
my chronic depression and overwhelming desire for isolation has gotten progressively worse over the years…my sister helen took her own life on feb. 1, 2007…she was living in gouda, holland…tragedy hit again with superstorm sandy…i’ve been a life long collector of vinyl records and books…i lost over 1,000 books and 1,500 vinyl records…the passaic river in new jersey overflowed and most of what i owned in storage was underneath dirty river water for several days…i also lost all my recording equipment, my stereo system and musical instruments…most of my cd’s were salvageable…i’m 47 years old…that was a lifetime of collecting i lost…i’ll never be able to afford or find most of those records again…i don’t care about the recording equipment…
i’m living now in easton, pennsylvania…i’ve contacted my band members for a possible  reunion…but, unfortunately, they’re not quite interested…my new songs are incorrigibly very angry and they, having spouses, children, etc. don’t seem to want any trouble…they’re involved in other “safer” musical projects…

although a recluse, rage always seems to get me out of the house…rage at war…rage at imperialism…rage at innocents dying…rage at drone warfare…rage at lies…rage at compromise with the pax americana…etc….can rage be therapeutic?…i however have never hurt anyone physically whilst enraged…verbally, but not physically…i am confrontational, however, and am afraid of NO ONE…
well, today i had a 100 bucks to spend so i boarded a bus for 45 dollars at the easton station and arrived at the new york port authority bus terminal a couple hours later…i had some time to kill so i went to the “revolution” book store on west 26th street…i purchased two cheap used books by harry magdoff…(i used to subscribe to monthly review a few years ago – around the time harry passed away)…the elderly gentleman who was at the register, who’s name escapes me now, was extremely friendly…he too had lost a lot of books, records, photographs, etc. when his basement flooded years ago…i can’t believe i forgot to mention my music and i didn’t give him a free cd of mine…after all, i’m trying to get rid of them…next time…he did put me on the bookstore’s mailing list…here’s hoping the compromising, scared, disrespectful, machiavellian left doesn’t get to him…
i then walked a few blocks to the “democracy now” studio on west 25th…the security guard told me i needed an appointment to visit…”no problem”, i told him…i watch the program religiously and have emailed them quite often…sometimes to encourage them and sometimes to criticize them…i’ve never received a response but i’m sure they get tons of emails…i’ve been pretty persistent however when criticism is warranted but always in a spirit of respect…i thought i’d drop by today, introduce myself to whoever was there…(it was a little before 5p.m.)…and drop off some free cds…and tell them they could criticize me if they wanted…all in good fun…oh well, “next time”, i thought…
i then headed south through the streets of manhattan…surprised at all the changes…i used to work and commute into the city back in the nineties…and used to go to the shops until i moved to arizona…i performed with my band at a venue called “kenny’s castaways” on bleeker st. back in 2002…springsteen’s new york debut venue i was told at the time…sadly it’s no longer there…the “bottom line” tragically is also gone…it used to be on e. 4th…i saw and met john martyn there a few times!…tom rush…jorma kaukonen…dino valenti…etc….legends!…it’s nice to know “other music” is still there…i had some pizza on 2nd ave…and a pint of guinness on houston…
i arrived at the bookstore a couple minutes early…the place was packed…standing room only…all the chairs were taken…i stood near the entrance…i didn’t have much choice…it was basically an interview with tariq conducted by someone from “jacobin” magazine…tariq first spoke about the greek syriza party and then discussed the events in spain dealing with the “podemos” party…i have an estranged father who is living in portugal near the spanish border so lately i’ve been a bit curious about what’s been going on over there…when tariq seemed to conclude the spanish topic, i innocently raised my hand…i was going to ask him if the catalan and basque independence movements in spain are complicating the “podemos” situation…are these break away movements merely populist capitalist or do they have their own political factions?…i was ignored and rightly so because the question session was reserved for the end of the interview…however, i realized i was getting some ugly looks from some people…including what seemed like to me from the jacobin interviewer….i quickly shrugged it off thinking i’m paranoid and, of course, i should get out more…
tariq then discussed the topic of his recent book, the “extreme center”…a clipboard was passed around and i entered my name and email address…a money jar was also passed around (though they did make it clear that a contribution was not necessary)…i threw a 20 dollar bill in the jar…(once again, not bragging – just trying to make clear my pure intentions)…
when the audience question session started, i didn’t raise my hand right away (feeling a bit embarrased about raising it prematurely earlier)…i did, however, raise my hand after the first question was asked and answered…and i raised it again…and i raised it again…and i raised it again…and i raised it again…and i raised it again…the jacobin interviewer looked straight at me every time…i soon realized that my initial discomfort was actually well founded…people who had only raised their hand ONCE were getting chosen!…even one girl standing right next to me!…i persisted and while LOOKING RIGHT AT ME, the interviewer stated there would be no more questions taken…i came a long way to get a chance to ask tariq a question…i intended to purchase his book and if possible say hi, give him a free cd, and maybe get an autographed copy…i also wanted to MEET other leftists and sort of network…remember, this is not exactly easy for me…my only visitor in easton is my mother! who lives nearby in bethlehem…i’m coming off a decade of a 2 person social circle!…while raising my hand six or seven times, i was debating whether to address the spanish issue or the extreme center issue…
after raising my hand one last time, and being told again “no more questions”, i immediately realized that i was singled out right from the beginning!…some of them knew who i was…particularly the interviewer…they couldn’t have made it any clearer…i have been sending constructive criticism to many “left” outlets for a couple of years now…WELL WARRANTED CRITICISM…AND THEY KNOW THAT!…yes, i’m al perry…the guy who knows fires cannot pulverize concrete and steel and bring down steel high rises into their own footprint at freefall speed…yeah, al, the guy who feels the rage of the 911 victim’s family members, and thousands of demolition experts, pilots, firefighters, construction engineers, etc. who want answers…yeah, al perry, the guy who doesn’t believe the bullshit “beheading” videos presented by the zionist s.i.t.e. intelligence group to justify war where thousands are killed by satanic drone warfare which violates international law…yes, the al perry that’s completely flabberghasted as to why there are no major war protests!…why so called leaders of the left ignore these issues without TELLING US WHY and INSULT those who RIGHTFULLY are ENRAGED!!!
they think they know who i am and are afraid i might bring up a topic they didn’t want to discuss…maybe if they had showed some respect and spoken to me respectfully beforehand OR ANSWERED the myriad amounts of emails i’ve sent throughout the years, they would have known who i really am…
i have gotten NO RESPONSE throughout the years from “democracy now”, monthly review, new left review, the intercept, greenwald, scahill, klein, the nation…the list goes on and on…literally hundreds of emails asking perfectly valid questions and many times i offered words of ENCOURAGEMENT…NO REPLY AT ALL…
who have responded to my emails?…short list…tom hayden! (i was shocked…the godfather of protest!)…he understood my rage!…russell brand who tolerates my angry posts on his site…mike davis, who i emailed directly and although extremely busy, answered a few of my questions in detail…i’ll never bother him again out of respect and appreciation…
after realizing that i’ve been set up to look like public enemy number one, i became very angry and did something COMPLETELY UNPLANNED…COMPLETELY IMPROMPTU…ON THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT…AND I FELT EXHILIRATED!…
as half the audience was getting ready to leave, i suddenly shouted “SO I GUESS WE’RE NOT GONNA HEAR ABOUT 911 TONIGHT!…I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU TRAVEL TO NEW YORK CITY AND DON’T BRING UP 911!…AND WHAT ABOUT THE FAKE BEHEADINGS PROVIDED BY THE S.I.T.E. INTELLIGENCE GROUP?!……AND WHERE ARE THE PROTESTS?!!!…THERE’S A WAR GOING ON, YOU FUCKS!!!..THERE’S A WAR TO PROTEST!!!…HIT THE STREETS!!!…WHERE ARE THE PROTESTS…PEOPLE ARE DYING!!!…” and other words to that effect…i was then asked by an employee of the bookstore to leave…i was already on my way out…i hadn’t intended the night to end this way so i left…when outside, still enraged, i slammed my backpack on the storefront window…
I FELT GREAT!…TARIQ, YOU HAD IT COMING…PERHAPS I’VE EVEN STATED..YELLED…THINGS YOU’D LIKE TO SAY BUT FIND YOURSELF FOR SOME REASON UNABLE TO UTTER…
IT’S OBVIOUS THAT MANY ON THE LEFT ARE ENGAGED IN A CONCERTED EFFORT NOT TO MENTION CERTAIN TOPICS…THEY’VE AVAILED THEMSELVES OF MACHIAVELLIAN STRATEGIES WHICH THEY OBVIOUSLY THINK THE RABBLE WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND!!!!!!!!!!…….BUT WHEN THEY DESIST FROM PROTESTING  WAR…THE DEATHS OF THOUSANDS…DRONE WARFARE…THEY’VE GONE TOO FAR!!!…OFTEN, THESE LEFT OUTLETS SHAMEFULLY ECHO NEWS I HEAR ON THE MAINSTREAM WITHOUT QUESTIONING IT!!!…MAKING THEMSELVES BLOODGUILTY!!!!!…AND AREN’T THEY SUPPOSED TO BE ORGANIZING PROTESTS?!…SHOULDN’T THEY TELL US WHERE THE FUCK TO MEET?!…
AND I’M SICK AND TIRED OF FUCKING WORDS!!!…HIT THE STREETS!!!!…SCARE THE STATUS QUO!!!!…..I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW EASY IT HAS BEEN FOR THE PAX AMERICANA TO RAMPAGE THROUGHOUT THIS EARTH THESE LAST FEW YEARS!!!…MOST OF THE LEFT IS EITHER SCARED OR COMPROMISING AND LYING!!!!……THAT’S RIGHT, LYING!!!…BEING DISINGENUOUS IS LYING!!!!!!!!…..AND THOUSANDS ARE DYING BECAUSE OF THIS BULLSHIT!!!!!….YOU’RE GONNA REGRET IT!…MARK MY WORDS!!!….
IF ANYONE OUT THERE WANTS FEARLESS, UNCOMPROMISING REPORTING GO TO THE GLOBAL RESEARCH WEBSITE RUN BY MICHEL CHOSSUDEVSKY AND BARRY ZWICKER IN CANADA…THEY ARE TRULY NOT BLOODGUILTY…and i’m sure would let me ask any question i like…
i now realize there’s a david and goliath situation in this country…if any of you authentic leftists want to protest war and drones this year, you’ll probably be alone…don’t worry…THINK OF BRIAN HAW!!!…that always gets me going…print some leaflets and signs…even if you’re alone, you can be very effective…there are courageous leftists out there organizing…for example, i was involved recently with the lepoco group of pennsylvania…a month ago 53 of us showed up at a drone command center in horsham, pa. to protest…it will soon be a monthly event…most cars driving by that reacted to the protest honked their approval…you can even go door to door in your neighborhood alerting people about what’s really going on in their world and what the scared left is afraid to mention…
i do not regret what i did tonight…it should’ve been done a long time ago…and i’m just getting started…
– al perry

Emergency Shutdown of Ukraine’s Largest Nuke Plant, Right In Eastern War Zone

ZAPORIZIHA POWER PLANT

ZAP

[SEE: Moscow says Ukraine’s switch to US nuclear fuel threatens European safety;“Emergency shutdown” at one of world’s largest nuke plants ;Ukraine’s Nukenado < Updated]

Ukraine Energy Wars Are Leading To A Fukushima-Chernobyl Debacle In Europe

rense

By Yoichi Shimatsu
Exclusvie to Rense
1-5-15

Clashes over energy in Ukraine between the West and Russia could prompt another Chernobyl-type accident or a catastrophe on the order of a Fukushima that will complete the nuclear devastation of the Northern Hemisphere. As news media fixate on conflicts over pipelines that supply Europe with Russian gas, another energy war is erupting over control of Ukraine’s nuclear-power industry, which generates half that nation’s electricity.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenuk’s campaign for “energy independence” from Russian-sourced natural gas and nuclear fuel is not a study in cost control, economic security or even national sovereignty. His corporate-giveaway policies are actually a concession to Western energy interests in return for their influence over the EU, which can provide loans to avert an imminent default on Kiev’s debt to the IMF and World Bank. With an annual budget shortfall of $15 billion and a currency collapse, Ukraine is staggering under external sovereign debt estimated at between $140 and $200 billion.

The IMF and World Bank have halted further transfers of loan tranches to Kiev, which is now unable to make payments on its gas imports from Russia. Kiev policymakers are therefore desperately looking to expand their nuclear industry. Unfortunately two recent accidents at its largest nuclear-power plant highlight the serious risks to a nation still grappling with the long-term effects of the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.

Boom and Bust

In stark contrast with eco-conscious capitals across Europe, Kiev is unable to resist foreign demands to adopt the Texan model of boom-and-bust energy extraction. Chevron and Shell have launched fracking projects to tap shale-oil deposits across Ukraine, but exploration and revenues have been delayed by the fierce fighting in the Donetsk region.

Ukraine also possesses one of Europe’s few exploitable uranium reserves in its Kirovograd and Dnipropetrovsk regions, now being targeted by the French nuclear giant AREVA in cooperation with local partner VostGOK.

An ongoing series of nuclear-fuel deals between Toshiba-Westinghouse and Ukraine energy monopoly Energoatom is aimed at severing Kiev’s reliance on Russian technology and Kazakh uranium. The competition to supply the global market for MOX (mixed oxides of uranium and plutonium) is pitting a consortium of Westinghouse, AREVA and their US suppliers against their Moscow-based rival Rusatom and nuclear-engineering firm TVE.

Beset by losses of orders from Japan, the AREVA MOX fabrication plant in France is facing a new and strong challenge from the Rusatom pellet facility in Krasnoyarsk, western Siberia, which has replaced the aging Mayak fuel plant.

To reduce stockpiles of plutonium-laced spent fuel rods stored inside power plants, the global nuclear industry is pushing to introduce advanced prototypes of fast-breeder reactors, which burn a variety of nuclear fuels including plutonium. Rusatom is producing MOX pellets for a next-generation fast-breeder to start operation this year at Beloyarskaya. The Russian design is the chief rival for next-generation breeder reactors being developed by the French ASTRID program in the Rhone region and the Hitachi-GE Horizon project along Britain’s Irish Sea coast.

In this global race to revive the fortunes of the nuclear industry, Chernobyl and the ongoing Fukushima cataclysm spewing radioactive waste into the jet stream over Europe have all but been forgotten.

Salvaging Savannah River

The powerful explosion of MOX fuel rods at Reactor 3 in Fukushima nearly four years ago prompted Britain to close its Sellafield MOX fuel-rod production facility and convinced the Department of Energy to suspend construction on the US mixed-oxide project in Savannah River, South Carolina. These setbacks for the US-UK nuclear industry left the AREVA’s Mercoule facility in the southern French region of Languedoc-Roussillon as the only MOX producer in the West.

Ulterior motives lurk behind the Ukraine sales pitch. The year-end push by Toshiba-Westinghouse to supply nuclear fuel to Kiev is a backhanded tactic to overturn the DOE decision to halt construction on the Savannah River MOX fuel fabrication facility. Anti-Moscow rhetoric and geopolitical arguments for switching Ukraine to Western-based energy systems (fracking, tanker-delivered oil imports and MOX fuel) bolster the odds for congressional funding to complete the Savannah River MOX facility.

Started in 1999 to dispose of plutonium from warheads under nuclear-weapons reductions agreed between Washington and Moscow, the MOX plant has already cost taxpayers $4 billion while an added $3.8 billion in project overruns is the low estimate before the operations are scheduled to begin in 2019. Unfortunately for Toshiba-Westinghouse, the main arguments against completing Savannah River are based on security questions.

Since the planning stage, nonproliferation experts have come to recognize the threat of plutonium being hijacked from DOE facilities, as happened in the 2008 covert operation by Israeli agents at the PANTEX warhead-dismantling plant in Amarillo, Texas. (This investigative journalist penned an in-depth article on the PANTEX heist and the murder of CIA contract inspector Roland Carnaby.)

The technological factor behind abandoning MOX for nonproliferation purposes was the introduction of laser-extraction systems that enable nuclear engineers to efficiently remove pure plutonium from spent MOX fuel rods. Nations with nuclear-weapons ambitions just have to place an order for MOX fuel to obtain high-grade plutonium.

A Bridge Too Far

To anyone with a rational mind, shipping nuclear fuel to the land of Chernobyl might seem not only criminal and unethical but also an act of sheer madness. Yet, under a 2008 contract, Westinghouse (which is majority-owned by Toshiba), has already started supplying uranium fuel assemblies to three reactors at the South Ukraine nuclear plant.

What’s profitable for the nuclear industry in the US and Japan is toxic for the EU, particularly its more environmental and anti-nuclear member-nations including Germany and Austria, which will have no choice but to accept this legal precedent for continent-wide fracking and a revival of nuclear power.

Ukraine serves as the bridgehead for US-Japanese takeover of the European energy industry, but it is a “bridge too far” because the strong possibility of a Fukushima-type MOX fuel explosion at its aging nuclear plants would exterminate all of Europe.

The European public should find little reassurance in that fact that Toshiba built the Fukushima Reactor 3, which blew apart in a mushroom cloud sending microparticles of plutonium as far as Scandinavia and the French Alps. Now the very same company responsible for Fukushima radiation spreading to Europe is toying around in the EU’s backyard.

Chernobyl Redux

A coalition of AREVA and Toshiba-Westinghouse have been lobbying the Parliament in Kiev to approve construction of a western-designed nuclear-power plant in Ukraine’s Black Sea region. According to an Energy Ministry press releases in June, “a new concept for the development of nuclear power is expected to be adopted and will include the technical and financial aspects of the construction of new power units, as well as advancing plans for a fuel fabrication plant and a waste repository.”

No doubt Ukrainian nationalists might rejoice at the sudden prospects of Kiev regaining its nuclear-weapons production capability, which was surrendered to Washington’s nonproliferation soon after its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. That proud national aspiration, in the cold light of geopolitics, will remain only a dream. Any nuclear deterrence will be provided by NATO missile launch pads and bomber airfields, transforming Ukraine into a battlefield and radioactive graveyard. Instead of gaining real independence, Ukraine has sadly reverted to its traditional place as a brutal buffer zone.

The truth is bitter, indeed. Ukraine is getting a raw deal. The proposed high-level waste repository is the predictable price for steep discounts on nuclear technology shipped in modules onto the docks at Odessa along with casks of spent fuel. Japan is in dire need of a foreign nuclear-waste dump, especially for its damaged Fukushima fuel rods, following rebuffs from Russia, China and Mongolia. The US, also straddled with decades of spent-fuel rods, needs an alternative to the canceled Yucca Mountain repository site. Thus, under this unsavory “international partnership”, Toshiba-Westinghouse and AREVA make the profits while Ukraine gets stuck with piles of nuclear waste.

Retrofit Risks

At this point in time, the easiest way to dump nuclear waste is to provide unsuspecting nations with MOX fuel rods, which actually a repository for surplus plutonium. The Energy Ministry’s “new concept of nuclear power” and a proposed “fuel fabrication plant” are code words for the planned conversion of the Russian-built VVER pressurized water reactors for MOX fuel rods. Retrofitting has sizable risks, as shown at Fukushima.

Westinghouse has recently negotiated a deal with to provide an undisclosed type of nuclear fuel for two additional reactors to be built at Energoatom’s Khmelnitsky plant in northwest Ukraine. The deal eliminates fuel rods from Russian nuclear-engineering company TVE, the main contractor for plant construction which operates its own mine and fuel plant in Kazakhstan.

Since then Energoatom director Natalia Shumkova stated the company might start shipping its nuclear waste to the AREVA recycling facility in La Hague, France. AREVA states that its facility separates uranium (95%) and plutonium(1%) as ingredients in new fuels. MOX, in short, is garbage fuel.

Accidents Happen

The 15 reactors in Ukraine’s four nuclear plants have Russian-designed VVER (pressurized water) reactors of the type that can be converted from enriched uranium to MOX fuel rods. The problem is that many of the Russian-built reactors have reached their 4-decade lifetime limit and are now in permanent disrepair, a fact underscored by shutdowns at the giant Zaporozhye nuclear-power plant’s Reactor 3 in late November and at its Reactor 6 a month later.

Energoatom reported the causes of both accidents as minor electrical problems and denied late November reports from a Baltic monitoring station of wide-ranging atmospheric radiation releases. Also ignored were reports from the nearby Donetsk area, where surges in radiation levels were detected at the end of December. The Ukraine nuclear industry must have adopted the TEPCO standards for public disinformation. Or perhaps lying about the dangers of radiation is a homegrown legacy of Chernobyl.

One last point needs to be considered as a spur toward civil peace in unfortunate Ukraine: Zaporozhye with its six reactors is the largest nuclear plant in Europe and lies within easy artillery and rocket range of the battle lines in eastern Ukraine. Collateral damage or a plane crash onto Plant Z would make Chernobyl seem like a picnic in the countryside.

Yoichi Shimatsu is a Hong Kong-based science journalist and environmental consultant who has conducted radiation studies inside the Fukushima exclusion zone and the Hanford and San Onofre nuclear plants.

Recovery From Regional Nuclear War–(highly technical)

Multidecadal global cooling and unprecedented ozone loss

post nuke war

Japan Criminalizes Reporting “Special Secrets” Like Fukushima Cancer Statistics

“What are the criteria of these possible secrets?” “Well…it’s a secret.”

japan subculture research

Japan’s Kafkaesque Special Secret Protection Bill threatens to destroy freedom of speech

 A committee within Japan’s lower house is currently deliberating a new bill that will punish leakers of designated “special” state secrets.  The LDP Cabinet  recently approved a bill to punish civil servants, lawmakers, and journalists who leak information that it deems will harm national security. The government will be able to determine what they will call “special secret”— almost without limit— because the definition of these possible secrets are “too broad and vague”, according to critics of the new bill. The Abe administration says that the secrecy bill is necessary to protect sensitive information given to Japan by the United States and other foreign countries.

Whistleblowers and journalist face up to ten years in jail for exposing anything the Japanese government declares "a special secret." And what is a "special secret"--that is also secret.

 

from left to right: Taro Yamamoto Independent lawmaker, Ryo Shuhama, People's Life Party, Sohei Nihi, Coomunist Party, Mizuho Fukushima, Social Democratic Party

Four lawmakers from four different political parties, briefed reporters today on the dangers of the Designated Secrets Bill at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan (FCCJ). Earlier this week, the FCCJ issued a strong statement of opposition to the bill as well.

Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party and wife of a famous anti-nuclear lawyer explained, “This bill represents a great threat to journalism.” A citizen or journalist investigating an arbitrarily declared state secret who reveals it could be prosecuted and jailed for up to 10 years. “The criteria for prosecuting an individual are too vague,” she added. “If a journalist or a member of an NGO accidentally overheard a state secret, he/she would be prosecuted.” Fukushima explained that if a lawmaker got hold of a state secret and wants to reveal it, he/she could also be prosecuted.

“A citizen or journalist  investigating an arbitrarily declared state secret who revealed it could be prosecuted and jailed for up to 10 years.”

Article 19, an organization based in the U.K. and the  Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan have both issued a declaration earlier this week to urge Japan’s National Diet to reject the pending Secrecy Bill, as it “unreasonably” violates international standards on freedom of expression and the right to information.

The FCCJ statement admonished the Japanese government that investigative journalism is “not a crime, but rather a crucial part of the checks-and-balances that go hand-in-hand with democracy.” Fukushima added that from the standards of the international community, the drafted Japanese bill has too many flaws. Freedom and human rights were suppressed under Japan’s military government’s rule before and during World War II, she pointed out, and discussed how this bill represents a regression for Japan. As the definition of secrecy is “too vague,” there would be a possibility that the government haphazardly restricts the general public’s knowledge by designating anything embarrassing for the ruling powers a “state secret.”

Sohei Nihi, from Japan’s Communist Party said that the “most dangerous aspect of this bill” is that the average person will not be informed that a particular piece of information has been designated as a secret. “The Japanese people would be ignorant of these secrets and the bill will lead to a general suppression or reluctance of people to seek for information, ” he added. Considering the huge amount of opposition to this bill, the ruling party inserted a clause, which says that “there will be due consideration given to people’s right to know and journalists’ right to research and seek information.” However the seeking of information will have to be done in an “appropriate manner,” (正当な行為) and it is questionable and unclear by who and how will this “appropriate manner” be determined. As a result of some deliberation within the Diet committee, it was decided that the courts would make the fundamental decisions and the individual targeted could be subject to arrest and interrogation before a case is even brought to court. In effect, the law will work as presumed guilty until proven guilty.

The “most dangerous aspects of this bill” is that the average person will not be informed that a particular piece of information has been designated as a secret

Of course, exceptions would be made to individuals not aware of holding information classified as a state secret who make it public. “This sounds good in theory but who and how will it be determined that the leaker really wasn’t aware in advance before disclosing a state secret?” Sohei Nihi pointed out. “The government could force the individual to confess, as this kind of practice has taken place in Japan in the past,” he added. Ryo Shuhama, member of the upper house and representative of the People’s Life Party said that the general public was seriously concerned about this bill. According to some newspapers polls about 30% of the Japanese population favor the bill, 42% are against the bill, 68% have concerns over the definition of “secrecy” could be eventually expended, and 64% feel that this bill should not be passed in this current Diet session.

Taro Yamamoto, actor turned lawmaker last summer, is well known for his anti-nuclear stances and his audacious behavior. Yamamoto breeched imperial etiquette last month by handing a letter to the Japanese emperor in the middle of a royal garden party to which he was invited. Yamamoto, who was one of the first politicians to point out the harms of the secrecy bill even before it changed its name from “secrecy preservation law” to “secrecy law,” said that the bill is basically already in effect. He explained a situation in which the authorities told him that information regarding nuclear facilities exported to Vietnam could not be revealed. According to Yamamoto, the government spent the equivalent of 2.5 million dollars in securing a deal to export nuclear technology to Vietnam—tax money that was taken out of the reconstruction budget for earthquake and nuclear accident ravaged northern Japan.

“There is already a great deal of secrecy preservation in Japan,” he said. Yamamoto said that the government is truly trying to increase the power of the state and that the secrecy bill will eventually lead to the oppression of the average person and freedom of expression. “The path that Japan is taking is the recreation of a fascist state. I strongly believe that this secrecy bill represents a planned coup d’état by a group of politicians and bureaucrats,” he warned.

The secrecy bill has been compared to the peace preservation law (治安維持法) that passed in the period before World War II. Mizuho Fukushima explained that when that law passed it was not considered to be a frightening or threatening law. However, once people started to be arrested, it had a chilling effect on media, citizens’ groups and the general population. During the military rule and the war years in Japan, laws and rules were strengthened so that towards the end, it is said that even weather reports were considered state secrets. There was a famous case involving a young student in Hokkaido (the Miyazawa case) who happened to reveal the location of a particular airport to a foreigner and was sent to prison for divulging a state secret. “Once you open the door to such kind of laws, the government will have the right to designate anything as a state secret and by speaking about it or mentioning it, you can be arrested and prosecuted.” Fukushima explained, “Especially during war time, it was very difficult for defendants and lawyers to fight their court cases, because they were not told what exactly what was the state secret that they had been accused of having revealed.” she added.

 “The path that Japan is taking is the recreation of a fascist state. I strongly believe that this secrecy bill represents a planned coup d’état by a group of politicians and bureaucrats”

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Incompetent Japanese Govt. Using the Homeless for Fukushima Clean-Up

[SEE: China says Japan PM not welcome after visit to war shrine ;  US Risking War With China To Defend Imperial Japan’s War Conquests  ; Looming battle: China vs. Japan]

SPECIAL REPORT- Japan’s homeless recruited for murky Fukushima clean-up

Reuters

Homeless recruited for Fukushima at minimum wages

* Labor brokers skim their pay; charge for food, shelter

* Some say better homeless than going into debt by working

* Little oversight on companies getting clean-up contracts

* Gangsters run Fukushima labour brokers; arrests made

By Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski

SENDAI, Japan, Dec. 30 (Reuters) – Seiji Sasa hits the train station in this northern Japanese city before dawn most mornings to prowl for homeless men.

He isn’t a social worker. He’s a recruiter. The men in Sendai Station are potential laborers that Sasa can dispatch to contractors in Japan’s nuclear disaster zone for a bounty of $100 a head.

“This is how labor recruiters like me come in every day,” Sasa says, as he strides past men sleeping on cardboard and clutching at their coats against the early winter cold.

It’s also how Japan finds people willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.

Almost three years ago, a massive earthquake and tsunami leveled villages across Japan’s northeast coast and set off multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Today, the most ambitious radiation clean-up ever attempted is running behind schedule. The effort is being dogged by both a lack of oversight and a shortage of workers, according to a Reuters analysis of contracts and interviews with dozens of those involved.

In January, October and November, Japanese gangsters were arrested on charges of infiltrating construction giant Obayashi Corp’s network of decontamination subcontractors and illegally sending workers to the government-funded project.

In the October case, homeless men were rounded up at Sendai’s train station by Sasa, then put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima City for less than minimum wage, according to police and accounts of those involved. The men reported up through a chain of three other companies to Obayashi, Japan’s second-largest construction company.

Obayashi, which is one of more than 20 major contractors involved in government-funded radiation removal projects, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But the spate of arrests has shown that members of Japan’s three largest criminal syndicates – Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai – had set up black-market recruiting agencies under Obayashi.

“We are taking it very seriously that these incidents keep happening one after another,” said Junichi Ichikawa, a spokesman for Obayashi. He said the company tightened its scrutiny of its lower-tier subcontractors in order to shut out gangsters, known as the yakuza. “There were elements of what we had been doing that did not go far enough.”

OVERSIGHT LEFT TO TOP CONTRACTORS

Part of the problem in monitoring taxpayer money in Fukushima is the sheer number of companies involved in decontamination, extending from the major contractors at the top to tiny subcontractors many layers below them. The total number has not been announced. But in the 10 most contaminated towns and a highway that runs north past the gates of the wrecked plant in Fukushima, Reuters found 733 companies were performing work for the Ministry of Environment, according to partial contract terms released by the ministry in August under Japan’s information disclosure law.

Reuters found 56 subcontractors listed on environment ministry contracts worth a total of $2.5 billion in the most radiated areas of Fukushima that would have been barred from traditional public works because they had not been vetted by the construction ministry.

The 2011 law that regulates decontamination put control under the environment ministry, the largest spending program ever managed by the 10-year-old agency. The same law also effectively loosened controls on bidders, making it possible for firms to win radiation removal contracts without the basic disclosure and certification required for participating in public works such as road construction.

Reuters also found five firms working for the Ministry of Environment that could not be identified. They had no construction ministry registration, no listed phone number or website, and Reuters could not find a basic corporate registration disclosing ownership. There was also no record of the firms in the database of Japan’s largest credit research firm, Teikoku Databank.

“As a general matter, in cases like this, we would have to start by looking at whether a company like this is real,” said Shigenobu Abe, a researcher at Teikoku Databank. “After that, it would be necessary to look at whether this is an active company and at the background of its executive and directors.”

Responsibility for monitoring the hiring, safety records and suitability of hundreds of small firms involved in Fukushima’s decontamination rests with the top contractors, including Kajima Corp, Taisei Corp and Shimizu Corp, officials said.

“In reality, major contractors manage each work site,” said Hide Motonaga, deputy director of the radiation clean-up division of the environment ministry.

But, as a practical matter, many of the construction companies involved in the clean-up say it is impossible to monitor what is happening on the ground because of the multiple layers of contracts for each job that keep the top contractors removed from those doing the work.

“If you started looking at every single person, the project wouldn’t move forward. You wouldn’t get a tenth of the people you need,” said Yukio Suganuma, president of Aisogo Service, a construction company that was hired in 2012 to clean up radioactive fallout from streets in the town of Tamura.

The sprawl of small firms working in Fukushima is an unintended consequence of Japan’s legacy of tight labor-market regulations combined with the aging population’s deepening shortage of workers. Japan’s construction companies cannot afford to keep a large payroll and dispatching temporary workers to construction sites is prohibited. As a result, smaller firms step into the gap, promising workers in exchange for a cut of their wages.

Below these official subcontractors, a shadowy network of gangsters and illegal brokers who hire homeless men has also become active in Fukushima. Ministry of Environment contracts in the most radioactive areas of Fukushima prefecture are particularly lucrative because the government pays an additional $100 in hazard allowance per day for each worker.

Takayoshi Igarashi, a lawyer and professor at Hosei University, said the initial rush to find companies for decontamination was understandable in the immediate aftermath of the disaster when the priority was emergency response. But he said the government now needs to tighten its scrutiny to prevent a range of abuses, including bid rigging.

“There are many unknown entities getting involved in decontamination projects,” said Igarashi, a former advisor to ex-Prime Minister Naoto Kan. “There needs to be a thorough check on what companies are working on what, and when. I think it’s probably completely lawless if the top contractors are not thoroughly checking.”

The Ministry of Environment announced on Thursday that work on the most contaminated sites would take two to three years longer than the original March 2014 deadline. That means many of the more than 60,000 who lived in the area before the disaster will remain unable to return home until six years after the disaster.

Earlier this month, Abe, who pledged his government would “take full responsibility for the rebirth of Fukushima” boosted the budget for decontamination to $35 billion, including funds to create a facility to store radioactive soil and other waste near the wrecked nuclear plant.

‘DON’T ASK QUESTIONS’

Japan has always had a gray market of day labor centered in Tokyo and Osaka. A small army of day laborers was employed to build the stadiums and parks for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. But over the past year, Sendai, the biggest city in the disaster zone, has emerged as a hiring hub for homeless men. Many work clearing rubble left behind by the 2011 tsunami and cleaning up radioactive hotspots by removing topsoil, cutting grass and scrubbing down houses around the destroyed nuclear plant, workers and city officials say.

Seiji Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station to work in the nuclear cleanup. The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a $1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say.

“I don’t ask questions; that’s not my job,” Sasa said in an interview with Reuters. “I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That’s it. I don’t get involved in what happens after that.”

Only a third of the money allocated for wages by Obayashi’s top contractor made it to the workers Sasa had found. The rest was skimmed by middlemen, police say. After deductions for food and lodging, that left workers with an hourly rate of about $6, just below the minimum wage equal to about $6.50 per hour in Fukushima, according to wage data provided by police. Some of the homeless men ended up in debt after fees for food and housing were deducted, police say.

Sasa was arrested in November and released without being charged. Police were after his client, Mitsunori Nishimura, a local Inagawa-kai gangster. Nishimura housed workers in cramped dorms on the edge of Sendai and skimmed an estimated $10,000 of public funding intended for their wages each month, police say.

Nishimura, who could not be reached for comment, was arrested and paid a $2,500 fine. Nishimura is widely known in Sendai. Seiryu Home, a shelter funded by the city, had sent other homeless men to work for him on recovery jobs after the 2011 disaster.

“He seemed like such a nice guy,” said Yota Iozawa, a shelter manager. “It was bad luck. I can’t investigate everything about every company.”

In the incident that prompted his arrest, Nishimura placed his workers with Shinei Clean, a company with about 15 employees based on a winding farm road south of Sendai. Police turned up there to arrest Shinei’s president, Toshiaki Osada, after a search of his office, according to Tatsuya Shoji, who is both Osada’s nephew and a company manager. Shinei had sent dump trucks to sort debris from the disaster. “Everyone is involved in sending workers,” said Shoji. “I guess we just happened to get caught this time.”

Osada, who could not be reached for comment, was fined about $5,000. Shinei was also fined about $5,000.

‘RUN BY GANGS’

The trail from Shinei led police to a slightly larger neighboring company with about 30 employees, Fujisai Couken. Fujisai says it was under pressure from a larger contractor, Raito Kogyo, to provide workers for Fukushima. Kenichi Sayama, Fujisai’s general manger, said his company only made about $10 per day per worker it outsourced. When the job appeared to be going too slowly, Fujisai asked Shinei for more help and they turned to Nishimura.

A Fujisai manager, Fuminori Hayashi, was arrested and paid a $5,000 fine, police said. Fujisai also paid a $5,000 fine.

“If you don’t get involved (with gangs), you’re not going to get enough workers,” said Sayama, Fujisai’s general manager. “The construction industry is 90 percent run by gangs.”

Raito Kogyo, a top-tier subcontractor to Obayashi, has about 300 workers in decontamination projects around Fukushima and owns subsidiaries in both Japan and the United States. Raito agreed that the project faced a shortage of workers but said it had been deceived. Raito said it was unaware of a shadow contractor under Fujisai tied to organized crime.

“We can only check on lower-tier subcontractors if they are honest with us,” said Tomoyuki Yamane, head of marketing for Raito. Raito and Obayashi were not accused of any wrongdoing and were not penalized.

Other firms receiving government contracts in the decontamination zone have hired homeless men from Sasa, including Shuto Kogyo, a firm based in Himeji, western Japan.

“He sends people in, but they don’t stick around for long,” said Fujiko Kaneda, 70, who runs Shuto with her son, Seiki Shuto. “He gathers people in front of the station and sends them to our dorm.”

Kaneda invested about $600,000 to cash in on the reconstruction boom. Shuto converted an abandoned roadhouse north of Sendai into a dorm to house workers on reconstruction jobs such as clearing tsunami debris. The company also won two contracts awarded by the Ministry of Environment to clean up two of the most heavily contaminated townships.

Kaneda had been arrested in 2009 along with her son, Seiki, for charging illegally high interest rates on loans to pensioners. Kaneda signed an admission of guilt for police, a document she says she did not understand, and paid a fine of $8,000. Seiki was given a sentence of two years prison time suspended for four years and paid a $20,000 fine, according to police. Seiki declined to comment.

UNPAID WAGE CLAIMS

In Fukushima, Shuto has faced at least two claims with local labor regulators over unpaid wages, according to Kaneda. In a separate case, a 55-year-old homeless man reported being paid the equivalent of $10 for a full month of work at Shuto. The worker’s paystub, reviewed by Reuters, showed charges for food, accommodation and laundry were docked from his monthly pay equivalent to about $1,500, leaving him with $10 at the end of the August.

The man turned up broke and homeless at Sendai Station in October after working for Shuto, but disappeared soon afterwards, according to Yasuhiro Aoki, a Baptist pastor and homeless advocate.

Kaneda confirmed the man had worked for her but said she treats her workers fairly. She said Shuto Kogyo pays workers at least $80 for a day’s work while docking the equivalent of $35 for food. Many of her workers end up borrowing from her to make ends meet, she said. One of them had owed her $20,000 before beginning work in Fukushima, she says. The balance has come down recently, but then he borrowed another $2,000 for the year-end holidays.

“He will never be able to pay me back,” she said.

The problem of workers running themselves into debt is widespread. “Many homeless people are just put into dormitories, and the fees for lodging and food are automatically docked from their wages,” said Aoki, the pastor. “Then at the end of the month, they’re left with no pay at all.”

Shizuya Nishiyama, 57, says he briefly worked for Shuto clearing rubble. He now sleeps on a cardboard box in Sendai Station. He says he left after a dispute over wages, one of several he has had with construction firms, including two handling decontamination jobs.

Nishiyama’s first employer in Sendai offered him $90 a day for his first job clearing tsunami debris. But he was made to pay as much as $50 a day for food and lodging. He also was not paid on the days he was unable to work. On those days, though, he would still be charged for room and board. He decided he was better off living on the street than going into debt.

“We’re an easy target for recruiters,” Nishiyama said. “We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we’re easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven’t eaten, they offer to find us a job.”