The week that was 21 - 27 May | The Jackal

27 May 2011

The week that was 21 - 27 May

A study undertaken by a citizen's group has found radioactive substances in the breast milk of women in Japan. 12.5% of those tested, were affected by Fukushima Dai-ichi fallout. Samples were taken from across five prefectures, the tests found cesium in the breast milk of four women in Tokyo, Fukushima and Ibaraki, and radioactive iodine in the breast milk of a woman in Fukushima.

The findings were released on Wednesday, with the study being conducted one month after the magnitude 9.0 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which destroyed much of Japan’s northeast coast, triggering a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant which saw radiation leak into the sea, soil and air.

Reports of contamination in water and food then emerged in the weeks following the March 11 twin disasters. Safety levels of radioactive substances in breast milk have not been set by the Japanese government with readings being in the range of 5.5 becquerels of iodine and up to 10.5 becquerels of cesium. The allowable limit is currently 100 becquerels of radioactive iodine and 200 becquerels of cesium for tap water consumption by infants. The group has called on health authorities to make testing available to concerned parents.
Masataka Shimizu
The president of Japanese company Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) will step down over what many are now saying is the world's worst nuclear crisis the World has ever known. Masataka Shimizu's resignation comes as the firm reported a record loss of more than $14 billion for the past financial year after being hit by huge costs as a result of the crisis. TEPCO will appoint current managing director Toshio Nishizawa to replace Mr Shimizu, effective after a June shareholders' meeting.

The loss for Japan's biggest utility comes amid criticism over its handling of the nuclear crisis, in which it faces massive compensation claims, prompting the government to devise a rescue plan. The beleaguered utility says it has decided to scrap all four reactors at the plant crippled after the March 11 earthquake, and abandon plans to build two more. The company plans to cut jobs and draft a streamlining plan this year, as it looks to raise funds to pay for a compensation bill that some analysts have conservatively estimated to top $114 million.

Former Bosnian-Serb military leader Ratko Mladic has been arrested on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian civil war in the early 1990s. Ratko Mladic was one of Europe’s most wanted war crimes fugitives.  He has been on the run for more than 15 years, since he was indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal at The Hague in 1995. 
During the Bosnian war in the early 1990s he oversaw the siege of Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, which lasted more than three years and is the longest in the history of modern warfare. He’s also accused of having played a key role in the bloody attack in 1995 of Srebrenica, where thousands of Muslim men and boys were killed in Europe’s worst massacre of civilians since the Second World War.

A group of over 200 people protesting deep sea oil exploration in the Raukumara Basin marched up Auckland’s Queen St this week. The group carried banners, bearing the slogans: ''no oil drilling'' and ''Petrobras: go back to Brazil''. The protest left Princes Wharf and made its way towards the Town Hall. An Auckland Central police spokesman said the protest was peaceful and no arrests were made, but police did not know about the protest in advance. One of the protesters said she attended the march to protest the exploration and possible deep sea drilling by Brazilian oil giant Petrobras.

“It’s hugely dangerous for our environment and our economy, I think in general most people are against an oil rig being set up.” she said.

On Tuesday protesters abseiled from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, and unfurled a huge banner. The bridge is the northernmost of the east–west crossings of the San Francisco Bay. The protesters want Chevron to take responsibility for its oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon. The 30,000 Ecuadoreans affected by Chevron’s oil pollution in the Amazon issued a moving Open Letter to the United States last week, calling on Americans to stand with them in demanding justice.

A group of Rainforest Action Network activists heeded their call by unfurling a banner reading "Chevron Guilty-Clean Up Amazon" from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, which lies in the shadow of Chevron's Richmond refinery.

The New Zealand National Government has confirmed special tax breaks in the Budget for the two major rugby organisations behind the Rugby World Cup. Finance Minister Bill English confirmed the Crown would reimburse income tax incurred by Rugby New Zealand 2011, the company set up to run the tournament, and also by the New Zealand Rugby Union where it was involved. Separately, the Crown has agreed to reimburse the union for withholding tax incurred on payments made in relation to the tournament.

Inland Revenue has clarified that anyone representing overseas unions or official overseas rugby organisations also won’t have to pay tax on income received from games or Cup-related activity while in NZ. Visitors not part of official overseas rugby bodies may also be spared the taxman’s pinch, but may get 20 per cent tax deducted from appearance money or prizes received – including any bonuses handed out because their team made the semifinals.
A policy change means New Zealanders wanting to get a job during the Rugby World Cup will now face more competition from migrant workers. Immigration New Zealand has been encouraging migrants to take jobs created from the tournament. Usually when someone applies to work in New Zealand, and their job offer does not specify an end date, they are given a 12 month visa. But immigration officials have been told to make sure visas for low skilled jobs in hospitality and accommodation last until three weeks after the Rugby World Cup ends in October. Since September last year, unskilled, English speaking workers have been given no-questions asked extended visas.

Cuts to KiwiSaver were confirmed with the release of the 2011 budget this week. John Key had previously stated that no cuts to the scheme were going to be undertaken in Nationals first term as Government. The Prime Minister promised that changes wouldn't kick in until after the next election. No Right Turn has found that the cuts come into effect on July 1st of this year, showing that once again John Key is untrustworthy. The cuts effectively halve the member tax credit. Idiot/Savant goes on to say:

“Tax credits are paid at the end of a tax year, but accrue daily. So National are cutting KiwiSaver before the election, and stealing your tax credits every day from July. It’s not what was promised, and it’s not what they said they were doing. I guess they thought that no one would notice, and that they could bury it with some clever spin.

This is a foretaste of what is to come if National wins a second term: not just the cuts, but the deceit, the fundamental contempt for the electorate. If you want to stop that from happening, you know how to vote in November.”