The owner of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has admitted the amount of radioactive materials released in the first days of the nuclear disaster was almost two-and-a-half times the initial estimate by Japanese safety regulators. The company, TEPCO, said the nuclear accident released far more Iodine-131 than previously estimated. The radioactive substance can cause thyroid cancer. Based on TEPCO’s current figures, the Fukushima disaster represented about 17 percent of the radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl accident.
Preliminary election results from Egypt’s first-ever competitive presidential election show Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi in the lead in the first round of voting. It is still unclear whom he will face in the runoff scheduled for June 16, but it may be Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister under ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak. Some Egyptians predicted another revolution would take place if Shafik managed to win the election.
Khaled El-Abbad: “Regardless, the results are not in his [Shafik’s] favor. Even if the military council tries to impose Ahmed Shafik, then the revolution will begin all over again, the 25th of January revolution will begin again. And let me tell you with certainty, that if they announce that Ahmed Shafik is the president of Egypt, Tahrir Square will erupt.”
A new report by the United Nations has found both sides in the Syrian conflict have committed serious human rights abuses. The United Nations accused government forces of executing entire families in their homes while anti-government rebels had tortured and killed soldiers and government supporters. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports the Obama administration is moving toward approving the transfer of arms from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations to some Syrian rebels.
In the latest on the economic crisis in Europe, one of Spain’s largest banks, Bankia, is seeking a massive government bailout reportedly worth $19 billion. Trading of the bank’s shares was suspended earlier today.
In Greece, the latest poll shows the anti-bailout leftist Syriza party remains in the lead ahead of the June 17 election. The Syriza party is led by Alexis Tsipras.
Alexis Tsipras: “The dilemma of the upcoming election, the true dilemma of the election, is this: bailout or dignity. And we say to the Greek people — we say it loud so that people in all of Europe can hear it, we say it loud so that the leaders of Europe can hear it — that no people can be led voluntarily to indignity, subjection and suicide.”
In business news, questions have arisen over the role of banking giants Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase in Facebook’s initial public offering last week. While both banks helped manage the IPO, they also reportedly helped hedge funds bet that the new stock would fall through a process known as shorting. Investors who shorted Facebook made millions as the company’s value dropped 11 percent on Monday and a further 9 percent on Tuesday before rebounding.
The USA Today has revealed the co-owner of a major Pentagon propaganda contractor has publicly admitted that he was behind a propaganda campaign to discredit two USA Today journalists. The journalists were targeted after they reported that the Pentagon had spent millions of dollars on “poorly tracked marketing and propaganda campaigns” in Iraq and Afghanistan. One firm cited in the report was Leonie Industries, which has received at least $120 million in Pentagon contracts since 2009. On Thursday, Leonie’s co-owner, Camille Chidiac, admitted he set up fake web addresses, Twitter and Facebook accounts in the names of USA Today editor Ray Locker and reporter Tom Vanden Brook as part of an online misinformation campaign.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted Thursday to cut an additional $33 million in military aid to Pakistan. The vote came in response to the 33-year jail sentence given to Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who worked with the CIA to set up a fake vaccination program in an effort to help locate Osama bin Laden. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the doctor on Thursday.
Hillary Clinton: “We are raising it, and we will continue to do so, because we think that his treatment is unjust and unwarranted. As I have said before, the United States does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr. Afridi. We regret both the fact that he was convicted and the severity of his sentence.”
In a report, Amnesty International has accused Mexican authorities of doing little to stop or prosecute widespread human rights abuses, including vicious attacks on journalists and violations by members of the military. Widespread violence against women and the “systematic inequality” faced by indigenous people were also mentioned in the report. The group also noted the plight of tens of thousands of migrants who pass through Mexico on their way to the United States and suffer from abuses including rape, kidnapping and murder. Tens of thousands of people have died in Mexico in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderón announced a crackdown on drug traffickers after taking office in 2006. Mexican journalist Sanjuana Martínez condemned Calderón’s administration.
Sanjuana Martínez: “It’s a dark period. Mexico is currently going through one of its darkest periods in terms of human rights. The administration of Felipe Calderón has been the administration of the dead. It left us a bloody Mexico, a Mexico that suffers from the consequences. There is great necessity to create a truth commission to examine what happened during this ominous period.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center has included three prominent anti-Muslim activists and writers in their list of “30 new activists heading up the radical right.” The list includes Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy; David Yerushalmi, founder of the Society of Americans for National Existence; and Pamela Geller, who has called Islam “the most antisemitic, genocidal ideology in the world.” The Southern Poverty Law Center also noted in their report that so-called “Patriot” hate groups opposed to the federal government have grown explosively in recent years, while anti-LGBTQ groups have grown highly vicious in their propaganda.
Amazon has announced it will drop out of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative legislative group with ties to the Koch Brothers. ALEC has come under intense criticism for promoting restrictive voter ID laws and the so-called “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.
Reproductive rights advocates are condemning the actions of airline employees who barred a woman from her flight and demanded she change her T-shirt because it bore a pro-choice message they deemed offensive. The shirt read, “If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d [expletive] a senator.” It was the same message on a sign held by Oklahoma State Senator Judy McIntyre at a rally in March. The woman, who has not been identified publicly, told the website RH Reality Check she was approached by an American Airlines flight attendant before landing and told the shirt was offensive and she would need to speak to the captain. The captain then told her she would have to change her shirt before boarding her connecting flight. The woman was forced to miss her connection and then allowed to board a later flight after covering her shirt with a shawl. Nearly 4,000 people have signed an online petition calling for American Airlines to apologize.
A coalition of journalists and media organizations filed a petition Thursday in an attempt to grant the public and press access to more information about the court-martial of accused Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. So far, the military court has refused to make public the government’s motion papers, the court’s own orders and transcripts of proceedings. Petitioners include the Center for Constitutional Rights, The Nation magazine, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Democracy Now!