Showing posts with label Militarism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Militarism. Show all posts

November 14, 2009

Nuclear scars: Tainted water runs beneath Nevada desert

The state faces a water crisis and population boom, but radioactive waste from the Nevada Test Site has polluted aquifers.

By Ralph Vartabedian - Los Angeles Times
November 13, 2009
Reporting from Yucca Flat, Nevada

A sea of ancient water tainted by the Cold War is creeping deep under the volcanic peaks, dry lake beds and pinyon pine forests covering a vast tract of Nevada.

Over 41 years, the federal government detonated 921 nuclear warheads underground at the Nevada Test Site, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Each explosion deposited a toxic load of radioactivity into the ground and, in some cases, directly into aquifers.

When testing ended in 1992, the Energy Department estimated that more than 300 million curies of radiation had been left behind, making the site one of the most radioactively contaminated places in the nation.

During the era of weapons testing, Nevada embraced its role almost like a patriotic duty. There seemed to be no better use for an empty desert. But today, as Nevada faces a water crisis and a population boom, state officials are taking a new measure of the damage.

They have successfully pressured federal officials for a fresh environmental assessment of the 1,375-square-mile test site, a step toward a potential demand for monetary compensation, replacement of the lost water or a massive cleanup.

"It is one of the largest resource losses in the country," said Thomas S. Buqo, a Nevada hydrogeologist. "Nobody thought to say, 'You are destroying a natural resource.' "

In a study for Nye County, where the nuclear test site lies, Buqo estimated that the underground tests polluted 1.6 trillion gallons of water. That is as much water as Nevada is allowed to withdraw from the Colorado River in 16 years -- enough to fill a lake 300 miles long, a mile wide and 25 feet deep.

At today's prices, that water would be worth as much as $48 billion if it had not been fouled, Buqo said.

Although the contaminated water is migrating southwest from the high ground of the test site, the Energy Department has no cleanup plans, saying it would be impossible to remove the radioactivity. Instead, its emphasis is on monitoring.

Federal scientists say the tainted water is moving so slowly -- 3 inches to 18 feet a year -- that it will not reach the nearest community, Beatty, about 22 miles away, for at least 6,000 years.

Still, Nevada officials reject the idea that a massive part of their state will be a permanent environmental sacrifice zone.

Access to more water could stoke an economic boom in the area, local officials say. More than a dozen companies want to build solar electric generation plants, but the county cannot allow the projects to go forward without more water, said Gary Hollis, a Nye County commissioner.

The problem extends beyond the contamination zone. If too much clean water is pumped out of the ground from adjacent areas, it could accelerate the movement of tainted water. When Nye County applied for permits in recent years to pump clean water near the western boundary of the test site, the state engineer denied the application based on protests by the Energy Department.

(The department did not cite environmental concerns, perhaps to avoid acknowledging the extent of the Cold War contamination. Instead, federal officials said the pumping could compromise security at the test site, which is still in use.)

"Those waters have been degraded," said Republican state Assemblyman Edwin Goedhart of Nye County, who runs a dairy with 18,000 head of livestock. "That water belongs to the people of Nevada. Even before any contamination comes off the test site, I look at this as a matter of social economic justice."

Even before the Cold War turned the landscape radioactive, the test site was a forbidding place, as empty a spot as any in the country.

Creosote and sagebrush covered much of the gravelly terrain, punctuated by soaring mountains and crusty lake beds. In the winter months, snow covered the 7,000-foot Pahute Mesa, and a few herds of wild horses roamed the high country.

In 1950, President Truman secretly selected the site for nuclear testing and withdrew the federally owned land from public use.

In early 1951, atomic blasts started lighting up the sky over Las Vegas, then a city of fewer than 50,000. Early atmospheric tests spawned heavy fallout, and some areas are still so radioactive that anybody entering must wear hazardous-material suits. Later tests were done underground, leaving hundreds of craters that resemble otherworldly scars.

Each of the underground detonations -- some as deep as 5,000 feet -- vaporized a huge chamber, leaving a cavity filled with radioactive rubble.

About a third of the tests were conducted directly in aquifers, and others were hundreds or thousands of feet above the water table. Federal scientists say contamination above the aquifers should remain suspended in the perpetually dry soil, a contention that critics say is unproven.

In the hottest zones, radioactivity in the water reaches millions of picocuries per liter. The federal standard for drinking water is 20 picocuries per liter.

Federal officials say they don't know how much water was contaminated. Whatever the amount, they say, extracting it would be prohibitively expensive, and even if the radioactive material could be separated, it would have to be put back in the ground elsewhere.

Although radiation levels in the water have declined, the longer-lived isotopes will continue to pose risks for tens of thousands of years. The Energy Department has 48 monitoring wells at the site and began drilling nine deep wells in the summer.

Bill Wilborn, the Energy Department's water expert at the site, said the water is moving about two-thirds of a mile every 1,000 years from low-lying Yucca Flat, where 660 nuclear tests were conducted.

At the higher Pahute Mesa, where 81 of the biggest and deepest tests occurred, the water movement is more complicated. It generally flows downhill toward Beatty and the agricultural district of Amargosa Valley. On average, it is moving 1 3/4 miles every 1,000 years, but the annual pace ranges from about 1 foot to 18 feet, Wilborn said.

"The good thing is that it is not highly mobile," he said. "There are not a lot of nearby [people], and we are not pumping to accelerate the flow."

Federal scientists concede that much is unknown about the test site, whose vast size and complex geology make it a difficult place to study in detail.

Based on their calculations, government geologists acknowledge that the forward plume of radioactive water under Pahute Mesa should have already crossed the site boundary, although it has yet to be detected by monitoring wells. Some experts worry that the contamination could reach deeper aquifers that move much more quickly.

Because the contaminated water poses no immediate health threat, the Energy Department has ranked Nevada at the bottom of its priority list for cleaning up major sites in the nuclear weapons complex, and it operates far fewer wells than at most other contaminated sites.

The test site receives about $65 million a year from the department's $5.5-billion annual nuclear cleanup budget. By contrast, about $1.8 billion a year is spent on the Hanford plutonium production site in Washington state, even though soil and water contamination there is one-thousandth as severe as in Nevada.

Although Nevada has not pressed for compensation or replacement water so far, public officials say they are considering such action.

They have been emboldened by their recent success in blocking a federal plan to build a nuclear waste dump adjacent to the test site at Yucca Mountain.

"All the attention has been on Yucca Mountain. Now if the battle has been won on Yucca Mountain, then you may see some attention that will focus on cleaning up the test site," said Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), who wrote the authoritative history of the Nevada Test Site.

The state attorney general's office recently put a temporary halt on dumping low-level radioactive waste from other states at the Nevada Test Site. Under pressure from the office, the federal government agreed this year to conduct a new environmental analysis of the site.

"Once we have the new environmental impact statement, then we will be able to talk about the federal government compensating the state," said Marta Adams, senior deputy attorney general.

Said Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources: "We have every expectation of the federal government cleaning up the Nevada Test Site. . . . It would cost a lot, but our groundwater is worth it."

Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times

Beggars' Belief

The Farmers' Resistance Movement on Iejima Island, Okinawa

November 14, 2009

The first American invasion of Iejima occurred on April 16th, 1945. U.S. Army accounts chronicle in meticulous detail the vicious battle for this small island, situated three miles west of Okinawa Hontou. One thousand troops aboard eighty landing craft stormed Iejima’s eastern beaches, meeting heavy resistance from dug-in Japanese defenders. In the following five days of bloodshed, two thousand Imperial Army soldiers were killed, together with one and a half thousand civilians. Three hundred Americans lost their lives, including Ernie Pyle - the combat correspondent famous for putting a human face to World War Two.

The second U.S. invasion came a decade later. It is barely documented by American historians, but to those who were living on the island, it wrought almost as much distress. On March 11th, 1955, with Okinawa under United States administration, landing craft came ashore once again on the beaches of Iejima. Their mission: to expropriate two-thirds of the island in readiness for the construction of an air-to-surface bombing range. This time, the Army only brought three hundred soldiers, but they assumed these would be sufficient - their new enemies were the island’s unarmed peanut and tobacco farmers, and the only shelters they had were the houses they’d constructed in the years since the end of the war.

The Americans made quick progress across the south of the island. They dragged families from their houses, burned down the buildings and bulldozed the smoldering ruins. Those who protested were assaulted and arrested, then sent to the regional capital for prosecution. When one family pled for their home to be spared because their six-year old daughter was seriously-ill in bed, soldiers carried the terrified child from the house and dumped her outside the doors of the island clinic. A herd of goats that impeded the Americans’ advance was let loose from its enclosure and slaughtered by rifle fire. After the entire village had been leveled, Army officers veneered the invasion with a thin layer of legitimacy - at gun-point, they forced fistfuls of military script into the hands of the farmers, then twisted their faces towards a camera and took pictures to send to Headquarters as proof of the islanders’ acquiescence.

“The Americans weren’t the only ones taking photographs that day,” explains Shoko Jahana, “The farmers realized that if they wanted the world to understand what they were going through, they needed their proof, too.” Jahana is a white-haired woman in her late sixties with a smile that instantly wipes twenty years from her full-moon face. She works as the caretaker of the Nuchidou Takara no Ie ( “Treasure House of Life Itself” ) - the Iejima museum dedicated to the farmers’ ongoing struggle to retrieve their land from the American military. The museum consists of a pair of ramshackle buildings, located very close to the shoreline where the Americans landed in 1955. Now the beach is home to a Japanese holiday resort, and as we speak, our conversation is punctuated by the shouts of Tokyo holidaymakers, the slap and drone of jet skis.

Jahana shows me the farmers’ photographs of the destruction from March 1955 - empty monochrome scenes of charred land and blackened bricks of coral. Some of the pictures are blurred as though the camera is trying to focus on where the houses used to be. “Shoko Ahagon was one of the farmers whose home was destroyed that day. He went on to organize the islanders in their struggle against the bombing range. People call him the Gandhi of Okinawa.”

Jahana points to a large colour photograph on the wall. A sun-wrinkled man smiles serenely from beneath the brim of a straw hat. Think a slimmer Cesar Chavez with thickly-hooded eyes that glimmer with intelligent compassion. Jahana tells me he gave lectures on the movement to visiting parties of schoolchildren right up until his death in 2002. He was 101 years old.

As she speaks, there’s a gentle knock on the door and an elderly woman enters, carrying a small convenience store bag. When she sees that Jahana is busy talking to me, she bows and sets the bag carefully on the side of her desk. It’s full of earthy cylinders pushing against the white plastic and I remember, earlier at the port, seeing the island’s famous peanuts for sale, alongside dusty bricks of black sugar and tangles of bright pink dragon fruit.

“Ahagon-sensei established the Treasure House in 1984,” Jahana continues, “He wanted to create a permanent exhibit of what went on here after the Americans came ashore in 1955. I’ll ask my assistant to show you around the main museum.” A younger woman in her forties comes in. Jahana lifts the plastic bag from the desk, but when she passes it to her assistant, its sides split open. A dozen rusty bullets clatter to the floor. I jump but neither woman bats an eyelid as they bend and scoop them back up.

The assistant walks me from the reception to the exhibition hall at the rear of the property. When she slides open the doors, I’m struck by a hot blast of air, the smell of second-hand clothes mixed with used book stores. Inside, the museum is a mélange of memorabilia from the past fifty years. American parachutes hang next to musty protest banners. Old newspaper articles line the walls alongside dozens of photographs taken by the farmers to record their struggle. Just in front of the doorway, there’s a massive mound of rusting metal - shell casings and missile fins, grenades and rockets. The assistant kneels down and adds the bullets to the heap. Her action wakes a small white gecko and it scuttles across the deadly pile, finding shelter in a half-blown mortar round.

“Within days of leveling the farmers’ houses, the Americans had completed construction of their bombing range. They marked huge bull’s eye targets with white sand trucked in from the beaches. The explosions went on day and night. Those shells are just a selection of the things they fired. Farmers still come across them now and bring them here for our collection.”

When I ask her what happened to the displaced villagers, she points to a photo of a row of tents. “The Americans had promised them building materials and they were good to their word.” She gives me a sad smile. “The cement they gave had already hardened to concrete in its bags. The boards were rotten and the nails long corroded spikes that couldn’t be used for anything.” One picture shows a family of fifteen packed into a small, open-sided tent. “The villagers quickly fell sick with dehydration, sunstroke and skin diseases.”

Along with the poor-quality building supplies, the American Army offered the farmers financial compensation. Realizing that any acceptance of the money would be interpreted as their assent to the seizure of their land, they refused. With no other means to support themselves, Ahagon and the villagers decided to throw themselves on the mercy of their fellow Okinawans. She shows me a letter they wrote to explain their actions. “There is no way for [us] to live except to beg. Begging is shameful, to be sure, but taking land by military force and causing us to beg is especially shameful.”

On July 21st 1955, the villagers boarded a ferry to Okinawa Hontou. Calling themselves the “March of Beggars”, over the next seven months, they made their way from Kunigami in the north to Itoman almost seventy miles to the south. In every town they passed, the villagers met with the local people and told them of their struggle. Throughout their walk, they were greeted with warm welcomes and sympathy. Even the poorest villages gave them food and shelter for the night. The assistant shows me the photos the farmers exchanged as thanks to the people who supported them. The men stare proudly at the camera - their trousers are patched and threadbare, but their shirts are starched clean white. The women try to hold their smiles while stopping the children from squirming from their knees.

The reception of the authorities stood in stark contrast to the hospitality encountered from ordinary people. Both Okinawan politicians and academics alike ignored Iejima’s farmers’ pleas for assistance. Many of these officials only retained their jobs with the mercurial support of the American administration and they feared dismissal. When the islanders confronted the U.S. High Commission, General James Moore played the Red card and claimed the farmers were uneducated dupes who were being manipulated by communist agitators. An Air Force spokesman called the problem “a petty dispute” - inconsequential in light of the practice bombings which were ensuring security “both for the Free World and for [Okinawan] people.”

After seven months on the road, the March of Beggars finally returned home to Iejima in February, 1956. They found their situation no better than when they had left; the leaking tents still stood and they continued to be denied access to the fields upon which they’d depended for their livelihoods. Bombings and jet plane strafings went on day and night, wearing down already tattered nerves and making rest impossible.

“When the farmers attempted to send word of their predicament to the main Japanese islands, their letters were intercepted by the American military,” explains the assistant. “They didn’t want the world to know what they were doing here.” Some letters, however, did make it through the cordon of censors, and when the Japanese media reported news of the farmers’ struggle, the people of the main islands rallied to their help. School students, homemakers, businessmen - even imprisoned war criminals - started sending care packages to Iejima. They flooded the islanders with powdered milk and sugar, rice and canned fish, notebooks, textbooks and pens. The boxes are on display at the museum. Many of them are addressed simply “To the brave farmers of Iejima.”

No matter how small the parcel, each one was rewarded with a handwritten banner of appreciation and a photograph from the islanders. Upon receiving a massive package from far-off Hokkaido, the entire village gathered to witness the opening of the thirty-one crates. Even the sick and elderly got out of bed to see the gifts from the snowbound northern island. The sign the villagers penned still hangs in the museum today - “To the coal miners of Kushiro, We who live in this southern country thank you very warmly.”

These packages, though substantial, were not enough to sustain the villagers forever. As the 1950s progressed, with no financial aid from the government or the military, many of the islanders were forced to support themselves in an increasingly desperate manner. Where once they harvested tobacco and sweet potatoes, now they scavenged the fringes of the bombing range for scraps of military metal. They collected chunks of shrapnel and bullet casings, and sold them to traders for a few yen a kilogram. From time to time, they’d come across a whole bomb that had failed to explode. The farmers would drag it away and defuse it themselves with a plumber’s wrench and a length of steel pipe. In this manner, they taught themselves to become bomb disposal technicians as expert as any found in modern armies. But for these men - like their professional counterparts - sometimes their luck ran out. Between 1956 and 1963, a dozen islanders were killed or wounded while collecting or dismantling American ordinance. Photos on the walls show farmers with their arms torn off and their faces sheered away - combat pictures from an island purportedly at peace.

“In the early 1960s,” says the assistant walking me down the room, “one of the farmers stumbled across a piece of scrap far too precious to sell.” She gestures towards a long white tube with four tell-tale fins. “He found it sticking out of his field one day. He hid it in his shed while the Americans searched high and low.”

I can well understand the military’s eagerness to retrieve this particular missile. I recognize it almost immediately from another story I’ve been covering about Okinawa. In December 1965, some hundred and fifty miles north of Iejima, the USS Ticonderoga ran into rough seas. A Sky Hawk jet that was on the ship’s deck slipped its cables and tumbled into the ocean. The accident would not have been particularly newsworthy if it hadn’t been for the payload it was carrying: a one megaton hydrogen bomb. The Japanese constitution prohibits nuclear weapons in its waters, and it was only when the device started to leak in 1989, that a nervous Pentagon confessed to Tokyo about the missing bomb.

The assistant must have noticed the panic on my face. “Don’t worry, it’s just a dummy one they used for practice runs.” It looks so real that this does little to allay my fears. Nearby a cicada ticks Geiger-like. “You can touch it if you want,” she offers. I take two steps back and she laughs.

Back in the reception, Jahana tells me of the successes achieved by Ahagon and the islanders. Thanks to their demonstrations throughout the 1960s and a concerted publicity campaign (including three books and a documentary), the bombings stopped and the range was closed down. Many of the farmers were able to recover the fields that were stolen in 1955.

Jahana takes a map of Iejima from her desk drawer. The western portion is marked off by a red dotted line. “Today, the American military controls a third of the island. The Marines have a training area where they still conduct parachute drops. A few years ago, some of their jumpers went astray and landed in a tobacco field. They wondered why the farmer was so angry. They’d only crushed a few tobacco plants - perhaps a carton of cigarettes’ worth. They don’t know what these people have had to put up with over the past fifty years. They have no idea of the sufferings they’ve been through.”

Before I head back to the port, I ask Jahana if she’s hopeful the Americans will change their policy and return the rest of the land. She smiles wryly. “Ahagon-sensei had a saying he often quoted. ‘Even the most evil beasts and devils are not beyond redemption. They might become human one day. All they need to be shown is the error of their ways.’ Ahagon-sensei believed this very strongly. That’s why he built this museum and that’s why it will be here until the day the farmers get back their land.”

Jon Mitchell is a Welsh-born writer, currently working at Tokyo Institute of Technology. He can be reached at:

November 12, 2009

British soldier faces 10 years in jail after being arrested during anti-war demonstration

Daily Mail
Wed, 11 Nov 2009 22:23 EST
© PA

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton is facing 10 years in prison for refusing to return to Afghanistan. He is pictured here at the 'Stop the War' demonstration in October
A soldier facing charges of desertion for refusing to return to Afghanistan has been arrested and charged with five further offences after joining an anti-war demonstration.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton led a protest in London last month against the continued presence of British troops in Afghanistan.

He was already facing a court martial but according to the Stop the War Coalition the new charges carry a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

The group's convener Lindsey German said last night : 'This is not about breach of military regulations. In the last few days a range of military personnel have been speaking in the media in defence of this appalling war. I doubt if any of them have been arrested.

'This is about the persecution of a soldier who believes in telling the truth in accordance with his conscience.

'He is saying what the majority of the population believes - that this war is unwinnable and immoral. The anti-war movement will be doing everything possible to get him released.'

Lance Corporal Glenton, 27, from the Royal Logistic Corps, addressed a rally of more than 5,000 anti-war protesters packed into London's Trafalgar Square in October.

He told the crowd he had witnessed sights during his time in Afghanistan that forced him to question the morality of his role.

The married soldier, from Norwich, told onlookers: 'I'm here today to make a stand beside you because I believe great wrongs have been perpetrated in Afghanistan.

'I cannot, in good conscience, be part of them. I'm bound by law and moral duty to try and stop them.

'I'm a soldier and I belong to the profession of arms. I expected to go to war but I also expected that the need to defend this country's interests would be legal and justifiable. I don't think this is too much to ask.

'It's now apparent that the conflict is neither of these and that's why I must make this stand.'
The Ministry of Defence refused to comment when asked about the further charges.

But spokesman confirmed Lance Corporal Glenton is currently subject to disciplinary action. He said: 'I can confirm that disciplinary action against a serving soldier from the Royal Logistic Corps is currently in progress.

'As this matter is subject to court martial proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.'

The soldier, based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, is facing a court martial, adjourned to January, for alleged desertion after going absent without leave in 2007.

He is charged with disobeying a lawful command. He joined the Army in 2004.

If convicted, he faces two years in prison.

Speaking during last month's rally, he said: 'The occupation in Afghanistan is at best dubious in terms of legality and morality.

'I can't be involved in it on that basis and, not only that, I am also bound to try and stop it, try and change things.

'That's the law, the occupation of a country like that, regime change, these things are all illegal.'

He said military personnel told him not to appear at the rally.

But despite the threat of prison, he said he was determined to speak out.

He said: 'People keep telling me I'm brave but I don't feel brave at all - I feel fairly terrified. It's not going to stop me, I'm going to keep going.

'I won't be silenced. I'll keep talking and doing what I think is right.

'I have to or I'll have to live with this forever if I don't.'

November 10, 2009

US threatens Iran again with 'all option' scenario

Press TV - November10, 2009 09:34:06 GMT

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has once again threatened Iran, warning that Washington has kept every option on the table when it comes to halting Tehran's nuclear program.

"We've always said that every option is on the table. Our goal is to prevent or dissuade Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons," Clinton who is in Germany said in a late Monday interview with PBS's Charlie Rose.

The former first lady added that the US could not accept an arms race in the Middle East which could be triggered by what she claimed was Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"It is not in Iran's interest to have a nuclear arms race in the (Persian) Gulf, where they would be less secure than they are today. It is not in Iran's interest, to the Iranian people's interest, to be subjected to very onerous sanctions."

Clinton added that US President Barack Obama was still seeking a "civil, diplomatic relationship" with Tehran but raised the alarm that Washington may resort to other options in connection with Iran's nuclear case in order to best save its 'interests'.

Iran rejects the allegation that its nuclear work has a military agenda and defends its nuclear program as solely peaceful and within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory.

Clinton's remarks come as the US has been piling up pressure on Iran to accept an IAEA-backed nuclear draft deal that wants Iran to send its enriched uranium to Russia and from there to France for further enrichment. The deal is to provide Iran with 20 percent enriched uranium for the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for medical purposes.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has expressed his country's 'economic and technical' reservations over the proposal.

Tehran does not agree to sending that much of its uranium abroad in one go. The Islamic Republic says it has concerns over the return of the nuclear fuel back into the country as the potential suppliers, including France and Russia, had in the past violated their agreements with Iran.

Sources close to the Iranian nuclear negotiating team say Tehran wants a two-staged and simultaneous exchange of uranium with potential suppliers.

Tehran needs some 120 kilos of uranium enriched to 20 percent to fuel its research reactor in Tehran. In the first stage, Iran wants to exchange 400 kilos of low-enriched uranium for some 60 kilos of 20-percent enriched uranium. After a while, it would be then ready to carry out a second, identical exchange.

The US says no alteration will be made to the draft deal, insisting that Iran should accept the deal as proposed.

November 09, 2009

China Calls on U.S. to Control Deficit

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged the U.S. to limit the size of its deficit to ensure the stability of the dollar, Reuters reported.

America should play a responsible role in contributing to a global recovery, Wen was quoted as saying yesterday at a briefing in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. It should keep the deficit at an appropriate size, the premier said.

Wen is renewing concerns expressed in March, when he said he was “worried” about China’s holdings of Treasuries and wanted assurances that the nation’s U.S. investments were safe. The dollar fell today after the Group of 20 governments agreed to keep stimulus measures and remained silent on the greenback’s decline this year.

The U.S. currency has dropped about 13 percent against a basket of currencies of major trading partners in the past seven months and the International Monetary Fund indicated in a Nov. 7 report that it may still be overvalued.

China’s foreign-exchange reserves climbed to a record $2.273 trillion in September and the nation is the largest holder of U.S. Treasuries, owning $797.1 billion of the securities in August.

China is closely watching its U.S. assets, which are a very important part of the nation’s wealth, Wen was quoted as saying. He reiterated that his government sought safety, liquidity and good value when investing its currency holdings.

China is facing calls to let its own currency gain against the dollar.

Chinese central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan told Bloomberg News on Nov. 6 that “the pressure from the international community to allow yuan appreciation is not that big,” deflecting calls from Europe and Japan to let it rise.

US-Israel military drill involved chemical arms

Press TV - November 9, 2009 17:20:34 GMT

In a joint military drill held in October, the US and Israeli military
simulated unconventional attacks on Israeli towns, a report says.

Israeli and American soldiers launched the three-week Juniper Cobra military exercise in October 21, during which they fired chemical and biological warheads into Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Israeli soldiers from the Home Front Command and American soldiers from the Ohio National Guard's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force (CERF) took part in the drill.

During the Home Front Command-Ohio National Guard CERF exercise, chemical protection suits were donned by participants, the report said.

The soldiers in protective suits were hosed down with water to practice avoiding overheating.

"Israelis and US soldiers need to train to prepare for the defense of their countries, whether that training involves firing a weapon or preparing for any scenario," US Army spokesman Maj. Daniel J. Meyers told the post.

The US has brought advanced-capability Patriot missiles into Israel for the drill, which lasted until November 5.

Japanese FM Rules Out Base Deal During Obama Visit

Massive Protests Against US Base on Okinawa

by Jason Ditz, November 08, 2009

Though the rising dispute over US military bases in Okinawa has been a hot subject for Japanese foreign policy, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada says that his government will not finalize any deals during President Obama’s visit later this week.

US bases (red) on Okinawa

Tensions have been rising between Japan and the United States since Japan’s Democratic Party (DPJ) took power in August, the first major regime change the nation has seen since World War 2. The DPJ ran on the basis of ending US dictation of Japanese foreign policy, and called for a renegotiation of the Okinawa base deal.

But the US has absolutely ruled out any renegotiations, and has demanded the new government accept the deals the previous government signed, even though the unpopularity of those deals was in no small way responsible for the DPJ’s election. The US has grown impatient with the delay, and Japan has threatened to oust them entirely from Okinawa.

Which it seems may suit the Okinawans just fine, as an estimated 21,000 organized a massive protest along the beach calling for the removal of the US Marine base. Okinawans have complained that since the US occupation, they have been asked to bear an inordinate amount of responsibility for housing American forces, and the crime and pollution they bring with them.


Nuclear sites to be fast-tracked as Government warns of energy shortage

By Tim Shipman
November 9, 2009

The Government today insisted the country needed nuclear power as it prepared to unveil plans to fast-track a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband is expected to give the green light to most of the 11 potential sites unveiled earlier this year - and could even back all of them.

And under changes to the planning laws, the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) will be able to speed through the proposals for new schemes.

Mr Miliband acknowledged anxieties about nuclear power but said it had a 'relatively good' safety record in this country.

Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria

'The basic message here is, we can't say no to all of the nuclear or all of the low carbon fuels that are out there,' he told GMTV.

'We need nuclear, we need renewables, we need clean coal, we need all of those things if we are going to make that transition to cleaner energy.'

Although a backlash against the regulations is expected from Labour MPs, he will insist that energy firms need to know they will not fall foul of planning chiefs if they invest in new sites.

Nine of the 11 on the shortlist are next to existing reactors, including two at Sellafield in Cumbria, Sizewell in Suffolk, Wylfa in North Wales and Dungeness in Kent.

In each instance the communities concerned are believed to support expansion because it will create jobs.


Ed Miliband is expected to approve the next generation of nuclear power plants

Indicating that most or all of the sites will be given the green light, an insider said: 'The companies have been pretty good at coming up with locations.

'Ed will make it clear that we can't tackle climate change without nuclear power. We need an energy infrastructure that's fit for the future.'

It came as the Government was expected to announce that radioactive waste will be buried underground in a new storage facility that could cost up to £18billion to build.

The 'deep geological repository' would permanently dispose of Britain's annual 200 tonnes of high-level waste.

Each of the new reactors will produce about 20 tonnes of highly radioactive waste that will remain lethal for 100,000 years.

It is also expected to store 5,000 canisters of nuclear waster from the country's past military programme that is currently kept in West Cumbria.

A source close to Mr Miliband denied reports that he will give the go-ahead to further plants on green-field sites.

Britain gets 15 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power. Ministers want to increase this to 25 per cent by 2025. Demand is set to rise 55 per cent by 2050.

Mr Miliband hopes the first new plants can open by 2018. He admitted people were concerned about nuclear power but insisted it had a 'relatively good' safety record.

'The basic message here is, we can't say no to all of the nuclear or all of the low carbon fuels that are out there. We need nuclear, we need renewables, we need clean coal, we need all of those things if we are going to make that transition to cleaner energy,' he said.

Shadow energy secretary Greg Clark condemned the fact the plans were being unveiled in a ministerial statement, arguing they needed more 'democratic legitimacy'.

'It is a national emergency and it's been left far too late - we've known for the last 10 years that most of our nuclear power fleet would come to the end of its planned life,' he said.

'So whatever happens with these statements we've got a black hole, but actually we do need a different planning system, we need a fast track for major items of infrastructure.

'The trouble with the way the Government's doing it is, it has no democratic component. The statements will just be read out to MPs without a vote and the decisions will be taken by an unelected, unaccountable official.'

Mr Miliband said an independent commission would decide whether power stations were built in certain areas and insisted the plans are crucial to shaping Britain's future energy supply.

'We know the low-carbon transition is a huge challenge. We now need to move on to getting the actions in place to make it happen.

'That is why the national policy statements and Infrastructure Planning Commission are important, because the truth is that we are not going to be able to deliver a 21st century energy system with a 20th century planning system,' he said.

Green groups criticised the plans. Robin Oakley, of Greenpeace, said: 'Nuclear is a dangerous and expensive irrelevance.

'We don't need coal or nuclear, because proven green technologies can secure Britain's energy needs, create green jobs and slash our emissions.'

Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins said: 'Nuclear power leaves a deadly legacy of radioactive waste that remains highly dangerous for tens of thousands of years and costs tens of billions of pounds to manage.'

UK MoD: Afghan war no matter of public view

Press TV - November 8, 2009 17:33:43 GMT

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II prepares to lay a wreath during
the Remembrance Sunday service in Whitehall, London.

British Defense Minister Bob Ainsworth has downplayed mounting public skepticism of the Afghan war, saying the mission was not a matter of public opinion.

The comments came as the Queen paid her respect to Britain's war dead on Remembrance Sunday, when the Ministry of Defense confirmed the death of another trooper in Afghanistan.

Ainsworth was referring to a BBC poll which found 64 percent of Britons regarded the war as 'unwinnable' — a rise of six percent since July — seemingly corresponding to the country's death toll in Afghanistan that has passed the 230 milestone.

“This campaign is directly connected to our safety back here in the United Kingdom and people need to recognize that. Failure will be a disaster for us," he told Sky News.

While MoD only acknowledged a 'dent' in the support for the campaign, the head of the country's armed forces, Sir Jock Stirrup, told BBC One's Andrew Marr show that it was 'incredibly important' to improve ways for 'explaining the successes we are having'.
He said despite the progress being 'painful, slow and halting', the troops based in the war-torn country believed that they were gaining ground.

Stirrup went on to question the current 'optimistic' US estimate of a possible pull out from Afghanistan by 2013, saying the Afghan army could not be entrusted with the full task of maintaining security until a year later.

Meanwhile, a report by the Sunday Times daily said army chiefs were considering a retreat in the face of growing Taliban insurgency and planned to withdraw British troops from outlying bases in Afghanistan.

The strategy, dubbed 'retrenchment', would see several bases, including deadly Musa Qala, abandoned for larger towns in volatile Helmand province — a move expected to spark reaction from the families of soldiers who died there.

This would not be the first time British troops have quitted the Musa Qala, which quickly fell into the Taliban's hands in 2007, only to be reclaimed by NATO forces in a costly operation later that year, the paper noted.

November 08, 2009

Germans press for removal of US nuclear weapons in Europe

By Julian Borger
November 6, 2009

Pressure is growing within Nato for the removal of the remaining US nuclear weapons on European soil, and for a new doctrine for the alliance that would depend less on nuclear deterrence.

The initiative is being driven by the new German government coalition, which has called for the removal of American nuclear weapons on its territory as part of a Nato strategic rethink.

The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, the driving force behind the new policy, raised the issue during talks in Washington today with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Earlier this week, Westerwelle assured the Nato secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, that Germany would consult its allies on the removal of the estimated 20 nuclear weapons left on its soil.

The Germans have backing from the Belgians and Dutch. The new Norwegian government also called for a debate within Nato, as it revises its basic doctrine, known as the strategic concept, due to be completed in the first half of next year.

Des Browne, a former British defence minister now chairing a cross-party parliamentary group on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, argued: "These moves bring out into the open a topic which for too long has been discussed by diplomats and technocrats only. [It] makes possible a genuine debate between allies about the role of nuclear weapons in Nato strategy, as set out in the strategic concept which guides alliance generals."

The current Nato concept, written in 1999, says: "Nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to Nato provide an essential political and military link between the European and the North American members of the alliance. The alliance will therefore maintain adequate nuclear forces in Europe."

It is that clause that is now under scrutiny, in a push to downgrade the role of nuclear weapons in global security. In France two former prime ministers, Alain Juppe and Michel Rocard, as well as a retired general, signed a joint letter to Le Monde newspaper calling for "the structured elimination of nuclear weapons" and arguing that France should be prepared to negotiate on its own independent deterrent.

The letter was a challenge to President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has resisted the [rhetorical] calls for eventual nuclear abolition led by Barack Obama and Gordon Brown.

There are an estimated 200 US weapons – mostly tactical – left in Europe, deployed in Turkey, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

Full article

November 07, 2009

Afghan insurgents learn to destroy key U.S. armored vehicle

By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Taliban-led insurgents in Afghanistan have devised ways to cripple and even destroy the expensive armored vehicles that offer U.S. forces the best protection against roadside bombs by using increasingly large explosive charges and rocket-propelled grenades, according to U.S. soldiers and defense officials.

At least eight American troops have been killed this year in attacks on so-called Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, and 40 more have been wounded, said a senior U.S. military official who, like others interviewed on the issue, declined to be further identified because of the issue's sensitivity.

The insurgents' success in attacking the hulking machines, which can cost as much as $1 million each, underscores their ability to counter the advanced hardware that the U.S. military and its allies are deploying in their struggle to gain the upper hand in the war, which entered its ninth year last month.

The attacks also raise questions about how vulnerable a new, lighter MRAP, the M-ATV, which is now being shipped to Afghanistan, are to the massive explosive charges that Taliban-led insurgents have been using against its bigger cousin.

The insurgents are also hitting MRAPs with rocket-propelled grenades that can penetrate their steel armor, according to U.S troops in Afghanistan, several of whom showed McClatchy a photograph of a hole that one of the projectiles had punched in the hull of an MRAP.

The Pentagon has spent more than $26.8 billion to develop and build three versions of the largest MRAPs, totaling some 16,000 vehicles, mostly for the Army and Marine Corps, according to an August report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Another $5.4 billion is being spent to produce 5,244 M-ATVs, the smaller version that U.S. defense officials contend offers as much protection as the large models do, but is more maneuverable and better suited to Afghanistan's dirt tracks and narrow mountain roads.

"The traditional MRAP was having real problems . . . off road in Afghanistan," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. "And clearly we have to do a lot of work off-road. And these new vehicles will provide our forces the ability to travel more safely off road — certainly off paved roads — than they would have been able to do with other vehicles."

Defense officials acknowledged the growing problem of successful attacks on MRAPs, and said the U.S. military is constantly developing improvements for the vehicle that include better sensors and tactics.

"It's not all about the armor. We can't build something that is impervious to everything," said Navy Capt. Jack Henzlik, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We are using a comprehensive strategy to try to provide for the protection of our forces."

The issue was the subject of a high-level meeting convened on Wednesday by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who made the production of MRAPs his highest priority in 2007 as U.S. troops in Iraq were suffering massive casualties from roadside bomb attacks.

The use of powerful explosive charges against MRAPs "is a problem that he (Gates) is keenly aware of, very concerned about, and is determined to make sure this building is doing everything it can to combat," Morrell said. "We have never advertised MRAPs or M-ATVs as a silver bullet for the IED (improvised explosive device) problem. This is but one element of a vast array of capabilities that we need to bring to bear to protect our forces."

However, retired Army Col. Douglas A. MacGregor, a former armored cavalry commander and combat veteran and an expert on armor warfare, said that vehicles such as the MRAP have "very limited utility" in a war against a guerrilla group such as the Taliban.

"The notion of a wheeled armored constabulary force as a prescription for a close combat situation is nonsense," he said.

U.S. troops rely on the MRAP's V-shaped hull, which is designed to deflect explosive blasts, and heavy armored plating to protect them against the landmines and IEDs that are causing most American combat deaths in Afghanistan.

October was the deadliest month for U.S. troops since the 2001 U.S. invasion. At least 59 were killed, bringing the total for the year to at least 272 dead, according to the Internet site iCasualties. At least 139 of those troops died in IED blasts, according to the Pentagon.

"Pentagon officials note that insurgents are building larger IEDs and are finding better ways to conceal them," the Congressional Research Service report said.

"The biggest question is what took them so long," said a senior Pentagon official with extensive experience with the MRAP program and familiarity with the weapons and techniques that the militants in Afghanistan have developed to "compromise" the vehicle.

The fact that the large MRAPs — which range from 7 tons to 24 tons depending on the model — often are confined to narrow mountain roads and valleys in Afghanistan has made it easier for insurgents to prepare ambushes using anti-tank mines, IEDs or rocket-propelled grenades capable of penetrating armor, the official said.

U.S. defense officials insisted that many more U.S. troops would be killed and injured in Afghanistan and in Iraq if they'd been equipped with vehicles other than MRAPs.

"KIA (killed in action) rates in particular are noticeably reduced in MRAPs," said Irene Smith, a spokeswoman for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, the Pentagon agency created to develop defenses against roadside bombs.

U.S. defense officials in Washington and Kabul declined to reveal the number of MRAPs that have been crippled or destroyed since the first vehicles were deployed in Afghanistan in 2003, saying they didn't want to provide the Taliban with information on the effectiveness of their tactics.

McClatchy is voluntarily withholding some U.S. soldiers' descriptions of insurgent tactics out of concern that they may not be known by all of those fighting U.S.-led forces.

The soldiers spoke out of what they said was a heightened concern about the vehicles' vulnerability to ambushes, especially on mountain roads where there's no room for the vehicles to turn around.

November 06, 2009

UK: Public support for Afghan strategy plummets

November 5, 2009 - 4:45 pm ET

LONDON (AFP) – The public is rapidly losing confidence that the war in Afghanistan can be won, after the killing of five soldiers by a rogue Afghan policeman, a new poll showed Thursday.

The YouGov poll found 57 percent of people thought British troops were not winning the conflict against Taliban insurgents, and "victory is not possible," an increase from 48 percent just two weeks ago.

Thirty-three percent think the war is being won, or that victory is possible eventually.

Consequently, 35 percent want troops withdrawn immediately -- compared with 25 percent two weeks ago. Another 38 percent want most troops withdrawn soon and the rest in the next 12 months or so, the poll showed.

Only 20 percent think troops should stay the course, down from 29 percent two weeks ago, the poll for Channel 4 News said.

The poll comes amid increased pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government over its strategy in the war-ravaged country after the deaths of the British five soldiers.

An apparently rogue Afghan policeman with suspected Taliban links shot dead the soldiers at a checkpoint in Nad Ali district of southern Helmand province on Tuesday.

The attack, one of the most deadly single incidents during a surge in military deaths this year, raised new questions about the safety of coalition troops as world leaders work to boost training of Afghan forces.

Separately, a soldier died in an explosion Thursday, bringing to 230 the number of British troops who have been killed since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001.

Brown announced plans last month to send an extra 500 British troops on top of the 9,000 already deployed.

YouGov interviewed 1,021 adults on Wednesday and Thursday.

November 03, 2009

A court decision that reflects what type of country the U.S. is

Even when government officials purposely subject an innocent person to brutal torture, they enjoy full immunity.

It's not often that an appellate court decision reflects so vividly what a country has become, but such is the case with yesterday's ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Arar v. Ashcroft (.pdf). Maher Arar is both a Canadian and Syrian citizen of Syrian descent. A telecommunications engineer and graduate of Montreal's McGill University, he has lived in Canada since he's 17 years old. In 2002, he was returning home to Canada from vacation when, on a stopover at JFK Airport, he was (a) detained by U.S. officials, (b) accused of being a Terrorist, (c) held for two weeks incommunicado and without access to counsel while he was abusively interrogated, and then (d) was "rendered" -- despite his pleas that he would be tortured -- to Syria, to be interrogated and tortured. He remained in Syria for the next 10 months under the most brutal and inhumane conditions imaginable, where he was repeatedly tortured. Everyone acknowledges that Arar was never involved with Terrorism and was guilty of nothing. I've appended to the end of this post the graphic description from a dissenting judge of what was done to Arar while in American custody and then in Syria.

In January, 2007, the Canadian Prime Minister publicly apologized to Arar for the role Canada played in these events, and the Canadian government paid him $9 million in compensation. That was preceded by a full investigation by Canadian authorities and the public disclosure of a detailed report which concluded "categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constituted a threat to the security of Canada." By stark and very revealing contrast, the U.S. Government has never admitted any wrongdoing or even spoken publicly about what it did; to the contrary, it repeatedly insisted that courts were barred from examining the conduct of government officials because what we did to Arar involves "state secrets" and because courts should not interfere in the actions of the Executive where national security is involved. What does that behavioral disparity between the two nations say about how "democratic," "accountable," and "open" the United States is?

Yesterday, the Second Circuit -- by a vote of 7-4 -- agreed with the government and dismissed Arar's case in its entirety. It held that even if the government violated Arar's Constitutional rights as well as statutes banning participation in torture, he still has no right to sue for what was done to him. Why? Because "providing a damages remedy against senior officials who implement an extraordinary rendition policy would enmesh the courts ineluctably in an assessment of the validity of the rationale of that policy and its implementation in this particular case, matters that directly affect significant diplomatic and national security concerns" (p. 39). In other words, government officials are free to do anything they want in the national security context -- even violate the law and purposely cause someone to be tortured -- and courts should honor and defer to their actions by refusing to scrutinize them.

Reflecting the type of people who fill our judiciary, the judges in the majority also invented the most morally depraved bureaucratic requirements for Arar to proceed with his case and then claimed he had failed to meet them. Arar did not, for instance, have the names of the individuals who detained and abused him at JFK, which the majority said he must have. As Judge Sack in dissent said of that requirement: it "means government miscreants may avoid [] liability altogether through the simple expedient of wearing hoods while inflicting injury" (p. 27; emphasis added).

The commentary about this case from Harper's Scott Horton perfectly captures the depravity of what our Government has done -- and continues to do -- to Arar. His analysis should be read in its entirety, and he concludes with this:

When the history of the Second Circuit is written, the Arar decision will have a prominent place. It offers all the historical foresight of Dred Scott, in which the Court rallied to the cause of slavery, and all the commitment to constitutional principle of the Slaughter-House Cases, in which the Fourteenth Amendment was eviscerated. The Court that once affirmed that those who torture are the “enemies of all mankind” now tells us that U.S. government officials can torture without worry, because the security of our state might some day depend upon it.

I want to add one principal point to all of this. This is precisely how the character of a country becomes fundamentally degraded when it becomes a state in permanent war. So continuous are the inhumane and brutal acts of government leaders that the citizens completely lose the capacity for moral outrage and horror. The permanent claims of existential threats from an endless array of enemies means that secrecy is paramount, accountability is deemed a luxury, and National Security trumps every other consideration -- even including basic liberties and the rule of law. Worst of all, the President takes on the attributes of a protector-deity who can and must never be questioned lest we prevent him from keeping us safe.

This is exactly why I find so objectionable and dangerous the ongoing embrace by the Obama administration of these same secrecy and immunity weapons. Obama had nothing to do with the Arar case -- all the conduct, and even the legal briefing, occurred before he was President -- but he has taken numerous steps to further institutionalize the core injustice here, including in cases that are quite similar to Arar: namely, that the Executive can use secrecy and national security claims to shield himself from the rule of law, even when he's accused of torture and war crimes. That's exactly what happened here, yet again. As Judge Parker wrote in dissent (click image to enlarge)

Identically, Judge Calabresi -- one of the most respected and non-ideological appellate judges in the country -- accused the majority of "utter subservience to the executive branch." Surely that's true, but it isn't only the Arar majority that is guilty of that. It is the nation as a whole -- drowning in infinite claims of "state secrets" and executive immunity and war necessity and the imperatives of "looking forward" -- that has meekly acquiesced to the pernicious idea that the President in an allegedly national security context must never have his actions disclosed, let alone judicially scrutinized and held accountable, no matter how criminal, brutal and inhumane those actions are.


Here's Judge's Sack's description of what was done to Arar in Syria, which accords perfectly with what the Canadian investigation found -- this is what our Government (both the executive and judicial branches) has continuously insisted it can purposely cause to happen without any accountability or even transparency (pp. 13-15):

Judge Sack's equally horrific description of exactly what the U.S. did to cause all of that to happen to Arar is here.


November 01, 2009

Toxic waste trickles toward New Mexico's water sources

"it might not always be safe to live here."
-Santa Clara Gov. Walter Dasheno

Running water

Radioactive debris has been found in canyons that drain into the Rio Grande.
(Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Reporting from Los Alamos, N.M. - More than 60 years after scientists assembled the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, lethal waste is seeping from mountain burial sites and moving toward aquifers, springs and streams that provide water to 250,000 residents of northern New Mexico.

Isolated on a high plateau, the Los Alamos National Laboratory seemed an ideal place to store a bomb factory's deadly debris. But the heavily fractured mountains haven't contained the waste, some of which has trickled down hundreds of feet to the edge of the Rio Grande, one of the most important water sources in the Southwest.

So far, the level of contamination in the Rio Grande has not been high enough to raise health concerns [at least among those whose careers depend on their not raising a concern, there is no safe level of exposure to plutonium]. But the monitoring of runoff in canyons that drain into the river has found unsafe concentrations of organic compounds such as perchlorate, an ingredient in rocket propellant, and various radioactive byproducts of nuclear fission.

Laboratory officials insist that the waste doesn't jeopardize people's health because even when storm water rushing down a canyon stirs up highly contaminated sediment, it is soon diluted or trapped in canyon bottoms, where it can be excavated and hauled away.

"We are seeing no human or ecological risk," said Danny Katzman, director of the lab's water stewardship program. "We won't be surprised on occasion to see a higher than normal reading. But those higher values last for 40 minutes during a flood, and maybe two hours out of a year."

Much surface contamination, however, becomes embedded in sediment or moves down into groundwater. That subterranean migration poses the greatest long-term danger to drinking-water wells and ultimately the Rio Grande.

"When you see a child's footprints and Tonka toys in canyons where there is plutonium, there is reason to believe that a lot more work needs to be done to make the environment safe," said Ron Curry, secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department.

In 2002, the department issued an extensive cleanup order stating that waste at Los Alamos may pose "an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment." Laboratory officials accused the department of exaggerating the threat and resisted the order for several years before agreeing to a revised plan to scrub about 2,000 dirty sites by 2015.

As part of that effort, about 300 monitoring wells and gauges have been installed. Contaminated soil is being removed from canyon bottoms. Wetlands are being planted and small dams built to arrest the flow of polluted storm water. In the summer, the lab began loading some of its hottest radioactive waste into sealed containers by remote control and trucking it to a federal underground storage facility in Carlsbad, N.M.

Ambitious as it is, the plan deals with surface sites, not tainted aquifers. About 18 million cubic feet of waste is sequestered at Los Alamos. No one knows how it is slipping through scrambled layers of rock described by Katzman as "unbelievably complex geology."

Moreover, scientists at Los Alamos say they haven't determined where all of the waste was buried across the laboratory's 40-square-mile property. And they acknowledge that some of the monitoring wells used to measure contamination in deep groundwater may have failed to detect certain radioactive isotopes.

Adding to the uncertainty, a draft report released last summer by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the lab may have substantially underreported the extent of plutonium and tritium released into the environment since the 1940s.

More recently, the state Environment Department reported finding DEHP, an organic compound used in plastics and explosives, at 12 times the safe exposure level in an aquifer that supplies drinking water to Los Alamos and the nearby community of White Rock. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies DEHP as a probable human carcinogen also capable of harming reproductive systems.

In another surprise, water from a broken main flushed out buried waste near an old plutonium processing plant last year and pushed it beyond the largest dam built to stop the spread of contamination. Analysis of sediment by the U.S. Department of Energy's Oversight Bureau revealed "the highest concentrations [of plutonium] the bureau has ever recorded for this medium."

One of the canyons where radioactive waste has been found joins the Rio Grande just three miles above a diversion project the city of Santa Fe is building to capture nearly 3 billion gallons of water annually from the river. The $200-million project, scheduled to start operating in two years, is being designed to screen out and treat contaminated water. But not all radioactive isotopes are easily treatable. Tritium, which has been detected near the Rio Grande, bonds with water.

The directors of the diversion project -- while publicly expressing their confidence in the treatment system -- have been quietly urging the laboratory to do more to stop waste from moving toward the river.

George Rael, assistant manager of environmental operations at the lab, said it would cost as much as $13 billion to remove all accessible contamination. Even if there were enough money available, exhuming the waste could put more people at risk than leaving it alone -- at least in the short run.

"Some of the waste offers quite a challenge," said David McInroy, director of the lab's corrective action program. Digging it up, he said, could expose workers and others to a toxic cloud of debris. If left in place, it might turn up years later in groundwater.

With a population of more than 12,000, Los Alamos today is a far different place than it was in 1943 when the secret weapons complex was known as "Site Y."

The lab conducts climate-change research, screens AIDS vaccines, evaluates new tests for breast cancer and analyzes biological pathogens. Yet most of its budget still goes toward national defense. Los Alamos is the nation's sole manufacturer of plutonium pits, the triggers for nuclear weapons, and it continues to produce toxic waste.

Many residents of Los Alamos have become inured to the hazards of their environment. They hike and picnic in canyons dotted with toxic hot spots.

Just north of Los Alamos, the Santa Clara Pueblo recently installed air monitors that confirmed fears that the wind carries radioactive dust.

Joseph Chavarria, head of Santa Clara's environmental affairs department, said dust settles on the ground after it rains and contaminants are absorbed by edible plants. He said even potters are at risk: "When we make pottery, we test the texture of the clay by putting it in our mouths."

Pueblo officials would not reveal the levels of contamination detected by the air monitors. "I can say they were high enough to raise concerns about the future," said Santa Clara Gov. Walter Dasheno. "It made me think it might not always be safe to live here."

October 30, 2009

Hearts, Minds, and Dollars

POLITICS: U.S. in Pakistan’s Mind: Nothing But Aversion

Analysis by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

With Nato supply convoys passing through the NWFP, US military hardware frequently falls into the hands of insurgents.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Oct 30 (IPS) – To the west of Peshawar on the Jamrud Road that leads to the historic Khyber Pass sits the Karkhano Market, a series of shopping plazas whose usual offering of contraband is now supplemented by standard issue U.S. military equipment, including combat fatigues, night vision goggles, body armour and army knives.

Beyond the market is a checkpoint, which separates the city from the semi-autonomous tribal region of Khyber. In the past, if one lingered near the barrier long enough, one was usually approached by someone from the far side selling hashish, alcohol, guns, or even rocket-propelled grenade launchers. These days such salesman could also be selling U.S. semi-automatics, sniper rifles and hand guns. Those who buy do it less for their quality—the AK-47 still remains the weapon of choice here—than as mementos of a dying Empire.

The realisation may be dawning slowly on some U.S. allies, but here everyone is convinced that Western forces have lost the war. However, at a time when in Afghanistan the efficacy of force as a counterinsurgency tool is being increasingly questioned, there is a newfound affinity for it in Pakistan.

A survey conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) in July 2009, which excluded the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP)—the regions directly affected by war—found 69 percent of respondents supporting the military operation in Swat.

A different survey undertaken by the U.S. polling firm Gallup around the same time, which covered all of Pakistan, found only 41 percent supporting the operation. The Gallup poll also found a higher number—43 percent—favouring political resolution through dialogue.

The two polls also offer a useful perspective on how Pakistanis perceive the terrorist threat. If the country is unanimous on the need to confront militancy, it is equally undivided in its aversion for the U.S. Yet, both threats are not seen as equal: the Gallup survey found 59 percent of Pakistanis considering the U.S. as the bigger threat when compared to 11 percent for the Taliban; and, according to the IRI poll, fewer saw the Taliban (13 percent) as the biggest challenge compared to the spiralling inflation which is wrecking the economy (40 percent).

In 2001, when the United States launched its ‘war on terror’, many among Pakistan’s political elite and intelligentsia supported it, miscalculating the public mood, which was overwhelmingly hostile. This led to the protest vote which brought to power the religious alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in two of the frontier provinces. The MMA had been alone in openly opposing U.S. intervention.

However, as Afghanistan fell, things went quiet and passions subsided. Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator, was able to present his decision to participate in the “war on terror” as a difficult but unavoidable choice. Internationally, his isolation ended, and as a reward the various sanctions imposed on Pakistan after the nuclear tests of 1998 were lifted.

The economy grew, so did Musharraf’s popularity. When under intense U.S. pressure in 2004 he sent the Pakistani military into the restive FATA region, people barely noticed. He managed to retain his support despite reports of atrocities, which, according to Human Rights Watch, included indiscriminate use of force, home demolitions, extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances. Indeed, if he was blamed at all, it was for not going far enough.

Things changed when on Musharraf’s orders, soldiers stormed a mosque in Islamabad held by Taliban sympathizers in August 2007, which resulted in the deaths of many seminarians. The Taliban retaliated by taking the war to the mainland and terrorist attacks hit several major cities.

Musharraf was blamed, and with an emerging challenge from the civil society in the form of a lawyers’ movement and an insurgent media, his popularity went into terminal decline. Meanwhile, in the Malakand region, Swat and Dir emerged as new flashpoints. The threat from Taliban militants could no longer be ignored, but opinions differed as to how best to confront it. The majority supported a negotiated settlement.

The turning point came in May, when, after a peace deal between the government and militants had broken down, the military embarked on a major offensive in Malakand. Though the truce had temporarily brought calm to the region, both sides had failed to live up to their commitments.

Yet, in the aftermath the Taliban alone were blamed, and in the media a consensus developed against any further negotiations with the militants. The operation was hailed as a success despite the loss of countless lives and the displacement of up to three million people.

However, in the frontier itself, analysts remained less sanguine. Rahimullah Yusufzai, deemed the most knowledgeable commentator on frontier politics, considered it an “avoidable” war. Another leading analyst, Rustam Shah Mohmand, wondered if it was not a war against the Pakhtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and the NWFP, since no similar actions were considered in other lawless regions.

Roedad Khan, a former federal secretary, described it as an “unnecessary war” which was “easy to prevent … difficult to justify and harder to win”. In the political mainstream all major parties felt obliged to support the war for fear of being labelled unpatriotic. The opposition came mainly from religious parties, and from cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice).

Opinions were reinforced in favour of a military solution when militants launched a wave of terrorist attacks in anticipation of the Pakistani army’s new operation in FATA.

While the effects of the terrorist atrocities were there for all to see, the consequences of months of aerial bombing and artillery shelling that preceded the operation were less known.

A third of the total population of South Waziristan—site of the government’s newly launched anti-Taliban offensive—has been displaced, and it has received little relief. When an Associated Press crew met the refugees, they expressed their anger at the government by chanting “Long live the Taliban”.

Instead of winning hearts and minds, the Pakistani government is delivering them to the enemy.

Despite the best efforts of sections of the elite to take ownership of the war, the view persists that Pakistan is fighting an American war. That the military operation in South Waziristan follows an inducement of 1.5 billion U.S. dollars from the U.S. government, and is supported by U.S. drone surveillance, does little to disabuse sceptics of their notions.

Following the bombing of the International Islamic University in Islamabad last week, an Al Jazeera correspondent—a Scot—was accosted by an angry student who, mistaking him for an American, held him responsible for the attack.

Pakistanis are acutely aware that before 2002 there was no terrorist threat, and they remain equally convinced that the threat will vanish once U.S. forces withdraw from the region. But before that happens, some fear, Pakistan will have compromised its long-term stability.

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad ( is the co-founder of

The Origins of the “Global Warming” Scare

Notsylvia Night - October 30, 2009

Did you know, that the “Human caused Global Warming” hypothesis didn´t originate in the 1980s, but actually in the 1880s? Although, until the late 1970s, the hypothesis was considered “a curiosity”, since it contradicted observed events.

Did you further know, that at first this hypothesis wasn´t publicly promoted by scientists or even environmentalists, but by a UN ambassador and a very ambitious British Lady politician?

It’s snowing in April. Ice is spreading in Antarctica. The Great Barrier Reef is as healthy as ever. And that’s just the news of the past week. Truly, it never rains but it pours – and all over our global warming alarmists.

Time’s up for this absurd scaremongering. The fears are being contradicted by the facts, and more so by the week.

- wrote Andrew Bolt in the Australian Herald Sun last April.

Then he goes on to debunk many of the main claims most “Global Warming” (renamed “Climate Change”) believers will cite in public:

-like the claim that
the earth is rapidly warming at the moment.
The facts, however, are
that according to data from Britain’s Hadley Centre, NASA’s Aqua satellite and the US National Climatic Data Centre
the fall in temperatures from just 2002 (until 2009) has already wiped out half the warming our planet experienced last century.
(See also: Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered)

-or the claim that
the polar ice is rapidly melting.
The facts, however, are
that a British Antarctic Survey, working with NASA, last (April) confirmed
ice around Antarctica has grown 100,000 sq km each decade for the past 30 years.

-or the claim, that
the oceans are warming up
The facts, however, are
according to Josh Willis, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who evaluated
a five years study (done using) a network of 3175 automated bathythermographs deployed in the oceans by the Argo program, a collaboration between 50 agencies from 26 countries:
“There has been a very slight cooling”…

-or the claim that
sea-levels are rising dramatically.
The facts, however, are
according to the Jason-1 satellite mission monitored by the University of Colorado, that
for almost three years, the seas have stopped rising,

-or the claim,
that world-wide devastating storms (cyclones) are getting worse.
The facts, however, are
according to Ryan Maue of Florida State University, who
recently measured the frequency, intensity and duration of all hurricanes and cyclones to compile an Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index.()
The energy index is at its lowest level for more than 30 years.

-or the absolutely ridiculous claim by World Vision boss Tim Costello that Asia was a “region, thanks to climate change, that has far more cyclones, tsunamis, droughts”.
The facts are
(besides that Tsunamis are caused by earthquakes)
according to a 2006 study by Indur Goklany, who represented the US at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
“There is no signal in the mortality data to indicate increases in the overall frequencies or severity of extreme weather events, despite large increases in the population at risk.”

Most of the myths, which are now slowly being debunked by scientists through intensive research, have once been created by “scientists”.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has for several decades now employed “scientists” who claim

that human activities are responsible for nearly all earth’s recorded warming during the past two centuries.

writes David R. Legates in “Breaking the “Hockey Stick”

A widely circulated image used by the IPCC dramatically depicting these temperature trends resembles a hockey stick with three distinct parts: a flat “shaft” extending from A.D. 1000 to 1900, a “blade” shooting up from A.D. 1900 to 2000, and a range of uncertainty in temperature estimates that envelops the shaft like a “sheath.”

This image was produced by Michael Mann, Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes

(other colleagues working with Mann on his subsequent “climate change” research-papers were Philip D. Jones and Gavin Schmidt)…..

However, five independent research groups have uncovered problems with the underlying reconstructions by Mann and his colleagues in their 1998 and 1999 work that have persisted through his most recent collaborative efforts, calling into question all three components of the “hockey stick.”

Mann and Jones indicate that globally- and hemispherically-averaged air temperatures from A.D. 200 to 1900 were nearly constant. Missing from their timeline, however, are the widely recognized Medieval Warm Period (about A.D. 800 to 1400) and the Little Ice Age (A.D. 1600 to 1850).
Most proxy records from around the globe show these climatic events, as Willie Soon, Sallie L. Baliunas and I concluded in a 2003 paper published in Energy and the Environment.

For instance:
* In such widely disparate regions as Argentina, Chile, southern Peru, southern Africa and northern China, records indicate a marked warming at the beginning of the last millennium followed by extreme cold during the middle centuries.

* Historical proxies for temperature – such as tree rings, ice cores and bore holes – in New Zealand, Australia and California also confirm widespread, significant warming and cooling trends…..

(Scientists) Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick..().. contend that Mann and his colleagues in their 1998 and 1999 papers unjustifiably truncated or extrapolated trends from source data, used obsolete data, made incorrect calculations, and associated data sets with incorrect geographical locations….

More recently,(scientists) David Chapman, Marshall Bartlett and Robert Harris identified methodological problems in a 2003 Geophysical Research Letters study by Mann and G. Schmidt.

Specifically, Mann and Schmidt eliminated specific proxy records (data from bore holes) they thought were inaccurate. Chapman et al. showed that Mann and Schmidt had unjustifiably excluded the bore-hole data and concluded that their methods were “just bad science” and that they presented a “selective and inappropriate presentation” of results..….

Jan Esper, David Frank and Robert Wilson () further argued that the fatal flaw with Mann, Bradley and Hughes’ temperature reconstruction is its incorrect representation of longer-term trends.

They observed that the statistical methods used inappropriately remove trends over long time periods..

But the meteoric rise of the “Global Warming – bad science” into a global dogma and from there into the legislation of, by now, most nations on earth, did not originate with scientists at all.

Richard Courtney, founding member of the European Science and Environment Forum and technical adviser to several members of the British Parliament as well as to some British members of the European Parliament wrote the 1999 article “Global Warming: How It All Began” in which he explores the history of this particular pseudo-science.

The hypothesis of man-made global warming has existed since the 1880s. It was an obscure scientific hypothesis that burning fossil fuels would increase CO2 in the air to enhance the greenhouse effect and thus cause global warming. Before the 1980s this hypothesis was usually regarded as a curiosity because the nineteenth century calculations indicated that mean global temperature should have risen more than 1°C by 1940, and it had not.

Then, in 1979, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (now Lady Thatcher) became Prime Minister of the UK, and she elevated the hypothesis to the status of a major international policy issue…..

Courtney goes on to explain, that in 1979 Thatcher actually did not yet have a much stature abroad or at home. In Britain her only claim to fame as an Education Secretary in the Heath administration that collapsed in 1974 was as ‘Milk Snatcher Thatcher’ due to her policy of ending distribution of milk to British school-children.

It was Britain´s Ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Crispin Tickell, who suggested she should use the issue of “Global Warming” as a means to gain national and international credibility.

He also suggested, that Thatcher with her education, a degree in chemistry, could easily win debates on scientific subjects, since most other politicians were “scientifically illiterate” .

As an aside, there are quite interesting parallels between the British “Iron Lady” of the 1980s and the German “Iron Lady” of today.

Like Thatcher, Angela Merkel was not widely known before she was put into office by her party.
(Why they chose her is rather a mystery. Merkel was actually loosing votes for her conservative Christian Democratic Party, with her pro-Iraq-war position, when practically the whole German nation was opposed to it, and the seeming inability to produce a single genuine smile reaching the eyes, which gave her a definite lack of public charisma.)

Like Thatcher, Merkel also has degree in science, a doctorate (Dr. rer. nat.) for her thesis on quantum chemistry.

Like Thatcher, Merkel is busy cutting down on workers´ rights and on the German social safety net. Merkel, the pro-corporate and anti-union German chancellor, is also a strong supporter of carbon tax legislation, both in Germany and in Europe, as well as a mandated global reduction in CO2 to combat “Global Warming”.

Margaret Thatcher went for Ambassador Tickell´s “Global Warming” to strengthen her prominence. Her Conservative Party went for it, to weaken the British coal-miners labor union. “Global Warming” would then give the nuclear industry a push, since now coal-fueled power-stations could be replaced by nuclear power-stations for “environmental” reasons. Britain´s nuclear industry urgently needed that kind of a push since the Three Mile Island accident had damaged public confidence in nuclear technology.

The other rationale for why nuclear power should be used instead of coal, the alleged cost benefit, was being destroyed, when privatization of the Britain’s electricity supply industry exposed that British nuclear power was produced at four times the cost of electricity produced in coal-fueled power plants.

And, writes Courtney,

the Conservative Party wanted a large UK nuclear power industry for another reason. That industry’s large nuclear processing facilities were required for the UK’s nuclear weapons programme and the opposition Labour Party was then opposing the Conservative Party’s plans to upgrade the UK’s nuclear deterrent with Trident missiles and submarines.

Subsequently the “Global Warming” issue was promoted by large government grants and funds. Scientists fell in line through peer pressure and for fear of losing their research funding and not because they actually were convinced by the argument.

In 1992 Greenpeace International conducted a survey of the world’s 400 leading climatologists. Greenpeace had hoped to publicize the results of that survey in the run-up to the Rio summit, but when they completed the survey, they gave very little publicity to its results. In response to the survey, only 15 climatologists were willing to say they believed in global warming, although all climatologists rely on it for their employment.

Though not all scientists sold out their integrity for funds:

Following the Leipzig Climate Conference in November 1995,

the Leipzig Declaration disputes the IPCC assertions about man-made global warming. It was drafted and has been signed by over 1,500 scientists from around the world.

Today the “Global Warming” and “Climate Protection” issue is being sold to the public as being a liberal or even a left-wing concern. Forgotten is it´s very much right-wing, anti-union corporate and militarist origin.

Green and environmental minded people also seem to have forgotten the connection between “Global Warming” and the nuclear power-industry, and anti-war activists never seem to register, that “Global Warming” was actually used to create more weapons of mass-destruction.

The fact that the “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” issue isn´t really about environmental protection is clearly shown, for instance, by the US Climate Change Bill, promoted by the new US Obama Administration and his “progressive” Democratic Party.

Atheo News writes about the bill in Dr. Chu’s Energy Bait and Switch

The congressional mandates “are very weak and really will not require any additional renewables beyond what states already are doing,” says Mark Sinclair of Clean Energy States Alliance. “It will be meaningless. It’s just a gesture.”

Marchant Wentworth of the Union of Concerned Scientists came to a similar conclusion, seeing that absolute requirements for renewables, after allowances, would be as low as 8 percent of total electric power generation for each utility. This is hardly a challenge for most utilities in a nation that in 2006 generated almost 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, including hydro power.

In other words, the proposed renewable sources requirements amount to little more than shallow symbolism. The current public subsidies and underwriting for nuclear power already make the nuclear choice more economically viable for utilities to maximize return on utility investment. The legislation is, in fact, a thinly veiled mandate for building new nuclear power plants, or to increase output from existing ones.

Republicans are offering a different plan that simply calls for building 100 new nuclear plants within the next twenty years.

These plans mirror similar policies across the Atlantic where the government in Britain is rushing a new generation of nuclear power plants, with a goal to begin construction within four years. Both ‘energy independence’ and climate change were cited as rationales by policy makers there as well.

Obama’s Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is a staunch advocate of nuclear power, citing it as “essential” due to global warming while at the same time ignoring the carbon emissions of the “nuclear cycle” that are produced from the mining, milling, enrichment, fuel fabrication and disposal of spent fuel. The new appointee described nuclear power as “carbon free” at his confirmation in January.

While the “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” skeptics (sometimes called “deniers”) are often accused of being paid assets of the oil industry, the economical and political advantages of the “Global Warming” pseudo-science for the nuclear power industry cannot be denied any longer.

There is, however, an even stronger and even less publicly known connection of the “Global Warmers” with another industry, as Aletho News reports:

The new Democratic climate change bill , introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer and John Kerry, contains more advantages for nuclear power than even the legislation which passed in the House of Representatives last June. Included are waste management, financing and loan guarantee arrangements, regulatory risk insurance, as well as R&D and training programs. Joseph Lieberman is understood to be preparing the fine print for the bill which is presently “short on details”…..

As with other major pieces of legislation under consideration by the current Congress, the financial industry is a central actor, venture capitalists “are ready to pour multibillions of dollars into clean energy” if Congress passes “some kind of bill that talks about energy independence and climate change,” Boxer said.

How deep the connection between the “Climate Change” movement and the financial industry actually is, and how important the matter is for the elite of this industry, and how this even is connected to the issue of Iran´s civilian nuclear energy program, will be the subject of part two of this report.

Part Two:

Where "Global Warming" and "Peak Oil" meet