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KMT vows to challenge Japan food imports with referendum


Taipei, April 6 (CNA) Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said on Thursday he will officially submit a proposal for the holding of a national referendum on food safety if the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration lifts a ban on the import of food products from radiation-affected prefectures in Japan.

The proposal has obtained more than 120,000 signatures, Hau said.

In addition, if the DPP government opens Taiwan’s market to ractopamine-containing pork from the United States, the KMT will mobilize the public to protest at customs offices, he said.

Under the Referendum Act, the authorization of a referendum requires that no less than 0.5 percent of the total electorate at the last presidential election sign a petition.

Because there were 18.78 million eligible voters at the last election on Jan. 16, 2016, Hau’s proposal needs to be supported by at least 93,900 signatures and then approved by the Referendum Review Committee.

Taiwan has banned imports of food products from five prefectures in Japan – Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki and Tochigi – that were contaminated by radiation following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, a catastrophe triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Taiwan’s government is now considering lifting the ban on food from all the prefectures except Fukushima, but has run into virulent public opposition.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | 1 Comment

Revised law enables surprise inspection of nuclear plants

The Diet passed on Friday a sweeping reform of nuclear inspections to allow regulators to conduct unannounced inspections of nuclear plants and give them unlimited access to needed data.

The enactment of the revised nuclear reactor regulation law comes after the International Atomic Energy Agency suggested Japan, which has been holding periodic inspections using checklists, needs a more flexible system.

The new inspection system, based on the U.S. system, will be implemented from fiscal 2020 after the Nuclear Regulation Authority sets specific rules.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Reconstruction minister unfit for his Position, 28,000 demand his resignation


Masahiro Imamura, minister in charge of rebuilding from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, waits for the start of a meeting of the Lower House’s Special Committee for Reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake on April 6.

Rebuild minister says sorry as 28,000 demand his resignation

Under-fire minister Masahiro Imamura apologized and mostly retracted the remarks he made over so-called voluntary evacuees at a tense April 4 news conference in Tokyo, as thousands of protesters demanded his resignation.

Imamura, who is in charge of rebuilding from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, offered the late apology on April 6 after facing fierce criticism from Fukushima evacuees and political rivals.

The same day, four Fukushima evacuees’ groups and their supporters jointly submitted a petition with 28,127 signatures to the Reconstruction Agency in the capital, calling for Imamura’s resignation as the head of the agency.

When asked about the government’s responsibility for providing assistance to the voluntary evacuees at the news conference, Imamura had said: “They are responsible for their lives. They can file a lawsuit or do other things (if they disagree with the central government’s position).” He also shouted at a freelance journalist who pressed him on the issue

He apologized for his outburst to reporters on the evening of April 4, but did not retract his remarks, saying he had made an “objective statement.”

However, Imamura made a U-turn on the morning of April 6 and offered his “sincere apologies” for his words on voluntary evacuees at a meeting for the Lower House’s Special Committee for Reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Imamura asked permission to speak at the beginning of the meeting, and offered a further apology to the freelance journalist he had snapped at and for becoming “emotional” at the news conference, and then explained the other remarks that landed him in hot water.

“’Their own responsibility’ was not the right way of saying it,” the minister said. “I meant to say that they have made their own judgment (not to return).”

Addressing his remark suggesting that evacuees can take legal action if they are unhappy with the government’s decision on the matter, he explained that he was merely “generally speaking” that “asking a court’s decision is an option when an agreement cannot be reached (between two parties).”

Protests against Imamura by Fukushima evacuees began in front of the Reconstruction Agency building on April 5.

The letter accompanying the petition handed on April 6 read, “His remark suggested the nation is renouncing responsibility (to help evacuees), and trampled on evacuees’ feelings.”

Referring to a law passed to support all nuclear disaster victims, the letter continued, “As the minister of the agency responsible, we must question his quality.”

A law has been enacted to support the lives of children and other victims of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant accident regardless of the decisions that victims make about their own futures, such as whether to move permanently or temporarily, or return to their homes in the affected area.

Asked by an opposition party member for his position on the resignation demand, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave Imamura his backing.

I would like him to keep working hard for the speedy rebuilding of the disaster-hit area,” Abe said at the Lower House plenary session on April 6.

Reconstruction minister unfit for his position

The minister in charge of Japan’s recovery from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear disaster, is under fire for saying at an April 4 news conference that “voluntary evacuees” from the Fukushima nuclear disaster are “self-accountable” for their actions, as if to exonerate the government from its responsibility.

The gaffe by Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura came in response to a reporter’s question about his views on the government’s responsibility for voluntary evacuees. He responded, “They are self-accountable (for their actions). It’s up to them.”

In the wake of the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, more than 20,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture voluntarily evacuated from their hometowns located outside government-designated no-go zones, according to a tally by the Fukushima Prefectural Government. Despite the high figure, the prefectural government terminated rent subsidies for voluntary evacuees as of the end of March.

Imamura’s remarks come in the face of a financial predicament for those who choose to stay away from areas affected by the nuclear catastrophe. It is only natural that protests over the minister’s insensible remarks and calls for his resignation have stormed the country.

The minister stated that evacuees’ decision on whether or not to return to their hometowns is up to them. When asked by a reporter whether the government was going to take responsibility for those who left their hometowns voluntarily, he replied that if they are dissatisfied, “they can go to court or whatever.” This nonchalant response appears to betray his honest feelings about the issue.

When the reporter continued his questions, Imamura lashed out, saying, “Get out,” and “Shut up.” Such an attitude from the minister, who doubles as minister in charge of Comprehensive Policy Coordination for Revival from the Nuclear Accident at Fukushima, is appalling.

Voluntary evacuees didn’t evacuate by choice; they are the victims of the country’s unprecedented nuclear catastrophe. The prefectural government insists that the termination of rent subsidies is aimed at promoting their return to their hometowns, but some evacuees cannot go home because they have landed new jobs elsewhere or because their children attend schools in those areas. Many households have a hard time making ends meet, and there are evacuees who remain concerned about radiation.

Overlooking this situation, Imamura talked about self-accountability with an air of indifference, as if to say it couldn’t be helped if evacuees “selfishly” evacuate and opt not to return. Who on earth could call him a minister who stands by disaster victims?

In a class action lawsuit brought by evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture, Gunma Prefecture and other areas, the Maebashi District Court recognized the government’s negligence in the nuclear disaster, but granted a far smaller amount of compensation to plaintiffs than they had demanded. In the meantime, some municipalities have decided to continue financially supporting voluntary evacuees from their own coffers. This could widen the economic gap among evacuees depending on where they live.

The very least the government must do is to address the situation and extend support to voluntary evacuees. Yet Imamura’s astonishing remarks give a wide impression that the government ultimately desires to cast aside nuclear evacuees as soon as possible.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to have marginalized the post of reconstruction minister. At a government-held memorial ceremony for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March this year, Prime Minister Abe stopped short of referring to the “nuclear disaster” in his speech — which met a backlash from the Fukushima governor and others. The latest gaffe by Reconstruction Minister Imamura represents just how little weight the Abe government has placed on the ongoing nuclear crisis.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Anti-Conspiracy Bill to Suppress Anti-Government Demonstrations

gjhjjlk.jpgRally participants protest the so-called “anti-conspiracy bill” at Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on the evening of April 6, 2017.

Protesters say ‘anti-conspiracy’ bill aims to suppress anti-government demonstrations

Thousands of people gathered in Tokyo to protest the so-called “anti-conspiracy bill” hours after the government submitted the bill to the House of Representatives on April 6.

The group Kyobozai NO! Jikko Iinkai (Committee saying no to the anti-conspiracy bill) and multiple other civic organizations held a rally at Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall, after which participants marched through the streets of Japan’s capital calling for the bill to be scrapped. According to event organizers, some 3,700 people took part.

“Suppression of protests against the government is the essence of this bill,” Yuichi Kaido, an attorney who has long been active in the movement against anti-conspiracy legislation, told the crowd. “Let us fight to kill this bill.”

Opposition lawmakers who participated in the event remarked, “The bill will turn the public into latent criminals,” “The bill is the modern-day version of the prewar Public Security Preservation Law” and “The prime minister said he would provide a careful explanation, but forcibly submitted the legislation.”

After the rally, participants marched in front of the Diet as they called out, “We don’t need anti-conspiracy legislation!” and “The bill has nothing to do with anti-terrorism,” while holding banners reading, “Simply having a discussion may become a crime!”

hhjkklm.jpgAn estimated 3,700 demonstrators rally against a bill that penalizes conspiracies to commit crimes in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on April 6, saying it could lead to the extensive monitoring of citizens and the suppression of freedom of expression

Local councils, citizens raise red flag against new crime legislation

Almost 4,000 protesters marched in Tokyo on April 6 to voice their concern that a proposed law to enable punishment for planning crimes is one step toward an Orwellian society of surveillance.

The purpose of the bill is to silence citizens opposing the government when these people haven’t actually posed any threat,” said protester Yuichi Kaito, a lawyer who serves as the deputy chief of the task force dealing with the anti-conspiracy legislation at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

A 44-year-old public servant from Kawasaki who attended the rally in Hibiya Park in central Tokyo chipped in with, “People who are involved in labor union activities are just ordinary people. If they were cracked down on, they would not be able to enjoy a normal life.”

The protesters marched to the Diet building to coincide with the bill being introduced for a debate at a Lower House plenary session in which the four major opposition parties have pledged to fight it.

A similar bill has been killed three times since it was first submitted to the Diet in 2003. It was criticized that it could be used to target ordinary citizens’ groups and labor unions as the law could be arbitrarily applied by the police and the government.

The government argues the legislation is required to fight terrorism by joining the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

It insists the new legislation is urgently needed as the capital prepares to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

But many citizens fear the legislation could lead to the suppression of freedom of thought.

The country has already experienced suppression in the years leading up to World War II. In 1925, the public security preservation law was enacted with the initial purpose of reining in communism. But its application was expanded to encompass attacks on critics, journalists and activists.

The prefectural assemblies of Mie and Miyazaki, as well as 34 other local assemblies across Japan, had issued statements as of April 6 opposing the legislation or calling for a cautious Diet debate, according to the Lower House.

Nagano Prefecture appears to be particularly opposed to the bill. Thirteen municipal assemblies in the prefecture, prodded by alarmed citizens, have made it clear they oppose the legislation, the largest of any prefecture in Japan.

The backdrop to this is what is known as the Feb. 4 incident of 1933, in which about 600 people in the prefecture–many of them teachers–were arrested on suspicion of violating the public security preservation law. Those arrested were suspected of harboring communist sympathies.

Local residents in Nagano Prefecture see many parallels between the current bill and the pre-war legislation.

In my appeal, I ask, ‘Is it all right to repeat history?” said Yukio Nunome, head of the secretariat of a federation of civic groups advocating the protection of the pacifist Japanese Constitution.

In Fukushima Prefecture, four local assemblies adopted a statement opposing the bill.

Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, we have always protested against the central government,” said Kiyoshi Ishikawa, a Japanese Communist Party (JCP) member of the Kawamata town assembly. “It is only expected that opposition to the anti-conspiracy bill is spreading due to concerns that it could breach freedom of thought.”

In Tokyo, the Kunitachi municipal assembly condemned the legislation as potentially leading to a society where individuals are under constant surveillance and turned into informants for the authorities.

Miyako Owari, a JCP assemblywoman who drafted the protest statement, expressed concern that grass-roots activities could be targeted, such as weekly gatherings held in the city.

The bill concerns each of us since if it is written into law, we may lose the atmosphere in which we can freely voice our opinions and express ourselves,” she said.

The government aims to pass the bill in the Lower House by early May so that officials can underscore Japan’s efforts to fight terrorism at the Group of Seven summit in Sicily, Italy, later the same month.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

3 Schools Return From Nuclear Exile

Two generations of Fukushima children sacrificed in the name of political expediency…


Students from two elementary schools and a junior high school attend the joint opening ceremony for a new school building in the town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, on Thursday. The schools moved to makeshift venues in 2011 to escape radioactive fallout during the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Naraha sees three schools return from nuclear exile in Fukushima

FUKUSHIMA – Two elementary schools and a junior high school returned to their hometown in Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday six years after being forced to flee radiation spewed by the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

Around 90 students attended the joint opening ceremony at the new building housing the junior high school in Naraha, most of which is within a 20-km hot zone centered on the heavily damaged Fukushima No. 1 plant. The evacuation order for Naraha was lifted in September 2015.

Our school life in Naraha, which we have long awaited, begins today. One day, I want to do something for my town,” 11-year-old Hina Moue of Naraha Minami Elementary School said at the ceremony.

The two elementary schools will hold their classes in the junior high school building for the time being.

Since January 2013, the students had been studying at a makeshift facility further south in a university in Iwaki.

The junior high school building was under construction when the 2011 mega-quake and tsunami triggered the man-made nuclear crisis.



Children are seen getting on a school bus at JR Hirono Station in Fukushima Prefecture on April 6, 2017, to attend classes in the town of Naraha.

Fukushima schools reopen for 1st time in 6 years after nuclear evacuation order lifted

NARAHA, Fukushima — All of the three public elementary and junior high schools here resumed classes on April 6 for the first time in six years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster broke out.

The whole town of Naraha was subject to an evacuation order in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant. While the order was lifted in September 2015, only about 10 percent of local residents have returned to the town.

This is the first time schools reopened in a municipality that was subject to evacuation orders in its entirety.

Students of the two municipal elementary schools and one junior high school had been studying at a makeshift school in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki, where many Naraha townspeople evacuated. They will now attend classes held at the Naraha Junior High School building. In the meantime, only 105 students, or 20-plus percent of those who would be able to enroll in these three schools, will be going to school there.

There are a total of 22 children who are commuting from Iwaki, approximately 30 kilometers away from the town. On the day that Naraha schools reopened, some of these children took a 25-minute train ride from JR Joban Line’s Iwaki Station and got on a school bus at a station in the neighboring town of Hirono. Since Naraha remains fairly empty even after the evacuation order was lifted, almost all the 105 students will take school buses between the train station and their school out of safety concerns.

Mineo Yokota, 52, who owns a restaurant in Naraha and commutes to his workplace from Iwaki by car, decided he would send his eldest daughter, a second-year junior high school student, to the school in his family’s hometown. She had transferred school three times since the nuclear disaster, due to evacuation.

“I had planned to drive her to school, but my daughter decided on her own to commute by train after talking to some of the upperclassmen. I’m relieved to learn that the kids have made their own community,” Yokota said.

Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said at the opening ceremony that the municipal government had prepared for this day “with the determination that ‘there is no future for a town without children'” even though reopening schools in Naraha “seemed impossible at one point.”


April 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Reconstruction Minister Imamura not Sympathetic to Fukushima Evacuees

march 6 2017.jpg

A map shows the latest status of restricted areas affected by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant as of March 6, 2017.

Japan’s Fukushima Cleanup Minister Says Refugees from Nuclear Radiation Are on their Own

The Japanese government official in charge of cleaning up the region devastated by a 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster apologized Tuesday after yelling at a reporter who criticized the official’s position on refugees.

Masahiro Imamura, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party and head of the recovery effort for the Tohoku region, said he “became emotional” after a journalist pressed him on the government’s role in assisting 26,000 so-called “voluntary evacuees” who fled Tohoku’s Fukushima prefecture after a massive tsunami and earthquake caused a meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and released deadly radiation. The government reportedly cut housing funds Friday to the refugees, who Imamura said Tuesday should bear “self-responsibility for their own decisions.” When one reporter pointed out that many were still in need of assistance and pressed Imamura for a “responsible answer,” the official raised his voice.

“I’m doing my job in a responsible manner. How rude you are!” Imamura yelled. “You should retract what you’ve just said. Get out!” he added, according to the Japan Times. “Never come here again!” 

The minister reportedly continued to shout before someone in attendance accused the official of “causing problems for the evacuees.” Imamura told the individual to “shut up” and left the conference, Japan Today reported.

Heightened levels of nuclear radiation following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused about 160,000 people to evacuate the district of Fukushima. Six years later, only around 20 percent of the residents have returned to areas where evacuation orders were lifted, according to Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shinbun, and many have expressed little desire to go back. Critics have accused Tokyo of encouraging residents to repopulate the area by cutting assistance, despite ongoing health concerns and numerous setbacks that have plagued efforts to rebuild the area.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owned the ruined plant, has been tasked with the $188 billion recovery process, which has hit multiple obstacles as the company attempted to send robots into the “unimaginable” levels of radiation that persisted in the plant’s radioactive cores. The robots have also succumbed to the radiated terrain, leaving researchers uncertain of the site’s future.




Angry Imamura not sympathetic to Fukushima evacuees

Masahiro Imamura, the minister in charge of rebuilding from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, doesn’t seem to have a sufficient grasp of the complicated situation in which Fukushima evacuees are trapped.

Asked about the government’s responsibility for providing assistance to the so-called voluntary evacuees at an April 4 news conference in Tokyo, Imamura said: “They are responsible for their own lives. They can file a lawsuit or do other things (if they disagree with the central government’s position).”

He was referring to people who fled areas that were not subject to the government’s evacuation orders issued after the catastrophic accident broke out at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

When a journalist repeatedly asked questions about the way the government provides support for such people, Imamura became enraged and stormed out of the news conference.

Later he apologized to reporters for becoming “emotional,” but did not retract his earlier remarks, saying he made an “objective statement.”

The minister apparently tried to point out differences in the situation between people ordered to evacuate their homes and those who voluntarily left their towns and cities. But his remarks included some elements that raise questions that are too important to be ignored.

Many of these voluntary evacuees decided to leave their communities after a lot of thinking as they found it impossible to get rid of their anxiety about the radiation level standards used by the government to issue evacuation orders.

More than 20,000 people are living as such voluntary evacuees across the nation. Many of these have been separated from other members of their families. Some are suffering from destitution.

They receive far less compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled nuclear plant, and far less support from the government in terms of temporary housing and other aspects than people who received evacuation orders.

Even if they decided to leave their homes on their own, the fact remains that they are also victims of the nuclear accident.

Saying they are responsible for their own decisions indicates a disturbing lack of understanding of the responsibility the government should bear due to its long history of promoting nuclear power generation as a national policy.

His statement that voluntary evacuees can file a lawsuit if they choose to is nothing but an outrageous outburst of arrogant defiance.

More than 10,000 people affected by the nuclear disaster have filed lawsuits seeking compensation from the electric utility and the government.

In March, the Maebashi District Court issued a ruling holding the government and the utility accountable for the disaster and ordering them to pay compensation to evacuees.

But taking such a legal action requires a lot of time and trouble. Does the minister say the victims should shoulder this heavy burden?

Imamura has a history of making controversial remarks that are criticized for being out of tune with the feelings and realities of victims of the nuclear disaster.

Speaking in a January meeting about the reconstruction of Fukushima, which is finally beginning to make significant progress with the recent lifting of the evacuation orders for certain areas, Imamura said the process had reached the 30-kilometer mark, using a marathon metaphor.

Appearing in a TV program in March, he said, “It is easy for people to leave their homes, but I hope the evacuees will show their commitment to returning home and hang in there.”

Only a minority of Fukushima evacuees have decided to return home. Many are opting to remain living as evacuees for the time being because of concerns about their livelihoods and radiation.

Many evacuees, however, also express their desires to maintain connections with their homes.

Imamura’s latest remarks have hurt the feelings of many evacuees struggling with various difficult problems and deserve to be criticized for not giving sympathetic attention to victims.

He should be aware of the government’s responsibility for paying serious attention to the diverse voices of disaster victims and taking necessary steps in response to their needs in addition to making efforts to help evacuees return home.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear news to 8 April

Weapons and war are in the news this week – well, even more than they usually are. US President Trump sent a missile strike attack on a Syrian military airfield, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad.  The reverberations of this continue around the world, and USA warns that there could be further attacks.  Trump did act without Congressional approval. There is debate about this – some say he  violated the US Constitution and the War Powers Resolution. Others say that Trump had legal authority to attack Syria. My own opinion – it is a worrying precedent.

The United Nations  held the global summit for a treaty on banning nuclear weapons .  1st round of nuclear weapons ban treaty talks ends, aims to draft treaty next month. North Korea remains a worry, as US President Trump and China’s President Xi begin an uneasy meeting. Meanwhile, Donald Trump expands the power of the President to declare war.

Arctic Sea Ice Volume Continues to Crater

USA is dramatically in the news this week, as I mention above.  Trump is taking a gamble in USA relations with Russia.

UK.   UK approves USA military strike on Syria, but not committed to military action.    Britain’s airports and nuclear power stations have been placed on a terror alert – cyber threat         Nuclear Decommissioning makes every other disaster in the post-war period pale into insignificance. Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B Nuclear – safety concerns. Ongoing collapse of UK’s Moorside nuclear project, as French nuclear industry mired in scandal. Who will put up the cash for Wylfa nuclear power project?

JAPAN. Reconstruction minister lashes out over remaining Fukushima evacuees. Reconstruction Disaster: The human implications of Japan’s forced return policy in Fukushima. Lifting Fukushima evacuation orders. After Fukushima, battling Tepco and leukemia. 60% of new utilities object to helping pay Fukushima compensation.  Real cost of Fukushima disaster to reach $626 billion. Think tank estimate triple that of government.

SOUTH AFRICA. President Zuma drastically reshuffles Cabinet, to make way for nuclear power development. Nuclear corruption in South Africa – new allegations. Did Russia’s nuclear lobby make Africa’s President get rid of Finance Minister Gordhan?.

INDIA.  Pakistan, India taking rival steps ‘to advance nuclear arsenals’  9 year old girl sues Indian government for inaction on climate change.

RUSSIA.  Russian warship headed towards US Navy destroyers who launched Syria attack.   Reactors from Russia are Unsafe and Unreliable, Says Russian Environmentalist

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

More Syria attacks possible, USA warns. Russia accuses USA of violating international law

US warns of more Syria attacks during UN Security Council , APRIL 8, 2017 Sarah Blake, in New York, staff writers, wires News Corp Australia Network THE US ambassador to the United Nations has said that the US is prepared to take further action in Syria.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Donald Trump attacked Syria without congressional authorization, violating the US Constitution and the War Powers Resolution.

In Attacking Syria, Trump Breached the War Powers Resolution  April 07, 2017 By Robert NaimanTruthout  President Trump has attacked Syria without congressional authorization, violating the US Constitution and the War Powers Resolution.

The War Powers Resolution is a series of barriers that Congress erected in the wake of the Vietnam War to defend the constitutionally-mandated role of Congress in deciding when the US will use military force if the US has not been attacked.

The “outer wall” of the War Powers Resolution is Section 2(c), which affirms that if the US has not been attacked, the president must receive congressional authorization in order to use force:

(c) The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

That’s the “outer wall” that President Trump breached last night. In so doing, President Trump violated the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution.

However, fresh from the Vietnam experience, Congress was perfectly well aware that it was likely that a future US president would breach the “outer wall” of Section 2(c). So they erected other barriers within the War Powers Resolution. Like the “sixty days” wall of Section 5(b):

(b) Within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 4(a)(1), whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces, (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States.

In the War Powers Resolution, Congress put a crucial tool in the hands of future members of Congress to help defend those two walls: the ability of a single member of Congress to introduce a “privileged resolution” — one that can’t be buried in committee, but can be forced by its sponsor to the floor for a vote — to withdraw US forces from a conflict that hadn’t been authorized by Congress.

SEC. 6. (a) Any joint resolution or bill introduced pursuant to section 5(b) at least thirty calendar days before the expiration of the sixty-day period specified in such section shall be referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives or the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, as the case may be, and such committee shall report one such joint resolution or bill, together with its recommendations, not later than twenty-four calendar days before the expiration of the sixty-day period specified in such section, unless such House shall otherwise determine by the yeas and nays.

(b) Any joint resolution or bill so reported shall become the pending business of the House in question (in the case of the Senate the time for debate shall be equally divided between the proponents and the opponents), and shall be voted on within three calendar days thereafter, unless such House shall otherwise determine by yeas and nays.

You can urge your representatives to invoke the War Powers Resolution to withdraw US forces from unauthorized conflict in Syria by signing the petition at MoveOn.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Disagreement on whether or not Trump had authority for missile attack on Syria

Experts agree that in limited instances, such as the Syrian missile attack, a president has legal authority provided in the Constitution as commander-in chief.

“Because the air strikes were undertaken by cruise missiles that put virtually no American lives at risk and because the strikes lasted only minutes, the president’s action would seem to be a lawful use of force under the Constitution. Needless to say, if further military actions were to be undertaken, they could rise to the level of requiring congressional authorization.”

Mark Pocan wrongly claims Donald Trump had no legal authority to launch missile attack on Syria By Tom Kertscher The morning after the U.S. cruise missiles assault on a Syrian air base, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan questioned the legal authority of President Donald Trump to order the attack.

“There is no legal basis for last night’s missile strike against Syrian military assets,” the Madison-area Democrat declared in a statement on April 7, 2017. “Congress must be called back immediately, if President Trump plans to escalate our military involvement. He must send a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to Congress, as I have previously called for.”

The 59-missile assault was launched in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack by the government against Syrian civilians two days earlier. News reports quoted U.S. officials as saying Trump had the right to use force to defend national interests and to protect civilians from atrocities.

Meanwhile, first-term U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, while praising the “limited strikes,” also said Trump “should seek congressional authorization for any sustained military operation in Syria.”

There’s certainly debate over the extent of a president’s authority to use military force without approval from Congress.

But Pocan went too far in saying there is no legal basis for Trump’s action.

Competing arguments To support Pocan’s claim, his office noted the U.S. Constitution assigns to Congress the power to declare war, and sent us commentary on that provision and the missile attack by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU reiterated its position that “the decision to use military force requires Congress’ specific, advance authorization.”

Pocan also cited the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which was enacted over a veto by Republican President Richard Nixon. It says “the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities” can be done only “pursuant to a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization, or a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”

And Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith, an assistant attorney general under Republican President George W. Bush, argued in 2013 that Democratic President Barack Obama didn’t have unilateral authority to launch attacks against Syria, as was being considered at the time.

Goldsmith said the president’s authority to use force without congressional approval had been extended to protect American persons and property abroad, but that rationale would not have applied to the attacks Obama contemplated (but never carried out).

The Trump administration, meanwhile, also invokes the Constitution (Article 2) in asserting that the president has the power to defend the U.S. national interest.

In this case, that interest is described as “promoting regional stability, which the use of chemical weapons threatens” — which the Trump administration likened to the Obama administration’s justification for using force in Libya in 2011.

Other views

Experts agree that in limited instances, such as the Syrian missile attack, a president has legal authority provided in the Constitution as commander-in chief.

Cameron University history and government professor Lance Janda said he agrees with Pocan’s call for a new congressional authorization for use of force, adding: “We have not declared war on anyone since 1941, and yet we are the most active nation state on the planet when it comes to military action.”

But “having said that,” Janda continued, the Constitution gives the president authority as commander in chief to use force to protect our national interests and War Powers Resolution gives the president “leeway to respond to attacks or other emergencies.”

McGill University professor of international relations Mark Brawley also said the president has authority to use military force in a crisis, but then should notify Congress within 48 hours. The president also should ask Congress for authority to use military force if there will be extended conflict, or for a declaration of war, if the United States will be at war with Syria, he said.

Like the Trump administration, Georgetown University professor Anthony Arend, whose specialties include international relations and constitutional law of U.S. foreign relations, also cited Article 2 of the Constitution and the president’s power as commander-in-chief. He told us:

“While the precise scope of this power is unclear, a strong argument can be made that the president can use force in short military operations — especially where there is minimal risk to American lives — without congressional authorization. Indeed, over the years, Congress has generally acquiesced in such presidential uses of force.

“Because the air strikes were undertaken by cruise missiles that put virtually no American lives at risk and because the strikes lasted only minutes, the president’s action would seem to be a lawful use of force under the Constitution. Needless to say, if further military actions were to be undertaken, they could rise to the level of requiring congressional authorization.”

Added Richard Stoll, an international conflict scholar at Rice University, about the Trump attack: “This is not new.” Stoll said he would advise a president to get congressional approval before taking additional action, but presidents many times have taken a “one-off” action such as the Syrian attack.

Those views correspond to a 2013 fact check of then-U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, who said Obama would have had the legal authority to strike Syria without a vote from Congress. PolitiFact National’s rating was True. As our colleagues reported:

  • Since the last time Congress declared war, at the beginning of World War II, presidents have generally initiated military activities using their constitutionally granted powers as commander in chief without having an official declaration of war in support of their actions.
  • Even under the War Powers Resolution, the president can send in forces without approval from Congress.
  • Lower courts have ruled in favor of the White House in the use of force, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on that point.

Our rating

Pocan said: “There is no legal basis” for Trump’s “missile strike against Syrian military assets.”

For limited military activities like the missile strike, presidents can send in forces without approval from Congress.

We rate Pocan’s statement False.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Trump is taking a gamble in USA relations with Russia

Syrian bombing: US and Russia ‘one step away from combat’, Paul McGeoug, The Age, 8 Apr 17,  “…..Donald Trump’s response to Tuesday’s sarin gas attack was visceral, heartfelt and entirely understandable. But don’t get carried away – this is the same guy who, when a voter asked about Syrian refugee children coming to the US, during a rally in Mew Hampshire last year, said: “I can look in their faces and say ‘You can’t come.’ I’ll look them in the face.”

But And in contradicting his every tweet on the madness of Washington being drawn into the Syrian civil war, Thursday’s missile barrage raises as many questions as it triggers alarms.

War is theatre – and in this case, audience reaction and the reviews are unsettling. Washington is unbowed. Describing the attack as “a measured step”, US UN ambassador Nikki Haley warned a Security Council meeting on Friday: “We are prepared to do more, but we hope that would not be necessary.” Blasting Syria’s sponsors Russia and Iran, she drew a new red line: “Bashar al-Assad must never use chemical weapons again”.

Moscow is furious. On Facebook, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev declared the relationship with Washington to be “completely ruined” and warned that the two countries were just one step away from combat.

And Moscow is doing something about it. Already a dangerous place, the Syrian airspace in which the US and Russian air forces are fighting different wars, became more risky with the Kremlin shutting down a risk-minimising channel, through which both air forces swapped information on their air movements, and “significantly increasing” the risk of confrontation.

Moscow promised too to bolster Syria’s air defences to “protect the most sensitive Syrian infrastructure facilities”. But that prompted analysts to observed that despite a 60 to 90-minute warning of Thursday’s attack, Moscow did not activate its own sophisticated missile defence systems in Syria against the incoming American salvo.

The Chinese are saying little, but no doubt are fuming. Beijing has backed Syria by joining Russia in thwarting action against it in the UN Security Council, and it won’t take lightly how the timing of Trump’s missile strike overshadowed a highly orchestrated Florida meeting between Trump and President Xi Jinping, or the provocative message it sent……..

there’s a danger now that Trump has had this early taste of war – mission creep. There are quibbles in Congress about his failure to seek its authority, but there’s also broad political and media support for his missile strike and given Trump’s desperate need for approval, he’ll be tempted to do more.

“If Mr Assad persists in the use of chemical or biological weapons, it will take extraordinary discipline to avoid falling into an escalation trap that leads from justified punitive strikes to a broader, and riskier, US intervention,” Blinken writes in The New York Times……….

Trump is taking a huge gamble. What was left of his wish for rapprochement with Moscow has been battered; to the extent that there is popular criticism of the attack, much of it is coming from his most ardent fringe-dweller followers; and, despite his endless rhetoric, he might just have delivered the US to the threshold of another Middle East war.

It’s all part of the amazing contradiction of Trump. Skeptics will says that demolition, death and dislocation will continue apace in Syria.

And cynics will wonder about motivation, the President’s historically rotten ratings and a Trump tweet back in October 2012, in which he said: “Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.”

But Trump has sent a signal to the world – he’s got a feel for American military power and he is not afraid to use it.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

UK approves USA military strike on Syria, but not committed to military action

But Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said the decision could worsen the humanitarian crisis. 

“The US missile attack on a Syrian government airbase risks escalating the war in Syria still further,” he said. “Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account.”

Syria airstrikes: UK offers verbal but not military support to US   Defence secretary backs US response to gas attack but says Britain is not committed to military action against Assad, Guardian, , 7 Apr 17, The British
government was not asked to provide military support to the US attack on Syria but believes it was a “wholly appropriate” response to the deadly use of chemical weapons on civilians, the defence secretary has said.

Sir Michael Fallon said the UK would not get directly involved in action with combat troops or aircraft in Syria without parliamentary approval. But while he made clear that the decision to launch dozens of missiles on to a Syrian airbase in the early hours of Friday was a US one, he said Britain believed it was the right move. “We fully support this strike, it was limited, it was appropriate, and it was designed to target the aircraft and the equipment that the United States believe were used in the chemical attack and to deter President [Bashar al-]Assad from carrying out future chemical attacks,” Fallon said.

He urged Russia to learn a lesson from the action, suggesting President Vladimir Putin was the key figure to end the war. “It is Russia that has the influence over the regime that can … bring this slaughter to a stop.”

 Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, Fallon revealed there had been “close discussions” with the US administration since chemical weapons were dropped from warplanes on Tuesday, killing dozens of civilians, including children, in Idlib province.

He said his American counterpart, James Mattis, had phoned him to share the US assessment of the regime’s culpability, and that the UK was later informed of Trump’s final decision to take action.

The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, also expressed his support on Twitter, writing: “Fully support US action after deplorable chemical attacks.”

The position was supported by a number of Conservative backbenchers and the Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, who wrote in the Guardian that the UK “cannot shy away from proportionate military intervention”

But Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said the decision could worsen the humanitarian crisis.

“The US missile attack on a Syrian government airbase risks escalating the war in Syria still further,” he said. “Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account.”

Corbyn said there was a need to “urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict”. Any intervention ought to be judged on its contribution to the outcome, he said.

Corbyn’s call to “urge restraint on the Trump administration” was backed up by the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, but contradicted by the party’s deputy leader. ….

April 8, 2017 Posted by | politics international, UK | Leave a comment

Increased risk of an accidental nuclear weapons exchange between India and Pakistan

Nuclear roulette BY EDITORIAL THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE , 8 Apr 17, A mutually agreed nuclear disarmament treaty between India and Pakistan has never been on the cards and is never likely to be. Both maintain a nuclear arsenal and both have the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons anywhere within the territory of the other. Mutually assured destruction (MAD) is indeed assured. Neither state presents a nuclear threat face to any other enemy. Given the oscillating volatility of both states it is unsurprising that the nuclear cards get a periodic shuffle, and India under Modi has moved into an altogether more martial phase with threat levels, nuclear and conventional, rising accordingly. Analysts and observers are of a uniform opinion — the place a nuclear exchange is most likely to happen accidentally, as in a reactive event rather than a first-strike assault — is between India and Pakistan, and India is likely in that event to be the state that pushes the button first.
Reports are in circulation that India may consider revising its no first strike policy, allowing its ‘nuclear establishment’ to conduct pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan in the event of a war.

The environment of managed instability along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary has heated up in the last year. In addition to cross-border shelling there have been movements of armour and heavy artillery on both sides. India has claimed to have raided into Pakistan — without providing substantive evidence of such — and any shift in the position regarding nuclear doctrines is going to do nothing for strategic restraint in the region.

 Why this latest upping of the ante is irresponsible and dangerous is that it adds another layer of uncertainty. For all the sabre-rattling by India there is little real possibility of the pot boiling over, and now would be an opportune time if ever there was one to explore moderate and peaceful outcomes, create confidence-building measures, propose a halt to the arrests of each other’s innocent but wandering fisherpeople — and there seems little doubt that Pakistan would be willing to consider all of that as part of a composite dialogue, but no. Instead India plays the pre-emptive strike card and raises further human rights concerns in Kashmir. Let us be blunt. Act your age, India. Grow up. And stop throwing your toys around the (nuclear) playpen.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | India, Pakistan, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Trump’s plans to revive Yucca nuclear waste dump idea

Trump plans to revive nuclear waste plans axed by Obama in 2010 Fred Pearce, 7 Apr 17, 

The Trump administration last month revived controversial plans to bury the US’s growing stockpile of highly radioactive spent fuel from nuclear power plants and weapons factories in tunnels dug into Yucca mountain in Nevada.

But, with local opposition to the plan axed by President Obama undimmed, scientists at the Department of Energy are already hedging their bets.

They are pursuing an alternative scheme to drop the hot radioactive waste down hundreds of deep shafts across the US, where it can mix with molten granite in the Earth’s crust.  Next month, they are expected to announce the site for the first test drilling.

The US currently has some 79,000 tonnes of spent fuel in at least 76 power-station cooling ponds and secure dry stores across the country.  Another 2000 tonnes are added each year.  The stores contain an estimated 444,000 petabecquerels of radioactivity, which is some 50 times more than released from all atmospheric nuclear weapons tests.

“US spent fuel pools are densely packed and at severe risk of a fuel fire in the event of an earthquake or terrorist attack that drained cooling water from the pools,” says Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC.

Dry air-cooled stores are safer. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says such stores could act as a stopgap for up to 160 years. But all agree that geological burial is eventually needed for waste that will be dangerous for tens of thousands of years. The question is where?

Desert fuel dump

Yucca Mountain, which is part of the former atomic weapons testing grounds in the Nevada desert near Las Vegas, has for 30 years been earmarked as the sole burial ground for spent fuel, the most dangerous radioactive waste.  A tunnel was dug 500 metres into the mountain in the early 1990s.

The plan was to start taking spent fuel in 1998. But local opposition blocked the plan, and some geologists questioned its safety, warning of the risks of local volcanoes erupting magma into the storage tunnels and blasting radioactivity to the surface.

President Obama effectively abandoned the $100-billion project in 2010 by pulling funding for the licensing process.  But he failed to find a replacement site, and Washington is already liable for an estimated $30 billion to compensate power companies for its failure to deliver a final burial ground for their waste fuel.

Last month, President Trump asked Congress to approve $120 million to resume licensing for Yucca Mountain.  But the state’s governor and senators vowed to continue blocking the plan.

Quietly, since 2010 the Department of Energy (DOE) has established an alternative disposal route.  The idea is to bury the spent fuel in hundreds of narrow shafts drilled 5 kilometres down into solid granite.

Up to 40 per cent of the US might have suitable bedrock, but the technique has still to be tested.  In December, the DOE selected four companies to find somewhere with the right geology and local support for test drilling.

And last month, at a conference in Phoenix, Arizona, Tim Gunter, the DOE’s head of spent fuel management said he expected to announce a test site in May.  One site being discussed is in granite bedrock beneath Haakon County in South Dakota. Others are in Texas and New Mexico.

Fergus Gibb of the University of Sheffield, UK, who first came up with the idea 15 years ago, says the radioactive waste would generate so much heat it would melt the surrounding rock and then slowly solidify into a ”granite coffin”.  Yucca may soon be yesterday’s news.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear Decommissioning makes every other disaster in the post-war period pale into insignificanc

nuClear News No.94 April 2017  The UK Government has been forced to pay nearly £100m in a settlement with two US companies – Energy Solutions and Bechtel – for mishandling the way it awarded a £6.1bn nuclear decommissioning contract. Ministers have ordered an inquiry headed by the former boss of National Grid to find out why the procurement process was so flawed. Labour said the payout showed “dramatic levels of incompetence”. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will also terminate the contract it awarded for cleaning up the UK’s old Magnox reactor sites nine years early. The sites include Bradwell, Chapelcross, Hinkley A and Hunterston A. (1)

The High Court ruled last summer that the NDA had “manipulated” and “fudged” the tender process. It meant that the wrong company won the work to decommission 12 UK nuclear sites (10 Magnox sites plus Harwell and Winfrith). The move opens the door for other bidders to attempt to reclaim their bid costs, which could run to an additional £50m. The contract was awarded in 2014 to Cavendish Fluor Partnership, a joint venture between the UK’s Babcock International and Texas-based Fluor. However, the consortium cannot be asked to take on the extra work because that could increase potential compensation claims by companies that wrongly lost out in the tender. Some industry sources have complained that the government plumped for an unrealistically low bid for the work at the outset. Another losing bidder, UK Nuclear Restoration Ltd, which is a consortium of Amec Foster Wheeler, Atkins and Rolls-Royce, said that the settlement “raises serious concerns” about the procurement process and that it has raised the implications of the judgment with the government and the NDA. (2)

Former National Grid chief executive Steve Holliday has been appointed to lead an independent inquiry into what went wrong. The inquiry will look at how the mistakes were made and by who, how the litigation was handled, and the relationship between the NDA and the government departments. Holliday will publish an interim report in October. The government now has the daunting task of starting a new tendering process for the 12 sites, as the deal with Cavendish Fluor Partnership (CFP) will end early, in September 2019 instead of 2028. (3)

Babcock said in a statement the CFP, in which it has a 65% stake, has come to a mutual agreement with the NDA to bring to an end the contract at the end of August 2019, having operated the contract for a full five years. Babcock said it had become apparent that the work that needs to be done is now materially different in volume from that specified in the NDA’s tender, and this puts the contract at risk of a legal challenge. What those material differences are remains a mystery.

The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, said: “It has become clear to the NDA through this consolidation process that there is a significant mismatch between the work that was specified in the contract as tendered in 2012 and awarded in 2014, and the work that actually needs to be done. The scale of the additional work is such that the NDA board considers that it would amount to a material change to the specification on which bidders were invited in 2012 to tender.” (4)

The failure of the contract award process was “inevitable” according to nuclear power expert Dr Paul Dorfman, from University College London’s Energy Institute. “They were set up to fail and have failed because the understanding of costs and complexity to nuclear decommissioning is changing all the time,” he said. “Magnox reactors were thrown up in a rush to give electricity too cheap to meter and create plutonium and there was no thought of how they would be decommissioned. Each Magnox reactor is bespoke so decommissioning each one is different with its own complexities and challenges. The more we learn about dealing with the ‘back end’ of nuclear power, the more we see how complex and costly it is.” (5)

Stop Hinkley Spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: “Why should anyone believe that this astonishing level of incompetence will suddenly end when we start to build new reactors? Just because Hinkley Point C is not a Magnox reactor doesn’t just suddenly make the industry competent.” (6)

The Daily Telegraph declared today “if we could, we would stop this madness … In committing to new nuclear, we seem to have joined a runaway train, with no hope of getting off. Has not the time finally arrived for a fully fledged rethink of the merits of Britain’s nuclear energy strategy?” (7)

Roy Pumfrey continued: “We agree – it is time to stop this madness. The UK’s nuclear decommissioning costs have increased from £55.8 billion in 2008 to £117.4 billion at the last count. Although EDF is required to set aside funds for decommissioning Hinkley Point C, this is only up to an agreed limit. The taxpayer will be on the hook for the all too predictable shortfall.”

Chris Huhne, former energy secretary for the coalition government, said the remit for the enquiry by Steve Holliday was not broad enough and it needed to look at the total cost of nuclear decommissioning. “It is a complete mess, it’s deeply embarrassing but it’s actually I’m afraid only the latest in a long line of embarrassments,” Huhne told BBC Radio 4. “We’re not even scraping the surface with the problem that this legal case has exposed.” Huhne, who was energy secretary between 2010 and 2012 and left the before the contract was awarded, said the cost of decommissioning the UK’s old nuclear fleet had increased £107bn in the last five years to £161bn. “In terms of industrial strategy this makes every other disaster in the post-war period pale into insignificance.” He said the problem stemmed from how early reactors stations were complex bespoke constructions made without consideration to how they would later be disassembled. “We ordered a whole series of Savile Row suits rather than a bunch of work-a-day Marks & Spencer suits… Every single one of those reactors is different. Even the fuel rods in every single one of those reactors are different – crazy.” (8) Huhne called on the government not to allow subsidies for new reactors. That was the coalition government policy. It should be the policy again but the government seems to be relenting – it’s opening the door to exactly a repetition of the sort of disaster that we see today. (9)

April 8, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, politics, UK | Leave a comment