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Cover-up of the true radiation effects in southern Russian Urals

secret-agent-SmIn conferences debating the number of victims of the Chernobyl accident, officials who draw paychecks from nuclear lobbies make similar arguments about alcohol abuse and “radiophobia”—stress-related illnesses caused by fear of radiation.

flag_RussiaStrange illnesses in one of the most contaminated towns in the world challenge what we think we know about the dangers of radioactivity.Slate, By Kate Brown, April 18, 2013, “……What do we know about communities living on contaminated terrain? Two years after the meltdown of three reactors in Fukushima, Japan, the World Health Organization forecasts that there will be no significant rise in cancers among people living nearby. These projections are based on guesses from models calculated from prior studies, mostly of Japanese people who survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet when Japanese scientists and inspected the bodies of 38,000 children living in the Fukushima Prefecture, they found 36 percent had abnormal growths on their thyroids a year after the accident.

We have grown accustomed to this scenario—media attention to nuclear accidents followed by a long, slow quarrel among scientists about whether the spilled fission products will damage human bodies or not. It will take decades to learn the public health impact of the 2011 meltdown. By then, most of the public will have lost interest. But there are other ways to get at this question of what it means to live on earth sullied with decaying radioactive isotopes.

No one has lived longer on contaminated terrain than people in the village of Muslumovo in the southern Russian Urals located downstream from the Maiak plutonium plant, built in 1948 to produce Soviet bomb cores. Unlike the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game, daily life in Muslumovo is terrifyingly banal: long waits at medical clinics, worries over the price of prescriptions, reams of paperwork related to compensation and disability claims, sick kids, unemployment, poverty, and chronic illness.

I showed up in Muslumovo on a Saturday morning in August 2009. Muslumovo is a big village, sprawled inside a crooked elbow of the Techa River, which is slow, sluggish, and considered to be the world’s most radioactive. The village center has a train station, a few apartment buildings, and a corner store. Marat Akhmadeev met me at the station in his Soviet vintage car, dusty and dented. We jolted up and down on the choppy seas of the unpaved streets. Muslumovo is a strange village—half there and half gone. Many houses are abandoned, some partly dismantled, exposing weathered wallpaper and overturned appliances.

The Techa became a flowing radioactive reservoir in 1949 when engineers at the plutonium plant ran out of underground storage containers for high-level radioactive waste. A Dixie cup of this waste could kill everyone in a large ballroom. Compelled by the arms race, the plant director ordered it dumped in the Techa River. The men running the plant didn’t tell anyone about this decision. The 28,000 Russian, Bashkir, and Tatar farmers living on the river—drinking, cooking, and bathing with river water—had no idea. In the 1950s and ’60s special forces resettled most of the 16 contaminated villages on the Techa, but a few villages were too large and expensive to move, so they stayed. Muslumovo is one.

There’s no work in Muslumovo. A person either commutes 60 miles to the industrial city of Cheliabinsk or farms a patch of land of the long-defunct Muslumovo collective farm. Marat farms, living off the land—a term that takes on new meaning in Muslumovo, where in 2008, an American team found domestic interiors registering radiation at 40 times above the background level. After we pulled up at Marat’s house, his teenage son silently trailed us. Noticing a twitch in the boy’s step, I turned to look at him. His mouth drooped and fingers twisted, as he mouthed a stuttered greeting. Marat explained, “This is Kareem,nash luchevik,” meaning “our radiant one,” said in an off-hand manner, as if every family has a luchevik……

There is a legal contest going on over the health of the people of Muslumovo: whether they are sick and, if so, ill from the radioactive isotopes dumped in the river or from poor diets and alcohol abuse. Medical evidence has been contradictory. In 1959, Soviet scientist A. N. Marei wrote a dissertation in which he argued that the Techa villagers were in poor health because of their poor diets. In 1960, in contrast, local Soviet officials linked the river-dwellers’ illnesses to the contaminated river. This debate between nature (radiation) and nurture (lifestyle) has been going on a long time…….

Over the years, FIB-4 doctors had diagnosed 935 people on the Techa River with chronic radiation syndrome. But as thousands of people in Ukraine worried about their exposures from the Chernobyl blast, Soviet medical officials backpedaled on the FIB-4 doctors’ original findings. In 1991, Angelina Gus’kova, the chief official voice in evaluating Chernobyl health problems, argued that in fact there were only 66 cases of chronic radiation syndrome among the Techa River people. The rest, she claimed, suffered from more prosaic diseases such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and rheumatism caused by poor diets and sanitation. As American researchers supported by the Department of Energy have taken over as lead researchers of studies in Muslumovo, the diagnosis of chronic radiation syndrome has largely dropped from the radar. Meanwhile, Russian officials, worried about lawsuits, charged that many people in Muslumovo had dreamed up illnesses in order to sue for compensation. These people, they said, had no chronic radiation disease but were chronic welfare cases looking for handouts.

The trope of ignorant, genetically deficient, and drunken villagers is a common one in Russia. In the southern Urals in the past few decades, the cliché has been useful in glossing over the human suffering connected to uncontrolled dumping into the Techa River. In conferences debating the number of victims of the Chernobyl accident, officials who draw paychecks from nuclear lobbies make similar arguments about alcohol abuse and “radiophobia”—stress-related illnesses caused by fear of radiation. It would be a mistake, however, to allow the longstanding politicization of medical studies to overtake this very important, yet overlooked, place for our understanding of radiation’s effects on human bodies. Reprinted from Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters by Kate Brown with permission from Oxford University Press USA. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/04/nuclear_contamination_in_former_ussr_radioactivity_in_muslomovo_on_techa.html

July 15, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | 1 Comment

Climate/nuclear news – the week to 15 July

It’s a toss-up as to which issue is now the most critical – climate change or nuclear war danger. I’m inclined to think – climate change. Some, like Paul Beckwith, Canadian Climate System Scientist, say that abrupt climate change is already with us, and drastic emergency measures are needed. Others are very concerned, pointing out severe problems – e,g today’s news – Asia faces climate change disaster.

On the nuclear scene, the world could be teetering at the brink of nuclear war, with North Korea ramping up its nuclear weapons, and Donald Trump tweeting belligerently.when what is needed is some new strategic foreign policy thinking

 

Atmospheric CO2 Continuing to Increase.

No choice really, but to learn to live with a North Korean ICBM.

Ionising radiation’s cancer effect far greater in females than in males.

Bunkers for the filthy rich: income inequality would continue after a nuclear apocalypse.

The international nuclear industry in financial meltdown.

ANTARCTICA. Huge iceberg breaks away from Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica.

AFRICA. Climate change affecting huge numbers of children in Africa.

EUROPE. Yet again, hope for nuclear fusion pushed into the distant future.

USA.   Climate change: clear split between USA and everyone else at G20.    Massive Wildfires Burn From California to the Arctic Ocean as Temperature Records Shatter.   USA Congress supports Department of Defense policy for action on climate change. Questions on safety of USA nuclear stations, risks of cyber attacks.Senator Edward Markey calls for U.S. govt to reveal details of nuclear plant cyber attacks.Hanford to use air surveillance to track down underground radioactive hotspots  Thorium contamination the likely cause of radioactive pollution at Missouri landfill. Thyroid cancer incidence greater in counties near to Three Mile Island nuclear accident.

UK.   UK government’s issues paper on its position regarding Euratom. The nuclear problem of Euratom has the potential to derail Britain’s “Brexit”.  Legal wrangle looms over British or EU responsibility for nuclear fuel and wastes.   UK’s soaring solar energy capacity – could go even higher with consumers becoming “prosumers”.

JAPAN.  Small head size and delayed body weight growth in wild Japanese monkey fetuses after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.    Fishermen express fury as Fukushima plant set to release radioactive material into ocean. TEPCO chair: Nuclear plant must release contaminated water.

Japan now hoping to export Renewable Energy Technology.

FRANCE.  France’s EDF might have to shut down 17 nuclear reactors.   French government spends €2.0 billion and then €2.5 billion – steps in restructuring near bankrupt nuclear corporation AREVA.

IRAN. It is reported that Donald Trump will say Iran complying with nuclear deal.

RUSSIA. Russia enthusiastically marketing latest third-generation nuclear reactors to India.

NORTH KOREA. USA-South Korea bombing drill on the Korean peninsula angers North Korea.

SOUTH KOREA. South Korea’s nuclear export plans may now be in doubt.

KAZAKHSTAN IAEA’s Uranium bank in Kazakhstan likely to never have any customers.

JORDAN. Solar power at Azraq refugee camp– provided by UNHCR and Jordan govt.

July 15, 2017 Posted by | Christina's notes | 1 Comment

North Korea’s latest ICBM test has transformed the theatre of diplomacy and war: new thinking needed

N Korean missile crisis needs new kind of thinking, Today Online, By  KAUSHIK BASU, JULY 13, 2017  “…….The North’s latest ICBM test has transformed the theatre of diplomacy and war in Asia, and possibly the world, as it implies a level of nuclear risk witnessed only once before, with the Soviet Union in 1962. Indeed, we are now witnessing a slow-motion repeat of the Cuban missile crisis.

The North Korea crisis requires similar strategic thinking. Whether North Korea’s opponents have developed bigger weapons is no longer the issue.

North Korea’s nuclear capabilities are sufficiently developed that threats of military action, or even an attack, will not bring about the desired outcome — namely, that North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons……..

On the diplomatic front, it has often been suggested that China should use its considerable leverage to push North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons voluntarily. But it is not clear that China has the ability — or even the will — to do so.

China fears that if the North’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons led to eventual Korean reunification, US soldiers — of which there are now 28,500 in South Korea — would arrive at its doorstep.

As for North Korea, its leaders know that giving up their nuclear weapons, without safeguards, would be tantamount to suicide. They have in mind the fate of countries like Iraq, Libya and Ukraine. So, as in 1962, there is a need for a strategic solution…….

The North Korea crisis is not a classic “hawk-dove game” — or a game of chicken, which Bertrand Russell famously used to analyse nuclear strategy — in which the side that makes an uncompromising commitment to aggression wins.

The players in the North Korean nuclear game must pursue gradual de-escalation, characterised by mutual concessions. The US may not like the idea of rolling back some of its military presence in such a pivotal region, but it should not forget what Kennedy knew: There is no victor in a nuclear war. PROJECT SYNDICATE  http://www.todayonline.com/commentary/n-korean-missile-crisis-needs-new-kind-thinking

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kaushik Basu, a former chief economist of the World Bank, is Professor of Economics at Cornell University.

July 15, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | 1 Comment

Satellite images indicate that North Korea has more bomb material than previously thought

North Korea may have more nuclear bomb material than thought: U.S. think tank, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick WASHINGTON (Reuters) JULY 14, 2017 – Thermal images of North Korea’s main nuclear site show Pyongyang may have reprocessed more plutonium than previously thought that can be used to enlarge its nuclear weapons stockpile, a U.S. think tank said on Friday.

The analysis by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korean monitoring project, was based on satellite images of the radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon nuclear plant from September until the end of June, amid rising international concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

The think tank said images of the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon could also indicate operation of centrifuges that could be used to increase North Korea’s stock of enriched uranium, its other source of bomb fuel.

There were signs too of at least short-term activity at North Korea’s Experimental Light Water Reactor that could be cause for concern, 38 North said.

The images of the radiochemical laboratory showed there had been at least two reprocessing cycles not previously known aimed at producing “an undetermined amount of plutonium that can further increase North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile,” something that would worry U.S. officials who see Pyongyang as one of the world’s top security threats.

It was unclear if the thermal activity detected at the uranium plant was the result of centrifuge operations or maintenance………

Experts at 38 North estimated in April that North Korea could have as many as 20 nuclear bombs and could produce one more more each month. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-nuclear-exclusive-idUSKBN19Z1EN

July 15, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Bunkers for the filthy rich: income inequality would continue after a nuclear apocalypse

It’s true that life underground after nuclear war would be a step down from the utopian existence currently lived by the super rich. But it would be immeasurably better than the hellscape populated by those left above, who would face radiation sickness, climatic disruption, virulent plagues, mass starvation, and the complete collapse of law and order. There would be no comparison between the catastrophe above and the plush if somewhat claustrophobic life of the wealthy below. The post-apocalyptic divide would be an extreme, almost absurdist example of inequality…also a fairly logical extension of the present state of affairs. 

 ……..Economic justice—redistribution and reinvestment—would lower the risk of nuclear war because the two issues are inextricably linked

Income Inequality Will Survive the Nuclear Apocalypse The class responsible for the lucrative rush to war can literally buy its way out of annihilation, thanks to the boom in luxury bunkers.New Republic, BY JOHN CARL BAKER, July 14, 2017
A decommissioned nuclear bunker “deep inside a granite mountain” in Switzerland has been put up for sale, according to the Financial Times. Fully hardened against an electromagnetic pulse, the 15,000-square-foot military facility sleeps 1,500 people and features “vehicular tunnels, reservoirs and ‘limitless’ digital bandwidth”—and though the price is secret, the amount is surely obscene. “Your casual nuclear bunker enthusiast,” Judith Evans writes, “need not apply: potential purchasers must demonstrate the capacity to spend £25m before they can receive any further information, including any details of the bunker’s location.” Presumably that knowledge must be closely guarded from the irradiated hordes of our dystopian future.

Such reports have become increasingly common of late: “Armageddon architecture: upmarket bunkers for the worried wealthy.” “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich.” “Billionaire Bunkers: How the 1% are Preparing for the Apocalypse.” “Bunker Sales Spike as Some Prepare for Worst Amid Uncertainty.” Flush with cash and nervous about societal instability or even civilizational collapse, the wealthy are increasingly investing in a form of apocalypse insurance: posh shelters where they can ride out the coming calamity, whatever that happens to be. While this trend has obvious appeal, given Americans’ overlapping fascinations with wealth, real estate, and Armageddon, it also illuminates the intersection of two seemingly distinct problems plaguing society: economic inequality and the threat of nuclear war.
Today, nuclear tensions are rising along with profits, but the class responsible for this lucrative rush to war has little reason to fear. It can literally buy its way out of annihilation.

The most famous owner of a bomb shelter today is none other than Donald Trump, whose private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, has three of them. They were added by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post during the Korean War, but Trump decided to use them for storage—and his butler’s office—after purchasing the Palm Beach estate in 1985. Those shelters are relics of the Cold War, but renovated and newly built bunkers have become popular with Trump’s compatriots in the upper crust. Which is only fitting, since he’s partly responsible for the boom: As the Independent reported earlier this year, “Americans [are] building doomsday bunkers in ‘record numbers’ since Donald Trump’s election.”

Back in January, The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos published an extended profile of these new elite preppers:…….

Surviving the nukepocalypse in style, while the world burns above, does not come cheap. The Survival Condo Project charges $4.5 million for a two-level penthouse bunker; if you need to economize, there are half-floor units for a reasonable $1.5 million. (The entire compound—a former Atlas missile silo—is currently sold out, but the company is already developing a second location.) CEO Larry Hall claims his compound can support 75 people living entirely off the grid for 5 years—and in theory, could “function indefinitely” through hydroponics and underground fish farming.

…. The facility has a well-stocked armory, a sniper post, and, per their website, “a military grade security system that includes visible spectrum cameras, infrared cameras, proximity sensors, microphones, trip sensors, passive detectors, as well as confidential defensive systems both automated and manually operated.” If the wretched of the scorched earth miraculously make it through all of that, they will then face walls up to nine feet thick, plus a series of blast doors “designed to withstand sizeable explosives.” Now that’s a gated community…….

It’s true that life underground after nuclear war would be a step down from the utopian existence currently lived by the super rich. But it would be immeasurably better than the hellscape populated by those left above, who would face radiation sickness, climatic disruption, virulent plagues, mass starvation, and the complete collapse of law and order. There would be no comparison between the catastrophe above and the plush if somewhat claustrophobic life of the wealthy below. The post-apocalyptic divide would be an extreme, almost absurdist example of inequality…also a fairly logical extension of the present state of affairs.

……..Economic justice—redistribution and reinvestment—would lower the risk of nuclear war because the two issues are inextricably linked. https://newrepublic.com/article/143860/income-inequality-will-survive-nuclear-apocalypse

July 15, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | 1 Comment

USA Congress supports Department of Defense policy for action on climate change

46 Republicans buck party to help Democrats take down anti-climate action amendment https://thinkprogress.org/house-defeats-anti-climate-action-amendment-e7a95cc0249c

In a battle over military’s approach to climate change, the military and preparedness won. 

Forty-six House Republicans, including almost all of the GOP members of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, joined Democrats late Thursday to defeat a bill amendment that would have prevented the Department of Defense from analyzing and addressing climate change.

Introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), the amendment would have blocked a provision in the current version of the National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA) that requires a study into the 20-year impacts of climate change on the military. The amendment also would have removed language from the NDAA that recognizes climate change as a “direct threat” to the national security of the United States.

The House voted 185–234 against the amendment. No Democrat voted to support it, and Rep. Peter King (NY) was the only Republican member of the House Climate Solutions Caucus to vote in favor of the amendment. Rep. Rodney Davis (IL), another Republican member of the caucus, did not vote.

The other 22 Republican members of the caucus, including Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), joined their Democratic colleagues to help defeat the amendment. Issa has a 4 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters and is viewed by many climate activists as a long-time climate science denier.

The Climate Solutions Caucus was formed in early 2016 to bring Republicans and Democrats together to advance meaningful climate change legislation. The caucus uses what has come to be known as the “Noah’s Ark approach” to membership: No one can join without a member of the other party coming on board at the same time.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), co-chairman of the climate caucus, described the vote as proof that there is a “bipartisan majority in Congress of members who understand that climate change is a real threat to our communities, our economy, and our military readiness.”

“I hope my House colleagues were watching closely; denying climate change is no longer a winning strategy,” Deutch said in a statement.

Thursday’s vote not only backed climate action, it also backed the military. For more than a decade, the Department of Defense has warned that climate change poses a critical national security threat. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has stated that climate change is real and a threat to the military’s assets and activities — a position at odds with the views of President Donald Trump and many in his administration. Mattis also believes the U.S. military needs to cut its dependence on fossil fuels and use renewable energy where it makes sense.

“The Pentagon has long warned that climate change is a grave threat to our national security, and the Secretary of Defense says climate change threatens our military readiness today,” Sara Jordan, legislative representative for the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement issued Thursday in response to the defeat of the amendment. “Now even a bipartisan majority of Congress agrees — showing just how out of step President Trump and his polluter allies are in their efforts to put polluter profits ahead of our health and national security.”

In late June, the House Armed Services Committee, in a bipartisan vote, passed an amendment, introduced by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), to the annual defense authorization bill that directs the Defense Department to assess the vulnerabilities of the 10 bases in each service most threatened by the effects of climate change. Perry’s amendment would have undercut Langevin’s amendment and other policies at the Defense Department to account for climate change.

During a House floor debate on Thursday, Perry said he introduced the amendment because climate change should not be a priority for military leaders and that lawmakers should not tell the military on what matters to focus. “Literally litanies of other federal agencies deal with environmental issues including climate change,” Perry said.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), a member of the House Climate Solutions Caucus, spoke out against her fellow Republican’s amendment. “We would be remiss in our efforts to protect our national security to not fully account for the risk climate change poses to our bases, our readiness, and to the fulfillment of our armed forces’ mission,” Stefanik said on the House floor.

Rep. Stefanik Speaks on Climate Change During NDAA Floor Debate

In her remarks, Stefanik was echoing the statements made by Richard Spencer, Trump’s Navy secretary nominee, to a Senate committee on Tuesday. Spencer said climate change represents a real threat to the military, Politico reported. “The Navy, from my briefings to date, is totally aware of rising water issues, storm issues, etc.,” he said.

In a statement released Thursday, the American Security Project, a nonpartisan national security educational group, commended the House for striking down Perry’s amendment. “The American Security Project strongly supports addressing climate change as a national security priority. The science around climate change is strong enough to take action,” the group said.

July 15, 2017 Posted by | climate change, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Donald Trump’s inadequacy – tweeting is not knowledge of foreign policy

Twitter Is No Substitute for Foreign Policy https://townhall.com/columnists/charlesvpe%C3%B1a/2017/07/12/twitter-is-no-substitute-for-foreign-policy-n2353975,  Charles V. Peña

While most Americans celebrated the 4th of July with fireworks, North Korea had their version of fireworks by testing a new ballistic missile— believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach targets in the continental United States. Predictably, President Trump took to Twitter stating, “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” Apparently, the president doesn’t seem to understand that this is probably the most important thing Kim Jong-un has to do with his time.

While the U.S. is rightfully concerned that Pyongyang might eventually have the ability to reach the American homeland, we also assume that attacking America is the sole intent of North Korea’s pursuit of long-range missile capability. But even if North Korea is able to mate a nuclear warhead to an ICBM (not a trivial feat), that doesn’t automatically mean that the target would be a U.S. city. Kim Jong-un would have to be suicidal to launch a nuclear weapon against the United States, knowing that the vastly superior U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal could respond with utterly devastating results.

Like his father and his father’s father, Kim Jong-un is more interested in survival and perpetuating the Kim dynasty. Survival is the key word and why the relentless pursuit of ICBM capability is the most important thing Kim Jong-un has to do with his life.

What do Saddam Hussein and Muammar el-Qaddafi both have in common? Both did not have the capability to inflict damage on the U.S. with nuclear weapons and both were on the receiving end of regime change. While we assume North Korea wants ICBMs to attack the U.S., it is just as likely— perhaps even more likely– that they are more about staving off U.S.-led regime change. Certainly, nuclear weapons would be a powerful deterrent from North Korea’s perspective. That reality is probably not lost on Kim Jong-un— even if it is not understood by President Trump.

Another point missed by the president is China’s limitation and inability to reign in its client state’s ambitions. Trump followed up his original tweet with another: “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!” While China has some leverage over North Korea as its biggest trading partner and main source of food, arms and energy, Pyongyang doesn’t simply bow to Bejing’s wishes. Moreover, the Chinese perspective is that stability on the Korean Peninsula is preferred to denuclearization. So the prospect of a North Korean implosion resulting in a failed state on their border is scarier than Kim Jong-un with long-range missiles and nukes.

What Trump’s tweets betray is that this administration really doesn’t have a coherent policy or well thought out plan when it comes to North Korea. That was apparent in U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s tweet complaining about North Korea’s missile test: “Spending my 4th in meetings all day. #ThanksNorthKorea.”

Hopefully, those meetings focused on real policy options and courses of action— other than the use of military force, which most experts agree would risk a catastrophic war– the U.S. should consider.

One option to consider is ending the joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises that are conducted every March, which are a sore point with Pyongyang. A quid pro quo might be a suspension of those exercises in return for the suspension of North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities. Doing so would be relatively low-risk and if North Korea responds positively, it would be an important first step to achieving a resolution to tensions on the Korean peninsula. And it would provide incentive for South Korea to take greater responsibility for its own security rather than continuing to depend on the United States.

Another option to consider is withdrawing U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula. Certainly, it would be less incentive for North Korea to want to target the U.S. if American soldiers weren’t on its border. Moreover, those 23,000 troops aren’t capable of defending South Korea. They are simply a tripwire meant to guarantee a larger U.S. response to any North Korean aggression— even if such aggression does not directly threaten U.S. national security.

But why should American blood be spilled when South Korea is far richer than North Korea and can more than afford to maintain a military capable of defending against it? North Korea’s gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated at $40 billion— about on par with the tiny Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu— while South Korea’s economy is more than 30 times larger at $1.3 trillion. North Korea is believed to spend about $10 billion on its military, about 25 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). South Korea spends only 2.6 percent of its GDP on defense, but that still amounts to $36 billion— more than three times what North Korea spends.

 Ultimately, President Trump needs to understand that navigating a way forward with regard to North Korea will be complicated. There are no easy solutions. Just hard and imperfect choices. He is right to say that “something will have to be done” about North Korea. But Twitter is not how it will get done.

July 15, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Despite denunciation by U.S., UK and France, the UN nuclear ban treaty marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age.

U.S., UK and France Denounce Nuclear Ban Treaty, CounterPunch,  In a joint press statement, issued on July 7, 2017, the day the treaty was adopted, the U.S., UK and France stated, “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” Seriously? Rather than supporting the countries that came together and hammered out the treaty, the three countries argued: “This initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment.”  Rather than taking a leadership role in the negotiations, they protested the talks and the resulting treaty banning nuclear weapons. They chose hubris over wisdom, might over right.

They based their opposition on their belief that the treaty is “incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has been essential to keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years.” Others would take issue with their conclusion, arguing that, in addition to overlooking the Korean War and other smaller wars, the peace in Europe and North Asia has been kept not because of nuclear deterrence but in spite of it.

The occasions on which nuclear deterrence has come close to failure, including during the Cuban missile crisis, are well known. The absolute belief of the U.S., UK and France in nuclear deterrence seems more theological than practical……

The three countries reiterate their commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but do not mention their own obligation under that treaty to pursue negotiations in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament. ….

If the U.S., UK and France were truly interested in promoting “international peace, stability and security” as they claim, they would be seeking all available avenues to eliminate nuclear weapons from the world, rather than planning to modernize and enhance their own nuclear arsenals over the coming decades.

These three nuclear-armed countries, as well as the other six nuclear-armed countries, continue to rely upon the false idol of nuclear weapons, justified by nuclear deterrence. In doing so, they continue to run the risk of destroying civilization, or worse.

The 122 nations that adopted the nuclear ban treaty, on the other hand, acted on behalf of every citizen of the world who values the future of humanity and our planet, and should be commended for what they have accomplished.

The new treaty will open for signatures in September 2017, and will enter into force when 50 countries have acceded to it. It provides an alternative vision for the human future, one in which nuclear weapons are seen for the threat they pose to all humanity, one in which nuclear possessors will be stigmatized for the threats they pose to all life. Despite the resistance of the U.S., UK and France, the nuclear ban treaty marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age.

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org).  He is the author of Zero: The Case for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.  https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/07/13/u-s-uk-and-france-denounce-nuclear-ban-treaty/

July 15, 2017 Posted by | France, UK, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Trident Ploughshares campaigners blocked roads into nuclear warhead store

CND 13th July 2017,This morning, for the second time in three days, Trident Ploughshares
campaigners blocked roads into the nuclear warhead store at Coulport on
Loch Long as part of a week of peaceful disruption of the UK Trident bases
in Scotland.

A group of four protesters blocked the main route to the base
by lying in the roadway joined to each other through “lock-on” tubes
while a different group, in carnival costume, occupied an alternative
access route. Access to the base via these roads was blocked for over two
hours.   http://www.cnduk.org/cnd-media/item/3460-coulport-nuclear-weapons-base-blockaded-again

July 15, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

No choice really, but to learn to live with a North Korean ICBM,

Why we will all learn to live with a North Korean ICBM, Channel News Asia, 13 Jul 17 Despite all the talk that North Korea’s ICBM test launch may provoke military action, Robert E Kelly argues that regional countries have no choice but to live with the situation.

“………….SOUTH KOREA’S VETO AGAINST MILITARY FORCE

this ICBM test launch will not lead to a strike, despite all the talk about how it is a game-changer.

The most important reason is not strategic but political. Any kinetic action by the US against North Korea would risk substantial retaliation, likely targeted at US allies South Korea and Japan.

Yes, Alaska may be within Pyongyang’s missile range. But North Korea could strike with far greater force and flexibility in the region. Its many missile tests into the Sea of Japan over the last year are almost certainly intended to signal to Japan that it too is in the firing line. But of course, it is South Korea that is most vulnerable.

Any US strike against the North would require, both politically and morally, the assent of the Japanese and especially the South Korean government. Politically, a strike without their assent would almost certainly terminate the alliances at once, since South Korean and Japanese populations and cities would likely face devastating retaliation after a US strike. If they did not have the right to consent to the risk of that strike, why would they stay in alliance with the US?.

Morally, it would be astonishingly callous for a democracy like the US to gamble millions of lives without even soliciting Japanese and South Korean assent.

So even Donald Trump, for all his bluster, is not going to attack North Korea without South Korean and Japanese approval…….

If kinetic options are not on the table, what other choices are there as the “impossible state” progresses toward a nuclear missile that can strike the lower 48 states of the US?

One word, adaptation. The US and the west learned to live with the nuclear missiles of unfriendly regimes in the past. ……… http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/commentary-why-we-will-all-learn-to-live-with-a-north-korean-9025510

July 15, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UK’s soaring solar energy capacity – could go even higher with consumers becoming “prosumers”

Consumers could drive UK solar capacity as high as 44GW by 2050: National Grid, Solar Power Portal, 13 Jul 17 The UK’s solar capacity could soar to as much as 44GW by 2050 if consumers take command of their own power supply, National Grid has forecasted.

The UK’s transmission system operator today unveils its Future Energy Scenarios, charting how it considers the UK’s power market might evolve from now until both 2025 and 2050.

Using various models and insight, National Grid has compiled four principal scenarios of varying levels of ambition, dubbed ‘Steady State’, ‘Slow Progression’, ‘Consumer Power’ and ‘Two Degrees’.

Its most pessimistic scenario Steady State, a word in which security of supply takes precedence and short-term policies are pursued, the UK’s solar capacity will grow to 14.33GW by 2025, an increase of less than 2GW on current levels. Solar capacity will also decrease by 2050 as PV generators are not renewed past their current operational life.

However the most ambitious scenario for renewables deployment – ‘Consumer Power’ – expects the majority of UK consumers to become ‘prosumers’ and generate their own power. This will see 23.53GW of solar deployed by 2025 and 44.15GW – a near quadrupling of current levels – by 2050……..

National Grid has already been quick to highlight the consequences that record levels of solar generation have had on the grid. Earlier this year afternoon demand dipped below that of the night before for the first time in the UK, while solar generation records have been broken already this summer.

The operator said today that this was yet more evidence of the burgeoning evolution in the power market. “Last year I said that we were in the midst of an energy revolution, and this year it is even more evident,” Marcus Stewart, head of energy insights at National Grid, wrote in the document’s foreword, adding that cost reductions in solar and storage had already “driven major change in a short space of time”.

Emma Pinchbeck, executive director at RenewableUK, said: “This year’s report recognises that renewables have transformed our energy system, disrupting the status quo and displacing fossil fuels extraordinarily fast – and that this trajectory is set to continue, with the rapid development of energy storage.” https://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/consumers_could_drive_uk_solar_capacity_as_high_as_44gw_by_2050_national_g

July 15, 2017 Posted by | decentralised, UK | Leave a comment

UK government’s issues paper on its position regarding Euratom

HM Gov 13th June 2017, This paper outlines the United Kingdom’s (UK) position on the ownership and
responsibility for special fissile material and related safeguards
equipment.

The Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community
(Euratom) provides the basis for the UK’s cooperation with the Euratom
Community on civil nuclear issues. It includes the provision of safeguards
arrangements for non-proliferation of nuclear materials, cooperation in
nuclear research and development, mobility of workers and trade in the
nuclear sector and wider nuclear regulatory cooperation.

The UK invoked Article 106(a) of the Treaty establishing Euratom at the same time as
Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

As the European Commission has stated in its recommendation for a European Council decision
authorising the Commission to open negotiations with the UK on an agreement
on its withdrawal from the European Union (EU): “It is recalled that in
accordance with Article 106(a) of the Treaty establishing the European
Atomic Energy Community, Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union applies
also to the European Atomic Energy Community”.

This reflects the fact that the Treaties of the EU and Euratom are uniquely legally joined.
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/627909/FINAL_OFF_SEN_Position_Paper_HMG_Nuclear_materials_and_safeguards_issues_Position_Paper_FINAL_120717__3_.pdf

July 15, 2017 Posted by | politics international, safety, UK | Leave a comment

The nuclear problem of Euratom has the potential to derail Britain’s “Brexit”

Institute of Economic Affairs 13th July 2017 Not many people would have heard of the European Atomic Energy Community(Euratom) until recently and even fewer will have had it in the front of
their minds when voting on the UK’s membership of the EU. And yet the current furore over nuclear cooperation has the potential to cause a chain reaction that derails Brexit, or at least fundamentally alters its shape.
https://iea.org.uk/fallout-from-euratom-scare-stories-shouldnt-be-allowed-to-derail-brexit/

July 15, 2017 Posted by | politics international, UK | Leave a comment

Dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington – a good idea, despite the two bullies in charge

‘Grown-ups’ of the world must rein in the bullies, Mahir Ali  The Asian Age, 13 Jul 17 There have been plenty of indications that direct dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington could conceivably lead to some kind of closure.
North Korea’s deliberately provocative firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last week has been billed as the most dangerous juncture in international relations since the Cuban Missile Crisis 55 years ago.

That’s largely hyperbole, but to the extent that there is some veracity in the claim, it may have less to do with the troubling mindset in Pyongyang than with the policy incoherence that has accompanied Donald Trump into the White House.

Back in 1962, John F. Kennedy held back his belligerent generals from attacking Cuba, which in all likelihood would have sparked a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union, while he pursued back-channel contacts with Nikita Khrushchev. The strategy worked. Although Kennedy subsequently lost his life and Khrushchev his job in what were, in all probability, related developments, they succeeded in averting what might have turned into the third world war.

This time, hopes hang on the prospect of US generals holding back their President from potentially disastrous misadventures, rather than the other way around. One can only hope there are roughly equivalent grown-ups in North Korea keeping an eye on how far their nation can go without becoming a party to unleashing Armageddon.

The image of Trump and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, as recalcitrant toddlers with eccentric hairstyles, twiddling with lethal knobs while competing for title of chief playground bully, is hard to dismiss. One of them has more playthings than he could possibly handle. The other considers his toys crucial to his survival.

During his sojourn in Warsaw last week, where Trump talked about existential threats to Western civilisation, he also talked up the possibility of doing “some pretty severe things” in response to North Korea’s “very bad behaviour”, but then added: “That doesn’t mean we are going to do them.”………

Over the decades, there have been plenty of indications that direct dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington could conceivably lead to some kind of closure.
Sure, one would hesitate to place Kim and Trump in the same room without strict supervision. On the whole, however, this option should not be written off until it has been tested. In the meanwhile, let us hope Trump’s short memory span and plethora of other distractions will prevent any precipitate action on America’s part that could trigger a firestorm on the Korean Peninsula……..http://www.asianage.com/opinion/columnists/130717/grown-ups-of-the-world-must-rein-in-the-bullies.html

July 15, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Climate change is killing Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

The uncomfortable truth: The Great Barrier Reef is doomed, Independent Australia  Dr Geoff Davies 14 July 2017 The Great Barrier Reef is unlikely to survive as more than a small, sad remnant of its past glory.

The reason is straightforward. It is well known in climate science that, even if we stopped harmful emissions tomorrow, global warming would not peak for another several decades. By then, most of the Reef will be long gone.

This is not pleasant news and clearly many would prefer it was not said, but there it is, the argument is simple and the conclusion is difficult to avoid.

The recent decision by the United Nations World Heritage Committee not to list the Reef as “in danger” is, of course, farcical. It reflects the crudest of politics, including the blinkered claim that Australia is not reponsible for global warming. Yet Australian governments, state and federal, do everything they can to spruik the coal mining that would ensure the death of the Reef and threaten to tip us into catastrophic warming.

Most news reports of global warming use only words and try for spurious he-said-she-said “balance”, so you don’t get a very clear impression of what is really going on. A good graph is worth millions of such waffle words.

[lengthy explanation given here with graphs]……

Suppose the world suddenly got sane and we set about the emergency reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as scientists have been urging for several decades now. Even if emissions drop precipitously, there’s still too much already in the atmosphere. It takes a long time for the gases to be absorbed back into the land and ocean. In the meantime, warming will continue for 20 to 40 years — or even longer (the uncertainty is because we don’t know to what depth the oceans carry the extra heat they absorb)…….

Some scientists think corals have some chance of adapting and reversing a portion of the die-off if temperatures peak at “only” 1.5°C, but the corals’ diversity would be greatly reduced. If the peak is above 1.5°C, there is no chance of recovery.

If people like Donald Trump and Tony Abbott continue to be influential then global warming could even accelerate, as we pump out ever-more fossil fuel exhausts. Or natural reinforcings might already be kicking in and tipping the system into runaway. In that case, we would have to forget the Reef and worry about the survival of civilisation.

On the other hand, there is far more we can do to reduce emissions, reduce them quickly and live well as we do it. Leaders like William McDonough and Amory Lovins have long noted our wastefulness and the huge potential of good design and a cycling industrial system. Regenerative agriculture can not only reduce emissions but recapture and store greenhouse gases, all with abundant yields.

The Great Barrier Reef is not just a pretty decoration and earner of tourist dollars. Thousands of ocean species depend on it for food, shelter and breeding — even species that spend most of their lives far away. The effects of the present death will already be reverberating through ocean ecosystems. We depend heavily on the oceans to maintain a habitable planet.

There is a silence about the Reef. The massive bleachings have been prominent in the news, but nothing happens. We know it’s happening, but we don’t want to mention it. Why are we silent?

If our media were functioning properly, this dire prospect could have been widely understood before it became acute. The problem is not just the Murdoch media, which actively obfuscate and lie about global warming.

The media’s interpretation of ‘balance’ is so superficial as to seriously misrepresent the world. For example, paraphrasing a recent report: Much of the northern Great Barrier Reef is dead. But the good news is the southern parts are still mostly healthy. There is no good news. Such a report might reasonably have said, instead: The GBR has begun its death throes………

might there also be shame? We are the generation, out of all of the long history of humanity, that is allowing the glories of a planet to be destroyed. Oh dear, I’m not supposed to make my readers uncomfortable, they might switch off.

The question stares us in the face anyway. How will we face our grandchildren?

Dr Geoff Davies is an author, commentator and scientist.  He is a retired geophysicist at the Australian National University and the author of Desperately Seeking the Fair Go (2017). He blogs at BetterNature and tweets at @BetterNatureOzhttps://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/the-great-barrier-reef-is-doomed,10501

July 15, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment