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North Korea launches ICBM missile: Trump responds in a relatively restrained manner

Trump on North Korean missile launch: ‘We will take care of it’, By Zachary CohenRyan BrowneNicole Gaouette and Taehoon Lee, CNN, November 29, 2017 Washington  North Korea issued a direct challenge to President Donald Trump with the launch of an ICBM missile that Defense Secretary James Mattis said demonstrates it has the ability to hit “everywhere in the world.”

November 29, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Michael Flynn’s nuclear role complicates the federal investigation into Russian interference in 2016 USA election

Michael Flynn’s role in Middle Eastern nuclear project could compound legal issues, Chicago Tribune, 27 Nov 17  Michael Kranish, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. LeonnigWashington Post In June 2015, retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn took a little-noticed trip to Egypt and Israel, paid for by a U.S. company he was advising. The company hoped to build more than two dozen nuclear plants in the region in partnership with Russian interests.

Flynn’s quiet involvement in that project – and his failure to disclose his ties to the effort – could complicate the legal issues facing President Trump‘s former national security adviser, who has signaled he may be willing to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Congressional Democrats say that Flynn may have violated federal law by failing to disclose the Middle Eastern trip in his security clearance renewal application in 2016. A top House Republican declined the Democrats’ request for a congressional inquiry but referred the allegations to the special counsel.

Last month, Mueller revealed that his wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has led to charges against three former Trump campaign officials. One of them, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, has been cooperating, according to court filings.

There are now signs that Flynn – whose international dealings have been the subject of intense interest by the special counsel – may also be willing to share information with prosecutors. Last week, his attorney shut down communications with Trump’s legal team, a development many interpreted as suggesting possible cooperation with Mueller.

Investigators for the special counsel have been examining whether Flynn hid foreign business dealings, particularly work he did for Turkish interests during the campaign, according to people familiar with the probe.

The nuclear venture is yet another instance in which Flynn appeared to have a personal stake in an international project while he was advising Trump in 2016, giving prosecutors one more potential avenue to pressure him to cooperate.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment. An attorney for Flynn declined to comment.

“General Flynn’s actions are part of a broader pattern of concealing his foreign contacts, payments, travel, and work on behalf of foreign interests,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. “The bigger question is this: What did President Trump know and why did he disregard all the red flags?”

The White House declined to comment.

Flynn served as an adviser to two Washington-based companies pursuing efforts to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East: ACU Strategic Partners, which proposed a partnership with Russian interests, and IP3/IronBridge, which later launched a separate endeavor that initially proposed working with China to build the infrastructure, according to federal documents and company officials………

It is a criminal offense to knowingly omit material information requested by federal officials conducting such a review.

An attorney for Flynn’s company told the committee that it would not provide documents about the Middle Eastern nuclear project unless it is subpoenaed, according to the letter.

Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, declined to issue a subpoena and instead referred the Democrats’ concerns to Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

“Much of what is sought by my Democratic colleagues — if properly investigated charged and proven beyond a reasonable doubt — would carry criminal penalties,” Gowdy wrote in his Oct. 18 letter, posted by the committee. “Congress does not, and cannot, prosecute crimes.”…….

Flynn, who was fired by President Obama from his post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, became involved in ACU’s project in 2015, part of a group of former top military and diplomatic officials and nuclear experts the company assembled to help push its plan.

The idea: to build several dozen “proliferation-proof” nuclear power plants across Persian Gulf states. The plan relied heavily on Russian interests, which would help build the plants, as well as possibly take possession of spent fuel that could be used to build a nuclear weapon, according to people familiar with the project.

ACU’s managing director, Alex Copson, had been promoting variations of building nuclear facilities with Russian help for more than two decades, according to news reports. Copson did not respond to requests for comment, and ACU’s counsel, Don Gross, declined to comment.

ACU officials declined to identify its investors or answer questions on the record from The Post about whether it has foreign backing………

Around June 2016, according to his financial disclosure, Flynn ended his association with ACU and began advising a company called IP3/IronBridge, co-founded by retired Rear Adm. Michael Hewitt, a former ACU adviser.

IP3 initially proposed partnering with China and other nations on building nuclear power plants, rather than Russia, according to a company spokesman, who said the China component has since been dropped.

In August 2016, the company produced a PowerPoint presentation that included Flynn’s photo and former government title on a page titled, “IP3/IronBridge: Formidable US Leadership.” The document was labeled as a “Presentation to His Majesty King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz” of Saudi Arabia and displayed the seals of Saudi Arabia and the United States. The presentation was obtained by Democrats on the House Oversight committee, who made it public……..http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-michael-flynn-middle-east-nuclear-project-20171127-story.html

November 29, 2017 Posted by | Legal, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | 1 Comment

USA soldiers’ trip to a radioactive hell on Enewetak Atoll

  This concrete dome holds a leaking toxic timebomb

It was supposed to be a trip to paradise, instead it sealed their fate http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-28/the-toxic-legacy-of-a-deadly-paradise/9168422  These soldiers were ordered to clean up the toxic legacy of America’s nuclear program, now they’re dying, and their Government has abandoned them.Foreign Correspondent, By Mark Willacy   When Jim Androl landed on a remote central Pacific atoll to take part in the biggest nuclear clean-up in United States history, the only extra items his military superiors gave him were some flea powder and a pamphlet on how to avoid heat stroke.

The army did have special radiation suits and respirators for handling the left-over atomic waste on the atoll, but the young soldiers were only allowed to wear them on special occasions.

“The [protective suits] were for photo ops,” the former communications specialist with the US Army’s 84th Engineer Battalion recalls.

“I know once when I believe 60 Minutes was there, they did [let us wear them]. We were just issued our normal warm weather gear … shorts, tee-shirts, hats and jungle boots and that’s it.”

Androl was one of about 4,000 US troops sent to Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands between 1977 and 1979 to scrape up the contaminated remnants of the United States’ atomic testing program.

The US government decided to use soldiers for the clean-up, because employing specialist nuclear workers would have doubled the cost.

“I’d never even heard of Enewetak. I never knew that there were 43 nuclear tests out there,” Androl, who was 22-years old when he was deployed to the atoll, says.

Some of those bombs were the among the most powerful ever detonated, and they left behind a toxic legacy that will live on for thousands of years.

“One of the attempted nuclear weapons explosions didn’t work,” Michael Gerrard, the director of the Earth Institute at New York’s Columbia University, says. “So the plutonium was just broken apart by the conventional explosion, leading to about 400 little chunks of plutonium that were spread around the atoll.”

The plutonium on Enewetak has a radioactive half-life of more than 24,000 years, and the US clean-up troops were ordered to place the shattered pieces into plastic bags and dump them into a crater left behind by an old atomic bomb test.

One-millionth of a gram of plutonium is potentially harmful, and can cause cancer decades after first exposure.

“They’d have us walk around and pick up loose pieces, and just gather up whatever we could, throw it in a pile,” Androl says.

It’s estimated that 85,000 cubic metres of radioactive material was collected and dumped, including contaminated soil, concrete, and military equipment.

“It was a very dirty operation,” Ken Kasik, another of the men sent to Enewetak as part of the clean-up, says. “[The veterans are] all sick, they’re all dying, and it’s because of the radiation.”

Kasik can barely rise from his chair to greet me when I arrive to see him.

We were supposed to meet at his home in Hawaii.

But by the time I land, he is seriously ill in the intensive care unit in Honolulu’s Straub Medical Centre, and is tethered to drips and monitoring machines.

“About three-and-a-half years ago I had so many cancers on me, I couldn’t work anymore. They ripped me apart,” he says.

This time it’s not cancer that has forced Ken Kasik to be rushed to the ICU, but a brain aneurism he says is directly linked to his time on Enewetak and the atomic fall-out there.

“When those bombs go off, in Enewetak, that’s coral sand,” Kasik says. “That just gets pulverised and comes back down as baby powder, and it was on everything, everywhere. The guys would come home, take off their sunglasses, [and their faces] would be white.”

“I never had any clue that dust could literally get into your lungs,” Jim Androl says from his home in the suburbs of Las Vegas. “You breathe it, you drink it, you eat it, you swim in it. Every day for six months, 24/7.”

The problem for Enewetak clean-up veterans like Androl and Kasik, is that successive United States governments have refused to recognise them and their comrades as atomic veterans. This means they cannot access health benefits or radiation exposure compensation.

Other atomic veterans, like those involved in the original atomic testing program in the Pacific in the 1940s and 1950s that left behind the waste on Enewetak and Bikini atolls, were covered for more than 20 specific types of cancers.

“Our boys worked six-month tours on a dirty island, and the government says, ‘You were never there’,” Kasik says. “We were never acknowledged…we don’t exist.”

Like Kasik, Androl has suffered serious health problems over the years that he blames on his six-month tour at Enewetak.

“He had his gall bladder out … two weeks [later] they found a seven-and-a-half-pound tumour, cancerous tumour in his abdomen,” Androl’s wife Bev says.

“I suffer from roughly 40 to 45 residuals from the cancer,” Androl says. “I’ve got pancreatitis, I’ve got a spot on my liver that they’re watching.”

As well as cancers, veterans complain of brittle bones and even of birth defects in their children.

The US military insists there is no connection between veterans’ illnesses and the clean-up on Enewetak, saying their radiation exposure was well within safe limits.

A two-year campaign by Enewetak veterans to get Congress to give them medical benefits has been unsuccessful.

“I think mostly they’re trying to get health coverage, medical care because they’ve got terrible bills. Really high bills from hospitals, because of their treatment,” Giff Johnson, the publisher of the Marshall Islands Journal, the country’s only newspaper, says.

There has never been a formal study of the health of these men, many of whom are now in their late 50s and early 60s.

But an unofficial social media survey of more than 400 Enewetak clean-up veterans found that 20 percent had reported cancers of some type.

The life they live is a far cry from the photos Ken Kasik took at the time, of young men in their prime.

 “It just breaks our heart, You know, they’re dying before they’re 60. It’s ridiculous,” Bev Androl says.

A poison on our island

The Marshall Islands is once again grappling with its nuclear legacy, as the threat of climate change threatens to break open the dome.

“God, there’s been so many [who have died],” Androl says of his former comrades. “We just lost one two weeks ago. We lost one about six months before that. They told me I’d be dead by now. We’re nobody, we don’t matter, our family’s lives don’t matter.”

The people of the Marshall Islands also suffered terrible heath impacts from 12 years of atomic testing in their homeland, including increased rates of thyroid and other cancers, as well as birth defects.

Whole islands were evacuated, and many people are still not allowed to return to live in their home villages decades on.

Like the US clean-up veterans, the Marshallese who suffered were never properly compensated.

A nuclear claims tribunal set up by the Marshall Islands and the United States awarded more than $2 billion dollars to victims of the atomic testing program — less than $4 million was ever paid.

“America dumped all of their worst rubbish to the Marshallese, and abandoned them with it. And we don’t want to hear about it,” Kasik says.

“It’s a disgusting shame. It makes us look bad.”

November 29, 2017 Posted by | health, OCEANIA, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

North Korea moving fast to complete its nuclear weapons program – could be done within a year

North Korea may announce completion of nuclear program within a year: South Korea minister https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles-southkorea-minist/north-korea-may-announce-completion-of-nuclear-program-within-a-year-south-korea-mi  SEOUL (Reuters) Reporting by Christine Kim and Hyonhee Shin – North Korea may announce the completion of its nuclear program within a year, South Korea’s unification minister said on Tuesday, as the isolated country is moving more faster than expected in developing its weapons arsenal.

“Experts think North Korea will take two to three more years but they are developing their nuclear capabilities faster than expected and we cannot rule out the possibility Pyongyang may declare the completion of their nuclear program in a year,” said Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon at a media event in Seoul.

November 29, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Hawaii to test nuclear attack siren

 November 27 KILAUEA, Hawaii — As nuclear tensions between North Korea and the United States grow, officials in Hawaii are walking a delicate line — planning for a catastrophe while assuring residents and tourists alike that they can keep sipping beverages from coconuts without alarm.

The “without alarm” part gets harder Friday.

That is when the government is set to bring back a statewide nuclear attack siren, a relic of the Cold War that will notify islanders that a missile is headed toward them. Officials will test the system for the first time just before lunchtime Friday, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

If the alarm goes off at any other time, by the way, it means that residents have 15 minutes before a nuclear bomb destroys Hawaii as we know it. The tests will be conducted on the first business day of every month for the foreseeable future……. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/11/27/hawaii-brings-back-cold-war-era-nuclear-warning-sirens-amid-fears-of-north-korea-strike/?utm_term=.bd5f

November 29, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment