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The attack on journalism – launched with the persecution of Julian Assange

Persecuting Assange Is a Real Blow to Reporting and Human Rights Advocacy’
CounterSpin interview with Chip Gibbons on Assange extradition Fair, 15 Oct 20

JANINE JACKSON Janine Jackson interviewed Defending Rights & Dissent’s Chip Gibbons about Julian Assange’s extradition hearing for the October 9, 2020, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.
CounterSpin Chip Gibbons Interview

Janine Jackson: If it were not for a tiny handful of journalists—ShadowProof’s Kevin Gosztola preeminent among them—Americans might be utterly unaware that a London magistrate, for the last month, has been considering nothing less than whether journalists have a right to publish information the US government doesn’t want them to. Not whether outlets can leak classified information, but whether they can publish that information on, as in the case  US war crimes and torture and assorted malfeasance to do with, for instance, the war on Afghanistan, which just entered its 19th year, with zero US corporateUS war crimes and torture and assorted malfeasance to do with, for instance, the war on Afghanistan, which just entered its 19th year, with zero US corporate media interest.

Assange’s case, the unprecedented use of the Espionage Act to go after a journalist, has dire implications for all reporters. But this country’s elite press corps have evidently decided they can simply whistle past it, perhaps hoping that if and when the state comes after them, they’ll make a more sympathetic victim.

Joining us now to discuss the case is Chip Gibbons. He’s policy director at Defending Rights & Dissent. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC………..

CG: Sure. So the US has indicted Julian Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act, as well as a count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Assange is not a US person; he’s an Australian national. He was inside the Ecuadorian embassy for a number of years, as Ecuador had granted him asylum, and the UK had refused to basically recognize that and let him leave the country, so he was de facto imprisoned inside the embassy. And after the indictment the US issued, the new government of Ecuador—which is much less sympathetic to Assange than the previous Correa government—let the US come in the embassy and seize him.

And the US is seeking Assange’s extradition to the US from the UK. I guess it’s, probably, technically a hearing, but Kevin’s point was that it’s more like what we would think of as a trial, in that there’s different witnesses, there’s expert testimony, there’s different legal arguments at stake.

The defense, the witness portion of it, has closed; it ended last week. And there’s going to be closing arguments submitted in writing, and then the judge will render a decision, and that decision will be appealable by either side. So regardless of the outcome, we can expect appeals. So it does very closely mirror what we would think of more like a trial than a hearing in the US court context.

It’s important to really understand what’s at stake with Assange’s extradition. He is the first person ever indicted by the US government under the Espionage Act for publishing truthful information.

The US government has considered indicting journalists before: They considered indicting Seymour Hersh, a very famous investigative reporter. They considered indicting James Bamford, because he had the audacity to try to write a book on the National Security Agency. But they’ve never done that.

And Obama’s administration looked at the idea of indicting Assange and said, “No, this would violate the First Amendment, and it would open the door to all kinds of other bad things.” But the Trump administration clearly doesn’t have those qualms……..

 It is very interesting to see how this plays out in a US court in the current environment. If whoever—Trump or  Biden, whoever is president, when this finally comes to the US—actually pursues this, and they actually are allowing the persecution of journalists, that’s going to be a really dark, dark assault on free expression rights. 

And it’s worth remembering—and Julian Assange is clearly very reviled in the corporate media and the political establishment right now—but the information he leaked came from Chelsea Manning, it dealt with US war crimes; and he worked with the New York Times, the GuardianDer Spiegel, Le MondeAl Jazeera, to publish this information. So if he can go to jail for publishing this, why can’t the New York Times? And is that a door anyone wants to open? There is a big press freedom angle here.

I also want to talk about the facts, though: What did Julian Assange publish, and why did it matter? ………..

Julian Assange is accused of publishing information about war crimes, about human rights abuses and about abuses of power, that have been tremendously important, not just for the public’s right to know, but also have made a real difference in advocacy around those issues. People were able to go and get justice for victims of rendition, or able to go and get court rulings in other countries about US drone strikes, because of this information being in the public domain. So attacking Assange, persecuting Assange, disappearing him into a supermax prison, this is a real blow to reporting and human rights advocacy. ………

JJ: Right. And, finally, the journalists who are holding their nose right now on covering it aren’t offering to give back the awards that they won based on reporting relying on WikiLeaks revelations. And James Risen had an op-ed in the New York Times a while back, in which he was talking about Glenn Greenwald, but also about Julian Assange, and he said that he thought that governments—he was talking about Bolsonaro in Brazil, as well as Donald Trump—that they’re trying out these anti-press measures and, he said, they “seem to have decided to experiment with such draconian anti- press tactics by trying them out first on aggressive and disagreeable figures.”……….

October 17, 2020 Posted by | Legal, media, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

France has more nuclear waste than shown in official inventory, reports the nuclear regulator

October 17, 2020 Posted by | France, wastes | Leave a comment

Australia – climate doomed if Trump wins this election

This is a cautionary tale for Australia. In both the US and Australia, conservative politicians seem more eager to bail out dirty polluters than protect the public

For Australia’s sake, I hope Trump’s climate science denialism loses, Michael Mann  US policy has emboldened Scott Morrison to be less ambitious on climate, just when so much is at stake.

Anyone in Australia who witnessed the Black Summer bushfires (as I did), and anyone in the US who experienced the thick smoke from our western wildfires (as I have), knows how much damage climate change is already doing. The stark reality is that worldwide efforts to avert ever-more catastrophic climate change impacts lie in the balance in the 2020 US election.

Donald Trump will go down in history bearing substantial responsibility for the deaths of over 200,000 Americans due to his rejection of the advice of public health experts and his refusal to endorse policies such as social distancing and mask-wearing that could have saved many thousands of lives. But his rejection of the science of climate change sets the stage for a far greater toll. Far more human lives will be lost from the impacts of climate change if we fail to act.

Whether or not Trump gets re-elected – and how other countries like Australia respond to the outcome of the US election – could determine the fate of our planet. Indeed, I’ve stated that a second Trump term might well be “game over for the climate” if it leads to the collapse of international efforts to act.

The damage caused by Trump’s climate denial is painfully visible within the US as we endure climate change-fuelled extreme weather events, including unprecedented wildfires in the west and unprecedented hurricanes in the east. But the damage can be felt around the world. Trump has proudly, and shamelessly, trumpeted his climate denialism on the global stage, joining with petrostates such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Brazil in opposing international climate efforts.

Indeed, Trump’s actions have emboldened Australia to be less ambitious on climate too, prime minister Scott Morrison following Trump’s lead in promoting climate denial, coddling fossil fuel interests and blocking efforts to support a clean, renewable energy transition.

By pulling the US out of the Paris agreement (one of the first and only campaign promises he kept) Trump ceded America’s leadership on the defining challenge of our time. Thus far, other countries have fortunately filled the leadership void, at least temporarily. The EU and China, with its new net-zero pledge, have stepped up to the plate, recognising that they will benefit from the opportunities of a clean energy economy and better protect their citizens from dangerous climate change impacts.

But nobody stands to benefit more from climate action, or lose more if we fail to act, than Australia. Having spent a sabbatical leave down under earlier this year, aimed at collaborating with scientists in Australia to study the impact of climate change on extreme weather events, I instead witnessed those impacts first-hand. I saw the muted beauty of the Blue Mountains when shrouded in wildfire smoke. If Trump is re-elected, and we collectively continue down a path of insufficient climate action, it may not be long before those fires rage year-round, and the Blue Mountains are lost in a perpetual grey and dismal haze.

It’s the same with the vibrant sea life of the Great Barrier Reef, which I was fortunate enough to witness with my family during my time in Australia. The delicate ecosystems of the GBR are already on the ropes, with fossil fuels pushing up temperatures in the ocean to the point where bleachings occur with such frequency and ferocity that corals simply cannot recover. Research released this week found that the reef has lost half its coral, largely due to warming oceans caused by climate change. Add the impact of ocean acidification from increasing carbon emissions, and we could sadly, within a decade or two, be reading the GBR’s obituary for real.

It doesn’t have to be like that. For one thing, renewable energy costs are plummeting while the technology just keeps getting more efficient and better, so dirty energy no longer makes economic sense. For example, on one recent Sunday, all the electricity demand for the entire state of South Australia was met by solar power alone, and every state and territory in Australia has committed to go carbon neutral by 2050. Here in the US, we’ve seen a record number of cities and states stepping up on climate goals too, knowing clean energy is good for their communities’ health, resilience and prosperity.

Policymakers must accelerate the shift to clean energy that is already under way. As we’ve learned in the Trump-era, some fossil fuels are too far gone for even the most determined polluter-in-chief to save. Though another term would give Trump time to defend his environmental rollbacks in court and solidify his dirty energy policies, he has already failed to save coal from market forces, and another four years isn’t going to reverse the long-term decline of the industry.

This is a cautionary tale for Australia. In both the US and Australia, conservative politicians seem more eager to bail out dirty polluters than protect the public, denying politically inconvenient science in order to offer lavish payouts to help unprofitable fossil fuel companies.

If we are to avert catastrophic warming, we must do just the opposite, providing financial incentives for renewables and disincentives for fossil fuels. That will level the playing field, and accelerate the clean energy transition.

We must take the earliest exit possible off the fossil fuel highway. By trying to squeeze out the last drop of fossil fuel industry profits, the Morrison government could well be on its way to bleaching the life from Australia’s coral reefs and blighting the blue of its mountains.

There is some good news, however. Regardless of whom Americans vote for – and for the sake of the planet, I hope it’s Joe Biden and the Democrats – Australians can still work together for structural change at home. You can’t solve it alone, but we also can’t solve it without you. Australia has seen that the sun can power an entire state’s electricity for a day. Now it’s time to make that happen every day.

Australia must distance itself from the handful of bad petrostate actors who have sabotaged global climate action and rejoin the coalition of the willing, when it comes to the battle to save our planet.

• Michael E. Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University. He is author of the upcoming book The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, due out in January (Public Affairs Books) 

October 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, election USA 2020 | Leave a comment

Japan’s government is appealing the landmark ruling about its responsibility for Fukushima nuclear accident

Landmark Court Ruling In Japan Holds Government Accountable For 2011 Nuclear Meltdown

October 17, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, legal | Leave a comment

Japan’s government planning to dump into the sea, the radioactive water from Fukushima No. 1 nuclear reactor

Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant wastewater looks headed for ocean, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, October 16, 2020   The government is moving toward the controversial disposal method for contaminated water at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of dumping it into the ocean.

Fishermen have fiercely opposed this disposal method at the plant, which experienced a triple meltdown in March 2011 following a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami, over fears of resulting negative publicity hurting their industry.

The central government is likely to hold a meeting of relevant Cabinet ministers before the end of October to make a formal decision on the dumping, sources said.

Before being dumped into the ocean, the stored water would be processed a second time and diluted with seawater to lower levels of radioactive materials below legally established standards.

It is expected to take about two years to prepare for the dumping process.

Water contaminated with radioactive materials continues to be produced at the Fukushima No. 1 plant at a daily rate of about 140 tons. Water used to cool melted spent nuclear fuel mixes in with groundwater that leaks into the reactor building.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, treats the contaminated water using equipment called advanced liquid processing systems, or ALPS, before storing the water in tanks on the plant grounds.

But about 1.2 million tons of processed water is being stored in tanks and TEPCO has estimated that tank capacity will be reached by the summer of 2022 even under the current plan to build more tanks.

Because about two years is needed to construct the necessary equipment to dispose of the contaminated water and to pass screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, a decision on disposal of the water was expected by this summer.

A subcommittee of experts set up by the economy ministry compiled a proposal in February that said the two realistic alternatives were to dump the water into the ocean or release it into the atmosphere. The panel added that dumping the water into the ocean was the method that could be implemented with certainty.

Since April, the government has conducted seven hearings involving local government officials, farming and fisheries organizations and business groups on the issue………

October 17, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

On climate: instead of denial or despair, there’s determined resolve

ATLANTIC PLANET Scylla and Charybdis, Beyond climate denial and despair,   The Atlantic, LAWRENCE WESCHLER  16 Oct 20 ”……………………..There is only one truly serious political problem facing all of us today, and that is climate change. Judging whether or not the human prospect on our planet is worth saving is the fundamental question confronting Americans in particular these coming weeks. Everything else—the fate of the Affordable Care Act, especially in the context of a rampaging pandemic; whether identity politics ought to supersede class solidarity; whether immigration controls should be tightened or loosened; even what to do about that Supreme Court vacancy—comes afterward………..

The denialists stubbornly insist that climate change need not be confronted, because, worldwide scientific consensus to the contrary—and notwithstanding all the now-common once-in-a-century storms and conflagrations and droughts and locust swarms and red tides and coral-reef die-offs—climate change simply is not happening, or if it is happening it is not caused by humans, or even if it is so caused it is no big deal, and hence need not be addressed.
Despairers, meanwhile, have simply surrendered, curling in on themselves in stupefied passivity: Climate change need not be confronted or even thought about anymore, because what’s the point? It’s too late, or at any rate, we will never be able to marshal the necessary political resolve—the forces and lure of denial can never be upended. Such thinking leads to a paralysis no less debilitating than, and hardly distinguishable from, denial.

But it is possible, and urgent, to imagine a third possibility in lieu of Denial and Despair, a path forging clean between them: the course of Determined Resolve.

It’s worth remembering, for example, that the entire Manhattan Project in its Los Alamos incarnation, from soup to nuts—from the erection of those barracks and the ingathering of those scientists through the dropping of the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima, as hideous as that outcome proved—took less than three years. And if the prospect of climate disaster indeed calls us to what William James once cast as “the moral equivalent of war,” what would it be like if a president (or, for the time being, just a candidate for the presidency) promised to exercise his considerable authority by bringing together the finest minds in the country (not just scientists but educators and social workers and writers and artists and thinkers and managers as well) to brainstorm better battery technologies; quantum improvements in solar, tidal, and wind technologies and disbursements; desalinization; carbon-capture technologies; meat replacements; massive reforestation; resilient coastline and floodplain projects; ….—all on a virtually wartime footing, worthy of the urgencies and streamlined exigencies involved?……..

And as for all those other campaign issues, almost all of them can be subsumed within the wider climate debate, or at least viewed in ways that render the climate component crucial. Black lives matter, to be sure, but that’s all the more reason to foreground environmental-justice initiatives. This current pandemic may well turn out to be just the first of many more occasioned by mankind’s relentless encroachment on nature. If you think tidal migrations are politically destabilizing now, just wait until the migrations necessitated by the rising seas caused by polar melts or the narrowing zones of habitability caused by droughts, their attendant firestorms, and the ensuing wars for arable land really begin to kick in. ……..

October 17, 2020 Posted by | climate change, election USA 2020 | Leave a comment

Dangerous radiation levels from fracking

Dangerous radiation levels from fracking   Dr David Lowry on the risk of the radioactive gas radon being pumped into home     was very interested to read your report (13 October) on recent research by Harvard University scientists on radiation risks from fracking.

I have raised this concern in several letters to the Guardian over the past seven years. Indeed, seven years ago this month, Public Health England said in a review of potential risks that “there is … the potential for radon gas to be present in natural gas extracted from UK shale”.

Eight years ago, Dr Marvin Resnikoff, of Radioactive Waste Management Associates, estimated that radon levels from the Marcellus gas field in the eastern US were up to 70 times the average, and suggested that the radiation from some shale gas deposits was as much as 30 times as high as natural background levels.

Hence, there is undoubtedly a risk of radon gas being pumped into citizens’ homes as part of the shale gas stream. Unless the gas is stored for up to a month to allow the radon’s radioactivity to naturally reduce, this is potentially very dangerous.
Dr David Lowry
Senior international research fellow, Institute for Resource and Security Studies

October 17, 2020 Posted by | environment, UK | Leave a comment

Divisive nuclear waste programme in South Bruce, Ontario

October 17, 2020 Posted by | Canada, wastes | Leave a comment

Bankrupt Mallinckrodt company faces large liabilities in radioactive trash cleanup

Bankrupt Mallinckrodt may still be expected to help shoulder nuclear cleanup costs, St Louis Post Dispatch, Bryce Gray, 17 Oct 20

    ST. LOUIS — Two sets of nuclear waste complaints against Mallinckrodt have been thrown into question in a two-week span, while the company restructures in bankruptcy court.

Facing a wave of lawsuits and a $1.6 billion settlement stemming from its role in the national opioid crisis, the company with deep St. Louis roots filed for protection from creditors on Monday.

While industry analysts have focused on Mallinckrodt’s future as a drugmaker, the company also faces potential liabilities for work a predecessor company, St. Louis-based Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, performed decades ago, when it processed uranium for the U.S. government. Radioactive waste left over from Mallinckrodt’s uranium production is buried today in the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in Bridgeton and also along sections of Coldwater Creek, which runs from St. Ann to the Missouri River.

“Their legal footprint is huge right now,” says Dawn Chapman, the activist co-founder of Just Moms STL, a volunteer group that has pressed for a cleanup of West Lake for years.

On Sept. 30, a two-year-old lawsuit aimed at getting Mallinckrodt to help shoulder the looming $205 million cleanup at West Lake was dismissed, but appears to be in mediation. Lawyers involved with the case warn that, despite the dismissal, the matters at hand remain unresolved and under discussion. ……

The dispute arose in 2018, when — after decades of inaction — a plan to soon excavate the bulk of West Lake’s radioactivity was finally announced. In the months that followed, Republic Services — the waste hauling company whose subsidiary, Bridgeton Landfill LLC, is the legal owner of the Superfund site — initiated a chain of legal actions against Mallinckrodt and other entities in an apparent strategy to spread out the nine-figure cost of the site’s long-awaited cleanup.

Allegations in the ensuing lawsuits focused on the histories of Mallinckrodt and other parties that Republic said belong at “the table,” regarding work at West Lake.

Mallinckrodt was the first to be roped into the litigation. During the development of the atomic bomb in World War II, the company “purified and provided all of the uranium oxide used by the Manhattan Project,” according to its website. Some of the radioactive waste from the company’s St. Louis operations eventually made it to West Lake Landfill, where it was illegally dumped in the 1970s…….….

West Lake’s cleanup is not the only matter involving radioactive waste that could affect Mallinckrodt.

For almost a decade, the company has confronted personal injury lawsuits alleging that residents of surrounding communities have faced cancers and other health issues caused by the legacy of radioactive contamination along Coldwater Creek, after waste from Mallinckrodt was stored and buried at an upstream site near the airport.

Some of the cases — which originated in 2012 — have already been settled, and lawyers said in a hearing Wednesday that settlements that were verbally approved would not likely be affected by Mallinckrodt’s bankruptcy case. Outstanding cases will likely be stayed while bankruptcy proceedings take place, though it’s not clear what may happen next.

Back at West Lake, cleanup costs are currently set to be divided among Republic and two other parties deemed liable at the site: the U.S. Department of Energy and Exelon, the Chicago energy company that formerly owned the uranium processor, Cotter Corp., through a subsidiary…..

October 17, 2020 Posted by | Legal, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

‘Fracking’ with its environmental harms, now acceptable to U.S. Democrats, to help win the election?

Press Worries About a Fracking Ban’s ‘Risk’ to Democrats—Not Fracking’s Threat to Planet, Fair,

JOSHUA CHO, 16 Oct 20, In last week’s vice presidential debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence, Harris reiterated Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s rejection of a fracking ban, despite her earlier call for one when she was apresidential candidate (CBS News, 10/7/20):

“I will repeat, and the American people know, that Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact,” Harris said.

Harris emphasized that Biden “believes” in science; claimed that he “understands that the West Coast of our country is burning” and “sees what is happening on the Gulf states, which are being battered by storms”; and that he has “seen and talked with the farmers in Iowa, whose entire crops have been destroyed because of floods.”

One can —only wonder whether Biden or Harris truly “believe” in science when they pretend a fracking ban and a host of other strong climate measures are not urgent necessities required immediately. In 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced that carbon pollution needed to be cut by 45% by 2030 in order to keep the planet below the critical 1.5°C warming threshold to prevent irreversible planetary devastation (Guardian10/8/18). As time goes on, more reports inform us that pollution and the climate crisis are actually even worse than we thought (e.g., Vox8/12/20New York Times10/23/1912/4/19).

Yet whenever there are discussions about enacting a national fracking ban, corporate media seem to prioritize the supposed short-term potential “risks” to Democrats’ electoral prospects, or potential economic downturns, over the long-term prospects for human civilization’s survival.

When there was discussion of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s bill for a nationwide fracking ban earlier this year, the New York Times’ “In Crucial Pennsylvania, Democrats Worry a Fracking Ban Could Sink Them” (1/27/20) cited a few state Democratic politicians claiming that any presidential candidate who supports a national fracking ban would risk losing Pennsylvania in the general election. The Times trivialized the issue by reducing it to a “political bet,” with the highest stakes being the mere loss of a Democratic presidency, as opposed to dooming humanity to climate apartheid (FAIR.org7/30/19) and ultimately losing human life as we know it

to natural disasters (FAIR.org6/11/199/5/191/3/209/18/20). The Times’ Lisa Friedman and Shane Goldmacher wrote:

A pledge to ban all hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, could jeopardize any presidential candidate’s chances of winning this most critical of battleground states — and thus the presidency itself…  In some ways, the fracking ban is indicative of the entire political bet undergirding the candidacies of Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren that the 2020 campaign will not be won by appeals to the narrow interests of traditional swing voters but through the mass mobilization of an energized electorate.

NPR’s “Proposals to Ban Fracking Could Hurt Democrats in Key States” (2/11/20) likewise made dubious pronouncements on the opinions of swing-state voters the focal point of the story, as opposed to what actions are required to resolve the climate crisis:

Climate change is a top issue in the Democratic presidential primaries and some candidates have taken relatively aggressive policy stands, including vows to ban hydraulic fracturing. But some Democrats worry that could push moderate voters in key swing states to reelect President Trump next November… In a swing state like Pennsylvania, a major gas producer, fracking and energy are key issues. Even a small segment of voters swayed one way or another could change the election.

After the primaries, it’s clear that corporate media believe it’s their duty to function as Biden’s de facto campaign manager by explaining to voters what Biden’s position on a fracking ban actually is, as well as advising Biden to reject a fracking ban because, they claim, that would be an electoral disaster. Soon after the debate, Quartz (10/8/20) explained that Biden and Harris don’t support a fracking ban, because it “tempts political suicide in swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio where fossil fuels still rule.” Why an electoral disaster ought to be prioritized over civilizational disaster is never explained. …….

Environmental activist Bill McKibben (New Yorker10/9/19) pointed out that US claims to have reduced carbon emissions during the past 20 years have mainly been accomplished by replacing coal-fired power plants with natural gas-fired power plants. While burning gas produces less carbon dioxide than coal, carbon dioxide isn’t the only greenhouse gas. The second most important contributor is methane, which can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

Fracking,” more formally known as “hydraulic fracturing,” is a method of extracting natural gas (as well as oil) from the ground with a horizontal drilling process that pumps water, sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture rocks that release fossil fuels. And in the process of fracking, lots of methane leaks out at every stage. The US strategy of reducing carbon emissions without reducing the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted is a form of literal gaslighting that encourages other countries to do the same.

The New York Times (11/8/1912/16/19) has published a series of excellent investigative reports that used infrared video gear and satellite measurements to capture the invisible methane emissions at “super emitter” fracking sites, where large-scale methane leaks are responsible for a disproportionately high share of methane emissions. The Times (6/21/182/19/20) has also reported on findings showing that the US oil and gas industry is responsible for a much larger proportion of methane emissions than the US government previously thought, with oil and gas production in general being more responsible for soaring methane levels than natural sources, like the ocean bed and mud volcanoes. ……

FAIR (10/16/19) has pointed out how corporate media cheerleading of the “Shale Revolution” helped lead the US to become the world’s largest oil and gas producer during the Obama years; when they bemoaned the loss of fossil fuel emissions during the Covid pandemic (FAIR.org4/29/20), corporate journalists seemed more concerned with the profits of advertisers than with the survival of human civilization. Running excuses for presidential candidates in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry is only more evidence of the same.

Environmental and labor activists, economists and scientists have for years discussed the need for a full employment program based on green jobs to serve as a just transition for workers who would be displaced by a fracking ban; there is no reason for a fracking ban to be “political suicide” unless corporate journalists are determined to equate that with the death of the fossil fuel industry

October 17, 2020 Posted by | election USA 2020 | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste – a danger for countless generations to come

The World’s Growing Nuclear Waste Dilemma, Oil Price, By Haley Zaremba – Oct 15, 2020,

”……….Just last month, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report showed the shocking statistic that nuclear is now the most expensive form of power generation in the world, with the sole exception of gas peaking plants.

And then there’s the issue of nuclear waste, and it’s not a minor one. Around the world, radioactive waste is piling up, and managing it is a huge expense, not to mention a public health risk of massive proportions if not handled appropriately. Spent nuclear fuel is so hazardous because the waste, in particular uranium and plutonium, is highly radioactive with a half-life that will outlast all of us.

Recently, different nuclear-powered countries around the world have been pursuing “final disposal sites” for their nuclear waste. This process consists of converting this radioactive waste into a kind of glass via a process known as vitrification. This glass will then be stored inside of stainless steel vessels that will be kept in a pool to maintain a cool temperature until they are finally transferred to their final resting place deep underground, where they will remain undisturbed until their amount of radioactivity has decreased to a level that they can be handled safely–a period of time anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 years. …….

controversy in Japan is directly related to that nation’s particular history to be sure, but it is part of a global problem. Nuclear waste is not just a hazard for ourselves, but for countless generations to come, and we cannot afford to be cavalier with its management. Finding a place for the spent nuclear fuel that has already been created by generations past and that yet to be produced cannot be rushed or thrust upon those who do not want it but have no power to refuse it. Final disposal sites are certainly a step forward but Japan shows us that they’re also, ultimately, a flawed solution.

October 17, 2020 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Japan’s government ignores U.N. nuclear ban treaty, puts out feeble anti-nuclear weapons resolution

Japan submits anti-nuclear resolution with no mention of ban pact, NEW YORK – Japan submitted an anti-nuclear resolution to a panel at the United Nations on Thursday, but the text made no direct reference to a U.N.-adopted nuclear ban treaty likely to go into effect early next year.

Opting not to mention the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is expected to cross the needed threshold of ratification soon and take effect 90 days later, apparently reflects Japan’s ties with the United States, its key security ally which opposes the pact and provides security assurances to Japan under its so-called nuclear umbrella.

Tokyo’s stance on the matter appears to have remained unaltered after the first change to the country’s leadership in nearly eight years, with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga replacing former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month.

As the only country in the world to have suffered atomic bombings, Japan has submitted an anti-nuclear resolution to the United Nations every year since 1994. But versions of the annual resolution submitted since the nuclear ban pact was adopted in 2017 make no mention of it.

So far, 47 countries and regions have completed ratification procedures for the nuclear ban treaty, with a total of 50 ratifications needed for it to take effect.

Japan opposed the nuclear ban pact along with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which are all nuclear powers.

The nation’s latest resolution preserves phrasing from last year about the devastating humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, which was worded less strongly than previous versions that until 2018 expressed deep concern on the matter.

Japan’s resolution is likely to pass the U.N. General Assembly’s First Committee on disarmament issues by early November before being adopted at the General Assembly by the end of the year.

October 17, 2020 Posted by | Japan, politics international | Leave a comment

Elimination of nuclear weapons is vital to the “survival of life on this planet”

Guterres: Only way to remove nuclear risk, ‘completely eliminate nuclear weapons’        The elimination of nuclear weapons is vital to the “survival of life on this planet”, the UN chief told the final major event of the General Assembly’s high level week on Friday.

Secretary-General António Guterres told delegates gathered to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, it was the only way “to completely eliminate nuclear risk.”

And although nuclear disarmament has been a UN priority since its founding 75 years ago, he reminded the plenary meeting that “the world continues to live in the shadow of nuclear catastrophe”.

For security’s sake

Progress towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons has “stalled and is at risk of backsliding”, the UN chief warned.

Against the backdrop of growing distrust and tension between Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) – and programmes that modernize arsenals for faster, stealthier and more accurate weapons, with costs Mr. Guterres called “simply staggering” – he said, pointedly, that the only treaty restricting the size of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals is set to expire early next year – threatening a return to “unconstrained strategic competition”.

“For the sake of all of our security, the world must return to a common path towards nuclear disarmament”, he underscored, adding that it is “imperative” for Russia and the United States to extend, “without delay”, the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for the maximum duration of five years.

Among other things, START calls for halving the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers and establishing a new inspection and verification regime within seven years from the date the treaty enters into force.

The Secretary-General upheld that NWS “have a responsibility to lead”, including by honouring their existing commitments and taking steps to reduce nuclear risks.

“Especially in today’s tense international security environment, with rising friction between major powers, such steps are more necessary than ever”, he spelled out.

n conclusion, the Secretary-General advocated for “a strengthened, inclusive and renewed multilateralism built on trust” with human security at its centre, to “guide us to our shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons”.

Stop wasting time

Meanwhile, Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the General Assembly, noted that amidst rising global tensions, the disarmament architecture is “under significant strain”.

“Parties have withdrawn from nuclear-related agreements and others are set to expire”, he elaborated, adding that “some Member States have threatened to restart nuclear testing”.

Mr. Bozkir stressed the need to return to “the common goal” of a nuclear-weapons free world weapons and flagged the cornerstone Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, as the right tools to achieve it.

Noting that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the NPT, the Assembly president urged its States’ Parties to use the postponed 2020 NPT Review Conference next year, to renew their commitments and discuss “practical steps in nuclear disarmament”.

“Nuclear disarmament must remain a priority to all of us”, he underscored. “We cannot afford to waste any more time”.

October 17, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Policy of no uranium enrichment, no reprocessing, essential for Middle East to prevent nuclear arms proliferation

To Prevent Proliferation, Stop Enrichment and Reprocessing in the Middle EastThere is a risk of a nuclear cascade across the region. The United States can stop it by enforcing the gold standard of nonproliferation. Foreign Policy, BY VICTOR GILINSKYHENRY SOKOLSKI,  OCTOBER 15, 2020, 

If Washington is serious about blocking the further spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, it must apply a firm rule: no spent reactor fuel reprocessing or uranium enrichment—by anyone in the region. Uranium enrichment allows production of bomb-grade uranium, and spent fuel reprocessing extracts plutonium, the other important nuclear explosive.

Washington insiders, including nuclear lobbyists and nuclear enthusiasts within the Trump administration, oppose such a restriction. The nuclear power industry is still dangling deals before receptive Middle Eastern rulers, notably the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and pressing Congress to allow accommodative “agreements for cooperation” with Middle Eastern countries to make the deals more attractive. Although the United Arab Emirates accepted the gold standard—obligating it to forgo enriching or reprocessing—Saudi Arabia, with more on its mind than the generation of electricity, detests this condition. Middle East experts claim it is offensive to Riyadh’s pride, and Washington should therefore take a softer approach.

The problem is, softer approaches are inconsistent with nonproliferation. Even proponents of relatively lax nuclear deal-making admit there is a “security dimension” to the Saudi  interest in nuclear power.
 It leaked this summer that the Saudis secretly contracted with China to help the kingdom mine and process uranium, which suggests interest in an independent fuel cycle. Combined with the brutality the world knows the crown prince is capable of, and his proven dishonesty, the U.S. government should not even be thinking of supplying Saudi Arabia with nuclear technology.

Washington will soon face other decisions: U.S. agreements for civilian nuclear cooperation are coming up for renewal with Egypt and Morocco in 2021, and with Turkey in 2023. The nuclear industry will try to keep Congress from imposing strict rules—industry seldom has to worry about the executive branch, as both Democratic and Republican administrations traditionally support U.S. nuclear exports—but it is vital to maintain the of the gold standard for all three.

Ideally, it should be U.S. policy to eliminate fuel facilities that can produce nuclear explosives from Morocco to Iran. This would have to include Israel. It would not affect Israel’s existing nuclear  arsenal but would cap it and point the way for its security to depend less on nuclear weapons.

Enforcing the gold standard for the region would signal a serious effort to end the spread of nuclear weapons there as opposed to the standing policy of minimizing proliferation—in effect, acquiescing to it so long as it proceeds at a slow pace.   In past Middle East agreements (with the exception of the one with the UAE), the United States controlled reprocessing and enrichment, but only of U.S.-origin nuclear materials. That’s not good enough. Washington must insist on a ban covering nuclear materials from any source……

The truth is the United States has more to gain from being firm than not. The prospects for major U.S. nuclear reactor exports are nearly nonexistent; there are no longer any major U.S. nuclear reactor vendors.

 Westinghouse, which is often put in this category, hasn’t been U.S.-owned for 20 years. Its last two nuclear construction projects drove it into bankruptcy and almost bankrupted its Japanese owners. A Canadian firm, Brookfield Asset Management, bought what remained of it.  

Westinghouse’s U.S.-based division exports fresh reactor fuel and earns fees for managing and advising nuclear operators. It is a shadow of its former self. Nuclear lobbyists and boosters are pushing for federal financial support to revive U.S. nuclear reactor manufacturing and to grant generous loan terms for foreign customers. ……..

In fact, nuclear power is no longer a pathbreaking technology that defines a country’s scientific status, nor is it commercially competitive. For example, large light-water reactors will never be built again in the United States—they’re simply too expensive. Small reactors have some advantages, but they will likely be even more expensive per unit of energy. The Middle East’s energy future lies in investments in renewables, natural gas, and the integration of pipelines and electric grids. That should be part of Washington’s message.

The main U.S. objective, however, should be to make the Middle East’s security consistent with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Earlier this month, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called for a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East to help bolster the treaty.

Our proposal for a no-enrichment and no-reprocessing zone for all countries in the area may be more feasible, and if achieved, have more lasting significance—it would preclude the possibility of non-nuclear states making nuclear weapons and would thereby undercut the argument for any state in the region to possess such weapons to defend itself.

October 17, 2020 Posted by | MIDDLE EAST, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Putin suggests extending the START nuclear weapons control treaty for another year

Russia’s Vladimir Putin proposes yearlong extension of New START nuclear treaty with U.S.   “It would be extremely sad if the treaty ceases to exist without being replaced by another fundamental document of the kind,” Putin said.  Oct. 17, 2020, NBC News, By The Associated Press,   MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday made a strong call to save the last existing nuclear arms control pact between his country and the United States, proposing to extend it at least for one year.Putin’s statement comes amid conflicting signals from Russian and U.S. diplomats about the fate of the New START treaty that is set to expire in February unless Moscow and Washington agree on its extension.

Speaking at a meeting of his Security Council, Putin said that “it would be extremely sad if the treaty ceases to exist without being replaced by another fundamental document of the kind.”

“All those years, the New START has worked, playing its fundamental role of limiting and containing an arms race,” he noted.

The New START treaty was signed in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, New START is the only nuclear arms control deal between the two countries still standing.

Russia previously offered its extension for five years without any conditions, while the U.S. administration pushed for a new arms control agreement that would also include China. Moscow has described that idea as unfeasible, pointing at Beijing’s refusal to negotiate any deal that would reduce its much-smaller nuclear arsenal.

Putin on Friday proposed to “extend the existing treaty without any conditions for at least one year” to allow for “substantive talks,” instructing Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to get a quick U.S. answer to the offer. He emphasized that Russia is ready to discuss the new weapons it deployed in future arms talks with the United States.

Earlier this week, Lavrov voiced skepticism about reaching a deal on New START, noting that Russia can’t accept the conditions put forward by the United States for its extension.

Lavrov specified that Russia can’t agree to the U.S. proposal to limit battlefield nuclear weapons alongside nuclear warheads that arm strategic missiles and bombers until the U.S. agrees to withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

He also noted that Moscow wouldn’t accept the U.S. demand to have intrusive verification measures like those that existed in the 1990s when inspectors were positioned at missile factories………

October 17, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment