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Pandora Papers: is the world’s biggest leak the world’s biggest cover-up?

Pandora Papers: is the world’s biggest leak the world’s biggest cover-up? , By Michael West|, October 8, 2021 

Where are the US billionaires, the Wall Streeters, the Big Four tax firms Deloitte, EY, KPMG, PwC? Michael West explores the mystery of the Pandora Papers in this first of a two-part series.

In the wake of the stunning Pandora Papers data leak this week, the ABC enthused, “Even by the ICIJ’s standards, this is big. If the documents were printed out and stacked up they would be four times taller than Sydney’s Centrepoint Tower”.

Probably not. If we assume Pandora is like its predecessors Panama Papers and Paradise Papers – where less than 1% of the data was made public – that would represent a stack of documents 12.2 metres high, not 1220 metres, which would get you up to Yogurt World on Level 5 of the Centrepoint food court.

Another “biggest data leak in history”, another trove mega-leaks where billionaires, celebrities, Italian mobsters, Russian oligarchs and foreign heads of state have been outed for their links to tax havens. 

But where are the US politicians? Where are the Wall Streeters? Where are the Big Four, the masterminds of global tax avoidance PwC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte?

Conspicuously absent, that’s where. Again.

Beating the B Team

Make no mistake this is fabulous, explosive stuff. The Pandora Papers, like Panama Papers and Paradise papers, are a spectacular data leak but, like the leaks before them, they have blown the lid on the world’s Tax Avoidance B Team.

And, like the others, the data has not actually been made public; not much of it anyway, maybe 1%. The rest is sitting with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington. It has been leaked to the ICIJ alone which in turn leaks bits of it, presumably a very small part of it, to its “global media partners”.

n Australia, these are Nine Entertainment’s AFR, Guardian and ABC who are themselves keeping most of it a secret. This from Guardian Australia:

“Australians who appear in the data include senior figures from the finance and property industries. The Guardian has chosen not to identify them.

“About 400 Australian names are contained in the papers, a cache of 11.9m files from companies hired by wealthy clients to create offshore structures and trusts in tax havens such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Samoa.”

Meanwhile Julian Assange

Meanwhile Julian Assange continues to rot in London’s Belmarsh Prison, facing extradition to the US, abandoned by successive Australian governments amid reports of a CIA plot to assassinate him. His crime? Wikileaks made public US war crimes; a real leak, documents actually made public.

In contrast, the Washington-based ICIJ has consistently refused to release its data to the public, preferring instead to conduct a choreographed media circus. Its director, Australian journalist Gerard Ryle, declined to respond to questions for this story, doubly ironic given we used to work together on the newsroom floors at Fairfax and the ICIJ is a self-styled beacon of journalistic integrity dedicated to “expose the truth and hold the powerful accountable, while also adhering to the highest standards of fairness and accuracy”.

One question we put to Ryle was whether ICIJ had received a subpoena from US authorities for this incredible trove of corporate information, say the Department of Justice. If not, why not?

The questions are many, not only because of the sheer magnitude of this set of leaks but also because the effect of the Pandora Papers is to, deservedly, trash a suite of non-US tax havens such as the notorious British Virgin Islands and the upshot will be to drive global wealth towards secrecy jurisdictions in the US such as Rupert Murdoch’s preferred haven of Delaware.

So, what is going on here?  

The way ICIJ works is they use a panel of 150 “media partners”, mostly large corporate media organisations around the world, to disseminate the information, or at least the bits of it they deem suitable. 

In the case of Panama Papers, an anonymous source dubbed John Doe hacked Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and leaked the data to German journalists who got it to ICIJ for dissemination to its band of media partners. 

14 Mossack Fonsecas

This time around, there are 14 Mossack Fonsecas; that is, 14 “offshore service providers” have been hacked. This is hacking on an industrial, possibly sovereign, scale. It is possible these “offshore service providers”, from Hong Kong to the Caribbean, divulged the information voluntarily, but unlikely.

Who benefits? The US and the Big Four. Just as the Panama Papers helped to demolish Panama as a tax haven, compelling clients of Mossack Fonseca to flee to other secrecy jurisdictions to hide their money, the upshot of the Pandora Papers is that, right at this moment, the super rich who secrete their money in the British Virgin Islands, the Seychelles or Cyprus will be thinking long and hard about restructuring to hide their riches via Delaware or another onshore tax haven in the US.

They will also think long and hard about getting the Big Four global tax firms – PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG – to manage their affairs. The A Team.

This is of course a speculative conclusion but also, as one regulatory finance source confided to Michael West Media this week, just a matter of putting two and two together. The Washington-based ICIJ never seems to be harassed by US authorities, the Big Four are rarely named, US billionaires are rarely named, blue chip tax avoiders are rarely named, the identity of the vast bulk of wealthy Australians in the data are never named.

Foreign PEPs, mobsters and oligarchs

This is not to disparage the work of Gerard Ryle and his team. The latest mega-leak of almost 12 million documents from offshore finance firms has identified the usual high profile types: crooner Julio Iglesias, cricket star Sachin Tendulkar, pop music diva Shakira, supermodel Claudia Schiffer and “an Italian mobster known as “Lell the Fat One”.

Great headlines, and every one a worthy story, although many will have bona fide reasons for being in tax havens. Rich people avoid tax, full stop. We will discuss the mechanics of secrecy jurisdictions, how it all works and who actually benefits in the sequel to this story.

Besides the crooners, mobsters and Russian oligarchs however, the Pandora Papers have outed an array of ”politically exposed persons” (PEP); former politicians and present heads of state. From King Abdullah of Jordan, Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family, the prime minister of the Czech republic, Andrej Babiš and Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to former British prime minister Tony Blair and three current Latin American heads of state, those identified publicly in Pandora Papers have sent shockwaves around the world.

The Aussie connection

A slew of tax authorities have vowed to take action, including the Australian Tax Office which, on Wednesday, froze more than $80 million in assets and companies linked to Gold Coast property developer Jim Raptis. 

Westpac director Steve Harker was also identified as a client of one of the offshore service providers Singapore’s Asiaciti. As the identities of most of the Australians remain a secret, Harker is probably feeling unfairly targeted. What of the other 400 Australians? 

No doubt the draconian defamation laws in this country, laws which protect the wealthy, played a part in the decision of local media to keep the names secret. Yet this also goes to the fundamental issue with ICIJ’s arbitrary arrangements and its media partners cherry-picking the data.

If ICIJ were truly fair dinkum about transparency and public interest, it would make the data from all its leaks public so that boffins from around the world, anybody for that matter, could hop in and dig around. 

Who is calling the shots? One man apparently, Gerard Ryle. In the wake of the Panama Papers, when we asked Ryle on a number of occasions for an ICIJ log-in to analyse the data, we were denied.

“My path, my call,” said Ryle. We already have our media partners, he said.

Meanwhile, the 2016 Panama Papers remain under lock and key, unavailable to the public, secreted by ICIJ. The data is getting stale now. It is six years old. It is wasted, an insult to the people who risked their lives to put it in the public domain.

In Part II: who guards the guards? The second story in our investigation of the ICIJ and its Offshore Leaks examines what is really going on with international tax avoidance.

Michael West

Michael West established to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.


November 2, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, business and costs, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Chris Hedges: The Assange case is the most important battle for press freedom in our time

Chris Hedges: The Assange case is the most important battle for press freedom in our time, Rt.com29 Oct, 2021

 If the WikiLeaks founder is extradited and found guilty of publishing classified material, it will set a legal precedent that will effectively end national security reporting.

For the past two days, I have been watching the extradition hearing for Julian Assange via video link from London. The United States is appealing a lower court ruling that denied the US request to extradite Assange not, unfortunately, because in the eyes of the court he is innocent of a crime, but because, as Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January concluded, Assange’s precarious psychological state would deteriorate given the “harsh conditions” of the inhumane US prison system, “causing him to commit suicide.” The United States has charged Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count of trying to hack into a government computer, charges that could see him imprisoned for 175 years. 

Assange, with long white hair, appeared on screen the first day from the video conference room in HM Prison Belmarsh. He was wearing a white shirt with an untied tie around his neck. He looked gaunt and tired. He did not appear in court, the judges explained, because he was receiving a “high dose of medication.” On the second day he was apparently not present in the prison’s video conference room.

Assange is being extradited because his organization WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes – including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the ‘Collateral Murder’ video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to US checkpoints. He is also being targeted by US authorities for other leaks, especially those that exposed the hacking tools used by the CIA known as Vault 7, which enables the spy agency to compromise cars, smart TVs, web browsers, and the operating systems of most smart phones, as well as operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux.  

If Assange is extradited and found guilty of publishing classified material, it will set a legal precedent that will effectively end national security reporting, allowing the government to use the Espionage Act to charge any reporter who possesses classified documents, and any whistleblower who leaks classified information.

If the appeal by the United States is accepted, Assange will be retried in London. The ruling on the appeal is not expected until at least January.

Assange’s September 2020 trial painfully exposed how vulnerable he has become after 12 years of detention, including seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He has in the past attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. He suffers from hallucinations and depression, takes antidepressant medication and the antipsychotic quetiapine. After he was observed pacing his cell until he collapsed, punching himself in the face, and banging his head against the wall, he was transferred for several months to the medical wing of the Belmarsh prison. Prison authorities found “half of a razor blade” hidden under his socks. He has repeatedly called the suicide hotline run by the Samaritans because he thought about killing himself “hundreds of times a day.”

James Lewis, the lawyer for the United States, attempted to discredit the detailed and disturbing medical and psychological reports on Assange presented to the court in September 2020, painting him instead as a liar and malingerer. He excoriated the decision of Judge Baraitser to bar extradition, questioned her competence, and breezily dismissed the mountains of evidence that high-security prisoners in the United States, like Assange, subjected to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), and held in virtual isolation in supermax prisons, suffer psychological distress. He charged Dr. Michael Kopelman, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, who examined Assange and testified for the defense, with deception for “concealing” that Assange fathered two children with his fiancée, Stella Moris while in refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He said that, should the Australian government request Assange, he could serve his prison time in Australia, his home country, after his appeals had been exhausted, but stopped short of promising that Assange would not be held in isolation or subject to SAMs…………………

There is no legal basis to hold Assange in prison. There is no legal basis to try him, an Australian citizen, under the US Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Assange and his lawyers as they discussed his defense. This fact alone invalidated the trial. Assange is being held in a high security prison so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has testified, continue the degrading abuse and torture it hopes will lead to his psychological if not physical disintegration. The architects of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate-controlled legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious courtiers in the media, are guilty of egregious crimes. Say this simple truth and you are banished, as many of us have been, to the margins of the media landscape. Prove this truth, as Assange, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond, and Edward Snowden have by allowing us to peer into the inner workings of power, and you are hunted down and persecuted.

Assange’s “crime” is that he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians. He exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo. He exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other UN representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Manuel Zelaya, replacing him with a murderous and corrupt military regime. He exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that, under post-Nuremberg laws, is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, which authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of US citizens in Yemen. He exposed that the United States secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians. He exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform. He exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party. He exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permit the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones, and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images, and private text messages, even from encrypted apps.

He exposed the truth. He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption, and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite. And for these truths alone he is guilty.

November 2, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, civil liberties, Legal, media | Leave a comment

A supporter of nuclear power has second thoughts

Can Nuclear Power Stay Relevant in a World Filled with Renewables? by Aaron Larson  —Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor. 1 Nov 21,  I have long been a supporter of nuclear power. I’ll admit I’m biased, having spent 13 years in the U.S. Navy’s nuclear power program and having worked for several more years in the commercial nuclear industry at the Quad Cities station. Even so, when I step back and look critically at nuclear technology, I find it to be a sound form of power generation.

I’m obviously not the only person who believes in it. Several advocacy groups tout the benefits nuclear reactors provide. The Nuclear Innovation Alliance, for example, says the world needs the “economic, flexible, secure, zero-carbon energy” that nuclear power offers, suggesting it can be scaled up “rapidly to expand energy access while halting climate change.” The truth is, however, many nuclear plants are not so “economic” and few things happen “rapidly” in the nuclear industry

Financial Challenges and Construction Delays

It’s no secret that nuclear power plants have been struggling in competitive markets. Until recently, Exelon, which operates the largest fleet of commercial reactors in the U.S. (including the plant I previously worked at), was on the verge of retiring its Byron and Dresden facilities because they were “uneconomic.”

The company claimed that “despite being among the most efficient and reliable units in the nation’s nuclear fleet,” Byron and Dresden faced “revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars because of declining energy prices and market rules that allow fossil fuel plants to underbid clean resources in the PJM capacity auction.”

Byron and Dresden were ultimately saved when legislation was passed by Illinois lawmakers in September. The state’s new energy bill will reportedly give Exelon $694 million in incentives to keep the plants open. Similar subsidies have been necessary to keep nuclear plants viable elsewhere, including in Ohio and New York.

When it comes to speed of deployment, there are countless examples of delayed nuclear power projects all over the world. For my purposes, I’ll focus on the only project currently in progress in the U.S., that is, the Vogtle expansion in Georgia. Southern Nuclear (a subsidiary of Southern Company) filed for an early site permit application for Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in August 2006. The Georgia Public Service Commission approved construction of the two AP1000 reactors in March 2009. Southern Company notified The Shaw Group and Westinghouse Electric Co. to proceed fully on their engineering, procurement, and construction contract in mid-April 2009.

Original plans called for Vogtle Unit 3 to be operational in 2016 and Unit 4 to enter service in 2017, but that didn’t happen. The project has had countless delays, and costs have ballooned. In a July 29-issued press release, Georgia Power, the Southern Company subsidiary that will own 45.7% of the two new units along with Oglethorpe Power Corp. (30%), Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (22.7%), and Dalton Utilities (1.6%), said it was projecting a Unit 3 in-service date in the second quarter of 2022 and a Unit 4 in-service date in the first quarter of 2023, but even that timeline may be optimistic. In Oglethorpe’s investor briefing issued on Aug. 26, the company said its revised budget “assumes in-service dates of June 2022 and June 2023 for Unit 3 and Unit 4, respectively.”

And speaking of budgets, Georgia Power’s capital cost forecast for the project was also revised in July, pegging its share of the project at $9.2 billion. If you do the math, that works out to more than $20.1 billion in total project costs, which is 40% higher than the $14.3 billion projected in August 2008.

Progress on SMRs Has Been Equally Slow

Some nuclear power proponents feel small modular reactors (SMRs) could provide a boost to the industry. The concept has been around for decades. I remember hearing about pebble-bed small modular reactors when I was still in the Navy back in the 1990s. The idea of building moduals in a factory-type setting and shipping them to a site for final assembly seems forward-thinking. The process could be more like an assembly line, saving time and money.

Yet, for all the hype, we still haven’t seen an SMR approved and constructed in the U.S. NuScale Power is perhaps the furthest along in the process. so I’ll focus on what it has accomplished.

POWER has been reporting on NuScale’s design since at least early 2013. The company began developing its reactor in 2000 under a Department of Energy–funded research program, and began pre-application discussions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2008. It took until September 2020 for the NRC to finally issue a Standard Design Approval for the NuScale SMR.

While NuScale has signed several agreements with companies and countries interested in exploring SMR deployment, no one has signed on the dotted line to build one. Furthermore, it’s highly debatable whether SMR costs will be competitive with other available clean-energy options.

Insurmountable Obstacles?

A grim picture was painted for the future of nuclear power during a media event on Sept. 29 to roll out the “World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021,” a Mycle Schneider Consulting project that provides an overview of nuclear power plant data including information on operation, production, and construction. One of the takeaways from the presentation was: “Nuclear is irrelevant in today’s electricity capacity newbuild market.”

I asked the eight-member panel of presenters if the tide could be turned. M.V. Ramana, a professor at the University of British Columbia and a contributor to the report, told me in a direct message, “I don’t think this tide can turn. These problems are structural.” I hope he’s wrong, because I believe the world needs nuclear power to be a relevant piece of a carbon-free future.

November 2, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international | Leave a comment

ESG – Environmental Social and Governance investing excludes nuclear power

Green finance clarifies nuclear issue,, By Honda Chen 陳鴻達 Translated by Perry Svensson

MSCI, the world’s most reputable compiler of investment indices, generates ESG lists by first excluding firms in the nuclear power, arms, gambling and pornography industries.

The EU Taxonomy excludes nuclear power generation, and nuclear power cannot be used to account for carbon reduction efficiency.

ESG funds exclude companies that generate revenue from nuclear power.

Nuclear power cannot be regarded as green energy, so carbon reduction still requires renewable energy, energy efficiency, or carbon capture and storage technology, Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Chang Tzi-chin (張子敬) told a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Thursday.

This is the mainstream view worldwide, and green finance, or ESG — environmental, social and governance — investments, which have surged over the past few years, prohibit investing in nuclear power plant projects.

For example, MSCI, the world’s most reputable compiler of investment indices, generates ESG lists by first excluding firms in the nuclear power, arms, gambling and pornography industries. Only then does it look at whether a firm’s performance indicators meet sustainability requirements. Many funds based on MSCI’s ESG indices do not buy the stocks or bonds of companies in those industries.

Although most power plants in other countries are privately owned, many are publicly traded, but ESG funds exclude companies that generate revenue from nuclear power.

Over the past few years, the EU has been promoting its Green Deal, a transformation of the bloc’s energy sector, and has adopted the EU Taxonomy, a transparency tool that lists economic activities that meet sustainability standards.

Businesses that meet the standards can issue green bonds, which enjoy lower borrowing costs and fewer administrative procedures. Funds that claim to be ESG must disclose how sustainable the companies in their portfolios truly are.

The EU Taxonomy excludes nuclear power generation, and nuclear power cannot be used to account for carbon reduction efficiency.

The EU’s logic is that carbon reduction cannot be achieved to the detriment of other environmental objectives, such as eliminating radioactive waste or safeguarding biodiversity. Sustainable carbon reduction must “do no significant harm” to the environment.

By this logic, nuclear power is a major hazard in Taiwan, a densely populated country situated in an earthquake zone.

The proposed third liquefied natural gas terminal off the coast of Datan Borough (大潭) in Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音) is another example of this.

Infrastructure for the project has been moved farther out to sea, far from the coastline, and the shipping lane is not to be dredged, minimizing damage to an algal reef.

In other words, if the terminal is part of the fight against air pollution, it must comply with the principle of not causing significant harm to other aspects of the environment.

The referendums that are to be held next month have either become highly politicized or distort the issue of nuclear power.

Perhaps the logic behind today’s ESG trend in global finance could help the public to better understand the issue and make more informed decisions.

Honda Chen is an associate research fellow at the Taiwan Academy of Banking and Finance.

November 2, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

USA and UK’s transparent persecution of Australian Julian Assange

The goal is to set a legal precedent which allows journalists who expose the crimes of the powerful to be persecuted not covertly as is normally done in ‘free democracies,’ but right out in the open. To tell journalists “We’ll just throw you in prison if you cross us.

What makes this precedent uniquely dangerous is that it is not just threatening to imprison American journalists who expose US crimes, but any journalist anywhere in the world.

Caitlin Johnstone: The Assange persecution lays out Western savagery at its most transparent Oct, 2021  By Caitlin Johnstone, an independent journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Her website is here and you can follow her on Twitter @caitozThe first day of the US appeal in the Julian Assange extradition case saw grown adults arguing in court that the US government could guarantee that it wouldn’t treat the WikiLeaks founder as cruelly as it treats other prisoners.

I wish I was kidding.

In their write-up on Wednesday’s proceedings, The Dissenter’s Kevin Gosztola and Mohamed Elmaazi report that the prosecution argued that “the High Court should accept the appeal on the basis that the U.S. government offered ‘assurances’ that Assange won’t be subjected to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) or incarcerated in ADX Florence, a super-maximum prison in Colorado.”

What this means is that in order to overturn the January extradition ruling which judge Vanessa Baraitser denied on the basis that the notoriously draconian US prison system is too cruel to guarantee Assange’s health and safety, the prosecution has established as one of their grounds for appeal the claim that they can offer “assurances” that they would not inflict some of their most brutal measures upon him. These would include the aforementioned Special Administrative Measures, wherein prisoners are so isolated that they effectively disappear off the face of the earth, or sending him to ADX Florence, where all prisoners are kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day.

What’s ridiculous about these “assurances,” apart from the obvious, is that within its own legal argument the US government reserves the right to reverse those assurances at any time and impose SAMs or maximum security imprisonment upon Assange if it deems them necessary. As Amnesty International explains:

They say: we guarantee that he won’t be held in a maximum security facility and he will not be subjected to Special Administrative Measures and he will get healthcare. But if he does something that we don’t like, we reserve the right to not guarantee him, we reserve the right to put him in a maximum security facility, we reserve the right to offer him Special Administrative Measures. Those are not assurances at all. It is not that difficult to look at those assurances and say: these are inherently unreliable, it promises to do something and then reserves the right to break the promise.

So the prosecution’s legal argument here is essentially “We promise we won’t treat Assange as cruelly as we treat our other prisoners, unless we decide we really want to.”

This is not just a reflection on the weakness of the extradition appeal, it’s a reflection on the savagery of all the so-called free democracies that have involved themselves in this case.

This same prosecution argued that Assange should not be denied US extradition from the UK on humanitarian grounds as in the case of activist Lauri Love, because Love suffered from both physical and psychological ailments while Assange’s ailments are only psychological. They stood before the court and made this argument even as Assange was visibly pained and unwell in his video appearance from Belmarsh Prison, which he was only able to attend intermittently due to his frail condition.

“For my newspaper, I have worked as media partner of WikiLeaks since 2009,” tweeted journalist Stefania Maurizi who attended the hearing via video link. “I have seen Julian Assange in all sorts of situations, but I have never ever seen him so unwell and so dangerously thin.”

So they’re just openly brutalizing a journalist for exposing US war crimes, while arguing that they can be trusted to treat him humanely and give him a fair trial if granted extradition. This after it has already been confirmed that the CIA plotted to kidnap and assassinate him during the Trump administration, after we learned that the prosecution relied on false testimony from a convicted child molester and diagnosed sociopath, after it was revealed that the CIA spied on Assange and his lawyers in the Ecuadorian embassy, and after intelligence asset Jeffrey Epstein famously died under highly suspicious circumstances in a US prison cell.

The worst atrocities in history have all been legal. All the worst examples of genocide, slavery, tyranny and bloodshed have been allowed or actively facilitated by the state. The persecution of Assange is geared toward entering the imprisonment of journalists into this category.

The goal is to set a legal precedent which allows journalists who expose the crimes of the powerful to be persecuted not covertly as is normally done in ‘free democracies,’ but right out in the open. To tell journalists “We’ll just throw you in prison if you cross us.”

What makes this precedent uniquely dangerous is that it is not just threatening to imprison American journalists who expose US crimes, but any journalist anywhere in the world. This is an Australian journalist in the process of being extradited from the UK for publishing facts about US war crimes in the nations it has invaded. The aim is to set up a system where anyone in the US-aligned world can be funneled into its prison system for publishing inconvenient facts.

This is the savagery of the Western world at its most transparent. It’s not the greatest evil the US-centralized empire has perpetrated; that distinction would certainly be reserved for its acts of mass military slaughter that it has been inflicting upon our species with impunity for generations. But it’s the most brazen. The most overt. It’s the most powerful part of the most depraved power structure on earth looking us all right in the eyes and telling us exactly what it is.

And if we can really look at this beast and what it is doing right now, really see it with eyes wide open, it reveals far more about those who rule over us than anything any journalist has ever exposed.

November 2, 2021 Posted by | civil liberties, Legal, UK | Leave a comment

Nuclear power plant operators want to run for eight decades, but a federal lab in Washington state found ‘critical gaps’ in knowledge about how reactors age.

One of the most challenging areas involves embrittlement of metal in reactor pressure vessels that are bombarded by neutrons during the fission process. Extreme embrittlement could result in reactors having to reduce power production or shut down all together.

The aging of reactor internals and concrete, and deterioration of cables, also are concerns, according to NRC documents Gunter obtained

Nuclear power plant operators want to run for eight decades, but a federal lab in Washington state found ‘critical gaps’ in knowledge about how reactors age, Nov. 1, 2021  By Hal Bernton , Seattle Times, Seattle Times staff reporter

That report was published online in 2017 by the federal laboratory. It detailed a series of “critical gaps” in knowledge, and proposed an ambitious research plan to help fill them in by studying parts pulled from shuttered nuclear power plants.

This report got a chill reception at the NRC.

Some commission staff thought some of the report’s wording was inaccurate or misleading and could lead readers to believe “we should not be issuing renewed licenses” to run for up to eight decades, according to emails and other documents obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

“I think the entire report needs to be scrubbed for text that points to gaps and, if issued, we need a stronger basis for why we will grant renewed licensing … before harvesting [of parts from shutdown reactors] and testing is completed,” wrote one NRC staffer.

The report was substantially revised by the NRC, which in 2019 released a toned-down version of the report that deleted all seven references to critical gaps in knowledge.

The rocky path of this study through the federal regulatory commission offers an unusual window into the launch of a licensing renewal that is expected to determine the fate of most of the current generation of U.S. nuclear power plants.

This fleet of more than 90 reactors produces about one-fifth of the nation’s electricity — and does so without the direct release of carbon emissions while operating. [ED. Nobody counts the carbon emissions in the full nuclear fuel cycle]]

Most of these reactors, including the Columbia Generating Station, are licensed to operate for up to 60 years past their initial startup date.

Without license extension to operate for an additional 20 years, almost all of them would have to shut down during the first half of the 21st century, ………………..

2017 report posted online, then removed

Paul Gunter obtained the NRC documents detailing the internal criticisms of the PNNL report. He is an activist with Beyond Nuclear, a group working for a world “free of nuclear power and nuclear weapons.”

Gunter for years has watchdogged the relicensing of nuclear power plants, and more recently has been a vocal critic of the NRC’s proposal to consider up to 80 years of operation for U.S. nuclear power plants.

This is pushing to the extreme,” said Gunter.

Gunter during an online search went to the PNNL website, and found a copy of the 2017 report.

He was encouraged by the authors’ recommendations, and cited the study at a Sept. 26, 2018, meeting about relicensing convened by the NRC.

“I started asking questions and their jaws dropped, and they said, ‘We can’t be talking about this,’ ” Gunter recalls.

Soon after Gunter cited the report at the meeting, he said the report was pulled down from the PNNL as well as Department of Energy and International Atomic Energy Agency websites that had also posted the document.

Troubled by the effort to keep the 2017 report from public view, Gunter’s organization then filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request to gain access to NRC documents related to the study.

These documents show how NRC’s own research staff had questions about how important structures would hold up over 80 years of operations. A 2013 project description stated that “understanding and managing” how things degrade is “unquestionably a key need for continued safe and reliable” reactor operations, and “also an area with very significant uncertainties.”

One of the most challenging areas involves embrittlement of metal in reactor pressure vessels that are bombarded by neutrons during the fission process. Extreme embrittlement could result in reactors having to reduce power production or shut down all together.

The aging of reactor internals and concrete, and deterioration of cables, also are concerns, according to NRC documents Gunter obtained…………….

The NRC asked the PNNL researchers to come with a long-term plan to guide harvesting of high-priority parts from shutdown reactors that could then be analyzed and compared with the results from laboratory tests.

The study by PNNL’s Pradeep Ramuhalli and four other scientists concluded such harvesting would be “essential to provide reasonable assurance that the materials/components will continue to perform their safety function throughout the plant licensing period.”

That line was removed from the final report, which portrayed this research more as a useful option — rather than a necessity — and cautioned that it may not always be practical to salvage these parts…….

By the time the revised document was released, the NRC already had begun the relicensing process.

November 2, 2021 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Extreme weather events now the new normal – State of the Climate report 2021

Extreme weather events – including powerful heat waves and devastating floods – are now the new normal, says the World Meteorological Organisation. The State of the Climate report for 2021 highlights a world that is “changing before our eyes.” The 20-year temperature average from 2002 is on course to exceed 1C above pre-industrial levels for the first time. And global sea levels rose to a new high in 2021, according to the study. These latest figures for 2021 are being released early by the WMO to coincide with the start of the UN climate conference in Glasgow known as COP26.

 BBC 31st Oct 2021

November 2, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Solar and wind keep getting cheaper, and crush coal, gas and nuclear on costs: Lazard

Latest LCOE report from Lazard confirms that wind and solar by far the cheapest of all energy sources, and cost of storage is falling too. The post Solar and wind keep getting cheaper, and crush coal, gas and nuclear on costs: Lazard appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Solar and wind keep getting cheaper, and crush coal, gas and nuclear on costs: Lazard — RenewEconomy   Giles Parkinson & Sophie Vorrath 1 November 2021  [GOOD GRAPHS]

As world leaders meet in Glasgow for critical climate talks, they have been given a stark reminder of the lowest cost alternatives to achieve the full decarbonised grid that science says is required of major economies by the middle of next decade, at the latest.

Investment bank Lazard has released the 15th edition of its highly regarded Levelised Cost of Energy Analysis and it reinforces what is pretty much already known: Wind and solar are by far the cheapest forms of electricity generation, storage costs are falling, and now hydrogen is part of the equation.

The best illustration of the cost difference between the various technologies is this following table, which shows the various energy supply sources and their sensitivity to the cost of capital.

All technologies are affected in some way, but wind and solar, which are easily the cheapest form of generation, actually increase their advantage as the cost of capital increases. In all cases, they are five times cheaper than nuclear. Even storage and network costs don’t come close to making up the difference……………………………..

November 2, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, renewable | Leave a comment

You don’t need nuclear to get to net zero,’ says climate professor Jeffrey Sachs

You don’t need nuclear to get to net zero,’ says climate professor Jeffrey Sachs, Euronews  •  Updated: 01/11/2021

Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, is known throughout the world for his effective strategies that address complex challenges.

He has dealt with debt crises, the control of AIDS, malaria and other diseases, the escape from extreme poverty and the battle against human-induced climate change.

Sachs is also a bestselling author, innovative educator, and global leader in sustainable development.

Euronews caught up with him to discuss the global climate crisis ahead of the COP26.

Whether nuclear energy is green or not is a hot debate in Europe. But can we actually afford to rely only on renewables?

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University:

“Well, the sun isn’t always shining, and it’s expensive to store energy, but now we’re seeing that the cost of storage is coming down so sharply. Technologies are improving for the flexibility and the resilience of renewable-based energy systems. There’s a good line of sight to a non-nuclear all-green future by mid-century. By the way, in the second half of the 21st century, maybe fusion power, which is quite different from how we produce nuclear now with fission.

“Maybe that will come. Maybe we will have nuclear energy in a different and safer way that doesn’t lead to the risk of nuclear proliferation, for example, or accidents or long-lasting nuclear wastes. And of course, always, you say there may be particular places with special challenges. But by and large, most scenarios today show you don’t need nuclear to get to net-zero.”

What are the expectations from COP26? Is it too late?

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University:

“We have already reached 1.2 degrees Celsius warming. Shocking. The studies show this is warmer than any time in the last 100,000 years. We are continuing to get warmer because Earth has not even caught up yet with the human emissions of greenhouse gases. In other words, the planet is still warming just to catch up with the emissions that we’ve made so far.

“We’re turning a corner. We need to do a lot better. COP26 is set up for the moment when we say sanity. We have leaders around the world that get it. They had better deliver.”

November 2, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Positive developments: rise in electric cars, ever cheaper renewables, moves towards energy efficiency

The climate emergency is the biggest threat to civilisation we have ever faced. But there is good news: we already have every tool we need to beat it. The challenge is not identifying the solutions, but rolling them out
with great speed. Some key sectors are already racing ahead, such as electric cars. They are already cheaper to own and run in many places – and when the purchase prices equal those of fossil-fueled vehicles in the next few years, a runaway tipping point will be reached.

Electricity from renewables is now the cheapest form of power in most places, sometimes even cheaper than continuing to run existing coal plants. There’s a long way to go to meet the world’s huge energy demand, but the plummeting costs of batteries and other storage technologies bodes well.

And many big companiesmare realising that a failure to invest will be far more expensive as the impacts of global heating destroy economies. Even some of the biggest polluters, such as cement and steel, have seen the green writing on the wall.

Buildings are big emitters but the solution – improved energy efficiency – is simple to achieve and saves the occupants money, particularly with the cost of installing technology such as heat pumps expected to fall.

 Guardian 31st Oct 2021

November 2, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, renewable | Leave a comment

New Study: Electricity would already be Cheaper today with a Full Supplyof 100% Renewables. 

 New Study: Electricity would already be Cheaper today with a Full Supply
of 100% Renewables. New short study by the Energy Watch Group (EWG) finds:
Electricity would already be cheaper today with a full supply of 100%

In the coalition negotiations for the new German government,
both ambitious climate protection and the reduction of electricity prices
play a central role. The previous government still expects only 45%
renewables in the electricity mix by 2025.

A new short study by the Energy
Watch Group offers an answer to the rising energy costs: The study
calculates that a full supply with 100% renewables would already be
economically competitive today compared to the current energy system based
on coal, natural gas and nuclear. By 2025 at the latest, an energy system
based on 100% renewables would then be significantly cheaper than power
generation with fossil fuels.

 Sonnenseite 28th Oct 2021

November 2, 2021 Posted by | Germany, renewable | Leave a comment

US military blazes trail for 100 per cent renewable energy economy

US military blazes trail for 100 per cent renewable energy economy with
carbon neutral synthetic fuel. Carbon neutral synthetic fuel whose
production is powered by renewable energy is a practical way of long-term
storage of renewable energy.

But it is no surprise that the big energy
corporations with their fossil fuel and nuclear power interests don’t
advise Governments to support this – but when it can help the US
military, well, it’s just chocks away chaps! The irony is that this
system was researched in the UK only a few years ago at a pilot stage, and
then – you’ve guessed it – completely ignored by the UK Government in
favour of kooky ideas like small nuclear reactors and blue hydrogen – not
to mention large nuclear power plant that take forever to be built
incredible cost!

 100% Renewables 31st Oct 2021

November 2, 2021 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Portugal’s success in cutting greenhouse emissions through its offshore floating wind and solar plants

 Portugal is the EU country that has been most successful at cutting
greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, partly through the use of floating
wind and solar plants located off its coast. Today, 65 percent of all the
electricity consumed in Portugal comes from renewable sources.

 France24 30th Oct 2021

November 2, 2021 Posted by | EUROPE, renewable | Leave a comment

Japan’s election gives reprieve for nuclear sector.

Japan’s election gives reprieve for nuclear sector, Argus,  By Motoko Hasegawa   1 November 2021

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) secured a victory in the 31 October general elections to the lower house of parliament. This allows the government to maintain its updated energy policy, which lays out plans to restart safe nuclear reactors to help reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The LDP secured a majority in Japan’s lower house after voting closed, without accounting for parliamentary seats secured by its junior coalition partner Komeito. This could make it easier for the LDP to push forward with its nuclear policy before the next general upper house election next year. Komeito had pledged to strictly adhere to the 40-year lifespan limit for reactors and a future no-nuclear society, as other opposition parties had insisted on.

LDP leader and prime minister Fumio Kishida and cabinet ministers last month endorsed a basic energy policy that did not include plans for construction or replacement of nuclear reactors and only focused on the restart of safe reactors. But the government did not directly prohibit building reactors, in a reprieve for the nuclear industry………….

Japan has restarted 10 nuclear reactors since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster closed all the country’s reactors to enhance their safety measures. But it will have to phase out existing reactors without any capacity additions. All Japanese reactors are allowed to operate for 40 years with a one-time option to extend their lifespan to 60 years under current nuclear safety rules. This has 15 of the existing 33 reactors with a combined capacity of 14,057MW closing by December 2030 and no operational reactors in 2050, assuming a 40-year lifespan.

November 2, 2021 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

U.S. Discloses Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Numbers

U.S. Discloses Nuclear Stockpile Numbers, 
November 2021, By Shannon Bugos, Arms Control Association

The Biden administration has publicly released the total number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile, a sharp reversal of the previous administration’s refusal to do so for the past three years…………

The U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads was at 3,750 as of September 2020, according to the administration document. This number captures active and inactive warheads, but not the roughly 2,000 retired warheads awaiting dismantlement. The document lists stockpile numbers going back to 1962, including the warhead numbers from the years when the Trump administration refused to declassify the information.

This number represents an approximate 88 percent reduction in the stockpile from its maximum (31,255) at the end of fiscal year 1967, and an approximate 83 percent reduction from its level (22,217) when the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989,” the document said.

Despite a significant overall reduction, the updated figures show the scale of reductions to the stockpile has diminished in recent years and even reflect a 20 warhead increase between September 2018 and September 2019 under the Trump administration.

The Biden administration also disclosed how many nuclear warheads the Energy Department has dismantled each year since 1994, for a total of 11,683. The Obama administration decided in 2010, for the first time, to release the entire history of the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. The Trump administration declassified the stockpile data for 2017, but did not do so again for the following years…………

November 2, 2021 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment