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Wikileaks reveals The Saudi Cables

civil-liberty-2smThe Saudi Cables.  Cables and other documents from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Foreign Affairs https://wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/buying-silence

A total of 122619 published so far

Buying Silence: How the Saudi Foreign Ministry controls Arab media

On Monday, Saudi Arabia celebrated the beheading of its 100th prisoner this year. The story was nowhere to be seen on Arab media despite the story’s circulation on wire services. Even international media was relatively mute about this milestone compared to what it might have been if it had concerned a different country. How does a story like this go unnoticed?

Today’s release of the WikiLeaks “Saudi Cables” from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs show how it’s done.

The oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its ruling family take a systematic approach to maintaining the country’s positive image on the international stage. Most world governments engage in PR campaigns to fend off criticism and build relations in influential places. Saudi Arabia controls its image by monitoring media and buying loyalties from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between.

Documents reveal the extensive efforts to monitor and co-opt Arab media, making sure to correct any deviations in regional coverage of Saudi Arabia and Saudi-related matters. Saudi Arabia’s strategy for co-opting Arab media takes two forms, corresponding to the “carrot and stick” approach, referred to in the documents as “neutralisation” and “containment”. The approach is customised depending on the market and the media in question.

“Contain” and “Neutralise”

The initial reaction to any negative coverage in the regional media is to “neutralise” it. The term is used frequently in the cables and it pertains to individual journalists and media institutions whose silence and co-operation has been bought. “Neutralised” journalists and media institutions are not expected to praise and defend the Kingdom, only to refrain from publishing news that reflects negatively on the Kingdom, or any criticism of its policies. The “containment” approach is used when a more active propaganda effort is required. Journalists and media institutions relied upon for “containment” are expected not only to sing the Kingdom’s praises, but to lead attacks on any party that dares to air criticisms of the powerful Gulf state.

One of the ways “neutralisation” and “containment” are ensured is by purchasing hundreds or thousands of subscriptions in targeted publications. These publications are then expected to return the favour by becoming an “asset” in the Kingdom’s propaganda strategy. A document listing the subscriptions that needed renewal by 1 January 2010 details a series of contributory sums meant for two dozen publications in Damascus, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Kuwait, Amman and Nouakchott. The sums range from $500 to 9,750 Kuwaiti Dinars ($33,000). The Kingdom effectively buys reverse “shares” in the media outlets, where the cash “dividends” flow the opposite way, from the shareholder to the media outlet. In return Saudi Arabia gets political “dividends” – an obliging press.

An example of these co-optive practices in action can be seen in an exchange between the Saudi Foreign Ministry and its Embassy in Cairo. On 24 November 2011 Egypt’s Arabic-language broadcast station ONTV hosted the Saudi opposition figure Saad al-Faqih, which prompted the Foreign Ministry to task the embassy with inquiring into the channel. The Ministry asked the embassy to find out how “to co-opt it or else we must consider it standing in the line opposed to the Kingdom’s policies“.

The document reports that the billionaire owner of the station, Naguib Sawiris, did not want to be “opposed to the Kingdom’s policies” and that he scolded the channel director, asking him “never to host al-Faqih again”. He also asked the Ambassador if he’d like to be “a guest on the show”.

The Saudi Cables are rife with similar examples, some detailing the figures and the methods of payment. These range from small but vital sums of around $2000/year to developing country media outlets – a figure the Guinean News Agency “urgently needs” as “it would solve many problems that the agency is facing” – to millions of dollars, as in the case of Lebanese right-wing television station MTV.

Confrontation

The “neutralisation” and “containment” approaches are not the only techniques the Saudi Ministry is willing to employ. In cases where “containment” fails to produce the desired effect, the Kingdom moves on to confrontation. In one example, the Foreign Minister was following a Royal Decree dated 20 January 2010 to remove Iran’s new Arabic-language news network, Al-Alam, from the main Riyadh-based regional communications satellite operator, Arabsat. After the plan failed, Saud Al Faisal sought to “weaken its broadcast signal“.

The documents show concerns within the Saudi administration over the social upheavals of 2011, which became known in the international media as the “Arab Spring”. The cables note with concern that after the fall of Mubarak, coverage of the upheavals in Egyptian media was “being driven by public opinion instead of driving public opinion”. The Ministry resolved “to give financial support to influential media institutions in Tunisia“, the birthplace of the “Arab Spring”.

The cables reveal that the government employs a different approach for its own domestic media. There, a wave of the Royal hand is all that is required to adjust the output of state-controlled media. A complaint from former Lebanese Prime Minister and Saudi citizen Saad Hariri concerning articles critical of him in the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat newspapers prompted a directive to “stop these type of articles” from the Foreign Ministry.

This is a general overview of the Saudi Foreign Ministry’s strategy in dealing with the media. WikiLeaks’ Saudi Cables contain numerous other examples that form an indictment of both the Kingdom and the state of the media globally.

August 26, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, media, Saudi Arabia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Canadian nuclear boss ridicules whistledblower

civil-liberty-2smflag-canadaCanadian nuclear boss jokes about whistleblowers and muzzles environmentalistBy Mike De Souza, National Observer August 18th 2016 Shawn-Patrick Stensil shook his head in disbelief as he walked out of a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission public meeting on Thursday.

 The commission invited Stensil to speak about nuclear safety issues, but wouldn’t let him comment about a remarkable anonymous letter that raised serious engineering and procedural issues questioning whether the agency was doing a bad job overseeing reactors. The commission’s president and chief executive, Michael Binder, led a series of jokes ridiculing the whistleblowers the night before, prompting a public rebuke by the union representing government scientists. Today, Binder cut off Stensil’s microphone.

The commission also declined to review Stensil’s 26-page analysis of the safety issues raised in the anonymous letter.

“I’ve never been shut down before like that by the commission,” said Stensil in an interview withNational Observer after his brief appearance at the meeting.

Stensil is a senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada, who has researched nuclear safety policy issues for more than a decade and testifies frequently before federal panels about the issue.

The commission is an independent federal regulator that is responsible for overseeing the Canadian nuclear industry. In other words, it is there to ensure that Canada’s nuclear reactors don’t meltdown and cause a full-scale catastrophe.

“I’ve been intervening before the commission for 15 years,” Stensil said. “They didn’t want to see any outside opposing views. They didn’t want to ask why it happened in the first place and it also shows that the Harper government is still alive and well at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Outside views aren’t welcome. Dissenting views aren’t welcome. And that’s a legacy of Harper that the Trudeau government needs to clean up.”

The letter, released by Stensil, a nuclear campaigner from Greenpeace Canada, to media outlets in July, was addressed to Binder, who was appointed by the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper. Stensil had received a copy of the letter, along with other senior officials at the commission in May. It suggested that commission employees were not doing their job properly, withholding critical information from commissioners, prior to decisions on nuclear safety.

The letter also alleged that some nuclear plants were violating safety rules and had licenses that were approved following inadequate reviews by staff, who then withheld information from commissioners prior to decisions. The author or authors said that the commission, as a result, failed to identify safety risks at nuclear plants and impose conditions to reduce the likelihood of serious accidents.

Stensil has compared these types of failings to the errors which led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan that was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, causing serious damage in its wake.

“It’s very clear from this letter that people (the authors) have inside information about what’s going on at the CNSC,” Stensil said. “I’ve seen some of these issues raised in debates internally that I’ve gotten through access to information (requests). There’s a credibility issue here. And when you start dismissing a dissenter as not having expertise, it really shows why they probably did this in an anonymous fashion.”

But when Stensil began addressing the whistleblowers’ concerns, Binder told him that the commission had discussed the anonymous letter the night before and proceeded to cut off the environmentalist’s microphone.

Whistleblowers targeted by jokes, ridicule

At that previous meeting, the commission heard testimony from several staff, led by Peter Elder, an engineer and strategic advisor at the commission who presented a report that dismissed the concerns raised by the whistleblowers and defended the commission’s oversight and integrity.

Binder and the commission’s senior staff went a bit further, suggesting that the letter’s author or authors were incompetent……After several staff members further ridiculed the letter and commended their boss, Binder, for raising good points, another executive, Ramzi Jammal, the executive vice president and chief regulatory operations officer intervened to echo their comments…….

Stensil described the whole exercise as having appeared to be staged to embarrass and shame the author or authors of the letter and discourage others from coming forward with safety concerns.

Scientists’ union rebukes nuclear boss, vows to defend public interest   Binder’s behaviour prompted a rebuke from the union that represents the commission’s scientists and which has been trying to ensure that its collective agreements with government include protections for scientific integrity to prevent muzzling.

“Our members who are involved in protecting the safety of Canadians do not take their duties or concerns lightly,” said Steve Hindle, vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Binder has chosen to make light of such an important issue. But his reaction will not prevent our members from defending the public interest.”……. http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/08/18/news/canadian-nuclear-boss-jokes-about-whistleblowers-and-muzzles-environmentalist

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Canada, civil liberties | Leave a comment

USA Dept of Energy not protecting nuclear whistleblowers

whistleblowerIs the Energy Department doing enough to protect nuclear whistleblowers? BY LINDSAY WISE wise@mcclatchydc.com  WASHINGTON , 9 Aug 16   Changes announced by the U.S. Department of Energy to strengthen protections for nuclear whistleblowers don’t go far enough to fix deep-rooted problems unearthed in a recent audit, lawmakers and worker advocates say.

The audit, released last month, found that the DOE’s nuclear program rarely holds its civilian contractors accountable for unlawful retaliation against contract employees who raise concerns about health, safety, fraud and waste.

The lack of enforcement has led to the creation of chilled work environments at nuclear sites across the country, according to the audit performed by the Government Accountability Office at the request of three Democratic senators: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

The senators had asked the GAO in 2014 to look into persistent incidents of retaliation against whistleblowers reported at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state.

Over the next two years, the probe expanded to review the handling of 87 contractor employee complaints filed at 10 of the DOE’s largest nuclear facilities, including Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina.

One whistleblower, Sandra Black, said she was fired from her job as head of the employee concerns program at the Savannah River Site, also known as SRS, after she cooperated with GAO officials on the audit.

Steven Croley, the Department of Energy’s general counsel, did not mention the audit last week when he announced steps to strengthen protections for nuclear whistleblowers on the department’s website. Croley wrote in a blog post that the department plans to issue detailed guidance to its personnel to clarify “if and when” the agency will reimburse contractors’ legal costs in whistleblower cases.

The Department of Energy paid more than $62 million in legal fees for contractors in 36 settlements from 2009 to 2013, even though there was no documented evidence that the costs were allowable under department policy, according to another audit released in February by the DOE’s inspector general. Three of those cases involved whistleblower complaints……..

Nuclear safety watchdogs complain the reforms outlined by Croley are neither new nor effective. “It is the same thin gruel offered up for the past 30 years, dressed up as news,” said Tom Carpenter, director at Hanford Challenge, a regional public interest group in Seattle.

The DOE put similar reforms in place in the 1990s – including a zero tolerance policy for reprisals and a proposed limit on the reimbursement of contractors’ legal defense costs – but those measures failed to address the problem,

Specifically, the reform about civil penalties has limited value, Carpenter said. He pointed out that the DOE has had the power to bring civil penalties against contractors for whistleblower retaliation for decades, but has only done so twice in 30 years, as noted in the recent audit.

Carpenter also worries that the DOE seems to be narrowing the application of this provision to only include whistleblowers who raise nuclear safety or radiation issues, and not concerns about chemical vapor exposures, fraud, waste and abuse, violations of environmental regulations, etc.

“DOE keeps touting their broken programs to protect whistleblowers as if they actually work,” Carpenter said…. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article94458847.html

 

 

 

 

 

August 10, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Retaliation and harassment is very, very real at Hanford

whistleblowerEx-Hanford nuclear facility employee gravely ill after inhaling toxic fumes Nuclear worker: ‘Retaliation is very real at Hanford’  Susannah Frame, KING5.com,  July 29, 2016 A veteran worker at the Hanford Site says he was harassed, isolated and reassigned to cleaning tasks after he made repeated attempts to bring attention to safety problems in the lab where he works.

“Retaliation and harassment is very, very real at Hanford and that’s a fact. I lived it and I’m living it right now,” said Dave Lee, an instrument technician assigned to the 222-S Lab at Hanford. “I’m cleaning closets and I’m replacing filters and if that’s not degrading and retaliatory, explain to me what is.”

Ex-Hanford nuclear facility employee gravely ill after inhaling toxic fumes

The 222 S Lab is a 70,000 square foot facility operated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS). Work in the lab consists of analyzing samples of lethal radioactive nuclear waste taken from underground storage tanks.

Technicians also analyze vapors captured from the headspaces of the tanks. The vapors contain a mix of poisonous chemicals that were used to extract plutonium from spent fuel rods. Production took place at Hanford from the 1940s through the 1980s to support the country’s nuclear weapons program. Since then, work at the site has been exclusively dedicated to cleanup – one of biggest environmental remediation projects in the world.

Since last November, Lee says he’s repeatedly brought up safety concerns related to a piece of machinery used to analyze vapors. He noticed oil leaking from a Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS) instrument. A GC-MC machine measures the presence of selected chemicals in materials fed into it.

His research of the GC-MC factory manuals found that oil in the GC-MC is contaminated with whatever is being tested. That means toxic vapors could be emanating from the oil, into the breathing space of lab workers, who don’t wear protective gloves or respiratory protection as WRPS has never required it.

According to the Clarus 560/600 MS Hardware Guide: “When using toxic samples, the mechanical pump oil is toxic waste….If you were running toxic samples, the oil is contaminated as toxic waste. Handle and dispose of waste oil appropriately.”

“I come to find out this roughing pump oil is part of the process stream (which means it’s in contact with contaminated substances),” said Lee. “I was mad (when I found out)……..

According to a discrimination complaint filed against WRPS with the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Lee reported his concerns to many people, including his direct manager and other managers present in lab meetings, the maintenance manager of the lab, the site wide manager of the lab, a field representative from the Defense Facilities Nuclear Safety Board, members of the Department of Energy’s Employee Concerns Council, the Employee Concerns Council manager, in addition to writing up a Problem Evaluation Request (PER) about inadequate venting in the lab. PERs are designed to formally document a concern that is supposed to be addressed by the company.

Lee said after all that, nothing changed. Managers allegedly told him not to worry about it.

“’This is common practice, Dave. You’re fine,’” was the alleged response.

That led to a more dramatic action. On May 2, Lee issued what is called a stop work action at the lab. All Hanford workers have the right to shut work down if they feel the conditions are unsafe. Lee wanted no work to take place with the oil until it was fully analyzed to ascertain if it were indeed hazardous. The next day, WRPS human resources asked for his badge. He was sent home, placed on “investigative removal” for allegations of “extremely serious misconduct”……..

According to a newly released report from the Government Accountability Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress, Dave Lee’s experience isn’t isolated. The investigators found the U.S. Department of Energy routinely allows “unlawful retaliation” perpetrated by its contractors at sites such as Hanford.

“It’s clear the Department of Energy contractors are going to go to amazing lengths to send a signal to their employees that when you blow the whistle it is going to be the end of your career,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in response to the GAO findings………

Pattern at Hanford

Hanford has been embroiled in high-profile whistleblower retaliation cases in recent years. ……..http://www.king5.com/news/local/investigations/nuclear-worker-retaliation-is-very-real-at-hanford/283622616

July 30, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

The deadly secret of Russia’s secret nuclear radioactive city Ozersk, codenamed City 40

the pact has had deadly consequences. For years, the Soviet Union’s political and scientific leadership withheld the effects of extreme exposure to radiation on the health of the city’s inhabitants, and their future offspring.

 From the late 1940s, people here started to get sick and die: the victims of long-term exposure to radiation.

While accurate data is not available thanks to the authorities’ extreme secrecy and frequent denials, the gravestones of many young residents in Ozersk’s cemetery bear witness to the secret the Soviets tried to bury alongside victims of the Mayak plant.

It is difficult for outsiders to comprehend how the residents of City 40 can continue to live in a place they know is slowly killing them.

 

Hot Docs 2016 Trailers: CITY 40


highly-recommendedThe graveyard of the Earth’: inside City 40, Russia’s deadly nuclear secret 
  https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jul/20/graveyard-earth-inside-city-40-ozersk-russia-deadly-secret-nuclear

Ozersk, codenamed City 40, was the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme. Now it is one of the most contaminated places on the planet – so why do so many residents still view it as a fenced-inparadise? Samira Goetsche  Continue reading

July 22, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, Reference, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Nuclear whistleblowers punished in USA

whistleblowerFlag-USAReport: Department of Energy fails to protect nuclear whistleblowers

Department of Energy took little action against contractors, federal report says

‘They are eventually going to terminate anyone who files a concern with DOE,’ one employee told investigators

Two largest facilities didn’t implement pilot program to boost whistleblower protections

BY LINDSAY WISE AND SAMMY FRETWELL McClatchy Washington Bureau  WASHINGTON, 14 July 16 

When Sandra Black’s colleagues came to her to report unsafe, illegal or wasteful practices at the Savannah River nuclear facility in South Carolina, she assured them that the U.S. Department of Energy would not tolerate retaliation against them.

“Now I know that wasn’t true,” said Black, of Martinez, Georgia.

As head of the site’s employee complaints program, Black’s job required her to evaluate such concerns and protect employees who raised them.

Then she herself was fired, allegedly because she cooperated with government auditors who were investigating retaliation against whistleblowers, according to a highly critical Government Accountability Office report released on Thursday.

The report found that the DOE’s nuclear program almost never holds its civilian contractors accountable for unlawful retaliation against whistleblowers.

The Department of Energy relies more heavily on contractors than any other civilian federal agency. Ninety percent of the DOE’s budget is spent on contracts and large capital asset projects.

And yet the agency has taken little or no action against contractors responsible for creating chilled work environments at nuclear sites across the country, and has failed to create effective policies for doing so, the report says.

Only two violation notices have been issued against contractors in the past 20 years, according to the report.

“All the words that the (U.S. Department of Energy) proclaims about wanting to have a strong ‘safety culture,’ a ‘safety conscious work environment,’ and that it has ‘zero tolerance for retaliation are a pretense,” Black said at a press conference on Capitol Hill, her voice shaking with emotion.

“It is impossible to explain how devastated I am,” she said. “I did nothing wrong.”

The report was released at a news conference Thursday held by three Democratic senators who requested the investigation more than two years ago: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts.

The senators initially had asked the GAO to get to the bottom of persistent incidents of retaliation against whistleblowers reported at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state. The scope of the GAO’s review soon broadened to the handling of 87 contractor employee complaint files at 10 of the DOE’s largest nuclear facilities, including Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C

“The three of us have been doing this a while and I think it would be fair to say we thought that we had seen it all,” Wyden said. “Today, however, it seems that there’s a whole new precedent. We’re talking about a contractor who was retaliated against for actually helping government auditors investigate retaliation against whistleblowers.”

Black’s firing was a new low, Wyden said. “Auditors couldn’t identify a single instance where someone providing information to them had ever been dealt with in this way,” he said.

“It’s clear that DOE contractors are going to go to amazing lengths to send the message to their employees that when you blow the whistle it’s going to be the end of your career,” he said.

McCaskill said the report confirmed her fears that the DOE is not taking the problem seriously enough.

“I know we have heard the Secretary of Energy and his predecessors saying that things will get better, but based on the findings of this report released today, it’s clear that things are not getting better,” she said.

The report verified that contract employees at DOE’s nuclear sites “are working in an environment that is not open, not safety conscious and hostile to whistleblowers,” she said.

One particular point of concern, McCaskill said, is the report’s finding the DOE hasn’t been making full use of a pilot program she helped put in place to enhance whistleblower protection for contract employees.

The report said the DOE has not taken steps to evaluate the pilot program’s merits and could not even tell investigators which contractors had adopted it and when.

Two of the DOE’s largest nuclear facilities, Savannah River Site and Hanford, “had not bothered to implement the program” at all, McCaskill said………

Above all, said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the nuclear weapons contractors should be barred from using unlimited taxpayer’s money against whistleblowers in legal proceedings.

“The GAO’s findings of abysmal whistleblower protection at the Department of Energy is not by accident or coincidence,” Coughlan said. “DOE whistleblower retaliation is historic, systemic and by design, seeking to suppress public knowledge of the inside secrets of the dirty nuclear weapons business.”

Investigators say in the GAO report that Black was fired allegedly for cooperating with the agency, a claim Black made in a federal whistleblower complaint against site contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

Black said she was pressured by her superiors to alter or close some investigative reports. She also was pressured to disclose the identities of employees who brought up questions, Black said.

In one case, a senior SRNS official told her he wanted to know the name of the “rat’’ who’d prompted an investigation of hazardous gas cylinder releases, but Black refused. She said it was vital to maintain a whistleblower’s confidentiality.

Black said she was fired in January 2015 after she talked with the GAO. Even though Black had never been disciplined in three decades of working at SRS – in fact, she had been promoted and rewarded with bonuses – human resource representatives told her she was being fired for an unsatisfactory job performance, her labor department complaint says.

Black said Thursday that her very public termination has had a “chilling effect” on other workers at the SRS, an assertion echoed in the report’s findings.

One SRS employee told auditors, “They fired (Sandra Black). What do you think they’re going to do to me?”

Others said, “They will make an example of anyone who challenges them” and, “There are eventually going to terminate anyone who files a concern with DOE.”

Those who do come forward face ostracization and long, expensive legal battles.

Walt Tamosaitis, who was fired after raising safety concerns about the handling of radioactive waste at Hanford Reservation in Washington state, spoke at Thursday’s press conference about his sense of profound alienation the day he was fired as manager of research and technology at Hanford’s waste vitrification plant.

“I was told to hand over my phone, Blackberry, badge, keys and leave the site,” he recalled. “I was escorted to the door and told not to come back. I was not given any reason for it. It was the loneliest day of my life.”

After a five year legal battle, Hanford subcontractor URS settled a lawsuit Tamosaitis had brought for $4.1 million. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article89674082.html

July 15, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

North Korea: United Nations human rights report on N.K. this week

U.S. State Department to release human rights report on N.K. this week  WASHINGTON, July 5 (Yonhap) –– The U.S. State Department is expected to submit a report on North Korea’s human rights abuses to Congress this week, and the document is likely to name North Korean leader Kim Jong-un responsible for the situation, a diplomatic source said Tuesday.

Under the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act enacted in February, the State Department is required to submit a specific report on Pyongyang’s human rights abuses within 120 days of enactment. That deadline passed on June 17.

The department is expected to submit the report this week as it is unable to delay any longer, and the report is expected to mention the North’s leader, the source said on condition of anonymity.

The report can be used as a basis for what would be the first-ever U.S. sanctions on the North over the country’s human rights record. News reports have said that the U.S. is expected to blacklist about 10 North Korean officials. Should Kim be included in the report, he is also expected to be blacklisted……..The U.S. has led the U.N. Security Council to adopt the toughest sanctions ever on Pyongyang while enacting its own unilateral sanctions on the communist nation in the wake of the North’s fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch the following month.

Last month, the Treasury Department also designated the North as a “primary money laundering concern,” a powerful sanction designed to cut off the provocative regime from the international banking system for defiantly pursuing nuclear and missile development. http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2016/07/06/52/0200000000AEN20160706000400315F.html

July 6, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, North Korea | Leave a comment

America fails to monitor health of Spanish community affected by hydrogen bomb accident

Decades Later, Sickness Among Airmen After a Hydrogen Bomb Accident, NYT, by DAVE PHILIPPS JUNE 19, 2016 “……….Spain’s Monitoring

The United States promised to pay for long-term monitoring of health in the village, but for decades it provided only about 15 percent of funding, with Spain paying the rest, according to a declassified Department of Energy summary. Broken air-monitoring stations went unfixed and equipment was often old and unreliable. In the early 1970s, an Atomic Energy Commission scientist noted, the Spanish field monitoring team consisted of a lone graduate student.

Reports of two children dying of leukemia during that time went uninvestigated. The lead Spanish scientist monitoring the population told American counterparts in a 1976 memo that, in light of the leukemia cases, Palomares needed “some kind of medical surveillance of the population to keep watch for diseases or deaths.” None was created.

In the late 1990s, after years of pressure from Spain, the United States agreed to increase funding. New surveys of the village found extensive contamination that had gone undetected, including some areas where radiation was 20 times the permissible level for inhabited areas. In 2004, Spain quietly fenced off the most contaminated land near the bomb craters.

Since then, Spain has urged the United States to finish cleaning the site.

Because of the uneven monitoring, the effect on public health is far from clear. A small mortality study in 2005 found cancer rates had gone up in the village compared with similar villages in the region, but the author, Pedro Antonio Martínez Pinilla, an epidemiologist, cautioned that the results could be because of random error, and urged more study.

At that time, a United States Department of Energy scientist, Terry Hamilton, proposed another study, noting problems in Spain’s monitoring techniques. “It was clear the uptake of plutonium was poorly understood,” he said in an interview. The department did not approve his proposal…..

About a fifth of the plutonium spread in 1966 is still estimated to contaminate the area. After years of pressure, the United States agreed in 2015 to clean up the remaining plutonium, but there is no approved plan or timetable…….http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/20/us/decades-later-sickness-among-airmen-after-a-hydrogen-bomb-accident.html

June 20, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, health, politics international, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Spain, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear Whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu – indicted yet again!

Vanunu,MordechaiIsrael Indicts Nuclear Whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu  http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/05/08/world/middleeast/ap-ml-israel-nuclear-whistleblower.html?_r=0 By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS MAY 8, 2016, JERUSALEM — Israel has indicted Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordecai Vanunu for meeting with American citizens in Jerusalem and violating other court-ordered restrictions.
Vanunu is a former employee at Israel’s nuclear reactor who served 18 years in Israeli prison for leaking details and pictures of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program to a British newspaper in 1986. Israel neither confirms nor denies its nuclear capability.

When he was released from prison in 2004, Israel banned him from speaking with foreigners and leaving Israel, among other restrictions.

According to Sunday’s indictment, Vanunu met two Americans at a hotel in east Jerusalem in 2013, moved apartments without notifying Israeli authorities in 2014, and in 2015 told an Israeli TV anchor information related to his work at the nuclear reactor that he is forbidden from speaking about.

May 9, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, Israel, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Japan’s ‘press club’ system, government pressure criticised by U.N. rapporteur on freedom of expression

see-no-evilflag-japanU.N. rapporteur on freedom of expression slams Japan’s ‘press club’ system, government pressure, Japan Times BY  STAFF WRITER 19 Apr 16 After a week of conducting interviews, a United Nations expert on freedom of expression concluded Tuesday that Japan’s media independence is being jeopardized by government pressure, however inconspicuous it may be.

David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, also said the organizational structure of the media industry in Japan has undermined journalists’ ability to counter such pressure.

“The theoretical possibility of government regulation and organization … combined cause media freedom to suffer; media independence to suffer,” Kaye told a news conference Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.

It was his first official news conference since his original visit in December was postponed at the request of the Foreign Ministry because it was “unable to arrange meetings” with officials at that time.

Kaye pointed out there is “serious concern” about the ability of journalists to independently report on sensitive issues such as nuclear power due to the pressure exerted when the government flexes its regulatory muscles.

In February, communications minister Sanae Takaichi ominously noted that under the Broadcast Act the government can legally suspend the licenses of TV stations and networks if their programming is found to contain political bias.

Although government officials insist the remark was simply a factual statement about the law, the existence of the policy itself may reasonably be perceived as a threat to media freedom in Japan, Kaye said.

“I think this is a significant problem that the Broadcast Act allows for regulation by the government of the media,” he said, adding the law should be amended to prevent the state from being in a position to adjudicate what constitutes “bias.”

Meanwhile, Kaye also pointed out that the kisha club system in Japan — media associations formed around certain groups and government organizations through which reporters are granted access — should be abolished to regain media independence……….

The full report on Kaye’s investigation will be published in 2017 to be submitted to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/19/national/u-n-rapporteur-freedom-expression-slams-japans-press-club-system-government-pressure/#.VxbkGtR97Gh

April 20, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, Japan, media | Leave a comment

South Carolina nuclear whistleblower workers punished for speaking out on safety concerns

whistleblowerFlag-USANuclear workers say they were retaliated against for exposing wrongdoing  BY LINDSAY WISE AND SAMMY FRETWELL, The State, 13 Mar 16 lwise@mcclatchydc.comsfretwell@thestate.com WASHINGTON, DC 

In her job at the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons plant in South Carolina, Sandra Black was responsible for looking into concerns raised by employees about everything from health and safety to fraud, abuse, harassment and retaliation.

But in fall 2014, when federal investigators with the Government Accountability Office asked her whether she had the necessary independence to do her job, Black says she answered truthfully: She told them her supervisors had interfered with her work and had tried to intimidate her into changing her findings if they validated employees’ complaints.

Black disclosed her conversation with the GAO investigators to her bosses. A few weeks later, on Jan. 7, 2015, she was fired.

“It is so humiliating and embarrassing,’’ Black said. “It’s hard to come home and tell your family you’ve been terminated after 35 years. It was for no reason other than retaliation for doing my job correctly with integrity.’ ’’

The investigators who questioned Black had been conducting a probe into whistleblower retaliation by the Department of Energy and its contractors at the nation’s nuclear facilities. The GAO is expected to release a report this spring.

Three U.S. senators — Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Edward Markey of Massachusetts — had asked the GAO in March 2014 to get to the bottom of persistent incidents of retaliation against whistleblowers reported at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state.

The probe broadened to review other DOE sites, including SRS near Aiken, S.C.

It defies belief that an Energy Department contractor would fire an employee who cooperated with a Government Accountability Office investigation into whistleblower retaliation,” said Wyden, a former chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

“I’m awaiting the GAO’s full report,” Wyden said, “but the firing of Sandra Black under these circumstances demonstrates to me that the culture of retaliation against whistleblowers is regrettably alive and well at DOE.”

Markey said Black’s termination is evidence of a “dangerous culture of disregard for the law” among DOE contractors, including Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the company Black says let her go.

“Rather than rewarding whistleblowers who bravely put their careers on the line to protect public safety, SRNS and other contractors have acted to retaliate against them, sending a chilling message to all employees who bear witness to wasteful, unsafe, or illegal activity,” Markey said. “DOE has historically done nothing to curb this wholly unacceptable behavior.”……….

Carolina Dust Up

Similar concerns are found nearly 3,000 miles from Hanford at the Savannah River Site, along the South Carolina-Georgia border.

Black, a 59-year-old Martinez, Ga., resident, said she’s worried workers at the 310-square-mile complex won’t come forward with safety complaints now that she has been let go………http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article65707887.html

March 13, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, USA | 1 Comment

UN ruling on Julian Assange, and Constitutional Law

Whether or not you believe Mr. Assange is guilty of a sexual offence, whether or not you think he is a self-publicist deliberately resisting arrest, the fact remains that the authorities could use less restrictive means without compromising the initial investigation into the allegations regarding his sexual conduct in Sweden

Liora Lazarus: Is the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Decision on Assange ‘So Wrong’?UK Constitutional Law Association 13 Feb 16 The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention handed down its decision on Julian Assange on Friday 5 February 2015 (A/HRC/WGAD/2015/54). It has been met with almost universal ridicule from a line of British officials, legal academics and the press. The decision has been described as ‘ridiculous’ by the UK Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond, and former Director of Public Prosecution Ken MacDonald argues that describing Assange’s conditions as ‘arbitrary detention’ is ‘ludicrous’. The press is equally incredulous. ………

This point of this piece is to correct the imbalance of coverage on this decision, which consistently fails to explain the arguments which persuaded the Working Group in the first place.
Julian Assange UN Ruling – Geoffrey Robertson QC Joseph Kotrie-Monson interviewed

Factual background

Mr. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden to answer allegations of sexual assault. The Swedish prosecutorial authorities have issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) which the UK authorities are bound to implement. Mr. Assange, after arrest of 10 days and house arrest thereafter, was granted asylum by Ecuador after his appeal against the EAW failed. This is when he took up residence in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012. Assange argues that he fears ultimate extradition from Sweden to the USA on the grounds of his involvement in Wikileaks.

This is obviously no small fear, given the sentencing and treatment of Chelsea Manning in the USA, and the decision of Edward Snowden to take up asylum in Russia. The Swedish authorities refuse to grant Assange any guarantee of non-refoulement to the US, and his right to asylum has also not been recognized by the UK or Sweden. ……..

Mr. Assange argues that he is not free to leave the Embassy; he would have to accept the conditions of his immediate arrest, his extradition to Sweden and his subsequent questioning there. He would have to undertake the risk that he would be extradited to the US, and the subsequent risks to his rights were that to happen.

The mandate of the UN WGAD and the test for ‘deprivation of liberty’

In order to establish its competence, and to decide upon the case, the UN WGAD has to decide whether there is a ‘deprivation of liberty’ under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This involves a more severe restriction of motion within a narrower space than mere interference with liberty of movement. (This is explained in General Comment 35 by the UN Human Rights Committee, para. 5……..

The UN WGAD is given a very specific mandate by the United Nations and its Members to decide on these very issues. ……..

The European Arrest Warrant and the Swedish investigation

As easy as it might be in the press to simplify the issues surrounding this case, it is worth elaborating on some key technicalities. The UK authorities are acting pursuant to the conditions of a EAW issued by Sweden who are asking to question Mr. Assange on allegations of sexual assault in order to decide whether to charge him.

The prosecutorial authorities in Sweden re-opened the case against Assange, despite an earlier preliminary investigation (in which Assange had co-operated while in Sweden) that decided there was no case against him in respect of the alleged rape. There is to date no charge against Mr. Assange. The EAW has been at the core of Sweden’s approach, and there had been no attempt by Swedish prosecutors to make use of ‘mutual assistance protocols’ in which Mr. Assange could be interviewed by video-conference (a procedure available under Article 9 of Second Additional Procotol on ‘mutual assistance’)………

Assange’s lawyers have offered co-operation on this alternative a number of times. The Swedish prosecutorial authorities have refused to explore these alternatives, relying instead on the EAW they have issued. They have also failed to disclose the full case against Assange.

Assange has tried but failed to challenge the European Arrest Warrant against him in Sweden and in the UK. In a judgment handed down on 11 May 2015, the majority of the Swedish Supreme Court held that the EAW was valid, but a dissent in this case by Justice Svante Johansson also argued that the arrest warrant was ‘in violation of the principle of proportionality’, as the reasons for continued detention did not ‘outweigh the intrusion and inconvenience’ caused to Assange. According to the Guardian coverage of this case, the ‘Swedish Supreme court also stated … that the investigating authorities “must examine what alternative investigative opportunities are available to drive the investigation forward”. Former Legal Counsel to the United Nations and Legal Adviser to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hans Corell, has stated that he “does not understand why the prosecutor had not questioned Julian Assange during all the years he has been at the Ecuadorian Embassy”………….

The main arguments of Assange’s lawyers

The central argument of Assange’s lawyers’ proceed on the basis that his confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy ‘cannot … be characterized as volitional’ (para 13). He is not free to leave, because he is protecting himself from the violation of other human rights: ‘the only way for Mr. Assange to enjoy his right to asylum was to be in detention’ (para 11). If Assange were to leave he would be arrested in the UK and extradited pursuant to a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Sweden. Consequently, he would expose himself to the risk of a ‘well founded fear of persecution’ were he to be extradited to the US from Sweden (para 12).

In the UK, Assange’s challenge goes to the validity of the EAW under UK law……….

Evaluation

In essence, the UN WGAD had to decide two questions. Firstly, whether there was a ‘deprivation of liberty’ as opposed to a ‘restriction of liberty’. Secondly, assuming the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, whether that deprivation of liberty was ‘arbitrary’.

In response to the first question, the UN WGAD clearly accepted the argument that Assange’s conditions are not volitional, or self-imposed……..

the UN WGAD was persuaded that the confinement was arbitrary. The most compelling grounds were those based on proportionality. In short, there could have been another, less restrictive way of proceeding. Before issuing a European Arrest Warrant, the Swedish authorities could have followed the normal practice of interviewing Assange in a British police interview room. After Assange, sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy they could have questioned Assange by video link. He could have been provided the chance to respond to the allegations against him, or provided with an assurance related to his refoulment to the US. But his conditions currently are based on the legitimacy of an EAW which two UK Supreme Court justices consider invalid under UK law, and which one Swedish Supreme Court judge considers disproportionate……….

There is still no charge against Mr. Assange. He has, under international, European, and domestic law, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He has offered to respond to the process in other ways, and would co-operate fully if he had a further guarantee of non-refoulment.

Whether or not you believe Mr. Assange is guilty of a sexual offence, whether or not you think he is a self-publicist deliberately resisting arrest, the fact remains that the authorities could use less restrictive means without compromising the initial investigation into the allegations regarding his sexual conduct in Sweden. ……….

Reasonable (and even judicial) minds have clearly differed on these issues, which suggests that the UN WGAD decision cannot fairly be described as ‘ridiculous’, ‘ludicrous’, or ‘so wrong’. No doubt views on this may be coloured by our particular position on the integrity of Assange’s himself. But human rights are not meant to favour the popular amongst us; they are meant to favour us all.

Liora Lazarus is a Fellow of St. Anne’s College and an Associate Professor in Law at Oxford University. https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2016/02/09/liora-lazarus-is-the-united-nations-working-group-on-arbitrary-detention-decision-on-assange-so-wrong/

February 15, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

The very secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

secret-agent-SmWHAT I DIDN’T READ IN THE TTIP READING ROOM , War On Want,  7 February 2016   Katja Kipping was one of the first German MPs to gain access to the new TTIP reading room opened in Berlin this week, and she has written up a report of her experience. We thought it was well worth translating from the original, ‘The Opposite of Transparency’.

TTIP, the EU-US free trade deal, has secrecy written all over it. Those responsible for it live in dread of any public scrutiny. If it was up to me, I would give everyone who’s interested the chance to make up their own minds on the text of the agreement in its current form. Sigmar Gabriel, Minister for Economic Affairs and a top cheerleader for TTIP, has now set up a reading room in his ministry where since the beginning of February German MPs can each spend two hours looking at those texts on which consensus has already been reached.

A political friend of mine asked me the day before whether she could come with me into the reading room. I had to say no. After a long, tough struggle with the government, at least MPs are able to read the text, but they are the only ones. We are not even allowed to take security-cleared specialists with us into the reading room. As for members of the public, who will ultimately have to bear the brunt of TTIP, they are to have no access whatsoever to the secret text. Not what transparency looks like in my book!

Access ‘granted’

Even the registration procedure for the reading room speaks volumes. Once I’d registered, I was sent the instructions on how to use the room. The first thing that I noticed was that the terms and conditions had already been the subject of negotiations between the European Commission and the USA. Get your head round that: TTIP isn’t even signed yet, and already individual countries have lost the right to decide who gets to read the texts, and on what terms.

The following extract from the rulebook for MPs who, like me, want to use the reading room reveals the attitude towards democracy that lurks behind TTIP: “You recognise and accept that in being granted access to the TTIP texts you are being extended an exceptional degree of trust.”

Now I’d always thought that elected MPs have a right to information. Yet the TTIP negotiators (and who gave them their legitimacy?) reckon they are GRANTING us access out of the goodness of their hearts. Access as a sign of exceptional trust. Whoever wrote that – did they really think that we MPs would feel flattered? To me it smacks more of totalitarianism. ‘Granting access’ and ‘extending trust’ is not the language you use if you really believe in democracy. ………

I read nothing to alleviate my concern that the US side wishes to make life more difficult for public and community enterprises and to secure better terms for transnational corporations in the battle for public tenders. I also read nothing to calm my fears that EU negotiators are prepared to sacrifice our social and environmental standards for the prospect of winning lucrative contracts for big European firms.

I read nothing that would lead me to reconsider my previous criticism that consumer protection plays no part in TTIP other than to proclaim free market competition to be the highest form of consumer protection that exists………

It is revealing in itself that the Ministry for Economic Affairs is prepared to go to such lengths in order to keep the text of TTIP under wraps. And they have every reason for doing so. Anyone who was going into these negotiations to enhance environmental protection, consumer protection and labour standards would have nothing to fear from transparency. Anyone who’s engaged in selling out democracy, on the other hand, is obviously going to want to avoid public scrutiny. If Sigmar Gabriel and the negotiators are really so convinced of the benefits of TTIP, why don’t they just make the text available to everyone online? http://www.waronwant.org/media/what-i-didn%E2%80%99t-read-ttip-reading-room

February 12, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, civil liberties, EUROPE, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Arbitrary detention of Julian Assange – United Nations finding

Julian Assange arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the UK, UN expert panel finds United Nations Human Rights Office GENEVA (5 February 2016) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the United Kingdom since his arrest in London on 7 December 2010, as a result of the legal action against him by both Governments, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said today.

In a public statement, the expert panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation (Check the statement:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17012&LangID=E)

Mr. Assange, detained first in prison then under house arrest, took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012 after losing his appeal to the UK’s Supreme Court against extradition to Sweden, where a judicial investigation was initiated against him in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct. However, he was not formally charged.

“The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers that the various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention,” said Seong-Phil Hong, who currently heads the expert panel.

– See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17013&LangID=E#sthash.oPdlDR4g.dpuf

“The Working Group maintains that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Assange should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation,” Mr. Hong added.In its official Opinion, the Working Group considered that Mr. Assange had been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth Prison in London, followed by house arrest and then confinement at the Ecuadorean Embassy.

The experts also found that the detention was arbitrary because Mr. Assange was held in isolation at Wandsworth Prison, and because a lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor’s Office in its investigations resulted in his lengthy loss of liberty.

The Working Group established that this detention violates Articles 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Check the Working Group’s Opinion on Julian Assange’s case (No. 54/2015), adopted in December: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/A.HRC.WGAD.2015.docx

NOTE TO EDITORS:
The Opinions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention are legally-binding to the extent that they are based on binding international human rights law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The WGAD has a mandate to investigate allegations of individuals being deprived of their liberty in an arbitrary way or inconsistently with international human rights standards, and to recommend remedies such as release from detention and compensation, when appropriate.
The binding nature of its opinions derives from the collaboration by States in the procedure, the adversarial nature of is findings and also by the authority given to the WGAD by the UN Human Rights Council. The Opinions of the WGAD are also considered as authoritative by prominent international and regional judicial institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights.

……… http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17013&LangID=E#sthash.oPdlDR4g.dpuf http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17013&LangID=E

February 12, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, Sweden, UK | Leave a comment

Whistleblower Bob Rowen took on corporate nuclear power in the 1970s

whistleblowerFlag-USAThe Not-So-Peaceful Atom  Bob Rowen accidentally took on corporate nuclear power in the 1970s. Four decades later he remembers what it was like to be Humboldt County’s most infamous whistleblower. North Coast Journal, BY , 20 MARCH 2008  On a summer day in 1969,Bob Rowen, a nuclear control technician at the Humboldt Bay nuclear power plant, realized that for his employer, Pacific Gas and Electric, the bottom line was everything — it was even more important than the community’s safety.

It wasn’t the first time Rowen, a burly former Marine, had witnessed safety violations at the plant, but it was the first time he had the gumption to record the violation in a logbook, which would eventually be reviewed by the nuclear industry’s then government watchdog the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

As for PG&E management, they were getting pretty fed up. Rowen was proving to be a real pain in the ass. Continue reading

February 10, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, history, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

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