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“Great British Nuclear” launch – an eccentric fraud by the UK government.

 UK to finally harness full power of green energy with new Great British
Nuclear scheme. Jeremy Hunt has confirmed nuclear power will be classed as
“environmentally sustainable” in a bid to boost investment in the energy
sector. The Chancellor said today he would launch “Great British Nuclear”
to bring down costs.

Andy Stirling, Professor of Science and Technology
Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex,
told “Amid the complete eclipse of nuclear power by
renewables, the position being taken by the UK Government is now growing so
eccentrically flawed as to become a major investment-threatening risk in
its own right. “To characterise nuclear as ‘cheap’ is to completely forego

This is even more so, if promises are relied on around a new
generation of military-derived ‘small modular reactors’ that are
currently undeveloped, untested, unlicensed, unpiloted, unsited and

“The National Infrastructure Commission confirms that renewables
and storage offer much more affordable, effective and rapid zero carbon
alternatives than even the most attractive nuclear options. The track
record of nuclear and renewables accentuate this picture.

“By attaching such a strong priority to nuclear power, the UK Government is not only
jeopardising economic, secure clean energy. With other nations prioritising
renewables more strongly, the UK thereby continues to forego the full
domestic employment and industrial benefits of unique UK renewable

 Express 15th March 2023


March 17, 2023 Posted by | spinbuster, UK | Leave a comment

“Atomic Bamboozle” Probes False Hopes for the Future of Nuclear Power

“Atomic Bamboozle” Probes False Hopes for the Future of Nuclear Power.
Portland documentarian Jan Haaken returns with another powerful and
provocative film. “Every tool in the toolbox.” Documentarian Jan Haaken
has heard recent proponents of nuclear power employ the phrase “like a
mantra” when discussing the fight against climate change.

Having made a two-part film about that planetary emergency (Necessity), Haaken
understands the fight. But not every tool is worth reaching for, posits her
new documentary, Atomic Bamboozle. Haaken, a professor emeritus of
psychology at Portland State University and director of documentaries about
abortion providers (Our Bodies Our Doctors), dairy farmers (Milk Men) and
drag queens (Queens of Heart), now explores what she calls a
“repackaging” of nuclear power in the form of small modular reactors,
or SMRs. Interviewing physicists, activists and conservationists, the
46-minute film portrays a nuclear industry rising quickly while downplaying
nuclear power’s most crucial and recurring issues—those unresolved and
unchanged by SMRs.

Willamette Week 7th March 2023

March 16, 2023 Posted by | media, spinbuster | Leave a comment


By Amanda Yee, Orinoco Tribune., March 12, 2023

From producing reports and analysis for U.S. policy-makers, to enlisting representatives to write op-eds in corporate media, to providing talking heads for corporate media to interview and give quotes, think tanks play a fundamental role in shaping both U.S. foreign policy and public perception around that foreign policy. Leaders at top think tanks like the Atlantic Council and Hudson Institute have even been called upon to set focus priorities for the House Intelligence Committee. However, one look at the funding sources of the most influential think tanks reveals whose interests they really serve: that of the U.S. military and its defense contractors.

This ecosystem of overlapping networks of government institutions, think tanks, and defense contractors is where U.S. foreign policy is derived, and a revolving door exists among these three sectors. For example, before Biden-appointed head of the Pentagon Lloyd Austin took his current position, he sat on the Board of Directors at Raytheon. Before Austin’s appointment, current defense policy advisor Michèle Flournoy was also in the running for the position. Flournoy sat on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, another major Pentagon defense contractor. These same defense contractors also work together with think tanks like the Center for Strategic and International Studies to organize conferences attended by national security officials.

On top of all this, since the end of the Cold War, intelligence analysis by the CIA and NSA has increasingly been contracted out to these same defense companies like BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin, among others — a major conflict of interest. In other words, these corporations are in the position to produce intelligence reports which raise the alarm on U.S. “enemy” nations so they can sell more military equipment!

And of course these are the same defense companies that donate hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to think tanks. Given all this, is it any wonder the U.S. government is simultaneously flooding billions of dollars of weaponry into an unwinnable proxy war in Ukraine while escalating a Cold War into a potential military confrontation with China?

The funding to these policy institutes steers the U.S. foreign policy agenda. To give you a scope of how these contributions determine national security priorities, listed below are six of some of the most influential foreign policy think tanks, along with how much in contributions they’ve received from “defense” companies in the last year.

All funding information for these policy institutes was gathered from the most recent annual report that was available online. Also note that this list is compiled from those that make this information publicly available — many think tanks, such as the hawkish American Enterprise Institute, do not release donation sources publicly.

1 – Center for Strategic and International Studies
According to their 2020 annual report

$500,000+: Northrop Grumman Corporation

$200,000-$499,999: General Atomics (energy and defense corporation that manufactures Predator drones for the CIA), Lockheed Martin, SAIC (provides information technology services to U.S. military)

$100,000-$199,999: Bechtel, Boeing, Cummins (provides engines and generators for military equipment), General Dynamics, Hitachi (provides defense technology), Hanwha Group (South Korean aerospace and defense company), Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. (largest military shipbuilding company in the United States), Mitsubishi Corporation, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (provides intelligence and information technology services to U.S. military), Qualcomm, Inc. (semiconductor company that produces microchips for the U.S. military), Raytheon, Samsung (provides security technology to the U.S. military), SK Group (defense technology company)

$65,000-$99,999: Hyundai Motor (produces weapons systems), Oracle

$35,000-$64,999: BAE Systems

2 – Center for a New American Security
From fiscal year 2021-2022

$500,000+: Northrop Grumman Corporation

$250,000-$499,999: Lockheed Martin

$100,000-$249,000: Huntington Ingalls Industries, Neal Blue (Chairman and CEO of General Atomics), Qualcomm, Inc., Raytheon, Boeing.

$50,000-$99,000: BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, Intel Corporation (provides aerospace and defense technology), Elbit Systems of America (aerospace and defense company), General Dynamics, Palantir Technologies

3 – Hudson Institute
According to their 2021 annual report

$100,000+: General Atomics, Linden Blue (co-owner and Vice Chairman of General Atomics), Neal Blue, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman.

$50,000-$99,000: BAE Systems, Boeing, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

The Comprehensive Crisis in the US and the Revolutionary Way Forward

4 – Atlantic Council
According to their 2021 annual report

$250,000-$499,000: Airbus, Neal Blue, SAAB (provides defense equipment)

$100,000-$249,000: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon

$50,000-$99,000: SAIC

5 – International Institute for Strategic Studies
Based in London. From fiscal year 2021-2022

£100,000+: Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Rolls Royce (provides military airplane engines)

£25,000-£99,999: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Northrop Grumman Corporation

6 – Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Note: ASPI has been one of the primary purveyors of the “Uyghur genocide” narrative

From their 2021-2022 annual report

$186,800: Thales Australia (aerospace and defense corporation)

$100,181: Boeing Australia

$75,927: Lockheed Martin

$20,000: Omni Executive (aerospace and defense corporation)

$27,272: SAAB Australia

March 15, 2023 Posted by | spinbuster, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Lesson from Fukushima: Collusion in the nuclear domain

Nuclear power became an unstoppable force, immune to scrutiny by civil society. Its regulation was entrusted to the same government bureaucracy responsible for its promotion.”

Canada has not heeded these warnings. ……. The CNSC, mandated to protect the public and the environment, lobbied government to abolish full impact assessments for most “small modular nuclear reactors” (SMN

By Gordon Edwards & Susan O’Donnell | Opinion | March 13th 2023

This month marks the 12th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, when three nuclear reactors in Japan suffered catastrophic meltdowns.

A tsunami knocked out the reactors’ cooling systems. The plant was shut down, but radioactivity sent temperatures soaring past the melting point of steel.

Radioactive gases mingled with superheated steam and explosive hydrogen gas, which detonated, spreading radioactive contamination over a vast area; 120,000 people were evacuated and 30,000 are still unable to go home.

Radioactively contaminated water from the stricken reactors has accumulated in 1,000 gigantic steel tanks, and despite objections from China, Korea and local fishers, Japan plans to dump it into the Pacific Ocean soon.

What caused this catastrophe? Most people blame the tsunami. The commission of investigation in Japan concluded otherwise. In its report to the National Diet, the commission found the root cause was a lack of good governance.

The accident “was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO [the nuclear company], and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly ‘man-made.’ We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions…”

The commission chairman wrote: “What must be admitted — very painfully — is that this was a disaster ‘made in Japan.’ Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity… Nuclear power became an unstoppable force, immune to scrutiny by civil society. Its regulation was entrusted to the same government bureaucracy responsible for its promotion.”

Canada has not heeded these warnings. After Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015, his government did away with environmental assessments for any new reactors below a certain size, thus eliminating scrutiny by civil society. This leaves all decision-making in the hands of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) — an agency previously identified by an expert review panel as a captured regulator.

The CNSC, mandated to protect the public and the environment, lobbied government to abolish full impact assessments for most “small modular nuclear reactors” (SMNRs).

Back in 2011, in the midst of the media frenzy about the triple meltdown, Canadians were testifying at federal environmental assessment hearings for up to four large nuclear reactors to be built by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) at Darlington, about 50 kilometres east of Toronto’s edge. The Fukushima disaster was cited repeatedly as a warning.

The panel approved OPG’s plan, but the Ontario government was thunderstruck by the price tag, reputed to be over $14 billion per unit, and cancelled the project.

Now OPG wants to build a smaller reactor at the Darlington site. Since a full impact assessment has been ruled out, CNSC is using the report from 12 years ago as the basis for public interventions. The reactor now proposed (the BWRX-300) has no similarity to any of the reactors that were under consideration then or to any operating today in Canada. Ironically, it is a “miniaturized” version of those that melted down at Fukushima.

CNSC is legally linked to the minister of Natural Resources, who is also tasked with promoting the nuclear industry at home and abroad. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warns that regulators must be independent of any agency promoting the industry.

One day after Canada’s Infrastructure Bank gave OPG a $970-million “low-interest loan” to develop the BWRX-300 at Darlington, the minister boasted to a Washington audience that it would soon become Canada’s first commercial SMNR.

CNSC president Rumina Velshi lauded the speed at which the licensing is proceeding, saying that Canada would be the first western country to approve an SMNR built for the grid.

CNSC is at least two years from approving the reactor. Nevertheless, OPG held a ground-breaking ceremony at Darlington in December. The licence to construct seems a foregone conclusion. When asked, CNSC freely admitted that from the day of its inception, it has never refused to grant a licence for any major nuclear facility.

Government, regulator and industry are already on board. Collusion? Or just co-operation?

Gordon Edwards is president and co-founder of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, a not-for-profit corporation established in 1975. He is a retired professor of mathematics and science at Vanier College in Montreal.

Susan O’Donnell is an adjunct professor at St. Thomas University and a member of the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick.

March 14, 2023 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Australia, Albanese, and the subs: a looming “Goat Rodeo”

one American commentator has already labelled the tripartite AUKUS project a looming “Goat Rodeo”. For which Google provided the following explanation : “a slang term for something going totally, unbelievably, disastrously wrong, and there’s nothing left to do but to sit back and watch the trainwreck. In other words, a goat rodeo is a chaotic situation, fiasco, or, more vulgarly, a s…show.”

Australia will have absolutely no sovereignty over the USN submarines

Pearls and Irritations, By Mack WilliamsMar 13, 2023

Details of the proposed AUKUS submarine deal to be announced next week in San Diego are leaking out all around the world. It seems that it will be much more complicated and expensive than intended at the outset of the path to the Holy Grail of an “optimal” solution. Already there are ominous signs that the three countries cannot even harmonise their rush into PR to launch the program.

Reflecting the reaction of a growing number of gobsmacked Australians to the extraordinary explosion of rumoured detail of the tripartite project, one American commentator has already labelled the tripartite AUKUS project a looming “Goat Rodeo”. For which Google provided the following explanation : “a slang term for something going totally, unbelievably, disastrously wrong, and there’s nothing left to do but to sit back and watch the trainwreck. In other words, a goat rodeo is a chaotic situation, fiasco, or, more vulgarly, a s…show.”

The claimed details of the project have been well covered in the media but what do they mean?


A word in which Prime Minister Albanese has come to place great faith – and avoid others like “dependency” which has been expunged from the discussions. In a TV interview in India, Albanese has asserted that “Australia will retain, absolutely, our sovereignty — absolute sovereignty, 100 per cent. it is very important [for] Australia, as a sovereign nation state — and that’s something that’s respected by all of our partners as well.” It is arrant nonsense to claim “absolute” sovereignty when our geostrategic interests have become so enmeshed with those of the US – and have been for some time.

Let us not forget how we needed the US to weigh in with Indonesia before we launched the East Timor operation. Or more recently when Julia Gillard folded to US pressure for the rotational deployment of US Marines and greater USAF use of airfields in Northern Australia and our Defence force posture plans in return for a visit by President Obama. And so this has developed over subsequent years with embedment of senior Australian defence officers in the US IndoPacific Command in Hawaii and elsewhere, our increasing dependence on the US dominated Five Eyes intelligence network (despite some of its failures) and, of course, our ready participation in the disastrous US controlled “coalitions of the willing “ in Afghanistan and Iraq. And the conga line of US service and Pentagon chiefs which has graced our shores in the past year with their megaphones proffering “advice” on Australian strategic policy and defence procurement . Imagine if any other foreign country had done this in Australia with the DSR and submarine project underway !

Even without that background to just how “absolute” our sovereignty has not been, the details of the project definitely take this a significant step further. It is here where the spin from the US and Australia has already diverged. Defence Minister Marles has the temerity today to posit that there will not be any submarine “capability” gap because the Collins class subs are still very much in operation and will be around as we wait for the first of the new submarines to become operational.

(The Collins class, of course, does not have anything like the operational capability or weapons system of the new submarines).

But the US leaks have argued that the capability gap will be covered by US nuclear powered submarines expanding their current operations by regular visits in our region to Stirling in WA. The USN has long been keen to establish some homeporting arrangements there for its nuclear powered submarines and aircraft carriers. US media are also reporting that the early US Virginia class submarines to be delivered would be under US command with that gradually phasing out to mixed crews before eventually being run by the Australians. So Australia will have absolutely no sovereignty over the USN submarines in the first 15 years or so – and probably only very limited consultation with the Americans about their operations – which naturally are always so tightly held. For the following 10 years or so the command and control lines will be at best messy until the second set of submarines emerge. The British will want part of that action! So Albanese could well end up being the one with the credibility gap! As another US commentator has rightly pointed out that will be for politicians years down the track to sort!

Where will they be built?

Another key question on which there is some diverging spin. In keeping with his overall political strategy, Albanese has presented the deal so far as being a major plank in his efforts to boost manufacturing and R&D in Australia (and help argue the case for the huge budget damage the submarines alone will do). From the US side the push has been to emphasise how big a contribution the construction ( seemingly of all 5 or so) will be to US manufacturing and shipbuilding in particular.  Some of the leaks have pointed out that very significant Australian funding will be required to US shipbuilders to expand their capacity to manufacture the Australian submarines. There has also been some persistently strong arguments in the US that the deal will exert too much pressure on US industry’s capacity.

A recent article in Foreign Policy summarised these concerns :

“But is it going to work? That’s been the major question all along through phase one of AUKUS, which has been beset by sticky U.S. export control and intelligence-sharing rules that have depth-charged key features of submarine design. First, the United States has to expand its own shipyard output to send five nuclear-powered submarines to Australia as well as make sure Congress is on board.  Second, even if all goes to plan, the land Down Under will be operating a Frankenstein-like Navy with nuclear subs from two different countries, a potential nightmare for training and spare parts—and presumably, and most importantly, reactor maintenance and little details like that.”

Then there is the British spin. It seems clear from Prime Minister Sunak’s exuberant reaction to the leaks that they have probably received more out of the deal than they might have expected. No doubt BaE (in which the UK Government has a major interest and which also has bought out ASC in Adelaide) which runs the Astute class construction program in Barrow has been a major player in what appears to have been a relatively recent improvement in their prospects. This is also what Peter Dutton’s curious intervention would suggest as the Astute track record has been littered with failures, delays and cost overruns. ……………..

How much will it all cost?

Without confirmed details this cannot be estimated. But there is a consensus that it will well exceed not only the original French submarine but go well beyond.

Is the Virginia class submarine the best answer ?

In his rush to announce his preference for the Virginia class submarine over a new British design, Dutton placed weight on it being a simpler solution given that it was a proven design. But as I pointed out earlier this year in these columns (Nuclear submarines: from “optimal” to “the best they can get”) the Virginia has been the subject of detailed criticism from the Congressional Research Service and the GAO over its maintenance problems.

“Just last December the US Congressional Research Service issued a very detailed report (Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress) outlining the significant delays in SSN repair and maintenance. It contains frequent references to serious concern expressed by a range of US Admirals with command responsibility for submarines. There have been similar criticisms from the GAO in recent years about the poor performance on SSN maintenance reducing significantly the already deficient number of SSN’s the USN can deploy.”

March 12, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, spinbuster | Leave a comment

How the nuclear lobby scuttled the EU’s anti-greenwashing tool

Succumbing to member states’ pressure and giving nuclear energy a “sustainable” label in a key regulation could derail the EU’s climate progress.

Aljazeera, Christiana Mauro, Senior advisor at the Biosphere Institute , Kacper Szulecki, Research professor in climate governance, 8 Mar 23,

One year ago, hopes were high for what was considered to be the most important environmental legislation in Europe. The European Union’s taxonomy regulation was meant to become the global “gold standard” for science-based policy that directs investment towards climate-friendly goals.

Their argument is that the “sustainable” label given to nuclear energy and natural gas breaches the EU’s climate commitments, violates EU environmental law and is incompatible with the “do no significant harm” criteria of the taxonomy regulation itself. The EC refused to revoke the act leading the complainants to launch a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice.

As we await the court’s decision, it is important to recall how this legislation was undermined by the nuclear lobby and what the consequences will be if it is not struck down

………………………………………………………………the EU taxonomy regulation ….. was supposed to be a list of scientifically-based technical criteria to set apart economic activities that are genuinely sustainable from those that are harming the environment.

It defined environmentally sustainable activities as contributing substantially to specific environmental objectives that will speed up the decarbonisation of the economy, comply with safeguards and “do no significant harm” to the environment.

Nuclear energy and natural gas initially failed to meet the taxonomy criteria. Of course, that went against big interests in the energy sector and predictably a lobbying blitz was launched to reverse this decision.

A report by Reclaim Finance, an NGO which scrutinises the impacts of financial actors on climate, revealed a lobbying campaign worth millions of euros was initiated to amend the regulation in favour of the natural gas and nuclear industries.

Lobbyists met frequently with EU representatives during critical phases of the deliberations over the taxonomy. Russia, which would have been a major financial and geopolitical beneficiary of the financial incentives that would ensue from the inclusion of gas and nuclear, was an extremely active “stakeholder” during the entire legislative process.

But there were also EU countries which sought to put pressure on the European Commission to change the regulation’s provisions. At the forefront of that effort were Poland, France, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, whose leaders wrote a joint letter arguing for the inclusion of nuclear power in the regulation.

The document used various common claims and arguments in support of nuclear sustainability. We were part of a team of fact-checkers from four EU countries who determined that 20 statements in the letter were false or misleading.

Among them were assertions that nuclear power is “environmentally friendly”, “essential to the transition towards clean energy sources”, a “promising source of hydrogen” and “affordable”.

A full analysis of the letter can be found here.

Why nuclear energy is not green

Why nuclear energy is not green is perhaps less obvious to the general public than natural gas. This likely is due to efforts by governments – such as the seven mentioned above – and organisations to mislead it.

False narratives of “clean” nuclear are also peddled by intergovernmental organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the OECD, and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

A common claim – which is also made in the letter to the EC – is that nuclear energy has a low carbon emission status. But if nuclear power can be said to produce lower carbon emissions, it is only true at the point of generation. When the entire life cycle of nuclear power plants is taken into consideration this contention crumbles.

Nuclear energy’s “upstream” activities that are necessary for operation, such as mining uranium, as well as transporting fuel, building and then decommissioning a power plant, and managing the radioactive waste that is a by-product of the process – are all linked to CO₂ emissions. Thus, the carbon footprint of nuclear energy generation is considerable, and according to some estimates, considerably higher than that of renewables.

Nuclear technology also needs significant amounts of cooling water and creates waste that is so toxic to the environment that no permanent storage solution has been developed for 70-odd years. It also represents a risk of seriously and permanently harming large swaths of territories in the case of an accident – which is now growing amid the current militarisation of civil nuclear facilities in Ukraine.

Posing an unmanageable danger to the environment, nuclear power falls short, even as a so-called “transitional activity”, defined in the regulation as an economic activity for which low-carbon alternatives are not available. This is because its financing today would derail the implementation of renewables by diverting investment away from them.

As Amory Lovins, a Stanford University professor and energy expert, says: “a low- or no-carbon energy source that costs more or takes longer to deploy will make climate change worse than one that is cheaper or faster, because the latter could have saved more carbon per euro and per year.”

Energy demand in Europe can easily be met by non-nuclear power sources, and considering the unreliability of nuclear power, with its ageing and deteriorating reactors, and vulnerability to extreme weather events, it is unlikely to have any energy contribution to make at all in the transition to renewables.

Even the most favourable calculations of the cost of nuclear energy show no advantage over renewable, which is seeing costs of deployment plummeting.

Government schemes keep consumer nuclear electricity prices artificially low. In fact, nuclear energy can only be made “competitive” with “hugely significant” government financing, as the EU Energy Commissioner inadvertently admitted in a recent speech. Hence, the seven governments’ letter also pleaded for “active support” for nuclear energy.

The profusion of nuclear delusions

There is a long history of attempts to link nuclear technology to overoptimistic technocratic environmental achievements that never materialise.

Media-hyped nuclear fiction abounds. For example, a recent fusion experiment in the US was touted as a major milestone in the search for an abundant source of clean energy. Predictably, it had a rather anticlimactic ending for anyone paying attention.

The energy generated in the experiment was significantly less than the amount needed to power the lasers involved in it. And the laboratory where the celebrated breakthrough took place was established to develop thermonuclear weapons, not civil nuclear energy projects, which explains its multibillion-dollar budget.

Such nuclear myths are usually debunked by independent experts whose critical voices are often buried beneath irresponsibly promoted fantasies. The morass of disinformation is meant in part to mask the industry’s own failures, but also the military interests of nuclear governments, by pushing unsupported theories to legitimise public funding. It is meant to confuse, demoralise and disable any organised effort to change things.

And the media, instead of challenging this intentional misleading of the public, has played a part in it. European media, for example, reported on the letter of the seven EU countries lobbying for nuclear to be included in the EU taxonomy regulation without checking the veracity of its claims.

Thus, a misinformed public and passive media have allowed political actors to influence regulations that are supposed to be politically neutral. Well-intentioned, vital, and comprehensive legislation, years in the making, has been subverted.

In its current form, this delegated act is likely to derail key 2030 and 2050 climate goals, and damage the Green Deal by influencing negatively green taxonomies being developed around the world. It will encourage greenwashing practices, redirect capital flows towards polluting sectors, and upset progress made on implementing the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

March 10, 2023 Posted by | climate change, EUROPE, spinbuster | 1 Comment

Nuclear and space lobbies increase their grip on universities, a new example in UK

Bangor University in Wales will develop a nuclear thermal fuel system to
support deep space exploration with funding provided by the UK Space
Agency. It is one of eight projects receiving a total of GBP1.6 million
(USD1.9 million) in funding through the agency’s Enabling Space Exploration

 World Nuclear News 7th March 2023

March 10, 2023 Posted by | Education, UK | Leave a comment

The extraordinary popularity of renewable energy university courses

The number of students on renewables-related courses in Scotland has
soared by 70% in four years, figures reveal. Scottish Renewables found that
22,000 undergraduates were studying subjects which cover the sector,
ranging from engineering to maths. The same survey in 2019 reported around
13,000 young people studying in similar areas. Scottish Renewables said it
demonstrated the attractiveness of the industry.

 BBC 7th March 2023

March 9, 2023 Posted by | Education, renewable, UK | Leave a comment

Jennifer Granholm was Pwned (Pwned = utterly and humiliatingly defeated in a game) in the continuing Edward Teller tradition.

Medium, Albert Bates 7 March 23

Edward Teller still has avatars in the game.

In his farewell address, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the “military-industrial-congressional complex” where one hand fed the other in a vicious cycle of self-aggrandizement at public expense. Of the expenses paid since 1960, none has been dearer than the habitable climate of Earth.

………………………………………………………………………. Direct Air Capture, Small Modular Reactors, and Fusion Energy — all are pwnings of solar by the National Laboratories, set in motion by Edward Teller.

National Labs make some sense if you are trying to solve some gargantuan problem that humanity faces — it would be good to have one for climate change, for instance — but today they mainly exist to keep engineers and physicists fully employed.

It is easy for the labs to lobby their funders, ultimately taxpayers, for ungodly sums for national security reasons, to prevent a brain drain, to advance basic science — even if the work being proposed is not only useless but mindlessly destructive, as long as it costs a lot and employs millions of little Edward Tellers. It will be good for the economy and will advance the cause of democracy, right?

History Rhymes

Edward Teller is commonly thought of as the “father of the hydrogen bomb” although he did not like the sobriquet. Born in Hungary in 1908, Teller came to the United States in the 1930s as one of the many so-called “Martians”, physicists being rescued from Europe to join what would become the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb. After the war, having successfully pwned his rival, Robert Oppenheimer, as a pinko, Teller co-founded the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and was its director for many years. He was author of the Red Scare, the Cold War expansion of nuclear arsenals, the Reagan “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative, posthumously the Trump Space Force, and some hare-brained plans that thankfully never came to fruition, such as nuclear-powered airplanes and a plan to excavate an artificial harbor in Alaska using H-bombs.

In a recent Pugwash podcast, Professor Frank von Hippel, Co-Director of the Science and Global Security program at Princeton, explained how Teller was so masterful at pwning presidents and secretaries of Energy and Defense. In the 1990’s, von Hippel was an advisor to President Clinton, and later Obama. In the ’80s, he advised Gorbachev on how to wind down the Soviet nuclear threat. He reveals that Reagan and Gorbachev had agreed, mano a mano at the Reykjavik summit, to eliminate nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth only to have Reagan backpedal when the weapons labs balked. Reagan was pwned. Von Hippel tells how it later went during the Clinton years:

… the emphasis has been on energy but the research really was done for nuclear weapons design purposes … and the issue was a Nuclear Weapons Test Ban and where the weapons lab directors were insisting that they needed to do 15 more tests… there were reasons of safety or reliability that required them.

And the labs presented the tests that they wanted to do in this meeting that was called by the Secretary of Energy [Hazel Henderson] and I was not convinced so I brought along a retired weapons designer who was also not convinced. And it turns out the Secretary of Energy wasn’t convinced either.

And one of them [the directors] said, well if you would give us as much money for not testing as you’ve been giving us for testing we might be able to see it your way. And so that was the beginning of the science-based stockpile stewardship program and it was basically the budgets — some billions of dollars a year — that were offered to the weapons labs basically to do what they wanted.

This month’s issue of Wired magazine gushes over one outcome:

In December 2022 — a solid century since physicists first identified fusion as the source of star power — American scientists at the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California, where ignition is a way of life, had a breakthrough – [much touted laser fusion experiment]…………………………………

In his Save the World podcast interview, von Hippel explained how the National Ignition Lab got its start:

……………………………………. they’ve been trying to ignite these little pellets for decades now and they finally got to the point where [for 80 nanoseconds] they got as much energy out of of the pellet from fusion energy as they put into it from laser energy and that was a breakthrough.

To get to a power plant is an enormous, enormous extrapolation. You’d have to do this many times a second — hundreds of times a second. You’d have to have affordable lasers that would do this repeatedly many hundreds of times a second and in the end, whether that would compete with other sources of energy is a stretch. Even a very simple nuclear power plant can’t compete with solar and wind power anymore, so whether this extravagant contraption could is extremely unlikely.

I watched the press conference where US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm [above] took to the stage and announced this world-changing breakthrough with visions of unlimited energy that would have no climate consequences. I could barely fathom how people could be so gullible as to believe it. Even when one of the lab directors got up and said that the breakthrough would really help their weapons research, apparently no-one saw through the ruse. Astonishing.

Wired’s head exploded in technocornucopian orgasm:

Fusion will, of course, rescue the environment and decarbonize planet Earth in a cool afternoon.………………………..

That 80-nanosecond burst was estimated to have cost $3.5 billion, which is likely an underestimate. It resulted in nuclear waste — principally tritium, which will linger for some 240 years as a lethal isotope. Gordon Edwards, President of Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, replied to von Hippel that:

I think we have been we have been manipulated and a lot of people fell for it because you don’t think that the Secretary of Energy is going to go on public airwaves and simply give a false account of what actually happened. And that’s what we’re seeing. I think that the the scramble for money for fusion research, and even for fission research in terms of small modular reactors, is impelling people to misrepresent their product as a way of of getting governments to invest in it and the public to support it.

………………………………………………………. Rather than disguising a fundamentally military project like the Lawrence Lawrence Livermore Lab experiment as a peaceful energy thing when in fact it’s a military maintenance project, we have to restart the debate over nuclear weapons policy.

And thus we all drift, pwned like Granholm, stocked to the gills with horrific weaponry and new threats to unleash it out of MRGA (Make Russia Great Again) rage. Every new reactor built is both a bomb component factory and a wartime target. It makes plutonium. We gave up a critical 50 years chasing the peaceful atom myth — unlimited energy that’s safe, clean, too cheap to meter — when we could have had cheap, safe, clean renewable energy with no explosive potential and a tamer climate all that time. Maybe it is time we stop listening to Edward Teller’s ghost and listened to Justin Trudeau’s dad, Maybe it’s time we did something different for a change.

March 7, 2023 Posted by | politics, spinbuster, USA | 2 Comments

Officials reveal cost of shooting down ‘UFOs’ – WSJ 24 Feb 23

The military has called off its search for the remains of the three objects, which are now thought to have been harmless balloons.

The Pentagon blew more than $1.5 million to shoot down three mysterious objects spotted in US and Canadian airspace earlier this month, multiple defense officials told the Wall Street Journal, though they suggested the true cost is likely higher.

The $1.5 million figure provided to the Journal on Wednesday only covers the cost of the four AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles used to shoot down the ‘UFOs’ over Alaska, Lake Huron, and the Yukon region in Canada, excluding funds spent by the Coast Guard, Navy, and National Guard in searching for the debris. 

The flights used to spot the balloons and eventually shoot them down are not part of the cost estimates, because the US military considers the flights part of its pilots’ training and has already budgeted those flight hours,” the outlet added, citing the defense officials. 

One of the missiles failed to hit its target, requiring another $400,000 Sidewinder to send the unidentified object plummeting into one of Michigan’s Great Lakes.

The string of shootdowns came after a Chinese high-altitude balloon entered US airspace in late January, which was also downed by a US fighter jet. While Washington insisted the craft was used for espionage, Beijing rejected the charge, arguing the balloon was used to collect meteorological data and had drifted off course by accident. US officials reached by the Washington Post later acknowledged that China’s version of events could be accurate, noting the balloon may have been pushed into US territory after encountering “strong winds.”

The Chinese balloon appeared to trigger anxiety in the White House, with President Joe Biden ordering the three other objects to be shot down in quick succession soon after the initial incident. However, in an address last week, Biden revealed that intelligence agencies had assessed the objects were “most likely” weather balloons, admitting the military had used sophisticated air-to-air missiles – fired from multi-million-dollar aircraft – to neutralize harmless scientific instruments. 

As of last Friday, the military halted its search for the wreckage of the three objects, after officials said poor weather conditions would make them difficult to locate.

Further underscoring the blunder, an Illinois-based hobby group has offered evidence that the device downed over Canada’s Yukon territory was likely one of its ‘pico balloons’ – tiny devices sent high into the atmosphere and tracked by amateur enthusiasts, which usually cost between $12 and $200 to construct. While it remains unclear how the military could have missed the balloon, which had been in the air for 123 days and circled the Earth six times, officials have said the three objects were picked up not long after radar adjustments were made by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

February 24, 2023 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Pentagon-Funded Plymouth University Cancels Anti-War Academic: the militarization of higher education.

Pentagon-Funded Plymouth University Cancels Anti-War Academic: Reflections on How the US Empire Conquered Higher Education, CouterPunch BY T.J. COLES 17 Feb 23,

The US Empire is in the final and most dangerous stages of its quest for what the Pentagon calls “full spectrum dominance.” Having invaded and fought proxy wars in the oil-rich Middle East, it is now trying to break nuclear-armed Russia in another proxy war before attempting “regime change” in nuclear-armed China. We need not tarry on the potential consequences. Professor Noam Chomsky called it 20 years ago: this is hegemony or survival. Which one do you choose?

As the Empire races towards its biggest bet, using humanity and all other species on the planet as gambling chips, anti-war comment is tolerated less and less. For those who want to know what happened to me, see the Annex of this article for the leaked emails and background. Meanwhile, consider what is taking shape.


Critics of Western imperialism are silenced by the Empire’s witting and unwitting minions in increasingly knee-jerk ways. Google, which was developed with CIA money, has de-ranked anti-war websites, driving traffic to state-corporate outlets that promote imperialism. After buying YouTube, it then went on a de-platforming spree, banning and de-monetizing “conspiracy theorists,” left and right, who dare deviate from the increasingly narrow orthodoxy of acceptable thought.

Under the new McCarthyism of RussiaGate, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has used the pretext of countering foreign disinformation to suspend and terminate political accounts. In 2020, following an evidence-free CNN report alleging that it was a front for the sanctioned nation of Iran, the FBI and Department of Justice seized the US domain for the website of the American Herald Tribune, founded by Dr. Anthony James Hall, who retired from his Canadian university, Lethbridge, following pressure from the Zionist Lobby and from individuals who accused him of being a “conspiracy theorist”—a cheap smear tactic employed against me by a cabal of staff at Plymouth University.

Meanwhile, the Twitter Files have exploded the myth that “social media” are independent corporate actors. Likewise, journalist Dr. Alan Macleod has documented the dozens of former spies now employed to police content at Facebook.


The opinions of self-described fact-checkers—like the Poynter Institute—are amplified by state-corporate media which engage in public humiliation rituals in the hope that retailers will pull magazines, academic institutions will fire staff, digital providers will demonetize accounts, and web hosts will drop entire sites and/or content……….

As governments contract out censorship to “fact-checkers,” critics of Empire are demonetized. Consortium News and Mint Press have seen their PayPal accounts frozen. PayPal’s pro-Trump co-founder, Peter Thiel, has made many millions of dollars from Pentagon contracts. Between 2007 and ’19, US taxpayers gave his Palantir Technologies $1.5 billion via the Department of Defense, particularly to spy on Afghans and Iraqis.


The above examples show how the US military and intelligence continue to influence the infrastructure through which much of today’s information travels. Another target is academia. But how serious is the problem?……………………………………………………..


Universities serve a variety of purposes, one of which is the development of new weapons for the US military. In the past, white voices critical of Empire would be tolerated as long as their non-university work did not grind the gears of Empire. That’s how Professor Chomsky, for instance, was able to get arrested protesting mass murder in Vietnam while receiving Pentagon money to undertake his linguistics research.

The technological origins of “full spectrum dominance” can perhaps be traced back to the outgoing Reagan and incoming George H.W. Bush administrations, under whom the Pentagon founded the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative to further integrate with education and develop tools for things like the so-called Star Wars program (Strategic Defense Initiative). One consequence is that higher education became significantly influenced—maybe not full-spectrum dominated—by the eternal war machine.

By 2015, the Department of Defense (DoD), which in more honest times was called the Department of War, was investing $250 million of taxpayer money in universities. In that year, the DoD decided to look for international partners, of which the Britain was a natural first-choice.   The Pentagon’s Basic Research Office Director, Robin Staffin, said: “we decided it was time to formalize cooperation between the U.S. and the U.K.”

DARPA is the Pentagon’s taxpayer-funded innovation arm. It used to stand for the Advanced Projects Research Agency, but PR experts realized that they’d better prefix it with the word “Defense.” In 2016, venture capitalist-turned-DARPA Director, Arati Prabhakar, said: “DARPA is reliant on research universities as one part of this huge ecosystem  … [We] draw from the deep foundational research, almost always at places like great universities.”

For instance, the DoD recently said that the universities of Alabama-Huntsville, Florida International, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, and others, have received funding to develop solutions for—are you ready?—“monitoring the health and status of hypersonic aeroshells” (heat shields for space systems, which are core elements of “full spectrum dominance.” The “health and status” of ordinary Americans, who still don’t have free coverage, is less important). Other projects include thermodynamic ducts for hypersonic vehicles sponsored by the usual suspects, like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.



As universities continue designing weapons of mass murder, thought criminals in Western countries continue to face deplatforming and public shaming. Are their personal fates as severe as those of dissident academics in US-UK-supported regimes, like Saudi Arabia? Of course not. But that is not the point. An obvious chilling effect is created in which scholars striving for social justice and indeed the survival of the planet are silenced. The witting an unwitting minions of Empire are too obtuse to realize that by issuing penalties for expressing opinions, those penalties may one day be imposed upon them.


MY STORY……………………………………………………………………………….as I have lost my University position as a result of my political views, it is worth considering exactly what I write for Nexus (article by article) and that my articles give a left-wing voice to the so-called conspiracy research community, which is often dominated by right-wingers and apolitical people.

As one can see below, the bulk of my work for Nexus consists of critiques and exposés of US military and intelligence agencies. …………………………………………………………

T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and  Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).

February 20, 2023 Posted by | Education, PERSONAL STORIES, UK, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

What We Know About The US Air Force’s Balloon Party So Far Caitlin Johnstone, 18 Feb 23

You know, everyone’s always talking about how the US military is only ever used to kill foreigners for resource control and generate profits for the military-industrial complex, but that’s not entirely true. Turns out the US military is also used for shooting down party balloons.

In an article titled “Object downed by US missile may have been amateur hobbyists’ $12 balloon,” The Guardian’s Richard Luscombe reports the following:

The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade says one of its hobby craft went “missing in action” over Alaska on 11 February, the same day a US F-22 jet downed an unidentified airborne entity not far away above Canada’s Yukon territory.

In a blogpost, the group did not link the two events. But the trajectory of the pico balloon before its last recorded electronic check-in at 12.48am that day suggests a connection — as well as a fiery demise at the hands of a sidewinder missile on the 124th day of its journey, three days before it was set to complete its seventh circumnavigation.

If that is what happened, it would mean the US military expended a missile costing $439,000 (£365,000) to fell an innocuous hobby balloon worth about $12 (£10).

“The descriptions of all three unidentified objects shot down Feb. 10–12 match the shapes, altitudes and payloads of the small pico balloons, which can usually be purchased for $12–180 each, depending on the type,” writes Steve Trimble for Aviation Week, who first broke the Bottlecap Balloon Brigade story.

This information would put a bit of a wobble on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s comments to ABC’s This Week on Sunday that all three of the balloons shot down through the weekend were Chinese surveillance devices, saying “the Chinese were humiliated” by the US catching them in their sinister espionage plot. If the US air force did in fact just spent millions of dollars shooting down American party balloons, it wouldn’t be the Chinese who are humiliated.

And it looks like that is indeed what happened. On Tuesday the National Security Council’s John Kirby said the “leading explanation” for the three unidentified flying objects that were shot down is that they were “balloons tied to some commercial or benign purpose.” On Thursday President Biden told the press that “The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.”

And this all comes out after US officials told The Washington Post that the “Chinese spy balloon” which started this historically unprecedented multi-day frenzy of aerial kinetic warfare over North America was probably never intended for surveillance of the United States at all. Experts assess that the balloon was blown over the continent entirely by accident, trying to reconcile that narrative with the contradictory US government claims of intentional Chinese espionage by suggesting that perhaps the Chinese had intended for the balloon to be used for spying on US military forces in the Pacific or something.

So to recap, the US air force shot down a Chinese balloon which US officials have subsequently admitted was only blown over the US by accident, then went on a spree of shooting things out of the sky which it turns out were probably civilian party balloons. The entire American political/media class has been spending the month of February furiously demanding more militarism and more cold war escalations over what is in all probability four harmless balloons.

And what’s really crazy is that they’re probably going to get those increases in militarism and cold war escalations they’ve been calling for, despite the entire ordeal originating primarily in the overactive imaginations of the drivers of the US empire. The shrieking hysterical panic about “Chinese spy balloons” has dwarfed the coverage of the revelations contradicting that narrative, and China hawks have been using the occasion to argue for increases in military spending. The Atlantic’s Richard Fontaine got all excited and wrote a whole article about how the threat of Chinese spy balloons can be used “to rally public concern and build international solidarity” against China.

These are the people who rule our world. They are not wise. They are not insightful. They are not even particularly intelligent. The US empire is a Yosemite Sam cartoon character who at any time can just flip out and start firing Sidewinder missiles at random pieces of junk in the sky, screaming “I’ll blast yer head off ya varmint!” If the US war machine was a civilian human, their family would be quietly talking amongst themselves about the possibility of conservatorship.

These are the last people in the world who should be running things, and they are the last people in the world who should be armed with nuclear weapons. But that’s exactly where we find ourselves in this bizarre slice of spacetime. God help us all.


February 19, 2023 Posted by | incidents, spinbuster, USA | 1 Comment

Japan PM Kishida tells ministers to assuage public concerns over nuclear policy

Mainichi, 17 Feb 23, TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urged his ministers Friday to assuage public concerns over the government’s planned policy shift that will allow the operation of nuclear power plants beyond the current limit of 60 years.

The instruction came after the country’s nuclear watchdog decided this week to review regulatory standards on the lifespan of nuclear reactors despite one of the five commissioners remaining opposed to the policy in a rare move.

The government plans to submit related bills to parliament during the current session. The revision will enable the operation of reactors for an extended period by excluding the time spent on inspections and other offline periods from their designed service life.

“I was instructed that the Cabinet should decide on the bills after we are ready to provide thorough explanations at the Diet to clear the public’s anxiety,” industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a press conference………………

On Monday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority formally approved the revision by a majority vote after Akira Ishiwatari, a commissioner in charge of earthquake and tsunami countermeasures, opposed it.

The revision “is not based on new scientific or technical findings. It cannot be said to be a shift to the safe side,” Ishiwatari said. Another member also expressed a cautious stance in making decisions too swiftly.

February 19, 2023 Posted by | Japan, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Ballooning paranoia: The China threat hits the skies

Thankfully, one or two sober notes of reflection have prevailed, even from within the military-intelligence fraternity. The Center for Strategic and International Studies has issued a few self-evident truths.  ‘Balloons are not an ideal platform for spying,’ writes James Andrew Lewis, ‘they are big and hard to hide.  They go where the winds take them’.  Such instruments ‘would be a strange choice for a technologically advanced and sophisticated opponent’.

Independent Australia, By Binoy Kampmark | 13 February 2023

Hysteria over balloons is a strange thing, writes Dr Binoy Kampmark.

HOT AIR balloons first appeared during the Napoleonic era, where they served as delivery weapons for bombs and undertook surveillance tasks. High-altitude balloons were also used by, of all powers, the United States during the 1950s, for reasons of gathering intelligence, though these were shot down by the irritated Soviets. 

On 28 January, a device reported to be a “high-altitude surveillance balloon” entered U.S. airspace in Alaska. It then had a brief spell in Canadian airspace before returning to the U.S. via Idaho on 31 January. 

On 4 February, with the balloon moving off the coast of South Carolina, a decision was made by the U.S. military to shoot it down using an F-22 Raptor from the First Fighter Wing based at Langley Air Force Base.  The Pentagon has revealed that the collection of debris is underway.

In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a stern note of disapproval, protesting:

‘The US attack on a civilian unmanned airship by force.’

This was ‘a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice’. Beijing also issued a note of apology, regretting ‘the unintended entry of the ship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure’.

A U.S. State Department official, while noting the statement of regret, felt compelled to designate:

‘The presence of this balloon in our airspace [as] a clear violation of our sovereignty as well as international law.’

Rumours of a second Chinese balloon flying across Latin America were also confirmed by a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on 6 February, who described it as being “of a civilian nature and is used for flight tests”.The instrument had been impaired by weather in its direction, having “limited self-control capabilities”.

The Pentagon’s press secretary, Brigadier General Pat Ryder, also confirmed the existence of the second balloon, reaching the predictably opposite conclusion to his Chinese counterparts:

“We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon.”

This overegged saga has seen much airtime and column space dedicated to those in the pay of the military-defence complex. Little thought was given to the purpose of such a seemingly crude way of collecting military intelligence. Timothy Heath of the Rand Corporation went so far as to extol the merits of such cheeky devices. For one thing, they were hard to detect, making them somehow reliable.

General Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, made reference to a number of Chinese spy balloons that supposedly operated with impunity during the Trump Administration. “I will tell you that we did not detect those threats,” he said. This had resulted in a “domain awareness gap that we have to figure out”. 

The begging bowl for even larger defence budgets is being pushed around the corridors of power.

Lawyers of international law have also had their say, reaching for their manuals, and shaking their heads gravely. Donald Rothwell of the Australian National University thought that:

‘The incursion of the Chinese balloon tested the boundaries of international law.’  

Thankfully, one or two sober notes of reflection have prevailed, even from within the military-intelligence fraternity. The Center for Strategic and International Studies has issued a few self-evident truths.  ‘Balloons are not an ideal platform for spying,’ writes James Andrew Lewis, ‘they are big and hard to hide.  They go where the winds take them’.  Such instruments ‘would be a strange choice for a technologically advanced and sophisticated opponent’.……………………………..

The Chinese explanation has been scoffed at and derisively dismissed. Yet balloons are an almost quotidian feature of scientific and meteorological work, whatever the official explanation offered by Beijing might be. NASA’s own Scientific Balloon Program, for instance, has been most engaged of late. 

The organisation was keen to tout its fall 2022 campaign involving six scientific, engineering and student balloon flights in support of 17 missions.

The scale of any one mission be sizeable. ‘Our balloon platforms’, came the description from NASA’s Scientific Balloon chief Debbie Fairbrother, ‘can lift several thousand pounds to the edge of space, allowing for multiple, various scientific instruments, technologies, and education payloads to fly together in one balloon flight’.

The disproportionate nature of Washington’s reaction to Beijing over such balloons also looks rather odd in the face of the vast surveillance technologies it deploys against adversaries and friends. 

But politics is not merely the art of the possible but an opportunity for the absurd to find form and voice.  On this score, the mouse has clearly terrified the elephant.,17230

February 13, 2023 Posted by | politics international, spinbuster, USA | 2 Comments

Media ‘Spy Balloon’ Obsession a Gift to China Hawks

The Pentagon says it believes this spy balloon doesn’t significantly improve China’s ability to gather intelligence with its satellites.

Minimizing US provocation

The unstated premise of much of this coverage was that the US was minding its own business when China encroached upon it–an attitude hard to square with the US’s own history of spying.


For over a week, US corporate media have been captivated by a so-called “Chinese spy balloon,” raising the specter of espionage.

NBC News (2/2/23), the Washington Post (2/2/23) and CNN (2/3/23), among countless others, breathlessly cautioned readers that a high-altitude device hovering over the US may have been launched by China in order to collect “sensitive information.” Local news stations (e.g., WDBO2/2/23) marveled at its supposed dimensions: “the size of three school buses”! Reuters (2/3/23) waxed fantastical, telling readers that a witness in Montana thought the balloon “might have been a star or UFO.”

While comically sinister, the term “Chinese spy balloon”—which corporate media of all stripes swiftly embraced—is partially accurate, at least regarding the device’s provenance; Chinese officials promptly confirmed that the balloon did, indeed, come from China.

What’s less certain is the balloon’s purpose. A Pentagon official, without evidence, stated in a press briefing (2/2/23) that “clearly the intent of this balloon is for surveillance,” but hedged the claim with the following:

We assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective. But we are taking steps, nevertheless, to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.

Soon after, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website (2/3/23) stated that the balloon “is of a civilian nature, used for scientific research such as meteorology,” according to a Google translation. “The airship,” the ministry continued, “seriously deviated from the scheduled route.”

Parroting Pentagon

Despite this uncertainty, US media overwhelmingly interpreted the Pentagon’s conjecture as fact. The New York Times (2/2/23) reported that “the United States has detected what it says is a Chinese surveillance balloon,” only to call the device “the spy balloon”—without attributive language—within the same article. Similar evolution happened at CNBC, where the description shifted from “suspected Chinese spy balloon” (2/6/23) to simply “Chinese spy balloon” (2/6/23). The Guardian once bothered to place “spy balloon” in quotation marks (2/5/23), but soon abandoned that punctuation (2/6/23).

Given that media had no proof of either explanation, it might stand to reason that outlets would give each possibility—spy balloon vs. weather balloon—equal attention. Yet media were far more interested in lending credence to the US’s official narrative than to that of China.

n coverage following the initial reports, media devoted much more time to speculating on the possibility of espionage than of scientific research. The New York Times (2/3/23), for instance, educated readers about the centuries-long wartime uses of surveillance balloons. Similar pieces ran at The Hill (2/3/23), Reuters (2/2/23) and the Guardian (2/3/23). Curiously, none of these outlets sought to provide an equivalent exploration of the history of weather balloons after the Chinese Foreign Affairs statement, despite the common and well-established use of balloons for meteorological purposes.

Even information that could discredit the “spy balloon” theory was used to bolster it. Citing the Pentagon, outlets almost universally acknowledged that any surveillance capacity of the balloon would be limited. This fact apparently didn’t merit reconsideration of the “spy balloon” theory; instead, it was treated as evidence that China was an espionage amateur. As NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel (2/3/23) stated:

The Pentagon says it believes this spy balloon doesn’t significantly improve China’s ability to gather intelligence with its satellites.

One of Brumfiel’s guests, a US professor of international studies, called the balloon a “floating intelligence failure,” adding that China would only learn, in Brumfiel’s words, at most “a little bit” from the balloon. That this might make it less likely to be a spy balloon and more likely, as China said, a weather balloon did not seem to occur to NPR.

Reuters (2/4/23), meanwhile, called the use of the balloon “a bold but clumsy espionage tactic.” Among its uncritically quoted “security expert” sources: former White House national security adviser and inveterate hawk John Bolton, who scoffed at the balloon for its ostensibly low-tech capabilities.

Minimizing US provocation

The unstated premise of much of this coverage was that the US was minding its own business when China encroached upon it–an attitude hard to square with the US’s own history of spying. Perhaps it’s for this reason that media opted not to pay that history much heed.

In one example, CNN (2/4/23) published a retrospective headlined “A Look at China’s History of Spying in the US.” The piece conceded that the US had spied on China, but, in line with the headline’s framing, wasn’t too interested in the specifics. Despite CNN‘s lack of curiosity, plenty of documentation of US spying on China and elsewhere exists. Starting in 2010, according to the New York Times (5/20/17), China dismantled CIA espionage operations within the country.

And as FAIR contributor Ari Paul wrote for Counterpunch (2/7/23):

The US sent a naval destroyer past Chinese controlled islands last year (AP7/13/22) and the Chinese military confronted a similar US vessel in the same location a year before (AP7/12/21). The AP (3/21/22) even embedded two reporters aboard a US “Navy reconnaissance aircraft that flew near Chinese-held outposts in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago,” dramatically reporting on Chinese military build up in the area as well as multiple warnings “by Chinese callers” that the Navy plan had “illegally entered what they said was China’s territory and ordered the plane to move away.”

The US military has also invested in its own spy balloon technology. In 2019, the Pentagon was testing “mass surveillance balloons across the US,” as the Guardian (8/2/19) put it. The tests were commissioned by SOUTHCOM, a US military organ that conducts surveillance of Central and South American countries, ostensibly for intercepting drug-trafficking operations. Three years later, Politico (7/5/22) reported that “the Pentagon has spent about $3.8 million on balloon projects, and plans to spend $27.1 million in fiscal year 2023,” adding that the balloons “may help track and deter hypersonic weapons being developed by China and Russia.”

In this climate, it came as no surprise when the US deployed an F-22 fighter jet to shoot down the balloon off the Atlantic coast (Reuters2/4/23). Soon after, media were abuzz with news of China’s “threat[ening]” and “confrontational” reaction (AP2/5/23Bloomberg2/5/23), casting China as the chief aggressor.

Perpetuating Cold War hostilities

Since news of the balloon broke, US animus toward China, already at historic highs, has climbed even further.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to China. President Biden made a thinly veiled reference to the balloon as a national security breach in his February 7 State of the Union address, declaring, “If China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country.” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democratic ranking member of the newly formed House Select Committee on China, asserted that “the threat is real from the Chinese Communist Party.”

Rather than questioning this saber-rattling, US media have dispensed panicked spin-offs of the original story (Politico2/5/23Washington Post2/7/23New York Times2/8/23), ensuring that the balloon saga, no matter how much diplomatic decay ensues, lasts as long as possible.

February 11, 2023 Posted by | media, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment