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Shadow Courts – The Secret Tribunals That Corporations Use to Sue Countries

book-shadow-courtsUS trade negotiators are now working to include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in as many new treaties as possible, including both of the massive new free trade deals coming down the pike. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Obama signed in February 2016 and which Congress will likely ratify before he leaves office, already includes ISDS.

The Secret Tribunals That Corporations Use to Sue Countries, Moyers and company

These ad hoc courts are a main reason why so many politicians and activists are against  trade agreements like the TPP.   BY HALEY EDWARDS | SEPTEMBER 19, 2016 THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE NEWLY PUBLISHED BOOK SHADOW COURTS: THE TRIBUNALS THAT RULE GLOBAL TRADE BY HALEY EDWARDS.

 

The environmental activist Jane Kleeb was driving down Highway 281 near Lincoln, Nebraska, on a gray day in January 2016, when she got a call from a reporter.

At the time, Kleeb was still riding high off of her success organizing local farmers, ranchers and environmentalists in opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have carried petroleum products from Canada’s tar sands across the Nebraska plains to the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks to her and other activists’ efforts, President Barack Obama had announced in November 2015 that his administration would deny the Canadian company TransCanada permission to move forward with the project, ending an eight-year-long effort to get the pipeline built.

The reporter was calling to ask Kleeb about a new twist in the saga. Earlier that day, TransCanada had announced it was suing the US government for $15 billion on the grounds that Obama’s decision to block the project violated the North American Free Trade Agreement. It was the first Kleeb had heard of the suit. “I’m an organizer, so my reaction was, ‘When are the hearings? Where is this happening? Who’s the judge?’” she said recently. If TransCanada was challenging the decision in court, she wanted to be there. Could she protest on the courthouse steps? Arrange for a rally in a nearby town?

But that, Kleeb learned, was not how this case would go down. TransCanada wasn’t suing the US in a US court, or in a Canadian court for that matter. Its argument would not be heard by a judge, and the merits of the case would not be considered under the auspices of either country’s legal system. There would be no protest on any courthouse steps. Instead, the case would be heard by a tribunal, manned by three private arbitrators, operating under a supranational legal system that Kleeb had never heard of. “It was totally strange,” she told me. “A foreign company can sue us in some secret tribunal? How is that even possible?”

Investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, first appeared in treaties in 1969. The idea behind the mechanism was straightforward: If a foreign investor believed that his host country — the nation where his company was operating had violated an international treaty by seizing or destroying his factories, oil fields or other assets, he could file an ISDS claim directly against that country. He could do that without involving his own government and without having to wait endlessly for a developing country’s corrupt or biased court system to dispense judgment……..

ISDS was supposed to be a cool, efficient and apolitical dispute resolution system that kept powerful nations from interfering in the affairs of weaker countries, and that offered an extra layer of protection for foreign investors operating in countries with unreliable courts. But in the last 20 years, the mechanism has quietly changed, evolving into something much more powerful — and very political indeed……..

That modern interpretation has only cropped up in the last 20 years, but it has opened up a vast new gray area. Where ISDS claims were once about seized oil fields and bulldozed factories, now they are about tax increases and environmental regulations. Where is the line between a government’s right to regulate in the public interest and a foreign corporation’s claim to its own property?

US trade negotiators are now working to include ISDS in as many new treaties as possible, including both of the massive new free trade deals coming down the pike. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Obama signed in February 2016 and which Congress will likely ratify before he leaves office, already includes ISDS. Whether the mechanism will be inserted into the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, linking the US and Europe, is a subject of controversy…….http://billmoyers.com/story/shadow-courts-secret-tribunals-trade/

September 30, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Legal, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Forest fire risk in Canada much greater due to climate change

wildfire-nukeChanging climate is raising forest fire risk, says NRCan annual report, Vancouver Sun BRUCE CHEADLE September 28, 2016 OTTAWA — A new government report says that by the end of this century, a changing climate is expected to at least double the area burned each year by forest fires in Canada.

September 30, 2016 Posted by | Canada, climate change | Leave a comment

From nuclear to solar power in Sacramento County

poster renewables not nuclearFrom nuclear to solar power  http://www.abc10.com/news/local/from-nuclear-to-solar-power/327657069 The two cooling towers of the decommissioned Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant continue to stand tall across the eastern Sacramento County skyline.

A symbol of the past, the two towers got some new neighbors yesterday, that look to energize the future, and power some of Sacramento’s most iconic buildings.

With the flip of a switch, the Rancho Seco Solar plant is officially on line.

“This project will serve the two most iconic buildings in Sacramento, the new Golden One Center and the state Capitol, and it’s being done here out at Rancho Seco, one of the most iconic sites in Sacramento, so you’ve got a great juxtaposition of the old and the new here,” SMUD CEO and GM Arlen Orchard said.

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission decommissioned Rancho Seco in 2009. The process to remove and contain all the radiation from the site took 20 years at a cost of $500 million. In all that time, thankfully no one was injured and that the infrastructure to produce and deliver energy remained intact.

“We have all the infrastructure in place to distribute the energy down into Sacramento, so it really made sense from a space, sun, and infrastructure level,” Orchard said. Over 50 percent of the energy SMUD will create this year is carbon free. The sun shining down on this facility here will generate 11 megawatts, enough electricity to power every state building in Sacramento.

“Having a state capitol that is fully powered by clean renewable energy really fits with Governor Brown’s vision,” Brian Ferguson, California general services, said.

“The Rancho Seco project created more than 200 jobs at peak construction and will provide power not just to the Golden One Center but to all of California’s department of General Services,” Michael Argentine, Lead Project Developer, said.

The solar site around Rancho Seco is currently 62 acres with over 100,000 solar cells. SMUD hopes to double the site in the next couple years as it hopes to reach its energy production goal of 75 percent carbon free sources within the next decade.

September 30, 2016 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Opposition to South Carolina becoming a nuclear waste dumping ground

Environmentalists say there is no need to move spent nuclear fuel off of atomic power plant sites. They contend it can be stored safely. Transporting it to a disposal area near Barnwell would increase risks to the public, they said

Plan surfaces for new nuclear disposal ground in SC  Casks of spent nuclear fuel are stored above ground at many atomic energy plants because there is no national disposal site for the material U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission  BY SAMMY FRETWELL AND JEFF WILKINSON\  sfretwell@thestate.com,jwilkinson@thestate.com, COLUMBIA, SC 

A plan has surfaced to establish another nuclear waste disposal ground in South Carolina, a state with a history of taking atomic refuse from across the country.

An organization called the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Group wants federal approval to open a disposal area near Barnwell and the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons complex. Spent fuel, a type of highly radioactive waste, would be moved from the state’s four nuclear power plant sites and stored indefinitely at the new facility, records show.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in July received notice of the plan. The proposal is a long way from becoming reality, but if eventually approved by the federal government, it would create a place for nuclear waste disposal that is likely to draw opposition.

Several environmental groups said this week they are preparing to fight any effort to create what they called an atomic waste dumping ground. Politicians, including Gov. Nikki Haley, also expressed reservations Monday. The subject of nuclear waste disposal is a touchy one in South Carolina because many people say the state has shouldered more than its share of the nuclear waste burden.

South Carolina already stores highly radioactive material from around the country and world at the Savannah River Site. It also has a low-level waste dump in Barnwell County that was used for decades to bury nuclear garbage from power plants across the country. That site has leaked radioactive tritium into groundwater.

Now, the government is being asked to allow an interim disposal site for high-level nuclear waste from power plants in South Carolina. The site would be near the Barnwell low-level waste dump, environmentalists said Monday. The site would be considered an interim disposal ground that would hold the nuclear waste while the government figures out what to do with it in the long run…….

Environmentalists say there is no need to move spent nuclear fuel off of atomic power plant sites. They contend it can be stored safely. Transporting it to a disposal area near Barnwell would increase risks to the public, they said. If a permanent disposal site were eventually developed nationally, the material would have to be transported again from the interim South Carolina site, according to Savannah River Site Watch, the S.C. League of Women Voters and the state Sierra Club.

“Packaging of the spent fuel for transport, unloading it at the consolidated storage site and eventually repackaging it to transport to a federal facility would unnecessarily pose a high economic cost and a logistical nightmare, both of which can be avoided if the spent fuel is left where it is now stored until such time as a geologic facility is available,’’ according to the groups…….

September 28, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Climate change will expose top-secret US nuclear project in Greenland

Greenland’s receding icecap to expose top-secret US nuclear project Camp Century – part of Project Iceworm – is underground cold war network that had been thought buried forever, until climate change made that highly unlikely, Guardian, , 28 Sept,  A top-secret US military project from the cold war and the toxic waste it conceals, thought to have been buried forever beneath the Greenland icecap, are likely to be uncovered by rising temperatures within decades, scientists have said.

greenland-johan-petersen-fjord

The US army engineering corps excavated Camp Century in 1959 around 200km (124 miles) from the coast of Greenland, which was then a county of Denmark.

Powered, remarkably, by the world’s first mobile nuclear generator and known as “the city under the ice”, the camp’s three-kilometre network of tunnels, eight metres beneath the ice, housed laboratories, a shop, a hospital, a cinema, a chapel and accommodation for as many as 200 soldiers………

Project Iceworm, presented to the US chiefs of staff in 1960, aimed to use Camp Century’s frozen tunnels to test the feasibility of a huge launch site under the ice, close enough to fire nuclear missiles directly at the Soviet Union.

At the height of the cold war, as the US and the USSR were engaged in a terrifying standoff over the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba, the US army was considering the construction of a vast subterranean extension of Camp Century.

A system of about 4,000 kilometres of icy underground tunnels and chambers extending over an area around three times the size of Denmark were to have housed 600 ballistic missiles in clusters six kilometres apart, trained on Moscow and its satellites.

Eventually the engineers realised Iceworm would not work. The constantly moving ice was too unstable and would have deformed and perhaps even collapsed the tunnels.

From 1964 Camp Century was used only intermittently, and three years later it was abandoned altogether, the departing soldiers taking the reaction chamber of the nuclear generator with them.

They left the rest of the camp’s infrastructure – and its biological, chemical and radioactive waste – where it was, on the assumption it would be “preserved for eternity” by the perpetually accumulating snow and ice……..

Greenland’s temperatures broke new records this spring and summer, hitting 24C (75F) in the capital, Nuuk, in June – a figure that shocked meteorologists so much they had to recheck their measurements.

Between 2003 and 2010, the ice that covers much of the island melted twice as fast as during the whole of the 20th century. This year it began melting a month earlier than usual.

The researchers studied US army documents and drawings to work out how deep the camp and its waste – estimated to include 200,000 litres of diesel fuel, similar quantities of waste water and unknown amounts of radioactive coolant and toxic organic pollutants such as PCBs – were buried………

The Pentagon has said it “acknowledges the reality of climate change and the risk it poses” for Greenland, adding that the US government has pledged to “work with the Danish government and the Greenland authorities to settle questions of mutual security”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/27/receding-icecap-top-secret-us-nuclear-project-greenland-camp-century-project-iceworm

September 28, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Both Russia and America Prepare for Nuclear War? (and this is ‘good for business’)

Dangerous Crossroads: Both Russia and America Prepare for Nuclear War? http://www.globalresearch.ca/dangerous-crossroads-both-russia-and-america-prepare-for-nuclear-war/5548074  By Prof Michel Chossudovsky Global Research, September 27, 2016 Barely acknowledged by the Western media. both Russia and America are “rearming” their nuclear weapons systems. While the US is committed to a multibillion dollar modernization project, Russia is largely involved in a “cost-effective” restructuring process which consists in decommissioning parts of its land-based ICBM arsenal (Topol) and replacing it with the more advanced Yars RS-24 system, developed in 2007. 

While a new arms race has “unofficially” been launched, the US modernization process pertains to the all three legs of the triad system, -i.e land based  airborne and submarine launched atomic missiles. It is also coupled with the development of the B61-12 tactical bomb to be deployed in Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey.

Rest assured, the B61-12 is a “mini-nuke” with an explosive capacity of up to four Hiroshima bombs. It is   categorized as a “defensive” (peace-making) weapon for use in the conventional war theater. According to scientists on contract to the Pentagon, the B61-11 and 12 (bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads) are “harmless to civilians because the explosion is underground”. 

The nuclear triad modernization project is at the expense of US tax payers. It requires the redirection of federal revenues from the financing of “civilian” expenditure categories (including health, education, infrastructure etc) to the “war economy”.  It’s all for a good cause: “peace and security”. 

missile-moneyWar is “Good for Business”

The multibillion dollar project is a financial bonanza for America’s major defense contractors including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which are also firm supporters of Hillary Clinton’s stance regarding a possible first strike nuclear attack against Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Reported by Defense News, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on September 26 called for the “need to modernize all three legs of the nuclear triad.” The project would require a major boost in defense expenditure.

Underscoring today’s “volatile security environment”, the multibillion dollar project is required, according to Carter, in view of threats largely emanating from Russia, China as well as North Korea:

Carter’s comments came during a visit to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, … Under the fiscal year 2017 budget request, Carter said, the department pledged $19 billion to the nuclear enterprise, part of $108 billion planned over the next five years. The department has also spent around $10 billion over the last two years, the secretary said in prepared comments. The “nuclear triad” references the three arms of the US strategic posture — land-based ICBMs, airborne weapons carried by bombers, and submarine-launched atomic missiles. All of those programs are entering an age where they need to be modernized.

Pentagon estimates have pegged the cost of modernizing the triad and all its accompanying requirements at the range of $350 to $450 billion over the next 10 years, with a large chunk of costs hitting in the mid-2020s, just as competing major modernization projects for both the Air Force and Navy come due.

Critics of both America’s nuclear strategy and Pentagon spending have attempted to find ways to change the modernization plan, perhaps by cancelling one leg of the triad entirely.But Carter made it clear in his speech that he feels such plans would put America at risk at a time when Russia, China and North Korea, among others, are looking to modernize their arsenals. (Defense News, September 26, 2016)

Carter casually dismissed the dangers of a no-win global war, which could evolve towards a “nuclear holocaust”, Ironically  ”… He also hit at critics of the nuclear program — which include former Secretary of Defense William Perry, [who ironically is] widely seen as a mentor for Carter — who argue that investing further into nuclear weapons will increase the risk of atomic catastrophe in the future. (Defense News, September 26, 2016)

Carter expressed his concern regarding Russia’s alleged “nuclear saber-rattling”.

Russia’s  ICBM System

Were Carter’s timely statements in response to Russia redeployment and restructuring of its ICBM system on its Western frontier,  which were announced on September 20?

Last week, the Russian news agency Tass confirmed that “The westernmost strategic missile force division in the Tver region will soon begin to be rearmed with the missile system Yars.”

It will be a sixth strategic missile division where the newest mobile ground-based missile complexes will replace the intercontinental ballistic missile Topol,” the press-service of the Strategic Missile Force quotes its commander Sergey Karakayev as saying.

According to the official, this year regiments in the Irktusk and Yoshkar-Ola divisions began to be rearmed. The re-armament of the Novosibirsk and Tagil divisions is nearing completion. Earlier, the Teikovo division was fully rearmed.

The final decision to rearm the strategic missile division in the Tver Region will be made after a command staff exercise there. The press-service said the exercises will be devoted to maneuvering along combat patrol routes.

In the near future the ICBM RS-24 Yars, alongside the previously commissioned monoblock warhead ballistic missile RS-12M2 Topol-M, will constitute the backbone of Russia’s strategic missile force.

The Yars ICBM RS-24 was developed in 2007 in response to the US Missile Shield. It is nothing new in Russia’s military arsenal. It is a high performance system equipped with thermonuclear capabilities.

What this report suggests is the restructuring of Russia’s strategic missile force and the replacement of the Topol system (which Moscow considers obsolete) with the Yars ICBM RS-24.

September 28, 2016 Posted by | Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New US Bill Would Ban President From Launching ‘First Use’ Nuclear Strike

text politicsUS Congress Bill Bans President From Launching ‘First Use’ Nuclear Strike, https://sputniknews.com/us/20160927/1045761657/bill-ban-us-nuclear-strike.htmlNewly-introduced legislation would ban the US commander-in-chief from authorizing a nuclear attack without approval from the legislative branch, Congressman Ted Lieu and Senator Ed Markey said in a press release on Tuesday.  WASHINGTON — The release claimed that the issue of “nuclear first use” is even more critical in light of the fact that a majority of Americans do not trust Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump with the US nuclear arsenal.

“This legislation would prohibit the [US] President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress,” the release stated. On Monday, US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the campaign’s first debate argued that Trump’s position on nuclear weapons runs contrary to longstanding US policy given he has repeatedly said he did not care if other countries possessed them.

September 28, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Community protest has stopped development of deep borehole waste disposal method in USA

Protests spur rethink on deep borehole test for nuclear waste http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/09/protests-spur-rethink-deep-borehole-test-nuclear-waste  By Paul VoosenSep. 27, 2016 DENVER—Along the way to testing an old-but-new concept in nuclear waste storage—burying spent fuel in a hole drilled kilometers below the surface—the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors relearned a lesson that seems frequently forgotten: Get the locals on board first.

Failure to gain the trust and approval of residents in rural North and South Dakota doomed the start of a $35 million project that would have drilled a borehole 5 kilometers beneath the prairie into crystalline basement rock. Early this year, the agency tapped Battelle Memorial Institute, a large research nonprofit based in Columbus, to lead the effort. The hole would not have been used for radioactive material, but was rather intended to garner insight to the geology and technical challenges of such drilling.

borehole-16

That message would not be heard by residents of Pierce County in North Dakota or Spink County in South Dakota said Mark Kelley, the Battelle project manager who had the “dubious honor” of leading the effort for only half a year, at a presentation yesterday at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. “They were not to be convinced,” he said. “They were quite opposed to it.”

This summer, DOE and Battelle agreed to scrap the 5-year effort, which had moved to South Dakota after failing in North Dakota. In August, the agency solicited new bids for the project, due next month, that explicitly require public engagement from the outset, including staff that will remain on site day to day to hear local concerns. Bidders are also expected to find a way of showing how the project could benefit locals through science education or additional research. The agency will likely select multiple contractors for the project’s first phase, keeping its options open on new potential sites.

Battelle had thought its South Dakota site, to be drilled on private land into Precambrian basement rock, might succeed where North Dakota failed. They promised to engage locals earlier, and not repeat the same mistakes, such as when local officials first learned of the project from local newspaper articles. But similar fears that the project would open the county up to a future as a disposal site, or that drilling could go awry and pollute aquifers, led the Spink County’s board of commissioners in June to reject the zoning approval the project needed. It didn’t help, Kelley added, that some of the North Dakota protesters traveled south to keep their opposition going.

Though the concept of borehole disposal, which would see radioactive waste entombed far deeper than traditional repositories, has existed for decades, the idea has been revived in recent years, spurred by troubles in finding a long-term home for the country’s spent fuel. Such boreholes could not house most of the country’s waste, like fuel rods from nuclear power plants, but could have potential for smaller, long-lived radioactive materials. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has frequently touted borehole disposal as one alternative to Yucca Mountain, the stalled repository in Nevada.

Many of the scientists working on the borehole project continue to believe in it—if they can only find a community willing to take it on.

“We want to test the things that would be difficult to do,” said Kristopher Kuhlman, a hydrogeophysicist at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during the meeting. “If we want to put waste where we’ll never see it again,” he added, it should go at the bottom of a deep borehole.

September 28, 2016 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear power price to go up 180% by 2026 in Ontario, to keep nuclear stations going

Price of nuclear power going up 180% by 2026,Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Angela Bischoff, 27 Sept 16  Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is seeking permission from the Ontario Energy Board to increase the price of its nuclear power by 11% per year for each of the next ten years.

OPG wants to raise its price for nuclear power from 5.9 cents per kWh in 2016 to 16.8 cents per kWh in 2026. That means the rate in 2026 will be almost triple (2.8 times greater) today’s price.

According to OPG, the price increases are needed to finance the continued operation of its high-cost Pickering Nuclear Station and to re-build the Darlington Nuclear Station.

 OPG’s proposed price increases are based on the assumption that its $12.8 billion Darlington Re-Build Project will be completed on time and on budget. Of course, every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has been massively over budget – on average by 2.5 times. If history repeats itself, the price of nuclear power will rise by much more than three times by 2026.
Now that OPG has had to start to come clean on the real costs of keeping its aging nuclear fleet running, we can clearly see that sticking with nuclear power will be a costly choice for Ontario. Meanwhile, our neighbours in Quebec are sitting on a growing surplus of truly low-cost water power – a surplus that could easily be increased even further by improving Quebec’s energy efficiency.
It’s time for Ontario to get off the out-of-control nuclear cost escalator and make some more sensible choices, such as importing power from Quebec and exploiting our own low-cost energy efficiency potential. At a time when the Wynne government is dipping into its own tax revenues to try to keep electricity rates down, it doesn’t make sense to bank on the one source of electricity where costs are skyrocketing.
Information sourced from: OPG , “EB-2016-0152 Nuclear Rate Smoothing”, (September 23, 2016) and September 23, 2016 oral presentation to the Ontario Energy Board by Chris Fralick, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Randy Pugh, Director Regulatory Affairs, OPG.

September 28, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, Canada | Leave a comment

Ambitious solar power plan for 12,000 homes in Saskatchewan

community-solarSaskPower says solar plan to power up to 12,000 homes by 2021
Crown says between 10,000-12,000 Sask. homes will run on solar power within 5 years 
CBC News                   22, 2016  SaskPower says between 10,000-12,000 homes in Saskatchewan will be run on solar power by 2021, from a project aiming to deliver 60 megawatts. Some of that electricity should be reaching the grid by 2018.

The government’s target is to have 50 per cent of its power delivered by renewable sources by 2030.

“So if we think about it, 2000 megawatts would be about fifty per cent of our mix today,” said Guy Bruce, SaskPower’s Vice President of Planning, Environment and Sustainable development. “So it’s a relatively small percentage, but it’s a move in the right direction.”

Three types of solar power providers

The 60-megawatt plan is divided into three types of providers. Twenty megawatts are expected to be provided by community projects, and another 20 from a competitive bidding process with vendors due to begin in September. SaskPower says it’s currently in negotiations with the First Nations Power Authority to provide two more 10-megawatt solar projects. ………http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/saskpower-solar-plan-2021-1.3774119

September 26, 2016 Posted by | Canada, decentralised | Leave a comment

Cheap, Portable Solar Panel could transform the solar power industry

sunThis Cheap, Portable Solar Panel Will Be the iPad of Renewables by Good News Network – Sep 24, 2016 A California-based startup unveiled a product this week that aims to disrupt solar power production, much like the iPhone changed communications.

SunCulture Solar Inc. is calling its wire-free SolPad, which resembles a large iPad, the “world’s first integrated solar energy solution.”

It combines batteries, software, inverters and solar panels into one device. Typically, a solar system involves installation of separate parts, increasing costs.  SolPad can be used off grid or tied to the grid, and uses batteries that the company says are safer than traditional lithium-ion ones.

”If the grid goes down, SolPad can keep delivering electricity,” the company said in a video unveiling the device in California this week.

“We’ve transformed solar — much like the smartphone revolutionized the personal computer sector, combining numerous components into a single device that’s significantly less expensive, more powerful and easier to use than conventional systems,” said CEO Christopher Estes.

The company plans to bring the product to market in the second half of next year……..http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/cheap-portable-solar-device-will-ipad-renewables/

September 26, 2016 Posted by | decentralised, USA | Leave a comment

USA House committee voted to remove a 2020 deadline for a nuclear power plant tax credit

Tax - payersHouse committee votes to lift 2020 deadline on nuclear power tax credit http://www.utilitydive.com/news/house-committee-votes-to-lift-2020-deadline-on-nuclear-power-tax-credit/426850/  By  | September 23, 2016 

Dive Brief:

  • The House Ways and Means Committee has voted 23-9 on a bill to remove a 2020 deadline for a nuclear power plant tax credit, The Hill reports.
  • The credit, enacted in 2005, will likely benefit the Vogtle nuclear reactors being built by Southern Co. in Georgia and the Summer reactors being built by SCANA in South Carolina.
  • The bill would not change the 6,000-MW cap on the tax credit. Nuclear opponents called the bill a bailout for plant owners who have failed to deliver new reactor projects on time.

Dive Insight:

Nuclear plants are expensive to build — so expensive that until recently a nuclear plant had not entered construction for nearly 30 years. Notably the nuclear plants now under construction are all being done by regulated utilities, and they benefit from federal loans and tax credits.

That federal support is a key component for the financing of the projects, even if they are otherwise supported, ultimately, by ratepayers.

Both the Vogtle and Summer projects have been plagued by delays and cost overruns. The Vogtle units were originally due online in 2016 and 2017 and are now looking at a 2020 online date. The Summer reactors were originally due online in 2017 and are now slated for operation in 2019 and 2020.

If the revised timelines slip and the 2020 deadline on the tax credits remains, it could prove costly for the plant owners. The bill lifting the tax credit deadline would remove that risk.

“When Congress passed the 2005 act, it could not have contemplated the effort it would take to get a nuclear plant designed and licensed,” Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) told The Hill.

September 24, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

USA and South Korea to conduct mock attack on nuclear facility, (with North Korea in mind)

atomic-bomb-lFlag-USAflag-S-KoreaSouth Korea, US to simulate attack on nuclear facility By Jungeun Kim, Paula Hancocks and Joshua Berlinger, CNN  September 21, 2016

Story highlights

  • The two countries will simulate attacks on nuclear facilities and sudden missile strikes
  • The announcement comes after North Korea conducted a nuclear test this month
 Seoul (CNN)South Korea and the United States will conduct a mock attack on a nuclear facility next month, an official with the South Korean Defense Department told CNN.
Though the official said the drills are not aimed particularly at North Korea, the announcement comes less than two weeks after North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a nuclear warhead — its second nuclear test this year and fifth one ever.
The US and South Korea will also simulate what to do in the event of a sudden missile attack……..
The simulation, dubbed joint exercise “Red Flag,” will take place in Alaska from October 3 until October 21……..The munitions
In its announcement, South Korea said the nuclear facility attack simulation will take place using a GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition, a kit that converts bombs that normally just free-fall from planes into guided munitions…….
Another show of force

The US on Wednesday also announced that it conducted its second show of force operation in two weeks in South Korea to send North Korea a message.
It sent two B-1B bombers to fly alongside the Korean demilitarized zone, a source told CNN……
The US flew B-1 bombers over Seoul on September 13th in a show of force responding to the recent North Korean nuclear test.
A day after that flyover, North Korea accused the US of “bluffing” and “blustering” with the flyover and said such actions were inflaming tensions on the Korean Peninsula. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/20/asia/south-korea-us-nuclear-drills/

September 23, 2016 Posted by | North Korea, South Korea, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Another secret and dangerous trade deal – the Trade In Services Agreement

secret-dealsThe new TTIP? Meet TISA, the ‘secret privatisation pact that poses a threat to democracy’ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/ttip-trade-deal-new-what-is-tisa-privatisation-pact-secret-threat-to-democracy-a7216296.html

Government insists ‘public services are under no threat whatsoever from this deal’

  • Ian Johnston
  • Wednesday 31 August 2016An international trade deal being negotiated in secret is a “turbo-charged privatisation pact” that poses a threat to democratic sovereignty and “the very concept of public services”, campaigners have warned.But this is not TTIP – the international agreement it appears campaigners in the European Union have managed to scupper over similar concerns – this is TISA, a deal backed by some of the world’s biggest corporations, such as Microsoft, Google, IBM, Walt Disney, Walmart, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.

    Few people may have heard of the Trade In Services Agreement, but campaign group Global Justice Now warns in a new report: “Defeating TTIP may amount to a pyrrhic victory if we allow TISA to pass without challenge.”

    Like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TISA is being negotiated in secret, even though it could have a major impact on countries which sign up.

  • While TTIP is only between the EU and US, those behind TISA have global ambitions as it involves most of the world’s major economies – with the notable exceptions of China and Russia – in a group they call the “Really Good Friends of Services”.

    The Department for International Trade dismissed the idea that public services were at risk from TISA, adding that the UK was committed to securing an “ambitious” deal.

    But according to Global Justice Now’s report, the deal could “lock in privatisation of public services”; allow “casino capitalism” by undermining financial regulations designed to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 recession; threaten online privacy; damage efforts to fight climate change; and prevent developing countries from improving public services.

  • Nick Dearden, director of group, said: “This deal is a threat to the very concept of public services. It is a turbo-charged privatisation pact, based on the idea that rather than serving the public interest, governments must step out of the way and allow corporations to ‘get on with it’.

    “Of particular concern, we fear TISA will include clauses that will prevent governments taking public control of strategic services, and inhibit regulation of the very banks that created the financial crash.”

    He suggested pro-Brexit voters should be concerned at the potential loss of sovereignty.

    “Many people were persuaded to leave the EU on the grounds they would be ‘taking back control’ of our economic policy,” Mr Dearden said.

    “But if we sign up to TISA, our ability to control our economy – to regulate, to protect public services, to fight climate change – is massively reduced. In effect, we would be handing large swathes of policy-making to big business. “

  • The report says the widespread opposition to TTIP, a deal between only the EU and US, had not yet been repeated over TISA.

    “It is vital for elected representatives, campaigners and ordinary citizens to unite against this threat,” it adds.

    “TISA threatens public services. From postal services to the NHS, TISA could lock in privatisation and ensure that big multinationals increasingly call the shots on areas like health, education and basic utilities.”

    A so-called “ratchet” clause in the deal means that after a service – like trains or water or energy – is privatised, this is almost impossible to reverse even if it fails.

  • According to the report, a “standstill” clause also means “no new regulation can be passed that gives foreign companies worse treatment” than when TISA is passed.

    “Taken together, the standstill and ratchet clauses could make it much harder for a future government to renationalise the railways, a move backed by a majority of the British public,” it says.

    “Similarly, it could mean that the creeping privatisation of the NHS becomes more and more irreversible with greater involvement of companies from countries like the US. And forget taking control of the electricity system back from the big six energy firms.”

  • Migrant workers could be classified as “independent service suppliers”, the report says, meaning they would not be eligible for the minimum wage or be allowed to join a union.

    People going to another country may find their visa is tied to their job, so if they were sacked, they would be deported.

    “This sort of system of modern indentured labour is wide open to abuse by unscrupulous employers who may get away with illegal practices safe in the knowledge that they can threaten any employee with deportation if they complain,” the report says.

    “This sort of system is used in countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar and has resulted in working conditions that have been described as being close to slavery.”

    The global economic crash of 2008 was precipitated by the sale of complex financial products linked to unsafe “sub-prime” mortgages. The report says there is a danger the final TISA deal would “undermine efforts to regulate risky financial products” with a proposal that firms should be allowed to offer “any new financial service”.

  • “The danger is that TISA will deter governments from limiting the use of such ‘innovative’ financial products and leave us powerless to stop the next financial crisis,” it says.

    TISA could also potentially prevent governments from favouring renewable energy over fossil fuels – despite the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the health effects of air pollution.

    Private firms would also be allowed to move online data from one country to another under one proposal being considered. While the original country’s privacy laws would have to be respected, the report said it was “not clear how this will be … enforced”.

    While developed countries in Europe have established public services that would not be threatened unless a state’s government decided to open them up to private firms, the same is not true of many developing countries. If they signed up to the deal, it could effectively prevent them from setting up public institutions taken for granted in the West.

  • The TISA negotiations were held behind closed doors for about 18 months until they were publicly revealed by the global trade union group Public Services International (PSI). Information about some of the proposals has been also disclosed through Wikileaks and similar sites.

    Daniel Bertossa, PSI’s director of policy, said: “Anybody who’s interested in maintaining democratic control of national institutions should be very concerned about the Trade in Services Agreement that is being negotiated in secret.

    “It will remove large sections of national sovereignty and the ability of any government, including the UK Government, to regulate important service sectors [on issues] such as energy, such as transport, such as privacy. The Trade in Services Agreement is part of a radical project to limit governments’ sovereign right to regulate and freeze it almost in permanence in the interests of foreign corporations.”

    According to the European Commission, TISA is about “facilitating trade in services”.

    “The EU is the world’s largest exporter of services with tens of millions of jobs throughout Europe in the services sector. Opening up markets for services will mean more growth and jobs,” its website says.

  • The Independent has contacted “Team TISA”, a group of mainly American companies in favour of the deal, asking for a comment. On its website, it says: “Services are the fastest growing sector of the global economy and account for two thirds of global output, one third of global employment and nearly 20 per cent of global trade.

    “The TISA provides an opportunity to expand services trade among over 50 countries, covering nearly 70 per cent of global trade in services.

    “The potential expansion TISA provides will benefit not only global growth, but also US domestic growth.

    “As the world’s largest services exporter, with over $1.3 trillion (about £1 trillion) in annual cross-border and foreign-affiliate sales, the US will benefit tremendously from elimination of services barriers.”

    A Department for International Trade spokesperson said: “Public services are under no threat whatsoever from this deal or any other trade agreement. The UK remains committed to an ambitious Trade in Services Agreement.”

September 23, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, EUROPE, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Factor climate into national security policy – executive direction by President Obama

For the first time, Obama requires U.S. government to factor climate into national security policy,WP By Juliet Eilperin September 21 President Obama signed a presidential memorandum Wednesday establishing that climate-change impacts must be factored into the development of all national security-related doctrine, policies and plans.

The move signals Obama’s determination to exercise his executive authority during his final months in office to elevate the issue of climate in federal decision-making, even though it remains unclear whether his successor will embrace this approach.

Under the directive, 20 federal agencies and offices that work on climate science, intelligence and national security must “collaborate to ensure the best information on climate impacts is available to strengthen our national security” through the new Federal Climate and National Security Working Group. That group must release a climate change and national security action plan in 90 days. All the relevant agencies must then identify steps to implement it.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, White House officials said this would spur a more specific and focused strategy when it comes to both identifying how different regions of the world would be affected by climate change and how to respond……..https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/09/21/for-the-first-time-obama-requires-u-s-government-to-factor-climate-into-national-security-policy/?utm_term=.a5aae6b8a2bf

September 23, 2016 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment