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The dangerous radioactive trash – 60,000 tons on the shores of the Great Lakes

60,000 tons of dangerous radioactive waste sits on Great Lakes shores, THE EFFECTS OF A WORST-CASE SCENARIO — FROM A NATURAL DISASTER TO TERRORISM — COULD CAUSE UNTHINKABLE CONSEQUENCES FOR THE GREAT LAKES REGION, Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, Oct. 19, 2018  More than 60,000 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel is stored on the shores of four of the five Great Lakes — in some cases, mere yards from the waterline — in still-growing stockpiles.

“It’s actually the most dangerous waste produced by any industry in the history of the Earth,” said Gordon Edwards, president of the nonprofit Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

The spent nuclear fuel is partly from 15 current or former U.S. nuclear power plants, including four in Michigan, that have generated it over the past 50 years or more. But most of the volume stored along the Great Lakes, more than 50,000 tons, comes from Canadian nuclear facilities, where nuclear power is far more prevalent.

It remains on the shorelines because there’s still nowhere else to put it. The U.S. government broke a promise to provide the nuclear power industry with a central, underground repository for the material by 1998. Canada, while farther along than the U.S. in the process of trying to find a place for the waste, also doesn’t have one yet.

The nuclear power industry and its federal regulator, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, point to spent nuclear fuel’s safe on-site storage over decades. But the remote possibility of a worst-case scenario release — from a natural disaster, a major accident, or an act of terrorism — could cause unthinkable consequences for the Great Lakes region.

Scientific research has shown a radioactive cloud from a spent fuel pool fire would span hundreds of miles, and force the evacuation of millions of residents in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto or other population centers, depending on where the accident occurred and wind patterns.

It would release multiple times the radiation that emanated from the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 — a disaster that led to mass evacuations, no-go zones that exist to this day, and a government ban on fishing in a large, offshore area of the Pacific Ocean because of high levels of radioactive cesium in the water and in fish. The fishing industry there has yet to recover, more than seven years later.

“The Mississippi and the Great Lakes — that would be really bad,” said Frank von Hippel, senior research physicist and professor of public and international affairs emeritus at Princeton University.

Added Jim Olson, environmental attorney and founder of the Traverse City-based nonprofit For Love of Water, or FLOW: “The fact that it’s on the shorelines of the Great Lakes takes that high consequence that would be anywhere and paints it red and puts exclamation marks around it.”

Spent nuclear fuel is so dangerous that, a decade removed from a nuclear reactor, its radioactivity would still be 20 times the level that would kill a person exposed to it. Some radioactive byproducts of nuclear power generation remain a health or environmental hazard for tens of thousands of years. And even typically harmless radioactive isotopes that are easily blocked by skin or clothing can become extremely toxic if even small amounts are breathed in, eaten or drank,  making their potential contamination of the Great Lakes — the drinking water supply to 40 million people — the connected Mississippi River and the prime agricultural areas of the U.S. a potentially frightening prospect. ……….

For five years, Michigan residents, lawmakers, environmental groups and others around the Midwest have, loudly and nearly unanimously, opposed a planned Canadian underground repository for low-to-medium radioactive waste at Kincardine, Ontario, near the shores of Lake Huron.

Meanwhile, spent nuclear fuel, vastly more radioactive, sits not far from the shores of  four Great Lakes — Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario — at 15 currently operating or former nuclear power plant sites on the U.S. side. In Michigan, that includes Fermi 2; the Donald C. Cook nuclear plant in Berrien County; the Palisades nuclear plant in Van Buren County, and the former Big Rock Point nuclear plant in Charlevoix County, which ceased operation in 1997 and where now only casks of spent nuclear fuel remain.

Neither the U.S. nor the Canadian government has constructed a central collection site for the spent nuclear fuel. It’s not just a problem in the Great Lakes region — more than 88,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel, an amount that is rising, is stored at 121 U.S. locations across 39 states…….

Spent nuclear fuel isn’t only radioactive, it continues to generate heat. It requires storage in pools with circulating water for typically five years before it can be moved into so-called dry-cask storage — concrete-and-steel obelisks where spent fuel rods receive continued cooling by circulating air.

In practice, however, because of the high costs associated with transferring waste from wet pools to dry casks, nuclear plants have kept decades worth of spent fuel in wet storage. Plant officials instead “re-rack” the pools, reconfiguring them to add more and more spent fuel, well beyond the capacities for which the pools were originally designed.

“The prevailing practice in the United States is you re-rack the pools until they are just about as dense-packed as the nuclear core,” von Hippel said.

Only in recent years have nuclear plants stepped up the transition to dry cask storage because there’s no room left in the wet pools. Still, about two-thirds of on-site spent nuclear fuel remains in wet pools in the U.S.

That’s a safety concern, critics contend. A catastrophe or act of terrorism that drains a spent fuel pool could cause rising temperatures that could eventually cause zirconium cladding — special brackets that hold the spent fuel rods in bundles — to catch fire.

Such a disaster could be worse than a meltdown in a nuclear reactor, as spent nuclear fuel is typically stored with nowhere near the fortified containment of a reactor core.

“The long-term land-contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than those from Chernobyl,” a 2003 research paper by von Hippel and seven other nuclear experts stated.

The reference is to the worst nuclear power disaster in world history, the April 1986 reactor explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the former Soviet Union, now a part of the Ukraine, where 4,000 to 90,000 are estimated to have died as a result of the radiation released. A study by the University of Exeter in Great Britain, released this June, found that cow’s milk from farms about 125 miles from the Chernobyl accident site still — more than 30 years later —- contains the radioactive element cesium at levels considered unsafe for adults and at more than seven times the limit unsafe for children.

Allison Macfarlane, a professor of public policy and international affairs at George Washington University, served as chairman of the NRC during the Obama administration from July 2012 until December 2014.

“What I think needs more examination is the practice of densely packing the fuel in the pool,” she said.

The NRC does not regulate how much fuel can be in a pool, in what configuration it’s placed, and how old the fuel is, Macfarlane said. ……….

In a Great Lakes region where magnitude-9.0 earthquakes and tsunamis aren’t a potential threat to stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel, terrorism remains possible………

In a Great Lakes region where magnitude-9.0 earthquakes and tsunamis aren’t a potential threat to stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel, terrorism remains possible.

“The NRC’s position on beyond design basis threats is essentially that this is a matter for the national security apparatus — it’s not our job, so somebody else will take care of it,” he said. “But if you look at the Pentagon, Homeland Security, I think you will look in vain to find any part of that apparatus that is addressing that area that the NRC says is not its job.”……….

Welcome to Zion, nuclear waste dump  ………..

Canada’s Yucca Mountain  

Because nuclear power is much more widely used in Canada — the province of Ontario alone has 20 nuclear reactors at three plants — it also generates much more nuclear waste.

In Ontario, nearly 52,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel is stored on-site at nuclear plants along Lakes Huron and Ontario.

“There’s a huge amount of high-level, radioactive waste stored right along the water,” said Edwards, the president of the nonprofit Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility……… .


October 20, 2018 Posted by | Canada, wastes | Leave a comment

National security adviser John Bolton urging Trump to withdraw from Russian nuclear arms treaty

John Bolton pushing Trump to withdraw from Russian nuclear arms treaty, Exclusive: national security adviser recommends ending intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty over alleged Russia violations, Guardian,  Julian Borger , 20 Oct 18, John Bolton is pushing for the US to withdraw from a cold war-era arms control treaty with Russia, in the face of resistance from others in the Trump administration and US allies, according to sources briefed on the initiative.Bolton, Donald Trump’s third national security adviser, has issued a recommendation for withdrawal from the 1987 intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty (INF), which the US says Russia has been violating with the development of a new cruise missile.

Withdrawal from the treaty, which would mark a sharp break in US arms control policy, has yet to be agreed upon by cabinet and faces opposition from within the state department and the Pentagon. A meeting on Monday at the White House to discuss the withdrawal proposal was postponed.

The INF faces a congressionally imposed deadline early next year. An amendment in the 2019 defence spending bill requires the president to tell the Senate by 15 January whether Russia is in “material breach” of the treaty, and whether the INF remains legally binding on the US.

Bolton, who has spent his career opposing arms control treaties, is seeking to shrug off the traditional role of national security adviser as a policy broker between the agencies, and become a driver of radical change from within the White House.

Former US officials say Bolton is blocking talks on extending the 2010 New Start treaty with Russia limiting deployed strategic nuclear warheads and their delivery systems. The treaty is due to expire in 2021 and Moscow has signaled its interest in an extension, but Bolton is opposing the resumption of a strategic stability dialogue to discuss the future of arms control between the two countries.

The US has briefed its European allies this week about the proposal, sounding out reactions. The briefing alarmed UK officials who see the INF as an important arms control pillar. The treaty marked the end of a dangerous nuclear standoff in 1980s Europe pitting US Pershing and cruise missiles against the Soviet Union’s SS-20 medium-range missiles.

The US alleges Russia is now violating the treaty with the development and deployment of a ground-launched cruise missile, known as the 9M729. Moscow insists the missile does not violate the range restrictions in the INF and alleges in return that a US missile defence system deployed in eastern Europe against a potential Iranian threat can be adapted to fire medium-range offensive missiles at Russia.

The National Security Council (NSC) declined to comment on the fate of the INF………

Bolton’s meeting with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Geneva in August, was expected to give the final green light to the dialogue, but Bolton is said to have blocked it. He is due to visit Moscow next week, when the Kremlin said he may meet Vladimir Putin.

(pic DANBY/BDN) The New York Times reported on Friday that Bolton intended to use his Moscow trip to inform Russian leaders of the administration’s plans to exit the INF agreement. Under the terms of the treaty, withdrawal would take six months.

In remarks in Sochi on Thursday, Putin appeared to suggest that Russia would adopt a “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons.

“We have no concept of a pre-emptive strike,” he told a conference. “[W]e expect to be struck by nuclear weapons, but we will not use them first,” he said.

A meeting of Nato defence ministers earlier this month in Brussels issued a joint statement saying the INF “has been crucial to Euro-Atlantic security and we remain fully committed to the preservation of this landmark arms control treaty”………

“The decision has been taken in the NSC [National Security Council] that the US should withdraw, and they are trying to persuade other parts of the administration. There has been no formal Trump decision yet,” said Hans Kristensen, the director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of the American Scientists. “Very little good will come of this, other than another round of nuclear escalation with Russia.”  ………

October 20, 2018 Posted by | politics, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

U.S. nuclear power stations were the original target for the 9/11 terrorist attacks

60,000 tons of dangerous radioactive waste sits on Great Lakes shores, Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press
Oct. 19, 2018   “………The original 9/11 idea

In August 2002, al-Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda got an anonymous call offering him an incredible interview with two of the biggest fugitives from justice on the globe: al-Qaida leaders Khalid  Sheikh Mohammed, the so-called mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

Wrote London’s The Guardian about Fouda’s account at the time: “After two days in a run-down hotel (in Karachi, Pakistan), he was passed through a chain of people before being blindfolded, put in a car (trunk) and driven to an apartment building. He was taken to a flat strewn with laptop computers and mobile phones and occupied by two men whom he recognized as Bin al-Shibh and Mohammed.

Among the things Fouda said he learned in his interview: That the initial targets for what became the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks included two, unspecified U.S. nuclear power plants.

“It was decided to abandon nuclear targets for the moment,” Fouda said Mohammed explained to him. “I mean for the moment,” Mohammed added.

Al-Qaida leaders feared an attack on U.S. nuclear facilities “might get out of hand,” Fouda said he was told.

Noted Kamps of the nonprofit Beyond Nuclear, “We’re relying on the moral restraint of a terrorist organization not to attack nuclear plants.”

That startling revelation was later amplified in the 9/11 Commission’s report, which not only noted Mohammed’s account, but that 9/11 ringleader and hijacker Mohammed Atta, in July 2001 meetings with Bin al-Shibh in Spain, “mentioned he had considered targeting a nuclear facility he had seen during familiarization flights near New York.”

The plan was ultimately scuttled because Atta “thought a nuclear target would be difficult because the airspace around it was restricted, making reconnaissance flights impossible and increasing the likelihood that any plane would be shot down before impact,” the 9/11 Commission report states.

Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists said the nuclear facility in question was probably Indian Point in New York, about 25 miles north of New York City. In an ironic twist, the supposed heightened security measures that discouraged Atta from a nuclear plant strike don’t exist, Lyman said.

“In fact, there was no such protection,” he said. “There is no no-fly-zone around nuclear plants.”

It’s still not an outright prohibition. After 9/11, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a “notice-to-airmen” stating: “In the interest of national security and to the extent practicable, pilots are strongly advised to avoid the airspace above, or in proximity to such sites as power plants (nuclear, hydro-electric, or coal), dams, refineries, industrial complexes, military facilities and other similar facilities. Pilots should not circle as to loiter in the vicinity over these types of facilities.”

Personnel at nuclear plants “voluntarily report to us and to local law enforcement whenever they see a plane loitering in the vicinity,” NRC spokesman David McIntyre told the Free Press. “Such pilots may be greeted by local law enforcement upon landing and further advised not to fly over or loiter over a plant.”

The policy also applies for remote-controlled drones, McIntyre said…….


October 20, 2018 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

US nuclear missiles in Italy, as well as their bombs?

As we might have expected, the de facto abandon of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) – concluded between Washington and Moscow at the end of the Cold War – has now rebooted the competition. Except that this time, it’s even more complicated, since the United States violated the Treaty first, while they were already violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Meanwhile, Russia has discreetly forged ahead with its technological progress while pretending to allow the problem to drag on.

 | ROME (ITALY) | 19 OCTOBER 2018 he B61-12, the new US nuclear bomb which replaces the B-61 deployed in Italy and other European countries, will begin production in less than a year. The announcement was made officially by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). It reveals that the revision of the final project has now been completed with success, and the qualification stage will begin this month at the Pantex Plant in Texas. Production will be authorised to begin in September 2019.

In March 2020, the first unit of production will begin fabricating a series of 500 bombs. As from that time, in other words in about a year and a half, the United States will begin the anti-Russian deployment in Italy, Germany, Belgium, Holland and probably certain other European countries, of the first nuclear bomb in their arsenal with a precision guidance system. The B61-12 is designed with penetrating capacity, built to explode underground in order to destroy bunkers housing command centres.

Since Italy and the other countries, in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, are offering the USA the bases, the pilots and the aircraft for the deployment of the B61-12, Europe will soon be exposed to a greater risk as the front line of the developing nuclear confrontation with Russia.

An even more dangerous situation appears at the same moment – the return of the Euromissiles, meaning the nuclear missiles which are similar to those deployed in Europe in the 1980’s by the USA, with the official aim of defending against Soviet missiles. This category of ground-based nuclear missiles of intermediate range (between 500 and 5,500 km) were eliminated with the INF Treaty of 1987. But in 2014, the Obama administration accused Russia of having experimented with a cruise missile (# 9M729) whose category was forbidden by the Treaty. Moscow denied that the missile violated the INF Treaty and, in turn, accused Washington of having installed in Poland and Romania launch ramps for interceptor missiles (elements of the « shield »), which could be used to launch cruise missiles bearing nuclear warheads.

The accusation aimed by Washington at Moscow, which is not supported by any evidence, enabled the USA to launch a plan aimed at once again deploying in Europe ground-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The Obama administration had already announced in 2015 that « faced with the violation of the INF Treaty by Russia, the United States are considering the deployment of ground-based missiles in Europe ». This plan was confirmed by the Trump administration – in fiscal year 2018, Congress authorised the financing of a « programme of research and development for a cruise missile which could be launched from a mobile road base ».

The plan is supported by the European allies of NATO.  The recent North-Atlantic Council, at the level of Europe’s Defence Ministers, which was attended for Italy by Elisabetta Trenta (M5S), declared that the « INF Treaty is in danger because of the actions of Russia », which it accused of deploying « a disturbing missile system which constitutes a serious risk for our security ». Hence the necessity that « NATO must maintain nuclear forces which are stable, trust-worthy and efficient » (which explains why the members of the Alliance rejected en bloc the United Nations Treaty for the prohibition of nuclear weapons).

So the grounds are being laid for a European deployment, on the borders of Russian territory, of ground-based intermediate-range US nuclear missiles. It’s as if Russia were deploying in Mexico nuclear missiles pointed at the United States. Manlio Dinucci

Pete Kimberley

Il Manifesto (Italy)

October 20, 2018 Posted by | EUROPE, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Risk of nuclear war between USA and China “not as implausible” no, as it was in the past

October 20, 2018 Posted by | China, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

November hearing on “Who will pay for the failed SCE and G nuclear project?

SCE&G regulatory trial: Who will pay for the failed nuclear project? The State, BY FRANK KNAPP JR., October 19,

October 20, 2018 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Jobs Are No Excuse for Arming a Murderous Regime

 Portside,   LOBE LOG Regardless of what ultimately happened to Khashoggi, continuing U.S. arms sales and military support to Saudi Arabia under current circumstances is immoral. Jobs should not be an excuse to arm a murderous regime. If indeed the Saudi government is indeed behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi there should be consequences—political, military, economic, and reputational.

Unfortunately, President Trump begs to differ. His reaction to questions about whether the United States would cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia if Riyadh is proven to be behind the killing of Khashoggi has been to say that he does not want to jeopardize the alleged $110 billion in arms deals his administration has struck with the Saudi regime, and the U.S. jobs that come with them.

In his recent interview with CBS 60 Minutes, Trump specifically cites the needs of U.S. weapons manufacturers as reasons to keep U.S. arms flowing to the Saudi regime, even if it ends up being responsible for the murder of Khashoggi:

They are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it…I tell you what I don’t wanna do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these [companies]…I don’t wanna hurt jobs. I don’t wanna lose an order like that.

Trump tells CBS’s Leslie Stahl that “there are other ways of punishing” Saudi Arabia without cutting of U.S. arms sales, but he fails to specify what those might be.

Regardless of what ultimately happened to Khashoggi, continuing U.S. arms sales and military support to Saudi Arabia under current circumstances is immoral. Jobs should not be an excuse to arm a murderous regime that not only may be behind the assassination of a U.S. resident and respected commentator but is responsible for thousands of civilian casualties in its three-and-one-half-year military intervention in Yemen—the majority killed with U.S-supplied bombs and combat aircraft and U.S. refueling and targeting assistance.

The Khashoggi case merely underscores the approach of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the power behind the throne in Riyadh who is the most ruthless and reckless leader in Saudi history……,

October 18, 2018 Posted by | Religion and ethics, Saudi Arabia, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Trump’s financial benefit from Saudi Arabia – shaping USA’s foreign policy

Saudi Arabia is putting money in Trump’s pocket. Is that shaping U.S. policy?, By Paul Waldman,October 16

As hard as it is to resist writing about the fact that on Tuesday the president of the United States called the adult film actress to whom he paid hush money “Horseface,” I want to focus on a different aspect of this presidency that we’re seeing play out right now.

.As the apparent murder of Saudi journalist and Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi complicates our relations with Saudi Arabia, we have to ask what the implications are of having a fully transactional presidency, one not just built on “deals” but where policy is determined by what is financially beneficial to the president.

We should begin by reminding ourselves that as awful as Khashoggi’s apparent murder is, it’s only the latest in a long list of Saudi abuses that administrations both Democratic and Republican have chosen to overlook for decades. The country is a cruel dictatorship that embodies none of the values we as a nation hold dear, such as democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. But we decided long ago that since the Saudis have a great deal of oil and they provide us with a strategic ally in the Middle East, we’ll overlook all that.

There is something unsettling about the fact that Saudi intervention in Yemen’s civil war, in which they have reportedly killed thousands of civilians, has received steady U.S. support, while the murder of a single journalist threatens to upend the relationship between the two countries.

Or so you might think. But here’s the reality: This will blow over, not only because of the complex relationship between the two countries, but also because everything in foreign policy is personal with President Trump, and he likes the Saudis.

And why does he like them so much? Because they pay him.

This is not something Trump has been shy about saying. “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million,” he said at a rally in Alabama in 2015. “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

Trump says so many shocking things that it’s sometimes easy to slide right past the most appalling ones, but read that again. Here you have a candidate for president of the United States saying that he is favorably disposed toward a foreign country because they have given him millions of dollars, and all but promising to shape American foreign policy in their favor for that very reason.

Am I supposed to dislike them?” he asks. How could I possibly dislike them when they pay me?

We should note that it’s more than just apartments. Trump has sold many properties to Saudis, and Saudis have invested in Trump projects. And as David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell report:

Business from Saudi-connected customers continued to be important after Trump won the presidency. Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 last year to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. Just this year, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago reported significant upticks in bookings from Saudi visitors.

This is precisely the reason the framers of the Constitution added a provision saying that neither the president nor other officials could “accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” If a foreign country is putting money in the president’s pocket on an ongoing basis, how in the world can we trust that the decisions he makes will be based on the best interests of the United States and not on his bank account?

This is of more concern with Trump than with any other president in American history. His entire life has been devoted to the accumulation of wealth, as though there were no other goal anyone should consider seeking (“My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy,” he has said). He made sure that upon assuming office his businesses would continue to operate and continue to provide avenues for those wishing to further enrich him to do so. And he refuses to release his tax returns, so we have no idea exactly how much money he’s getting and from whom.

But Tuesday, Trump tweeted this:

For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!

This is the same claim Trump has made with regard to Russia, and it’s the same dodge. The point isn’t whether Trump has interests in Saudi Arabia, it’s whether Saudi Arabia has interests in him. And just as is the case with Russia, they do.

If you’re the Saudis, the nice thing about Trump is that he lacks any subtlety whatsoever, so you don’t have to wonder how to approach him. He has said explicitly that the way to win his favor is to give him money. He has established means for you to do so — buying Trump properties and staying in Trump hotels. And with his combination of narcissism and insecurity, if you invite him to your country and give him a gold medal, he’ll forever be your friend.

Every president has to balance the desire to honor U.S. values with more crass interests such as whether a country will buy weapons from us, which Trump also cited as a reason we shouldn’t punish Saudi Arabia for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder (even though they aren’t actually buying what Trump claims). But only Trump apparently gets direct and significant payoffs from other countries, and only Trump is so clear that if you pay him he’ll do what you want. That may not have changed the American stance toward Saudi Arabia too much yet, but we have no idea what’s to come.

October 18, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | 1 Comment

SNC-Lavalin shares fall to lowest since 2016 on news foreign bribery case will go to court  

October 18, 2018 Posted by | Canada | 1 Comment

Trump and Kushner – naive, ill-informed and craven as they obsess over Saudi money

Trump and Kushner Put Saudi’s Money First

Jamal Khashoggi’s death has exposed the White House and two of its most powerful figures as naive, ill-informed and craven. What comes next?,  By October 17, 2018, The Trump team is standing by Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the investigation and controversy surrounding the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi deepens.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Riyadh for a photo op with the prince. In a press release, he praised the Saudi leadership for “supporting a thorough, transparent and timely” investigation into the Khashoggi affair, a full two weeks after the dissident first went missing.

Pompeo also said that Saudi leaders denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, something his boss, President Donald Trump, let the world know on Twitter as well.

By Tuesday evening, that line became more complex to defend after the New York Times reported that at least four suspects in Khashoggi’s disappearance had ties to the crown prince. A fifth was “of such stature that he could be directed only by a high-ranking Saudi authority,” the newspaper said.

Complexity has never deterred the president, however. In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, he blamed critics of Saudi Arabia for holding it “guilty until proven innocent.” Lest anyone doubt his motives, Trump took to Twitter to talk about his finances:

“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!”

That statement would be easier to digest if Trump hadn’t bragged publicly in the past about how much Saudis have spent buying his condominiums – and if he wasn’t the steward of the most financially conflicted presidency of the post World War II era.

Trump is playing word games, of course. He says he has no investments in Saudi Arabia or Russia. But that doesn’t mean money from those countries hasn’t flowed into his coffers. In Saudi Arabia’s case, that has meant very different things over the years.

In the early 1990s, Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bought Trump’s prized yacht on the cheap from the property developer’s creditors when he was on the cusp of personal bankruptcy. A few years later, one of Trump’s lenders forced him to sell the Plaza Hotel, a New York City landmark also mired in debt, to Alwaleed. As David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell noted in the Washington Post recently, this was a period when Trump was trying to dig himself out of $3.4 billion of debt, about $900 million of which he had guaranteed personally. But Alwaleed was a bargain-hunter at the time, not someone trying to ensnare a failed developer on the unlikely chance that he might someday become president.

Still, Alwaleed, who once described Trump on Twitter as a “disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America,” kept those early deals in mind. When Trump made fun of him on Twitter two years ago, Alwaleed responded by tweeting, “I bailed you out twice; a 3rd time, maybe?”

As Trump climbed out of his debt hole in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he courted Saudi condo buyers. The Saudi Arabian government bought the entire 45th floor of the Trump World Tower in 2001, and, before running for president, Trump was apparently contemplating doing business in Saudi Arabia – he incorporated eight limited-liability companies with names suggesting he planned to do business there (they were later dissolved).

After becoming president, Trump flouted tradition by declining to authentically separate himself from the Trump Organization and its hotel and golf properties. The Trump International Hotel in Washington has been a favorite venue for Saudi diplomats who have spent lavishly there, as well as at other Trump hotels.

The president and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also decided to make Saudi Arabia a linchpin of their policy in the Middle East. Kushner, lacking full security clearance and any diplomatic experience, lobbied the crown prince directly in early 2017 to secure what was fancifully and inaccurately touted as a $110 billion arms sale – most of which had been agreed a year earlier, and the bulk of which still hasn’t been completed.

Shortly after that transaction was arranged, Trump visited Saudi Arabia. And soon after that, the Saudis announced they would invest $20 billion in an infrastructure fund managed by Blackstone Group LP. The New York-based firm had financed several of the Kushner family’s deals and its chairman, Stephen Schwarzman, sat on the president’s business-advisory council. The private equity firm told Bloomberg News that the Saudi investment had been contemplated long before Trump was even the Republican nominee.

Kushner’s forays alarmed members of the intelligence and national security communities, as Bob Woodward outlined in his book, “Fear.” At the very moment Kushner was throwing himself into these diplomatic adventures, he was coming under scrutiny for his own financial conflicts – in particular, his efforts to secure funding for 666 Fifth Avenue, a troubled Manhattan skyscraper his family owned.

Although the family has since sold off the property, Kushner had tried unsuccessfully to secure funding for it from a Chinese investor. His intersection with a prominent banker and diplomats from Moscow during the Trump campaign’s transition into the White House raised questions about whether he was courting Russian investors (which he denied). Inevitably, the Kushner family also courted a prominent Saudi investor to bail them out of 666 Fifth, as detailed by my Bloomberg News colleagues David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby.

Late last year, Kushner made another secretive trip alone to Riyadh. He later described the visit as an effort to “brainstorm” Middle East strategies with Mohammed bin Salman. Not long afterward, the crown prince placed dozens of prominent businessmen and political rivals under house arrest in what was described as an anti-corruption drive. Among them was Alwaleed, the man who once snatched the Plaza Hotel and yacht from Kushner’s father-in-law.

Earlier this year, leaked intelligence reports revealed that diplomats in Mexico, Israel, China and the United Arab Emirates had decided to target Kushner because they believed he could be easily manipulated due to “his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.”

For his part, Kushner just plowed ahead, continuing to rest the White House’s plans for the Middle East on the shoulders of an equally young and untested man, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. The disappearance of a single journalist, a one-time ally of the royal family turned critic, may ultimately cause Kushner’s plans to unravel – and expose his machinations in Saudi Arabia to more revealing and unwanted scrutiny.

If it doesn’t, it may well be because the president – putting the lie to his dissembling about his family’s financial ties to Saudi Arabia – will openly and stubbornly put money ahead of the moral and diplomatic issues at play in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

As he told Fox News in an interview on Tuesday night: “I don’t want to give up a $100 billion order or whatever it is.”

October 18, 2018 Posted by | politics, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | 1 Comment

USA ditches the plan to prop up the coal and nuclear industries

White House shelves rescue plan for coal, nuclear: report   The White House has shelved a proposed effort to prop up coal and nuclear power plants at risk of closure, Politico reported.

Some of President Trump’s advisers in the White House National Security Council and National Economic Council oppose Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan, due largely to the likelihood that it would raise energy prices, Politico said, citing four people familiar with the matter.

The rescue plan was a key piece of the Trump administration’s energy agenda, and Trump’s promise to save the coal industry. Perry first pursued the policy last year, asking that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) write a rule to require higher electricity payments to coal and nuclear plants, in a bid to preserve the “resiliency” of the electric grid.

But FERC, an independent agency, rejected the proposal unanimously.

Earlier this year, Trump formally asked his administration to find a way to save uneconomic coal and nuclear plants from closing.

A White House memo leaked in May showed that officials were considering using legal authorities to force coal and nuclear plants to stay open for two years. During that time, the National Security Council would study the issue from a security perspective and determine if other interventions could be used.

The Energy Department and the White House didn’t return requests for comment.

October 18, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA | 1 Comment

New “low yield” nuclear weapon increases the likelihood of war

New proposal makes
nuclear war more likely
Jo Ann Frisch, Pleasanton, 17 Oct 18Donald Trump said he doesn’t understand why we have nuclear weapons if we can’t use them.

The administration’s fiscal 2019 budget took a step in that direction by proposing to create a warhead more likely to be used in war: a low-yield nuclear variant to sit atop Trident D5 missiles. Trump says it will make a U.S. strike more “credible.” The smaller-yield weapon will not be distinguishable from high-yield ones thus lowering the threshold for nuclear use and making nuclear war more likely.

A bill introduced by Reps. Smith, Lieu, Garamendi and Blumenauer called Hold the LYNE (Low-Yield Nuclear Explosive) Act, HR 6840 would prohibit funds for research, development, production or deployment of this warhead…..For more information, go to

October 18, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

U.S. Military Leaders silent on Saudin Arabia political situation

US Military Leaders Keep Quiet on Saudi Arabia Amid Khashoggi Outrage, Defense One 16 Oct 18  Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford this week have declined to say much on Saudi Arabia. Both leaders, in previously scheduled meetings with reporters, were asked about the kingdom and what effect the killing of Khashoggi may have on U.S.-Saudi relations. Both men deferred to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and said they were waiting for him to return to the U.S. with more “facts.” And they both implied that any related changes to Trump administration foreign policy would be given to them, not made by them. …….

Speaking to reporters traveling with him in Brussels, Pompeo said: “I do think it’s important that everyone keep in their mind that we have lots of important relationships – financial relationships between U.S. and Saudi companies, governmental relationships, things we work on together all across the world – efforts to reduce the risk to the United States of America from the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, Iran. The Saudis have been great partners in working alongside us on those issues. I could go on about places where the Saudis and the Americans are working together. Those are important elements of the U.S. national policy that are for – are in Americans’ best interests. We just need to make sure that we are mindful of that as we approach decisions that the United States Government will take when we learn all of the facts associated with whatever may have taken place.”

President Trump, meanwhile, has been giving the Saudis as much cover as humanly possible, Over the weekend, he floated the idea that “rogue killers” dispatched Khashoggi, and on Tuesday, he told the Associated Press, “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”………

Is the Saudi partnership still a matter of necessity? Should it be? That’s not likely the question Mattis and Dunford are asking for the near term. For them, the answer is yes. But for the long term, it’s a question for them, Pompeo,and Trump. It’s a question of whether “Saudi interests” under bin Salman still align with American interests, or just with American military and intelligence interests.

This week, national security press has been inundated with commentaries asking if the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been worth the cost. At the Pentagon, no matter the outcome of the Pompeo fact-finding trip or the Khashoggi investigation, the answer is most likely going to be a resounding yes.

October 18, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Trump’s ever riskier bet on Saudi Arabia

October 18, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

A plan tom get Nuclear-Weapons Treaties happening again

October 18, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment