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Stop Bombing Libya

By Marjorie Cohn | 2011-03-22

Since Saturday night, the United States, France, and Britain have been bombing Libya with cruise missiles, B-2 stealth bombers, F-16 and F-15 fighter jets, and Harrier attack jets. There is no reliable estimate of the number of civilians killed. The U.S. has taken the lead in the punishing bombing campaign to carry out United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.

The resolution authorizes UN Member States “to take all necessary measures . . . to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” The military action taken exceeds the bounds of the “all necessary measures” authorization.

“All necessary measures” should first have been peaceful measures to settle the conflict. But peaceful means were not exhausted before Obama began bombing Libya. A high level international team – consisting of representatives from the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity, and the UN Secretary General – should have been dispatched to Tripoli to attempt to negotiate a real cease-fire, and set up a mechanism for elections and for protecting civilians.

There is no doubt that Muammar Qaddafi has been brutally repressing Libyans in order to maintain his power. But the purpose of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security. The burgeoning conflict in Libya is a civil war, which arguably does not constitute a threat to international peace and security.

The UN Charter commands that all Members settle their international disputes by peaceful means, to maintain international peace, security, and justice. Members must also refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Only when a State acts in self-defense, in response to an armed attack by one country against another, can it militarily attack another State under the UN Charter. The need for self-defense must be overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation. Libya has not attacked another country. The United States, France and Britain are not acting in self-defense. Humanitarian concerns do not constitute self-defense.

The UN Charter does not permit the use of military force for humanitarian interventions. But the UN General Assembly embraced a norm of “Responsibility to Protect” in the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit. Paragraph 138 of that document says each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. Paragraph 139 adds that the international community, through the United Nations, also has “the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

Chapter VI of the Charter requires parties to a dispute likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security to “first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own
choice.” Chapter VIII governs “regional arrangements,” such as NATO, the Arab League, and the Organization of African Unity. The chapter specifies that regional arrangements “shall make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements . . .”

It is only when peaceful means have been tried and proved inadequate that the Security Council can authorize action under Chapter VII of the Charter. That action includes boycotts, embargoes, severance of diplomatic relations, and even blockades or operations by air, sea or land.

The “responsibility to protect” norm grew out of frustration with the failure to take action to prevent the genocide in Rwanda, where a few hundred troops could have saved myriad lives. But the norm was not implemented to stop Israel from bombing Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, which resulted in a loss of 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Nor is it being used to stop the killing of civilians by the United States in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There is also hypocrisy inherent in the U.S. bombing of Libya to enforce international law. The Obama administration has thumbed its nose at its international obligations by refusing to investigate officials of the Bush administration for war crimes for its torture regime. Both the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions compel Member States to bring people to justice who violate their commands.

The United States is ostensibly bombing Libya for humanitarian reasons. But Obama refuses to condemn the repression and government killings of protestors in Bahrain using U.S.-made tanks and weaponry because that is where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is stationed. And Yemen, a close U.S. ally, kills and wounds protestors while Obama watches silently.

Regime change is not authorized by the resolution. Yet U.S. bombers targeted the Qaddafi compound and Obama said at a news conference in Santiago that it is “U.S. policy that Qaddafi needs to go.” The resolution specifically forbids a “foreign occupation force.” But it is unlikely that the United States, France and Britain will bomb Libya and leave. Don’t be surprised to hear there are Western forces on the ground in Libya to “train” or “assist” the rebels there.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates pegged it when he said that a “no-fly zone” over Libya would be an “act of war.” Although the Arab League reportedly favored a no-fly zone, Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League, said that “what is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone.” He added, “What we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians.” He plans to call a new meeting of the league to reconsider its support for a no-fly zone.

The military action in Libya sets a dangerous precedent of attacking countries where the leadership does not favor the pro-U.S. or pro-European Union countries. What will prevent the United States from stage-managing some protests, magnifying them in the corporate media as mass actions, and then bombing or attacking Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, or North Korea? During the Bush administration, Washington leveled baseless allegations to justify an illegal invasion of Iraq.

Moreover, Obama took military action without consulting Congress, the only body with the Constitutional power to declare war. It is not clear what our mission is there or when it will end. Congress – and indeed, the American people – should debate what we are doing in Libya. We must not support a third expensive and illegal war. There is a crying need for that money right here at home. And we should refuse to be complicit in the killing of more civilians in a conflict in which we don’t belong.

~

Marjorie Cohn is a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, past president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her latest book is “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse” (NYU Press).

March 21, 2011 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | 2 Comments

Life, Death and Anxiety in the Fallout Zone

What is the Meaning of “Safe”?

By BARBARA ROSE JOHNSTON | CounterPunch | March 21, 2011

In a nuclear crisis, life becomes a nightmare for those people trying to make sense of the uncertainties. Imaginably, the questions are endless.

Radiation is invisible, how do you know when you are in danger? How long will this danger persist? How can you reduce the hazard to yourself and family? What level of exposure is safe? How do you get access to vital information in time to prevent or minimize exposure? What are the potential risks of acute and chronic exposures? What are the related consequential damages of exposure? Whose information do you trust? How do you rebuild a healthy way of life in the aftermath of nuclear disaster?

And the list of unknowns goes on.

These questions are difficult to answer in the chaos and context of an ongoing disaster, and they become even more complicated by the fact that governments and the nuclear industry maintain tight control of information, operations, scientific research, and the biomedical lessons that shape public-health response.

This regulation of information has been the case since the nuclear age began, and understanding this helps to illuminate why there is no clear consensus on what Japan’s nuclear disaster means in terms of local and global human health.

Nuclear secrecy in context. In the initial hours after the earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electrical Power Company issued statements reporting minor damage at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In the days that followed, government and industry officials reported the “venting of hydrogen gas”, but that there was “no threat to health.” This reassurance of health safety was echoed when hydrogen gas explosions occurred at the power plant.

In fact, the hydrogen released is tritium water vapor, a low-level emitter that can be absorbed in a human body through simply breathing, or by drinking contaminated water. Tritium decays by beta emission and has a radioactive half-life of about 12.3 years. As it undergoes radioactive decay, this isotope emits a very low-energy beta particle and transforms to stable, nonradioactive helium. Once tritium enters the body, it disperses quickly, is uniformly distributed, and is excreted through urine within a month or so after ingestion. It produces a low-level exposure and may result in toxic effects to the kidney. As with all ionizing radiation, exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer.

So, then, why no mention of tritium in the government or industry statements? Relatively speaking, the health effects of a low-level emitter like tritium are minor when compared to the other radiogenic and toxic hazards in this nuclear catastrophe. Such omission is a standard industry practice, designed to reassure the public that the normal operating procedures of a nuclear power plant represent no significant threat to human health.

The assertion that low-level exposure to radiation represents no human threat is an artifact of Cold War-era science that was shaped to meet government and industry needs.

During the Cold War, scientific findings on health effects to nuclear fallout that contradicted the official narrative were typically censored. Scientists were not only punished for their work, they were also blacklisted — one example of this was American anthropologist Earle Reynolds whose work for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission was censored in 1953 by the US government. His research showed that Japanese children who were exposed to fallout were not only smaller than their counterparts, but had less resistance to disease in general and were more susceptible to cancer, especially leukemia. The consequences of this censored history was examined in 1994 by the US Advisory Commission on Human Radiation Experimentation, which concluded that the radiation health literature of the Cold War years was a heavily sanitized and scripted version meant to reassure and pacify public protests while achieving military and economic agendas.

Decades of such control reinforced, again and again, the core message: Humans have evolved in a world where background radiation is present and is natural and beneficial at some level; any adverse heath effect of radiation exposure is the occasional and accidental result of high levels of exposure.

Cold War classification and the close nature of government, military, and industry agendas made it difficult to challenge the assumptions that underlie the “trust us” narrative. For example, the assumption that radiogenic health effects must be demonstrated through direct causality (one isotope, one outcome) meant science on cumulative and synergistic effects was not pursued. Discounting or ignoring the toxic nature of varied radioisotopes meant health risks were assessed and regulations promulgated on the basis of acute exposures and outcomes (radiation poisoning and deadly cancer).

There are other sources of conclusive data that allow a very different interpretation of the health hazards posed by a nuclear disaster. Several of these sources document radiogenic health outcomes that sharply contrast mainstream reports: Declassified records of US human radiation experiments and similar Soviet records; Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission records; new research conducted by Japanese scientists; long-term research on Chernobyl survivors; and research done for the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal proceedings.

But what does this mean? From this record of studied and lived experience, there are a few things that we know. For example, fallout and the movement of radionuclides through marine and terrestrial environments ultimately get into the food chain and the human body. The toxicity of contaminants and radioactivity in fallout represent significant health risks. Acute exposures are further complicated when followed by chronic exposure, as such assaults have a cumulative and synergistic effect on health and well-being. Chronic exposure to fallout does more than increase the risk of developing cancers, it threatens the immune system, can exacerbate pre-existing conditions, affects fertility, increases rates of birth defects, and can retard physical and mental development, among other things. And we know the effects of such exposures can last for generations.

Japan’s nuclear disaster demonstrates in powerful and poignant terms the degree to which the state prioritizes security interests over the fundamental rights of people and their environment. Japan’s response to its nuclear disaster — similar to other government responses to catastrophic events like Katrina and Chernobyl — has struggled to control the content and flow of information to prevent wide panic (and the related loss of trust in government), reduce liability, and protect nuclear and other industry agendas.

There are many lessons to be learned here, not the least of which is how to respond, adjust, and adapt to the hazards and health risks associated with life in this nuclear world. These responses will most assuredly include a demand for transparency and accountability — that is, governance that truly secures the fundamental rights of its citizens to life and livelihood.

As the world’s nations reassess nuclear power operations and refine energy development plans, now — more than ever — we need to aggressively tackle this question: How do we define the word “safe”?

~

Barbara Rose Johnston is an anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Center for Political Ecology. She is the co-author of The Consequential Dangers of Nuclear War: the Rongelap Report. Look for her latest book from Left Coast Press, Life and Death Matters: Human Rights, Environment, and Social Justice, released in July 2009.  She can be reached at: bjohnston@igc.org.

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Nuclear Power | Leave a comment

Uranium tumbles on Japan crisis

By Carolyn Cui | People’s Daily | 2011-3-20

The most volatile market since the Japanese earthquake isn’t Japanese or U.S. stocks. It is uranium, which until Friday was a little-noticed pocket of the commodities markets.

Trading in uranium is often sporadic, with just a few dozen transactions taking place each month, and trading on the spot market totaling about $2.5 billion last year.

But the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which have crippled a key nuclear plant and raised questions about the future of the nuclear-power industry, has changed all that—at least for now. Trading has soared as some hedge funds and banks unload their positions, traders said.

Almost three million pounds of uranium have changed hands in the spot market for the metal so far this week, five times more than the average volume, brokers said.

The result is that after an 80% run-up over the past eight months, uranium prices have tumbled. They reached a three-year high of $73 a pound in February, but dropped $13 earlier this week and fell to $49.25 on Wednesday, according to Ux Consulting Co.

Michael Goldenberg, director of nuclear fuels at Evolution Markets, a commodity broker, said the past few days have been “the busiest days” he has had since he started brokering uranium trades three years ago.

The flurry of activity in the uranium market reflects the divided thinking among market participants toward the future of nuclear power. Explosions and radiation leaks in Japan have worried some traders, who are dumping their uranium holdings amid fears that the Japanese crisis could stall expansion of the world’s nuclear programs.

At the same time, some utilities and even producers have stepped in to buy the metal in the belief that the demand for more nuclear plants will remain. A total of 65 nuclear units are under construction, mostly in China and Russia, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Utilities haven’t been among the big sellers in recent days, said Jeff Faul, chief executive of Nukem, Inc., a trader of physical uranium. Mr. Faul said Nukem, of Danbury, Conn., hasn’t made any changes to its positions.

Most of the uranium traded in the physical market is in the form of uranium oxide concentrate, which is several steps away from being used as nuclear fuel. It isn’t very radioactive and buyers often store it at one of the four major uranium-storage facilities around the world.

After utilities buy uranium on the spot market, these facilities convert the oxide into a gas form of pure uranium, called uranium hexafluoride.

The gas, which is radioactive, is then enriched to become nuclear fuel. It is then transported to fabrication centers to convert into a pellet, which is put into a fuel rod that goes into a nuclear reactor.

Robert Mitchell, who manages the $36 million Green Energy Metals Funds, says uranium represents “a big position” of the fund, which owns both physical uranium and uranium-related stocks.

Though it has been a “tough time,” Mr. Mitchell hasn’t sold any of his uranium holdings. “No one knows how this movie is going to play out in Japan, but I think eventually rational thought will prevail,” he said.

Despite the bearish news in recent days, traders note that more than 400 reactors are still operating, consuming about 180 million pounds of uranium a year. The Japanese crisis prompted a drop of about 3% of the total uranium consumption. Nuclear power accounts for 14% of global electricity output, the Nuclear Energy Institute said.

“The world is not going to stop burning uranium tomorrow,” said Kevin Smith, director of uranium trading at Traxys Group, a New York-based physical trader and market maker of uranium.

Uranium Participation Corp., a $680-million Canada-listed fund that is invested in physical uranium, has lost about 26% of its market capitalization in recent days.

“UPC will continue to hold,” said Ron Hochstein, president of Denison Mines Inc., which runs the fund.

“It’s just a short-term impact. The fundamentals for the market are still very strong,” he said.

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Nuclear Power | Leave a comment

Sanction Policies and the Zionist Power Structure

By James Petras | March 21, 2011

One of the key distinctions between a capitalist and a non-capitalist (socialist, feudal, absolutist state) economy is the separation of state and private enterprise. In a capitalist state, economic enterprises are supposed to operate according to market principles, seeking to maximize profits and expand market shares. The state is supposed to act on behalf of capitalist enterprises, ensuring their protection and furthering their pursuit of profits and markets.

Recent history of foreign relations provides ample evidence that the reverse is true: private corporations, especially banks have been converted into adjuncts of the US state, serving as transmission belts of US military policy, by sacrificing markets, profits and opportunities for future economic growth. Another important reason for keeping US multinational corporations out of a country. Moreover, the state both in the US and Europe have seized billions in private investment funds and dispossessed their owners, in the process scuttling major financial transactions adversely affecting the biggest Western financial houses.

The dispossession of private capitalists and the harnessing of private firms to state policy have grown in scope and depth over the current decade, revealing the growing subordination of private capitalism to a militarist imperialist state. Sacrificing private profits and free markets to the edicts of state officials has been implemented via state coercion and severe sanctions against any transgressors.

How and why the world’s biggest propagandist of “free enterprise” and de-regulated capitalism has successfully converted major international financial and industrial enterprises into tools of foreign policy at enormous costs to their bottom line is yet an untold story. Given the enormity of the historical change in the relation between state and market, the shift in power has enormous consequences for peace, prosperity and freedom.

How the State Dominates “the Market”: The Historical Context

Beginning in the 1990’s under President Clinton and escalating under Bush and Obama, the US imperial state imposed economic sanctions first in Iraq and later on Iran and more recently on Libya. In effect the state dictated to its petroleum multi-nationals and biggest banks that they should sacrifice lucrative investment opportunities, ongoing profits and markets to serve imperial state interests. Billions of dollars were lost during the 1990’s, in the face of Iraq sanctions, forcing many US oil companies to engage clandestine “third party” intermediaries, to secure a reduced share of the petrol market. The imperial state imposed severe penalties – fines, jailing’s and exclusion from the US market – to any of the CEOs and private corporations that did not abide by the sanctions. Clearly the state was in command; the corporate ruling class became the executive committee of the imperial state.

The sanctions policy applied to the Middle East under Clinton was only the beginning; it was deepened and vastly expanded under Presidents Bush and Obama, especially after 2004.

The Levey Levy: How American Zionists Freeze Financial Profits

In 2004 a little noticed administrative add-on in the US Treasury Department took place that has had world historic significance: AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) pressured Treasury to create the position of “Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence”. Equally important, under strong pressure from AIPAC, a zealous Zionist of immense energy, Stuart Levey was appointed to head the new agency.

Levey used all the administrative mechanisms in the Treasury, from threats of penalties, fines and ostracism, to friendly and hostile persuasion, to line up US federal and state public and private pension funds to sacrifice lucrative investments in targeted countries, most of whom, lo and behold, were adversaries of Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Even as Levey was imposing state constraints over the operations of private investors in the US, he organized his entire staff to police the financial world abroad. Levey and his Zionist allies in the so-called “Israel lobby” called on their Congressional cronies to approve sanction policies which not only affected US banks, manufacturers and construction companies but which penalized any European, Asian and Middle Eastern bank which had economic dealings with Iran and other countries on his list (Cuba, North Korea among others).

Levey extended the sanctions to cover firms and investors with even indirect economic ties to the US: his secret financial police located funds which passed from one private bank to another which had tangential links to US banks and Levey applied and secured hundreds of millions in fines against Swiss, Chinese (Macao) English and other banks. Effectively the US imperial state via its Undersecretary of Treasury, harnessed the entire world’s financial system to serve US and Israeli foreign policy. Levey is explicit about his role in creating a state within a state. “The US Treasury is the only Treasury in the world with a fully functioning intelligence office.” He might have added that the US Treasury is the only Treasury in the world which sacrifices the economic interests of its private investors and those of its allies in pursuit of the interests of a foreign power (Israel).

The Levey regime by leveraging ties with private US financial institutions and access to US markets, effectively controls the financial transactions and market operations of European, Asian and Middle Eastern private enterprises.

What appears as merely a relatively minor administrative post in Treasury has in fact created an administrative empire which has effectively converted private international banking and manufacturing corporations into instruments of US and Israeli policy.

In office, Levey engineered the seizure of billions of dollars of overseas assets of private and public funds of adversaries. One of his last moves before leaving office (March 2011) was to seize $32 billion in Libyan funds using the pretext that the non-US bank to which the funds were entrusted invested in US Treasury notes.

Levey has clearly defined the new relation between private capital (the market) and the State: “Governments around the world see the power of these types of measures and the relevance of the private sector to the overall [imperial] effort and that is something that has changed in the last four or five years.” (Financial Times, March 10, 2011, pg. 5).

The “measures” that Levey refers to are the state sanctions and the coercion and penalties applied to the private sector to ensure their conformity with imperial and Israeli military interests at the expense of profits and markets.

The Visible Hand of the State

Levey and his Zionist colleagues have ensured that his “state within a State” will continue beyond his tenure in office. He was succeeded by David Cohen, his former law firm partner and promoter of the very same Israeli interests. Levey/Cohen have institutionalized and set in stone the mechanisms to further imperial state control over market operations. Cohen’s appointment ensures the continuation of the Zionist dynasty in the “State within the State”.

The biggest economic losers in the state centered “sanction” policies pursued by Treasury (read Levey/Cohen) have been the international banks, petroleum and gas companies and pension funds. The banks have lost access to investment funds and lucrative management fees; the petroleum companies have lost profits and access to oil fields. The military-industrial complex has lost arms sales. The agro-exporters have lost markets in food deficit oil producers. Who have been the “winners” – certainly not the Generals who are engaging in a third costly war when the sanctioners decided to escalate to the ‘military option’, once their sanctions policies failed to result in the overthrow of the Libyan regime.

On the surface the main ‘winners’ of sanction policies are their advocates in the White House, Congress, Treasury, the leaders of the two major parties and the ideologues and Islamaphobes in the mass media. And of course, the biggest winners of them all are Israel and their Zionist power configuration embedded in the key agencies of Treasury, the key committees in Congress, and their colleagues in the most influential Middle East posts in the State Department (James Steinberg, Mark Grossman, Dennis Ross, Jeffrey Feltman) and Treasury (Cohen).

If one asks the logical question why doesn’t Big Banking or Big Petroleum make a fight over policies prejudicing their economic interests and subjecting them to the harsh oversight of Levey/Cohen investigators in Treasury, the most reasonable assumption is that they are not willing to engage in a knockdown fight with three potent adversaries: the politically influential Zionists in the government who design, implement and enforce sanctions; their counterparts in the prestigious mass media who support their policies and the 300,000 active members of the 52 major American Jewish organizations who threaten to organize boycott campaigns. An implausible assumption is that the bankers and oil majors have become altruistic and patriotic and are willing to sacrifice billion dollar deals to serve our “national security” as defined by Levey/Cohen and their cohorts in AIPAC. When we speak of US ‘sanction policies’ or when we read of European bankers “following Washington’s lead” let’s be clear about what “state” within the US we are talking about and which agencies in Washington are ensuring that European banks follow “our” lead.

While we might not shed tears about an intrusive government curtailing the profit-making of Big Oil and Big Banks, or interfering with free market operations, let us not forget that “the state within the state” that dictates economic policy is not accountable to our citizens; moreover, if it dictates foreign economic policy to the multi-nationals surely it has no scruples in doing the same to ordinary Americans. Next on the AIPAC/Levey/Cohen agenda is a “request” by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for an additional $20 billion dollars in “aid” to ensure Israel’s protection from the pro-democracy movements sweeping the Arab world and to finance a new batch of settlements in the West Bank.

Israel needs US aid like American taxpayers need a hole in their pockets. According to the latest study of billionaires published in the March 20 2011 of Forbes, Israel has more billionaires per capita than any country in the world.

~

James Petras’ most recent books are: What’s Left in Latin America?, coauthored with Henry Veltmeyer (Ashgate Press, 2009), and Global Depression and Regional Wars (Clarity Press, 2009).

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 3 Comments

The Danger of Spent Nuclear Fuel

By ROBERT ALVAREZ | CounterPunch | March 21, 2011

The spent fuel pools at Units 3 and 4 at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex are exposed to the open sky and might be draining. The radioactive dose rates coming off the pools appear to be life-threatening. Lead-shielded helicopters trying to dump water over the pools/reactors could not get close enough to make much difference because of the dangerous levels of radiation.

If the spent fuel is exposed, the zirconium cladding encasing the spent fuel can catch fire releasing potentially catastrophic amounts of radiation, particularly cesium-137 (Here’s an article I wrote in January 2002 in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists about spent fuel pool dangers.)

In October 2002, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, serving at that time as her state’s attorney general, organized a group letter to Congress signed by her and 26 of her counterparts across the nation. In it, they requested greater safeguards for reactor spent-fuel pools. The letter urged “enhanced protections for one of the most vulnerable components of a nuclear power plant its spent fuel pools.” It was met with silence.

In January 2003, my colleagues and I warned that a drained spent fuel pool in the U.S. could lead to a catastrophic fire that would result in long-term land contamination substantially worse than what the Chernobyl accident unleashed. An area around the Chernobyl site roughly half the size of New Jersey continues to be considered uninhabitable.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear energy industry strongly disagreed. Congress then asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to referee this dispute.

In 2004, after the NRC tried unsuccessfully to suppress its report, the NAS panel agreed with our findings. The Academy panel stated that a “partially or completely drained pool could lead to a propagating zirconium cladding fire and release large quantities of radioactive materials to the environment.”

Over the past 15 years, NRC has become too co-dependent on the industry it regulates. This has a lot to do with Congress, the nuclear industry lobby and its large amounts of money, which successfully rolled back the post Three Mile Island regulatory reforms of the early 1980s.. NRC is now much more dependent on industry self-reporting, much like what happened with the SEC and the banking industry before the economic collapse.

U.S. reactors are each holding at least four times as much spent fuel as the individual pools at the wrecked Daiichi nuclear complex in Fukushima. According to the Energy Department, about 63,000 metric tons of spent fuel has been generated as of this year, containing approximately 12.4 billion curies. These pools contain some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet. Merely 14 percent of U.S. spent fuel is in dry storage.

At this stage it’s critical that:

* The NRC hold off on renewing operating licenses for nuclear reactors, given our new found certainty that many sites in earthquake zones could experience greater destruction than previously assumed.

* The NRC promptly require reactor owners to end the dense compaction of spent fuel, and ensure that at least 75 percent of the spent fuel in pools operating above their capacity be removed and placed into dry, hardened storage containers on site, which are more likely to withstand earthquakes.

In our 2003 study, we estimated that it would take about 10 years to do this with existing technology, at an expense of $3.5 to $7 billion.

~

Robert Alvarez, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department’s secretary from 1993 to 1999.

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Nuclear Power | Leave a comment

Israel Launches PR Campaign to Increase Tourism, Disguise Policies of Oppression, Occupation

By Tania Kepler for the Alternative Information Center (AIC) – 21 March 2011

Israel recently launched an international campaign to increase its number of tourists. While 2010 was a record year for visitors, Israeli ministries promote “public relations” campaigns to disguise the country’s policies of oppression and occupation.

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism launched a NIS 45 million tourism campaign last week, aiming to bring tourists from North America and Europe to Israel.

The ministry’s biggest campaigns are underway in the US, Germany and Russia, reported the Jerusalem Post, where Israel tourism television commercials are airing, and smaller campaigns have also begun in Spain, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who visited Jerusalem last week, told Israeli President Shimon Peres that since Israel and Ukraine signed a bilateral agreement last year for the cancellation of entry visas, there has been a 20- per cent rise in tourism between the two countries.

Israel received 3.45 million tourists in 2010, a record number and 14 percent higher than the previous record of about 3 million tourists in 2008. Most tourists visit from the United States, Russia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. According to Pini Shani, the Tourism Ministry’s deputy director of marketing administration, the Ministry’s goal is 5 million tourists annually by 2015.

“The biggest concern is the lack of understanding of the Middle East. Many people in Germany and other places don’t know the difference in terms of size and distance between Israel and other countries, and when they hear ‘Middle East’ they think of everything under one umbrella,” Shani said.

However, based on new campaigns being launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel’s tourism concerns aren’t only geographic.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has doubled the embassies’ 2011 budget for public relations. Additionally, embassies were ordered to prepare a list of “one thousand allies who will be regularly briefed by the embassies. These allies should initiate assemblies and demonstrations, and publish articles in newspapers,” Barak Ravid of the Israeli news daily Haaretz reported in December 2010.

As Israel continues to withdraw from peace negotiations and increases settlement construction, Europeans have become increasing wary and critical.

“Israel is losing the battle for European public opinion,” notes Pascal Boniface, Director of the French Institute de Relations Internationales et Strategiques (IRIS), “and the planned public relations attack by the Foreign Ministry demonstrates that the Israeli government knows its message is not as convincing as in the past.”

Pascal Boniface ends by saying “the fact is that the state of Israel is losing the battle for European public opinion. In order to rehabilitate its image, a change in policy is necessary, not a change in public relations.”

However, policies inside Israel aren’t changing. In October 2010, a bill to ban Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem from serving as tour guides in the city was proposed by seven Israeli Knesset members.

“These residents often present anti-Israeli positions to groups of tourists that they guide,” the bill states. “To ensure foreign tourists are exposed to the national Israeli viewpoint, we suggest ruling that travel agencies, and any organization providing tours for foreign tourists, ensure that the groups are accompanied by a tour guide who is an Israeli citizen and has institutional loyalty to the State of Israel.”

Since the establishment of the state of Israel, tourism has been directed to a one sided ideological tourism to secure and serve the Israeli propaganda and the Israeli claim on Palestine.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee is calling for a tourism boycott: “Supporting Israeli tourism comes at the cost of further destruction to Palestinian communities, heritage and culture. Tourism is used by the occupation to promote a ‘progressive’, ‘peaceful’ and ‘multicultural’ face to the world despite the daily crimes committed against the Palestinian people. In the campaign against tourism to Apartheid South Africa, activists sought out tourist exhibitions or agents promoting travel to the regime under the slogan ‘Apartheid is NO Holiday’.”

The AIC spoke with Rami Kassis, the Executive Director of the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG), a Palestinian NGO specializing in tours that critically examine the history, culture and politics of the Holy Land.

“Tourism in Palestine is supposed to be one of the main pillars of our economy…Before the Oslo agreement and the PA there was more restriction in tourism. Israel is controlling tourism until now. They want to guarantee that there is no direct interaction between the local community and the Palestinians and the tourist. They want to guarantee that Israelis are benefitting from the tourism.”

According to Kassis, Palestinian cities have never been mentioned on Israeli tour maps. Tourists in Israel are always discouraged from visiting Palestinian cities and meeting Palestinian people.

“In Palestine, as in many other places world wide, tours are designed to mainly isolate the tourist from the current political, social, historical and economic context. However, many people have started asking for an alternative,” Kassis told the AIC.

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

Settlers stab Palestinian south of Hebron

Ma’an – 21/03/2011

HEBRON — A 32-year-old from the south Hebron hills told Ma’an he was stabbed in the chest on Monday by settlers from the Ma’on settlement.

Speaking by phone from hospital, Mahmoud Ibrahim Ali Awad said he was treated for moderate stab wounds.

The father of two lives in Khirbet Toubeh. Family members told the Palestinian Authority shortly after the incident that he was attacked while riding his donkey toward the nearby town of Yatta, where he was to receive treatment for kidney problems.

As he passed by the Havat Maon outpost settlers accosted him and one stabbed him several times in the chest, head and left arm, a PA statement said. He was moved to Alia hospital in Hebron.

Medical sources said Awad was scheduled for surgery Monday afternoon.

Christian Peacemaker Teams said a villager witnessed the attack, and recognized the assailant from a settler riot on 19 March, the day after an unknown knife man stabbed five settlers including two children and in infant in the northern West Bank.

From Ramallah, the PA said it holds the “Israeli Government responsible for tolerating settler violence against Palestinians,” noting the injury of six Palestinian workers earlier in the week by settlers in the Shilo settlement.

“This action was part of the ‘price tag’ policy of settlers that has been escalating, while the Israeli government remains tolerant and provides immunity for settlers committing crimes against Palestinians. Palestinians safety and security is an immediate demand and need,” the statement said.

The day before, residents of the south Hebron hills village of At-Tuwani were reportedly harassed by settlers from the Havat Ma’on outpost, during a protest action overseen by Christian Peacemaker Teams observers.

According to a statement from CPT, residents went out to fields in the Humra valley to graze flocks, plant olive trees and gather herbs at 9 a.m., and were observed by Israeli military jeeps, and later accosted by settlers who intimidated the locals.

“Settlers from the Havat Ma’on outpost, some of them masked, began to approach and provoke the Palestinians. They walked among their flocks and close to the women who were gathering herbs in the fields. At about 10:30, three young settlers chased a Palestinian man who was returning home with his donkey through Meshaha hill. Luckily, the Palestinian man was just scared by the settlers,” the CPT statement said.

“The soldiers tried to keep the settlers away, repeatedly asking them to return in the outpost. At around 10:50 an officer of the Border Police brought an evacuation order” forcing both settlers and locals out of the area.

As the parties left the area, CPT observers said, some of the settlers “attacked the Palestinians and their flocks on their way back to the village, while others headed toward At-Tuwani masked and accompanied by dogs, threatening the house closest to the outpost.”

During the ensuing confrontation, the military detained two Palestinians, while a third was transported to hospital with light injuries.

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | Leave a comment

Settler opens fire on funeral procession

Ma’an - 21/03/2011

HEBRON — Two Palestinians were shot Monday afternoon when a settler disembarked from his car on the Jerusalem-Hebron road and opened fire on a funeral procession heading to the Beit Ummar cemetery.

Medics said two were injured in the shooting, including 59-year-old Muhammad Ali Abu Safiyya who was in critical condition after being shot in the chest, and 32-year-old Bassam Zaq’aqiq, who was shot in his right thigh. Both were evacuated to hospital.

According to Palestinian Authority officials, Abu Safiyya is in critical condition at the Al-Ahli Hospital, while Zaq’aqiq is in the Alia Hospital in stable condition.

According to eyewitnesses, Palestinians from Beit Ummar and the area were walking in a funeral procession, when a settler arrived and opened fire at Abu Safiyeh and Za’aqiq.

An eyewitness told Ma’an that a settler stopped his car near the town and walked toward the local cemetery where mourners were escorting the body of a loved one for burial.

As he approached the cemetery, the witness said, the settler drew out a gun and began shooting indiscriminately at the mourners.

According to a report on the Israeli news site Ynet, the settler opened fire at the group “probably after [they were] hurling stones at a settler’s vehicle.”

Commenting on the shooting, Hebron Governor Kamil Hmeid said “The situation is dangerous and there are systematic attacks. Settlers have declared war and they want to disturb the peace in Hebron district after a period of unprecedented tranquility.”

The attack follows an early morning stabbing in the south Hebron hills that witnesses say was perpetrated by a settler from the Ma’on settlement outpost near Tuba.

PA officials said that Israel is held responsible for the continued settler violence targeting Palestinians in the West Bank.

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IMEMC:

… Eyewitnesses said that Israeli soldiers, who were in that area and who had a military watch tower, didn’t pay attention to what the settler had done although they had cameras inside their tower pointing at the main road and the cemetery.

The eyewitnesses added that the soldiers didn’t chase the settler who ran away and drove towards Jerusalem.

Instead of trying to apprehend the settler, the soldiers apprehended local residents and interrogated.

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | 1 Comment

Chileans protest Obama visit, Nuke deal

Press TV – March 21, 2011

Chileans have held demonstrations to protest the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama to the country following a recent nuclear deal between the two nations.

“This demonstration is to reject Barack Obama’s militaristic policies,” said a protest organizer.

The angry protesters organized two peaceful rallies on Sunday, complaining that the nuclear agreement was signed despite major nuclear crisis that developed in Japan following the huge earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on March 11, AFP reported Monday.

Chilean opposition lawmakers and environmentalists argue that the Friday agreement is too risky for their country, which lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, and like Japan, is quite prone to devastating earthquakes.

The devastating 9-magnitude earthquake, followed by a monstrous tsunami that hit Japan earlier in March, caused radioactive leakage due to explosions in the nuclear power plants that resulted from malfunctioning cooling systems.

Chile experienced its own 8.8-magnitude earthquake just last year, which was also followed by a tsunami that claimed the lives of more than 500 people.

The Chilean demonstrators, numbering close to 2,000, held signs that read, “Nuclear energy is energy of death.”

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and President Obama are set to meet Monday in the capital Santiago, where Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech on the Latin America.

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Militarism, Nuclear Power, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

   

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