Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced that extra income from the country’s oil exports will be allocated for social spending.
Venezuela, South America’s biggest oil producer, has been receiving sharply higher income from its oil exports in recent months. Global prices on Venezuelan oil averaged $107 per barrel last week, while the 2011 state budget was balanced with the $40 per barrel benchmark.
“I have signed a decree that authorizes spending additional revenues from oil sales on the implementation of various social programs for the country’s population,” Chavez, who will seek re-election next year, said on national television on Friday.
The decree primarily hikes the so-called oil windfall tax, introduced by Chavez in 2008, from 60 percent to 95 percent on revenues from oil prices higher than $100 per barrel, giving Venezuela’s socialist leader enough room to conduct populist policies.
Chavez said the new law would allow the government to allocate additional $100 million on public housing projects and raise salaries nationwide.
He also predicted that war in Libya would drive oil prices up in the near future.
Venezuela produces about 3 million barrels of oil per day and sells almost half of it to the United States. U.S. oil futures closed at $112.29 on Thursday.
Thousands of Tunisians have held demonstrations in the capital Tunis, calling for the ouster of the country’s interim government.
Protesters took to the streets on Sunday and demanded the resignation of interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi, reiterating that the new governing team should be completely swept from the old guard.
Tunisian Court of Appeal on Friday approved the verdict of an initial court regarding the dissolution of the Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (RCD), which was established by former President of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 1988.
The court has also barred all members of the party from running in the country’s upcoming election that chooses a national assembly tasked with rewriting the constitution.
Protests against Essebsi were sparked after he said the exclusion of Ben Ali’s supporters from July 24 poll could trigger instability in the country. RCD claims to have the support of nearly two million people out of the country’s population of 10 million.
Protesters also called for the prosecution of Ben Ali who fled to Saudi Arabia shortly after his ouster.
According to the justice ministry, prosecutors in Tunisia want to sue the ousted president on 18 charges, including murder and drug-trafficking. The move also includes legal cases against his family and some of his cronies.
The ministry of justice has also said that Interpol has been asked to freeze the assets of Ben Ali and his family.
Authorities responded to peaceful protest of a proposed nuclear power plant site in India by shooting at the crowd, killing one and injuring eight. Over sixty others were arrested. Killed by police on Monday, the body of 30-year-old Tabrez Sayekar was carried through the streets at a funeral march attended by more than 2,000 people on Wednesday. No one has been charged in his murder.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), along with the French nuclear energy giant, Areva, plan to build the world’s largest nuclear power plant complex generating nearly 10,000 megawatts of electricity in an agricultural area at Jaitapur in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.
In December, the world renowned Tata Institute of Social Sciences published a social and environmental assessment of the proposed project conducted by Jamsetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management last April, calling it a potential disaster. According to DNA India, the report charges that the government has hidden and suppressed important and relevant information, and “has subverted facts” by labeling the proposed 968-hectare site as barren land though the locals use it for agriculture, horticulture and grazing.
“‘Farmers and horticulturists have spent lakhs of rupees to make the land cultivable over years and even the government has supported them. This includes Alfonso mangoes and cashews. Now, when the time has come for them to reap their investments, they are afraid of losing their land as the government now claims it is barren land,’ says the report. It adds that even the fisherfolk of the region are against the project.”
Even the level of seismicity was changed, from a high severity earthquake zone to moderate seismic severity zone.
“‘The government is not only hiding facts, but also manipulating them,’ the report alleges.”
NPCIL, an agency of the Indian government, defends the moderate label. “Seismicity is one of the key criteria in site selection for nuclear power plants and the Jaitapur site meets the requirements for siting as stipulated in the atomic energy regulatory board’s code on safety,” it said in response to TISS.
However, last month, Times of India reported:
“[T]he Geological Survey of India shows that between 1985 and 2005, there were 92 earthquakes [in the area].
“The ground is unstable, say activists and geologists, and there is no guarantee that the government’s safeguards will protect the people and ecologically sensitive Konkan coast from a nuclear disaster should there be another earthquake.
“Environmental activist Pradeep Indulkar said: ‘The third explosion at the Fukushima plant in Japan on Tuesday confirms that in the event of an earthquake, precautionary measures and safeguards will not avert a disaster. It is better not to have a nuclear power plant in this seismic zone region.’
“At Shivane village, 20 km from Jaitapur, Chandrakant Padkar remembers the day the earth shook and the road outside his house vanished. The unreported earthquake took place two years ago, and the village still bears the scars.”
Greenpeace India plans to deliver a petition to the Maharashtra Chief Minister on April 26, the 25th anniversary of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine. You can sign the petition here.
“Instead of ignoring and ruthlessly suppressing the protest against the Jaitapur nuclear reactor park, Prithviraj Chavan, Maharashtra Chief Minister, needs to scrap the project. The CM needs to know that he cannot build Jaitapur against the people’s will when alternatives exist.”
Sane Response to Deadly Energy Source
Nuclear power is the deadliest, costliest form of energy on record, according to Dr. Benjamin Sovacool of Project Syndicate. “Not counting the Fukushima catastrophe, there has been more than one nuclear incident and $330 million in damage every year, on average, for the past three decades.”
In a policy brief published in January, Sovacool notes, “The nuclear fuel cycle involves some of the most dangerous elements known to humankind. These elements include more than 100 dangerous radionuclides and carcinogens such as strontium-90, iodine-131 and cesium-137, which are the same toxins found in the fallout of nuclear weapons.”
The damage done to Earth by nuclear accidents and waste is permanent, for a mere 20-30 years of electricity, a dirty secret that the nuclear industry has not resolved. In the U.S., for example, the waste is stored in holding pools at four to five times the pool’s capacity.
Despite the world’s clean water shortage, Sovacool reports:
“Nuclear plants use 25-50% more water per unit of electricity generated than fossil fuel plants with equivalent cooling systems…. The average US plant operating on an open–loop cooling system withdraws 216 Million litres of water every day and consumes 125 Million litres of water every day.
“Nuclear plants and uranium mining also contaminate water and the methods used to draw the water and exclude debris through screens kill marine and riparian life, setting in place a destructive chain of events for ocean/river systems.”
Der Spiegel writes, “The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, for all the attention it gets, is far from the only nuclear no-go area on the planet.” In its recent catalogue of several now-uninhabitable spots on the planet as a result of nuclear use, leaks, waste and accidents, Spiegel documents thousands of square miles in the U.S., Germany, Kazakhstan, Japan, India, Britain and Northern Africa contaminated by radiation, areas which produce high rates of birth defects and cancers. Their report doesn’t even touch the depleted uranium used in the Middle East by the U.S. and its allies.
While we watch Fukushima’s radiation fall on the northern hemisphere, contaminating our milk and water in the U.S., Canada and Europe, it’s notable that, like previous nuclear accidents, governments lie about the severity. Fifty years after the UK’s worst nuclear disaster, experts advise that the radiation released was twice what was originally reported.
Chernobyl was no different, as a recent book published by the New York Academy of Sciences reveals. Government authorities reported 3,000 casualties from that disaster, but in Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, the authors conclude that, based on now available medical data, 985,000 people died as a result of the Chernobyl disaster, as of 2004. The researchers based their conclusions on 5,000 radiological surveys, scientific reports and health data.
Neither is Japan any different. Engineer Keith Harmon Snow writes:
“In a recent WikiLeaks diplomatic cable, politician Taro Kono, a high-profile member of Japan’s lower house, told U.S. diplomats that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (MITI) — the Japanese government department responsible for nuclear energy — has been ‘covering up nuclear accidents and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry.’ In 2002 ‘the chairman and four executives of TEPCO, the company that owns the stricken Fukushima plant, resigned after reports that safety records were falsified.’”
Corporate-run governments will not stop destroying the planet for profit. It is up to humanity to do all in its power to end the ongoing ecocide. Sometimes this means putting your life on the line, as Tabrez Sayekar did on Monday, just short of the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The top US military official has accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of having links with militants in making attacks against NATO and the US troops in Afghanistan. The claim has been rejected by Islamabad.
This edition of News Analysis examines the relationship between the US and Pakistan.
The main supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan was temporarily closed on Sunday after thousands of people blocked a key highway in Pakistan to protest against US drone strikes.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, however, said the two-day blockade would have no impact on the alliance’s operations in Afghanistan. “Coordination with Pakistani government officials has been conducted and we understand the government will maintain security,” an ISAF spokesman said. “There is no impact on ISAF sustainment.”
The call for blocking the supply line came from cricket-turn-politician Imran Khan after US officials rejected Pakistan’s demand for sharp cuts in drone strikes in its tribal regions where al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are based.
Activists from Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI), Khan’s party, and some Islamic parties staged a sit-in on the highway leading to Afghanistan through the Pashtun tribal region of Khyber. “It is meant to send a message outside that we oppose drone strikes. We will never accept them,” Asad Qaiser, PTI president in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said.
The supply to Afghanistan through Khyber region had been suspended since the protest started on Saturday, a senior provincial government official, Siraj Ahmed, said. The Chaman border crossing in the southwest has remained open to traffic, another official said.
NABLUS — An Israeli settler was shot dead and four others were injured early Sunday after a group of Jewish worshippers snuck into Nablus without coordinating with Palestinian or Israeli security, officials said.
Settler sources named the man killed in the incident as Jerusalem resident Ben-Yosef Livnat, a 24-year-old father of four who is the nephew of hawkish culture minister Limor Livnat, and was born in the Nablus-area settlement Elon Moreh.
The shooting took place when dozens of armed ultra-Orthodox settlers entered the Joseph’s Tomb site without an Israeli military escort.
The Palestinian officers told the group that they were not allowed in the area and said that in response settlers pulled out their own guns and pointed them toward the officers. Israel’s military confirmed no coordination attempts had been made.
Security forces first fired warning shots into the air, according to Palestinian officials, while a statement from Israel’s army said Palestinian officials said shots were fired “after identifying suspicious movements.”
Yaakov David Ha’ivri, a settler leader in the northern West Bank, said the four were shot as they left the tomb after an unauthorized visit.
The incident put “a great question mark over the ability of the Palestinian Authority to protect the security of Jewish worshipers,” he said. “It could encourage the Israeli side to take more responsibility.”
Visits to the tomb, in the Nablus-area town of Balatta, have in the past years been conducted at night. Israeli forces enter the area and impose a military curfew, preventing civilians from leaving their homes from the hours of midnight to dawn.
Palestinian police operating in the area during an Israeli military operation are told to evacuate.
Palestinian Authority security services spokesman Adnan Dmeiri told Ma’an that officers on duty at the site had been summoned to give testimonies as witnesses to the incident, but said none had been detained.
Dmeiri said a committee had been formed to investigate the shooting but said it would not include Israeli officials. He denied media reports that the investigation would be under US supervision.
“This was an abnormal event which does not characterize the nature of the relationship,” an Israeli military official told Ynet, a news site based in Tel Aviv. “It is possible that the group’s failure to coordinate the visit caused a misunderstanding,” the official said.
The governor of Nablus, Jibril Al-Bakri, added that the shooting was unintentional and said it was still being investigated.
The army said its senior officials were expected to meet with Palestinian security officers Sunday to examine the incident.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement “strongly condemning” the incident and calling on the army and Palestinian Authority to investigate.
“No breakdown in coordination can justify an event of this nature and firing at innocent people,” he said.
Following the incident, Israeli forces closed the Beit Furik checkpoint east of Nablus and intensified inspections at Za’tara and Huwwara checkpoints in the area.
Clashes erupted around Joseph’s Tomb as Israeli forces launched tear gas at young Palestinians protesting in the area.
After Israeli forces withdrew, Palestinians set fire to the site.
AFP contributed to this report