Weakening radiation standards; a cap on accident liability; reactor propaganda vs improvements; old units running past expiration dates; revving the engines beyond design specs …. You’d think we were itching for a meltdown.
The Environmental Protection Agency has recommended increased radiation exposure limits following major releases. It would save the industry a bundle to permit large human exposures then, rather than shut down rickety reactors now.
The EPA proposal is a knock-off prompted by Fukushima, because after the triple meltdown started three years ago, Japan increased — by 20 times — the allowable radiation exposures deemed tolerable for humans. Prior to the meltdowns of March 2011, Japan allowed only 1 milliSievert of radiation per year in an individual’s personal space. Now, the limit is 20 milliSieverts per year. This is not safe, it’s just allowable, or, rather, affordable, since the cost of decontaminating 1,000 square miles of Japan to the stricter standard could bust the bank.
The Price Anderson Act provides US reactor owners with a liability cap and a tax-payer bailout in the event of serious accidents or attacks. The law relieves utilities of hundreds of billions in financial risk posed by our ongoing meltdown roulette game. The owners won’t be bankrupted by the next loss-of-coolant disaster, but the US might.
Fukushima has spewed more long-lived radioactive chemicals to the air, the soil and the ocean than any catastrophe in history. But the chant heard round the world is: “The dose is low, there’s no immediate danger.” Promoters of nuclear power repeat this mantra at every opportunity, hoping to dodge Germany’s answer to Fukushima — a permanent reactor phase-out — and it has nearly drowned out all warnings of radiation’s health and environmental effects.
Have you heard of PSR’s March 2011 “Health risks of the releases of radioactivity from the Fukushima reactors: Are they a concern for residents of the US?”; or IPPNW’s June 2014 “Critical Analysis of the UNSCEAR Report”; or the Nov. 2012 “Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health within the context of the nuclear accident at Fukushima”; or Greenpeace’s two major reports, “Lessons from Fukushima,” and “Fukushima Fallout”? No, the feds would rather you read the UN Scientific Committee’s exec. summary which claims Fukushima’s effects are “unlikely to be observable.” This conclusion was made before any research was done.
The chances of radiation disasters will increase further if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows US reactors to run for 80 years. This is what Duke Power, Dominion Power and Exelon suggest for seven of their 40-year-old rattle traps now operating in Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina.
These seven reactors were designed and licensed to be shut down in the current decade. However, since 1991 the nuclear industry has been granted 70 “license extensions” that have generally added 20 years. Now the owners want to push their units an extra 40 years.
Former NRC Commissioner George Apostolakis wasn’t apoplectic when the commission considered the idea, but, according to the New York Times, he said, “I don’t know how we would explain to the public that these designs, 90-year-old designs, 100-year-old designs, are still safe to operate.” The NRC has yet to rule on the 80-year option, but it’s never denied a single license extension request.
Gunning old Fukushima-type engines
Captured by the industry it’s supposed to govern, the NRC has approved 149 reactor “power uprate” applications and has denied exactly one. Power uprates boost the output of old reactors beyond what their original licenses permit. It’s done by packing reactor cores with extra fuel rods and, feeling lucky, running them harder.
Chillingly, 23 operating US reactors are duplicates of the Fukushima-type General Electric Mark 1. Fifteen of these clunkers have been granted power uprates, and seven of these 15 have been granted a second power uprate. (See chart) Susquehanna’s two 31-year-old Fukushima clones in Pennsylvania were granted a hair-raising three power uprates.
With the radiation industry and the NRC working to deny or delay post-Fukushima safety improvements, how do you feel about reactor operators stomping the accelerator while they run their geriatric uranium jalopies toward the cliff?
PNN reports that Wallstrom’s comments, made during a recent CNN interview, came after Mr. Lieberman, in denouncing Sweden’s decision to recognize the Palestinian Authority (PA) as “the State of Palestine,” said that “relations in the Middle East are a lot more complex than the self-assembly furniture of IKEA”.
“I think it’s a sign of a sense of humor, and I will be happy to send him a flat pack of IKEA furniture and he will also see that what you need to put that together is, first of all, a partner,” Wallstrom said in response.
“You also need to cooperate and you need a good manual. I think we have most of those elements if we want to use them also for the conflict in the Middle East. For peace you need two parties to actually sit down at the same table and discuss the future,” she added.
“We think that now is the right time [to recognize a Palestinian state]. We think that the legal requirements are fulfilled but also it is timely because we’ve had a very serious situation on the ground.
“We’ve seen new settlements and more violence and also a tendency to radicalization of young people especially,” the FM noted, explaining her country’s decision to recognize Palestine, further adding:
“We hope that we can make the parties a little less unequal, that we might inject some new dynamics into the suspended peace talks and also give hope to young people that there is an alternative to violence and war and conflict.”
Just hours after his criticizing statement, Liberman recalled Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman.
Eight members of the Wahdan family, the youngest only two years old, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on their home in Gaza after Israeli forces confined them inside and used their home as a military base.
On July 17, Israeli soldiers raided a home where 15 members of the Wahdan family were sheltering in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun during a period of intense Israeli artillery bombardment. Israeli forces detained and removed seven male family members from the home including, Rami Hatem Zaki Wahdan, 30. The eight remaining family members, including three children, were confined to the ground floor of the home by Israeli forces as they used the house as a military base for over a week, according to evidence collected by DCI-Palestine. On August 4, following his release, Rami returned to find Beit Hanoun destroyed and the family home flattened to the ground.
The charred remains of Su’ad Wahdan, 67, and her grandchildren, Zeinab, 27, Sumoud, 22, Ahmad, 14, and Hussein, 10, were found under the rubble. The remains of Zaki Wahdan, 70, his daughter-in-law, Baghdad, 51, and his great-granddaughter, Ghena, 2, have not yet been recovered.
“Israeli military offensives have been consistently characterized by disproportionate force directed at civilians,” says Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCI-Palestine. “In this incident, Israeli soldiers deliberately attacked a house while fully aware there were people inside. Targeting civilians is strictly prohibited under international law and this tragedy must be investigated as a possible war crime.”
In a sworn affidavit collected by DCI-Palestine, Rami said he was able to have limited contact with his sister, Zeinab, 27, via mobile phone. She told him that the situation in Beit Hanoun was very dangerous, and Israeli soldiers held them captive on the ground floor of their house. In Rami’s last contact with Zeinab on Friday, July 25, she explained that the Israeli soldiers had withdrawn from the house in anticipation of an upcoming humanitarian ceasefire, but ordered the family to stay in the home.
Rami, his father, three brothers and two uncles were bound and blindfolded and taken from the home for interrogation on July 17. Having no connection to Hamas or information on tunnels, Rami and the other men were released three days later from an interrogation facility near the Erez border crossing in northern Gaza. Continued fighting and shelling prevented them from returning to Beit Hanoun so they took shelter with relatives and at a school in the nearby Jabalia refugee camp.
Rami and his brothers returned to Beit Hanoun on August 2, but failed to locate their grandparents’ home before Israeli forces moved back into the area. On August 3, Rami learned that his father and three other members of his family, including his four-year-old niece, were killed in a separate incident when Israeli drones targeted a house in Jabalia refugee camp where they had sought refuge.
On August 4, Rami returned to Beit Hanoun with his brothers and uncles to continue their search but instead found complete destruction. The family’s house was one of a group of homes completely destroyed in an hour of continuous airstrikes just minutes before the humanitarian ceasefire began on July 26.
Rami and the other men started sifting through debris and rubble for any sign of their family that they believed had been forced to remain in the home. They discovered severed limbs and body parts of brothers Ahmad and Hussein, their sisters Zeinab and Sumond, and their grandmother Su’ad. No remains of their grandfather, his daughter-in-law or his two-year-old great-granddaughter were found.
Speaking to DCI-Palestine, Rami said, “I feel like my family is cursed. Those who stayed in the house were murdered, and those who fled the area were also murdered. And those who have survived are still struggling. I keep remembering the incident. I will not forget it.”
International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and requires that all parties to an armed conflict distinguish between military targets, civilians and civilian objects. Directly targeting civilians is a grave violation of international law and amounts to a war crime. Israeli forces confined the family to the home and therefore were aware that eight civilians were inhabiting the house. The circumstances of the attack strongly suggest conduct amounting to a war crime under international law.
The civilian population of the Gaza strip, particularly children, paid a heavy price during Israel’s seven-week military offensive known as Operation Protective Edge. The UN estimates over 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians and including 501 children, lost their lives. DCI-Palestine has independently verified 475 child deaths as of October 29, 2014.
Reflecting on the loss of twelve members of his family, Rami said, “I cry a thousand times a day. I cannot and will not forget what Israel did to us in this war and how they executed my family in two different incidents. They murdered my little brothers, my two sisters, my mother and my grandparents in Beit Hanoun. And they murdered my father, my niece, my brother’s wife and my uncle’s wife in Jabalia refugee camp.”
A video posted online by Al Arabiya News on July 29, 2014 captures the destruction of the Beit Hanoun neighborhood in one hour.
A few days ago, I published a short story linking to a PRN.fm radio interview I did with noted international law attorney Francis Boyle, whom I pointed out was a drafter of the US Biological Weapons and Anti-Terrorism Act passed into law in 1981, which act supposedly barred the United States from continuing to keep or to develop new germ warfare weapons.
Boyle told me, on last Wednesday’s radio program “This Can’t Be Happening!,” that he believes the Zaire Ebola strain that is wracking Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in west Africa, originally came from one of several BSL4-level bio-research labs operated in those countries and funded by a combination of the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and the US Defense Department, perhaps because of testing of Ebola being conducted there, or because of some containment breach.
Boyle pointed out the oddity that the epidemic is the Zaire strain, which has in the past been limited to Zaire in central Africa, and not a local strain found in fruit bats in west Africa — the alleged vector that news reports have claimed is being suspected of initiating the outbreak of the disease. As he noted, fruit bats don’t migrate, and certainly didn’t fly 2200 miles from central Africa to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
For running this alarming interview with Boyle, I have received some criticism from readers who suggest that Boyle’s facts are weak.
Since then I have been checking out some of his claims and suspicions.
One particularly interesting one is his claim that a BSL4 lab handling Zaire Ebola in Kenema, Sierra Leone, was shut down in July by order of the Sierra Leone government.
I have confirmed that, and attach a screen shot (see below) from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s Facebook Page. This press release declares that the ministry was setting up a new operations center in Freetown for responding to the Ebola crisis, and that in the interim before that center was up and running, all Ebola cases would be brought to a treatment center operated by the government in Kailahun.
Significantly, the announcement also said that the move of operations away from Kenema came in response to concerns expressed by “health workers and the people of Kenema.” Even more significantly, it said that Tulane University, which had been operating the lab under US government contract, was being ordered “to stop Ebola testing during the current Ebola outbreak.”
Now just what kind of “testing” of Ebola might that be, it seems fair to ask. I did try, leaving messages with several people in the public relations office at Tulane University, but got no return calls.
UPDATE: On Thursday, a reader who is an MD contacted someone he knew at Tulane, Vice President for Research Laura Levy, asking her to explain what Tulane was doing in Kenema. He later sent me her response, which was a link to a web page on Tulane’s website. It seeks to debunk “myths” about Tulane’s work in West Africa. In that article, it states that it is a “myth” that Tulane has been ordered to leave Sierra Leone. But no one is saying that. Tulane was ordered to shut down it’s Ebola lab in the town of Kenema, not to leave Sierra Leone altogether. The article also states that it is a “myth” that the University and its researchers are “collaborating” with the military in Sierra Leone. It goes on to say that “Tulane is working with Harvard University and others in the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium to develop diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for Lassa fever and Ebola. Support for the consortium has come principally from the National Institutes of Health.”
But actually the consortium’s own website says that Tulane is the leader of the consortium. It lists a number of partners, including Harvard University, Scripps Research Institute, and a company called Corgenix. No government “partners” are listed. Yet Corgenix, on its company site, lists USAMRIID, the Pentagon’s bioweapons research unit, as a “member of the consortium.”
Curious indeed that Tulane Research VP Levy omitted that important bit of information.
Here’s what Coregenix had to say about USAMRIID:
USAMRIID (U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases), located at Fort Detrick, Maryland, is the lead medical research laboratory for the U.S. Biological Defense Research Program, and plays a leading role in national defense and in infectious disease research. The Institute’s mission is to conduct basic and applied research on biological threats resulting in medical solutions (such as vaccines, drugs and diagnostics) to protect the warfighter. USAMRIID is a subordinate laboratory of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command.
Corgenix and USAMRIID are members of the Viral Hemorrhagic fever Consortium, working to develop state of the art diagnostic products for biothreat agents and emerging pathogens.
Navy Times, hardly a den of conspiracy writers, published an article about Ebola and the US decision to send 3000 troops (not doctors!) to the impacted countries in west Africa, back on August 1. That article states:
Filoviruses like Ebola have been of interest to the Pentagon since the late 1970s, mainly because Ebola and its fellow viruses have high mortality rates — in the current outbreak, roughly 60 percent to 72 percent of those who have contracted the disease have died — and its stable nature in aerosol make it attractive as a potential biological weapon.
Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) have sought to develop a vaccine or treatment for the disease.
Boyle’s contention is that ever since the US signed onto the Geneva Convention outlawing germ warfare, it has used research into defense against germ weapons as a cover for US research into germ weapons themselves.
It’s interesting that Navy Times is reporting that Pentagon-funded researchers at USAMRIID have been trying to develop a vaccine for Ebola for decades, yet how does that square with a report on Oct. 23 in the New York Times that Canadian and US researchers had developed an Ebola vaccine that was 100% successful in monkeys a full decade ago, long after the Pentagon began “seeking to develop a vaccine” and several years after the NIH began a campaign to develop one. And yet, as the Times article states, the promising vaccine “sat on the shelf” for years without being tested in humans, because it encountered a “biotech valley of death” with no drug companies willing to pay for human testing.
So where was all that public US Defense Department and NIH funding, given the promise that this vaccine was showing?
Maybe it was just bureaucratic bumbling, nationalist prejudice (the vaccine was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, for god’s sake!, an concept that is toxic to the US drug industry), or just Washington stupidity. But then, if Boyle is right, then the Pentagon may not really have been all that interested in finding a vaccine, but rather was focussed on doing covert research on bioweapons, including Ebola.
It may seem hard to swallow the idea that your government could be contemplating such awful weapons, but let’s remember that the US is the country that continues to insist on its right to strew highly toxic and carcinogenic depleted uranium dust all over countries it invades or bombs, like Afghanistan, Syria and especially Iraq (according to a new report by David Swanson, the Obama administration is sending DU-armed aircraft to the Middle East again, evidently for use in its attacks on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, as if it hadn’t spread enough of the stuff across the desert already).
As well, the US stands credibly accused of having deployed germ weapons in Cuba, Nicaragua and East Germany over the years, and perhaps in other places too.
And there was one other article in the New York Times — this one pulled, oddly, after it made it into the first edition of the paper on October 17. It reported that President Obama, “Prompted by controversy over dangerous research and recent laboratory accidents,” had announced that he was temporarily halting “all new funding for experiments that seek to study certain infectious agents by making them more dangerous.” He asked those scientists already doing such government-funded research to “voluntarily halt” their work during this moratorium. Could this be a backhanded admission, or at least hint, that something like that might have been done to the Zaire Ebola strain that is circulating now in west Africa?
Got that? Your government has been paying researchers to do genetic modification of dangerous pathogens like avian or pandemic flu strains, SARS…and hemorrhagic fever viruses like Ebola, to make them more deadly and/or more easily transmitted!
A big problem is that this administration is and has been the most secretive since at least the post-Cointelpro reforming of the Freedom of Information Act, with the government under President Obama not just refusing to release information to journalists and the public, but resorting to aggressively pursuing and jailing whistleblowers, and even charging and jailing some under the wretched Espionage Act of 1917, and also threatening journalists themselves with jail, like James Risen of the New York Times.
As former Reagan administration Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts says, given that level of secrecy and prosecution of leakers, it behoves us as journalists and as news readers to be ready to believe the worst of this government of ours.
I believe that while Professor Boyle may in the end prove to have been an alarmist about what this Ebola outbreak really is, and to have been wrong that the US government was behind it, either through deliberate testing gone wrong or because of an accident at an African lab, he is right to raise the issues he’s raising.
Because giving this country’s historic track record, he also might be right.
The dark force of ISIS is apparently an invincible and unstoppable war juggernaut that is mercilessly killing and conquering in pursuit of establishing an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In reality, however, it is not as out of control as it appears. It is, indeed, carefully controlled and managed by its creators and supporters, that is, by the United States and its allies in the region—those who now pretend to have established a coalition to fight it! The U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other allies in the region do not really need to fight ISIS to (allegedly) destroy it; all they need to do to extinguish its hellish flames is stop supplying fuel for its fire, that is, stop supplying it with funds, mercenaries, military training and armaments.
There are many ways to show the fact that, in subtle ways, ISIS benefactors control its operations and direct its activities in accordance with their own geopolitical interests. One way is to pay attention to its purported mission: to dismantle the corrupt and illegitimate regimes in Iraq and Syria and replace them with a “pure” Islamic state under the rule of a “pious caliphate.” Despite this professed mission to fight the dictatorial regimes that have tarnished Islam, however, ISIS does not question the most corrupt, dictatorial and illegitimate regimes in the region—such as the Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Jordanian regimes that fund and arm its operations.
Another way is to compare ISIS’s attack (in early August) on the Iraqi Kurds in Irbil with its current attack on the Syrian Kurds in Kobani. When Irbil came under attack by ISIS, the U.S. unleashed the full force of its air power in concert with the Kurdish peshmerga fighters to repel the attack.
By contrast, while the Kurdish city of Kobani in Northern Syria is being attacked by the disproportionately better armed forces of ISIS, and thousands of its besieged residents face certain mass killings if it falls, the forces of the “coalition to fight ISIS” are watching—in effect, playing a game of hide-and-seek, or perhaps trick-or-treat, with ISIS—as the outgunned and out-manned Kurdish forces are valiantly fighting to the death against the attackers. Only occasionally the coalition forces carry out bombing missions that seem to be essentially theatrical, or just for the record.
So, why are the Kurds in Kobani treated differently than those in Irbil? I find Ajamu Baraka’s answer to this question quite insightful:
“The reason why the Kurds of Kobani are to be sacrificed stems from the fact that they are the wrong kind of Kurds. Masoud Barzani and the bourgeois Kurds of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) are the “good Kurds” and the predominant force among the Kurds of Iraq. Their control of almost 45% of Iraqi oil reserves and the booming business that they have been involved in with U.S. oil companies and Israel since their ‘liberation’ with the U.S. invasion makes them a valued asset for the U.S. The same goes for Turkey where despite the historic oppression of Kurds in Turkey, the government does a robust business with the Kurds of Iraq” (Source).
While the U.S., Turkey and their allies in the region do not view KDP as a threat to their geopolitical plans (at least for now), they do so when it comes to the “bad” Kurds in the self-governing area in Northern Syria, led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG). Contrary to KDP that tends to shun the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey in order not to antagonize the Turks, the United States and their allies in the region, YPG welcomes support from PKK in its fight against ISIS.
Turkey’s overriding interest in Syria is not so much against ISIS as it is against the Syrian Kurds, as well as the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad; because the rabidly anti-Kurd regime in Ankara fears that the weakened regime of Assad may not be able to do away with the self-governing Kurds in Kobani and the surrounding Kurdish areas. The Turkish regime is concerned that if the Kobani Kurds succeed in fending off the ISIS forces, their success and their experience of self-government in the Kobani region, may serve as a tempting model of self-rule for the 15-million Kurds in Turkey. The Turks are also concerned that the success of the Syrian Kurds against ISIS would thwart their long-harbored ambitions to occupy and/or annex the oil-rich Kurdish region in Northern Syria—hence their insistence on a buffer or no-fly zone in that region.
This helps explain why the Turkish regime insists that the overthrow of the Assad regime must take precedence over the fight against ISIS. It also explains why it is feverishly trying to prevent the Kurdish volunteers to cross its border with Syria to help the besieged Kobani defenders against the brutal ISIS attack—in effect, helping ISIS against the Kurds. The inaction or half-hearted action of the United States in the face of the preventable slaughter of the Syrian Kurds, which makes it complicit in the carnage, can be explained by its political horse-trading with Turkey in exchange for the Turks’ collaboration with the pursuit of its imperialistic interests in the region.
The U.S. approach to ISIS would be better understood when it is viewed in the context of its overall objectives in the region—and beyond. That overriding objective, shared and reinforced by its client states, is to undermine or eliminate “the axis of resistance,” consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and, to a lesser extent, Shia forces in Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Achievement of this goal would also be achievement of another, even broader, goal: undermining Russia’s influence and alliances in the region and, by extension, in other parts of the world—for example, its critically important role within both the Shanghai Cooperation Council (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).
To intervene in order to achieve these goals, the U.S. and its allies need pretexts and/or enemies—even if it means inventing or manufacturing such enemies. Without ISIS, resumption of U.S. military operations in Iraq and extension of those operations into Syria would have been difficult to justify to the American people. A year or so ago, the Obama administration’s drive to attack Syria was thwarted by the opposition from the American people and, therefore, the U.S. congress. The rise of ISIS quickly turned that opposition to support.
Viewed in this light, ISIS can be seen as essentially another (newly manufactured) instrument in the tool-box of U.S. foreign policy, which includes “global terrorism,” the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, weapons of mass destruction, Iran’s nuclear technology, Al-Qaeda, and many other radical Islamic groupings—all by-products of, or blowbacks to, imperialistic U.S. foreign policies.
Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion
In mainstream political commentary, urgency is key. When crises arise – or linger – those in the media, in tandem with politicians and think tank apparatchiks, urge the government to do something, to act, oftentimes by military means. Drop bombs here! Send weapons to those groups there!
In his latest column for The Daily Beast, veteran journalist and Voice of America broadcaster Jamie Dettmer reports that the Obama administration’s plan to train and arm rebels in Syria to defeat ISIS and, consequently, force Bashar al-Assad to negotiate an end to the ongoing civil war is effectively a fantasy.
“The rebels are squabbling among themselves as suspicions rage about American designs and intentions,” Dettmer writes, adding later that “rebel commanders” complain “that U.S. neglect and Washington’s refusal to arm them with advanced weaponry deprived them of the leverage to discipline fighters and to keep them loyal and to halt defections to jihadist groups.”
So what does Dettmer propose? Well, nothing at all. But his headline writers, in their infinite wisdom and perhaps most favored refrain, insist that “time is running out.”
Of course, when there’s no real plan, military solution, or political will to solve an international conundrum or overcome an diplomatic impasse, rhetorical expediency tells us that time is always running out. We’ve heard it for decades from Afghanistan to Iran to Iraq to Lebanon to Palestine. Shout it from the rooftops: Time is running out!
For over three years, we’ve heard the same about Syria. Here are some highlights:
The Daily Beast, October 30, 2014:
The Hill, October 1 , 2014:
The Times (UK), January 13, 2014:
New York Times, September 14, 2013:
The Hill, September 3, 2013:
CNN, September 2, 2013:
CNN, August 22, 2013:
CNN, July 3, 2013:
European Commission, April 23, 2013:
Washington Post, March 18, 2013:
Foreign Policy, December 19, 2012:
Ha’aretz, August 7, 2012:
National Journal, August 6 2012:
NBC Nightly News, July 8, 2012:
ABC News, June 30, 2012:
Reuters, May 31, 2012:
Associated Press, April 25, 2012:
Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2012:
The Times of Israel, February 24, 2012:
New York Times, February 6, 2012:
The Economist, November 19, 2011:
Reuters, July 1, 2011:
In a move that watchdog groups are calling an unconstitutional power grab, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly looking to rewrite the espionage rulebook, giving it the authority to hack into computers at home and abroad.
With little public debate and congressional oversight on the issue, the FBI appears set to make the fourth amendment to the Constitution wholly redundant, which protects Americans against “illegal searches and seizures,” The Guardian reported.
The Department of Justice will present its case on November 5 to the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules.
“This is a giant step forward for the FBI’s operational capabilities, without any consideration of the policy implications. To be seeking these powers at a time of heightened international concern about US surveillance is an especially brazen and potentially dangerous move,” Ahmed Ghappour, an expert in computer law at the University of California, who will participate in next week’s meeting, told the Guardian.
Ghappour warned the passage of the new legislation would represent the greatest expansion of “extraterritorial surveillance abilities since the FBI’s inception.” He told the British daily that “for the first time the courts will be asked to issue warrants allowing searches outside the country.”
Concerning the threat of damaging America’s diplomatic relations, already wobbly following the Snowden revelations, Ghappour went on to add that in “the age of cyber attacks, this sort of thing can scale up pretty quickly.”
Presently, the FBI is reasonably restricted in its power to hack into domestic computers, requiring it to be granted court approval by judges working in the region where the surveillance will occur. The amendments that the domestic spy agency is seeking, however, would give judge’s the legal authority to issue a warrant to the FBI in a “district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means.”
Moreover, the amendments – something internet watchdog groups have been warning might eventually happen – would apply to all criminal cases, not just those related to “terrorists.”
In euphemistic terms, the new surveillance powers the FBI is seeking are known as “network investigative techniques,” which allows malware to be exported to a targeted computer, thereby giving agents nearly full control over the machine – even allowing it to conduct surveillance on any other computers within the user’s social group.
“This is an extremely invasive technique,” Chris Soghoian, principal technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Guardian. “We are talking here about giving the FBI the green light to hack into any computer in the country or around the world.”
Just this week, Soghoian obtained documents from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that in 2007 the FBI had planted a bogus Seattle Times/Associated Press story on a criminal suspect’s computer as a ploy to export the spyware onto the computer.
Soghoian underscored the feelings of many watchdog groups when he emphasized that next week’s hearing “should not be the first public forum for discussion of an issue of this magnitude.”
US military spending has dramatically surged, reaching its fastest rate in the past five years despite the planned withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.
According to a new report by the US Commerce Department on Thursday, the military spending for the third-quarter of this year has increased by 16 percent.
Experts believe while the surge in the military spending could be attributed to several causes, the military action in the Middle East against the ISIL terrorist group is a major contributing factor.
The anti-ISIL operations have forced the Pentagon to spend more money on missiles and ammunition and support a larger military presence there.
According to figures released by the Defense Department, the new military actions in Syria and parts of Iraq will cost roughly 10 million dollars a day.
There are also speculations that the Obama administration has increased the military spending to inflate the figures of economic growth ahead of the November elections.
The projected figure on US economic growth for the third quarter is 3.5 percent, more than the predicted 3 percent with military spending being mentioned as the cause.
The New York Police Department has detained prominent peace activist and former CIA agent Ray McGovern, with witnesses saying he was “yelling in pain” during arrest. McGovern was detained ahead of a David Petraeus speech that he planned to attend.
McGovern was detained before the start of a talk between former CIA director David Petraeus, retired US Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, and author Max Boot on American Foreign Policy at the 92nd St Y., an Upper East Side cultural community center.
Anti-war group ‘The World Can’t Wait’ said the activist was arrested “at protest of speech.” He was reportedly prevented by security from entering, charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct, and will not be arraigned until Friday. The group has called for McGovern’s release on Twitter and Facebook.
The World Can’t Wait alleged on Twitter that McGovern was “brutalized” by the NYPD and later reported “screams coming from backroom” where the activist was being held. RT has contacted the NYPD who have yet to respond to allegations.
It appeared that the activist was detained even before entering the venue, despite having a ticket for the event.
Independent journalist and filmmaker Cat Watters was due to film McGovern during the talk, asking a question of Petraeus, but as she arrived she saw McGovern being arrested by police, telling them “I have a ticket!” Watters told RT that McGovern has a shoulder injury and was apparently yelling in pain during the arrest.
According to Watters, two members of World Can’t Wait, which asked her to film, were to hang a banner from balcony written with the words “War Criminal Iraq Afghanistan” and covered with handprints in red ink – however, McGovern was not going to take part in this action.
“He [Ray] doesn’t cause a ruckus. He asks questions. He stands up and turns his back,” Watters described the protesters’ plan.
McGovern is a former CIA officer turned political activist. He worked with the agency for just under three decades, retiring in 1990. He was highly critical and public about President George W. Bush’s use of government intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq war. In 2006, he returned his Intelligence Commendation Medal in protest against the CIA’s involvement in torture.
Climate depression is real. Just ask a scientist. – Madeleine Thomas
Wow. Here I was, hard at work on my long promised post on clouds, and I spotted this article on twitter. Much easier to write about this one than about clouds.
At Grist, Madeleine Thomas has penned an article Climate depression is real. Just ask a scientist. Excerpts:
Two years ago, Camille Parmesan, a professor at Plymouth University and the University of Texas at Austin, became so “professionally depressed” that she questioned abandoning her research in climate change entirely.
“I felt like here was this huge signal I was finding and no one was paying attention to it,” Parmesan says. “I was really thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’” She ultimately packed up her life here in the States and moved to her husband’s native United Kingdom.
“In the U.S., [climate change] isn’t well-supported by the funding system, and when I give public talks in the U.S., I have to devote the first half of the talk to [the topic] that climate change is really happening,” says Parmesan, now a professor at Plymouth University in England.
From depression to substance abuse to suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, growing bodies of research in the relatively new field of psychology of global warming suggest that climate change will take a pretty heavy toll on the human psyche as storms become more destructive and droughts more prolonged.
“I don’t know of a single scientist that’s not having an emotional reaction to what is being lost,” Parmesan is quoted saying in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2012 report, “The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States: And Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System is Not Adequately Prepared.”
Lise Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist based in Washington, D.C. — and co-author of the National Wildlife Federation’s report — calls this emotional reaction “pre-traumatic stress disorder,” a term she coined to describe the mental anguish that results from preparing for the worst, before it actually happens.
What’s even more deflating for a climate scientist is when sounding the alarm on climatic catastrophes seems to fall on deaf ears. “How would that make you feel? You take this information to someone and they say they don’t believe you, as if it’s a question of beliefs,” says Jeffrey Kiehl, senior scientist for climate change research at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. “I’m not talking about religion here, I’m talking about facts.”
“I could imagine that if scientists start to talk about how they’re feeling about the issue and how emotional they’re feeling about the issue, those who are critical about climate change would seize that information and use it in any way they could to say that we should reject their science,” Kiehl says.
It’s only natural then that many climate scientists and activists often feel an extreme pressure to keep their emotions in check, even when out of the spotlight.
“You don’t just start talking about unbelievably fast sea-level rise at a cocktail party at a friend’s house,” Tidwell says. “So having to deny the emotional need to talk about what’s on your mind all the time … those are some of the burdens that climate aware scientists and activists have to endure. But nobody talks about how it makes them feel personally.”
So how does a climate scientist handle the stress? Van Susteren offers several “climate trauma survival tips” for those in the field. Meditation and therapy are two, as are taking particular care to reinforce boundaries between work and one’s personal life. But she also says being honest is just as important. “[Don’t] believe that you are invulnerable,” she writes. “In fact, admitting what you are going through makes you more resilient.”
And a dose of honesty may be more than just therapeutic. Some real talk about how we’re all screwed may be just what the climate movement needs. “Forgive my language here, but if scientists are looking for a clearer language to express the urgency of climate change, there’s no clearer word that expresses that urgency than FUCK,” [Grist's Brentin] Mock writes.
Perhaps it’s time for those deeply involved in climate science to come forward about the emotional struggle, or at the very least, for those in mental health research and support to start exploring climate change psychology with more fervor.
“There’s a taboo talking about it,” Lertzman says, adding that the tight-lipped culture of the scientific community can be difficult to bridge. “The field of the psychology of climate change is still very, very young … I believe there are profound and not well-recognized or understood psychological implications of what I would call being a frontliner. There needs to be a lot more attention given to frontliners and where they’re given support.”
Oh my, where to start with this one. Lets try this:
I feel your pain. Circa 2007 I felt the same way you did, and ran around turning off lights and unplugging things, feeling really uncomfortable about the carbon footprint of myself and my surroundings. But then I woke up as a scientist and realized that my belief in dangerous anthropogenic climate change was second order belief – based on the IPCC consensus. That is, I believed in the consensus without having done a real detailed assessment of my own. Then when climategate triggered me to closely examine everything, notably the IPCC’s attribution argument, I realized that the fingerprints were ‘muddy’, the climate models are running too hot, the forcing data is uncertain, no account is made for multidecadal and longer internal variability, and they have no explanation for the warming 1910-1940, the cooling 1940-1976, and the hiatus since 1998. Once you raise questions about 20th century attribution, then your angst about impacts that you think are attributable to AGW becomes much less justified.
In terms of tips, try reading some literature on history, philosophy and sociology of science – you will become more humble as a scientist and less likely to believe your own hype. Read Richard Feynman. Hang out at Climate Etc. Listen seriously to a serious skeptic.
If these strategies don’t work, try learning about aberrant psychologies, such as the God complex and paranoia and look in the mirror (there are probably others, but I don’t know that much psychology myself).
And also inform yourself about psychological hardiness (something I learned from days at U. Chicago and hanging out with grad students in Salvatore Maddi’s group). Excerpt from Wikipedia:
The coping style most commonly associated with hardiness is that of transformational coping, an optimistic style of coping that transforms stressful events into less stressful ones. At the cognitive level this involves setting the event into a broader perspective in which they do not seem so terrible after all. At the level of action, individuals high in hardiness are believed to react to stressful events by increasing their interaction with them, trying to turn them into an advantage and opportunity for growth, and in the process achieve some greater understanding.
The ‘pre-traumatic stress’ thing clicked a link in my mind to my old U. of Chicago pal Colonel Paul Bartone, a military psychologist and a member of the hardiness group. The following paper seems relevant: A Model for Soldier Psychological Adaptation in Peacekeeping Operations. I think these concepts are relevant for what is going on with Parmesan et al. Seems like skeptics are more hardy?
The psychology of all this is probably pretty interesting, and worthy of more investigation. But Jeff Kiehl is right – whining scientists aren’t going to help either the science or their ’cause.’
Two Royal Air Force jets reportedly threatened to shoot down a Latvian cargo plane, rushing at supersonic speeds to intercept it, after the plane failed to respond to air traffic control over Kent in Southern England and sent authorities into panic mode.
“I am instructed by Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom to warn you that, if you do not respond immediately to my orders, you will be shot down,” radioed one of the jets, according to an audio recording circulating in UK media.
The incident occurred at about 5pm local time after the Latvian Antonov An-26 aircraft failed to make contact with air traffic controllers.
British Typhoons were tasked with intercepting the cargo plane. “To fulfill their quick reaction role, they were cleared to travel at supersonic speed,” an RAF spokesperson said, adding that the speed explains the loud noise people heard in the air.
Many locals took to Twitter, describing how their houses shook after the loud bangs.
Communications with the civilian pilots were restored only after the jets intercepted the plane.
The Latvian plane was then escorted to London’s Stansted Airport at around 5:20 pm “All three people who were on board have been spoken to by police,” AP quoted Essex Police spokeswoman Emma Thomas as saying. “It was established that everything was in order and the reason for the short loss of communication was due to a change in airspace jurisdiction.”
Russian planes everywhere
The excitement surrounding the intercept – apparently based on post-9/11 terrorist attack fears – came amid a heightened terror alert in the UK at the time of the allied military campaign against the Islamic State.
Media reports mirrored the panic frenzy triggered by the incident, but in a peculiar way: first saying that the cargo plane was “Russian” and then switching to a “Russian-made” reference.
Both takes were wrong: the Antonov design bureau, the producer of An-26 planes, is a Ukrainian company founded in Soviet times, and the plane in question belonged to a Latvian-registered company, ironically called RAF-Avia.
However, the British media seemingly capitalized on the latest NATO reports of “unusual” increased activity of Russian military aircrafts over the Atlantic and the Black Sea.
NATO stated that it has intercepted four groups of Russian planes since Tuesday. “These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace,” the alliance said.
Most media reports based on the NATO statement failed to mention that the Russian planes did not cross any borders and remained within international airspace in every mentioned case.
Four Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers were spotted participating in a military exercise over the Norwegian Sea early on Wednesday. “We see Russian aircraft near our airspace on a regular basis but what was unusual is that it was a large number of aircraft and pushed further south than we normally see,” Reuters quoted a Norwegian military spokesman as saying.
In another incident on Wednesday, two Tu-95s were being monitored by Turkish aircraft over the Black Sea.