Experts regard all this as an attempt by Washington to economically undermine the EU
The ongoing US pressure on the European Union, Turkey, Japan, China and India to halt imports of Iranian oil and suspend any related financial transactions is facing resistance by oil importing companies and nations.
Last week India and Turkey refused to sign up to a proposed embargo on the import of Iranian crude, just days after the same had been announced by China.
Moreover, just as the EU is bracing itself for a decision on halting Iranian oil imports it will have to make on January 23, a number of Western companies are hastily extending their contracts with Iranian partners to avoid being hit by the proposed sanctions.
In an affront to Washington, India and Turkey have said although they would comply with the standing UN sanctions against Tehran, they would ignore oil embargoes introduced by individual countries. Iranian oil accounts for just under 10 percent of India’s needs and a hefty 30 percent of Turkish imports.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, dispatched to drum up support for the proposed US oil embargo, had a bit more luck in Tokyo where he was assured that Japan would cut down its imports of Iranian crude. After the EU, China is the world’s third biggest buyer of Iranian oil. South Korea, which is buying about as much Iranian oil as India, is still undecided on whether or not to stand by Washington on this matter. A Moscow-based expert, Alexander Salitsky, still believes that Americans will eventually succeed in bringing South Koreans on board, just like they did with Japan.
But despite siding with the US on the matter, Japan and South Korea are still facing growing domestic discontent over their role as ‘junior partners’ to the American Big Brother. Even if they join in the sanctions, the sanctions are unlikely to succeed. As for China and India, they will keep importing Iranian oil, which means that America is losing its sway in Asia.
It looks like during their planned meeting on Monday EU foreign ministers will decide to stop buying Iranian oil, which is going to be a hard call for many of them. Another option is that by joining the US embargo per se, the EU will take its time implementing it as they will need a while to find a new supplier, says Lyudmila Kulagina, another Moscow-based expert.
“The US-proposed embargo will certainly add to Europeans’ economic woes, forcing them to look for new sources of much-needed oil supply which won’t be easy…”
Some experts regard all this as an attempt by Washington to play the Iranian oil card to economically undermine the EU which, unlike America, imports up to 40 percent of its crude oil from Iran. Vladislav Belov from the Institute of European Studies in Moscow disagrees.
“The ongoing global recession is playing right into the hands of the US and the EU by bringing down the overall demand for oil and gas… However, the US might eventually feel the pinch if the embargo sends oil prices up. In any case, I don’t believe Washington is actually using the proposed sanctions as a means of pressuring Europeans with the prospect of a possible oil deficit…”
In any event, if the US succeeds in pulling the plug on Iranian oil imports, even incrementally, Tehran will apparently try offering additional supplies to either China or India whose economies remain the main drivers of global economic growth. Turkey too could jack up its oil imports with an eye to partially reselling them to European buyers.
From: Stephen Sniegoski
This is my recent piece on Gingrich and Adelson. After Gingrich’s major victory in South Carolina, this connection is very significant, but the mainstream media barely touches on the Israel aspect.
Gingrich’s Major Backer Arch-Zionist Sheldon Adelson
Gingrich’s faltering presidential campaign was completely resuscitated by a 5 million donation from Las Vegas casino king and super-Zionist Sheldon Adelson. (According to Wikipedia, Adelson is currently the 8th wealthiest American and 16th wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of $23.3 billion.) Rising from the ashes, Gingrich now has won the South Carolina primary and has a decent chance of becoming the Republican presidential nominee.
Adelson has been the major backer of Gingrich for some time. A Washington Post article on the Adelson-Gingrich connection (though kept out of the first section of the paper) states: “Perhaps no other major presidential candidate in recent times has had his fortunes based so squarely on the contributions of a single donor, as Gingrich has on Adelson, who has spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes over the past five years.”
As the Washington Post article points out, Adelson and his Israeli-born wife, Miriam, have spent time and money lobbying for a bill to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Gingrich has promised that his first executive order as president would be the embassy move.
Adelson is an ardent Zionist. Since 2007 the Adelson Family Foundation has made contributions totaling $100 million to Birthright Israel, which finances Jewish youth trips to Israel, Adelson is such a hard-line Zionist that he even stopped supporting AIPAC when it appeared to support a 2007 peace initiative championed by Olmert, President Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In 2009, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which is a hard-line Zionist group that wants Israel to retain the occupied territories and expand the Jewish settlements, presented Adelson its most distinguished and historic award, the Theodor Herzl Gold Medallion for outstanding achievement in Zionism. His wife received the Louis D. Brandeis Award. The couple now have their names on one of ZOA’s major awards, the Dr. Miriam & Sheldon Adelson Defender of Israel Award.
Adelson is intimately involved in Israeli politics. Since 2007, Adelson has owned a daily newspaper in Israel called Israel Hayom, which distributed free of charge, has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the country. The newspaper is ultra-supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to whom Adelson is a close ideological ally and personal friend. The newspaper also has been doing much to promote Gingrich.
It should be recalled that Gingrich was so extreme as to recently say that the Palestinians are an “invented people.” Shortly thereafter, Adelson said that Gingrich had been completely correct. In an address at a Hanukkah celebration in Israel for hundreds of youths visiting that country as part of the Taglit Birthright (Birthright Israel) program (which Adelson funds), Adelson stated: “Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and you will hear why [Newt] Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people. There are a number of Palestinians who will recognize the truth of this statement.” He appealed to the Jewish youths to “speak in support of Israel” when they returned to their countries.
When on the NBC show Rock Center, Ted Koppel asked Gingrich about the reason for Adelson’s support, Gingrich was quite frank: “He knows I’m very pro Israel. That’s the central value of his life. I mean, he’s very worried that Israel is going to not survive.”
If Israel is the “central value” of Adelson’s life (which certainly appears to be true), he is one Jewish American who cannot be accused of having a “dual loyalty.” His loyalty is truly singular!
Like most American conservatives, Gingrich purports to identify with the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, but catering to a person with a view such as Adelson’s puts Gingrich in a position completely opposite to that of George Washington, who, in his Farewell Address of 1796, warned Americans of the grave danger of those who had a “passionate attachment” to a foreign country.
While the mainstream media has focused on the negative effects of big money super pacs, and shows no particular fondness for Gingrich, it makes little reference to his major patron’s identification with Israel. In fact, Rachel Maddow and Michael Isikoff even managed to offer a critical presentation of Adelson’s financing of Gingrich without any reference to Israel.
Even the Washington Post’s article on Adelson was not in the major, news section of the paper. And there was no follow up on the NBC program to Gringrich’s response about his major patron’s fundamental concern being Israel—“the central value of his life.” The fact of the matter is that the impact of the Israel lobby on American politics is a taboo issue in the United States mainstream.
When the Republican presidential candidates (Ron Paul being the exception) have talked about foreign policy, it often seems that they are running for the top spot in the Israeli Likud Party, rather than President of the United States of America. Consequently, it is difficult for any candidate to outdo his competitors. However, Sheldon Adelson’s financial backing of Gingrich would seem to indicate that he is the best candidate from the standpoint of the Israeli Right. And Gingrich might go a little farther than his competitors since he even suggests clemency for Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Adelson’s money enabled Gingrich to win South Carolina, and Adelson could put much more into Gingrich’s campaign. With such financial support, Gingrich might be able to gain the Republican presidential nomination, but it would seem that he has too much baggage to actually defeat Obama, at least this is the conventional wisdom–though stranger things have happened. Nonetheless, having pro-Israel Republican candidates led by Gingrich pushes Obama in a more pro-Israel direction, which entails a harder US line toward Iran. No matter what happens in the US presidential election, therefore, US Middle East policy will be improved from the Likudnik perspective. And this is Sheldon Adelson’s objective.
HEBRON – Soldiers ransacked the office of a Palestinian community center in Hebron on Saturday and arrested the coordinator of a local coalition group.
Issa Amr, leader of a group called Youth Against Settlements, was blindfolded and detained.
“Soldiers took me to a military base in Tel Rumeida, they handcuffed and blindfolded me where I was brutally beaten for no reason. They also threatened to kill me, and settlers spat on me several times.
Then they chanted hate slogans and things like ‘each Arab dog will have its day’. After that, soldiers steered me in the streets as they chanted that Golani battalion is the best in the Israeli army,” Issa Amr told Ma’an after he was released.
The Sumud and Tahaddi, or Steadfastness and Challenge, Center has been threatened by soldiers and settlers for years, he said.
Around 800 Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians in the parts of the ancient city of Hebron that are under Israeli control.
Routine settler abuse of the Palestinian community in Hebron includes physical assault, stone throwing, throwing waste water and gunfire.
The Israeli human rights group BT’selem says there is a “systematic failure” to protect Palestinians from settler attacks in Hebron, with Israeli soldiers often witnessing violent assaults without intervening.
MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd gave an interview to the New York Times yesterday, in which “Mr. Dodd said he would welcome a summit meeting between Internet companies and content companies, perhaps convened by the White House, that could lead to a compromise.” While framed by the Times as his acceptance of defeat (the MPAA had rejected a prior meeting), the article shows that Dodd still doesn’t get it.
The former Senator hopes for a return to the traditional levers of power, where the laws are written by lobbyists, and sold by back-room deals negotiated behind closed doors. He wants to frame the debate as the comfortable story of a dispute between companies in Silicon Valley and companies in Hollywood, that would doubtless be resolved on the basis of who’s more connected or has better lobbying budgets ‒ or so he hopes.
It wasn’t the technology companies who broke the back of PIPA and SOPA. To be sure, Internet companies played a critical role ‒ Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, Craigslist and over a hundred thousand other websites changed their home pages, informed their users about the bills and facilitated the users’ communications to Congress.
But the dramatic and unprecedented sea change in opposition to blacklist legislation on the Hill came about because of the users themselves. Millions of users ‒ and voters ‒ like you spoke as one, and demanded that freedom of the Internet not be sacrificed on the altar of outdated business models. The opposition was grassroots, not astroturf.
Now that the proponents of SOPA/PIPA have blinked, and taken the bills back to committee, there will be calls to come to a “compromise.” But there is no need to assume that legislation is necessary. As we discuss the future of the Internet, all stakeholders, including the people who use Internet services and consume (and create and share) movies and music, must have a seat at the table. The internet is too important to be debated, dissected and possibly disabled in a private meeting.
RAMALLAH — The facebook controllers erased a solidarity page protesting Israel’s arbitrary detention of Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan who has undergone open hunger strike since the first day of his arrest.
Facebook claimed the page was blocked because it was used to incite against Israel.
Information technology expert Ali Sa’eed said Zionist parties could be behind this unjust facebook decision.
He noted it was not the first time, facebook blocked pages supporting the Palestinian national cause and called for reopening other facebook pages to challenge its racist behavior.
The government of Greece has submitted its request to the European Union to ease the forthcoming ban on importing Iran’s oil by EU member states.
The EU decision to ban Iran’s oil imports comes after US President Barack Obama signed into law on December 31, 2011, new sanctions which aim to penalize other countries for dealing with Iran’s Central Bank or importing the country’s crude oil, Antiwar website reported.
The EU is expected to hold its summit meeting on Monday, January 23, to make a final decision on proposed embargo on Iran’s oil exports.
EU representatives failed in their latest meeting in Brussels on Thursday to reach an agreement on the details of a planned embargo on Iran’s oil exports and a final decision on the ban is to be raised at the meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.
The EU members, however, remain divided over several issues, primarily the length of a planned grace period that would allow states heavily dependent on Iranian oil to fulfill existing contracts for a period after the ban went into place.
Some EU members are seeking grace periods of between one and 12 months to allow them to find alternative supplies. Greece, which depends heavily on Iranian crude, is pushing for the longest delay while Britain, France, the Netherlands and Germany say they need a maximum period of three months.
EU governments will be prohibited from making new contracts with Iran from the time the embargo is imposed, but can purchase crude previously contracted. This exemption will end on July 1, 2012.
EU countries buy about 500,000 barrels per day of Iran’s oil, making the Union one of the largest markets for Iranian crude.
MOSCOW – Some three hundred nuclear time bombs are to cross the vast expanses of Russia within the next dozen years as Moscow embarks on its plan to send special-purpose trains with spent nuclear fuel (SNF) burnt at the country’s commercial reactors to a storage facility in Siberia. That’s the “solution” the nuclear industry has come up with for the ever mounting problem of nuclear waste – take it cross-country and pile it up where it will threaten the environment and public health for generations to come.
The first train bound for Krasnoyarsk Region in Central Siberia – where a repository is being built for both Russia- and foreign-produced nuclear waste – will carry spent nuclear fuel generated at Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), a site near Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg, in the country’s northwest.
The date of departure – the first in a large-scale series of shipments devised to scoop up and stow away nuclear waste from all over the country – is being kept secret. The State Nuclear Corporation Rosatom plans to move some 22,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel to Siberia before 2025. This means three new trains loaded with dangerous waste – 300 shipments in total – will be arriving in the closed town of Zheleznogorsk, also known as Krasnoyarsk-26, every second month for the next thirteen years.
Shipments like these threaten the safety of residents of more than 15 large Russian cities that will happen to be on the way, urban centers like the Russian capital, Moscow, as well as St. Petersburg, Penza, Samara, Kirov, Perm, Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Omsk, Novosibirsk and so on – virtually every industrial hub on Russia’s enormous map. Even though the shipping routes have not been disclosed, simple logic suggests moving trains loaded with cargoes as massive and logistically sensitive as these will require major railroads – such as those that involve stations, links, and depots serving heavy-traffic areas.
Nuclear transports as a whole present a particular risk for both the population at large and, specifically, those railroad personnel who may find themselves working in the vicinity of cargoes emitting high levels of radiation. As the Russian tradition holds, no warnings are issued in such cases to caution against potential danger – the usual cross-your-finger approach dictates it’s going to be just fine. All three hundred times. But there is the risk of radioactive contamination that could occur in case of an accident – brought on either by the poor condition of Russia’s railroads or as a result of a malicious act. (In 2009, a homemade bomb planted on the tracks derailed a passenger train on the country’s busiest route – the Moscow-St. Petersburg link, favored by government and business elites – constituting one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Russia’s recent history outside of the volatile Caucasus region). And this not even taking into account that the transportation of these radioactive materials will be overseen by a chain of agencies whose expertise hardly includes dealing with issues related to nuclear safety: Russia’s railway network and other transport services, as well as a variety of regional authorities.
Spent nuclear fuel is the most hazardous kind of radioactive waste nuclear power plants produce. It contains plutonium, an isotope with a half-life of 24,000 years. The nuclear industry vehemently objects to this material being referred to as waste, arguing it is instead a valuable resource that can be used again as fuel after reprocessing – a highly questionable process that itself generates hundreds of times more radioactive waste as a result.
Meanwhile, Russian law speaks clearly to this issue: If nuclear material cannot be put to further use, then it is waste. Incidentally, the better part of the SNF Rosatom plans to move to Siberia has been burnt in reactors of the RBMK-1000 series – the same type that blew up in Chernobyl and remains in operation at three nuclear power plants in Russia, the site near St. Petersburg and Kursk and Smolensk NPPs, in Western Russia. But not only does Russia possess no technological capacity to reprocess spent fuel of this type, it furthermore has no plans to build any soon, for reasons of exorbitant costs. The very idea is simply economically indefensible. In fact, of the 33 reactors in operation in Russia, only seven currently produce spent nuclear fuel that lends itself to reprocessing.
To be sure, Rosatom’s continued operations imply that the so-called “dry” storage facility slated for completion at the Mining and Chemical Combine in Krasnoyark-26 will in fact be a nuclear repository set to remain there for many thousands of years: The plutonium alone will remain highly hazardous for 10 half-life periods – a quarter of a million years. In other words, one stroke of Rosatom’s pen forces the residents of Krasnoyarsk Region to assume the risks created by the sixty-five years of the nuclear industry’s development.
It is likewise not customary practice in Russia to first inquire of the locals whether they mind living next door to a nuclear dumpsite of international proportions – no more so than it is to conduct a fair parliament election or warn of hazardous cargoes passing through a populated area. Previous attempts that a number of countries have undertaken at building nuclear repositories have inevitably fallen flat – quashed either by large-scale public protests or by prohibitive costs (or a combination of both). A great uncertainty thus remains in the United States, Germany, Japan, and other countries that have historically relied on commercial nuclear power as to what to do with their accumulated waste. This means the Krasnoyarsk site may in the long term become the go-to facility for foreign SNF producers wishing to be rid of their nuclear headaches, and plans to accommodate imported waste have been developed before. One such project, revealed by Ecodefense in 2001, was a study sponsored by the US Department of Energy for a US-funded program looking to employ the option of storage and eventual geologic disposal in Russia of spent fuel of US origin used in Taiwan.
Taking into account the significant safety hazard associated with nuclear waste, the less than state-of-the-art condition of Russian railroads, and the sometimes inadequate security en route, nuclear trains have all the makings to turn into a catastrophe waiting to happen – three hundred mobile Chernobyls that Rosatom, despite the obvious risks, would rather keep secret from the public. It falls, then, to environmentalists to fill this information gap.
What could we Russian citizens do? We could keep a Geiger counter ready at home and be generally prepared to protect ourselves from radioactive exposure. But most importantly… we could speak out against nuclear shipments in our regions. Make ourselves heard by local parliamentaries, government officials, and emergency services. Take our protest to the streets.
This is not a trifling matter. What we are dealing with is not a one-time nuclear delivery from point A to point B. At issue is a program that puts at risk the better part of the Russian territory for thirteen years. This program must be stopped as soon as possible – and that means putting our voices together for a clamorous public outcry. This is a simple choice we are facing – live a life of fear of a radiological disaster, or head out en masse to the railways to voice our protest and just maybe stop this madness from happening. It is our health and environment we need protecting – and it is our choice to make.
The nuclear industry is certainly not making this task any easier for us. Six decades into the peaceful atom’s history, the problem of nuclear waste still remains unsolved. No other industry in the world has produced so much dangerous and long-lived waste that has the capacity to inflict such harm to the environment and human health both now and throughout the next many thousands of years. Not to mention the gigantic financial burden that the storage of nuclear waste will place on the shoulders of thousands as-yet unborn generations. No one today is in any position to guarantee the safety of this waste thousands of years in advance, as the industry has simply not conceived of any way to efficiently remove the threat – but it will have to, at some point.
So instead of putting hundreds of Chernobyls-on-wheels in motion all over the country, the more reasonable option would be to leave the waste where it was produced – providing the highest level of safety possible to ensure against all eventualities. Equally reasonable would be to expect Rosatom to stop prolonging the operational life terms of old reactors or building new ones – and instead direct all efforts toward solving the problem of nuclear waste, not amassing it. The time to move the waste already accumulated must not be before we have a clear idea of how we can keep the public and the environment safe during the entire term this waste remains a menace.
Experts in the United States have established this period at one million years, but the US likewise lacks a definitive solution for the problem. And certainly, the dry storage facility in Krasnoyarsk-26 is not an answer, if only because it won’t last a thousandth of the time it will take to keep the waste safely isolated.
As it stands, Rosatom’s plan is nothing but travesty, a pitiful attempt at a solution that will only shift the burden of responsibility onto future generations – forcing the job of safeguarding the growing nuclear mess on our grandchildren, and our grandchildren’s grandchildren, and so on ad aeternum. This simply will not do.
Before the month of January is out, the US Department of Energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future will unveil the result of its two year-long investigation into what to do with the accumulated radioactive waste at the country’s nuclear power plants. By this year’s end, that waste will constitute a mountain 70 years high, with the first cupful generated on December 2, 1942 at the Fermi lab not far from Chicago when scientists first created a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.
There remains no viable solution for either the management or certainly the “disposal” of nuclear waste. Yet, the one recommendation that will not be contained in the DOE report is to stop making any more of it. While a child would never be allowed to continue piling up toys in his or her room indefinitely, failing to tidy up the mess, the nuclear industry continues to be permitted to manufacture some of the world’s most toxic detritus without a cleanup plan.
A sneak peak last July at the Commission’s draft report confirms that no new miracles are to be unveiled this month. Its preferred “solution” appears to be “centralized interim” storage, an allegedly temporary but potentially permanent parking lot dumpsite for highly radioactive waste that, based on past practices, will likely be targeted for an Indian reservation or a poor community of color. “Centralized interim” storage sites for the country’s irradiated reactor fuel rods could easily become permanent if no suitable geological repository site is found. It will mean transporting the waste from reactors predominantly located east of the Mississippi to a likely more remote, western location. And these wastes would then have to be moved again, transported past potentially 50 million homes, en route to a “permanent” dump site or for reprocessing.
Reprocessing, a chemical separation used extensively in France, creates enormous amounts of additional radioactive wastes that are discharged into the air and sea and a plutonium stockpile that could be diverted for nuclear weapons use. The Commission looks unlikely to recommend reprocessing for now but the DOE is still willing to squander tens to hundreds of millions of dollars a year of taxpayers’ money on research and development.
The repository debacle ended temporarily in 2011 with the wise cancelation of the scientifically flawed proposed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. But new moves are afoot to search for an alternative site with the granite states – such as Vermont, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Carolina – highly favored. The Blue Ribbon Commission may point to the granite repository currently under construction in Finland as the way forward. But as one Scandinavian official stated unforgettably in the haunting documentary, Into Eternity, that examines the implications for the future if the Finnish repository is ever completed – in reality, “nobody knows anything at all.”
Attempting to find a site that can store deadly radioactive waste for a million years – the amount of time that the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges the waste will remain hazardous – could indeed be beyond the scope of humanity for the foreseeable future. But advocates of dump sites, permanent or temporary, argue that something must be done with the waste already accumulated. Almost all reactor fuel pools are filled to capacity, necessitating “overflow parking” in outdoor casks on site: both are vulnerable to accidents, attacks, and natural disasters. If a cask wears down, no safe, sure plan yet exists to transfer the waste inside it to a new cask.
While failing to advocate a cessation of production until a radioactive waste disposal solution is found, the DOE has also consistently ignored the only reasonable interim option, one that is technically feasible and avoids the need to move the waste vast distances to unwelcome destinations. This is Hardened On-Site Storage or HOSS, endorsed by scientists and more than 200 environmental advocacy groups around the country. HOSS calls for emptying the fuel pools and placing the irradiated rods in high quality outdoor casks fortified by thick bunkers and berms. Safeguards, security, and monitoring would be designed to protect against leaks, accidents and attacks.
HOSS would buy time, necessary while we wait to see if scientific advances will ever deliver a safe, secure and enduring radioactive waste solution. But until such a time, generating more waste, and rushing it into repositories that likely would not shield their deadly cargo for the sufficient time while the isotopes and their containers decay, is a reckless decision that leaves a deadly legacy for future generations.
Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear, a Takoma Park, Maryland-based safe energy advocacy organization.