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Transform Now Plowshares action at Y-12 nuclear weapons complex

Disarm Now Plowshares | July 28, 2012

OAK RIDGE, TN – Early this morning three plowshares activists performed a disarmament action in response to Government plans to invest $80 billion to sustain and modernize the nuclear weapons complex.

Calling themselves Transform Now Plowshares, Michael R. Walli (63), Megan Rice (82), and Greg Boertje-Obed (57) entered the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility before dawn.

They released a faith-based statement saying, “A loving and compassionate Creator invites us to take the urgent and decisive steps to transform the U.S. empire, and this facility, into life-giving alternatives which resolve real problems of poverty and environmental degradation for all.”

The actors also delivered an indictment citing U.S. Constitutional and Treaty Law as well as the Nuremberg Principles:

“The ongoing building and maintenance of Oak Ridge Y-12 constitute war crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicial authorities at all levels. We are required by International Law to denounce and resist known crimes.”

This action is one of a long tradition of Plowshares disarmament actions in the US and around the world which challenge war-making and weapons of mass destruction.

At Y-12 NNSA plans to replace facilities for production and dismantlement of enriched uranium components with a new consolidated Uranium Processing Facility (UPF). It is budgeted to cost more than $6.5 billion.

Statement from Transform Plowshares activists about Y-12 nuclear weapons facility:

Oak Ridge Y-12 Indicted for War Crimes

Today, through our nonviolent action, we—Transform Now Plowshares—indict the U.S. government nuclear modernization program, including the new Uranium Processing Facility planned at Oak Ridge and the dedication of billions of public dollars to the continuation of the Y-12 facility.

WHEREAS, This program is an ongoing criminal endeavor in violation of international treaty law binding on the United States under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article VI):

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

WHEREAS, The United States is bound by the United Nation’s Charter, ratified and signed in 1945. Its preamble affirms that its purpose is to “save future generations from the scourge of war”. It directs that “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation”. Article II regards the threat to use nuclear weapons as ongoing international criminal activity.

WHEREAS, The Nuremberg Principles, also promulgated in 1945, primarily by the U.S., prohibit crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. They render nuclear weapons systems prohibited, illegal, and criminal under all circumstances and for any reason.

WHEREAS, The U.S. government is obligated as well by the Non Proliferation Treaty, in force since 1970 that requires the signers to pursue negotiations in good faith and to eliminate nuclear weapons at an early date. The U.S. government is also obligated by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits full-scale nuclear explosions.

THEREFORE, The work planned at Oak Ridge violates all these agreements and is thus criminal.

Oak Ridge Y-12 is slated to receive more than $6.5 billion in federal funding over the next decade for continuing nuclear weapons production. The new Uranium Processing Facility is expected to sustain a nuclear arsenal of 3000-3500 weapons beyond the middle of the century. Additional production facilities are sought as well. Instead of eliminating nuclear weaponry, Oak Ridge Y-12 perpetuates it through the nuclear modernization program.

Against these continuing violations of treaty law, we assert our human right to civil resistance. Furthermore we affirm as crucial the human right to be free from these crimes. The Nuremberg Principles not only prohibit such crimes but oblige those of us aware of the crime to act against it. “Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity…is a crime under International Law”.

The ongoing building and maintenance of Oak Ridge Y-12 constitute war crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicial authorities at all levels. We are required by International Law to denounce and resist known crimes.

For the sake of the whole human family threatened by nuclear weapons, and for the sake of our Planet Earth, which is abused and violated, we indict the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear weapon facility and all government officials, agencies, and contractors as responsible for perpetuating these war crimes.

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on Transform Now Plowshares action at Y-12 nuclear weapons complex

NASA’s Dangerous Alliance With the Nuclear Industry

By KARL GROSSMAN | CounterPunch | July 30, 2012

World Nuclear News, the information arm of the World Nuclear Association which seeks to boost the use of atomic energy, last week heralded a NASA Mars rover slated to land on Mars on Monday, the first Mars rover fueled with plutonium.

“A new era of space exploration is dawning through the application of nuclear energy for rovers on Mars and the Moon, power generation at future bases on the surfaces of both and soon for rockets that enable interplanetary travel,” began a dispatch from World Nuclear News. It was headed: “Nuclear ‘a stepping stone’ to space exploration.”

In fact, in space as on Earth there are safe, clean alternatives to nuclear power. Indeed, right now a NASA space probe energized by solar energy is on its way to Jupiter, a mission which for years NASA claimed could not be accomplished without nuclear power providing on board electricity. Solar propulsion of spacecraft has begun. And also, scientists, including those at NASA, have been working on using solar energy and other safe power sources for human colonies on Mars and the Moon.

The World Nuclear Association describes itself as “representing the people and organizations of the global nuclear profession.”  World Nuclear News says it “is supported administratively and with technical advice by the World Nuclear Association and is based within its London Secretariat.”

Its July 27th dispatch notes that the Mars rover that NASA calls Curiosity and intends to land on August 6th, is “powered by a large radioisotope thermal generator instead of solar cells” as previous NASA Mars rovers had been. It is fueled with 10.6 pounds of plutonium.

“Next year,” said World Nuclear News, “China is to launch a rover for the Moon” that also will be “powered by a nuclear battery.” And “most significant of all” in terms of nuclear power in space, continued World Nuclear News, “could be the Russian project for a ‘megawatt-class’ nuclear-powered rocket.” It cites Anatoly Koroteev, chief of Russia’s Keldysh Research Centre, as saying the system being developed could provide “thrust… 20 times that of current chemical rockets, enabling heavier craft with greater capabilities to travel further and faster than ever before.” There would be a “launch in 2018.”

The problem—a huge one and not mentioned whatsoever by World Nuclear News—involves accidents with space nuclear power systems releasing radioactivity impacting on people and other life on Earth. That has already happened. With more space nuclear operations, more atomic mishaps would be ahead.

NASA, before last November’s launch of Curiosity, acknowledged that if the rocket lofting it exploded at launch in Florida, plutonium could be released affecting an area as far as 62 miles away—highly-populated and including Orlando. Further, if the rocket didn’t break out of the Earth’s gravitational field, it and the rover would fall back into the atmosphere and break up, potentially releasing plutonium over a massive area. In its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the mission, NASA said in this situation plutonium could impact on “Earth surfaces between approximately 28-degrees north latitude and 28-degrees south latitude.” That includes Central America and much of South America, Asia, Africa and Australia.

The EIS said the costs of decontamination of plutonium in areas would be $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.” The Curiosity mission itself, because of $900 million in cost overruns, now has a price of $2.5 billion.

NASA set the odds very low for a plutonium release for Curiosity. The EIS said “overall” on the mission, the likelihood of plutonium being released was 1-in-220.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, for more than 20 years the leading opposition group to space nuclear missions, declared that “NASA sadly appears committed to maintaining its dangerous alliance with the nuclear industry. Both entities view space as a new market for the deadly plutonium fuel… Have we not learned anything from Chernobyl and Fukushima? We don’t need to be launching nukes into space. It’s not a gamble we can afford to take.”

Plutonium has long been described as the most lethal radioactive substance. And the plutonium isotope used in the space nuclear program, and on the Curiosity rover, is significantly more radioactive than the type of plutonium used as fuel in nuclear weapons or built up as a waste product in nuclear power plants. It is Plutonium-238 as distinct from Plutonium-239.  Plutonium-238 has a far shorter half-life–87.8 years compared to Plutonium-239 with a half-life of 24,500 years. An isotope’s half-life is the period in which half of its radioactivity is expended.

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear physicist and president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, explains that Plutonium-238 “is about 270 times more radioactive than Plutonium-239 per unit of weight.” Thus in radioactivity, the 10.6 pounds of Plutonium-238 being used on Curiosity is the equivalent of 2,862 pounds of Plutonium-239. The atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki used 15 pounds of Plutonium-239.

The far shorter half-life of Plutonium-238 compared to Plutonium-239 results in it being extremely hot. This heat is translated in a radioisotope thermoelectric generator into electricity.

The pathway of greatest health concern for plutonium is breathing in a particle leading to lung cancer. A millionth of a gram of plutonium can be a fatal dose. The EIS for Curiosity speaks of particles that would be “transported to and remain in the trachea, bronchi, or deep lung regions.” The particles “would continuously irradiate lung tissue.”

There hasn’t been an accident on the Curiosity mission.  But the EIS acknowledged that there have been mishaps previously—in this space borne game of nuclear Russian roulette. Of the 26 earlier U.S. space missions that have used plutonium listed in the EIS, three underwent accidents, it admitted. The worst occurred in 1964 and involved, it noted, the SNAP-9A plutonium system aboard a satellite that failed to achieve orbit and dropped to Earth, disintegrating as it fell. The 2.1 pounds of Plutonium-238 fuel on board dispersed widely over the Earth.  Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, long linked this accident to an increase in global lung cancer. With the SNAP-9A accident, NASA switched to solar energy on satellites. Now all satellites and the International Space Station are solar powered.

The worst accident of several involving a Soviet or Russian nuclear space systems was the fall from orbit in 1978 of the Cosmos 954 satellite powered by a nuclear reactor. It also broke up in the atmosphere as it fell, spreading radioactive debris over 77,000 square miles of the Northwest Territories of Canada.

In 1996, the Russian Mars 96 space probe, energized with a half-pound of Plutonium-238 fuel, failed to break out of the Earth’s gravity and came down—as a fireball—over northern Chile. There was fall-out in Chile and neighboring Bolivia.

Initiatives in recent years to power spacecraft safely and cleanly include the launch by NASA last August 8th  of a solar-powered space probe it calls Juno to Jupiter.  NASA’s Juno website  currently reports: “The spacecraft is in excellent health and is operating nominally.” It is flying at 35,200 miles per hour and is to reach Jupiter in 2016. Even at Jupiter, “nearly 500 million miles from the Sun,” notes NASA, its solar panels will be providing electricity.

Solar power has also begun to be utilized to propel spacecraft through the friction-less vacuum of space. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in 2010 launched what it termed a “space yacht” called Ikaros which got propulsion from the pressure on its large sails from ionizing particles emitted by the Sun. The sails also feature “thin-film solar cells to generate electricity and creating,” said Yuichi Tsuda of the agency, “a hybrid technology of electricity and pressure.”

As to power for colonies on Mars and the Moon, on Mars, not only the sun is considered as a power source but also energy from the Martian winds. And, on the Moon, as The Daily Galaxy  has reported: “NASA is eying the Moon’s south polar region as a possible site for future outposts. The location has many advantages; for one thing, there is evidence of water frozen in deep dark south polar craters. Water can be split into oxygen to breathe and hydrogen to burn as rocket fuel—or  astronauts could simply drink it. NASA’s lunar architects are also looking for what they call ‘peaks of eternal light’—polar mountains where the sun never sets, which might be perfect settings for a solar power station.”

Still, the pressure by promoters of nuclear energy on NASA and space agencies around the world to use atomic energy in space is intense—as is the drive of nuclear promoters on governments and the public for atomic energy on Earth.

Critically, nuclear power systems for space use must be fabricated on Earth—with all the dangers that involves, and launched from Earth—with all the dangers that involves (1 out of 100 rockets destruct on launch), and are subject to falling back to Earth and raining deadly radioactivity on human beings and other life on this planet.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on NASA’s Dangerous Alliance With the Nuclear Industry

Israel Siphons off Africa’s Nile

By Jomana Farhat | Al Akhbar | July 30, 2012

Egyptian and Sudanese policy failures have lead to a looming strategic threat to both countries’ most important resources – the Nile. Israel has now signed an agreement with the South Sudanese authorities over rights to the country’s precious water source.

There was an outcry in Egypt and Sudan over last week’s signing of a cooperation agreement between Israel and South Sudan on water infrastructure and technology development. Warnings abounded that the pact between the government in Juba and Israeli Military Industries Ltd posed a threat to the water security of the two downstream countries and should be countered. Largely overlooked was the fact that their own inaction was mostly to blame for it.

Israeli designs on the waters of the Nile and on the resources of the African continent are hardly new. For years Israel has striven hard to forge ties with a number of African states and strengthen its presence in the continent, for both economic and security reasons.

In South Sudan, Israel has flaunted its ties with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) – now the new country’s absolute ruler – and other southern faction leaders ever since the first southern rebellion began in Sudan in the 1950s. This was in line with a longstanding strategic doctrine, which was revisited in a 2008 lecture on Israel’s regional strategy by former Israeli security minister Avi Dichter.

This doctrine held, among other things, that Sudan, with its vast resources and economic potential, should not be allowed to become an asset to the power of the Arab world as a whole. As development in a stable Sudan would make it a threat to Israel, despite its geographical distance, Israel and its agencies should actively encourage the destabilization of the country by fueling successive crises until that instability becomes chronic.

The other acknowledged motive for Israeli intervention in Sudan was that the country constitutes the “strategic depth” of Egypt. In this regard, nothing could conceivably pose a greater strategic concern to Egypt and Sudan alike than a potential threat to their supplies of water from the Nile. Israel has succeeded in mounting such a threat with its latest pact with South Sudan and earlier agreements with other Nile littoral states in recent years.

The move comes against a backdrop of tensions over water issues between Egypt and Sudan and the majority of the other Nile Basin countries (the other riparian states are Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda).

Most of the upstream countries want major changes made to the arrangements that have long governed the management of the Nile’s waters. These include a 1929 agreement which requires Egypt to approve any large-scale water projects in upstream countries that would affect the flow of Nile waters. They also oppose a 1959 pact that allocates an annual 55.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water to Egypt and 18.5 billion cubic meters to Sudan, which they argue is unfair. Six countries have demanded a reallocation under a proposed new Entebbe Agreement, but Egypt and Sudan have rejected it. The pair – especially Egypt, which since ancient times has relied on the Nile for more than 95 percent of its water – would rather keep their historic shares, and insist there can be no new water agreement until contentious issues have been resolved.

Egyptian and Sudanese objections will not, however, stop South Sudan – which with its independence became the Nile’s 11th riparian state – and other countries from proceeding with large-scale water projects to meet their pressing development needs. These are bound to increase their consumption and impede the downstream flow. South Sudan occupies a strategic location in this regard, with about 45 percent of the Nile Basin’s water in its territory, and 28 percent of the river’s water flowing through it to Sudan and Egypt.

Yet both countries could have acted to avoid getting to this point.

Sudan’s relations with South Sudan began deteriorating from the moment the latter seceded, with political, territorial and financial disputes triggering military confrontation within months. The opportunity was missed of holding negotiations prior to independence on what proportion the South would get of Sudan’s water allocation, which would have enabled Khartoum to safeguard its interests. Water issues have since been overshadowed by other quarrels.

For Egypt, the Nile Water question arguably represents the greatest of the country’s many Mubarak-era foreign policy failures. The former regime neglected Africa diplomatically, and failed to sustain Egypt’s once-strong relations with the countries concerned. Its most tangible failure in this regard was its inability to persuade South Sudan to agree to the resumption of work on the long-stalled Jonglei Canal project, designed to save between 40 and 50 billion cubic meters of Nile water annually from evaporation.

Israel was quick to fill the vacuum. It has seized every possible opportunity to offer its backing to water projects in the upstream countries, through which to both put pressure on Egypt and Sudan, and gain leverage to help overcome its own water shortage.

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

US army prepares for war against al-Shabab in Somalia: Report

Press TV – July 30, 2012
US Army Maj. Gen. David Hogg (C) inspects Sierra Leone troops in Freetown during a deployment ceremony this year. (File photo)
US Army Maj. Gen. David Hogg (C) inspects Sierra Leone troops in Freetown during a deployment ceremony this year. (File photo)

A new report has unveiled that the US Army is “quietly equipping and training” thousands of African troops to prepare them for a war against al-Shabab fighters in Somalia.

“Officially, the troops are under the auspices of the African Union (AU). But in truth, according to interviews by US and African officials and senior military officers and budget documents, the 15,000-strong force pulled from five African countries is largely a creation of the State Department and Pentagon, trained and supplied by the US government,” Los Angeles Times reported on Monday.

The report added that the American officers along with dozens of retired foreign military personnel, hired through private contractors, are guiding the African soldiers.

“Nearly 20 years after US Army Rangers suffered a bloody defeat in Somalia, losing 18 soldiers and two Black Hawk helicopters, Washington is once again heavily engaged in the chaotic country. Only this time, African troops are doing the fighting and dying,” the report said.

Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital is one of the bases the US army uses to train African soldiers, it said.

Through deploying African troops to Somalia, “the Obama administration is trying to achieve US military goals with minimal risk of American deaths and scant public debate,” the report added.

“The US can underwrite the war in Somalia for a relative pittance — the cost over four years has been less than USD 700 million, a tenth of what the military spends in Afghanistan in a month — but the price tag is growing. More than a third of the US assistance has been spent since early 2011,” the American newspaper said.

African forces are supplied “with surveillance drones, ammunition, small arms, armored personnel carriers, night-vision goggles, communications gear, medical equipment and other sophisticated aid and training,” the report added.

“The US government has done extremely well in providing for us and we are grateful for that, but they can do more,” said Brig. Gen Komba Mondeh, Sierra Leone’s chief of operations and plans.

“This is real war, and we expect to see the body bags coming back home,” he said.

The report came as the US has recently stepped up its assassination drone operations in the famine-stricken Somalia.

The weak Western-backed transitional government in Mogadishu has been battling al-Shabab for the past five years and is propped up by a strong AU force from Uganda, Burundi, and Djibouti.

The country has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Nablus: night raids and arrests

30 July 2012 | International Solidarity Movement

Five Palestinian men were arrested by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in a night raid inside the old city of Nablus on Saturday, July 28. Tear gas and sound bombs were used against families and civilians protesting the arrests. 19 young men suffered asphyxiation and were taken to hospital. Israeli soldiers remained inside the city until 6 a.m. terrorizing residents.

A Palestinian woman walks through the destroyed home of the Kharuf family | Team Palestina & Free Gaza

Military incursions in Nablus, which is located in Area A and therefore under Palestinian military jurisdiction, are breaches of the Oslo Agreement, but nonetheless occur regularly. As always in occupied Palestine, human rights and agreements take the back seat to Israel’s political desires.

Among the families who were particularly afflicted by the night raid was the al-Kharuf family. At 2 a.m. their home was attacked by Israeli soldiers shooting tear gas at the 9 inhabitants, 5 of whom are children under 12 years old. The children were terrified by the attack and have now been sent to stay with relatives outside the city. An elderly woman had to go to the hospital after suffocating from the tear gas.

The IOF entered the house, where they seized Walid Kharuf. He was questioned on the whereabouts of his brother Omar and was severely beaten. When Walid claimed he did not know where his brother was, he was threatened by the commanding officer, “if you are lying and I find you brother here, I will destroy the house.”

The Kharuf home was turned upside down in the search for Omar, who was eventually found. After arresting the 23 year old young man, Israeli soldiers ordered everyone outside while they applied a bomb to one of the walls in the house. The blast that followed tore a hole in the house and devastated the room in which it was placed.


A Palestinian man looks into a wardrobe of the home of the Kharuf family after Israeli forces carried out a raid and bombed a wall of the home | Team Palestina & Free Gaza

All of Saturday the Kharuf family was busy clearing their home of rubble and broken furniture scattered throughout the house.

“So now we are homeless,” Walid solemnly noted, surveying the damage to his home.

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Comments Off on Nablus: night raids and arrests