Moscow has slammed Washington for taking “no practical steps” to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – despite countless promises to do so – and consequently preventing the important international treaty from going into force.
“The main load of responsibility that the CTBT has not entered into force so far lies on the eight remaining countries from the so-called ‘list of 44′ whose ratification documents are needed to launch the treaty,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry stressed that “first of all, this refers to the US, a country that positions itself as a leader in the sphere of strengthening the regime of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.”
“Unfortunately, despite the repeated statements on the plans to ratify the Treaty, the US has yet taken no practical steps in this direction,” the statement said.
Moscow also praised Angola for ratifying the CTBT on March 20. The African nation was the 164th country to confirm the treaty.
“Such a decision of Luanda (Angola’s capital) certainly brings the CTBT closer to a universal status and contributes to its turning into a valid international-legal tool,” the ministry said.
The statement stressed that Russia’s “continuous commitment to the CTBT and the readiness to secure its speedy entry into legal force.”
“We once again call on all the states that have not yet signed or not ratified the Treaty to do it without delay or preconditions,” it said.
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a multilateral agreement banning all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes.
The CTBT was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 1996. However, nearly two decades later, it has not entered into force due to non-ratification by eight countries.
The US, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel have signed the deal, but not ratified it. North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the treaty.
The partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, March 28, 1979, involved the loss-of-coolant, the melting of half its fuel, a hydrogen explosion in the “containment” building,(i) the uncontrolled, frightening buildup of explosive hydrogen in the reactor vessel, the venting of radioactive gases, and the dumping of contaminated water into a major source public drinking water. The accident caused such a scare that it ended the expansion of nuclear power in the US. Today, reactor builds can’t keep up with closures.
Yet the human health consequences of TMI aren’t well known, and official cover-ups, propaganda and ignorance of radiation-induced illnesses have led to trivialization of the disaster. As Gar Smith notes in his 2012 book Nuclear Roulette, public officials issued one false statement after another for days, like: there were no radiation releases; radiation releases were “controlled”; radiation releases were “insignificant”; there was no melting of the reactor fuel; there was never any danger of an explosion; there was no need to evacuate close communities. In fact, TMI’s failed containment released a plume of radiation “about 100 times more significant than the initial estimates offered” by the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — which still doesn’t know how much radiation was released or where it went.
David Lochbaum of the Union of Concern Scientists estimates between 40 million curies and 100 million curies escaped during the accident. President Carter’s Kemeny Commission estimated about 15 million curies of radioactive gas was vented from the containment building, including 43,000 curies of krypton-85(ii) — which stays in the environment for 100 years — and 15-to-24 curies of radioactive iodine-131.(iii) (A curie is a huge amount of radiation — 37 billion disintegrations per second.) The NRC later admitted to several “deliberate but uncontrolled releases” of the cancer-causing gases. Estimates of these airborne releases are mere guesses, because half of the outside radiation monitors were not working, and of those that worked, a large number of them went off-scale.(iv)
Approximately 400,000 gallons of highly radioactive cooling water leaked from the reactor into “containment” areas. This water was secretly dumped into the Susquehanna River, a source of drinking water for nearby communities.(v) Later, about 2.3 million gallons of radioactively contaminated cooling water were allowed to be “evaporated” into the atmosphere.(vi)
On the third day of the venting and dumping, half the population within 15 miles — 144,000 people — fled the area. By this time the bulk of the airborne radiation gusher had already been spewed and was drifting on the wind. Yet the Kemeny Commission ignored all data on the effects of wind-borne radiation, even though the wind blew 6-to-9 mph toward upstate New York and western Pennsylvania.(vii)
“Nobody died at Three Mile Island” — unless you count babies
In 1980, Pennsylvania State Health Department authorities reported a sharp rise in hypothyroidism in newborn infants in the three counties downwind from the reactor. Late in 1979, four times as many infants as normal were born with the disease. The NRC said the increase was unrelated to radiation released by TMI.(viii) Upwind incidence of the disease had dropped to below the national average.
Eric Epstein, Chair of Three Mile Island Alert had noted that in March 1982, the American Journal of Public Health reported, “During the first two quarters of 1978, the [newborn] mortality rate within a 10 mile radius of Three Mile Island was 8.6 and 7.6 per 1,000 live births, respectively. During the first quarter of 1979, following the startup of accident-prone Unit 2, the rate jumped to 17.2; it increased to 19.3 in the quarter following the accident at TMI, and returned to 7.8 and 9.3, respectively, in the last two quarters of 1979.” (Dr. Gordon MacLeod, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Health.)
A June 1991, Columbia University Health Study’s findings (Susser-Hatch) were published in the American Journal of Public Health. The data actually shows more than a doubling of observed cancers in areas near the partial meltdown, including lymphoma, leukemia, colon and the hormonal category of breast, endometrium, ovary, prostate, and testis. For leukemia and lung cancers in the six-to-12 kilometer distance from TMI, the number of observed cases was almost four times greater. In the zero-to-six kilometer range, colon cancer was 4 times greater. The study found “a statistically significant relationship between incidence rates after the accident and residential proximity to the plant.”
In the county where TMI is located, infant mortality (deaths of kids under one) soared 53.7% in the first month after the accident; the rate rose 27% in the first year after the accident. As originally published, the federal government’s own Monthly Vital Statistics Report shows a statistically significant rise in infant and over-all mortality rates shortly after the accident.
Studying 10 counties closest to TMI, Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman, in their 1990 book Deadly Deceit, found that childhood cancers, other infant diseases, and deaths from birth defects were 15% to 35% higher than before the accident, and those from breast cancer 7% higher. These increases far exceeded those elsewhere in Pennsylvania.(ix) Gould suggests that between 50,000 and 100,000 excess deaths occurred after the TMI accident.
Joseph Mangano studied the three counties closest to TMI — Daupin, Lancaster, and York. He found that between 1980 and 1984, “death rates in these three counties were considerably higher than 1970-74 (before the reactor opened) for leukemia, female breast cancer, thyroid and bone and joint cancers.” Cancer deaths among kids fewer than 10 years of age (between 1980 and 1984) nearly doubled compared to the national rate.
The death and disease associated with TMI’s radiation releases were foretold by Roger Mattson, a Director of the Systems Safety Division at the NRC at the time. Mattson told the NRC’s members during the accident: “I’m not sure why you are not moving people. I don’t know what we are protecting at this point.”(x)
John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, and edits its Quarterly.
1. Daniel Ford, Three Mile Island, Viking Press, 1982, p. 237-238
2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: <http://www.nrc.gov/POA/gmo/tip/tip10.htm>
3. John May, The Greenpeace Book of the Nuclear Age, Pantheon, 1989, p. 82
4. Dr. John Beyea, study for the National Audubon Society, 1984, in John May, above, pp. 220-221
5. Allen Hedge, Cornell University, “Systems Thinking,” August 2007, <ergo.human.cornell.edu/studentdownloads/DEA325/pdfs/systems.pdf> Stephen Pople, Oxford, Explaining Physics, GCSE Edition, Sec. 8, Electrons and Atoms, 1990, p. 323; and Report of the President’s Commission on the Accident at TMI, October 30, 1979
6. The Washington Post, March 28, 1989
7. Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman, Deadly Deceit: Low Level Radiation, High Level Cover-Up, New York, Four Walls Eight Windows, 1990, p. 59
8. Boston Globe, February 23, 1980
9. Joseph Mangano, Low-Level Radiation and Immune System Damage: An Atomic Era Legacy, Lewis Publishers, New York, 1999, p. 65
10. Ford, Three Mile Island, p. 234
The active ingredient in the world’s most widely-used Roundup herbicide has been classified as “probably” carcinogenic to humans by a branch of the World Health Organization. The agrochemical giant Monsanto, has immediately rejected the new conclusions.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in their latest study said that there was “convincing evidence” that glyphosate in Roundup can cause cancer in lab animals.
St. Louis-based Monsanto was not pleased with WHO conclusions, claiming that scientific data does not support their assumptions and urging the health watchdog to hold a meeting to explain the findings.
“We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe,” Philip Miller, Monsanto’s vice-president of global regulatory affairs, said in a brief statement released soon after the report was published.
The study, published Friday in the journal Lancet Oncology also said it found “limited evidence” that glyphosate was carcinogenic in humans for “non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” The conclusion of the research was based on studies of exposure to the chemical in the United States, Canada, and Sweden that date back to 2001.
According to the study, Glyphosate is used in more than 750 different herbicides in air dissemination during spraying, in water and in food. IARC said glyphosate was traced in the blood and urine of agricultural workers.
IARC has four levels of classifications for cancer agents. Glyphosate now falls under the second level of concern known as ‘probable or possible carcinogens.’ The other agents are classified either as carcinogens, ‘probably not carcinogenic’ or ‘not classifiable’.
Glyphosate, which was invented by Monsanto back in 1974, is a broad-spectrum herbicide used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses known to compete with commercial crops.
In the US the herbicide is considered safe since 2013, when Monsanto received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate. In its original assessment the US watchdog said glyphosate can “be used without unreasonable risks to people or the environment.” The EPA said it would consider IARC’s evaluation.
A German government evaluation conducted for the European Union last year also found the herbicide safe to use. “The available data do not show carcinogenic or mutagenic properties of glyphosate nor that glyphosate is toxic to fertility, reproduction or embryonal/fetal development in laboratory animal,” the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment said.
Monsanto insists that “all labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health,” according to Miller.
Glyphosate is mainly used on genetically modified corn and soybeans, thus the general public is unlikely to face the greatest risk of exposure, according to the report.
However, “home use” is not the issue, said Kate Guyton of IARC.
“It’s agricultural use that will have the biggest impact. For the moment, it’s just something for people to be conscious of.”
Last month, a leading US environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, accusing regulators of dismissing the dangers of glyphosate.
In a recent report by the Center for Food Safety, the heavy proliferation of Roundup was linked to a drastic 90-percent drop in the population of monarch butterflies in the US. Roundup has become a leading killer of Glyphosate-sensitive milkweed plants – the only spots where monarchs lay eggs, as the plant is the only food source for monarch larvae.
By Alyssa Röhricht | The Black Cat Revolution | March 20, 2015
The Senate Torture Report released in December 2014 reads worse than even the foulest imaginings of Hieronymus Bosch: sleep deprivation, isolation and sensory deprivation, forced nudity, rectal feeding and rectal rehydration, waterboarding, beatings, threatening detainees with the rape of their mothers and harm of their children, chaining detainees to the ceiling for days clothed in only a diaper, rape, even human experimentation.
The house of horrors detailed in the Senate report – which even in its over 500 pages doubtless only scratches the surface of the depravity of U.S. “War on Terror” tactics – has been discussed at length. But what is outlined in the report is only part of the story. What the report omits is almost equally important to understanding the lengths that the U.S. will go to maintain and expand its Empire. One such omission: Diego Garcia.
Despite it being one of the most strategically important U.S. military bases on the planet, few have ever even heard of Diego Garcia or the Chagos archipelago on which it sits. The chain of over 50 small islands (today known as the British Indian Ocean Territory, or BIOT) is in the center of the Indian Ocean and was once inhabited by a thriving population of indigenous islanders. Today, it is home to the US military base of Camp Justice or the Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, nicknamed (ironically) the “Footprint of Freedom.” In some ways, the island looks like any American town – a bowling alley, tennis court, library, Post Office, gyms, a bank, a chapel, and even a 9-hole golf course. The B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers, 30 warships, satellite spy station, deep space surveillance system, nuclear storage facility, and the almost 5,000 U.S. servicemen and women that live there give lie to the façade, as do the crumbling homes, school, and church of the island’s previous inhabitants.
The Chagossians – the rightful inhabitants of the islands – have sustained a very different sort of torture. They were not beaten or raped, they were not waterboarded or forcibly deprived of sleep, but they were threatened, they were ripped from their homelands (ancestors, communities, schools, homes), they were forced onto the hull of a ship, and they were dropped on foreign islands and forgotten. And this didn’t happen in long ago history, it happened only 40 years ago – a slow and pronounced torture that continues today.
The first permanent inhabitants of the Chagos Islands were slaves brought by the French to work on coconut plantations around 1783. By 1814, one colonizer replaced another, and the British took control of Mauritius, including the Chagos Islands. In 1968, Mauritius received its independence from the U.K., but for a price. Mauritius would be freed from U.K. rule only if it did not lay claim to the Chagos Islands – thus the British Indian Ocean Territory was born. The U.S. and U.K. developed an informal lease agreement that would allow the U.S. to use Diego Garcia for a military base – prime real estate situated with eyes on the Middle East, Asia, and Russia. The agreement was hidden from both the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament and in direct contradiction to UN resolution 1514 and international law, which stated that colonies being decolonized had to be done as a whole – not carved up for profit.
The U.S./U.K. terror campaign was launched to have the islands “swept” and “sanitized” of the Chagossian people, first through an embargo aimed at starving the population out. Without basic supplies like milk, salt, and medication, many Chagossians left. In the Spring of 1971, officials in the U.S. military gave the order to round up all of the pet dogs on the island and have them killed. Thousands of pet dogs were murdered – some taken straight from screaming children – gassed with exhaust fumes from military vehicles. The Chagossians that had held out were then rounded onto a ship allowed to take only one suitcase. The horses took precedence and were put on deck. The Chagossians – women and children – slept in the hull on bird fertilizer – bird shit.
Marie Lisette Talate, a Chagossian, recalled in the documentary written and directed by John Pilger, Stealing a Nation, “All of us Chagossians, women, children, it was ourselves who were the animals on the Nordvaer.”
They were taken to the Seychelles and kept in prison cells until finally being transported to Mauritius where many Chagossians remain today. They were dropped there with nothing – no food, money, housing, jobs, water, or any institutional support in a country unknown to them. Unable to provide for themselves, many Chagossians began to die. Malnutrition, disease, and drugs plagued the community. But many islanders say that the Chagossian people were dying of sagren, sadness.
Marie Rita Elysée Bancoult, one of the Chagossian people, recounted her life after the forced relocation in an interview with Vine. After learning that they would never be returning home, her husband, Julien, suffered a stroke and died five years later. In the years that followed, her sons Alex, 38, Eddy, 36, and Rénault, 11, also died.
“My life has been buried… It’s as if I was pulled from my paradise to put me in hell. Everything here you need to buy. I don’t have the means to buy them. My children go without eating. How am I supposed to bear this life?”
This type of torture may leave no visible scars, but it is no less effective. The Chagossians have seen their homes destroyed, have left behind their land and belongings, have abandoned the graves of their ancestors, watched as their pets were ripped away and killed, and were left – deserted – on the shores of foreign lands, the forgotten refuse of Empire.
The torture continues today, as the Chagossians are ping-ponged back and forth between the two governments. The U.K. claims that the U.S. will not allow the islanders to live on the islands due to national security concerns of the base. Meanwhile the U.S. obviates responsibility, claiming it has no jurisdiction over the islands and that the Chagossians must direct their requests to the Crown. Justice, it seems, is only for the few.
What’s more, they must watch from afar as their homeland is destroyed and denigrated by the U.S. military. In addition to a recent admission by a senior Bush administration official to VICE News that the island of Diego Garcia has been used as a “transit site” where people were “interrogated from time to time,” studies of the waters surrounding the Diego Garcia military base as well have revealed massive environmental harms caused by the base, including decades of contamination from wastewater sewage, which the U.S. has been discharging into the water since at least the 1980s. The dumping of the treated sewage waters have resulted in elevated levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphates up to four times higher than normal and may be causing damage to the coral reefs.
Just the construction of Diego Garcia alone has eliminated much of the vegetation coverage on the island and decimated the coral reef – forests were bulldozed and coral reefs were blasted and dredged. As with most military bases, the usual nuclear contamination, fuel spills of millions of gallons of oil, carcinogenic pollutants in the soil and water, dangerous underwater sonars that harm marine life, and a litany of unexploded munitions plague the island. And yet, many argue against the Chagossian return to their native lands on environmental grounds, the implication being that the U.S. military is a better guardian of these islands than the people who had lived there in harmony for generations. The implicit racism in this notion is hard to ignore.
Despite the setbacks, Chagossians continue to fight, and while the U.S. and U.K. governments have continued to abdicate responsibility for their complicity in these crimes against humanity, the Chagossians seem better positioned for a return than at any other point in history. The U.K. government recently commissioned a feasibility study to determine whether a settlement may be achievable on the islands, which found “no insurmountable legal obstacles” to the Chagossians returning home. At the same time, negotiations over the military base are up for discussion between the U.S. and U.K. to decide if the informal lease of the land will be extended for the U.S. military.
The decades of torture imposed upon these people has yet to be adequately addressed or remunerated, and while the international community has expressed outrage over the U.S. use of some of the most vile and perverted means of torture against prisoners in rendition sites across the globe, the same international outcry must be directed at the decades of human rights abuses imposed upon the people of the Chagos Islands. Torture, after all, is not just carried out with drills, straps, and chains; there is also a psychological torture – the torture of neglect and marginalization that renders a people invisible – that can do just as much damage.
Agrochemical giant Monsanto has been sued by the City of San Diego and the San Diego Unified Port District for selling chemicals the multinational knew were harmful to the ecology, including that of the now heavily polluted San Diego Bay.
According to the San Diego Reader, city agencies filed suit on Monday, alleging Monsanto hid its knowledge of the toxicity of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Despite being aware of these facts, the company peddled its chemical compounds for industrial use, including shipbuilding, electrical component manufacture, food packaging and paint plasticizers.
The city and port were previously held responsible by the San Diego Regional Water Control Board for the bay’s pollution, resulting in fines of $949,634. The city set aside $6.45 million to improve the Shipyards Sediment Site, the most notoriously polluted section of the bay. City and port authorities have already sued shipbuilding companies BAE and NASSCO, and are now going for Monsanto.
“PCBs manufactured by Monsanto have been found in Bay sediments and water and have been identified in tissues of fish, lobsters, and other marine life in the Bay,” the city said in the lawsuit. “PCB contamination in and around the Bay affects all San Diegans and visitors who enjoy the Bay, who reasonably would be disturbed by the presence of a hazardous, banned substance in the sediment, water, and wildlife.
“PCBs were not only a substantial factor in causing the City and Port District to incur damages, but a primary driving force behind the need to clean up and abate Bay sediments. In addition, fish consumption warnings are posted at locations in and around Bay tidelands warning the public that fish within the Bay may contain contaminants and directing consumption limitations.”
Monsanto was the practically the only PCB producer in North America, marketing the products under the name Aroclor from 1930 to 1977, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The lawsuit claimed Monsanto had known about the risks of inhaling or ingesting PCBs since the 1930s.
A report from 1969, the suit noted, showed that a Monsanto committee discussed ways to continue propagating the organic pollutants, which have been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, among others.
“There is little probability that any action that can be taken will prevent the growing incrimination of specific polychlorinated biphenyls as nearly global environmental contaminants leading to contamination of human food (particularly fish), the killing of some marine species (shrimp), and the possible extinction of several species of fish eating birds,” the internal Monsanto report said.
“Secondly, the committee believes that there is no practical course of action that can so effectively police the uses of these products as to prevent environmental contamination. There are, however a number of actions which must be undertaken to prolong the manufacture, sale and use of these particular Aroclors as well as to protect the continued use of other members of the Aroclor series.”
Through the suit, the city and port want to recoup costs of removing PCBs from the bay and for loss of natural resources.
PCBs have been banned in the United States since 1979.
Much of Monsanto’s PCB production occurred in plants based in Anniston, Alabama and Sauget, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
In 2013, a Missouri appeals court ruled that a lawsuit — alleging PCBs produced by Monsanto caused cancer — could move forward in a reversal of a lower court’s decision.
The case, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs, is monumental given the plaintiffs alleged “general population” — and not occupational — exposure.
“The case represents the first time that injured victims have sought to hold a company accountable for producing a chemical that has contaminated the entire planet, including every person in the United States,” wrote Allen Stewart, P.C., a Dallas law firm that handles lymphoma claims.
“The plaintiffs are three lymphoma patients who each have elevated levels of PCBs in their blood. The original Monsanto Co. (now known as “Pharmacia Corp.”) produced more than 99% of all of the PCBs ever used in the United States. Because PCBs are far more persistent in the environment than most other chemicals, PCBs are now a ubiquitous environmental contaminant. Today, PCBs can be found in measurable levels in virtually any sample of soil or air, and also in the food chain. PCBs contaminate fish, dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, and eggs.”
Monsanto is now instantly recognized as the company dominating the global food supply with its more than 7000 current worldwide patents. But today’s Monsanto is not a corporate newcomer. Although its literature heralds the company as having a clear and principled code of conduct and a pledge to demonstrate integrity, respect, ethical behavior, and honesty in everything they do, the truth is that this company has a legacy of contamination and cover-up that dates back more than a century.
The Rise of one of ‘The Worst Corporations in the World’
At the turn of the 19th century, John Queeny founded Monsanto Chemical Works to produce such nefarious products as saccharin, synthetic vanillin, and laxative and sedative drugs. The company was well positioned as a leading force in the dawning American chemical industry.
From the 1920’s until the late 1960’s, Queeny’s son, Edgar Monsanto Queeny, expanded the company into a global franchise, and changed its name to Monsanto Chemical Company in 1933. He added sulfuric acid, PCBs, DDT, synthetic fibers, and an array of plastics that included polystyrene to the product line.
During this time, Monsanto also created Agent Orange, one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971.
Agent Orange was a combination of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange threw off dioxin as a byproduct, a compound the World Health Organization classes as highly toxic. Dioxin can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, hormone disruption, and the initiation of cancer. Dioxin persists in the environment and accumulates in the body, even at minimal exposure.
In areas where Agent Orange was used, the concentration of dioxin was hundreds of times greater than the levels considered safe by the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA). This resulted in a host of terrible health consequences for anyone exposed. and led to decades of litigation during which Monsanto fought tooth and nail to avoid paying for the horrific damage military personnel suffered from. The class action case that followed was settled out of court in 1984 for $180 million, reportedly the latest settlement of its kind at the time.
More than 60 years of Contamination and Cover Up
Dioxin Leak at Nitro – $93 Million Settlement
From 1929 until 1995, Monsanto operated a chemical plant in the small town of Nitro, West Virginia, where it manufactured Agent Orange. In 1949, a pressure valve blew on a tank of the herbicide, sending plumes of smoke and vapors containing dioxin throughout the town, coating residents and the homes they lived in with powdery residue.
In a short time, some people developed skin eruptions and were diagnosed with an enduring and disfiguring condition known as chloracne. Others had prolonged pain extending from their chest to their feet. According to a medical report following the explosion, “It caused a systemic intoxication in the workers involving most major organ systems.”
Monsanto’s reaction? The company down-played it, claiming the chemical was slow-acting and just a minor irritant.
To get rid of the dioxin, the company dumped it into storm drains, streams and sewers, and stored it in landfills. Dioxin persisted in waterways and in the fish that lived in them. When residents sued for damages, they were told by Monsanto that their allegations had no merit and that the company would defend itself vigorously.
The residents of Nitro or their descendants finally received $93 million from Monsanto in 2012.
PCBs Contaminate the Town of Anniston, Alabama
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are used in many industries as hydraulic fluids, sealants, and lubricants. These chemicals have been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems.
Monsanto’s plant in Anniston, Alabama produced PCBs from 1929 to 1971. Since then, tons of contaminated soil have been hauled away from the plant, but the site continues to be one of the most highly polluted areas in the country.
Why was it such a mess? During its production years, waste PCBs were dumped into a nearby open landfill, poured into a creek that ran alongside the plant, or just allowed to run off the property during storms. During those years, the townspeople drank from their wells, ate fish they caught, and swam in the creeks, oblivious of the PCBs. When public awareness began to mount, authorities found high levels of PCBs all over the place, and in the bodies of those people, where it will remain forever.
In 1966, a Monsanto biologist testing waterways near the Anniston plant found that when live fish were added to the water, “All 25 fish lost equilibrium and turned on their sides in 10 seconds and all were dead in 3 1/2 minutes.”
In 1970, the FDA found high levels of PCBs in fish near the Anniston plant, and Monsanto jumped into cover-up mode. A leaked internal memo from a company official outlined steps for the company to take to limit disclosure. The strategy called for engaging public officials to fight the battle for them. “Joe Crockett, Secretary of the Alabama Water Improvement Commission will try to handle the problem quietly without release of the information to the public at this time,” the memo promised.
A statement eventually released from Monsanto’s world headquarters in St. Louis stated, “Quoting both plant management and the Alabama Water Improvement Commission, the PCB problem was relatively new, was being solved by Monsanto and, at this point, was no cause for public alarm.”
The class action suit for Anniston was finally settled in 2003, when Monsanto was forced to pay $700 million.
More PCBs Dumped into the Environment
In 1977, Monsanto closed its PCB plant in Whales, but not before dumping thousands of tons of waste into the quarry of the town of Groesfaen. Authorities there say the site is still one of the most contaminated in Britain.
Internal papers indicate that Monsanto knew about the PCB dangers as early as 1953, when toxicity tests on the effects of PCBs killed more than 50% of the lab rats subjected to them. In 2011, Monsanto reluctantly agreed to help in the clean up after an environmental agency found 67 chemicals at the quarry site that were exclusively manufactured by Monsanto. Yet that effort remained underfunded and the quarry remains contaminated.
The Guardian reported that Monsanto wrote an abatement plan in 1969 which admitted “the problem involves the entire United States, Canada, and sections of Europe, especially the UK and Sweden.”
Navy Rejects Monsanto Product Because it was ‘Too Toxic’
Monsanto tried to sell its hydraulic fluid, known as Pydraul 150, to the navy in 1956, and supplied test results in their sales pitch. But the navy decided to do its own testing, and the company was informed that there would be no sale because the product proved to be too toxic. In an internal memo divulged during a court proceeding, Monsanto’s medical director stated that “no matter how we discussed the situation, it was impossible to change their thinking that Pydraul 150 is just too toxic for use in submarines.”
Monsanto Moves into Food, Biotechnology
Monsanto’s move into biotech began in the 1970’s, and in 1983 the first genetic modification of a plant cell had been achieved. Synthetic bovine growth hormone (rBST) was on the horizon. Monsanto’s public relations department portrayed GM seeds as a panacea for alleviating poverty and feeding the hungry. In 1985, the company bought NutraSweet artificial sweetener, a branded version of aspartame – the compound responsible for 75% of the complaints reported to the FDA’s adverse reaction monitoring system.
Monsanto Seeks Clean Image, Creates Solutia
In the late 1990’s, Monsanto created a new company known as Solutia, and off-loaded its chemical and fiber businesses. L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, chronicling the rise of Monsanto for Vanity Fair magazine, noted the reason for the spinoff was to channel the bulk of Monsanto’s mounting chemical lawsuits and liabilities into the spun-off company, thereby creating a clean image for Monsanto. Solutia became Monsanto’s solution!
As the company, now known simply as Monsanto, moves through the 21st century, it has a ‘new cleaned-up image,’ and a fine sounding mission statement. It refers to itself as a relatively new company that promotes sustainable agriculture and delivering products that support farmers around the world.
Except Monsanto is the 3rd most hated company in the world.
Monsanto’s legacy of contamination and cover-up should be a wake up call for you to run from the GMOs they have spawned. Remember the old adage that says leopards can’t change their spots?
The number of “nuclear safety events” at Britain’s submarine base and warhead depot at the Clyde has drastically soared according to official records that showed 105 incidents in 2013-2014, compared to just 68 in the previous period.
Almost all of the incidents involved the reactors on Trident and other nuclear subs at the Faslane Naval Base, while six involved nuclear weapons stored at Coulport armaments depot.
Ministers were forced to disclose the information after a question in parliament by Angus Robertson from the Scottish National Party (SNP) who leads the party’s parliamentary group in Westminster.
Only 45 of the latest incidents were level C events, meaning there was a “moderate potential for future release or exposure, or localized release within a designated radiological controlled area.” The remaining 60 were classed as level D defined as “low potential for release – but may contribute towards an adverse trend producing latent conditions.” According to the records, the base has not recently suffered from any of the more serious Category A or B safety failures.
Overall in the past six years the Clyde naval base suffered nearly 400 “widespread” safety events, according to official records. Twelve of these cases were listed as “Category B” incidents meaning there was an “actual of high” risk of exposure to radiation or that there was a release of radiation which was contained within a submarine or a building.
Robertson, whose party wants the complete removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland, asked the MoD to explain what was being done to improve safety measures especially as construction work is underway for Faslane to house all of Britain’s nuclear submarines, some of which are currently in Devonport, Plymouth.
“A near doubling in the number of nuclear safety incidents within a year is totally unacceptable and needs urgent answers from the MoD. It’s important to note this doubling has occurred before expansion work at the base for more nuclear submarines is complete,” he said.
But the government maintained that the vigorous culture of reporting any incidents as well as putting them in the public domain ensured that there was never any threat to personal or the environment. The details of the incidents were not disclosed, but MoD insisted all of them were “minor issues,” such as incorrect labeling or not filing the correct form as required by standard procedures.
“This comprehensive, independent recording process allows Clyde to maintain a robust reporting culture, undertake learning from experience and to take early corrective action,” the UK Defence Minister, Philip Dunne, told MPs.
GAZA CITY – Hundreds of Palestinians were evacuated from their homes Sunday morning after Israeli authorities opened a number of dams near the border, flooding the Gaza Valley in the wake of a recent severe winter storm.
The Gaza Ministry of Interior said in a statement that civil defense services and teams from the Ministry of Public Works had evacuated more than 80 families from both sides of the Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) after their homes flooded as water levels reached more than three meters.
Gaza has experienced flooding in recent days amid a major storm that saw temperatures drop and frigid rain pour down.
The storm displaced dozens and caused hardship for tens of thousands, including many of the approximately 110,000 Palestinians left homeless by Israel’s assault over the summer.
The suffering is compounded by the fact that Israel has maintained a complete siege over Gaza for the last eight years, severely limiting electricity and the availability of fuel for generators. It has also prevented the displaced from rebuilding their homes, as construction materials are largely banned from entering.
Gaza civil defense services spokesman Muhammad al-Midana warned that further harm could be caused if Israel opens up more dams in the area, noting that water is currently flowing at a high speed from the Israel border through the valley and into the Mediterranean sea.
Evacuated families have been sent to shelters sponsored by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, in al-Bureij refugee camp and in al-Zahra neighborhood in the central Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) is a wetland located in the central Gaza Strip between al-Nuseirat refugee camp and al-Moghraqa. It is called HaBesor in Hebrew, and it flows from two streams — one whose source runs from near Beersheba, and the other from near Hebron.
Israeli dams on the river to collect rainwater have dried up the wetlands inside Gaza, and destroyed the only source of surface water in the area.
Locals have continued to use it to dispose of their waste for lack of other ways to do so, however, creating an environmental hazard.
This is not the first time Israeli authorities have opened the Gaza Valley dams.
In Dec. 2013, Israeli authorities also opened the dams amid heavy flooding in the Gaza Strip. The resulting floods damaged dozens of homes and forces many families in the area from their homes.
In 2010, the dams were opened as well, forcing 100 families from their homes. At the time civil defense services said that they had managed to save seven people who had been at risk of drowning.
A small community in Uganda is challenging a UN-backed international oil palm venture that has expropriated small farmers and obliterated an entire forest on a Lake Victoria island to establish a vast plantation. Three years after the grab, Friends of the Earth groups are backing the islanders legal action, which is launched today.
Fighting a land grab can seem like a hopeless cause: the odds are hardly even when farmers without land or a source of income are pitted against multinational corporations, European banks and UN Agencies. However in Uganda, one community is fighting back.
Four years ago, an oil palm plantation partly operated by the oil palm giant Wilmar International began on Bugula, a highly biodiverse island on Lake Victoria. Then home to about one hundred small-scale farmers, the project was sold to them with extravagant promises of employment and development.
Yet today, 3,600 hectares of pristine forest have been destroyed, replaced with a vast swathe of oil palm, and many farmers and their families find themselves destitute with little compensation – if any – awarded to them for the loss of their land.
Finding themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances, three of them are today launching their legal action on behalf of the rest of the community against the oil palm company, Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL), demanding the restitution of their land and compensation for lost crops and income.
Although nominally independent, OPUL is 90% owned by Bidco Uganda, itself a joint venture between the oil palm giant Wilmar International, Josovina Commodities and Bidco Oil Refineries, a Kenya-based company. Wilmar International holds at least 39% of the shares in OPUL and is providing technical expertise for the project.
In launching the legal action in Masaka today, the Bugula islanders are taking on more than just these mighty corporations.
The oil palm project is backed by the Ugandan government, which even helped to finance it, and by a United Nations agency: the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is “directly overseeing” the project after providing a $52 million loan.
So this is ‘improving access to land and tenure security’?
Established in 1974 after the World Food Conference, IFAD’s ‘motto’ is “Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty”. Its Financing Policies and Criteria state that the projects it finances should incorporate “engagement with indigenous peoples” and “improving access to land and tenure security”.
The Bugula project is carried out under IFAD’s ‘Vegetable Oil Development Project – Phase 2‘ which claims to be aimed at “increasing the domestic production of vegetable oil and its byproducts, thus raising rural incomes for smallholder producers and ensuring the supply of affordable vegetable oil products to Ugandan consumers.”
According to IFAD, “Oil palm activities are carried out on Bugula Island in Kalangala District (Ssesse islands) and Buvuma Island in Mukono District. In the course of the project, about 3,000 smallholder farmers will directly benefit from oil palm development and 136,000 households from oilseed development. The project is directly supervised by IFAD.”
It records a total project cost of $146.2 million, to which it is contributing a $52.0 million loan repayable in 2018, co-financed with SNV Netherlands Development Organization, which is contributing $0.3 million. It claims to benefit 139,000 households.
The Ecologist spoke today with Alessandro Marini, IFAD’s Country Representative for Uganda by telephone, but he repeatedly refused to comment at that time because he was “on his way into a meeting”. He has since failed to respond to our email requesting his views.
The UK is the single biggest contributor to IFAD.
John Muyiisa’s story
In January, Anne van Schaik of Friends of the Earth Europe joined NAPE / Friends of the Earth Uganda in a fact-finding mission to Bugula Island, Kalangala, and visited the house of John Muyiisa, one of the plaintiffs.
John saw his 43-acre plot taken for the palm oil project, and has since not stopped fighting to get it back. John showed us the state of his house, which is about to collapse because he doesn’t have the resources to repair it. The foundations of the new house he was planning to build for his family have been left abandoned since the project began.
When he showed us the small plot that was left to him, John said: “We all depended on this land. My land was not only my income but also a secured future income for my children. It would have provided me with the money I needed to buy a new house. Now I have lost my land and our plans are shattered.” These concerns have found little sympathy among local government officials.
We also visited the nearby island of Buvuma, where IFAD has financed another oil palm project. When we expressed our interest to hear from the local community about the effects of the island’s palm oil project, they exhausted themselves by explaining the benefits of the project.
“There will be electricity, employment, new roads, and extra income for local palm oil growers”, officials told us. This sounded all-too familiar to what we heard during a visit in 2013, but two years on, these promises seem emptier than ever.
Once we had finished speaking with the officials, we joined them at a community meeting at the district house to discuss compensation for lost land. When the chairperson gave farmers the floor to talk about the effects of the project, many raised their hands.
They talked about how the compensation had been inadequate, how it is totally unclear to them how it had been calculated, and how some of them didn’t want to leave their land but were given no choice. Clearly embarrassed and annoyed, a local official responded and corrected them. “People should not first sign an agreement and then complain after”, he said.
His unsympathetic stance was mirrored by other government officials on both islands. Often we heard jokes about how farmers drank away their compensation money in bars, got themselves a second wife or otherwise managed to fritter it away.
This indifference, although unspoken, is implicitly shared by IFAD, BIDCO, OPUL and Wilmar. Indeed, the chain of responsibility stretches back further – to banks in Europe and the USA whose financial support sets the wheels in motion for these devastating land grabs.
Europe’s mega-banks financing palm oil explosion
Taking the case of Wilmar International, in 2014 US and EU financiers had a total of €371 million of shares in the corporation, and 1.1 billion Euro in loans outstanding to them.
For instance in the Netherlands, ING held more than €26 million in shares; the British bank HSBC held €298 million in loans, while BNP Paribas and Dutch Rabobank held €189 million and €111 million respectively. Deutsche Bank held €4 million in shares and €12 million in outstanding loans.
Like Wilmar, many of these financiers have adopted policies to address the environmental, social and governance impacts of their investments. However, there is no accountability mechanism in place for most of these commitments, and so there is no financial or legal incentive for financiers to follow through.
This means that many European financial institutions, through their investments in agribusiness projects, are supporting a significant number of what are in fact land grabs in the global South. Such incidents are widespread and growing: new cases are reported to civil society organisations on a near-weekly basis in countries from Cambodia and Papua New Guinea to Indonesia, Myanmar and Nigeria.
Europe needs to take action at the political level. Both by ensuring financial institutions on its soil are not complicit in land grabs, and by voting this year to finish reforms to halt the expansion of agrofuels which compete for cropland.
UN-IFAD must hang its head in shame
And clearly IFAD is an organization crying out for abolition. Its financing of the Bugula Island land grab is in clear violation of its financing principles and criteria, indeed the very purpose of its existence – “Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty”
While IFAD speaks of “community-driven development approach to fighting rural poverty“, “improving access to land and tenure security”, “dynamic and inclusive rural development“, “food and nutrition security for all”, “inclusive growth and poverty eradication”, and “sustainable smallholder agriculture” it is actually financing land-grabbing projects that achieve the precise reverse of all its empty rhetoric.
Indeed it is robbing poor farmers and farming communities of their land and livelihoods, leaving them destitute, and handing over their wealth for plunder by foreign corporations and profiteering financiers.
As for John and the rest of the former farmers of Bugula, the next steps in their fight for justice will be taken in court in Masaka. With pressure coming at them from both sides, the message to oil IFAD, palm companies and financiers alike is clear: the battle against land grabs is on.
Action: to support John Muyiisa’s struggle in his search for legal redress for the farmers of Kalangala, please visit our crowdfunding page.
The discovery of over 16,000 cracks in two Belgian reactor vessels may have global implications for nuclear safety, says the country’s nuclear safety chief. He and independent experts are calling for the immediate checks of nuclear reactor vessels worldwide.
Thousands of cracks have been found in the steel reactor pressure vessels in nuclear reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 in Belgium – vessels contain highly radioactive nuclear fuel cores.
The failure of these components can cause catastrophic nuclear accidents with massive release of radiation.
The pervasive – and entirely unexpected – cracking could be related to corrosion from normal operation, according to leading material scientists Professor Walter Bogaerts and Professor Digby MacDonald.
Speaking on Belgian TV, Professor MacDonald said:
“The consequences could be very severe … like fracturing the pressure vessel, loss of coolant accident. This would be a leak before break scenario, in which case before a fracture of a pipe occurred … you would see a jet of steam coming out through the insulation.
“My advice is that all reactor operators, under the guidance of the regulatory commissions should be required to do an ultrasonic survey of the pressure vessels. All of them.”
Professor Bogaerts added:
“If I had to estimate, I would really be surprised if it … had occurred nowhere else … I am afraid that the corrosion aspects have been underestimated.”
Jan Bens, Director-General of the Belgian nuclear regulator the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC), has said that this could be a problem for the entire nuclear industry globally – and that the solution is to begin the careful inspection of 430 nuclear power plants worldwide.
An unexplained embrittlement
The problem was discovered in the summer of 2012. Both the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors have been shut down since March 24th, 2014 after additional tests revealed an unexplained advanced embrittlement of the steel of the test sample.
At the time the reactors’ operator, Electrabel, dismissed the cracks as being the result of manufacturing problems during construction in the late 1970’s in the Netherlands – but provided no supporting evidence.
FANC also stated that the most likely cause was manufacturing – but added that it could be due to other causes. Following the further tests FANC has now issued a statement confirming that the additional 2014 tests revealed 13,047 cracks in Doel 3 and 3,149 in Tihange 2.
“In carrying out tests related to theme 2 during the spring of 2014, a fracture toughness test revealed unexpected results, which suggested that the mechanical properties of the material were more strongly influenced by radiation than experts had expected. As a precaution both reactors were immediately shut down again.”
As nuclear reactors age, radiation causes pressure vessel damage, or embrittlement, of the steel mostly as a result of the constant irradiation by neutrons which gradually destroys the metal atom by atom – inducing radioactivity and transmutation into other elements.
Another problem is that hydrogen from cooling water can migrate into reactor vessel cracks. “The phenomenon is like a road in winter where water trickles into tiny cracks, freezes, and expands, breaking up the road”, says Greenpeace Belgium energy campaigner Eloi Glorieux.
“It appears that hydrogen from the water within the vessel that cools the reactor core is getting inside the steel, reacting, and destroying the pressure vessel from within.”
He adds that the findings mean that “the safety of every nuclear reactor on the planet could be significantly compromised … What we are seeing in Belgium is potentially devastating for nuclear reactors globally due to the increased risk of a catastrophic failure.”
Immediate action needed to prevent another catastrophe
On February 15th the nuclear reactor operator, Electrabel (GDF / Suez parent company) announced that it would be prepared to “sacrifice” one of its reactors to conduct further destructive tests of the reactor pressure vessel in order to study this poorly understood and extremely concerning damage phenomenon.
Electrabel’s findings will be submitted to FANC which will organize a new meeting of the international panel of experts to obtain their advice on the results of the new material tests and on the new data.
According to Electrabel, the findings constitute a “Level 1 occurrence on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES)” but the company emphasises that the event “has no impact whatsoever on the wellbeing or health of the employees, the local residents, or the surrounding area.”
But Glorieux dismisses such complacency: “As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima-daiichi nuclear disaster, evidence has emerged that demands immediate action to prevent another catastrophe. Thousands of previously unknown cracks in critical components of two reactors point to a potentially endemic and significant safety problem for reactors globally.
“Nuclear regulators worldwide must require reactor inspections as soon as possible, and no later than the next scheduled maintenance shutdown. If damage is discovered, the reactors must remain shut down until and unless safety and pressure vessel integrity can be guaranteed. Anything less would be insane given the risk of a severe nuclear accident”
There are 435 commercial nuclear reactors worldwide, with an average age of 28.5 years in mid 2014. Of these, 170 reactors (44 percent of the total) have been operating for 30 years or more and 39 reactors have operated for over 40 years. As of 2015, Doel 3 has been operating for 33 years; Tihange 2 for 32 years.
Now the plant’s owners are asking the Ohio Public Utilities Commission to force the public to pay billions of dollars over the next 15 years to subsidize reactor operations.
But Davis-Besse’s astonishing history of near-miss disasters defies belief. Its shoddy construction, continual operator error and relentless owner incompetence would not be believed as fiction, let alone as the stark realities of a large commercial reactor operating in a heavily populated area.
Time and again Davis-Besse has come within a fraction of an inch and an hour of crisis management time. Today its critical shield wall is literally crumbing, with new cracks opening up every time the northern Ohio weather freezes (like this week).
The company’s owners have blacked out the entire Northeast including 50 million customers—the largest such disaster in world history.
They allowed boric acid to eat within 3/16th of an inch of a Chernobyl-scale disaster that would’ve permanently irradiated the Great Lakes region. They have set the record for fines by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and continue to drain billions of ratepayer dollars from Ohio’s bleeding economy.
Now they want those ratepayers to fork over billions more to keep this reactor running beyond the brink.
Hear about Davis-Besse’s astonishing story, by listening to this incredible hour-long interview with local attorney Terry Lodge and Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, along with Tim Judson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, three of the key expert activists working to get Davis-Besse shut down.
Many wild stories have been told about atomic power over the decades, but it’s hard to top the true tales from Davis-Besse. In this case, hearing is believing—and holding your head in dismay:
If you want Davis-Besse shut write the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio at firstname.lastname@example.org. Use this label in the subject line of the email, as well as the body of the email message, so PUCO can route the public comments to the correct proceeding: OPPOSITION COMMENT UNDER CASE # 14-1297-EL-SSO.
A high-level radioactive waste “parking lot” — proposed for West Texas — poses both terrible and unnecessary risks for people throughout the country — Texas in particular — and should not be built.
That’s the position of a coalition of public interest groups that declared its opposition to the plan February 9.
The proposal was announced by Waste Control Specialists (WCS) which currently operates a low-level radioactive dump at the site near Eunice, New Mexico. The plan is for WCS, and the French nuclear giant AREVA, to accept high-level radioactive waste.
About 70,000 tons of such waste fuel–other rad waste is called “low-level”– is now stored at about 70 reactor sites around the country. The waste is some of most long-lived, deadly and dangerous material known to science, radioactive for over half-a-million years.
“It was irresponsible even to generate high-level nuclear waste without a plan for how to dispose of it,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, in a press release. “It would be doubly so to ship it across the country, with no serious plan to protect it in transit or in its new temporary destination. Hiding the problem of high-level nuclear waste in West Texas doesn’t make it go away, it makes it worse.”
Diane D’Arrigo, radioactive waste project director at Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said, “Moving nuclear waste to a supposedly temporary consolidated storage place gives the delusion of ‘a solution’ when in fact it will at least double the risks and create a de facto permanent dump near one of the largest aquifers in the country.”
D’Arrigo called the plan part of an elaborate, unnecessary shell game. “WCS is really volunteering to make the US nuclear problem worse by putting the deadliest radioactive wastes from nuclear power on the same highways, railways and waterways we all use every day,” she said. The government said 20 years ago that the waste could safely be kept at reactor sites for 100 years.
“This plan is all risk and no reward for the state of Texas,” said Tom Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. “It poses transportation and accident risks around the country. We don’t need Fukushima Freeways,” he said. […]
“The federal government has made a mess of nuclear waste policy,” said Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. “The highly radioactive spent fuel from nuclear reactors should be stored on-site, in hardened configurations while Washington sorts it out. Putting the deadliest nuclear waste on the roads needlessly increases risks.” he said.
The only plausible rationale for moving high-level waste away from reactor sites has come from those warning about tsunami risks on the West Coast, and from environmental justice advocates who note that radioactive waste is often placed — as with Xcel’s Prairie Island reactors in Minnesota — near Native American communities.
Former Texas State Rep. Lon Burnam of Ft. Worth said, “The site isn’t even dry — a minimum safety prerequisite for safe storage or disposal of radioactive waste. Recently, 22 percent of test wells at the existing low-level radioactive waste site had water present. … WCS admits the Ogallala Aquifer is nearby. What would happen if radioactive waste contaminated water that lies beneath eight states?”
Texas must not be allowed to risk answering that question. – Full article
John LaForge works for Nukewatch and lives on the Plowshares Land Trust near Luck, Wisc.