PCB pollution is in “every waterway in the state,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said as he announced a lawsuit against Monsanto. It is the first time the agricultural biotech giant has ever been sued by a state.
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have been at the heart of multiple lawsuits brought against the multinational agrochemical corporation Monsanto by Seattle and Spokane, Washington, as well as cities in California and Oregon. However, this Thursday marked the first time a state government has sued the company over the potentially carcinogenic chemicals.
The lawsuit, which seeks monetary restitution for damages and cleanup caused by the use of PCBs, was filed in King County Superior Court. Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) and the state’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson jointly announced the lawsuit in a press conference, claiming that Monsanto knew for years that it was polluting bays, lakes and rivers when it used the chemicals in coolants, hydraulic fluids, paints and sealants, Associated Press reported.
A win for the state could potentially reap hundreds of millions of dollars from Monsanto as well as two subsidiaries, Solutia Inc. and Pharmacia LLC.
Monsanto quit using PCBs when Congress banned them in 1979, but many say the damage had already been done and the chemicals’ impact are still felt today. From 1935 to 1979, Monsanto was the only company to produce PCBs, described by Ferguson as “one of the most pervasive pollutants in history,” the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.
Inslee called the chemicals “omnipresent and terrifically toxic,” adding that “one of the highest recorded [PCB concentrations] for any place on Earth” was in Washington’s southern resident orca population, according to the Post-Intelligencer.
The US Environmental Protection Agency classifies PCBs as a likely human carcinogen that also pose a risk of severe damage to the endocrine, immune, nervous and reproductive systems. Washington state’s Department of Health posted 13 different advisories against fish consumption due to risks of PCB pollution. Seattle’s Duwamish River is an EPA Superfund cleanup site, and one of its hazardous contaminants is PCB.
“Monsanto is responsible for producing a chemical that is so widespread in our environment that it appears virtually everywhere we look – in our waterways, in people and in fish – at levels that can impact our health,” Inslee said at the Thursday press conference, the Post-Intelligencer reported.
During the presser, Ferguson reportedly quoted from an internal Monsanto memo from 1937, which acknowledged lengthy exposure to PCB vapors having “systemic toxic effects.” Ferguson cited other records as well, charging that the corporation hid this sort of information from the public even though it knew of global PCB pollution in the 1960s.
The US Navy is set to release massive amounts of explosives and contaminants along the country’s Western coast over the next 20 years.
Several times a year, the US publicizes its “war games,” both domestic and abroad, allowing the massive, heavily-funded US military to showcase its might, develop new strategies, and test combat readiness. Yet, ignored all too often is the environmental impact of these exercises which, since World War I, have left behind tons of bombs, heavy metals, explosives, depleted uranium, missiles, and sonar buoys, which contaminate the world’s oceans and harm humans and marine animals alike. Even though the outright dumping of chemical weapons was banned in 1972, the Navy has continued to carry out a policy of “leaving behind” munitions and explosives following its military exercises. The Navy, for its part, insists that the “contamination of the marine environment by munitions constituent is not well documented,” though critics insist that the Navy has intentionally not looked for or measured its environmental impacts.
Indeed, this claim of the contamination not being “well documented” shows a willful ignorance of the abundant evidence that these pollutants have caused great harm to the environment, considering that even the US government admits that the Navy has been responsible for creating thousands of contaminated sites around the world. The Department of Defense, which includes the Navy, is the world’s largest polluter, producing more toxic waste annually than the five largest US chemical companies combined. In 1990, the Department of Defense admitted to having created more than 14,000 suspected contamination sites around the world. In 2014, the officially reported number rose to 39,000, but the actual figure is likely far greater.
Recently, the Navy’s path of environmental destruction has made headlines. In 2014, the Navy was caught illegally dumping wastewater into one of the world’s largest marine reserves. This past June, Pennsylvania’s governor urged over 70,000 residents from three different counties to sue the Navy over the contamination of their drinking water. The lawmaker suggested suing the Navy just for the funding to pay for blood tests proving how polluted their own bodies had become with heavy metals and other toxic substances. Just last month, the Port of San Diego sued the US Navy, as the Navy’s injection of toxic chemicals into the coastal waters threaten to contaminate the entire bay.
Now, the Navy has just announced its plan to release 20,000 tons of environmental “stressors” (i.e. toxic munitions, explosives, etc) into the coastal waters of the US Pacific Northwest. The plan is laid out in the Navy’s Northwest Training and Testing environmental impact statement (EIS). These “stressors” are documented by the EPA as known hazards, many of which are highly toxic at both acute and chronic levels. One of these chemicals is perchlorate. Perchlorate is incredibly persistent in the environment and it often appears in the breastmilk of women exposed to perchlorate-contaminated water. It also affects children and fetuses much more than they affect adults. Another common chemical, picric acid, can cause severe poisoning if only one gram is ingested. Others, such as TNT, remain chemically active in aquatic environments, bioaccumulate in fish, and can cause developmental and physiological problems in humans.
That’s not even the worst of it. The 20,000 tons of “stressors” mentioned in the EIS does not account for the additional 4.7 to 14 tons of “metals with potential toxicity” that the Navy plans to release annually into the inland waters along Puget Sound in Washington State, a heavily populated area including major population centers such as Seattle. In response to concern, a Navy spokeswoman said that heavy metals and even depleted uranium was no more dangerous than any other metal, a statement which is a clear rejection of scientific fact. It seems that the very US Naval operations meant to “keep Americans safe” comes at a higher cost than most people realize, one that will be felt for generations to come.
Israel’s rural landscape is saturated with pine trees. These trees are new to the region. The pine trees were introduced to the Palestinian’s landscape in the early 1930s by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in an attempt to ‘reclaim the land’. By 1935, JNF had planted 1.7 million trees over a total area of 1,750 acres. Over fifty years, the JNF planted over 260 million trees largely on confiscated Palestinian land. It did it all in a desperate attempt to hide the ruins of the ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages and their history.
Along the years the JNF performed a crude attempt to eliminate Palestinian civilisation and past but it also tried to make Palestine look like Europe. The Palestinian natural forest was eradicated. Similarly the olive trees were uprooted. The pine trees took their place. On the southern part of mount Carmel the Israelis named an area as ‘Little Switzerland’. By now, there is no much left of “Little Switzerland.”
However, the facts on the ground were pretty devastating for the JNF. The pine tree didn’t adapt to the Israeli climate as much as the Israelis failed to adapt to the Middle East. According to JNF statistics, six out of every 10 saplings planted did not survive. Those few trees that did survive formed nothing but a firetrap. By the end of each Israeli summer each of the Israeli pine forests become a potential deadly zone.
In spite of its nuclear ability, its criminal army, the occupation, the Mossad and its lobbies all over the world, Israel seems to be vulnerable. It is devastatingly alienated from the land it claims to own and care for. Like the pine tree, Zionism, Israel and the Israeli are foreign to the region.
Two leading US nuclear engineering firms, Bechtel and URS, have agreed to pay $125 million to settle charges that they installed substandard quality pipes and containment vessels at a plant to reprocess dangerous nuclear waste, the US Department of Justice announced in a press release.
The charges also involved diverting money from the nuclear cleanup to pay lobbyists, the release stated on Wednesday.
“The United States alleged that the defendants improperly billed the government for materials and services from vendors that did not meet quality control requirements, for piping and waste vessels that did not meet quality standards and for testing from vendors who did not have compliant quality programs,” the release also noted.
The two contractors were hired to build a nuclear waste processing facility at the Hanford Project, which was established in 1943 to manufacture plutonium that was used in the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki at the close of World War II. Later, Hanford supplied much of the plutonium used in the US nuclear arsenal.
Today, the site is heavily contaminated with radioactive waste and is largely out of commission, according to published reports.
China may scale down plans for nuclear power because of slowing demand for electricity and construction setbacks
For China’s nuclear industry, 2016 has been a frustrating year. So far, construction has started on only one new plant, and its target of bringing 58 gigawatts of nuclear capacity in service by 2020 seems impossible to meet.
At present, China has 19.3 gigawatts of nuclear supply under construction and a further 31.4 gigawatts already in service. Given that new plants take five years or more to build, the country faces a shortfall of more than seven gigawatts on its target.
All the plants started between 2008 and 2010 are online except for six imported reactors. These include four AP1000 reactors designed by Westinghouse, based in the USA but owned by Toshiba of Japan; and two European Pressurised Reactors (EPR), developed by Areva, a French multinational group specialising in nuclear power.
The plants are not expected to be completed before 2017 and all will be at least three years late, an unprecedented delay in China’s nuclear history. It would be surprising if China was not disillusioned with its suppliers and their technologies.
The EPR and AP1000 reactors have been problematic to build. The two EPRs are 3-4 years late although there is little available information detailing why. Meanwhile, EPR plants in Finland and France, which should have been completed in 2009 and 2012, respectively, will not be online before 2018.
There are no obvious problems that account for the majority of the delays at any of the sites, just a series of quality and planning issues that suggest the complexity of the design makes it difficult to build.
The four AP1000s are also running 3-4 years late. They are being built by China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Company (SNPTC), which has not built reactors before. There is some publicly available information about the problems suffered in China with the AP1000s, including continual design changes by Westinghouse. The reactor coolant pumps and the squib valves, which are essential to prevent accidents, have been particularly problematic, for example.
Still, China is expected to be the first country to complete construction of AP1000 and EPR designs, a scenario it did not expect or want. The government is required to develop and demonstrate test procedures for bringing the plants into service, which could take up to a year. These test procedures are developed by vendors and generally standardised although national safety regulators must approve them and can add specific requirements.
In 2014, a senior official at China’s nuclear safety regulator, the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) complained that only a small number of test procedures had been developed for the AP1000, and no acceptance criteria had been submitted for review. He said the same issues affect the EPR.
China will likely be reluctant to commit to further AP1000s (and the CAP1400, a Chinese design modified from the AP1000) until the first of the Westinghouse designs is in service, passes its acceptance tests, and demonstrates safe, reliable operation. There are no plans to build additional EPR reactors.
In fact, state-owned China General Nuclear (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) opted instead to develop medium-sized reactors (1000 megawatts), the ACP1000 and the ACPR1000, respectively, based on Areva’s much older M310 design rather than the EPR.
The slowdown in electricity demand growth at home has left China with surplus power-generating capacity. Nuclear is now competing against coal plants supplied with cheap fuel. Furthermore, nuclear has a lower priority for dispatch in winter than combined heat and power plants, which warm homes and factories and typically burn coal and gas.
In 2015, nuclear power accounted for only 3% of China’s electricity and at any plausible rate of building nuclear plants, it is unlikely that nuclear would achieve more than 10% of China’s electricity supply.
This year, one reactor (Hongyanhe 3) in Liaoning, operated for only 987 hours in the first quarter of 2016, just 45% of its availability, while reactors in Fujian (Fuqing) and Hainan (Changjiang) were shut down temporarily.
Another challenge is the strain placed on China’s nuclear regulators in the face of such an ambitious target. The NNSA is under particular pressure to oversee the operation of 36 plants and the construction of 20 plants, as well as being the first regulatory authority to review six new designs. Not even the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which monitored standards during the huge build out of the industry in the 1960s and 1970s, has faced such a workload.
Safety authorities are usually reluctant to appear critical of their international peers but in 2014, a senior French safety regulator described NNSA as “overwhelmed”, and claimed that the storage of components was “not at an adequate level”. A senior official from SNPTC said in 2015: “Our fatal weakness is our management standards are not high enough.” To build up the capabilities to support such a large construction programme a pause in ordering new plants and equipment may be necessary.
The 58GW target of nuclear capacity in service by 2020 is not achievable and, like nuclear capacity targets in the past in China and elsewhere, it will be quietly revised down. The challenge for the Chinese nuclear industry is to do what no other nuclear industry worldwide has been able to do; to bring the cost of nuclear generation down to levels at which it can compete with other forms of generation, particularly renewables.
If it is unable to do this, China cannot afford to carry on ordering nuclear plants and nuclear will retain a small proportion of the electricity mix.
This leaves China’s nuclear export drive in a precarious position. Since 2013, China has turned its attention to nuclear export markets, offering apparently strong advantages over its competitors. The Chinese government can call on all the resources of China to offer a package of equipment, construction expertise, finance and training that none of its rivals, even Russia, can match.
Unlike its competitors, it also has a huge amount of recent construction experience allowing it to supply cheap, good quality equipment. Its attempt to build reactors in the UK is an important element to this strategy; convincing an experienced user of nuclear power that a Chinese plant is worth investing in is a strong endorsement of their technology.
Despite these advantages China has had little export success so far. In part, this is because there are fewer markets open to new nuclear. Such markets are typically found in developing countries where the financial risks are greater, and where governments have tried and failed to launch nuclear power programmes themselves.
It seems clear there is a political element to the Chinese nuclear export strategy, which is to gain influence and leverage in the importing countries. However, if the world nuclear market does not pick up soon, the Chinese government may decide to put its formidable resources behind other technologies that would develop influence with less economic risk. If China’s nuclear home market is not flourishing, this decision will be much easier.
“Scientists are bewildered by Zika’s path across Latin America” — except the “scientists” didn’t do the right science before jumping to conclusions.
From today’s WaPo :
Below are the cases:
Back in March, I wrote that we need to wait until the data from Colombia are in. Well they are. Clearly there is some other cause of the reported fetal deformities. I don’t expect the “experts” to figure it out. Meanwhile, how many babies were needlessly aborted?
So . . . what can we expect from the Trump administration on environment/climate/energy?
There is much angst among the ‘greens’ about what to expect. This is typified by this morning’s headlines from the Huffington Post :
SET TO BOIL: Trump Racing to Scrap Landmark Climate Deal
China Calls Move Ludicrous… ‘GAME OVER’: Scientists Fear Disaster With Donald… ‘Election Of Donald Trump Could Be Devastating For Our Climate And Our Future’… ‘Trump Has A Profound Ignorance Of Science’… Donald Taps Climate-Change Skeptic To Dismantle EPA… Oil Exec Eyed For Sec. Of Interior… New Push For Keystone Pipeline Fires Up…
Lets take a closer look at what President-elect Trump has actually said in recent months, including his policy/issue statements.
Whenever the issue of Trump and climate change comes up in the world of the ‘greens’, the first thing they mention is that he said climate change is a ‘hoax.’
Politifact has done a good job of summarizing this (January 2016):
The clearest example comes from a tweet sent by Trump on Nov. 6, 2012. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
On Jan. 18, after Sanders had attacked Trump’s climate change views in the Democratic debate, Trump told Fox & Friends, “Well, I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change. I’d be — received environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn’t care less. They have very — you know, their standards are nothing. But they — in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it’s very hard on our business.”
On Dec. 30, 2015, Trump told the crowd at a rally in Hilton Head, S.C., “Obama’s talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, OK? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.”
In August, he stated:
“I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change. Nobody knows for sure.”
Lets first look at the definition of ‘hoax’, here are a few I spotted by googling:
- a humorous or malicious deception.
- to trick into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous
- a plan to deceive a large group of people
- a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth.
With these definitions in mind, here are two examples that qualify as hoaxes that I have previously written about:
- The UNFCCC definition of ‘climate change’ arguably qualifies as a hoax: climate change is a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods. [link]. This perversion of the definition of ‘climate change’ was designed to mislead people into thinking that all climate change is caused by humans.
- The propaganda from the UNFCCC that misleads people into thinking that the planned emissions reductions will have any discernible impact (that emerges from natural variability) on the 21st century climate [link], even if you believe the climate models.
So in terms of climate hoaxes, perhaps it is NOT Donald Trump’s whose pants are on fire.
Trump’s answers to ScienceDebate
ScienceDebate.org asked the Presidential candidates questions on a range of science-related issues. The answers to the climate change questions are [here]. Trump’s statement:
There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of “climate change.” Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water. Perhaps we should focus on eliminating lingering diseases around the world like malaria. Perhaps we should focus on efforts to increase food production to keep pace with an ever-growing world population. Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels. We must decide on how best to proceed so that we can make lives better, safer and more prosperous.
Well, I find it difficult to argue with any of this. In fact, I like this statement quite a lot.
The big news over the weekend is that someone from Trump’s transition team has leaked that Trump plans to pull out of the Paris UNFCCC agreement [link].
Robert Stavins has a concise analysis of Trump’s road ahead re climate change [link]:
Trump, if we take him at his word, will try to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change. But it will take four years to do that, now that it has come into force. (It came into force quickly — with countries accounting for 55 percent of global emissions ratifying it — only because countries were afraid of Trump being elected, and wanted to lock the United States in.)
Despite the fact that the Obama administration has already submitted the instrument of ratification through executive agreement, Trump might submit the Paris Agreement to the Senate, where, of course, it would fail in a ratification vote. Or he might just announce that we will not comply with our already submitted nationally determined contributions, a 26 to 28 percent reduction below 2005 emissions by 2025. The big question is what effect all of this will have on the positions of China, India, Brazil, etc. It will surely not encourage greater action.
Domestically, he wants to “bring back the coal industry,” but the problems of the U.S. coal industry are competition from low-price natural gas for electricity generation, not environmental regulation. Also, that’s inconsistent with his pronouncements supporting fracking, because that increases gas supply and lowers gas prices, which hurts coal.
Could he try to amend the Clean Air Act itself? That would be unlikely to succeed, as Democrats in the Senate would filibuster, I assume. Would he eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, as he also promised at one point? No, again that would require an act of Congress. But he could try to starve the agency through low funding. And he will be appointing people to hundreds of key positions.
A more thorough analysis is provided by Paul Voosen: What Trump can – and can’t – do all by himself on climate.
Trump’s campaign web site issued a Position Statement on Energy:
DONALD J. TRUMP’S VISION
- Make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protect clean air and clean water. We will conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources. We will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country.
- Declare American energy dominance a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States.
- Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.
Become, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests.
- Open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.
- Encourage the use of natural gas and other American energy resources that will both reduce emissions but also reduce the price of energy and increase our economic output.
- Rescind all job-destroying Obama executive actions. Mr. Trump will reduce and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production, creating at least a half million jobs a year, $30 billion in higher wages, and cheaper energy.
Read Donald J. Trump’s 100-Day Action Plan, here.
- Energy costs the average American household $5,000 per year. As a percentage of income, the cost is greater for lower-income families. [Fox News, Sept. 3, 2015]
- Shale energy production could add 2 million jobs in 7 years.
- The oil and natural gas industry supports 10 million high-paying Americans jobs and can create another 400,000 new jobs per year. [The New York Times, June 20, 2015]
Anyone interested in the environment is abuzz with the news that Myron Ebell is leading the transition re the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This Wikipedia article summarizes why the ‘greens’ would be alarmed at this appointment.
The Hill has an interesting article: Myron Ebell is Perfectly Suited to Lead the Transition. Excerpts:
Consequently, Ebell has expressed concern about EPA positions, including the Clean Power Plan. The EPA’s controversial power plan is based on an inadequate understanding of global warming and should not drive our middle class into energy poverty against congressional will.
It is critical to understand that while the federal government, through Congress, establishes the overall goals of environmental protection through laws like the Clean Air and Water acts, the implementation of those laws is by state governments.
State governments and their citizens have demonstrated the ability to implement programs that protect our environment without destroying the very thing that makes environmental protection possible: a strong economy.
Over the last eight years the Obama administration has abandoned this successful approach to environmental protection as envisioned by Congress. Instead, they have turned to special interest groups to drive centralized planning. Prime examples include the 2015 EPA Power Plan and the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
These rules contain illusory flexibility to states when in reality they represent a huge shift of control from states to the federal government. Even the current administration acknowledged that the power plan was symbolic and would do little to improve air quality.
The power plan would be expensive and shut down energy plants that have not yet been paid for, thereby stranding those costs with ratepayers. It would harm the industrial sector by significantly increasing electricity rates, which would throttle manufacturing industries that require low energy prices to compete.
Similarly, under WOTUS land use decisions would be federalized. Our nation’s agricultural industry would be hamstrung by costly and unnecessary land use restrictions, which would stifle growth opportunities. The expansion of manufacturing, commercial and residential development would be left to federal bureaucrats.
Fortunately, dozens of states and state agencies stood their ground against the federal government and won stays against these rules. We hope the Trump EPA will review existing rules and base its policy decisions on sound data and measurable results.
History has demonstrated time and again that just as “all politics is local,” so is environmental protection. State and local governments know best how to apply the many tools available to protect the environment and public health.We still need the EPA, but not the EPA of the past.
Returning control of our environment to the states also limits the dark money from self-serving lobbyists and deep-pocketed special interest groups masquerading as environmentalists.
I spotted this statement from Trump on the Wikipedia:
Everyone deserves clean air and safe drinking water regardless of race or Water infrastructure will be a big priority. We need to work to protect natural areas, but in a balanced way. End Obama EPA mandates that cost too many jobs, are opposed by most states, and too often have negligible benefit for the environment.
Sep 16, 2016
One of his tweets:
“Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air – not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense.”
Some additional hints from outsideonline :
Don Jr. told reporters: “[W]e’ve broken away from a lot of traditional conservative dogma on the issue, in that we do want federal lands to remain federal.”
Trump himself put it like so to Field & Stream last January: “I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land.”
The next month, however, Don Jr. gave a more nuanced reply to a reporter’s question about revised leasing requirements coming into place on some federal lands, to enhance protections. “We do have to preserve those lands, and what I’ve seen thus far has been pretty reasonable,” young Don asserted.
In my post Trumping the elites, I stated that Trump’s election provided an opportunity for a more rational energy and climate policy. Many in the blog comments and the twitosphere found this to be an incomprehensible statement.
Here is what I think needs to be done, and I do see opportunities for these in a Trump administration:
- a review of climate science that includes a faithful and transparent representation of uncertainties in 21st century projections of global and regional climate change
- reopening of the ‘endangerment’ issue, as to whether warming is ‘dangerous’
- a do-over on assessing the social cost of carbon, that accounts for full uncertainty in the climate model simulations, the integrated assessment models and their inputs.
- support funding for Earth observing systems (satellite, surface, ocean) and research on natural climate variability.
Even if politics are to ‘trump’ the conclusions of these analyses, it would be clear that the Trump administration has done its due diligence on this issue in terms of gathering and assessing information. If the Trump administration were to accomplish the first 3 items, they might have a scientifically and economically defensible basis for pulling out of the Paris agreement and canceling Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
Environmentalists and ‘greens’ should look for the promising avenues to work with Trump, e.g.:
- Trump is clearly a supporter of clean water and clean air
- Trump seems dedicated to being a good custodian of federal lands (don’t underestimate Don Jr’s influence on this one)
- Trump wants the U.S. to be energy independent; this is easier without an over reliance on fossil fuels
- Trump seems to support win-win energy solutions; e.g. solutions that reduce cost and increase energy security while at the same time reducing emissions.
- Trump is a builder that wants to improve water infrastructure, which will help ameliorate the impacts of droughts and floods.
Working together on these issues would be a good start, if the ‘greens’ can get past the climate hoax thing. Donald Trump does not seem to be particularly beholden to the fossil fuel sector.
In closing, some insights from Andy Revkin:
Is this end times for environmental progress or, more specifically, climate progress? No. The bad news about climate change is, in a way, the good news:
The main forces determining emission levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be just as much out of President Trump’s hands as they were out of President Obama’s. The decline in the United States has mainly been due to market forces shifting electricity generation from coal to abundant and cheaper natural gas, along with environmental regulations built around the traditional basket of pollutants that even conservatives agreed were worth restricting. (Efficiency and gas-mileage standards and other factors have helped, too, of course.)
At the same time, the unrelenting rise in greenhouse-gas emissions in developing countries is propelled by an unbending reality identified way back in 2005 by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, when he said, “The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge.”
At the same time, as well, other fundamental forces will continue to drive polluted China and smog-choked India to move away from unfettered coal combustion as a path to progress. An expanding middle class is already demanding cleaner air and sustainable transportation choices — just as similar forces enabled pollution cleanups in the United States in the last century.
That’s why the Paris Agreement on climate change will continue to register progress on emissions and investments in clean energy or climate resilience, but only within the limits of what nations already consider achievable .
So if you’re a working-class family, and dad has to drive 50 miles to get to his job, and he can’t afford to buy a Tesla or a Prius, and the most important thing to him economically to make sure he can pay the bills at the end of the month is the price of gas, and when gas prices are low that means an extra 100 bucks in his pocket, or 200 bucks in his pocket, and that may make the difference about whether or not he can buy enough food for his kids — if you just start lecturing him about climate change and what’s going to happen to the planet 50 years from now, it’s just not going to register.
The level of congenital malformation and ill health in Iraqi children is not improving, which means whatever happened during the US-led war is still there and the damage has been done to DNA, says Chris Busby a health inspector in Fallujah.
November 7 marks 12 years since Washington began what became the bloodiest battle in its invasion of Iraq. It took two months for the Pentagon to push insurgents out of the city of Fallujah with hundreds of civilian victims as collateral damage.
Following studies on the ground, the World Health Organization claimed that rates of stillbirths and congenital defects across Iraq are consistent with or even lower than international estimates.
Nevertheless, other studies have linked serious health issues to the use of depleted uranium weapons in both the 1991 and 2003 wars. Those weapons were designed to be “armor-busters”. However the US has reportedly used them on soft targets as well.
Depleted uranium is toxic and mildly radioactive and there are growing calls to ban the use of such arms altogether.
RT talked to Dr. Chris Busby who has studied what’s been described as an epidemic of cancer and birth defects in Iraq and particularly Fallujah. He’s behind a major report on the issue and says the situation on the ground remains drastic, years after the war ended.
‘Health situation not improving’
“The most interesting thing is that nothing has got any better. The level of congenital malformation, the level of ill health in the children as they are born is not improving, which means that whatever it was that happened long ago is still there in the genetic make-up of the people who live there.”
‘WHO report – disgraceful’
“The problem with that study is that it wasn’t a study that was carried out at a hospital like ours. The study that was carried out by the WHO – which is incidentally a disgraceful study – just looked at children whose parents said that they had congenital malformations. On that basis in fact they found that they had a lower level of congenital malformations than the expected number throughout the world should have led them to the idea that maybe the study wasn’t working.”
‘Cause of health problems’
“We know it was exposed to uranium because we measured the uranium in one study. We spent a lot of money looking at the uranium levels in the hair of the parents of the children with congenital malformations. So, there is no doubt about it being uranium.”
‘Need for depleted uranium ban’
“It is becoming clear now that uranium has very serious genetic qualities that weren’t understood. And they are still not conceded by the authorities. The last people to concede it will be the Americans, the American military, the people who are most dependent upon it. They don’t want to get rid of this magical weapon. And they are fighting tooth and nail, including scientifically, to try and show that there isn’t a serious problem that quite obviously is.”
‘Damage done to DNA can’t be cleaned up’
“The problem is not that there are these contamination sites. It is very difficult to decontaminate an area that has been affected by depleted uranium because it spreads so uniformly across the area in the form of these very fine particles. So, it is not a case of going somewhere and finding something that is radioactive and removing it. Though, you can do that. Lots of the tanks and armored vehicles that were attacked in the First Gulf War, they can be taken away and dumped somewhere. But that is not the problem. The thing that is causing the problem is the inhalation of this dust. And once the dust is created, it goes all over the place. After 10-20 years the dust will get washed down by the rain into the soil and won’t be so hazardous. The problem is that the damage that has been done to the DNA – you can’t clean that up. The continuing level of congenital malformations and cancer presumably is an indicator of the fact that the genome of these people has been affected and that is like a sort of trans-generational curse that will go on for a very long time, for generations,” Busby told RT.
Christopher Busby is an expert on the health effects of ionizing radiation. He qualified in Chemical Physics at the Universities of London and Kent, and worked on the molecular physical chemistry of living cells for the Wellcome Foundation. Professor Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk based in Brussels and has edited many of its publications since its founding in 1998. He has held a number of honorary University positions, including Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Health of the University of Ulster. Busby currently lives in Riga, Latvia. See also: http://www.chrisbusbyexposed.org, http://www.greenaudit.org and http://www.llrc.org.
Anti-fluoridation activists in Georgia received a major boost of support when former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under Jimmy Carter, Andrew Young, sent a letter to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston demanding hearings to investigate why water fluoridation is being continued in the state despite all the reasons to end it.
Ambassador Young is asking for a written response. His letter was also sent to the CEO of the American Water Works Association, David LaFrance.
“What’s clear to me is that we need a repeal of Georgia’s water fluoridation law, and hearings to look into how fluoridation has continued all these years, long after there were plenty of reasons to end it,” Ambassador Young wrote.
“This is a civil rights issue, and the people have the right to have the full story given to them, rather than highly edited, misleading talking points.”
Young also addressed the sketchy nature of the pro-fluoridation argument when he wrote,
When someone’s story keeps changing, there are quite often motivations behind their changed stance that may not be aligned with the best interests of the public. The story offered by water fluoridation promoters keeps changing… and changing… and changing. There are key groups such as seniors, kidney patients, diabetics, communities of color, thyroid patients and people who drink a lot of water due to their occupation that are especially effected by Fluoridegate.
“I am calling for Fluoridegate hearings, here, in Georgia and I am calling for a repeal of Georgia’s fluoridation law, immediately,” Young added.
You can read the full text of Young’s letter here. We congratulate Ambassador Young on having the courage to speak out on this issue and we eagerly await the written response to it. Even more important, we are looking for an end to water fluoridation in Georgia.
Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies,Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President.
Next week the Fraser Institute’s newly established Peter Munk Centre for Free Enterprise will offer a day long “Introduction to Economic Reasoning” seminar for Grade 10-12 students in Scarborough. Launched in June with $5 million from the founder of Barrick Gold, the Centre for Free Enterprise cements Munk’s position as leading contributor to right-wing ideas. But, the ideologue’s biggest contribution has been to a venerable public institution.
The Munk School of Global Affairs reveals much about the state of foreign-policy debate in this country. Among 35 million Canadians, the University of Toronto would be hard pressed to find a less credible source of support for the study of international affairs.
Peter Munk is a right wing ideologue and mining magnate with an important personal stake in a particular foreign policy. The Munk founded Barrick Gold has benefited from Canadian diplomatic support, export financing and development aid.
With its projects spurring ecological devastation, communal conflict and dozens of deaths on six continents, the Toronto company has led the charge against moves to withhold diplomatic and financial support to Canadian companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. After An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing Countries was narrowly defeated in 2010 Munk wrote a letter in the Toronto Star “celebrating those MPs who had the courage” to side with Canada’s massive mining industry lobby and vote against bill C 300.
Munk espouses far-right political views. In 1997 he praised dictator Augusto Pinochet for “transforming Chile from a wealth-destroying socialist state to a capital-friendly model that is being copied around the world” while two years later the Canadian Jewish News reported on a donation Munk made to an Israeli university and a speech in which he “suggested that Israel’s survival is dependent on maintaining its technological superiority over the Arabs.” In 2007 he compared Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to Hitler and later dismissed criticism of Barrick’s security force in Papua New Guinea by claiming “gang rape is a cultural habit” in that country. He responded to a 2014 Economist question about whether “Indigenous groups appear to have a lot more say and power in resource development these days” by saying “globally it’s a real problem. It’s a major, major problem.”
An initial $6.4 million contract to rename the International Studies Department the Munk Centre for International Studies stipulated the Centre would receive advice from Barrick’s international advisory board, which included US President George Bush and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. (When asked why he appointed Mulroney to Barrick’s board, Munk told Peter C. Newman: “He has great contacts. He knows every dictator in the world on a first name basis.”) The 1997 agreement empowered Munk to stop payments if dissatisfied with the Centre. Happy with its direction, Munk contributed $5 million more in 2006 and $35 million to launch the Munk School of Global Affairs in 2010. That deal committed the U of T to pony up $39 million from its endowment while the Ontario and federal governments chipped in $50 million (as well as a $16 million tax credit to Peter Munk for his $35 million donation).
Flush with resources, the School is highly influential. It co-sponsors an award for the world’s best non-fiction book on foreign affairs, Canadian Forces College workshops, annual lecture with Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy and Toronto International Film Festival speakers series. The School also co-sponsors the Munk Debates, which held the first-ever Canadian foreign policy leaders debate during the 2015 federal election.
The School’s Munk Fellowship in Global Journalism awards twenty fellowships for a year-long program run in partnership with the Globe and Mail, CBC News, Toronto Star, Postmedia and Thomson Reuters. The School has significant ties to the Globe and Mail with former editors-in-chief John Stackhouse and William Thorsell both senior fellows at the School.
While executive director at the Munk Centre in 2007, Marketa Evans helped spawn the Devonshire Initiative, a project for NGOs and mining companies to discuss corporate social responsibility and development issues. Named after the street where the School is located, the Devonshire Initiative undermined a government–civil society Roundtable that called for withholding government financial and political support to resource companies found responsible for major abuses abroad. Evans would later be appointed Canada’s inaugural Corporate Social Responsibility counselor, a post the Harper Conservatives set up to alleviate pressure to restrict government support for companies found responsible for international abuses.
The School supported the Harper Conservatives’ low-level war against Iran. After severing diplomatic ties and designating Iran a state sponsor of terrorism in 2012, Foreign Affairs ploughed $250,000 into the Munk School’s Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran. The aim of the initiative was to foment opposition to the regime and help connect dissidents inside and outside Iran. Expanding the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran, Foreign Affairs gave the Munk School $9 million in 2015 to establish the Digital Public Square project to undermine online censorship within enemy states.
Canada’s most influential global studies program is the brainchild of a mining magnate with a significant personal stake in a particular foreign policy. And the school has been shaped in his hard right image.
Yves Engler is the author of Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
This month, the Pentagon admitted it has used uranium weapons in attacks inside Syria — violating its public promise last year that it would not use DU there, and contradicting the claim that US bombing is done in defense of the Syrian people, according to the Int’l Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons.
Like the Pentagon’s past denials of the dangers of the chemical weapon Agent Orange, US military officials still claim publicly that its uranium weapons are not known to cause health problems. Made from waste uranium-238 — left from H-bomb and reactor fuel production — it is called “depleted” uranium (DU) but is only “depleted” of U-235. Ironically, the best evidence that it is dangerously toxic and radioactive — contrary to press pronouncements — comes from the Pentagon itself. A June 1995 report to Congress by the Army’s Environmental Policy Institute (AEPI) concluded: “Depleted uranium is a radioactive waste and, as such, should be deposited in a licensed repository.”
Military studies done in 1979, ‘90, ‘93, ‘95 and ‘97, make clear that uranium weapons are chemically toxic, alpha-radiation-emitting poisons that are a danger to target populations and to invading/occupying US forces alike. In spite of this cautionary written record, the military has been shooting its radioactive waste all over the world: into population centers in Iraq in 1991 (380 tons), in Afghanistan in 2001 (amounts unknown); in Bosnia in 1994-‘95 (five tons); in Kosovo in 1999 (10 tons), in Iraq again in 2003 (170 tons); and now in Syria.
The AEPI report above also says that DU has the potential to generate “significant medical consequences” if it enters the body. The Army’s Office of the Surgeon General, in its Aug. 16, 1993 “Depleted Uranium Safety Training Manual,” says that the expected effects of DU exposure include a possible increase of cancer, and kidney damage. The manual also warns, “When soldiers inhale or ingest DU dust, they incur a potential increase in cancer risk … (lung or bone) and kidney damage.”
The Army’s Mobility Equipment, Research & Development Command reported way back in 1979 that, “Not only the people in the immediate vicinity but also people at distances downwind from the fire are faced with potential over exposure to air-borne uranium dust.” This uranium “dust” is generated when DU shells hit and burn through hard targets like tanks or armored vehicles. The uranium is spread for miles by the wind, contaminating everything is its path including food, water, soil, schools, hospitals, etc., and DU is radioactive forever, or ten times 4.5 billion years, whichever comes first.
In 1990, the Army’s Armaments, Munitions and Chemical Command radiological task group said that DU is a “low level alpha radiation emitter … linked to cancer when exposures are internal, [and] chemical toxicity causing kidney damage.” It added that “there is no dose so low that the probability of effect is zero.”
With evidence of its radio-toxicity so clear and redundant, any use of uranium weapons today appears to flaunt the military’s own Field Manual prohibition — absolute and universal — against the use of poison or poisoned weapons.
Historical Disregard Revisited
The military has a long history of deliberately exposing US citizens and others to deadly risks without their knowledge or consent, beginning with the open-air nuclear bomb tests it knew would contaminate vast areas. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chose not to evacuate or even warn downwind populations it knew would be hard-hit by radioactive fallout. (“Fallout risk near atom tests was known, documents show,” New York Times, March 15, 1995) These bomb tests exposed Nevada Test Site workers to levels of radiation that the AEC knew could cause harm, but the agency chose not to reduce workers’ exposures or to even inform them of the risks because doing so would have scandalized and halted the bombing tests. (“Records say workers faced high radiation: Suit contends US used no safeguards,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, Dec. 14, 1989)
Likewise, the government refused to inform some 600,000 H-bomb factory workers that workplace radiation exposures posed serious health risks, although enough was known about radiation to warn them in 1948. (“N-plant workers not told of risks: Report says US arms program exposed many to radiation,” Associated Press, Dec. 19, 1989) Between 1944 and 1974, “medicalized” human radiation experiments were even conducted on unwitting US citizens, 16,000 of them (The Plutonium Files, by Eileen Welsome).
Today, the Pentagon extends this ghastly history into Syria where it is deliberately exposing human beings to weaponized radiation that it knows can cause cancer and other diseases. As if the undeclared, unconstitutional war in Syria weren’t unlawful enough, now add the crime of using poison in violation of military law and the Hague Regulations of War on Land.
It is so easy to prove that DU is poison, that a group of four non-lawyers, myself included, convinced a Minneapolis jury in 2004 that AlliantTechsystems’ manufacture of the shells is unlawful enough to excuse an otherwise illegal trespass; our minor offense was justified in order to prevent the greater harm of DU weapons production. Like torture, the use of such poison in war is always criminal, akin to gas war. This latest US government war crime must be condemned in the harshest terms.
For more information on DU weapons and the global effort to have them banned, see ICBUW.org.
Senegalese agro-pastoralists are striking wins against Senhuile SA, a foreign-owned agribusiness company established in Ndiaël, Saint-Louis Region of Senegal. In 2012, Senhuile obtained a 50 year lease on 20,000 hectares for a sweet potato plantation in a forest and wetland reserve, which was partially declassified to establish agribusiness activities.1 The deal threatened 9,000 pastoralists, who depend on these lands for their livelihoods. In addition to grazing their 100,000 animals (cows, sheep, goats, and horses), these lands also provide them with firewood, fruits, medicinal plants, and saps and resins.
For over four years, 37 villages impacted by Senhuile’s activities have shown fierce resistance. In the latest action, over 350 local opponents to the project gathered on July 29, 2016, to claim their right to farm the reserve lands. Previously, communities had been denied the authorization to cultivate small plots on the grounds that Ndiaël was classified among the Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. Now that large tracts of the reserve have been declassified and cleared by Senhuile, residents of Ndiaël are determined to start their own agricultural activities in the area.
Prior to 2012, Senhuile had planned to settle in Fanaye, some 30 kilometers away, but was forced to relocate after violent local opposition led to the deaths of two protestors and injuries to many others in 2011. Upon arriving in Ndiaël, Senhuile did not seek the consent of the local communities or provide compensation for the loss of grazing lands. Instead, it carried out aggressive land clearing—religious spaces, cemeteries, schools were destroyed in the process—while protecting its concession with barbed wires and security guards.
Senhuile: Lack of Transparency & Scandals
Senhuile’s project has been opaque since its inception. Although located in a semi-arid area with plans for large-scale irrigation using water from the adjacent Lake Guiers—a crucial reservoir already affected by low water levels, algae proliferation, and pollution—Senhuile conducted its first environmental impact assessment only months after starting to clear the land. The company initially announced its intention to grow sweet potatoes for bioethanol production, but its strategy shifted several times, from sunflower plantations to finally opting in 2016 for rice, maize, and peanut production.
In addition, Senhuile has been involved in scandals repetitively. Held by a murky international conglomerate composed of Italy’s Tampieri Financial Group, Senegalese investors, and a shell company registered in New York, Senhuile has changed directors three times since 2012. Benjamin Dummai, its first CEO, was arrested in 2014 on charges of misappropriating CFA 200 million (over $300,000). Dummai’s successor, Massimo Castelluci, fired a large number of employees. Dismissal-related disputes are now opposing Senhuile in the regional Saint-Louis Court. In July 2016, Senhuile’s latest director, Massimo Vittorio Campadese, barely avoided prison after the company was accused of committing customs fraud and negotiated a CFA 1.1 billion ($1.85 million) fine to settle the matter.
Senhuile’s disastrous track record belies the company’s intentions and initial claims around its contribution to the local economy – Senhuile promised to create 2,500 jobs by 2013 but today employs less than 100 people. Unsurprisingly, initial resistance from the 37 villages impacted by the project has garnered strength as former Senhuile workers and neighboring rice growers, who were recently expropriated from lands previously granted to them by the company, have joined the opposition.
Senegalese authorities, consequently, have been forced to recognize the legitimacy of the local resistance. A few months ago, they announced—and recently confirmed—their intention to reduce Senhuile’s concession by half from 20,000 to 10,000 hectares. The recent mobilization was organized by local communities to build on this successful development. They are claiming their right to over 14,000 hectares of lands in the reserve, including all of Senhuile’s former lands and some other declassified areas. This action has served as a successful catalyst to kick-start a negotiation process in August 2016 between the Senegalese administration, the company, and protestors to demarcate and divide the declassified lands for redistribution.
The residents of Ndiaël hope to soon start using the land for cultivating cash crops including watermelons, sweet potatoes, and cassava. Cattle herding, the area’s traditional occupation, will accompany agricultural activities. Small-scale agricultural plots, contrary to large-scale farms, leave space for cattle routes and preserve animals’ access to water points. In addition, after harvesting, farmers will let the cattle graze leftover fodder from the fields and use the manure to fertilize the soil. These methods of small-scale agriculture will respect the zone’s ecology, feed entire families, and invigorate the local economy.2
While the expectations are high, the struggle isn’t over for the community members. They are still waiting for proper land demarcation and fear unexpected developments, including allocations of concessions to firms participating in the World Bank-funded Inclusive and Sustainable Agribusiness Development Project (PDIDAS). However, their tenacious resistance has voiced an honest appeal to the government to prioritize the future and food security of Senegalese families over the interests of foreign investors. If villagers win, the Ndiaël case may set a precedent for other populations affected by land grabbing in the country. If not, they are ready to scale up the resistance. As local opponent Ardo Sow explains, “this is a fight for survival. We cannot remain bystanders and watch the state run roughshod over the population. […] We will not cede for anything in the world.”
-  The declassification of 20,000 hectares of reserve land for a large-scale agriculture project was surprising considering that, in March 2012, the same month former President Wade issued the decree granting land to Senhuile, the Senegalese government submitted an official financing request to the World Bank for a project to restore the Lac de Guiers area and adjacent wetland ecosystems, particularly the Ndiaël reserve, considered an endangered Ramsar site.
-  Surveys conducted in the area have found that small farms obtain excellent profits from their commercial activities (notably potato and rice cultures) and employ a great number of workers.