Almost 60 percent of the people in Germany say the US strike on a Syrian airbase earlier in the week was the wrong thing to do, according to a poll commissioned by Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
The poll, ordered by the media outlet and conducted by Emnid-TNS company, asked respondents about Washington’s decision to launch Tomahawk missiles at the Syrian airfield.
The survey revealed that 26 percent approved, and 59 percent disapproved of the attack on the military site.
The majority of the respondents, 80 percent, also think that no more strikes should be made on Syrian territory. Only nine percent would welcome further US attacks on the country.
The US said the bombardment was in response to a suspected chemical gas attack in Idlib, which Washington claims Syrian President Bashar Assad and his government were responsible for.
A total of 59 Tomahawk missiles launched from American warships hit Shayrat airfield, where it is alleged that Syrian planes with chemical weapons took off.
The Bild am Sonntag survey also found that 40 percent of Germans fear that the strike can provoke military conflict between Russia and the US, while 53 percent do not believe it is a possible outcome.
Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has voiced concerns over the escalation of tensions between Moscow and Washington, Bild reports, citing the minister.
Gabriel also called for international experts to help conduct an investigation into the alleged chemical weapons assault.
“It is important that the UN and experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) gain immediate access and can carry out their investigation without hindrance,” – he told Bild newspaper in the interview.
Russia has also advocated sending professionals to investigate, saying that it is “the only way to receive and present to the whole international community any objective evidence on the alleged presence of poisonous substances.”
The German foreign minister said that the alleged chemical attack was a “barbaric act” and that it was plausible that the Syrian president was behind it, though he did not provide any evidence to support the allegations.
Damascus has denied all allegations, saying that the Syrian military hit a warehouse where terrorists could have produced and stored chemical materials.
Moscow also pointed out that Syria has eliminated its stockpiles of chemical weapons, which was confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The German government has approved a new bill on combating hate speech and fake news, under which social networks could face hefty fines if they fail to remove offensive content promptly. Critics denounced the bill as a violation of free speech.
The bill, introduced by German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, is aimed at forcing social network giants such as Facebook or Twitter to take more responsibility for the content posted by users and to make it compliant with German law.
“We do not accept the fact that companies in Germany do not adhere to the law. Therefore in future, if it doesn’t get better, we will impose high fines on these companies,” Maas told German broadcaster ARD’s ‘Morgenmagazin’ show.
“Social-network providers are responsible when their platforms are misused to propagate hate crimes and fake news,” he wrote in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.
Earlier, Maas had already warned that online companies that fail to delete content tagged as offensive by some users within the timeframe set in the new bill would face fines of up to €50 million (US$53 million).
Executives of social media groups also risk individual fines of up to €5 million ($5.3 million) in case of non-compliance.
The proposed legislation says that “openly offensive” content should be deleted by social networks within 24 hours after being reported by users, while content whose nature is not clearly offensive should be examined and removed within a week if its illegality is confirmed.
The legislation also stresses that the authorities should take a “cautious approach” towards fining online giants, and only in cases when they regularly fail to remove explicitly offensive content. Social networks should not be punished if the violations of the new regulations take place only in some “specific individual cases,” it states.
The list of offensive materials includes various forms of hate speech and online incitement of hatred as well as fake news, libel, and defamation, along with child pornography and terrorism-related activities.
However, the task of identifying, examining and removing such content is in fact handed over to social network administrators and the users themselves.
At the same time, the bill obliges social networks to provide users with “an easily recognizable, directly reachable, and constantly available” complaint process for “prosecutable content.”
The legislation also obliges online giants to provide reports to the German authorities concerning how many complaints they receive from users, how many offensive posts they remove and how quickly they do it.
The reports, which should be provided every three months, must also include data on how many employees are tasked with dealing with offensive content in each social network company.
Earlier, Maas admitted that an attempt to make social networks remove offensive content on a voluntary basis “has failed,” as he explained the necessity for the new measures, German media report.
According to a survey conducted by the Justice Ministry, Facebook deleted about 46 percent of offensive and illegal content between July and August 2016, while between February and January 2017 this figure dropped to 39 percent. Twitter reportedly removed only 1 percent of content deemed illegal in recent months. YouTube, however, deleted as much as 90 percent of such material over the same period, as reported by Deutsche Welle.
‘Freedom of expression ends where criminal law begins’
The bill provoked a wave of criticism from opposition politicians, media companies and various network activists.
Renate Kuenast, the Green Party’s legal expert, criticized the legislation by saying that it would effectively limit the freedom of expression.
“My fear, and that of many others, is that in the end the version [Maas] is now presenting will limit freedom of opinion because it will simply become delete, delete, delete,” she said, as cited by Deutsche Welle.
She also said that the hefty fines envisaged in the bill would work as “almost an invitation to not only delete real insults, but everything for safety’s sake.”
Her words were partly echoed by Google representatives, who warned that the proposed legislation could lead to “overblocking.”
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki called the proposed fines “a heavy burden for the [social network] platforms,” adding that “the platforms could remove content that should not be removed” out of fear of being fined, Der Spiegel reports.
The German Publishers Association (VDZ) went further and denounced the justice minister’s proposal as an attempt to create a “state-imposed private thought police.”
Even some NGOs, such as the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which campaigns against right-wing parties, racism and anti-Semitism, said that the new bill is “in fact a limitation of the freedom of expression.”
In the comments on his new proposal, Maas acknowledged that freedom of expression “has huge significance in our democracy,” adding at the same time that “freedom of expression ends where criminal law begins” and stressing that the new bill would be only the beginning.
According to the German media, the parliament plans to pass the new bill before the summer break. Some critics explain such a “rush” by the government’s desire to make it a law before the elections in September.
Blockaders cover the Front Gate at the Luftwaffe’s Buchel Air Base in Germany, which deploys and trains to use up to 20 U.S. B61 hydrogen bombs on Germany Tornado jet fighter
On March 26, nuclear disarmament activists in Germany will launch a 20-week-long series of nonviolent protests at the Luftwaffe’s Büchel Air Base, Germany, demanding the withdrawal of 20 U.S. nuclear weapons still deployed there. The actions will continue through August 9, the anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.
For the first time in the 20-year-long campaign to rid Büchel of the U.S. bombs, a delegation of U.S. peace activists will take part. During the campaign’s “international week” July 12 to 18, disarmament workers from Wisconsin, California, Washington, DC, Virginia, Minnesota, New Mexico and Maryland will join the coalition of 50 German peace and justice groups converging on the base. Activists from The Netherlands, France and Belgium also plan to join the international gathering.
The U.S. citizens are particularly shocked that the U.S. government is pursuing production of a totally new H-bomb intended to replace the 20 so-called “B61” gravity bombs now at Büchel, and the 160 others that are deployed in a total of five NATO countries.
Under a NATO scheme called “nuclear sharing,” Germany, Italy, Belgium, Turkey, and The Netherlands still deploy the U.S. B61s, and these governments all claim the deployment does not violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Articles I and II of the treaty prohibit nuclear weapons from being transferred to, or accepted from, other countries.
“The world wants nuclear disarmament,” said US delegate Bonnie Urfer, a long-time peace activist and former staffer with the nuclear watchdog group Nukewatch, in Wisconsin. “To waste billions of dollars replacing the B61s when they should be eliminated is criminal — like sentencing innocent people to death — considering how many millions need immediate famine relief, emergency shelter, and safe drinking water,” Urfer said.
Although the B61’s planned replacement is actually a completely new bomb — the B61-12 — the Pentagon calls the program “modernization” — in order to skirt the NPT’s prohibitions. However, it’s being touted as the first ever “smart” nuclear bomb, made to be guided by satellites, making it completely unprecedented. New nuclear weapons are unlawful under the NPT, and even President Barak Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review required that “upgrades” to the Pentagon’s current H-bombs must not have “new capabilities.” Overall cost of the new bomb, which is not yet in production, is estimated to be up to $12 billion.
Historic German Resolution to Evict US H-bombs
The March 26 start date of “Twenty Weeks for Twenty Bombs” is doubly significant for Germans and others eager to see the bombs retired. First, on March 26, 2010, massive public support pushed Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, to vote overwhelmingly — across all parties — to have the government remove the U.S. weapons from German territory.
Second, beginning March 27 in New York, the United Nations General Assembly will launch formal negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The UNGA will convene two sessions — March 27 to 31, and June 15 to July 7 — to produce a legally binding “convention” banning any possession or use of the bomb, in accordance with Article 6 of the NPT. (Similar treaty bans already forbid poison and gas weapons, land mines, cluster bombs, and biological weapons.) Individual governments can later ratify or reject the treaty. Several nuclear-armed states including the US government worked unsuccessfully to derail the negotiations; and Germany’s current government under Angela Merkel has said it will boycott the negotiations in spite of broad public support for nuclear disarmament.
“We want Germany to be nuclear weapons free,” said Marion Küpker, a disarmament campaigner and organizer with DFG-VK, an affiliate of War Resisters International and Germany’s oldest peace organization, this year celebrating its 125th anniversary. “The government must abide by the 2010 resolution, throw out the B61s, and not replace them with new ones,” Küpker said.
A huge majority in Germany supports both the UN treaty ban and the removal of US nuclear weapons. A staggering 93 percent want nuclear weapons banned, according to a poll commissioned by the German chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War published in March last year. Some 85 percent agreed that the US weapons should be withdrawn from the country, and 88 percent said they oppose US plans to replace current bombs with the new B61-12.
U.S. and NATO officials claim that “deterrence” makes the B61 important in Europe. But as Xanthe Hall reports for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, “Nuclear deterrence is the archetypal security dilemma. You have to keep threatening to use nuclear weapons to make it work. And the more you threaten, the more likely it is that they will be used.”
For more information and to sign a “Declaration of Solidarity.”
Additional information about the B61 and NATO’s “nuclear sharing” at CounterPunch:
“Wild Turkey with H-Bombs: Failed Coup Brings Calls for Denuclearization,” July 28, 2016.
“Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: Made in the USA,” May 27, 2015.
“US Defies Conference on Nuclear Weapons Effects & Abolition,” Dec. 15, 2014.
John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.
Saturday March 11 marks the sixth anniversary of the triple-disaster in north-east Japan – the earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
And the news is not good. Scientists are wondering how on earth to stabilise and decontaminate the failed reactors awash with molten nuclear fuel, which are fast turning into graveyards for the radiation-hardened robots sent in to investigate them.
The Japanese government’s estimate of Fukushima compensation and clean-up costs has doubled and doubled again and now stands at ¥21.5 trillion (US$187bn; €177bn).
Indirect costs – such as fuel import costs, and losses to agricultural, fishing and tourism industries – will likely exceed that figure.
Kendra Ulrich from Greenpeace Japan notes in a new report that “for those who were impacted by the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, the crisis is far from over. And it is women and children that have borne the brunt of human rights violations resulting from it, both in the immediate aftermath and as a result of the Japan government’s nuclear resettlement policy.”
Radiation biologist Ian Fairlie summarises the health impacts from the Fukushima disaster: “In sum, the health toll from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is horrendous. At the minimum:
+ Over 160,000 people were evacuated most of them permanently.
+ Many cases of post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders arising from the evacuations.
+ About 12,000 workers exposed to high levels of radiation, some up to 250 mSv
+ An estimated 5,000 fatal cancers from radiation exposures in future.
+ Plus similar (unquantified) numbers of radiogenic strokes, CVS diseases and hereditary diseases.
+ Between 2011 and 2015, about 2,000 deaths from radiation-related evacuations due to ill-health and suicides.
+ An, as yet, unquantified number of thyroid cancers.
+ An increased infant mortality rate in 2012 and a decreased number of live births in December 2011.”
Dr Fairlie’s report was written in August 2015 but it remains accurate. More than half of the 164,000 evacuees from the nuclear disaster remain dislocated. Efforts to restore community life in numerous towns are failing. Local authorities said in January that only 13% of the evacuees in five municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture have returned home after evacuation orders were lifted.
As for Japan’s long-hyped ‘nuclear restart’: just three power reactors are operating in Japan; before the Fukushima disaster, the number topped 50.
A nuclear power ‘crisis’?
Nuclear advocates and lobbyists elsewhere are increasingly talking about the ‘crisis’ facing nuclear power – but they don’t have the myriad impacts of the Fukushima disaster in mind: they’re more concerned about catastrophic cost overruns with reactor projects in Europe and the US.
Michael Shellenberger from the Breakthrough Institute, a US-based pro-nuclear lobby group, has recently written articles about nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis“ and the “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West“.
A recent article from the Breakthrough Institute and the like-minded Third Way lobby group discusses “the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries“.
‘Environmental Progress’, another US pro-nuclear lobby group connected to Shellenberger, has a webpage dedicated to the nuclear power crisis. Among other things, it states that 151 gigawatts (GW) of worldwide nuclear power capacity (38% of the total) could be lost by 2030 (compared to 33 GW of retirements over the past decade), and over half of the ageing US reactor fleet is at risk of closure by 2030.
As a worldwide generalisation, nuclear power can’t be said to be in crisis. To take the extreme example, China’s nuclear power program isn’t in crisis – it is moving ahead at pace. Russia’s nuclear power program, to give one more example, is moving ahead at snail’s pace, but isn’t in crisis.
Nonetheless, large parts of the worldwide nuclear industry are in deep trouble. The July 2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report provides an overview of the troubled status of nuclear power:
+ nuclear power’s share of the worldwide electricity generation is 10.7%, well down from historic peak of 17.6% in 1996;
+ nuclear power generation in 2015 was 8.2% below the historic peak in 2006; and
+ from 2000 to 2015, 646 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar capacity (combined) were added worldwide while nuclear capacity (not including idle reactors in Japan) fell by 8 GW.
US nuclear industry in crisis
The US nuclear industry is in crisis, with a very old reactor fleet – 44 of its 99 reactors have been operating for 40 years or more – and no likelihood of new reactors for the foreseeable future other than four already under construction.
Last September, Associated Press described one of the industry’s many humiliations: “After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation’s largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost.
“The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and the 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, eight miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot and more.”
Japanese conglomerate Toshiba and its US-based nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse are in crisis because of massive cost overruns building four AP1000 reactors in the US – the combined cost overruns amount to about US$11.2bn (€10.7bn) and counting.
Toshiba said in February 2017 that it expects to book a US$6.3bn (€5.9bn) writedown on Westinghouse, on top of a US$2.3bn (€2.1bn) writedown in April 2016. The losses exceed the US$5.4bn (€5.1bn) Toshiba paid when it bought a majority stake in Westinghouse in 2006.
Toshiba says it would likely sell Westinghouse if that was an option – but there is no prospect of a buyer. Westinghouse is, as Bloomberg noted, “too much of a mess“ to sell. And since that isn’t an option, Toshiba must sell profitable businesses instead to stave off bankruptcy.
Toshiba is seeking legal advice as to whether Westinghouse should file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But even under a Chapter 11 filing, Reuters reported, “Toshiba could still be on the hook for up to $7 billion in contingent liabilities as it has guaranteed Westinghouse’s contractual commitments” for the US AP1000 reactors.
The Toshiba/Westinghouse crisis is creating a ripple effect. A few examples:
+ the NuGen (Toshiba/Engie) consortium has acknowledged that the plan for three AP1000 reactors at Moorside in the UK faces a “significant funding gap“ and both partners reportedly want out of the project;
+ Georgia Power, 45.7% owner of the troubled Vogtle AP1000 project, recently suspended plans for another nuclear plant in Georgia; and
+ Toshiba recently announced its intention to pull out of the plan for two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors at the South Texas Plant, having booked writedowns totaling US$638m (€605m) on the project in previous years.
The French nuclear industry is in crisis
The French nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever“, former EDF director Gérard Magnin said in November 2016. The French government is selling assets so it can prop up its heavily indebted nuclear utilities Areva and EDF.
The current taxpayer-funded rescue of the nuclear power industry may cost the French state as much as €10bn (US$10.5bn), Reuters reported in January, and in addition to its “dire financial state, Areva is beset by technical, regulatory and legal problems.”
France has 58 operable reactors and just one under construction. French EPR reactors under construction in France and Finland are three times over budget – the combined cost overruns for the two reactors amount to about €12.7bn (US$13.4bn).
Bloomberg noted in April 2015 that Areva’s EPR export ambitions are “in tatters“. Now Areva itself is in tatters and is in the process of a government-led restructure and another taxpayer-funded bailout.
On March 1, Areva posted a €665m (US$700m) net loss for 2016. Losses in the preceding five years exceeded €10bn (US$10.5 bn). A large majority of a €5bn (US$5.3bn) recapitalisation of Areva scheduled for June 2017 will come from French taxpayers.
On February 14, EDF released its financial figures for 2016: earnings fell 6.7%, revenue declined 5.1%, net income excluding non-recurring items fell 15%, and EDF’s debt remained steady at €37.4bn (US$39.4bn). All that EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy could offer was the hope that EDF would “hit the bottom of the cycle“ in 2017 and rebound next year.
EDF plans to sell €10bn (US$10.5 bn) of assets by 2020 to rein in its debt, and to sack up to 7,000 staff. The French government provided EDF with €3bn (US$3.2bn) in extra capital in 2016 and will contribute €3bn towards a €4bn (US$4.2bn) capital raising this year.
On March 8, shares in EDF hit an all-time low a day after the €4bn capital raising was launched; the stock price fell to €7.78, less than one-tenth of the €86.45 high a decade ago.
EDF has set aside €23bn (US$24.3bn) to cover reactor decommissioning and waste management costs in France – less than half of the €54bn (US$57bn) that EDF estimates will be required. A recent report by the French National Assembly’s Commission for Sustainable Development and Regional Development concluded that there is “obvious under-provisioning” and that decommissioning and waste management will likely take longer, be more challenging and cost much more than EDF anticipates.
EDF is being forced to take over parts of its struggling sibling Areva’s operations – a fate you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse for EDF, a fire took hold in the turbine room of one of the Flamanville reactors on February 9 and the reactor will likely be offline until late March at an estimated cost of roughly €1.2m (US$1.27m) per day.
Half of the world’s nuclear industry is in crisis and/or shutting down
Combined, the crisis-ridden US, French and Japanese nuclear industries account for 45% of the world’s ‘operable’ nuclear reactors according to the World Nuclear Association’s database, and they accounted for 50% of nuclear power generation in 2015 (and 57% in 2010).
Countries with crisis-ridden nuclear programs or phase-out policies (e.g. Germany, Belgium, and Taiwan) account for about half of the world’s operable reactors and more than half of worldwide nuclear power generation.
The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning (END)
The ageing of the global reactor fleet isn’t yet a crisis for the industry, but it is heading that way.
The assessment by the ‘Environmental Progress’ lobby group that 151 GW of worldwide nuclear power capacity could be shut down by 2030 is consistent with figures from the World Nuclear Association (132 reactor shut-downs by 2035), the International Energy Agency (almost 200 shut-downs between 2014 and 2040) and Nuclear Energy Insider (up to 200 shut-downs in the next two decades). It looks increasingly unlikely that new reactors will match shut-downs.
Perhaps the best characterisation of the global nuclear industry is that a new era is approaching – the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning (END). Nuclear power’s END will entail:
+ a slow decline in the number of operating reactors (unless growth in China can match the decline elsewhere);
+ an increasingly unreliable and accident-prone reactor fleet as ageing sets in;
+ countless battles over lifespan extensions for ageing reactors;
+ an internationalisation of anti-nuclear opposition as neighbouring countries object to the continued operation of ageing reactors (international opposition to Belgium’s reactors is a case in point);
+ a broadening of anti-nuclear opposition as citizens are increasingly supported by local, regional and national governments opposed to reactors in neighbouring countries (again Belgium is a case in point, as is Lithuanian opposition to reactors under construction in Belarus);
+ many battles over the nature and timing of decommissioning operations;
+ many battles over taxpayer bailouts for companies and utilities that haven’t set aside adequate funding for decommissioning;
+ more battles over proposals to impose nuclear waste repositories on unwilling or divided communities; and
+ battles over taxpayer bailouts for companies and utilities that haven’t set aside adequate funding for nuclear waste disposal.
As discussed in a previous article in The Ecologist, nuclear power is likely to enjoy a small, short-lived upswing in the next couple of years as reactors ordered in the few years before the Fukushima disaster come online. Beyond that, the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning sets in, characterised by escalating battles – and escalating sticker-shock – over lifespan extensions, decommissioning and nuclear waste management.
In those circumstances, it will become even more difficult than it currently is for the industry to pursue new reactor projects. A positive feedback loop could take hold and then the industry will be well and truly in crisis.
Nuclear lobbyists debate possible solutions to the nuclear power crisis
Michael Shellenberger from the Breakthrough Institute argues that a lack of standardisation and scaling partly explains the “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West”. The constant switching of designs deprives the people who build, operate and regulate nuclear plants of the experience they need to become more efficient.
Shellenberger further argues that there is too much focus on machines, too little on human factors:
“Areva, Toshiba-Westinghouse and others claimed their new designs would be safer and thus, at least eventually, cheaper, but there were always strong reasons to doubt such claims. First, what is proven to make nuclear plants safer is experience, not new designs. …
“In fact, new designs risk depriving managers and workers the experience they need to operate plants more safely, just as it deprives construction companies the experience they need to build plants more rapidly.”
Shellenberger has a three-point rescue plan:
1/ ‘Consolidate or Die’: “If nuclear is going to survive in the West, it needs a single, large firm – the equivalent of a Boeing or Airbus – to compete against the Koreans, Chinese and Russians.”
2/ ‘Standardize or Die’: He draws attention to the “astonishing” heterogeneity of planned reactors in the UK and says the UK “should scrap all existing plans and start from a blank piece of paper”, that all new plants should be of the same design and “the criteria for choosing the design should emphasize experience in construction and operation, since that is the key factor for lowering costs.”
3/ ‘Scale or Die’: Nations “must work together to develop a long-term plan for new nuclear plant construction to achieve economies of scale”, and governments “should invest directly or provide low-cost loans.”
Josh Freed and Todd Allen from pro-nuclear lobby group Third Way, and Ted Nordhaus and Jessica Lovering from the Breakthrough Institute, argue that Shellenberger draws the wrong lessons from Toshiba’s recent losses and from nuclear power’s “longer-term struggles” in developed economies.
They argue that “too little innovation, not too much, is the reason that the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies”. They state that:
+ The Westinghouse AP1000 represents a fairly straightforward evolution in light-water reactor design, not a radical departure as Shellenberger claims.
+ Standardisation is important but it is not a panacea. Standardisation and building multiple reactors on the same site has limited cost escalation, not brought costs down.
+ Most of the causes of rising cost and construction delays associated with new nuclear builds in the US are attributable to the 30-year hiatus in nuclear construction, not the novelty of the AP1000 design.
+ Reasonable regulatory reform will not dramatically reduce the cost of new light-water reactors, as Shellenberger suggests.
They write this obituary for large light-water reactors: “If there is one central lesson to be learned from the delays and cost overruns that have plagued recent builds in the US and Europe, it is that the era of building large fleets of light-water reactors is over in much of the developed world.
“From a climate and clean energy perspective, it is essential that we keep existing reactors online as long as possible. But slow demand growth in developed world markets makes ten billion dollar, sixty-year investments in future electricity demand a poor bet for utilities, investors, and ratepayers.”
A radical break
The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors conclude that “a radical break from the present light-water regime … will be necessary to revive the nuclear industry”. Exactly what that means, the authors said, would be the subject of a follow-up article.
So readers were left hanging – will nuclear power be saved by failed fast-reactor technology, or failed high-temperature gas-cooled reactors including failed pebble-bed reactors, or by thorium pipe-dreams or fusion pipe-dreams or molten salt reactor pipe-dreams or small modular reactor pipe-dreams? Perhaps we’ve been too quick to write off cold fusion?
The answers came in a follow-up article on February 28. The four authors want a thousand flowers to bloom, a bottom-up R&D-led nuclear recovery as opposed to top-down, state-led innovation.
They don’t just want a new reactor type (or types), they have much greater ambitions for innovation in “nuclear technology, business models, and the underlying structure of the sector” and they note that “a radical break from the light water regime that would enable this sort of innovation is not a small undertaking and will require a major reorganization of the nuclear sector.”
To the extent that the four authors want to tear down the existing nuclear industry and replace it with a new one, they share some common ground with nuclear critics who want to tear down the existing nuclear industry and not replace it with a new one.
Shellenberger also shares some common ground with nuclear critics: he thinks the UK should scrap all existing plans for new reactors and “start from a blank piece of paper“. But nuclear critics think the UK should scrap all existing plans for new reactors and not start from a blank piece of paper.
Small is beautiful?
The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors argue that nuclear power must become substantially cheaper – thus ruling out large conventional reactors “operated at high atmospheric pressures, requiring enormous containment structures, multiply redundant back-up cooling systems, and water cooling towers and ponds, which account for much of the cost associated with building light-water reactors.”
Substantial cost reductions will not be possible “so long as nuclear reactors must be constructed on site one gigawatt at a time. … At 10 MW or 100 MW, by contrast, there is ample opportunity for learning by doing and economies of multiples for several reactor classes and designs, even in the absence of rapid demand growth or geopolitical imperatives.”
Other than their promotion of small reactors and their rejection of large ones, the four authors are non-specific about their preferred reactor types. Any number of small-reactor concepts have been proposed.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been the subject of much discussion and even more hype. The bottom line is that there isn’t the slightest chance that they will fulfil the ambition of making nuclear power “substantially cheaper” unless and until a manufacturing supply chain is established at vast expense.
And even then, it’s doubtful whether the power would be cheaper and highly unlikely that it would be substantially cheaper. After all, economics has driven the long-term drift towards larger reactors.
As things stand, no country, company or utility has any intention of betting billions on building an SMR supply chain. The prevailing scepticism is evident in a February 2017 Lloyd’s Register report based on “insights and opinions of leaders across the sector” and the views of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers.
The Lloyd’s Register report states that the potential contribution of SMRs “is unclear at this stage, although its impact will most likely apply to smaller grids and isolated markets.” Respondents predicted that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”.
The Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors are promoting small reactors because of the spectacular failure of a number of large reactor projects, but that’s hardly a recipe for success. An analysis of SMRs in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists sums up the problems:
“Without a clear-cut case for their advantages, it seems that small nuclear modular reactors are a solution looking for a problem. Of course in the world of digital innovation, this kind of upside-down relationship between solution and problem is pretty normal. Smart phones, Twitter, and high-definition television all began as solutions looking for problems.
“In the realm of nuclear technology, however, the enormous expense required to launch a new model as well as the built-in dangers of nuclear fission require a more straightforward relationship between problem and solution. Small modular nuclear reactors may be attractive, but they will not, in themselves, offer satisfactory solutions to the most pressing problems of nuclear energy: high cost, safety, and weapons proliferation.”
Small or large reactors, consolidation or innovation, Generation 2/3/4 reactors … it’s not clear that the nuclear industry will be able to recover – however it responds to its current crisis.
Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter, where a longer version of this article was originally published. email@example.com
Nuclear Monitor, published 20 times a year, has been publishing deeply researched, often critical articles on all aspects of the nuclear cycle since 1978.
Germany plans to help Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania establish Russian-language media outlets to counter the “disinformation” allegedly being spread by Russian channels broadcasting in the region.
The plan was announced by German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer, RT reported on Tuesday.
The announcement came ahead of German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s trip to the Baltic states and Sweden, which is due to take place this week.
“During his trip, Mr. Gabriel will also employ what we already started last year in the Baltic states, which is — as we say in new German — handling Russian ‘fake news’ together with appropriate partners,” Schaefer said on Monday.
He added that the main goal of the initiative was to launch Russian-language radio and TV channels, which will be “attractive to Russian speakers living in the three Baltic states” in order to produce news “in a different way” from the Russian media.
The United States, too, recently announced plans to launch a Russian-language television news channel. The US has long accused Russian media of propagating “fake news.” Such allegations have also been leveled by European governments, which are concerned about alleged Russian attempts to influence their elections in much the same way as the US has said Moscow influenced its recent presidential vote.
Western ties with Russia have plummeted significantly in recent years, particularly following Crimea’s separation from Ukraine and reunification with the Russian Federation after a referendum not authorized by Kiev.
Military build-ups close to the Russian borders, including in the Baltic countries, have also been a major source of tension.
Following a year-long inquiry, German intelligence agencies have found no reliable evidence of a Russian “disinformation campaign” against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, according to media citing cabinet and security sources.
The German intelligence service (BND) and the counterintelligence agency (BfV) had been searching for evidence of Russian interference in the country’s domestic affairs for nearly a year, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday.
“We have not found any smoking gun,” a cabinet source told the paper.
The inquiry was similar to the US intelligence community’s efforts to attribute the notorious 2016 Democratic National Convention email leak to Russian ‘hacking groups.’
Initially, the secret services planned to release excerpts of their classified inquiry, but given the lack of evidence, the move would make Russian-German relations even more strained, according to the newspaper.
Chancellor Merkel’s office has, however, now directed the intelligence agencies to conduct a new inquiry. Notably, a ‘psychological operations group’ jointly run by the BND and BfV will specifically look at Russian news agencies’ coverage in Germany.
Despite the findings, the German intelligence services maintain that Russia has pursued a “more confrontational course” towards Germany since 2014, and call the coverage of Russian media, including RT Deutsch and Sputnik, “hostile.”
Germany’s intelligence community admits a difference between “excessive or false reporting” and “targeted disinformation,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote.
The revelations do not sit well with previous statements by Bruno Kahl, the head of the BND, who claimed in November last year that his agency had obtained evidence that Russia may have manipulated the vote during the 2016 US election.
He alleged that “Europe, and Germany in particular, is in the focus of these experiments,” adding that German-language internet sites had also been increasingly targeted by so-called ‘troll factories’ distributing targeted misinformation.
“The perpetrators are interested in delegitimizing the democratic process as such, no matter who that subsequently helps,” he said in a rare interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung in November. He also acknowledged that “[finding] an attribution to a state actor is technically difficult.”
By Douglas Edward Steil | Aletho News | February 6, 2017
President Trump promised efforts to improve US relations with Russia, yet even after his inauguration there were reports in the media, including videos, about a large buildup of NATO tanks, led by the US, at “Russia’s doorstep” (FOX News) in Poland, featuring joint military exercises (“war games”) as part of “Operation Atlantic Resolve”.
On January 31, 2017, RT (formerly Russia Today) described these maneuvers as “… the largest military buildup in Europe since the end of the Cold War…” in alarming terms without providing the appropriate historical context for its geographically-challenged readers. Lacking contextual knowledge, both those commentators from the discredited dinosaur (old legacy) media and the rapidly growing independent (new alternative) media inadvertently amplified the sense of alarmism the general public must have perceived. It ought to at least be obvious that the RT quote cited above is inherently self-contradictory and therefore misleading: If the Cold War had really already ended, then there would be no conceivable basis for the military buildup, which also included tanks from Germany (by invitation) on Polish and Lithuanian territory.
What should one make of these military maneuvers coming in the wake of Trump’s new presidency, which might appear on the surface to be hostile toward Russia?
The Kaliningrad Oblast is useful to Russia primarily as a potential staging ground for launching a quick ground invasion into Central Europe. The benefits of air rights and adjacent sea rights, featuring an ice-free port, cannot be ignored either. The countries most concerned about the potential for future Russian military adventurism are obviously Poland and Lithuania, which both formed a Commonwealth for 227 years, until the late 18th century. Though Russian’s current leadership claims to harbor no such invasive ambitions in this part of Europe, circumstances could possibly change under a different leadership. The NATO troop maneuvers a few days ago are essentially putting the future of this territory “on the table” and signaling a readiness to call Russia’s bluff, as it were. If Russia were truly sincere about not having any territorial ambitions in this region, and thus not needing to preserve this as a future option, there would really be no fundamental justification for its continued presence in this enclave. Unlike Crimea, which has historically been a part of Russia, and which legitimately broke from the Ukraine and reunified with Russia in 2014, after two public referenda (which the so-called “International Community” should finally accept and formally recognize rather than perpetuating self-destructive sanctions), the Kaliningrad Oblast should not continue to remain a part of Russia because it never “belonged” to Russia, in a historical and cultural sense. It’s continued occupation and administration merely prolongs the formal ending of the Cold War.
For the record, as cited by a Lithuanian journal and presented through Wikipedia:
“Germany… has not renounced any claims to the possibility of territory reunification.”
Technically, Russia is provisionally administering the territory until a future agreement determines its fate, which will surely involve a protracted transition period during the course of a few decades thereafter. The Russian population currently living there, who feel attached to this region, where they may have grown up and lived all their lives, would not be expelled but be given the chance to integrate into a new environment. The experiences of three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) in accommodating Russian speakers could be used as a model for those people who wish to remain rather than seeking new life opportunities in their Russian homeland.
It is unfortunate that this issue was not settled during the first half of 1990 during the so-called “2+4 Talks” that led to German reunification on October 3rd. Though it is not widely known why settling this territorial matter was deferred, one must bear in mind that at that time, just a few months after the Berlin Wall was breached any quick German unification, as advocated by the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, was publicly opposed by Margaret Thatcher, Mikhael Gorbachev, François Mitterand, representing the European Allied victors, along with other European leaders, including those in Italy and the Netherlands, as well as the organized Jewish community in the US, whose hostile position was expressed in the nearly hysterical diatribes by the editor of the New York Times, Abe Rosenthal; even some western German leaders did not support rapid German unity in light of the pending economic burden involving the difficult task of integrating two different economies. With such determined opposition from nearly all sides, it almost seems like a miracle that unity eventually came about. Only President George H.W. Bush and the Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey were on the side of Helmut Kohl. Obviously, numerous concessions were made. It is understandable that under that negotiating constellation a German demand to reclaim Königsberg would have been going too far. Ultimately, while any future claims on territory occupied by Poland after the war were renounced by Germany in the agreement, this, however, was not the case with regard to the Königsberg region, which clearly implies an unwillingness to so. The historical city of Königsberg obviously has an important place in German culture. Its architectural splendor should be restored similar to the old towns of such Baltic cities as Tallinn, Riga, and Lubbock, now UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Serious diplomatic discussions with regard to the region will eventually have to be on the agenda anyway; better sooner than later. The upcoming annual Munich Security Conference would be an opportune forum for affirming some basic positions, if not publicly then at least in private conversations.
Foremost, it would be incumbent upon the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, representing the occupying power, to take the lead and acknowledge the unresolved status of the region and a sincere willingness (as opposed to what we are accustomed to hearing by Israelis) to conclude a final agreement in return for legitimate written assurances by NATO countries. Such assurances would necessarily include (1) acknowledging Crimea’s status as a part of Russia, (2) the legitimacy of any future attempts by the former Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk to join the Russian Federation, along with any subsequent annexation by Russia, if so desired by the population, as was the case with Crimea, (3) recognizing the independence of the former Georgian republics of Abkhasia and South Ossetia and not diplomatically impeding any future desires by the people in these republics to join Russia, if the majority of the respective population decides so in a fair referendum, (4) resolution of the Transnistria conflict, (5) pulling back all NATO troops and military equipment from eastern European regions to prior positions, in accordance with the terms of a verbal promise purportedly given by George H.W. Bush to Mikhael Gorbachev in 1990, (6) refraining to enlist Ukraine and Georgia into the NATO military territory, (7) reaching a mutual comprehensive agreement banning the placement of mid-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Europe and western Russia, respectively, and (8) negotiated conventional forces reductions.
Both Poland and Lithuania would be entitled to rural territories of the Kaliningrad Oblast contiguous with their respective land territories, whereas Germany would regain the city of Königsberg and surrounding territory that is sufficiently large to support the city. The future borders would be a matter for these three countries to work out and decide among themselves. All three countries should then formally announce their territorial claims. The question as to whether Russia would receive financial reimbursement, or, if so, to what extent, would be subsumed in the context of forming strong economic ties, including joint business ventures.
NATO and other parties involved in this unresolved matter concerning the future of Königsberg should announce their resolve: “Let’s finally end the Cold War!” Even then, implementing the associated steps will still take many years.
Last month German media revealed that German weapons supplied to Kurdish Peshmerga in northern Iraq are being sold on the black market, where they may end up in the hands of terrorist groups.
Weapons on sale included Heckler and Koch G3 rifles on sale for $1450 and $1800, and Walther P1 pistols with an asking price of $1200.
One arms dealer told a reporter that he could procure the Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle for $5000.
These weapons sales have also financed the flight of refugees from Iraq to Germany, an Iraqi Kurdish refugee living in Germany told the news program.
Former Peshmerga Mustafa S said that he is one of hundreds of fighters who have sold their weapons to finance their escape from Iraq.
“Mustafa S said that he knows around 100 Peshmerga who have sold their weapons in recent months in order to flee. The situation has become unbearable for many. The low oil price, lack of payment from the Iraqi central government and the battle against Daesh, which guzzles about five million dollars daily, have brought the Kurdish regional government to the brink of bankruptcy. (Mustafa) himself had not been paid for five months and did not know how he was going to pay rent, food, and medicine for his disabled daughter. Now, he lives with his wife and their six children in a home for asylum seekers in East Germany,” Tagesschau reported.
Deputy Chairman of the Die Linke opposition party in the German Bundestag Tobias Pfluger called on the government to stop supplying arms to the Peshmerga. He told Sputnik that the deliveries are counter to the German constitution.
“The interesting thing is that the training missions that are connected with these weapons deliveries break several domestic federal laws. German and EU legislation, the War Weapons Control Act and the Foreign Trade and Payments Act, prohibit direct deliveries to war zones,” Pfluger explained.
The German Defense Ministry has delivered an estimated 2,400 tons of arms and munitions to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters since it began to supply the militia in summer 2014. A government spokesman told NDR and WDR that the government of Iraqi Kurdistan is responsible for the weapons’ misuse.
The German Defense Ministry is committed to the “proper verification of supplied weapons,” and their use in accordance with international law.
However, since the Ministry is unable to trace individual arms, “the sale of individual weapons cannot be excluded with absolute certainty.”
Pfluger said that assurances from local forces that the arms will remain in their possession are “worthless.”
“It is completely perverse that they have to sign a so-called confirmation of retention. That is nothing other than a completely worthless piece of paper because we know that the weapons show up on the markets in Iraq and Syria. In this respect, we say that this commitment must be ended, it is an intensification of the war and is in no way something that creates peace there.”
Peace activist and spokesman for Aktion Aufschrei — Stop the arms trade! Jurgen Grasslin told Sputnik Deutschland that German guns have ended up far removed from their intended destination.
“The federal government usually has no idea where their weapons are actually delivered to, when they are exported. My research, based on (studies of) numerous countries and trips to crisis regions and war zones over the past 30 years, shows clearly that weapons roam. Weapons do not stay in the place where they are delivered.”
Grasslin, author of a book entitled “The Black Book of Arms Trading: How Germany Profits from War” (Schwarzbuch Waffenhandel: Wie Deutschland am Krieg verdient), alleges that German arms deliveries constitute “complicity in murder.”
“If Daesh is firing German weapons, and of course weapons from other countries, that is more than a scandal, it is a breach of the law. It is complicity in murder. You are delivering to a war zone. You know that these weapons don’t stay in the hands of the recipients, and that they land in the hands of the worst terrorist groups, for example Daesh. The people who authorize these arms exports must be named, that is namely members of the Bundessicherheitsrat (Federal Security Council) or Federal Government. The first to be named should be Chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy Sigmar Gabriel, who lead the Bundessicherheitsrat and are thus responsible for these armed forces.”
Head of the German party “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) Frauke Petry criticized what she views as a contradictory understanding of freedom of speech demonstrated by the German government.
Following the meeting of leaders of the European Parliament’s faction “Europe and Freedom Nations” (ENF) in Koblenz, Petry told journalists that the German government can’t deal with people who have an alternative opinion.
According to Petri, people whose opinion differs from that of the majority are “immediately labeled as anti-democratic.”
“We see that the government is clearly having a problem with freedom of speech and that it can hardly deal with critically-minded citizens,” Petri said.
Such stories are expected to be dispatched to Correctiv, a German fact-checking organization. If Correctiv determines the story to be fake, it will be marked as false and users seeing it in their feeds will be warned about its doubted authenticity. It will also be blocked from being promoted in users’ feeds.
However, Petri believes that the new initiative is aimed not at fact-checking potentially fake stories, but at establishing a supervisory authority that will try to get rid of certain undesirable content.
The politician argued that it will be about a “new censorship authority which will impose fines on creators of the so-called fake web news in the Internet.”
Governments are using media organizations as proxies in an effort to control the information citizens can get from the Internet, says former MI5 officer Annie Machon. The fake war against fake news is predicated on a big lie, she added.
RT has been blocked from posting content to its Facebook page during the live broadcast of Barack Obama’s final news conference over an alleged copyright infringement.
The suspension was triggered by one of the social network’s algorithms, which is alerted according to what’s being submitted.
RT has a contract with the Associated Press and streamed a news feed. The agency has confirmed RT had the right to retransmit the video, so the problem must lie with Facebook.
The head of Russia’s telecoms watchdog is warning of “active response measures” if RT’s work is restricted by the American media or the social networks.
Facebook has not replied to inquiries, and the restrictions on posting remain.
RT: The news outlet was mentioned as triggering a Facebook alert and says it’s not them. So just how sensitive has Facebook’s media clampdown tool become?
Annie Machon: I think this is the first blow in Facebook’s self-proclaimed war against so-called fake news. Both Facebook and Google in the wake of the shadowy PropOrNot list of 200 news organizations around the world that are supposedly peddling fake news, but actually just offering an alternative to the corporate US media, and RT was included in that. Facebook and Google in the aftermath said that they would start to censor all these outlets. I think that is what we are seeing with Facebook now is that they are using the excuse of copyright to censor legitimate news channel and stop them from covering a world event that the rest of the world is going to watch without any problem on other channels.
RT: At the World Economic Forum in Davos the Facebook representative said that their organization is dedicated, as they put it, to tackling so-called fake news and the whole phenomenon that we’ve heard of lately. Do you think this is part of that?
AM: I think it is part of that. And it is not just Facebook and Google who said they are going to take on the so-called fake news. It is also the European Union who issued a diktat last November saying that they were going to set up a body to counter fake news. We see countries like France and Germany already peddling this idea that there is going to be hacking and counter-democratic activity in the run up to their elections this year. So, they are using this. But I think it is interesting to see that the copyright has been used as a pretext for this censorship. I’ve been saying for years that the media organizations are being used by the governments as proxy organizations in terms of trying to control the information we can ingest over the internet and the information we can actually access over the internet.
RT: The suspension is imposed ahead of Trump’s inauguration and won’t be lifted until the day after it. What do you make of that? Is it a coincidence?
AM: Absolutely not. It is a first blow in the so-called battle – fake battle against fake news. And let’s just remind ourselves how this so-called concept of fake started. Somehow information was leaked from the DNC last year and the people who received that information, WikiLeaks said very clearly it was not a hack, it was actually a leak. And yet the corporate media in America has said again, “No, this was Russia hacking the DNC.” And then somehow it became Russia hacking the American elections, Russia hacking voting computers, Russia hacking the energy grid in America. None of this has been proven. Some of it has been actively proven to be false. But when Obama expelled the 35 Russian diplomats from America back to Russia before Christmas, that sort of solidified as fact that the Russians had done something wrong. There is no proof whatsoever. So this fake war against fake news is predicated on a big lie.
I think there are strings have been pulled in the background, shall we say. Particularly, in America. And the big media and internet corporations in America have been proven year after year to be very much in bed with the US state and with the US secret state. We know this of course because of the revelations of Edward Snowden. You know, all the big social media giants signed up to allow access to their databases by the secret agencies in America, starting with Microsoft back in 2006. We know that they are complicit; we know that they have been compromised. So, who can tell where this is going to go. There is a sort of all-out fight between the president-elect anyways and his so-called intelligence agencies.
RT: The original source mentioned as alerting Facebook denies it raised a copyright flag. AP confirmed RT had the rights for transmission. Facebook is the only entity yet to answer. Why isn’t it being more pro-active to remedy this considering this being a pretty big media news?
Chris Bambery, political analyst: It is pretty big media news, and I am really puzzled. Donald Trump is about to become President, and he is painted by much of the world’s media and spy agencies as being President Putin’s chum. And yet there is this continuing escalation of the Cold War with Russia, even hours before Trump is elected. Facebook is a giant American transnational. It is not known for its own transparency over these things. It does lead one to suspect that there are sections of our US elite who really do not like Donald Trump and want to create difficulties between the incoming presidency and Russia.
RT: RT’s troubles with Facebook come a day after the online news alert service Dataminr refused to renew our contract with them. That stems back to the CIA also being denied access and saying the same should apply to RT claiming we’re tied to Russian intelligence. Is that the real reason, do you think?
CB: On that basis, if you are being blocked because you receive state funding, the BBC World service is funded by the British Foreign Office, so why would that not be blocked? And I am sure Radio Free Europe and various other outlets have received funding from the American state. So, if that is to be criteria than a lot of leading news agencies would be off social media, and off air. This is going to feed into the conspiracy theories because it is so bizarre and strange.
Well, the biggest fake news story I’ve seen was the so-called dossier about Donald Trump, and they didn’t seem to be blocking that, which was all over Facebook. Again, I find it rather strange.
The reign of Germany’s Angela Merkel can only be stopped if leftists and social democrats unite behind a candidate like Sahra Wagenknecht, says renowned German journalist and politician Ralph Niemeyer.
The following is an exclusive interview with Ralph Niemeyer for The Duran. Questions are italicized in bold.
Mr. Niemeyer, the US will soon be governed by Donald Trump. There are those who say that with Trump, the world will be turned upside down. Will the people of Europe and the so called “free world” miss President Obama?
Let’s face it: it’s not the people of the “free world” who will miss Mr. Obama, but the mainstream media and the elites who fear that the new US president can’t be controlled. Mr. Trump obviously doesn’t fear the “deep state”, the Secret Service, the CIA, and for this reason says what he thinks and probably will do what he wants. It is refreshingly democratic to see a president who is not full of fear and speaks unscripted. I don’t think that the world will go under because of him.
Would it then be fair to say that you like Mr. Trump?
No, because I don’t like his arrogance, his xenophobia, his racism, his attitude towards women, muslims, LGBT and minorities, but I see him from a pragmatic, not a philosophical point of view. His industrial policy might turn out to be good for American workers, while his affiliation with big money will also tie him to Wall Street.
I, personally, am not too worried about US domestic policy because I don’t live in the US, but I still wouldn’t have voted for Mrs. Clinton. She didn’t offer any real alternatives. For us, Europeans, the election of Trump can bear fruit as we work to emancipate ourselves from US dominance.
US dominance? Can you elaborate?
Obama used US air bases in Germany to conduct his wars in Libya, Iraq and Syria, as well as his drone war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now, Mr. Trump is showing less eagerness in policing the world, and this will give us room to maneuver a bit more independently.
For the past 100 years whenever Germany tried to cooperate with Russia, the US put their foot in the door. Now, a new chance arises if Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin talk with each other and find solutions to Ukraine and Syria. Germany can also establish better relations with Russia again.
You think Mrs. Merkel will realign with Mr. Putin?
No, I think her time is over.
Are you saying she will loose the election in September?
She would, if my party, the Social Democrats, were brave enough to unite with the Greens and Die Linke (The Left) to unanimously nominate Sahra Wagenknecht as our candidate for chancellor.
What is keeping your party from doing this?
Vice Chancellor and SPD-chairman Sigmar Gabriel can’t jump over his own shadow. He knows that if he becomes the candidate we will get maybe 20%, not 40% like SPD used to have with chancellors Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder. Unfortunately, there are no charismatic candidates in our party, so one should form a platform with Die Linke and the Greens.
The right wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) will probably steal 10% of the votes from Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) so it would open a chance for a center-leftist majority, but only if SPD wins at least 35%. I think we will end up with a first ever coalition between CDU and the Greens, which would result in four more years of Mrs. Merkel.
Sahra Wagenknecht seems to be under attack not only from mainstream media but also from inside her party as she takes a tougher stance on refugees and holds the government accountable for the Berlin terrorist attack, blaming it on downsized police forces. Is that a leftist point of view?
Indeed, one should discuss these statements very carefully. It is not a leftist position to demand more police in response to terror attacks, but she did point out that the reasons behind the terror attacks in Europe are linked to the policies of Germany, the EU and also the US towards countries in the MENA region.
She did not link the refugees to the terrorist attack, but she was right to point out that uncontrolled migration is creating problems to which the state has not adequately responded. To let people into your country is one thing, to treat them as equal citizens and to provide equal opportunities for them is another.
Integration of refugees and migrants is most effective when they learn our language and find adequate work. However, the same rules and conditions should apply to them as apply to all other Germans. When the minimum wage rule is not applied to refugees, German workers are placed under serious pressure.
This issue has been totally neglected by the German government, which is why the people fear that too many foreigners are coming into Germany. The leftists and social democrats should stand in solidarity with refugees and workers fighting for equality.
But why is she under fire from her own party?
Because the ultra leftists in her party are dreaming of open borders and fail to see that the refugee crisis is a conspiracy, instigated by the US in order to destabilize the EU and weaken Germany.
By having millions of people flee to Europe, ISIS and Al-Qaida, both of which are products of US military invasion and intelligence support, challenged our humanitarian values and managed to shift Europe to the right after the centrist and leftist politicians mishandled the crisis.
Her party hasn’t woken up yet. They could win protest votes from AfD and become even stronger because AfD is a right wing party that lacks a social agenda. Ultimately, it’s another neo-liberal party, and the workers would favor Die Linke and Social Democrats if we demonstrated our understanding of their worries.
Ralph T. Niemeyer was born on October 9, 1969, in West-Berlin. He was the youngest-ever German journalist to interview chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl as well as other leaders, including Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela.
After publishing secret arms deals of West-German politicians he fled to East-Germany in spring of 1989 just before the Berlin Wall came down. In the early 1990s he married today’s German oppositional leader Sahra Wagenknecht. They divorced in 2013.
Today Niemeyer is involved in politics, he is an ultra-leftist member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Facebook is gearing up to battle the problem of “fake news” on social media with a new name-and-shame system involving independent fact checkers being trialed in Germany.
The social media giant has employed the services of Correctiv, a nonprofit group involved in investigative journalism and news auditing, as an independent fact checker.
According to Facebook, new updates to the social site for German users can be expected in the coming weeks. It could see content shared by outlets deemed to be purveyors of false information sent to the back of the Facebook algorithm queue.
The changes include tabs that allow users to report suspected fake news, as well as labels that name-and-shame organizations believed to be peddling fraudulent information.
Facebook insists the system will work through third-party fact auditors associated with Poytner’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles.
“If the fact-finding organizations identify contributions as fraudulent, they are provided with a warning label that identifies them as untrustworthy. The warning contains a link to the corresponding article as well as a justification for this decision,” Facebook says.
“Messages classified as untrustworthy may also appear later in the newsfeed,” they added.
Correctiv announced the partnership via their official Facebook page and the fake news phenomenon as a major threat to politics in Germany.
“Fake news – especially on Facebook – is already one of the major threats [to] our society. That is clear. We fear these threats will become even more massive in the comings months. Whether it be in the NWR election [North Rhine-Westphalia state election] or the election of the Bundestag next autumn,” the company said.
A Facebook statement read: “It is important to us that posts and news posted on Facebook are reliable.”
“We are pleased with this progress, but we know there is still a lot to be done. We continue to work on this challenge and will introduce these innovations in other countries in the near future.”
It comes after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg asserted he is taking the issue of misinformation seriously, but admitted the social nature of the business meant the company erred on the side of “letting people share what they want whenever possible.”
“We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties,” he said last November.
Last year, German Social Democratic Party politician Thomas Oppermann suggested social media sites like Facebook should face individual fines of up to €500,000 for the spread of fake news.