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Obama’s speech in Hiroshima, May 27, 2016

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy on May 28, 2016 at 2:57 am

The following is a transcript of President Obama’s speech in Hiroshima, Japan, as recorded by The New York Times.

Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.

Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.

It is not the fact of war that sets Hiroshima apart. Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man. Our early ancestors having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood used these tools not just for hunting but against their own kind. On every continent, the history of civilization is filled with war, whether driven by scarcity of grain or hunger for gold, compelled by nationalist fervor or religious zeal. Empires have risen and fallen. Peoples have been subjugated and liberated. And at each juncture, innocents have suffered, a countless toll, their names forgotten by time.

The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints.

In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die. Men, women, children, no different than us. Shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death. There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war, memorials that tell stories of courage and heroism, graves and empty camps that echo of unspeakable depravity.

Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction. How the very spark that marks us as a species, our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.
How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to this truth? How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause.

Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.

Nations arise telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats. But those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.

Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds, to cure disease and understand the cosmos, but those same discoveries can be turned into ever more efficient killing machines.

The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.

That is why we come to this place. We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.

Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.

Some day, the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.

And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan have forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war. The nations of Europe built a union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy. Oppressed people and nations won liberation. An international community established institutions and treaties that work to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.

Still, every act of aggression between nations, every act of terror and corruption and cruelty and oppression that we see around the world shows our work is never done. We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves. But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.

We may not realize this goal in my lifetime, but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe. We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles. We can stop the spread to new nations and secure deadly materials from fanatics.

And yet that is not enough. For we see around the world today how even the crudest rifles and barrel bombs can serve up violence on a terrible scale. We must change our mind-set about war itself. To prevent conflict through diplomacy and strive to end conflicts after they’ve begun. To see our growing interdependence as a cause for peaceful cooperation and not violent competition. To define our nations not by our capacity to destroy but by what we build. And perhaps, above all, we must reimagine our connection to one another as members of one human race.

For this, too, is what makes our species unique. We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story, one that describes a common humanity, one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.

We see these stories in the hibakusha. The woman who forgave a pilot who flew the plane that dropped the atomic bomb because she recognized that what she really hated was war itself. The man who sought out families of Americans killed here because he believed their loss was equal to his own.

My own nation’s story began with simple words: All men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens. But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for, an ideal that extends across continents and across oceans. The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious, the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family — that is the story that we all must tell.

That is why we come to Hiroshima. So that we might think of people we love. The first smile from our children in the morning. The gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table. The comforting embrace of a parent. We can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here, 71 years ago.

Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.

Nuclear weapons are scary — but we can do something about them.

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on May 23, 2016 at 2:29 am

Susi Snyder, Nuclear Disarmament Programme Manager for Pax in the Netherlands,  Updated May 13, 2016
Nuclear weapons are scary. The risk of use by accident, intention or terror. The climate consequences. The fact that they are designed and built to vaporize thousands of people with the push of a button. Scary. Fortunately, there is something we can do.

We know that nuclear weapons are scary, but we must be much louder in defining them as unacceptable, as illegitimate. By following the money, we can cut it off, and while this isn’t the only thing necessary to make nuclear weapons extinct, it will help.

That’s why we made Don’t Bank on the Bomb. Because we want to do something about nuclear weapons. Investments are not neutral. Financing and investing are active choices, based on a clear assessment of a company and its plans. Any financial service delivered to a company by a financial institution or other investor gives a tacit approval of their activities. To make nuclear weapons, you need money. Governments pay for a lot of things, but the companies most heavily involved in producing key components for nuclear warheads need additional investment — from banks, pension funds, and insurance companies — to sustain the working capital they need to maintain and modernize nuclear bombs.

We can steer these companies in a new direction. We can influence their decision making, by making sure our own investments don’t go anywhere near nuclear weapon producing companies. Choosing to avoid investment in controversial items or the companies that make them — from tobacco to nuclear arms — can result in changed policies and reduces the chances of humanitarian harm. Just as it wasn’t smokers that got smoking banned indoors across the planet, it’s not likely that the nuclear armed countries will show the normative leadership necessary to cut off the flow of money to their nuclear bomb producers.

Public exclusions by investors have a stigmatizing effect on companies associated with illegitimate activities. There are lots of examples from child labor to tobacco where financial pressure had a profound impact on industry. While it is unlikely that divestment by a single financial institution or government would enough for a company to cancel its nuclear weapons associated contracts, divestment by even a few institutions, or countries, for the same reason can affect a company’s strategic direction.

It’s worked before.
Divestment, and legal imperatives to divest are powerful tools to compel change. The divestment efforts in the 1980s around South Africa are often cited as having a profound impact on ending the Apartheid Regime. Global efforts divesting from tobacco stocks, have not ended the production or sale of tobacco products, but have compelled the producing companies to significantly modify behaviors — and they’ve helped to delegitimize smoking.

According to a 2013 report by Oxford University “in almost every divestment campaign … from adult services to Darfur, tobacco to Apartheid, divestment campaigns were effective in lobbying for restricting legislation affecting stigmatized firms.” The current global fossil fuel divestment campaign is mobilizing at all levels of society to stigmatize relationships with the fossil fuel industry resulting in divestment by institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets, and inspiring investment towards sustainable energy solutions.

US company Lockheed Martin, which describes itself as the worlds largest arms manufacturer, announced it ceased its involvement with the production of rockets, missiles or other delivery systems for cluster munitions and stated it will not accept such orders in the future. The arms manufacturer expressed the hope that its decision to cease the activities in the area of cluster munitions would enable it to be included in investors portfolios again, thereby suggesting that pressure by financial institutions had something to do with its decision.

In Geneva right now, governments are meeting to discuss new legal measures to deal with the deadliest weapons. The majority of governments want action- and want it now. Discussions are taking place about negotiating new legal instruments — new international law about nuclear weapons. The majority of the world’s governments are calling for a comprehensive new treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons.

And they’re talking about divestment too. For example, the Ambassador from Jamaica said:

“A legally-binding instrument on prohibition of nuclear weapons would also serve as a catalyst for the elimination of such weapons. Indeed, it would encourage nuclear weapon states and nuclear umbrella states to stop relying on these types of weapons of mass destruction for their perceived security. Another notable impact of a global prohibition is that it would encourage financial institutions to divest their holdings in nuclear weapons companies.”

Governments are talking about divestment, and it’s something you can do too.
If you have a bank account, find out if your bank invests in nuclear weapon producing companies. You can either look at our website and see if your bank is listed, or you can ask your bank directly. We found that a few people, asking the same bank about questionable investments, was enough to get that bank to adopt a policy preventing them from having any relationship with nuclear weapon producing companies.

Anyone, no matter where they are can have some influence over nuclear weapons decision making. From the heads of government to you from your very own pocket — everyone can do something about this issue. It doesn’t take a lot of time, or money, to make a difference, but it does take you. Together we can stop the scary threat of massive nuclear violence. If you want to help end the threat of nuclear weapons, then put your money where your mouth is, and Don’t Bank on the Bomb.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Future of Life Institute (FLI) on nuclear security. FLI supports research and initiatives to safeguard life and develop optimistic visions of the future, and the series aims to better inform the public about the global catastrophic risks of our current nuclear policies. For more information about FLI, visit futureoflife.org.

Satyagraha Institute, August 2016

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship on May 23, 2016 at 1:43 am

For details on the Satyagraha Institute nonviolence training this August in South Dakota, see http://www.satyagrahainstitute.org/usa#2015

I will be one of the resource persons present for this year’s U.S. event.

Dan Berrigan memorial, Denver

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Rocky Flats on May 23, 2016 at 1:34 am

Yesterday, May 21, I went to the chapel at Regis University, a Jesuit school in Denver, for a memorial service for Daniel Berrigan, the activist priest who died a couple of weeks ago. The service was beautiful, not a Catholic mass, but a wide-ranging time of words and music, with short readings from his poems, writings and talks. I saw old friends I hadn’t seen for years.

In the mid-80s a group that I was part of invited Dan to Boulder to give a talk. While he was here Ina Russell, Brian Mahan and I took him to Rocky Flats, 9 miles south of Boulder. We stopped the car at a high point from which you could see the skyline of downtown Denver 16 miles away, three nearby downstream lakes that were contaminated with plutonium and tritium released from the plant, the mountains just a short distance to the west, with the buildings of the plant about two miles from where we stood. Pointing, I told him, “There’s Rocky Flats.” He quickly said, “But it isn’t flat.” “Yes, but it’s rocky,” I replied. He looked at me and said, “Ah, a rocky road. Are you up to it?” “We’ll see,” I said. Then we drove into town and went to a restaurant where he ordered vodka.

Public meeting in Denver on high-level nuclear waste, May 24

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere on May 22, 2016 at 1:52 am

The topic of this DOE meeting is “consent based siting” of location(s) for storage of the most dangerous nuclear waste. For details, see http://www.eventbrite.com/e/consent-based-siting-public-meeting-denver-colorado-registration-23429680806

 

For opposition news, including talking points from Nuclear Information and Resource Service, see http://www.nirs.org/fukushimafreeways/stopfukushimafreeways.htm

 

 

$375 million settlement reached in homeowner lawsuit against Rocky Flats

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Plutonium, Rocky Flats on May 20, 2016 at 2:47 am

By John Aguilar, The Denver Post, 5-19-2016

A $375 million settlement has been reached in a long-running class action lawsuit between operators of the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant and thousands of homeowners who lived downwind of the facility.

The settlement, which must still be approved by a federal judge, brings to an end a 26-year legal saga that began when homeowners living east of Rocky Flats accused the plant’s operators, Rockwell International Corp. and Dow Chemical Co., of devaluing their properties due to plutonium releases from the plant.

The suit, which includes as many as 15,000 homeowners in an area encompassing neighborhoods surrounding Standley Lake, was first filed in 1990.

“Both sides are satisfied with the settlement,” Merrill Davidoff, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told The Denver Post Thursday morning.

Davidoff confirmed the settlement amount.

According to court filings, the property class includes all those who “as of June 7, 1989,” owned property in the affected area.

Davidoff said final approval of the settlement by a federal judge and establishment of a claims filing process for homeowners could be “months away.”

Rachelle Schikorra, a spokeswoman for Dow Chemical, said her company’s share of the settlement total is $131.25 million.
“The U.S. Department of Energy authorized the settlement, and Dow fully expects to be indemnified for the full cost of the settlement,” she said. “This settlement resolves 26 years of litigation, and Dow believes this settlement is the right decision for the company and its shareholders.”

A spokesman for the DOE had not yet returned a request for comment Thursday morning.

The settlement, which was reached late Wednesday, puts to an end a case — dubbed Cook et al. vs. Rockwell International — that has been through multiple bends and turns in federal court for the past quarter of a century.

In 2006, a jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and a federal judge awarded them $926 million. But in 2010, that award was thrown out by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the jury reached its decision on faulty instructions that incorrectly stated the law.

 

Rocky Flats Health Survey

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats on May 20, 2016 at 2:36 am

ROCKY FLATS DOWNWINDERS AND METROPOLITAN STATE UNIVERSITY OF DENVER TO LAUNCH HEALTH SURVEY ON MAY 17TH SURVEY WILL FOCUS FOR THE FIRST TIME ON RESIDENTS LIVING DOWNWIND FROM ROCKY FLATS (Denver, CO)-

For their release, go to https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/154c474eebf06dac?projector=1

Obama on nukes: All talk, no action

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health on May 19, 2016 at 11:56 pm

BY SETSUKO THURLOW
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Thursday, May 19, 2016, 5:00 AM
As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, I witnessed my hometown flattened by a hurricane-like blast, burned in 7,000-degree Fahrenheit heat and contaminated by the radiation of one atomic bomb.

Miraculously, I was rescued from the rubble of a building, a little more than a mile from ground zero. Most of my classmates in the same room were burned to death. I can still hear their faint voices, calling their mothers for help, and praying to God.

As I escaped with two other girls, we watched a procession of ghostly figures: grotesquely wounded people whose clothes were tattered or gone. Parts of their bodies were missing. Some were carrying their eyeballs in their hands. Some had their stomachs burst open, their intestines hanging out.

Of a population of 360,000 residents of Hiroshima — largely noncombatant women, children and elderly — most became victims of the atomic bombing. Many were killed immediately; some, over time. Nearly 71 years later, people are still dying from the delayed effects of the bomb, called Little Boy, considered crude by today’s standards for mass destruction.

This same city, rebuilt over the decades with few reminders of its tragic past, will soon play host to President Obama, as he becomes the first sitting U.S. President to journey to the place where nuclear weapons were first used in war. For me, and for many survivors, this historic occasion presents a conflict of emotions. Of course we appreciate the courage it takes to come to Hiroshima, especially given the current political climate in the United States.

But still we are frustrated by Obama’s eloquent propensity to say one thing and do another.

In his famous speech in Prague, in 2009, he said, “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.”

Why then has the U.S. government, under the Obama administration, pledged $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its nuclear arsenal? Exactly where is the moral responsibility and leadership in that?

Regarding disarmament, Obama stated, “Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global nonproliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.” Why then are the U.S. and other nuclear weapon states actively boycotting the latest international nuclear negotiations?

ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, AUG. 8, 2010; U.S. ARMY VIA THE HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL MUSEUM; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS PUBLICLY DISTRIBUTED HANDOUT PHOTO TO BE USED ONLY TO ILLUSTRATE NEWS REPORTING OR COMMENTARY ON THE FACTS OR EVENTS DEPICTED IN THIS IMAGE. AP provides access to this publicly distributed HANDOUT photo to be used only to illustrate news reporting or commentary on the facts or events depicted in this image.Never again (AP)
If the President is serious about disarmament, he should have sent a delegation to the UN in Geneva, where, this month, representatives from nearly 100 countries discussed the prospects for a nuclear ban treaty.

Currently endorsed by 127 nations, the nuclear ban treaty is the most significant advance for nuclear disarmament in a generation. Yet there is little attention in the media, so the public remains unaware.

The President also made the bold and accurate claim that, “If we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.”

It is crucial to understand that this use may result by design or by accident. Indeed, nuclear risk is on the rise as accidents and aging infrastructure have been revealed in recent research, proving that the very existence of nuclear weapons presents an avoidable threat to life on Earth.

Let us not forget that within two flashes of light three days apart, two beloved cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, became places of desolation, with heaps of rubble, horrifically wounded people and blackened corpses everywhere.

He may be courageous to visit Hiroshima, but the President’s symbolic and rhetorical courage must be backed up by action for disarmament.

Thurlow, a former social worker and founder of Japanese Family Services of Metropolitan Toronto, is an advocate for nuclear disarmament.

What to do about elections

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Race on May 19, 2016 at 10:04 pm

My daughter Jerri, who lives in North Carolina, posted the following analysis and suggestions on her Facebook page. I like her suggestions very much.
JERRI’S SUGGESTIONS FOR REFORMING THE POLITICAL SYSTEM: 1) overturn Citizen’s United – limit ALL campaign contributions to $2K per year for individuals and corporations alike. 2) establish a workable public finance system for elections. 3) eliminate the Electoral College. 4) eliminate delegates and super delegates – all elections are determined on actual votes cast by citizens. 5) implement automatic voter registration at birth and automatic address updates through the Postal Service. 6) establish national election laws – all elections are open to all voters regardless of party affiliation and each voter gets to cast a vote for whomever they feel is the best candidate for the office. Primaries for all parties must be held on the same day and each voter must chose one candidate to vote for. 7) make election day a national holiday and try to align local elections to this date as well. 8) consider offering a small tax incentive for voting and participating in the political process. 9) limit the length of time that campaigns may be conducted (6-8 months for example). 10) establish term limits for all politically elected offices (12 years seems like plenty to me). 11) establish strict laws against moving from elected positions into lobbying jobs. 12) require any publicly funded news outlets to offer equal coverage of all candidates. 13) offer benefits (retirement /health insurance) comparable to what the general public has available to them. Eliminate secret service protection within a year of leaving office. 14) Hopefully these suggestions will result in additional viable political parties so that we can move everything away from this polarized and dysfunctional two party system. I am sure there are other areas that I have failed to address, but I think this would be a start… People feel disenfranchised and until they honestly feel their vote and their participation matters… Well you know what we get…

Rocky Flats Downwinders health survey

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats, Wildlife Refuge on May 18, 2016 at 8:49 am

Today, Tuesday , May 17, 2016, the Rocky Flats Downwinders launched their health survey for people who reside downwind of Rocky Flats and may have health problems due to exposure to plutonium and other toxins released from Rocky Flats. See the following Denver Post article:  http://www.thedenverchannel.com/lifestyle/health/residents-who-lived-near-rocky-flats-from-1952-and-1992-to-be-surveyed-about-health

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