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The Coming Ban on Nuclear Weapons

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 25, 2017 at 12:08 am

By Zia Mian, Project Syndicate, Marcg 24m 2017

PRINCETON – On March 27, the United Nations will start negotiations on an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons. It will be a milestone marking the beginning of the end of an age of existential peril for humanity.
This day was bound to come. From the beginning, even those who set the world on the path to nuclear weapons understood the mortal danger and moral challenge confronting humanity. In April 1945, US Secretary of War Henry Stimson explained to President Harry Truman that the atomic bomb would be “the most terrible weapon ever known in human history.” Stimson warned that “the world in its present state of moral advancement compared with its technical development would be eventually at the mercy of such a weapon. In other words, modern civilization might be completely destroyed.”
Soon afterwards, the newly created UN, established with the express purpose “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” took the threat posed by nuclear arms as its first priority. In January 1946, in its very first resolution, the UN called for a plan “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.”
The Soviet Union submitted such a plan that June. Now largely forgotten, the Gromyko Plan included a “Draft International Convention to Prohibit the Production and Employment of Weapons Based on the Use of Atomic Energy for the Purpose of Mass Destruction.” At the time, only the United States had nuclear weapons, and it chose to maintain its monopoly. But it couldn’t hold onto it for long. Where it led, others soon followed, forcing humanity to endure the decades of weapons development, arms races, proliferation, and nuclear crises that followed.
Anti-nuclear movements took root, and, in a phrase made famous by the historian E.P. Thompson, began to protest to survive. They found allies in a growing number of countries. In November 1961, the UN General Assembly declared that “any state using nuclear and thermonuclear weapons is to be considered as violating the Charter of the United Nations, as acting contrary to the laws of humanity, and as committing a crime against mankind and civilization.”
As the number and destructive power of nuclear weapons grew, and as even developing countries began to acquire them, recognition of the danger gave rise to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which entered into force in 1970. “Considering the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war,” the NPT begins, there is a “consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples.”
To this end, the treaty committed all signatories to “undertake negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” The US, the Soviet Union, and Britain signed the NPT. France and China, the only other nuclear weapon states at the time, held out for more than 20 years, until 1992. Israel, India, and Pakistan have never signed, while North Korea signed and then withdrew. Although all professed support for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world, disarmament negotiations never began.
Countries without nuclear weapons – the overwhelming majority – took matter into their own hands. Through the UN General Assembly, they asked the International Court of Justice to rule on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. In July 1996, the ICJ issued an advisory opinion, with two key conclusions. First, “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law.” And, second, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
But, in the 20 years since the highest court in the international system issued its judgment, the states affected by it have still failed to launch “negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.” Instead, they have set out on long-term programs to maintain, modernize, and in some cases augment their nuclear arsenals.
Non-weapon states began to take action through a series of international conferences and UN resolutions. Finally, in October 2016, the UN General Assembly’s First Committee, which is responsible for international peace and security, voted “to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” On December 23, the General Assembly ratified the decision, with 113 countries in favor, 35 opposed, and 13 abstentions.
The Year Ahead 2017 Cover Image
The new resolution’s instructions are straightforward: “States participating in the conference” should “make their best endeavors to conclude as soon as possible a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” The treaty could be ready before the end of the year.
The nine nuclear weapon states will finally be put to the test. Will they keep their promises to disarm and join the treaty, or will they choose their weapons over international law and the will of the global community? The non-weapon states that join the treaty will be tested, too. How will they organize to confront those countries in the world system that choose to be nuclear outlaws?

The Middle East for Dummies

In Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 24, 2017 at 11:08 pm

By David Swanson
http://davidswanson.org/node/5497

The first point I’d like to touch on is the idea that the Middle East is a culturally violent place that can be made less violent by bombing it. The first problem with this is that bombing places makes them more violent, not less. Nobody is shocked or awed into nonviolence, not 14 years ago and not for the past century. The second problem is that the Middle East’s violence cannot be compared with that of other cultures without figuring out how to factor out the influence of the West. A hundred years ago, Britain and France carved up Western Asia, and not to spread democracy.

The West has been propping up brutal kings and dictators ever since. Outside of Israel, which is essentially a Western colony, the Middle East does not manufacture weapons. Just as the West once pushed opium on China or alcohol on the native peoples of this land we’re sitting on, the West pushes weapons on Western Asia, and the top weapons dealer to the world, to poor nations, and to the Middle East is the United States — with records set under President Obama likely to be smashed under Trump. Virtually all the weapons used in all the wars around the world — and all the major wars around the world, apart from Afghanistan and Mexico, are in the Middle East and Northeast Africa — come from six nations. They are the five permanent members and saboteurs of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. These are the nations that will be working hard to defeat and disrupt the treaty negotiations beginning Monday in New York to ban nuclear weapons. They are also the nations whose weapons dealers profit from the blood of millions of innocent people too far away to see and too valueless to be reported on U.S. television.

Yesterday a racist drove up to New York to kill black men, thinking that would make big news. He forgot that someone white might be attacked in London. At the same time, the U.S. government was busy murdering scores of people in the Middle East. Guess which of these three killing sprees is labeled terrorism, and which other two see the media slander the victims and completely ignore the terror and trauma to the survivors. Imagine being a black man walking in Manhattan today. Imagine being anyone living in the Middle East today. U.S. weapons flow to Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Turkey, not to mention Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and to non-governmental organizations that the U.S. government itself calls terrorists in places like Syria. Most if not all forces against which these weapons are used also use U.S. weapons previously given, sold, traded, or stolen. The U.S. military brings its own weapons to Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, and in fact every single nation of the region, plus the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the skies above, with the possible exception of what’s left of Palestine to which genocidal cause the United States philanthropically donates billions of dollars of weapons to the Orwellianly named Israeli Defense Forces. Each overthrow that the U.S. leads, including those in Iraq and Libya, leads to massive proliferation of weapons, creating chaos and death as far off as places like Mali. But of course the people of the region appreciate the effort, right? Yeah, about as much as the people of Fergusson appreciate the police.

The global policeman headquartered in Arlington is less popular in the places policed than a congressman at a healthcare rally. In December 2013, Gallup surveyed 65 countries around the world, and most said the United States was the greatest threat to peace on earth. In eight countries in or near the Middle East, four said the United States was the greatest threat to peace, three placed the U.S. second behind Israel, and in Afghanistan those surveyed placed the U.S. second behind Pakistan. It’s nice to be appreciated. It wouldn’t take much to actually be appreciated. Stop selling weapons. Stop giving weapons. Stop bringing weapons. Withdraw troops. Send food, medicine, farm equipment, clean energy equipment. Doing that would cost a tiny fraction of what it costs to keep making everything worse.

Trump says the U.S.-initiated wars of the past 16 years have made everything worse, so we should have more of them. He’s drone murdering at 4 times Obama’s pace. He’s moving more troops into Syria and Kuwait. And he wants to defund everything else to fund a yet more expensive military. Charlottesville City Council to its great credit has opposed this, but one of its five members would only do so if the resolution pretended that all the killing protects U.S. rights. When we get to Q&A I’d love someone to explain to me how murdering Yemeni children gives me more rights, and how demonstrating inside a free speech cage instead of in the open the way we used to constitutes an expansion of freedom. The mayor of Charlottesville refused to support the resolution because it mentioned the U.S. military, and he wants to have some higher office purchased for him some day. Several weeks back both the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations on the same day sent out national fundraiser emails quoting a Gold Star father from Charlottesville claiming that U.S. warmaking in Iraq serves to protect the Bill of Rights. These are organizations whose entire purpose is to oppose some of the symptoms of the wars, yet they promote the wars because they have so internalized the propaganda that they literally cannot imagine questioning it.

That’s the purpose of my book War Is A Lie, which Helena’s company was good enough to publish, to encourage questioning — questioning of the sort that stopped a bombing of Syria in 2013 and supported a treaty with Iran in 2015, but completely fell apart and inserted its head into its posterior the moment an ISIS video was shown on television. Mike Signer is not the only coward among us. Our entire foreign policy and public budget are shaped by irrational fear. More likely than ISIS killing you are each of the following: a U.S. police officer killing you, the stairs in your house killing you, pollutants in your environment killing you, a toddler who finds a gun killing you, or Donald Trump retweeting you. I make no comment on which of those fates would be the worst.

As you’ve heard about Yemen and Syria, let me add a couple of comments about Afghanistan and — if there’s time — Iraq. The current U.S. war in Afghanistan is well into its 16th year, though U.S. violence there began much earlier. The U.S. military now has approximately 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan , plus 6,000 other NATO troops, 1,000 mercenaries, and another 26,000 contractors (of whom about 8,000 are from the United States). That’s 41,000 people engaged in a foreign occupation of a country 15 years after the accomplishment of their stated mission to overthrow the Taliban government. Afghanistan is the most heavily bombed country of all current U.S. wars, the bulk of that bombing done under President Barack Obama, who also tripled the level of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, before reducing them. During each of the past 15 years, our government in Washington has informed us that success was imminent. During each of the past 15 years, Afghanistan has continued its descent into poverty, violence, environmental degradation, and instability.

The United States is spending $4 million an hour on planes, drones, bombs, guns, and over-priced contractors in a country that needs food and agricultural equipment. Thus far, the United States has spent nearly $800 billion with virtually nothing to show for it except the death, injury and displacement of millions of Afghans, and the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers plus the injury of tens of thousands and the endangerment of people in the United States, the erosion of our rights, the shame of Guantanamo, and destruction of the earth’s environment.

Before Faisal Shahzad tried to blow up a car in Times Square, he had tried to join the war against the United States in Afghanistan. In numerous other incidents, terrorists targeting the United States have stated their motives as including revenge for the U.S. terrorism in Afghanistan, along with other U.S. wars in the region. In addition, Afghanistan is the one nation where the United States is engaged in major warfare in a country that is a member of the International Criminal Court. That body has now announced that it is investigating possible prosecutions for U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. Over the past 15 years, we have been treated to an almost routine repetition of scandals: hunting children from helicopters, blowing up hospitals with drones, urinating on corpses — all fueling anti-U.S. propaganda, all brutalizing and shaming the United States. U.S. and allied soldiers now being ordered into Afghanistan were in pre-school on September 11, 2001. Ordering young American men and women into a kill-or-die mission that was accomplished 15 years ago is a lot to ask. Expecting them to believe in that mission is too much. That fact may help explain this one: the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is suicide. The second highest killer of American military is green on blue, or the Afghan youth who the U.S. is training turning their weapons on their trainers. Candidate Trump said: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghans we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.” President Trump is acting contrary to every part of that.

At 14 years since the launch of Operation Iraqi Liberation (to use the original name with the appropriate acronym, OIL) and over 26 years since Operation Desert Storm, there is little evidence that any significant number of people in the United States have a realistic idea of what our government has done to the people of Iraq, or of how these actions compare to other horrors of world history. A majority of Americans believe the war since 2003 has hurt the United States but benefitted Iraq. A plurality of Americans believe, not only that Iraqis should be grateful, but that Iraqis are in fact grateful.

A number of U.S. academics have advanced the dubious claim that war making is declining around the world. Misinterpreting what has happened in Iraq is central to their argument. By the most scientifically respected measures available, as of some years ago, though the death and destruction has continued, Iraq had lost 1.4 million lives as a result of OIL, had seen 4.2 million additional people injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees. The 1.4 million dead was 5% of the population. That compares to 2.5% lost in the U.S. Civil War, or 3 to 4% in Japan in World War II, 1% in France and Italy in World War II, less than 1% in the U.K. and 0.3% in the United States in World War II. The 1.4 million dead is higher as an absolute number as well as a percentage of population than these other horrific losses. U.S. deaths in Iraq since 2003 have been 0.3% of the dead, even if they’ve taken up the vast majority of the news coverage, preventing U.S. news consumers from understanding the extent of Iraqi suffering.

In a very American parallel, the U.S. government has only been willing to value the life of an Iraqi at that same 0.3% of the financial value it assigns to the life of a U.S. citizen.

The 2003 invasion included 29,200 air strikes, followed by another 3,900 over the next eight years. The U.S. military targeted civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances It also made use of what some might call “weapons of mass destruction,” using cluster bombs, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new kind of napalm in densely settled urban areas.

Birth defects, cancer rates, and infant mortality are through the roof. Water supplies, sewage treatment plants, hospitals, bridges, and electricity supplies have been devastated, and not repaired. Healthcare and nutrition and education are nothing like they were before the war. And we should remember that healthcare and nutrition had already deteriorated during years of economic warfare waged through the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever imposed in modern history.

Money spent by the United States to “reconstruct” Iraq was always less than 10% of what was being spent adding to the damage, and most of it was never actually put to any useful purpose. At least a third was spent on so-called “security,” while much of the rest was spent on corruption in the U.S. military and its contractors.

The educated who might have best helped rebuild Iraq fled the country. Iraq had the best universities in Western Asia in the early 1990s, and now leads in illiteracy, with the population of teachers in Baghdad reduced by 80%.

For years, the occupying forces broke the society of Iraq down, encouraging ethnic and sectarian division and violence, resulting in a segregated country and the repression of rights that Iraqis used to enjoy, even under Saddam Hussein’s brutal police state.

Without Bush and Obama there would be no ISIS. Obama shifted to air war, and dropped more bombs and missiles on Iraq than Bush did. Obama set records for military spending and for weapons sales and gifts abroad. He created drone wars including in Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen. He ended the idea that presidents need Congress for wars, with his war in Libya fueling the violence in Syria and Iraq among other places. He put more troops in more countries. He bombed eight countries and bragged about it. He firmly established warrantless spying, baseless imprisonment, torture, and assassination as policy choices rather than crimes. He wrote secret and public so-called laws that his successor is picking and choosing from without input from the legislature. He created a new cold war with Russia. He did these things willingly or he permitted his subordinates to do them.

Now Trump says he’ll destroy ISIS, and the U.S. Secretary of Exxon-Mobil said yesterday: “Hard-fought victories in Iraq and Syria have swung the momentum in our coalition’s favor, but we must increase the intensity of our efforts and solidify our gains in the next phase of the counter-ISIS fight.” We’re winning so we need more war is a stand-by. In distant second is, of course, We’re losing so we need more war.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie.

India may abandon its ‘no first use’ nuclear policy: Expert

In Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 21, 2017 at 10:24 pm

The Indian Express, March 17, 2017
India may abandon the policy if it feels that Pakistan is going to use nuclear weapons or tactical nuclear weapons against it
India may abandon its ‘no first use’ nuclear policy and launch a preemptive strike against Pakistan if it feared that Islamabad was likely to use the weapons first, a top nuclear expert on South Asia has claimed.
The remarks by Vipin Narang, an expert on South Asian nuclear strategy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before a Washington audience was though a negation of India’s stated policy of ‘no first use’.
During the 2017 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, Narang said, “There is increasing evidence that India will not allow Pakistan to go first”.
He said India “may” abandon the policy and launch a preemptive strike against Pakistan if it believed that Pakistan was going to use nuclear weapons or most likely the tactical nuclear weapons against it.
But, he pointed out, India’s preemptive strike may not be conventional strikes and would also be aimed at Pakistan’s missiles launchers for tactical battlefield nuclear warheads.
“India’s opening salvo may not be conventional strikes trying to pick off just Nasr batteries in the theatre, but a full ‘comprehensive counterforce strike’ that attempts to completely disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons so that India does not have to engage in iterative tit-for-tat exchanges and expose its own cities to nuclear destruction,” Narang said.
He said this thinking surfaces not from fringe extreme voices or retired Indian Army officers frustrated by the lack of resolve they believe their government has shown in multiple provocations, but from no less than a former Commander of India’s Strategic Forces, Lt Gen BS Nagal.
It also comes perhaps more importantly and authoritatively, from the highly-respected and influential former national security adviser Shivshankar Menon in his 2016 book ‘Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy’, the nuclear strategist said.

“Serious voices, who cannot be ignored, seem to suggest that this is where India may be heading, and certainly wants to head,” Narang said.
“So our conventional understanding of South Asia’s nuclear dynamics and who, in fact, might use nuclear weapons first and in what mode may need a hard rethink given these emerging authoritative voices in India who are not content to cede the nuclear initiative to Pakistan,” he said, adding that this would mark a major shift in Indian strategy if implemented.
“In short, we may be witnessing what I call a ‘decoupling’ of Indian nuclear strategy between China and Pakistan.”
Sameer Lalwani, senior associate and deputy director South Asia at the Stimson Center, an American think-tank, said Narang’s remarks challenged the conventional wisdom of South Asia’s strategic stability problem.
Based on recent statements and writings of high-level national security officials (serving and retired), Narang argued that India may be exhibiting a “seismic shift” in its nuclear strategy from ‘no first use’ to a preemptive nuclear counterforce allowing for escalation dominance or a “splendid first strike” against Pakistan, Lalwani said.

UN negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons start next week

In Human rights, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on March 21, 2017 at 10:03 am

The first negotiating session of the UN Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons will take place at the United Nations in New York on March 27.

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly decided – by a vote of 113 in favour, 35 against and 13 abstaining – to commence negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, regardless of whether or not the nuclear-armed and allied states join such a treaty.

Impact of the treaty on nuclear-armed and allied States

Even if no nuclear-armed or allied States join the nuclear prohibition treaty, it could impact on their policies and practices.

The treaty could, for example, affirm that the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons are already illegal under existing international law, including international humanitarian law and the UN Charter. This would increase the legal and political pressure on nuclear armed and allied States to phase out nuclear deterrence and join subsequent negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The treaty could also prohibit the financing of nuclear weapons, including by banks and public funds, in the States signing the treaty. This follows a similar practice of governments divesting from corporations making landmines and cluster munitions following the adoption of treaties prohibiting these weapons.

Such action could hit at the heart of one of the most powerful drivers of the nuclear arms race – the nuclear weapons corporations which are making billions of dollars from producing the weapons, and have a vested interest in keeping the arms race going.

UNFOLD ZERO has joined with Basel Peace Office and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, in submitting a working paper to the UN negotiating conference calling for the treaty to include such a prohibition, providing details about how such a prohibition could work, and giving examples of countries that have already divested their public funds from nuclear weapons corporations.

UNFOLD ZERO and PNND hold a consultation in Washington DC with disarmament experts on the nuclear prohibition treaty, nuclear arms control between US and Russia, and the 2018 UN High Level Conference.
UNFOLD ZERO consultations in UN centres and key capitals

From January to March 2017, UNFOLD ZERO and PNND organised a series of consultation meetings with disarmament experts and civil society representatives on the current nuclear disarmament climate, how to build success in the ban treaty negotiations and the 2018 UN High Level Conference, and how to build cooperation between civil society and parliamentarians.

Consultation events were organised in Berlin, Geneva, London, New York, Vienna, and Washington DC.

The outcomes of these events help UNFOLD ZERO and PNND feed into the UN negotiations and build support from parliaments and in inter-parliamentary forums including the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

UNFOLD ZERO at the March 6 ban treaty discussion in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, hosted by the government of Austria, Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Geneva Disarmament Platform. [Photo: GCSP]
Geneva discussions on the ban treaty

A series of informal discussions amongst governments, disarmament experts and civil society organisations is being held at the Palais de Nations in Geneva in March, prior to the start of the UN negotiations in New York.

The discussions, which have been organised by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Geneva Disarmament Platform, have focused on a number of critical issues for the negotiations, including provisions on cooperation and relations with nuclear-armed states outside the treaty, withdrawal provisions and provisions for nuclear-armed States to accede to the treaty.

UNFOLD ZERO has been participating in these discussions along with our partners Basel Peace Office, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.E
Yours sincerely
The UNFOLD ZERO team

A Legal First: Japanese Government and Tepco found liable for Fukushima disaster

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Public Health on March 21, 2017 at 3:42 am

BY DAISUKE KIKUCHI, JAPAN TIMES, MARCH 17 2017
http://tinyurl.com/k3g3xy4

MAEBASHI, GUNMA PREF. – A court in Japan has ruled for the first time that the government and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were responsible for failing to take preventive measures against the March 11, 2011, quake-triggered tsunami that killed scores and forced tens of thousands from their homes.
Friday’s stunning ruling by the Maebashi District Court was the first to recognize negligence by the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. It called the massive tsunami predictable and said the major nuclear disaster could have been avoided.
The district court ordered the two to pay damages totaling ¥38.55 million to 62 of 137 plaintiffs from 45 households located near the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown caused by the tsunami, awarding ¥70,000 to ¥3.5 million in compensation to each plaintiff.
The plaintiffs had demanded the state and Tepco pay compensation of ¥11 million each — a total of about ¥1.5 billion — over the loss of local infrastructure and psychological stress they were subjected to after being forced to relocate to unfamiliar surroundings.
Citing a government estimate released in July 2002, the court said in the ruling that “Tepco was capable of foreseeing several months after (the estimate) that a large tsunami posed a risk to the facility and could possibly flood its premises and damage safety equipment, such as the backup power generators.”
It pointed out that the state should have ordered Tepco to take bolstered preventive measures, and criticized the utility for prioritizing costs over safety.
Of the plaintiffs, 76 who lived in evacuation zones were forced to move, while another 61 evacuated voluntarily even though their houses were located outside evacuation zones. The ruling was the first of 30 similar class-action suits filed nationwide involving more than 10,000 plaintiffs.
About 80,000 citizens who had lived in Fukushima reportedly left the prefecture after the March 2011 disaster.
“I believe that the ruling saying both the government and Tepco were equally responsible is an important judgment,” Katsuyoshi Suzuki, the lead lawyer for the defense said at a news conference following the ruling. “But thinking about the psychological distress (the plaintiffs faced) after being forced to evacuate from their homes, I think the amount is not enough.”
Takehiro Matsuta, 38, one of the plaintiffs who evacuated from the city of Koriyama, hailed the ruling, but called the damages “disappointing.”

“The ruling was one big step for my family, for those who evacuated from Fukushima to Gunma, and for tens of thousands of earthquake victims nationwide,” he said.
But called the payout “disappointing,” as his child, who was 3 years old at the time of the nuclear disaster, was not granted compensation. “My wife and I are struggling everyday, but it’s my child who suffers the most.”
The group of lawyers for the plaintiffs, which have had suits filed since September 2011, claimed that the Fukushima disaster resulted in serious human rights violations by forcing victims to relocate after the crisis caused widespread environmental damage.
The plaintiffs argued that Tepco could have prevented the damage if it had implemented measures, including the building of breakwaters, based on its 2008 tsunami trial calculation that showed waves of over 10 meters could hit the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Those calculations took into account the 2002 estimate by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, which concluded that there was a 20 percent chance of a magnitude-8 earthquake rocking areas off Fukushima within 30 years.
However, the government and Tepco have argued that the massive tsunami was unexpected, claiming that there were different opinions among scholars over the long-term evaluation. Both attacked the credibility of the study, calling it unscientific.
The government also objected to the ruling, saying that because it had no authority to force Tepco to take such preventive measures as argued by the plaintiffs, it bore no responsibility.
According to the defense, a number of other class suits are inching closer to rulings, with one in the city of Chiba scheduled for Sept. 22 and another in the city of Fukushima involving 4,000 plaintiffs expected by the year’s end.

Why Trump’s budget may be ‘devastating’ to his supporters

In Cost, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Politics on March 18, 2017 at 11:29 am

Rep. Hal Rogers (R) of Kentucky said his poor, rural district – which voted 80 percent in favor of Trump – would be hit harder than anywhere else in the country.

Francine Kiefer, Staff writer | @kieferf
MARCH 17, 2017 WASHINGTON —President Trump’s “skinny” budget proposal would make deep cuts in many government programs in the name of pruning the federal bureaucracy. But in doing so it might disproportionately (and surprisingly) affect a particular demographic sector of America: Trump voters.

“It’s unacceptable,” says Rep. Hal Rogers (R) of Kentucky, whose district voted about 80 percent in favor of Trump. “The president’s biggest support came from the rural and poor areas like mine…. And that area is going to be hit harder than anywhere else in the country quite frankly.”

That’s due to the plan’s focus on non-defense, discretionary spending – everything Uncle Sam does outside the Pentagon and mammoth entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

It includes many programs that are important to rural, lower-income areas that went big for Trump last November, such as subsidies for regional airports, funds to clean up the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, and support for regional economic development.

It’s possible these proposed reductions wouldn’t hurt Trump much in his political heartland. Many of his voters view the president not as appropriator-in-chief, but as an agent of change who’ll bring heartache to Washington’s powers that be, whatever the consequences.
Trump’s biggest executive actions, explained
It’s also possible the cuts would hurt Trump. At the least, they’ve already driven a wedge between the White House and many Republican members of Congress. These lawmakers often get the credit or blame for federal efforts in their districts. While they support Trump’s aim to increase military spending while cutting elsewhere, their first loyalty is to constituents.

$69 billion in proposed cuts

Overall, the Trump budget proposal would cut funding for non-defense discretionary spending by $15 billion in fiscal 2017 (despite the fact that year has already begun) and by $54 billion in fiscal 2018. All of this money would be shifted to military spending.

Two departments outside the Pentagon, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, would get increases. All other non-defense discretionary programs would be cut by more than 15 percent of current levels on average, according to an analysis by the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Many of these areas have already borne significant cuts over the past seven years, due to the tight caps that the 2011 Budget Control Act placed on non-defense discretionary program funding,” writes CBPP director Robert Greenstein in a statement on the Trump budget.

At least 19 federal agencies would be zeroed out under the Trump budget. These include the Appalachian Regional Commission, founded to help promote development in an impoverished part of the US; the Delta Regional Authority, another economic development group; the US Trade and Development Agency, which promotes US exports; and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is a main means of support for rural public TV and radio stations.

Job training programs, worker safety efforts, and federal housing and energy assistance would also face deep cuts, according to CBPP.

‘Devastating’ to Trump voters

Representative Rogers, a former chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, represents one of the most impoverished regions in the nation – eastern Kentucky, in the heart of Appalachia’s coal country. The Trump budget proposal would be “devastating” to his district, he says in an interview with the Monitor.

Funding for two key regional groups that recruit businesses and jobs and help retrain laid-off miners for other work would be zeroed out under the president’s budget. Those programs are making a difference he says.

Nor is the Kentucky lawmaker alone. Some other GOP members shared his reaction. Take Rep. John Moolenaar, a former Dow Jones chemist who now represents a big swath of Michigan’s mitten.

Representative Moolenaar, a Republican, is unhappy about Trump’s proposal to eliminate almost all of the $300 million federal funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. He vows to fight to ensure that cut won’t happen. The lakes are a “national treasure” that hold 80 percent of the US supply of fresh surface water, he says.

“We need to fund that,” he says. He adds that other Appropriations Committee members agree with him.

These Republicans and others say they agree with Trump’s general thrust of increasing military preparedness while restraining domestic spending. But they take issue with these specific reductions.

Moolenaar feels that voters are more interested in Trump’s agenda of tax cuts, deregulation, and keeping jobs in America than they are in the specifics of the budget proposal.

Not that Trump’s budget will pass intact, or even largely intact. As these members point out, Congress controls the purse strings. Much will change before the House and Senate cast final budget votes.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balert (R) of Florida, who is a member of the House Appropriations committee, told reporters: “It’s not the real thing,” speaking of the president’s budget. The budget process is lengthy, this appropriator points out.

Not-so-innocent hyperbole

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, Race, War on March 10, 2017 at 10:35 am

By Dave Anderson –

Boulder Weekly, March 9, 2017
Only 11 percent of the media coverage of the 2016 presidential
primaries dealt with the candidates’ policy positions, leadership
abilities and professional histories according to a study by the
Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Instead,
there were stories of personality conflicts, gossip, scandals,
campaign strategy and polls.

Politics has been treated as entertainment for a long time but Donald
Trump made things worse. As a celebrity and TV star, he developed the
skills to manipulate the media. His business career taught him to
“play to people’s fantasies,” as he (or rather his ghostwriter) wrote
in The Art of the Deal. He added, “People want to believe that
something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I
call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration —
and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”

The Trump circus continues to dominate the news with everybody
discussing his latest outrageous insults, lies and conspiracy
theories. Meanwhile, the Republicans quietly plan to turn back the
clock several decades now that they control the presidency, the
Congress, 32 state legislatures and 33 governorships. Many noticed
this and a resistance was born.

It was organized spontaneously on social media. On the day after
Trump’s inauguration, about 5 million Americans turned out for the
Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and the sister marches in over 600
other cities. This was one of the biggest protests in U.S. history.
Less than a week later, huge crowds marched again opposing Trump’s
Muslim ban. When people from the banned countries were being detained
at airports, lawyers and protesters showed up.

Widespread protest has continued at the offices of Republican members
of Congress and at town hall meetings. Can we keep up the pressure? It
is difficult to sustain a sense of outrage and indignation over four
years.

Right after the election, progressive economist Max Sawicky tweeted,
“With a Democratic win, we’d be listing stuff to hold them to. Now we
have to list things we don’t want destroyed.” But Trump wasn’t the
usual rightwing Republican. He tapped into a populist fever. He
promised to bring back jobs, rebuild the middle class and end stupid
trade policies. He presented a classic rightwing populism that
directed his supporters’ anger at (some of) the rich and powerful and
a violent criminal underclass who are ruining the country. He claimed
that his solutions — tax cuts for the rich, decimation of business
regulations, Obamacare repeal — would bring back the American dream.

Actually these solutions would make the lives of ordinary Americans even worse.

We progressives have to resist, but we need to be pushing a strong
alternative. The ideas and programs are already there: Medicare for
all, tuition-free college, expanded Social Security benefits,
progressive taxation and a Green New Deal that will start a “just
transition” from fossil fuel jobs to jobs in renewables. That was
Bernie’s message in the primaries.

Hillary had a similar if milder bunch of proposals. But in the general
election she figured she would emphasize the perfectly sensible notion
that Trump was spectacularly unfit to be president. She calculated
that people would prefer a good manager with a “steady hand” who would
continue the Obama status quo.

There are furious debates over why Trump became president. The Clinton
campaign was criticized for not campaigning much in the Rust Belt, and
the Republicans for engaging in voter suppression of racial minorities
in many parts of the country. Hillary won the election by three
million votes but lost in the Electoral College. You can cite many
more factors.

But where do we go from here? Longtime union organizer Marshall Ganz
argued that progressives need to start at the grassroots. In an
interview on Talking Points Memo, he said, “Conservatives successfully
created a more or less coherent network of organizations linked to
local, state and national politics, which is a traditional form of
effective political organization in the U.S.” They organized in
evangelical churches, the religious schools that Betsy DeVos helped
sponsor, the gun clubs, the NRA, the Koch brothers network and ALEC.

He argued, “Many Democrats confuse messaging with educating, marketing
with organizing. They think it is all about branding when it is really
about relational work. You engage people with each other, creating
collective capacity. That’s how you sustain and grow and get
leadership.”

Ganz wants progressives to learn from the unions. He said, “When you
are organizing a union, a workplace, you have got to organize who’s
there. One of the troubles with the progressive groups is that they
respond to those who already agree with them, but don’t have much
incentive to actually go out and build a base by persuading and
engaging and converting those who don’t. If you are organizing a
union, you have to do that, because that’s how you win. Now ignoring
all these red and purple states is like pretending you don’t need them
to win, but you do.”

It isn’t easy. We need to resist. But we will win if we present an
alternative moral vision of how we can create a better society.

Note from Inside the EPA

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Public Health on March 10, 2017 at 1:38 am

This just came to me from one of my daughters.

From friend of a friend of a friend, I guess. Because the EPA staffers can’t talk to the media, and…we need to know this stuff:
From a friend in DC: Sharing with permission. From an Environmental Protection Agency staffer:
“So I work at the EPA and yeah it’s as bad as you are hearing: The entire agency is under lockdown, the website, facebook, twitter, you name it is static and can’t be updated. All reports, findings, permits and studies are frozen and not to be released. No presentations or meetings with outside groups are to be scheduled.
Any Press contacting us are to be directed to the Press Office which is also silenced and will give no response.
All grants and contracts are frozen from the contractors working on Superfund sites to grad school students working on their thesis.
We are still doing our work, writing reports, doing cancer modeling for pesticides hoping that this is temporary and we will be able to serve the public soon. But many of us are worried about an ideologically-fueled purging and if you use any federal data I advise you gather what you can now.
We have been told the website is being reworked to reflect the new administration’s policy.
Feel free to copy and paste, you all pay for the government and you should know what’s going on. I am posting this as a fellow citizen and not in any sort of official capacity.”

 

 

 

The Radium Girls — still glowing in their coffins

In Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Public Health on March 9, 2017 at 10:00 am

Kate Moore pays tribute to last century’s tragic factory workers, who suffered grotesque poisoning from luminous paint — to aid the war effort

By Maggie Fergusson, Spectator, June 11, 2016

On the morning of 15 October 1927, a dim, autumn day, a group of men foregathered at the Rosedale cemetery in New Jersey and picked their way through the headstones to the grave of one Amelia — ‘Mollie’ — Maggia. An employee of the United States Radium Corporation (USRC), she had died five years earlier, aged 24. To the dismay of her friends and family the cause of death had been recorded as syphilis, but, as her coffin was exhumed and its lid levered open, Mollie’s corpse was seen to be aglow with a ‘soft luminescence’. Everyone present knew what that meant.

‘My beautiful radium’, Marie Curie called the element she discovered in 1898. She was in thrall to it: it stirred her, she wrote, with ‘ever-new emotion and enchantment’. As she shared her discovery with scientists, and radium was found to be capable of destroying human tissue, it was enlisted in the battle against cancer — and not just cancer but fever, gout and constipation. Some claimed it could restore vitality in the elderly. Others took to drinking radium water, or visiting radium clinics and spas.

These treatments were strictly for the rich — gram for gram, radium was the most expensive substance on earth. But when radium-dial-painting ‘studios’ were set up in Newark, New Jersey, and Ottawa, Illinois, hordes of working-class girls, some as young as 14, applied for jobs painting luminous numerals on watchfaces. The work was congenial. They sat in rows, dipping fine camelhair brushes into a radium solution, then ‘pointed’ them between moistened lips before painting the numbers on the dials. After Congress voted America into the war in the spring of 1917, most of the dials were for military use, so the girls had the satisfaction of knowing they were serving their country. They were also extremely well paid: up to three times what they might have earned in factories.

And then there was the glamour of working with radium. Everything it touched glowed. If the girls blew their noses, their handkerchiefs glowed; they glowed like ghosts on their way home; their clothes glowed from their wardrobes at night. Some girls wore evening dresses to work so that they would glow on their dates. One painted her teeth to impress her man. There was no reason for them to think this was in any way sinister — rather the reverse: ‘Radium will put rosy cheeks on you’, they were told.

It took time for the girls to sicken. Some, like Marguerite Carlough and Hazel Vincent, suffered chronic exhaustion. Others, like Albina Larice, produced stillborn babies. For many, like Mollie Maggia, it started with severe tooth decay. The dentist would remove the rotten teeth, already practically falling out of the girls’ mouths, but the gums wouldn’t heal. Instead, agonising ulcers sprouted in the holes left behind. Very often their jawbones crumbled to the touch. The girls’ breath became foul-smelling, and their skin so paper-thin it would split open if simply brushed by a fingernail. Death, when it came, was usually accompanied by violent haemorrhaging.

The first legal suit against USRC was filed in September 1925, but when it came to getting justice the radium companies held all the trump cards. First, there was the variety of the girls’ symptoms: surely they couldn’t all be traced to one source (diphtheria, angina and TB were among the recorded causes of death). Then there was the fact that radium poisoning was not officially a ‘compensable’ disease. And finally there was money: what little the girls had was going to pay doctors; there was nothing left for lawyers.

In the end, it took a remarkable lawyer, Leonard Grossman, willing to work pro bono, and an extraordinarily courageous dial painter, Catherine Donohue, prepared to fight the cause literally to the death, for justice to triumph. After eight appeals, victory came on 23 October 1939.

Kate Moore learned about the ‘radium girls’ when she directed a play about them, and she writes with a sense of drama that carries one through the serpentine twists and turns of this tragic but ultimately uplifting story. She sees the trees for the wood: always at the centre of her narrative are the individual dial painters, so the list of their names at the start of the book becomes a register of familiar, endearing ghosts.

In a final chapter she pays tribute to their legacy. Following Catherine Donohue’s case, safety standards were introduced to protect not only a whole new generation of dial painters, but also those working with plutonium in making atomic bombs. ‘The radium girls did not die in vain,’ Moore writes: their influence lives on. But then so does the radium. Impossible to destroy, it has a half-life of 1,600 years. The girls will be glowing in their graves for a good while yet.

Maggie Fergusson is literary adviser to the Royal Society of Literature and has written biographies of George Mackay Brown and Michael Morpurgo.

Marshalls marks 71st anniversary of first Bikini tests

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Public Health on March 3, 2017 at 7:22 am

Category: Pacific/Regional News
02 Mar 2017
By Giff Johnson – For Variety

MAJURO — “Grief, terror and righteous anger” has not faded for Marshall Islanders despite the passage of 71 years since the first nuclear weapons test at Bikini Atoll, President Hilda Heine told a Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day ceremony Wednesday in Majuro.

The event included a parade, ringing of a bell 71 times to mark the years since the first Bikini tests, and speeches to mark March 1, the anniversary of the Bravo hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in 1954. It is a national holiday in the Marshall Islands.

This year’s nuclear test commemoration did not end as usual with the morning program. A three-day “Nuclear Legacy Conference: Charting a Journey Toward Justice” kicked off Wednesday afternoon in Majuro with a keynote address by Ambassador Tony deBrum, and presentations by Marshall Islanders and experts from the United States and Japan who traveled to Majuro to attend the conference.

At Wednesday morning’s ceremony, President Heine said the U.S. government had not been honest as to the “extent of radiation and the lingering effects the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Testing Program would have on our lives, ocean and land.”

She pointed out that U.S. government studies kept secret from the Marshall Islands during negotiations on a compensation agreement reached in the 1980s “have now shown that 18 other inhabited atolls or single islands were contaminated by three of the six nuclear bombs tested in Operation Castle, as well as by the Bravo shot in 1954. The myth of only four ‘exposed’ atolls of Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap and Utrik, has shaped US nuclear policy on the Marshallese people since 1954, which limited medical and scientific follow up, and compensation programs.

“As your president, I cannot and will not accept the position of the United States government. Unlike the U.S., we acted in good faith. That is why ours is a moral case for which we are more than justified to seek redress.”

U.S. Ambassador Karen Stewart honored islanders who suffered from nuclear testing and said “we will never forget Marshallese who sacrificed for global security.” Speaking about those who had already passed away, she said she was “encouraged by their and your courage for justice and your courage to build a better society.” Stewart said the U.S. “will continue to be your partner…for a brighter future for the Marshall Islands.”

Enewetak Sen. Jack Ading, speaking on behalf of other nuclear-affected atolls, pointed out that few survivors of the 1940s evacuations and nuclear weapons tests are still alive. “For most of us, the paradise that God created is just a legend from our elders,” he said. “By the time most of us were born, our paradise was a paradise lost.”

Ading said the 67 weapons tests left a “toxic legacy” that will affect the Marshall Islands for generations. Although 43 of those tests were at Enewetak, Ading said “my homeland was gone after the first nuclear device was exploded in 1948.”

The testing vaporized three islands in Enewetak, and a crater from one test was turned into “a massive dump for radioactive waste” that is now “leaking and devoid of warning signs or barriers. It is a constant source of concern.”

A number of doctors, scientists and researchers from the United States and Japan are participating in the three-day Nuclear Legacy Conference that started Wednesday afternoon.