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Flatlining: Exploring hidden toxic landscapes and the embodiment of contamination at Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, USA.

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health, Workplace exposure on February 9, 2017 at 9:44 am

Stephanie Malin, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Colorado State University and Becky Alexis-Martin, Senior Research Fellow in Human Geography at The University of Southampton, February 8, 2017

Within the boundaries of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, black bears prowl, elk tussle, prairie dogs burrow and porcupines forage. A diverse array of wildlife, wedged between the cities of Boulder and Denver. Within this diverse habitat, small animals nestle into the grass and burrow into the dusty alluvial soil. Superficially, this site has been transformed from military industrial complex into an ordered wilderness. However, the heart of this refuge contains a burden of atomic mass, for this bleakly lovely space encircles a Superfund site with a startling and intrusive legacy of nuclear pollution. Welcome to Rocky Flats, a disquieting relic of the American military industrial complex.
Originally, Rocky Flats was occupied by swathes of pastoral farmland. It was selected for weapons manufacturing due to its underlying geological stability and its proximity to uranium sources and other nuclear installations, and was therefore purchased by the US Atomic Energy Committee. Beginning in 1952, Rocky Flats became an all-American home for manufacturing plutonium pits, which are the triggers that detonate nuclear weapons. Local residents were grateful to have well-paid jobs and production quietly ensued, the site itself wrapped in the furtiveness of Cold War industry. Within this culture of secrecy, little transgressions gradually emerged on-site at Rocky Flats. These grew in severity, and complete technological failure eventually occurred as human errors were silenced, accidents were hidden and toxicity was concealed.

Major fires occurred in 1957 and 1969, whilst unsealed barrels of radioactive waste leached and dispersed across the surrounding hinterland (Krey and Hardy, 1970). In 1972, US Congress authorised the purchase of a buffer zone of land around the site, when traces of plutonium and elevated levels of radioactive tritium were discovered within local reservoirs (Krey, 1976). Elevated levels of plutonium were identified within the topsoil beyond this zone, and so further land was purchased to expand this buffer zone. On-site regulation was used as a technology of control, to ensure that off-site contamination was never recognised.

Protests began when local residents became concerned about the safety of the facility. Activist mobilization escalated throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as several thousand people showed up to organized protests and sit-ins. Eventually, a large-scale protest occurred in August 1989, which attracted thousands of participants. This sustained public outcry was ignored by the nuclear sector. However, it was not possible to stifle the covert material that was provided by Rocky Flats workers to the Environmental Protection Agency, and a case was gradually built up through FBI agent Jon Lipsky’s extensive work with informants. The whistleblowing reached an apogee by June 6th 1989. Operation Desert Glow was implemented by the US Department of Justice to investigate the Rocky Flats plant. This raid issued a search warrant to the manager of Rocky Flats, and led to the discovery of multiple toxic violations of anti-pollution legislation.

An array of contaminants has been discovered at the Rocky Flats site, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chromic acid, beryllium and radionuclides. Whilst chromium metal has little toxicity, chromic acid and similar hexavalent chromium compounds are both toxic and mutagenic (Barnhart, 1997; Baruthio, 1992). Symptoms of human exposure to hexavalent chromium can include: dermatitis, allergic and eczematous skin reactions, skin and mucous membrane ulcerations, allergic asthmatic reactions, bronchial carcinomas, and gastro-enteritis (Baruthio, 1992). Hexavalent chromium compounds also have ecological impacts, due to toxicity to plant life (Singh et al., 2013). Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are organochlorine compounds, and also have detrimental environmental and human health effects (Robertson and Hansen, 2015, Longnecker et al., 1997). PCB compounds are toxic and can cause abnormalities of liver function; skin and the nervous system; neonatal hypotonia or hyporeflexia; and increase the likelihood of exposed persons developing cancer. The detrimental effects of heavy radionuclides, including isotopes of plutonium, americium and curium, are also well documented within medical and environmental literature (Bair, 1974, Nénot and Stather, 2013, Newman, 2014). This includes genotoxic and stochastic effects that can increase the likelihood of the development of solid body tumours and blood cancers (Durakovic, 2016).
Unfortunately, it is not possible to access the final records of contamination for Rocky Flats. Like other places that have been squatted by the Cold War military-industrial complex, there is a notable absence of publically available information that documents the exact times, quantities and conditions of contaminant release. Even when the first special Grand Jury in Colorado’s history was convened in 1989 to hear the post-raid federal case against Rocky Flats’ corporate facility operators, Rockwell, the company paid fines amounting to less than they had earned in federal bonuses for operating the plant. The Grand Jury itself contested the trial and sentencing outcomes and felt that their recommendations had been illegally ignored (McKinley and Balkany 2004).

Rocky Flats has received relatively little international attention as a significant place of atomic and industrial toxicity. Somehow, its messy atomic history has been redacted, swallowed up alongside that of many other military nuclear installations and laboratories worldwide. Whilst the wildlife flourishes across Rocky Flats, despite a legacy of contamination, the local communities suffer invisibly.

A contaminated community?

Tiffany Hansen is a member of the down-winder community and founder of Rocky Flats Downwinders. She grew up in the shadow of the Rocky Flats plant. She remembers her father and brother working there. However, Tiffany did not realise the nuclear and covert nature of manufacturing, the military significance of the work that was undertaken, or the potential health effects that surrounded the site. She remained unaware of these risks until she developed ovarian and thyroid cancers as a young woman, and became acutely aware that her experience was not unique. She soon began organizing a community of people impacted by potential environmental health impacts of living near Rocky Flats. As Tiffany explains:

“It was a challenge to connect with former residents, there was no support, the research available was limited and difficult to find, and there was no organized advocacy… Since launching our website in 2015, I have heard from thousands of people, many like myself, who felt there was a strong connection between our health problems and the close proximity to the facility… I hear from people whose entire families are sickened, many lost loved ones, others are fighting or lost the fight for their lives.”
Tiffany’s observations echo the contested yet compelling evidence of cancers associated with toxic exposure, clustered within the communities that surround the site. These communities are the embodiment of their experiences of exposure (Brown, 2016).

It is challenging to design statistically significant epidemiological studies of the health effects of long-term, low-level toxic exposure to local communities due to confounding lifestyle factors, a neoliberalized, privatized healthcare system that cannot provide answers, and the economic migration of populations away from the plant after its closure. Whilst occupational health studies of exposure to Rocky Flats employees exist, they do not reflect community health, especially that of local women and children (Gilbert et al., 1989, Viet et al., 2000, Brown et al., 2004). Further, broader environmental and community health concerns highlight the related losses of livelihood, contamination concerns, anxieties, and somatic conditions associated with trauma such as those experienced by residents around Rocky Flats, steeped in uncertainty.

Thus, public health risks remain stressfully uncertain and undefined. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently released a study showing elevated rates of certain cancers in the communities surrounding Rocky Flats, but without the community-based component that people have requested. The study did not examine cancers such as thyroid, despite community-based requests to do so, and some critics assert that the agency works with large state-wide samples that dilute evidence of cancer clusters and hot spots due to the chosen methodological approach.

Access to information about the site has been difficult to acquire – particularly for people moving in to new homes on and around the former plant grounds. To some, this is the most significant concern. Dedicated community activist, Alesya Casse, who co-founded the group Candelas Glows, leads actions and community meetings to educate the community and speaks regularly about keeping new construction and the public off of the site and the Wildlife Refuge. Casse states:

“It’s disheartening to see government agencies continue with their legacy of turning ‘weapons into wildlife’ in the face of community opposition and concern. People have a right to know the history of the area and to make informed decisions for themselves and their families. What happened at Rocky Flats is both tragic and unfortunately common, but we have an opportunity to make it right by informing the public of the risks and doing comprehensive testing to address ongoing concerns and questions that continue to arise.”

The future is unwritten

It has been 28 years since the FBI first raided Rocky Flats, and eleven years since the US Environmental Protection Agency announced the completion of on-site remediation activities. Whilst some of its clandestine toxic secrets have been unveiled, many mysteries still surround the on-going and long-term effects of this multi-contaminant environmental and social disaster. It is impossible to say what the future holds for the local community of Rocky Flats in the face of landscape regeneration, contested diagnoses, unmedicalised conditions, and denial of people’s experiences. Importantly, the long-term outcomes for this community could still yet be affected by the presidency of Donald Trump, as he has already called for sites such as Rocky Flats to be repurposed yet again as repositories for nuclear waste or even revitalized nuclear production.

In response, collaborative social science and public health research by Metropolitan State University and Colorado State University aims to discern the social and cultural impacts to health of being a Rocky Flats downwinder. Already, the health survey component of this study has found that 46% of the reported cancers are defined as ‘rare’ and are often directly related to radiation exposure. Whilst we cannot anticipate if this unique community will ever truly gain environmental or social justice, we continue to develop our understanding of the significant influence that nuclear accidents and nuclear defence has had upon their lives. In the meantime, the Rocky Flats downwinders continue to exist, without a true understanding of the future implications of their toxic fate.

References

BAIR, W. J. 1974. Toxicology of plutonium. Advances in radiation biology, 4.

BARNHART, J. 1997. Chromium chemistry and implications for environmental fate and toxicity. Soil and Sediment Contamination, 6, 561-568.

BARUTHIO, F. 1992. Toxic effects of chromium and its compounds. Biological trace element research, 32, 145-153.

BROWN, K. 2016. The Last Sink: The Human Body as the Ultimate Radioactive Storage Site. Mauch, Christof (Hg.), Out of Sight, Out of Mind. The Politics and Culture of Waste, RCC Perspectives, München, 41-47.

BROWN, K. L. 2013. Plutopia: Nuclear families, atomic cities, and the great soviet and American plutonium disasters, Oxford University Press, USA.

BROWN, S. C., SCHONBECK, M. F., MCCLURE, D., BARÓN, A. E., NAVIDI, W. C., BYERS, T. & RUTTENBER, A. J. 2004. Lung cancer and internal lung doses among plutonium workers at the Rocky Flats Plant: a case-control study. American journal of epidemiology, 160, 163-172.

DURAKOVIC, A. 2016. Medical effects of internal contamination with actinides: further controversy on depleted uranium and radioactive warfare. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 21, 111-117.

GILBERT, E. S., FRY, S. A., WIGGS, L. D., VOELZ, G. L., CRAGLE, D. L. & PETERSEN, G. R. 1989. Analyses of combined mortality data on workers at the Hanford site, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant. Radiation research, 120, 19-35.

KREY, P. W. 1976. Remote plutonium contamination and total inventories from Rocky Flats. Health Physics, 30, 209-214.

KREY, P. W. & HARDY, E. P. 1970. PLUTONIUM IN SOIL AROUND THE ROCKY FLATS PLANT. New York Operations Office (AEC), NY Health and Safety Lab.

LONGNECKER, M. P., ROGAN, W. J. & LUCIER, G. 1997. The human health effects of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and an overview of organochlorines in public health 1. Annual review of public health, 18, 211-244.

MALIN, S. A. 2015. The Price of Nuclear Power: Uranium Communities and Environmental Justice, Rutgers University Press.

NÉNOT, J.-C. & STATHER, J. W. 2013. The Toxicity of Plutonium, Americium and Curium: A Report Prepared Under Contract for the Commission of the European Communities Within Its Research and Development Programme on Plutonium Recycling in Light Water Reactors, Elsevier.

NEWMAN, M. C. 2014. Fundamentals of ecotoxicology: the science of pollution, CRC press.

ROBERTSON, L. W. & HANSEN, L. G. 2015. PCBs: recent advances in environmental toxicology and health effects, University Press of Kentucky.

SINGH, H. P., MAHAJAN, P., KAUR, S., BATISH, D. R. & KOHLI, R. K. 2013. Chromium toxicity and tolerance in plants. Environmental chemistry letters, 11, 229-254.

VIET, S. M., TORMA-KRAJEWSKI, J. & ROGERS, J. 2000. Chronic beryllium disease and beryllium sensitization at Rocky Flats: a case-control study. AIHAJ-American Industrial Hygiene Association, 61, 244-254.

Japanese nuclear plant just recorded an astronomical radiation level. Should we be worried?

In Cost, Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Public Health on February 8, 2017 at 10:50 pm

By Anna Fifield and Yuki Oda, Washington Post, February 8, 2017

TOKYO — The utility company that operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan — the one that went into triple meltdown after the enormous 2011 earthquake and tsunami — has released some jaw-dropping figures.

The radiation level in the containment vessel of reactor 2 has reached as high as 530 sieverts per hour, Tokyo Electric Power Co. — or Tepco, as it’s known — said last week. This far exceeds the previous high of 73 sieverts per hour recorded at the reactor following the March 2011 disaster.

That was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the one at Chernobyl, in Ukraine, in 1986. Almost 16,000 people were killed along Japan’s northeastern coast in the tsunami, and 160,000 more lost their homes and livelihoods. The cleanup is taking much longer than expected.
At this level of radioactivity, a person could die from the briefest of exposures.

Tepco recorded the radiation near the reactor core, suggesting that some melted fuel had escaped, using a long, remote-controlled camera and radiation measurement device. It was the first time this kind of device has been able to get into this part of the reactor. There it found a three-foot-wide hole in a metal grate in the reactor’s primary containment vessel.

So, how dangerous is this?

At this level of radiation, a robot would be able to operate for less than two hours before it was destroyed, Tepco said.

And Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences said medical professionals had never even thought about encountering this level of radiation in their work.

According to the Kyodo news agency, the institute estimates that exposure to one sievert of radiation could lead to infertility, loss of hair and cataracts, while four sieverts would kill half the people exposed to it.

This measuring device hasn’t even gone into reactors 1 and 3 yet — that’s still in the works.

Robot explores damaged nuclear plant reactor in Japan Embed Share Play Video
Plant operators for Tokyo Electric Power company used a small cable-operated robot to film inside a damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. (Reuters)
So should the people who live in Japan, who live on the Pacific basin be freaking out?

Not yet, some analysts say.

Although the radiation level is “astoundingly high,” says Azby Brown of Safecast, a citizen science organization that monitors radiation levels, it doesn’t necessarily signify any alarming change in radiation levels at Fukushima. It’s simply the first time they have been measured that far inside the reactor.

Here’s what Brown wrote on Safecast’s website:

It must be stressed that radiation in this area has not been measured before, and it was expected to be extremely high. While 530 Sv/hr is the highest measured so far at Fukushima Daiichi, it does not mean that levels there are rising, but that a previously unmeasurable high-radiation area has finally been measured. Similar remote investigations are being planned for Daiichi Units 1 and 3. We should not be surprised if even higher radiation levels are found there, but only actual measurements will tell.

Hiroshi Miyano, nuclear expert and visiting professor at Hosei University, also warned against overreacting. He said the radiation reading might not be particularly reliable since it was only an estimation based on the image analysis. (Tepco said there was a margin of error of 30 percent.)

“It’s not something new to worry about,” he said, although he added that it underscored how difficult the next steps would be.

But some think there is cause for concern.

Fumiya Tanabe, nuclear safety expert and former chief research scientist at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, said while experts expected the radiation reading inside the Daiichi reactors to be high, it was still “shocking” to learn how high it was six years on.

“It will be very difficult to operate robots in there for a long time to come, and to remove the melted fuel. So the finding might greatly affect the decommissioning time schedule,” he said.

Tepco had been hoping to start taking out the fuel out in 2021.

Japan now estimates Fukushima nuclear cleanup cost at $180 billion Embed Share Play Video0:54
Japan’s trade ministry has almost doubled the estimated cost of compensation for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and decommissioning of the damaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant to more than 20 trillion yen. (Reuters)
Could the radiation level be even higher?

Possibly. The 530 sievert reading was recorded some distance from the melted fuel, so in reality it could be 10 times higher than recorded, said Hideyuki Ban, co-director of Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center.

He agreed with Tanabe, saying that the findings underscore how difficult the decommissioning process will be.

“It definitely shows the path towards decommissioning will be very difficult, and the time frame to start taking out the fuel in 2021 will most likely be delayed as more investigations will be necessary,” Ban said.

Still, he cautioned against overreacting, saying, like Brown, that Tepco had simply not been able to measure this close to the fuel before.

So what does this news portend?

Tanabe said that the level of the reading should give pause to proponents of nuclear power in Japan, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been pushing to restart reactors shut down after the 2011 disaster.

“It’s unbelievable that anyone would want to restart nuclear plants when Japan hasn’t learned how and why the Fukushima Daiichi accident happened, or learned lessons from it,” he said.
Indeed, Ai Kashiwagi, an energy campaigner at Greenpeace Japan, said the findings showed how little the government and Tepco knew about what was happening inside the reaction.

“The prime minister said everything was under control and has been pushing to restart nuclear plants, but no one knew the actual state of the plant and more serious facts could come out in the future,” she said. “It’s important to keep an eye on radiation-monitoring data and how Tepco’s investigations go.”

Anna Fifield is The Post’s bureau chief in Tokyo, focusing on Japan and the Koreas. She previously reported for the Financial Times from Washington DC, Seoul, Sydney, London and from across the Middle East.

Radiation levels in the Fukushima reactor are soaring unexpectedly

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Public Health on February 5, 2017 at 11:15 pm

Fiona MacDonald, Science Alert, 4 February 2017

Radiation is at its highest since the 2011 meltdown.

The radiation levels inside Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor No. 2 have soared in recent weeks, reaching a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour, a number experts have called “unimaginable”.

Radiation is now by far the highest it has been since the reactor was struck by a tsunami in March 2011 – and scientists are struggling to explain what’s going on.
The previous maximum radiation level recorded in the reactor was 73 sieverts per hour, a reading taken not long after the meltdown almost six years ago. The levels are now more than seven times that amount.

Exactly what’s causing the levels to creep upwards again is currently stumping the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). But the good news is that they say the radiation is safely contained within the reactor, so there’s no risk to the greater population.

The latest readings were taken near the entrance of the No. 2 reactor, immediately below the pressure vessel that contains the reactor core.

To get an idea of the radiation levels inside, the team used a remote-operated camera to take photos of the area – the deepest point in the reactor to date – and then analysed the electronic noise in the images to measure radiation levels.

The technique has an error margin of plus or minus 30 percent, which means that it’s not highly accurate. But even at the lowest end of the measurements, the levels would still be 370 sieverts per hour – and could be as high as 690 sieverts per hour.

These unexpectedly high levels are complicating Tepco’s plan to decommission the nuclear reactor. The most recent aim was to have workers find the fuel cells and start dismantling the plant by 2021 – a job that’s predicted to take up to half a century.
But the levels within reactor No. 2, at least, are in no way safe for humans.

The Japanese National Institute of Radiological Sciences told Japan Times that medical professionals have no experience dealing with radiation levels this high – for perspective, a single dose of just 1 sievert of radiation could lead to infertility, hair loss, and sickness.

Four sieverts of radiation exposure in a short period of time would kill 50 percent of people within a month. Ten sieverts would kill a person within three weeks.

Even the remote-operated camera sent in to capture these images is only designed to withstand 1,000 sieverts of radiation, which means it won’t last more than two hours in the No. 2 reactor.

It’s not yet clear exactly what’s causing the high levels either. It’s possible that previous readings were incorrect or not detailed enough, and levels have always been this high. Or maybe something inside the reactor has changed.

The fact that these readings were so high in this particular location suggests that maybe melted reactor fuel escaped the pressure vessel, and is located somewhere nearby.

Adding to that hypothesis is the fact that the images reveal a gaping 1-metre (3.2-foot) hole in the metal grate underneath the pressure vessel – which could indicate that nuclear fuel had melted out of it.

On Monday, Tepco also saw “black chunks” deposited on the grating directly under the pressure vessel – which could be evidence of melted fuel rods.

If confirmed, this would be a huge deal, because in the six years since the three Fukushima reactors went into meltdown, no one has ever been able to find any trace of the nuclear fuel rods.

Swimming robots were sent into the reactors last year to search for the fuel rods and hopefully remove them, but their wiring was destroyed by the high levels of radiation.

Naturally, Tepco is reluctant to jump to any conclusions on what the black mass in the images could be until they have more information.

“It may have been caused by nuclear fuel that would have melted and made a hole in the vessel, but it is only a hypothesis at this stage,” a Tepco spokesperson told AFP.

“We believe the captured images offer very useful information, but we still need to investigate given that it is very difficult to assume the actual condition inside.”

Given the new readings, Tepco is now putting their plans to further explore reactor No. 2 using remote operated camera on hold, seeing as the device will most likely be destroyed by the intense conditions.

But they will send a robot into reactor No. 1 in March to try to get a better idea about the internal condition of the structure, while they decide what to do next with reactor No. 2.

The Doomsday Clock just advanced, ‘thanks to Trump’: It’s now just 2 1/2 minutes to midnight.

In Art, Climate change, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Public Health, War on February 2, 2017 at 4:01 am

by Peter Holley, Abby Ohlheiser and Amy B Wang, Washington Post, January 26, 2017

It’s now 2 ½ minutes to “midnight,” according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which warned Thursday that the end of humanity may be nigh.
The group behind the famed Doomsday Clock announced at a news conference that it was adjusting the countdown to the End of it All by moving the hands 30 seconds closer to midnight — the closest the clock has been to Doomsday since 1953, after the United States tested its first thermonuclear device, followed months later by the Soviet Union’s hydrogen bomb test.
In announcing that the Doomsday Clock was moving 30 seconds closer to the end of humanity, the group noted that in 2016, “the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change.”
But the organization also cited the election of President Trump in changing the symbolic clock.
“Making matters worse, the United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both of those fronts,” theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss and retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley wrote in a New York Times op-ed on behalf of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist. “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”
The clock is symbolic, sitting at the intersection of art and science, and it has wavered between two minutes and 17 minutes till doom since its inception in 1947. A board of scientists and nuclear experts meets regularly to determine what time it is on the Doomsday Clock.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was founded by some of the people who worked on the Manhattan Project. One of them, nuclear physicist Alexander Langsdorf, was married to artist Martyl Langsdorf. She created the clock and set it at seven minutes to midnight, or 11:53, for the cover of the group’s magazine. Her husband moved the time four minutes later in 1949.
Since then, the bulletin’s board has determined when the clock’s minute hand will move, usually to draw attention to worldwide crises that, the board believes, threaten the survival of the human species. The group’s reasoning focuses almost exclusively on the availability of nuclear weapons and a willingness among the world’s great powers to use them.
In 2016, the bulletin said in its statement Thursday: “The United States and Russia — which together possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons — remained at odds in a variety of theaters, from Syria to Ukraine to the borders of NATO; both countries continued wide-ranging modernizations of their nuclear forces, and serious arms control negotiations were nowhere to be seen. North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth underground nuclear tests and gave every indication it would continue to develop nuclear weapons delivery capabilities. Threats of nuclear warfare hung in the background as Pakistan and India faced each other warily across the Line of Control in Kashmir after militants attacked two Indian army bases.”
The group noted that the “climate change outlook was somewhat less dismal — but only somewhat.”
Notably, the bulletin added: “This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a US presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”
Thomas Pickering, a former undersecretary of state who also served as ambassador to the United Nations and Israel, cited Trump’s “casual talk” about nuclear weapons in telling reporters that “nuclear rhetoric is now loose and destabilizing.”
“We are more than ever impressed that words matter, words count,” he said.
In their op-ed — headlined “Thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock Advances Toward Midnight” — Krauss and Titley wrote:
“We understand that Mr. Trump has been in office only days, that many of his cabinet nominees are awaiting confirmation and that he has had little time to take official action.
“But Mr. Trump’s statements and actions have been unsettling. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding and even deploying the American nuclear arsenal. He has expressed disbelief in the scientific consensus on global warming. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or reject expert advice related to international security. And his nominees to head the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and the Budget have disputed or questioned climate change.”
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump faced a recurring charge: that he could not be trusted with the nation’s nuclear weapons.
In August, a group of 50 former national security officials who served Republican and Democratic presidents signed an open letter saying Trump lacked the character, values and experience to be president.
“All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal,” the group said.
The worst-possible scenario was at times unspoken but clear — that Trump’s lack of self-control could spark nuclear war.
“A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,” his Democratic campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, charged.
While Trump has repeatedly dismissed those criticisms, he has done little to calm fears of impending nuclear war since winning the presidency. Last month, Trump tweeted that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.” He did not elaborate on the message, which followed comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin about strengthening his country’s nuclear arsenal.
Trump’s tweet — and comments he reportedly made the following day to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski — sparked fears of a renewed arms race between the two countries.
Although Trump later seemed to back off of his statements, suggesting in an interview with two European publications that “nuclear weapons should be way down,” there were reasons to be concerned after he gained control of the United States’ nearly 1,400 active nuclear warheads on Inauguration Day, The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor said.
Two days after Trump was elected, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki invited him to visit, the Japan Times reported.
Then, Tadatoshi Akiba, the former mayor of Hiroshima, wrote a letter to Trump just before his inauguration, urging him to make “wise and peaceable” decisions regarding nuclear weapons

Backgrounder: 10 key quotes from Xi’s speech at UN Office at Geneva

In Climate change, Environment, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Public Health, War on January 20, 2017 at 3:53 am

GENEVA, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech here on Wednesday at the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Here are 10 key quotes from the 50-minute address, which elaborates on China’s solution to current global challenges: building a “community of shared future for mankind” that features all-win cooperation and sharing:

1. The essence of sovereign equality is that the sovereignty and dignity of all countries, whether big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, must be respected, their internal affairs allow no interference and they have the right to independently choose their social system and development path.

2. Nuclear weapons, the Sword of Damocles that hangs over mankind, should be completely prohibited and thoroughly destroyed over time to make the world free of nuclear weapons.

3. No country in the world can enjoy absolute security. A country cannot have security while others are in turmoil, as threats facing other countries may haunt itself also. When neighbors are in trouble, instead of tightening his own fences, one should extend a helping hand to them.

4. Fighting terrorism is the shared responsibility of all countries. In fighting terror, we should not just treat the symptoms, but remove its root causes.

5. China has decided to provide an additional 200 million yuan of humanitarian assistance for refugees and the displaced of Syria.

6. As terrorism and refugee crises are closely linked to geopolitical conflicts, resolving conflicts provides the fundamental solution to such problems. Parties directly involved should return to the negotiating table, and other parties should work to facilitate talks for peace, and we should all respect the role the U.N. plays as the main channel for mediation.

7. Trade protectionism and self-isolation will benefit no one.

8. The Paris Agreement is a milestone in the history of climate governance. We must ensure this endeavor is not derailed.

9. Swiss army knife embodies Swiss craftsmanship. When I first got one, I was amazed that it has so many functions. I cannot help thinking how wonderful it would be if an exquisite Swiss army knife could be made for our world. When there is a problem, we can use one of the tools on the knife to fix it. I believe that with unremitting efforts of the international community, such a knife can be made.

10. China’s development has been possible because of the world, and China has contributed to the world’s development. We will continue to pursue a win-win strategy of opening-up, share our development opportunities with other countries and welcome them aboard the fast train of China’s development.

Related:

Work Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind

Speech by H.E. Xi Jinping

President of the People’s Republic of China

At the United Nations Office at Geneva

Geneva, 18 January 2017

Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge – U.S. Fish & Wildlife: Save Money, Prevent Harm

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Public Health, Radiation Standards, Rocky Flats, Wildlife Refuge on January 16, 2017 at 2:58 am

By LeRoy Moore, PhD  Boulder Daily Camera, Friday, January 6, 2017

Perry Backus, writing in the November 5, 2016, Montana Standard, says that due to lack of funds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) “is proposing a dramatic reorganization of its National Wildlife Refuge system in Montana and seven other states that would result in significant staff and program cuts.” Colorado is among those states.

As things now stand a great deal of taxpayer money will be spent to open the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. Not only will funds be spent now but also long into the future. FWS should not spend limited funds on trails, access gates, tour guides, a visitor center and parking areas. The Department of Energy (DOE) evidently intends to pay for the visitor center. But if it is not built, FWS will have no ongoing costs for staff and maintenance of the facility. On December 6 FWS invited the public to a meeting to discuss trails on the Refuge. They paid $76,000 to the person who led this meeting. But when we arrived, they did not allow the public to speak. They wasted their money and our time. They would save money if they canceled such meetings. Local governments have insisted that if trails are built at the Refuge, sampling must be done to show whether on not it would be safe for people to use them. Keeping the Refuge closed will curtail this expense. It will also protect the public health.

Of about 600 National Wildlife Refuges, Rocky Flats is the only one occupying the site of a former nuclear weapons plant. It is also the only Refuge that surrounds an active Superfund site, where exposure to radioactive plutonium-239 was – and is – the greatest danger. With a half-life of 24,110 years, it will be hazardous for a quarter-million years. Some plutonium in the environment of the DOE Superfund site will end up on the Refuge. FWS admitted in a 2003 letter to then-Rep. Bob Beauprez that it already had. The problem is ongoing. Burrowing animals that dig down to as much as 16 feet will bring particles to the surface where they can be blown onto the Refuge by wind and readily inhaled, the worst way to be exposed to plutonium. Once inside the body, the plutonium lodges in a specific location and for the rest of one’s life bombards nearby cells with radioactive particles. The result may be cancer, a compromised immune system, or genetic harm to offspring.

EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment know plutonium is in the soil on the Refuge, but they say it is “safe.” What they mean is that plutonium in Refuge soil is at levels that meet exposure standards set for the Rocky Flats cleanup. Unfortunately, these standards are not sufficiently protective. In the most extensive study to date of the health effects of exposure to ionizing radiation, the National Academy of Sciences in 2006 concluded that any exposure may be damaging. In a 1997 study Columbia University scientists found that a single plutonium particle taken into the body can be harmful, possibly fatal.

Given this danger, if the Refuge is opened to the public some people will inevitably be harmed, especially children, of all creatures the most vulnerable. Even if the Wildlife Refuge remains closed to the public, wildlife may be harmed. The carcasses of deer roadkill around Rocky Flats have been found to contain plutonium, but we don’t know the actual effect of this exposure. In an article published in 1998, ecologist Shawn Smallwood said he “found it remarkable that no genetic studies of wildlife had been done at Rocky Flats or at other nuclear sites.” Genetic specialist Diethard Tautz says that genetic effects of radiation exposure on a given species of wildlife may not be readily apparent in the individuals of that species until the passage of several generations. He calls this a “genetic uncertainty problem.” FWS would perform a valuable service if it allowed researchers to study the genetic effects of exposure to toxins among wildlife at the Rocky Flats Refuge. Because of the need for such study, grants should be available to researchers.

Please join others in signing the petition, Keep the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge Closed: Save Money, Prevent Harm. To sign the petition, go to: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/keep-rocky-flats-wildlife

 

LeRoy Moore is a consultant with the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.

How the GOP Flipped and Stripped Yet Another American Election

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Public Health, Race on January 3, 2017 at 11:10 pm

By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News 20 November 16

Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election by well over a million votes.
But her impending defeat in the Electoral College comes with familiar signs that yet another American election has been stripped and flipped.

This article presents a comprehensive overview of how it was done, and a brief summary of how our electoral system needs to be changed to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The primary indicators of the massive election theft are by now familiar. They include the realities of pre- and post-election polling; the massive stripping of primarily black, Hispanic, Muslim and Asian-American voters from computer-generated registration rolls mostly maintained by private, partisan companies; unverifiable “black box” electronic voting machines and central tabulators, also mostly manufactured and maintained by private corporations; and much more.

Were this election held in any other country, the US State Department and independent monitors from around the world would denounce it as a fraud and contemplate international intervention.

What follows only begins to scratch the surface:

The Electoral College
Much is finally being said about the Electoral College, with new popular demands for its abolition. Clinton is about to become the sixth presidential candidate to win a legitimate majority but lose the presidency. It also happened in 1800, 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000. Nearly 15% of our 45 presidents have been “selected” with the denial of the public will through an institution established in large part to enhance the power of slaveowners.
In February, 2013, at progressive.org, we joined the multitudes throughout our history in calling for the Electoral College’s abolition:
It will take a Constitutional Amendment, and a hell of a lot of work, to abolish this corrupt anachronism. But unless we want to see an endless succession of George W. Bushes in the White House, something had better be done – and quick.
The consequences of inaction are all too clear.

Computerized Jim Crow Stripping of Voter Registration Rolls
US elections have been defined throughout history by a divide-and-conquer strategy of racial manipulation. As we outline in our new Strip & Flip Death of American Democracy(freepress.org/solartopia.org): chattel slavery, the Constitution’s “three-fifths bonus,” Jim Crow segregation, third world imperial conquest, and the Drug War have all played a role in denying African-American/Hispanic/Asian-American citizens their right to vote. From the foundation of the Republic, this disenfranchisement has defined the balance of power.
In recent years, the disenfranchisement has been most importantly done by the Republican Party, and by computer. As investigative reporter Greg Palast has shown in his book/movie The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (www.gregpalast.com), in 2000 Florida governor Jeb Bush used a program called ChoicePoint to strip more than 90,000 predominantly black and Hispanic citizens from the voter registration rolls in an election decided by 537 votes. The pretext was alleged felony convictions. The selection was “won” by Bush’s brother George W., although a full recount (which was stopped 5-4 by the US Supreme Court in its infamous Bush v. Gore decision) would have given Al Gore the majority in Florida, and in the Electoral College.
As we have reported from Columbus, in 2004 more than 300,000 predominantly urban citizens were stripped from the voter registration rolls in an election the GOP won by 118,775. A quarter of all voters in heavily Democratic Cleveland were de-registered. Ohio’s ill-gotten electoral votes gave George W. Bush a second term. This became the only time in US history an entire state’s Electoral College delegation was challenged on the floor of the US Congress.

This year, Palast has reported that a new program called Crosscheck has been used by some 30 GOP secretaries of state to strip more than 1.1 million predominantly black, Hispanic, Islamic, and Asian-American citizens from the voter rolls.

Originating with far-right Republican Kris Kobach, Kansas’s secretary of state, Crosscheck eliminated more than enough minority voters in at least three swing states to flip the entire presidential election.

Palast has reported that Ohio’s GOP secretary of state Jon Husted also used Crosscheck to eliminate some 497,000 mostly black, Latino, and African-American citizens from the voter rolls in Ohio, falsely accusing them of registering in more than one state. Such eliminations went on throughout the US.

According to Reuters, over the past five years Husted himself has stripped some two million citizens from the voter rolls in Ohio, even without Crosscheck, with Democratic areas twice as likely to be stripped as Republican ones. Reuters writers Andy Sullivan and Grant Smith point out that the neighborhoods that most heavily backed President Obama lost the most voters. In heavily Democratic Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, they report, Democrat-leaning areas were purged at twice the rate as Republican ones.
The mass disenfranchisement also impacted races for the US Senate. If not for the usual “irregularities,” at least four Democrats would likely have won seats (in Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Missouri) that they officially lost. Similar results are evident from 2014 Senate races in North Carolina, Colorado and Alaska. Thus in the past two years, mass disenfranchisement and computerized vote stripping may well have flipped seven Upper House seats from the Democrats to the GOP.
Thus the electronic race-based stripping of voter rolls in the GOP’s favor has probably on its own taken to the far right the presidency, control of the US Senate, and ultimately the US Supreme Court.

It should be noted that out of disgust with Donald Trump, the GOP multi-billionaire Koch Brothers shifted much of their massive financial weight from the presidential race to Congressional and other “down-ballot contests,” where these key Senate seats and others in the US House and state governments were almost certainly impacted.

Traditional Jim Crow Stripping of Voter Registration Rolls
Alongside computerized techniques, the Republicans have effectively deployed still more traditional Jim Crow tactics to strip black/Hispanic/Asian-American/Muslim citizens of their ability to vote, many of which have been delineated in the New York Times.
In part these include: demands for photo ID, elimination of polling places, narrowing time frames in which citizens can vote, deliberate distribution of misinformation about voting requirements, non-counting of provisional ballots, failure to send out absentee ballots, intimidation and widespread confusion at polling places, and much more.
Throughout the corporate media, the obligatory hand-wringing about a drop in voter turnout invariably avoids the obvious cause of race-based restrictions that make it harder to vote, selective limitations on when citizens can vote, and targeted reductions in where they can vote.

In its 2013 Shelby County vs. Holder decision, the US Supreme Court gutted protections provided by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates for such Jim Crow abuse throughout the electoral system.
Numerous reports indicate that citizens were often confronted with photo ID requirements even where they were voided by the courts. As in Ohio 2004, reports indicate many citizens were directed by official websites to polling places that did not actually exist. This year Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted failed to distribute more than 1,050,000 absentee ballot applications to citizens entitled to them. Husted also waged a relentless war against early voting periods, such as “souls to the polls” Sundays, that encouraged African-Americans to vote. He also worked hard to strip out polling stations from urban areas.

In Wisconsin, which Trump allegedly carried by about 27,000 votes, some 300,000 registered voters lacked required photo ID. According to Ari Berman’s “Did the Republicans Rig the Election?” appearing in The Nation, Wisconsin’s turnout was the lowest in two decades. That includes a drop of 52,000 in heavily African-American Milwaukee, nearly twice Trump’s margin of victory in the entire state.
According to a report by Richard Hayes Philips, extremely high turnouts for Trump in rural areas of Wisconsin “are not credible.” Among other things, the vote counts in five Republican towns exceed the number of registered voters. (www.freepress.org)
On election day, media throughout the US reported the kinds of mass delays and confusion that defined the elections of 2000 and 2004. According to Berman, there were 868 fewer polling stations in Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina alone, accompanied by a notable drop in African-American turnouts. According to Berman, 14 states imposed new restrictions on voting. Three of them – Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio – were never before under federal Voting Rights Act supervision.

Said The New York Times: “Voters nationwide endured long waits in line, malfunctioning voting machines, ill-informed poll workers and a litany of lesser annoyances on Tuesday with scattered reports that some voters gave up trying to cast ballots.”

David Becker, the Executive Director of the Center for Election Innovation, told the Times, “There are scattered indications of machine breakdowns that are being addressed.”

A typical description has been provided by Steven Rosenfeld, writing at Alternet about the “Democratic epicenter” in Durham County, North Carolina:
the state’s voter registration database and e-poll books tied into it were down, prompting long lines, delays and necessitating people fill out provisional ballots. The data was also scrambled, with voter rolls in the wrong locations, people tagged as voting when they had not, and people not on lists even though they had their state registration cards.
In an editorial the day after the election, the Times lamented that in North Carolina “The state’s Republican Party issued a news release boasting that cutbacks in early voting hours reduced black turnout by 8.5% below 2012 levels, even as the numbers of white early voters increased by 22.5%.”

Throughout the US, voters with “problems” in their registration are routinely given provisional ballots, which are allegedly to be counted later. But the forms are often impossibly complex, with poll workers often failing to count them at the sight of a single minor error, such as writing below a line, omitting a middle initial, failing to include a birthday and much more. Ohio secretary of state Husted won the right from the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to not count provisional ballots that contain a minor mistake. Thus tens of thousands of provisional ballots have been routinely left uncounted, unbeknownst to the voters. More than 115,000 provisional and “spoiled” ballots from Ohio’s 2004 election remain uncounted.

Often absurd discrepancies have become normalized. In 2004 hundreds of mostly Democratic Native Americans allegedly cast ballots on their New Mexico reservations without signifying a choice for president. This year in North Carolina, Trump and the GOP’s US Senate candidate allegedly won by nearly 200,000 votes while the incumbent Republican governor was allegedly defeated (he’s demanding a recount). In Michigan, tens of thousands of voters allegedly filled out their entire ballots but somehow left the presidential choice vacant in a race essentially too close to call.

Polling Indicators
In the lead-up to November 8, pre-election polls strongly indicated a Clinton victory. Post-election exit polls showed her winning as well, most critically in the swing states whose Electoral College votes could have given her the presidency.

Exit polls are the accepted international standard for indications of election fraud and vote tampering. Eric Bjornlund and Glenn Cowan’s 2011 pamphlet “Vote Count Verification: a User’s Guide for Funders, Implementers and Stakeholders” was done under the auspices of Democracy International for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). It outlines how exit polling is used to ensure free and fair elections.

It adds that “U.S-funded organizations have sponsored exit polls as part of democracy assistance programs in Macedonia (2005), Afghanistan (2004), Ukraine (2004), Azerbaijan (2005), the West Bank and Gaza Strip (2005), Lebanon (2005), Kazakhstan (2005), Kenya (2005, 2007), and Bangladesh (2009), among other places.”

In countries like Germany and Switzerland, which use hand-counted paper ballots, exit polls are accurate to a margin error of less than 1%.

Here the 2016 exit polls were paid for by a major corporate media consortium, as has been standard practice for years. Here they are designed to reflect the actual vote count within a 2% margin of error nationally.

But in the US, if exit polls don’t agree with official vote counts, they are regularly “adjusted” to conform to official results, no matter how implausible. This makes fraudulent elections appear legitimate.

During this year’s Republican primaries, unadjusted exit polls confirmed official vote counts in all cases. In the Democratic primaries, unadjusted exit polls significantly varied from the official outcome in 12 of 26 primaries. All the errors went in Hillary Clinton’s favor in her race against Bernie Sanders. This is a virtual statistical impossibility and suggests a rigged vote count.

In the general election against Donald Trump, things went the other way. In 24 of 28 states, unadjusted exit polls also showed Clinton with vote counts significantly higher than the final official outcome. The likelihood of this happening in an election that is not rigged are in the realm of virtual statistical impossibility.

In fact, based on the exit polls, the odds against such an unexplained “Trump Shift” are one in 13,110 presidential elections.

For example, Ohio’s exit polls showed Trump and Clinton in a dead heat – 47 percent for Clinton to 47.1 for Trump. Officially, Trump won with 52.1 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 43.5 percent. This unexplained and unexpected 8.5 percent shift for Trump is mathematically impossible.

The exit polls also showed Clinton winning in Florida. But an unaccounted for 2.5 percent shift to Trump gave him a victory that was a virtual statistical impossibility. Similar numbers abide in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Given the prevalence of other Jim Crow tactics, it’s likely the exit polls were impacted by non-white voters in all the key swing states who were given provisional ballots (or they voted electronically) leading them to believe their votes were being counted, even though they were not.

In key Senate races in Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Missouri, exit polls also showed Democratic candidates winning by statistically significant margins, but then losing the official vote count.

In 2014, Senate races in North Carolina, Colorado, and Alaska ended with exit polls also showing Democratic Senate candidates winning the popular vote, while ultimately losing the official vote count. The odds against this happening in two consecutive elections that are not rigged are also astronomical.

The tendency of such official outcomes to slide to the GOP after showing “blue” for Democrats in the exit polls is more fully documented by Jon Simon in his definitive book CODE RED. Simon coined the phrase “Red Shift” and discusses what has once again become a dominant factor in a presidential election claimed by the Republicans at OpEdNews.
Electronic Flipping
The vast majority of the popular votes in this election nationwide were cast on either computerized touch-screen electronic machines, or on Scantron ballots that are counted by computer. In neither case are there public monitoring capabilities or legal recourse for vote counts that are flipped.

In 2016, as in all previous US elections at least since 2000, the electronic vote count remains anyone’s guess. In states with a governor and secretary of state from the same party, the final tally can be whatever they want it to be.

Such techniques were used in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 to strip voter rolls and flip George W. Bush into the White House. More than 90,000 black/Hispanic voters were disenfranchised by Gov. Jeb Bush (George’s brother) in a Florida election officially decided by 537 votes. More than 300,000 primarily black/Hispanic voters were stripped from voter rolls in an Ohio 2004 election officially decided by 118,775.

In Florida’s 2000 presidential election, 16,000 votes cast for Gore in Volusia County were electronically subtracted and 4,000 were credited to Bush, giving him a leg up on the evening’s vote count. This caused Fox News commentator John Ellis (Bush’s first cousin) to call the election for the GOP.

In Ohio 2004, John Kerry was shown winning the election by 4.2%, more than 200,000 votes, at12:20 a.m. Then the electronic vote count ceased. At 2 a.m.,a Bush lead began to emerge, somehow reaching 2.5%. The 6.7% flip is a virtual statistical impossibility.

All of this was done by private contractors working for the company SmarTech, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The key information technology specialist in charge of the vote count was Michael Connell, an Akron-based associate of the Bush family, who was hired by the Ohio secretary of state with a no-bid contract to supervise the state’s official vote count. Connell later died in a mysterious plane crash after being deposed in federal court.

The fact that electronic voting machines cannot be monitored was voted a Most Censored story in 2016, with a key interview with co-author Harvey Wasserman appearing on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now!”
Computer “Black Box Voting” specialist Bev Harris, who uncovered the electronic vote flipping in Florida 2000, has warned this year that a method of “fractionated voting” could have been easily used to manipulate electronic vote counts. The manipulation could be done by secretaries of state in conjunction with partisan for-profit corporations in ways that are virtually impossible to detect, and simply not open to legal challenge. According to Harris, this “fraction magic,” used in counties’ central tabulators, could have flipped hundreds of thousands of votes.
In Ohio this year, a new generation of electronic vote scanning machines makes it possible to retrieve electronic images of ballots that have been cast on paper in the order that they were cast. These machines come with an audit log that would detect any illegitimate vote changes by central tabulators.

But Secretary of State Husted opted to allow local election boards to leave both security functions – the audit log and the image scanners – turned off. Co-author Bob Fitrakis sued in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to have the monitoring functions turned on. But Judge David Cain ruled on Election Day that the election officials need not turn on those security features, leaving the public with no way to monitor the outcome. (A similar lawsuit filed in Arizona by election protection activist John Brakey actually succeeded.)

Such problems are built into the system nationwide. In Pennsylvania, for example, Rosenfeld reports that “16 counties are still using aging countywide tabulators which” are easily hacked and “use old versions of Microsoft operating systems, which have security vulnerabilities that have never been fixed.”
Throughout the US, including the swing states that will decide the presidential outcome in the Electoral College and states that have increased the GOP margin in the US Senate, the entire vote count remains an electronic mystery.

VR Systems, based in Tallahassee, handles registration records in Florida and more than a dozen other states. It was hacked prior to the election, possibly by Russians. Indeed, much finger-pointing against alleged Russian electronic intruders still goes on. But there are more than enough open portals into our electronic voting system to let domestic hackers easily flip an election.

Sources cited by Rosenfeld say Clinton won only those Wisconsin counties with paper ballots, while losing those with a mix of paper and machine voting by 1-2%, and those with only machines only by 10-15%.

Those results echo outcomes in New Mexico 2004, where Kerry won all precincts with hand-counted paper ballots and lost all those with machines, a reality he personally noted in a post-election conference call.

Millions of dollars would be required to do meaningful recounts in states like Wisconsin, which may well have legitimately gone for Clinton and chosen a Democratic US Senator. Michigan’s 4,800 precincts could cost up to $125 each to recount. The impact of such recounts, even if they show Clinton winning, would then be up for grabs.

So did the GOP strip and flip the 2016 election?
Let’s count the ways:

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton won America’s popular vote by more than a million votes.

That popular vote victory will be reversed in an Electoral College originally designed to enhance the power of slaveowners and now being used for the sixth time to deny the White House to the rightful winner.

There is no doubt that more than enough black, Hispanic, Islamic and Asian-Americans were electronically stripped from the voter registration rolls by Crosscheck and other means to have given Clinton victories in those swing states that would have swung the Electoral College in her favor.

There is no doubt additional Jim Crow tactics meant to further disenfranchise black/Hispanic/Asian-American voters – such as stripping away voting times and precincts, denial of absentee ballots, non-counting of provisional ballots, and much more – stripped Clinton of hundreds of thousands of additional legitimate votes.

There is no doubt exit polls showed her winning in more than enough states to have given her a victory in the Electoral College. They also indicated a seven-seat swing in the US Senate in 2014 and 2016, more than enough to give the GOP control of the US Supreme Court.

There is no doubt that the election was largely conducted on electronic machines, and with electronically-counted Scantron ballots that are completely beyond public accountability. These voting machines are run on secret, proprietary corporate software to which the public is not allowed access.

As in 2000 and 2004, the actual final vote count once again resides in black box machines controlled by private corporations, GOP governors, and secretaries of state, whose ability to easily hack and flip the official outcome cannot be monitored or brought to accountability. In at least one state (Ohio) the GOP took legal action to prevent the public from gaining potential access to the electronic vote count … and won!

There is also no doubt that had this election been conducted as it was in virtually any other country, the civilized world would have denounced it as completely unreliable and almost certainly false. Had it been in our “national interest” to do so, American troops would have poured in to “restore democracy” after such an obviously rigged charade.

Throughout the campaign, GOP candidate Trump cleverly complained of a “rigged election.” He continually warned of innumerable non-whites and Muslims voting multiple times for Hillary Clinton.

Of course the opposite happened. Hundreds of thousands of non-white citizens were systematically denied their right to vote. Since even that wasn’t enough to elect Donald Trump, the Electoral College will once again deny democracy. And thanks to the dark magic of electronic voting machines, we will never really know 2016’s true vote count.

Today’s most tangible tragedy is what may soon unfold in this country.

But the underlying nightmare is that this has been done before, that we’ve known about stripped and flipped elections for at least sixteen years, and that nothing has been done.

If anything, due to the spread of electronic voting machines, our electoral system is more corrupt and less accountable than it was in 2000, when the GOP first stripped and flipped George W. Bush into the White House.

We advocate universal automatic voter registration, transparent voter rolls, a four-day national holiday for voting, universal hand-counted paper ballots, abolition of the Electoral College, an end to gerrymandering, a ban on corporate money in politics.

There’s much more. But until we win those basics, democracy in America is an illusion … as is our chance to survive on this planet.
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of the upcoming The Strip & Flip Disaster of America’s Stolen Elections: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft. at http://www.freepress.organd http://www.solartopia.org, where Bob’s Fitrakis Files and Harvey’s Solartopia! Our Green-powered Earth are also available.

NONVIOLENCE: A STYLE OF POLITICS FOR PEACE – POPE FRANCIS’ MESSAGE FOR THE 50TH WORLD DAY OF PEACE

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Public Health, Race on December 14, 2016 at 1:56 am

GMP2017_ENG

L World Day of Peace 2017: «Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace»
[ Arabic – English – French – German – Italian – Polish – Portuguese – Spanish ]
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Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace
1. At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”,[1] and make active nonviolence our way of life.
This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.” Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”. [2] In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.
On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

A broken world
2. While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.
In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?
Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The Good News
3. Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21). But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39). When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.[3]
To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching “is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This ‘more’comes from God”.[4] He went on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’”.[5] The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.[6]

More powerful than violence
4. Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she clearly stated her own message of active nonviolence: “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another… And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”.[7] For the force of arms is deceptive. “While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times”.[8] Last September, I had the great joy of proclaiming her a Saint. I praised her readiness to make herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded… She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes – the crimes! – of poverty they created”.[9] In response, her mission – and she stands for thousands, even millions of persons – was to reach out to the suffering, with generous dedication, touching and binding up every wounded body, healing every broken life.
The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.
Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”.[10] This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.[11]
The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.
Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.[12] I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”.[13] Violence profanes the name of God.[14] Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”[15]

The domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence
5. If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families. This is part of that joy of love which I described last March in my Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in the wake of two years of reflection by the Church on marriage and the family. The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.[16] From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.[17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.[18] I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.
The Jubilee of Mercy that ended in November encouraged each one of us to look deeply within and to allow God’s mercy to enter there. The Jubilee taught us to realize how many and diverse are the individuals and social groups treated with indifference and subjected to injustice and violence. They too are part of our “family”; they too are our brothers and sisters. The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family. “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.[19]

My invitation
6. Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms; she does so by her participation in the work of international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels. Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.
This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process”.[20] To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected.[21] Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.[22]
I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.[23] Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.

In conclusion
7. As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the Queen of Peace. At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14). Let us pray for her guidance.
“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.[24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.[25]

From the Vatican, 8 December 2016

Franciscus

[1] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.
[2] PAUL VI, Message for the First World Day of Peace, 1 January 1968.
[3] “The Legend of the Three Companions”, Fonti Francescane, No. 1469.
[4] BENEDICT XVI, Angelus, 18 February 2007.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] MOTHER TERESA, Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1979.
[8] Meditation, “The Road of Peace”, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, 19 November 2015.
[9] Homily for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 4 September 2016.
[10] No. 23.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Address to Representatives of Different Religions, 3 November 2016.
[13] Address to the Third World Meeting of Popular Movements, 5 November 2016.
[14] Cf. Address at the Interreligious Meeting with the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and Representatives of Different Religious Communities, Baku, 2 October 2016.
[15]Address in Assisi, 20 October 2016.
[16] Cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, 90-130.
[17] Cf. ibid., 133, 194, 234.
[18] Cf. Message for the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 7 December 2014.
[19] Encyclical Laudato Si’, 230.
[20] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 227.
[21] Cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’, 16, 117, 138.
[22] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.
[23] Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio instituting the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, 17 August 2016.
[24] Regina Coeli, Bethlehem, 25 May 2014.
[25]Appeal, Assisi, 20 September 2016.

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Fukushima radiation has reached U.S. shores

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Public Health on December 12, 2016 at 10:36 pm

USA TODAY NETWORK Tracy Loew, (Salem, Ore.) Statesman Journal, December 9, 2016

SALEM, Ore. — For the first time, seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has been detected on the West Coast of the United States.

Cesium-134, the so-called fingerprint of Fukushima, was measured in seawater samples taken from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach in Oregon, according to researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Because of its short half-life, cesium-134 can only have come from Fukushima.

For the first time, cesium-134 has also been detected in a Canadian salmon, according to the Fukushima InFORM project, led by University of Victoria chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen.

Should we be worried? In both cases, levels are extremely low, the researchers said, and don’t pose a danger to humans or the environment.

Massive amounts of contaminated water were released from the crippled nuclear plant following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. More radiation was released to the air, then fell to the sea.

Woods Hole chemical oceanographer Ken Buesseler runs a crowd-funded, citizen science seawater sampling project that has tracked the radiation plume as it slowly makes its way across the Pacific Ocean.

The Oregon samples, marking the first time cesium-134 has been detected on U.S. shores, were taken in January and February of 2016 and later analyzed. They each measured 0.3 becquerels per cubic meter of cesium-134.

Buesseler’s team previously had found the isotope in a sample of seawater taken from a dock on Vancouver Island, B.C., marking its landfall in North America.

In Canada, Cullen leads the InFORM project to assess radiological risks to that country’s oceans following the nuclear disaster. It is a partnership of a dozen academic, government and non-profit organizations.

Last month, the group reported that a single sockeye salmon, sampled from Okanagan Lake in the summer of 2015, had tested positive for cesium-134.

The level was more than 1,000 times lower than the action level set by Health Canada, and is no significant risk to consumers, Cullen said.

With Harry Reid’s retirement, will the Yucca Mountain plan be revived?

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health on December 11, 2016 at 11:55 pm

By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, December 8, 2016

With the decommissioning of Diablo Canyon, the state’s last active nuclear power plant, looming in 2025, it might appear that the end of the nuclear age is in sight for California.

But sorry, no such luck. Not until the federal government makes good on its responsibility to find a permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel.

More than 70,000 tons of nuclear waste sit waiting at about 120 facilities across the nation, including more than 1,600 tons at the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and tons more at Diablo Canyon. It’s safe enough for the moment, but it is not an acceptable long-term solution.

Things may start to change as soon as next month for two reasons. First, Sen. Harry Reid is retiring. For two decades, Reid has been the chief opponent of siting a permanent underground nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in his home state of Nevada. As leader of the Senate’s Democrats he had the power to cut funding for the project, and the support of President Barack Obama. As a result, the already slow permitting process for Yucca Mountain has been stalled since 2010.

The second change is that President-elect Donald Trump is apparently open to the idea of restarting the permitting process for the storage site. Although Reid’s replacement in the Senate, Sen.-elect Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), opposes Yucca Mountain, as does Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), they don’t have the sway needed to stall the project if the Trump administration chooses to reinstate it. With the support of the Republican-controlled federal government, the process could move fairly quickly, though it’s unlikely it would open next year as had been planned.

Not to be insensitive to Nevadans, but thank goodness for that.
Of course, their concerns are understandable. No one wants tens of thousands of tons of radioactive garbage dumped nearby, especially given fears that it may someday leak into the groundwater. But for all its flaws, Yucca Mountain probably still represents the safest place in the country for a nuclear repository. It is dry, remote and stable, and it sits at the edge of a 1950s-era atomic testing site. More than $10 billion has already been spent developing the repository there. The fact is, no preferable alternative anywhere in the country has been identified, yet the waste has to go somewhere. That, in a nutshell, is the problem with nuclear power.

While the spent fuel is relatively safe for the moment being stored in casks or pools on the sites where it was generated, it’s not secure or cost-effective to keep the waste stored there forever. Ratepayers who have already paid fees to fund waste facilities are being asked to keep paying to babysit the waste long after some of the plants that generated it have been decommissioned and demolished, and when there’s more than $30 billion in ratepayer fees in a federal Nuclear Waste Fund available to spend on nuclear storage.

That’s not to say the government shouldn’t be developing other options for radioactive storage. It should. Even if Yucca Mountain is eventually opened for business, it won’t be sufficient to meet the current need. Although the proposal to use privately run consolidated interim waste storage dumps until longer-term facilities open raises some security and safety concerns (moving nuclear waste across the country even once is bad enough), it’s wise to explore all storage options because it will take years to open any new facility.

The feds have not fulfilled their side of the bargain to safely and permanently store nuclear waste, and it is high time for them to do so. Then we can move on to the next fraught nuclear waste debate: How to transport it to the dump.

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COMMENT: The foregoing statement makes two mistaken assumptions: first, that it is wise to put nuclear waste into the environment and, second, that taking the risk of transporting nuclear waste is acceptable.