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Key points of UN nuclear conference statement

AFP – 29 May 2010

The following are key points of the final document agreed here Friday at the end of a month-long UN conference to review efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East

· The United Nations, the United States, Russia and Britain will convene a regional conference in 2012 on setting up a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

· The conference reaffirms the urgency and importance of achieving universality of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It calls on all states in the Middle East that have not yet done so to accede to the treaty as non-nuclear weapon states so as to achieve its universality at an early date.

Nuclear disarmament

· The five nuclear weapons states — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — commit to make “further efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate all types of nuclear weapons.” But no timeframe is set.

Security assurances

· The conference on Disarmament in Geneva should immediately begin discussion of “effective international arrangements to assure non nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear testing

· All nuclear-weapons states undertake to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty with all expediency. Pending the entry into force of the CTBT, all states commit to refrain from nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions.
Fissile materials

· The conference reaffirms the urgent need to negotiate and bring to conclusion “a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear arms or other nuclear explosive devices.”

Nuclear non-proliferation

· The conference stresses the importance of complying with the non-proliferation obligations, addressing all compliance matters in order to uphold the treaty’s integrity and the authority of the safeguards system.

· The conference encourages all state parties which have not yet done so “to conclude and bring into force additional protocols as soon as possible and to implement them provisionally pending their entry into force.”

· The conference calls on state parties to consider specific measures that would promote the universalization of the comprehensive safeguard agreements.

Peaceful uses of nuclear energy

· The conference call on state parties to press on with talks, “in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency or regional fora,” on the development of multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle.

North Korea

· The conference strongly urges North Korea to fulfill its commitments under the six-party talks, including “the complete and verifiable abandonment of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.” It also calls on Pyongyang “to return, at an early date, to the (NPT) treaty and to its adherence with its IAEA safeguards agreement.”

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Militarism | Comments Off on Key points of UN nuclear conference statement

Pure Kafka

By Glenn Greenwald| May 29, 2010

The first paragraph of today’s New York Times article by Charlie Savage:

The 48 Guantánamo Bay detainees whom the Obama administration has decided to keep holding without trial include several for whom there is no evidence of involvement in any specific terrorist plot, according to a report disclosed Friday.

The Report itself, in a matter-of-fact-tone, describes the individuals to be kept in a cage indefinitely without charges this way:

They can’t even be prosecuted in the due-process-abridging military commissions we invented out of whole cloth for those who can’t be convicted in a real court.  In other words:  of course we’ll provide a fair tribunal for proving your guilt — as long as we’re certain we can convict you — otherwise, we’ll just imprison you indefinitely without charges. All this even though 72% of Guantanamo detainees have been found to be wrongfully held since the Supreme Court compelled habeas hearings in 2008.  And then there are the numerous Yemeni prisoners who have been cleared for release but who will be kept in a cage anyway because we arbitrarily decreed that we’re not going to release even innocent prisoners back to Yemen.

Here’s one other passage from Savage’s article worth noting:

Of that group, the 48 whom the administration has designated for continued indefinite detention without trial have attracted the greatest controversy, in part because many Democrats sharply criticized that policy when the Bush administration created it after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Yes, I also vaguely recall the days when Democrats criticized the policy of imprisoning people indefinitely without charges.  Harper‘s Scott Horton has more on all of this:

The Obama Administration came to Washington promising to clean up the Bush-era detentions policy and make it conform to the clear requirements of law. Then it seems to have decided that the law wasn’t so convenient and that simply providing for unbridled executive authority à la Bush-Cheney wasn’t such a bad idea after all. In terms of Washington power politics, that decision seems to have taken the form of letting Robert Gates make the call on all these issues. The two figures in the Administration who took the most credible stance for implementing the Obama campaign-era promises on detentions policy — Greg Craig and Phil Carter — resigned within a few weeks of one another, offering no believable reasons for departing. Then press reports began to appear about secret prisons, operated by JSOC and DIA and applying rules different from those applied in the “normal” DOD prisons, including plenty of torture-lite techniques under Appendix M of the Army Field Manual (PDF).

This passage in the National Security Strategy makes clear that Barack Obama and his team have abandoned the promises they made to reform detentions policy in the 2008 campaign. Even the commitment to stop torture does not appear to have been fully implemented, given the unaccountable practices of JSOC and the DIA in Afghanistan. Barack Obama’s belief in the rule of law apparently takes the back seat to Barack Obama’s belief in his own ability to make the right call as executive. History will judge whether his confidence in his own abilities is warranted, but the distortion of the constitutional system presents a continuing challenge for those who believe in the older and more fundamental principle of accountability under the law.

Yes — being as sentimental as I am — I, too, harbor nostalgia for that “older principle of accountability under the law”:  you know, that idealized time when everyone was entitled to be charged with crimes before being imprisoned forever (rather than only those for whom prosecution was “feasible”) and when Presidents weren’t actually allowed to target American citizens for murder without at least some due process being granted.  Anyway, did Sarah Palin post something to her Facebook page today?  And isn’t that Glenn Beck crazy?

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | 1 Comment

Who are the real “crazies” in our political culture?

By Glenn Greenwald| May 29, 2010

One of the favorite self-affirming pastimes of establishment Democratic and Republican pundits is to mock anyone and everyone outside of the two-party mainstream as crazy, sick lunatics.  That serves to bolster the two political parties as the sole arbiters of what is acceptable:  anyone who meaningfully deviates from their orthodoxies are, by definition, fringe, crazy losers.  Ron Paul is one of those most frequently smeared in that fashion, and even someone like Howard Dean, during those times when he stepped outside of mainstream orthodoxy, was similarly smeared as literally insane, and still is.

Last night, the crazy, hateful, fringe lunatic Ron Paul voted to repeal the Clinton-era Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy (or, more accurately, he voted to allow the Pentagon to repeal it if and when it chooses to) — while 26 normal, sane, upstanding, mainstream House Democrats voted to retain that bigoted policy.  Paul explained today that he changed his mind on DADT because gay constituents of his who were forced out of the military convinced him of the policy’s wrongness — how insane and evil he is!

In 2003, the crank lunatic-monster Ron Paul vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq, while countless sane, normal, upstanding, good-hearted Democrats — including the current Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Senate Majority Leader, House Majority Leader, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and many of the progressive pundits who love to scorn Ron Paul as insane — supported the monstrous attack on that country.

In 2008, the sicko Ron Paul opposed the legalization of Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program and the granting of retroactive immunity to lawbreaking telecoms, while the Democratic Congress — led by the current U.S. President, his Chief of Staff, the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the House Majority Leader — overwhelmingly voted it into law.  Paul, who apparently belongs in a mental hospital, vehemently condemned America’s use of torture from the start, while many leading Democrats were silent (or even supportive), and mainstream, sane Progressive Newsweek and MSNBC pundit Jonathan Alter was explicitly calling for its use.  Compare Paul’s February, 2010 emphatic condemnation of America’s denial of habeas corpus, lawless detentions and presidential assassinations of U.S. citizens to what the current U.S. Government is doing.

The crazed monster Ron Paul also opposes the war in Afghanistan, while the Democratic Congress continues to fund it and even to reject timetables for withdrawal.  Paul is an outspoken opponent of the nation’s insane, devastating and oppressive “drug war” — that imprisons hundreds of thousands of Americans with a vastly disparate racial impact and continuously incinerates both billions of dollars and an array of basic liberties — while virtually no Democrat dares speak against it.  Paul crusades against limitless corporate control of government and extreme Federal Reserve secrecy, while the current administration works to preserve it.  He was warning of the collapsing dollar and housing bubble at a time when our Nation’s Bipartisan Cast of Geniuses were oblivious.  In sum, behold the embodiment of clinical, certifiable insanity:  anti-DADT, anti-Iraq-war, anti-illegal-domestic-surveillance, anti-drug-war, anti-secrecy, anti-corporatism, anti-telecom-immunity, anti-war-in-Afghanistan.

There’s no question that Ron Paul holds some views that are wrong, irrational and even odious.  But that’s true for just about every single politician in both major political parties (just look at the condition of the U.S. if you doubt that; and note how Ron Paul’s anti-abortion views render him an Untouchable for progressives while Harry Reid’s anti-abortion views permit him to be a Progressive hero and even Senate Majority Leader).  My point isn’t that Ron Paul is not crazy; it’s that those who self-righteously apply that label to him and to others invariably embrace positions and support politicians at least as “crazy.”  Indeed, those who support countless insane policies and/or who support politicians in their own party who do — from the Iraq War to the Drug War, from warrantless eavesdropping and denial of habeas corpus to presidential assassinations and endless war in the Muslim world — love to spit the “crazy” label at anyone who falls outside of the two-party establishment… Full article

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism | Comments Off on Who are the real “crazies” in our political culture?

Israel must sign NPT, 189 countries say

Press TV – May 2010

The final statement of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference has called for the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

The 28-page document, which was agreed upon on Friday by all 189 NPT signatories after a month-long round of talks at UN Headquarters in New York, called for a conference to be held in 2012 “to be attended by all states of the Middle East, leading to the establishment” of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

Western diplomats said the United States finally agreed to a deal at the UN that would pressure Israel to join the NPT, Al Jazeera.net reported.

The final statement of the conference emphasized “the importance of Israel’s accession to the treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards,” the Al Jazeera.net report added.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also hailed the outcome of the conference.

Most experts say Israel has a nuclear arsenal of at least 200 nuclear warheads.

The US had initially sought to block the provision calling on Israel to sign the NPT.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Militarism | Comments Off on Israel must sign NPT, 189 countries say

Did an American Mine Sink South Korean Ship?

By Yoichi Shimatsu | New America Media | May 27, 2010

BEIJING – South Korean Prime Minister Lee Myung-bak has claimed “overwhelming evidence” that a North Korean torpedo sank the corvette Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 sailors. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that there’s “overwhelming evidence” in favor of the theory that North Korea sank the South Korean Navy warship Cheonan. But the articles of proof presented so far by military investigators to an official inquiry board have been scanty and inconsistent.

There’s yet another possibility, that a U.S. rising mine sank the Cheonan in a friendly-fire accident.

In the recent U.S.-China strategic talks in Shanghai and Beijing, the Chinese side dismissed the official scenario presented by the Americans and their South Korean allies as not credible. This conclusion was based on an independent technical assessment by the Chinese military, according to a Beijing-based military affairs consultant to the People Liberation Army.

Hardly any of the relevant facts that counter the official verdict have made headline news in either South Korea or its senior ally, the United States.

The first telltale sign of an official smokescreen involves the location of the Choenan sinking – Byeongnyeong Island (pronounced Pyongnang) in the Yellow Sea. On the westernmost fringe of South Korean territory, the island is dominated by a joint U.S.-Korean base for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations. The sea channel between Byeongnyeong and the North Korean coast is narrow enough for both sides to be in artillery range of each other.

Anti-sub warfare is based on sonar and acoustic detection of underwater craft. Since civilian traffic is not routed through the channel, the noiseless conditions are near-perfect for picking up the slightest agitation, for example from a torpedo and any submarine that might fire it.

North Korea admits it does not possess an underwater craft stealthy enough to slip past the advanced sonar and audio arrays around Byeongnyeong Island, explained North Korean intelligence analyst Kim Myong Chol in a news release. “The sinking took place not in North Korean waters but well inside tightly guarded South Korean waters, where a slow-moving North Korean submarine would have great difficulty operating covertly and safely, unless it was equipped with AIP (air-independent propulsion) technology.”

The Cheonan sinking occurred in the aftermath of the March 11-18 Foal Eagle Exercise, which included anti-submarine maneuvers by a joint U.S.-South Korean squadron of five missile ships. A mystery surrounds the continued presence of the U.S. missile cruisers for more than eight days after the ASW exercise ended.

Only one reporter, Joohee Cho of ABC News, picked up the key fact that the Foal Eagle flotilla curiously included the USNS Salvor, a diving-support ship with a crew of 12 Navy divers. The lack of any minesweepers during the exercise leaves only one possibility: the Salvor was laying bottom mines.

Ever since an American cruiser was damaged by one of Saddam Hussein’s rising mines, also known as bottom mines, in the Iraq War, the U.S. Navy has pushed a crash program to develop a new generation of mines. The U.S. Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command has also been focused on developing counterparts to the fearsome Chinese naval “assassin’s mace,” which is propelled by a rocket engine.

A rising mine, which is effective only in shallow waters, rests atop a small platform on the sea floor under a camouflage of sand and gravel. Its detection system uses acoustics and magnetic readings to pick up enemy ships and submarines. When activated, jets of compressed air or solid-fuel rockets lift the bomb, which self-guides toward the magnetic center of the target. The blast rips the keel, splitting the ship or submarine into two neat pieces, just as was done to the RKOS Cheonan.

A lateral-fired torpedo, in contrast, “holes” the target’s hull, tilting the vessel in the classic war movie manner. The South Korean government displayed to the press the intact propeller shaft of a torpedo that supposedly struck the Cheonan. Since torpedoes travel between 40-50 knots per hour (which is faster than collision tests for cars), a drive shaft would crumble upon impacting the hull and its bearing and struts would be shattered or bent by the high-powered blast.

The initial South Korean review stated that the explosive was gunpowder, which would conform to North Korea’s crude munitions. This claim was later overturned by the inquiry board, which found the chemical residues to be similar to German advanced explosives. Due to sanctions against Pyongyang and its few allies, it is hardly credible that North Korea could obtain NATO-grade ordnance.

Thus, the mystery centers on the USNS Salvor, which happened to be yet right near Byeongyang Island at the time of the Cheonan sinking and far from its home base, Pearl Harbor. The inquiry board in Seoul has not questioned the officers and divers of the Salvor, which oddly is not under the command of the 7th Fleet but controlled by the innocuous-sounding Military Sealift Command. Diving-support ships like the Salvor are closely connected with the Office of Naval Intelligence since their duties include secret operations such as retrieving weapons from sunken foreign ships, scouting harbor channels and laying mines, as when the Salvor trained Royal Thai Marine divers in mine-laying in the Gulf of Thailand in 2006, for example.

The Salvor’s presence points to an inadvertent release of a rising mine, perhaps because its activation system was not switched off. A human error or technical glitch is very much within the realm of possibility due to the swift current and strong tides that race through the Byeongnyeong Channel. The arduous task of mooring the launch platforms to the sea floor allows the divers precious little time for double-checking the electronic systems.

If indeed it was an American rising mine that sank the Cheonan, it would constitute a friendly-fire accident. That in itself is not grounds for a criminal investigation against the presidential office and, at worst, amounts only to negligence by the military. However, any attempt to falsify evidence and engage in a media cover-up for political purposes constitutes tampering, fraud, perjury and possibly treason.

Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times, is an environmental consultant and a commentator on Asian affairs for CCTV-9 Dialogue.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 4 Comments

Global Floating Ice In “Constant Retreat”???

By Willis Eschenbach | May 28, 2010

I don’t know what to make of this one. I was wandering the web when I came across a Reuters article about a scientific study called “Global Floating Ice In “Constant Retreat”: Study“.

The Reuters article opens with this arresting text (emphasis mine):

LONDON

Wed Apr 28, 2010 1:38pm EDT

(Reuters) – The world’s floating ice is in “constant retreat,” showing an instability which will increase global sea levels, according to a report published in Geophysical Research Letters on Wednesday.

Floating ice had disappeared at a steady rate over the past 10 years, according to the first measurement of its kind.

“Hello,” sez I, “how can the sea ice be in constant retreat?” I knew from my previous research that the global ice was not in any kind of retreat at all.

I was also suspicious because of the next part of the quote:

“It’s a large number,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds, lead author of the paper, estimating the net loss of floating sea ice and ice shelves in the last decade at 7,420 cubic kilometers.

I went off to find the actual paper, and discovered a curious thing.

So what did I discover … and why is their quote suspicious?

Let me start with why their quote is suspicious. It is their claim that the earth has lost 7,420 cubic kilometres of ice. As I have mentioned elsewhere, when I see numbers I automatically do an “order of magnitude” calculation in my head to see if they are reasonable or not.

I knew from my previous research that there is about twenty million square kilometres (km^2) of floating ice on the planet. I also knew that much of it out towards the edges is only a metre or two thick.

So if the ice averaged say 1.5 metres thick out at the edges where the loss happens, a seven thousand cubic kilometer loss would mean a total loss of ice area of about five million km^2, or a quarter of the area of the world’s floating ice. I think someone would have noticed that before now …

Of course, that made me wonder if the problem was in the study, or in the Reuters quote. However, that same number (7,420 cubic kilometres lost) appeared in no less than 81 other online publications. So I went haring off to find the article.

One of publications reporting the story, NewScientist, 5 May, 2010, gave the “doi:” for the article. The DOI is the “Digital Object Identifier”, and it should link directly to the article, which was supposed to have been published by Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) on Wednesday, April 28th … but the curious thing I discovered was that the DOI didn’t work.

Someone had commented on that, saying “The DOI doesn’t work.” This was replied to by someone called Marshall, from newscientist.com, who said:

Hi Eric, it’s because the article hasn’t been published on GRL’s website yet. The DOI is taken directly from our press copy of the paper, so once the article is published it should work.

OK, fair enough … although the original Reuters article was allegedly published on April 28, and today is May 28, and the DOI still isn’t working. So I went to the GRL web site to see what I could find.

I first did a search for any articles by “Shepherd” in “GRL” for “2010″, and I got this:

Figure 2. Ooooops …

Thinking it might have been misfiled, I searched through all of the May articles for anything by Shepherd. Nil. I looked through the May articles for anything regarding “ice”. Nada. I repeated both searches for April. Once again, zip. Niente. Nothing.

I thought “Well, maybe it appeared in another journal”. So I took a look on Google, but I found nothing. Google did find 32,500 instances of “ice in constant retreat”, of which 7,550 also contained “GRL”.

Google also revealed that the report of the study has been picked up by ABC News, NewsDaily, Yahoo News, New Scientist, Arab News, and ScienceDaily. It was featured on Joe Romm’s global warming blog “ClimateProgress”. It has been referred to in blogs and news reports from India, Australia, Russia, and China. It shows up on TweetMeme, Huffington Post, and Facebook. Even Scientific American has an article on it.

So at this point, it has gone round and round the world. It has been illustrated with all kinds of pictures of melting ice, and of global ice extent, and (inevitably) of polar bears. It has been discussed and debated and dissected around the web.

And with all of that publicity, with all those news reports, with all that discussion and debate … as near as I can determine, despite Reuters saying it was published a month ago, the study has never been published anywhere.

Not only that, but nobody seems to have noticed that the study has never been published.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Scientific American must have noticed, because they quietly removed the page where they had published the report … but it is still in Google’s cache.

One last thing. In all of that, in the frenzy to get out tomorrow’s news today, in the rush to report the latest scientific rumour, people seem to have forgotten to ask … how is the global sea ice actually doing?

Glad you asked. Here’s today’s information, from Cryosphere Today:

Figure 3. Daily global sea ice anomaly (red line) compared to 1979-2008 average. Link contains full sized image.

As you can see, as of today, the global sea ice is exactly on the line representing the 1979-2008 average. So over the last ten years, instead of a loss of 7,420 cubic kilometres, the loss has been … somewhere around zero. Go figure.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | 5 Comments