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Turkish Artillery Shells Latakia Province, Casualties Reported – Damascus

Turkey Shells Civilian Homes on Syrian Border, Russian MoD Has Video Proof
© Photo: Youtube/ Russian Defence Ministry
Sputnik —February 1, 2016

Turkish artillery on Monday shelled a small town in Syria’s northern Latakia province inflicting casualties among civilians, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said.

Earlier in the day, Lebanese Al Mayadeen TV channel reported that one Syrian serviceman was killed and five others were wounded in a shelling from the Turkish territory.

“The Turkish authorities are responsible for artillery shelling of the town of Jabal Oteira in northern Latakia, which caused casualties among peaceful civilians,” the ministry said in statement as quoted by official SANA news agency.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said Monday that it obtained video proof of Syrian civilian areas being shelled from Turkish border posts.The Russian Defence Ministry expects an explanation from NATO, Pentagon and Turkish Armed Forces on the incident. The corresponding statement was made on Monday by the Ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

According to the spokesman, the Ministry of Defense recently received the video footage from the Syrian General Staff which shows “self-propelled heavy artillery weapons deployed at the Turkish outpost in question.”

Read more: Turkey Shells Civilian Villages on Syrian Border, Russian MoD Has Proof (VIDEO)

February 1, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Feeding the Military-Industrial Complex

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | February 1, 2016

America’s military procurement machine may be the single most successful system of wealth transfer ever devised — moving tens of billions of dollars every year from ordinary taxpayers into the pockets of big defense contractors and their allies in Congress. But as a provider of working equipment to defend the United States against realistic threats, it is becoming more and more dysfunctional with every passing year.

Current administration plans call for spending a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to “modernize” America’s nuclear arsenal to fight a pointless war that would decimate major centers of civilization across the globe. [See Consortiumnews.com’sLearning to Love — and Use — the Bomb”]

At the same time, the Pentagon is also asking for even greater sums to modernize conventional weapons systems that are better suited to East-West conflict scenarios of the 1950s than to today’s skirmishes with insurgents in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Spending on major military acquisition programs is projected to soar 23 percent, after adjusting for inflation, from fiscal year 2015 to 2022. Worse yet, Congress and the administration are spending much of that money on weapons that don’t even work as advertised.

One of the biggest drivers of new procurement spending today is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet. The plane is too expensive and sophisticated for simple bombing runs in Syria or Afghanistan, but too crippled to use in dogfights against Russia’s or China’s most advanced fighters. It’s ideal for one purpose only: With a total projected program cost of more than $1 trillion, this program will keep Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors in 46 states afloat for at least the next two decades.

The F-35 program was awarded more than $12 billion in the omnibus spending bill that passed Congress in December for fiscal year 2016. That money is slated to buy 68 planes, up from 44 purchased in fiscal 2015. Over the entire life of the program, the Pentagon expects to acquire more than 2,400 jets.

The F-35 program has suffered countless ills since 2001. In the words of the New York Times, “The project is seven years behind schedule, costs have soared, and eyebrows arched higher after a prototype was outmaneuvered by an older F-16 in a mock dogfight early last year.”

Critics note that the plane has been grounded because of safety, software or other technical issues — including jets catching fire on the runway — 13 times since 2007. The latest glitch is an over-weight helmet — costing $400,000 a pop — which can cause fatal whiplash for some pilots. Until it is redesigned, pilots weighing less than 136 pounds are grounded.

As of last year, the same helmet was still unable to let pilots distinguish friendly aircraft from foes — a rather critical capability when they are shooting at blips on a radar screen beyond visual range. The stability of the planes’ engines was rated “extremely poor” and other key systems were unreliable as well.

“At best . . . we will be launching an unstable plane that cannot perform many of its core missions for years,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, last summer. “At worst, it’ll hurt people or we’ll ground it in the hangar and spend billions on a retrofit.”

A test pilot who flew the F-35 in mock air battles in January 2015, against an older (and much cheaper) F-16D, reported that the newfangled jet was incapable of outmaneuvering the F-16 in a dogfight. That was true even though the test was rigged by making the F-16 carry heavy extra fuel tanks to slow it down.

That result confirmed a computer simulation run in 2008 by analysts at RAND, an Air Force contractor. They reported that in a hypothetical conflict with Chinese air and naval forces, the F-35 was quickly wiped out. America’s latest jet suffered “inferior acceleration, inferior climb [rate], inferior sustained turn capability,” they wrote. “Also has lower top speed. Can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.”

The F-35’s builders have proven their superiority at political firepower, however. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that in 2014 the plane’s main contractor, Lockheed Martin, forked over $4.1 million in campaign contributions, supplemented by $7.6 million in contributions from three subcontractors: Northrop Grumman, United Technologies, and BAE. Their money poured into members of the House Armed Services Committee, House Appropriations Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The F-35 isn’t the only dysfunctional weapons procurement program draining money today. Its predecessor, the F-22, proved to be an expensive dog, suffering a critical failure after every 1.7 hours of flight, on average. Although first flown in 1997, it was not allowed into combat until 2014, on a mission over Syria.

Or take the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship. Designed for missions close to shore, it has an experimental aluminum hull that may be vulnerable to rough seas and melt at high temperatures (such as caused by a missile or bomb strike). No one will know for sure until at least 2018, but in the meantime, 24 ships have been built or are under construction. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has asked for cutbacks in the program, but the Navy is in open revolt.

But don’t applaud the Pentagon’s civilian leadership too quickly for challenging the Navy. Carter reportedly wants to use some of the savings from the ship program to buy more F-35 fighter jets.

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | | 1 Comment

Latest corruption index does not reveal Britain’s real place in global crime wave

By Graham Vanbergen | TruePublica | February 1, 2016

Transparency International (TI) releases its latest report entitled the Corruption Perceptions Index and continues to find that corruption is rife globally and remains a blight around the world. Overall, two-thirds of the 168 countries on the 2015 index did not fair well.

Denmark took the top spot for the 2nd year running for least corrupt, with North Korea and Somalia the worst performers.

TI states on their website that the goals to aim at for a corruption free country has certain characteristics such as; “high levels of press freedom; access to budget information so the public knows where money comes from and how it is spent; high levels of integrity among people in power; and judiciaries that don’t differentiate between rich and poor, and that are truly independent from other parts of government. Conflict and war, poor governance, weak public institutions like police and the judiciary, and a lack of independence in the media characterise the lowest ranked countries.

Notably the five countries with the biggest declines in these characteristics in the past 4 years include Libya, Australia, Brazil, Spain and Turkey. The big improvers in its report include Greece, Senegal and surprisingly, the UK.

As it turns out sixty-eight per cent of countries worldwide have a serious corruption problem. Half of the G20 are among them. The G20 consists of the top 20 economies in the world but ranks the EU as one economy even though it is made up of 28 countries alone.

The research shows that half of all the 34 OECD countries are violating their international obligations to crack down on bribery by their companies abroad.

Britain has entered the top ten for the first time behind Denmark (1st), Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg. The US ranks 16th. In the EU, other countries not doing so well are; France which ranks 23rd, Spain 36th, Italy 61st and Bulgaria, the last of EU nations at 69th place.

The truth is that Britain has not done better, don’t forget this is an index of perception, not actual corruption.

In comments from TI, Britain was found to have conducted an “extraordinarily inept” review of freedom of information laws. The government’s review of the Freedom of Information Act threatens to further undermine trust in politicians and damage democracy. If ever there was a demonstration of the governments intention of transparency, look no further than Former home secretary Jack Straw, who previously stated he wants the act to be scrapped and rewritten, and Lord Carlisle who accused the Guardian of a “criminal act” in publishing the Snowden leaks, both are on the commission. TI fails to mention this.

Even TI’s own UK executive director Robert Barrington said there were “good reasons why people are sceptical about whether Britain really merits a top 10 ranking,” proving not even he believes this ranking.

He went further by highlighting; “overseas bribery by UK companies, the laundering of corrupt assets through the City, the lax regulation and lack of transparency in British-controlled tax havens, to say nothing of corruption scandals here in the UK,” and mentions the “dropping of significant proposals putting personal responsibility on bankers for money-laundering failings.” He continues with “The sequence of petty political scandals around lobbying, the revolving door and party funding discredits the UK in the eyes of the world and gives fuel to the critics who want to portray Mr Cameron’s agenda as nothing more than hypocritical and sanctimonious.”

Barrington is rightly angry.

The Independent reported in July that The City of London is the money-laundering centre of the world’s drug trade, according to an internationally acclaimed crime expert. In addition, every financial expert now agrees that due to lax financial laws by government, that the London property market is built largely on laundered money of crime from all over the world involving hidden tax havens, most of which are British.

In March last year, the Financial Conduct Authority (itself replacing the toothless Financial Services Authority that was funded by the very banks it was supposed to oversee) said that it would conduct a review on whether banking culture was changing after a slew of financial scandals that dogged the industry. Martin Wheatley, the CEO was looking into the rigging of bank lending rates amongst the many crimes perpetrated in The City of London. Chancellor George Osborne then sacked Wheatley as it was clear he was going to do his job and then just a few weeks ago had the review dropped after replacing Wheatley with a person ‘more agreeable’ to the banks. This was a cynical move by Osborne to protect the banking industry.

When it comes to press freedom Britain has no bragging rights. Just two years ago the British government’s draconian response to the Guardian’s reporting of Edward Snowden saw the UK drop five places in TI’s report. Shockingly, Britain languishes globally in 36th position behind countries such as Belize for press freedom, a country that is rife with lawlessness, corruption, suffers a lack of public, business and press freedom, is mired in accusations of labour abuse, crime and unemployment.

It doesn’t help that the Serious Fraud Squad who was investigating high-profile cross-border investigations into business practices at some of the UK’s biggest companies had their budget cut so deeply that the FT reported “The scale and pace of budget cuts inflicted on the SFO will make prosecuting its caseload impossible.” It must be clear by now that the government has an agenda to protect these serial corporate offenders.

David Cameron won praise in 2013 after announcing at the Open Government Partnership summit in London that the UK intended to require companies registered in the UK to reveal the identity of their real owners in public filings at Companies House. This was then heavily watered down after the Queen was warned that her British territories were now the world biggest tax havens, harbouring tens of trillions of illegally stashed cash and assets that was described as a “web of secrecy jurisdictions”.  The Tax Justice Network (TJN) said Britain now rules the world of tax havens.

Her Majesty’s British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies make up around 25 percent of the world’s tax havens which are now blacklisted by the European Commission and now ranked as the most important player in the financial secrecy world, hardly a shining example of integrity and morality.

And the extent of these crimes is almost boundless as TJN said “The victims of this secrecy include, among others, 2 billion Commonwealth citizens. A recent study of 33 African countries found that they lost over $1tr in capital flight since the 1970s, of which $640bn came from 16 Commonwealth countries. These losses dwarf the external debts of ‘just’ $190bn for the 33 countries.”

In the meantime, Suspicious Activity Reports dealt with by a British specialist police unit focusing on the proceeds of crime and corruption blocked just seven transactions in an entire year. Transparency International reported that the police unit during the previous year (2014) for seizing corrupt assets was “not fit for purpose”. Given the sheer scale of financial crimes and corruption taking place, this performance can only be seen as suspicious itself. In 2015, this police unit required emergency funding.

So widespread is corruption in Britain that Keith Bristow, director-general of the UK’s National Crime Agency, said in January that the scale of crime and it’s subsequent money laundering operations was “a strategic threat” to the country’s economy and reputation. “Many hundreds of billions of pounds of criminal money is almost certainly laundered through UK banks and their subsidiaries each year.” And yet the government facilitates it by actively doing nothing.

When it comes to conflict and war, Britain’s international performance is dire. Britain, as we now all know, was heavily involved in the fall and subsequent deaths of over a million innocent Iraqis. Its campaign in Libya has turned the wealthiest and healthiest African nation into a lawless cesspool ruled by terrorism and death. Syria is ongoing. This has manifested itself into a refugee crisis the likes of which has not been seen since the last world war and an escalation of terrorism continues.

The granting of licences by government for the sale of spying equipment and armaments to some of the most oppressive regimes in the world is another scandal that further destabilises world peace.

The Corruption Perception Index does not tackle the issues at hand. It confuses by focusing on pubic sector corruption, but private corporations are the worst offenders backed by significant government cooperation. Britain’s banking industry is not effectively cited even though it is mired in scandal, facilitates a huge international crime wave backed by money laundering services on an industrial scale along with the tax havens that supports it.

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Corruption | | Leave a comment

UK Labour and the Trident Question

By Lesley Docksey | Dissident Voice | February 1, 2016

All anti-nuclear campaigners in Britain knew that Jeremy Corbyn wanted rid of Trident, the UK’s nuclear missile; he’s been at the forefront of anti-nuclear campaigning for longer than quite a few British MPs have been alive.  And we all, left and right, knew that Trident missiles would become an issue when Corbyn became leader of the UK Labour party, because both the Conservatives and those Labour MPs who love the idea of having nuclear missiles use his anti-nuclear stance as another stick to hit him with.

But, with another debate on whether Trident should be replaced coming up in Parliament sometime this year, and with many Labour MPs in favour, why aren’t Corbyn’s team and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) using the many good reasons available to make a strong case against replacing Trident nuclear missiles? Why stick yet again with the cost of replacement, and what the money saved could be spent on?

True, the cost is horrendous because it isn’t just a new missile system that is planned; the aging nuclear submarines are also being replaced.  Each year the cost increases by billions, often because of design faults which should have been foreseen.  But the Ministry of Defence procurement system is notorious for its mistakes and has wasted billions of taxpayers’ money.

We have known for years that the military (excepting the Navy) think Trident is completely useless.  It hasn’t stopped the UK from being embroiled in what sometimes seems like non-stop wars.  It won’t prevent terrorist attacks.  Nor did it prevent Argentina from moving in on the Falkland Islands.  And using it would be judged illegal under international law, not that a succession of UK governments have ever respected such laws.

We have known for years that the first of the new submarines, HMS Astute, was beset with problems and costing a fortune.  But then, the new ‘state of the art’ aircraft carrier has a similar history.  Quite frankly, the endless catalogue of poor design and engineering has made the UK a laughing stock.

We know that Astute ran aground in familiar waters; that previous nuclear submarines had been involved in the sinking of fishing vessels; that a major nuclear incident involving the submarines at Devonport was only just averted in 2012.

We knew that where two nuclear submarines out of four used to be at sea, it is now only one, and that the Navy has for some time struggled to recruit enough submariners.  This was highlighted again by the whistle-blower McNeilly last year.  He cast doubts on whether the nuclear missiles could be launched at all, so broken is the whole system.

We also know that submarines will be not just threatened but beaten by modern technology – their ‘secrecy’ under the waves will be located by the rapidly developing technology for underwater drones. Would anyone, even those who support the UK having nuclear missiles, feel safe trusting such horrendously dangerous weapons to an insane basket-case of a submarine fleet?

For all the reasons above, Corbyn’s recent throw-away remark on the Andrew Marr show that ‘the submarines could go to sea without the missiles’ should have been treated as just that. But no.  The media went wild making fun of his ‘nuclear’ policy.

Yet there is one argument that could make Trident and its submarines dead in the water that Labour and CND are not using.  Nor is it mentioned by the media.  It is certainly not brought up by the government, except when voicing objections in the UN General Assembly.

An unprecedented series of intergovernmental and civil society conferences has laid the foundation for a political process that could finally ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.  It would become illegal not just to use them, but to possess, make, store, transfer, sell or, indeed, to have anything at all to do with or connected to nuclear weapons.  All of them.

Following the Oslo Process which successfully brought about the Conventions banning landmines and cluster munitions, and basing their deliberations on the dire humanitarian consequences of even one missile being used, Norway hosted the First Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons (HINW) in March 2013 in Oslo. A follow-up second conference was held in Mexico in February 2014. An all-important third conference was held in Vienna in December 2014, out of which came the Humanitarian Pledge.

It demonstrates the commitment of much of the world towards ending the threat of nuclear weapons that three international conferences should be held in the space of 21 months.

In May 2015, the latest RevCon (Review Conference on nuclear non-proliferation) took place. It was a failure.  At the same conference nations were signing up to the Humanitarian Pledge, despite cries of horror and backroom bullying by nuclear states.

Bear in mind that there are 196 countries in the world.  By the start of the 2015 RevCon 159 non-nuclear states had signed up to the Pledge and the endorsing states numbered 76 (read the full story here).  No wonder the Permanent 5 members of the Security Council were getting worried!

To clarify: those states that have signed the Pledge support its aims. Those states that have endorsed the Pledge will be committed to ratifying any resulting Treaty. 121 nations have now formally endorsed the Pledge.

Last December the UN General Assembly voted to set up a new UN ‘working group’ which will start the process of writing a treaty making all nuclear weapons illegal.  In November, prior to that vote, the P5 (US, UK, France, Russia and China) issued a statement on why they opposed such a move: setting up a ban on nuclear weapons ‘would undermine the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) regime’.

They would have ‘preferred a working group bound by strict consensus rules’.  Well, of course, they would.  It would have allowed them to block any progress.  Try as they might, they are finding it near impossible to stop this flood of nations moving to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

On January 28 ICAN made this announcement:

“Today in Geneva, the ‘Open Ended Working Group’ is meeting to develop “legal measures, legal provisions and norms” for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world. This new UN body has the backing of 138 nations.

“Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN, says: ‘It is time to begin the serious practical work of developing the elements for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The overwhelming majority of nations support this course of action.’

ICAN UK adds: It’s important that this international perspective informs the UK debate on Trident renewal, so please help to share this information.

Civil society representatives, including people from ICAN, will be assisting the working group. But has Labour thought of sending anyone along?  And why aren’t Jeremy Corbyn and his team flagging this up as a major argument against replacing Trident?  After all, why replace something that in a year or three could be completely and utterly illegal?

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

A Nuclear Story

By Karl Grossman | CounterPunch | February 1, 2016

The class action lawsuit—begun 20 years old—that charges Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) with contaminating neighborhoods adjacent to it will be moving ahead again in New York State Supreme Court this month.

Court action is scheduled for the last week in February. Since it was first brought in 1996, the lawsuit has gone back and forth between the State Supreme Court and the Appellate Division several times, as BNL has fought it.

In July the Appellate Division—the judicial panel over the Supreme Court in New York State —ruled the case can move towards trial. It declared that “the causes of action of the proposed intervenors are all based upon common theories of liability.” In other words, it stated that the plaintiffs could sue for damages.

But, outrageously, the radioactive contamination caused by BNL—documented in the 2008 book “Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town” and focused upon by the award-winning 2012 documentary “The Atomic States of America”—can no longer be part of the case.

The argument of lawyers for BNL lawyers was accepted by the Appellate Division which, as it put it in its July decision, ruled that “the nuclear radiation emitted by BNL did not exceed guidelines promulgated by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

Further, the BNL radioactive pollution will not be allowed to be considered despite the federal government in recent years paying out millions of dollars to BNL employees in compensation for their getting cancer after exposure to radioactivity at BNL. In addition, families of those BNL workers who died from cancer after exposure to radioactivity have been paid.

The pay-outs to former workers and their families for cancer from BNL radioactive exposure—what neighbors of the lab are now being barred from litigating about—come under the federal government’s “Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.”

Instead, the non-employee victims are now being limited in the class action lawsuit to suing for other BNL pollution, largely chemical.

The “Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program” covers not only BNL but the string of U.S. national nuclear laboratories including Los Alamos, Livermore, Oak Ridge labs, as well as federal nuclear facilities including its Savannah River Plant and Hanford.

According to a Power Point presentation given at BNL in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Labor, some $8.2 billion has been set aside under the program for pay-outs, with $111.7 million of that for exposure to radioactivity and consequent cancer at BNL

Joseph B. Frowiss, Sr., based in Rancho Santa Fe, California has been handling many of the cases involving former workers at BNL—and other government nuclear facilities—and their families. As he says on his website—“in the past seven years 1,800 of my clients have received over $300 million and hundreds more are in the pipeline…A diagnosis of one of 23 ‘specified’ cancers and typically 250 work days in a specified timeframe are the basic requirements.”

An “independent claims advocate,” Mr. Frowiss has run full-page advertisements in Long Island newspapers: “Brookhaven National Lab Employees With Cancer,” they are headed. They note that “BNL employees… are likely now eligible for lump sum tax free base awards of $150,000, possibly to $400,000, plus medical benefits.”

The case against BNL by non-employees who are now not being allowed the compensation of BNL employees and their families for exposure from BNL radioactivity originally specified damages caused by BNL radioactivity.

The suit is titled Ozarczuk v. Associated Universities, Inc.

Associated Universities is the entity that managed BNL, at first for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) which set BNL up in 1947 at Camp Upton, a former Army base on Long Island, to do atomic research and develop civilian uses of nuclear technology.

The AEC was eliminated in 1974 by Congress for having a conflict of interest with its mission of both regulating and at the same time promoting nuclear technology in the United States. Its regulatory function was given to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and promotional activities to a Department of Energy which took over operating BNL and the other federal nuclear labs and the other nuclear facilities.

The defendants in the action—Associated Universities—managed BNL from its start until 1998 when it was fired by the DOE because of widespread contamination at BNL and DOE’s determination that it was a bad overseer of BNL operations. The two nuclear reactors at BNL were found to have, for many years, been leaking radioactive tritium into the underground water table on which Long Island depends for its potable water supply.

Associated Universities—which continues with other activities for the federal government—includes Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell and Johns Hopkins Universities, University of Pennsylvania and University of Rochester and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. DOE replaced Associated Universities in running BNL with a partnership of Stony Brook University on Long Island and Battelle Memorial Institute of Ohio.

The lawsuit is named for Barbara Osarczuk who lived just outside the BNL boundary in North Shirley and developed breast and thyroid cancer that she attributes to BNL pollution.

The lawsuit charges that “actions of the defendant were grossly, recklessly and wantonly negligent and done with an utter disregard for the health, safety, well-being and rights of the plaintiffs.” It further accuses BNL of “failure to observe accepted industry standards in the use, storage and disposal of hazardous and toxic substances” and BNL itself of being “improperly located on top of an underground aquifer which supplies drinking water to [a] large number of persons.”
Initially brought by 21 families, the lawsuit now has 180 families as plaintiffs.

The attorneys representing them are led by two prominent lawyers, A. Craig Purcell of Stony Brook, Long Island, a former president of the Suffolk County Bar Association, and Richard J. Lippes of Buffalo who represented Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal Homeowners Association in landmark litigation. That lawsuit took on the massive contamination in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls caused by the Hooker Chemical Company which resulted in widespread health impacts to residents of the area. It led in 1980 to the creation of the federal Superfund program to try clean up high-pollution sites in the United States.

Mr. Purcell said that after the many years of back-and-forth court rulings, the plaintiffs have the judicial go-ahead to sue for “loss of enjoyment of life, diminution of property values and the cost of hooking up to public water.”

Mr. Lippes said that “the lab was supposed to monitor anything escaping from it—and didn’t do it.” The attitude of BNL, he said, was that “every dollar spent for safety or on environmental issues was taking away from research.” The lawsuit “should have been resolved years ago, but there has been intransigence of lab administrators not wanting to be held responsible.”

BNL was designated a high-pollution Superfund site in 1989. The large amounts of radioactive tritium—H30 or radioactive water—were found to have been leaking from BNL’s High Flux Beam Reactor in 1997. That nuclear reactor was closed by the DOE and then a smaller reactor was found to be leaking tritium too and was shut down.
There are now no operating nuclear reactors at BNL.

Still, BNL remains closely connected to nuclear technology. In 2010, BNL set up a new Department of Nuclear Science and Technology with a multi-million dollar yearly budget.

BNL’s announcement at the time quoted Gerald Stokes, its associate director for Global and Regional Solutions, as saying: “BNL’s long involvement and considerable experience in nuclear energy make it a natural place to create such an organization.” On BNL’s website currently is a page headed, “Exploring Nuclear Technologies for Our Energy Future” which discusses the department.

Long Island environmental educator and activist Peter Maniscalco says: “The Brookhaven scientific culture still doesn’t understand the interrelationship between humans and the natural world and the lethal consequences their work in nuclear technology imposes on the population and environment of the world. They still don’t understand that nuclear power is a polluting, deadly technology.”

The book “Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town” by Kelly McMasters links widespread cancer in neighboring Shirley to radioactive releases from BNL. She taught in the Columbia University writing program and Graduate School of Journalism and is an assistant professor and director of publishing studies at Hofstra University on Long Island.

Her book tells of how the government sought a nuclear facility “built far from any heavily populated areas.” She writes that the AEC “and the scientists themselves could have taken a look around and realized the…homes and neighborhoods sprouting up around their compound were too close to chance the radioactive nature of the work they were conducting…But none of this happened.”

The book was short-listed by Oprah Winfrey. Her magazine, O, said of it: “A loving, affecting memoir of an American Eden turned toxic.”

“The Atomic States of America,” based on the book, received among its honors a special showing at the Sundance Film Festival. It got good reviews.

The review in Variety noted that Shirley “was in unhappy proximity” to BNL “around which skyrocketing cancer rates were written off as coincidence or an aberrant gene pool.” It noted the appearance in “The Atomic States of America” of Alec Baldwin, “a lifelong Long Islander,” who in the documentary calls BNL scientists “liars and worse.” The review said that “in following McMasters’ work, the film builds a convincing case about cancer and nukes,”

In the first book I wrote about nuclear technology, “Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power,” published in 1980, I reprinted pages from BNL’s safety manual as an example of dangers of radioactivity not being taken seriously at BNL.

The manual advised that people “can live with radiation.”

“Is Radiation Dangerous To You?” it starts. It tells BNL employees: “It can be; but need not be.” It states: “If you wear protective clothing, wash with soap and check your hands and feet with instruments, you are perfectly safe.”

Attorney Purcell said that a “conference date” for Ozarczuk v. Associated Universities, Inc. is scheduled for February 22 in New York State Supreme Court in Riverhead, Long Island and a “court date” for February 25.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , | Leave a comment

Son of Argentine Indigenous Leader Charged for ‘Threats’

Activist Sergio Chorolque was hit with charges just days after his mother was ordered to remain behind bars

Human rights advocates that support Chorolque have alleged the charges are motivated by him and his mother

Human rights advocates that support Chorolque have alleged the charges are motivated by him and his mother’s activism. | Photo: Diario Veloz
teleSUR – January 31, 2016

The son of a prominent Argentine indigenous activist was charged Saturday on allegations his advocates say are politically motivated.

Sergio Chorolque is accused of issuing death threats to a municipal worker, and could face up to two years imprisonment.

Human rights advocates that support Chorolque have alleged the charges are motivated by his and his mother’s activism.

Chorolque’s mother Milagro Sala has already been described by some human rights activists as the first political prisoner of the new government of President Mauricio Macri.

The well-known indigenous leader, founder of the 70,000 member Tupac Amaru organization, was arrested on January 16 in the Jujuy on charges of inciting violence after protesting in a month-long sit in against Governor Gerardo Morales, who ordered her arrest.

A judge cleared Sala of those charges on Friday, but before she walked out of jail she was handed down a new set of accusations and ordered to stay behind bars while investigations into charges of “illicit association, fraud, and extortion” are launched at the request of the Jujuy government, local media reported.

As authorities peg various charges on the popular social leader, now one of Sala’s children has been charged with leveling death threats against a labor activist.

According to the conservative Argentine newspaper La Nacion, Morales has had a tense and “estranged” relationship with Sala for years. Morales has also had an antagonistic relationship with the social organizations and collectives with which Sala is aligned. Before her arrest, Sala was protesting in support of various organizations at risk of losing their legal status and social benefits after Morales threatened to suspend them via decree.

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

George Soros, Haim Saban give $12 million to Clinton campaign

Hillary Clinton has written a letter to Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban (left), pledging to speak out publicly against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at Israel.

Hillary Clinton has written a letter to Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban (left), pledging to speak out publicly against the BDS campaign aimed at Israel
Press TV – February 1, 2016

American billionaire George Soros donated $6 million to a super-PAC financing US Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton last month, a report says.

Soros has now provided a total of $7 million in this election cycle to Priorities USA Action, a super-PAC which raised $41 million on behalf of Clinton in 2015, according to the committee’s statement issued on Sunday.

The super-PAC raised $25.3 million during the last 6 months, and Soros’s contribution accounted for almost a quarter of its funding haul.

Haim Saban, an Israeli-American media tycoon, and his wife Cheryl have contributed a total of $5 million to Clinton’s super-PAC.

Clinton has written a letter to Saban, pledging to speak out publicly against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at Israel.

Wealthy individuals, who are restricted by law from giving large amounts directly to candidates’ campaigns, donate to political action committees, commonly known as super-PACs.

American billionaire George Soros has contributed a total of $7 million to Hillary Clinton’s campaign so far

In the 2010 Citizens United case ruling, the US Supreme Court allowed unlimited independent spending by corporations in elections.

According to a study published by the New York Times, wealthy individuals and corporations have begun to replace powerless people as direct beneficiaries of the US political system and the Constitution.

Clinton is maintaining a slim lead over Senator Bernie Sanders in Iowa, according to a poll released on Saturday.

Clinton beat out rival Sanders in the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll. She has 45 percent support, with Sanders at 42 percent.

On Saturday, The New York Times endorsed Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination, a potential boost for the candidate two days before the Iowa caucuses.

Times editors wrote that they chose Clinton over her main rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, due to her experience and policy ideas.

The editorial board described Clinton as “one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.”

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

Sepur Zarco Trial: Guatemala Women Seek Justice for Sex Slavery

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teleSUR – January 30, 2016

Fifteen Mayan women who were raped and forced to be sex slaves after their husbands were disappeared are demanding justice 30 years after the abuses.

Guatemala is about to launch a landmark trial against former military officers accused of committing sexual enslavement and forced disappearance during the most brutal years of the country’s 36-year civil war.

Here’s what you need to know about the historic trial that is scheduled to kick off Monday, Feb. 1.

1. Fifteen women were sexual and domestic slaves.

Guatemalan soldiers forcibly disappeared 15 men from an eastern Maya Q’eqchi’ village in 1982. It was one of the bloodiest years of Guatemala’s civil war, when dictator Efrain Rios Montt’s military regime was unleashing a scorched earth campaign targeting rural Mayans. After the army disappeared the men, they came back for their wives.

The women were raped and their belongings destroyed. They were taken captive and forced to live at the Sepur Zarco military base, where they were enslaved as domestic servants for the soldiers and systematically raped. The women were forced to labor in 12 hour “shifts,” an abhorrent system that lasted several months.

Though the enslaved shifts ended at the end of 1983, 11 of the 15 women were forced under military threat to stay at Sepur Zarco doing domestic chores for the soldiers for six years until the base closed in 1988. The other four women managed to flee to the mountains with their children where they endured painful hardship for years, including suffering the deaths of most of their children.

All of the women, now in their 70s and 80s, bear enormous physical and emotional trauma from the experience. They also faced stigma in their communities for the violence they endured, and did not share what had happened to them for 30 years, finally coming forward in 2011 to seek justice.

The trial accuses two defendants, former Sepur Zarco chief Esteelmer Reyes Giron and former regional military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij, of committing crimes against humanity, including sexual violence and sexual slavery, domestic violence, murder, and forced disappearance. They have been held in remand since 2014 awaiting the trial.

2. The Sepur Zarco case is an internationally historic trial.

The trial of two former military officers for crimes against humanity marks the first time in history that sexual slavery charges are prosecuted at the national level, in the country where the crimes were committed.

The more internationally high-profile case of sexual slavery during armed conflict, the case of Japan’s “comfort women,” was rejected by a Japanese court. Former comfort women subjected to sexual slavery during World War II put Japan on trial in a mock war crimes tribunal in Tokyo in 2000, but the case never officially went to court in the country.

Guatemala’s Sepur Zarco trial could set a new precedent for prosecuting sexual violence in the context of armed conflict, which rights defenders say is one of the most widespread yet under-recognized violations of human rights.

3. It is also a historic trial for Guatemala.

The Sepur Zarco trial marks the first that that Guatemala will consider a sexual violence case as an international crime, which could set a precedent for future trials.

The crime of sexual slavery has been recognized internationally since the early 1900s, when the 1907 Hague Convention prohibited rape and the use of prisoners of war as slaves. The 1926 Slavery Convention elaborated anti-slavery laws with a definition that applies to sexual slavery. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which came into force in 2002, specifically criminalized sexual slavery.

A standing definition of sexual slavery was detailed in the 1998 U.N. Special Rapporteur’s final report on contemporary forms of slavery, “Systematic Rape, Sexual Slavery, and Slavery-Like Practices During Armed Conflict,” also known as the McDougall Report.

The report defined sexual slavery as “the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised, including sexual access through rape or other forms of sexual violence.” More simply put, the McDougall report explained: “Slavery, when combined with sexual violence, constitutes sexual slavery.”

The trial will consider the crimes committed as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Rape was widespread during the civil war. The Sepur Zarco case has the potential to be a precedent-setting trial to break the cycle of impunity for sexual violence in Guatemala.

4. Rape was a concerted strategy in the civil war.

In 1999, three years after the peace accords were signed in Guatemala, the U.N.-backed Truth Commission investigating civil war atrocities found that rape was systematic and widespread during the conflict. According to the commission, “the rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice aimed at destroying one of the most intimate and vulnerable aspects of the individual’s dignity.”

The Truth Commission also found that violence against women, include rape, torture, and murder, was often motivated by their political affiliations, social participation, and ideals, and often combined with other human rights abuses. The report attributed 93 percent of all recorded human rights violations to the state, 85 percent for which the army was responsible.

Despite the countless cases of sexual violence during the civil war, the Sepur Zarco case is the only one that has gone to trial in the country where impunity for war crimes has long remained the norm.

According to the Guatemalan organization Women Transforming the World, sexual violence continues to be inflicted on women by state security forces in conjunction with other human rights violations, such as forced displacement.

5. The victims in Sepur Zarco were targeted for defending their land.

Maya Q’eqchi’ communities in Guatemala have long suffered deep inequality, poverty, and precarious access to land. Before they were disappeared in 1982, the 15 husbands of the victims in the Sepur Zarco case were fighting for legal titles to defend the land they had lived and worked on for years. Because they were standing up for their land rights, they were despised by local large landowners, labeled as leftist insurgents, and made into targets to be silenced.

Land conflicts and unequal ownership are central to the history of Guatemala’s civil war. In 1954, a CIA-backed coup ousted the democratically elected president and reversed the fledgling agrarian reform program that aimed to expropriate idle lands from elite landowners and redistribute land to campesinos. The coup not only triggered more than three decades of civil war, but also helped to lock in one of the most unequal land distribution patterns in Latin America.

Rios Montt’s U.S.-backed bloodshed was nominally a campaign to crush leftist guerrilla uprisings in Guatemala, but in practice many poor Mayan campesinos were targeted as “insurgents” as the military protected the interests of elite landowners.

Photo credit – Reuters

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

UN says Turkey should investigate reports of rescuers being shot

Press TV – February 1, 2016

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Ankara to investigate reports that a number of unarmed people trying to attend to the injured victims of clashes in Turkey’s southeast in late January were themselves shot at.

Ten people were injured when their group, which included two opposition politicians, came under fire while trying to help people injured in earlier clashes in the southeastern town of Cizre in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast on January 20.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein described as “extremely shocking” footage filmed of the incident, which purportedly shows what appear to be a man and woman holding white flags and pushing a cart – possibly carrying bodies – across a street before being shot.

“As they reach the other side, they are apparently cut down in a hail of gunfire,” Zeid said in a statement.

He also expressed concern that the cameraman, who was injured in the shooting, may face arrest under a “clampdown on media.”

Turkey has been engaged in a large-scale campaign against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party in its southern border region in the past few months. The Turkish military has also been conducting offensives against the positions of the group in northern Iraq.

The operations began in the wake of a deadly July bombing in the southern Turkish town of Suruc. More than 30 people died in the attack, which the Turkish government blamed on Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

After the bombing, the PKK militants, who accused the government in Ankara of supporting Daesh, engaged in a series of supposed reprisal attacks against Turkish police and security forces, in turn prompting the Turkish military operations.

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

The Contrived Iran Threat

Another phony excuse for endless war

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • March 1, 2016

The Israeli Minister of Defense is now telling anyone who is willing to listen that the Iranian government is building an “international terror network that includes sleeper cells that are stockpiling arms, intelligence and operatives to be ready to strike on command in places including Europe and the U.S.” Moshe Yaalon elaborated that Iran intends to destabilize the entire Middle East as well as other parts of the world and is “training, funding and arming ‘emissaries’ to spread a revolution,” all emanating from a “dangerous axis” that includes Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa.

These preposterous claims come on top of spurious assertions that Iran was building a nuclear weapon, repeated assiduously by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others in his various administrations over the course of twenty years. As it turns out, Iran was not building a nuke and much of the information used to bolster the argument being made turned out to be fabricated by the Israelis themselves, which says something for their credibility.

Israel and its boosters in Washington also continue to argue that Iran has a secret nuclear program squirreled away somewhere, that it will use its windfall of nuclear agreement cash not only to support terrorism but also to speed up weapon development while also destabilizing the entire Middle East. And if those alarming arguments don’t convince the public, Israel’s government and its friends in the media continue to insist that even if Iran is behaving today its deal with the west will surely guarantee a much feared weapon of mass destruction down the road. Iran is the enemy of choice yesterday, today and tomorrow and it will always be the enemy of choice no matter what it does or does not do.

It is consequently a good thing that no one takes the Israelis seriously apart from the American media and the U.S. Congress, both of which have enabled the stitching together of a tissue of lies regarding Iranian intentions. But unfortunately the constant demonization of Iran is not confined to a pathological prime minister supported by a cadre of industrious internet savvy geeks hidden in a building somewhere in Tel Aviv who are able to garner the support of certain American constituencies. There are others who express concerns about Iran’s alleged hegemonistic tendencies, most notably America’s so-called allies Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. The Saudis take a position that is not so far from that of Israel regarding Iranian intentions, lending some credibility to the notion that on this issue at least the two countries are working together. They believe that Iran is seeking regional dominance and is the driving force behind nearly all of the violence that has wracked the Middle East for the past ten years, most definitely including Syria, where the Saudis see themselves fighting a proxy war by arming an insurgency that undeniably includes terrorist components.

How this Persian dominance would manifest itself remains somewhat of a mystery, as Iran is at best a second world economy currently being battered by low oil prices, possessing a tiny military budget by the standards of several of its regional adversaries. Much of its actual spending goes on up-to-date Russian made defense systems in the sure knowledge that it will sooner or later be attacked by someone.

Iran’s neighbors have significant air superiority relative to what Tehran can muster while the Iranian army is incapable of any sustained operations outside its borders. And getting the troops on target could be a bit of a problem as the U.S. Navy patrols, and controls, the Persian Gulf. So the argument regarding Iran’s aggressiveness in a conventional military sense has instead in some circles been redirected to make it fit into what is perceived as an ongoing war of aggression using surrogates, to include the Houthis in Yemen, support of the Bashar al-Assad government and Hezbollah “volunteers” in Syria. There is considerable chatter about how Persian Iran seeks to control an Arab “land bridge” extending across Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, though there is little serious speculation regarding why Tehran would want to waste its limited resources by extending itself in that fashion other than to limit its political isolation.

Indeed, the conflicts that are being attributed to Iran, including the civil war in Yemen and the ongoing crisis in Syria and Iraq can on one hand be seen as meddling but can even more plausibly be described as defensive, as Iran has for nearly forty years been on the receiving end of explicit threats from nearly all of its immediate nominally Sunni neighbors as well as from the United States and Israel.

Iranian influence vis-à-vis its neighbors does not equate to Iranian control. One might cite the status quo in Iraq, where fears of an Iranian dominance have been floated ever since the United States invaded the country in 2003 and subsequently failed at “democracy building.” Today’s Iraq surely has a respectful relationship with fellow majority Shia neighbor Iran but it is far from a rubber stamp for Iranian policies.

And another flaw in the Iran as local bully argument is the fact that while Tehran surely is engaged in intelligence operations directed against its perceived enemies and in supporting friends in Syria it has never used its military to directly attack anyone. Its aggressions pale in order of magnitude if one considers what both the United States and Israel have been up to, or even near neighbor Saudi Arabia. Iran was, in fact, on the receiving end of a military onslaught from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq supported by the United States between 1980 and 1988 in which Baghdad used chemical weapons on the Iranian soldiers. More than half a million Iranians died in that conflict.

So no one in the Middle East or even in Washington seriously believes that an invasion by the Iranians is about to take place or that Tehran constitutes some kind of serious threat. Even generally fear mongering Israel’s generals in their more lucid moments have admitted that Iran is not much of a threat. So the real Iranian threat, if there is one, is to be found somewhere else.

Israel surely needs Iran because it requires a powerful enemy to justify massive aid from Washington and Washington needs it to justify bloated defense budgets based on fear of the Iranian “other.” But the “threat” issue for the Arab states is quite different. I would suggest that it is demographic based on ethno-religious differences and that is actually what the Saudis and their close allies in the Emirates fear. Sunni rulers do not exactly trust the Shi’ite minorities in their countries and to a greater or lesser extent treat them badly, believing them to be both heretical and potentially disloyal. This is particularly true of Saudi Arabia, which has a population that is one sixth Shia concentrated in the eastern part of the country, which is also the oil producing region. The situation is worse for Kuwait, which is one third Shia, and Bahrain which is two-thirds. Yemen is nearly half, and it is the predominantly Shia Houthi tribesmen who are currently being attacked by the Saudis. Iraq is two thirds Shi’ite, but as it has a Shia dominated government it has an amicable relationship with Iran. In Syria the ruling Alawites are considered by the Sunni to be a form of Shi’ism and the Hezbollah of Lebanon are also predominantly Shia, with Shi’ites comprising nearly half of the country’s population.

Even though Shi’ites are far outnumbered by Sunni Muslims overall in the Middle East they are nevertheless strategically situated in certain countries and are present in sufficient numbers to be perceived as a problem by their Sunni autocrat rulers. So the Iranian threat is essentially bogus, but the schism between Sunni and Shi’ite in the Muslim world is not. It is a quarrel that goes back centuries and it behooves the United States to avoid getting suckered into a false narrative by opportunistic friends like and Saudis and Israelis seeking to depict a malignant and expansionistic Iran out to destabilize the entire Middle East. Iran may be many things depending on one’s perspective, but it is not a global or even much of a regional threat.

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments