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Top US generals lined their pockets off Afghanistan war

Press TV – September 4, 2021

The top generals who commanded American forces in Afghanistan have amassed fortunes from their postings there despite their disastrous conduct in the occupied country.

Eight American generals leading foreign forces in Afghanistan, including United States Army General Stanley McChrystal, who sought and supervised the 2009 American troop surge, went on to serve on more than 20 corporate boards, according to US media.

In an article titled, “Corporate boards, consulting, speaking fees: How US generals thrived after Afghanistan,” published by Stars and Stripes, the publication reveals how top generals amassed clout despite the failure of the American offensive in Afghanistan.

A review of company disclosures and other releases conducted by the specialized medium showed that the top Americans generals who led the mission in Afghanistan had thrived in the private sector after leaving the war zone.

They have amassed influence within businesses, at universities and in think tanks, in some cases selling their experience in a conflict that left millions of people dead and displaced, and costing the United States more than $2 trillion and concluded with the restoration of Taliban rule, the report said.

Meanwhile, the debate remains hot in the United States over what was the mission and who benefited from the 20-year war against the impoverished country.

A compilation of data from lobbying disclosures archived at Open Secrets, a US-based research group tracking money in US politics, showed that Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing and Northrop Grumman were the top 5 military contractors who received $2 trillion dollars in public funds from 2001 and 2021.

Retired Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who commanded American forces in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, joined the board of Lockheed Martin last year. Retired Gen. John R. Allen, who preceded him in Afghanistan, is president of the Brookings Institution, which has received as much as $1.5 million over the last three years from Northrop Grumman.

September 4, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Forever war’ returns: Biden’s Pentagon team puts the military-industrial complex back in command

RT | November 14, 2020

Despite campaign-trail overtures to progressives, a Joe Biden presidency seems to spell a return to normalcy in the most time-honored American way: by placing the military-industrial complex in charge of the country’s defense.

Joe Biden’s campaign message focused almost entirely on Donald Trump, and on Biden’s supposed ability to “unify” a polarized electorate and “restore the soul of America.” Since he claimed victory last week, Biden’s prospective administration has begun to take shape, and the reality behind the rhetoric has started to emerge.

On matters of defense, restoring America’s “soul” apparently means placing weapons manufacturers back in charge of the Pentagon.

Biden announced his Department of Defense landing team on Tuesday. Of these 23 policy experts, one third have taken funding from arms manufacturers, according to a report published this week by Antiwar.com.

A knot of hawks

Leading the team is Kathleen Hicks, an undersecretary of defense in the Obama administration, and an employee of the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies (CSIS), a think tank funded by a host of NATO governments, oil firms, and weapons makers Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Atomics. The latter firm produces the Predator drones used by the Obama administration to kill hundreds of civilians in at least four Middle-Eastern countries.

Hicks was a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw a number of US troops from Germany, claiming in August that such a move “benefits our adversaries.”

Two other members of Biden’s Pentagon team, Andrew Hunter and Melissa Dalton, work for CSIS and served under Obama in the Defense Department.

Also on the team are Susanna Blume and Ely Ratner, who work for the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Another hawkish think-tank, CNAS is funded by Google, Facebook, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Three more team members – Stacie Pettyjohn, Christine Wormuth and Terri Tanielian – were most recently employed by the RAND corporation, which draws funding from the US military, NATO, several Gulf states, and hundreds of state and corporate sources.

Michele Flournoy is widely tipped to lead the Pentagon under Biden. Flournoy would be the first woman in history to head the Defense Department, but her appointment would only be revolutionary on the surface. Flournoy is the co-founder of CNAS, and served in the Pentagon under Obama and Bill Clinton. As under secretary of defense for policy under Obama, Flournoy helped craft the 2010 troop surge in Afghanistan, a deployment of 100,000 US troops that led to a doubling in American deaths and made little measurable progress toward ending the war.

‘Forever war’ returns

President Trump, who campaigned on stopping the US’ “forever wars” in the Middle East and remains the first US president in 40 years not to start a new conflict, has nevertheless also staffed the Pentagon with hawkish officials. Recently ousted Defense Secretary Mark Esper was a top lobbyist for Raytheon, while his predecessor, Patrick Shanahan, worked for Boeing. Trump’s appointment this week of National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller as acting secretary of defense, coupled with combat veteran Col. Douglas MacGregor as senior adviser, looked set to buck that trend, given MacGregor’s vocal opposition to America’s Middle Eastern wars.

Yet Miller and MacGregor may not be in office for long, if Trump’s legal challenges against Biden’s apparent victory fail. Should that happen, Biden’s progressive voters may be in for a rude reawakening when the former vice president returns to the White House.

Many of these progressives were supporters of Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries, while others likely held their nose and voted for Biden out of opposition to Trump. Reps. Barbara Lee (California) and Mark Pocan (Wisconsin), two notable progressives, wrote to Biden on Tuesday asking him not to nominate a defense secretary linked to the weapons industry.

Lee and Pocan cited President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address, in which he warned of the “disastrous rise” of the “military-industrial complex.”

Given Biden’s fondness for Flournoy, whom he tapped in 2016 to head the Pentagon under a potential Hillary Clinton administration, the former vice president appears unconcerned about curtailing the influence of the armaments industry.

The industry apparently roots for Joe, too. As Donald Trump surged ahead of Biden on election night, stocks in Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and the Carlyle Group all plummeted. Only when counting in swing states stopped and resumed, giving Biden the advantage, did they climb again.

It’s probably fine that all the big arms contractor stocks plummeted when it looked like Trump won but then skyrocketed once it became clear Biden would be the one to take office. pic.twitter.com/CKEZNS53Gx

— Hillary Fan (@HillaryFan420) November 7, 2020

Should a Biden administration make good on running mate Kamala Harris’ post-election promise to return to regime-change operations in Syria, these firms and their supporters in the Pentagon stand to make a killing.

However, anti-war leftists, progressives, and Bernie Sanders supporters may soon realize that voting for a Democrat who supported the Iraq War, instead of a Republican who called it “the worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country,” might just benefit the military-industrial complex more than the “soul of America.”

November 14, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

China’s new sanctions against American defence companies have the potential to cause major damage to the US military

By Tom Fowdy | RT | October 26, 2020

Beijing has fired a warning to the US over its arms sales to Taiwan with a new round of sanctions. The move is symbolic for now, but if China wants to get tough it really could hammer the supply chains of the impacted companies.

On Monday afternoon, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Beijing would be placing sanctions on a number of US firms and linked individuals over arms sales to Taiwan, with Washington having approved a record sale worth around $5 billion to the island the previous week.

The listed companies included Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense and Raytheon, striking at the heart of what is often referred to as ‘America’s Military Industrial Complex’. However, what the specific measures mean, how they will be implemented and what their impact might be remains to be seen.

At first glance, these sanctions look symbolic; such military firms do not pursue business in China, and do not have market traction in America. One exception is Boeing’s civilian wing, which stated in an email it was still committed to the Chinese market.

On the other hand, this is not to say that such sanctions will not have strategic implications. First of all, China has an overwhelming dominance on the ‘rare earth’ materials required for US defence manufacturing, and should these sanctions really look to bite, they could have a major impact on the supply chain.

Secondly, even if the measures are only symbolic, it is nonetheless a warning shot from Beijing that it may retaliate further against US actions in the future.

What are ‘rare earths’? And why do they matter? The name refers to 17 elements which are used primarily in the manufacture of all kinds of items, including electronics, vehicles and of course military equipment.

Naturally, these resources form the bedrock of many supply chains around the world. China has a near total monopoly over this industry; a study found that the country “produced roughly 85 percent of the world’s rare earth oxides and approximately 90 percent of rare earth metals, alloys, and permanent magnets”. In 2018, up to 80 percent of America’s own rare earth imports came from China; Washington knows this and is scrambling for contingencies.

The strategic implications of this are quite clear; the US military relies deeply on materials imported from China to manufacture its equipment. If Beijing wanted, these sanctions could hammer the supply chains of the impacted firms.

However, whether Beijing will actually do that is a question of political will, given Washington would treat the move as a major escalation and retaliate harshly against Chinese firms such as Huawei. Such a move is clearly not a good idea, particularly in the run-up to an election, and would only be a last resort, perhaps in a war-like scenario. Given this, it may be more accurate to interpret the move as a ‘warning shot’ of what China may do – evidence that it is ready to get tougher on US firms.

A month ago, China released its own ‘entity list’ – an export blacklist which may prohibit exports or business with companies that are deemed a threat to national security, deliberately mirroring that used by the US Department of Commerce against Chinese companies. The aim is to leverage its own market against countries that discriminate against, or hurt the interests of, Chinese firms.

And this is where the blacklisting of Boeing Defense is significant. While the sanctions have carefully avoided the civilian branch of Boeing – which supplies commercial aircraft, and has huge business in China – it is nevertheless a clear red flag that the company isn’t untouchable. As Beijing seeks to develop its own commercial aircraft further, including the COMAC C919, it may become even more assertive.

Given all this, China’s sanctions against US defence firms are less a policy in practice as they are a pronouncement of things to come. While Beijing is not ready to take advantage of America’s dependency on rare earths yet, it is signalling clearly it is ready to take measures against US companies where it sees fit.

Taiwan, for one, is a huge red line for China’s government. As it illustrated with its military exercises, there has to be some demonstration of clear consequences for pushing against it, albeit without resorting to methods that could prove extremely destabilizing.

Beijing is developing a toolkit, and it wants us to know that it is ready to use it should it be absolutely necessary. These showcase sanctions have potential in multiple ways to have real teeth, and that’s what we need to be looking at.

Tom Fowdy is a British writer and analyst of politics and international relations with a primary focus on East Asia.

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Criminal Prosecution of Boeing Executives Should Begin

Mish Talk | September 18, 2020

Damning details of purposeful malfeasance by Boeing executives emerged in a Congressional investigation.

FAA, Boeing Blasted Over 737 MAX Failures

On Wednesday, the Transportation Committee Blasted FAA, Boeing Over 737 MAX Failures

The 238-page document, written by the majority staff of the House Transportation Committee, calls into question whether the plane maker or the Federal Aviation Administration has fully incorporated essential safety lessons, despite a global grounding of the MAX fleet since March 2019.

After an 18-month investigation, the report, released Wednesday, concludes that Boeing’s travails stemmed partly from a reluctance to admit mistakes and “point to a company culture that is in serious need of a safety reset.”

The report provides more specifics, in sometimes-blistering language, backing up preliminary findings the panel’s Democrats released six months ago, which laid out a pattern of mistakes and missed opportunities to correct them.

In one section, the Democrats’ report faults Boeing for what it calls “inconceivable and inexcusable” actions to withhold crucial information from airlines about one cockpit-warning system, related to but not part of MCAS, that didn’t operate as required on 80% of MAX jets. Other portions highlight instances when Boeing officials, acting in their capacity as designated FAA representatives, part of a widely used system of delegating oversight authority to company employees, failed to alert agency managers about various safety matters.

Boeing Purposely Hid Design Flaws

The Financial Times has an even more damning take in its report Boeing Hid Design Flaws in Max Jets from Pilots and Regulators.

Boeing concealed from regulators internal test data showing that if a pilot took longer than 10 seconds to recognise that the system had kicked in erroneously, the consequences would be “catastrophic”.

The report also detailed how an alert, which would have warned pilots of a potential problem with one of their anti-stall sensors, was not working on the vast majority of the Max fleet. It found that the company deliberately concealed this fact from both pilots and regulators as it continued to roll out the new aircraft around the world.

In Bed With the Regulators

Boeing’s defense is the FAA signed off on the reviews.

Lovely. Boeing coerced or bribed the FAA to sign off on the reviews now tries to hide behind the FAA.

 Only One Way to Stop This

There is only one way to stop executive criminals like those at Boeing.

Charge them with manslaughter, convict them, send them to prison for life, then take all of their stock and options and hand the money out for restitution.

September 20, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | 1 Comment

‘It’s their war, not ours’: Russian space agency boss says not upset by manned SpaceX launch, but BOEING should be

RT | June 10, 2020

The US finally getting a crewed spaceship in no way means the end of Russia’s space program, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said, insisting that the Soyuz still remains the most cost-efficient way to get people to the ISS.

After SpaceX’s Crew Dragon delivered two astronauts to the International Space Station – the first US spaceship to do so for nine years – at the end of May, US media not only praised Elon Musk’s company, but also piled scorn on the Russian space program.

It was “strange” when some in the US, including NASA officials, “started making wreaths for the ‘funeral’ of Russian Soyuz,” Rogozin wrote in an opinion piece for Forbes magazine, published on Monday. While the Russian space chief’s social media rivalry with Musk and his past quotes played a role in the reaction, he made a stand for the iconic Russian spacecraft that has ferried US astronauts to orbit for all those years since the Space Shuttle program shut down.

Rogozin rejected the claim that the manned launches by SpaceX – which said it would charge anything from $55 million per seat for transporting the astronauts – would be so cheap that Russia would start reserving Crew Dragon seats for its cosmonauts.

The US officials who repeated that claim “just got bedeviled in a mass of figures,” he said. While Russia did charge the US $90 million a seat for Soyuz launches, Rogozin maintains that the Russian-crewed rocket launches still remain more cost-efficient than those of SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

While SpaceX has made the partial reusability of the Falcon a key marketing point, both Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner – which is only expected to carry out its first mission next year – are launched to orbit by heavy rockets, while Soyuz requires a cheaper, medium-class booster, he said.

“Therefore, our space launches cost much less than the American ones,” making Soyuz “unparalleled” when it comes to delivering people to the ISS, Rogozin wrote.

He even compared the spaceship to the AK-47 rifle, saying that both Soviet designs were not only extremely reliable, but also continuously improved all the time. Soyuz is such a workhorse that it will continue to fly even after Russia’s next-generation ‘Orel’ (Eagle) spaceship is introduced.

It’s not our mood that Elon Musk spoiled on May 30, but that of his countrymen from Boeing, by starting flight tests ahead of them. It’s their war, not ours. Our space transport system has been operational for a long time and without interruptions.

He did point out that SpaceX could hardly argue to be the “first private company” to launch humans into space, given that NASA had subsidized both SpaceX and Boeing to the tune of $8 billion to develop rival spaceships. Musk’s company was the first to complete testing and perform its launch.

Roscosmos decided to maintain cooperation with NASA even in the face of sanctions introduced by Washington against Moscow – including Rogozin personally – and continued delivering Americans to the ISS for years at the expense of Russia’s own crews, Rogozin reminded.

It’s only because of Russia that NASA “didn’t have to use a trampoline” to launch astronauts to space, Rogozin wrote, referencing his notorious joke from six years ago.

June 10, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Beware the Pentagon’s Pandemic Profiteers

Hasn’t the Military-Industrial Complex Taken Enough of Our Money?

By Mandy Smithberger | TomDispatch | May 3, 2020

At this moment of unprecedented crisis, you might think that those not overcome by the economic and mortal consequences of the coronavirus would be asking, “What can we do to help?” A few companies have indeed pivoted to making masks and ventilators for an overwhelmed medical establishment. Unfortunately, when it comes to the top officials of the Pentagon and the CEOs running a large part of the arms industry, examples abound of them asking what they can do to help themselves.

It’s important to grasp just how staggeringly well the defense industry has done in these last nearly 19 years since 9/11. Its companies (filled with ex-military and defense officials) have received trillions of dollars in government contracts, which they’ve largely used to feather their own nests. Data compiled by the New York Times showed that the chief executive officers of the top five military-industrial contractors received nearly $90 million in compensation in 2017. An investigation that same year by the Providence Journal discovered that, from 2005 to the first half of 2017, the top five defense contractors spent more than $114 billion repurchasing their own company stocks and so boosting their value at the expense of new investment.

To put this in perspective in the midst of a pandemic, the co-directors of the Costs of War Project at Brown University recently pointed out that allocations for the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health for 2020 amounted to less than 1% of what the U.S. government has spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone since 9/11. While just about every imaginable government agency and industry has been impacted by the still-spreading coronavirus, the role of the defense industry and the military in responding to it has, in truth, been limited indeed. The highly publicized use of military hospital ships in New York City and Los Angeles, for example, not only had relatively little impact on the crises in those cities but came to serve as a symbol of just how dysfunctional the military response has truly been.

Bailing Out the Military-Industrial Complex in the Covid-19 Moment

Demands to use the Defense Production Act to direct firms to produce equipment needed to combat Covid-19 have sputtered, provoking strong resistance from industries worried first and foremost about their own profits. Even conservative Washington Post columnist Max Boot, a longtime supporter of increased Pentagon spending, has recently recanted, noting how just such budget priorities have weakened the ability of the United States to keep Americans safe from the virus. “It never made any sense, as Trump’s 2021 budget had initially proposed, to increase spending on nuclear weapons by $7 billion while cutting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding by $1.2 billion,” he wrote. “Or to create an unnecessary Space Force out of the U.S. Air Force while eliminating the vitally important directorate of global health by folding it into another office within the National Security Council.”

In fact, continuing to prioritize the U.S. military will only further weaken the country’s public health system. As a start, simply to call up doctors and nurses in the military reserves, as even Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has pointed out, would hurt the broader civilian response to the pandemic. After all, in their civilian lives many of them now work at domestic hospitals and medical centers deluged by Covid-19 patients.

The present situation, however, hasn’t stopped military-industrial complex requests for bailouts. The National Defense Industrial Association, a trade group for the arms industry, typically asked the Pentagon to speed up contracts and awards for $160 billion in unobligated Department of Defense funds to its companies, which will involve pushing money out the door without even the most modest level of due diligence.

Already under fire in the pre-pandemic moment for grotesque safety problems with its commercial jets, Boeing, the Pentagon’s second biggest contractor, received $26.3 billion last year. Now, that company has asked for $60 billion in government support. And you undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn that Congress has already provided Boeing with some of that desired money in its recent bailout legislation. According to the Washington Post, $17 billion was carved out in that deal for companies “critical to maintaining national security” (with Boeing in particular in mind). When, however, it became clear that those funds wouldn’t arrive as a complete blank check, the company started to have second thoughts. Now, some members of Congress are practically begging it to take the money.

And Boeing was far from alone. Even as the spreading coronavirus was spurring congressional conversations about what would become a $2 trillion relief package, 130 members of the House were already pleading for funds to purchase an additional 98 Lockheed Martin F-35 jet fighters, the most expensive weapons system in history, at the cost of another half-billion dollars, or the price of more than 90,000 ventilators.

Similarly, it should have been absurdly obvious that this wasn’t the moment to boost already astronomical spending on nuclear weapons. Yet this year’s defense budget request for such weaponry was 20% higher than last year’s and 50% above funding levels when President Trump took office. The agency that builds nuclear weapons already had $8 billion left unspent from past years and the head of the National Nuclear Security Agency, responsible for the development of nuclear warheads, admitted to Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) that the agency was unlikely even to be able to spend all of the new increase.

Boosters of such weapons, however, remain undeterred by the Covid-19 pandemic. If anything, the crisis only seems to have provided a further excuse to accelerate the awarding of an estimated $85 billion to Northrop Grumman to build a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), considered the “broken leg” of America’s nuclear triad. As William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, has pointed out, such ICBMs “are redundant because invulnerable submarine-launched ballistic missiles are sufficient for deterring other countries from attacking the United States. They are dangerous because they operate on hair-trigger alert, with launch decisions needing to be made in some cases within minutes. This increases the risk of an accidental nuclear war.”

And as children’s book author Dr. Seuss might have added, “But that is not all! Oh, no, that is not all.” In fact, defense giant Raytheon is also getting its piece of the pie in the Covid-19 moment for a $20-$30 billion Long Range Standoff Weapon, a similarly redundant nuclear-armed missile. It tells you everything you need to know about funding priorities now that the company is, in fact, getting that money two years ahead of schedule.

In the midst of the spreading pandemic, the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command similarly saw an opportunity to use fear-mongering about China, a country officially in its area of responsibility, to gain additional funding. And so it is seeking $20 billion that previously hadn’t gained approval even from the secretary of defense in the administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal. That money would go to dubious missile defense systems and a similarly dubious “Pacific Deterrence Initiative.”

How Not to Deal With Covid-19

Along with those military-industrial bailouts came the fleecing of American taxpayers. While many Americans were anxiously awaiting their $1,200 payments from that congressional aid and relief package, the Department of Defense was expediting contract payments to the arms industry. Shay Assad, a former senior Pentagon official, accurately called it a “taxpayer rip-off” that industries with so many resources, not to speak of the ability to borrow money at incredibly low interest rates, were being so richly and quickly rewarded in tough times. Giving defense giants such funding at this moment was like giving a housing contractor 90% of upfront costs for renovations when it was unclear whether you could even afford your next mortgage payment.

Right now, the defense industry is having similar success in persuading the Pentagon that basic accountability should be tossed out the window. Even in normal times, it’s a reasonably rare event for the federal government to withhold money from a giant weapons maker unless its performance is truly egregious. Boeing, however, continues to fit that bill perfectly with its endless program to build the KC-46 Pegasus tanker, basically a “flying gas station” meant to refuel other planes in mid-air.

As national security analyst Mark Thompson, my colleague at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), has pointed out, even after years of development, that tanker has little hope of performing its mission in the near future. The seven cameras that its pilot relies on to guide the KC-46’s fuel to other planes have so much glare and so many shadows that the possibility of disastrously scraping the stealth coating off F-22s and F-35s (both manufactured by Lockheed Martin) while refueling remains a constant danger. The Air Force has also become increasingly concerned that the tanker itself leaks fuel. In the pre-pandemic moment, such problems and associated ones led that service to decide to withhold $882 million from Boeing. Now, however, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, those funds are, believe it or not, being released.

Keep all of this behavior (and more) in mind when you hear people suggest that, in this public health emergency, the military should be put in charge. After all, you’re talking about the very institution that has regularly mismanaged massive weapons programs like the $1.4 trillion F-35 jet fighter program, already the most expensive weapons system ever (with ongoing problems galore). Even when it comes to health care, the military has proved remarkably inept. For instance, attempts of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to integrate their health records were, infamously enough, abandoned after four years and $1 billion spent.

Having someone in uniform at the podium is, unfortunately, no guarantee of success. Indeed, a number of veterans have been quick to rebuke the idea of forefronting the military at this time. “Don’t put the military in charge of anything that doesn’t involve blowing stuff up, preventing stuff from being blown up, or showing up at a place as a message to others that we’ll be there to blow stuff up with you if need be,” one wrote.

“Here’s a video from Camp Pendleton of unmasked Marines queued up for haircuts during the pandemic,” tweeted another. “So how about ‘no’?” That video of troops without masks or practicing social distancing even shocked Secretary of Defense Esper, who called for a military haircut halt, only to be contradicted by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, desperate to maintain regulation cuts in the pandemic moment. That inspired a mocking rebuke of “haircut heroes” on Twitter.

Unfortunately, as Covid-19 spread on the aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt, that ship became emblematic of how ill-prepared the current Pentagon leadership proved to be in combatting the virus. Despite at least 100 cases being reported on board — 955 crewmembers would, in the end, test positive for the disease and Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. would die of it — senior Navy leaders were slow to respond. Instead, they kept those sailors at close quarters and in an untenable situation of increasing risk. When an emailed letter expressing the concerns of the ship’s commander, Captain Brett Crozier, was leaked to the press he was quickly removed from command. But while his bosses may not have appreciated his efforts for his crew, his sailors did. He left the ship to a hero’s farewell.

All of this is not to say that some parts of the U.S. military haven’t tried to step up as Covid-19 spreads. The Pentagon has, for instance, awarded contracts to build “alternate care” facilities to help relieve pressure on hospitals. The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences is allowing its doctors and nurses to join the military early. Several months into this crisis, the Pentagon has finally used the Defense Production Act to launch a process to produce $133 million worth of crucial N95 respirator masks and $415 million worth of N95 critical-care decontamination units. But these are modest acts in the midst of a pandemic and at a moment when bailouts, fraud, and delays suggest that the military-industrial complex hasn’t proved capable of delivering effectively, even for its own troops.

Meanwhile, the Beltway bandits that make up that complex have spotted a remarkable opportunity to secure many of their hopes and dreams. Their success in putting their desires and their profits ahead of the true national security of Americans was already clear enough in the staggering pre-pandemic $1.2 trillion national security budget. (Meanwhile, of course, key federal medical structures were underfunded or disbanded in the Trump administration years, undermining the actual security of the country.) That kind of disproportionate spending helps explain why the richest nation on the planet has proven so incapable of providing even the necessary personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers, no less the testing needed to make this country safer.

The defense industry has asked for, and received, a lot in this time of soaring cases of disease and death. While there is undoubtedly a role for the giant weapons makers and for the Pentagon to play in this crisis, they have shown themselves to be anything but effective lead institutions in the response to this moment. It’s time for the military-industrial complex to truly pay back an American public that has been beyond generous to it.

Isn’t it finally time as well to reduce the “defense” budget and put more of our resources into the real national security crisis at hand?

Mandy Smithberger, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

Copyright 2020 Mandy Smithberger

May 5, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Laser Weapon Scams

By Carlton Meyer

Lasers are impractical weapons. This is obvious to anyone who spends an hour reading about the limitations of lasers. They are not useful weapons because of the massive electrical power required, because the atmosphere weakens and distorts the beam, because laser beams spread, and because lasers must maintain a precise spot on a moving target for several seconds to burn through. I wrote about this many years ago while contractors stole billions of dollars via the Airborne Laser program that was eventually cancelled. That concept relied on dangerous chemical lasers, but as recent technological innovations allow solid state lasers to grow in power, the laser weapon scammers returned to the Pentagon.

Proposals to place lasers on aircraft are ridiculous given the electrical power required and the simple fact that bouncing aircraft cannot keep a laser aimed on a spot, but profitable contracts have been awarded to Boeing anyway. Ship-based lasers are also bogus. Lasers are line-of-sight (direct fire) weapons and the earth is round. This means a laser cannot engage a low-flying incoming missile until it’s detected coming over the horizon roughly 10-20 miles out. It takes several seconds for radar to track a missile and aim the laser, so it will have perhaps a minute to shoot down the missile, and it requires several seconds of precise lasing to burn through its thin casing.

This is not possible more than a mile away because ship and missile are moving! They roll and bounce up and down. Computer software can predict ship movements and compensate, but not perfectly, and cannot predict the movements of the incoming missile. An incoming missile is always making slight flight adjustments to compensate for air turbulence while tracking its moving ship target, so a laser is unable to keep the beam on target more than a mile away due to the tracking/aiming delay. This means if a dozen missiles are inbound, the system may be able to shoot down only one. And since these systems are the size of a 5-inch gun mount and need most of the electrical power from the ship to fire, a cruiser or destroyer can carry just a couple of systems and will need to remove other weaponry to make room.

Laser range is also limited because particles in the air reflect, scatter, and distort laser beams, even on clear days. This quickly depletes beam power and limits their effective range to less than a mile. This is a complex topic and several, short technical explanations are found in this article and this one from a US Navy research lab that states even in clear weather:

“A number of physical processes affect and limit the amount of laser energy that can be delivered to a target. These effects are interrelated and include thermal blooming, turbulence, and molecular/aerosol absorption and scattering. These processes affect the laser intensity profile by modifying the refractive index of the air, which causes the laser beam wavefront to distort. Wavefront distortion results in enhanced transverse laser beam spreading, and can severely limit the amount of energy that can be propagated. The maritime environment is particularly challenging for high energy-laser (HEL) propagation because of its relatively high water vapor and aerosol content. In the infrared regime, water molecules and aerosols constitute the dominant source of absorption and scattering of laser energy, and represent a limitation for HELs propagating in a maritime atmosphere.”

None of this is secret, yet one reads articles and comments by “experts” and senior officers who seem unaware of these severe limitations. Some of this problem can be overcome by using a low-power targeting laser to analyze the atmosphere in the beam path just before firing the main laser, then using complex optics to adjust lenses to optimize the beam. Billions of dollars were spent the last three decades on this solution with little success because the atmosphere in the beam path constantly changes due to wind and as the beam moves to track a target.

In addition, lasers are worthless in rain, fog, clouds, and haze since beam energy is quickly lost. So even if laser power is greatly improved with magical breakthroughs, an enemy may attack during inclement weather when lasers are useless. Some claim that lasers are the only defense against incoming supersonic missiles, however, such missiles are designed with a hardened nose made with materials to serve as a heat shield needed to resist air friction. A few seconds of laser heating at close range just before it impacts a ship is unlikely to burn through, and wouldn’t stop the missile from hitting the ship even if it burned through. The simple GAU-19 .50 cal/12.7mm gatling gun that can fire up to 33 rounds a second would prove far more effective.

Yet another problem with lasers is “beam divergence.” Lasers do not emit a steady narrow beam, it slowly enlarges and weakens. Here is an excellent diagram of beam divergence from a US Navy manual.

5.3.2. Laser Beam Divergence. Beam divergence is the spread of the laser beam over distance. Laser spot size is a function of beam divergence and the distance from the laser system to the target. If a designator has a beam spread or divergence of 0.25 milliradian, its spot would have a diameter of approximately 0.25 meters at a distance of 1,000 meters in front of the designator. At 5,000 meters, the beam would spread to 1.25 meters; at 10,000 meters, the beam would spread to 2.5 meters (see FIGURE 7).

In this example of a common laser, at just a kilometer (.625 miles) a laser beam aimed to cut through steel expands to ten inches! That can burn skin and start fires, but not harm a tank or even a moving car. In addition, lasers do not destroy upon contact but require several seconds of EXACT lasing to burn through. Here is a video of a 2016 ship test. Note the weather is clear and the slow flying plastic drone is close. This exposes its large delta wing to laser heating, yet it takes ten seconds of laser contact to cause a fire. An inbound sea skimming missile presents a far smaller and much faster target, and if lasers proliferate, missile makers will introduce shiny stainless steel nose cones to reflect most laser light and blind American sailors. They may also program the missile to fly a tight spiral path to the ship the last mile, like the Russian Kornet anti-tank missile.

Lasers look great in tests when the target and laser are close and motionless on the ground, but when both are bouncing around, accuracy is poor. A large ultra-expensive laser may detonate an incoming missile after several seconds of precise lasing as it nears a ship, but would still result in damage as the momentum (kinetic energy) from the missile fragments penetrate. Increasing the power of lasers does not address this aiming problem, the poor weather problem, and increases the “thermal blooming” problem when heated air particles expand faster and weaken the beam.

Lasers can blind optical systems and pilots (as the British did in the Falklands) so lasers are useful in that role. Stationary vehicle-mounted lasers are useful downing small drones flying slow and low overhead. But lasers can never overcome their range limitation or produce the required power to damage missiles and aircraft upon contact. Nevertheless, laser salesmen roam the Pentagon touting solid-state advancements to collect billions of dollars each year for pointless testing and development. In 2016, experts began to complain since laser weapons are obviously impractical. This caused laser scammers to play the secrecy card. The January 2017 issue of National Defense magazine had an article titled: Navy Officials No Longer Talking Publicly About Laser Weapon Systems, which includes this:

“When asked by National Defense for updates on LaWS, and a test of a 150-kilowatt laser aboard a ship that Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran announced last year, he said he would not share them, citing competition between the United States and its adversaries.

‘I’m going to be far more reluctant to talk about things like that,” he said. “When it comes to specific capabilities, when it comes to specific schedules, specific operations, … I would rather find a more appropriately cleared room to talk about that.’

Later during the summit, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems at OPNAV N9, said that in the past he was happy to speak about program specifics. However, ‘we figured out that the competitors were actually learning and doing their own kind of crowdsourcing thing, learning from us,’ he said. Richardson did stress, however, that while he would no longer give too many details on its laser program, the service was hard at work developing such systems.”

The Admiral is correct. Competitors learned not to waste their time and money on bogus laser weapons! Admiral Manazir also claimed lasers are the future and he needed more money to speed development. However, if his new 150-kilowatt laser could shoot down an incoming missile, he would surely demonstrate this breakthrough. The Admiral did prove capable of dispensing billions of dollars to contractors, so was hired by Boeing in August 2017, the same month he retired from the Navy.

National Defense magazine was good enough to post my comment at the bottom of that article explaining why a ship laser is ineffective, but the article and my comments soon disappeared from the web, and the link to the Navy Research Lab article I quoted is also dead. Laser weapons are a scam, and those profiting will not discuss the issues mentioned in this article because they have no answers. Funding laser research is justifiable, but building and fielding dysfunctional laser weapons is criminal. Nevertheless, in January 2018 the US Navy awarded a contract worth nearly a billion dollars to Lockheed-Martin to deploy two more ultra-expensive, worthless lasers aboard ships.

Carlton Meyer, editorG2mil@Gmail.com

©2018 http://www.G2mil.com

January 26, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

60 Years Since the Largest U.S. Nuclear Accident and Captured Federal Agencies

By Robert Dodge | Common Dreams | July 13, 2019

60 years ago today the largest nuclear accident in U.S. history occurred above the Southern California community of Simi Valley when the Santa Susanna Field Laboratory (SSFL) site suffered a partial nuclear meltdown. That accident, kept secret for two decades, has resulted in ongoing local health effects that persist to this day and has pitted the community health and wellbeing against corporate financial interests and captured government agencies.

SSFL, a 2850 acre site, currently owned by the Department of Energy, NASA and the largest owner being Boeing, is a former nuclear reactor and rocket engine testing site. It is located in the hills above the Simi and San Fernando Valleys, at the headwaters of the Los Angeles River. Located about 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles, originally far from population areas, the area now has around 500,000 people within 10 miles of the site. Over its years of operation, there were 10 non-contained nuclear reactors that operated on the site as well as plutonium and uranium fuel fabrication facilities and a “hot lab” where highly irradiated fuel from around the U.S. nuclear complex was shipped for decladding and examination. In addition there were tens of thousands of rocket engine tests conducted over the many years of operation.

The Sodium Reactor Experiment or SRE was the first reactor to provide commercial nuclear power to a U.S. city in Moorpark. Then on July 13, 1959, a partial meltdown occurred in which a third of the fuel experienced melting. Dr. Arjun Makhijani estimated the incident released 260 times the amount of radioactive iodine as was released from the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.

As a result of this partial meltdown and numerous other reactor accidents, radioactive fires, massive chemical contamination in handling of the radioactive and chemically contaminated toxic materials that were routinely burned in open pits through the years at the site, it remains one of the most highly contaminated sites in the country. It has widespread contamination with radionuclides such as cesium-137, strontium-90, plutonium-239 and toxic chemicals perchlorate, trichloroethylene (TCE), heavy metals and dioxins.

In 2012, the U.S. EPA released the results of an extensive radiological survey of Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone at SSFL, and found 500 samples with radioactivity above background levels, in some cases, thousands of times over background.

These toxins are associated with a multitude of health risks. Many are cancer causing, others are neurotoxins causing a host of issues including learning disabilities, birth defects and many other health effects. The most vulnerable tend to be women and children. Through the years, there have been many health studies performed. In 2006, a cluster of retinoblastoma cases, a rare eye cancer affecting young children, was identified within an area downwind of the site. The retinoblastoma mothers meeting at Los Angeles’s Children’s Hospital ultimately formed a chemo carpool.

The Public Health Institute’s 2012 California Breast Cancer Mapping Project found that the rate of breast cancer is higher in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Oak Park and Moorpark than in almost any other place in the state.

In addition, studies by cancer registries found elevated rates of bladder cancer associated with proximity to SSFL.

There have been numerous additional studies including one by the UCLA School of Public Health that found significantly elevated cancer death rates among both the nuclear and rocket workers at SSFL from exposures to these toxic materials. Another study by UCLA found offsite exposures to hazardous chemicals by the neighboring population at levels exceeding EPA levels of concern.

A study performed for the Federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found the incidence of key cancers, those types known to be associated with the contaminants on site, were 60% higher in the offsite population within 5 miles of the site compared to further away.

Unfortunately, these contaminants do not stay on site. When it rains, they wash off site to the Valleys below. When it blows, they become airborne and migrate offsite. The 2017 Woolsey fire is a most recent example. After initially denials, officials finally admitted the fire actually started on the field lab site burning across almost the entire site and potentially spreading toxic chemicals over the basin. Unfortunately, no adequate monitoring was performed and only began days after the flames had moved on.

Ultimately, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), has regulatory oversight of the cleanup and of the responsible parties which include NASA, the Department of Energy (DOE), and Boeing. In 2010, the Department of Energy and NASA signed historic agreements with DTSC that committed them to cleaning up all detectable contamination. The agreements, or Administrative Orders on Consent (AOC), specified that the cleanup was to be completed by 2017. Boeing, which owns most of the SSFL property, refused to sign the cleanup agreements. Nevertheless, DTSC said that its normal procedures require it to defer to local governments’ land use plans and zoning, which for SSFL allow agricultural and rural residential uses. DTSC said SSFL’s zoning would thus require Boeing to conduct a cleanup equivalent to the NASA/DOE requirements.

In response, Boeing, currently under scrutiny after the 737 MAX crashes, launched a massive “greenwashing” campaign in an attempt to convince the public that SSFL’s contamination was minimal, never hurt anyone, and that the site doesn’t need much of a cleanup because it is going to be an open space park. Boeing prefers a re-designation to recreational cleanup standards that are based on someone being on the site infrequently limited to a few hours per week . But people who live near SSFL don’t live in recreational areas, they live in residential areas and as long as the site isn’t fully cleaned up, they will still be at risk of exposure to SSFL contamination.

Recently, both the Dept. of Energy and NASA, following Boeing’s lead, have said that they too want to break out of their legal cleanup agreements and also cleanup to a weak recreational standard. So, all three responsible parties are completely disregarding the state of California’s regulatory authority. In effect they are asserting that they, the polluters, get to decide how much of their contamination gets cleaned up. That violates federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act laws as well as the AOC cleanup agreements. Now more than ever, we need our elected representatives to stand up and demand the existing cleanup agreements be upheld.

Melissa Bumstead, an adjacent West Hills resident whose daughter has twice survived a rare leukemia and who has mapped over 50 other rare pediatric cancers near SSFL, is bringing fresh energy and new voices into the cleanup fight. Her Change.org petition has now been signed by over 650,000 people and is helping to galvanize the community to fight for the full, promised cleanup.

Thus far, almost all local and federal elected officials have voiced concern that the cleanup agreements are being broken, especially in the wake of the Woolsey Fire. What is needed now is action. People ask how to protect themselves. The best thing people can do is fight for the full cleanup of SSFL. Each of has an opportunity to help this effort. We must contact all of our local officials and demand action today for a full cleanup of SSFL.

Robert Dodge is a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the Co-Chair of the Security Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility. He is the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

July 14, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Boeing’s Homicides Will Give Way to Safety Reforms if Flyers Organize

By Ralph Nader | April 4, 2019

To understand the enormity of the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes (Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Airlines 302) that took a combined total of 346 lives, it is useful to look at past events and anticipate future possible problems.

In 2011, Boeing executives wanted to start a “clean sheet” new narrow body air passenger plane to replace its old 737 design from the nineteen sixties. Shortly thereafter, Boeing’s bosses panicked when American Airlines put in a large order for the competitive Airbus A320neo.  Boeing shelved the new design and rushed to put out the 737 Max that, in Business Week’s words, was “pushing an ageing design past its limits.” The company raised the 737 Max landing gear and attached larger, slightly more fuel efficient engines angled higher and more forward on the wings. Such a configuration changed the aerodynamics and made the plane more prone to stall (see attached article: https://www.aviationcv.com/aviation-blog/2019/boeing-canceling-737-max).

This put Boeing’s management in a quandary. Their sales pitch to the airlines was that the 737 Max only received an “amended” certification from the FAA. That it did not have to be included in more pilot training, simulators, and detailed in the flight manuals. The airlines could save money and would be more likely to buy the Boeing 737 Max.

Boeing engineers were worried. They knew better. But the managers ordered software to address the stall problem without even telling the pilots or most of the airlines. Using only one operating sensor (Airbus A320neo has three sensors), an optional warning light and indicator, Boeing set the stage for misfiring sensors that overcame pilot efforts to control the planes from their nose-down death dive.

These fixes or patches would not have been used were the new 737’s aerodynamics the same as the previous 737 models. Step by step, Boeing’s criminal negligence, driven by a race to make profits, worsened. Before and after the fatal crashes, Boeing did not reveal, did not warn, did not train, and did not address the basic defective aerodynamic design. It gagged everyone that it could.  Boeing still insists that the 737 Max is safe and is building two a day, while pushing to end the grounding.

Reacting to all these documented derelictions, a flurry of investigations is underway. The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, Calvin L. Scovel III, is investigating the hapless, captive FAA that has delegated to Boeing important FAA statutory and regulatory duties. The Justice Department and FBI have opened a criminal probe, with an active grand jury. The National Transportation Safety Board, long the hair shirt of the FAA, is investigating. As are two Senate and House Committees. Foreign governments are investigating, as surely are the giant insurance companies who are on the hook. This all sounds encouraging, but we’ve seen such initiatives pull back before.

This time, however, the outrageous corner-cutting and suppression of engineering dissent, within both Boeing and the FAA (there were reported “heated discussions”) produced a worst case scenario. So, Boeing is working overtime with its legions of Washington lobbyists, its New York P.R. firm, its continued campaign contributions to some 330 Members of Congress. The airlines and pilots’ union chiefs (but not some angry pilots) are staying mum, scared into silence due to contracts and jobs, waiting for the Boeing 737 Max planes to fly again.

BUT THE BOEING 737 MAX MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO FLY AGAIN. Pushing new software that will allow Boeing to blame the pilots is a dangerous maneuver. Saying that U.S. pilots, many of whom are ex-Air Force, are more experienced in reacting to a sudden wildly gyrating aircraft (consider the F-16 diving and swooping) than many foreign airline pilots only trained by civil aviation, opens a can of worms from cancellation of 737 Max orders  to indignation from foreign airlines and pilots. It also displays an aversion to human-factors engineering with a vast number of avoidable failure modes not properly envisioned by Boeing’s software patches.

The overriding problem is the basic unstable design of the 737 Max. An aircraft has to be stall proof not stall prone. An aircraft manufacturer like Boeing, notwithstanding its past safety record, is not entitled to more aircraft disasters that are preventable by following long-established aeronautical engineering practices and standards.

With 5,000 Max orders at stake, the unfolding criminal investigation may move the case from criminal negligence to evidence of knowing and willful behavior amounting to corporate homicide involving Boeing officials. Boeing better cut its losses by going back to the drawing boards. That would mean scrapping the 737 Max 8 designs, with its risk of more software time bombs, safely upgrading the existing 737-800 with amenities and discounts for its airline carrier customers and moving ahead with its early decision to design a new plane to compete with Airbus’s model, which does not have the 737 Max’s design problem.

Meanwhile, airline passengers should pay attention to Senator Richard Blumenthal’s interest in forthcoming legislation to bring the regulatory power back into the FAA. Senator Blumenthal also intends to reintroduce his legislation to criminalize business concealment of imminent risks that their products and services pose to innocent consumers and workers (the “Hide No Harm Act”).

What of the near future? Airline passengers should organize a consumer boycott of the Boeing 737 Max 8 to avoid having to fly on these planes in the coming decade. Once Boeing realizes that this brand has a deep marketing stigma, it may move more quickly to the drawing boards, so as to not alienate airline carriers.

Much more information will come out in the coming months. Much more. The NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), which receives incident reports from pilots, air traffic controllers, dispatchers, cabin crew, maintenance technicians, and others, is buzzing, as is the FlyersRights.org website. Other countries, such as France, have tougher criminal statutes for such corporate crime than the U.S. does. The increasing emergence of whistle-blowers from Boeing, the FAA and, other institutions is inevitable.

Not to mention, the information that will come out of the civil litigation against this killer mass tort disaster. And of course the relentless reporting of newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and AP, among others will continue to shed light on Boeings misdeeds and the FAA’s deficiencies.

Boeing executives should reject the advice from the reassuring, monetized minds of Wall Street stock analysts saying you can easily absorb the $2 billion cost and move on. Boeing, let your engineers and scientists be free to exert their “professional options for revisions” to save your company from the ruinous road you are presently upon.

Respect those who perished at your hand and their grieving families.

April 6, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | Leave a comment

Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs

By Ralph Nader | March 21, 2019

As internal and external pressures mount to hold Boeing responsible for its criminal negligence, the giant company is exerting its immense influence to limit both its past and future accountability. Boeing whistleblowers and outside aviation safety experts are coming forward to reveal the serial, criminal negligence of Boeing’s handling of its dangerous Boeing 737 Max airplanes, grounded in the aftermath of two deadly crashes that took 346 lives. Boeing, is used to having its way in Washington, D.C. For decades, Boeing and some of its airline allies have greased the wheels for chronic inaction related to the additional protection and comfort of airline passengers and airline workers.

Most notoriously, the airlines, after the hijacks to Cuba in the late Sixties and early Seventies, made sure that Congress and the FAA did not require hardened cockpit doors and stronger latches on all aircraft, costing a modest $3000 per plane. Then the 9/11 massacre happened, a grisly consequence of non-regulation, pushed by right wing corporatist advocacy centers.

Year after year, Flyers Rights – the airline passenger consumer group –proposed a real passengers bill of rights. Year after year the industry’s toadies in Congress said no. A slim version passed last year — requiring regulations creating minimum seat standards, regulations regarding prompt refunds for ancillary services not provided or on a flight not taken, and a variety of small improvements for consumers.

Boeing is all over Capitol Hill. They have 100 full time lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Over 300 members of Congress regularly take campaign cash from Boeing. The airlines lather the politicians with complimentary ticket upgrades, amenities, waivers of fees for reservation changes, priority boarding, and VIP escorts. Twice, we sent surveys about these special freebies to every member of Congress with not a single response. (See my letter and survey.)

That is the corrupt backdrop that at least two Congressional Committees have to overcome in holding public hearings into the causes of the Indonesian’s Lion Air crash last October and the Ethiopian Airline crash on March 10, 2019.

Will the Senate and House Committee invite the technical dissenters to testify against Boeing’s sequential corner cutting on its single sensor software that miscued and took control of the 737 Max 8 from its pilots, pulling down on the plane’s nose? Boeing’s sales-driven avoidance of producing effective manuals with upgraded pilot training was courting disaster as was outrageously leaving many of the pilots in the dark.

The Congressional Committees must issue subpoenas to critics of Boeing and the FAA in order to protect them from corporate and agency retaliation.

Moreover, the Committees must get rid of the grotesque self-regulation that allows Boeing to control the aircraft certification process for the FAA. This dangerous delegation has worsened in recent years because Trump and Republicans in Congress have cut the FAA’s budget.

Brace yourself. Here is how the Washington Post described this abandonment of regulation by FAA, endorsed by Boeing’s Congress:

“In practice, one Boeing engineer would conduct a test of a particular system on the Max 8, while another Boeing engineer would act as the FAA’s representative, signing on behalf of the U.S. government that the technology complied with federal safety regulations…”

“Hundreds of Boeing engineers would have played out this scenario thousands of times as the company sought to verify the performance of mechanical systems, hardware installation and massive amounts of computer code…”

So, citizens, watch out for bloviating Congressional Committee members castigating Boeing executives at the witness table before the television cameras and then doing nothing once the television broadcasts fade away.

Boeing’s 737 series started in 1967 and has had a good engineering safety record in this country. But Boeing was in a rush with its Boeing 737 Max 8. They had to catch up with the growing orders for a similar-sized passenger jet built by Airbus. Being in a rush meant a modification that added more seats (a key motivation), that led to larger engines that affected the aerodynamics of the plane that led to the inadequate, mostly uncommunicated software fix to the pilots. Step by step, top management pushed the engineers in ways that compromised their professional expertise and each slide set the stage for a deeper slide. Now, the press is reporting a criminal probe by the Justice Department. The Inspector General of the Department of Transportation is also investigating the FAA’s certification of 737 Max 8.

Years ago, aviation experts say, Boeing should have developed a brand new aircraft design for such intermediate distances. But Boeing dug in and compliant FAA officials dropped the ball. And President Trump has failed to fill three top slots at the FAA since January 2017.

That is why, after flight 302 crashed outside Addis Ababa, both Boeing and the FAA kept issuing statements filled with gibberish saying that the 737 Max 8 was safe, safe, safe—the malfunction-prone software time bomb to the contrary. A brand new plane, crashing twice and taking hundreds of lives, can’t be blamed on pilot error.

Caution: the grounding of the planes may receive a whitewash unless the media keeps light and heat on this corporate-government collusion.

Installing artificial intelligence replacing or overpowering human intelligence in ever more complex machines, such as modern aircraft or weapons systems or medical technology is the harbinger of what’s to come. In a 2014 BBC interview Stephen Hawking, the famed theoretical physicist, said: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” And in 2018 Elon Musk said: “If AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it. No hard feelings.”

At the wreckage near Bishoftu in a small pastoral farm field and in the Java Sea off Indonesia lie the remains of the early victims of arrogant, algorithm-driven corner cutting, by reckless corporate executives and their captive government regulators.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

March 23, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | Leave a comment

Woolsey Fire started at Santa Susana Field Lab — where “radioactive materials released were never accurately measured”

By John Laforge | CounterPunch | November 30, 2018

In my Nov. 16 column, I reported on potential radiation risks posed by California’s Woolsey wildfire having burned over parts or all of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory—south of Simi Valley, Calif., 30 miles outside Los Angeles—site of at least four partial or total nuclear reactor meltdowns.

The field laboratory operated 10 experimental reactors and conducted rocket engine tests. In his 2014 book Atomic Accidents, researcher James Mahaffey writes, “The cores in four experimental reactors on site … melted.” Reactor core melts always result in the release of large amounts of radioactive gases and particles. Clean up of the deeply contaminated site has not been conducted in spite of a 2010 agreement.

Los Angeles’s KABC-7 TV reported Nov. 13 that the Santa Susana lab site “appears to be the origin of the Woolsey Fire” which has torched over 96,000 acres. Southern Calif. Public Radio said, “According to Cal Fire, the Woolsey Fire started on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 8 … on the Santa Susana site.”

In my column I noted that Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research, estimated that the partial meltdown of the lab’s Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) in 1957, caused “the third largest release of iodine-131 in the history of nuclear power,” according to Gar Smith in his 2012 book Nuclear Roulette. But Makhijani was speaking in 2006, so now of course the SRE meltdown counts as the fourth largest radio-iodine release—after the triple meltdowns at Fukushima in Japan in 2011, Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986, and Windscale in England in 1957.

Santa Susana’s operators caused the destruction of the liquid sodium-cooled SRE on July 12, 1959—“showering the downwind hills and meadows of the 2,850-acre site with a fog of chromium and radioactive isotopes, including iodine-131,” according to Smith in Roulette. It was these hills and meadows that were burned so completely by the Woolsey wildfire.

“It [the fog of isotopes] likely spread to nearby communities such as Simi Valley, Chatsworth and Canoga Park,” according to Southern Calif. Public Radio’s Elina Shatkin (“What Happened at the Santa Susana Nuclear Site During the Woolsey Fire?” Nov. 13.) Makhijani calculated that fallout from the meltdown contained “80 to 100 times the amount of iodine-131 released at Three Mile Island” [in Harrisburg, Penn., in 1979], Smith reports in Roulette. Canoga Park Senior High School is one of four Red Cross evacuation centers for the Woolsey Fire.

During the two weeks after the partial meltdown of the SRE, workers tried to repair it. “When they couldn’t, they were ordered to open the reactor’s large door, releasing radiation into the air,” Shatkin reported for public radio.

Radioactive materials released by the meltdown were never accurately measured in part because monitors inside the SRE went off scale. Yet the melting of fuel didn’t cause the only releases of radiation from SRE—just the single largest. In his 2012 book Mad Science, Joe Mangano writes, “Every day, radioactive gases from holding tanks in the reactor building were released into the air—often at night … sometimes twice a day.” In Atomic Accidents, Mahaffey describes the same practice writing, “The fission gases were piped off and compressed into holding tanks for controlled release into the environment…”

After the July meltdown was halted, Atomics International, which ran the SRE, concocted a report for the Atomic Energy Commission on Aug. 29, 1957. The report falsely declared: “No release of radioactive materials to the plant or its environs occurred and operating personnel were not exposed to harmful conditions.”

However, conditions inside the reactor building were extremely dangerous for workers, and radiation levels are estimated to have reached between 10,000 and one million times greater than normal. According to one worker, staff radiation measuring badges were taken away. John Pace, a young trainee at the lab, “Before July 13, we wore film badges, and after then, at some point they [Atomics International] took them away, since they know that the levels would be really high.”

With 10 experimental reactors, radiation routinely released to the air, years of accidents, and four core meltdowns, the “downwind hills and meadows” can be considered permanently compromised with cancer-causing toxins. Dan Hirsch, president of Committee to Bridge the Gap, a nuclear policy organization told public radio that Santa Susana’s soil has, “a mix of radioactive materials like plutonium, strontium-90 and cesium-137” and perhaps 100 toxic chemicals “such as PCBs, dioxins, heavy metals like mercury and chromium-6 and volatile organic compounds like PCE.” In 2012, the US EPA reported that its soil tests found radioactive cesium-137 at 9,328 times ordinary background levels.

Citizens living in the vicinity of Santa Susana have become harshly critical of the site’s early operators—Boeing, Atomic International and Rocketdyne—who for years burned toxic and radioactive wastes in open pits, endangering all the downwinders. In 2005, Boeing paid $30 million to compensate nearby residents for early mortalities and a range of rare diseases.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

November 30, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Neutral and unbiased? Why ‘think tanks’ lobby for war in Syria

By Danielle Ryan | RT | April 17, 2018

When US President Donald Trump fired a barrage of Tomahawk missiles at Syrian government targets last week, it was a good day for defense contractors, at least.

In the aftermath of the strike, which Trump claimed was in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government, stocks in Tomahawk missile manufacturer Raytheon surged. Raytheon stock has climbed more than 18 percent in 2018 so far. In fact, stocks in defense companies have been climbing in general since Trump entered office promising “historic” increases in military spending.

Almost a year ago to the day, Trump delivered another bump to the defense companies after attacking Syrian government positions for the first time – also in response to an alleged chemical attack, evidence for which remains in question.

After that strike Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics also rose, gaining nearly $5 billion in market value when trading began the next day, even as the wider market slumped.

Later, when Trump appointed the famously militaristic John Bolton as his national security adviser in March, guess what happened? Shares in US energy and defense companies surged yet again. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out: war is profitable. The more missiles Trump fires, the more money these companies make.

But where do the think tanks come in?

There is a pervasive myth that Washington DC ‘think tanks’ are neutral and unbiased players in foreign policy analysis. But where do these centers for foreign policy ‘analysis’ get their money from? You guessed it: defense companies.

There are a few think tanks which dominate in American foreign policy debates. They include the Center For European Policy Analysis (CEPA), the Atlantic Council, the German Marshall Fund (GMF), the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation. All five of them receive generous donations from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Three of them also receive funding from the Boeing Company.

Corporations like Exxon Mobil, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, and Bell Helicopter are also big donors to think tanks. Bell Helicopter is a funder of CEPA, while Exxon funds Brookings, GMF and the Atlantic Council. BAE Systems donates to CEPA, while Northrop Grumman gives to the Atlantic Council. This is not to even mention the money they get directly from US government departments and NATO, which also helps explain their consistently anti-Russian analysis.

Nonetheless, these think tanks enjoy an undue air of independence. Experts who work for these defense contractor-funded institutes are quoted frequently in mainstream newspapers and invited on mainstream channels, where they are presented as independent voices. But those independent voices somehow always seem to be in favor of policies that benefit weapons manufacturers.

War profiteers are filling their coffers in return for ‘analysis’ which promotes military action and massively inflates the threat posed to America by countries like Russia, for example.

A glance at the Twitter feed of CEPA reveals almost obsession-like focus on the so-called threat from Russia. In 2016, the Lockheed and BAE Systems-funded think tank suggested in a report on information warfare that people who have “fallen victim to Kremlin propaganda” should be “deradicalized” in special programs.

The NATO-funded Atlantic Council has consistently lobbied for regime change in Syria. In the days surrounding Trump’s military actions against Syria last week, the Atlantic Council published multiple  pieces of analysis and interviews with a single theme: that Trump did not or would not go far enough with one night of strikes. Earlier, when the alleged chemical attack took place, the think tank argued that Syrian President Bashar Assad was “indulging an addiction” and called on the US to take new military action against him. For some reason, diplomacy does not seem to be high on the Atlantic Council’s agenda.

It seems the more money defense contractors throw at think tanks, the more those think tanks will argue in favor of the military policies that will make those companies the most money. It’s a vicious cycle, but one which doesn’t take much think tank-style ‘analysis’ to  figure out.

The sad thing for the think tank lobbyists, is that the money they make calling for war is nothing in comparison to the money Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing and the rest make from it. Maybe they should ask for a raise.

April 17, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment