Costa Rica Has the Right Idea: No Military Robert C. Koehler / Buzzflash @ TruthOut
(February 23, 2017) — “This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
Dwight Eisenhower gave the world some extraordinary rhetoric — indeed, his words have the sting of ironic shrapnel, considering how little they have influenced the direction of the country and the world in the last six decades.
“These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come with this spring of 1953,” he told the American Society of Newspaper Editors nearly 64 years ago.
“This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace. It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty. It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men: Is there no other way the world may live?”
Even if Ike believed these words from the depths of his being, he didn’t inscribe them into national policy. These were the 1950s. The nuclear arms race was in full swing. We were playing Cold War with the Soviets and toppling governments we didn’t like (Iran, Guatemala, the Congo).
Ike may have meant well, but he was the hostage of the very military-industrial complex he outed as he left office — which reduces “peace,” whatever that might truly mean, to a dream . . . to pie-in-the-sky idealism and the hostage of cynics.
What most people don’t know, however, is that when Eisenhower delivered his “cross of iron” speech, a tiny nation to the south had already been living those words for five years. Yes, yes, yes, there is another way for the world to live! And Costa Rica is now nearly seven decades into what may be the most extraordinary experiment a sovereign nation has ever undertaken.
And this experiment is the subject of a fascinating documentary, A Bold Peace, co-directed by Matthew Eddy and Michael Dreiling, which is one of more than 30 films that are part of Chicago’s ninth annual Peace on Earth Film Festival, to be held March 10-12 at the city’s Music Box Theatre. It’s been my privilege to be part of this festival since its beginning — and I never cease to be awed by the scope and complexity of the subject matter on display at the festival.
A Bold Peace is definitely part of that complexity, as it tells the story of Costa Rica’s risky, extraordinary journey of living without a military — of transcending war and remaining (for 68 years and counting) an example of the future that is possible for the whole planet.
Guess what? Contrary to what too many people continue to believe, aggressive dominance is not the key to survival, for nations or for individuals. Indeed, it’s just the opposite.
“Our best defense is to be defenseless,” former Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias says at one point in the film. “Not having an army doesn’t make you weaker, but stronger. . . . The political opinion of the world is our army.”
These are stunning words from a national leader. The whole idea of nationhood seems baptized in the concept of war, aggression and militarized “self-defense.” But something happened to Costa Rica in 1948: An opening in awareness took place, perhaps because of its leader at the time, Jose Figueres Ferrer, or perhaps because of some innate public will, or more likely it was the two factors in remarkable convergence. The country disbanded its army.
This is the story A Bold Peace tells: a quiet story of planetary significance, which begins, paradoxically, with an armed revolution that swept Costa Rica in 1948, in the wake of a disputed presidential election. Some 4,000 people died. Figueres led the revolution and took power, but here any similarity with other revolutionary movements ends.
Figueres stayed in power a total of 18 months. In that time, as the film points out, he accomplished several things: granting women and African-Caribbeans the right to vote, preserving and expanding the country’s social welfare system and, glory hallelujah, totally demilitarizing. He disbanded the armed forces, with full public support.
The lack of a military is ingrained in the constitution and is part of the Costa Rican national identity. And after a year and a half, Figueres voluntarily stepped down from the presidency (though he was re-elected to that office twice in the coming years, in 1953 and 1970).
Part of the film’s impact is the clarity with which it explains, through numerous interviews, the complexity of Costa Rica’s peace journey and the courage required over the decades to sustain it. One of the interviewees described Figueres as “a victorious man who abolished his own army, surrounded by powerful enemies.”
The US-allied dictators of the Caribbean Basic hated him, including Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua, who at one point challenged Figueres to a pistol duel at the border of the two countries. Figueres responded: “Grow up.”
But the cruelest challenges Costa Rica faced over the decades came directly from the United States. The film addresses these challenges in detail, beginning with Ronald Reagan and the US proxy war with the Sandinistas of Nicaragua, who had overthrown Somoza.
The Reagan administration had claimed a swath of Honduras for use as a military base and put enormous pressure on Costa Rica to give it the same access. Costa Rica resisted and wound up declaring neutrality, much to the chagrin of the United States and its proxy warriors, who could hardly fathom such comeuppance from this tiny country.
“We were not afraid. That’s a very important national trait,” Victor Ramirez, a former assistant minister under Arias, says in the film. “Paranoia . . . is one of the paradoxical traits of the powerful. The United States is a very good example of that. It’s a very paranoid country. They are so scared of everything. We had a very strong power just to the north of our country and we were not scared. We were not going to militarize our country.”
In 2003, when George W. Bush invaded Iraq, Costa Rica was again pressured to be part of the action, to join the US “coalition of the willing,” and its president at the time momentarily succumbed, but public pressure forced her to pull out.
And in 2010, when the Nicaraguan military invaded a Costa Rican island, the two countries eventually solved the dispute at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. “If Costa Rica had an armed force, that would have been war,” Luis Guillermo Solis, current president of Costa Rica, says in the film.
Is there no other way the world may live?
A Bold Peace, which begins by quoting Eisenhower’s “cross of iron” speech, tells the remarkable story of war avoided, or transcended, again and again and again. Yes, there is another way for the world to live. By the film’s end, this way emerges not simply as possible, not simply as a curiosity, but as the model for the future. It’s time for the rest of the world to join Costa Rica on its journey.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at email@example.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
Trump Seeks Massive 9% Military Spending Hike Republican Hawks Slam Trump Plan as Insufficient Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(February 27, 2017) — As was expected from reports yesterday, President Trump today unveiled some new details on his budget priorities, seeking a 9% increase, or about $54 billion, in increased military spending for next year, with a series of plans to reduce domestic spending to try to cover the different.
Exactly where all the cuts are coming from is unclear, but the State Department and the EPA are both said to also be marked for substantial cuts in the range of tens of billions of dollars, and President Trump is determined to keep his campaign promise not to touch Social Security, other domestic programs are all facing potential cuts.
Since the election, President Trump has been talking up some very expensive military plans, including increases in the number of troops, ships, and warplanes the US has available, and has talked up more nuclear weapons recently, arguing the US needs to be unrivaled.
Trump is further arguing that the US needs an increased budget in general to “win wars again,” lamenting that when he was younger people used to say the US “never lost a war.” A 9% increase is a big one, given how big the US military’s budget already is, and that the growth is in the range of the whole annual military budget of a country like France or Britain.
But the one certainty in any budget proposed by any president with any level of military spending increase is that the hawks in Congress won’t think it’s enough, and that’s true today as well, with Sen. John McCain (R â€“ AZ) and others attacking the plan as nowhere near enough of an increase to military spending.
McCain went so far as to predict that a budget with “only” a 9 percent increase might not have enough support to get through the Senate at all. This may be a huge concern, with a number of top Democrats already voicing concerns about the cuts elsewhere expected to pay for the increase.
(February 27 2017) — The US government already spends $600 billion dollars a year on its military â€” more money than the next seven biggest spenders combined, including China and Russia.
On Monday, the White House said it would request $54 billion more in military spending for next year. That increase alone is roughly the size of the entire annual military budget of the United Kingdom, the fifth-largest spending country, and it’s more than 80 percent of Russia’s entire military budget in 2015.
If Congress were to follow Trump’s blueprint, the US military budget could account for nearly 40 percent of global military spending next year. The US would be outspending Russia by a margin of greater than 9 to 1.
At a meeting of US governors on Monday, Trump described his forthcoming budget proposal as “a public safety and national security budget.”
The share of world military expenditure of the 15 states with the highest expenditure in 2015. Graphic: SIRPI
US military spending has been at permanent wartime levels since the 2001 terror attacks, despite the significant drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq under President Obama.
Spending has declined since the wars were at their peak in 2010, but US military spending in 2015 remains at 190 percent of what it was before 9/11, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, a leading tracker of weapons and defense spending.
Throughout his campaign, Trump criticized bloated weapons contracts and the overall cost of wars in the Middle East. But he also promised to make the military “strong again,” pledging to build 70 new warships and increase the number of troops in the Army to the same high levels as during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Trump has also called for the US to “greatly expand” its nuclear weapons capabilities, signaling a potential willingness to expand a $1 trillion modernization effort Obama started that was already widely criticized by budget critics as unaffordable.
The White House did not elaborate on how the Pentagon would spend the extra money. CNN reported that the White House was planning dramatic cuts to the EPA and foreign aid budgets. Both are tiny components of the federal budget and are unlikely to add up to anywhere near $54 billion.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Radiation Levels at Fukushima Is So High It Killed Two Robots Whitney Webb / EcoWatch
(February 23, 2017) — While media attention has largely drifted away from the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the years since the disaster, a recent and disturbing development has once again made Fukushima difficult if not impossible to ignore.
On Feb. 2, Tokyo Electric Power Company or TEPCO, quietly released a statement regarding the discovery of a hole measuring 2 meters in diameter within the metal grating at the bottom of the containment vessel in the plant’s No. 2 reactor.
Though news of this hole is indeed concerning, even more shocking was the associated jump in radiation detected in the area. According to estimates taken at the time of the hole’s discovery, radiation inside the reactor was found to have reached 530 sieverts per hour, a massive increase compared to the 73 sieverts per hour recorded after the disaster.
To put these figures in perspective, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s maximum amount of radiation exposure permitted for astronauts over their entire lifetime is 1 sievert.
Human exposure to 5 sieverts would kill half of those exposed within a month, while 10 sieverts would prove fatal to nearly all exposed within a matter of weeks. An official with Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences told the Japan Times that medical professionals with the organization had never even considered working with such high levels of radiation.
TEPCO initially tried to counter public fears by stating that most of the reactor’s nuclear fuel remained in the containment vessel despite the hole. However, on Feb. 3, TEPCO spokesman Yuichi Okamura was quoted as saying that “it’s highly possible that melted fuel leaked through.”
At the time, TEPCO said that it would send a robot into the area to survey the full extent of the damage in order to definitively determine whether fuel had leaked outside of the reactor into the surrounding environment.
The first robot, deployed on Feb. 16, was unable to conduct any meaningful measurements, as the extreme conditions within the reactor forced operators to abandon it within the containment vessel. The “scorpion” robot, manufactured by Toshiba, was meant to record images of the reactor’s interior and collect accurate — instead of estimated — data on the levels of radiation within.
Within three hours of deployment, the device stopped responding to operators despite its stated ability to withstand high levels of radiation. TEPCO has not commented on its new plans to gauge the damage recently uncovered in the reactor in the wake of the robot’s malfunction.
One of the World’s Worst Nuclear Disasters Grows Even Worse EcoWatch
Despite a lack of widespread media coverage and TEPCO’s reassurances that things are under control, there is concern that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima — already one of the worst nuclear disasters in human history — is quickly growing even worse.
PBS News reported last year that more than 80 percent of of the radioactivity from the three damaged reactors was released into the Pacific Ocean, as 300 tons of radioactive water have leaked from the reactors every day since an earthquake and subsequent tsunami crippled the plant in 2011.
The Pacific Ocean may have diluted much of the radiation, due to its massive volume, yet radiation and debris from the disaster has been detected along the western coast of Canada and the US Traces of Fukushima radiation were first detected in early 2015, when trace amounts of cesium-134 and cesium-137 appeared in samples collected near Vancouver Island. Then, in December of last year, researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution detected seaborne cesium-134 along the Oregon coast.
Though no link between the presence of radiation has been officially established, fisheries along the entire western coast of North America have been collapsing. Last month, the US secretary of commerce reported on the failure of nine salmon and crab fisheries in Alaska, California and Washington — all due to “unexpected” yet steep declines in fish populations.
While scientists and government authorities alike are “stumped” as to the cause, fish caught along the West Coast have showed high increases in the levels of cesium for years — as far back as 2014.
Researchers have maintained that fish, however, are still “safe” to eat despite the fact that at least one group of doctors agrees that there is “no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources, period.”
The Japanese government, TEPCO and mainstream media continue to insist that this massive release of radiation into the environment has had no effect on human or environmental health.
However, thyroid cancer rates have soared in Japan, with 131 children developing thyroid cancer in the six years since the disaster. That total is equivalent to about 600 thyroid cancer cases per million children, while the child thyroid cancer rate elsewhere is about one or two children per million per year.
Despite the marked increase in cancer rates, TEPCO and the Japanese government insist that Fukushima radiation is “unlikely” to result in a greater incidence of cancer cases.
However, exposure to Iodine-131, the main radionuclide released into the air and water during the meltdown, is known to increase human risk of thyroid cancer and is the most clearly defined environmental factor associated with thyroid tumors, suggesting that a correlation between radiation and exposure likely exists.
This latest breach in one of the plant’s damaged reactors as well as TEPCO’s inability to even properly gauge the extent of the damage suggests that we have yet to see the full devastating potential of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Reposted with permission from EcoWatch media associate MintPress News.
Radiation at Fukushima Spikes to Highest Levels Since 2011 True Activist / True Activist & EcoWatch
(February 5, 2017) — Nearly six years after the initial explosion caused a catastrophic meltdown at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in the Fukushima prefecture of Japan, the situation has suddenly taken a drastic turn for the worst.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company which owns and operates the now defunct power plant, announced Thursday that radiation inside the containment vessel of one of the plant’s failed reactors has now reached levels undetected since the disaster first occurred in 2011.
Radiation inside the reactor has reached 530 sieverts per hour, a drastic increase from the previously recorded 73 sieverts per hour recorded in the aftermath of the meltdown. The level of radiation is so high that an official of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences told the Japan Times that medical professionals have never considered dealing with this level of radiation in their work.
TEPCO has stated that the cause of the radiation spike is a 2-meter-diameter hole inside the bottom grating of the containment vessel. The hole was likely caused by melted fuel.
Plans have been made to send a robot into the area to survey the damage as the true extent of the structural damage remains unknown. However, previous attempts to use robots to gauge damage or seal breaches at Fukushima have failed.
Several robots were deployed to seal a breach in another containment vessel, which continues to release 300 tons of radioactive water a day into the Pacific Ocean. Due to the high temperatures present, all of the robots were rendered nonfunctional and unable to complete the task.
While TEPCO previously claimed that most of the reactor’s nuclear fuel remained contained in the pressure vessel, company spokesman Yuichi Okamura stated that “it’s highly possible that melted fuel leaked through.”
TEPCO has yet to state the expected impact of the radiation spike or the potential consequences of the nuclear fuel leak. The company is expected to detail its plan for containment and offer more details regarding the impacts of this latest development in the coming week.
However, given that TEPCO admitted to “covering up” the impact of the initial disaster with the full complicity of the Japanese government, it remains to be seen if they can be taken at their word.
Reposted with permission from EcoWatch media associate True Activist.
Are Elevated Fukushima Radiation Levels Cause for Alarm? Anna Fifield and Yuki Oda / The Washington Post
TOKYO (February 8, 2017) — The utility company that operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan — the one that went into triple meltdown after the enormous 2011 earthquake and tsunami — has released some jaw-dropping figures.
The radiation level in the containment vessel of reactor two has reached as high as 530 sieverts per hour, Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco as it’s known, said last week. This far exceeds the previous high of 73 sieverts per hour recorded at the reactor following the March 2011 disaster.
That was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the one at Chernobyl, in Ukraine, in 1986. Almost 16,000 people were killed along Japan’s northeastern coast in the tsunami, and 160,000 more lost their homes and livelihoods. The cleanup is taking much longer than expected.
At this level of radioactivity, a person could die from the briefest of exposures.
Tepco recorded the radiation near the reactor core, suggesting that some melted fuel had escaped, using a long, remote-controlled camera and radiation measurement device. It was the first time this kind of device has been able to get into this part of the reactor. There, it found a three-foot-wide hole in a metal grate in the reactor’s primary containment vessel.
So, how dangerous is this?
At this level of radiation, a robot would be able to operate for less than two hours before it was destroyed, Tepco said.
And Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences said medical professionals had never even thought about encountering this level of radiation in their work.
According to Kyodo News Agency, the institute estimates that exposure to one sievert of radiation could lead to infertility, loss of hair and cataracts, while four sieverts would kill half of the people exposed to it.
This measuring device hasn’t even gone into reactors one and three yet — that’s still in the works.
So should the people who live in Japan, who live on the Pacific basin be freaking out?
Not yet, some analysts say.
Although the radiation level is “astoundingly high,” says Azby Brown of Safecast, a citizen science organization that monitors radiation levels, it doesn’t necessarily signify any alarming change in radiation levels at Fukushima. It’s simply the first time they’ve been measured that far inside the reactor.
Here’s what Brown wrote on Safecast’s website: “It must be stressed that radiation in this area has not been measured before, and it was expected to be extremely high. While 530 Sv/hr is the highest measured so far at Fukushima Daiichi, it does not mean that levels there are rising, but that a previously unmeasurable high-radiation area has finally been measured.
“Similar remote investigations are being planned for Daiichi Units 1 and 3. We should not be surprised if even higher radiation levels are found there, but only actual measurements will tell.”
Hiroshi Miyano, nuclear expert and visiting professor at Hosei University, also warned against overreacting. He said the radiation reading might not be particularly reliable since it was only an estimation based on the image analysis. (Tepco said there was a margin of error of 30 percent.)
“It’s not something new to worry about,” he said, although he added that it underscored how difficult the next steps would be.
But some think there is cause for concern.
Fumiya Tanabe, nuclear safety expert and former chief research scientist at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, said while experts expected the radiation reading inside the Daiichi reactors to be high, it was still “shocking” to learn how high it was six years on.
“It will be very difficult to operate robots in there for a long time to come, and to remove the melted fuel. So the finding might greatly affect the decommissioning time schedule,” he said.
Tepco had been hoping to start taking out the fuel out in 2021.
Could the radiation level be even higher?
Possibly. The 530 sievert reading was recorded some distance from the melted fuel, so in reality it could be 10 times higher than recorded, said Hideyuki Ban, co-director of Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center.
He agreed with Tanabe, saying that the findings underscore how difficult the decommissioning process will be.
“It definitely shows the path towards decommissioning will be very difficult, and the time frame to start taking out the fuel in 2021 will most likely be delayed as more investigations will be necessary,” Ban said.
Still, he cautioned against overreacting, saying, like Brown, that Tepco had simply not been able to measure this close to the fuel before.
So what does this news portend?
The level of the reading should give proponents of nuclear power in Japan — including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who’s been pushing to restart reactors shut down after the 2011 disaster — pause, Tanabe said.
“It’s unbelievable that anyone would want to restart nuclear plants when Japan hasn’t learned how and why the Fukushima Daiichi accident happened, or learned lessons from it,” he said.
Indeed, Ai Kashiwagi, an energy campaigner at Greenpeace Japan, said the findings showed how little the government and Tepco knew about what was happening inside the reaction.
“The prime minister said everything was under control and has been pushing to restart nuclear plants, but no one knew the actual state of the plant and more serious facts could come out in the future,” she said. “It’s important to keep an eye on radiation-monitoring data and how Tepco’s investigations go.”
Thyroid Cancer in Children Increases
30-Fold in Fukushima, New Study Says EcoWatch
(October 15, 2015) — A study examining children who were 18 years and younger at the onset of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe found an increase in thyroid cancers, as predicted by World Health Organization (WHO) initial dose assessments.
Lead researcher Toshihide Tsuda, an epidemiologist at Okayama University, says “[t]his is more than expected and emerging faster than expected … ” by either initial WHO predictions or studies of thyroid cancers after the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in 1986. Tsuda was urged by international experts and the publishing journal to publish his study as soon as possible due to its potential implications for public health.
The study, published in Epidemiology, analyzed prefecture data up to Dec. 31, 2014.
There were no precise measurements of internal or external radiation exposure, so researchers used residential addresses at the time the catastrophe began in 2011 as a surrogate for dose.
The highest incidence rate ratio was among people whose districts were not evacuated, approximately 50 to 60 km (30 to 40 miles) west of the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Data show 605 thyroid cancer cases per 1 million examinees. The expected cases of thyroid cancer in children is 1-2 per year per million.
A second round of screening, to be completed in March 2016, will include those who were in utero in 2011. Data already show an additional 25 thyroid cancers.
Ground contamination does not necessarily reflect exposure. Some of the most exposed people came from areas where radionuclide deposition was minimal, but radioactive iodine in the air as a result of the catastrophe still left them exposed.
The magnitude of the increase is too great to be explained by increased screening, since available data show that, at most, a 6 to 7â€“fold increase would be attributable to enhanced screening efforts. The data examined by Tsuda show cancer cases an order of magnitude higher.
The increase cannot be attributed to over-diagnosis, either. The cancers found by the screenings in Fukushima prefecture had metastasized to lymph nodes in 74 percent of cases (40 cases out of 54), meaning that these cases were not in early stages of development; medical professionals support this conclusion: “However, physicians actually involved with diagnosis during the thyroid examination unanimously agree that ‘it is not over-diagnosis.’ These physicians include Dr. Akira Miyauchi from Kuma Hospital, one of nation’s top thyroid clinicians, as well as Dr. Shinichi Suzuki from Fukushima Medical University, director of thyroid examination in Fukushima prefecture.”
Over-diagnosis “refers to diagnosis of disease that does not require medical treatment, as opposed to screening effect which means early detection of asymptomatic disease that patients are unaware of and which eventually requires medical treatment.”
Contrary to claims that we would not see an increase in cancers this early (within a year after exposure to radioactivity), radioactivity from Fukushima could be the cause of the rising number of thyroid cancer cases, as excess cancers were likewise observed in the years immediately following Chernobyl disaster.
Further, the US Center for Disease Control recognizes a minimum empirical induction time of 2.5 years in adults and 1 year in kids for all cancers, including thyroid cancer.
Though the study focused on children, residents who were older than 18 years in 2011 should also be monitored for thyroid cancers.
In addition to predicting increases in thyroid cancers, the WHO also predicted increases in leukemia, breast and other types of cancers. The WHO acceded to demands by the government of Japan to reduce estimated doses. As a result, doses listed in the WHO’s report are 1/10th to 1/3rd lower than initially drafted.
The study concludes: “In Chernobyl, excesses of thyroid cancer became more remarkable 4 or 5 years after the accident in Belarus and Ukraine, so the observed excess alerts us to prepare for more potential cases within a few years.
Furthermore, we could infer a possibility that exposure doses for residents were higher than the official report or the dose estimation by the World Health Organization, because the number of thyroid cancer cases grew faster than predicted in the World Health Organization’s health assessment report.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
‘Great World War for Water’
May Be Looming, Pope Francis Says RT News
(February 25, 2017) — Water scarcity may cause conflict and the whole globe may be on its way to a great world war over water, Pope Francis has warned, adding that the situation is very “urgent.”
“The right to water is essential for the survival of persons and decisive for the future of humanity,” Pope Francis said during a meeting with international experts participating in a ‘Dialogue on Water’ at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on February 24, as cited by americamagazine.org.
“All people have a right to safe drinking water,” he said, adding “I ask [myself] if in this piecemeal third world war that we are living through, are we not going toward a great world war for water?”
Pope Francis said that the figures on water published by the United Nations cannot leave the world indifferent.
Every day, a thousand children die of illness linked to water and contaminated water is consumed by millions of people every day . . . This situation must be stopped and reversed. Fortunately, this is not impossible, but it is urgent,” the pontiff said, as cited by ANSA news agency.
A February 2017 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that “groundwater sources are being depleted rapidly,” citing “water scarcities” as one of the major problems.
“Mankind’s future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate,” it said.
In 2016, UN Water released a report saying that about 663 million people “lack ready access to improved sources of drinking water, while the number of people without reliable access to water of good enough quality to be safe for human consumption is at least 1.8 billion.”
Since Catholic cardinals elected him as pope in March 2013, Pope Francis has become known for his liberal approach and emotional, caring statements that reach out to the poor and sexual minorities.
In 2015, Pope Francis warned that those harming the environment and the “powerful of the earth” will face the wrath of God of they don’t protect the environment and make sure everyone has enough to eat.
During a UN summit in 2015, he stated that helping the poor and excluded is part of saving the planet.
Without referring to any specific countries or individuals, the pontiff blasted a “selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity,” leading to “both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged.”
In some neighborhoods, the ground is giving way at a rate of four inches a year as water in the giant aquifer below it is pumped.
The groundwater has been so depleted that China’s capital city, home to more than 20 million people, could face serious disruptions in its rail system, roadways, and building foundations, an international team of scientists concluded earlier this year. Beijing, despite tapping into the gigantic North China Plain aquifer, is the world’s fifth most water-stressed city and its water problems are likely to get even worse.
Beijing isn’t the only place experiencing subsidence, or sinking, as soil collapses into space created as groundwater is depleted. Parts of Shanghai, Mexico City, and other cities are sinking, too. Sections of California’s Central Valley have dropped by a foot, and in some localized areas, by as much as 28 feet.
Around the world, alarms are being sounded about the depletion of underground water supplies. The United Nations predicts a global shortfall in water by 2030. About 30 percent of the planet’s available freshwater is in the aquifers that underlie every continent.
More than two-thirds of the groundwater consumed around the world irrigates agriculture, while the rest supplies drinking water to cities. These aquifers long have served as a backup to carry regions and countries through droughts and warm winters lacking enough snowmelt to replenish rivers and streams.
Now, the world’s largest underground water reserves in Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas are under stress. Many of them are being drawn down at unsustainable rates. Nearly two billion people rely on groundwater that is considered under threat.
Richard Damania, a lead economist at the World Bank, predicts that without adequate water supplies, economic growth in the most stressed parts of the world could decline by six percent of GDP. His findings conclude that the most severe impacts of climate change will deplete water supplies.
“If you are in a dry area, you are going to get a lot less rainfall. Run-off is declining,” he says. “People are turning to groundwater in a very, very big way.”
But few things are more difficult to control than groundwater pumping, Damania says. In the United States, farmers are withdrawing water at unsustainable rates from the High Plains, or Ogallala Aquifer, even though they have been aware of the threat for six decades.
“What you have in developing countries is a large number of small farmers pumping. Given that these guys are earning so little, there is very little you can do to control it,” Damania says. “And you are, literally, in a race to the bottom.”
Over the past three decades, Saudi Arabia has been drilling for a resource more precious than oil. Engineers and farmers have tapped hidden reserves of water to grow grains, fruits, and vegetables in the one of the driest places in the world. They are tapping into the aquifer at unsustainable rates. On these NASA satellite images of the Wadi As-Sirhan Basin, green indicates crops, contrasting with the pink and yellow of dry, barren land.
As regions and nations run short of water, Damania says, economic growth will decline and food prices will spike, raising the risk of violent conflict and waves of large migrations. Unrest in Yemen, which heavily taps into groundwater and which experienced water riots in 2009, is rooted in a water crisis.
Experts say water scarcity also helped destabilize Syria and launch its civil war. Jordan, which relies on aquifers as its only source of water, is even more water-stressed now that more than a half-million Syrian refugees arrived.
Jay Famiglietti, lead scientist on a 2015 study using NASA satellites to record changes in the world’s 37 largest aquifers, says that the ones under the greatest threat are in the most heavily populated areas.
“Without sustainable groundwater reserves, global security is at far greater risk,” he says. “As the dry parts are getting drier, we will rely on groundwater even more heavily. The implications are just staggering and really need to be discussed at the international level.”
Below are answers to your key questions.
Where is groundwater the most threatened?
The most over-stressed is the Arabian Aquifer System, which supplies water to 60 million people in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Indus Basin aquifer in northwest India and Pakistan is the second-most threatened, and the Murzuk-Djado Basin in northern Africa the third.
How did these giant basins become so depleted?
Drought, bad management of pumping, leaky pipes in big-city municipal water systems, aging infrastructure, inadequate technology, population growth, and the demand for more food production all put increasing demand on pumping more groundwater. Flood irrigation, which is inefficient, remains the dominant irrigation method worldwide. In India, the world’s largest consumer of groundwater, the government subsidizes electricity â€“ an incentive to farmers to keep pumping.
How has irrigation changed farming?
Irrigation has enabled water-intensive crops to be grown in dry places, which in turn created local economies that are now difficult to undo. These include sugar cane and rice in India, winter wheat in China, and corn in the southern High Plains of North America. Aquaculture has boomed in the land-locked Ararat Basin, which lies along the border between Armenia and Turkey.
Groundwater is cold enough to raise cold-water fish, such as trout and sturgeon. In less than two decades, the aquifer there has been drawn down so severely for fish ponds that municipal water supplies in more than two dozen communities are now threatened.
How much water remains?
More is known about oil reserves than water. Calculating what remains in aquifers is extraordinarily difficult. In 2015, scientists at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada concluded that less than six percent of groundwater above one-and-a-half miles (two kilometers) in the Earth’s landmass is renewable within a human lifetime. But other hydrologists caution that measurements of stores can mislead.
More important is how the water is distributed throughout the aquifer. When water levels drop below to 50 feet or less, it is often not economically practical to pump water to the surface, and much of that water is brackish or contains so many minerals that it is unusable.
Is there any good news?
Depleted groundwater is a slow-speed crisis, scientists say, so there’s time to develop new technologies and water efficiencies. In Western Australia, desalinated water has been injected to recharge the large aquifer that Perth, Australia’s driest city, taps for drinking water. China is working to regulate pumping. In west Texas, the city of Abernathy is drilling into a deeper aquifer that lies beneath the High Plains aquifer and mixing the two to supplement the municipal water supply.
Laura Parker is a staff writer who specializes in covering climate change and marine environments.
(February 19. 2016) — The growing risk of worldwide water shortages is worse than scientists previously thought, according to a new study.
About 66 percent, which is 4 billion people, of the world’s population lives without sufficient access to fresh water for at least one month of the year, according to a new paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances.
Previous studies calculated a lower number, estimating that between 1.7 and 3.1 billion people lived with moderate to severe water scarcity for at least a month out of the year.
Scientists, led by Dr. Arjen Hoekstra of the Netherlands’ University of Twente, used a computer model that is both more precise and comprehensive than previous studies have used to analyze how widespread water scarcity is across the globe. Their model considers multiple variables including: climate records, population density, irrigation and industry.
“Up to now, this type of research concentrated solely on the scarcity of water on an annual basis, and had only been carried out in the largest river basins,” Hoekstra said in a statement. “That paints a more rosy and misleading picture, because water scarcity occurs during the dry period of the year.”
“The fact that the scarcity of water is being regarded as a global problem is confirmed by our research,” Hoekstra added. “For some time now, the World Economic Forum has placed the world water crisis in the top three of global problems, alongside climate change and terrorism.”
Severe water scarcity happens when consumption is twice as high as available resources, according to the study’s researchers. Consequently, half of those suffering from water scarcity are in the world’s two most populous countries — India and China — where demand is high.
High-scarcity levels are also widespread in areas with significant irrigated agriculture (like the Great Plains in the United States) or low natural availability of fresh water (like the Arabian Desert) where populations are also relatively dense, according to the study. Similar patterns exist in the south and western United States where heavily populated states like California have been in a drought for years.
The consequences of water scarcity can result in economic losses due to crop failure, limited food availability and poor business viability, and can threaten environmental biodiversity. When faced with scarcity, areas in need of water often resort to pumping groundwater, which can permanently deplete the supply.
Water shortages have also precipitated or heightened the potential for global conflicts in places like the Middle East and Africa.
“Freshwater scarcity is a major risk to the global economy, affecting four billion people directly,” Hoekstra told The New York Times. “But since the remaining people in the world receive part of their food from the affected areas, it involves us all.”
Despite the grim findings, the study recommends ways to reduce scarcity, such as increasing reliance on rain-fed rather than irrigated agriculture, improving the efficiency of water usage and — perhaps the most challenging for humans — sharing what’s available. The researchers point out that for these solutions to be effective, governments, corporations and investors will need to cooperate.
(February 8, 2016) — Water is essential to life. The majority of people living in the United States have a reliable supply of safe water. But too often, poverty intersects with race and ethnicity to deny people of color and indigenous communities their human right to water.
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) works to implement the human right to water and sanitation through support for grassroots partners, advocacy, and a legal strategy in the United States and across the globe. Thus far, only one US state, California, has enshrined the human right to water in law. In 2012, a coalition led by the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, the Safe Water Alliance, UUSC, Unitarian Universalist congregations, and other faith-based activists helped make California’s human right to water bill, A.B. 685, a reality.
The main problem in the United States is the “affordable” requirement of the right to water. The international standard is that water bills should not exceed 2.5 percent of a household’s monthly income. A recent study by the US Conference of Mayors found that under this standard, large percentages of the US population face water bills that are unaffordable.
By and large, municipal authorities have failed to create adequate affordability plans to help low-income residents maintain access to safe water. In 2014, the city of Detroit began disconnecting tap water service to about 35,000 residential accounts. City officials claimed that people were simply refusing to pay their bills. But in a city where 40 percent of the residents live below the poverty line, the reality was that poor households could not afford their rising water bills.
Detroit families brought a class action suit, Lyda et al v. City of Detroit, to stop the shutoffs. The plaintiffs gave harrowing examples of the impact of the shutoffs on small children, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Plaintiff Nicole Cannon was a mother of three living with a chronic illness. Her unpaid water bill had reached $3,000 because of a leak in her rental home that her landlord refused to repair.
As she struggled to pay her bills with a monthly Social Security Disability check of $648, Detroit Water and Sewer notified her that to avoid having her water shut off, she must pay $241 a month toward her balance. In her deposition, Ms. Cannon noted that this was unsustainable and that, despite seeking help from various sources, she had found no way to maintain running water in her home. She died in January 2015 at the age of 44.
One measure cities can take is to create water affordability plans that align water bills with people’s actual incomes. The city of Philadelphia took a welcome step in 2015, enacting an ordinance that requires the city to research and establish an affordability plan that allows low-income water customers the opportunity to enroll in a payment plan based on their income and individual needs, while maintaining the financial sustainability of the utility. At the national level, the EPA must review its affordability guidelines and develop policies and plans that meet the needs of the country’s lowest-income people.
The international human rights community has taken note of US difficulties in making the right to water a reality in practice. In 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Right to Water conducted a mission to the United States and met with people across the country.
In 2015, the U.N. Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of the United States recommended stepping up efforts to secure the human right to water, especially to avoid discrimination based on poverty, race, and ethnicity.
Patricia Jones is senior program leader for the Human Right to Water and Amber Moulton is a researcher for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC). For more information on UUSC’s human right to water program, visit their website here. This feature is adapted from a story that originally appeared on pp. 38-39 of the 2016 Hunger Report: The Nourishing Effect.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The Natural Resources Defense Council & Kristen Brown / League of Conservation Voters – 2017-02-27 18:45:51
ACTION ALERT: Stand against Donald Trump’s Anti-environment Agenda
“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction . . . deconstruction of the administrative state.”
— Stephen Bannon (aka “Trump’s Brain”)
A POEM FOR SCOTT PRUITT Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War
No surprise here, we all knew it
EPA pick Scotty Pruitt
is bad news, bears, so let’s review it:
Climate change? “There’s nothing to it.”
The Clean Air Act? “We must undo it.”
Clean Water law? “We can’t renew it.”
Lead in water? “Learn to chew it.”
On wilderness? “I’ll drive right through it.”
Oil and coal? “I’ll get right to it.”
Polar bears? “I won’t rescue it.”
Atomic waste? “I don’t intuit.”
Stewardship? “I shall eschew it.”
Sierra Club? “I plan to sue it.”
Our planet’s future? “Don’t care! Screw it!”
ACTION ALERT: Fight Donald Trump’s Disastrous
Anti-Climate and Pro-Fossil Fuel Agenda The Natural Resources Defense Council
Donald Trump has promised to expand oil and gas drilling, kill the Clean Power Plan and roll back some of our most fundamental environmental protections. It’s up to us to show President Trump that we are ready to act — in and out of court — against any attempts to derail the progress we’ve made and force us down a path toward climate chaos.
Urge Trump not to threaten our wildlife and wild places or reverse our progress in fighting climate change — and tell him that you’re ready to fight his administration’s disastrous plans every step of the way.
The radical views you expressed during your campaign would devastate our environment, set us back decades in the fight against climate change, threaten our national security and deprive millions of American workers of jobs in the new, booming clean energy economy.
To that end I call on you to reverse course and cancel any plans to: * Pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, making America an international pariah and threatening our economy * Kill the Clean Power Plan, the most important step our country has taken to address climate change * Resurrect the dangerous Keystone XL pipeline * Dramatically expand oil and gas drilling, fracking and coal mining across our public lands and offshore waters, sacrificing our cherished wildlands and wildlife for more climate-wrecking fossil fuels
If you pursue this anti-environment agenda, I will stand with NRDC — both in and out of court — in challenging your administration’s actions at every turn.
Petition to Donald Trump:
The overwhelming majority of Americans want safe drinking water and action on climate change to protect our health, our economy, and our environment. I urge you to see reason and STOP attacking our bedrock environmental protections.
(February 27, 2017) — As soon as today, Donald Trump could sign new executive orders to gut critical climate and drinking water protections President Obama and the EPA put in place to protect our health, our economy, and our environment.
Only a month in, Trump has already signed executive orders advancing the dangerous Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, put fossil fuel industry insider Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA, and threatened to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. Enough is enough!
We may not be able to convince Trumpâ€™s hardcore base — or his polluter pals in Congress — to value climate action, but we know how thin-skinned Donald Trump truly is, and we know he pays attention to what people say about him. Right now, Trumpâ€™s approval numbers are awful. This is our moment to show him that the people are angry and demand action!
Thereâ€™s no sugar coating it: Trump and his administration are a menace to everything weâ€™ve worked for. And with Scott Pruitt now officially confirmed as the head of the EPA, the forces working against us are even greater.
But we will not give up. When the EPA first proposed the Clean Power Plan, LCV supporters sent in 420,000 comments to the EPA supporting the plan. And we joined over 800,000 people in calling for drinking water protections under the Clean Water Rule. People who care about breathing clean air and drinking clean water, who are worried about the dangers of climate change, and who want to save our planet are rallying together and fighting back harder than ever!
LCV is putting all our resources to build a network of engaged citizens that will prepare for the long fight ahead and push back against Trumpâ€™s radical agenda.
Clean air and clean water are fundamental rights! Donâ€™t let Trump get away with his attacks on our environment. STAND TOGETHER: Don’t let Trump and Big Polluter insiders to get away with their awful plans for the environment.
Let’s build a people-powered movement to protect our environment from Trumpâ€™s disastrous plans! Thank you for standing up to Donald Trumpâ€™s dangerous, anti-environment agenda.
THE LETTER The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in climate change and support a transition to clean, renewable energy, and an even greater percentage support increased protections for drinking water.
I urge you to stop your attacks on our environment, which are in direct opposition to what the American people want. In addition, I urge you to make environmental protection a significant part of your administration’s agenda during the next four years and build on the progress our nation has made because of President Obama.
Director of Digital Strategy
League of Conservation Voters
Microplastics in Oceans Outnumber Stars in Our Galaxy by 500 Times Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch
(February 24, 2017) — The United Nations is “declaring war” on the biggest sources of planetary pollution — ocean plastic. On Thursday, the intergovernmental organization’s environment program (UNEP) launched its #CleanSeas campaign at the World Ocean Summit hosted by The Economist in Bali, Indonesia.
The unprecedented global initiative urges governments and businesses to take measures to eliminate microplastics from cosmetics and personal care items, ban or tax single-use plastic bags and dramatically reduce other disposable plastic items by 2022. Everyday citizens are also encouraged to join the fight.
Ten countries have already joined the campaign. Indonesia aims to reduce marine litter by 70 percent by 2025. Uruguay will tax plastic bags later this year. Costa Rica will implement better waste management and education strategies to slash single-use plastic.
Adrian Grenier World Ocean Summit
Estimates say that 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans every year, wreaking havoc on aquatic life and ecosystems and costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems.
If plastic continues to be dumped at its current rate, the oceans will carry more plastic than fish by 2050 and an estimated 99 percent of seabirds will have ingested plastic by then.
There is also a growing presence of tiny plastic particles that shred off of larger items such as plastic bags, bottles and clothing. According to UN News, “as many as 51 trillion microplastic particles — 500 times more than stars in our galaxy — litter our seas, seriously threatening marine wildlife.”
The Scourge of Microplastics (UNEP)
The campaign’s organizers want to banish plastic pollution from entering the world’s seas before it’s too late.
“It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans,” Erik Solheim, head of UNEP, said. “Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop.”
The program is also calling on consumers to shrink their own plastic footprint, from bringing reusable bags to avoiding cosmetics with microbeads.
“I support the Clean Seas campaign because I believe there are better alternatives to single-use disposable plastics, and that we as consumers can encourage innovation and ask businesses to take responsibility for the environmental impact of the products they produce,” Jack Johnson, a musician and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, said.
“We can all start today by making personal commitments to reduce plastic waste by carrying reusable shopping bags and water bottles, saying no to straws and choosing products without microbeads and plastic packaging. We can also support the efforts of the emerging youth leaders around the world working for healthy and plastic free oceans,” Johnson said.
The singer-songwriter is also promoting a new documentary The Smog of the Sea, which highlights the problem of microplastics. Watch here:
Companies such as DELL are also onboard with the UNEP clean seas campaign. In a tech industry first, the computer company announced this week it will use packaging trays with 25 percent recycled ocean plastic content. The pilot project will keep 16,000 pounds of plastics out of the ocean, the company said.
“DELL is committed to putting technology and expertise to work for a plastic-free ocean,” said Piyush Bhargava, vice president for global operations. “Our new supply chain brings us one step closer to UNEP’s vision of Clean Seas by proving that recycled ocean plastic can be commercially reused.”
Other major announcements are expected at the upcoming The Ocean conference at the UN Headquarters in New York in June, and UN the Environment Assembly in Nairobi in December, according to UNEP.
“The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet, yet we are poisoning it with millions of tonnes of plastic every year,” said Peter Thomson, the president of the UN General Assembly. “Be it a tax on plastic bags or a ban on microbeads in cosmetics, each country [can] do their bit to maintain the integrity of life in the Ocean.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Standing Rock Is Burning — but Our Resistance Isn’t Over Julian Brave NoiseCat / The Guardian
Water protectors near Standing Rock have set their camp on fire. It’s an act of defiance against a system of oppression that can only be described as colonial
OCETI SAKOWIN CAMP (February 25, 2017) — Just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, water protectors set their makeshift and traditional structures ablaze in a final act of prayer and defiance against Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Pipeline, sending columns of black smoke billowing into the winter sky above the Oceti Sakowin protest camp.
The majority of the few hundred remaining protesters marched out, arm in arm ahead of the North Dakota authorities’ Wednesday eviction deadline. An estimated one hundred others refused the state’s order, choosing to remain in camp and face certain arrest in order to defend land and water promised to the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation, in the long-broken Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.
On these hallowed grounds, history tends to repeat itself. In 1890, police murdered Sitting Bull on the Standing Rock reservation out of suspicion that he was preparing to lead the Ghost Dance movement in an uprising. Two weeks later the United States Cavalry massacred more than three hundred Lakota at Wounded Knee.
Over 126 years later, the characters and details of the stories that animate this landscape have changed, but the Cowboys and Indians remain locked in the same grim dance.
The first whirlwind month of Donald Trump’s presidency has brought the injustices of racism, capitalism, and patriarchy long festering beneath the surface of American society out into the open. The eviction of Oceti Sakowin from their treaty lands forces us to confront another foundational injustice, one rarely if ever discussed in contemporary politics — colonialism.
For many, it is contentious and even laughable to suggest that colonialism endures in the present. In the American popular imagination, colonialism ended either when the 13 colonies declared independence from Britain in 1776, or when John Wayne and the 6th Cavalry blasted away Geronimo and the Apaches in Stagecoach.
Colonialism, according to these narratives, is history.
The eviction of Oceti Sakowin suggests otherwise. But in order to see the big picture in all its unjust and ghastly detail, we must take in the full shame of America’s treatment of the Standing Rock Sioux and the first people of this land.
At Standing Rock, 41% of citizens live in poverty. That is almost three times the national average. The reservation’s basic infrastructure is chronically underfunded. Schools are failing. Jobs are few and far between, and 24% of reservation residents are unemployed. Healthcare is inadequate.
Many depend on unsafe wells for water. Roads are often unpaved. Housing is in short supply, substandard and overcrowded. If the people of Standing Rock did not take-in their beloved family and friends, there would be mass homelessness.
Dakota Access Pipeline’s price tag of $3.8 billion is nearly $1 billion more than the entire budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren is said to be worth $4.2 billion. The pipeline will pour even more wealth into his pockets.
Meanwhile, Standing Rock will remain in poverty on the margins. The most expensive piece of infrastructure in their community will not be the schools, homes or hospitals they desperately need. Instead it will be a pipeline that they have vehemently opposed.
This is how the first people of this land live in the forgotten Bantustans of the American West.
This system, an essential foundation of the United States, is rooted in the theft of indigenous land and the ongoing disavowal of indigenous sovereignty. Indigenous presence must be confined, erased and then forgotten, so that the United States may continue to live upon and profit mightily from lands taken from indigenous people.
The erasure of indigenous people explains why Dakota Access was rerouted from upstream of Bismarck south to Standing Rock. It explains why pipelines can be hammered through Native communities without regard to their treaties and indigenous, constitutional and human rights.
It explains why a multi-billion dollar pipe can be drilled through Standing Rock before long-needed basic infrastructure is built. It explains how, after months of unprecedented protests and visibility, Trump can claim that he received no complaints about the pipeline. It explains how Oceti Sakowin can be wiped off the map.
It is impossible to describe the totality of this picture of land theft, containment, poverty, oppression, policing and extraction as anything other than colonialism.
But from the moment that colonialism ensnared land and life, indigenous people fought it — none more than Sitting Bull and his kin, the Oceti Sakowin.
They have lit a fire on the prairie in the heart of America as a symbol of their resistance, a movement that stands for something that is undoubtedly right: water that sustains life, and land that gave birth to people. In its ashes there is the potential for a more just future for this land, this water, and all the nations and people who share it.
(February 23, 2017) — On February 21 and 22, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department evacuated the remaining water protectors protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.
Though several Democrats praised the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision on December 4 to conduct an environmental impact assessment, they have been silent on the issue since construction of the pipeline has moved forward under the Trump administration.
The decision to stop the pipeline is now in the hands of the courts, as the Standing Rock Sioux tribe attempts to force the Army Corps of Engineers to enforce their December 4, 2016, decision.
The water protectors at Standing Rock faced a barrage of smear campaigns from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and companies in charge of the pipeline construction. At the behest of pipeline security, they were attacked by dogs, pepper sprayed, tear gassed and hosed with water in subfreezing temperatures.
Some protectors suffered severe injuries, including a 21-year-old girl who nearly lost her arm due to police throwing a concussion grenade at the peaceful protesters.
Nevertheless, the Democratic establishment failed to acknowledge the protests. The mainstream media largely avoided the conflict as well, basing their limited coverage on the issue solely on law enforcement sources. Throughout the water protectors’ protests, establishment Democrats stood up for Standing Rock only after a small victory was achieved.
The Democrat Party, an ostensible ally, continuously offers weak opposition to the Republican Party and corporate powers that oppress and infringe on human rights.
The Democratic establishment’s resistance to Trump ignores his policies that don’t provide political expediency, like the Dakota Access Pipeline. Though the battle against the pipeline lasted months, very few Democrats spoke out.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard were the greatest opponents of the pipeline. Supposedly progressive icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who claims Cherokee heritage, largely ignored the issue — apart from December 4, 2016, when she tried to take credit for the protesters’ small victory.
The Democratic Party not only needs to mobilize against Trump — it needs to fight for marginalized groups, like Native Americans. But instead, the Democratic establishment is trying to restore political power without making reforms. They continue to partner with wealthy and corporate donors and refuse to join progressives on key issues.
Sanders has reiterated that the Democratic Party cannot market the interests of billionaires and Wall Street while also representing working class, middle class, and low income Americans. Democrats must choose a side. Unfortunately, when given the opportunity, they consistently side with their donors, who are deeply invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
ACTION ALERT: Stop Trump from Starting a Nuclear War Petition from Credo Action
The petition to Congress reads:
Donald Trump currently has unrestricted power to launch thousands of nuclear weapons at will. Support H.R. 669, the Restricting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, to stop him from starting a nuclear war.
Donald Trump has shocked the nation with his flagrant disregard for national security. While hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Florida resort, he held national security strategy sessions and received confidential security briefings while an army officer carried the “nuclear football” (1) around in plain sight and earshot of paying club members.
This behavior is not rational or safe.
Trump could start a nuclear war today. And frankly, he might. Right now, Trump has unrestricted power to launch thousands of nuclear weapons at will.
Fortunately, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Ted Lieu have now introduced legislation — the Restricting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act — that would limit Trump’s ability to launch nuclear weapons without an act of Congress. (2)
We need to let Congress know with a massive showing of public support that we are counting on them to support this legislation before it’s too late. Tell Congress: Stop Trump from starting a nuclear war. Click here to sign the petition.
The Restricting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act would require a congressional declaration of war in order to use nuclear weapons, except in response to an incoming nuclear attack, effectively blocking Trump from starting a nuclear war on a whim or because someone hurts his feelings on Twitter.
Under the current system, the president has unchecked authority to use the thousands of nuclear weapons at his command — a process that takes less than five minutes.
Trump has already expressed his dangerous views on the use of nuclear weapons, including a complete lack of understanding of the nuclear triad, casual threats regarding using nuclear weapons on the battlefield or to combat terrorists and a desire to be “unpredictable” in his use of nuclear weapons. (3)
Trump’s first few weeks in office have been a series of horrifying demonstrations of this administration’s recklessness and incompetence. Just this week he publicly handled classified information about North Korea’s missile launch at his Mar-a-Largo hotel, (4) and his top national security adviser resigned in disgrace after lying about his contact with the Russian government. (5)
We cannot trust Trump to make rational or informed decisions about the safety of our country and the world. That’s why we’re joining with our friends at Win Without War, Daily Kos and other progressive allies to tell Congress that they must keep us safe by supporting the Restricting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act.
Trump and his dangerous cronies in the White House cannot stop himself from making bad decisions. We must pressure Congress now to take away the blank check to stop him from making the biggest one. It is time to take the “nuclear football” away from Trump. Click the link below to sign the petition:
(January 25, 2017) — Donald Trump would have to seek congressional approval if he wanted to launch a first strike with nuclear weapons, under new legislation introduced in a direct response to his election as president.
Congressman Ted Lieu and Senator Edward Markey, both referenced President’s brash discussion of nuclear weapons on social media when they submitted the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017.
Mr. Trump’s “ignorance” of nuclear defence theory “increases the risk” of an accidental nuclear war, the Democrats said in a statement accompanying the legislation, which would forbid the President from launching a first strike with nuclear weapons without a declaration of war by Congress.
The question over the President’s authority to launch nuclear weapons at very short notice was “more urgent than ever”, they added.
Mr. Trump caused concern among defence experts when being briefed on nuclear weapons, when he allegedly asked why they couldn’t be used if possessed by the US.
Taking to his Twitter account in December, he said the US “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes”.
The President has also threatened to “nuke Isis territory” in response to an attack.
Follow Donald J. Trump âœ” @realDonaldTrump
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
8:50 AM — 22 Dec 2016
21,324 21,324 Retweetsâ€¨73,067 73,067 likes
After introducing the new bill, Senator Markey insisted that “neither President Trump, nor any other president, should be allowed to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack.”
He said: “Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Yet, President Trump has suggested that he would consider launching nuclear attacks against terrorists. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, US policy provides him with that power.”
That policy “drastically” raised the risk of unintended nuclear escalation with another nuclear-armed country, he added.
His colleague, Congressman Lieu said: “It is a frightening reality that the US now has a Commander-in-Chief who has demonstrated ignorance of the nuclear triad, stated his desire to be ‘unpredictable’ with nuclear weapons, and as President-elect was making sweeping statements about US nuclear policy over Twitter.”
The nuclear triad is the method the US would use to make a nuclear attack, utilising submarines, bomber aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles fired from land.
“Congress must act to preserve global stability by restricting the circumstances under which the US would be the first nation to use a nuclear weapon,” Congressman Lieu said. “Our Founders created a system of checks and balances and it is essential for that standard to be applied to the potentially civilization-ending threat of nuclear war.”
Despite their concerns, the new bill and it is unlikely to pass through the US Congress and Senate, both of which are controlled by Mr. Trump’s Republican party.
Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Deputy Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), also highlighted potential issues with it.
He told The Independent that exerting more congressional control over the President’s power to use nuclear weapons had the potential to give an enemy a strategic advantage.
“The nature of war is that it is very unpredictable,” he said. “And whatever legal constraints are announced publically, a potential adversary can take those into account in calculating what they do — if they believe those constraints are credible.”
If the decision to use nuclear weapons was an urgent one, he added that there was the question about whether the President would have the luxury of consulting Congress in “what would inevitably be quite a time consuming process.”
But other experts have supported the bill, including William Perry, who served as Secretary of Defence under the Clinton administration and has had a high level inside view of the government’s nuclear weapons policy and procedure.
He said: “During my period as Secretary of Defence, I never confronted a situation, or could even imagine a situation, in which I would recommend that the President make a first strike with nuclear weapons — understanding that such an action, whatever the provocation, would likely bring about the end of civilization.
“I believe that the legislation proposed by Congressman Lieu and Senator Markey recognises that terrible reality. Certainly a decision that momentous for all of civilization should have the kind of checks and balances on Executive powers called for by our Constitution.”
Anti-nuclear proliferation groups also expressed support for the bill.
Derek Johnson, Executive Director of Global Zero, who work to eliminate nuclear weapons, said: “In the wake of the election, the American people are more concerned than ever about the terrible prospect of nuclear war — and what the next commander-in-chief will do with the proverbial ‘red button.’
“That such devastating power is concentrated in one person is an affront to our democracy’s founding principles.”
WASHINGTON (January 24, 2017) — Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) introduced H.R. 669 and S. 200, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. This legislation would prohibit the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. The crucial issue of nuclear “first use” is more urgent than ever now that President Donald Trump has the power to launch a nuclear war at a moment’s notice.
Upon introduction of this legislation, Mr. Lieu issued the following statement:
“It is a frightening reality that the US now has a Commander-in-Chief who has demonstrated ignorance of the nuclear triad, stated his desire to be ‘unpredictable’ with nuclear weapons, and as President-elect was making sweeping statements about US nuclear policy over Twitter. Congress must act to preserve global stability by restricting the circumstances under which the US would be the first nation to use a nuclear weapon.
Our Founders created a system of checks and balances, and it is essential for that standard to be applied to the potentially civilization-ending threat of nuclear war. I am proud to introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 with Sen. Markey to realign our nation’s nuclear weapons launch policy with the Constitution and work towards a safer world.”
Upon introduction of this legislation, Senator Markey issued the following statement:
“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Yet, President Trump has suggested that he would consider launching nuclear attacks against terrorists. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, US policy provides him with that power.
In a crisis with another nuclear-armed country, this policy drastically increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. Neither President Trump, nor any other president, should be allowed to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack.
By restricting the first use of nuclear weapons, this legislation enshrines that simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
Support for the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017:
William J. Perry, Former Secretary of Defense — “During my period as Secretary of Defense, I never confronted a situation, or could even imagine a situation, in which I would recommend that the President make a first strike with nuclear weapons — understanding that such an action, whatever the provocation, would likely bring about the end of civilization. ‘
I believe that the legislation proposed by Congressman Lieu and Senator Markey recognizes that terrible reality. Certainly a decision that momentous for all of civilization should have the kind of checks and balances on Executive powers called for by our Constitution.”
Tom Z. Collina, Policy Director of Ploughshares Fund — “President Trump now has the keys to the nuclear arsenal, the most deadly killing machine ever created. Within minutes, President Trump could unleash up to 1,000 nuclear weapons, each one many times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb.
“Yet Congress has no voice in the most important decision the United States government can make. As it stands now, Congress has a larger role in deciding on the number of military bands than in preventing nuclear catastrophe.”
Derek Johnson, Executive Director of Global Zero — “One modern nuclear weapon is more destructive than all of the bombs detonated in World War II combined. Yet there is no check on a president’s ability to launch the thousands of nuclear weapons at his command. In the wake of the election, the American people are more concerned than ever about the terrible prospect of nuclear war — and what the next commander-in-chief will do with the proverbial ‘red button.’
That such devastating power is concentrated in one person is an affront to our democracy’s founding principles. The proposed legislation is an important first step to reining in this autocratic system and making the world safer from a nuclear catastrophe.”
Megan Amundson, Executive Director of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) — “Rep. Lieu and Sen. Markey have rightly called out the dangers of only one person having his or her finger on the nuclear button. The potential misuse of this power in the current global climate has only magnified this concern. It is time to make real progress toward lowering the risk that nuclear weapons are ever used again, and this legislation is a good start.”
Jeff Carter, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility — “Nuclear weapons pose an unacceptable risk to our national security. Even a “limited” use of nuclear weapons would cause catastrophic climate disruption around the world, including here in the United States. They are simply too profoundly dangerous for one person to be trusted with the power to introduce them into a conflict.
Grounded in the fundamental constitutional provision that only Congress has the power to declare war, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 is a wise and necessary step to lessen the chance these weapons will ever be used.”
Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers) — “Restricting first-use of nuclear weapons is an urgent priority. Congress should support the Markey-Lieu legislation.”
The Arms Control Association — “The Arms Control Association applauds Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) for reintroducing legislation to highlight the unconstrained and undemocratic ability of the president to initiate the first-use of US nuclear weapons . . . The inauguration of President Donald Trump has heightened fears about the sole authority of the commander in chief to use nuclear weapons.
Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed deep concern about his erratic behavior and loose talk on nuclear weapons. Now is the time to put responsible checks on the use of nuclear weapons in place. Such a decision is far too important to be left in the hands of one person.”
Trump’s Terrorism Fearmongering vs. The Facts A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner / The New York Daily News & the Cato Institute
(February 22, 2017) — When President Trump rails against the news media and decries reports as “fake news,” he is beating a dead horse. American trust in the news media is already at a historic low point, with a September 2016 Gallup poll finding that just 32% of the public (and just 14% of Republicans) have a “fair amount” or a “great deal” of trust in the mass media.
What’s more disturbing is how loose with the facts Trump has been when it comes to talking about terrorism. In recent weeks, as his immigration, refugee, and travel ban foundered in the courts, Trump turned to Twitter to proclaim that “THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”
Speaking at a law enforcement conference, he stated that terrorism is “a far greater threat than people in our country understand. Believe me.”
Trump’s claims, however, are unsubstantiated, strongly refuted by the data, and even contradicted by his own administration.
The Department of Homeland Security, for instance, presents a far less ominous assessment. The most recent advisory, published three months ago, says their “basic assessment of the global threat environment has not changed” since a bulletin published nearly a year prior in December 2015. None of the bulletins on their website, active or expired, mention any the seven countries in Trump’s proposed ban.
Additionally, that the Department of Homeland Security has not published any “alerts” for more than a year also points to a much lower terror threat than the one communicated by Trump.
The department’s National Terrorism Advisory System consists of bulletins (the lowest level), elevated alerts and imminent alerts. Driven by assessments from the US intelligence community, DHS has issued no alerts in at least the past 14 months, indicating there is neither a “credible” terror threat against the US, nor a more concerning “credible, specific and impending” threat. Instead, the department issues bulletins that describe “current developments or general trends regarding threats of terrorism.”
For the past 20 years, terrorist attacks — 9/11 included — have accounted for less than 1% of all murders in the United States. According to a recent study by the Cato Institute, the chances of an American being killed in a terrorist attack between 1975 and 2015, including 9/11, was just 1 in 3.6 million per year.
The chances over the same period of an American being killed by a terrorist attack carried out by an immigrant — the threat most recently the focus of Trump’s proposed ban — was a vanishing 1 in 3.64 billion per year. However, the chance that an American will be killed by a fellow citizen is a more concerning 1 in 14,219 per year, and statistics indicate that more than half of all murder victims knew their killer.
Though Islamist-inspired terrorists pose an ongoing threat, they simply do not lurk behind every corner and, in fact, homeland security efforts have been quite successful in mitigating that threat. The substantially reduced frequency of terror attacks when compared to the historic average testifies to the capabilities of US law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
More pointedly, there appears to be little connection between the nations identified in Trump’s travel ban and the actual threat of terrorism they pose. Migrants from those countries have killed exactly zero Americans on US soil (though there have been a few foiled attempts). Nor does the Department of Homeland Security website indicate that citizens of those countries pose a threat, and history supports their absence from the threat advisories.
None of the attackers responsible for the 10 worst terror attacks in US history came from any of those seven countries. The 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. Of the nine remaining attackers, almost all were US born citizens, except for one of the San Bernardino shooters, who came from Pakistan.
Unfortunately Trump’s rhetoric will have real consequences, with the potential to fuel terrorist recruiting efforts abroad and to incite hate crimes here at home.
Even before Trump took office, polls indicated over half of all Americans were already somewhat or very worried that they or their families would become victims of terrorism. Terrorism and immigration are too important for policy to be based on emotion and fake news.
But with Trump so busy peddling fear, Americans face a choice: They can either buy into Trump’s false narratives — seeing religions, ethnicities and races as existential threats — or they can go where the facts take them and demand polices grounded in reality.
Trevor Thrall is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. Goepner commanded military units in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
CIA Analyst and NCS Director Pounds Trump
In Fiery Op-ed Describing Why He Resigned Leslie Salzillo / The Daily Kos
(February 21, 2017) — After working with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and also serving as the Senior Director of the National Security Counsel (NSC), Edward Price resigned last month. On Monday, Price released a bold and unabashed op-ed letter/video in the Washington Post giving reasons for his departure. Those reasons predominantly condemned the actions of Donald Trump and his Trump “team.”
Price says that despite serving under a Republican and Democratic presidents, he could not, “in good faith” serve this administration as an intelligence professional. He adds that submitting intelligence analysis to President Obama and President George W. Bush, who were receptive to briefings, was rewarding.
But like most of the country, Price found himself in awe as Trump slowly rose to power during the 2016 election year. The third debate, Price says, had him in disbelief as Trump casually casted doubt on the “high-confidence [conclusion] 17 intelligence agencies released that month, that Russia was behind the hacking and release of election-related emails.” Now Price says he finds that Trump’s actions in office have been even more alarming.
After serving in the CIA for over a decade, Price confers about his disgust with how Trump chose to talk about the size of his inauguration crowd while standing in front of the CIA memorial the day after being inaugurated.
“Trump’s actions in office have been even more disturbing. His visit to CIA headquarters on his first full day in office, an overture designed to repair relations, was undone by his ego and bluster.
“Standing in front of a memorial to the CIA’s fallen officers, he seemed to be addressing the cameras and reporters in the room, rather than the agency personnel in front of them, bragging about his inauguration crowd the previous day.
“Whether delusional or deceitful, these were not the remarks many of my former colleagues and I wanted to hear from our new commander in chief. I couldn’t help but reflect on the stark contrast between the bombast of the new president and the quiet dedication of a mentor — a courageous, dedicated professional — who is memorialized on that wall. I know others at CIA felt similarly.”
Price said Trump’s appointment of White House Chief Advisor/Strategist Steve Bannon to the National Security Council was the final catalyst that led to his decision to resign.
“The final straw came late last month, when the Trump White House issued a directive reorganizing the National Security Council, on whose staff I served from 2014 until earlier this year.
“Missing from the NSC’s principals committee were the CIA director and the director of national intelligence. Added to the roster: the president’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who cut his teeth as a media champion of white nationalism.
The public outcry led the administration to reverse course and name the CIA director an NSC principal, but the White House’s inclination was clear.
It has little need for intelligence professionals who, in speaking truth to power, might challenge the so-called “America First” orthodoxy that sees Russia as an ally and Australia as a punching bag. That’s why the president’s trusted White House advisers, not career professionals, reportedly have final say over what intelligence reaches his desk.”
In his letter, Price also makes it clear his decision to resign was not about political parties, saying he would have been proud to work with a Republican president receptive to intelligence analysis, but this administration has “flipped that dynamic on its head” tuning out actual intelligence professionals.
Price believes until Donald Trump is prepared to listen to the intelligence community, he and team are doing yet another “disservice to the dedicated men and women and the nation they proudly, if quietly, serve.”
Kudos to Edward Price. The continued truth and fearlessness coming from intelligence, military, and national security personnel is what this country needs. It makes the national Resistance stronger and more diverse, and it brings us closer to the inevitable forced resignation of Donald Trump.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Why I left the CIA: ‘There Is a Strong
Feeling of Demoralization’ under Trump
(February 21, 2017) — Edward Price, a former analyst and NSC spokesman, said he thought he’d spend his career at the CIA. The Trump administration changed his mind.