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Trump Just Gave Himself More Power to Kill in Secret

March 15th, 2019 - by Conor Friedersdorf

Conor Friedersdorf / The Atlantic

(March 7, 2019) — After seven years spent presiding over many hundreds of secretive, extrajudicial CIA killings, President Barack Obama signed a 2016 executive order intended to increase transparency and reduce the “tragic” deaths of civilians. The order required the release each May 1 of the number of drone strikes undertaken by the United States “against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities,” along with “assessments of combatant and non-combatant deaths.”

In theory, the American public would finally know how many innocents were being killed outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, stoking anti-American sentiment and the possibility of blowback in multiple countries where no war was declared.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump rescinded that short-lived reporting requirement. As Charlie Savage observed in The New York Times, “Mr. Trump’s revocation of the disclosure rule amounted to a belated acknowledgment that his administration had already changed the Obama policy in practice: The director of national intelligence never put out a report about bystander casualties in 2017.” Although the Pentagon is still required by statute to disclose civilian casualties from its ongoing combat operations, Savage explained, that law doesn’t cover lethal CIA drone strikes.

The legislative branch has all but abdicated its war powers, and lawmakers on both sides have let successive presidents preside over secret kill lists. Without the reporting order in place, there is no way for the public to know what the Trump administration is up to, theoretically in its name.

Subjecting any president to so little accountability is imprudent. And Trump warrants particular mistrust, given his habit of surrounding himself with unscrupulous individuals and statements he has made on the use of lethal force, e.g., “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released a statement asserting “the need for Congress to make this reporting mandatory.” The Democrat tried to force an increase in transparency under Obama too.

What he proposes would be better than nothing.

It is nevertheless disheartening––as a longtime critic of America’s program of lethal drone strikes––to assess the state of the policy debate in Washington, D.C.

The president wants the power to kill people in secret far from any battlefield without having to disclose how often he exercises it or how many innocents die.

The Democratic Party purports to regard him as a morally depraved, power-hungry opportunist who lacks wisdom, judgment, and restraint, rendering him unfit for high office. But it won’t push to strip him of the ability to unilaterally kill an indeterminate number of people in various countries where we are not at war. It will merely try to force him to disclose the body count once a year. And it likely doesn’t have the votes in Congress to accomplish even that.

CONOR FRIEDERSDORF is a California-based staff writer at The Atlantic,where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

Top US General Supports Trump’s ‘First Strike’ Nuclear Option

March 15th, 2019 - by Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

WASHINGTON (March 14, 2019) — With the world’s largest, most destructive arsenal of nuclear weapons, the United States poses an enormous risk not just to peace, but to the survival of much of the human race. That’s only a problem, of course, if the US starts using that arsenal.

Which is where formal US nuclear doctrine would come in. There have been debates for decades on whether the US should adopt a “no first use” policy, officially ruling out the idea that the US would launch a nuclear attack without first being attacked with a nuclear weapon.

Morally, this ought to be obvious, but every attempt to adopt such a policy has been opposed, with Joint Chiefs commander Gen. Joe Dunford the latest to come out against the idea, saying promising not to nuke other nations in a first strike would “simplify an adversary’s decision-making.”

Dunford went on to argue that there are “a few situations” where he believes the president should retain the option to launch nuclear first strikes, though he did not say what those situations were. Given the potentially disastrous consequences of such a strike, it is unsurprising that many i Congress are pushing to limit the risk of the president being able to do that unilaterally.

Top General Opposes Shift to ‘No First Use’ Nuclear Doctrine

Lauren Meier / The Washington Post

(March 14, 2019) — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came out forcefully against a change in U.S. military policy which say the U.S. would not be the first to use nuclear weapons on a conflict with an adversary.

The “no first use” policy has been embraced by several Democratic candidates running for president in 2020, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who co-sponsored a bill in January that would establish in law that the U.S. would not be the first to use nuclear weapons.

But Gen. Joseph Dunford told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday that “I absolutely believe that the current policy is the right policy.”

The Pentagon has long resisted adopting a blanket “no first use” doctrine in its nuclear strategy.

“I wouldn’t make any decisions to simplify an adversary’s decision-making calculus,” Gen. Dunford told lawmakers. “I can also imagine a few situations where we wouldn’t want to remove that option from the president.”

How Fukushima Nukes Kill Our Climate, Our Planet, Ourselves

March 15th, 2019 - by Harvey Wasserman / Solartopia

Harvey Wasserman / Reader Supported News 

(March 13, 2019) — Eight years ago this week, apocalyptic radiation clouds began pouring out of Fukushima. They haven’t stopped.

Nor have the huckster holocaust deniers peddling still more of these monsters of mass destruction. Some even deny the health impacts from Fukushima fallout that’s already more than 100 times greater than Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s.

Many push fake “new generation” reactors already priced out of by renewables. But far more deadly is their demand to operate the old, crumbling reactors that daily grow more dangerous.

Here are some inconvenient truths: 

  • About 450 reactors now spew huge quantities of waste heat that kill our global weather patterns.
  • All daily emit carbon and more during “normal” operations and the mining, milling, and enrichment of radioactive fuel.
  • All daily kill millions of marine creatures with hot offal dumped into oceans, lakes, and rivers.
  • Many kill birds and bats with tall cooling towers that spew radioactive and chemical pollutants.
  • None can safely manage their uber-intense radioactive waste.
  • All raise nearby human infant death rates.
  • All see human infant death rates drop when they shut.
  • All daily risk more partial explosions as at Fermi I (1966) and Three Mile Island 2 (1979), and full ones like Chernobyl 4 (1986) and Fukushima 1, 2, 3 and 4 (2011).
  • Many sit on or near active earthquake faults.
  • Many are vulnerable to death by tsunami.
  • Most are vulnerable to lightning strikes and air attack.
  • All are embrittled by decades of constant heat, pressure, and radiation that make them likely to shatter in an accident.
  • All are internally cracked to varying degrees.
  • Many suffer from “deferred maintenance” left undone by greedy owners.
  • Some are visibly crumbling.
  • The industry is short of skilled operators.  
  • Some old reactors operate with pre-digital control systems.
  • Overstuffed spent fuel pools endanger us even more than the reactors themselves.
  • Most spent fuel casks are thin and many are deteriorated.
  • Nowhere are there credible evacuation plans.
  • Bankrupt nuclear utilities can’t manage their basic grid, let alone run dying reactors.
  • Davis-Besse’s owner blacked out 50 million people in 2003 with unmaintained power lines.
  • Diablo Canyon’s owner is under federal criminal probation for killing eight people in a 2010 San Bruno gas explosion caused by its faulty pipes.
  • PG&E’s faulty power lines sparked 2017-2018 fires that killed more than 80 people, incinerated more than 10,000 structures, drew $10 billion in lawsuits, and destroyed one of the world’s most precious ecosystems.
  • In bankruptcy, it’s now stiffing fire victims it promised to compensate.
  • A month ago, it burned down five buildings in San Francisco.

The forever “Nuke Renaissance” still fantasizes about new reactors that won’t be built. The small ones are already priced out. The big ones are behind schedule and over budget.

Tax/ratepayer billions are being scammed to support dangerous, decrepit old nukes that can’t compete with wind, solar, batteries, and LED. Their owners don’t want them inspected.

When the next Fukushima blows, they’ll yell that no one will be hurt, the climate won’t be heated, and the oceans will be safe. But today our lives depend on moving those wasted trillions into our vital Solartopian transition.

ALL those Fukushimas-in-waiting must shut NOW.

And never again – like eight years ago this week – can we let exploding nukes destroy our climate, poison our oceans, kill our children, and threaten all life on earth.

Harvey Wasserman’s Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at prn.fm. California Solartopia is broadcast at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7 fm, Los Angeles. His Life & Death Spiral of US History: From Deganawidah to Trump to Solartopia will soon be atwww.solartopia.org.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.


* It seems this issue never changes course. Forty years ago I organized people around the Washington Public Power Supply System, or WPPSS (pronounce whoops). All the issues were the same: too expensive, too many hazards, too many health risks, too little oversight, too little benefit, no place for the waste. So much money to be made makes for dumb decisions.

* I’ve been wondering when Fukushima, like a months-old drowning victim, was going to ooze up to the surface of our consciousness again. By the way Three Mile Island also caused a very significant spike in Infant Mortality rates for 6 years after its meltdown. & see: https://phys.org/news/2019-03-fukushima-current-state-clean-up.html

* “Once a form of life reaches a certain level of intelligence, it will destroy itself.” — Enrico Fermi

* Unlike the many “accidents” that have occurred at various nukes over the decades, it’s no accident that, as atmospheric CO2 levels rise and the planet heats up, nukes are now being touted as a “safer” non-carbon-base d alternative to carbon-based energy production.
I’d value this promise as equal to the value of past promises: zero. Nuclear energy “too cheap to meter” wasn’t, and isn’t. Ditto nuclear energy that was supposed to be “clean” energy that was supposed to be “safe” and immune to the threat of nuclear proliferation. And, over 60 years after the first nuke started up (Shippingport, PA, 1957), we still can’t agree on how to deal with the long-lived radioactive waste.
We need an industrial/climate policy, not only nationwide but worldwide, that will 1) rapidly increase our renewable (wind, solar, and to a lesser extent hydro) energy production, 2) develop much better battery storage to deal with the intermittent nature of these sources, and 3) to rebuild our transmission grids to ship electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed.
That’s the “generate from renewables” piece of the pie. The other two parts are to recycle more and to use less in the first place. Both require more elaboration than I can provide here.
This is a very big deal, will require difficult individual and collective choices, and we don’t have much time, but we can do it. This policy is like democracy; all the alternatives are worse.

(And, from the other side of the debate, something that reads like a White House Tweet.)

* CO2 is not a harmful ‘GAS’ .. Cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki thriving today post being nuked .. also in russia .. all the global warming lying euro’s who are driving this ‘One World Crap’ have NUkes .. Germany and France and most of Europe .. that’s the ONLY solution to your lying .. so you lie sideways you Doomsdayers .. then you LIE about Alternatives .. i drove through Iowa two summers ago hot as hell summer .. all huge wind turbines along I-80 not one of them turning .. not a breath of wind .. waste of time money .. and oh yeah can’t possibly run The Grid ..

ACTION ALERT: Tell Europe’s Biggest Public Bank To #StopFundingFossils

March 15th, 2019 - by Alex Doukas / Oil Change International

Alex Doukas / Oil Change International  

(March 14, 2019) — What would you do with $2 billion? That’s roughly what Europe’s public bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB), pumps into the oil, gas, and coal industry each year. Right now, the bank is asking for your input on their new approach to energy lending — and the deadline is fast approaching.

Insiders tell us public pressure from people around the world could make the difference between a good policy and a bad one. Join us in telling the EIB that it’s time to stop funding fossils and start funding solutions.

We have just a few weeks to tell the EIB we’d rather see that $2 billion go to clean, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and a just transition for workers — instead of flowing to the fossil fuel industry that’s the cause of the climate crisis.

The EIB’s President, Werner Hoyer, has already committed to aligning the EIB with the Paris Agreement on climate change. If the EIB doesn’t stop funding fossil fuels, it will be out of step with that promise. 

Tell the EIB to get with the program: we can’t deliver on the Paris Agreement if our public banks are still dumping cash into the fossil fuel industry.

The EIB is also the major public bank the EU relies on to finance its infrastructure projects, and there’s no way the EU can do its part to fight climate change if this government-backed bank keeps dumping billions of dollars into dirty projects like new gas pipelines. The European Commission has already outlined eight different pathways to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the EU by 2050 — and it’s clear that none of those pathways are compatible with expanded fossil fuel production propped up by public money. 

Instead of destructive projects that wreck the climate and communities, like the controversial and dangerous Southern Gas Corridor, tell the EIB to end its support for the fossil fuel industry.

The EIB has the chance to send a message to the world that the energy transition is underway and there’s no turning back. The world needs a fossil free EIB.

Let’s keep up the pressure,

ACTIon: SEND YOUR MESSAGE: Stop Funding Fossils Campaign

Price of Oil.org

Your letter will be delivered to European Investment Bank Directors, Governors, and Management Committee:

This moment, as you consider new energy lending criteria for the European Investment Bank (EIB), is a pivotal one:

Will you issue a collective shrug, or will the world’s largest multilateral lender choose to send a strong message that government-backed financing for the fossil fuel industry is no longer acceptable in a world facing a climate crisis?

Will you commit to making the EIB the EU’s financial vehicle for a rapid energy transition that will save lives, create jobs, and help ensure the EU does its part to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement?

We ask you to ensure that the new EIB energy lending criteria exclude financing of fossil fuels. Among the eight scenarios laid out by the European Commission to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, none allow for further expansion of the fossil fuel industry, least of all with public money. 

The world’s preeminent scientists have recognized the need for a rapid energy transition away from fossil fuels, and have highlighted the massive risks of exceeding 1.5°C of warming. Thousands of students across the EU — and many more around the globe — have mobilized in the streets. And the smart money is already fleeing the fossil fuel industry. All of the signs point in one direction: Climate leadership is incompatible with continued financial support for the fossil fuel industry.

As you know, if the world is to meet the climate crisis with adequate ambition, then it’s imperative that the EU demonstrate leadership on climate action. The EIB has tremendous power to signal to the wider financial world that the era of government support for fossil fuels is ending. In this moment, we desperately need your leadership.

The science is clear: we need to stop expanding the fossil fuel industry, and we need to do it now. This means we can’t waste one cent more of government-backed finance on the fossil fuel industry. Luckily, we have a chance to take a big step toward that goal: in the next few weeks, we have a chance to get the European Investment Bank — the EU’s biggest government-backed bank — to stop funding fossils.

The EIB is seeking public input on what their future energy finance should look like. If you think (like we do) that they should stop funding fossils and double down on the clean energy transition, then this is your chance to let them hear it.

International pressure could make the difference between a good decision and a bad one.

As the world’s largest multilateral lender, it’s crucial that the EIB take a leadership role. If they move on this issue, you can be sure that many other financial institutions will follow.

Tell EIB leadership to grab this opportunity to be true leaders — tell them to #StopFundingFossils. The world needs a fossil-free EIB.

Pentagon Plans to Test Long-Banned Nuclear-Capable Missiles This Year

March 15th, 2019 - by Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

Tests to begin after August, when INF Treaty is canceled

(March 13, 2019) — With President Trump having suspended involvement in the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in February, initial assurances that the US didn’t intend to start openly violating the former treaty seem to be scrapped, with Pentagon officials now affirming that this is exactly the plan.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon issued a statement announcing that they will begin making parts for intermediate-range, nuclear-capable missiles soon. In August, when the six month pullout process in completed, the Pentagon now says it intends to test missiles of the types that would’ve been explicitly banned under the INF.

This isn’t a treaty violation, of course. Indeed, the whole point is that the Pentagon is waiting until the moment the INF is dead to start doing these things. There are more disturbing questions, however, with how the US plans to deploy such missiles.

Historically, the US circumvented the INF by making ship-launched missiles. Land-based missiles in the INF range, 500 km to 5,500 km, would have no use in the US, because they wouldn’t be in range of anything.

Historically, US nuclear arms in that range were positioned in Europe and aimed at Russia. Vladimir Putin has already made clear that US missiles returning to Europe would lead to a new arms race, and while the US hasn’t announced that is their intention, yet, it’s not clear what else the missiles would be for.

On the other hand, most NATO nations in Europe probably aren’t going to want to play host to American nuclear weapons. Doing so would obviously make them a bigger target in a war with Russia, and would likely be generally unpopular within the host country.

US to Make Missile Parts Banned by Treaty Trump Suspended

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(March 11, 2019) — Just over a month after the US suspending cooperation with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the Pentagon has issued a statement saying they intend to begin making and testing parts for missiles that would explicitly violate that treaty.

The 1987 INF Treaty forbade the US and Russia from having any nuclear-capable missiles with a range over 500 km but under 5,500 km. The US disavowed the treaty in February, claiming a Russian missile technically violated the INF. This began a six-month process of the US withdrawing from the treaty outright.

The Pentagon statement confirmed that the US has been researching a missile that would violate the INF since 2017. They admitted the actions they are now taking would’ve been “inconsistent with our obligations under the treaty.”

Indications are that the US is going to make parts and test them for the rest of the six-month process of withdrawing from the treaty. The Pentagon says they want development to be reversible just in case the INF does remain intact. Failing that, the US will be well on its way to making such missiles.

US Plans Tests This Year of Long-banned Types of Missiles

Robert Burns / Associated Press

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2019) — The Pentagon plans to begin flight tests this year of two types of missiles that have been banned for more than 30 years by a treaty from which both the United States and Russia are expected to withdraw in August, defense officials said Wednesday.

By moving forward with these missile projects, the Pentagon is not excluding the possibility that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty could still survive, although it likely will be terminated in August. At that point, Washington and Moscow would no longer face legal constraints on deploying land-based cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles). The INF treaty has been in effect since 1987.

The INF treaty was an arms control landmark in the final years of the Cold War, but it began unraveling several years ago when Washington accused Russia of developing, testing and, more recently, deploying a cruise missile that U.S. officials say violates the treaty. Russia denies the violation and contends the U.S. accusation is a ploy to destroy the treaty.

Intermediate-range weapons are regarded as particularly destabilizing because of the short time they take to reach a target.

When he announced on Feb. 1 that the U.S. would pull the plug on the INF treaty, President Donald Trump said his administration would “move forward” with developing a military response to Russia’s alleged violations. He was not specific, but defense officials on Wednesday spelled out a plan for developing two non-INF compliant, non-nuclear missiles.

The officials, who spoke to a small group of reporters under Pentagon ground rules that did not permit use of their names or titles, said one project is a low-flying cruise missile with a potential range of about 1,000 kilometers; the other would be a ballistic missile with a range of roughly 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers. Neither would be nuclear armed, the officials said.

The U.S. cruise missile is likely to be flight-tested in August, one official said, adding that it might be ready for deployment within 18 months. The longer-range ballistic missile is expected to be tested in November, with deployment not likely for five years or more, the official said. If Russia and the U.S. were to reach a deal to rescue the INF treaty before August, these projects would not go forward.

The cruise missile recalls a nuclear-armed U.S. weapon that was deployed in Britain and several other European NATO countries in the 1980s, along with Pershing 2 ground-based ballistic missiles, in response to a buildup of Soviet SS-20 missiles targeting Western Europe. With the signing of the INF treaty, those missiles were withdrawn and destroyed.

The defense officials said U.S. allies in Europe and Asia have not yet been consulted about deploying either new missile on their territory. NATO is currently studying the implications of the demise of the INF treaty and possible military responses.

One defense official said it was possible that the intermediate-range ballistic missile could be deployed on Guam, a U.S. territory, which would be close enough to Asia to pose a potential threat to China and Russia.

Arms control advocates and Democrats in Congress have questioned the wisdom of leaving the INF treaty, while accepting U.S. allegations that Russia is violating it by deploying a cruise missile that can target American allies in Europe.

“The Russians have been violating the INF treaty for years but, instead of focusing world opinion against the Russians, the Trump administration decided to withdraw from the treaty,” Rep. Adam Smith, the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said recently. “Instead of punishing the Russians, the administration has announced it would sink to the level of the Russians.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Wednesday the Pentagon has not yet established a military requirement for a ground-launched cruise or ballistic missile of intermediate range.

“It is unwise for the U.S. and NATO to match an unhelpful action by Russia with another unhelpful action,” Kimball said. The alliance also needs to develop a post-INF arms control strategy because “if the United States tries to bully NATO into accepting deployment of such missiles, it is going to provoke a destabilizing action-reaction cycle and missile race.”

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