Australian news, and some related international items

Former PM Kevin Rudd says Assange faces ‘unacceptable’ and ‘disproportionate’ punishment

Rudd says Assange faces ‘unacceptable’ and ‘disproportionate’ punishment By Rob Harris, Kevin Rudd says Julian Assange would pay an “unacceptable” and “disproportionate” price if he is extradited to the United States, arguing the WikiLeaks founder should not take the fall for Washington’s failures to secure its own classified documents.

In a significant intervention into Mr Assange’s extradition fight, the former Australian prime minister said US prosecutors had not made any specific allegations that anyone was seriously harmed as a consequence of the release of highly classified documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2010.

The Morrison government is resisting a rising tide of demands to intervene in the case of the 48-year-old Australian citizen, as his supporters grow increasingly concerned over his deteriorating health in a British prison.

Mr Rudd, himself targeted in WikiLeaks’ publication of more than 250,000 leaked diplomatic cables nine years ago, said while he had “serious reservations” about Mr Assange’s character and conduct, he did not believe he should be extradited to face an “effective life sentence” in the US.

In a letter to the Bring Julian Assange Home Queensland Network, seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Rudd said he could not see the difference between Mr Assange and the editors of many American media outlets that reported the material he had provided them.  

“If [the US prosecutors’] case is essentially that Mr Assange broke the law by obtaining and disclosing secret information, then I struggle to see what separates him from any journalist who solicits, obtains and publishes such information,” Mr Rudd wrote.

“In other words, why should Mr Assange be tried, convicted and incarcerated while those who publicly released the information are afforded protection under provisions of the US constitution concerning press freedom?”

The group was briefed by barrister Jen Robinson, a member of Mr Assange’s London legal team, as well as Greg Barns from the Australian Assange Campaign and human rights and due process advocate Aloysia Brooks.

Mr Rudd said he was “deeply opposed” to the leaking of classified diplomatic or intelligence communications, which needed to be protected to maintain Australia’s national security interests and that of its allies.

“Ultimate responsibility for keeping sensitive information secure rests with governments. The United States government demonstrably failed to effectively secure the classified documents relevant to this case,” he wrote.

“The result was the mass leaking of sensitive diplomatic cables, including some that caused me some political discomfort at the time. However, an effective life sentence is an unacceptable and disproportionate price to pay. I would therefore oppose his extradition.”

More than 60 doctors from the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe and Sri Lanka, wrote to British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Monday asserting that Mr Assange urgently needs medical treatment at a university hospital.

The doctors said in a letter, distributed by WikiLeaks on Monday, that he was suffering from psychological problems including depression as well as dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment.

Mr Barns welcomed Mr Rudd’s intervention saying his comments, like his former colleague Bob Carr, rightly pointed to the threat to freedom of the media.

“The Australian government and all MPs we hope will place pressure on the US to make it understand that the treatment of an Australian citizen this way is not something that should happen,” Mr Barns said.

“Mr Rudd and Mr Carr could never be described as anti-Washington but they clearly understand the need for Canberra to take action to prevent this gross injustice.”

Mr Assange will return to court briefly next month before a full hearing of a US extradition request in which he faces a 175-year jail sentence if found guilty on 18 charges relating to computer fraud and obtaining and disclosing national defence information.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

“the case made by the uranium bulls is in reality full of holes”

Numerous other uranium mines around the world are in care-and-maintenance (e.g. Beverley, Beverley North and Honeymoon in Australia; and Paladin’s Langer Heinrich and Kayelekera mines in Africa) while others are operating at reduced capacity. Paladin is in the process of selling its Kayelekera project in Malawi, for next-to-nothing.

Uranium bulls ‘as rare as white unicorns’ Jim Green, Online Opinion, 26 November 2019,

Uranium bulls are “as rare as white unicorns” according to a commentary in FNArena in September 2019, and the market is “sick and dying” with uranium “quickly becoming a dinosaur of a commodity”.

Canadian company Cameco recently said it cannot see any case for construction of new uranium mines for some years to come. Chief financial officer Grant Isaac said that new mines will not win financial backing without a far stronger recovery in demand for uranium than is currently on the horizon.

“It’s pretty hard to say you’re going to take the risk on an asset … that isn’t licensed, isn’t permitted, probably doesn’t have a proven mining method, when you have idle tier one capacity that’s licensed, permitted, sitting there,” Isaac said.

Moreover, Cameco has no plans to restart mines put into care-and-maintenance in 2016 and 2017: McArthur River (and the Key Lake mill) and Rabbit Lake in Canada, and the Crow Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland in-situ leach mines in the US. Plans to expand Crow Butte were abandoned in March 2019.

Instead, Cameco will continue to meet its contracts by purchasing uranium on the spot market. Delivering the company’s third-quarter results (a small loss), chief exec­utive Tim Gitzel said that only 9 million pounds of uranium oxide will be produced from its mines next year, with the remainder of its requirement of 30‒32 million pounds supplied from spot market purchases.

Cameco’s workforce in Canada has halved. Before the Fukushima disaster, the company employed more than 2,100 people in Saskatchewan. Since then, 810 mine and mill workers have been sacked, along with 219 head office employees in Saskatoon. Continue reading

November 26, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Iraq: new finding of serious congenital deformities due to thorium and uranium from U.S. military use.

IRAQI CHILDREN BORN NEAR U.S. MILITARY BASE SHOW ELEVATED RATES OF “SERIOUS CONGENITAL DEFORMITIES,” STUDY FINDS  Murtaza Hussain, November 26 2019,  MORE THAN A decade and a half after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, a new study found that babies are being born today with gruesome birth defects connected to the ongoing American military presence there. The report, issued by a team of independent medical researchers and published in the journal Environmental Pollution, examined congenital anomalies recorded in Iraqi babies born near Tallil Air Base, a base operated by the U.S.-led foreign military coalition. According to the study, babies showing severe birth defects — including neurological problems, congenital heart disease, and paralyzed or missing limbs — also had corresponding elevated levels of a radioactive compound known as thorium in their bodies.

“We collected hair samples, deciduous (baby) teeth, and bone marrow from subjects living in proximity to the base,” said Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the study’s lead researchers. “In all three tissues we see the same trend: higher levels of thorium.” Savabieasfahani, who has authored studies on the radioactive footprint of the U.S. military presence in Iraq for years, says that the new findings contribute to a growing body of evidence about the serious long-term health impact of U.S. military operations on Iraqi civilians. “The closer that you live to a U.S. military base in Iraq,” she said, “the higher the thorium in your body and the more likely you are to suffer serious congenital deformities and birth defects.”
The new study piles onto a growing wealth of knowledge about severe ill effects of the U.S. military on the environments in which it operates. All industrialized military activity is bad for ecological systems, but the U.S., with its enormous military engaged in activities spanning the globe has a particular large environmental footprint. Not only does the U.S. military lead the world in carbon output, but its prodigious presence around the globe leaves a toxic trail of chemicals that local communities have to deal with, from so-called burn pits on bases releasing poisonous smoke to the radiation of depleted uranium rounds mutating the DNA of nearby populations.

The suffering of Iraqis has been particularly acute. The results of the new study added to a laundry list of negative impacts of the U.S.’s long war there to the long-term health of the country’s population. Previous studies, including some contributed by a team led by Savabieasfahani, have pointed to elevated rates of cancer, miscarriages, and radiological poisoning in places like Fallujah, where the U.S. military carried out major assaults during its occupation of the country.

The study published in Environmental Pollution was conducted by a team of independent Iraqi and American researchers in Iraq during the summer and fall of 2016. They analyzed 19 babies born with serious birth defects at a maternity hospital in the vicinity of Tallil Air Base, compared with a control group of 10 healthy newborns.
“Doctors are regularly encountering anomalies in babies that are so gruesome they cannot even find precedents for them,” said Savabieasfahani. “The war has spread so much radiation here that, unless it is cleaned up, generations of Iraqis will continue to be affected.”

SOME OF THESE negative health effects of the American war in Iraq can be put down to U.S. forces’ frequent use of munitions containing depleted uranium. Depleted uranium, a byproduct of the enriched uranium used to power nuclear reactors, makes bullets and shells more effective in destroying armored vehicles, owing to its extreme density. But it has been acknowledged to be hazardous to the environment and the long-term health of people living in places where the munitions are used.

“Uranium and thorium were the main focus of this study,” the authors note. “Epidemiological evidence is consistent with an increased risk of congenital anomalies in the offspring of persons exposed to uranium and its depleted forms.” In other words: The researchers found that the more you were around these American weapons, the more likely you were to bear children with deformities and other health problems.

In response to an outcry over its effects, the U.S. military pledged to not use depleted uranium rounds in its bombing campaigns against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, but, despite this pledge, a 2017 investigation by the independent research group AirWars and Foreign Policy magazine found that the military had continued to regularly use rounds containing the toxic compound.

These depleted-uranium munitions are among the causes of hazards not only to the civilians in the foreign lands where the U.S. fights its wars, but also to American service members who took part in these conflicts. The chronic illnesses suffered by U.S. soldiers during the 1991 war in Iraq — often from exposure to uranium munitions and other toxic chemicals — have already been categorized as a condition known as “Gulf War syndrome.” The U.S. government has been less interested into the effects of the American military’s chemical footprint on Iraqis. The use of “burn pits” — toxic open-air fires used to dispose military waste — along with other contaminants has had a lasting impact on the health of current and future Iraqi generations.

Researchers conducting the latest study said that a broader study is needed to get definitive results about these health impacts. The images of babies born with defects at the hospital where the study was conducted, Bint Al-Huda Maternity Hospital, about 10 kilometers from Tallil Air Base, are gruesome and harrowing. Savabieasfahani, the lead researcher, said that without an effort by the U.S. military to clean up its radioactive footprint, babies will continue to be born with deformities that her study and others have documented.

“The radioactive footprint of the military could be cleaned up if we had officials who wanted to do so,” said Savabieasfahani. “Unfortunately, even research into the problem of Iraqi birth defects has to be done by independent toxicologists, because the U.S. military and other institutions are not even interested in this issue.”

November 26, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases now at a record high

Climate-heating greenhouse gases hit new high, UN reports  

Head of World Meteorological Organization says ‘no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline’   Damian Carrington Environment editor @dpcarrington, Mon 25 Nov 2019 The concentration of climate-heating greenhouse gases has hit a record high, according to a report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.The jumps in the key gases measured in 2018 were all above the average for the last decade, showing action on the climate emergency to date is having no effect in the atmosphere. The WMO said the gap between targets and reality were both “glaring and growing”.

The rise in concentration of greenhouses gases follows inevitably from the continued surge in global emissions, which was described as “brutal news” for 2018. The world’s scientists calculate that emissions must fall by half by 2030 to give a good chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C, beyond which hundreds of millions of people will suffer more heatwaves, droughts, floods and poverty.

But Petteri Taalas, the WMO secretary-general, said: “There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, despite all the commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change. We need to increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind.

“It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of carbon dioxide was 3-5m years ago. Back then, the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now.”

Three-quarters of the emissions cuts pledged by countries under the Paris agreement of 2015 are “totally inadequate”, according to a comprehensive expert analysis published earlier in November, putting the world on a path to climate disaster. Another report has found that nations are on track to produce more than double the fossil fuels in 2030 than could be burned while keeping heating under 1.5C.

“The [CO2 concentration] number is the closest thing to a real-world Doomsday Clock, and it’s pushing us ever closer to midnight,” said John Sauven, head of Greenpeace UK. “Our ability to preserve civilisation as we know it, avert the mass extinction of species, and leave a healthy planet to our children depend on us urgently stopping the clock.”

The WMO report, published on Monday, found the global average concentration of CO2 reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5ppm in 2017. It is now 50% higher than in 1750, before the industrial revolution sparked the widespread burning of coal, oil and gas.

Since 1990, the increase in greenhouse gas levels has made the heating effect of the atmosphere 43% stronger. Most of that – four-fifths – is caused by CO2. But the concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide, the two other key greenhouse gases, also surged in 2018 by a higher amount than the annual average over the past decade.

Methane, which is produced by cattle, rice paddies and fossil fuel exploitation, is responsible for 17% of the heating effect. Its concentration is now more than double pre-industrial levels.

Nitrous oxide, which comes from heavy fertiliser use and forest burning, is now 23% higher than in 1750. The observations are made by the Global Atmosphere Watch network, which includes stations in the Arctic, high mountains and tropical islands.

“The record rise in greenhouse gas concentrations is a cruel reminder that for all the real progress in clean technology, we have yet to even stop global emissions increases,” said Nick Mabey, chief executive of think tank E3G. “The climate system cannot be negotiated with. Until we stop new investment in fossil fuels and massively scale up green power the risks from catastrophic climate change will continue to rise.”

When the world’s nations agreed the Paris deal in 2015, they pledged to ramp up their promised emissions cuts by the annual UN climate summit in 2020, which will be hosted by the UK in Glasgow. This year’s summit needs to do vital preparatory work and begins on 2 December in Madrid, Spain. Chile had been due to host but cancelled because of civil unrest.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit in the UK, said: “This record level of greenhouse gases should act as a sobering reminder to governments that so far they are collectively reneging on the pledge they made at the Paris summit, of attempting to keep global warming to 1.5C. That window is closing, and Chile, Italy and the UK [must] use all the diplomatic tools they have to put emissions on a trajectory closer to what science recommends and the public want.”

November 26, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Religiosity of Scott Morrison – about global heating and bushfires

Scott Morrison’s religion and the bushfire crisis,13344, By Jennifer Wilson | 25 November 2019, As firefighters in four Australian states struggled to contain unprecedented bushfires that threatened life, property and wildlife, Prime Minister Scott Morrison argued that there is no direct link with Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Morrison claimed there is no “credible scientific evidence” that cutting our emissions could reduce the intensity of bushfires.

The Prime Minister even went so far as to suggest that we could

“… increase our emissions without making the current fire season worse.”

This last claim is a bizarre one to make, obviously calculated to appeal to a base that apparently doesn’t know very much about these matters. Yes, we likely could increase our emissions without impact on the current Australian bushfires. However, emissions must be accounted for on a global scale and, while central, are one part of the complex story of the impact of climate change.    

Morrison was swiftly contradicted by Climate Council head of research Dr Martin Rice. Dr Rice stated that there is indeed a direct link between climate change and heightened bushfire risk. CSIRO research scientist Dr Pep Candell agreed with Dr Rice. Morrison did not cite any scientific research to back up his claim that the two are not linked, leaving the impression that it is little more than his opinion. If politicians do have evidence to back up their claims, they are not usually coy about revealing it.

It is well established by major science agencies that while climate change does not create fires it can and does make them worse. The above link is an excellent explainer of a complex situation.

It’s high time that any statement by Morrison on emissions and their effects on climate is required to include a disclaimer noting that the Prime Minister is a follower of the evangelical Pentecostal religion. This sect is not known for its interest in science, and some followers believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

As James Boyce wrote in his Monthly essay, ‘The Devil and Scott Morrison’:

Belief in Satan and the imminent return of Christ also helps explain the Prime Minister’s less-than-passionate response to the most pressing environmental issue of our time. It is not surprising that Pentecostal activism about climate change is non-existent — the end of the known world is not a matter for mere mortals to decide. When Morrison proudly showed off a piece of coal in parliament, there is no reason to doubt that he believed what he held in his hand was a gift from God.

Morrison also shares the Pentecostal belief in “divine providence” — that is, everything under the sun – past, present, and future – is the will of God, including natural disasters, such as we are currently experiencing in four states.

his goes some way to explaining why

… taking further action on reducing carbon emissions to counter the environmental damage wrought by climate change may have little intellectual purchase with the PM. If the end of the world through climate change is part of God’s providential plan, there is precious little that we need to or can do about it.

Given these beliefs are core contributors to the Prime Minister’s environmental agenda it seems reasonable to demand they be disclosed whenever he comments on climate, emissions, bushfires or other natural disasters. A man who is convinced that everything is God’s will is unlikely to take any action he perceives might thwart that will.

He is also unlikely to be overly troubled, and there is no doubt that since the first bushfire broke out, Morrison has appeared largely untroubled, even going so far as to post this jolly tweet as people in four states endured all manner of horror and fear:

It’s tempting to conclude that Morrison is too stupid to understand the magnitude of what we are facing this summer, however, I’d argue that his belief in the tenets of Pentecostalism has granted him immunity against mere human concerns, particularly when they don’t directly affect him and his family.

But that’s not all. In Morrison, we see the confluence of religious belief and venal profitability that results from his passionate belief in the fossil fuel industry. This is one example of how neoliberalism and evangelical Christianity most conveniently complement one another. Coal is “God’s will”.

In the Prime Minister we encounter a most unholy alliance of the fossils fuel industry and religion.
Morrison is in deep with the coal industry — many of his closest advisors come from that industry.
We have not seen any leadership from the Prime Minister during this current outbreak of bushfires. Leadership might include immediate consultation with a wide range of experts in an effort to prepare as best we can for the coming conflagrations, of which there are likely to be many across the country. It might be a commitment to the purchase of more aircraft capable of dumping fire retardant. It might be a commitment to a system of payment for volunteer firefighters, who currently give up their jobs, holidays and family time to do their absolute best for the rest of us.

I cannot think of one reason why women and men who do a far more significant, dangerous and essential job than Scott Morrison should be expected to continue to do it for free. Given the horrific projections for the coming summer, volunteer firefighters are going to be busy. While he’s at it, Morrison could organise some one-off payments to the states to fund the purchase of equipment for the volunteers, so they don’t have to send what time they have left between fighting fires, doing their day jobs and being with their families, organising cake stalls and raffles to raise money for some new hoses.

One odd thing about Morrison’s attitude is that most politicians do not turn down the opportunity to appear heroic, especially in catastrophes such as this one. He has not availed himself of any such opportunities. One can only conclude that the combination of his religion and his commitment to the coal and extraction industries take precedence over his desire to shine. Sadly, he must rely on carrying water for football teams.

None of this augurs well for our future. If, like me, you are affected by the bushfires in any way, you may have the sense that you have been utterly abandoned by Coalition politicians, on a state and Federal level. No word of what these governments plan to do over the coming summer — no word because they haven’t planned anything. It beggars belief. It breaks the heart. And it fills any sensible person with foreboding. Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Studies on nuclear radiation and health – and how the “official” authorities have tried to silence them

DOES CHERNOBYL STILL MATTER? Public Books, BY GABRIELLE HECHT , 25 Nov 19, “……. The question is not whether an accident of Chernobyl’s gravity can happen elsewhere, but how to prepare for the consequences when it does.

That’s one of the questions Kate Brown considers in Manual for Survival. Offering a wealth of new information and analysis, Brown speeds past the reactor explosion. Instead, she focuses on dozens of previously untold stories about how people coped with their newly radioactive lives.

Brown’s protagonists include women who worked at a wool factory fed by contaminated sheep and butchers ordered to grade meat according to radioactivity. Ukraine, we learn, kept serving as the Soviet breadbasket, despite food radiation levels that exceeded norms. The concentrations of radionuclides were biomagnified by receptive organisms and ecologies, such as mushrooms, wild boar, and the Pripyat Marshes. Defying expectations, some foods, over time, have even become more contaminated.

Brown’s descriptions add historical flesh to arguments first developed by Olga Kuchinskaya, in her 2014 book on Belarus’s Chernobyl experience, The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects after Chernobyl.

Since the first studies of bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, science on the biological effects of radiation exposure has been subject to controversy. Like all scientific work, these early survivor studies had limitations. Exposure estimates were unreliable.

The largest study began data collection five years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts, so it didn’t include people who died or moved between 1945 and 1950. Another problem lies in the applicability of these studies. Bomb exposures, such as those in Japan, mostly consist of high, external doses from one big blast. Yet postwar exposures have mainly consisted of low doses, delivered steadily over a long period. They often involve internal exposures—such as inhalation of radioactive particles or consumption of irradiated food—which can be deadlier.

Irrespective of their limitations, however, the findings of these survivor studies have served as the basis for establishing regulatory limits for all types of radiation exposures. Critics argue that extrapolating from the Japan data underestimates low-dose effects: If you’ve already decided that the only possible health effects are the ones you’ve already found, surely you’re missing something? Among other limitations, studies of external gamma radiation exposures cannot illuminate the long-term health effects of inhaling radioactive alpha particles.

Brown injects the work of Dr. Angelina Gus’kova into this story. Gus’kova started treating radiation-induced illnesses in the 1950s, while working at the top-secret Mayak plutonium plant (where the radioactive spills from a 1957 accident continue to contaminate people, land, and water). A neurologist, Gus’kova made observations that extended beyond the narrow cancer focus of most Western practitioners who studied the health effects of radiation exposure. Her patients displayed a wide range of symptoms, which Gus’kova and her colleagues dubbed “chronic radiation syndrome.” Not that they neglected cancer: a 40-year study of 1.5 million people who lived near Mayak found significantly higher cancer and death rates than those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Soviet rubric of “chronic radiation syndrome” did not exist in the West. Yet Gus’kova’s findings did align with those of dissident scientists in the US and the UK. Thomas Mancuso, for example, was pushed out of the US Atomic Energy Commission because he refused to give the Hanford plutonium plant a clean bill of health after finding that workers there sustained high rates of cardiovascular disease, immune system damage, and other illnesses.

Alice Stewart, meanwhile, was shunned by the British establishment after her 1956 research showed that x-raying pregnant women increased the risk of cancer and leukemia in their children by 50 percent. Over the years, these and other scientists whose data challenged the findings of American and European nuclear establishments found themselves sidelined and defunded.

In tandem with perestroika, Chernobyl opened communication between Soviet and Western nuclear experts, engendering what Brown calls an “unholy alliance.” In 1990, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sent a mission to Belarus and Ukraine to assess radiation damage. Belarusian scientists reported rising rates of many diseases in contaminated areas. Nevertheless, the IAEA team rejected radiation as a possible cause. Such correlations didn’t appear in Western data.

Instead, the IAEA teams used dose estimates provided by distant Moscow colleagues and ignored local Belarusian and Ukrainian descriptions of people’s actual consumption habits, which included significant amounts of contaminated food and milk. The IAEA assessments neglected the internal exposures resulting from this consumption. Yet these assessments now serve as international reference points. “Underestimating Chernobyl damage,” Brown warns, “has left humans unprepared for the next disaster.” …….

Brown is on the right track. Many modes of scientific inquiry aren’t equipped to address our most urgent questions. Clear causal chains are a laboratory ideal. The real world brims with confounding variables. Some scientists studying Chernobyl’s “exclusion zone”—the region officially declared uninhabitable due to contamination—are trying new techniques to grapple with this reality. Tim Mousseau and Anders Møller, for example, collect data on the zone in its ecological entirety, rather than focusing on single organisms. Their findings belie romantic tales of wildlife resurgence (such as the one offered up by a 2011 PBS special on the radioactive wolves of Chernobyl). They too have met resistance. …..

we can refuse to see Chernobyl and its kin as discrete events of limited duration. Brown, for example, treats Chernobyl as an acceleration of planetary-scale contamination that began with the atomic arms race.

Let’s be clear: the contamination continues. After the triple meltdown at Fukushima, scientists found highly radioactive, cesium-rich microparticles in Tokyo, 150 miles south of the accident site. When inhaled, such particles remain in human lungs, where their decay continues to release radioactivity for decades. Contaminants from future accidents will, in turn, accrete on the radioactive residues of their predecessors.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Nicola Sturgeon – why she would never press the nuclear button

We don’t make the world safer by making it more dangerous first.

We [the UK] should lead the way by scrapping nuclear weapons and investing that money in our communities and our public services.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Exposing nonsense about “a nuclear detonation in the South China Sea”

A nuclear detonation in the South China Sea? No, more Twitter conspiracy nonsense, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Matt Field, November 25, 2019  The Twitter account @IndoPac_Info pushes out news at a relentless pace; it’s a seemingly good feed to follow for those interested in military issues in Asia. By Friday afternoon last week, the account had posted dozens of tweets over a 36-hour-or-so period linking to stories from outlets such as Reuters and Foreign Policy on topics ranging from US naval activity in contested waters to Pentagon drone policy. Oh yeah, and then there was the one about a nuclear detonation in the South China Sea.

The big news that China had perhaps exploded a tactical nuclear weapon in the ocean originated with a man labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a former federal convict, white supremacist, and FBI informant named Hal Turner. Turner posted the story on his website and touted the supposed scoop further on his nighttime AM radio show, attributing the information to military sources. On Friday, a Pentagon spokesperson called Turner’s article “silly fiction.” And the man behind @IndoPac_Info himself—he describes himself as a Spanish man living in Vietnam—now seems to agree. “Without further evidence or independent corroboration of Hal Turner’s article, it may not be credible at this point,” he tweeted. “Apologies.”

A laudable course correction, no doubt, but it came after one of @IndoPac_Info’s tweets on the Turner story was retweeted almost 2,000 times. And in an age when online disinformation campaigns like the Russian government effort to sway the 2016 US presidential election are a major feature of public discourse, it’s an open question: Could an online conspiracy theory about nuclear weapons gain traction and have a real-world impact?

The @IndoPac_Info account helped give Turner traction, but as far as impact goes, the radio host’s nuclear story failed to launch, in part because it was so easily debunked.

The idea that a 10 to 20 kiloton explosion, possibly a nuclear one, could have occurred in the busy and contested South China Sea and not been widely observed was laughable to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board chair Bob Rosner. The physicist and former director of the Argonne National Laboratory told Gizmodo, “There is so much surveillance that it would be stunning if no one had noticed that.”……..

Despite Turner’s serious dearth of credibility, he was able to piggyback on @IndoPac_Info’s. That account, after all, is followed, by journalists, academics, and others from reputable organizations like Reuters and the University of Pennsylvania. Indeed, the @IndoPac_Info account user was concerned that he’d helped promote Turner’s wild story. “I was not aware of his record,” he said.

“A follower sent me his story and I went with it.”

November 26, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

November 25 Energy News — geoharvey

Science and Technology: ¶ “Climate Change: Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Again Break Records” • Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases once again reached new highs in 2018. The World Meteorological Organization says the increase in CO₂ was just above the average rise recorded over the last decade, along with other greenhouse gases. [BBC] […]

via November 25 Energy News — geoharvey

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment