Australian news, and some related international items

Joe Biden’s ” transition team” contains men with strong links to the weapons industry

A Washington Echo Chamber for a New Cold War,  Reader Supported News, By Cassandra Stimpson and Holly Zhang, TomDispatch, 20 November 20    Yes, tensions are still rising between the world’s greatest emitter of greenhouse gases, historically speaking, and the country emitting the most at this very moment — not that the emerging cold war between the United States and China is often thought of in that context. Still, in the Trump era, now ending so ingloriously, the U.S. moved ever closer to just such a new cold war, as the president got ever angrier at China and the “plague” it had “unleashed on to the world,” his secretary of state denounced its policies, and U.S. aircraft carriers began repeatedly making their way into the disputed South China Sea.

As trade wars loomed and The Donald boomed, the Pentagon also began issuing documents deemphasizing the “forever wars” it had been involved in for nearly two decades and emphasizing instead the dangers of China (and Russia). Now, this country is preparing, however chaotically, to enter the Biden years, even if that other old man is still bitterly camped out in the White House. President Trump, who was perfectly ready to set the planet on fire (more or less literally), is nearly gone and you might think that the globe’s two largest carbon emitters would be ready to consider some kind of accommodation or even coordination to stop this world from going down in intensifying storms, rising sea levels, raging wild fires, and… well, you know the story.

Unfortunately, that would be logic, not interests — and the interests couldn’t be more real or, as Cassandra Stimpson and Holly Zhang of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative (FITI) at the Center for International Policy suggest today, more grimly lined up to promote that very cold war.

Only recently, for instance, we’ve had a look at Joe Biden’s 23-person “transition team” for the Pentagon, most of whom come from the hawkish think tanks that are so much a part of official Washington and eight of whom, as In These Times has reported, “list their ‘most recent employment’ as organizations, think tanks, or companies that either directly receive money from the weapons industry, or are part of this industry,” including the Center for Strategic and International Studies, discussed in today’s TomDispatch post. And so it goes, sadly enough, in Washington whoever the president may be.

-Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

November 22, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Forests affected by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

November 22, 2020 Forestry was once a thriving industry in Fukushima – until the 2011 nuclear disaster struck. More than 70 percent of the prefecture is covered with trees, but large areas have been abandoned or neglected. “It’s regrettable. I didn’t even imagine things were so bad,” says forester Akimoto Kimio, who visited a plantation […]

Forests affected by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No radioactive water dump! — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

November 22, 2020 From GENSUIKIN The Japanese government appears ready to dispose of radioactive water contaminated by tritium and other radioactive materials from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. GENSUIKIN is asking for your support to prevent this reckless attempt by the government. Please see the end of the article […]

No radioactive water dump! — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taiwanese protest plan to dump water from Japan nuclear plant into sea — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

November 19, 2020 Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) A group of Taiwanese staged a protest in Taipei on Thursday against a plan by the Japanese government to release more than a million tonnes of water into the ocean from the disabled Fukushima nuclear power plant, starting in 2022. At the rally in front of the Ministry […]

Taiwanese protest plan to dump water from Japan nuclear plant into sea — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Release of Fukushima’s radioactive water into sea will harm entire Asia’s coasts: Indian experts — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

November 18, 2020 The contaminants of the massive quantities of nuclear water will include radioactive isotopes such as cesium, tritium, cobalt and carbon-12 and may take from 12 to 30 years to decay. Japan’s decision to release radioactive contaminated water from its wrecked nuclear plant in Fukushima into the sea by 2022 has led to […]

Release of Fukushima’s radioactive water into sea will harm entire Asia’s coasts: Indian experts — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Resident against Japanese nuclear reactor OK’d for restart says safe evacuation impossible — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

Former fisherman Yukitoshi Watanabe maintains that resuming operation of Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant would be dangerous. In the Yoriisohama district of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, as seen in this photo taken on Oct. 21, 2020, many signs protesting nuclear power have been set up by groups comprising youth in the community. November […]

Resident against Japanese nuclear reactor OK’d for restart says safe evacuation impossible — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Tipping point”: Queensland zinc refinery commits to 100 pct renewables — RenewEconomy

Queensland zinc refinery Sun Metals commits to 100 per cent renewables, and will reach 80 per cent by 2030 in what is considered a turning point for Australia. The post “Tipping point”: Queensland zinc refinery commits to 100 pct renewables appeared first on RenewEconomy.

“Tipping point”: Queensland zinc refinery commits to 100 pct renewables — RenewEconomy

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

November 22 Energy News — geoharvey

Science and Technology: ¶ “Climate Change Could Lead To Landslide-triggered Tsunami In Alaska: Scientists” • Whittier, Alaska, has still not forgotten the tsunami of 1964, which killed 13 people and did $10 million in damages. But another tsunami threat looms large on the city with climate change, as Barry glacier could fall into the ocean […]

November 22 Energy News — geoharvey

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Influence of weapons makers on U.S. policy, whether a Democrat or Republican administration

A Washington Echo Chamber for a New Cold War,  Reader Supported News, By Cassandra Stimpson and Holly Zhang, TomDispatch, 20 November 20

ar: what is it good for? Apparently, in Washington’s world of think tanks, the answer is: the bottom line.

In fact, as the Biden presidency approaches, an era of great-power competition between the United States and China is already taken for granted inside the Washington Beltway. Much less well known are the financial incentives that lurk behind so many of the voices clamoring for an ever-more-militarized response to China in the Pacific. We’re talking about groups that carefully avoid the problems such an approach will provoke when it comes to the real security of the United States or the planet. A new cold war is likely to be dangerous and costly in an America gripped by a pandemic, its infrastructure weakened, and so many of its citizens in dire economic straits. Still, for foreign lobbyists, Pentagon contractors, and Washington’s many influential think tanks, a “rising China” means only one thing: rising profits.

Defense contractors and foreign governments are spending millions of dollars annually funding establishment think tanks (sometimes in secret) in ways that will help set the foreign-policy agenda in the Biden years. In doing so, they gain a distinctly unfair advantage when it comes to influencing that policy, especially which future tools of war this country should invest in and how it should use them.

Not surprisingly, many of the top think-tank recipients of foreign funding are also top recipients of funding from this country’s major weapons makers. The result: an ecosystem in which those giant outfits and some of the countries that will use their weaponry now play major roles in bankrolling the creation of the very rationales for those future sales. It’s a remarkably closed system that works like a dream if you happen to be a giant weapons firm or a major think tank. Right now, that system is helping accelerate the further militarization of the whole Indo-Pacific region.

In the Pacific, Japan finds itself facing an increasingly tough set of choices when it comes to its most significant military alliance (with the United States) and its most important economic partnership (with China). A growing U.S. presence in the region aimed at counterbalancing China will allow Japan to remain officially neutral, even as it reaps the benefits of both partnerships.

To walk that tightrope (along with the defense contractors that will benefit financially from the further militarization of the region), Japan spends heavily to influence thinking in Washington. Recent reports from the Center for International Policy’s Foreign Influence Initiative (FITI), where the authors of this piece work, reveal just how countries like Japan and giant arms firms like Lockheed Martin and Boeing functionally purchase an inside track on a think-tank market that’s hard at work creating future foreign-policy options for this country’s elite.

How to Make a Think Tank Think

Take the prominent think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which houses programs focused on the “China threat” and East Asian “security.” Its Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, which gets funding from the governments of Japan and the Philippines, welcomes contributions “from all governments in Asia, as well as corporate and foundation support.”

Unsurprisingly, the program also paints a picture of Japan as central “to preserving the liberal international order” in the face of the dangers of an “increasingly assertive China.” It also highlights that country’s role as Washington’s maritime security partner in the region. There’s no question that Japan is indeed an important ally of Washington. Still, positioning its government as a lynchpin in the international peace (or war) process seems a dubious proposition at best.

CSIS is anything but alone when it comes to the moneyed interests pushing Washington to invest ever more in what now passes for “security” in the Pacific region. A FITI report on Japanese operations in the U.S., for instance, reveals at least 3,209 lobbying activities in 2019 alone, as various lobbyists hired by that country and registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act targeted both Congress and think tanks like CSIS on behalf of the Japanese government. Such firms, in fact, raked in more than $30 million from that government last year alone. From 2014 to 2019, Japan was also the largest East Asian donor to the top 50 most influential U.S. think tanks. The results of such investments have been obvious when it comes to both the products of those think tanks and congressional policies.

Think-tank recipients of Japanese funding are numerous and, because that country is such a staunch ally of Washington, its government can be more open about its activities than is typicalProjects like the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s “China Risk and China Opportunity for the U.S.-Japan Alliance,” funded by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are now the norm inside the Beltway. You won’t be surprised to learn that the think-tank scholars working on such projects almost inevitably end up highlighting Japan’s integral role in countering “the China threat” in the influential studies they produce. That threat itself, of course, is rarely questioned. Instead, its dangers and the need to confront them are invariably reinforced.

Another Carnegie Endowment study, “Bolstering the Alliance Amid China’s Military Resurgence,” is typical in that regard. It’s filled with warnings about China’s growing military power — never mind that, in 2019, the United States spent nearly triple what China did on its military, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Like so many similarly funded projects inside the Beltway, this one recommended further growth in military cooperation between the U.S. and Japan. Important as well, it claimed, was developing “the capability to wage combined multidomain joint operations” which “would require accelerating operational response times to enhance firepower.”

The Carnegie project lists its funding and, as it turns out, that foundation has taken in at least $825,000 from Japan and approximately the same amount from defense contractors and U.S. government sources over the past six years. And Carnegie’s recommendations recently came to fruition when the Trump administration announced the second-largest sale of U.S. weaponry to Japan, worth more than $23 billion worth.

If the Japanese government has a stake in funding such think tanks to get what it wants, so does the defense industry. The top 50 think tanks have received more than $1 billion from the U.S. government and defense contractors over those same six years. Such contractors alone lobby Congress to the tune of more than $20 million each election cycle. Combine such sums with Japanese funding (not to speak of the money spent by other governments that desire policy influence in Washington) and you have a confluence of interests that propels U.S. military expenditures and the sale of weapons globally on a mind-boggling scale.

A Defense Build-Up Is the Order of the Day

An April 2020 report on the “Future of US-Japan Defense Collaboration” by the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security offers a typical example of how such pro-militarization interests are promoted. That report, produced in partnership with the Japanese embassy, begins with the premise that “the United States and Japan must accelerate and intensify their long-standing military and defense-focused coordination and collaboration.”

Specifically, it urges the United States to “take measures to incentivize Japan to work with Lockheed Martin on the F-2 replacement program,” known as the F-3. (The F-2 Support Fighter is the jet Lockheed developed and produced in partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the Japanese Defense Forces.) While the report does acknowledge its partnership with the embassy of Japan, it fails to acknowledge that Lockheed donated three quarters of a million dollars to the influential Atlantic Council between 2014 and 2019 and that Japan generally prefers to produce its own military equipment domestically.

The Atlantic Council report continues to recommend the F-3 as the proper replacement for the F-2, “despite political challenges, technology-transfer concerns,” and “frustration from all parties” involved. This recommendation comes at a time when Japan has increasingly sought to develop its own defense industry. Generally speaking, no matter the Japanese embassy’s support for the Atlantic Council, that country’s military is eager to develop a new stealth fighter of its own without the help of either Lockheed Martin or Boeing. While both companies wish to stay involved in the behemoth project, the Atlantic Council specifically advocates only for Lockheed, which just happens to have contributed more than three times what Boeing did to that think tank’s coffers.

2019 report by the Hudson Institute on the Japan-U.S. alliance echoed similar sentiments, outlining a security context in which Japan and the United States should focus continually on deterring “aggression by China.” To do so, the report suggested, American-made ground-launched missiles (GCLMs) were one of several potential weapons Japan would need in order to prepare a robust “defense” strategy against China. Notably, the first American GCLM test since the United States withdrew from the Cold War era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019 used a Lockheed Martin Mark 41 Launch System and Raytheon’s Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile. The Hudson Institute had not only received at least $270,000 from Japan between 2014 and 2018, but also a minimum of $100,000 from Lockheed Martin.

In 2020, CSIS organized an unofficial working group for industry professionals and government officials that it called the CSIS Alliance Interoperability Series to discuss the development of the future F-3 fighter jet. While Japanese and American defense contractors fight for the revenue that will come from its production, the think tank claims that American, Japanese, and Australian industry representatives and officials will “consider the political-military and technical issues that the F-3 debate raises.” Such working groups are far from rare and offer think tanks incredible access to key decision-makers who often happen to be their benefactors as well.

All told, between 2014 and 2019, CSIS received at least $5 million from the U.S. government and Pentagon contractors, including at least $400,000 from Lockheed Martin and more than $200,000 from Boeing. In this fashion, a privileged think-tank elite has cajoled its way into the inner circles of policy formation (and it matters little whether we’re talking about the Trump administration or the future Biden one). Think about it for a moment: possibly the most crucial relationship on the planet between what looks like a rising and a falling great power (in a world that desperately needs their cooperation) is being significantly influenced by experts and officials invested in the industry guaranteed to militarize that very relationship and create a twenty-first-century version of the Cold War.

Any administration, in other words, lives in something like an echo chamber that continually affirms the need for a yet greater defense build-up led by those who would gain most from it.

November 22, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment