Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s democracy threatened, damaged, by News Corpse’s media domination, and government cuts to the ABC

Media concentration by Murdoch, Nine and Stokes, and ABC cuts, a danger to democracy – report

by Elizabeth Minter | Apr 12, 2021 | The heavy concentration of media ownership in Australia corrodes democracy. The antidote is a thriving public broadcaster, but by 2023, Coalition cuts to the ABC will add up to $1 billion. Elizabeth Minter reports.

“[Australia’s] highly concentrated media ownership has had a corrosive impact on democracy. It has skewed public debate, favouring the interests of the wealthy and powerful over the public good.

 This has been clearly evidenced in the national debates on climate change policy, where the scale of News Corp’s climate misinformation has hindered climate policy, encouraged negative sentiments towards climate action, and actively driven a political wedge into our public debate. This would not have been possible in a more diverse media landscape.”

So states the report “Who controls our media“, a report into Australia’s media ownership commissioned by GetUp!

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp owns 59% of the metropolitan and national print media markets by readership — up from 25% in 1984. Nine Entertainment is the second-largest media owner, with a combined 23% readership share.

These two corporations control Australia’s two national mastheads and two daily newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne are controlled by News and Nine. The remaining capital cities have only one daily paper.

Furthermore, “the predominance of News Corp in cross-media settings is unprecedented in liberal democracies”.

At the same time that media ownership has become more concentrated, the budgets of the nation’s public broadcasters, which are key to media diversity, have been slashed, the report notes.

More than $600 million was cut from the ABC over the past seven years. In the decade to 2023/24, the Coalition will have cut the ABC’s budget by just over $1 billion.

Just three corporations – News Corp, Nine, and Seven Media Holdings — collect 80% of Australian free-to-air and subscription TV revenues, with News Corp picking up 40%, almost double that of the next in line Nine.

And just three corporations — News Corp, Nine and Southern Cross Media (and their associated entities) — control almost 90% of the lucrative metropolitan radio licences across the nation.

Dangerous interpretation of news

The report notes that billionaire media moguls like Rupert Murdoch heavily promote an “increasingly dangerous interpretation of what news represents. They measure the worth of news not by its invaluable contributions to the health of our democracy, but by its monetary worth.”

Former UK prime minister David Cameron admitted in Parliament that “we all did a bit too much cosying up to Rupert Murdoch”.

As for the News Media Bargaining Code, the biggest winners are the large media companies. The code only applies to media entities with revenues greater than $150,000, thus barring smaller news institutions, especially community or locally led initiatives, which mostly need help.

The Code also doesn’t mandate how much should be paid, and there is no transparency around the deals, meaning it is impossible for the public to have a clear idea of what resources will be invested in journalism.

The report notes that leaving Google and Facebook to decide which media companies to fund has resulted in deals being signed only with the biggest organisations. Early estimates suggest that News Corp, Nine, and Seven West Media together stand to gain 90% of Facebook’s total revenue under the code.

News Corp and Nine’s cross-media dominance was made possible when the Australian Government repealed the ‘two out of three’ rule in 2017. Traditionally media corporations were only allowed to own media in two out of the three media markets — print, radio and television — but not all three.

The report was written by Benedetta Brevini, Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Sydney, and Michael Ward, a former senior executive with the ABC who is researching Australian media as part of a PhD at the University of Sydney.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The problem of plutonium programs

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021    Among the Biden administration’s nuclear challenges are ongoing civilian plutonium programs in China and Japan. Also, South Korea’s nuclear-energy research and development establishment has been asserting that it should have the same “right” to have a plutonium program as Japan. These challenges have been compounded by a renewed push by the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory to revive a plutonium program that was shut down in the 1980s. These foreign and domestic plutonium programs are all challenges because plutonium is a nuclear-weapon material.

Henry Kissinger’s State Department quickly discovered that the governments of Brazil, Pakistan, South Korea, and Taiwan—all under military control at the time—had contracted for French or German spent-fuel “reprocessing” plants. The United States intervened forcefully and none of these contracts were fully consummated…………………..

…………….A possible path forward. During the Trump administration, the Energy Department fell back into the never-never land of plutonium-fueled reactors from which the United States extracted itself in the 1980s. Fortunately, the big-dollar commitments to the Versatile Test Reactor and the Natrium Reactor have not yet been made, and the Biden administration could use the excuse of budget stringency not to make those commitments.

In South Korea, the Biden administration will have to deal with the completion of the Idaho National Lab–Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute Joint Fuel Cycle Study. Although there will no doubt be obfuscation in the report, the conclusions of the 10-year study should have been obvious from the beginning: reprocessing is hugely costly, creates proliferation risks, and complicates spent fuel disposal. Fortunately, the anti-nuclear-energy Moon administration is unlikely to push for reprocessing. It will be much more interested in the opportunities that the Biden administration can provide to advance the Korean Peninsula denuclearization agenda. It should therefore be politically relatively easy for the Biden Administration to terminate cooperation on pyroprocessing.

China’s reprocessing and fast-neutron reactor program may be driven in part by China’s interest in obtaining more weapon-grade plutonium to build up the size of its nuclear arsenal. If that is the case, China’s incentive to build up could be reduced through nuclear arms control. Specifically, if China is building up its nuclear arsenal out of concern about the adequacy of its nuclear deterrent in the face of an unconstrained US missile-defense buildup, then the United States could examine the possibility of an agreement to limit missile defenses as an alternative to an open-ended, offense-defense arms race. That was the path of wisdom that the United States and Soviet Union chose with their 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

In Japan, the Biden administration will be faced with the continued unwillingness of the powerful Ministry of Economics, Trade, and Industry to wind down Japan’s dysfunctional plutonium program.  But, if a linkage could be made between constraining China’s nuclear buildup and ending Japan’s hugely costly reprocessing program, that might help tip the balance in Japan’s internal debate over reprocessing.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can cryptocurrency be justified in a climate catastrophe? — RenewEconomy

A new “crypto climate accord” wants to clean up Bitcoin. But the calls for government regulation, bans and taxation are growing. The post Can cryptocurrency be justified in a climate catastrophe? appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Can cryptocurrency be justified in a climate catastrophe? — RenewEconomy

Bitcoin mining and cryptocurrency in general are having what could very loosely be sort of described as a ‘coming of age’ moment. It’s loose because advocates of these digital currencies, which obtain ‘trust’ from requiring massive amounts of energy to generate (‘proof of work’), don’t seem to be handling the challenges of dealing with key issues like climate and environment particularly well.

This was explored recently in RenewEconomy, in this post detailing how there are many Bitcoin mining operations running massive server farms that either exist on carbon intensive grids, or even directly use fossil gas on mining sites where that gas would have otherwise been flared.

And last week, we covered a piece of research that predicted Bitcoin’s energy consumption will match that of Australia’s by the year 2024.

“Under the Paris Agreement, China is devoted to cut down 60 per cent of the carbon emission per GDP by 2030 based on that of 2005. However, according to the simulation results of the [blockchain carbon emission] model, we find that the carbon emission pattern of Bitcoin blockchain will become a potential barrier against the emission reduction target of China”, the researchers found. It’s significant, because the fate of China on energy and climate decides, by and large, the fate of the world.

Part of the reason interest has increased in Bitcoin was a significant purchase of it by Tesla. CEO Elon Musk is a well-known fan of cryptocurrency, including Dogecoin, an alternative to the more mainstream Bitcoin. But scrutiny of its extreme energy consumption, alongside a lack of any real sustainability or environment initiatives across the industry of Bitcoin miners, has led to nearly months now of constant criticism (including from this author).

Now, a new initiative is attempting to change that at a surprisingly ambitious and fundamental level. Last week, a range of organisations launched the ‘Crypto Climate Accord’, aiming to decarbonise the entire cryptocurrency industry, including Bitcoin trading house Coinshares.

Among the partners are the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), well-regarded among energy experts, and representations from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Energy Web and the Alliance for Innovative Regulation (AIR) are involved too, as are the cryptocurrency companies.

“The Accord intends to achieve this by working collaboratively with the cryptocurrency industry — including all blockchains — to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2025 or sooner. While many organisations are individually taking steps to decarbonise their operations, the Accord recognises that an industry-wide coalition and scalable solutions can quickly multiply impact.”

Total decarbonisation of power by 2025 comes along with full decarbonisation of all business operations by 2040, and with the active removal of historical emissions from the Earth’s atmosphere by 2040. These are both genuinely ambitious goals, and they seem to be closely tied to international climate diplomacy. It is a far cry from the decentralised, regulation-hating, unaccountable world of Bitcoin mining as it exists today.

While this seems like a step in the right direction, it is very likely its advocates will be swimming against the tide. The very philosophy of collective action to take responsibility for the externalities of profit-making business is contrary to the libertarian values of individual freedom. Some participants may not be all that invested. “Coinshares less than two weeks ago was arguing more energy consumption is about the best thing ever. I’m not sure how this is inspired by the Paris Agreement if they’ve clearly never read it or don’t understand it”, wrote Alex De Vries, author of the Digiconomist blog.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin seems only to be getting hungrier for energy, and there doesn’t seem to be much effort to direct that big ship towards clean power sources only. Cheap coal and gas will likely get cheaper, as they both get displaced from grids by renewable energy.

The Centre for Global Development just released a new analysis showing that mining a single Bitcoin is equivalent to the total annual energy usage of 18 Americans, or 2,199 Tanzanians.

They recommend a range of policy options to forcibly clamp down on the problem, including a ban of large mining operations and taxing mining activity. Neither of these will be welcomed by the industry. “The most hopeful case for the environment is that the price of bitcoin falls low enough to push most miners out of business, leaving behind only those with access to cheap renewable energy and the most efficient mining rigs”, they write.

The question is whether voluntary accords or forcible regulation win out in cleaning up Bitcoin. The alternative is very ugly – a major new threat to climate action at a sensitive time indeed.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Israel appears to confirm it carried out cyberattack on Iran nuclear facility

Shutdown happened hours after Natanz reactor’s new centrifuges were started, Guardian,  Martin Chulov Middle East correspondentMon 12 Apr 2021 Israel appeared to confirm claims that it was behind a cyber-attack on Iran’s main nuclear facility on Sunday, which Tehran’s nuclear energy chief described as an act of terrorism that warranted a response against its perpetrators.

The apparent attack took place hours after officials at the Natanz reactor restarted spinning advanced centrifuges that could speed up the production of enriched uranium, in what had been billed as a pivotal moment in the country’s nuclear programme.

As Iranian authorities scrambled to deal with a large-scale blackout at Natanz, which the country’s Atomic Energy Agency acknowledged had damaged the electricity grid at the site, the Israeli defence chief, Aviv Kochavi, said the country’s “operations in the Middle East are not hidden from the eyes of the enemy”.

Israel imposed no censorship restrictions on coverage as it had often done after similar previous incidents and the apparent attack was widely covered by Israeli media. Public radio took the unusual step of claiming that the Mossad intelligence agency had played a central role.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said later Sunday that “the struggle against Iran and its proxies and the Iranian armament efforts is a huge mission”…..

The unexplained shutdown is thought to be the latest in a series of exchanges between the two arch-enemies, who have fought an extensive and escalating shadow war across the Middle East over more than decade, centred on Iran’s nuclear programme and its involvement in matters beyond its borders.

Clashes have more recently been fought in the open, with strikes against shipping, the killing of Iran’s chief nuclear scientist, hundreds of airstrikes against Iranian proxies in Syria, and even a mysterious oil spill in northern Israel, which officials there have claimed was environmental sabotage.

Natanz has remained a focal point of Israeli fears, with an explosion damaging a centrifuge assembly plant last July, and a combined CIA and the Mossad cyber-attack using a computer virus called Stuxnet in 2010 that caused widespread disruption and delayed Iran’s nuclear programme for several years.

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, urged the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to take action against the perpetrators of the attack. He confirmed that a “terrorist attack” had damaged the electricity grid of the Natanz site. The IAEA said it was aware of the reports but declined to comment further…………

Western officials believe Israel has become increasingly brazen in its attempts to disrupt the Iranian programme, pointing to the killing of the country’s leading nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, last November, who was shot dead along with his bodyguards on a rural highway. Iran claims that artificial intelligence was used to identify Fakhrizadeh, who was gunned down by a remotely operated automatic weapon. The small lorry carrying the weapon then exploded……………

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why a quick return to the Iran nuclear deal is needed to avoid a real nuclear crisis

Why a quick return to the Iran nuclear deal is needed to avoid a real nuclear crisis
, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , By Seyed Hossein Mousavian | April 11, 2021 Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a Middle East Security and Nuclear Policy Specialist at Princeton University and a former chief of Iran’s National Security Foreign Relations Committee. His book, A Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction, was published in May 2020 by Routledge. His latest book, A New Structure for Security, Peace, and Cooperation in the Persian Gulf, was published in December 2020 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.  About 80 days after President Biden’s inauguration, Iran and the world powers held the first round of nuclear talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Diplomats involved in the talks agreed on Friday that initial steps in two working groups designed to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with JCPOA were positive and would continue next week.

Still, the Biden administration will need to maneuver around multiple political obstacles if it is to rejoin the nuclear deal in a timely fashion. And if the United States does not quickly rejoin, there is a real possibility that the talks will collapse, that Iran will proceed with its uranium-enrichment program, and that a dangerous crisis will needlessly be created………………

about three months after taking office, the Biden administration still has not rejoined the deal. There appear to be three principal obstacles to a quick US re-entry:

First, the administration is divided. According to Foreign Policy magazine, the Biden administration’s negotiator with Iran, Robert Malley, and Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer are in favor of rejoining, but Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan favor a harder line.

Second, the powerful pro-Israel lobby has joined in pressing the Biden administration not to rejoin the JCPOA.

Third, congressional Democrats are divided…………….

to resolve the crisis peacefully, new nuclear talks would be required, and the US would have to make enough concessions to convince Iran not to pursue a nuclear bomb.

It would be far better to avoid such a dangerous crisis by returning to President Biden’s original plan for the US to quickly rejoin the JCPOA and raze the sanctions that President Trump imposed in exchange for Iran coming back into full compliance with the agreement. Then, the two countries could begin to negotiate on the other issues that divide them.

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China concerned about Japan dumping Fukushima nuclear waste water.

China says concerned over Fukushima waste disposal
Beijing asks Japan to take ‘responsible attitude’ towards Fukushima nuclear plant’s radioactive water disposal

Riyaz Ul Khaliq   |12.04.2021   
ANKARAChina on Monday expressed concern over the disposal of waste from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea.“China has expressed grave concern to Japan through diplomatic channels, asking the country to take a responsible attitude towards Fukushima nuclear power plant’s radioactive water disposal,” the local newspaper People’s Daily reported, quoting the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Last week, Japan said it plans to dispose of radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government will move ahead with the idea despite opposition within and outside the country and may announce the decision as early as Tuesday.

The wastewater, though treated, may still contain radioactive tritium.Japanese authorities want to dilute the waste to “acceptable global standards” and start dumping it into the ocean two years from now.

Japan’s fishery industry and some provincial authorities have voiced concerns over the plan, which has also drawn criticism from China and South Korea.However, the Japanese government said it “will work to address their concerns and bring in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other partners.”“We will seek the cooperation of global organizations such as the IAEA and local governments to thoroughly check the plan’s safety and maintain transparency,” Kajiyama Hiroshi, Japan’s economy, trade, and industry minister, said last week.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea

Fukushima: Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea

More than 1m tonnes of contaminated water will be released from the destroyed nuclear station in two years’ time,  
Japan plans to release into the sea more than 1m tonnes of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear station, the government said on Tuesday, a decision that is likely to anger neighbours such as South Korea.

The move, more than a decade after the nuclear disaster, will deal another blow to the fishing industry in Fukushima, which has opposed such a step for years.

The work to release the water will begin in about two years, the government said, and the whole process is expected to take decades.

“On the premise of strict compliance with regulatory standards that have been established, we select oceanic release,” the government said in a statement after relevant ministers formalised the decision.

Around 1.25 million tonnes of water has accumulated at the site of the nuclear plant, which was crippled after going into meltdown following a tsunami in 2011.

It includes water used to cool the plant, as well as rain and groundwater that seeps in daily.

The water needs to be filtered again to remove harmful isotopes and will be diluted to meet international standards before any release.

The decision comes about three months ahead of the postponed Olympic Games to be hosted by Tokyo, with some events planned as close as 60km (35 miles) from the wrecked plant.

The disposal of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power, has proved a thorny problem for Japan as it pursues a decades-long decommissioning proj

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Reforms needed at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ~ Hill Times letter to the editor — Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

April 12, 2021 Canada’s nuclear regulatory agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says it’s the “World’s best nuclear regulator” on its website. That “self-image” of the CNSC’s is inconsistent with statements made in recent years by international peer reviewers, high-ranking Canadian officials, international nuclear proponents and others. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently reviewed Canada’s nuclear […]

Reforms needed at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ~ Hill Times letter to the editor — Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April 12 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “Transportation Policies For New York To Achieve Its Climate Goals” • To achieve it’s zero emissions goals equitably by 2050, it’s vital that New York develop goals, policies, and programs for the transportation sector. To do that, the state must remove barriers for widespread transportation electrification and expand access to mass transit. [CleanTechnica] […]

April 12 Energy News — geoharvey

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment