Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s participation in America’s wars. Was it worth it?

War Powers: immense profits for arms dealers, incalculable losses for Australians,michael West Media,
By Tasha May|August 17, 2021   

“Freedom’s always worth it,” said Scott Morrison. “What a waste,” said the father who had lost his son in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam. Tasha May totes up the immense cost of futile wars and the immense profits.

As Australians watched the Taliban take Afghanistan’s capital Kabul Sunday, many were left wondering why Australia spent two decades there.

If we draw a line back to Australia’s participation in foreign wars since we followed America into Vietnam in 1962, Afghanistan presents yet another conflict with far greater losses than anything gained. It begs the question of why the pattern keeps repeating itself, with yet more soldier and civilian lives lost, billions more dollars spent, without any greater foresight exercised before entering these conflicts?

As Adam Bandt, leader of the Greens has said, “the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq were all wars Australia got involved in with the Prime Minister exercising the powers as though they were a monarch. They didn’t even consult cabinet. All those invasions were disasters”.

These were the words Bandt shared with Parliament as he introduced a bill for war powers reform, requiring parliament’s approval before Australians are sent into armed conflict abroad. Yet it’s a reform that’s been introduced before, first by the Democrats in 1985 and 1988 and 2003, and then by the Greens in 2003 and 2014 and which Coalition and Labor governments have opposed.

While this most serious of decisions has continued to rest with the Prime Minister and his executives, where have their decisions led Australia and what has been achieved?

Michael West Media has summarised below the toll the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have taken on human lives, both solider and civilian, as well as heavy economic costs. Looking at the balance sheet, it’s clear only the defence contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, BAE and Northrup Grumman come out as winners.

The Losses

The economic cost to Australia are in the billions of dollars………. [ excellent graph]

But of course that price tag is nothing compared to the millions of lives that have been lost, lives of Australian defence personnel and civilians. [graph]

The number of defence personnel killed does not even include the 500 veteran suicides in Australia since the start of the Afghanistan war.

The Winners

In the last 20 years, arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s value on the New York Stock Exchange has risen from $US33 to today over $US360. They have proudly called their technology “Afghanistan’s Eyes in the Sky.”

In the same period arms manufacturer Northrup Grumman have risen from $US40 on the NYSE to today to today over $US365. The company has supported unmanned aircraft systems in Afghanistan.

August 17, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian government moves to limit charities’ ability to campaign during election period.

Charity sector faces new advocacy threat,  Sector leaders say the government is trying to make charities less visible during election periods, Pro Bono Australia,   Luke Michael | 16 August 2021     Charities are deeply concerned by a new government proposal that would force more community groups to register as political campaigners, amid fears this will restrict charitable advocacy at election times. 

The Morrison government has introduced a new bill to lower the expenditure threshold for political campaigners from $500,000 to $100,000 during the financial year, or for any of the three previous years. 

This means any organisation spending more than this amount seeking to influence voters in an election will be subject to extra reporting requirements and restrictions.

Assistant Minister for Electoral Matters Ben Morton said this would enhance public confidence in Australia’s political processes by making these groups more transparent, in line with political parties and candidates.

He said these amendments did not “represent a significant change” for organisations that meet the updated thresholds, noting many already need to submit a return to the Australian Electoral Commission as a third party campaigner.

But charity sector leaders argue the new requirements would be onerous and stifle the voices of community groups.

Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie told Pro Bono News charities were very different from political parties and should not be treated as such. 

He said the threat of being labelled a political campaigner would restrict charitable advocacy at election times.

“Charities advocate on their issues only and do not seek political power,” Crosbie said.

“The level of reporting and transparency required of those who would represent us needs to be a much higher bar than individual charities advocating on their public benefit charitable purpose. 

“Even though some political parties may think it is in their political interests if charities are less visible during election periods, the reality is that silencing charitable voices also silences voices from the community, and that is never good for democracy or for Australia………

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s (ACF) democracy campaigner, Jolene Elberth, noted that charities have made it clear during committee reviews that lowering the threshold would hurt the sector.

“The existing ‘political campaigner’ threshold was determined after extensive consultation with civil society only a couple of years ago,” Elberth said.

“The committee that recommended lowering the threshold provided only two paragraphs of reasoning for this proposed change and did not give any evidence or reference submissions it had received.

“This is not evidence-based policy making.”

Elberth said while this change seemed small, it would have the effect of silencing community voices.

She said elections were crucial times for charities to highlight policy reforms in the public interest and elevate important issues.

“The government should encourage many diverse voices during election campaigns, not seek to silence them, as these bills would do,” she said……..

While the ALP’s position on the legislation is currently unclear, the Greens has already voiced its opposition to the changes.

Greens deputy leader Senator Larissa Waters said: “This is another dangerous attack on civil society groups and an attempt to limit their advocacy by adding additional financial and disclosure burdens.” 

You can take a look at the bill here.

August 17, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

The War On Afghanistan Was A $2 Trillion Scam

Americans will hate whoever they’re told to—Vietnam, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, China. After a while they don’t even remember why they hate them, they just do. Getting the war machine going is easy, just throw the press a few bones about ‘terrorism’ and soon enough there’s bones in the ground. The New York Times will even make terrorism up. CNN will film the bombs raining down. It’s a great, hateful show.

It’s important to understand Afghanistan not as a $2.26 trillion failure of good intentions but a $2.26 trillion success of bad. This is what America does. This is who Americans are. They have reduced war to its most crass objective, a way to profit from misery. Afghanistan was no mistake. It was a very successful scam.–

America just pumped-and-dumped an entire country,

The American war on Afghanistan was a $2.26 trillion scam. Somebody pocketed all that money, and it certainly wasn’t the people of Afghanistan. That amount is 115 years of Afghan GDP, and it mostly went to arms dealers, the corrupt US military, and corrupt US politicians. Meanwhile the Taliban gets to keep the weapons. This wasn’t just a waste, it was a gigantic fraud

Afghanistan was not an isolated incident. This is the American war machine, working as intended, grinding bones and printing blood money. America has reduced war to one simple fact: war costs money and somebody’s gonna get paid. This is their galaxy brain idea, starting wars with no objective just to make money for arms dealers. You don’t even have to win. In fact, it’s better if you spend 20 years losing. That’s the beauty of the scam.

Just follow the money. American taxpayers have been defrauded well over $6.4 trillion in their wars ‘of’ terror alone. People keep saying this money was ‘lost’ or ‘wasted’ but it didn’t go nowhere. American people had their pockets picked while saluting the flag. This is what America does. This is who they are. The vaunted American military is a fraud.

A Simple Scam

It’s a simple scam, really. 

  1. Pick some random poor country (and get your people to hate it)
  2. Attack it
  3. Profit

The entire war machine is an endless grift. Donors throw a little money at Congressmen, Congressmen throw infinite money at the military, and some poor person ends up crushed under a $25,000 bomb. What does it accomplish? Who cares? We made money on the bomb.

In Afghanistan, the waste was insane(ly profitable). The American military transported fuel via helicopter. They kept every single car, truck, and tank idling 24 hours a day. They spent $1 million dollars per soldier shipping Burger Kings, gyms, and bottled water across the Arabian Sea. Nobody cared. The government just kept giving money and the military kept spending it. War machine go brrrr. It wasn’t their money and it’s wasn’t their lives. It was all a bloody scam. 

The original article here posts  a 2019 Afghanistan document dump which everyone has forgotten about

America invading Afghanistan was just like the mafia taking over a legitimate business and bleeding it dry. The American military is just a global racket of torturers and thugs, doing bust-outs on an international scale.

Suckers And Losers

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August 17, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What were the USA’s costs for the Afghanistan war ?

Since invading Afghanistan in 2001, the United States has spent $2.26 trillion on the war, which includes operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Note that this total does not include funds that the United States government is obligated to spend on lifetime care for American veterans of this war, nor does it include future interest payments on money borrowed to fund the war.

The Costs of War Project also estimates that 241,000 people have died as a direct result of this war. These figures do not include deaths caused by disease, loss of access to food, water, infrastructure, and/or other indirect consequences of the war.

The figures for Afghanistan are part of the larger costs of the U.S. post-9/11 wars, which extend to Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. The numbers are approximations based on the reporting of several data sources.

August 17, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reclassifying nuclear wastes, and other ethical and technical problems at Hanford

“DOE sort of granted itself the authority to do that reclassifying,”

“We’re not convinced of any need to reclassify any of the high-level wastes,” said Ecology Department spokesman Randy Bradbury.

“We believe this rule lays the groundwork for the department to abandon significant amounts of radioactive waste in Washington State precipitously close to the Columbia River,”

Reclassifying a significant amount of high-level waste into low-activity waste is key to reaching that 80%, the report said.

Ultimately, this project, originally scheduled to be finished this decade, will likely be completed in the latter half of this century. In other words, it could take 70 to 75 years (mid-1990s to 2069) to deal with the 56 million gallons of radioactive tank waste created by 42 years of manufacturing plutonium.

A plan to turn radioactive waste into glass logs has raised a lot of questions, many of which don’t appear to have public answers. CrossCut, by John Stang, August 16, 2021”……………………..Whistleblower alarm

Red flags have also been raised over the quality of construction of the new treatment facilities.

In 2010, Walt Tamosaitis, a senior manager at a subcontractor designing the pretreatment plant, URS Corp., alerted his superiors and managers at lead contractor Bechtel to a risk of hydrogen gas explosions that could bend and burst pipes in the plant, spraying radioactive fluids. He also pointed out that radioactive sludge could clog the pipes and tanks in the plant, increasing the chance of uncontrolled releases of radiation. And he raised the issue of corrosion causing leaks in the pretreatment plant.

Tamosaitis’ superiors told the Energy Department that the design problems were fixed as of July 1, 2010 — over Tamosaitis’ protests, but in time for Bechtel to collect a $5 million bonus from the department.

For raising the alarm, he was demoted and exiled to an insignificant offsite job, Tamosaitis alleged in a lawsuit against Bechtel. He alleged illegal retaliation, eventually reaching a $4.1 million settlement with the company. Meanwhile, in 2011 and 2012, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a technical advisory body monitoring DOE, plus the Government Accounting Office, confirmed Tamosaitis’ concerns.

In 2015, the Energy Department announced that it would not have the entire complex operational by 2022, the deadline at the time. Department officials pointed to the same issues Tamosaitis had identified in 2010.

Also on hold is construction of the pretreatment plant — a prerequisite to the high-level waste glassification project, which is scheduled to begin production in 2023, according to the current state and federal agreement.

What the future holds

The U.S. Department of Energy has been giving contradictory signals about new plans for dealing with some of the high-level waste. 

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August 17, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New research on baby teeth will show the impact of nuclear bomb testing, and the connection with later cancers

Three decades later, [after the 1950s] Washington University staff discovered thousands of abandoned baby teeth that had gone untested. The school donated the teeth to the Radiation and Public Health Project, which was conducting a study of strontium-90 in teeth of U.S. children near nuclear reactors.

Now, using strontium-90 still present in teeth, the Radiation and Public Health Project will conduct an analysis of health risk, which was not addressed in the original tooth study, and minimally addressed by government agencies.  Based on actual radiation exposure in bodies, the issue of how many Americans suffered from cancer and other diseases from nuclear testing fallout will be clarified.

Baby teeth collected six decades ago will reveal the damage to Americans’ health caused by US nuclear weapons tests AUGUST 16, 2021 by Lawrence Wittner by Lawrence Wittner and Joseph Mangano

In 2020, Harvard University’s T. C. Chan School of Public Health began a five-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that will examine the connection between early life exposure to toxic metals and later-life risk of neurological disease. A collaborator with Harvard, the Radiation and Public Health Project, will analyze the relationship of strontium-90 (a radioactive element in nuclear weapons explosions) and disease risk in later life.  

The centerpiece of the study is a collection of nearly 100,000 baby teeth, gathered in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information.

The collection of these teeth occurred during a time of intense public agitation over the escalating nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Soviet governments that featured the new hydrogen bomb (H-bomb), a weapon more than a thousand times as powerful as the bomb that had annihilated Hiroshima.  To prepare themselves for nuclear war, the two Cold War rivals conducted well-publicized, sometimes televised nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere—434 of them between 1945 and 1963.  These tests sent vast clouds of radioactive debris aloft where, carried along by the winds, it often traveled substantial distances before it fell to earth and was absorbed by the soil, plants, animals, and human beings.  

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August 17, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Secrecy, delays, budget problems as USA tries to clean up Hanford, the most radioactively polluted site in the nation.

Hanford has 56 million gallons of radioactive waste in those 177 underground tanks at this remote decommissioned nuclear production site near the Columbia River in Benton County

Those leak-prone tanks are arguably the most radiologically contaminated place in the Western Hemisphere.

At least 1 million gallons of radioactive liquids have leaked into the ground, seeping into the aquifer 200 feet below and then into the Columbia River, roughly seven miles away. Since the mid-1990s, Hanford’s plans involve mixing the waste  in the tanks with benign melted glass and then storing it in glass logs.

Today, the project’s budget is at least $17 billion, and the first glassification plant for low-activity waste is scheduled to start up in late 2023. So far, the federal government has spent $11 billion on the glassification project, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative agency of Congress.

That one plant, however, will only handle 40% to 50% of the low-activity wastes, depending on who is doing the estimating. A second low-activity waste plant or a stil-to-be-determined new approach is needed to the remaining What will happen to the rest of the waste is still up for debate.

All of the single-shell tanks and the majority of the double-shell tanks are way past their design lives

Cleaning up nuclear waste at Hanford: Secrecy, delays and budget debates

A plan to turn radioactive waste into glass logs has raised a lot of questions, many of which don’t appear to have public answers.
CrossCut, by John Stang, August 16, 2021 Stephen Wiesman has worked for about three decades on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s project to convert the radioactive waste in its huge underground tanks into safer glass logs.

Although he’s retired now and involved in an advisory capacity, he understands the project — and its ongoing challenges — better than almost anyone.

Wiesman sees this task with a mix of cautious optimism, frustration, sympathy for the people dealing with its complexities, and a deep belief that the tank wastes must be dealt with. “There isn’t an emotion that I haven’t felt,” he said.

The project faces a cluster of challenges: financial, technical and political. And the secrecy around the plans to solve these issues makes it difficult for anyone to gauge whether the most polluted spot in the nation will ever become a benign stain on the landscape of eastern Washington.  

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August 17, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Frozen conflicts and forever wars — John Quiggin

The chaotic scenes now playing out as the Taliban take over Afghanistan have unsurprisingly drawn comparisons to the collapse of the South Vietnamese government in 1975. But there have been many similar instances, though most were a little slower: the end of Indonesian rule in East Timor (now Timor L’Este), the French withdrawal from Algeria,…

Frozen conflicts and forever wars — John Quiggin

August 17, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Failure not an option”: Kean wants voters to send message to leaders failing on climate — RenewEconomy

“Get on with it, or to get out of the way.” NSW energy minister Matt Kean warns LNP leaders to act on climate change, or risk getting voted out. The post “Failure not an option”: Kean wants voters to send message to leaders failing on climate appeared first on RenewEconomy.

“Failure not an option”: Kean wants voters to send message to leaders failing on climate — RenewEconomy

August 17, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

August 16 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “How Extreme Weather Makes Everything Harder, Except Climate-Risk Analysis” • The IPCC report has a clarity that is sobering. What does this newfound certainty mean for investors trying to hedge against climate risks? In the first half of this year, insured losses from catastrophes topped $42 billion, and they are growing. [Insurance Journal] […]

August 16 Energy News — geoharvey

August 17, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment