Australian news, and some related international items

Scotty got a war but not the one he was pushing for

March 1, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

A fatal disconnect? the different narratives of Russia and the West on the Ukraine crisis

Putin’s Nuclear Threat. more The disconnect between the Western and Russian narratives in the current conflict could prove fatal to the world, writes Scott Ritter.

Vladimir Putin is a madman. He’s lost it. At least that is what the leaders of the West would like you to believe. According to their narrative, Putin — isolated, alone, confused, and angry at the unfolding military disaster Russia was undergoing in Ukraine — lashed out, ostensibly threatening the entire world with nuclear annihilation.

In a meeting with his top generals on Sunday, the beleaguered Russian president announced, “I order the defense minister and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service.”

The reason for this action, Putin noted, centered on the fact that, “Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country” in relation to the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

The “deterrence forces” Putin spoke of refers to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

What made the Russian president’s words resonate even more was that last Thursday, when announcing the commencement of Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine, Putin declared that “no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.” He emphasized that Russia is “one of the most potent nuclear powers and also has a certain edge in a range of state-of-the-art weapons.”

When Putin issued that threatThe Washington Post described it as “empty, a mere baring of fangs.” The Pentagon, involved as it was in its own review of U.S. nuclear posture designed to address threats such as this, seemed non-plussed, with an anonymous official noting that U.S. policy makers “don’t see an increased threat in that regard.”

NATO’s Response

For NATO’s part, the Trans-Atlantic military alliance, which sits at the heart of the current crisis, issued a statement in which it noted that:

“Russia’s actions pose a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security, and they will have geo-strategic consequences. NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the security and defense of all Allies. We are deploying additional defensive land and air forces to the eastern part of the Alliance, as well as additional maritime assets. We have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies.”

Hidden near the bottom of this statement, however, was a passage which, when examined closely, underpinned the reasoning behind Putin’s nuclear muscle-flexing. “[W]e have held consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty,” the statement noted. “We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all Allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defense across the Alliance.”

Under Article 4, members can bring any issue of concern, especially related to the security of a member country, to the table for discussion within the North Atlantic Council. NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland triggered the Article 4 consultation following the Russian incursion into Ukraine. In a statement issued on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expanded on the initial NATO statement, declaring that NATO was committed to protecting and defending all its allies, including Ukraine.

Three things about this statement stood out. First, by invoking Article IV, NATO was positioning itself for potential offensive military action; its previous military interventions against Serbia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2004, and Libya in 2011, were all done under Article IV of the NATO Charter. Seen in this light, the premise that NATO is an exclusively defensive organization, committed to the promise of collective self-defense, is baseless.

Second, while Article V (collective defense) protections only extend to actual NATO members, which Ukraine is not, Article IV allows the umbrella of NATO protection to be extended to those non-NATO members whom the alliance views as an ally, a category Stoltenberg clearly placed Ukraine in.

Finally, Stoltenberg’s anointing of Ukraine as a NATO ally came at the same time he announced the activation and deployment of NATO’s 40,000-strong Response Force, some of which would be deployed to NATO’s eastern flank, abutting Ukraine. The activation of the Response Force is unprecedented in the history of NATO, a fact that underscores the seriousness to which a nation like Russia might attach to the action.

When seen in this light, Putin’s comments last Thursday were measured, sane, and responsible.

What Happens if NATO Convoys or EU Jets Are Hit?

Since the Article IV consultations began, NATO members have begun to supply Ukraine with lethal military aid, with the promise of more in the days and weeks to come. These shipments can only gain access to Ukraine through a ground route that requires transshipment through NATO members, including Romania and Poland. It goes without saying that any vehicle carrying lethal military equipment into a war zone is a legitimate target under international law; this would apply in full to any NATO-affiliated shipment or delivery done by a NATO member on their own volition.

What happens when Russia begins to attack NATO/EU/US/Allied arms deliveries as they arrive on Ukrainian soil? Will NATO, acting under Article IV, create a buffer zone in Ukraine, using the never-before-mobilized Response Force? One naturally follows the other…

The scenario becomes even more dire if the EU acts on its pledge to provide Ukraine with aircraft and pilots to fight the Russians. How would these be deployed to Ukraine? What happens when Russia begins shooting down these aircraft as soon as they enter Ukrainian airspace? Does NATO now create a no-fly zone over western Ukraine?

What happens if a no-fly zone (which many officials in the West are promoting) is combined with the deployment of the Response Force to create a de facto NATO territory in western Ukraine? What if the Ukrainian government establishes itself in the city of Lvov, operating under the protection of this air and ground umbrella?

Russia’s Nuclear Doctrine

In June 2020, Russia released a new document, titled “On Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence,” that outlined the threats and circumstances that could lead to Russia’s use of nuclear weapons. While this document declared that Russia “considers nuclear weapons exclusively as a means of deterrence,” it outlined several scenarios in which Russia would resort to the use of nuclear weapons if deterrence failed.

While the Russian nuclear policy document did not call for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons during conventional conflicts, it did declare that “in the event of a military conflict, this Policy provides for the prevention of an escalation of military actions and their termination on conditions that are acceptable for the Russian Federation and/or its allies.”

In short, Russia might threaten to use nuclear weapons to deter “aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.”

In defining Russia’s national security concerns to both the U.S. and NATO last December, Putin was crystal clear about where he stood when it came to Ukrainian membership in NATO. In a pair of draft treaty documents, Russia demanded that NATO provide written guarantees that it would halt its expansion and assure Russia that neither Ukraine nor Georgia ever be offered membership into the alliance.

In a speech delivered after Russia’s demands were delivered, Putin declared that if the U.S. and its allies continue their “obviously aggressive stance,” Russia would take “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures,” adding that it has “every right to do so.”

In short, Putin made it clear that, when it came to the issue of Ukrainian membership in NATO, the stationing of U.S. missiles in Poland and Romania and NATO deployments in Eastern Europe, Russia felt that its very existence was being threatened. 

The Disconnect

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, when seen from the perspective of Russia and its leadership, was the result of a lengthy encroachment by NATO on the legitimate national security interests of the Russian state and people. The West, however, has interpreted the military incursion as little more than the irrational action of an angry, isolated dictator desperately seeking relevance in a world slipping out of his control.

The disconnect between these two narratives could prove fatal to the world. By downplaying the threat Russia perceives, both from an expanding NATO and the provision of lethal military assistance to Ukraine while Russia is engaged in military operations it deems critical to its national security, the U.S. and NATO run the risk of failing to comprehend the deadly seriousness of Putin’s instructions to his military leaders regarding the elevation of the level of readiness on the part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.

Far from reflecting the irrational whim of a desperate man, Putin’s orders reflected the logical extension of a concerted Russian national security posture years in the making, where the geopolitical opposition to NATO expansion into Ukraine was married with strategic nuclear posture. Every statement Putin has made over the course of this crisis has been tied to this policy.

While the U.S. and NATO can debate the legitimacy of the Russian concerns, to dismiss the national security strategy of a nation that has been subjected to detailed bureaucratic vetting as nothing more than the temper tantrum of an out of touch autocrat represents a dangerous disregard of reality, the consequences of which could prove to be fatal to the U.S., NATO, and the world.

President Putin has often complained that the West does not listen to him when he speaks of issues Russia deems to be of critical importance to its national security.

The West is listening now. The question is, is it capable of comprehending the seriousness of the situation?

So far, the answer seems to be no.

Scott Ritter is a former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia ‘in the climate cross-hairs’: new IPCC report outlines dramatic escalation of climate crisis 

THE RELEASE of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report has clearly shown the clock is ticking on climate, with impacts rapidly accelerating around the globe and Australia is squarely in the cross-hairs.

The report, compiled by almost 300 scientists across 67 countries, clearly spells out that climate change is already dramatically altering ecosystems, affecting our physical and mental health, water security and food production, cities and infrastructure, and more.

Serious risks to Australia include irreversible loss of coral reefs, loss of alpine species, collapse of forests in southern Australia, loss of kelp forests, sea-level rise, an increase in severe fire weather days and a dramatic increase in fatal heatwaves. 

The central message of the IPCC report is clear: governments must rally to drastically cut emissions and cease the extraction and burning of fossil fuels this decade. Every fraction of a degree of warming saved, will be counted in lives saved. 

Professor Will Steffen, former IPCC report author, Climate Councillor, climate change expert and ANU Emeritus Professor said: 

“For most Australians, this report is long, technical and at times dry. But its message is anything but. We are being harmed by climate change now, and the future is potentially terrifying.”

”We are seeing climate change play out in real time with unprecedented rainfall and flooding taking a horrible toll on communities in QLD and NSW. These events will only get worse if we don’t act now to reduce emissions.”

Climate Council’s Director of Research Dr Simon Bradshaw said: 

“Australia is one of the most vulnerable developed countries in the world. Right now, communities in Southeast Queensland and Northern NSW are being pummelled by extraordinarily intense rainfall and flooding. These communities have hardly had time to recover from past disasters and again they’re facing profound heartbreak and loss.”

“Increasingly, we see that communities are being hit with one disaster after another, like drought followed by fire, followed by flood. The compounding effect of these disasters is taking a heavy toll.

“The report is very clear: any further delay in global action will miss the brief and closing window to secure a liveable future.” 

Climate Councillor, former IPCC author and Distinguished Professor of Biology at Macquarie University, Professor Lesley Hughes said:

“Right now, inadequate global action means the Earth is heading towards catastrophic warming of over 2°C. Governments must slash emissions this decade and rapidly transition away from burning fossil fuels.

If all countries copied Australia’s dangerously weak response, we would be headed for warming in excess of 3°C – far beyond anything it is possible to adapt to.”

Greg Mullins, Climate Councillor, former Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW and founder of Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA) said: 

“The latest IPCC report spells out a frightening fire future that demands we cut our emissions swiftly and urgently this decade.” 

“It is offensive to me, other firefighters and Australians dealing with climate change, that we are not only the worst climate performer out of all developed countries but we have a federal government that is actively making the problem worse by funding new fossil fuel developments.”

Nicki Hutley, Climate Councillor, leading economist and former Partner at Deloitte Access Economics said: 

“The IPCC report makes it clear that Australia’s economy faces significant and growing economic challenges due to climate change. However, it is also clear that urgent emission reductions through renewable energy and new clean industries could see us avoid the worst financial shocks and bring about incredible economic opportunities, especially for our regions.” 

“Anyone who thinks climate action is “not a race” has obviously not read this report. The first movers in the new industrial revolution will take first, second and third prize. Sadly for Australia, the Morrison Government is moving at a snail’s pace.”

Cheryl Durrant, Climate Councillor and former director of preparedness and mobilisation at the Australian Department of Defence said: 

“Climate change is already undermining the security of Australia and our region. Threats to food and water security, to health, and to critical supply chains, are escalating fast. More and more people are at risk of displacement. If our government cares about the safety and security of our region and beyond, then it must get serious about tackling the climate crisis.”

Dr Kate Charlesworth, Climate Councillor and public health physician said: 

“The IPCC report shows that the climate crisis is a health crisis. What we do in the next decade will be measured in Australian lives. Failing to act will mean many more lives lost from dangerous heat, drought, floods and bushfires.” 

For interviews please contact Brianna Hudson on 0455 238 875 or Jane Gardner on 0438 130 905. 

The Climate Council is Australia’s leading community-funded climate change communications organisation. We provide authoritative, expert and evidence-based advice on climate change to journalists, policymakers, and the wider Australian community.

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March 1, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australians issued stark warning to change or risk, The Australian way of life could soon be at risk if greater action is not taken to stop one thing, according to a new report. 8 Feb 22, Courtney Gould   Australians may soon be unable to play sports outside if temperatures continue to rise, experts have warned.

It’s just one of the grim scenarios coming out of the release of the latest cycle of reporting from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report, released in the shadow of major flooding across Queensland and NSW, said while actions to reduce climate risks had increased worldwide, they fell well short of what was required.

“Successful adaptation requires urgent, more ambitious and accelerated action and, at the same time, rapid and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” the report said.

But as action stalls, many species – including human beings – are reaching their limits in their ability to adapt to climate change.

Report co-author and IPCC vice chair Mark Howden said coral reefs were just one well-documented example.

However, he warned Australians could soon also be reaching their own physiological limits.

“Our bodies can cope with hot, hot temperatures outside up to a point,” Professor Howden said.

“But then we can’t do that without some sort of active cooling. If you get very high temperatures and humidity, you either have to pull back on your exercise or you overheat. 

……….. …… Professor Howden said a major concern was how emissions would track as the world bounced back from Covid.

But he conceded that while the government knew exactly what it needed to do, it was a matter of political will.

“Climate change is here. In Australia it’s mostly negative, and it really matters to pretty much everything we value here in Australia,” Professor Howden said.

“Listen to the people … 90 per cent of Australians want more action on climate change.

“If there was any other issue that had 90 per cent of people wanting more action on it, you’d have the politicians running for the policy development process immediately.

“Yet we don’t see that … climate change should not be a political issue.”

March 1, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

‘Managed retreat’ from coastal living could soon be reality, climate report warns

‘Managed retreat’ from coastal living could soon be reality, climate report warnsThe world’s scientists declare climate change is now a threat to human wellbeing, warning we are about to miss the window to “secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

United Nations climate change report reveals how much can still be saved

United Nations climate change report reveals how much can still be saved

Drawing on the IPCC findings and analysis from outside experts, The Washington Post envisioned how three locations around the globe could be transformed depending on humanity’s emissions trajectory over the next 80 years.

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The facts we need to face if Australia’s coastal towns are to survive devastation

The facts we need to face if Australia’s coastal towns are to survive devastation

Harry Creamer

Climate is changing rainfall, so we need to build to withstand more destructive floods.–

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mapping the unthinkable: inside the new nuclear war games

A final area of thought nuclear strategists are turning their attention to are what the American’s call “off-ramps” – concessions that can be offered which would allow Putin to back off while saving face.

We can strengthen Ukraine’s hand in negotiations by making the consequences of a deal more attractive for Russia,”

Mapping the unthinkable: Inside the new nuclear war games

Not since the Cold War have the stakes been so high, as experts rush to understand Putin’s nuclear strategy and plot counter moves telegraph,  
By Paul Nuki, GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY EDITOR, LONDON and Sarah Newey, GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, 28 February 2022 ”…………………….   Since the end of the Cold War, the number of nuclear weapons across the globe has dropped drastically, from a peak of around 70,300 in 1986, to roughly 12,700 in early-2022. But there are still more than enough. Russia and the US have by far the largest arsenals, with 5,600 and 6,200 weapons, respectively.

These weapons are much more powerful than those dropped on Japan. Just 50 modern bombs could kill 200 million people – or the combined populations of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, it is estimated.

…………..   Western intelligence agencies are watching closely to see exactly what Putin’s order means in practice, but most have interpreted it as a shift to a general state of nuclear readiness. The US could match the Russian move and raise its own response to Defcon 3 – “known to moviegoers as that moment when the US Air Force rolls out bombers, and nuclear silos and submarines are put on high alert”, as The New York Times puts it – but has so far chosen not to.

Experts suggested there were two reasons that the US and other nuclear armed Nato nations, including the UK and France, are not following suit.

“The United States won’t want to alert because then it would certainly be a nuclear crisis,” said Dr Mount. “The dominant strategy is to do what we can to impose costs in the areas where Putin is weak rather than agreeing to compete where Putin is stronger.”
There is also, in practical terms, little to be gained as Nato is, as a matter of course, always ready to strike back…………

Underpinning the nuclear standoff which has existed between Nato and Russia for decades is the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). It saw us through the Cold War but experts caution it may not be as reliable today. And even in the Cold War there were mistakes that brought nuclear armageddon close.

In October 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a Russian commander operating in a sweltering submarine with broken air-conditioning almost launched a tactical nuclear torpedo. The Soviet B-59 sub was under fire from US forces, who were dropping non-lethal depth charges. The officer was unaware the action was designed to make him surface, and instead interpreted the situation as the beginning of a third world war.

But launching the torpedo required the approval of all three senior officers on board and one – Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov – refused. He was honoured with the “Future of Life” award in 2017, almost two decades after his death, for averting a nuclear conflict.A simple mistake or misunderstanding remains one of the principal risks today – a risk that is increased because, over the past 30 years, nuclear drills have been practised less frequently and the technology has aged.

Another risk – one that threatens the deterrence provided by MAD – is the proliferation of smaller “battlefield” nuclear weapons.

“Russian nuclear forces can be divided into strategic (which can reach the US) and nonstrategic (which can’t),” said

James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He added that it is not yet clear whether Putin’s order would result in both being “alerted” or readied for action.Given that Nato’s systems for strategic retaliation are already in place (our Trident submarines are already at sea) it would be intelligence which suggests Putin is preparing tactical nukes that would cause most immediate concern…………….Sahil Shah, a policy fellow at the European Leadership Network who advises senior US and European decision makers on reducing strategic and nuclear risks, said that not everything rests on Putin. There are checks and balances in place in Russia, just as there are in the West.

Russia has inherited a two-person rule throughout the chain of nuclear command and control from the Soviet days,” he told the Telegraph. Three people have “nuclear footballs”, or codes needed to authorise the launch of weapons: the President, Minister of Defence and the Chief of the General Staff. It is thought that two of the three codes are needed to grant the military permission to deploy nuclear weapons.

“In effect, the Minister of Defence or possibly the Chief of the General Staff would need to validate the authorisation to use nuclear weapons for the Russian military to launch them,” Dr Shah said. “If that were to occur, the order would be passed to the Nuclear Strategic Forces Command and Control Centre, where two officers would need to simultaneously carry them out.”

A final area of thought nuclear strategists are turning their attention to are what the American’s call “off-ramps” – concessions that can be offered which would allow Putin to back off while saving face. In the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, President John Kennedy saved Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s blushes (to some extent) by agreeing to remove Nato missiles from Turkey in return for the Soviets dropping their attempts to arm Cuba.

“It’s difficult for the West to create a de-escalation pathway; much presumably depends on how Putin views the domestic consequences of his backing down – something over which the West has no control,” said  James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“But we can at least reduce the costs to his backing down by making it clear that the most punishing sanctions – central bank and Swift – will be lifted if the status quo ante is restored.

“I encourage others to think creatively now about other elements of a potential off-ramp for Russia. To be sure, it’s unsavoury to think about providing inducements to Putin for backing down while Ukrainians are being slaughtered.“However, Ukraine and Russia are now reportedly engaged in negotiations. We can strengthen Ukraine’s hand in negotiations by making the consequences of a deal more attractive for Russia,” he added.

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bury it? Shoot it into space? Why scientists still can’t find a place for nuclear waste

This is the first time that I have ever seen an American mainstream media outlet making this HERETICAL SUGGESTION:

Until scientists find a secure, long-term, cost-effective way to dispose of the already generated nuclear waste on planet Earth, we must stop generating yet more of it.

Bury it? Shoot it into space? Why scientists still can’t find a place for nuclear waste,  (CNN)A major Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, to be released Monday, is expected to warn that humans are wrecking the planet so profoundly that we may run out of ways to survive the crisis. The report speaks of a “rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

This might make it tempting to rush to nuclear energy as a quick, low-carbon fix.

But its faults are numerous, not least that there is still no answer to the 80-year-old question: Where to store the burgeoning tons of highly radioactive spent fuel?

Propositions abound: from catapulting it into space, ditching it between tectonic plates, or burying it deep underground on remote islands.

But try as they have, scientists can’t find a safe, long-term, cost-effective way to dispose of nuclear waste.

Even as new countries like Poland, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Indonesia line up to start nuclear programs — on the face of it, a low-carbon energy source that could cut emissions — every nation in the world with nuclear power struggles with the same dilemma.

Thus far, the determined hunt for a secure nuclear graveyard has been unsuccessful — and there’s no fix in sight. While the search goes on, ever more of the highly toxic refuse — a lethal by-product of the plutonium and uranium used in nuclear energy and weaponry production — piles up on top of the 370,000 tons of fission residue that languishes in stockpiles worldwide. Experts say that could jump by 1.1 million tons in a century.

Germany is shutting down its last nuclear power plant at the end of this year. France, on the other hand, just announced a massive build-out of its already prodigious nuclear fleet. The US is betting on nuclear to help hit climate goals.

Like most nations with nuclear power, they store the toxic spent fuel in steel cannisters at temporary locations, usually at nuclear plant facilities and military stations — often incurring the wrath of local residents who want nothing to do with the hazardous material that remains radioactive for a million years.

Indeed, proponents and adversaries of nuclear power agree these interim solutions are untenable: we can’t just dump this toxic mess on subsequent generations, and then they on others. Moreover, spent fuel, though no longer usable for energy production, remains radioactive and thus poses health, security, and proliferation risks.

At the moment, the Finns are putting deep geological disposal on the table as a solution — currently the least objectionable of the options under discussion. But the Nordics’ claim to have finally cracked this headache from hell is riddled with uncertainties.

This summer, on a tiny, sparsely populated island in the Baltic Sea, the first of hundreds of tightly sealed volcanic-clay-and-copper-clad drums of spent nuclear fuel will be lowered into a 500-meter deep granite vault and, eventually, cemented shut — not for a million but, presumably, for about 100,000 years.

Yet this geological tomb is only another, ultimately temporary, fix. As nuclear waste expert Andrew Blowers, author of “The Legacy of Nuclear Power” and a former member of the UK’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, says, “Currently no options have been able to demonstrate that waste will remain isolated from the environment over the tens to hundreds of thousands of years.”

Copper and cement will eventually corrode and decay, while nuclear waste remains radioactive and highly toxic for millennia. Some experts though say the risk of leaks, and water contamination, is higher than Finnish authorities acknowledge.

Moreover, earthquakes or other dramatic shifts in geological conditions could set the poisonous elements free. And then there’s the cost: Finland will spend €3.5 billion ($3.9 billion) on the facility, which will in the course of the next 100 years house 6,500 tons — of their own — spent fuel.

Other countries, such as the US, Britain, and Sweden say they will also, one day, bury their nuclear refuse in similar vaults. But even where the unique geological conditions exist, the same obstacle always arises: opposition from locals. Nobody but nobody wants radioactive waste anywhere near their families.

This is why another option, tectonic burial, looks appealing — until one looks more closely. The idea is to send nuclear waste plummeting into the earth’s core, basically hitching a ride on a geological plate on the ocean floor that is in the process of diving beneath an adjacent plate. The further the downward plate submerges beneath the earth’s skin, the further away the nuclear waste is carried from our natural world.

But geologists pour scorn on the notion: the movement of tectonic plates is much too slow, the volume of nuclear refuse too great, and then there’s the threat of subterranean volcanos or quakes that could send the mess spewing back into the ocean.

Hurtling nuclear waste in the other direction, namely into space, is also a nonstarter. There, the risk of rocket failure, the issue of space debris, and the wildly prohibitive cost stop this ploy dead in its tracks.

The exorbitant cost of the ongoing search — and then of the “solution” itself — illustrate why we don’t want ever more of this menacing debris. Thus far, the US has spent $13 billion of taxpayer money in its unsuccessful effort to rid the country of its 90,000 tons of radioactive waste.

In Finland, at least, the nuclear industry picks up the bill. At the Finns’ rate, disposing of all of the world’s current nuclear waste could total €135 billion ($153 billion) and another €6 billion ($6.8 billion) a year for the estimated 10,500 more metric tons produced annually.

Yet, since no long-term secure repository is in sight, says Blowers, “on-site storage of spent fuel is likely to remain for several generations, at least until mid to end of next century. As the volume grows, they will have to cope with ever more complex, difficult management issues.”

And we can’t just cut and run.

Until scientists find a secure, long-term, cost-effective way to dispose of the already generated nuclear waste on planet Earth, we must stop generating yet more of it. Genuinely renewable energy is cheaper, safer, faster, and cleaner. Nuclear power is the opposite of a quick fix.

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How the U.S. Started a Cold War with Russia and Left Ukraine to Fight It

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies, 1 Mar 22,

The defenders of Ukraine are bravely resisting Russian aggression, shaming the rest of the world and the UN Security Council for its failure to protect them. It is an encouraging sign that the Russians and Ukrainians are holding talks in Belarus that may lead to a ceasefire. All efforts must be made to bring an end to this war before the Russian war machine kills thousands more of Ukraine’s defenders and civilians, and forces hundreds of thousands more to flee. 

But there is a more insidious reality at work beneath the surface of this classic morality play, and that is the role of the United States and NATO in setting the stage for this crisis.

President Biden has called the Russian invasion “unprovoked,” but that is far from the truth. In the four days leading up to the invasion, ceasefire monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) documented a dangerous increase in ceasefire violations in Eastern Ukraine, with 5,667 violations and 4,093 explosions. 

Most were inside the de facto borders of the Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR) People’s Republics, consistent with incoming shell-fire by Ukraine government forces. With nearly 700 OSCE ceasefire monitors on the ground, it is not credible that these were all “false flag” incidents staged by separatist forces, as U.S. and British officials claimed.

Whether the shell-fire was just another escalation in the long-running civil war or the opening salvos of a new government offensive, it was certainly a provocation. But the Russian invasion has far exceeded any proportionate action to defend the DPR and LPR from those attacks, making it disproportionate and illegal. 

In the larger context though, Ukraine has become an unwitting victim and proxy in the resurgent U.S. Cold War against Russia and China, in which the United States has surrounded both countries with military forces and offensive weapons, withdrawn from a whole series of arms control treaties, and refused to negotiate resolutions to rational security concerns raised by Russia.

In December 2021, after a summit between Presidents Biden and Putin, Russia submitted a draft proposal for a new mutual security treaty between Russia and NATO, with 9 articles to be negotiated. They represented a reasonable basis for a serious exchange. The most pertinent to the crisis in Ukraine was simply to agree that NATO would not accept Ukraine as a new member, which is not on the table in the foreseeable future in any case. But the Biden administration brushed off Russia’s entire proposal as a nonstarter, not even a b820asis for negotiations.

So why was negotiating a mutual security treaty so unacceptable that Biden was ready to risk thousands of Ukrainian lives, although not a single American life, rather than attempt to find common ground? What does that say about the relative value that Biden and his colleagues place on American versus Ukrainian lives? And what is this strange position that the United States occupies in today’s world that permits an American president to risk so many Ukrainian lives without asking Americans to share their pain and sacrifice? 

The breakdown in U.S. relations with Russia and the failure of Biden’s inflexible brinkmanship precipitated this war, and yet Biden’s policy “externalizes” all the pain and suffering so that Americans can, as another wartime president once said, “go about their business” and keep shopping. America’s European allies, who must now house hundreds of thousands of refugees and face spiraling energy prices, should be wary of falling in line behind this kind of “leadership” before they, too, end up on the front line.

At the end of the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact, NATO’s Eastern European counterpart, was dissolved, and NATO should have been as well, since it had achieved the purpose it was built to serve. Instead, NATO has lived on as a dangerous, out-of-control military alliance dedicated mainly to expanding its sphere of operations and justifying its own existence. It has expanded from 16 countries in 1991 to a total of 30 countries today, incorporating most of Eastern Europe, at the same time as it has committed aggression, bombings of civilians and other war crimes. 

In 1999, NATO launched an illegal war to militarily carve out an independent Kosovo from the remnants of Yugoslavia. NATO airstrikes during the Kosovo War killed hundreds of civilians, and its leading ally in the war, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, is now on trial at The Hague for the appalling war crimes he committed under the cover of NATO bombing, including cold-blooded murders of hundreds of prisoners to sell their internal organs on the international transplant market. 

Far from the North Atlantic, NATO joined the United States in its 20-year war in Afghanistan, and then attacked and destroyed Libya in 2011, leaving behind a failed state, a continuing refugee crisis and violence and chaos across the region.

In 1991, as part of a Soviet agreement to accept the reunification of East and West Germany, Western leaders assured their Soviet counterparts that they would not expand NATO any closer to Russia than the border of a united Germany. U.S. Secretary of State James Baker promised that NATO would not advance “one inch” beyond the German border. The West’s broken promises are spelled out for all to see in 30 declassified documents published on the National Security Archive website.

After expanding across Eastern Europe and waging wars in Afghanistan and Libya, NATO has predictably come full circle to once again view Russia as its principal enemy. U.S. nuclear weapons are now based in five NATO countries in Europe: Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey, while France and the U.K. already have their own nuclear arsenals. U.S. “missile defense” systems, which could be converted to fire offensive nuclear missiles, are based in Poland and Romania, including at a base in Poland only 100 miles from the Russian border. 

Another Russian request in its December proposal was for the United States to simply rejoin the 1988 INF Treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty), under which both sides agreed not to deploy short- or intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe. Trump withdrew from the treaty in 2019 on the advice of his National Security Adviser, John Bolton, who also has the scalps of the 1972 ABM Treaty, the 2015 JCPOA with Iran and the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea dangling from his gun-belt.

None of this can justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the world should take Russia seriously when it says that its conditions for ending the war and returning to diplomacy are Ukrainian neutrality and disarmament. While no country can be expected to completely disarm in today’s armed-to-the-teeth world, neutrality could be a serious long-term option for Ukraine. 

There are many successful precedents, like Switzerland, Austria, Ireland, Finland and Costa Rica. Or take the case of Vietnam. It has a common border and serious maritime disputes with China, but Vietnam has resisted U.S. efforts to embroil it in its Cold War with China, and remains committed to its long-standing “Four Nos” policy: no military alliances; no affiliation with one country against another; no foreign military bases; and no threats or uses of force. 

The world must do whatever it takes to obtain a ceasefire in Ukraine and make it stick. Maybe UN Secretary General Guterres or a UN special representative could act as a mediator, possibly with a peacekeeping role for the UN. This will not be easy – one of the still unlearned lessons of other wars is that it is easier to prevent war through serious diplomacy and a genuine commitment to peace than to end a war once it has started.

If and when there is a ceasefire, all parties must be prepared to start afresh to negotiate lasting diplomatic solutions that will allow all the people of Donbas, Ukraine, Russia, the United States and other NATO members to live in peace. Security is not a zero-sum game, and no country or group of countries can achieve lasting security by undermining the security of others. 

The United States and Russia must also finally assume the responsibility that comes with stockpiling over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, and agree on a plan to start dismantling them, in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Lastly, as Americans condemn Russia’s aggression, it would be the epitome of hypocrisy to forget or ignore the many recent wars in which the United States and its allies have been the aggressors: in Kosovo, AfghanistanIraq, Haiti, SomaliaPalestinePakistanLibyaSyria and Yemen

We sincerely hope that Russia will end its illegal, brutal invasion of Ukraine long before it commits a fraction of the massive killing and destruction that the United States and its allies have committed in our illegal wars.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK Women for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. 

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat crosses new threshold, expert says

ABC, By Michael Vincent 8 Feb 22 ”……………. It is important to note the video of the ICBMs on the highway did say they were heading to a military parade, but Mr Putin’s three nuclear warnings in as many weeks have sent chills down the spines of military analysts.

Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat crosses new threshold,as not crossed during the Cold War,” said Michael Kimmage, a former adviser on Ukraine and Russia for the US State Department during the Obama administration.

“The Cold-War messaging from the Soviet Union, from the United States, about nuclear weapons was far more disciplined than what Putin has been doing in the last couple of weeks………………………

The Soviet Union and the US only avoided nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis by communicating.”

A new domino effect is playing out and it does not bode well.

Professor Kimmage spelled it out like this: “Putin’s repeated messaging about using nuclear weapons comes at a time when there’s almost complete mistrust among Western leaders and the Russian leader,” he said.

“That combined with fewer and fewer channels of communication, and escalating sanctions and military commitment from the West to Ukraine, [adds the pressure on Russia] while the Russian attack falters.

“It doesn’t mean Putin will use nuclear weapons of course — I doubt he’s suicidal — but at the moment this is a crisis with no exit.”

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mass starvation, extinctions, disasters: the new IPCC report’s grim predictions, and why adaptation efforts are falling behind

Mass starvation, extinctions, disasters: the new IPCC report’s grim predictions, and why adaptation efforts are falling behind

Mark Howden et al 1Mar 22

Even if we manage to stop the planet warming beyond 1.5℃ this century, we will still see profound impacts to billions of people on every continent and in every sector, and the window to adapt is narrowing quickly. These are among the disturbing findings of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Climate change worse than we thought – IPCC report

A new UN report on the impacts of climate change is set to be the gravest
assessment yet of how rising temperatures are affecting every living thing.

The study, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
summarises several years of research. The report will likely say that the
world is fast approaching the limits of adapting to climate change. This
assessment, to be published later, will be the second of three major
reports from the IPCC and its first since November’s COP26 summit. The IPCC
carries out these large-scale reviews of the latest research on warming
every six or seven years on behalf of governments. This set of three is
their sixth assessment report. Researchers are formed into three working
groups that look at the basic science, the scale of the impacts and the
options for tackling the problem.

 BBC 28th Feb 2022

 Scotsman 27th Feb 2022

The impacts of the climate crisis are proving much worse than predicted,
and governments must act more urgently to adapt to them or face global
disaster, the UK president of the UN climate talks has warned on the eve of
a landmark new scientific assessment of the climate.

Alok Sharma, who led
the Cop26 climate summit last year, said: “The changes in the climate we
are seeing today are affecting us much sooner and are greater than we
originally thought. The impacts on our daily lives will be increasingly
severe and stark. We will be doing ourselves and our populations a huge
disservice if we fail to prepare now, based on the very clear science
before us.” In a report to be published on Monday, the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to show that droughts, floods
and heatwaves will increase in frequency and intensity, with devastating
consequences, and all parts of the globe will be affected.

 Guardian 28th Feb 2022

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To 1st March – Australian nuclear news, and more

Some bits of good news (hard to find this week!):

India’s Mass Tree Planting Success: Forest Cover Grows by Half-Million Acres in Two Years
Humpback whales no longer listed as endangered after major recovery.

What can I say ?–  No breakthrough at Ukraine talks as Russian assault continues. Ralph Nader: Everyone Loses in the Conflict Over Ukraine We’re in a new era. Not only is the war situation now so different, with the nuclear threat looming as never before.   But also, the media war has become so very complex and confusing. Social media plays its role –   but increasingly  – much information is crooked, devised to mislead the recipient. Bad enough from Western sources, but Russia has turned this deception into a pervasive mass art form.


How Australian uranium ended up in war-torn Ukraine.

Meet Australian Public Affairs, the lobbying firm that pushed the Kimba nuclear waste dump for the Federal Government. 

 Remembering the success of the nuclear-free movement at Muckaty in Australia’s Northern Territory. Australia’s rushed nuclear submarine plan- irrelevant, as China’s technology will outpace it.

Like rivers in the sky: the weather system bringing floods to Queensland will become more likely under climate change
Queensland, NSW floods live updates: Deluge hits northern NSW, Queenslanders wait for waters to recede


A rogue journalist ponders on Ukraine situation. Glenn Greenwald: war propaganda about Ukraine becoming more militaristic, authoritarian, and reckless. Blanket anti-Russian propaganda leaves no tolerance for nuanced reporting – media censorship is expanding.

As Russia Seizes Chernobyl Site, Ukraine’s 15 Nuclear Reactors Pose Unprecedented Risk in War Zone.

Climate impacts should be a regular part of war coverage

UN report on global increase in wildfires due to climate change change.

ANTARCTICAAntarctica’s pristine snow besmirched with horrid black pollution, scientists say

UKRAINE. Ukraine has 0% of winning, so sending weapons is a pointless exercise, except for the money. U.N. nuclear watchdog to hold emergency meeting on Ukraine. Russian control of Chernobyl may have been aimed against alleged Ukrainian plan to produce nuclear weapons

Ukraine’s reactors – largest nuclear complex in Europe – IN DANGER Russian forces now control Chernobyl, inviting speculation and uncertainty. The Most Immediate Nuclear Danger in Ukraine Isn’t Chernobyl. 

Increased radiation levels around Chernobyl probably due to military’s disturbance of soil around exclusion zone.    Radiation levels increased at Chernobyl, after Russian troops seized the area.     

Why nuclear risk from war in Ukraine isn’t missiles but accidental hits on reactors. Putin says that Ukraine is a nuclear threat. Abandoned mines and old Yunkom nuclear test site in Donbas region of Ukraine pose ”singular threat” of radiation contamination.

RUSSIA. Russia President Vladimir Putin puts his nuclear forces on alert.

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

Ralph Nader: Everyone Loses in the Conflict Over Ukraine

Ralph Nader, February 28, 2022 The U.S. and Russia are toying with a dangerous recipe for an out-of-control escalation, much like the lead-up to World War I.

When two scorpions are in a bottle, they both lose. This is the preventable danger that is growing daily, with no end game in sight between the two nuclear superpowers, led by dictator Vladimir Putin and de facto sole decider, Joe Biden.

Putin’s first argument is, Washington invented the model of aggressive, illegal invasions, and destruction of distant countries that never threatened U.S. security. Millions have died, been injured, and sickened in defenseless countries attacked by U.S. armed forces. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney killed over a million innocent Iraqis and devastated the country in so many ways that scholars called it a “sociocide.”

Putin’s second argument is that Russia is being threatened on its sensitive western border, which had been invaded twice by Germany and caused the loss of 50 million Russian lives. Soon after the Soviet Union collapsed, the West’s military alliance against Russia began moving east. Under Bill Clinton, NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization) signed up Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in 1999 leading to major arms sales by the U.S. giant munitions corporations.

More recently, Putin sees U.S. soldiers in these countries, ever closer U.S. missile launchers, U.S.-led joint naval exercises in the Baltic Sea, and intimations that Ukraine and Georgia could soon join NATO. (Imagine if the Russians were to have such a military presence around the U.S. borders.)

Even often hawkish New York Times columnists – Thomas Friedman and Bret Stephens made this point this week about the brazen U.S. history of military hypocrisy while tearing into Putin. Stephens brought up the Monroe Doctrine over the entire Western Hemisphere, in raising repeatedly the question, “Who are We?”

The chess game between Russia and the West has become more deadly with Putin’s military moves followed by immediate Western sanctions against some Russian banks and oligarchs close to Putin. Travel bans and freezing the completion of the second major natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany are in place with promises of much more severe economic retaliation by Biden.

These sanctions can become a two-way street. Western Europe needs Russian oil and gas, Russian wheat, and essential Russian minerals such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel. Sanctions against Russia will soon boomerang in terms of higher oil and gas prices for Europeans and Americans, more inflation, worsening supply chains, and the dreaded “economic uncertainty” afflicting stock markets and consumer spending.

The corporate global economy gave us interdependence on other nations, instead of domestic self-reliance under the framework of corporate-managed free trade agreements.

So how many billions of dollars in costs and a weakened economy will Joe Biden tolerate as the price of anti-Putin sanctions that will blowback on the American people? How much suffering will he tolerate being inflicted on the long-suffering Russian people?  What will be the impact on the civilian population of more severe sanctions? And who is he to talk as if he doesn’t have to be authorized by Congress to go further into this state of belligerence, short of sending soldiers, which he said he would not do?

Is Congress to be left as a cheerleader, washing its hands of its constitutional oversight and foreign policy duties? Also, watch Republicans and Democrats in Congress unify to whoop through more money for the bloated military budget, as pointed out by military analyst, Michael Klare. What energy will be left for Biden’s pending “Build Back Better” infrastructure, social safety net, and climate crisis legislation?

In recent weeks, the State Department said it recognizes Russia’s legitimate security concerns but not its expansionism. Well, what is wrong with a ceasefire followed by support for a treaty “guaranteeing neutrality for Ukraine, similar to the enforced neutrality for Austria since the Cold War’s early years,” as Nation publisher and Russia specialist Katrina vanden Heuvel urged. (See: Katrina vanden Heuvel’s Washington Post article and her recent Nation piece).

Putin, unable to get over the breakup of the Soviet Union, probably has imperial ambitions to dominate in Russia’s backyard. Biden has inherited and accepted the U.S. Empire’s ambitions in many other nation’s backyards. Events have polarized this conflict over Ukraine, which is not a security interest for the U.S., into two dominant egos – Putin and Biden – neither of whom want to appear weak or to back down.

This is a dangerous recipe for an out-of-control escalation, much as it was in the lead-up to World War I. Neither the people nor the parliaments mattered then, as seems to be the case today.

Putin isn’t likely to make a cost-benefit assessment of each day’s militarism. But Biden better do so. Otherwise, he will be managed by Putin’s daily moves, instead of insisting on serious negotiations. The Minsk II Peace Accords of February 2015 brokered by Germany, France, and the United Nations that Russia and Ukraine agreed to before falling apart due to disagreements over who should take the first steps, still makes for a useful framework.

It is too late to revisit the accords to stop the invasion. But it should be proposed to introduce a climate for waging peace. Already, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has spoken about an increase in cyberattacks and ransomware demands in her state in recent weeks. Has Biden put that rising certainty in his self-described decades-long foreign policy expertise? Watch out for what you can’t stop, Joe.

March 1, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment