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Syria is an Epic Victory for the SuperPower of Peace, by Harvey Wasserman

5:42 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

Harvey Wasserman

Syria is an epic victory for the SuperPower of Peace
September 15, 2013
www.freepress.org
The United States is not now bombing Syria.

Let’s savor that again: for the moment at least, the United States is not now bombing Syria.

That alone qualifies as an epic, unprecedented victory for the SuperPower of Peace, the global movement to end war, win social justice and somehow salvage our ecological survival.

Will it mark a permanent turning point?

That a treaty has been signed to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons is icing on the cake, however thin it proves to be. We don’t know if it will work. We don’t know if the restraint from bombing will hold.

But in a world that bristles with atomic weapons, where the rich get ever richer at the expense of the rest of us, and where stricken Japanese reactors along with 400 more worldwide threaten the survival of our global ecology, we must count any victory for peace—even if potentially fleeting—as a huge one. Let’s do some history.

Ten years ago, George W. Bush took the United States into senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Millions of citizens marched in the United States and worldwide to prevent the coming debacle. But Bush and his cronies made a point of ignoring us all, as if the public demand for peace was somehow a sign of weakness.

Since then, utterly pointless slaughter has claimed countless thousands of lives, including those of at least 7,000 Americans. That number does not include the thousands more who have returned poisoned physically and mentally, with ailments that have driven so many to suicide, hopelessness and debilitating disabilities.

The war was sold as a campaign to rid Saddam Hussein of his alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction. Vice President Dick Cheney assured the American public that as our troops attacked, the Iraqi people would spread rose petals of gratitude at their feet.

But Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. And the Iraqi people had run out of rose petals. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) remain in abundant supply.

None of which deterred Team Bush-Cheney-Rove or the corporatist military machine that continues to reap millions in profits from a decade of disaster.

They did rid the world of Saddam Hussein. But in his wake came…what? A lesson learned in Iraq—for those paying attention–is the “you break it, you’ve bought it” syndrome. If you remove a dictator, however nasty, you still must have something better to put in his place.

That was clearly beyond the caring or grasp of the Bush Administration. Lethal discord has defined Iraq since the demise of Saddam, with no end in sight.

There’s been more of the same in Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and much of the rest of the middle east. What once seemed an “Arab Spring” of popular liberation may be tragically degenerating to a regional slaughterhouse of counter-revolution and chaos.

The stakes could not be higher. As Fukushima boils at the brink of catastrophe, the global environmental movement—the SuperPower of Solartopia—strives to convert humankind’s energy supply from fossil fuels and nuclear power to renewables and efficiency. Green energy—primarily wind and solar—is by far the fastest-growing new source of supply. Increased efficiency has saved billions of dollars and oceans of oil and gas that will not feed the demon of climate chaos.

But the corporate addiction to middle eastern oil remains a defining force. And the presence of a reactor near Damascus and of nuclear weapons in the hands of the US, Russia, Israel and god-knows-what random terror groups, make our every move in Syria a matter of life-and-death on a global scale.

With that backdrop, the Obama Administration’s decision to back off air strikes takes on an epic dimension. There are all sorts of modifiers that can and should be used.

But contrasted with what George W. Bush told the world ten years ago, Obama’s speech to the nation last week was a pillar of sanity.

He referenced our ten years of disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan. He acknowledged that while Assad is a terrible dictator, there’s no guarantee what follows would be any better. And he conceded that the attempt to use force could lead to costs we cannot predict.

He also made it clear that he was facing down the firewall of an overwhelming public and Congressional demand for peace that would not be denied.

A decade ago, George W. Bush deceived just enough of the American public to go to war.

This time, no deal. Whatever it proves to be worth, a treaty has been signed. We have a precious moment where bombs aren’t flying. We’re a few steps back from the nuclear brink. And our economy is not spiraling down into another senseless military firestorm.

It may prove a small respite…but it’s a victory by any reckoning.

Now the SuperPower of Peace—all of us—-must make it stick.

—————

Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of the Columbus Free Press and , where this was first published. He edits www.nukefree.org and is co-author, with Bob Fitrakis, of THE SUPERPOWER OF PEACE. His Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show is at . Special thanks to David Swanson.

Will H.I.G.-Owned E-Voting Machines Give Romney the White House?

1:00 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

Will H.I.G.-owned e-voting machines give Romney the White House?
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
October 12, 2012

Electronic voting machines owned by Mitt Romney’s business buddies and set to count the votes in Cincinnati could decide the 2012 election.

The narrative is already being hyped by the corporate media. As Kelly O’Donnell reported for NBC’s Today Show on Monday, October 8, Ohio’s Hamilton County is “ground zero” for deciding who holds the White House come January, 2013.

O’Donnell pointed out that no candidate has won the White House without carrying Ohio since John Kennedy did it in 1960. No Republican has EVER won the White House without Ohio’s electoral votes.

As we document in the e-book WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION (www.freepress.org) George W. Bush got a second term in 2004 thanks to the manipulation of the electronic vote count by Ohio’s then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. Blackwell served as the co-chair of the state’s committee to re-elect Bush/Cheney while simultaneously administering the election.

The widespread use of electronic voting machines from ES&S, and of Diebold software maintained by Triad, allowed Blackwell to electronically flip a 4% Kerry lead to a 2% Bush victory in the dead of election night. ES&S, Diebold and Triad were all owned or operated by Republican partisans. The shift of more than 300,000 votes after 12:20 am election night was a virtual statistical impossibility. It was engineered by Michael Connell, an IT specialist long affiliated with the Bush Family. Blackwell gave Connell’s Ohio-based GovTech the contract to count Ohio’s votes, which was done on servers housed in the Old Pioneer Bank Building in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Thus the Ohio vote tally was done on servers that also carried the e-mail for Karl Rove and the national Republican Party. Connell died in a mysterious plane crash in December, 2008, after being subpoenaed in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal lawsuit focused on how the 2004 election was decided (disclosure: we were attorney and plaintiff in that suit).

Diebold’s founder, Walden O’Dell, had vowed to deliver Ohio’s electoral votes—and thus the presidency—to his friend George W. Bush. That it was done in part on electronic voting machines and software O’Dell happened to own (Diebold has since changed hands twice) remains a cautionary red flag for those who believe merely winning the popular vote will give Barack Obama a second term.

This November, much of the Ohio electorate will cast its ballots on machines again owned by close cronies of the Republican presidential candidate. In Cincinnati and elsewhere around the state, the e-voting apparati are owned by Hart Intercivic. Hart’s machines are infamous for mechanical failures, “glitches,” counting errors and other timely problems now thoroughly identified with the way Republicans steal elections. As in 2004, Ohio’s governor is now a Republican. This time it’s the very right-wing John Kasich, himself a multi-millionaire courtesy of a stint at Lehman Brothers selling state bonds, and the largesse of Rupert Murdoch, on whose Fox Network Kasich served as a late night bloviator. Murdoch wrote Kasich a game-changing $1 million check just prior to his winning the statehouse, an electoral victory shrouded in electronic intrigue. The exit polls in that election indicated that his opponent, incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland, had actually won the popular vote.

Ohio’s very Republican Secretary of State is John Husted, currently suing in the US Supreme Court to prevent the public from voting on the weekend prior to election day. As did Blackwell and Governor Robert Taft in 2004, Husted and Kasich will control Ohio’s electronic vote count on election night free of meaningful public checks or balances

Hart Intercivic, on whose machines the key votes will be cast in Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, was taken over last year by H.I.G. Capital. Prominent partners and directors on the H.I.G. board hail from Bain Company or Bain Capital, both connected to Mitt Romney. H.I.G. employees have contributed at least $338,000 to Romney’s campaign. H.I.G. Directors John P. Bolduk and Douglas Berman are major Romney fundraisers, as is former Bain and H.I.G. manager Brian Shortsleeve.

US courts have consistently ruled that the software in electronic voting machines is proprietary to the manufacturer, even though individual election boards may own the actual machines. Thus there will be no vote count transparency on election night in Ohio. The tally will be conducted by Hart Intercivic and controlled by Husted and Kasich, with no public recourse or accountability. As federal testimony from the deceased Michael Connell made clear in 2008, electronically flipping an election is relatively cheap and easy to do, especially if you or your compatriots programmed the machines.

So as the corporate media swarm through Ohio, reporting breathlessly from “ground zero” in Cincinnati, don’t hold your own breath waiting for them to also clarify that the voting machines in what may once again be America’s decisive swing state are owned, programmed and tabulated by some of the Romney campaign’s closest associates.


Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION?, an e-book.

Will 9 GOP Governors Electronically Flip Romney into the White House?

10:52 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

Nine Republican governors have the power to put Mitt Romney in the White House, even if Barack Obama wins the popular vote.

Mitt Romney Caricature

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

With their secretaries of state, they control the electronic vote count in nine key swing states: Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Arizona, and New Mexico. Wisconsin elections are under the control of the state’s Government Accountability Board, appointed by the governor.

In tandem with the GOP’s massive nation-wide disenfranchisement campaign, they could—in the dead of election night—flip their states’ electronic votes to Romney and give him a victory in the Electoral College.

Thankfully, resistance has arisen to the disenfranchisement strategy, which seems designed to deny millions of suspected Democrats the right to vote. The intent to demand photo ID for voting could result in some ten million Americans being disenfranchised, according to the Brennan Center at New York University. Other methods are being used to strip voter rolls—as in Ohio, where 1.1 million citizens have been purged from registration lists since 2009. This “New Jim Crow”—personified by groups like True the Vote (New York Times Article)—could deny the ballot to a substantial percentage of the electorate in key swing states.

This massive disenfranchisement has evoked a strong reaction from voting rights activists, a number of lawsuits, major internet traffic and front page and editorial coverage in the New York Times.

But there has been no parallel campaign to guarantee those votes are properly counted once cast. Despite serious problems with electronic tabulations in the presidential elections of both 2000 and 2004, electronic voting machines have spread further throughout the country. In Ohio, former Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell awarded a no-bid state contract to GovTech—a well-connected Republican-owned company which no longer exists—to help count Ohio’s vote. GovTech contracted with two equally partisan Republican companies: Smartech for servers and Triad for IT support (Push and Pray Voting).

Electronic voting machines with ties to Republican-connected companies have proliferated throughout Ohio. Federal money from the Help America Vote Act has helped move electronic voting machines into other key swing states in substantial numbers that are not easy to track.

The machines can quickly tabulate a winner. But their dark side is simple: there is no way to monitor or double-check the final tally. These partisan Republican vote counting companies have written contracts to avoid transparency and open records laws.

American courts have consistently ruled that the hardware and software used in e-voting machines is proprietary. For example, California’s Public Records Act (CPRA) contains a Trade Secret Exemption. The courts in California apply a “balancing test” to determine whether the Trade Secret Exemption applies, but the contracts with voting machine vendors are written in such a way that the court usually has no other choice but to side with the vendors and the state and county election officials who inked the contract. High priced attorneys like Daniel McMillan of the Jones Day firm are often hired to “clarify” the law for the court.

In a filing with the Voting Systems Procedures Panel of the California Secretary of State’s office during the 2004 election, McMillan hammered out a “Stipulated Confidentiality Agreement” that states in part that a public records request by a voting activist “contain[s] confidential proprietary or trade secret information” and thus, is not a public record.

Also that year, McMillan showed up in Georgia on behalf of the infamous Diebold Election Systems company and invoked the Peach State’s Trade Secret Exemption to the open record law. McMillan wrote: “If information constitutes a trade secret under the Georgia Trade Secrets Act, the government agency in custody of the information has a duty to protect the information” from public scrutiny.

McMillan goes on to argue that there’s also a Computer Software Exclusion that, “To the extent that any request is made for Diebold’s computer program or software, such a request would not be a valid request for a public record.” Diebold’s attorney cited the concern that “…it makes it easier to sabotage and hack the system and circumvent security features” if there’s transparency.

Read the rest of this entry →

Four Ways Ohio Republicans are Already Stealing the 2012 Election

9:43 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

I VOTED TODAY

(Photo: williac/flickr)

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
August 23, 2012

The Ohio Republican Party has moved four ways to steal America’s 2012 election.  The Buckeye State is almost certain to emerge as a decider in this year’s presidential election, and the GOP is moving fast to ensure victory, no matter what it takes.

The strategy reflects much of what was done by the Republicans in 2000 and 2004 to steal those presidential elections for George W. Bush, as we report in the newly published WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION? (now at www.harveywasserman.ning.com and soon at www.freepress.org).

If they get away with it, the Ohio GOP could make it virtually impossible for Barack Obama to carry Ohio this November. In the years since Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, the Democratic Party has made little headway in reforming our electoral system to make such thefts impossible:

1. Since 2009, the Ohio GOP has purged some 1.25 million citizens from the state’s voter rolls. This accounts for more than 20% of the roughly 5.2 million votes counted for president in the state in 2008. The purge focusses on counties that are predominantly urban and Democratic.  ( http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/3/2012/1927 )

2. Electronic voting machines have been installed throughout the state which are owned, operated, programmed and maintained — and will be tallied—by Republican-connected firms, including Diebold (now Premier), ES&S and Triad. ( http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/3/2012/1925 )

3.  The GOP controls both houses of the Ohio Legislature, the governorship, the secretary of state’s office, and the state supreme court.  Soon after the 2008 election, it imposed a draconian photo ID law designed to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of suspected Democrats, as is being done throughout the US.  But Ohio is a referendum state.  A statewide grassroots movement recently crushed a GOP-pushed anti-labor law, and many Republicans feared the photo ID law would also go down.  Then Husted was ruled ineligible to hold office over a residency conflict.  Ohio’s Supreme Court re-instated his eligibility, but he was prompted to oppose the photo ID law.  Today a prospective Ohio voter can use 17 different kinds of ID, but in recent elections some poll workers have demanded photo ID anyway.  Without a grassroots army of independent election monitors to protect them, many more Ohioans are likely to be disenfranchised.

4.  In 2004, 10.6% of the votes cast in Ohio were so-called “early votes” via absentee ballots. A voter had to be absent from the county to vote absentee. In-person Election Day voters at the 42 predominantly black inner-city precincts in Columbus waited between 3-7 hours to vote.

In 2005, Ohio election law was modified so absentees could vote without actually being absent from their home county. When Ohio went for Barack Obama with 52% of the vote, early voting nearly tripled to 29.7%. This included voters able to vote in person at locations all over the state for 35 days prior to Election Day, including on weekends.

This summer the Ohio GOP attempted to allow Republican Counties to use weekend voting, while denying the right to counties that are predominantly Democratic.  By banning all voting the weekend before the election, Husted took credit for “leveling the playing field.”  But African-American State Representative Charleta Tavares immediately charged that the exclusion of weekend voting represented a deliberate attempt to suppress Democratic voters, and particularly black voters who voted 95% for Obama in 2008.

On Friday, August 17, while some 500 Ohioans protested outside his office, Husted suspended Democratic Montgomery County Board of Election members Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie, Sr. because they introduced and supported—and then refused to rescind—a motion for weekend voting.

Lieberman told the Dayton Daily News that, “I believe that this is so critical to our freedom in America . . . that I’m doing what I think is right, and I cannot vote to rescind this motion.” Lieberman also argued that the directive did not specifically prohibit weekend hours.

The Ohio Association of Election Officials, overwhelmingly dominated by Republicans from Ohio’s rural counties, endorsed the idea of cutting the final three early voting days. They argued that they needed the extra time over the weekend to prepare for Election Day, although some of the counties have very small voting populations compared to the nine urban counties that support keeping the three final early voting days.   Doug Priesse, Chair of the Franklin County (Columbus) GOP, sparked a firestorm when he explained that   “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter turnout machine.”

The Obama campaign has sued, arguing that weekend voting be restored for all Ohioans, as it has been for members of the military.  The GOP has charged Obama with trying to deny those in the military their right to vote, which would be impossible for him to do.  Husted and GOP Attorney-General Mike DeWine responded with a suit saying:  ”There is no fundamental right to in-person early voting.”

By purging registration lists, limiting voting times, messing with voter ID requirements and controlling electronic voting machines, the GOP has a huge leg up on winning what has often been America’s key swing state.

Clearly the Ohio GOP is once again geared up to deny the vote—and vote count—to as many Democrats as it can.  If it succeeds, as it did in 2004, Barack Obama stands little chance of being re-elected.


Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman’s new WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION?, introduced by Greg Palast, is a $4.99 e-book now at www.harveywasserman.ning.com  and soon at www.freepress.org.

Why Should Nuke Loan Guarantees Cost Less than Student or Home Loans?

11:57 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Harvey Wasserman

Why should nuke guarantees cost less than home or student loans?
July 2, 2012

The Department of Energy wants to give the Southern Company a nuclear power loan guarantee at better interest rates than you can get on a student loan. And unlike a home mortgage, there may be no down payment.

Why?

The terms DOE is offering the builders of the Vogtle atomic reactors have only become partially public through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

We still may not know all the details.

SACE has challenged the $8.33 billion loan guarantee package announced by President Obama in 2010.

The documents show the DOE has intended to charge the Southern a credit subsidy fee of one to 1.5%, far below the rates you would be required to pay for buying a house or financing an education.

On a package 15 times bigger than what the federal government gave the failed solar company Solyndra, Southern would be required to pay somewhere between $17 million and $52 million. Advocates argue the fee is so low that it fails to adequately take into account the financial risks of the project. Numerous financial experts have estimated the likely fail rate for new nuclear construction to be at 50% or greater.

Furthermore, since a primary lender would be the Federal Financing Bank, the taxpayer is directly on the hook. Guaranteed borrowings are not supposed to exceed 70% of the project’s projected costs, but it’s unclear what those costs will actually turn out to be, as the public has been given no firm price tag on the project.

There is apparently no cash down payment being required of Southern as it seems the loan is designed to be secured with the value of the reactors themselves, whatever that turns out to be. In the unlikely event they are finished, liability from any catastrophe will revert to the public once a small private fund is exhausted.

Southern wanted the terms of the DOE offer kept secret, and we still don’t know everything about it. But in March, a federal circuit court judge ordered that the public had a right to know at least some of the details.

Apparently no final documents have actually been signed between Southern and the DOE. The Office of Management & Budget has reportedly balked at offering the nuke builder such generous terms. Southern has reportedly balked at paying even a tiny credit fee.

Construction at the Vogtle site has already brought on delays focussed on the use of sub-standard concrete and rebar steel. The projected price tag—whatever it may be—has risen as much as $900 million in less than a year.

Southern and its Vogtle partners are in dispute with Westinghouse and the Shaw Company, two of the reactors’ primary contractors. Georgia ratepayers have already been stuck with $1.4 billion in advance payments being charged to their electric bills. Far more overruns are on their way.

The Vogtle project is running somewhat parallel with two reactors being built at V.C. Summer in South Carolina, where $1.4 billion was already spent by the end of 2011. Delays are mounting and cost overruns are also apparently in the hundreds of millions.

Southern and Summer’s builders both claim they can finance these projects without federal guarantees. But exactly how they would do that remains unclear.

Two older reactors now licensed at the Vogtle site were originally promised to cost $150 million each, but came in at $8.9 billion for the pair. The project’s environmental permits are being challenged in court over claims the Nuclear Regulatory Commission failed to account for safety lessons from the Fukushima disaster.

The terms of the guarantees are now apparently being scrutinized by the Office of Management & Budget, which reports to a White House that may be gun-shy over new construction guarantees due to bad publicity from the Solyndra fiasco.

Numerous petitions are circulating in opposition to this package.

The Nuclear Information & Resource Service has already facilitated more than 10,500 e-mails sent directly to DOE Secretary Chu.

You might ask: why should the builders of nuclear power reactors get better terms than students struggling to pay for college or working families trying to buy a home?

At least the home buyers can get private liability insurance, which the nuke builders can’t.

If mounting grassroots opposition can stop this package, it’s possible no new reactors will ever be built in the US.

So send the OMB and DOE a copy of your mortgage or student loan statement.

Demand that before they finance any more nukes, they drop your own payment to 1%, just like they’re offering the reactor pushers. Also demand the right to buy a home without a down payment.

See how far you get, and then make sure Vogtle goes no farther.


Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! is at www.solartopia.org. He edits thenukefree.org website.

Will You Pay as New Reactors Jump $900 Million in 3 Months?

11:04 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Will You Pay as New Reactors Jump $900 Million in 3 Months?

 

By Harvey Wasserman

 

 

The projected price for Georgia’s Vogtle Double Reactor Project has jumped at least $900 million in just three months….and that’s just for starters.

 

Will you pay for it?  The future of new atomic power in the US hangs in the balance.

 

A national grassroots campaign is now working to stop tax/ratepayer handouts and kill the project.

 

Construction there is defined by faulty concrete and non-spec rebar steel that threaten public safety and could delay completion dates beyond those projected even before construction began.

 

South Carolina’s V.C. Summer, the only other new US reactor project now under construction, is meeting fierce rate payer resistance in two states.  From Iowa to Brazil, Japan to France, the global reactor industry is collapsing in tandem.  But what other nations will it bankrupt and irradiate before it’s finished?

 

President Obama has tagged $8.33 billion in loan guarantees for Vogtle’s construction.  And Georgia ratepayers are being forced to pay for it in advance.

 

But the Office of Management and Budget is still dickering over terms with the Southern Company.  Vogtle’s prime builders want to put up little or no money.  They want interest rates lower than what you would pay to buy a new house.  They expect you to take primary liability for future disasters. They can’t say what will happen to the radioactive waste.

 

The real price tags for both Vogtle and Summer are suspect. Original estimates have been as low as $2-4 billion/reactor.  But Florida’s Progress Energy has just admitted its proposed reactors for Levy County, near Tampa, would go as high as $9.5 to $12 billion each.  Given their delays and structural defects, there’s no reason to believe Vogtle or Summer could come in cheaper.  At those prices, they cannot begin to compete with new renewables or efficiency.

 

So where does that leave Vogtle’s federal loan guarantees?  George W. Bush set aside $18.5 billion at the Department of Energy for new reactor funding, but made no grants.  Despite fierce lobbying, industry attempts to add to the fund have been defeated by national grassroots campaigns.

 

Obama designated the first $8.33 for Vogtle in 2010.  But closed-door negotiations between his OMB, the DOE and Southern have been inconclusive.

 

The $535 million failure of Solyndra Solar loans has cast a shadow over the entire federal guarantee system.  The proposed Vogtle guarantee is 15 times bigger.  At least three national petitions are circulating to kill it.

 

Southern has hinted it might seek better terms from private lenders.  But Wall Street has long scorned atomic investments.  And Georgia ratepayers are already being soaked for hundreds of millions to pay in advance for reactors sinking in debt and increasingly unlikely to ever operate.  In both South and North Carolina, ratepayers are revolting against skyrocketing rate hikes to build Summer.

 

In a major defeat for the nuclear industry, the Iowa legislature adjourned without voting advance rate hikes to build nukes there.  Similar legislation is stalled in Missouri and under attack in Florida.  Brazil has announced it will build no more reactors.  Despite fierce federal attempts to reopen them, all Japan’s commercial reactors remain shut.

 

New President Francois Hollande has pledged to phase down France’s dependency on atomic power.  A construction project at Flamanville (like one in Finland) is sinking in devastating overruns and delays.  Whether Hollande will proceed there or at any other remains to be seen.

 

But France’s new nuclear hesitancy may kill new reactor projects in Great Britain.   They have been posited on support from Electricite de France, now under attack from Hollande and a skeptical banking system being hammered by Europe’s financial crisis.

 

In India, many of the 350-plus women committed to a fast-unto-death against the Koodankulam reactors have entered critical life-threatening stages.  Police-state tactics have escalated the mass confrontation at the site.

 

Only China still seems a hold out for large-scale new construction.  As grassroots anti-nuclear campaign there begin, the central government has not yet announced its post-Fukushima decision on whether to proceed with some 30-plus proposed new reactors.

 

But at Fukushima itself, we still face a potentially catastrophic situation at Unit Four’s spent fuel pool, still perched 100 feet in the air.  Tons of horrifically radioactive rods remain at the mercy of an earthquake that could send them crashing to the ground, spewing releases that can only be termed “apocalyptic.”

 

In California, a failed $960 million “upgrade” at California’s San Onofre has led to steam generator tube failures shutting two reactors with no firm reopening date.  More than a $1 billion spent by Progress Energy at Florida’s Crystal River may also doom it to long overdue burial.

 

In Vermont, New York, Texas, Ohio and elsewhere else there are operating reactors, escalating leaks, flaws, errors and advanced aging define a supremely dangerous industry falling apart at its faulty welds.

 

So far there have been no balanced national hearings on the future of Votle’s loan guarantees, or continued construction at Summer.  But this latest $900 million price jump casts yet another deadly shadow over America’s nuclear future.

 

It’s time to kill this loan—and this industry—and put our money into green-powering our planet.

 

Our economic and ecological survival depend on it.

 

————————

Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org.  His SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, is at www.solartopia.org ; his Green Power & Wellness Show airs at www.progressiveradionetwork.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama’s Atomic Solyndra?

9:31 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

OBAMA’S ATOMIC SOLYNDRA?

by Harvey Wasserman

The future of nuclear power now hangs on a single decision by President Obama—and us.

His Office of Management and Budget could cave to the unsustainable demands of reactor builders who cannot handle the standard terms of a loan agreement.

Or he could defend basic financial procedures and stand up for the future of the American economy.

You can help make this decision, which will come soon.

It’s about a proposed $8.33 billion nuke power loan guarantee package for two reactors being built at Georgia’s Vogtle.   Obama anointed it last year for the Southern Company, parent to Georgia Power.  Two other reactors sporadically operate there.  Southern just ravaged the new construction side of the site, stripping virtually all vegetation.

It’s also stripped Georgia ratepayers of ever-more millions of dollars, soon to become billions.  This project is in the Peach State for its law forcing the public to pay for reactor construction in advance.  When the project fails, or the reactors melt, the public still must pay.  A taste of what’s coming has emerged in shocking defects in poured concrete at the site which will cost millions to correct and months of delay on a project whose construction has barely begun ( http://nukefree.org/nc-warn-vogtle-already-hit-major-design-flaw-delay ) .

Nonetheless, Southern runs virtually no financial risk.  It actually has an interest in never finishing.  Florida is now in turmoil, trying to rid itself of a similar Construction Work in Progress law ( http://nukefree.org/florida-legislators-sue-stop-nuke-bailouts-advance ).

Worldwide estimated reactor costs have jumped from $3-5 billion each a few short years ago to $10 billion or more, and rising.

Uranium prices are set to soar as the supply of Russian weapons-based fuel is about done.  And renewables have long since outstripped atomic energy as being cheaper, faster to build, cleaner, safer, more reliable and open to community ownership.

There are virtually no private investors willing to back new reactor construction.  There are no private insurers willing to take the risk on operating reactors.  There is no place to store the radioactive wastes they generate.

Operating reactors in Vermont ( http://nukefree.org/vermonters-tell-vermont-yankee-get-out ), New York, California ( http://nukefree.org/nrc-chair-jazcko-says-san-onofre-be-shut-indefinitely )and elsewhere now face ferocious public uprisings to get them shut.

They are being joined by Governors, US Senators and entire legislatures.  Peter Shumlin, Governor of Vermont, has appeared at a major public rally to shut Yankee.  The legislature long ago voted (26-4) the same way.  Shumlin was joined by US Senator Bernie Sanders, who has issued a stunning denunciation of the loan guarantees ( http://nukefree.org/sen-bernie-sanders-ryan-alexander-stop-nuclear-subsidies ) .  US Senator Ron Wyden of Orgeon has published a serious warning about the on-going dangers of Fukushima, which he recently visited ( http://nukefree.org/sen-wyden-warns-situation-fukushima-worse-believed ).

Once the public kills one of these elderly reactors, a tsunami of shutdowns among the 104 currently licensed in the US will follow.

Germany and much of the rest of Europe have abandoned the technology ( http://nukefree.org/europes-war-over-nuclear-financing ).  Bulgaria has just scrapped plans for two proposed generators.  Major banking institutions have warned potential investors in Britain’s planned reactors that if they proceed, they will lose their financial standing.  Mexico has also said it won’t build new nukes.

In Asia, only one of Japan’s 54 licensed reactors now operates, and it may soon shut.  Huge demonstrations and hunger strikes are raging against a proposed project at Koodankulam, India.  The Philippines says it won’t build any reactors at all ( http://nukefree.org/philippines-says-no-new-nukes ).  China, the last bastion of any apparent large-scale interest in multiple nukes, seems to be wavering, in part because of the rise of a No Nukes movement there.

Here, two reactors barely beginning construction in South Carolina are also in deep trouble.  Their builders need massive rate hikes in North Carolina to proceed, and the opposition there is fierce ( http://nukefree.org/ncwarn-north-carolina-can-kill-south-carolina-nuke-project ).

But the lynchpin is Vogtle.  The construction loan guarantee program got $18.5 billion from George W. Bush in 2005. With the industry in deepening chaos, it took until last year for a president to designate less than half that money.  For the first time in years, there is no Executive or Congressional request to put more money into the fund.

The French National Utility EDF did step forward to get funding for Maryland’s proposed Calvert Cliffs project.  But haggling over terms contributed to its demise.

Now Southern faces the same abyss.  It refuses what the mortgage community would consider a normal 20% downpayment on its taxpayer-funded loan.  Southern wants to put virtually none of its own money into the project, leaving the radioactive gamble totally to the public.

But the Office of Management and Budget is apparently demanding something more reasonable ( http://nukefree.org/vogtle-loan-guarantee-not-yet-done-deal ).  Because the OMB is a White House agency, Obama holds the key.  It’s our job to make him turn it in a green direction.

A short while ago, this package was considered a done deal.  But the GOP uproar over the failed $535 million loan to the solar company Solyndra changed to context.  Initiated by Bush, Republicans have made Solyndra the poster child for bad federal loans.

Vogtle involves some 15 times Solyndra’s liability.  And it’s all Obama’s.  At least three petitions are circulating against the package.( http://nukefree.org/please-do-sign-petition-stop-new-nuke-loan-guarantees ).

There are many ways to finally shut down what has been the most expensive technological failure in human history.  Fukushima and the killing power of radiation, the unsolved problem of radioactive waste, the campaigns against failing reactors such as Vermont Yankee, Indian Point, San Onofre and Davis-Besse—all are key.  This weekend, a conference convened by the Sierra Club in Washington, DC ( http://action.sierraclub.org/site/DocServer/no_Nukes_Flyer2.pdf?docID=9701 ) , will weigh the various strategies.

But killing this loan guarantee package could finally kill the prospect of new reactors in the US.  The astonishing rise of Solartopian green technologies has far outstripped atomic energy in the marketplace.  Every delay deeply diminishes the possibility of building more of these profoundly uneconomic anachronisms.

In the long run, Vogtle, Summer and any other new nukes that seem to slip through in the short term will almost certainly be stopped by what has become one of the most powerful non-violent social movements in human history.

But right now, it’s up to Obama—and us.  Does he really want an atomic Solyndra on his hands?  Will we really let this happen?

Let’s relieve the President of this radioactive burden.  Let’s kill these reactors before they kill us, and take the most significant leap of all toward a green-powered Earth.

——————-

Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA!  Our Green-Powered Earth is at www.harveywasserman.ning.com, along with HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE US.  He edits www.nukefree.org, and his Green Power & Wellness Show airs at www.progressiveradionetwork.com

2012′s Civil Liberties Apocalypse Has Already Happened

1:49 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Apocalypse Pic-Nic (image: OVRL, flickr)

Apocalypse Pic-Nic (image: OVRL, flickr)

2012′s civil liberties apocalypse has already happened
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
January 19, 2012

In case you missed it, President Barack Obama has signed a death knell for the Bill of Rights. It’s a hell of a way to begin a year many believe will mark the end of the world.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) makes a mockery of our basic civil liberties. It shreds the intent of the Founders to establish a nation where essential rights are protected. It puts us all at risk for arbitrary, indefinite incarceration with no real rights to recourse.

The Act authorizes a $626 billion dollar defense budget (which does not include the CIA, special ops, various black box items, etc). Obama’s signing statement says it does address counterterrorism at home and abroad as well as Defense Department modernization, health care costs and more.

But it also includes Sections 1021 and 1022, bitterly opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, among many others. The New York Times urged Obama to veto the bill because of them. The UK-based Guardian said NDAA 2012 allows allows for indefinite detention of US citizens “without trial [of] American terrorism subjects arrested on U.S. soil, who could then be shipped to Guantanamo Bay.” The Kansas City Star was equally blunt, stating that the NDAA is “trampling the bill of rights in defense’s name.”

Section 1021 reasserts the President’s authority to use the military to detain any person “who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” It also includes the military’s power to detain anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the U.S. or its coalition allies under the law of war. Despite widespread public pressure, Obama did not veto the bill. In his signing statement he said: “I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”

Citing the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, the NDAA states that those detained may be detained “without trial, until the end of the hostilities authorized by the [AUMF].” The NDAA also allows trial by military tribunal, or “transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin,” or transfer to “any other foreign country or any other foreign entity.” This last practice is known as “rendition.” Read the rest of this entry →

Our Future Depends on Stopping an Attack on Iran

10:57 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

No War Please (Photo: Chris Suderman, flickr)

No War Please (Photo: Chris Suderman, flickr)

The global Occupy Movement has come to life just in time.

War is the health of the corporate state. The 1% needs its endless cash flow to stay in power.

As the slaughters in Iraq and Afghanistan transform into something less visible, the 1% war machine must have a new profit center. The pretext for this latest war is the spectre of a nuclear-armed Iran. It’s a tawdry re-run of the lies George W. Bush used to sell the 2003 attack on Iraq. It’s no surprise those “Weapons of Mass Destruction” were never found—or that Bush could later joke about it.

The hypocrisy of the 1% railing against bombs allegedly flowing from Iran’s “Peaceful Atom” program comes in unholy tandem with the corporate push for a “nuclear renaissance” peddling these same reactors all over the world. (It helps to remember that the nuclear industry once tried to sell 36 “peaceful” reactors to the Shah).

STOPPING THE ATTACK ON IRAN IS ABSOLUTELY VITAL TO OUR HOPES FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY. THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT HOLDS THE KEY.

The slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan has been horrific, but pales beside the bloodshed that could come next. Iran is a far more advanced country, with 76 million people. It’s powerful, diverse and sophisticated, with significant ties to Russia, China, India and throughout the mideast. In the 1980s it fought a land war with Iraq that killed a million people. Does the 1% expect us to embrace a re-run?

It’s up to our newly energized grassroots movement to stop this madness before it happens.

Remember that peace movements have been critical in shaping the course of history. For example, Richard Nixon’s “secret plan” to beat Southeast Asia into submission included the use of nuclear weapons. But he refrained, in part because of his well-justified fear of a national upheaval. Read the rest of this entry →

Where Occupy and No Nukes Merge and WIN!!

7:25 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

Harvey Wasserman testifying

Harvey Wasserman testifying

COLUMNS
Harvey Wasserman

Where Occupy & No Nukes merge & win!!!
October 23, 2011

The global upheaval that is the Occupy Movement is hopefully in the process of changing—and saving—the world.

Through the astonishing power of creative non-violence, it has the magic and moxie to defeat the failing forces of corporate greed.

A long-term agenda seems to be emerging: social justice, racial and gender equality, ecological survival, true democracy, an end to war, and so much more. “When the power of love overcomes the love of power,” said Jimi Hendrix, “the world will know peace.”

Such a moment must come now in the nick of time, as the corporate ways of greed and violence pitch us to the precipice of self-extinction.

At that edge sits a sinister technology, a poisoned cancerous power that continues to harm us all even as 3 of its cores melt and spew at Fukushima.

Atomic energy, the so-called “Peaceful Atom”, has failed on all fronts. Read the rest of this entry →