Category: Big Picture

‘Hundreds of problems’ at EU nuclear plants

BBC NEWS – Hundreds of problems have been found at European nuclear plants that would cost 25bn euros (£20bn) to fix, says a leaked draft report. The report, commissioned after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, aimed to see how Europe’s nuclear power stations would cope during extreme emergencies. The final report was to be published last Thursday. The draft says nearly all the EU’s 143 nuclear plants need improving.

Climate Change is Already Damaging Global Economy, Report Finds

FIONA HARVEY – Climate change is already contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people a year and costing the world more than $1.2 trillion, wiping 1.6% annually from global GDP, according to a new study. The impacts are being felt most keenly in developing countries, according to the research, where damage to agricultural production from extreme weather linked to climate change is contributing to deaths from malnutrition, poverty and their associated diseases.

Obama Touts Transparency but Negotiates Secret Trade Deal

LORI WALLACH – On Sept. 6, as President Barack Obama promised jobs and transparency in his Democratic National Convention acceptance speech, his top trade officials were cloistered in conditions of extreme secrecy at the Lansdowne resort in Leesburg, Va., negotiating a massive “trade” agreement that will promote more U.S. job offshoring and ban Buy American procurement preferences.

Will the 2012 Presidential Election Be Stolen?

DAVID SWANSON – I’ve been trying (with virtually no success) to get everyone to drop the election obsession and focus on activism designed around policy changes, not personality changes. I want those policy changes to include stripping presidents of imperial powers. I don’t see as much difference between the two available choices as most people; I see each as a different shade of disaster. I don’t get distressed by the thought of people “spoiling” an election by voting for a legitimately good candidate like Jill Stein. Besides, won’t Romney lose by a landslide if he doesn’t tape his mouth shut during the coming weeks?

Victory: War-o-tainment Show Ends

DAVID SWANSON – Fifty thousand members of RootsAction.org signed a petition at http://StarsEarnStripes.org protesting NBC’s war-is-fun “reality” show co-hosted by former general Wesley Clark. Activists in New York have held a weekly protest and delivered the petitions. The final protest is at 5 p.m. this evening (Sept. 3) on the north side of W. 49th St. between 5th and 6th Avenues in New York City.

Arctic Ice Loss 50% Higher than Predicted

ROBIN MCKIE – Sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing at a far greater rate than previously expected, according to data from the first purpose-built satellite launched to study the thickness of the Earth’s polar caps. Preliminary results from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 probe indicate that 900 cubic kilometres of summer sea ice has disappeared from the Arctic ocean over the past year.

Eyewitness Report: When War Comes…

JANINE DI GIOVANNI – What does it feel like when a war begins? When does life as you know it implode? How do you know when it is time to pack up your home and your family and leave your country? Or if you decide not to, why? For ordinary people, war starts with a jolt: one day you are busy with dentist appointments or arranging ballet lessons for your daughter, and then the curtain drops. One moment the daily routine grinds on; A.T.M.’s work and cellphones function. Then, suddenly, everything stops.

‘Black Hole’ Hides Trillions in Ill-Gotten Gains

F. BRINLEY BRUTON – Thanks to lax international tax rules the world’s super rich have siphoned at least $21 trillion — more than 50 percent larger than the entire U.S. economy — into secretive tax-free havens, according to a study by UK campaign group Tax Justice Network. According to the study, the world’s top 50 private banks managed more than $12.3 trillion in 2010 in off-shore financial assets, up from $7.5 trillion five years earlier.

The Lessons Washington Can’t Draw from the Failure of the Military Option

TOM ENGELHARDT – Americans may feel more distant from war than at any time since World War II began. Certainly, a smaller percentage of us — less than 1% — serves in the military in this all-volunteer era of ours and, on the face of it, Washington’s constant warring in distant lands seems barely to touch the lives of most Americans. And yet the militarization of the United States and the strengthening of the National Security Complex continues to accelerate.

Digging for China: Coal is Northwest’s Next Big Climate Struggle

JASON MARK – It’s no surprise that many Bellingham residents are against plans to make the area home to one of the country’s largest coal-export terminals. Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest non-state-owned coal-mining company, is working with developers to convert the Cherry Point piers — located just north of town on the U.S.-Canada border — into a port capable of exporting 50 million metric tons of coal a year. Locals of all stripes have come together to fight the proposal.

Lockheed’s You-May-Be-Fired Notices Called Scare Tactic

LAURA LITVAN – Companies led by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), the world’s largest defense contractor, say federal and state laws may require them to send out blanket notifications of potential job cuts before the election unless President Barack Obama and Congress act by October to avert automatic defense reductions of $500 billion over a decade that would start on Jan. 2.

Syria: Only Diplomacy Can Stop the War

PHYLLIS BENNIS – Syria is close to full-scale civil war. If the conflict escalates further, as former UN Secretary-General and current envoy of both the UN and the Arab League Kofi Annan noted: “Syria is not Libya, it will not implode, it will explode beyond its borders.”

U.S. Sets Another Record on Defense Sales

CAREY L. BIIRON – The United States is set to far surpass previous records for defense sales this year, according to U.S. officials. “Despite the global economic strain, demand for U.S. defense products and services is stronger than ever,” Andrew J. Shapiro, an assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department, said last week.

U.S. Conference of Mayors Adopts Strong New Mayors for Peace Resolution

JACKIE CABASSO – At the close of its 80th annual meeting in Orlando Florida, on June 16, 2012, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) unanimously adopted a strong, comprehensive, new Mayors for Peace resolution: “Calling for U.S. Leadership in Global Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and Redirection of Nuclear Weapons Spending to Meet the Urgent Needs of Cities.”

Radiation is Carcinogenic: Any Exposure Can Cause Cancer

JOHN LAFORGE – There is no safe level of exposure to ionizing radiation, only legally “allowable” doses. Types of ionizing radiation include gamma rays, beta and alpha particles, and X-rays emitted by radioactive elements — like the iodine-131, cesium-137, strontium-90 and even plutonium-239 — that have been spewed into the air and the sea in huge quantities by the triple reactor meltdowns that began in Japan last year, and that are dispersed to the air, water and to dump sites in smaller amounts by the everyday operation of nuclear power and medicine.

News from Wisconsin Not All Bad

MICHAEL KEEGAN – Despite the national headlines, last night’s results from Wisconsin were a mixed bag. It appears that by just a few hundred votes, our efforts in the Racine State Senate district were successful, meaning we flipped the Senate to Democratic control and the new majority will be able to block [Gov. Scott] Walker’s aggressive ideological agenda moving forward.

Judge Blocks Controversial NDAA

ADAM KLASFELD – A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to block provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow the military to indefinitely detain anyone it accuses of knowingly or unknowingly supporting terrorism.

Carbon Tax Needed to Protect Us from Coal

TAMATA STATON, LAURA CARVER & PHILIP CARVER -An economically efficient policy would place a price-adder (tax) on fossil fuels based on their carbon-content. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) has introduced legislation to price carbon emissions — the Save Our Climate Act of 2011, H.R. 3242. Revenue is collected at the point of first sale or import. In the first ten years, the IRS would return 80 percent of the revenue to the public on an equal, per-person basis. The other 20 percent would go toward deficit reduction.

U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership: Where Are the Voices of Afghan Citizens?

ERIN E NIEMELA – As the NATO summit approaches in May, throngs of peace protestors are expected to descend on Chicago to pressure the U.S.-led, 28-nation military alliance for an end to the war in Afghanistan. But for some activists, it will be too late to protest the greatest threat to a peaceful Afghanistan: the signing of the U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement.

2012 U.S. Peace Index Highlights America’s Most and Least Peaceful States and Cities

MICHAEL SHANK AND CRAIG BROWNSTEIN – The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) announces the second annual release of the United States Peace Index (USPI). The 2012 USPI provides a comprehensive assessment of U.S. peacefulness at the state and city levels and analysis of the costs associated with violence and the socio-economic measures associated with peace.

Drone Activist Denied Visa

SHAHZAD AKBAR – The drone campaign, which continues to be conducted without oversight and accountability, is documented to have taken a horrendous toll on the civilian population of these regions, the magnitude of which has only come to light through the efforts of grassroots activists such as Akbar.

Thinking the Unthinkable on Iran

EDITOR’S NOTE – This article adds to the peace movement’s usual analysis, which views control of oil supplies as the driving force behind U.S. policy toward Iran, the notion that nuclear nonproliferation might actually be the prime objective. Whether or not you believe that nonproliferation is the most important aspect, it is reasonable to believe that it does play an important role, as author Jonathan Schell maintains.

Tax on Out-of-State Political Money Could Outflank Citizens United

ROB HAGER – In southern Minnesota (Paul Wellstone country), a new revolt against money in politics has started. Should this revolt spread, it would provide a far quicker and more effective grassroots strategy to get big and corporate money out of more elections than the popular but misguided campaign to pass municipal resolutions in favor of a constitutional amendment against corporate personhood.

Secret Tribunal Threatens the Environment

GLOBAL WATCH – For 18 years, Amazonian indigenous people have fought tirelessly to get Chevron to clean up horrific toxic contamination in a swath of Ecuador the size of Rhode Island. Finally last year, justice prevailed: an Ecuadorian appeals court reaffirmed that Chevron had to pay $18 billion to clean up the disaster and take care of tens of thousands of people suffering devastating health problems.

Americans Oppose Fossil Fuel Subsidies

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ – In his new proposed federal budget, President Obama called on Congress to repeal more than $4 billion a year in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, arguing that these “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies…impede investment in clean energy sources and undermine efforts to address the threat of climate change.”

Not Another Rabbit Hole!

IAN HRRIS – When Alice went down the rabbit hole in Lewis Carol’s novel, Alice and Wonderland, she experienced all kinds of unpleasant surprises. What kind of surprises will we Americans face if our government bombs Iran?

Government Health Care OK For Politicians But Not Us

JESSE JACKSON – Republicans on the campaign trail denounce Obama’s health-care reforms as a virtual threat to the Republic. It’s “socialized medicine,” “a job killer,” “a government takeover of health care.” All the Republican candidates for president promise to repeal it, and Republican legislators are virtually united in trying to do so.

The Big Money Behind State Laws

NY TIMES EDITORIAL – It is no coincidence that so many state legislatures have spent the last year taking the same destructive actions: making it harder for minorities and other groups that support Democrats to vote, obstructing health care reform, weakening environmental regulations and breaking the spines of public- and private-sector unions. All of these efforts are being backed — in some cases, orchestrated — by a little-known conservative organization financed by millions of corporate dollars.

ALEC Education “Academy” Launches on Island Resort

DUSTIN BIELKE – Today, hundreds of state legislators from across the nation will head out to an “island” resort on the coast of Florida to a unique “education academy” sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). There will be no students or teachers. Instead, legislators, representatives from right-wing think tanks and for-profit education corporations will meet behind closed doors to channel their inner Milton Friedman and promote the radical transformation of the American education system into a private, for-profit enterprise. (ALEC has claimed no corporate reps will be there but it has refused to let the press attend to see this claim for itself.)