(The better informed everybody becomes the greater the chance that war can be prevented and propaganda can not distort reality. With a couple of clicks you can do your part by simply forwarding this to others.)
Iran stocks, rial gain after nuclear talks
The progress of the talks, although slight, helped the rial to climb, trading at 16,500 to the dollar on the open market on Monday, from nearly 19,000 two weeks ago, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday.
Talking With Iran
New York Times Editorial
Iran’s agreement over the weekend to hold a new round of nuclear talks next month with the United States and five other powers is a constructive development. On Monday, Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Tehran is ready to resolve its nuclear disputes “quickly and easily” and suggested flexibility on uranium enrichment.
Iran strikes a new tone on nuclear talks
Washington Post Editorial
THE MOST positive aspect of the negotiations with Iran that opened Saturday was the contrast with the previous, disastrous encounter of the United States and its five partners with Tehran’s negotiators 15 months ago. Then, Iranian representative Saeed Jalili refused even to discuss the country’s nuclear program, insisting that all sanctions be lifted as a precondition to further dialogue. On Saturday in Istanbul, Mr. Jalili made no such demand. Instead he made clear that his government accepts the connection between an accord on its nuclear activities and sanctions relief.
The Long Road of Negotiations
By Paul Pillar
In May 1968 in Paris, negotiations began to end the Vietnam War. It would be four more years before the actual peace agreement was signed.
The difference is that the Vietnam negotiations were aimed at ending a misguided war, while the most important purpose of the talks with Iran is to prevent such a war from beginning.
The predictable spinning of the Istanbul talks from those anxious to declare diplomatic failure and get on with the war they really seem to want is contrived, with their motivations fairly transparent. The concept of a limited window for diplomacy to yield results is fallacious when the subject is an Iranian nuclear program that dates back to the days of the shah and which has been the subject of repeated overestimates of how close Iran was to building a nuclear weapon. The notion of a window is an artificiality that has mostly to do with the saber rattling of the Israeli government and its attention to the U.S. electoral calendar.
(The predictable spinning that Paul Pillar is referring to is Elliot Abrams' blog at Council of Foreign Relations Web site. Here is the link:
Iran's Forbidden Nukes and Taqiya Lie
(Here Prof. Cole does what he does best and that is to untangle issues that are basically disinformation pieces that show up in places like The New York Times. Basically James Risen wrote an article about Khamenei's declarations about nuclear weapons being forbidden under Islam and "taqiyya", a Shiite practice that allows lying under certain circumstances. You may want to read the whole thing but I'll just highlight Prof. Cole's concluding sentence.)
So the taqiyya argument is just some weird form of Islamophobia, and policy-makers and analysts can safely disregard it.
Dan Meridor: We misquoted Ahmadinejad
Talk to Al Jazeera
"They didn't say "wipe out", you are right"
Israel's Deputy Prime Minister discusses rhetoric and mistranslations surrounding the tense stand off with Iran.
(I am wondering if this was cleared by Netanyahu or it's a case of pushing back against Netanyahu's eagerness for war, which many in Israel are against.)
by KARL GROSSMAN
(I am posting Karl Grossman's entire article because as regular readers know I am in favor of Iran abandoning it's nuclear energy program and switching to solar.)
On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, The Japan Times yesterday ran an editorial titled “The Titanic and the Nuclear Fiasco” which stated: “Presenting technology as completely safe, trustworthy or miraculous may seem to be a thing of the past, but the parallels between the Titanic and Japan’s nuclear power industry could not be clearer.”
“Japan’s nuclear power plants were, like the Titanic, advertised as marvels of modern science that were completely safe. Certain technologies, whether they promise to float a luxury liner or provide clean energy, can never be made entirely safe,” it said.
It quoted from a piece by Joseph Conrad written after the Titanic sank in which he noted the “chastening influence it should have on the self-confidence of mankind.” The Japan Times urged: “That lesson should be applied to all ‘unsinkable’ undertakings that might profit a few by imperiling the majority of others.”
Yes, the same kind of baloney behind the claim that the Titanic was unsinkable is behind the puffery that nuclear power plants are safe. The nuclear power promoters are still saying that despite the sinking of atomic Titanics: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants.
In fact, underneath the PR offensive are government documents admitting that nuclear power plants are deadly dangerous.
The first analysis of the consequences of a nuclear plant accident was done in 1957 by
Brookhaven National Laboratory, established a decade before by the since disbanded U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to develop civilian uses of nuclear technology. Its “WASH-740” report said a major nuclear plant accident could result in “3,400 killed and about 43,000 injured” and property damage “could be about 7 billion dollars.” However, this analysis was based on nuclear power plants a fifth to a tenth of the size of those being constructed in the 1960s.
So Brookhaven National Laboratory conducted a second study in the mid-60s, “WASH-740-update.” It stated repeatedly that for a major nuclear plant accident, “the possible size of such a disaster might be equal to that of the State of Pennsylvania.” It increased the number of deaths to 45,000, injuries to 100,000 and property damage up to $280 billion.
Then, in 1982, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories did a study they titled “Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences” that analyzed the accident consequences for every nuclear plant in the U.S. It projected, for example, for a meltdown with a breach of containment at the Indian Point 2 plant just north of New York City: 50,000 “peak early fatalities; 167,000 “peak early injuries;” 14,000 “peak cancer deaths;” and $314 billion in “scaled costs” of property damage in, it noted, “1980 dollars.”
As to likelihood, in 1985 there was a formal written exchange between U.S. Congressman Edward Markey’s House Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations and the NRC in which the panel asked: “What does the commission and NRC staff believe the likelihood of a severe core melt accident to be in the next twenty years for those reactors now operating and those expected to operate during that time?”
The NRC response: “In a population of 100 reactors operating over a period of 20 years, the crude cumulative probability of such an accident would be 45%.” But then it went on that this might be off by “a factor of about 10 above and below.” Thus, the chances of a meltdown during a 20-year period among 100 U.S. nuclear plant plants (there are 104 today) would be about 50-50.
These are not good odds for disaster.
Steven Starr, a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, speaks further of the “fatal and deadly flaw” of nuclear power “that cannot be remedied by any technological fix or redesign. Nuclear power plants manufacture poisons thousands and millions of times more deadly to life than any other industrial process, and some of these poisons last for hundreds of millennia, and thus have great potential to become ubiquitous in the global environment.” And the “clear evidence” is that it is “beyond the means of the nuclear industry to keep these poisons contained during even the average lifespan of a nuclear reactor. It is beyond belief that anyone can promise that we can contain them for tens or hundreds of thousands of years.”
The current issue of Popular Mechanics features an article “Why Titanic Still Matters” by Jim Meigs, the magazine’s editor and chief, which states: “In one respect, little has changed. As the recent loss of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia demonstrates, bad decision making can overcome even robust engineering. Virtually all man-made disasters—including the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the space shuttle Challenger explosion, and the BP oil spill—can be traced to the same human failings that doomed Titanic. After 100 years, we must still remember—and, too often, relearn—the grim lessons of that night.”
Indeed, human error is a big part of what can go wrong at a nuclear power plant. However, even without human error, nuclear power is fraught with the potential for immense catastrophe. A mechanical malfunction simple or complex, an earthquake, a tornado, a tsunami, a hurricane, a flood, a terrorist attack, these and other threats can result in catastrophe. Nuclear power plants and the process of atomic fission in them are inherently dangerous—at a scale of technological disaster that is unparalleled.
Some 1,500 souls were lost with the Titanic. For a nuclear plant accident, it is anticipated that tens of thousands could die—and the most recent estimates by independent scientists is that a million have died as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. It is expected that even more will perish as a result of the six-nuclear plant Fukushima catastrophe.
And it’s not a ship sinking to the bottom of the sea but a part of the Earth rendered uninhabitable for millennia—as a huge area around Chernobyl has been, and now a large area around Fukushima will be.
They become “sacrifice zones.”
And what for? In 1912 there was no other way to cross an ocean than on a ship—there were no airplanes flying passengers from continent to continent. But now there are numerous and truly safe, clean energy technologies available that render nuclear power totally unnecessary. Thus, we can avoid sinking with the atomic Titanics which the nuclear power promoters insist we board.
Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet (Common Courage Press) and wrote and presented the TV program Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens (www.envirovideo.com). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.
(Below is a link to an article on an ashram in India that uses solar energy and even has solar refrigeration.)
The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret
By Michael Hastings
One day in late November, an unmanned aerial vehicle lifted off from Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan, heading 75 miles toward the border with Iran. The drone's mission: to spy on Tehran's nuclear program, as well as any insurgent activities the Iranians might be supporting in Afghanistan.
The drone that was headed toward Iran, the RQ-170 Sentinel, looks like a miniature version of the famous stealth fighter, the F-117 Nighthawk: sleek and sand-colored and vaguely ominous, with a single domed eye in place of a cockpit. With a wingspan of 65 feet, it has the ability to fly undetected by radar. Rather than blurting out its location with a constant stream of radio signals – the electronic equivalent of a trail of jet exhaust – it communicates intermittently with its home base, making it virtually impossible to detect. Once it reached its destination, 140 miles into Iranian airspace, it could hover silently in a wide radius for hours, at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet, providing an uninterrupted flow of detailed reconnaissance photos – a feat that no human pilot would be capable of pulling off.
Not long after takeoff – a maneuver handled by human drone operators in Afghanistan – the RQ-170 switched into a semiautonomous mode, following a preprogrammed route under the guidance of drone pilots sitting at computer screens some 7,500 miles away, at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. But before the mission could be completed, something went wrong. One of the drone's three data streams failed, and began sending inaccurate information back to the base. Then the signal vanished, and Creech lost all contact with the drone.
Today, even after a 10-week investigation by U.S. officials, it's unclear exactly what happened. Had the Iranians, as they would later claim, hacked the drone and taken it down? Did the Chinese help them?
What we do know is that the government lied about who was responsible for the drone. Shortly after the crash on November 29th, the U.S.-led military command in Kabul put out a press release saying it had lost an "unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan." But the drone wasn't under the command of the military – it was operated by the CIA, as the spy agency itself was later forced to admit.
Ten days after the crash, the missing drone turned up in a large gymnasium in Tehran. The Iranian military displayed the captured aircraft as a trophy; an American flag hung beneath the drone, its stars replaced with skulls. The drone looked nearly unscathed, as if it had landed on a runway.
The Iranians declared that such surveillance flights represented an "act of war," and threatened to retaliate by attacking U.S. military bases.
President Obama demanded that Iran return the drone, but the damage was done. "It was like when someone from Apple left a prototype of the next iPhone at a bar,"
Today, the Pentagon deploys a fleet of 19,000 drones, relying on them for classified missions that once belonged exclusively to Special Forces units or covert operatives on the ground. American drones have been sent to spy on or kill targets in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Libya. Drones routinely patrol the Mexican border, and they provided aerial surveillance over Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In his first three years, Obama has unleashed 268 covert drone strikes, five times the total George W. Bush ordered during his eight years in office. All told, drones have been used to kill more than 3,000 people designated as terrorists, including at least four U.S. citizens. In the process, according to human rights groups, they have also claimed the lives of more than 800 civilians. Obama's drone program, in fact, amounts to the largest unmanned aerial offensive ever conducted in military history; never have so few killed so many by remote control.
"What I don't think has happened enough is taking a big step back and asking, 'Are we creating more terrorists than we're killing? Are we fostering militarism and extremism in the very places we're trying to attack it?' says Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor who helped establish a new Pentagon office devoted to legal and humanitarian policy.
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