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The Washington Post Opinions: Fukushima’s fallout in Virginia By Peter GaluszkaVirginia’s once-promising nuclear industry is feeling the impact of Japan’s reactor disaster, which has dampened demand for goods and services related to nuclear-powered generating plants. Construction delays have been announced at the $363 million Areva Newport News facility that would make large components for the nuclear power industry. In Pittsylvania County, opposition to a proposal to mine about 119 million pounds of uranium, worth about $8 billion, seems to be growing.
The Old Dominion is a major center for the nuclear industry. French-owned Areva has its North American headquarters in Lynchburg, where it provides maintenance crews and parts to service nuclear power stations throughout the United States. Dominion Virginia Power operates four nuclear units in the state. A Newport News shipyard that has just been spun off to Huntington Ingalls by Northrop Grumman is the only yard in the country that can build nuclear-powered surface ships.
As worries over disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl faded and concerns about climate change grew, Virginia seemed well-positioned to cash in on its civilian nuclear prowess.
But the March 11 accident at Japan’s Fukushima plant has changed all of that. Japan and Germany are limiting or phasing out their reliance on nuclear power, although developing nations such as China, Mexico and Iran are pressing on.The market uncertainty has prompted Areva Newport News, owned by Areva and Huntington Ingalls, to announced May 9 that it was halting construction of its Newport News components facility, which would employ 540. Company officials cited unfavorable market conditions but said that building could begin again if that changes. Construction had begun in 2009.
Meanwhile, the new anti-nuclear atmosphere is giving a boost to the 41 groups and localities that oppose Virginia Uranium Inc.’s plans to mine uranium in Pittsylvania County and create 300 jobs. The state has banned uranium mining but the General Assembly may reconsider it in 2012. “We are not willing to risk our health and our property values and our future for low-quality jobs with such a toxic result,” Naomi Hodge-Muse, president of the Martinsville-Henry chapter of the NAACP, was quoted as saying in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon’s Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.
By Peter Galuszka | 05:14 PM ET, 05/13/2011
“Let us ensure that development for some is not to the detriment of the human rights of others” – Pillay Statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for 9 August, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People “As we celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People this year, many of the estimated 370 million indigenous peoples around the world have lost, or are under imminent threat of losing, their ancestral lands, territories and natural resources because of unfair and unjust exploitation for the sake of ‘development.’ On this day, let us ask the crucial question: who actually benefits from this so-called development, and at what cost is such development taking place?
When indigenous communities are alienated from their lands because of development and natural resource extraction projects, they are often left to scrape an existence on the margins of society. This is certainly not a sign of development. Many such projects result in human rights violations involving forced evictions, displacement and even loss of life when social unrest and conflict over natural resources erupt. This is certainly not what we mean by development. Natural resource extraction projects such as mining are land-intensive and water-intensive and often directly affect the collective rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and territories.
All too often we see conflict between corporations, indigenous peoples and the State over development projects which are initiated without consultation or consent of the very people who are dispossessed of their land. In Malaysia, for example, planned hydroelectric dam projects in Sarawak and Sabah have caused great concern for indigenous peoples, who are either being displaced or dispossessed of their lands. The Penan people have received threats and there are reports of harassment of the Penan by workers of logging companies. Various complaints and claims have prompted SUHAKAM, Malaysia’s human rights commission, to initiate a national inquiry on the land rights of indigenous peoples.
In India, social unrest and conflicts over land acquisition for development and mining projects have increased in recent years. Adivasis defending their ancestral lands and community forests are often subject to threats and harassment, despite the existence of constitutional protections, Supreme Court judgments and progressive national legislation requiring consent of tribal communities, and community rights over forest use. In a positive development in 2010 the Ministry of Environment and Forests in India stopped the Orissa government and Vedanta, a multinational mining company headquartered in the United Kingdom, from mining in the Niyamgiri hilltop in Kalahandi district, since such an operation would severely affect the ecology of the area and the situation of the Dongria Kondh Adivasi people living in the mountains.
Threats against anti-logging activists working to protect the Amazon forest in Brazil have been long ongoing. Recently, José Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria de Espirto, both anti-logging activists and defenders of indigenous peoples’ rights were killed in the Brazilian state of Para. My Office continues to directly monitor the impact of extractive industries and development projects in a number of other countries, including Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala and Mexico.
In many cases, extractive activities in indigenous territories are pursued by multinational companies headquartered in developed countries. Moreover, extractive industries are often present in the areas inhabited by indigenous peoples in these nations. For example, intensive oil and gas development continues in northern Alberta, Canada in the areas where the long-standing land claims by the Lubicon Lake Nation remain unresolved. In the Nordic countries, the Sami are concerned about the impact of mining, forestry and other natural resource extraction on reindeer husbandry.
Many States maintain contradictory or antiquated laws on mining and land acquisition for development. These laws must be re-assessed to determine if they are consistent with international human rights standards and principles. Such reviews must be conducted in consultation with indigenous peoples and in good faith.
Indeed, proper consultations must be conducted with indigenous peoples at all stages of the development and natural resource extraction cycle. They are entitled to full disclosure of environmental, social and human right impact assessments in a language of their choice. States should also provide financial and technical support to enable indigenous peoples to consult with corporations.
When indigenous peoples consent to such projects, they should have a right to a fair share of benefits from activities on their lands. And where projects proceed without consent, mechanisms for redress are required. International and national institutions financing such projects must ensure their operational policies and guidelines are consistent with international human rights standards and principles.
On their part, extractive companies have a responsibility to respect human rights. This was affirmed in June 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council when adopting the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples makes explicit reference to free, prior and informed consent. It is very clear about this requirement for the “development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources”. This is further reinforced by international treaties such as ILO Convention No. 169 and in the jurisprudence of human rights treaty bodies, in particular the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The right to development is a human right for all, and indigenous peoples have the right to define and determine their own development. On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, let us ensure that development for some is not to the detriment of the human rights of others. Let us work together to ensure true development for all.
8/8/2011 EPA and USDA Create a Partnership to Improve Drinking Water Systems and Develop Workforce in Rural Communities: WASHINGTON –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a national partnership to protect Americans’ health by improving rural drinking water and wastewater systems. Nationwide, small water and sewage treatment facilities with limited funding and resources face challenges due to rising costs and aging equipment and pipes. Today’s agreement will send federal resources to support communities that need assistance and promote job training to help put people to work while addressing the growing workforce shortage in the water industry.
“EPA and USDA have joined forces to leverage our expertise and resources to improve drinking water and wastewater systems in small towns across the country,” said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “A critical part of this agreement is to ensure that we have a well trained, professional workforce available to replace workers when they leave or retire.”
“The agreement we are announcing today represents an exciting partnership between USDA and EPA that will greatly enhance our investments in water systems and also in developing a skilled workforce to oversee them,” said Jonathan Adelstein, administrator for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. “By working together, our agencies will strengthen their capacity to provide rural residents with safe, clean, well-managed water and wastewater systems for years to come.”
Under the agreement, EPA and USDA will work together to promote jobs by targeting specific audiences, providing training for new water careers and coordinating outreach efforts that will bring greater public visibility to the workforce needs of the industry, and develop a new generation of trained water professionals. EPA and USDA will also facilitate the exchange of successful recruitment and training strategies among stakeholders including states and water industries.
The agencies will also help rural utilities improve current operations and encourage development of long-term water quality improvement plans. The plans will include developing sustainable management practices to cut costs and improve performance.
Since taking office, President Obama’s administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans. For instance, the administration has set goals to modernize infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are thriving economically.
In June, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack. The White House Rural Council will work throughout government to create policies that will help realize the administration’s goals for rural communities. Today’s agreement is part of that initiative.
More about the EPA-USDA agreement: http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/partners.cfm#moa
EPA: Dale Kemery (News Media Only)
USDA: Dane Henshall
More about EPA’s programs and tools for small water systems: http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/index.cfm
More about USDA’s Water and Environmental Programs for rural communities:
The Washington Post International: Los Alamos nuclear lab to remain closed as New Mexico wildfire nears – BlogPost – Posted by Nikke Alex via Marley Shebala: Yeeyah!!!Glenn Walp, a former Pennsylvania State Police commissioner and author of “Implosion at Los Alamos,” told ABC News that “potential is high for a major calamity if the fire would reach” the area where “approximately 20,000 barrels of nuclear waste” are stored. (via Marley Shebala) As the Las Conchas wildfire continues to burn in New Mexico, officials from the Los Alamos National Laboratory say the radioactive and nuclear materials stored there are safe.
A small fire broke out Monday on the nuclear laboratory’s property near Technical Area 49, a site formerly used for radioactive explosives testing and now used for training purposes, but it was quickly contained, according to a U.S. Forest Service press release. “About one acre burned and the Lab has detected no off-site releases of contamination,” the release said. The lab will remain closed to all non-essential employees on Wednesday.
The wildfire has burned an estimated 49,000 acres of land south and west of the lab, according to the Forest Service. Los Alamos’s 12,000 residents are now under a mandatory evacuation order.
The lab will hold a press conference with public safety officials Tuesday afternoon. According to a press release, no fires burned on lab property Monday night and all hazardous materials are “accounted for and protected.”
Glenn Walp, a former Pennsylvania State Police commissioner and author of “Implosion at Los Alamos,” told ABC News that “potential is high for a major calamity if the fire would reach” the area where “approximately 20,000 barrels of nuclear waste” are stored.
Lab spokesman Steve Sandoval would not confirm that there were any such barrels on the property to the Associated Press, but he did say that “low-level waste is at times put in drums and regularly taken from the lab.”
“Unfortunately, I cannot answer that question other than to say that the material is well protected,” he said. “And the lab — knowing that it works with hazardous and nuclear materials — takes great pains to make sure it is protected and locked in concrete steel vaults. And the fire poses very little threat to them.”
The lab — where the first nuclear weapons were developed — has been posting dramatic pictures of the fire to its Flickr account.
6/16/2011 Gallup Independent: From Geronimo to the A-bomb – Cold Warrior – A Navajo soldier remembers the fight to stop communism By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – During last week’s hearing on indigenous rights before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Chairman Daniel Akaka treated the audience to “Geronimo did not die in Pakistan,” a film by Ryan Red Corn and Dallas Goldtooth. The film refers to the use of Geronimo’s name in the U.S. operation to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Akaka said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., recently chaired a meeting for him on racial stereotypes and “it was unfortunate at that time that Geronimo was up in the news.” Red Corn, an Osage from Oklahoma, said the Geronimo code name is just another way for the United States to paint Natives as enemies of the state. “That has to change if we are not only to survive but thrive as respective nations.”
According to the film, “Geronimo” was not killed in Pakistan. He was not a code name or a mission call sign. “He is the grant writer from Shiprock who stays up all night trying to get her people access to drinkable water. He is a paramedic from Wide Ruins who drives the ambulance faster because he knows no other help is coming. He is alive in the woman from Sky City who prays before every meal because that’s how she was raised. … Geronimo isn’t dead. … He’s alive in me.”
Ross Bigman didn’t know much about Apaches or Geronimo when he served as a communications sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division during the Korean war. Bigman, 78, recalls being at the U.S. Army Jumpmaster School in Fort Benning, Ga., in 1954 when he first learned about Geronimo.
“When I went through Jumpmaster School, the paratroopers that I was jumping with, they would all yell out ‘Geronimo!’ and I was wondering what it was all about. I asked the colonel, ‘Why are they yelling out ‘Geronimo!’ when we jump?’ And he says, ‘What Indian tribe do you belong to?’ I said, ‘I’m a Navajo.’
“He says, ‘Geronimo was an Apache Indian, an Apache warrior. He’s one of the most famous Indian warriors in the United States that surprises the enemies. That’s the reason when we jump out in combat operations we identify ourselves as Geronimo – to surprise the enemies.’ He said, ‘You ought to be very proud to call yourself Geronimo. You’re one of the American Indians.’”
Bigman, originally from Kaibeto, was surprised to learn this. When he made another jump, he said, “My parachute opened and I was going down and somebody hit my parachute on top of me. I looked up and then I saw this soldier. I recognized it was the master sergeant. He was yelling, ‘My parachute collapsed!’” Bigman grabbed the parachute and held onto it, and they came down together. “He was really proud and he shook my hand and he said, ‘You really saved my life.’ Some of the other soldiers that saw what happened, they congratulated me, too. After we landed, I yelled out, ‘Geronimo!’
“To me, that’s how Geronimo was used. They’re not calling the enemy Geronimo,” he said, as in the case of bin Laden. “We’re calling ourselves Geronimo. This is my understanding and I sure would like to make that correction. They’re really praising Geronimo, that’s what they’re doing.”
Bigman’s fellow soldiers thought he should receive an Air Medal for his selfless act. “The master sergeant told the company commander, and the other soldiers, they all shook my hand for what I did,” he said. “I never did receive that medal.”
Bigman served in the military from 1952 to 1955. He made it as far as Hawaii, where he waited to get called out to Korea but never left stateside, according to his wife Dorothy. But he did see action, of sorts, in late May or early June 1953 in Nevada. He doesn’t recall the exact date.
“I was one of the participants in one of the A-bomb tests down at Nevada,” he said. “I don’t hear too well. They dropped the atomic bomb on us and that’s what ruined my ears.”
From March 17 to June 4, 1953, the United States conducted 11 nuclear tests at Nevada Test Site as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole. Reporters were allowed to view the detonation of “Annie,” the first shot, from News Nob, about 6.8 miles south of the shot tower. The government wanted to show the American public that nuclear weapons could be used defensively, without destroying large urban centers and populations.
An estimated 18,000 Department of Defense personnel participated in observer programs during Upshot-Knothole. The largest participation was in Exercise Desert Rock V, which involved members of all four armed services. The troops were briefed before the detonation on nuclear weapons characteristics and effects and on personal protection and observation of a nuclear detonation. Marine Corps helicopters also were tested to investigate the capability of helicopters and their crews to withstand a nuclear burst and its effects.
“We were sent from 82nd Airborne Division to Las Vegas and down to Yucca Flats,” Bigman said. “There was a military camp out there and we went through some briefing. We were in foxholes and we all had our eyes closed and we covered our face and we were down in the trench. One thing that they told us was, ‘Once you see the flash you can jump up and stand on top and watch the mushroom going up,’ so that’s exactly what we did.
“Even though I had my eyes closed, I still saw the flash. They had a countdown from 10 all the way down to zero. When they said ‘Zero’, that’s when the flash came on. We jumped up and we got on top of the trench and we were standing there maybe close to five minutes. We were watching the mushroom and all of the sudden, BAM!! They never told us about the aftershock. I fell back into the trench because of the blast, it was so strong. Some of the other soldiers they also fell back into the trench. We kind of scratched ourselves.”
He remembers the soldiers seeing rain coming off the cloud from the blast. “They said, ‘Look, it’s starting to rain up there.’”
About 10 minutes later, he said, helicopters came by and picked them up from their location about 6 miles out from ground zero and transported them to a mile from the blast site. “The day before, we went through where they were going to drop this bomb. It had been a city, a really nice town. They had a military camp there and then they had really nice cars and really nice buildings. They had silhouettes like people down the street, and that’s where they dropped the A-bomb.
“They dropped us off and then we walked all the way into the zero area. Right along the way we saw some jackrabbits. Their guts were blown out and some of them were still kicking. Everything was burning, all the grass and all the vegetation that was in the area, they were all burning. We went all the way back into the zero area and that town was gone. Everything was destroyed. The military had some tanks out there and they had artillery out and they were completely destroyed. Everything was just burning.”
They marched through the zero area and went another mile out where they were picked up in a pickup truck and hauled another six to eight miles away to be tested, Bigman said. “We went through a machine that was testing radiation on us. When I went through, that radiation, it just sounded – bzzzzzzzz. That’s how much radiation I had on me.”
From there they went outside the camp to a place near Las Vegas where they had left some uniforms the day before. “We took all our clothes off and they gave us some special soap to shower in. We took showers and we cleaned ourselves and we put on new uniforms. We took everything out, even our boots. Right after we took us a shower they gave us another test on the radiation. When I went through that, it went beep … beep … beep. That’s the way it was sounding. That’s how much radiation, I guess, I had on me.”
After that, he took leave and caught a bus back to Kaibeto. When he got there he was told that it had rained about three days earlier. “I guess they got that rain from that atomic blast and from that cloud. I was really surprised. There are quite a few Navajo people around Tuba City, around Kaibeto and Page that have died of cancer. There’s a lot of cancer up there. One of my brothers and one of my sisters and some of my relatives, they died from cancer. I’ve been going for tests. I have all kinds of spots on my body. I kind of think that’s part of the radiation,” he said.
Bigman sought compensation for his loss of hearing. “They told me, ‘Your military record is gone. You don’t have a military record.’ They’re giving me a hard time right now about those damages that they did to me.”
“If the state has jurisdiction over us, where are they when the drug dealers are in my neighborhood? Where are they when rapes are going unprosecuted?” Red Corn asked.
“I want to live in a time when human rights are not seen as a radical idea,” he said. “These are not extra rights, but they are basic human rights that everyone else has in the country.”
The most passionate witness was Yazzie. He cited disputes between developers and tribes over sacred tribal lands, for example, that threaten to contaminate soil and vegetation needed to perform ceremonies and prayers and could prevent a “Navajo traditional medicine person from treating his patient.”
He warned of negative environmental consequences if the U.N. declaration does not spur Native American-friendly legislation.
“We have something to say, something to offer. We believe we can help heal the Earth and provide hope for the future,” Yazzie said. “Western science is not enough. We must be at the table. It is our Earth, too, and it is our life, too.”
_ United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html
_ Senate Indian Affairs Committee webcast:
Rachelle Todea, Public Information Officer
Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 1689
Window Rock, Navajo Nation (AZ) 86515
Phone (928) 871-7436
Fax (928) 871-7437
Forgotten People – Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University Mapping Project: Please check out the links for maps showing proposed uranium haul routes from the Grand Canyon thru the Navajo Nation AND a map showing the proximity of abandoned uranium mines to water sources. Huxley College, WWU rocks! Forgotten People-Huxley College Mapping Project.
At first, analysts from Tokyo Electric and the government believed there was only limited damage to the fuel cores. But over the last week, a combination of robotic and human inspections has led to the conclusion that the fuel assemblies in units 1, 2, and 3 were completely exposed to the air for from over 6 hours to over 14 hours and that melting was extensive if not complete. Much of the fuel is now likely at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels.
4/18/2011 Bolivia Set to Pass Historic ‘Law of Mother Earth’ Which Will Grant Nature Equal Rights to Humans Written by Keph Senett: With the cooperation of politicians and grassroots organizations, Bolivia is set to pass the Law of Mother Earth, which will grant nature the same rights and protections as humans. The piece of legislation, called la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra, is intended to encourage a radical shift in conservation attitudes and actions, to enforce new control measures on industry, and to reduce environmental destruction. The law redefines natural resources as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings, including: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Perhaps the most controversial point is the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.
In late 2005 Bolivia elected its first indigenous president, Evo Morales. Morales is an outspoken champion for environmental protection, petitioning for substantive change within his country and at the United Nations. Bolivia, one of South America’s poorest countries, has long had to contend with the consequences of destructive industrial practices and climate change, but despite the best efforts of Morales and members of his administration, their concerns have largely been ignored at the UN.
Just last year, in 2010, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca expressed his distress “about the inadequacy of the greenhouse gas reduction commitments made by developed countries in the Copenhagen Accord.” His remarks were punctuated by the claim that some experts forecasted a temperature increase “as high as four degrees above pre-industrial levels.” “The situation is serious,” Choquehuanca asserted. “An increase of temperature of more than one degree above pre-industrial levels would result in the disappearance of our glaciers in the Andes, and the flooding of various islands and coastal zones.”
In 2009, directly following the resolution of the General Assembly to designate April 22 “International Mother Earth Day”, Morales addressed the press, stating “If we want to safeguard mankind, then we need to safeguard the planet. That is the next major task of the United Nations”. A change to Bolivia’s constitution in the same year resulted in an overhaul of the legal system – a shift from which this new law has sprung.
The Law of Mother Earth has as its foundation several of the tenets of indigenous belief, including that human are equal to all other entities. “Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family,” Choquehuanca said. “We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food and financial crises with our values.” The legislation will give the government new legal powers to monitor and control industry in the country.
“Existing laws are not strong enough,” said Undarico Pinto, leader of the 3.5m-strong Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (a group that helped draft the law). “It will make industry more transparent. It will allow people to regulate industry at national, regional and local levels.”
Bolivia will be establishing a Ministry of Mother Earth, but beyond that there are few details about how the legislation will be implemented. What is clear is that Bolivia will have to balance these environmental imperatives against industries – like mining – that contribute to the country’s GDP.
Bolivia’s successes or failures with implementation may well inform the policies of countries around the world. “It’s going to have huge resonance around the world,” said Canadian activist Maude Barlow. “It’s going to start first with these southern countries trying to protect their land and their people from exploitation, but I think it will be grabbed onto by communities in our countries, for example, fighting the tarsands in Alberta.”
Ecuador has enshrined similar aims in its Constitution, and is among the countries that have already shown support for the Bolivian initiative. Other include Nicaragua, Venezuela, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda.
National opposition to the law is not anticipated, as Morales’ party – the Movement Towards Socialism – holds a majority in both houses of parliament. On April 20, two days before this year’s “International Mother Earth Day”, Morales will table a draft treaty with the UN, kicking off the debate with the international community.
Read the entire document (in Spanish) here.