If Donald Trump gets his way on formation of a Space Force, the heavens would become a war zone. Inevitably, there would be military conflict in space.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which designates space as the global commons to be used for peaceful purposes—and of which Russia and China, as well as the United States, are parties—and the years of work facilitating the treaty since would be wasted.
If the U.S. goes up into space with weapons, Russia and China, and then India and Pakistan and other countries, will follow.
Moreover space weaponry, as I have detailed through the years in my writings and TV programs, would be nuclear-powered—as Reagan’s Star Wars scheme was to be with nuclear reactors and plutonium systems on orbiting battle platforms providing the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons.
This is what would be above our heads.
Amid the many horrible things being done by the Trump administration, this would be the most terribly destructive.
“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council this week.
“Very importantly, I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon,” he went on Monday, “to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces; that is a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal, it is going to be something.”
The notion of the U.S. moving into space with weaponry isn’t new.
It goes back to the post-World War II years when the U.S. government brought former Nazi rocket scientists from Germany to the U.S.—mainly to the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama—to use “their technological expertise to help create the U.S. space and weapons program,” writes Jack Manno, who retired last year as a professor at the State University of New York/Environmental Science and Forestry College, in his book Arming the Heavens: The Hidden Military Agenda for Space, 1945-1995.
“Many of the early space war schemes were dreamt up by scientists working for the German military, scientists who brought their rockets and their ideas to America after the war,” he relates. “It was like a professional sports draft.”
Nearly 1,000 of these scientists were brought to the U.S., “many of whom later rose to positions of power in the U.S. military, NASA, and the aerospace industry.” Among them were “Wernher von Braun and his V-2 colleagues” who began “working on rockets for the U.S. Army,” and at the Redstone Arsenal “were given the task of producing an intermediate range ballistic range missile to carry battlefield atomic weapons up to 200 miles. The Germans produced a modified V-2 renamed the Redstone….Huntsville became a major center of U.S. space military activities.”
Manno writes about former German Major General Walter Dornberger, who had been in charge of the entire Nazi rocket program who, “in 1947, as a consultant to the U.S Air Force and adviser to the Department of Defense…wrote a planning paper for his new employers. He proposed a system of hundreds of nuclear-armed satellites all orbiting at different altitudes and angles, each capable or reentering the atmosphere on command from Earth to proceed to its target. The Air Force began early work on Dornberger’s idea under the acronym NABS (Nuclear Armed Bombardment Satellites).”
For my 2001 book, Weapons in Space, Manno told me that “control over the Earth” was what those who have wanted to weaponize space seek. He said the Nazi scientists are an important “historical and technical link, and also an ideological link….The aim is to…have the capacity to carry out global warfare, including weapons systems that reside in space.”
But then came the Outer Space Treaty put together by the U.S., Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. In the 2001 TV documentary I wrote and narrate, “Star Wars Returns.”
Craig Eisendrath, who had been a U.S. State Department officer involved in its creation, notes that the Soviet Union launched the first space satellite, Sputnik, in 1957 and “we sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized…to keep war out of space.”
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966, it entered into force in 1967. It has been ratified or signed by 123 nations.
It provides that nations “undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in space in any other manner.”
Atomic physicist Edward Teller, the main figure in developing the hydrogen bomb and instrumental in founding Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, pitched to Ronald Reagan, when he was governor of California visiting the lab, a plan of orbiting hydrogen bombs which became the initial basis for Reagan’s “Star Wars.” The bombs were to energize X-ray lasers. “As the bomb at the core of an X-ray battle station exploded, multiple beams would flash out to strike multiple targets before the entire station consumed itself in in a ball of nuclear fire,” explained New York Times journalist William Broad in his 1986 book Star Warriors.
Subsequently there was a shift in “Star Wars” to orbiting battle platforms with nuclear reactors or “super” plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generators on board that would provide the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons.
The rapid boil of “Star Wars” under Reagan picked up again under the administrations George H. W. Bush and son George W. Bush. And all along the U.S. military has been gung-ho on space warfare.
A U.S. Space Command was formed in 1982.
“US Space Command—dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict,” it trumpeted in its 1998 report Vision for 2020. It laid out these words to resemble the crawl at the start of the Star Wars movies. The U.S. Space Command was set up by the Pentagon to “help institutionalize the use of space.” Or, as the motto of one of its units declares, to be “Master of Space.”
Vision for 2020 states, “Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments-both military and economic.” Nations built navies “to protect and enhance their commercial interests” and during “the westward expansion of the United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements and railroads. The emergence of space power follows both of these models. During the early portion of the 21st Century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare.”
“It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen,” remarked U.S. Space Command Commander-in-Chief Joseph W. Ashy in Aviation Week and Space Technology (8/9/96):
“Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue, but—absolutely—we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space…. We will engage terrestrial targets someday—ships, airplanes, land targets—from space.”
Or as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Keith R. Hall told the National Space Club in 1997: “With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it and we’re going to keep it.”
The basic concept of the Pentagon’s approach to space is contained in The Future of War: Power, Technology & American World Dominance in the 2lst Century. Written by “arms experts” George and Meredith Friedman, the 1996 book concludes: “Just as by the year 1500 it was apparent that the European experience of power would be its domination of the global seas, it does not take much to see that the American experience of power will rest on the domination of space. Just as Europe expanded war and its power to the global oceans, the United States is expanding war and its power into space and to the planets. Just as Europe shaped the world for a half a millennium [by dominating the oceans with fleets], so too the United States will shape the world for at least that length of time.”
Or as a 2001 report of the U.S. Space Commission led by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asserted: “In the coming period the U.S. will conduct operations to, from, in and through space in support of its national interests both on the earth and in space.”
Nuclear power and space weaponry are intimately linked.
“In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict,” stated New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century, a 1996 US Air Force board report. “These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills.” However, “power limitations impose restrictions” on such space weaponry making them “relatively unfeasible,” but “a natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space.” Says the report: “Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space.”
Or as General James Abrahamson, director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, put it at a Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion, “without reactors in orbit [there is] going to be a long, long light [extension] cord that goes down to the surface of the Earth” to power space weaponry.
Thus nuclear power would be needed for weapons in space.
Since 1985 there have been attempts at the UN to expand the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 to prohibit not only nuclear weapons but all weapons from space. This is called the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty and leading in urging its passage have been Canada, Russia and China. There has been virtually universal backing from nations around the world for it. But by balking, U.S. administration after administration has prevented its passage.
Although waging war in space was hotly promoted by the Reagan and Bush administrations and ostensibly discouraged by the Obama administration and Clinton administration, all U.S. administrations have refused to sign on to the PAROS treaty.
In my book Weapons in Space, I relate a presentation I gave at a conference at the UN in Geneva in 1999 on the eve of a vote the next day on PAROS. I spoke about the “military use of space being planned by the U.S.” being “in total contradiction of the principles of peaceful international cooperation that the U.S. likes to espouse” and “pushes us—all of us—to war in the heavens.”
I was followed by Wang Xiaoyu, first secretary of the Delegation of China, who declared: “Outer space is he common heritage of human beings. It should be used for peaceful purposes…It must not be weaponized and become another arena of the arms race.”
The next day, on my way to observe the vote, I saw a U.S. diplomat who had been at my presentation. We approached each other and he said he would like to talk to me, anonymously. He said, on the street in front of the UN buildings, that the U.S has trouble with its citizenry in fielding a large number of troops on the ground. But the U.S military believes “we can project power from space” and that was why the military was moving in this direction. I questioned him on whether, if the U.S. moved ahead with weapons in space, other nations would meet the U.S. in kind, igniting an arms race in space. He replied that the U.S. military had done analyses and determined that China was “30 years behind” in competing with the U.S. militarily in space and Russia “doesn’t have the money.” Then he went to vote and I watched as again there was overwhelming international support for the PAROS treaty—but the U.S. balked. And because a consensus was needed for the passage of the treaty, it was blocked once more.
And this was during the Clinton administration.
With the Trump administration, there is more than non-support of the PAROS treaty but now a drive by the U.S. to weaponize space.
It could be seen—and read about—coming.
“Under Trump, GOP to Give Space Weapons Close Look,” was the headline of an article in 2016 in Washington-based Roll Call. It said “Trump’s thinking on missile defense and military space programs have gotten next to no attention, as compared to the president-elect’s other defense proposals….But experts expect such programs to account for a significant share of what is likely to be a defense budget boost, potentially amounting to $500 billion or more in the coming decade.”
Intense support for the plan was anticipated from the GOP-dominated Congress. Roll Call mentioned that Representative Trent Franks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and an Arizona Republican, “said the GOP’s newly strengthened hand in Washington means a big payday is coming for programs aimed at developing weapons that can be deployed in space.”
In a speech in March at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station near San Diego, Trump declared: “My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea. We may even have a Space Force—develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force; we’ll have the Space Force.”
Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, notes that Trump cannot establish a Space Force on his own—that Congressional authorization and approval is needed. And last year, Gagnon points out, an attempt to establish what was called a Space Corps within the Air Force passed in the House but “stalled in the Senate.”
“Thus at this point it is only a suggestion,” said Gagnon of the Maine-based Global Network.
“I think though,” Gagnon went on, “his proposal indicates that the aerospace industry has taken full control of the White House and we can be sure that Trump will use all his ‘Twitter powers’ to push this hard in the coming months.”
Meanwhile, relates Gagnon, there is the “steadily mounting” U.S. “fiscal crisis…Some years ago one aerospace industry publication editorialized that they needed a ‘dedicated funding source’ to pay for space plans and indicated that it had come up with it—the entitlement programs. That means the industry is now working to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and what little is left of the welfare program. You want to help stop Star Wars and Trump’s new Space Force. Fight for Social Security and social progress in America. Trump and the aerospace industry can’t have it both ways—it’s going to be social progress or war in space.”
As Robert Anderson of New Mexico, a board member of the Global Network, puts it: “There is no money for water in Flint, Michigan or a power grid in Puerto Rico, but there is money to wage war in space.”
Or as another Global Network director, J. Narayana Rao of India, comments: “President Donald Trump has formally inaugurated weaponization of space in announcing that the U.S. should establish a Space Force which will lead to an arms race in outer space.”
Russian officials are protesting the Trump Space Force plan, “Militarization of space is a way to disaster,” Viktor Bondarev, the head of the Russian Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee, told the RIA news agency the day after the announcement. This Space Force would be operating in “forbidden skies.” He said Moscow is ready to “strongly retaliate” if the US violates the Outer Space Treaty by putting weapons of mass destruction in space.
And opposition among legislators in Washington has begun. “Thankfully the president cannot do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart,” tweeted Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.
“Space as a warfighting domain is the latest obscenity in a long list of vile actions by a vile administration,” writes Linda Pentz Gunter, who specializes in international nuclear issues for the organization Beyond Nuclear, this week. “Space is for wonder. It’s where we live. We are a small dot in the midst of enormity, floating in a dark vastness about which we know a surprising amount, and yet with so much more still mysteriously unknown.”
“A Space Force is not an aspiration unique to the Trump administration, of course,” she continued on the Beyond Nuclear International website of the Takoma Park, Maryland group, “but it feels worse in his reckless hands.”
Irving Like, an environmental giant in Long Island’s Suffolk County, New York State and the United States, has died.
Like was instrumental in getting the Shoreham nuclear power plant in Suffolk abandoned; was a key in the successful fight to stop the four-lane highway that New York public works czar Robert Moses sought to build on Fire Island and to create instead a Fire Island National Seashore; he was the author of the Conservation Bill of Rights that’s part of the New York State Constitution; and he established a model since emulated across the U.S. of exposing the deadly dangers of nuclear power at proceedings of federal nuclear power licensing agencies that otherwise are kangaroo courts. And there was so much more.
Attorney Like, of Bay Shore, Long Island never stopped fighting for the environment. He was still involved in crusades and litigation when he passed away on October 3 at 93.
I began writing about Like in 1962 and was regularly in touch with him through the years since. Our last communication came on September 20 when Irv emailed me about his crusade to have UNESCO designate Fire Island a World Heritage Site. This, he said, would result in international protection for that extraordinary barrier beach. In the email, Irv related how “my wife Margalit to whom I was happily married for 69 years” had died. “What keeps me going are the environmental projects I care about & the knowledge of people like you. Let’s keep going!!!”
I was 20 years old starting out as a reporter at the Babylon Town Leader when I first wrote about Irv. Moses, a resident of Babylon, a Long Island village, had just announced his Fire Island highway. I was dispatched to Fire Island and wrote a lengthy front page article on how the highway would pave over the exquisite nature and magical communities of Fire Island, a 35-mile long barrier beach. It was my first big story.
Irv and his brother-in-law, Murray Barbash (who passed away in 2013) swung into action creating the Citizens Committee for a Fire Island National Seashore. Irv and Murray figured there wouldn’t be a way to stop Moses on the state level. After Moses suffered what was a then record loss in a run for governor, he instead amassed vast influence in New York particularly through commissions. Needed was federal involvement to stop Moses’ highway. Also, the National Seashore goal would make the campaign positive, more than anti-highway. In 1964 the Seashore became a reality, the highway stopped.
Irv and Murray flipped that strategy on Shoreham. They determined that the nuclear project couldn’t be stopped on the federal level—with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) never having denied a construction or operating license for a nuclear plant anywhere, anytime. (This has continued with its successor agency, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.) So they formed Citizens to Replace LILCO with a focus on using state power, especially the power of condemnation, to stop Shoreham and the Long Island Lighting Company. They worked to establish a Long Island Power Authority with the clout, if LILCO persisted with Shoreham and its plan to build seven to 11 nuclear power plants on Long Island, to eliminate LILCO. The Long Island Power Act was enacted in 1985 and LILCO gave up turning Shoreham over to the state for a nominal $1 to be decommissioned as a nuclear facility.
Irv had gotten involved in challenging nuclear power in Suffolk earlier. He was attorney for the Lloyd Harbor Study Group which fought a previous LILCO nuclear plant project in Lloyd Harbor. LILCO, in the face of the opposition in that upscale village in Huntington Town decided to shift the location of its first nuclear plant to Shoreham. It assumed the Lloyd Harbor Study Group and Irv would not go many miles east to continue the battle. But they did.
The AEC construction permit hearings for Shoreham lasted two years and were the longest hearings it ever held. Irv understood he wouldn’t be able to win. But as he wrote in a paper delivered before the American Bar Association in 1971 and in a version published nationally, the AEC hearings, although fixed, could be an “educational forum to alert the public” about the perils of nuclear power and spur people to political action.
Most recently, Irv has represented Helene Forst’s Long Island Businesses for Responsible Energy battling the placement of giant toxic chemical-coated poles for transmission lines by PSEG and LIPA. Ms. Forst, of East Hampton, who worked earlier with Irv as co-chair of East End Shoreham Opponents, speaks of his “brilliance, positivity and resilience.” She reflects: “l was fortunate to be able to work side-by-side with Irving, passionately fighting the David and Goliath fights that needed to be fought.”
Irv’s important work goes on and on including his being counsel to Suffolk County challenging offshore Atlantic oil drilling and his involvement in the lawsuit on behalf of Vietnam War vets suffering from cancer caused by the use by the U.S. of Agent Orange,
We must all “keep going.”
Finally, Donald Trump is being identified in the main ring of the 2016 Republican Party political circus in the United States for being what he is—a “con artist,” as Senator Marco Rubio called him last week.
“It’s time to pull his mask off so people can see what we’re dealing with here,” Rubio said at campaign rally in Dallas Friday. That followed Rubio repeatedly describing Trump as a “con artist” the evening before in the last TV debate between GOP rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, and in later media appearances.
“You all have friends that are thinking about voting for Donald Trump,” Rubio went on at the rally. “Friends do not let friends vote for con artists.”
Being a con artist is not a disqualifying factor for a politician. In the U.S.—and elsewhere—there have been plenty of con artists running for political office.
But that Trump has gotten so far without being fully called out in a bid for what is widely considered the most powerful office in the world has been remarkable—and outrageous.
There has been some investigative journalism pointing to this aspect of Trump.
Especially noteworthy, an extensive article in November in Time magazine headlined: “TRUMP U. What the litigation over Trump University reveals about the man who would be President.”
Written by Steven Brill, journalist, attorney and founder of Brill’s Content, a media watch publication, it compared to snake oil what was named Trump University, “a series of adult-education classes offering Donald’s Trump’s real estate investing methods.”
“Trump and his university—which operated from 2005 through 2010, when it was shut down as…[law]suits and multiple state attorneys generals investigations were beginning—lured approximately 7,000 consumers into paying $1,495 to $34,995 for courses,” Brill relates. “Trump ‘created, funded, implemented and benefited from a scam that cost them…thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars each,’ the lawyers suing him have argued.”
“I mean this is a guy,” said Rubio at the rally, “that’s taken Trump Airlines bankrupt, Trump Vodka, nobody wanted it, Trump Mortgage, was a disaster, Trump University was a fraud.”
Rubio also claimed, as he hit hard at Trump at the rally, that: “He’s being treated with kid gloves by many in the media in the hope that he’s the nominee. Some of them are biased, they’d love to see a liberal like Donald Trump take over the Republican Party and others know he is easy to beat once he gets there.”
As a journalism professor, I disagree with this analysis.
Trump has succeeded in manipulating media by, for starters, using his bombastic style to fiercely attack the press for doing its job of asking tough questions. His public assault on Megyn Kelly of Fox News after she had the nerve as a debate moderator to throw hardball questions at Trump was typical of how he has used intimidation on media people and institutions.
Then there’s his sense of what inflames—which media cover like any big fire.
As Howard Fineman, former Newsweek chief political correspondent and now global editorial director at the Huffington Post, has written, based on an interview with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin: “Trump deploys fame for fame’s sake, taps into populist expressions of fear, hatred and resentment and shows a knack for picking fights and a braggart’s focus on the horse race. All of which allow him to play into—and exploit—every media weakness and bad habit in a chase for audience and numbers.”
Fineman in his article last month—headed “Epic Media Fall: How And Why Trump Trumped The Press”—quoted Goodwin as noting how the media “are the key purveyors of the qualities of the candidates and of telling people who they are what they stand for.”
But Goodwin concludes that in in covering the fiery Trump, the press “preempted serious scrutiny of his past, character, record in business and suitability—if any—for the office of president.”
Then there’s Trump’s media savvy.
Sean Illing on Salon wrote a piece taking off from an article on Politico, both of which ran at the start of this month. The Politico story—”How Trump Did It”—revealed how in 2013 Trump told a group of “New York political operatives [who] had come to ask him to run for governor” that his plan was to run for president instead. He told them, “I’m going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off me.”
Said Illing: “Trump knew all along that his celebrity and media savvy were sufficient to support his campaign.” Trump was aware that the “ability to control the narrative, to dominate the coverage, is all it takes. Trump’s amorality coupled with his gift for self-promotion has turned the Republican presidential race on its head.”
Illing said that the “biggest takeaway” from the Politico expose “is that Trump is indeed a professional huckster. And whatever else he is, he’s not stupid. He doesn’t believe half the absurdities he utters on the campaign trail either. As the [Politico] report makes clear, everything he’s done and said was designed to dupe the media into funding his marketing strategy. Trump’s a TV man; he understands the landscape.” Illling’s article was headed: “Donald Trump is a fraud: Report confirms the billionaire’s presidential bid is a long and calculated con job.”
No small thing is involved.
“The moment of truth: we must stop Trump,” was the headline of a piece last week in The Washington Post by Dr. Danielle Allen, director of the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and professor in Harvard’s Department of Government and also Graduate School of Education.
“Like any number of us raised in the last 20th Century,” she wrote, “I have spent my life perplexed about exactly how Hitler could have come to power in Germany. Watching Donald Trump’s rise, I now understand. Leave aside whether a direct comparison of Trump to Hitler is accurate. That is not my point. My point rather is about how a demagogic opportunist can exploit a divided country.”
As to media coverage, she told of how “journalists cover every crude and cruel thing that comes out of Trump’s mouth and therefore acculturate all of us to what we are hearing. Are they not just doing their jobs, they will ask, in covering the Republican front-runner? Have we not already been acculturated by 30 years of popular culture to offensive and inciting comments? Yes, both of these things are true. But that doesn’t mean journalists ought to be Trump’s megaphone.” She asks “why not let Trump pay for his own ads when he wants to broadcast foul and incendiary ideas? He’ll still have plenty of access to freedom of expression.”
The Washington Post itself, in an editorial last week titled “GOP leaders, you must do everything in your power to stop Trump,” declared that “history will not look kindly on GOP leaders who fail to do everything in their power to prevent a bullying demagogue from becoming their standard-bearer.”
It continued: “This is a front-runner with no credible agenda and no suitable experience. He wants the United States to commit war crimes, including torture…He admires Russian dictator Vladimir Putin… He would round up and deport 11 million people, a forced movement on a scale not attempted since Stalin or perhaps Pol Pot. He has, during the course of his campaign, denigrated women, Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, people with disabilities and many more. He routinely trades wild falsehoods and doubles down when his lies are exposed.”
The new host of TV’s Daily Show, Trevor Noah, said this month, “For me, as an African, there’s just something familiar about Trump that makes me feel at home.” He compared Trump to Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, Zimbabwe’s strongman Robert Mugabe and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and said that in this way Trump “is presidential.”
The stakes are enormous—and it’s no joke.
Unless he is rejected, we easily could be on the cusp of a media-knowing, veteran “reality show” host with a long record as a huckster becoming president of the United States.
The Trump administration is pushing hard on its scheme to create a Space Force. Last week Vice President Pence, chairman of a newly reconstituted National Space Council, in a speech at the Pentagon declared: “The time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield.”
Pence claimed – falsely: “Our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already and the United States will not shrink from the challenge.”
Trump, who in June announced he was “directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” following Pence’s address Thursday promptly tweeted: “Space Force all the way!”
At the same time, signaling that the Space Force drive will be used politically, the Trump campaign organization sent out an email asking supporters to choose between six Space Force logos that were depicted. “President Trump wants a Space Force – a groundbreaking endeavor for the future of America and the final frontier,” wrote Brad Parscale, campaign manager of “Donald J. Trump for President, 2020.” “To celebrate President Trump’s huge announcement, our campaign will be selling a new line of gear.” He asked backers pick “your favorite logo.”
“This is a crucial moment where the public must stand and say ‘hell no!” said Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, on his blog. “Star Wars” isn’t “affordable, is an insane idea, and would very likely lead to WW III—the final war,” said Gagnon.
The Global Network, based in Maine and founded in 1992, decided at its annual meeting, in June in Oxford, United Kingdom, to have the Space Force scheme be the target of its “International Week of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space.”
It will be held between October 6 and 13 with protests and other actions against the Space Force plan happening throughout the United States and internationally. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, U.S. Chapter, is the co-sponsor.
“How in the world can our bankrupt nation afford to pay for Star Wars which the aerospace industry has long claimed would be the largest industrial project in human history?” said Gagnon. “The only way is to completely destroy social progress – cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and what little is left of the welfare program. Are you going to stand for that?”
The poster the Global Network is using for the week is headed “No Space Force” and features a dour Trump in a Darth Vader helmet. Under this are “Space for Peace” and this explanation: “Trump has announced plans for a Space Force – a separate military service which would ensure U.S. ‘control and domination’ of space on behalf of corporate interests. China, Russia and other space-faring nations would be its targets. Under aerospace industry pressure this proposal would necessitate massive amounts of taxpayer dollars. We call it Pyramids to the Heavens. Congress will have final approval of Trump’s proposal. The U.N.’s Outer Space Treaty and Moon Treaties declare that space must be preserved for all of humanity. Help us defeat plans to weaponize space. Work to protect social progress on Earth rather than a new arms race in space. #NoSpaceForce.”
If Donald Trump gets his way and there is a U.S. Space Force, the heavens would become a war zone, there would indeed be an “arms race in space,” and inevitably war in space.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis introducing Pence at his Pentagon appearance, said a Space Force is needed because space “is becoming a contested-war-fighting domain.” In reality, like Pence’s declaration – “Our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already” – it isn’t true.
That’s in part because of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which designates space as a global commons to be used for peaceful purposes – of which Russia and China and the U.S. are parties. Indeed, the U.S. along with the U.K. and the Soviet Union, worked together in assembling the treaty.
As Craig Eisendrath, who had been a U.S. State Department officer involved in its creation noted in the 2001 TV documentary I wrote and narrate, “Star Wars Returns,” the Soviet Union had launched the first space satellite, Sputnik, in 1957 and “we sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized…to keep war out of space.”
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966, it entered into force in 1967. It has been ratified or signed by 123 nations. It provides that nations “undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in space in any other manner.”
The Trump administration is hanging its claim that space has become a “war-fighting domain” on a stupid act by China in 2007 of using a missile to destroy one of its obsolete weather satellites. The Chinese claimed it had notified the U.S., Japan and other countries before it did this. And its Foreign Ministry subsequently insisted, “There’s no need to feel threatened about this,” and pointed out that China had long pressed for an expansion of the Outer Space Treaty to prohibit not just weapons of mass destruction but all weapons from space – something the U.S., alone among nations, had and has long opposed.
The following year, the U.S. itself used one of its missiles to destroy a non-functioning U.S. satellite.
Whether done by China or the U.S., that’s a dumb way to eliminate an old satellite – it causes significant space debris.
Beyond the intent of the Outer Space Treaty and its setting space aside as a global commons, neither Russia or China have been interested in bringing war into space for economic reasons. I’ve been researching – writing books and articles and doing television programs – on the space warfare issue for more than 30 years and have made numerous trips to Russia and gone to China, too.
Fielding space weaponry would be hugely expensive. It is no comparison to, let’s say, the tank-like Bradley Fighting Vehicle costing $3.1 million. Billions and billions would need to be expended. But the situation changes if the U.S. deploys weaponry in space with a Space Force and with the intention of dominating the Earth from this high ground.
And as Trump made clear in his June announcement: “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space.”
This will not be accepted by Russia and China and other countries. Under these conditions, they then will be up there, too, with weapons – despite their enormous reluctance through the decades to drain their national treasures on deploying weapons in space.
The notion of the U.S. moving into space with weapons goes way back, to the post-World War II years when the U.S. government brought former Nazi rocket scientists from Germany to the U.S. to use “their technological expertise to help create the U.S. space and weapons program,” writes Jack Manno, a professor at the State University of New York/Environmental Science and Forestry College, in his book Arming the Heavens: The Hidden Military Agenda for Space, 1945-1995. “Many of the early space war schemes were dreamt up by scientists working for the German military, scientists who brought their rockets and their ideas to America after the war.”
Well before Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars,” Manno writes about former German Major General Walter Dornberger, formerly in charge of the entire Nazi rocket program, who “in 1947 as a consultant to the U.S Air Force and adviser to the Department of Defense…wrote a planning paper for his new employers. He proposed a system of hundreds of nuclear-armed satellites all orbiting at different altitudes and angles, each capable or reentering the atmosphere on command from Earth to proceed to its target. The Air Force began early work on Dornberger’s idea under the acronym NABS (Nuclear Armed Bombardment Satellites).”
Then came “Star Wars.” Reagan on a visit to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, when he was its governor, met with atomic physicist Edward Teller, the “father” of the hydrogen bomb and the director of the lab, who outlined for him a plan of having orbiting hydrogen bombs that would energize X-ray lasers. “As the bomb at the core of an X-ray battle station exploded, multiple beams would flash out to strike multiple targets before the entire station consumed itself in in a ball of nuclear fire,” explained New York Times reporter William Broad in his 1986 book Star Warriors.
When Reagan became president, in the “Star Wars” design there was a shift to using orbiting battle platforms with nuclear reactors or “super” plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generators which would provide the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons.
The U.S military has been very interested in space warfare.
A U.S. Space Command was formed in 1982. “U.S. Space Command – dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict,” it trumpeted in its 1998 report Vision for 2020. The U.S. Space Command was set up by the Pentagon to “help institutionalize the use of space.” Or, as the motto of one of its units declares, to be “Master of Space.”
Vision for 2020 states, “Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments-both military and economic.” Nations built navies “to protect and enhance their commercial interests” and during “the westward expansion of the United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements and railroads. The emergence of space power follows both of these models. During the early portion of the 2lst Century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare.”
“It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen,” remarked U.S. Space Command Commander-in-Chief Joseph W. Ashy in Aviation Week and Space Technology in 1996. “Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue, but – absolutely – we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space…. We will engage terrestrial targets someday – ships, airplanes, land targets – from space.”
Or as a 2001 report of a space panel chaired by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asserted: “In the coming period the U.S. will conduct operations to, from, in and through space in support of its national interests both on the earth and in space.”
The link between nuclear power and space weaponry has been explicitly emphasized.
“In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict,” stated New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century, a 1996 US Air Force board report. “These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills.” However, “power limitations impose restrictions” on such space weaponry making them “relatively unfeasible,” but “a natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space.” Says the report: “Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space.”
As General James Abrahamson, director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, put it at a Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion, “without reactors in orbit [there is] going to be a long, long light [extension] cord that goes down to the surface of the Earth” to power space weaponry.
The intense push for “Star Wars” diminished somewhat under the administration of George H. W. Bush but returned under his son, George W. Bush. Other post-Reagan presidents were in varying degrees cool on it.
And now has come Trump.
“The Pentagon is giving Trump is Space Force. Congress may take it away,” was the headline in a Vox article earlier this month. It cited Sean O’Keefe, a former NASA administrator and U.S. Navy secretary, as saying: “This is a solution in search of a problem.”
And it quoted Deborah Lee James, “the last Air Force secretary and an open critic of the Space Force idea, as saying: “Congress definitely gets a voice.”
There is some resistance in Congress. But a lot will depend, as on all things Trump, on the mid-term election in November and whether the Republican majority in Congress is altered.
We might be somewhat inured to space warfare by the decades of movies and TV programs involving space warfare – from Flash Gordon to Star Trek – but a shooting war involving nuclear-energized space weaponry would be no movie or TV show. It would be an unprecedented calamity in which, beyond the immediate destruction and massive deaths, there would be huge amounts of radioactive debris raining down on Earth for centuries and the space above our heads littered with debris making it impossible to get up and out to explore space.
In his foreword to my 2001 book Weapons in Space, Dr. Michio Kaku, the world-renowned physicist and professor at the City University of New York, wrote: “The weaponization of space represents a real threat to the security of everyone on Earth. Not only will this squander hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars, which are better spent on education, health, housing, and the welfare of the people, it will greatly accelerate a new arms race in space, with other nations working feverishly to penetrate a U.S. Star Wars program, or to build one themselves. A whole new round of the arms race could begin….The time to stop this madness, therefore, is now, while Star Wars and affiliated programs are still in their infancy.”
Has United States President Donald Trump fostered a toxic environment from which political violence in the U.S. has stemmed? Absolutely.
As a journalist in the U.S. for more than 50 years, I’ve covered politics—I interviewed George H.W. Bush, covered rallies for Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, met Bill Clinton and so forth—and I’ve never encountered a president whose rhetoric was so full of violence.
Congressman Adam Schiff of California on CNN’s “State of the Union” program Sunday, following the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, spoke of the “kind of climate” now in the U.S. “This country is filled with amazing beautiful wonderful people who came here, many of them, attracted by the idea this was a land of opportunity no matter your religion, ethnic origin, your color. That idea is being tested by those who are preaching hatred and division. And we have to overcome that. And I think the president has a pivotal role there. No one sets the tone more than the president of the United States. And the tone that he sets is one of division, often one of hatred, sometimes one of incitement of violence against journalists and there is no escaping our collective responsibility, but there’s no escaping the tone that he sets for the country.” Schiff is a Jew.
Julia Ioffe, writing in The Washington Post on Sunday, wrote, “Culpability is a tricky thing, and politicians, especially of the demagogic variety, know this very well. Unless they go as far as organized, documented, state-implemented slaughter, they don’t give specific directions. They don’t have to. They simply set the tone. In the end, someone else does the dirty work, and they never have to lift a finger—let alone stain it with blood.”
“The president did not tell a deranged man to send pipe bombs to the people he regularly lambastes on Twitter and lampoons in his rallies, so he’s not at fault,” write Ioffe, whose Jewish family left the Soviet Union because of anti-Semitism and came to the U.S. in 1990. “Trump didn’t cause another deranged man to tweet that the caravan of refugees moving toward America’s southern border (the one Trump has complained about endlessly) is paid for by the Jews before he shot up a synagogue. Trump certainly never told him, ‘Go kill some Jews on a rainy Shabbat morning.’ But this definition of culpability is too narrow…”
“Trump has had enough to say about the Jews that his supporters may easily make certain pernicious inferences. During the campaign, he joked at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition that it wouldn’t support him ‘because I don’t want your money.’ A campaign-era tweet about Hillary Clinton superimposed a Star of David over dollars bills. He said the white supremacist marchers at Charlottesville last year were ‘fine people.’” As president, “Trump’s tone has become a deafening roar,” wrote Ioffe, a journalist educated at Princeton University.
Celia Wang, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union, was quoted in The Washington Post on Sunday saying: “The numerous statements he’s made calling himself a ‘nationalist,’ crowds at his rallies chanting threats against George Soros—it’s all connected.” The “central premise of his presidency,” she said, is “to attack and smear immigrants and refugees. All the violence we see is the extreme and radical version of what he is implementing on a policy and legal front as president of the United States.”
Miami attorney Ronald Lowy, lawyer for the family of Cesar Sayoc Jr. accused of sending a slew of packages containing pipe bombs to high profile Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former U.S. intelligence agency heads and CNN, said on CNN that “this was someone lost who was looking for anything and found a father in Trump.” Sayoc’s father walked out on the family when he was a child. “He doesn’t seem to recognize reality. He lives in a fantasy world.”
Many of the “Trumpsters”—the angry people who populate Trump’s non-stop rallies—also seem to have found a father in Trump with his violent rhetoric, rhetoric not only full of vitriol but also of lies. Indeed, The Washington Post has established “The Fact Checker’s” database that “analyses, categorizes and tracks every statement uttered by the president” and last month reported that since becoming U.S. president Trump has made more than 5,000 “false and misleading claims”—an average of more than eight a day.
Now I understand that there are lots of folks in Israel who like Donald Trump because of his perceived support of Israel. This is not a person to be trusted regarding the future of Israel.
Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury who has specialized in investigative reporting for 45 years. He is the host of the TV program “Enviro Close-Up,” the writer and presenter of numerous TV documentaries and the author of six books.
“This is a crucial moment where the public must stand and say ‘hell no!”
As The New York Times said in its headline on the scheme:: “Plans Evoke 1983 ‘Star Wars’ Program.” Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, called it “provocative and destabilizing and basically insane.”
As Trump stated at the Pentagon on January 17: “We will recognize that space is a new war-fighting domain with the Space Force leading the way. My upcoming budget will invest in a space-based missile defense layer technology. It’s ultimately going to be a very, very big part of our defense and obviously of our offense.”
The new United States space military plan comes despite the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 that designates space as a global commons to be used for peaceful purposes. The U.S., the United Kingdom and then Soviet Union worked together in assembling the treaty. It has been ratified or signed by 123 nations. The release of the 100-page “Missile Defense Review” follows the Trump announcement, also at the Pentagon, in June, that he is moving to establish a U.S. Space Force as a sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces. He stated then: “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space.”
The component of the “Missile Defense Review” that closely resembles the “Star Wars” program of President Reagan involves what it describes as “space-based interceptors.”
As The Times said: “In the most contentious proposal, the report embraced Reagan’s Star Wars plan of putting weapons in space to shoot down enemy missiles during ascent.” The Times also noted that “the document was careful to describe the step as largely a research project—for now.”
Of this component, the “Missile Defense Review” states:
“The space-basing of interceptors also may provide significant advantages, particularly for boost-phase defense. As directed by Congress, DoD will identify the most promising technologies, and estimated schedule, cost, and personnel requirements for a possible space based defensive layer that achieves early operational capability for boost-phase defense.”
The Reagan Star Wars program also utilized a defense rationale—it was formally called the Strategic Defense Initiative. It was based on orbiting battle platforms with nuclear reactors or “super” plutonium systems on board providing the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons. Despite its claim of being defensive, it was criticized for being offensive and a major element in what the U.S. military in numerous documents then and since has described as “full spectrum dominance” of the Earth below that the U.S. is seeking in taking the “ultimate high ground” of space.
Gagnon, whose Maine-based organization has been a world leader since its formation in 1992 in challenging the weaponization of space, said: “The new Trump space proposal is a key element in Pentagon first-strike attack planning sold to the public as ‘missile defense’. The system is not actually designed to protect the U.S. from every nuclear missile launched at us—that would be a mathematical impossibility. This Star Wars system would only work as the ‘shield’ to be used to pick off Russian or Chinese retaliatory responses after a U.S. first-strike sword is thrust.”
He said “we know this because the Space Command,” the division of the U.S. Air Force which Trump seeks to have succeeded by a separate Space Force, “has been computer war gaming such a scenario for years—they call it the ‘Red team’ versus the ‘Blue team.’”
“The kicker” regarding the U.S. space military plans, said Gagnon, “is that the costs would be colossal—what the aerospace industry has long said would be the ‘largest industrial project in human history.’ The only way the U.S. can pay for it is by cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and by twisting the arms of NATO members to pony up more money.”
The Outer Space Treaty was spurred, as Craig Eisendrath, who had been a U.S. State Department officer involved in its creation, noted in the 2001 TV documentary that I wrote and narrate, “Star Wars Returns,” by the Soviet Union launching the first space satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Eisendrath said “we sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized…to keep war out of space.”
It provides that nations “undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in space in any other manner.”
In recent decades, Canada, Russia and China have been leaders in pushing a treaty that would broaden the Outer Space Treaty—the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) Treaty. This treaty would not only ban nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction but any weapons in space. But U.S. administration after administration, Democrat and Republican, have refused to support the PAROS Treaty, thus providing a veto of its passage at the United Nations.
The new “Missile Defense Review” is explicit in how the U.S. “will not accept any limitation or constraint on the development or deployment of missile defense capabilities.”
The announcement of the new U.S. space plan came a day after the U.S. confirmed it would initiate under the Trump administration a withdrawal from another treaty, this one between the U.S. and the then Soviet Union, limiting nuclear missiles, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987.
Russia is warning that the “Missile Defense Review” will fuel an arms race in space. An Associated Press story out of Russia last week reported: “The Russian Foreign Ministry described the new U.S. strategy as a proof of ‘Washington’s desire to ensure uncontested military domination in the world.’”
“It warned that the expansion of the U.S. missile defense system ‘will inevitably start an arms race in space with the most negative consequences for international security and stability.’”
The “‘implementation of its plans and approaches will not strengthen security of the U.S. and its allies,’ the ministry said in a statement. ‘Attempts to take that path will have the opposite effect and deal another heavy blow to international stability.’”
The AP story said: “The Russian Foreign Ministry described the review as an attempt to reproduce President Ronald Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ missile defense plans on a new technological level and urged the Trump administration to ‘come to its senses’ and engage in arms control talks with Russia.”
Meanwhile, Defense News last week questioned whether Congress will fund the “Missile Defense Review” proposals. It said that “unless Congress approves the major funding increases that will be required to make it a reality, many of those programs may fall by the wayside—and questions are emerging over whether these systems will be funded by the Democratic House of Representatives that is looking to cut defense spending.”
Professor Francis A. Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, who has long written about space military and weaponization issues, ties the new space plan to where the Reagan Star Wars plan got its name: “Well Lucas Films and its successors,” stated Boyle, “have done all they can to keep their Star Wars franchise alive for the past four decades and milk it for all it’s worth. And now the Pentagon will be keeping their Star Wars franchise and milking it for all its worth.”
This is being done, of course, with the zealous promotion of Darth Trump.
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. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.
Those involved in what’s become a major component of the evangelical right in the United States call themselves “dominionists.” They follow “dominion theology.” Pointing to the Bible, they emphasize that in it God gave humans “dominion” over the natural world and life in it. This, they believe, gives them license to exploit the earth. Further, the “dominionists” have expanded this to justify theocratic rule of society.
It is an evangelical segment that Donald Trump has sought to attract. They constitute a significant portion of his so-called “base.”
And, as the just-published book, The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence, by award-winning journalists and authors Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner, states: “For most of his life Pence had believed he was guided by God’s plan. He believed that the Lord intended for him to halt the erosion of religious conviction in the United States. And though he avoided stating it himself, many of his evangelical friends believed Pence’s ultimate purpose was to establish a government based on biblical law. That was what they called Christian Dominionism.”
Thus arises a big wrinkle in the Trump situation. If Trump resigns is impeached or otherwise is no longer president and Pence replaces him, it could not only be a change of who is on top but a likely push for a different form of United States government.
As for their use of the word dominion, the “dominionists” are using a dubious translation of the Hebrew word yirdu. They take the name of their movement from Genesis and its passage relating how God said: “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air.”
The Hebrew yirdu is what has been translated to dominion.
But, as Dr. David Ehrenfeld, professor of biology at Rutgers University, and Rabbi Philip J. Bentley, wrote in their essay “Judaism and the Practice of Stewardship,” there is an “inadequacy” of this translation. They quote Rashi, the French rabbi of a millennium ago and famous biblical commentator, as explaining, “The Hebrew [yirdu] connotes both ‘dominion’ (derived from radah) and ‘descent’ (derived from yarad): when man is worthy, he has dominion over the animal kingdom, when he is not, he descends below their level and the animals rule over him.’”
“Here is a whole dimension of meaning which cannot be conveyed by an English translation,” Ehrenfeld and Bentley note.
Further, they cite context within Judaism – as Pope Francis did for both Judaism and Christianity in his encyclical on the environment of 2015.
Ehrenfeld and Bentley write, “There is no evidence, that we are aware of, that these verses of Genesis were ever interpreted by the rabbis as a license for environmental exploitation.” Indeed, “such an interpretation runs contrary to their teachings and to the whole spirit” of Jewish law. They cite numerous passages in the Bible regarding this. “There are, in Judaism, a number of specific rules – together constituting a kind of ‘Steward’s Manual’ – setting forth humanity’s particular responsibilities for its behavior toward natural resources, animals, and other parts of nature,” they relate.
“First among these rules is the commandment of bal tashhit” – Hebrew for do not destroy. They point to the Bible stating that “when thou shall besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shall not destroy” the fruit trees.
They write: “From this source is derived the notion of bal tashhit (do not destroy), an ancient and sweeping series of Jewish environmental regulations that embrace not only the limited case in question but have been rabbinically extended to a great range of transgressions including the cutting off of water supplies to trees, the over-grazing of the countryside, the unjustified killing of animals or feeding them harmful foods, the hunting of animals for sport, species extinction and destruction of cultivated plant varieties, pollution of air and water, over-consumption of anything, and the waste of mineral and other resources.”
“It is also the Sabbath alone,” they write, “that can reconcile the Jewish attitude towards nature.” It’s a time that “we create nothing, we destroy nothing, and we enjoy the bounty of the earth. In this way the Sabbath becomes a celebration of our tenancy and stewardship in the world.” Then there is the Sabbatical year that comes every seven years when Jews are supposed to let land lie fallow to restore itself.
Rabbi Norman Lamm, longtime president of Yeshiva University, in his book Faith and Doubt, in a chapter “Ecology in Jewish Law and Theology,” writes about the Genesis “passage that, it is asserted, is the sanction for the excesses of science and technology, the new ecological villains.” It’s been “proclaimed” as “the source of man’s insensitivity and brutality to the subhuman world” and “equated with the right to foul the air.”
Rabbi Lamm says: “It does not take much scholarship to recognize the emptiness of this charge against the Bible, particularly as it is interpreted in the Jewish tradition.” Judaism on many levels, states Lamm, “possesses the values on which an ecological morality may be grounded.”
Pope Francis understands the “dominion” problem. In his 183-page encyclical devoted to “principles drawn from the Judeo-Christian tradition which can render our commitment to the environment more coherent,” the pope wrote: “We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man ‘dominion’ over the earth, has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church.”
“The biblical texts are to be read in their context,” declares Pope Francis.
He speaks of Genesis telling “us to ‘till and keep’ the garden of the world. ‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.”
The pope cites the biblical admonition that “the earth is the Lord’s” and “to him belongs ‘the earth with all that is within it.” He points to the words in Leviticus: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine, for you are strangers and sojourners with me.”
“Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet,” he wrote. “The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem, indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.”
He addresses pollution produced by “dangerous waste…Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
“These problems,” the pope continues, “are closely linked to a throwaway culture…. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.”
“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades, this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon.”
“The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system,” he goes on. “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political…It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”
The pope says: “There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.” And “economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment.”
“Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster,” he writes. “Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.” The pope called for an “ecological conversion,” an environmental variant of what Jews refer to as tikkun olam, repairing the world.
Nevertheless, the “dominionists” have a completely different view.
In his 2016 article “Dominionism Rising: A Theocratic Movement Hiding in Plain Sight,” published in The Public Eye magazine, Frederick Clarkson writes about the roots of “dominion theology,” notably the writings of theologian R. J. Rushdoony. He discusses Rushdoony’s 1973 “800-page Institutes of Biblical Law, which offered what he believed was a ‘foundation’ for a future biblically-based society, and his vision of generations of ‘dominion men’ advancing the ‘dominion mandate’ described in the biblical book of Genesis.”
He notes another theologian, C. Peter Wagner, and his 2008 book Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Change the World in which Wagner states: “We have an assignment from God to take dominion and transform society.” And he cites a speech Wagner made that year declaring: “Dominion has to do with control. Dominion has to do with rulership. Dominion has to do with authority…and it relates to society. In other words, what the values are in heaven need to be made manifest here on earth. Dominion means being the head and not the tail. Dominion means ruling as kings.”
In The Shadow President, D’Antonio and Eisner detail how Trump picked Pence as his running mate largely to cement relations with evangelicals and hard-right conservatives, and also because of the sameness that Trump and Pence have on many issues.
“Humble superiority had been Pence’s default setting during his twelve years in Congress and four as Indiana’s governor, where his blending of religion and politics had alienated fellow Republicans, who noted he could be harsh in his treatment of his opponents and stubborn in his beliefs,” they write. “When Pence denied climate change or questioned the fact that smoking causes cancer, they saw unseemly and irrational arrogance. His disregard for science and other realms of expertise made him more like President Trump than many Americans understood.”
“Amid the churn and uncertainty” of the Trump presidency “Pence reassured many that should Trump leave office, someone with a steady temperament would be there. Although it was never stated openly, he was already functioning as a kind of shadow president, taking on so many domestic, foreign, and partisan political assignments that he seemed more engaged in serious matters than the TV-addicted president himself.”
They describe intense evangelical doings at The White House. They write about evangelist Ralph Drollinger “who imagines himself to be a prophet” and is “the leader of the Trump Cabinet’s weekly prayer meetings, which Mike Pence attended with regularity.” They cite a comment of Drollinger in 2017 that the U.S. government’s “God-given responsibility” and “primary calling is to moralize a fallen world through the use of force.”
If Trump goes, does Pence have to succeed him?
Not so, wrote Professor Michael J. Glennon, law professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, in a just-out op-ed in The Washington Post headed, “If Trump is impeachable, so is Pence.”
The article explores the history of the process of impeachment of a U.S. president. Glennon writes: “Assume, hypothetically, that the upcoming report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, together with other evidence, were to establish conclusively that candidate Donald Trump engaged in electoral fraud or corruption by unlawfully coordinating his activities with the Russian government. Assume also that trump derived a decisive electoral benefit from that coordination. And assume that no probative evidence exists that Vice President Pence was aware of the coordination. Trump would be impeachable. But what about Pence, who himself would have committed no impeachable offense. The question can be argued either way, but the better view is that Pence, too, would be impeachable. The reason is that, had Trump not engaged in electoral fraud and corruption, Pence, like Trump, would not have been elected.”
We’ve had solar power energizing our house in Sag Harbor on Long Island in New York for six years now—and it’s a bonanza!
Once the photovoltaic panels are up on your roof, nothing more needs to be done. They harvest electricity from the sun even on cloudy days. Never in the half-dozen years have the 38 panels on our roof needed any care. And frequently, looking at the Long Island Power Authority meter attached to the house, I see the numbers going backwards—we’re producing electricity for LIPA for which LIPA reimburses us.
Then there are the two thermal solar panels heating up water and sending it—very well-heated—into the house. The other day, it was 64-degrees outside but the thermometer on the hot water tank in the basement showed water from the thermal panels coming down at 130-degrees. Amazing! And these panels are also care-free.
Meanwhile, the price of solar panels has plummeted since the panels were installed at our house—and efficiencies have gone up, Dean Hapshe of Harvest Power was saying the other day on a visit to check our installation.
Mr. Hapshe of Patchogue, New York is a master teacher of solar installers on Long Island. He entered the solar energy field in 1980 and with his decades of experience has served as an instructor of others in the industry.
When he and his crew put our system in, the cost of the photovoltaic panels, which produce 7,500 watts—an average-size system—was $6 a watt. “Now it’s down to $3.65,” Mr. Hapshe was saying. The efficiency rate has risen to 21%—getting close to the 25% efficiency of solar panels on space systems such as satellites and the International Space Station. That means more electricity is generated for every ray of sunlight.
The thing about solar power is that the sun sends no bills.
And that has been vexing for electric utilities around the nation.
Indeed, the motto of Harvest Power, which is based in Bay Shore, New York is: “Let The Sun Pay Your Electric Bill.”
“Utilities wage campaign against rooftop solar,” was the headline of an article in March in The Washington Post. The story, by Joby Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize-winner who often writes on energy issues, begins: “Three years ago, the nation’s top utility executives gathered at a Colorado resort to hear warnings about a grave new threat to operators of America’s electric grid: not superstorms or cyberattacks, but rooftop solar panels.”
“If demand for residential solar continued to rise, traditional utilities could soon face serious problems from ‘declining retail sales’ and a ‘loss of customers’ to ‘potential obsolescence,’ according to a presentation prepared for the group. “‘Industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges,’ it said. “The warning, delivered to a private meeting of the utility industry’s main trade association, became a call to arms for electricity providers in nearly every corner of the nation.” The article continued, “Three years later, the industry and its fossil-fuel supporters are waging a determined campaign to stop a home-solar insurgency…”
The New York Times, in an editorial last year titled, “The Koch Attack on Solar Energy,” noted how “the Koch brothers and their conservative allies in state government have found a new tax they can support. Naturally it’s a tax on something the country needs: solar energy panels.”
The Times told of how the Koch brothers, their Koch Industries based on oil refining, “have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panel to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities.”
On Long Island, support for solar power by LIPA—created with a mission to advance the development of solar and other forms of renewable energy on the island—has gone down and down. The once hefty rebate LIPA provided for solar installations has now descended to a paltry 20 cents a watt.
New York State, however, still provides up to $5,000 in support for an installation, and the federal government offers a tax credit of 30% of the cost of a solar system. But this program needs to be extended at the end of next year.
The capacity and economics of renewable energy are simply wonderful. The New York Times recently ran a front-page story headlined: “In Texas. Night Winds Blow in Free Electricity.” It told of how in Texas “wind farms are generating so much electricity” that it is now being “given away.”
There are those who seek to profit from expensive electricity generated by oil, gas, coal and nuclear power—and they would try to suppress the renewable energy revolution now underway. They must be stopped, and the windfall of safe, green, inexpensive electricity be allowed to flow.
There’s a renewed push in the U.S. Congress for legislation to strengthen the federal government’s activities on Lyme disease, now endemic in most of the United States.
Whether the drive can withstand pressure from the health insurance industry—which denies the existence of chronic Lyme disease and so avoids paying for it treatment—is an issue.
In the House of Representatives, Lee Zeldin of Shirley on Long Island—where many people have contracted Lyme disease with Zeldin a victim himself—is co-sponsoring two measures. They are the Tick-Borne Disease Research and Accountability and Transparency Act of 2015 and the 21st Century Cures Act.
Zeldin emphasizes that “I’m not only very well aware of how Lyme disease has affected the lives of many Long Islanders but I also had it.” He regards the bills as potentially a “key for the health of residents of Long Island.”
In the Senate, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, where Lyme disease is also widespread—indeed it’s named for the town in Connecticut from where Lyme disease was first identified—has reintroduced his bill that is now titled the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, Research Act of 2015.
The legislation that overwhelmingly passed the House, and the Blumenthal bill, co-sponsored by both U.S. senators from New York, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, are now in committee, to be amalgamated.
As attorney general of Connecticut, Blumenthal conducted an antitrust investigation into the “guidelines” for Lyme disease treatment of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Adhered to by much of the medical system, they supported the health insurance position that chronic Lyme disease doesn’t exist and long-term antibiotic treatment isn’t necessary. The attorney general’s office found collusion.
As Blumenthal stated in 2008 after IDSA agreed to “reassess” its guidelines:
“This agreement vindicates my investigation—finding undisclosed financial interests and forcing a reassessment of IDSA guidelines. My office uncovered undisclosed financial interests held by several of the most powerful IDSA panelists. The IDSA’s guideline panel improperly ignored or minimized consideration of alternative medical opinion and evidence regarding chronic Lyme disease, potentially raising serious questions about whether the recommendations reflected all relevant science.”
The documentary “Under Our Skin,” winner of numerous film festival awards, also found collusion between the IDSA and health insurance industry—members of the IDSA panel on Lyme disease having financial connections to health insurance companies. It also related the stories of Lyme sufferers cured with long-term treatment and told of doctors who provided long-term Lyme care being severely punished by the medical authorities.
Andy Abrahams Wilson, producer and director of “Under Our Skin“ and also a new updated documentary, “Under Our Skin 2: Emergence,” has said that despite the agreement with the attorney general, the IDSA “guidelines were not changed.” In the new documentary “we’re continuing to look at the—let’s call them—chronic Lyme denialists.”
As a U.S. senator since 2011, Blumenthal has tried to deal with the situation with legislation. In that year he first introduced his Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act.
His legislation states: “Although Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught early, the disease often goes undetected because it mimics other illnesses or may be misdiagnosed. Untreated, Lyme disease can lead to severe heart, neurological, and joint problems because the bacteria can affect many different organs and organ systems.”
Under his bill, a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee would be established to “coordinate all federal programs and activities related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases…Although Lyme disease accounts for 90 percent of all vector-borne diseases in the United States, the ticks that spread Lyme disease also spread other diseases, such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis.”
The committee would include members of “the scientific community representing the broad spectrum of viewpoints held within the scientific community related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.” Also, there’d be representatives of “tick-borne voluntary advocacy organizations,” Lyme patients or their relatives, and “representatives from state and local government health departments and local health professionals who investigate or treat patients with Lyme disease.”
Among its activities would be “development of sensitive and more accurate diagnostic tools and tests, including a direct detection test for Lyme disease,” expanding a “national uniform reporting system” for cases of Lyme disease, “creating a national monitoring system for tick populations,” fostering “increased public education” and “creation of a physician education program.” The committee would issue reports on its work each year.
As to the source of Lyme disease, Michael Carroll in his best-selling book, Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory, links Lyme disease to the federal government’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Plum Island is 10 miles from Old Lyme, Connecticut and a mile and a half off the North Fork of Long Island.
Carroll, an attorney, formerly a law firm associate of the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo, notes in his book that Lyme disease “suddenly surfaced in Old Lyme, Connecticut” in 1975 and cites years of experimentation before that with ticks on Plum Island and discusses the possibility of an accidental or purposeful release.
Lab 257 documents a Nazi connection to the original establishment by the U.S. Army of an animal disease laboratory on Plum Island. According to the book, Erich Traub, a scientist who worked for the Third Reich doing biological warfare, was the force behind its founding.
During World War II, “as lab chief of Insel Riems—a secret Nazi biological warfare laboratory on a crescent-shaped island in the Baltic Sea—Traub worked directly for Adolph Hitler’s second-in-charge, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, on live germ trials,” relates Lab 257. The mission was to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union. This included infecting cattle and reindeer with foot-and-mouth disease. This became the mission, in a Cold War setting, at Plum Island.
And, states Lab 257, “The tick is the perfect germ vector which is why it has long been fancied as a germ weapon by early biowarriors from Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan to the Soviet Union and the United States.”
“A source who worked on Plum Island in the 1950s,” the book says, “recalls that animal handlers and a scientist released ticks outdoors on the island. ‘They called him the Nazi scientist, when they came in, in 1951—they were inoculating these ticks.” Lab 257 goes on: “Dr. Traub’s World War II handiwork consisted of aerial virus sprays developed on Insel Riems and tested over occupied Russia, and of field work for Heinrich Himmler in Turkey. Indeed, his colleagues conducted bug trials by dropping live beetles from planes. An outdoor tick trial would have been de rigueur for Erich Traub.”
Traub was brought to the U.S. with the end of the war under Project Paperclip, a program under which Nazi scientists, such as Wernher von Braun, came to America.
“Traub’s detailed explanation of the secret operation on Insel Riems” given to officials at Fort Detrick in Maryland, the Army’s biological warfare headquarters, and to the CIA, “laid the groundwater for Fort Detrick’s offshore germ warfare animal disease lab on Plum Island. Traub was a founding father,” says Lab 257.
And Plum Island’s purpose, says the book, became what Insel Riems had been: to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union, with the Cold War conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union having begun.
Lab 257, published in 2004, also tells of why suddenly the Plum Island laboratory was transferred from the Army to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1954: the Pentagon became concerned about having to feed millions of people in the Soviet Union if its food animals were destroyed. The Joint Chiefs of Staff “found that a war with the U.S.S.R. would best be fought with conventional and nuclear means, and biological warfare against humans, not against food animals,” says the book. “Destroying the food supply meant having to feed millions of starving Russians after winning a war.”
Also making a link between Plum Island and Lyme disease is an earlier book, The Belarus Secret: The Nazi Connection in America. First published in 1982, it was written by John Loftus, also an attorney. Loftus was formerly with the Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Department of Justice set up to expose Nazi war crimes and unearth Nazis hiding in the United States.
Given top-secret clearance to review sealed files, Loftus found a trove of information on America’s postwar recruiting of Nazis. He also exposed the Nazi past of former Austrian president and U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and his involvement as an officer in a German Army unit that committed atrocities during the war. Waldheim subsequently faded from the international scene.
In The Belarus Secret, Loftus tells of “the records of the Nazi germ warfare scientists who came to America. They experimented with poison ticks dropped from planes to spread rare diseases. I have received some information suggesting that the U.S. tested some of these poison ticks on the Plum Island artillery range off the coast of Connecticut during the early 1950’s. . . Most of the germ warfare records have been shredded, but there is a top secret U.S. document confirming that ‘clandestine attacks on crops and animals’ took place at this time.”
Loftus points to “the hypothesis that the poison ticks are the source of the Lyme disease spirochete, and that migrating waterfowl were the vectors that carried the ticks from Plum Island all up and down the Eastern Seaboard.”
Loftus adds: “Sooner or later the whole truth will come out, but probably not in my lifetime.”
The Plum Island Animal Disease Center is still in operation. However, the federal government is currently seeking to close it and have its activities transferred to a new laboratory it seeks to build in Kansas which it has named the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Also, following the 9/11 terrorist attack, the government transferred control of Plum Island and the center on it from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Homeland Security.
Officials on Plum Island have, since the departure of the Army, described the center’s work as conducting studies of foreign animal diseases and, as to biological warfare, have said that only “defensive” biological warfare research is done there—linked to diseases that might be introduced by an enemy to kill U.S. livestock.
The federal government wants Plum Island’s operations transferred to the new proposed laboratory in Kansas because the Plum Island center is not a “Biosafety Level 4” facility and also for security reasons.
Biosafety Level 4 is the top level of security in biological research. It is designated for work with the most dangerous agents—those that can cause fatal diseases in humans and, say the rules of the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control, “for which there are no vaccines or treatments.” The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is to be a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory.
Also, there has been concern by the government about security itself for the 840-acre island out in the sea, exposed, amid busy marine traffic lanes, and vulnerable to attack, the Government Accountability Office has stated. In a 2003 report, the GAO said there is a substantial risk that “an adversary might try to steal pathogens” from the center and use them against people or animals in the United States. GAO noted that a camel pox strain researched at the center could be converted into “an agent as threatening as smallpox,” and the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus studied there could be “developed into a human biowarfare agent.”
An attack on Plum Island is not a vaguely hypothetical risk.
Aafia Siddiqui, an al-Qaeda operative, was convicted by a jury in Manhattan in 2010 of attempted murder and is now serving 86 years in federal prison in a case with a Plum Island connection. Found with her when she was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 were poisonous chemicals and notes about a “mass-casualty attack” in the U.S. and a list of targets: Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building—and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. A Pakistani, she has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the U.S.
Lab 257 tells of a 2002 raid by the U.S. of the Afghanistan residence of Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, a nuclear physicist also from Pakistan and involved with al-Qaeda, in which a “dossier” was discovered containing “information on a place in New York called the Plum Island Animal Disease Center.”
Meanwhile, if the Lyme disease legislation is enacted, new and vital federal government action could be coming—on a health scourge that the U.S. government might be responsible for causing.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering a move to eliminate the “Linear No-Threshold” (LNT) basis of radiation protection that the U.S. has used for decades and replace it with the “radiation hormesis” theory—which holds that low doses of radioactivity are good for people.
The change is being pushed by “a group of pro-nuclear fanatics—there is really no other way to describe them,” charges the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) based near Washington, D.C.
“If implemented, the hormesis model would result in needless death and misery,” says Michael Mariotte, NIRS president. The current U.S. requirement that nuclear plant operators reduce exposures to the public to “as low as reasonably achievable” would be “tossed out the window. Emergency planning zones would be significantly reduced or abolished entirely. Instead of being forced to spend money to limit radiation releases, nuclear utilities could pocket greater profits. In addition, adoption of the radiation model by the NRC would throw the entire government’s radiation protection rules into disarray, since other agencies, like the EPA, also rely on the LNT model.”
“If anything,” says Mariotte, “the NRC radiation standards need to be strengthened.”
The NRC has a set a deadline of November 19 for people to comment on the proposed change. The public can send comments to the U.S. government’s “regulations” website.
Comments can also be sent by regular mail to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, Attention:Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff. Docket ID. Needed to be noted on any letter is the code NRC-2015-0057.
If the NRC agrees to the switch, “This would be the most significant and alarming change to U.S. federal policy on nuclear radiation,” reports the online publication Nuclear-News. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission may decide that exposure to ionizing radiation is beneficial—from nuclear bombs, nuclear power plants, depleted uranium, x-rays and Fukushima,” notes Nuclear-News. “No protective measures or public safety warnings would be considered necessary. Clean-up measures could be sharply reduced…In a sense, this would legalize what the government is already doing—failing to protect the public and promoting nuclear radiation.”
In the wake of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. crash program during World War II to build atomic bombs and the spin-offs of that program—led by nuclear power plants, there was a belief, for a time, that there was a certain “threshold” below which radioactivity wasn’t dangerous.
But as the years went by it became clear there was no threshold—that any amount of radiation could injure and kill, that there was no “safe” dose.
Low levels of radioactivity didn’t cause people to immediately sicken or die. But, it was found, after a “latency” or “incubation” period of several years, the exposure could then result in illness and death.
Thus, starting in the 1950s, the “Linear No-Threshold” standard was adopted by the governments of the U.S. and other countries and international agencies.
It holds that radioactivity causes health damage—in particular cancer—directly proportional to dose, and that there is no “threshold.” Moreover, because the effects of radiation are cumulative, the sum of several small exposures are considered to have the same effect as one larger exposure, something called “response linearity.”
The LNT standard has presented a major problem for those involved in developing nuclear technology notably at the national nuclear laboratories established for the Manhattan Project—Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories—and those later set up as the Manhattan Project was turned into the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
On one hand, Dr. Alvin Weinberg, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, declared in New Scientist magazine in 1972: “If a cure for cancer is found the problem of radiation standards disappear.”
Meanwhile, other nuclear proponents began pushing a theory they named “radiation hormesis” that claimed that the LNT standard was incorrect and that a little amount of radioactivity was good for people.
A leader in the U.S. advocating hormesis has been Dr. T. D. Luckey. A biochemistry professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia and visiting scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, he authored the book Hormesis and Ionizing Radiation and Radiation Hormesis and numerous articles. In one, “Radiation Hormesis Overiew,” he contends: “We need more, not less, exposure to ionizing radiation. The evidence that ionizing radiation is an essential agent has been reviewed…There is proven benefit.” He contends that radioactivity “activates the immune system.” Dr. Luckey further holds: “The trillions of dollars estimated for worldwide nuclear waste management can be reduced to billions to provide safe, low-dose irradiation to improve our health. The direction is obvious; the first step remains to be taken.” And he wrote: “Evidence of health benefits and longer average life-span following low-dose irradiation should replace fear.”
A 2011 story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch quoted Dr. Luckey as saying “if we get more radiation, we’d live a more healthful life” and also noted that he kept on a shelf in his bedroom a rock “the size of a small bowling ball, dotted with flecks of uranium, spilling invisible rays” It reported that “recently” Dr. Luckey “noticed a small red splotch on his lower back. It looked like a mild sunburn, the first sign of too much radiation. So he pushed the rock back on the shelf, a few inches farther away, just to be safe.”
At Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), set up by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in 1947 to develop civilian uses of nuclear technology and conduct research in atomic science, a highly active proponent of hormesis has been Dr. Ludwig E. Feinendegen. Holding posts as a professor in his native Germany and a BNL scientist, he authored numerous papers advocating hormesis. In a 2005 article published in the British Journal of Radiology, he wrote of “beneficial low level radiation effects” and asserted that the “LNT hypothesis for cancer risk is scientifically unfounded and appears to be invalid in favor of a threshold or hormesis.”
The three petitions to the NRC asking it scuttle the LNT standard and replace it with the hormesis theory were submitted by Dr. Mohan Doss on behalf of the organization Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information; Dr. Carol Marcus of the UCLA medical school; and Mark Miller, a health physicist at Sandia National Laboratories.
The Nuclear Information and Resource Service points out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or EPA is fully supportive of LNT.
The agency’s reason for accepting LNT—and history of the standard—were spelled out in 2009 by Dr. Jerome Puskin, chief of its Radiation Protection Division.
The EPA, Dr. Puskin states, “is responsible for protecting the public from environmental exposures to radiation. To meet this objective the agency sets regulatory limits on radionuclide concentrations in air, water, and soil.” The agency bases its “protective exposure limits” on “scientific advisory bodies, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Ionizing Radiation, and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, with additional input from its own independent review.” The LNT standard, he writes, “has been repeatedly endorsed” by all of these bodies.
“It is difficult to imagine any relaxation in this approach unless there is convincing evidence that LNT greatly overestimates risk at the low doses of interest,” Dr. Puskin goes on, and “no such change can be expected” in view of the determination of the National Academies of Sciences’ BEIR VII committee. (BEIR is for Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation.)
BEIR VII found that “the balance of evidence from epidemiologic, animal and mechanistic studies tend to favor a simple proportionate relationship at low doses between radiation dose and cancer risk.”
As chair of the BEIR VII committee, Dr. Richard Monson, associate dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, said in 2005 on issuance of its report: “The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial.”
A European expert on radioactivity, Dr. Ian Fairlie, who as an official in the British government worked on radiation risks and has been a consultant on radiation matters to the European Parliament and other government entities, has presented detailed comments to the NRC on the petitions that it drop LNT and adopt the hormesis theory.
Dr. Fairlie says “the scientific evidence for the LNT is plentiful, powerful and persuasive.” He summarizes many studies done in Europe and the United States including BEIR VII. As to the petitions to the NRC, “my conclusion is that they do not merit serious consideration.” They “appear to be based on preconceptions or even ideology, rather than the scientific evidence which points in the opposite direction.”
An additional issue in the situation involves how fetuses and children “are the most vulnerable” to radiation and women “more vulnerable than men,” states an online petition opposing the change. It was put together by the organization Beyond Nuclear, also based near Washington, D.C. It is headed “Protect children from radiation exposure“ and advises: “Tell NRC: A little radiation is BAD for you. It can give you cancer and other diseases.” It continues: “NRC should NOT adopt a ‘little radiation is good for you’ model. Instead, they should fully protect the most vulnerable which they are failing to do now.”
How might the commissioners of the NRC decide the issue? Like the Atomic Energy Commission which it grew out of, the NRC is an unabashed booster of nuclear technology and long devoted to drastically downplaying the dangers of radioactivity. A strong public stand—many negative comments—over their deciding that radioactivity is “good” for you could impact on their positions.
The focus on Iran developing atomic bombs has mainly been on the thousands of centrifuges it has which it could use to produce highly enriched uranium for bomb fuel. But as likely a source of atomic bomb fuel would be the plutonium that could be separated out of “spent” fuel from nuclear power plants — and in 2011 Iran’s first nuclear plant opened, completed by Russia. Moreover, last year Russia signed an agreement to build two more nuclear power plants in Iran “with a possibility of six more after that,” The New York Times reported.
Although enriched uranium was the fuel used in the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, plutonium was the fuel in the atomic bomb that devastated Nagasaki — and virtually all atomic bombs ever since have used plutonium, not enriched uranium.
Gathering plutonium for atomic bombs from spent fuel from a nuclear power plant can be accomplished by having a “hot cell” — very common, indeed ubiquitous machine used in nuclear technology — and separating out the plutonium chemically with it.
Hot cells are shielded nuclear radiation chambers. They’re used to protect technicians inspecting nuclear fuel rods from a nuclear plant or processing medical isotopes. But they have long been a concern when it comes to the proliferation of nuclear weapons because of their potential use to carry out the chemical steps of extracting plutonium from reactor fuel.
When I was an anchor of the nightly news at the then Long Island, New York commercial TV channel, WSNL-TV 35 years ago, anchorpeople from all over the U.S. were invited to a three-day symposium on nuclear weapons proliferation held at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. The object was for us to know the facts behind the proliferation issue if and when we needed to report on what could be the terrible outcome of it. The hot cell was a major item discussed. It remains a major proliferation concern.
Russia agreed to complete Iran’s first nuclear power plant, Bushehr I, opened in 2011, on the condition that the spent fuel from it would be sent back to Russia for “reprocessing” and thus, seemingly, the threat of plutonium being extracted from the fuel in Iran would be dealt with. But even with this, there’s the matter of the time it would take for any shipment out of Iran to happen.
As the Arms Control Association in an article on the Iran-Russia arrangement on spent fuel from Bushehr 1 to Russia pointed out, there’s a “question” of “how long it will need to remain in cooling pools located in Iran before being sent to Russia.” It cited “a Russian official’s estimate” that “the fuel needs two years to cool. However, other Russian officials have told their U.S. counterparts that the fuel must stay in Iran between three and five years, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today.”
Having spent nuclear fuel remain in Iran for years could provide plenty of time to separate some of the plutonium out of it. With up to nine nuclear power plants in Iran, Iran would have plenty of spent fuel to use for this purpose.
This underlines weakness of President Barack Obama’s claim at his press conference on July 15, at which he defended his nuclear deal with Iran and maintained that with it Iran “is cut off from plutonium.”
Obama, meanwhile, has held that it is OK for Iran to have a “peaceful” nuclear power program. As he stated in his Cairo speech in 2009, “any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power.”
This ignores a central issue about nuclear technology: there is no “peaceful nuclear power.” Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are two sides of the same coin.
As physicist Amory Lovins and attorney L. Hunter Lovins wrote in their seminal book, Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link: “All nuclear fission technologies both use and produce fissionable materials that are or can be concentrated. Unavoidably latent in those technologies, therefore, is a potential for nuclear violence and coercion which may be exploited by governments, factions…Little strategic material is needed to make a weapon of mass destruction. A Nagasaki-yield bomb can be made from a few kilograms of plutonium, a piece the size of a tennis ball.”
“A large power reactor,” they noted, “annually produces…hundreds of kilograms of plutonium.” Civilian nuclear power technology, they concluded, provides the way to make nuclear weapons, furnishing the material and the trained personnel.
Indeed, that’s how India got The Bomb in 1974. Canada supplied a nuclear reactor to be used for “peaceful purposes” and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission trained Indian engineers. And lo and behold, India had nuclear weapons.
As the late oceanographer Jacques Cousteau emphasized: “Human society is too diverse, national passion too strong, human aggressiveness too deep-seated for the peaceful and warlike atom to stay divorced for long. We cannot embrace one while abhorring the other; we must learn, if we want to live at all, to live without both.”
It was the U.S. with its “Atoms for Peace” program in the 1950s that encouraged Iran to develop nuclear power. After the rupture of relations between the countries with the Iranian revolution of 1979, Russia stepped in, completing Bushehr I.
More details on how plutonium, a manmade element, is created in a nuclear power plant: 97 percent of the uranium fuel in a nuclear power plant is Uranium-238 which does not fission or split. Only 3 percent of the uranium is Uranium-235, which does fission or split, and it is from this reaction that comes the heat used to boil water, turn a turbine and generate electricity. However, much of the Uranium-238 will, in proximity to fission, absorb a neutron and change to another element, Plutonium-239. Plutonium-239 is extremely radioactive and has a half-life of 24,100 years, so it’s radioactive for 240,000 years. It was first produced during the World War II Manhattan Project as an alternative fuel for atomic bombs to uranium, the supply of which was considered limited. Plutonium-239 became the preferred bomb fuel for atomic bombs and plutonium is also used as the “trigger” in hydrogen bombs.
In Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, spent fuel from the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor — believed to be a plutonium production reactor although Iran has claimed it was built for atomic research and also production of isotopes for medical and industrial use — would also be shipped out of Iran for reprocessing. But how long will Arak’s radioactively-hot fuel rods remain in Iran before they can be shipped out?
Obama at his press conference placed great faith in a key U.S. negotiator of his Iran nuclear deal, Ernest Moniz, who he appointed secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy in 2013. He described Moniz at the press conference as a “nuclear expert from MIT.”
Moniz is also a great booster of nuclear power. In a 2011 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine, titled “Why We Still Need Nuclear Power,” he wrote: “In the years following the major accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, nuclear power fell out of favor, and some countries applied the brakes to their nuclear programs. In the last decade, however, it began experiencing something of a renaissance.” He went on that “the movement lost momentum” with the Fukushima nuclear power disaster in Japan earlier that year with it causing “widespread public doubts about the safety of nuclear power to resurface. Germany announced an accelerated shutdown of its nuclear reactors, with broad public support.”
But, Moniz insisted: “It would be a mistake…to let Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits…Nuclear power’s track record of providing clean and reliable electricity compares favorably with other energy sources.” He added that “the public needs to be convinced that nuclear power is safe.”
With Moniz, a nuclear power cheerleader, integral at the negotiation table, how much concern was there, in putting together the nuclear deal, on the proliferation of atomic weaponry from “peaceful” nuclear power?
Obama at the press conference also placed great faith in the monitoring of its compliance by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The establishment of that agency was a direct result of the U.S. “Atoms for Peace” effort. President Dwight Eisenhower’s in speech declaring “Atoms for Peace” made at the UN in 1953 proposed an international agency to promote civilian atomic energy and, at the same time, to control the use of nuclear material — a dual role paralleling that of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. But in 1974, the AEC was abolished after the U.S. Congress concluded its two roles were a conflict of interest.
Still, the IAEA, set up in the AEC’s image and riddled with the same conflict of interest, continues to operate. With its stated mission “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy,” it unabashedly promotes nuclear power — at the same time trying to police that same power.
Admiral Hyman Rickover, “father” of the U.S. nuclear navy and in charge of construction of America’s first nuclear power plant, Shippingport in Pennsylvania, opened in 1957, saw the light regarding nuclear power decades later — and voiced his completely changed position.
In a “farewell address” in 1982, to a committee of the U.S. Congress, Rickover bluntly declared that the world must “outlaw nuclear reactors.”
He said it had been “impossible to have any life on earth: that is, there was so much radiation on earth you couldn’t have any life — fish or anything. Gradually, about 2 billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet and probably in the entire system reduced and made it possible for some for some form of life to begin.”
“Now,” he continued, “when we go back to using nuclear power, we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible.… Every time you produce radiation, you produce something that has life, in some cases for billions of years, and I think there the human race is going to wreck itself, and it’s far more important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it.”
As for atomic weaponry, Rickover said the “lesson of history” is that nations in war “will use whatever weaponry they have.”