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Hometown: Saskatchewan
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The Friends of Nukes are Losing

And the tail wagged the dog - but who cares?

by Gunnar Westberg / May 29th, 2015

The 2015 Review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended Friday May 22 in New York without a final document being accepted.


The outcome which a majority of the states desired, a plan for a total ban on nuclear weapons, as there is for chemical and bacteriological weapons, was unacceptable to the nuclear weapon states.

Consensus means in the NPT that the nuclear weapon states decide. They wish to keep their capacity to exterminate mankind for generations ahead.

No less than 159 states agreed that the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons would be so catastrophic that they must be abolished.

Even more important, 107 countries asked for legal measures for a prohibition of nuclear weapons – use, threat, production, storage.

Read the speeches by South Africa, or Costa Rica, in Xanthe Hall’s exellent account, referring to the three humanitarian conferences held in the last two years, which offer hope where NPT fails:

Full article: http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/05/the-friends-of-nukes-are-losing/

International Physicians For The Prevention Of Nuclear War

Outcome? What outcome?

MAY 25, 2015

by Xanthe Hall

Every five years the same circus. With one big difference. This time 107 states endorsed the “Humanitarian Pledge” to work towards closing the legal gap. That means finding a legal instrument that would prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Civil society applauded this as the real outcome of the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Now all that remains is for these states to begin a new process. What better year to begin than the 70th commemoration of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Up in the gallery, we remained glued to our seats, hoping that South Africa would save the day with an announcement that we are all invited to Pretoria. But although the South African speech was by far the best of all the final speeches, they are keeping us waiting. The wheels of government turn slowly. Even with the support of the majority of states around the world to “close the legal gap”.

France took the final word, to everyone’s incredulity. A shame that South Africa’s applauded words comparing the NPT to apartheid, that has degenerated into the rule of the minority, where the will of the few will prevail even when it doesn’t make moral sense, were not the last and final ones of this cycle’s Review Conference. Instead we were forced, once again, to hear him say that France has an excellent record on disarmament. Calling this a disconnect is an understatement. Cognitive dissonance might sum it up better. Or, quite simply, lying.

Now I am back in Berlin and, sitting with my neighbours in our beautiful garden by the pond, they ask me: What was that all about? I find myself trying to capture the essence of a four-week long conference of 191 states with no outcome and see their eyes glaze over. It seems so far away from reality although it is just as real as the flowers around me. The saving grace is the vision of a ban and knowing that, although the media sees only an attention-seeking Israel and a failing international community that succumbs to blackmail, what we – civil society – have achieved is the real outcome of the last four weeks. As Costa Rica said in their closing statement: “The humanitarian conferences demonstrate that democracy has come to nuclear disarmament, even if democracy is yet to come to the NPT.” The NPT cannot deliver, it needs a new democratic process for a ban treaty to implement itself. Costa Rica finished their statement with these words, that we should take to our hearts:

“Despite what has happened at this Review Conference, there is no force can stop the steady march of those who believe in human security, democracy and international law. History honors only the brave, those who have the courage to think differently and dream of a better future for all. This is not the time to lament what has happened here, as lamentable as it may be. Now is the time to work for what is to come, the world we want and deserve. Let us all, boldly and finally, give peace a chance.”


Longest Floating Structure In History Sets Out To Clean The Ocean In 2016

May 29, 2015 by John Vibes

An ambitious new project is hoping to help clean the world's oceans with a trash collector that is reportedly the longest floating structure in recorded world history.

Back in 2013 we reported that a 19-year-old developed a plan to clean up the world’s oceans in just 5 years, removing 7,250,000 tons of plastic. However, last week, Boyan Slat (now 21), founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, announced that this awesome project will be deployed in 2016.

Slat’s invention consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Working with the flow of nature, his solution to the problematic shifting of trash is to have the array span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel as the ocean moves through it. The angle of the booms would force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from smaller forms, such as plankton, and be filtered and stored for recycling. The issue of by-catches, killing life forms in the procedure of cleaning trash, can be virtually eliminated by using booms instead of nets and it will result in a larger areas covered. Because of trash’s density compared to larger sea animals, the use of booms will allow creatures to swim under the booms unaffected, reducing wildlife death substantially.

According to a press release published by the company:

The array is projected to be deployed in Q2 2016. The feasibility of deployment, off the coast of Tsushima, an island located in the waters between Japan and South-Korea is currently being researched. The system will span 2000 meters, thereby becoming the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean (beating the current record of 1000 m held by the Tokyo Mega-Float). It will be operational for at least two years, catching plastic pollution before it reaches the shores of the proposed deployment location of Tsushima island. Tsushima island is evaluating whether the plastic can be used as an alternative energy source.


Heroic Rats Sniff Out Landmines In Africa, May Save Thousands Of Lives Worldwide

May 30, 2015 by Amanda Froelich

These trained rats can effectively search 200 square meters in 20 minutes, saving plenty of time and thousands of lives.

Rats are a rodent you either adore or are can’t stand… But soon their stereotypical nature may be discarded, as a Belgian-based NGO is training the little critters to do a job that has potential to save thousands of lives every year, worldwide.

APOPO, the Belgian NGO, has been training giant African pouched rats to detect land mines since 1997; and soon, they believe, the rodents will be put to work detecting explosives elsewhere around the world.

Since the NGO was formed, it has been training rats to effectively search 200 square meters in 20 minutes. This is a stark difference from the 25 operational hours it takes humans with mine detectors to do the same.

And what may be most impressive is that no heroic rats have yet been harmed in the line of duty. Again, this is a grand contrast from the 9 mine-related human casualties reported per day in 2013.


The legacy of land-mines

Photo: Land-mines are catastrophic for children, whose small bodies are particularly vulnerable to the injuries they inflict. One of the mosts heavily mined countries in the world is Afghanistan. ©

Of all the weapons that have accumulated over years of war, few are more persistent and more lethal to children than land-mines . Hundreds of thousands of children, herding animals, planting crops or just playing, have been killed or maimed by these deadly devices.

Since 1975, land-mines have exploded under more than 1 million people and are currently thought to be killing 800 people a month. There seems little prospect of any end to the carnage. In 64 countries around the world, there are an estimated 110 million land-mines still lodged in the ground—waiting.50 They remain active for decades. As one Khmer Rouge general put it, a land-mine is a perfect soldier: "Ever courageous, never sleeps, never misses."

There are basically two types of land-mines: anti-tank and anti-personnel. The most dangerous to children are the anti-personnel mines that explode even under the gentle pressure of a child's hand or foot. These come in a bewildering array of shapes and colours. Some look like stones, others like pineapples. But all can seem an interesting discovery for a curious child. One of the most infamous is the 'butterfly' mine, designed to float to the ground from helicopters without exploding, but with a shape and colour that also make it a deadly toy.

Virtually all combatants use land-mines. During the Persian Gulf war, the US and its allies laid about 1 million mines along the Iraq-Kuwait border and around the Iraqi city of Basra. And some 3 million have been laid in the continuing Balkan war. Some of the largest numbers lie in wait in Africa and Asia. The countries most devastated by land-mines are probably Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia. Afghanistan has an estimated 10-15 million mines in place.51 It is clear that many of these have been randomly scattered in inhabited areas precisely to cause civilian casualties and terrorize the population.52


Treaty in Detail

Sometimes referred to as the Ottawa Convention, the Mine Ban Treaty is officially titled: the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. It was adopted in 1997 and it entered into force on 1 March 1999.

Landmine Monitor

Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor (the Monitor), is the innovative civil society research and monitoring arm of the ICBL-CMC and provides the most up-to-date and relevant information on, and assessment of, the international community’s response to the problems caused by landmines, cluster munitions, and other explosive remnants of war.

The Monitor has provided this service to the international community since 1998. It produces annual online and/or hard copy publications of Landmine Monitor, Cluster Munition Monitor, Major Findings of Landmine Monitor and Cluster Munition Monitor reports, individual country profiles for all countries of the world and the disputed areas, as well as topical and thematic Fact Sheets. It is renowned for its independent and impartial reporting, and its researchers and editors are internationally recognized and unbiased experts.

Click here to visit the Monitor website.


The Issues

Convention on Cluster Munitions

The Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by 107 countries on 30 May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland. The convention was opened for signature on 3 December 2008, and as of 20 March 2014 had been joined by 113 states and had 84 States Parties. The convention entered into force on 1 August 2010, six months after the 30th state submitted its instrument of ratification.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits all use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions. It also provides countries with deadlines for clearance of affected areas and the destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions. It includes articles concerning assistance to victims of cluster munitions incidents.

Under the Convention on Cluster Munitions States Parties will be obligated to:

destroy their stockpile of cluster munitions within eight years of entry into force (Article 3);
undertake to clear and destroy cluster munition remnants located in cluster munition contaminated areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 10 years after becoming a State Party (Article 4);
provide age- and gender-sensitive assistance to cluster munition victims, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as provide for their social and economic inclusion (Article 5); and
submit annual reports on the Convention on Cluster Munitions implementation activities Secretary-General of the United Nations (Article 7).

Click here for the full text of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Impact of Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War

Landmines, unexploded submunitions, and explosive remnants of war (ERW) all pose a serious and ongoing threat to civilians. During and after conflicts, these weapons can be found on roads, footpaths, farmer’s fields, forests, deserts, along borders, in and surrounding houses and schools, and in other places where people carry out their daily activities. They can deny access to food, water, and other basic needs, and inhibit freedom of movement, limiting people’s ability to participate in education or access medical care. Mine and ERW contamination may also prevent the repatriation of refugees and internally displaced people, and hamper the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Mine and ERW-affected countries incur costs related to clearing mines, destroying stockpiles, and providing assistance to mine and ERW survivors. More generally, development and post-conflict reconstruction are hindered when access to resources is limited and when people sustain serious, long-term injuries due to mines and ERW.


Feces-Powered Bus Breaks World Speed Record

It is estimated that one dairy cow can produce up to 150 pounds of manure per day… So why not recycle that digested grass and put it to good use?

This is exactly what the company Reading Buses, based in the UK, has done.

The ‘Bus Hound’, the UK’s first poop-powered bus, has just set a speed record for a regular service bus with a top speed of 76.8 miles per hour (123.5kph). Powered by biomethane derived from cow manure, it is pushing the limits of sustainable technology and showing the world just what can be done with waste matter.

In good humor, the ‘Bus Hound’ (name inspired by the British Bloodhound supersonic car) is decorated with a black and white skin reminiscent of the Friesan cows used for milk production around Britain. It’s also said to sound like a Vulcan bomber.

Full article and video: http://www.trueactivist.com/feces-powered-bus-breaks-world-speed-record/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TrueActivist+%28True+Activist%29

Austerity Is the Only Deal-Breaker

By Yanis Varoufakis
Source: Project Syndicate
May 26, 2015

So, if our government is willing to embrace the reforms that our partners expect, why have the negotiations not produced an agreement? Where is the sticking point?

The problem is simple: Greece’s creditors insist on even greater austerity for this year and beyond – an approach that would impede recovery, obstruct growth, worsen the debt-deflationary cycle, and, in the end, erode Greeks’ willingness and ability to see through the reform agenda that the country so desperately needs. Our government cannot – and will not – accept a cure that has proven itself over five long years to be worse than the disease.

Our creditors’ insistence on greater austerity is subtle yet steadfast. It can be found in their demand that Greece maintain unsustainably high primary surpluses (more than 2% of GDP in 2016 and exceeding 2.5%, or even 3%, for every year thereafter). To achieve this, we are supposed to increase the overall burden of value-added tax on the private sector, cut already diminished pensions across the board; and compensate for low privatization proceeds (owing to depressed asset prices) with “equivalent” fiscal consolidation measures.

The view that Greece has not achieved sufficient fiscal consolidation is not just false; it is patently absurd. The accompanying graph not only illustrates this; it also succinctly addresses the question of why Greece has not done as well as, say, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, or Cyprus in the years since the 2008 financial crisis. Relative to the rest of the countries on the eurozone periphery, Greece was subjected to at least twice the austerity. There is nothing more to it than that.

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/austerity-is-the-only-deal-breaker/

U.N. disarmament talks collapse

MAY 23, 2015

NEW YORK – A four-week U.N. review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ended Friday without adopting a consensus document after negotiators failed to narrow differences over a proposal to make the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone.

The failure to produce an outline for actions for the next five years at the meeting, which took place in the 70th anniversary year of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, raised concerns that efforts to advance toward a world free of nuclear arms will lose momentum.

The conference president, Algerian diplomat Taous Feroukhi, admitted to a lack of consensus at a plenary meeting that was held after hours of delay. Citing “diverging expectations of state parties for a progressive outcome,” she said “it would be impossible for any single consensual document to possibly meet the highest aspirations of all parties.”

With the current meeting — held once every five years — not the first to close without adopting a final document, the conference’s effectiveness in promoting its agenda of disarmament, nonproliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy may be thrown into question.

Full article: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/23/world/u-n-disarmament-talks-collapse/#.VWKKEE9VhBc

US rejects nuclear disarmament document over Israel concerns

May 22, 2015 9:33 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by setting a deadline for Israel and its neighbors to meet within months on a Middle East zone free of such weapons.

The now-failed final document of a landmark treaty review conference had called on the U.N. secretary-general to convene the Middle East conference no later than March 2016, regardless of whether Israel and its neighbors agree on an agenda.

Israel is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has never publicly declared what is widely considered to be an extensive nuclear weapons program. A conference might force Israel to acknowledge it.

Since adopting a final document requires consensus, the rejection by the United States, backed by Britain and Canada, means the entire blueprint for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation for the next five years has been blocked after four weeks of negotiations. The next treaty review conference is in 2020.


How To Solve Europe’s Migrant Crisis, According To Politicians:

May 23, 2015 by Sophie McAdam

Yes, that's exactly what European politicians have in mind to solve a crisis largely created by Western Imperialism in the Middle East.

To anyone with an ounce of compassion for the unimaginable suffering of those fleeing war-torn countries for the safe haven of European soil, the idea of sending the military to destroy ships bringing illegal immigrants to the continent is unthinkable. Yet that’s exactly what is being proposed by politicians in Europe, with widespread public support.

Since the beginning of the year, over 18,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean sea. In April alone there were three separate incidents of boats sinking during a crossing to Italy, killing 1300 men, women and children. These statistics are all the more shocking when you figure in that at this time last year, only 200 migrants had lost their lives at sea.

So why are more people than ever before risking their lives to make it to Europe? Politicians talk of ‘economic migrants’ as though money (and welfare) are the primary driving force behind these acts of desperation, but hey avoid dealing with the root of the problem: that our misguided military action in the Middle East has left millions of families with no other option. For them, it’s a case of stay and live a life not worth living, or take the risk of dying on this perilous journey to search for a safe haven. Choosing to undertake the enormous challenge of reaching Europe could never be an easy decision, as many anti-immigration campaigners would have us believe.

In order to get to Europe, migrants search for illegal gangs who agree to take them in exchange for dollars, quite often the entire life savings of the refugees. These desperate people are unaware in advance of the danger and the abuse (including beatings and death threats by the people smugglers) they have signed up for. Boats are always severely overcrowded and usually in bad condition. It is the human traffickers that Europe has vowed to wage war on, but they only exist through a process of supply and demand: it is military action in the Middle East that led us to this crisis point, and more of the same will do nothing to stop thousands more Libyans and Syrians from attempting the same crossing.

Full article: http://www.trueactivist.com/how-to-solve-europes-migrant-crisis-according-to-politicians-lets-attack-their-boats/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TrueActivist+%28True+Activist%29

He Turns Junk Into Animal Art Projects To Raise Awareness About Pollution

May 24, 2015 by Amanda Froelich

The last time you moseyed past a piece of litter on the ground, were you inspired to do anything more with it than throw it away?

If so, you’d share company well with artist Artur Bordalo (aka Bordalo II), who has spent a good portion of his time creating art projects that aim to draw attention to the problems of pollution.

All of his works were built using end-of-life materials: the majority were found in wastelands, abandoned factories, or just randomly along his travels. Some were even obtained from companies going through a recycling process.

Damaged bumpers, burnt garbage cans, tires, and other discarded appliances can be spotted in his works if you look closely enough.

Full article: http://www.trueactivist.com/he-turns-junk-into-animal-art-projects-to-raise-awareness-about-pollution/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TrueActivist+%28True+Activist%29

Mass graves of Rohingya Muslim migrants found in abandoned jungle camps in Malaysia

AGENCY Sunday 24 May 2015

Malaysian police have discovered mass graves in more than a dozen abandoned camps used by human traffickers on the border with Thailand, where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar have been held.

"These graves are believed to be a part of human trafficking activities involving migrants," Home Minister Zahid Hamidi told reporters.

He did not say how many bodies have been recovered.

The Malaysian newspaper The Star has reported that as many as 100 bodies were found at one camp.

Similar camps and dozens of remains were recovered in jungle camps across the border in Thailand earlier this month, where Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar had been held by traffickers until their families could pay for their freedom.

Full article: http://world.einnews.com/article/267110665/j47hG4-1JDja11R7

So horrible.

Water Politics in the Land of Two Rivers

By Joris Leverink
Source: teleSUR English
May 23, 2015

Mesopotamia, the ‘Land of Two Rivers’, cradle of modern civilization and currently home to probably as many conflicts as there are ethnic groups, religious factions and nation states. Rebels fighting states; Sunnis battling Shias; Turks clashing with Kurds; jihadists massacring local villagers; environmental activists against national governments and states competing with one another for the region’s natural resources.

Where oil is widely considered as one of the main causes for the region’s instability – mainly because it drew imperialist powers to the region that eagerly supported local dictators in order to ensure continued and unlimited access to the precious substance – another potential source of conflict is often overlooked. Water, the first and foremost source of life in the barren desert regions of the Middle East, which allowed for the world’s first civilizations to develop on the fertile floodplains between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, is getting ever more scarce and the struggles to safeguard a fare share are growing fiercer by the day.

Water flows. From the mountains to the seas. Oblivious to national borders, local conflicts and the religious, ethnic and ideological backgrounds of the people who populate its banks. Rivers that sprout in one country quench thirst in another, and as such, per definition they play in important role in the relations between the countries whose borders they so easily cross.

On several occasions over the past decades have local development projects on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers brought the three neighboring states, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, to the brink of war. When in 1990 Turkey blocked the flow of the Euphrates for nine days to fill the reservoir of the Atatürk dam Iraq massed troops on its border and threatened to bomb the dam. Nowadays, tensions remain high as yet another Turkish mega-dam is about to be completed – the Ilisu dam on the Tigris river – which will severely reduce the water flow to Iraq and destroy thousands of years of cultural and historical heritage at home.

Water is cause for conflict in many instances, but it also has the potential to bring communities together to built the necessary foundations for lasting peace in the Middle East. ..........

Full article: https://zcomm.org/zcommentary/water-politics-in-the-land-of-two-rivers/

Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war

From California to the Middle East, huge areas of the world are drying up and a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. US intelligence is warning of the dangers of shrinking resources and experts say the world is 'standing on a precipice'

An Egyptian farmer shows the dryness of the land due to drought in a farm formerly irrigated by the river Nile. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Already a billion people, or one in seven people on the planet, lack access to safe drinking water. Britain, of course, is currently at the other extreme. Great swaths of the country are drowning in misery, after a series of Atlantic storms off the south-western coast. But that too is part of the picture that has been coming into sharper focus over 12 years of the Grace satellite record. Countries at northern latitudes and in the tropics are getting wetter. But those countries at mid-latitude are running increasingly low on water.

"What we see is very much a picture of the wet areas of the Earth getting wetter," Famiglietti said. "Those would be the high latitudes like the Arctic and the lower latitudes like the tropics. The middle latitudes in between, those are already the arid and semi-arid parts of the world and they are getting drier."

On the satellite images the biggest losses were denoted by red hotspots, he said. And those red spots largely matched the locations of groundwater reserves.

"Almost all of those red hotspots correspond to major aquifers of the world. What Grace shows us is that groundwater depletion is happening at a very rapid rate in almost all of the major aquifers in the arid and semi-arid parts of the world."

"Are we just going to plunge into this next epic drought and tremendous, never-before-seen rates of groundwater depletion, or are we going to buckle down and start thinking of managing critical reserve for the long term? We are standing on a precipice here."

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