Saturday, April 5, 2008

Not going away: That opium thing

Warfare By Other Means

Turkey has sharpened its anti-PKK political offensive, to include increased "information focus" on the sources of PKK finances. Fundraising by Kurdish "front organizations" in Europe is a major source of PKK cash; the Turkish government has been pressing central and western European countries to shutdown the "fronts" operating in their territory. Turkey has especially put pressure on its NATO allies.  The other big source of PKK money is the drug business. Yes, the PKK is involved in drug smuggling. This is old news but the kind of news that often gets little media coverage. Turkey has started pointing out that the PKK began smuggling opium in 1982, moving some of its "product" through PKK-controlled camps in Lebanon. The PKK has also provided a "connection to Europe" for the  Afghanistan-Iran and Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran opium and heroin trade routes.

About 30 % of production and smuggling of drugs in the territory of Central Asia and Russia consists of narcotics of Tajikistan origin. If an annual turnover of the Afghani heroin in 2006 made 4.5-5 billion US dollar, the volume of the narcotic market in Tajikistan has reached around $1.5 billion. Today it has already made equal 60-70 % of the volume of Gross National Product of Tajikistan.
Tajikistan has strongly won a reputation as one of the world's key transit states in the international illegal traffic of drugs. In a considerable degree it was promoted by heavy economic situation in Tajikistan after civil war, slackening system of the state control, the followed crash of the economy, sudden growth of unemployment, and also by the greater extent of border with Afghanistan (1344 km), providing the increased narcostream from this country. In many cases, because of these circumstances the number of drug addicts and concomitant illnesses was sharply increased in Tajikistan (including HIV/AIDS).

Reflections of Fidel
The Chinese Victory (Part I)
Direct trade between Europe and China began in the sixteenth century, after the Portuguese established the commercial enclave in Goa in India and in Macao in southern China.
Spanish control in the Philippines facilitated an accelerated exchange with the great Asian country. The Qin dynasty, which ruled China, tried to limit this kind of unfavorable commercial operation with foreign countries as much as possible. It was allowed only through the port of Canton, today called Guangzhou. Britain and Spain had great deficits because of the low demand of the enormous Asiatic country, related to English goods manufactured in the metropolis, or Spanish products coming from the New World that were not essential to China. Both of them had begun to sell opium.
Large-scale opium trade was at first dominated by the Dutch through Jakarta, Indonesia. The English observed the profits that were close to 400 percent. Their opium exports which, in 1730, were 15 tons, grew to 75 in 1773, shipped in crates weighing 70 kilograms each; with this they bought porcelain, silk, spices and Chinese tea. Opium, not gold, was the currency Europe used to acquire Chinese goods.
In the spring of 1830, faced with the unbridled abuse of the opium trade in China, Emperor Daoguang ordered Lin Hse Tsu, an imperial official, to fight the plague; he ordered the destruction of 20,000 crates of opium. Lin Hse Tsu sent a letter to Queen Victoria asking for respect for international regulations and not to allow trade with toxic drugs.
The Opium Wars were the English response. The first lasted three years, from 1839 to 1842. The second, with France joining in, lasted four years, from 1856 to 1860. They are also known as the Anglo-Chinese Wars.
The United Kingdom forced China to sign unfair treaties committing this country to opening up several ports to foreign trade and handing over Hong Kong. Several countries, following England's lead, imposed unequal terms of exchange.
Such humiliation contributed to the Taiping Rebellion of 1850 to 1864, the Boxer Rebellion of 1899 to 1901 and, finally, the fall of the Qin Dynasty in 1911 which, for various reasons – including its weakness in the face of foreign powers – had become highly unpopular in China.

What to say of a memoir of failures? I give Hafvenstein tremendous credit for being honest about his qualifications for the job he undertook (none), the preparation his company had made to ensure its success (none), the care USAID took to make sure its projects were useful in any way (none) and the ultimate result of several months in the sticks of Helmand running an Alternative Livelihood program (little). None of this is his fault—after all, he was the optimistic kid jumping at the chance to do a job in a dangerous, high-profile area: how many of us would have taken the exact same opportunity? This memoir is more the story of how truly screwed up the international community in Afghanistan is than anything specific about the "year" (it was really more like six months) he spent on the "frontier."
Probably the most interesting portion of the beginning passages of the book, aside from the sinking feeling that accompanies the "I was clueless but willing, so they sent me" meme, is Hafvenstein's discussion of how USAID and their contractors operate. It is a realm measured not by sustainable development projects, but by how much money gets churned through these companies. The project he is to lead in Lashkar Gah is not meant to be a sustainable development program, but merely a crash course in flooding the local markets with cash in the hopes that it is enough to keep people out of the poppy fields long enough for the eradication teams to bulldoze them out of existence. Buried into this, and it is not unique to his company Chemonics by any stretch, is the silly arrogance of all-purpose consulting firms. Chemonics can throw together a proposal to: "clean up air pollution in Cairo, train Russian judges, help Ugandans export cut flowers," and so on, all on a few hours' notice. The defense industry is much the same way: companies bid on so many things they couldn't possibly be qualified for, merely because they have the resources to hire (one hopes) the right people for the job.
The result, as one would expect, is that these development projects come into being with no real purpose. While describing how their naοve-but-hopeful project to re-engineer southern Afghanistan's social and economic networks on a shoestring budget slowly unraveled, Hafvenstein writes a surprisingly readable summary of Afghanistan's history, going through the American presence in Helmand in the 1960's (which directly led, if Roseann Klass' account is accurate, to the ending of Purdah under Daoud) back to the ancient kingdom of Ghazni that was sacked by Genghiz Khan (and led to the creation of the kaleidoscopic pastiche of ethnicities and languages in modern-day Nuristan).
But the fundamental conceit of their project was just that—a conceit. While admitting focusing on poppy missed the point, Hafvenstein also reveals the curious mindset of the professional development workers: they treat their jobs as little more than adventure tourism, and many seem not to care about the peculiarities of the cultures where they work, but merely whether or not they keep USAID happy enough to send the next check.

Poppy farmers in Afghanistan are being compelled to give away their daughters to local drug traffickers after failing to clear their loans.
According to a report appearing in the Newsweek magazine, these farmers have been involved in this business for decades on the stony hillsides of eastern Afghanistan and in the dusty southern plains.

Taking the example of Sayed Shah, the magazine says he borrowed 2,000 dollars from a local trafficker, promising to repay the loan with 24 kilos of opium at harvest time. But just before the harvest, the government destroyed Shah's entire two and a half acres of poppy.

Unable to pay off his debt, Shah fled with his family, but was found by the trafficker. Village elders then unanimously ruled that Shah would have to reimburse the trafficker by giving Khalida, his ten-year old daughter in marriage.

This system of "loan brides", is cruel, but the magazine says that for the farmers, it os a way out of their back-breaking debt.

Many people still mistakenly believe the Taliban were opposed to the drug trade due to the ban they placed on opium cultivation during their last year in power. However, even prior to capturing Kabul on Sept. 27, 1996, the Taliban made deals to allow opium cultivation and processing in return for political support and a cut of the profits.
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The United States Drug Enforcement Administration said the ban was probably an attempt to increase the price of opium, which declined following a series of bumper crops. The Taliban also hoped to gain international recognition of their government beyond Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Before the Taliban banned cultivation in 2000, the farm-gate price for dry opium was $30 to $100 per kg. The ban caused a surge in opium prices that topped at $700 per kg in September 2001, about a year after the ban was enacted. This created a windfall of millions of dollars in additional profits for the Taliban and their associates who had been strategically stockpiling up to 60 percent of the opium crop for several years prior to the ban.
The price of opium plummeted during the U.S. attack on the Taliban which began Oct. 7, 2001. Wholesalers dumped their stock, flooding the markets in Afghanistan and Pakistan and driving down prices of opium to approximately $100 per kg. Afghan traffickers said they were concerned about their opium being destroyed by American bombs. Opium prices recovered by December 2001, climbed significantly during 2003 and 2004, and have recently softened again due to bumper crops in 2006 and 2007. The average price in Afghanistan for 1kg of dry opium was $106 in January 2008.
Both before and after the U.S. invasion, the Taliban made their money by levying taxes of 10 percent on opium cultivation and up to 15 percent to 20 percent on processing, trade, smuggling, and distribution. These taxes were in addition to other financial agreements they made with regional and international drug traffickers to provide protection for opium fields, heroin processing labs, drug shipments, and narcotics smugglers. In many cases, taxes were paid to the Taliban in drugs, which the Taliban sold or stored for future sales.
The Taliban taxes on cultivation and processing are based upon the Islamic charity taxes of "zakat" and "usher." Zakat, also referred to as alms or purification, is the third of the Five Pillars of Islam. It requires individuals to share 2.5 percent of their wealth with those in need. Usher literally means "tenth," and refers to the tax paid on the harvest for the benefit of the poor.

'Afyon' a historic island in a sea of steppe
If the name is brought up in conversation with other foreigners it invariably elicits little response beyond "oh, isn't that the place where they grow all the opium?" (The answer is "yes" by the way, afyon is actually the Turkish word for opium). But this pretty provincial town holds an important place in the heart of every Turk. For at nearby Dumlupınar, on Aug. 26, 1922, Mustafa Kemal Atatόrk led the nationalist forces to victory in what turned out to be the last major battle of the War of Independence. The invading Greek army, routed, fled in disarray to the coast. In October the last Greek troops left what would become, in a little over a year, the soil of the newly formed Turkish Republic. Atatόrk had planned for the victory at Dumlupınar in Afyon's town hall. This building is now the Zafer Mόzesi (Victory Museum) and houses photographs, weaponry and other relics from the famous battle.
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There are a number of worthwhile places to see and things to do in the surrounding countryside. Around Ihsaniye, some 30 kilometers north of Afyon, are stretches of bizarrely eroded landscape reminiscent of Cappadocia. Stands of poplar, interspersed with fields of silky leaved opium poppies and spindly yellow sunflowers, provide a stunning foreground for the pinnacles and cones of wind scoured rock. The Phrygians were top dogs in this region in the sixth century B.C. and they left behind numerous traces of their passing. Near the modern village of Ayazin a large rock outcrop is studded with a series of cave dwellings and tombs, some decorated with lion reliefs. A few kilometers to the north the village of Kaya is the rock-cut tomb known as Arslantaş (the Lion Stone). The entrance to the burial chamber is flanked by two snarling lions. En route to the village of Doğer is another important Phrygian site, Arslankaya (the Lion Rock). Here a relief carving of the Anatolian earth goddess Cybele is guarded by -- you guessed it -- another pair of fearsome lions.

Important: Do NeoCons, CIA Want Bush Assassinated to Stay in Power, Invade Pakistan?
It is in the interest of the neocons and their moles in the US intelligence community not to let peace prevail in the region or even to apprehend Osama. Why? Not only does his being at large provides the American troops a ready excuse to stay there while protecting the interests of the multinationals there but it offers tremendous opportunity to bank on the widespread fear among the American public. But if peace talks are allowed in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, Kabul will be compelled to do the same in Afghanistan. It must be pointed out that while many think that the economic interests of the occupying forces are limited only to the civilized economic projects in the country, the most important factor of interest remains the poppy cultivation resulting in widespread opium trade. There of course are reasons why after the invasion the cultivation has increased many folds instead of decreasing under the watchful eyes of the US and the NATO soldiers. A relative peace would ensure increased UN activism in the country and hence decline in the poppy production. That is exactly why an infuriating use of force is so essential.
Before I move any further let me quote a few paragraphs from the UNODC's Afghanistan Opium Survey (August) 2007 to make my point. "In 2007, Afghanistan cultivated 193,000 hectares of opium poppies, an increase of 17 percent over last year. The amount of Afghan land used for opium is now larger than the corresponding total for coca cultivation in Latin America (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined).
"Favorable weather conditions produced opium yields (42.5 kg per hectare) higher than last year (37.0 kg/ha). As a result, in 2007 Afghanistan produced an extraordinary 8,200 tons of opium (34 percent more than in 2006), becoming practically the exclusive supplier of the world's deadliest drug (93 percent of the global opiates market).
"Leaving aside 19th century China, that had a population at that time 15 times larger than today's Afghanistan, no other country in the world has ever produced narcotics on such a deadly scale." 50 percent of the country's crop is produced in the Helmand province which incidentally is the place with highest British troops presence. While the province with 2.5 percent population has a presence of over 5000 British soldiers, ironically the production of opium has increased three times since the occupation of the country. Unfortunately while no one among the occupation forces in Afghanistan may accept it, but if use of force was the only option, total destruction of the poppy crops was never such a difficult problem.
May I also point out here that not only is the UK, Washington's only ally that has always stayed the course, the rise of the people with shady background to the top of the US intelligence community during a neocon rule also explains quite a lot. John Negroponte is remembered by many as the butcher of Honduras. But when he was the Director of National Intelligence, his deputy was also somehow connected to a scandal which spreads from Honduras to the Iran Contra Scandal in 1980s. When General Hayden the former head of the NSA and Deputy Director National Intelligence was nominated for the post of the Director of the CIA a senior office bearer of the agency Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo was forced to step down.
His stated reason for resigning was that a new director should be able to choose his own deputies. However Foggo was charged on February 13, 2007 with fraud and other offenses in the bribery case of convicted US congressman Randy Cunningham. This indictment was superseded and expanded with an indictment returned on May 10, 2007, charging fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering in relation to his dealings with defense contractor Brent Wilkes. Incidentally when Hayden was the director of National Security Agency he hired the services of a Lt. Gen. James C. King an employee of MZM, one of the companies at the heart of the Cunningham scandal. King worked for the then NSA director at the same floor as his and his work was widely unknown even inside the agency. He is known to have also indulged in the same bizarre bribing activities. Another key figure in the scandal is businessman Brent Wilkes who worked in Honduras during the 1980's for a company accused by federal prosecutors of deep involvement in cocaine trafficking.  That company was also deeply embroiled in the Iran Contra Scandal.
Unfortunately during those days a similar problem linked to money laundering and drug trafficking arose in Pakistan when the Bank of Credit and Commerce International was seized on the same charges. The bank was alleged to have been involved in money laundering of the narco-trade related fortunes earned by many including some Pakistani military officers during the Soviet Afghan war. Since Hayden assumed the charge of Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control, National Security Council immediately after culmination of the Contra Affair where he stayed till July 1991 and in 1992 President Bush Senior pardoned many of the central characters, he is supposed to have taken active part in the cover up of the entire sordid episode. If he is party today to any similar guns and drugs project he and Negroponte certainly do get to gain a lot from the instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And Musharraf has also been mentored by those involved in the Afghan Soviet war and the BCCI episode he naturally emerges as a classic ally of these folks. This is exactly why Hayden rushed to Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto's assassination to testify that it were indeed the Taliban who had perpetrated the crime, upon flimsy proof and despite the Taliban's repeated denial. Likewise immediately after the election of Pakistan's new Prime Minister, Negroponte rushed to Pakistan for arm twisting and coercing the new leadership to adopt a conciliatory stance towards Musharraf.

Poppy fields found in the Algerian Sahara
Algerian national police discovered 25 poppy plantations on Tuesday (April 1st) while conducting their biggest-ever operation against opium and hashish farms in the Saharan wilaya of Adrar. Some 58,780 opium shrubs (used as the raw material for morphine and heroin), 6,020 hemp plants and 15 kg of opium seeds were destroyed and five people were arrested during the raid 124 km west of Timimoune, El Khabar reported. According to the paper, the quantity of drugs is equal to 83% of all narcotics seized in 2007, indicating that poppy cultivation is hitting an alarming level.
National Office against Drugs and Drug Addiction (ONLDT) Director Abdelmalek Sayeh described this new phenomenon as "worrying" in a statement yesterday to the APS press agency, although he was keen to say that – for now – it was still "limited" in size.
He noted that the total area of the poppy and cannabis plantations discovered is still modest: only between four and five hectares. "Algeria is not a growing country" for drugs, he said.
Monday's find may be troublesome, Sayeh conceded, but he noted that according to the United Nations, it is worse elsewhere in the Maghreb. Algeria's "crops are not as widespread as in Morocco, where the assigned acreage is up to 125,000 hectares," APS quoted him as saying.

Taleban seeking missiles to attack Nato helicopters
TALEBAN warlords are using cash from Afghanistan's bumper opium poppy crop to try to buy shoulder-launched ground-to-air missiles, the country's anti- narcotics tsar has warned.

The surface-to-air missiles played a key role in driving out Soviet troops in the 1980s because they let mujahideen fighters shoot down Russian helicopters. Military commanders fear that such attacks could paralyse current Nato operations.

Afghanistan's counter-narcotics minister, General Khodaidad, said the Taleban was busily scouring illegal arms markets for better anti-aircraft weapons.

Nirvanistan: She's On The Main Line India is a fast emerging transit nation for cocaine, heroin too
The equations have changed in the drug trade vis-a-vis India. In the past, local consumption of heroin was considered a major problem, but the new assessment is that consumption of the drug is far below international levels. But a report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime notes India is now emerging as a transit country for cocaine and heroin.

The fallout of this trend is a cause of some concern for the Narcotics Control Bureau. Officials say South American cocaine is now trafficked to India, to be exchanged for cheap Afghan-origin heroin bound for Europe or North America. Thus, if the quantum of heroin coming into India goes up, it naturally has an impact on the inflow of cocaine, which is much in demand in the party circuit in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Goa.

Several decades of aggressive law-enforcement against narcotic drugs, military operations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru and elsewhere have failed to stem the flow.
Where the UN drug authorities have claimed a 'success story' ... Big reductions in opium cultivation in Burma and Laos upon closer inspection it turns out to be a misleading claim. In Laos opium has been replaced in many places by a far worse drug known as 'ya ba' [Amphetamines].
In the junta-ruled Burma [Myanmar] much is made of the drastic opium reduction in the northern Wa state but again there has been no cutbacks in 'ya ba' pills that are manufactured in batches of a million at a time flooding SE Asia and beyond.
The failure of orthodox drug enforcement strategies in so many countries has not worked. In the US zero tolerance has filled the jails but the drug mafias continue to  prosper. In Thailand under former PM Thaksin Shinawatra his declaration of  police quotas led to a shoot the suspects policy with corpses piling up and few questions asked.
The long history of  failure of all-out narcotics repression has sadly not led to any substantial debate over policy and strategy.
TNI-[The Transnational Institute ] that closely monitors narcotics agencies commented on the UNODC 2006 report:
"The report suffers from the tension between UNODC policy makers who want a strict control regime maintained – and who are under huge US funding pressure – and the experts willing to open an honest debate about the effectiveness of outdated aspects of the current policy framework." .
Other UN agencies have regular evaluations of their operations but the UNODC-[formerly the UNDCP it is now called the UN Office for Drugs and Crime] never seems to feel the need for any debate over its effectiveness and seldom responds to any criticism. The same applies to its sister agency the INCB –International Narcotics Control Board-both based in Vienna.
TNI and other critics argue that these two UN agencies are too much obsessed with a US agenda ' the war on drugs' too the detriments of other issues. The eradication of  narcotic crops also affects economic livelihood, the use of  coca plant and opium as  proven medicinal treatments and other development issues.
It is fairly obvious that the global drugs problem is a complex subject Involving health problems, need for treatment of drug addicts, impact on communities and society, and the need for a sustainable solutions.
The knee-jerk response of politicians to round up a few suspected traffickers and shoot them as with Thaksin's ' war on drugs' in Thailand, only leads to a lot of corpses and highly-publicised body-counts. When the police are encouraged to shoot on sight, this is a breakdown in the rule of law and the promotion of a police state, where the citizens live in daily fear of trigger-happy cops.
That the UNODC never criticised former PM Thaksin's bloody war on drugs, prompted another UN agency UN Human Rights in Geneva to prod their sister agency –UNODC in Bangkok, to distance themselves from the killings on the street.

Thorium update

Nuclear energy produces no greenhouse gases, but it has many drawbacks. Now a radical new technology based on thorium promises what uranium never delivered: abundant, safe and clean energy - and a way to burn up old radioactive waste.
What if we could build a nuclear reactor that offered no possibility of a meltdown, generated its power inexpensively, created no weapons-grade by-products, and burnt up existing high-level waste as well as old nuclear weapon stockpiles? And what if the waste produced by such a reactor was radioactive for a mere few hundred years rather than tens of thousands? It may sound too good to be true, but such a reactor is indeed possible, and a number of teams around the world are now working to make it a reality. What makes this incredible reactor so different is its fuel source: thorium.
Named after Thor, the warlike Norse god of thunder, thorium could ironically prove a potent instrument of peace as well as a tool to soothe the world's changing climate. With the demand for energy on the increase around the world, and the implications of climate change beginning to strike home, governments are increasingly considering nuclear power as a possible alternative to burning fossil fuels.
But nuclear power comes with its own challenges. Public concerns over the risk of meltdown, disposal of long-lived and highly toxic radioactive waste, the generation of weapons grade by-products, and their corresponding proliferation risks, all can make nuclear power a big vote-loser.
A thorium reactor is different. And, on paper at least, this radical new technology could be the key to unlocking a new generation of clean and safe nuclear power. It could prove the circuit-breaker to the two most intractable problems of the 21st century: our insatiable thirst for energy, and the warming of the world's climate.
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Nuclear physics is a complex and messy business, especially when dealing with large unstable elements such as uranium. When the U-235 in nuclear fuel burns down to around 0.3 per cent concentration, it's no longer of use in a reactor. At this point, the proportion of U-238, along with other fission by-products, including some very radioactive isotopes of americium, technetium and iodine, is too high. Many of these elements are called 'neutron poisons' because they absorb neutrons that would otherwise be happily colliding with other U-235 nuclei to spark off more fission.
This spent fuel can be reprocessed - but this is a much more difficult job than basic enrichment because of the high number of fission by-products in the spent fuel. This means that a great deal of spent fuel - highly radioactive as it is - becomes waste that needs to be stored. For a very long time.
THIS IS WHERE THORIUM steps in. Thorium itself is a metal in the actinide series, which is a run of 15 heavy radioactive elements that occupy their own period in the periodic table between actinium and lawrencium. Thorium sits on the periodic table two spots to the left (making it lighter) of the only other naturally occurring actinide, uranium (which is two spots to the left of synthetic plutonium). This means thorium and uranium share several characteristics.
According to Reza Hashemi-Nezhad, a nuclear physicist at the University of Sydney who has been studying the thorium fuel cycle, the most important point is that they both can absorb neutrons and transmute into fissile elements. "From the neutron-absorption point of view, U-238 is very similar to Th-232", he said.
It's these similarities that make thorium a potential alternative fuel for nuclear reactors. But it's the unique differences between thorium and uranium that make it a potentially superior fuel. First of all, unlike U-235 and Pu-239, thorium is not fissile, so no matter how much thorium you pack together, it will not start splitting atoms and blow up. This is because it cannot undergo nuclear fission by itself and it cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction once one starts. It's a wannabe atom splitter incapable of taking the grand title.
What makes thorium suitable as a nuclear fuel is that it is fertile, much like U-238.
Natural thorium (Th-232) absorbs a neutron and quickly transmutes into unstable Th-233 and then into protactinium Pa-233, before quickly decaying into U-233, says Hashemi- Nezhad. The beauty of this complicated process is that the U-233 that's produced at the end of this breeding process is similar to U-235 and is fissile, making it suitable as a nuclear fuel. In this way, it talks like uranium and walks like uranium, but it ain't your common-or-garden variety uranium.
And this is where it gets interesting: thorium has a very different fuel cycle to uranium. The most significant benefit of thorium's journey comes from the fact that it is a lighter element than uranium. While it's fertile, it doesn't produce as many heavy and as many highly radioactive by-products. The absence of U-238 in the process also means that no plutonium is bred in the reactor.
As a result, the waste produced from burning thorium in a reactor is dramatically less radioactive than conventional nuclear waste. Where a uranium-fuelled reactor like many of those operating today might generate a tonne of high-level waste that stays toxic for tens of thousands of years, a reactor fuelled only by thorium will generate a fraction of this amount. And it would stay radioactive for only 500 years - after which it would be as manageable as coal ash.
So not only would there be less waste, the waste generated would need to be locked up for only five per cent of the time compared to most nuclear waste. Not surprisingly, the technical challenges in storing a smaller amount for 500 years are much lower than engineering something to be solid, secure and discreet for 10,000 years.
But wait, there's more: thorium has another remarkable property. Add plutonium to the mix - or any other radioactive actinide - and the thorium fuel process will actually
incinerate these elements. That's right: it will chew up old nuclear waste as part of the power-generation process. It could not only generate power, but also act as a waste disposal plant for some of humanity's most heinous toxic waste.
This is especially significant when it comes to plutonium, which has proven very hard to dispose of using conventional means.

Thorium Power Enters Into a Follow-On Agreement for Consulting and Strategic Advisory Services With Foreign Government-Owned Entity

Thorium Power, Ltd., the leading developer of non-proliferative nuclear fuel technology and provider of comprehensive advisory services fore merging nuclear programs, today announced that it has entered into a follow-on agreement for consulting and strategic advisory services with a foreign government-owned entity. Thorium Power will manage high-priority planning activities in the country's feasibility evaluation of a future nuclear energy program.The new agreement follows a $5 million USD agreement with the same entity announced by Thorium Power on December 3, 2007 for a 15 week effort to develop a roadmap with recommendations related to timelines, organizational structure and priorities for subsequent phases of the country's future nuclear energy program. The terms of the follow-on agreement call for an upfront payment by March 31, 2008of professional fees to Thorium Power of $4.285 million USD for the 3month effort. Expenses, capped at 20% of professional fees, will be billed separately.The scope of services under the agreement has been defined in consultation with appropriate authorities in the U.S. government in compliance with all applicable U.S. export controls. As previously stated, Thorium Power intends to communicate additional details about the client relationship once certain governmental tasks are completed in both countries relating to potential additional work. Turning Pennies into dollars: (OTCBB: NTDL), (Pink Sheets: FRGY), (OTCBB: THPW)
Thorium Power Ltd., the leading developer of non-proliferative nuclear fuel technology and provider of comprehensive advisory services for emerging nuclear programs, today provided a business update for the twelve months ended December 31, 2007.
Seth Grae, CEO of Thorium Power, stated, "We are quite pleased with the tremendous strides we have made in building awareness for our patented non-proliferative, low waste nuclear fuel designs. In December 2007, Thorium Power reached a major milestone as we entered into our first strategic advisory contract with a foreign government-owned entity generating professional fees totaling $3.7 million USD with a pre-payment of $5 million USD. We subsequently entered into a follow-on agreement, totaling a pre-payment of $4.3 million USD for a project covering an estimated three month period. In our capacity as advisor, we have developed a comprehensive roadmap as the first phase of a feasibility study for the deployment of civilian nuclear power plants. This landmark agreement provides validation for our business model, where strategic advisory services are early revenue drivers as well as important elements that create awareness for our broader offering. We are confident that this is the beginning of a trend toward cleaner and safer nuclear fuels, and safer, transparent and compliant nuclear program development. Thorium Power is ideally suited for the ensuing nuclear renaissance."
Mr. Grae continued, "We continue to attract accomplished leaders from across the industry to join our experienced team. James D. Guerra, formerly of Exelon Corporation, the largest generator of nuclear energy in the United States, was appointed Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President and Treasurer of Thorium Power. Dr. Hans Blix, a leading international authority on nuclear safety, joined us as a senior advisor, bringing his valuable global experience to support our mission. And most recently, we appointed Robert Ihde, a veteran nuclear industry executive and fuel expert who headed U.S. subsidiaries of Areva, to our Technical Advisory Board. We are pleased to have such high-caliber individuals join Thorium Power and we will benefit from their valuable expertise, collective experience and business acumen in the nuclear field."
Mr. Grae concluded, "During the fourth quarter, we completed a new formal agreement with Russia's Kurchatov Institute relating to the irradiation testing program for the company's fuel designs, a process that provides an important step towards the demonstration of our fuel designs in a full scale commercial reactor. The agreement assigned to Thorium Power Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Thorium Power, Ltd., the worldwide rights, title and interest in and to the technical data generated from the ampoule irradiation testing of seed and blanket fuel samples in the Kurchatov research reactor from the past two years. Equally vital to the development of our technology, the agreement allowed us to enter an international patent application relating to our seed and blanket fuel, further bolstering our strong patent portfolio. Our proprietary fuel designs bring a unique and innovative approach to the generation of nuclear power, one that clearly differentiates Thorium Power from all other fuel technologies. We firmly believe the future of the nuclear renaissance will depend on viable solutions to significant concerns such as proliferation, waste, and operating economics."

NEW DELHI: At a time when the UPA government is projecting nuclear power as the answer to India's future energy needs, allocations for the DAE in the 2008-09 Budget are Rs 1,333 crore less than last year's.

A D Damodaran, former head of the Nuclear Fuels Complex, pointed out that a comparison of the outlay and estimated actual expenditure for last year shows that in many cases money has also remained unspent. "Why this slow down? Is it due to avoidable project slippage or was it thrust on DAE under the embargo regime?" he said.

The most important segment of India's long-term strategy for nuclear power – the thorium cycle – could be adversely affected by these cuts.

Outlay for operation and maintenance of the thorium plant at Mumbai has been reduced from Rs 15 crore to Rs 13 crore. The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, which is developing the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, has been given a puny increase of Rs 1 lakh. Once completed, this facility will for the first time attempt commercial production of energy using thorium, a nuclear fuel found abundantly in India.

Bhavini, which is building the PFBR has also suffered a major cut of Rs 306 crore in budgetary support from Rs 926 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 620 crore in 2008-09.

Bannerman Resources Reports RC Drilling at Goanikontes Nears Completion
Bannerman Resources Ltd (TSX: BAN)(ASX: BMN) an Australian based uranium exploration and development company, is finalising the drilling of its first resource, the Goanikontes Anomaly A deposit uranium project in Namibia.
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Bannerman is progressing towards entering the ranks of developers and is on course to becoming a significant uranium producer by 2011, making it one of the leaders of the new generation of uranium miners.
For further information please visit Bannerman Resources' website at:
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Gamma logging is a common method used to estimate uranium grade from drilling where the radiation contribution from thorium and potassium is very small. Alaskite hosted primary deposits in Namibia are usually of this type. There are two main gamma logging methods used, spectral gamma logging and total count gamma logging. Bannerman utilise both methods.
The gamma radiation from potassium, uranium and thorium is dominated by gamma rays at specific energy levels. These energy levels are sufficiently well separated such that they can be measured independently of each other. They are typically measured as narrow energy bands that contain the specific energy levels. Bands are used because the measuring systems do not have the resolution to target a specific energy wavelength. There is some scattering of higher energy gamma radiation, e.g. thorium, into lower energy radiation, e.g. uranium and potassium. This scattered radiation can be calculated from suitable calibration procedures and removed from the lower energy level measurements. This method is termed spectral gamma logging and the results are expressed as eppm U3O8. Bannerman uses the consulting services of Terratec Geoservices that use a Natural Gamma Spectroscopy Sonde that is calibrated at the Pallindaba Radiation centre in Johannesburg and validated on site using test holes and assay results. Total count gamma logging does not account for energy derived from thorium and potassium (as does spectral gamma logging) but is calibrated on the uranium band and factor applied to account for the average effect of thorium and potassium and thus the result is expressed as an equivalent value or ppm eU308. Bannerman Resources uses an Auslog Natural Gamma Probe which is calibrated at the PIRSA (Primary Industry & Resources South Australia) test pits and then subjected to annual recalibration to ensure the integrity of the probe instrument. Bannerman runs regular checks to validate the accuracy of probe data using test holes located on site and regular comparisons against the Terratec probe.
Ur-Energy Inc. (TSX:URE) ("Ur-Energy" or "Corporation") is pleased to announce the completion of a non-brokered private placement flow-through financing for 1,000,000 common shares of the Corporation at a price of C$2.75 for aggregate gross proceeds of C$2,750,000. An aggregate finder's fee of C$110,000 was paid in connection with the private placement.

The Corporation expects that the financing will enable a 2008 summer exploration program for Ur-Energy's Bugs Project ("Project" or "Bugs") in Nunavut, Canada. The program involves further prospecting, radon surveys and culminates in an anticipated 2,500 metre drilling program. Approximately seven targets will be drill tested in 2008.

The Project, consisting of 11 mineral claims (approximately 11,000 hectares) owned by Ur-Energy, was previously explored for uranium by Cominco Ltd. in the 1970s. Bugs is situated in the southwestern part of the Kivalliq District in southern Nunavut at the southern end of one of the northeast-trending Baker Lake Basin rifts. The Project's half-graben is filled by continental ultrapotassic volcanic rocks and derived sediments of the Christopher Island Formation, and related intrusions. Uranium and thorium mineralization consist of stratiform, intrusion-hosted, and hydrothermal styles.

Ur-Energy completed prospecting and radon surveys over parts of the property in 2007. The initial drilling in 2008 will concentrate on the Lowkey Lake Zone ("LLZ") of the Project, an area of high radon flux discovered in 2007. Radon flux averages 8.0 pCi/m2/sec over an area measuring 150m X 100m. High-grade uranium mineralization (individual boulders containing over 6% U3O8) is associated with the basal tuff horizons along strike to the east of the LLZ. A pronounced linear zone of low magnetic intensity and alteration, evidence of intense hydrothermal activity, coincide with the LLZ.

The 2008 exploration program will include more detailed radon surveying and subsequent drill-testing to outline the mineralization of the bedrock source of one of the high-grade historic Cominco boulder occurrences associated with hydrothermal breccias - BA Showing (individual boulders assaying up to 0.55% U3O8). Drill testing of the Gamma bostonite dyke will also be initiated. Reconnaissance prospecting indicates dimensions of the Gamma Dyke to be up to 1 kilometer in length by up to 100 meters in width. The extensive Bugs bostonite intrusions, including Gamma, contain consistent contents of between 200 and 400 ppm uranium and 700 to 1,200 ppm thorium. Additional drilling will test targets selected from the interpretation of the previously flown airborne radiometric and magnetic survey. Ground prospecting and radon surveys will aid in target delineation and drill hole localization.

Looking elsewhere for rare earths
The blanket term rare earths refers to elements with hard-to-pronounce names like lanthanum, praseodymium and neodymium among others which all tend to occur together in the same deposits, despite difference uses - and prices - for different metals.
The elements are used in products like compact fluorescent lights, catalytic converters in cars, flat panel displays, disk drives and MP3 players. And in a world increasingly focused on emissions reduction, hybrid car motors and batteries cannot be built without rare earths.
China's stranglehold over 95 per cent of the world's rare earth supplies - with the remainder from small mines in India and Russia - has started to worry some companies in the West and in other East Asian nations like Japan and Korea. China has put in place hefty tariffs on rare earth exports to help encourage foreign companies to build their factories within the nation.
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Perth's Navigator Resources attracted a mention from The Drum a while back on the strength of its gold project in Leonora. At the time chief executive Tom Sanders was quick to mention Navigator also owns the Cummins Range rare earths project in WA.
Earlier this month Navigator released a preliminary resource of 69,000 tonnes of rare earths at an average grade of 2 per cent, including a higher-grade section of 38,400 tonnes at 3.5 per cent. Like Nolans, Cummins Range also contains uranium and phosphate, which are likely to add value as byproducts.
Like Mount Weld, Cummins Range contains very low levels of thorium and therefore low background radiation levels. High thorium levels make it difficult to gain permission to transport concentrate and to process the ore.

Kalam endorses N-deal, says it is must for country's energy needs
Endorsing the controversy-ridden civilian nuclear deal with the US, former President A P J Abdul Kalam on Monday said India needs uranium to run its existing nuclear reactors till the time they are not converted into thorium-based ones.
"The deal is important to meet the nation's energy needs," Kalam said in is reply to a question raised by former city mayor Bharti Vyas during a function here. Vyas asked whether India should also list its requirements like China had done before inking the deal.
Kalam said, "Uranium, a naturally scarce material, is available in very less amount while thorium is not scarce. We need to continue with uranium-based reactors for at least the next five years that is till we are ready with our own thorium-based reactors.
I define "power metals" as those from which subnuclear binding energy  can be extracted directly by relatively simple, though by no means inexpensive, chemically based processes in a so-called nuclear reactor. There are only two abundant power metals found in nature, uranium and thorium. There is a third power metal, man-made plutonium, but  I am going to ignore and not discuss plutonium here today as I believe that no more of this metal should be produced as an end in itself due to  its ease of use in making explosive fission weapons.
The nations with the highest demand growth for energy, China, India, and Brazil already have on order the majority, perhaps more than 50, of the world's new nuclear power plants for the production of electricity for civilian use. Recently Great Britain, Canada, and even the US have announced significant programs, which will result in as many as 25 reactors to be built over the next 20 years both as replacements for existing reactors and as additional nuclear based electrical generating capacity. It is likely that we are approaching a nuclear reactor building renaissance, which will see as many as 200 new and replacement reactors built over the next generation if the movement to slow the production of carbon dioxide from the burning of the power minerals, i.e. those minerals which can be burned in air to produce more energy output than was required to set off their self sustained oxidation (i.e., to set them 'alight') gains a serious foothold in the nations of the world the economies of which are demanding more electric power than can now be produced. The power minerals are coal, oil, and natural gas.
It should be noted by investors that nuclear reactors for civilian use were originally designed to utilize thorium, but that military requirements and planning caused a shift
to all uranium 'burning' plants to insure a supply of weapons grade materials.
The tide is now turning back to thorium, which is more plentiful than uranium, and the use of which for civilian reactors is now being actively pursued by Norway, India, Russia, Canada, and the USA. It is believed that the ordering of one or more thorium reactors is imminent in Norway and India. The US probably has the largest reserves of thorium, and may well become the center of the thorium nuclear fuel design, manufacturing, and reprocessing industry.

Musical Innerlube: Old Wild Men

10cc revisited

The dragon awakened: China books reviewed

There are nine types of dragon; they have nine times nine scales; they like eating swallows; they ascend to heaven on waterspouts but can also shrink to the size of a silkworm. There are celestial dragons who protect the gods, and treasure dragons who guard the pearl of wisdom. Dragons can misbehave - one of the Taoist Immortals carries a dragon-slaying sword, and Monkey had to deal with a disobedient dragon - but they are on the whole a good thing for humanity.

It is very different from the western view which, on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, seems to have become obligatory for publishers and their marketing departments. Here be dragons, eight of them in the current bunch - only one short of the auspicious nine - a fearsome brood with claws outstretched and mostly coloured red.

Generalisations about China, the great historian John King Fairbank once wrote, are "the sort of thing we should learn in the eighth grade" and then spend a lifetime breaking down into reality. By this standard the persistence of the dragon cliché means we still have a lot of work to do.

The most frightening dragon is offered by Erik Durschmied, who urges us, simply, to beware: while China was regarded for centuries as "an ancient dragon enfolded in a sleep of ages", it was really writing "pages in blood in the world's chronicle". This 1,000 years of bloodshed - the subtitle of his book - dates from the Mongol invasion of Europe to the "Chinese hordes" in the Korean war. Durschmied acknowledges (a) that this is a period of only seven, not 10, centuries, and (b) that the Mongols were not Chinese at all - but we should still beware. Long before the Kaiser spoke of the "yellow peril", China gave us what Durschmied calls the yellow scourge - the black death which, contrary to the accepted view, originated in the putrefaction of unburied corpses after a Chinese earthquake. Western civilisation then had a narrow escape when the Ming dynasty naval explorer Zheng He was ordered to turn back by a poorly advised young emperor. If Zheng had continued sailing westwards, he would have annihilated the merchant fleets of Venice, Genoa and the Sultan of Istanbul.

Metaphysical Hong-Kong

From Just the tonic :

To the casual observer, Hong Kong seems to be populated with hypochondriacs. For all its modern surface, its citizens still harbour traditional anxieties about indigestion, flatulence and excessive sputum.

At every corner are pharmacies crammed with quixotic concoctions. There are lotions with inexhaustible properties. Apply for two or three days to the infected area, declares one box, for the relief of colds, flu, diarrhoea, inflammation, seasickness, gout, hangover and "discomfort caused by forest smog and epidemics". There are crocodile bile pills for the relief of asthma and gastrointestinal pills (Trumpet Brand) for the relief of wind. One of my favourites is San Le Jiang, an anti-fatigue tablet that, between preventing cancer and senility, also keeps the user "regular and quick-witted".

Sex is a continual anxiety. Great Lover Spray and Random Sexual Lotion vie for space with Strong Penis Pills, with ingredients including extracts of snake, seal and deer's willy. Not to be taken, the instructions warned, if you are feverish or pregnant.

But these are only the chemists, a bowdlerised version of the traditional medicine shops with their crates of deer's marrow and bins of bird's nests. Behind their counters, tiers of unmarked drawers hold the secrets of Chinese medicine, from dried hornets to chrysanthemum flowers. Ancient clerks shuffle back and forth behind the counters weighing out mysterious substances. With diets of ginseng, they seem to have joined the immortals.

Hong Kong may be the epitome of the modern metropolis, an Asian Manhattan, but beneath its Westernised exterior beats a traditional Chinese heart. It is a town where people burn banknotes drawn on the Bank of Hell to appease the "hungry ghosts" of the dead, where octagonal mirrors are placed on outside walls to ward off bad luck and where elderly jaywalkers enliven the rush hour by standing so close to the passing cars that they crush the evil spirits at their heels.

At the colony's most spectacular skyscraper, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, plans had to be hastily revised when consultant geomancers, practitioners of the ancient principles of feng shui, revealed that the angle of the escalators would bring misfortune. Most visitors marvel at the efficiency of the underground mass transit system but few realise that it is speeded on its way by Taoist priests whose invocations successfully appease the jealous earth spirits.

Uranium update

Russia has urged Slovakia to join its uranium enrichment centre in Angarsk in East Siberia as part of Moscow's non-proliferation initiative. This was announced here Thursday by visiting Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov after talks with his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico.
The centre is part of Moscow's non-proliferation initiative to create a network of enrichment centres under the supervision of UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The centre is based at a chemical plant in Angarsk in Siberia and will also be responsible for disposal of nuclear waste.
"We propose our Slovakian partners join the international uranium enrichment centre that is being built by Russia," Zubkov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin first raised the idea of joint nuclear enrichment centres early last year, in a bid to defuse tension over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.
The president said the centres would give countries access to civilian nuclear technology without provoking international fears that enriched uranium could be used for covert weapons programmes.

Iran's president says uranium enrichment program non-negotiable
Iran rejects any new incentives offered by world powers in return for suspending its nuclear enrichment program, the Islamic Republic's president said in an interview published on Friday.
"This [enrichment moratorium] is a non-negotiable subject," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.
"Iran is a nuclear country and has no reason to give up the technology," he said.
The president also reiterated that Iran does not intend to negotiate with the West, but will cooperate solely with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The UN Security Council passed a resolution on March 3, imposing a third round of economic sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

A British company has found huge reserves of uranium deposits in southern Chile's Bio Bio region, Spain's EFE news agency EFE reported Friday. The Britain-based company U308 Holdings has found uranium deposits in the Cajones area of southern Concepcion city, the news agency quoted the El Mercurio newspaper as saying.
The deposits were discovered in one of the nine blocs where the company is conducting tests, the company officials said.
Officials said it would be too early to determine whether the uranium deposits would be economically viable for mining, the report said.
In addition to Cajones, chances are also good of finding uranium in Peralillo, an exploration bloc located near Los Angeles, another city in Bio Bio.
"We are excited with the initial results of the geochemicals in Cajones," U308 Holdings Plc president Conrad Winham said.
The analysis of the exploration blocs would be completed in mid-April when the company would be able to say the size of the total deposits, he added.

Eskom's uranium consumption may reach 4 000 t/y by 2025
South African State-owned power util- ity Eskom's uranium consumption could increase by more than ten times to 4 000 t/y by 2025, from the current figure of 330 t/y, as it planned to add 20 000 MW of nuclear generation capacity by that time, a company official said at this year's uranium conference.
The utility currently only uses uranium to produce some 1 800 MW of power from two reactors at its only nuclear power station, Koeberg, in the Western Cape, equating to about 5% to 7% of its total generation capacity.
Eskom would require between 3 000 t/y to 4 000 t/y of U3O8, or yellowcake, by 2025, nuclear fuel manager Hans Lensink told the conference, in Johannesburg.
It had plans to build five new nuclear plants by 2025, with the target to bring the first units on line by 2015/16, with the first new plant generating some 3 500 MW. These new power stations would bring nuclear's contribution to the firm's total energy mix to about one-quarter.
Eskom had invited bids from US firm Westinghouse and French company Areva, which built Koeberg, to build the first new power station, and said in February that it would select the preferred bidder by the middle of next year.
These ambitions were part of its R1-trillion-plus new-build programme to effectively double its generation capacity by 2025, adding 40 000 MW to the national grid.
Lensink said that it took 10 kg of yellowcake to produce 1 kg of enriched nuclear fuel.
In 2003, the price of uranium made up 27% of Koeberg's generation costs, but now it accounted for 60%, after a sharp rise in the market price of the nuclear fuel.
It hit an all-time high of $138/lb in June 2007, but currently trades at about $75/lb on the spot market.

Mega Uranium Ltd. and Energentia Resources Inc. Sign Acquisition Agreement
Mega Uranium Ltd. (TSX:MGA) ("Mega") and Energentia Resources Inc. (TSX VENTURE:ENR) ("Energentia") announce that they have signed an acquisition agreement in respect of the previously announced proposed acquisition of Energentia by Mega. Under the terms of the acquisition, Mega will acquire all of the outstanding common shares of Energentia ("Energentia Shares") in exchange for common shares of Mega ("Mega Shares"), on the basis of one (1) Mega Share for every ten (10) Energentia Shares outstanding (the "Exchange Ratio").
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About Mega Uranium
Mega Uranium Ltd. is a Toronto-based mineral resources company with a focus on uranium properties in Australia, Canada, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Mongolia and Cameroon. Further information on Mega can be found on the company's website at Mega Uranium's Australian uranium properties, including without limitation Ben Lomond, Maureen and Lake Maitland, are subject to State policies which presently prohibit the mining of uranium.
About Energentia Resources
Energentia is a uranium exploration and development company with interests in a number of uranium exploration properties located in Colombia.

Macusani Yelowcake Inc. (the "Company") (TSX VENTURE:YEL) President and CEO, Peter Hooper, stated: "We are delighted with the latest bottle tests carried out at the SGS Laboratories in Lima. These very high recovery rates confirm our previous testing and indicate that our concept of a heap leach uranium mine is real."
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About Macusani Yellowcake Inc.
Macusani Yellowcake controls over 49,000 hectares of mineral properties (Macusani, Munani, Lagunillas and Rio Blanco) in Puno in southeastern Peru. A 20,000 m diamond drilling program is underway on the Macusani Plateau along a 4 km long radiometric anomaly. Macusani believes that the properties located on the Macusani plateau are underlain by uraniferous volcanic rocks similar to those currently being drilled on nearby properties.

CASPER, Wyo. -- The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has found environmental violations at the state's only operational in-situ uranium mine.

The agency has issued a notice of violation to Power Resources Inc., which operates the Smith-Highland Ranch in-situ leach uranium mine north of Douglas.

The six-page investigation report details several "long-standing" environmental concerns at the mine. Among them are delayed restoration of groundwater, "routine" spills, and a seriously inadequate bond to cover restoration.

"Given that PRI's operation has for many years been the major uranium producer in Wyoming, there is an expectation that the operation might serve as a model for excellence in (in-situ leach) mining. Unfortunately, this is not the case," DEQ land quality District 2 supervisor Mark Moxley wrote in a Nov. 21, 2007, report.

On March 10, DEQ issued a notice of violation to Power Resources Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cameco Corp., detailing alleged violations pursuant to two permits.
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"It's real hard to trumpet our values in this situation," Struthers said. "But I think that over the years it's pretty clear the company has been a solid performer. The environment is one of our top priorities."

The in-situ mining process involves a series of closely spaced wells that flush uranium material through water aquifers. The technique has been touted as a more environmentally friendly way of mining uranium than underground or surface strip mining.

Cameco's Smith-Highland Ranch mine is currently the only producing uranium mine in Wyoming. It produced 2 million pounds of uranium oxide in 2006 and was expected to produce at about the same in 2007.

The situation with the Smith-Highland Ranch in-situ uranium mine revealed that the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality's oversight of the operation failed, according to DEQ Director John Corra.

"Had we exercised the proper level of oversight, it wouldn't have gotten this far," Corra said.

Staffing and a dwindling knowledge base in the uranium industry were factors in DEQ's lack of proper oversight, he said.

International community should raise voice against use of Depleted Uranium: Justice Jain

AMRITSAR: The international community and all citizens of the world must raise a unified voice against the future use of depleted uranium and force those nations that have used depleted uranium munitions to recognize the immoral consequences of their actions and assume responsibility for medical care and thorough environmental remediation.
This appeal was made by Justice Vijender Jain, Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh while inaugurating the National Seminar on Depleted Uranium: Environmental Hazards.
This seminar was jointly organised by the Departments of Botanical and Environmental Sciences, Human Genetics and Physics of the Guru Nanak Dev University here Saturday .
Prof. Dr. Jai Rup Singh, Vice-Chancellor welcomed the learned speakers and the delegates. Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, Ex-Chief of the Naval Staff presented the keynote address.
Continuing his address, Justice Jain said that Depleted Uranium (DU) is a deadly toy in the hands of the ruling bloodlines. A particle of DU ingested or inhaled cause one or more of the 90 plus seriously debilitating diseases.
He said the half life of DU is 4.5 billion years, and it could destroy living things and the environment; most importantly it could destroy perfectly healthy lives, he added
He said the growth of industry, nationally or globally, would be meaningless if we could not provide security to the human being. Security to human being includes freedom from hunger and fear.
Never before in the history of this world, the individual has been threatened on account of ecological degradation than today.
Justice Jain said despite 9% ecological growth of the last four years, 25% of Indian population lives below the poverty line and 35 % still waiting to be literate.
Talking about India, he said the entire north-western region, including the Himalayas is affected. All perennial rivers flowing from the Himalayas into the Gangetic plains (the Ganga and Yamuna with hundreds of tributaries) and into Pakistan (the five rivers: Indus, Satluj, Jhelum, Ravi and Chenab), would contaminate the largest and oldest food growing area in the world.
He said this region as a high livestock population that supports India's and Pakistan's fuel, food, and farming needs.
The South Dakota Water Management Board on Thursday approved new rules for injection wells for uranium mining operations proposed for the Black Hills region, but state environmental officials said it will be at least two years before any mining begins.

First, the rules and a similar set before the state Board of Minerals and Environment must be reviewed by a legislative committee and checked by the Secretary of State, a process that could take two or three months.

Then, mining companies would apply for permits from both the water board and the environment board, a lengthy process with public-input opportunities.

"I would say that will take two years, at least," state Department of Environment and Natural Resources mining engineer Mike Cepak of Pierre said Thursday.

The water board heard public testimony on the injection-well rules during a public hearing Wednesday at the Radisson Hotel. The board approved the rules Thursday morning with only minor alterations in response to public comment.

But Sierra Club representative Shirley Frederick of Rapid City was encouraged by the board's willingness to listen to public concerns.

"I don't consider them adversaries on this. I think we're all in the same corner," Frederick said. "We want to protect our water resources and make sure any mining is done responsibly."

The board has a limited role in regulating the injection-well uranium mining, called in situ leach mining, because the process has been authorized by the state Legislature. In situ mining uses a well system to inject a solution into underground seams of uranium and recover the solution in other wells. The mine areas would be surrounded by monitoring wells to guard against pollutants escaping the production zone.

It's time to ban uranium mining
The public has overwhelmingly spoken on uranium mining in New Brunswick, and it has a lot of indisputable evidence and legitimate concern on its side. It is time for the provincial government to heed their wishes and put an outright ban on uranium mining, just as Nova Scotia did 25 years ago.
Nova Scotia obviously knows, or accepts, something that New Brunswick's government doesn't and it is not willing to sacrifice its environment and quality of life for the sake of jobs and development, even though they need jobs as much as New Brunswick does.
We have been watching and listening to the uranium mining debate carefully and several things are clear. While it may be true that the current regulatory system makes it difficult to open a uranium mine, it is not impossible. There is a disconnect between government and industry statements that just because uranium exploration is going on, it doesn't mean the province will ever have a mine. What lies below the surface and the economics of extracting it will determine that.
That is true, but so is an obvious fact: mining companies would not be investing large sums in exploring and drilling test holes if they did not hope to start a mine. That is the end goal of all the activity -- including in municipal watersheds that could be ruined for many years should they be contaminated by a mine. It is disingenuous to suggest nobody should worry, it is just exploration.

As a resident of Fort Collins, I am concerned about the future state of our city and its surrounding areas. Powertech Uranium Corporation has basically obtained the right to put our city's health, environment and economy in jeopardy by mining uranium in Nunn. This is located just 11 miles northeast of Fort Collins.
When uranium is left alone underground, it poses no threat. However, the use of open-pit mining and in-situ leaching can cause us a great amount of danger. Uranium mining has a great risk of causing leaks and spills no matter how it is extracted. It will undeniably pollute our precious water and expose humans and animals to severe amounts of radiation. Even microscopic quantities of radium, a decay product of uranium found in mine tailing piles, have been proven to cause bone cancer, anemia and leukemia. Also, metal poisoning can potentially be ingested through our air, water and food. Even natural occurrences that take place in this area, such as tornadoes or heavy winds, have a chance of spreading radioactive material across the state of Colorado.
It is too much of a risk to take to let this foreign company make millions of dollars off of our land and leave the mess for us to live with. Northern Colorado is not a good place for Powertech to invade, and it is important that we keep them from succeeding.

Hardev Kaur: Peace and stability come with a full stomach

While the recent increase in the price of oil has caught the attention of people around the world, the increase in food prices and the problems accompanying these increases have not received the same attention. This is because "no one is starving in rich countries", according to Joachim Von Braun, director-general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.

But with the lines for food stamps growing longer by the day in the world's most advanced and richest economy, it is a matter of time before the issue gets the attention it deserves. The number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid programme began in the 1960s.

An increasing number of "people who were not in the urgent category are now moving into that category", according to Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme. As of December last year, 37 countries faced a food crisis and 20 had imposed some food price control.

The millions of people, some living on less than RM2 a day, are not just feeling it, they are demonstrating. As the old proverb has it: "A hungry man is an angry man." This is clearly evident in the growing tension and strife in a number of areas.

Food riots have erupted in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen in recent months. In Pakistan, troops are reported to have been deployed to guard lorries carrying wheat and flour. In Africa, the main household expense is on meals and even a slight increase can be devastating. In 1980, Liberian President William Tolbert was stabbed to death in a crisis sparked by an increase in the price of rice.

Pune's contribution to world peace: A special Shivling

Pune can now boast a symbol of world peace. A unique 'earth peace' temple has come up recently at the Siddhanath forest ashram in Sinhagad, around 35 km from the city, which houses a one-of-its-kind Shivling made of paras mani (solidified mercury).

According to Yogiraj Siddhanath, a spiritual guru and founder of the Hamsa Yoga Sangh, a non-profit organisation that offers training in natural and healthy practices, the Shivling is a symbol for 'earth peace.' The temple was opened on the occasion of Mahashivratri.

Yogiraj Siddhanath told The Indian Express on Tuesday that the Shivling, which weighed over a tonne and was around 30 inches in height, was possibly the largest known akhand (unbroken) Shivling. "It can be termed the elusive philosopher's stone and has a distinctive spherical shape," he said.

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'For the first time, they carried signs and banners decorated with a circle inscribed with a vertical line and inverted "V" - the peace symbol'

From The universal emblem was created 50 years ago :

The history of the symbol, from Aldermaston to its current status as a universal emblem of anti-war and other progressive causes, has been a life-long passion for Ken Kolsbun, 73, author of a bracing new book, appropriately titled "Peace."

"It pretty much started in '69 after I went to this major march in San Francisco," Kolsbun said in a recent interview, recalling his own first sighting of the symbol. "I started photographing it (the peace sign) more and trying to get more information on who created it."

Released this week for the 50th anniversary of the Aldermaston march, "Peace" features some of Kolsbun's photographs and his research on Holtom. Part eye-catching coffee table book, part evocative cultural history, the book follows the peace symbol through the changing political and social landscapes of the past five decades.

A 1969 shot catches folk singer Arlo Guthrie with a sky-written peace symbol floating in the air above him, while a 2005 photo documents a football field-sized peace symbol tromped in the sand in New Mexico.

Arms sales to rise in 2008

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) - Global weapons transfers are likely to swing back up this year after an 8 percent drop in 2007, an expert at a leading peace research institute said Tuesday.
Deliveries of conventional weapons systems fell from a peak in 2006, mostly because of a drop in Chinese imports, but there is no sign of a downward trend in the worldwide arms trade, said Paul Holtom, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
"I think we see it as a blip," Holtom said. "I would say the trend will continue upward in 2008 and 2009."
The research institute presented figures this week showing China's weapons imports dropped 62 percent last year, hitting Russian suppliers especially hard. But Holtom said Russia has new deliveries coming up to other countries, including an order of fighter jets from Malaysia.
Several other countries such as Saudi Arabia and India are also expected to place major orders in coming years to upgrade their conventional weapons arsenals, Holtom said.

The U.S. still claims the No. 1 spot as the world's largest arms supplier, the institute said, followed by Russia, Germany, France and Britain. These five countries account for about 80 percent of international weapons exports, it said.
More research on global armaments, including nuclear weapons, will be presented in the Peace Research Institute's annual yearbook later this year.

King's vision of peace

Friday, April 4
Forty years ago today, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in Memphis, Tenn.

In the four decades since his death, we remember King as a great civil rights leader. Not as well remembered is his advocacy for peace. One year to the day before his death, on April 4, 1967, King addressed 3,000 people at New York's Riverside Church.

He denounced the Vietnam War as "an enemy of the poor" that sapped the nation's ability to fight poverty, "like some demonic, destructive suction tube." He spoke of the "cruel irony" of young black men and young white men dying together in Vietnam but unable to sit together in some schools. He said he could not condemn violence in the civil rights struggle while at the same time failing to raise his voice against "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government."

It was a act that took considerable courage. King was the most prominent black American at the time to criticize U.S. policies beyond civil rights. While he was attacked for his antiwar remarks, King's words ultimately had a lasting impact. What follows are excerpts from that speech. Substitute "Iraq" for the word "Vietnam," and King's words have as much relevance today as they did in 1967.


I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam and the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently, one of them wrote these words: "Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of her people.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing the war to a halt.

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit. ... We will be marching and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. ... With such activity in mind, the words of John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.


'Now, at 77 years of age, he’s become an agitator'

From Cost of war spurs Newberg councilman to protest :

NEWBERG, Ore. — Bob Larson is a retired banker, a registered Republican, a U.S. Air Force veteran and the president of the Newberg City Council.

Now, at 77 years of age, he's become an agitator.

Larson stood on a traffic island Thursday displaying two signs for drivers on Oregon 99W: "Stop the war now" and "Bring our troops home now."

Larson isn't a peace activist decrying the deaths of 4,000 Americans and an uncounted number of Iraqis. A much larger number brought him to the island — 15 billion. That's an estimate of how many dollars the U.S. spends each month for the wars of the Middle East. It's a figure that rankled the lifelong fiscal conservative.

"I'm not anti-anything," Larson said. "I'm a financial nut. When I read that we're spending $12 billion a month, and more than $3 billion a month in Afghanistan, $15 billion going to the war is too much when we have so much needed here."

But Larson is willing to be helped by those whose primary motivation is the loss of life. Larson, who attended Newberg's George Fox University following his retirement from the business world, was joined Thursday by Christiana Mata, a 19-year-old freshman from Olympia, Wash.

Mata hopes to become a minister and work for world peace. She had never stood in protest, nor held up a sign. But one of her classes recently read the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

"I really wanted to do something," Mata said.

"Jesus fought for justice; he was a rebel," she added. "Not only did he die for our sins, but I believe he calls us to bring peace to the world."

Secretive Pentagon Spy Unit: Closed or Outsourced?

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the Pentagon is "expected to shut a controversial intelligence office that has drawn fire from lawmakers and civil liberties groups who charge that it was part of an effort by the Defense Department to expand into domestic spying."

The Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), created by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld after the September 11 attacks, illegally conducted broad domestic operations that targeted antiwar and other dissident domestic groups.

Mark Mazzetti writes,

The move, government officials say, is part of a broad effort under Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to review, overhaul and, in some cases, dismantle an intelligence architecture built by his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld. ...

The Pentagon's senior intelligence official, James R. Clapper, has recommended to Mr. Gates that the counterintelligence field office be dismantled and that some of its operations be placed under the authority of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the government officials said. (Mark Mazzetti, "Pentagon is expected to close intelligence unit," The New York Times, April 2, 2008)

Portions of CIFA, notably its Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) database, were allegedly dismantled after documents uncovered by the ACLU through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, revealed in 2006 that the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and local police departments had supplied the Pentagon with information that aided intelligence operations against the antiwar movement.

According to a report published in 2006 by The New Standard,

One of the TALON documents was written to "alert commanders and staff" to a counter-recruitment protest the Broward Anti-War Coalition (BAWC) was staging at the Ft. Lauderdale Air and Sea Show. The alert, submitted by the Miami-Dade police department, said, "BAWC plans to counter military recruitment and the 'pro-war' message with 'guerilla theater and other forms of subversive propaganda.'"

Another document revealed the government is tracking some of the anti-recruitment activities of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker peace organization.

A third TALON report detailed counter-recruitment rallies in Georgia, and cited Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, and Iraq Veterans Against the War as participants.

In December 2005, NBC News obtained part of the TALON database that included reports on about 48 anti-war meetings or protests. (Megan Tandy, "Pentagon Treats Counter-Recruitment Activism as Terrorism," The New Standard, October 16, 2006)

What the Times reporter failed to mention, is that CIFA is probably the most heavily-outsourced unit in the Pentagon's intelligence arsenal.

According to national security analyst R.J. Hillhouse, "over 30 corporations provide 90% of CIFA's staff," drawn from a bevy of security and defense firms.

An early CIFA recipient of Bush crime family largess was none other than Mitchell Wade, the disgraced former CEO of MZM Inc. who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges in 2006 in connection with the sleazy shenanigans of now-imprisoned Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA).

In a cash-and-hookers-for-contracts scandal, Cunningham oversaw a number of questionable appropriations given by CIFA to Wade's MZM. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Cunningham chaired the terrorism subcommittee that had authority over CIFA's operations. He acted accordingly, showering his "friends" with dubious "earmarks" slipped into various Department of Defense (DoD) appropriations.

When CIFA's two top officials, David A. Burt II and his deputy, Joseph Hefferon abruptly resigned in August 2006, Pentagon officials were quick to deny any link to on-going corruption investigations, claiming their departure was "a personal decision that they both made together," according to The Washington Post.

In January 2008, Tim Shorrock reported that a crony of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Stephen Cambone, who helped oversee CIFA's creation, joined a firm when he left the Pentagon that recently, was awarded a multi-million dollar contract to manage the dodgy intel outfit. Shorrock writes,

On January 7, QinetiQ (pronounced "kinetic") North America (QNA), a major British-owned defense and intelligence contractor based in McLean, Virginia, announced that its Mission Solutions Group, formerly Analex Corporation, had just signed a five-year, $30 million contract to provide a range of unspecified "security services" to the Pentagon's Counter-Intelligence Field Activity office, known as CIFA.

According to Pentagon briefing documents, CIFA's Directorate of Field Activities "assists in preserving the most critical defense assets, disrupting adversaries and helping control the intelligence domain." Another CIFA directorate, the Counterintelligence and Law Enforcement Center, "identifies and assesses threats" to military personnel, operations and infrastructure from "insider threats, foreign intelligence services, terrorists, and other clandestine or covert entities," according to the Pentagon. A third CIFA directorate, Behavioral Sciences, has provided a "team of renowned forensic psychologists [who] are engaged in risk assessments of the Guantanamo Bay detainees." (Tim Shorrock, "QinetiQ Goes Kinetic: Top Rumsfeld Aide Wins Contracts from Spy Office He Set Up," CorpWatch, January 15, 2008)

But over and above questionable crony-capitalist Pentagon contracts, is the nature of CIFA's brief as an outsourced spy agency targeting American citizens exercising their constitutionally-protected right to protest the Bush regime's illegal "preemptive wars " waged across Central Asia and the Middle East.

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, claimed that CIFA's alleged shut-down has nothing to do with its controversial "mission." Ryder told the Times that CIFA would be folded into already-existing intelligence offices within the Pentagon and that the move is aimed at "'creating efficiencies and streamlining' Pentagon efforts to thwart operations by foreign intelligence services and terror networks."

But a new batch of documents released on Tuesday to the ACLU, revealed that CIFA was coordinating its activities with the FBI, issuing hundreds of national security letters to banks and credit agencies to obtain financial records in "terrorism and espionage investigations."

When one considers the sordid--and illegal--activities by various intelligence arms of the Pentagon during the 1960s and 1970s, the latest revelations by the Defense Department can hardly be reassuring. According to Peter Dale Scott, April 2002, Defense Dept. officials implemented a plan for domestic U.S. military operations by creating a new U.S. Northern Command (CINC-NORTHCOM) for the continental United States. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called this "the most sweeping set of changes since the unified command system was set up in 1946."

The NORTHCOM commander, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced, is responsible for "homeland defense and also serves as head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).... He will command U.S. forces that operate within the United States in support of civil authorities. The command will provide civil support not only in response to attacks, but for natural disasters." (Peter Dale Scott, "Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps, Pacific News Service, January 31, 2006)

Pentagon "outsourcing" of intelligence operations to corporations provide yet another layer of "plausible deniability" to the DoD as it wages the administration's odious "war on terror" against the American people.

As with other shut-downs of controversial Pentagon projects, notably former Admiral John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness spy operation, CIFA's successor will undoubtedly burrow ever-deeper within the DoD's opaque bureaucracy--with plenty of assistance from well-heeled security firms--and little oversight from a supine Congress.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press.

~ source ~



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