Chernobyl, not Peristroika, Caused Soviet Union Collapse: Gorbachev


DiaNuke

Editor’s Note: Journalist Alla Yaroshinskaya’s article based on declassified documents, contradicting Mr. Gorbachev’s claims here that there was no cover-up in Chernobyl, can be accessed here.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail GorbachevMikhail Gorbachev was the last head of state of the Soviet Union, and helped bring about a peaceful end to the Cold War, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

Courtesy: Project Syndicate

The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 26 years ago this month, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later. Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was an historic turning point: there was the era before the disaster, and there is the very different era that has followed.

The very morning of the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear station on April 26, 1986, the Politburo met to discuss the situation, and then organized a government commission to deal with the consequences. The commission was to control the situation, and to ensure that serious measures were taken, particularly in regard to people’s health in the disaster zone. Moreover, the Academy of Science established a group of leading scientists, who were immediately dispatched to the Chernobyl region.

The Politburo did not immediately have appropriate and complete information that would have reflected the situation after the explosion. Nevertheless, it was the general consensus of the Politburo that we should openly deliver the information upon receiving it. This would be in the spirit of the Glasnost policy that was by then already established in the Soviet Union.

Thus, claims that the Politburo engaged in concealment of information about the disaster is far from the truth. One reason I believe that there was no deliberate deception is that, when the governmental commission visited the scene right after the disaster and stayed overnight in Polesie, near Chernobyl, its members all had dinner with regular food and water, and they moved about without respirators, like everybody else who worked there. If the local administration or the scientists knew the real impact of the disaster, they would not have risked doing this.

In fact, nobody knew the truth, and that is why all our attempts to receive full information about the extent of the catastrophe were in vain. We initially believed that the main impact of the explosion would be in Ukraine, but Belarus, to the northwest, was hit even worse, and then Poland and Sweden suffered the consequences.

Of course, the world first learned of the Chernobyl disaster from Swedish scientists, creating the impression that we were hiding something. But in truth we had nothing to hide, as we simply had no information for a day and a half. Only a few days later, we learned that what happened was not a simple accident, but a genuine nuclear catastrophe – an explosion of a Chernobyl’s fourth reactor.

Although the first report on Chernobyl appeared in Pravda on April 28, the situation was far from clear. For example, when the reactor blew up, the fire was immediately put out with water, which only worsened the situation as nuclear particles began spreading through the atmosphere. Meanwhile we were still able to take measures in helping people within the disaster zone; they were evacuated, and more than 200 medical organizations were involved in testing the population for radiation poisoning.

There was a serious danger that the contents of the nuclear reactor would seep into the soil, and then leak into the Dnepr river, thus endangering the population of Kiev and other cities along the riverbanks. Therefore, we started the job of protecting the river banks, initiating a total deactivation of the Chernobyl plant. The resources of a huge country were mobilized to control the devastation, including work to prepare the sarcophagus that would encase the fourth reactor.

The Chernobyl disaster, more than anything else, opened the possibility of much greater freedom of expression, to the point that the system as we knew it could no longer continue. It made absolutely clear how important it was to continue the policy of glasnost, and I must say that I started to think about time in terms of pre-Chernobyl and post-Chernobyl.

The price of the Chernobyl catastrophe was overwhelming, not only in human terms, but also economically. Even today, the legacy of Chernobyl affects the economies of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Some even suggest that the economic price for the USSR was so high that it stopped the arms race, as I could not keep building arms while paying to clean up Chernobyl.

This is wrong. My declaration of January 15, 1986, is well known around the world. I addressed arms reduction, including nuclear arms, and I proposed that by the year 2000 no country should have atomic weapons. I personally felt a moral responsibility to end the arms race. But Chernobyl opened my eyes like nothing else: it showed the horrible consequences of nuclear power, even when it is used for non-military purposes. One could now imagine much more clearly what might happen if a nuclear bomb exploded. According to scientific experts, one SS-18 rocket could contain a hundred Chernobyls.

Unfortunately, the problem of nuclear arms is still very serious today. Countries that have them – the members of the so-called “nuclear club” – are in no hurry to get rid of them. On the contrary, they continue to refine their arsenals, while countries without nuclear weapons want them, believing that the nuclear club’s monopoly is a threat to the world peace.The twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe reminds us that we should not forget the horrible lesson taught to the world in 1986. We should do everything in our power to make all nuclear facilities safe and secure. We should also start seriously working on the production of the alternative sources of energy.

The fact that world leaders now increasingly talk about this imperative suggests that the lesson of Chernobyl is finally being understood.

 

ATTN MUMBAI -Nobel Laureate, John Byrne on Jaitapur nuclear project @Jan23


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Greenpeace is organizing a press conference where John Byrne, noted Nobel Laureate, along with Pradeep Indulkar of Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti, will talk about the Jaitapur nuclear project and dangers of Nuclear Energy.  Byrne is Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP) and Distinguished Professor of Energy and Climate Policy at the University of Delaware.

Admiral (retired) Laxminarayan Ramdas and Lalita Ramdas will also be present. Lalita Ramdas was one of the “1000 Peace Women” nominated collectively for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

 

Details are as follow:

                                Date  : 23rdJanuary 2013  Time  : 12:30pm-2pm

Venue: Conference Room,

     Press Club of Mumbai,

                                              Near Azad Maidan

 

John Byrne: Byrne has published extensively in his field and is a co-editor of the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society and general editor of Energy and Environmental Policy book series. His most recent books are Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice. Byrne is a contributing author to Working Group III, which made contributions to the fourth assessment report, produced special reports on aviation, emission scenarios, technology transfer, ozone and climate, carbon dioxide capture and storage, as well as the third assessment report.

Pradeep Indulkar: Worked at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre from 1983 to 1994 as a Scientific Officer. Presently, he’s working in environment education. He is an anti-nuclear activist and has been working in people’s movement against Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant for past 3 years.

The press conference will be facilitated by Karuna Raina, nuclear campaigner, Greenpeace India.
For more information, please contact:

Nitya Kaushik, media officer, nitya.kaushik@greenpeace.org, +91 9819902763

Shuchita Mehta, media officer, shuchita.mehta@greenpeace.org,  +91 9560990606 

AIl Demands Bahrain Free Prisoners of Conscience Following Verdict “Driven by Vindictiveness”


 

Thirteen Men Imprisoned for Exercising Human Rights in 2011 Anti-Government Protest Must Be Released Immediately

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) – Amnesty International today urged Bahraini authorities to overturn an appeal court decision upholding the convictions and sentences against 13 opposition activists and again demanded their immediate and unconditional release.

An Amnesty International trial observer was present in court on Tuesday when the High Criminal Court of Appeal in Bahrain upheld the convictions and sentences of the 13 men convicted last year by military courts on charges related to anti-government protests.

“Today’s court decision further engulfs Bahrain in injustice and shows once more that the Bahraini authorities are not on the path of reform, but are rather driven by vindictiveness,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

“Rather than uphold the sentences, which range from five years to life in prison for peacefully exercising their human rights, the Bahraini authorities must quash the convictions for the 13 men and release them immediately and unconditionally.”

The 13, including prominent activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and opposition political activist Ebrahim Sharif, were originally sentenced by a military court of appeal in June 2011 to a range of two years to life in prison on charges including “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution.”

On 30 April 2012, the Court of Cassation ordered their appeal be held before a civilian court. This process began on May 22 and ended with today’s verdict, which was announced in a session than lasted only three minutes.

All prisoners maintain their innocence.

Farida Ismail, Ebrahim Sharif’s wife, said: “I was expecting this outcome, as it is clear to us the government is not ready to be held accountable – its procedures continue as before.”

“There is not enough pressure from abroad. What happens next will depend on which steps are taken by the international community and what states do in the next Universal Periodic Review session. As for our government, it is clearly not ready for justice.”

Bahrain’s human rights record will be under scrutiny during the next Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the United Nations Human Rights Council in mid-September, when the Gulf state will have to confirm its acceptance or rejection of 176 peer recommendations presented to it during the previous UPR session in June.

“Bahrain cannot get a free pass at the UN Human Rights Council. We urge states to tell the Bahraini authorities that today’s verdict crosses a red line, and that they can no longer be considered credible partners,” said Sahraoui.

Amnesty International also repeated its call to Bahraini authorities to order an immediate and independent investigation into allegations made by defendants during previous court hearings that they had been tortured, sexually assaulted, and otherwise ill-treated while in detention in order to coerce “confessions” from them.

Fourteen opposition activists were originally arrested in 2011 after taking part in pro-reform protests in Manama. One of the men was later released. Many have alleged they were tortured during their first few days of detention while being interrogated by officers from the National Security Agency.

Some charges against three of the defendants were dropped on September 4.

Opposition activists who were arrested include: Hassan Mshaima’, Abdelwahab Hussain, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, Mohammad Habib al-Miqdad, Abdel-Jalil al-Miqdad, Sa’eed Mirza al-Nuri, Mohammad Hassan Jawwad, Mohammad Ali Ridha Isma’il, Abdullah al-Mahroos, Abdul-Hadi Abdullah Hassan al-Mukhodher, Ebrahim Sharif, Salah Abdullah Hubail al-Khawaja.

Al-Hur Yousef al-Somaikh has since been released, having served his sentence after the Court of Cassation reduced it to six months in prison.

Other prisoners of conscience currently held in Bahrain include:

Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights is serving a three-year prison sentence for calling for and participating in ‘illegal gatherings.’ His appeal on this case is due to start on September 10.

Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, the former president of the Bahrain Teacher’s Association (BTA), is serving a ten-year prison term imposed by a military court for using his position “to call for a strike by teachers, halting the educational process and inciting hatred of the regime,” among other charges. There is no evidence proving that he used or advocated violence.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

 

Journalist who wrote about female genital mutilation (FGM) forced into hiding


Source: Gulf News | AFP

A Liberian journalist says she has been forced into hiding after lifting the lid on initiation rituals, including genital mutilation, by a secretive women’s society.

Mae Azango, a reporter with Liberian daily Front Page Africa, published a story on March 8 in which a woman recounted how when she was a child she was held down and had part of her genitalia sliced off by members of the Sande Society.

The society is an initiation school where women and girls are sent to be circumcised and groomed to be prepared for marriage, as culture and tradition demand in the west African state, Azango wrote.

Azango’s story was illustrated with pictures of initiated teenage girls emerging from the bush.

“A few days after I published the story, I received calls, anonymous calls, and women telling me that I have exposed their secret and I am going to pay the price,” Azango told AFP in an interview from a secret location. “I was only doing my job, now I am in trouble.”

Azango said the punishment for exposing the secrets of the women’s initiation society was to be forced to undergo the ritual “whether you like it or not”.

“They have been hunting for me for weeks now. They have gone to my working area, they have been going to my house, and the worst of all is that they have attempted getting my daughter to have her initiated by force,” she said.

International media organisations and NGOs have called on government to step in, a difficult task for the regime as courts have no say in the matter. “The court cannot do anything in this case. It is part of the customary law so it is beyond the control of the judiciary,” said Liberian lawyer Emmanuel Capeheart.

“It is the law of the traditional people. Once you have violated it they can deal with you and the law cannot help you. If these women get Mae, they can carry her to the bush and she will stay there the longest, no one can go there to help.”

The powerful secret societies, called Poro for men and Sande for women, are spread throughout west Africa. “Poro and Sande are responsible for supervising and regulating the sexual, social, and political conduct of all members of the wider society,” according to the book Anthropology: What Does It Mean To Be Human by Robert Lavenda and Emily Schultz.

In a chapter on west African secret societies they say top members “impersonate important supernatural figures by donning masks and performing in public”.

Girls taking part are bound to secrecy about what takes place during the initiation, making speaking about the societies extremely difficult. The woman in Azango’s article, now aged 47, was forced to undergo initiation at 13 because of a crime committed by her mother in 1976.

FGM is rampant

Azango reported that 10 of Liberia‘s 16 tribes practice female circumcision. “In Liberia, the female genital mutilation (FGM) is rampant and at the same time an open secret,” said sociologist Emmanuel Ralph.

“Almost all the tribes in Liberia are involved in this practice. I know that this could be somehow strange to the western world but this is part of the African tradition. The government is afraid of touching the interest of traditionalists.”

Information Minister Lewis Brown told AFP that the government had launched an investigation. “The government’s attention has been seriously drawn to the report of threat against Miss Mae Azango… the director of police has been instructed to protect the journalist who is daily in contact with the police.”

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is facing pressure on taboo issues such as female genital mutilation and homosexuality – especially after winning the Nobel Peace Prize last year. “We find it troubling that Liberia, boasting Africa’s first female head, remains muted on the issue engulfed in controversy,” Azango’s newspaper Front Page Africa said in an editorial.

“We hope that the debate emerging out of reporter Azango’s report will push government and society as a whole to educate the uninformed public about the dangers and risks involved.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that some 92 million girls aged 10 and above in Africa have undergone FGM, which can involve partial or total removal of the genitalia for various cultural, religious and social reasons.

Nuclear divestment: the medical case


 by Tim Wright

This week the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons launched a major study on the global financing of nuclear weapons producers. The 180-page report argues that banks, pension funds, insurance companies and asset managers should divest from companies involved in the manufacture, maintenance and modernization of nuclear forces. By investing in these companies, financial institution are in effect facilitating the build-up of nuclear arsenals and heightening the risk that these ultimate weapons of mass destruction will be used again.

The report provides details of financial transactions with 20 companies that are heavily involved in the US, British, French and Indian nuclear programs. They include BAE Systems and Babcock International in the United Kingdom, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in the United States, Thales and Safran in France, and Larsen & Toubro in India. Financial institutions invest in these companies by providing loans and purchasing shares and bonds. The report found that more than 300 financial institutions in 30 countries have substantial investments in nuclear weapons companies.

Roughly half of them are based in the United States and a third in Europe. Asian, Australian and Middle Eastern institutions are also listed in the report. The institutions most heavily involved in financing nuclear arms makers include Bank of America, BlackRock and JP Morgan Chase in the United States; BNP Paribas in France; Allianz and Deutsche Bank in Germany; Mitsubishi UJF Financial in Japan; BBVA and Banco Santander in Spain; Credit Suisse and UBS in Switzerland; and Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland in Britain.
The Humanitarian Argument

The report argues that investing in nuclear weapons producers is unethical given the catastrophic humanitarian harm that nuclear weapons cause. A single nuclear bomb dropped on a large city could kill millions of people. Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, writes in the report: “Anyone with a bank account or pension fund has the power to choose to invest his or her money ethically – in a way that does not contribute to this earth-endangering enterprise.”

The report notes that, in May 2010, the 189 parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty acknowledged, for the first time collectively, “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”. The report also draws attention to the landmark resolution on nuclear disarmament adopted by the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement in November 2011, which describes nuclear weapons as “unique in their destructive power, in the unspeakable human suffering they cause … and in the threat they pose to the environment, to future generations and indeed to the survival of humanity”.

ICAN chair Tilman Ruff argues that nuclear divestment is necessary on the basis that “nuclear weapons are the biggest threat to global health”. He says in the report that curbing investments in nuclear weapons would directly help end their production and stigmatize these most inhumane of all weapons: “A world freed from nuclear weapons is good for everyone – the business case to do the right thing and help to bring it about is compelling.”
Taking Action for Divestment

The report offers practical suggestions for ways to put pressure on financial institutions to divest, recommending that financial institutions be boycotted by the public if they refuse to do so. In today’s globalized economy, many thousands of individuals and institutions are indirectly involved – in most cases, unwittingly – in the financing of nuclear weapons companies. Any person with a bank account or pension fund has the power to choose not to invest in nuclear arms makers.

Divestment is a mechanism with which we can harness the widespread and overwhelming public opposition to nuclear weapons to achieve tangible outcomes. As South African activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu reminds us in the foreword to the report, divestment was a vital part of the successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa: “Today, the same tactic can – and must – be employed to challenge man’s most evil creation: the nuclear bomb. No one should be profiting from this terrible industry of death, which threatens us all.”

Fearless women: Sherry Rehman, Shehrbano Taseer feature on world women list


THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, Published: March 5, 2012

Pakistan Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman and daughter of slain Punjab governor Shehrbano Taseer, have featured on The Daily Beast (Newsweek) list of 150 fearless women.

The list, which does not offer any ranking, lists the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatre, Saudi women rights activist Manal al-Sharif, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman, and Oprah Winfrey.

About Rehman, The Daily Beast wrote that she had “spent her entire career pushing for human rights and free speech in of the world’s most conservative countries.” It added that while she worked with slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to author bills tackling honour killings and domestic violence. Her claim to the list – according to the Daily Beast, she braved death threats for trying to remove the death penalty in the controversial blasphemy law, even forced into a self-imposed house arrest.

On Shehrbano Taseer, the Beast wrote that she had picked up the battle standard for a progressive and secular Pakistan after the murder of her father and Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. She too, the Beast added, had been braving death threats, forging ahead unnerved with her mission to “eliminate the country’s strict blasphemy law, which are often invoked to execute religious minorities.”

The list featured 52 women form the United States including Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the US Army’s Female Engagement Team.

Nobel Peace Prize Jury Under Investigation


By Karl Ritter, Associated Press

02 February 12

The nomination deadline for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize closed Wednesday amid renewed criticism that the award committee has drifted away from the selection criteria established by prize founder Alfred Nobel.

Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Cuban rights activists Oswaldo Paya and Yoani Sanchez are among the candidates who have been publicly announced by those who nominated them.

The secretive prize committee doesn’t discuss nominations – which have to be postmarked by Feb. 1 to be valid – but stresses that being nominated doesn’t say anything about a candidate’s chances.

Its choices often spark debate – the world rarely agrees on who’s most deserving of the $1.5 million award – but this year the committee is facing criticism even before the deliberations have begun.

Stockholm’s County Administrative Board – the authority that supervises foundations and trusts in the city – has formally asked the Nobel Foundation to respond to allegations that the peace prize no longer reflects the will of Nobel, a Swedish industrialist who died in 1896.

The move comes after persistent complaints by Norwegian peace researcher Fredrik Heffermehl, who claims the original purpose of the prize was to diminish the role of military power in international relations.

“Nobel called it a prize for the champions of peace,” Heffermehl told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “And it’s indisputable that he had in mind the peace movement, the movement which is actively pursuing a new global order … where nations safely can drop national armaments.”

Since World War II, especially, the prize committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, has widened the scope of the prize to include environmental, humanitarian and other efforts.

For example, in 2007 the prize went to climate campaigner Al Gore and the U.N.’s panel on climate change, and in 2009 the committee cited President Barack Obama for “extraordinary efforts” to boost international diplomacy.

“Do you see Obama as a promoter of abolishing the military as a tool of international affairs?” Heffermehl asked rhetorically.

Nobel gave only vague guidelines for the peace prize in his 1895 will, saying it should honor “work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Geir Lundestad, the nonvoting secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, dismissed Heffermehl’s claims.

“Fighting climate change is definitely closely related to fraternity between nations. It even concerns the survival of some states,” he told AP.

Still, the county administrative board decided it was worth raising the matter with the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation, which manages the prize assets.

“We have no basis to suggest that they haven’t managed it properly. But we want to investigate it,” said Mikael Wiman, a legal expert working for the county.

The board has an obligation to make sure Nobel’s will is respected, and has the authority to suspend the foundation’s decisions, going back a maximum of three years, if they do not, Wiman said, adding that such measures were highly unlikely.

“The prize committee must always adjust its rules to today’s society,” he said. “But peace work has to be at the core – it can’t deviate too much from that,” Wiman said.

The peace prize and the other five Nobel awards are always handed out Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

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