Monday, 26 October 2015

Human rights and government collusion.

Britain used to be a place considered to have principles...For anyone abroad who is appalled by our present government's obsession with nuclear power and nuclear weapons at any cost, especially human, I can only add that I am also appalled at the government's decision to ask for Chinese involvement in designing and building new plants... and so are a lot of other people.
According to Amnesty International, since July there has been a crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists in China. The state of affairs on October 13th was, to the best of their knowledge,  248  lawyers and activists targeted, of whom 28 were still missing or in police custody. (1)
One of those interviewed by the police has also now been "placed under residential surveillance as part of a wider crackdown on activists who are resisting the removal of crosses from churches." Residential surveillance at a designated place is nothing like house is far worse (2) and (3).
Prisoners of conscience... such as some Christians, members of Falun Gong (a banned religious practice in China) Tibetans, Uighurs and other vulnerable people, may also face death.
Chinese officials announced  that there would be an end to the unethical organ harvesting from executed prisoners by January 2015, but the prisoners of conscience were excluded from the announcement.
DAFOH, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, have considerable evidence about this crime. To quote from their website:
 "In 2006, first witnesses and then the Kilgour & Matas Report alleged that organs were harvested from living prisoners of conscience, mostly from detained Falun Gong practitioners. The data suggest that organ procurement was “on demand” because organs were harvested without acceptable consent and the donors were killed in the process."
 The last sentence..."the donors were killed in the process." means exactly what it says and the crime has been practiced on a massive scale.
If you are so minded, you can join over two million people who have signed the petition to the UN calling for an end to this murder.   The closing date for the petition this year is November 30th.


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Dump it in the sea and hope no one notices - but what if they find out?

It comes to something when a film which is made about the waters surrounding the United Kingdom is shown on German television, French television, but not on English television.
What have they got to hide in this country... and where have they hidden it?
The film, entitled "Radioactive waste: dumped and forgotten" is being shown at the International Uranium Film Festival in Berlin tonight. It was directed by Thomas Reutter and Manfred Ladwig and is an Arte, SWR, German, production. It looks at our legacy of nuclear waste dumped in the sea, and the effects on the health of people living on the local coasts and the practice of pumping nuclear waste through pipes out to sea.
This is a powerful documentary and it can, fortunately, still be seen on YouTube.  The link is to the English version and I cannot recommend it too highly.
I hope it will continue on tour with the Uranium Film Festival.  These are facts which should be known, not buried.  This is history which is not just in the past; we are living it today and so, especially, are the children.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Man Who Saved The World...Well, yes, he probably did!

 On a September night, over thirty years ago, most people in the world were completely unaware that one man had probably saved them from a nuclear war.
It came at the height of the cold war, when the USSR had recently shot down a South Korean passenger aircraft, carrying 269 people, after it had strayed into Soviet territory and both sides were on the alert for a nuclear attack.
The man is Stanislav Petrov and he was a lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defence Forces. He was the duty officer that night at the command centre for the Oko nuclear early warning system, when the computer showed one, and then another four missiles being launched from the USA.
The protocol he had written himself stated that he had to inform the Commander in Chief ...but he waited .. he weighed up the probabilities and the terrible consequences, and sent the message that it was a system error.
What had happened?
Sunlight had been in a rare alignment with high-altitude clouds and the warning satellites' Molniya orbits. It had been a false alarm.
He probably prevented a retaliatory nuclear attack on the USA and its NATO allies that could have resulted in nuclear war.
In the 1990s, his actions became known internationally and he was later honoured with the UN world citizen and other awards in the USA and Germany.
 A  narrative feature and documentary film was made about the incident and about his life, including his trip to the USA , where he met Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro and Matt Damon who star in the film.
 He comes across as someone who loves, who is vulnerable, and above all, who thinks for himself.  Perhaps that is why he is "The Man Who Saved The World."
The film is the first to be shown at the Uranium Film Festival in Berlin, which is being held from  September 24th-30th.
There is a second film of the same event, in Russian and with English subtitles, and entitled "The Red Button." which is being shown on September 25th. This has already won a best feature film award at another Uranium Film Festival screening. It also discusses the repercussions of the event.
 The programme of all the varied films which will be shown at the festival makes compelling reading, even if you can't get to Berlin!  These are the films that governments would often rather you didn't see. They are by people who have looked at the problems caused by the nuclear industry from very different angles. Some of the films are lyrical and moving, some are startlingly factual; they all contribute to our awareness of the extent of the problems.
Incidentally, September 26th was the date 32 years ago when Stanislav Petrov made that decision... since then there have been  more close calls.
September 26th is also the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.  It can't come soon enough.

Other sources:

Monday, 13 July 2015

International Uranium Film Festival 16th and 17th July in Rio de Janeiro. Clips online.

 Nearly 50 years ago, two American planes collided over Palomares,  Almeria - Spain causing four H bombs to fall to earth.  Two of them exploded their conventional charge and due to the strong wind  radioactive material was scattered all over the region. The material was apparently several kilograms of plutonium.
 A film called "Broken Arrow. Nuclear Accident in Palomares" is being shown at The International Uranium Festival, which takes place in Rio de Janeiro on 16th and 17th July.
"Broken arrow" is a US military term used for an accidental event that involves nuclear weapons, warheads, or components, but which does not create the risk of nuclear war, according to Wiki. Well that's good to know!
The festival is showing some brilliant short animations and clips which can be seen online..."After The Day After"  by Nathan Metz is one.. I must admit, I really liked "Beloved Sun" about a firefly who falls in love with the sun...but the variety and artistry of the films amazes me.
The sheer nonsense of safety of nuclear power plants for surrounding populations is highlighted in "The Plan?" showing a down to earth series of interviews with people living within 10 miles of Indian Point, the ageing nuclear power plant which sits 35 miles north of New York City. What are they told to do in an emergency?  Go to the special bus stop and wait for the bus..I'm not joking.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Don't get sucked in - A deadly silence.

When we were very young, we were taken as a Christmas treat to a pantomime.  Part of the show usually had a scene where the hero or heroine had just chased away a bad character and had resumed the story.  They then faced the audience and said "You'll let me know if they come back again, won't you?"
Charged with this unusual and fearsome responsibility, when the baddie reappeared, the kids would be sitting on the edge of their seats shouting "Look behind you!" 
The hero or heroine would pretend not to hear until the volume became huge, by which time the baddie had disappeared, and when they looked round, they came back to face the kids with "I can't see anyone!" and got on with the story.
The baddie would reappear, this time to the left or right, and the same farce would be played with the kids getting more and more frustrated at the adult stupidity, the hero or heroine turning round a second after the baddie had adroitly skipped sides and the kids had been shouting their lungs out, "He's on the left." Even to the smallest child, it surely seemed complicit.
Well, today is World Oceans Day, and I am just as frustrated as I was then as a small child. You can join any number of worthy organisations to protest against over fishing of the seas and plastic polution...and quite rightly so...  You can protest with The Pew Charitable Trusts, become a wave maker with Oceana, or a Seachampion with the Marine Conservation Society in the UK. If you are a famous film star you might be invited to take all your clothes off and be photographed nuzzling up to a dead fish by the Fishlove Campaign .
Now I might be wrong, and if I am, I apologise, but as far as I can see, there is not a word there, I mean seriously, not a word, about the millions and millions and millions of fish eggs and fish and other small marine animals killed annually by the once-through cooling systems of nuclear power plants. Not a word.
On behalf of the fish I would like to take the stage, and before I am hauled down for spoiling the show, give you some facts.
According to the Sierra Club,
 "A single power plant can obliterate billions of fish eggs and larvae and millions of adult fish in a single year," They produced a very readable, long, document, "Giant Fishblenders:How power plants kill fish and damage our waterways (and what can be done to stop them)."
and there is a very short, thought provoking piece written in 2008 about work done by Dr. Peter Henderson.
He mentions Dungeness Nuclear Power Station in the U.K. where outfall pipes have become clogged with dead fish. “We are talking as many as 250 million fish in as little as five hours,” Dr. Henderson said. This is the link and there are more detailed ones below the blog. 
What happens is this: Fish and animals that are sucked in, which are too big to go through the filter screens, are smashed and mutilated when they come up against the screens. It's known as impingement. Fish, other little animals, larvae, and millions of eggs, which are small enough to go through the 1cm mesh screens, go through the cooling pipes and according to Dr. Henderson, many die after being heated to 30 C, chlorinated and given small doses of radiation. This process of going through the cooling pipes is called entrainment.
In the Southern Region of the North Sea the calculated mortality of eggs and young for sole was so high that it had been equal to 46% of commercial fishing, Herring mortality off parts of the East Coast of the U.K. was 50% of commercial landings. 

As I understand it, any power plants that use water for once-through cooling, cause problems, but nuclear power plants pull in huge amounts of water.
If you wonder what it's like to be entrained, there is a graphic description in another really excellent document, "Licensed to Kill" by NIRS.. "How the nuclear power industry  destroys endangered marine wildlife and ocean habitat to save money." A diver called Bill Lamm suffered nightmarish and life threatening entrainment in the St. Lucie nuclear power plant in Florida  in 1989 (See page 34)
It's the sort of stuff disaster movies are made out of. 
For some of the fish around Fukushima, a different disaster movie is already happening and if this seems far away, don't forget that in Europe the nuclear power industry is allowed to discharge nuclear waste into the sea, by building kilometres of underwater pipes through which radioactive effluent now flows freely into the sea; something which would be banned if this same waste was in containers! Links:  and 
 So who will join me on stage and shout "Look behind you!" before it's all too late and the lights go out on the last fish? 


Monday, 18 May 2015

Trident.... Tried and found wanting.

Several committed people from the UK are bravely rocking the boat this week, and the boat just happens to be Trident. One is William McNeilly, a whistle blower who  has been serving on HMS Victorious, one of the Royal Navy's four nuclear submarines.  "I am a Strategic Weapons Systems engineer who has sacrificed everything to tell the public how close it is to a nuclear catastrophe."
A short account of security and safety issues recorded by him  can be found at the Nuclear Information Service.  
The article is entitled  'Submariner: Trident is “so broken it can't even do the tests that prove it works”
It's certainly worth reading. He expects to go to prison for making this public.  Incidentally, the original post that he wrote at Scribd  has now been deleted.
The other protesters will go on trial today, following their arrest last year for blocking the gate of Devonport Docks, where the nuclear fleet is serviced. 
They are Theo Simon and Nicki Clarke.  I was privileged to  hear Nicki give a speech at the rally commemorating the fourth anniversary of the disaster at Fukushima, outside  Parliament, earlier this year.  These are people who protest because they care.
Theo explains in his blog that he has been charged with 'interrupting the  "lawful" work on the HMS Vengeance Submarine.' and continues:
'My position is that it is the government who are breaking an international treaty by upgrading Britain’s nuclear arsenal, and that work on maintaining a nuclear weapons systems is itself unlawful.
At my trial three expert witnesses will testify on international humanitarian law, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the threat that holding nuclear weapons poses to our security and safety in the southwest. Because it is an indiscriminate “Weapon of Mass destruction”, the Trident warheads could never be fired without committing a crime against humanity, as set out by the International Court of Justice.'
You can find the rest of his post at Theo's blog:
 Theo has some kind back up from his neighbour, Michael Eavis, dairy farmer and founder of the Glastonbury Festival, who has offered to help with his costs if he loses the case in court. Michael Eavis has been a life-long opponent of nuclear weapons and Glastonbury Festival has showcased the anti-nuclear cause since its beginning.
Maybe the voice of reason is beginning to be heard, and maybe the tide is turning.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

A spoon

Usually I'm writing about issues, but just for once, tonight I want to write about some of the lovely things my friends do, as well.

It was a spoon, a hand carved pale wooden tasting spoon, the dark rings in the middle of the bowl created by the sapwood going over into the heartwood. At the far end, the finger groove had been carved to allow perfect hand balance when you lifted it.

About six inches of pale English wood, a surprise present from my good friend, Michael Smith, it might not seem much, but there was so much more to it.
Michael's alias is Veshengro, which is is Romany for "man of the woods", woodsman, or forester.  He writes a blog using that name at Green (Living) Review. He has a written book about woodland management, full of interesting facts, and a guide to reusing and upcycling trash, called "Let's Talk Rubbish". Michael is also the brains behind Reuse Central, a collection of ingenious upcycling ideas on Facebook and he works full time... I've never been too sure how he does it all.
I asked Michael how long it took him to make a spoon like this and he replied that they take between two to four hours, all told, to make, at least...
 He wasn't sure exactly what kind of wood he had made it out of, having already sent it to me, but he thought it was probably Serviceberry or Ash.  Serviceberry wood is very strong and Ash is very resilient. I had wondered if it was Sycamore, because of its pale lustre.
The point is, that this wood hadn't been discarded or burned, but turned into something beautiful which I shall treasure and use for the rest of my life and hopefully it will still be in use a generation or so later. All the while it survives, some of the carbon dioxide the tree took in while it was growing will be locked in there.
This is a picture of a sample eating spoon that Michael made for himself. It's carved out of Hazel wood. I really like it and he is going to make a couple for me, soon. They will probably be made from Alder wood.

Another of my friends, Reg Mabbett, also makes thumb sticks from coppiced hazel wood.  The handle of the stick on the right is a traditional design... and the left hand one is a joke on the name, but very good to hold as well.

Carved handles of Reg's sticks
  According to Michael, a properly managed coppiced stool can live for several thousand years, way outliving a single standard tree.
The woods live on if they are properly cared for and aren't destroyed by politicians and developers. Our most treasured woods go back centuries. Ancient woodland in England is woodland that has existed since 1600 AD and some ancient woods may link back to the woods that covered the UK around 10,000 years ago.  Only around two percent of the land area of the UK is covered by ancient woodland and whole communities of animals and plants live there. These woods can be beautiful and peaceful places for everyone to visit.  It only takes weeks for modern machinery to completely destroy them and they needs protecting, especially now. We need the trees as much as they need us!
This reminds me,  if anyone wants to buy one of Michael's spoons, he can be contacted at Green (Living) Review.  I don't have any idea how much he charges for them as mine was a present, but I'm sure he'd be happy to let you know.

Information about ancient woodland and campaigns taken from the Woodland Trust.

Declared interest:  Michael once wrote a very kind review of one of my books..and that's how we became friends.