Iran: Young Activist Receives Lengthy Jail Sentence

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A LENGTHY prison sentence handed to a young student ­activist in Iran has raised doubts President Hassan Rowhani can deliver the political and social reforms that he promised on the campaign trail.

Maryam Shafipour has been jailed for seven years after refusing to abandon a campaign of peaceful protest. She is charged with “spreading propaganda against the system”.

Maryam Shafi’ Pour was arrested on 27 July 2013 after obeying a summons to appear before the Prosecutor’s Office at Evin Prison in Tehran.

After her arrest she spent over two months in solitary confinement, with no access to a lawyer.

On 2 March 2014, the Revolutionary Court of Tehran found her guilty of “spreading propaganda against the system”, “assembly and collusion against national security”, and “membership of the Advocacy Council for the Right to Education” which is not officially recognized by the Iranian authorities.

Judge Salvati, who sentenced Shafipour, is known by many Iranians as the Hanging Judge, or the judge of death.

He earned this title by sentencing more than a dozen protesters to death since the controversial 2009 election period when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed to have obtained over 60% of the vote, and won another term as President.

Maryam Shafipour’s conviction is a chilling reminder of how little Iran’s human rights record has changed since 2009, when students were arrested in droves during post election unrest.

A relative of Shafipour told the opposition website Kaleme that the activist had been under pressure from her interrogators to confess and had been mistreated and tortured in jail.

Her sentence has been followed by further arrests in ­recent days, a development that activists fear marks a new strategy by Tehran: to stifle dissent at home while maintaining the co-operative image fostered by Mr Rowhani abroad.

His apparent stance has raised hopes of a deal to end the crisis over Iran’s ­nuclear program.

Rather than the mass purges that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, reformists believe the judiciary will instead hand down occasional ruthless sentences like Ms Shafipour’s, to send a warning to others.

“You don’t know what your punishment might be, and that unpredictability ensures the survival of the regime,” one Tehran-based activist said.

The quiet crackdown has unsettled the legions of supporters who swept Mr Rowhani to power in last summer’s election.

“If Rowhani cannot deliver on those promises we will look at other options. He has four years to deliver and if he cannot implement change he will not be elected again,” said Farshad Gourbanpour, an activist for the President’s campaign team.

Such warnings from Mr Rowhani’s supporters barely six months into his four-year term underline the pressures on him from all sides.

Already fending off attacks by some regime hardliners, the President is also tasked with overseeing the nuclear talks, mending Tehran’s relationship with the West and rebuilding the shattered economy.

Sources close to the Rowhani camp insist his desire for reform is genuine, but say that he faces heavy resistance from conservatives.

Before his charm offensive at the UN in September, signalling Iran’s readiness to open nuclear negotiations, Mr Rowhani secu­red the release of 11 prominent political prisoners. Since then, however, prisoner releases have dried up.

One issue in particular hangs over the Rowhani administration: Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the leaders of the Green Movement during the 2009 election, have been held under house arrest for more than three years, and failure to secure their release would constitute a betrayal in the eyes of many supporters.

“For many supporters, the nuclear talks are not the priority. Releasing Mousavi and Karroubi is a key demand, we cannot just forget about it,” said Mr Gourbanpour.

Mr Rowhani also appears to be backing away from campaign promises to allow greater freedom of the press after dozens of reformist newspapers and websites were closed.

Two reformist newspapers have been closed in the months since the President took office and the Association of Iranian Journalists, which he pledged to reopen, remains banned.

Fuel Removal From Fukushima’s Reactor 4 Threatens ‘Apocalyptic’ Scenario

In November, TEPCO set to begin to remove fuel rods whose radiation matches the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs

– Andrea Germanos – Published on Thursday, October 24, 2013 by Common Dreams

An operation with potentially “apocalyptic” consequences is expected to begin in a little over two weeks from now – “as early as November 8” – at Fukushima’s damaged and sinking Reactor 4, when plant operator TEPCO will attempt to remove over 1300 spent fuel rods holding the radiation equivalent of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs from a spent fuel storage tank perched on the reactor’s upper floor.

Fukushima Reactor 4 While the Reactor 4 building itself did not suffer a meltdown, it did suffer a hydrogen explosion, is now tipping and sinking and has zero ability to withstand another seismic event.

The Japan Times explained:

To remove the rods, TEPCO has erected a 273-ton mobile crane above the building that will be operated remotely from a separate room.

[…] spent fuel rods will be pulled from the racks they are stored in and inserted one by one into a heavy steel chamber while the assemblies are still under water. Once the chamber is removed from the pool and lowered to the ground, it will be transported to another pool in an undamaged building on the site for storage.

Under normal circumstances, such an operation would take little more than three months, but TEPCO is hoping to complete the complicated task within fiscal 2014.

A chorus of voices has been sounding alarm over the never-been-done-at-this-scale plan to manually remove the 400 tons of spent fuel by TEPCO, who so far has been responsible for mishap after mishap in the ongoing crisis at the crippled nuclear plant.

Arnie Gundersen, a veteran U.S. nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, warned this summer that “They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods,” and said that “To jump to the conclusion that it is going to work just fine is quite a leap of logic.”  Paul Gunter, MD, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project with Takoma Park, Md.-based Beyond Nuclear, also sounded alarm on Thursday, telling Common Dreams in a statement that “Given the uncertainties of the condition and array of the hundreds of tons of nuclear  fuel assemblies, it will be a risky round of highly radioactive pickup sticks.”  Gundersen offered this analogy of the challenging process of removing the spent fuel rods:

If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing. […]

I suspect we’ll have more airborne releases as they try to pull the fuel out. If they pull too hard, they’ll snap the fuel. I think the racks have been distorted, the fuel has overheated — the pool boiled – and the net effect is that it’s likely some of the fuel will be stuck in there for a long, long time.

The Japan Times adds:

Removing the fuel rods is a task usually assisted by computers that know their exact location down to the nearest millimeter. Working virtually blind in a highly radioactive environment, there is a risk the crane could drop or damage one of the rods — an accident that would heap even more misery onto the Tohoku region.

As long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman explained, the

Spent fuel rods must be kept cool at all times. If exposed to air, their zirconium alloy cladding will ignite, the rods will burn and huge quantities of radiation will be emitted. Should the rods touch each other, or should they crumble into a big enough pile, an explosion is possible.

“In the worst-case scenario,” RT adds,

the pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and cause an explosion many times worse than in March 2011.

Wasserman says that the plan is so risky it requires a global take-over, an urging Gunter also shared, stating that the “dangerous task should not be left to TEPCO but quickly involve the oversight and management of independent international experts.”

Wasserman told Common Dreams that

The bring-down of the fuel rods from Fukushima Unit 4 may be the most dangerous engineering task ever undertaken.  Every indication is that TEPCO is completely incapable of doing it safely, or of reliably informing the global community as to what’s actually happening.  There is no reason to believe the Japanese government could do much better.  This is a job that should only be undertaken by a dedicated team of the world’s very best scientists and engineers, with access to all the funding that could be needed.

The potential radiation releases in this situation can only be described as apocalyptic.  The cesium alone would match the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs.  If the job is botched, radiation releases could force the evacuation of all humans from the site, and could cause electronic equipment to fail.  Humankind would be forced to stand helplessly by as billions of curies of deadly radiation pour into the air and the ocean.

As dire as Wasserman’s warning sounds, it is echoed by fallout researcher Christina Consolo, who told RT that the worst case scenario could be “a true apocalypse.” Gunter’s warning was dire as well.

“Time is of the essence as we remain concerned that another earthquake could still topple the damaged reactor building and the nuclear waste storage pond up in its attic,” he continued. “This could literally re-ignite the nuclear accident in the open atmosphere and inflame it into hemispheric proportions,” said Gunter.

Wasserman says that given the gravity of the situation, the eyes of the world should be upon Fukushima:

This is a question that transcends being anti-nuclear.  The fate of the earth is at stake here and the whole world must be watching every move at that site from now on.  With 11,000 fuel rods scattered around the place, as a ceaseless flow of contaminated water poisoning our oceans, our very survival is on the line.

The Crisis at Fukushima’s Unit 4 Demands a Global Take-Over

We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focused on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4.

Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.

Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.

The one thing certain about this crisis is that Tepco does not have the scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle it. Nor does the Japanese government. The situation demands a coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster.

Why is this so serious?

We already know that thousands of tons of heavily contaminated water are pouring through the Fukushima site, carrying a devil’s brew of long-lived poisonous isotopes into the Pacific. Tuna irradiated with fallout traceable to Fukushima have already been caught off the coast of California. We can expect far worse.

Tepco continues to pour more water onto the proximate site of three melted reactor cores it must somehow keep cool. Steam plumes indicate fission may still be going on somewhere underground. But nobody knows exactly where those cores actually are.

Much of that irradiated water now sits in roughly a thousand huge but fragile tanks that have been quickly assembled and strewn around the site. Many are already leaking. All could shatter in the next earthquake, releasing thousands of tons of permanent poisons into the Pacific. (Note: A relatively small earthquake struck Fukushima prefecture on Thursday, an indication of the inevitable occurrence of larger future ones in the area.)

The water flowing through the site is also undermining the remnant structures at Fukushima, including the one supporting the fuel pool at Unit Four.

More than 6,000 fuel assemblies now sit in a common pool just 50 meters from Unit Four. Some contain plutonium. The pool has no containment over it. It’s vulnerable to loss of coolant, the collapse of a nearby building, another earthquake, another tsunami and more.

Overall, more than 11,000 fuel assemblies are scattered around the Fukushima site. According to long-time expert and former Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, there is more than 85 times as much lethal cesium on site as was released at Chernobyl.

Radioactive hot spots continue to be found around Japan. There are indications of heightened rates of thyroid damage among local children.

The immediate bottom line is that those fuel rods must somehow come safely out of the Unit Four fuel pool as soon as possible.

Just prior to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that shattered the Fukushima site, the core of Unit Four was removed for routine maintenance and refueling. Like some two dozen reactors in the US and too many more around the world, the General Electric-designed pool into which that core now sits is 100 feet in the air.

Spent fuel must somehow be kept under water. It’s clad in zirconium alloy which will spontaneously ignite when exposed to air. Long used in flash bulbs for cameras, zirconium burns with an extremely bright hot flame.

Each uncovered rod emits enough radiation to kill someone standing nearby in a matter of minutes. A conflagration could force all personnel to flee the site and render electronic machinery unworkable.

According to Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with forty years in an industry for which he once manufactured fuel rods, the ones in the Unit 4 core are bent, damaged and embrittled to the point of crumbling. Cameras have shown troubling quantities of debris in the fuel pool, which itself is damaged.

The engineering and scientific barriers to emptying the Unit Four fuel pool are unique and daunting, says Gundersen. But it must be done to 100% perfection.

Should the attempt fail, the rods could be exposed to air and catch fire, releasing horrific quantities of radiation into the atmosphere. The pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and possibly explode. The resulting radioactive cloud would threaten the health and safety of all us.

Chernobyl’s first 1986 fallout reached California within ten days. Fukushima’s in 2011 arrived in less than a week. A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries.

Former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

Neither Tokyo Electric nor the government of Japan can go this alone. There is no excuse for deploying anything less than a coordinated team of the planet’s best scientists and engineers.

We have two months or less to act.

For now, we are petitioning the United Nations and President Obama to mobilize the global scientific and engineering community to take charge at Fukushima and the job of moving these fuel rods to safety.

If you have a better idea, please follow it. But do something and do it now.

The clock is ticking. The hand of global nuclear disaster is painfully close to midnight.

Harvey Wasserman

Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.progressiveradionetwork.com, and he edits www.nukefree.org. Harvey Wasserman’s History of the US and Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth are at www.harveywasserman.com along with Passions of the PotSmoking Patriots by “Thomas Paine.”  He and Bob Fitrakis have co-authored four books on election protection, including How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election, at www.freepress.org.

THE G SPOT

Yep there we go I did it…. making cheap sexual references to make the show more popular….  really this show has not much to do with sex but is all about G. G in the Anarchist/Activist Dictionary.

G is for Gentrification, Global Warming, Greenwashing (Tasmania’s Forests) and Gender.

LISTEN HERE

DOWNLOAD FROM RADIO4ALL

Today I would like to suggest you spend some time outside… to connect or maybe reconnect with nature.

Many studies have shown sigificant health benefits from exposure to nature…. a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression and an  increase in energy, fitness, immune functioning and vitamin D intake.

You don’t need to go on a major journey to experience the benefits of nature… Living in inner city Brisbane I have learnt to appreciate the wildlife around me birds, possums, bats, frogs, ants, bugs, grashoppers, trees, shrubs, vines, and grass.

Especially good areas for finding wild nature are abandoned houses and buldings or building sites…. take a walk around yuor neighbourhood and see what you can find.

You can bring nature into yr house too… house plants improve air quality by up to 90%, you could even grow herbs in sunny areas and window sills.

Anyway moving on to what’s on today’s show … we’re going to be looking a G in the Anarchist Alphabet and speaking with Stil Wild Still Threatened’s Miranda Gibson about the Tasmanian Forrest Agreements Bill which includes a clause which holds areas of forest up as ransom as a way of silencing dissent.

The fight to save Tasmania’s rainforests has been on going for years… these forests are magnificant … massive trees stand in these forests trees which are hundreds and also thousands of years old…. unique and threatened wildlife is also found in these forests including Tasmanian Devils, Spotted Quolls and Tasmanian White Goshawks.

These natural wonders don’t mean much to the forestry industry though… to them the forests mean money and really old trees are really big and worth lots of money once harvested.

In late April a big announcement was made of the signing of the Tasmania Forest agreement Bill… The Wilderness Society, Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Tasmania were the environmental groups who signed the deal.

As is often the case these days these groups have made a deal they call it a comprise which grassroots environment groups like Still Wild Still Threatened say does not provide long term protection for the forests

The most concerning part of the Bill though is a ‘durability’ clause which means if there are any  “substantial” forest protest against ongoing logging between now and October next year areas of forest which were going to be protected will be opened up to logging.

To find out more about the Forest Deal Wave and I spoke to Still Wild Still Threatened‘s Miranda Gibson ….

Music

Bedding Music – Unisonic Ascension

Steve B.I.K.O – Worlds on Fire

Ryan Harvey – Gentrification

The Living End – All Torn Down

Bobby “Boris” Pickett – Climate Mash

Expose Exxon Campaign – Toast the Earth

Remember Me Feral – Resistance

Zach De La Rouda – Rewild or Die

Resident Anti-Hero – Come Rescue Me

Jandy Rainbow – G it Never Ends

Brisbane Rally for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament – Iraq 10 yrs On.

Volunteers held pictures from the Children of the Iraq War exhibit behind Donna Mulhearn as she spoke.
Volunteers held pictures from the Children of the Iraq War exhibit behind Donna Mulhearn as she spoke.

The Rally for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament is held in various locations around Australia on Palm Sunday – the Sunday before Easter in the Christian tradition.

This year Palm Sunday fell on March 24 and the rally in Brisbane was held at Redacliffe Place in the city.

On this episode of Autonomous Action Radio we will hear live recordings of speakers at the event.

Listen Here

 

Download from Radio4all (right click the orange arrow)

This year preparations for the rally were disrupted when the Brisbane City Council notified organiser Joan Shears OAM that amplification was not allowed at the event.

Amplification of the event proceeded as usual after the Rally for Peace and Disarmament Committee disputed the BCC’s ban on amplification.

Ms Shears says she is pleased with how the event turned out.

‘”Although numbers were not as high as in the past we had four excellent speakers and the people who attended engaged well with the event.”

We start off today’s show with Wave speaking about the history of the event followed by an interview with Committee member Greg Brown who was instrumental in forcing the BCC to  overturn their decision regarding the use of amplification at the rally.

Friends of the Earth Campaigner Robin Taubenfeld was the MC of the event she also spoke about the dangers Queensland is about to face now that Premier Campbell Newman and the LNP have overturned the ban on Uranium Mining in this state.

We will hear from her in future episodes especially as the campaign against uranium mining in Queensland heats up.

The 3 other speakers at the event were Peace Activist Donna Mulhearn, Electrical Trade Union State Organiser Scott Reichman and Refugee Advocate Frederika Steen.

Dermot Dorgan sang some songs.
Dermot Dorgan sang some songs.
Rally attendees listen attentively to Dermot's political songs
Rally attendees listen attentively to Dermot’s political songs
Robin Taubenfeld from Nuclear Free Queensland/Friends of the Earth was also the MC for the rally.
Robin Taubenfeld from Nuclear Free Queensland/Friends of the Earth was also the MC for the rally.

No Nukes

Children of the Iraq War Exhibit displayed at RPND
Children of the Iraq War Exhibit displayed at RPND
Robin Taubenfeld,  Joan Shears and Greg Brown (left to right foreground) were the 3 main orgainsers of the event.
Robin Taubenfeld, Joan Shears and Greg Brown (left to right foreground) were the 3 main orgainsers of the event.

The Dangers of Uranium Mining in Queensland and Planned Resistance

With the announcement the Campbell Newman lead LNP State Government would allow uranium mining to recommence it’s interesting to look at the history the uranium industry has had in Queensland.

Autonomous Action Radio’s Wave Beach spoke to Dr Jim Green click here to listen.

Or download for rebroadcast.

AAradio also spoke to Queensland Nuclear Free Alliance spokesperson Robin Taubenfeld about an action which was held on Monday outside the Executive building in Brisbane.

Robin speaks about the colorful action which was attended by up to 50 people and also about other actions which are planned for the near future.

Click here to listen on the 4zzz website.

Queensland Government ought to Red-light Yellowcake

Queensland Government ought to Red-light Yellowcake
The nuclear debate is really hotting up in Queensland and Australia. Following the announcement on Monday that the Newman government will now allow uranium mining Senator Barnaby Joyce has gone all the way and suggested Australia should embrace nuclear power.
He is quoted in a random mainstream paper as saying “If we are fair dinkum about reducing carbon emissions, and we want to have a minimum carbon emission form of power, then uranium is where it’s going to be”.
Below is an article from Friends of the Earth Nuclear campaigner Dr Jim Green addressing the decision the mine uranium in Queensland and the dangers there of.
If you read this and still think nuclear power is a safe solution to climate change stay tuned for a follow up article on why nuclear energy is not the solution to climate change.
 
Inside Olympic Dam
A photo from a spy camera inside Olympic Dam Uranium Mine

The Queensland Government is unwise to reverse the ban against uranium mining and there is no stronger reason than the industry’s sordid track record in the state.

French company Minatome undertook trial mining at Ben Lomond, near Townsville, in the early 1980s. Federal MP Bob Katter spoke at length about Ben Lomond in Parliament on 1 November 2005. He noted that Minatome initially denied reports of a radioactive spill, but then changed its story and claimed that the spill posed no risk and did not reach the water system from which 210,000 people drank.

Bob Katter takes up the story:

“For the next two or three weeks they held out with that story. Further evidence was produced in which they admitted that it had been a dangerous level. Yes, it was about 10,000 times higher than what the health agencies in Australia regarded as an acceptable level. After six weeks, we got rid of lie number two. I think it was at about week 8 or week 12 when, as a state member of parliament, I insisted upon going up to the site. Just before I went up to the site, the company admitted − remember, it was not just the company but also the agency set up by the government to protect us who were telling lies − that the spill had reached the creek which ran into the Burdekin River, which provided the drinking water for 210,000 people. We had been told three sets of lies over a period of three months.”

Queensland’s other misadventure with uranium was the Mary Kathleen mine in western Queensland. In the mid-1970s, a whistleblower from Mary Kathleen Uranium Mining Pty. Ltd. leaked documents which revealed the existence of a global uranium cartel leading to protracted international scandals and fines totalling hundreds of millions of dollars.

The leaked documents also revealed evidence of shoddy environmental practices at Mary Kathleen; close surveillance of environmental organisations; the close relationship between ACTU President Bob Hawke and the chairman of uranium miner Conzinc Riotinto Australia; and advice from government officials about how companies could circumvent non-proliferation treaties in order to sell uranium to countries that had not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

One million litres of radioactive liquid were released in February 1984 from Mary Kathleen’s evaporation ponds during a wet spell. Even now, 30 years after the mine’s closure, there is ongoing seepage of saline, metal and radionuclide-rich waters from tailings, as well as low-level uptake of heavy metals and radionuclides into vegetation.

Bob Katter’s son, state MP Rob Katter, claims that uranium mining represents a potential $20 billion export industry for Queensland which could generate 2600 jobs. The simple facts are that uranium accounts for just 0.2 percent of Australia’s export revenue ($610 million in 2010−11) and less than 0.02 percent of Australian jobs (1760 jobs including mining, exploration and regulation). Queensland is home to just 3% of Australia’s uranium resources.

Rob Katter claims that Queenslanders support uranium mining but he provides no evidence. The latest poll was taken in 2008 and it found that 47 percent of Queenslanders oppose uranium mining compared to 45 precent in support. Two-thirds of Queenslanders oppose uranium sales to nuclear weapons states. A majority of Australians believe that the ‘safeguards’ system, which aims to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation, is ineffective.

Before the last state election, the Queensland Liberal National Party said it had no intention of reversing the ban against uranium mining. Campbell Newman’s LNP Government ought to take its new position to the next state election. Better still, a referendum could be held on the question of uranium mining when Queenslanders next go to the polls.

The uranium industry has no capacity to deliver serious economic benefits to Queensland but, if given the chance, it will create more long-term environmental and public health hazards such as Ben Lomond and Mary Kathleen.

Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia and lead researcher with the australianmap.net project.