"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Nuclear Debate

as the Irish Times sees it:

Nuclear energy 'the safest of all'

Sellafield: the Cumbrian nuclear facility remains contentious
It is time for Ireland to get real about the looming global energy crisis - that means building not just one but a cluster of nuclear power plants, argues Dr Edward Walsh

"Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media. These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources.

"We must stop fretting over the minute statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. Nearly one-third of us will die of cancer anyway, mainly because we breathe air laden with that all pervasive carcinogen, oxygen...

"By all means, let us use the small input from renewables sensibly, but only one immediately available source does not cause global warming and that is nuclear energy."

These statements are made by James Lovelock, Britain's premier environmental scientist and a founder of Greenpeace. It is echoed by Sir David King, chief scientific adviser to the UK government and supported by a range of professional and scientific bodies of high standing that have studied the facts.

continued... The Irish Times

as far as I can tell James Lovelock was not a founding member, but still an extremely influencial environmentalist.

anyway, the other side of the debate offered:

Nuclear power not an option

It rained heavily that weekend, writes Fintan O'Toole. The first indication that the radioactive cloud had reached Ireland came from an air filter sample taken in Glasnevin, Dublin, on the Saturday.

There was something in the air: iodine-131, caesium-137, caesium-134, ruthenium-103, ruthenium-106, tellurium-132, barium-140: all radioactive isotopes. There was also a small amount of plutonium. The level of caesium-137 was about 40 times higher than it had been before the cloud arrived. The rain carried these radioactive particles down into the soil, increasing tenfold the amount of radioactive caesium that was already there from nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s.

Soon, testing of milk samples was showing that there was a significant level of radioactive contamination, especially from farms in the south midlands and in the northwest. The levels of iodine-131 in milk in Ireland dropped gradually throughout May, and had virtually disappeared by the end of the month.

But contamination with caesium was still detectable as late as October. It was especially noticeable in cheese and in milk powders of the kind that is used to make baby formula.

continued... The Irish Times

and the alternative:

Ireland ignores need for renewable energy at its peril

The Government needs to shake up its act and take a serious look at alternative energy, writes Enda Kenny

Most modern alarm clocks have a feature called the snooze button. It shuts off the alarm for a few minutes and lets the sleeper snooze a while longer.

If you keep pressing the snooze button, you can stay in bed all day. When it comes to Ireland's energy policy, and especially our over-reliance on oil, this Government still has its pyjamas on.

In 2003 the price of a barrel of oil stood at around $35. Last year, and again last week, it exceeded $70. Many economists warn that the days of $100 per barrel of oil may not be too far away.

continued... The Irish Times

recommended reading at RealClimate.org

And here's an interesting journal of journeys through Chernobyl:



Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ritter on Iran

Path to Peace with Iran

By Scott Ritter

04/20/06 "Alternet" -- -- It has been more than a week now since the Iranian government announced that it had "joined the nuclear club" by successfully enriching uranium, albeit for nuclear fuel, not a weapon. Once a nation has the capacity to enrich to the former, enrichment to the latter is simply a matter of time; the technology is the same. Iran's declaration immediately made headlines around the world, with stunned punditry engaging in wild speculation about the potential ramifications of this turn of events. From a simple laboratory-scale enrichment experiment, a massive nuclear weapons program grew Pheonix-like from the ashes, prompting dire warnings from US Government officials such as Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Stephen Rademaker, who told a press conference in Moscow, where he was visiting to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue with Russian officials, that Iran "...may be capable of making a nuclear bomb within 16 days."

Rademaker was referring to the mathematical possibilities arising from Iran enriching uranium to weapons grade-levels at its centrifuge enrichment plant at Natanz, using a 50,000-centrifuge cascade system the United States and others say is capable of being installed at the facility. In a nod to the hypothetical nature of his outlandish remark, Rademaker did note that the Iranians have gone on record as only wanting to install a 3,000-centrifuge cascade at Natanz. In that case, Rademaker said, "We calculate that a 3,000-machine cascade could produce enough uranium to build a nuclear weapon within 271 days." Apparently 271 days isn't as terrifyingly sexy as 16 days, given that the majority of the media reported Rademakers initial statement.

continued... AlterNet


Thursday, April 20, 2006

What humans?

New Media Lens alert...

MEDIA ALERT: ‘You Could Kill Whoever You Wanted’

We can be sure that the better, more compassionate journalists are doing what they can to bring these horrors to the attention of a deceived British public. But the struggle is uneven - major corporate media have everything to gain from the current insane but lucrative status quo. And that status quo inevitably requires the West’s projection of military power for profits and control.

by: Medialens on: 19th Apr, 06

War Crimes And The Struggle For Truth An ancient Roman aphorism made a crucial point: “The senators are good men, but the senate is a beast.“ In the same way, no matter how deeply media corporations may be compromised by profit-orientation and links to establishment power, some journalists will always be willing to respond reasonably to criticism.

On March 30, a Media Lens reader challenged the BBC’s World Affairs Correspondent, Paul Reynolds, about his article reviewing the possibility of a US attack on Iran. Our reader, noting that Reynolds had made no mention of the illegality, or otherwise, of a US attack, asked:

“How can you find space to discuss the operational considerations of a mission but not the implication for international law?” (Darren Smith, email forwarded, March 30, 2006)Within a matter of hours, the following paragraph had been appended to Reynolds’ article on the BBC website:

"Of course, the legality of any attack would be hard to justify. The British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters this week: ‘I don't happen to believe that military action has a role to play in any event. We could not justify it under Article 51 of the UN charter which permits self defence.’” (Paul Reynolds...

continued... Media Lens


Friday, April 14, 2006

RTE facts and figures

RTE DO NOT report surveys of Iraqi civilian casualties as fact. They do however quote only selected figures from selective surveys. One would be forgiven for thinking that because they only report one figure, this is figure they have most confidence in. Strangely enough, this is one of the lowest estimates, by a huge margin. Give or take 260,000?

Dear (me),

Thank you for your recent emails and the very interesting questions that you raise.
We have discussed this matter at some length at our editorial meetings and I accept that it is a difficult problem. The fact is that a huge number of civilians have been killed in Iraq but that we have no accurate way of knowing just how large that figure is. The earlier email from our Foreign desk explained why we have quoted from Iraqbodycount.org but how it is only a baseline figure.

In general our policy is not to report on figures of this kind as a fact but to credit them to the organisations which supply them and to do so by explaining that the figures are a claim rather than an established or accepted fact,

I accept there are no easy answers to this problem. We are hoping to broadcast a report around the time of the anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein which explores the issue of why it is so difficult to get accurate and meaningful figures on the number of civilians killed in Iraq. It may not bring us any closer to a definitive figure but hopefully it will throw some light on the problem. We hope to talk to the author of the Lancet study in that report.

You have probably seen it already but I enclose the BBC webpage which deals with this issue for your information.

Yours Sincerely,

Michael Good
Managing Editor
RTE News

Dear Mr. Good,

Thank you for responding and I look forward to the report on the anniversary of the fall of Saddam.

However, as you seemed to evade the principal question I asked, I'll leave it with you again.

Is there an intrinsic quality to the Iraq war that invalidates a survey of the dead, which conducted in many other wars and countries has been perfectly acceptable?



For more information on this issue please read the links below, you may find something left unanswered by Les Roberts. Be sure to quiz him on the Congo figures too.



Sunday, April 09, 2006

Who's next?

The Iran Plans
Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb?
by: Seymour M. Hersh on: 10th Apr, 06

The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.

continued... The Global Echo from the New Yorker


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Foreign Chavs not toeing line? (again)

Update: Jon's minimalist reply:

good to hear from you again david..helpful stuff..we'll use when next with chavez in a month or tow..sorry in haste en route iraq..best, jon snow

New Media Lens alert, analyses typical fare from the liberal media when it comes to 'leftist' leaders, Channel 4 does a hatchetjob on Hugo Chavez (followed by my two cents):

On March 27, Channel 4 News included a report by Washington Correspondent Jonathan Rugman: 'Hugo to go?' (http://www.channel4.com/news)

Rugman relentlessly smeared Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, in a piece described by John Pilger as "one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen". (Email to Channel 4 News, copied to Media Lens, March 27, 2006)

Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow introduced the film:

"Now, he's the president with his own television show and a stream of semi-humorous invective hurled at America and George Bush. Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, accuses the US of planning to invade his country to take control of its vast oil reserves. And last night he invoked the ultimate deterrent - the bow and arrow dipped in Indian poison. 'If we have to put a few arrows into the invading gringo, then you'll be done in thirty seconds.'"

Continued... Media Lens

Jon and Jonathan,

It is well over a year since I have emailed you in response to, what you must consider, those pesky Media Lens Alerts, but I felt compelled to ask why Channel 4 News insists on portraying the repeatedly democratically elected South American leader Hugo Chavez as some sort of monster in the ilk of Saddam Hussein.

It's not that I don't understand the parallels you draw, he is surely a man that defies US influence and even courts controversy by offering cheap oil to poor Americans. He has met and dealt with 'unpopular' characters such as Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gadaffi. But he is not alone in this respect, your friends in government and their allies have met and in fact supported a few despots in their time. A few weapons sales here, some genocide swept under the carpet there and a little sanctuary once the courts of justice come looking. Even with that infamous picture of Mr. Rumsfeld meeting with Saddam doing the rounds on the internet, I have yet to hear an ominous voice over suggesting our dear Rummie is in danger of joining a "rogue's gallery of dictators and despots."

Why do you not draw the same parallels with our own leaders? While Chavez makes deals with communists and other 'suspicious' politicos, your own leader and the head of that other "personality cult," the eerily dubbed neo-conservatives, are busy commanding invading armies. Instead, our leaders are kindly "securing energy [as] a key foreign policy goal."

Apparently, Americans are increasingly looking towards the British media for an unbiased view of their efforts in "securing energy," it would really be swell if Channel 4 could be fair in their criticism of leaders who are "undoubtedly popular at home...spending billions on health and education programmes to improve the lives of the country's poor," while at the same time finding the same time to analyse the motives behind leaders who consistently defy public opinion in their quest to secure energy.

Yours sincerely,


IBC, the media and who died?

Iraq Body Count has been criticised of late and in my opinion the criticism has been well placed. It was instigated, I presume, by the medias increasing acceptance of IBC's figures for Iraqi deaths due to the continuing war. The failing recognised by Media Lens being that IBC have not gone to strong enough lengths to ensure their data is not abused by those that intend to downplay the victims of Western aggression and indeed reduce opposition to future conflicts.

IBC have long acknowleged their works effect on the mainstream media and are apparently quite happy with its use. They feel that their data provides an irrifuteable baseline of Iraqi deaths. Something Western governments cannot deny. In fact IBC have since, seemingly,
defended the use of their data as opposed to the much higher estimates calculated by experienced researchers such as Les Roberts, who as lead author, published a study of excess Iraqi deaths due to conflict in the peer reviewed medical journal, the Lancet.

A continuing argument as to the validity of both works is on going, here is what I have contributed:

An IBC assistant researcher wrote in response to my letter to RTE:

"A favourite lead quote for ML-derived letters to the press questioning their use of IBC data seems to be an excerpt from the Independent on Sunday:

"But IBC admits that with the increasing inability of journalists to move around and report freely, its method of monitoring civilian deaths is becoming increasingly inaccurate."

Nobody at IBC can remember ever making such an "admission" to the press, then or since. It appears that the origin of this "admission" lies somewhere between Raymond Whitaker and Richard Garfield, not with IBC. The purported admission is also now 18+ months old, so even if such an admission had occurred it would have been referring to conditions in October 2004, and not necessarily to the situation as it is now. So you need to revise this line for your emails."

I replied:

"You should write to the Independent and ask them. And of course I would be happy to alter the structure of future letters if indeed the quote is misleading. Simply writing that journalists themselves admit the restrictions imposed on them by both violence and the powers that be would suffice.

Of course, the fact journalists mobility is say lesser now than a year ago has literally +no+ effect on the studies accuracy, because the study is not a mortality study. It simply records reported deaths. Therefore if there were no English speaking reporters in Iraq, there would be no Iraqis killed. Simply put, the IBC figure can only be inaccurate if IBC fail to register every English language reported death.

The fact the Independent thinks IBC is monitoring Iraqi civilian deaths does not worry you?

The fact they think journalistic mobility effects the accuracy of this monitoring does not worry you?"

His taking issue with the use of this quote from the Independent is fundamentally baseless. The quote is used here, and in many other situations, to say what I wanted to say in a more concise way. The fact IBC have not admitted that restrictions imposed on journalists make counting all Iraqi deaths increasingly difficult is something he has instead highlighted. One must think that the more problems journalists incounter, and they have been admitting them more regularly, the less deaths get reported. This as I said does not affect IBC accuracy, because the study does not intend to count all deaths. The method they use makes this impossible.

The whole debate is here:


and the articles, or media alerts, that began the debate are here:


IBC responded by compiling a presentation of what their work is and what it aims to do here:


I feel the IBC's claim that it intends to provide a full account of all deaths is disingenuous. It intends to compile a full account of all deaths reported in the English language media and at some point use another means (census etc) to assess all deaths in excess of this figure. Its future plans, when to be implemented I don't know, are of little consequence. The cold fact remains, if an Iraqi falls in the woods and there is no English speaking journalist there to hear them, they will make no sound. The IBC faults the short term survey, because the media loses interest as its figures become outdated, whereas theirs is continually updated. However, the IBCs figures are unrepresentative of their final goal, i.e. to conduct a mortality study. They have not provided a credible explanation for the disparity between their figures and that of the Lancet.


Monday, April 03, 2006

RTE finds the Lancet "unreliable"

In response to my email:


Someone at RTE's Foreign Desk responded and then I returned the favour:

In response to your email about Iraqi death toll

Thanks for taking the time to write.

The figures used were taken from iraqbodycount.org.

However you are correct that this is only a baseline figure and that the real number is probably much

Subsequent reports have used the format- " At least (the baseline ) number of Iraqis have died...

We do not consider the Lancet report a realistic way of calculating the figures as it is based on a sample and extrapolates from this.

We appreciate that more civilians have died but with no reliable means of counting them we use the
iraqbodycount figures instead.

I don't think the audience are in any doubt that thousands of people are dying there.

Thanks again for getting in touch

Foreign Desk
Dublin 4

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for responding so quickly.

When you write, "We appreciate that more civilians have died but with no reliable means of counting them we use the IraqBodyCount figures instead," is it a case that you are using these figures because they are the "most reliable" or that the figures represent an acceptably conservative estimate of Iraqi deaths?

Since the IBC figure accounts for only a fraction of the deaths estimated by other reports, referring to it as a "baseline" is misleading. The Independent reported recently, "IBC admits that with the increasing inability of journalists to move around and report freely, its method of monitoring civilian deaths is becoming increasingly inaccurate." The IBC figure is not a baseline mortality study, it is simply a database of deaths reported by English language newspapers. The term "baseline" does not even suggest the actual extent of Iraqi deaths that go unreported. In fact Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead author of the report, published in a well respected peer reviewed scientific journal, has said that there may now be as many as 300,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.

While I can understand that you may consider "the Lancet report an unrealistic way of calculating the figures, as it is based on a sample and extrapolates from this." I feel this is, unless you are a qualified expert, an unfair and unprofessional judgement. Mr. Roberts has responded to this sort of criticism before:

"I understand that you feel that the sample was small: this is most puzzling. 142 post-invasion deaths in 988 households is a lot of deaths, and for the setting, a lot of interviews. There is no statistical doubt mortality is up, no doubt that violence is the main cause, and no doubt that the coalition forces have caused far more of these violent deaths than the insurgents (p<.0000001)."

"there are now at least 8 independent estimates of the number or rate of deaths induced by the invasion of Iraq. The source most favored by the war proponents (Iraqbodycount.org) is the lowest. Our estimate is the third from highest. Four of the estimates place the death toll above 100,000. The studies measure different things. Some are surveys, some are based on surveillance which is always incomplete in times of war. The three lowest estimates are surveillance based." [Les Roberts from Media Lens: Burying the Lancet]

It seems strange that the methodology, you refer to as "not realistic", has been found to be quite acceptable in previous conflicts. For instance, Mr. Roberts has studied mortality caused by war in several different countries, one example being the Congo. The results of this study were treated with a lot less hostility and suspicion:

"around 4 million people have died from violence and disease in the Congo over the past five years." [RTE 2003]

"It is part of a wider war held responsible for millions of deaths in Africa's third biggest country over the past five years." [RTE 2003]

"The former Zaire is struggling to recover from a wider five-year war that at one stage sucked in six neighbouring countries and, according to an international aid agency, has killed up to four million people." [RTE 2005]

"An estimated three million people, including many civilians, have been killed." [RTE 2003]

Can I ask why the figures for mortality are unreliable when it comes to Iraq, but perfectly acceptable when in reference to other war torn regions?

Thanks for your time. I look forward to your response on this important issue.


UK based media monitoring organisation Media Lens:



Les Roberts (Do Iraqi Civilian Casualties Matter?, By Les Roberts, AlterNet, February 8, 2006 - http://www.alternet.org/story/31508/ )


Sunday, April 02, 2006

White Justice

There is indeed ‘no place to hide’ in the African continent for war criminals, except you are a white one resident in South Africa.
by: Kola on: 2nd Apr, 06


Nigeria’s recent handover of the ex Liberian warlord and President, Charles Taylor, to the International war crimes court, after intense pressure from the United States has been greeted with the usual lazy banalities about there being ‘no place to hide’ for people guilty of crimes against humanity. More especially in Africa, the main stop for liberals out to burnish their consciences and conservatives eager for a bit of hypocritical bullying.

There is indeed ‘no place to hide’ in the African continent for war criminals, except you are a white one resident in South Africa.

Full Article at... the Global Echo