Jan 11

Ministers tell servicemen who witnessed 1950s test explosions they should have claimed years ago

Barry Hands was on Christmas Island in the 1950's and witnessed Britain's first H-bomb (above)
Barry Hands was on Christmas Island in the 1950’s and witnessed Britain’s first H-bomb (above)

Ministers have been accused of blocking compensation claims brought by hundreds of nuclear test veterans who believe they developed cancers and other illnesses after being forced to witness atomic bomb experiments in the 1950s and ’60s.

Despite pay-outs to former servicemen in the US, France and China, Britain has told its veterans there is no case for offering compensation, and that there is no scientific justification for a full investigation into birth defects suffered by the veterans’ children and grandchildren.

Instead, the Government is relying on studies carried out on the Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which failed to establish a link to illnesses found among survivors and their families.

This refusal fully to investigate the human legacy of Britain’s nuclear weapons test programme has come as a blow to the airmen, soldiers and sailors who stood on Pacific island beaches in the late 1950s watching nuclear explosions while wearing little more than shorts and sandals.

Ministers are also defending a legal claim brought by 1,000 British and overseas nuclear veterans and their families on the grounds that the case is time-barred. Ministry of Defence lawyers will go to the High Court next week to argue that the men, who could be entitled to hundreds of millions of pounds, should have brought the case as soon as they knew they had a claim, rather than waiting more than 40 years to start litigation. The Government will also say that the medical evidence does not support the veterans’ claims of cancers linked to their time in the South Pacific.

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Nov 21

The White House, announcing the meeting with Mr Olmert, gave little indication that Tehran’s nuclear ambitions would be at the top of the agenda

President Bush is to hold White House talks with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday after publication of a nuclear watchdog’s report this week showing that Iran may have stockpiled enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency believes that Iran has amassed 630kg of low enriched (=useless) uranium, up from 480kg in late August. Some experts believe this is enough to produce the weapons-grade material needed for a crude nuclear device similar in size to that which America used to destroy the city of Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War.

Sean McCormack, the US State Department spokesman, said: “It’s concerning. This is a matter that will be taken up next week at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting.” Asked if Tehran now had sufficient material to build a bomb, he suggested that there were different opinions. “Some said it was enough; others said it was not enough, but close,” said Mr McCormack. “In any case, you don’t want Iran to get close.”

In its report, the IAEA said that Iran was working hard roughly to double its number of operating centrifuges. European diplomats say that Iran might have 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium by the end of the year – and plans to install another 3,000 early next year.

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Sep 15

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has blocked a U.N. inquiry into whether it researched ways to make a nuclear bomb, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Monday, as Britain said it would push hard for tougher sanctions against Tehran.

A confidential IAEA report said Iran had raised the number of centrifuges enriching uranium by 500 to 3,820 since May and was stepping up development of an advanced model able to refine nuclear fuel 2-3 times faster, in defiance of U.N. resolutions.

But a senior U.N. official familiar with the International Atomic Energy Agency findings said Iran seemed a good two years away from enriching enough uranium for an atomic weapon, if it eventually chose to do so.

Iran denies its nuclear work is aimed at developing a bomb.

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Jul 19

War really is getting more like a video game, as hardware and software from the gaming industry is increasingly being adopted for military use. The latest sign of this appeared at the Farnborough air show this week, where arms-maker Raytheon showed off its new Universal Control System for robotic aicraft. It’s based on the same technology that drives Halo and Splinter Cell:

“Gaming companies have spent millions to develop user-friendly graphic interfaces, so why not put them to work on UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles]?” says Mark Bigham, business development director for Raytheon’s tactical intelligence systems. “The video-game industry always will outspend the military on improving human-computer interaction.”

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Jun 26

OK, maybe the headline is a little misleading, but let me explain.

You’ve probably seen polls out this week that show Barack Obama opening up a lead in the race for the White House, quite possibly as large as double digits. That could change quickly — Michael Dukakis’ 17-point lead over George H.W. Bush in 1988 is now the stuff of legend — but with gas prices rising toward $5-a-gallon and Americans’ homes now worth less than they were 3 1/2 years ago, the GOP and the White House is well aware that there are big problems looming in November.

Which means only one thing.

We — or at least our closest regional ally, Israel — need to start a war with Iran! Pronto! As in, before January 20, 2009. For all the talk over the last generation of an “October surprise” in an American election, we’ve arguably never had one before. But things could be different this time in around.

I noted here recently that I’ve been avoiding some recent scare stories about planned military attacks on Iran’s incipient nuclear program, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I believe that while Dick Cheney clearly wants to strike Tehran, there are also now saner people within the Bush administration, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and many of the top Pentagon brass. And those recent reports have come from sources that have mixed credibility in my mind, Rupert Murdoch’s British papers and the Israeli press.

But this story comes from CBS News, and it’s alarming. There a new factor that’s been tossed into the mix, and has given Israeli leaders and the Cheney faction new life on the issue.

It’s “President Barack Obama.”

CBS consultant Michael Oren says Israel doesn’t want to wait for a new administration.

“The Israelis have been assured by the Bush administration that the Bush administration will not allow Iran to nuclearize,” Oren said. “Israelis are uncertain about what would be the policies of the next administration vis-à-vis Iran.”

Israel’s message is simple: If you don’t, we will. Israel held a dress rehearsal for a strike earlier this month, but military analysts say Israel can not do it alone.

“Keep in mind that Israel does not have strategic bombers,” Oren said. “The Israeli Air Force is not the American Air Force. Israel can not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program.”

The U.S. with its stealth bombers and cruise missiles has a much greater capability. Vice President Cheney is said to favor a strike, but both Mullen and Defense Secretary Gates are opposed to an attack which could touch off a third war in the region.

Mullen is Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who left last night to meet with the Israelis. To be sure, Americans — including Obama, of course — and much of the rest of the world don’t want Iran to develop nuclear weapons; the nuclear club already has too many members. In fact, my sense after watching Obama’s recent speech to AIPAC is that his stance on that is tougher than people give him credit for. There are still positive memories of how Israel in a down-and-dirty 1981 airstrike was able to destroy a Saddam Hussein nuclear start-up in Iraq.

But this isn’t 1981. Tehran learned from Baghdad’s mistake — it’s nuclear start-up facilities are a lot better protected, and it would be hard to successfully strike them without significant civilian casualties, especially if, heaven forbid, tactical nuclear bombs were needed to reach them.

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Jun 01

(NaturalNews) The use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by the U.S. military may lead to a death toll far higher than that from the nuclear bombs dropped at the end of World War II.

DU is a waste product of uranium enrichment, containing approximately one-third the radioactive isotopes of naturally occurring uranium. Because of its high density, it is used in armor- or tank-piercing ammunition. It has been fired by the U.S. and British militaries in the two Iraq wars and in Afghanistan, as well as by NATO forces in Kosovo and the Israeli military in Lebanon and Palestine.

Inhaled or ingested DU particles are highly toxic, and DU has been classified as an illegal weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority has estimated that 50 tons of DU dust from the first Gulf War could lead to 500,000 cancer deaths by the year 2000. To date, a total of 2,000 tons have been generated in the Middle East.

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May 17
Click on image to view higher resolution
Nuclear bombs in Asia at the time of the Taiwan Strait crisis are listed (red box) in this Strategic Air Command document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Thanks to the efforts of Bill Burr at the National Security Archive, some of the veil covering U.S. nuclear war planning against China in the 1958 Taiwan Strait crisis now has been lifted by a declassified military study.

It shows that on the day after the Chinese began shelling the Quemoy islands on August 23, 1958, U.S. Air Force Headquarters apparently assured Pacific Air Forces “that, assuming presidential approval, any Communist assault upon the offshore islands would trigger immediate nuclear retaliation.” Yet President Dwight D. Eisenhower fortunately rejected the use of nuclear weapons immediately, even if China invaded the islands, and emphasized that under no circumstances would these weapons be used without his approval.

Caution against nuclear use didn’t mean not planning for it, however, and in the years after the Taiwan Strait crisis an enormous nuclear build-up occurred in the Far East. The numbers started to decline in the 1970s, and for a period during the 1980s and first half of the 1990s, nuclear planning against China was reduced to reserve force contingencies. In the past decade, however, China has again become a focus for U.S. nuclear strike planning.

The Available Nuclear Bombs

Shortly after the Chinese shelling of Quemoy began, General Nathan Twining, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained during a meeting with President Eisenhower’s cabinet that U.S. aircraft at the outset would drop 10-15 kilotons nuclear bombs on selected fields in the vicinity of Amoy (Xiamen). The Pacific Air Forces drew up a contingency plan based on the assumption that the United States would carry out the nuclear strikes necessary to defeat the attacking Chinese forces.

At that time, the Matador nuclear cruise missile was already deployed in Taiwan. The missile could deliver a 20 kt W5 warhead to a range of about 965 km (600 miles). From Taiwan, the Matador could potentially have hit Chinese troop concentrations around Amoy, but General Twining apparently favored bombs. Nuclear bombs, however, did not arrive in Taiwan until January 1960, but a declassified document previously released to me under FOIA shows they were available on Guam and Okinawa. The bombs included three types – Mk-6 (only Guam), Mk-36 Mod 1, and Mk-39 Mod 0 – with yields ranging from 8 kilotons to 10 megatons (see Table 1).

Table 1:
Nuclear Bombs Deployed Near Taiwan, June 1958
Base Bomb Type Yield(s) Custodian Unit
Anderson AFB,
Mk-36 Mod 1
Mk-39 Mod 0
8, 22, 61, 160 kt
10,000 kt
~3,750 kt
Kadena AB, Okinawa Mk-36 Mod 1
Mk-39 Mod 0
10,000 kt
~3,750 kt
12 ADS
Sources: U.S. Strategic Air Command, History of the Strategic Air Command 1 January 1958 – 30 June 1958, Historical Study Number 73, Volume 1, n.d. [1959] p. 89. Document obtained under FOIA; Chuck Hansen, Swords of Armageddon, Version 2, 2002.

The Mk-6 was a tactical bomb that could be delivered in a ground or airburst mode by a variety of Air Force and Navy aircraft and probably would have been the weapon of choice for the Taiwan scenario. The Mk-36 and Mk-39 were both strategic megaton weapons more suited for use against large area targets such as cities or to “dig up” underground facilities.

In mid-August, five Strategic Air Command B-47 bombers on Guam were put on alert to conduct nuclear strikes against airfields on the Chinese mainland if necessary. Such attacks would be necessary, General Twining said, if initial nuclear strikes against troop concentrations failed to cause China to lift their blockade of Quemoy. Continue reading »

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Apr 30

The commander of the Israeli Air Force says the regime’s decision makers have been preparing plans to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities.

General Eliezer Shkedi, who also heads the Israeli task force on Iran, made the remarks in an interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday.

A large portion of Shkedi’s service has been dedicated to the preparation for a possible mission that was never discussed in public; an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, should international economic sanctions fail, Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported on Monday.

Shkedi spoke of a mission in 1981, when Israeli war planes attacked a nuclear reactor in Iraq.

He went on to say that today the Israeli decision makers are faced with a similar choice about Iran’s nuclear program.

Israeli and US officials accuse Iran of seeking nuclear bombs.

Iran, a member of the IAEA and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), maintains that its nuclear activates are solely aimed at peaceful purposes.

Tehran has warned Tel Aviv of a crushing response, in case the regime launches an attack on the Islamic Republic.

Tue, 29 Apr 2008 05:06:54

Source: Press TV

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Mar 19

In the face of a possible escalation with Syria and Iran’s efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon, parts of the country will shut down next month in what security officials say will be the largest emergency exercise in Israel’s history.The drill, which is being organized by the newly-established National Emergency Authority, will take place over five days starting on Sunday, April 6.

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