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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Today in Worrisome Nuclear News:

Steam rising from a newly reconstructed nuclear reactor in North Korea suggests that the country is moving forward with its vow to resume producing plutonium (six years ago, it had reached an agreement with the Bush administration to dismantle this reactor). The color and volume of the steam, moreover, means that the reactor will likely be fully operational in a matter of days. Analysts believe North Korea already has 4-10 nuclear weapons. Even China called for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Tritium levels in the groundwater near one of the storage tanks in Fukushima reached a new high on Friday, rising from 64,000 becquerels per liter to 97,000.

Finally, the arms race between India and Pakistan and in particular, Pakistan’s development of tactical “battlefield” nuclear weapons are increasing the risk that any conflict there will turn into a nuclear war.  Pakistan will soon overtake Britain as the owner of the world’s fifth-largest nuclear weapons stockpile.

Syria News on the Ground Plus Haggling Recap

Today, the Assad regime filed paperwork with the UN to join the global anti-chemical weapons treaty, on the condition that the US stops threatening to attack him. After being approached by the public relations firm that represents Russian President Vladimir Putin, The New York Times published an op-ed whose “basic content” he had written. The UN report on the August 21st gas attack that killed almost 1,500 people will not actually say which side is to blame for the attack, though officials say the facts “implicitly” point to the regime.

It should be noted that the UN report detailing widespread war crimes in Syria was written before the August 21st attack. It includes graphic descriptions of a whole variety of brutal torture methods deployed by the government (and, at times, the rebels) including the routine rape of men, women and children suspected of supporting the rebels.

After months of delay, the CIA began delivering the promised weapons to Syrian rebels today. Unfortunately, the US government remains unable to monitor which rebel groups receive the millions of dollars in non-lethal aid it has been providing since February.

Senate Judiciary Committee Defines ‘Journalist’

The Senate panel approved legislation today that aims to protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources; the measure also narrows the current definition of journalist and delineates the media formats to which its protections will apply.

Months ago, it was revealed that the Justice Department had secretly subpoenaed almost two months of telephone records from 21 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters and editors.  The bill will require that the Justice Department give advance notice of a subpoena to the agency (the AP had no idea its records had been subpoenaed).

Rather than defining a “covered person” as one who investigates events and obtains material to disseminate news and information to the public, the panel limits protections to those who have been employed by an entity that disseminates news or information. It excludes all social media and blogs from the definition of “news media.”

Sexual Assault Reports in US Navy Rise 50%

Navy officials said that the sharp increase in sexual assault reports is a sign that sailors feel more comfortable reporting an assault and believe something will be done about it. The Navy did not say, however, how the cases were being reported, and the commander retains the right to dismiss or refuse to investigate the charge.

The number of reports has risen from 726 to 1,100. According to the May Defense Department report, there were 2,949 reports of sexual assault across all military branches, but ten times that many were estimated to have been assaulted.

264 Protesters Arrested on Anniversary of Pinochet’s Coup

September 11 was the 40th anniversary of the CIA-backed military coup which overthrew a democratic government and led to 17 years of a brutal dictatorship in Chile. It is always a divisive date in the country that inevitably ends in clashes between left-wing protesters and the police. Yesterday was the first time the government has recognized the anniversary of the coup, and it was no different. Chilean protests are often infiltrated by violent anarchist groups, which cause the clashes. 264 protesters were arrested last night and 42 police officers had been injured. More than a dozen cars and buses were set on fire, and electricity lines were severed, causing 200,000 homes to lose power in Santiago.

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