Saturday, December 01, 2007

Canada: Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

Nuclear agency review may trigger privatization - Business - Nuclear agency review may trigger privatization

November 30, 2007
Tyler Hamilton
Energy Reporter

The federal government is launching a strategy review of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to determine whether the maker of the Candu nuclear reactor needs to be restructured, a move industry observers say will likely lead to a partial privatization of the heavily subsidized Crown corporation.

"It is time to consider whether the existing structure of AECL is appropriate in a changing marketplace," Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said yesterday.

"This review will give us the information we need to make the right decisions for AECL and the right decisions for Canadians."

Lunn's ministry will lead the review with help from the Department of Finance and "with assistance of outside expertise."

The Toronto Star, citing industry sources, reported in July that the federal government has been in talks to sell the commercial business of AECL and has already held informal meetings with U.S.-based General Electric Co. and France's Areva SA – both of which have expressed an interest in AECL.

This was followed in October by an internal reorganization at AECL, which saw five business groups broken into two distinct divisions – one devoted to commercial reactor sales and the other focused on research and development, and nuclear waste management.

Sources tell the Star that senior federal bureaucrats have already unofficially approached the banking community about plans to restructure AECL and that one scenario being floated is to sell a minority stake in the company's commercial reactor businesses to General Electric and engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.

Lunn was asked at a parliamentary committee last week whether the government has had internal discussions about the privatization of AECL, but he wouldn't answer the question directly.

"We have made absolutely no decision with respect to that," he said. In the past he has maintained there have been no official talks.

Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive of nuclear operator Bruce Power, wasn't surprised at the decision for a strategic review, which could result in one of many outcomes for AECL. "It was the worst kept secret in the world, was it not?"

One wild card that could affect AECL's future is whether it lands a new reactor sale in Ontario. The company recently established an Ontario sales team and launched an aggressive "Choose Candu" email lobby campaign.

Failure to snag a sale in Canada could derail efforts to sell abroad, where giants GE, Areva and Westinghouse dominate.

"Frankly, when you look at the international reactor market, AECL doesn't have a lot of potential right now," said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, who tracks activity in the nuclear power market for Greenpeace Canada. "The question is how much of this review is going to be public or a dog-and-pony show."

Launch of the AECL review was accompanied yesterday by the announcement that Canada will join the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which aims to promote peaceful development of nuclear energy.

Under the partnership, countries such as Canada that export uranium as nuclear fuel would be required to take it back for reprocessing to be used again or for disposal. Creating stewardship over the uranium supply chain would help keep the dangerous material from falling into the hands of countries looking to develop nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, Bruce Power announced yesterday it has signed a letter of intent to purchase certain assets of Energy Alberta Corp., the company that wants to build a nuclear reactor in the oil sands.

Hawthorne said Alberta needs 5,000 megawatts of new power by 2017 and nuclear fits the bill. He said Energy Alberta already has a head-start in the market, helping Bruce Power to accelerate its presence in the province.


Canada won't become nuclear waste dumping ground, minister says
Last Updated: Friday, November 30, 2007 | 1:04 PM ET
CBC News

Canada will not be taking radioactive waste from other countries after it joined an international nuclear power partnership, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn says.

Opposition parties had expressed fears Canada's membership in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership — which proposed the idea of returning spent nuclear fuel to the country of origin for disposal — could make Canada a dumping ground for the waste.

Canada is the world's top uranium exporter, meaning adoption of the proposal could have led to it being responsible for disposing of a sizable amount of waste.

But in an interview with CBC News on Friday, Lunn said that a condition of signing up for the partnership was that Canada will not take nuclear waste.

Instead, the minister said, Canada will share research and technology into how other countries can best deal with their own waste.

Opposition parties had lobbed criticism at the government following its announcement Thursday that Canada has joined the partnership.

Continue Article

"The government has tried to slip this one under the wire," New Democratic environment critic Nathan Cullen said following the announcement.

During question period in the Commons on Friday, NDP Leader Jack Layton continued the attack on the decision, saying it should be put to a vote in the House because nuclear energy is not only expensive but dangerous.

"National security should be a key part of this discussion," Layton said.

The nuclear energy partnership proposes the expansion of nuclear energy worldwide through the use of an unproven breed of reactors that burn nuclear waste — a practice effectively banned in Canada and the United States since the 1970s because of security reasons.

The natural resources minister, however, responded that it is "great news" that Canada has joined the group, saying the country must be at the table for international nuclear talks.

"Canada should be a player. Canada can show leadership and we should show other countries," Lunn said.

Seventeen other countries are members, including China, France, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The partnership has many critics, both in the environmental movement and scientific circles.

On Thursday, the federal government also announced a review of Atomic Energy Canada Limited, the Crown corporation that builds and sells nuclear reactors.

"It is time to consider whether the existing structure of AECL is appropriate to the changing marketplace," Lunn said in a news release.

Opposition critics said that was a sign that AECL could be privatized.


Seeing the Trees: Review Ordered on Land 'Gifitng' to Big Timber

Rich 'decision has been made' Coleman must face a review after all

Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Opposition finally witnessed some progress this week in the effort to shed light on the government's controversial release of private land from public tree farm licences.

New Democratic Party members have been complaining about removals since the legislature convened for the fall session in mid-October.

But they didn't get anywhere with Forests Minister Rich Coleman, who has defended his action at every turn.

"The decision has been made, it's not being changed," was a typical Coleman response during the give-and-take which extended through numerous question periods.

Would the minister submit to a review by the office of the independent auditor-general? the New Democrats wanted to know.

He would not. "I have no intention of asking for a review of this decision."

Of course, as he went on to concede, the auditor-general could make his own decisions "on what to audit and what not to audit."

On the very day that Coleman made the foregoing comment -- Oct. 29 -- John Doyle was taking up his duties as B.C.'s new auditor-general.

This week Doyle announced that his first major undertaking would be to look into whether the decision to release the land was "in the public interest."

He was not responding to Opposition concerns alone. "The office has received a number of requests to examine the decision," the press release said.

The key decision was taken in January. Coleman approved the removal of some 28,000 hectares of private land from three tree farm licences on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The controversy heated up this fall when the owner of the land, Western Forest Products, began putting some of it up for sale as recreational property.

The Opposition exploded with indignation. The government was serving Western's private interest, with no regard for the public interest.

Private forest lands -- like the tracts freed up in this case -- have been managed as part of the public forest for decades.

In exchange for locking in their lands, private companies were given exclusive access to larger tracts of adjacent Crown timber and other considerations.

But with this transaction, the company regained control of its land with no payback to the public for all those years of access to Crown land and timber.

Not so, Coleman insisted. The landowner had already kept up its part of the bargain by investing in plant and equipment and providing jobs. But now, with the forest industry squeezed by a high dollar and slumping U.S. housing markets, the company's back was to the wall.

"They were going to sell off some of this to, quite frankly, pay down some debt and stabilize their company and try to build a strong future on the island," was the way he put it in an interview with me this week on Voice of B.C. on Shaw TV.

Apart from the quasi-bailout aspect of the decision, Coleman says there were other reasons for it as well.

He says the land, being mainly along the west coast, was not likely to be subject to harvesting in any event: "This is land that most people tell me they would oppose logging on."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Media Lens: guardians of honest journalism

The cyber guardians of honest journalism

By John Pilger

11/30/07 "ICH" -- -- What has changed in the way we see the world? For as long as I can remember, the relationship of journalists with power has been hidden behind a bogus objectivity and notions of an "apathetic public" that justify a mantra of "giving the public what they want." What has changed is the public's perception and knowledge. No longer trusting what they read and see and hear, people in western democracies are questioning as never before, particularly via the internet. Why, they ask, is the great majority of news sourced to authority and its vested interests? Why are many journalists the agents of power, not people?

Much of this bracing new thinking can be traced to a remarkable UK website, MediaLens. The creators of Media Lens, David Edwards and David Cromwell, assisted by their webmaster, Olly Maw, have had such an extraordinary influence since they set up the site in 2001 that, without their meticulous and humane analysis, the full gravity of the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan might have been consigned to bad journalism's first draft of bad history. Peter Wilby put it well in his review of Guardians of Power: the Myth of the Liberal Media, a drawing-together of Media Lens essays published by Pluto Press, which he described as "mercifully free of academic or political jargon and awesomely well researched. All journalists should read it, because the Davids make a case that demands to be answered."

That appeared in the New Statesman. Not a single major newspaper reviewed the most important book about journalism I can remember. Take the latest Media Lens essay, "Invasion - a Comparison of Soviet and Western Media Performance." Written with Nikolai Lanine, who served in the Soviet army during its 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan, it draws on Soviet-era newspaper archives, comparing the propaganda of that time with current western media performance. They are revealed as almost identical.

Like the reported "success" of the US "surge" in Iraq, the Soviet equivalent allowed "poor peasants [to work] the land peacefully." Like the Americans and British in Iraq and Afghanistan, Soviet troops were liberators who became peacekeepers and always acted in "self-defense." The BBC's Mark Urban's revelation of the "first real evidence that President Bush's grand design of toppling a dictator and forcing a democracy into the heart of the Middle East could work" (Newsnight, 12 April 2005) is almost word for word that of Soviet commentators claiming benign and noble intent behind Moscow's actions in Afghanistan. The BBC's Paul Wood, in thrall to the 101st Airborne, reported that the Americans "must win here if they are to leave Iraq . . . There is much still to do." That precisely was the Soviet line.

The tone of Media Lens's questions to journalists is so respectful that personal honesty is never questioned. Perhaps that explains a reaction that can be both outraged and comic. The BBC presenter Gavin Esler, champion of Princess Diana and Ronald Reagan, ranted at Media Lens emailers as "fascistic" and "beyond redemption." Roger Alton, editor of the London Observer and champion of the invasion of Iraq, replied to one ultra-polite member of the public: "Have you been told to write in by those c*nts at Media Lens?" When questioned about her environmental reporting, Fiona Harvey, of the Financial Times, replied: "You're pathetic . . . Who are you?"

The message is: how dare you challenge us in such a way that might expose us? How dare you do the job of true journalism and keep the record straight? Peter Barron, the editor of the BBC's Newsnight, took a different approach. "I rather like them. David Edwards and David Cromwell are unfailingly polite, their points are well argued and sometimes they're plain right."

David Edwards believes that "reason and honesty are enhanced by compassion and compromised by greed and hatred. A journalist who is sincerely motivated by concern for the suffering of others is more likely to report honestly . . ." Some might call this an exotic view. I don't. Neither does the Gandhi Foundation, which on 2 December will present Media Lens with the prestigious Gandhi International Peace Award. I salute them.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Shameless, Remorseless, Soulless

Karl Rove's Shameless, Remorseless,
Soulless Attempt to Rewrite History

by Arianna Huffington

I went on Countdown last night to talk about what Keith Olbermann called Karl Rove's "attack on history."

During an interview with Charlie Rose, the erstwhile Boy Genius pulled out his bucket of whitewash and audaciously claimed that "one of the untold stories" about the war in Iraq is that the Bush administration had been "opposed' to Congress holding the vote authorizing the president to use military force in Iraq just a few weeks prior to the 2002 elections because "we thought it made it too political."

Too political? For Karl Rove? That's like saying something was too bloody for Count Dracula.

He went on to paint a picture of a White House pushed into war, and laid the blame for much of what has happened since on a Congress that had "made things move too fast." If not for Congress, you see, there would have been more time for weapons inspections, and to build a broader coalition.

It was a satiric tour de force worthy of Jonathan Swift or Stephen Colbert -- but Rove wasn't joking. He actually expected us to buy his load of b.s. Watching Rove, two things were perfectly clear: his disdain for the truth and his contempt for the American people know no bounds.

Rove's appearance was the work of a shameless, remorseless, soulless political animal taking the first steps on what will no doubt be a high profile and lucrative march toward historical revisionism. He knows that he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the fanatics responsible for the worst foreign policy disaster in American history -- not exactly the best thing to put on your post-government resume -- so he is hell-bent on replacing reality with the latest incarnation of The Big Lie.

A student of history, Rove is obviously also up on his Orwell: "Who controls the past, controls the future."

Unfortunately for Rove, this isn't 1984; we now live in the Age of Google, and YouTube, and Lexis-Nexis searches. So the refutation of his lies is just a click away.

The evidence that it was President Bush and Vice President Cheney -- and not Congress -- who were hungry for war is overwhelming. For starters, we have Bush's own words before the vote, when he explicitly told Congress that "it's in our national interest" to get the vote "done as quickly as possible." And the insistence of then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that "delaying a vote in Congress would send the wrong message." And the words of then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle who says that when he asked Bush in September 2002 why there was such a rush for a vote on Iraq the president "looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: 'We just have to do this now.'"

And there is the insider evidence provided by Richard Clarke, who wrote that within hours of the 9/11 attacks, this administration had its heart set on heading into Iraq. And from Paul O'Neill, who made it clear that invading Iraq had been Bush's goal before he had even learned where the Oval Office supply closet was.

Even now, with his approval ratings scraping the bottom of the historical barrel, Bush still dominates the Congressional agenda on the war. And Rove wants us to buy that back in the heady days of 2002, when the president was still riding a wave of support forged by 9/11, his desire for caution and reasoned action were overridden by a war hungry Congress? "We don't determine when the Congress votes on things," Rove told Rose. "The Congress does." I guess he and Bush landed on the whole "I'm the Decider" thing later (maybe after they orchestrated that triumphal landing on the Abraham Lincoln).

The truth is that the zealots in the White House were not about to allow their desires to invade Iraq -- which had been laid out years earlier by the Project for a New American Century -- be quashed by anything as piddling as the facts or the evidence or reasoned debate or Congress. Especially a Congress populated with Democratic leaders so rattled and timid that to call them spineless would be an insult to invertebrates everywhere.

Indeed, it was the perfect political environment for an administration intent on shoving a war down the throats of Congress and the American people.

Let's remember, this was the time when the administration had pulled together the White House Study Group (which included Rove himself) with the express mission of marketing the war. These people weren't in the mood to wait, they were in the mood to sell, sell, sell. The Downing Street Memo showed that by July of 2002 they were already fixing the intel to sell the war. By August 2002 the White House was already using Judy Miller and the New York Times as prime advertising space. And by September 2002, Condi Rice was already warning of smoking guns turning out to be mushroom clouds, and Cheney was using aluminum tubes to make the case that Saddam was "actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons."

So the record is irrefutable: the drumbeat of war coming from the White House couldn't have been louder. And no amount of 5-years-down the road spinning by Karl Rove is going to change that truth.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Annapolis Talks

Annapolis talks: A cover for fomenting Palestinian civil war and preparing assault on Iran
Chris Marsden and Jean Shaoul
26 November 2007

The Annapolis summit in Maryland on the Israel Palestine conflict on November 27 has nothing to do with seeking a peace settlement through the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Not even a preliminary statement of goals and/or principles could be agreed between the two parties for this one-day affair. Israel has refused to discuss any of the key issues that must be resolved for any settlement: the borders of any putative state, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Israel goes to the talks confident that it is hosted by its key ally. An article in the Washington Post last week quoted senior White House staffers admitting that the US has no intention of pressurising Israel into making concessions it does not wish to make. “The president remains skeptical as to the Palestinians’ ability to make the necessary concession for achieving peace,” said one source. “The Israelis trust Bush...if they’re going to take any chances, they’d rather do it with him, not his successor,” said the officials.

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the talks are a crude attempt to stitch up a deal between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas so that he can posture as having moved the “peace process” forward and continue to suppress all resistance to the Israeli occupation.

For Washington, the talks have a broader political purpose. By enabling President George Bush to be seen attempting some kind of resolution of the conflict, they will aid the Arab regimes in justifying their acquiescence in Washington’s occupation of Iraq and its planned assault on Iran.

On Friday, the Arab League agreed to go along with the charade, including Saudi Arabia, which does not recognise Syria and is a financial backer of Hamas in Gaza. Syria will attend after the US indicated that the future of the Golan Heights would be on the agenda. The US is also reported to have given its tacit approval to separate talks between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights immediately following Annapolis.

This is by no means the main reason for the participation of Damascus. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem went so far as to state that the return of the Golan Heights was not a precondition to peace talks. Attendance at Annapolis is a desperate effort by the regime of Bashir Assad to reach an accommodation with Washington and prevent the US from targeting it alongside Iran.

Lebanon will also attend, despite the strenuous opposition of Hezbollah.

Israeli Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer of the Labour Party noted the political significance of the Arab regime’s decision to participate, telling Army Radio, “The meeting is taking place at a time when radicals and moderates in the Arab-Muslim world are on a collision course. There is no doubt that this meeting is also aimed at contributing to reinforcing the moderate Arab camp.”

In the Occupied Territories, Annapolis has been preceded by frantic efforts by Abbas to get a minimal state that Olmert would agree to. To this end, he dropped his previous demands for a freeze on the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and a definite time when a Palestinian state would come into being.

Secondly, he has stepped up efforts to depose the Islamist group Hamas and retake control of the Gaza strip, which is the precondition placed on him by both Washington and Israel for recognising Fatah as a “negotiating partner.”

Hamas came to power in January 2006, as a result of widespread disaffection with Fatah because of its readiness to agree a rotten deal with Bush and its endemic corruption. The Western powers and Israel responded by imposing an economic blockade, closing Gaza off to the outside world. When the possibility of a National Unity government of Fatah and Hamas emerged in the summer of 2006, Israel mounted a savage war on Gaza.

After fomenting a civil war between the rival factions in Gaza that ended with Fatah’s military defeat, Israel, the US and the European powers encouraged Abbas to dissolve the Hamas government and form a new government, splitting Palestine into two. Bush gave US$190 million to support Abbas’s regime and with Israel has provided arms and training for Abbas to root out Hamas.

Olmert has publicly insisted that any future deal depends upon the Palestinian Authority retaking control of Gaza. “There will be no implementation of the treaty before the Road Map commitments are all implemented,” he told journalists after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

“The commitments also apply to the Gaza Strip, [for the Palestinians] Gaza must be part of the Palestinian state and then naturally, the Palestinians must fight terrorism, and that includes the Gaza Strip,” he continued. Last week, the Israeli Defence Ministry’s plan to begin reducing the flow of electricity to the Gaza Strip as of December 2 was approved by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz.

Abbas has responded to the demands placed on him by mobilising his forces in a direct conflict with Hamas. When 100,000 Fatah supporters gathered at a November 12 rally in Gaza to mark the third anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, Hamas security forces opened fire, killing 7 demonstrators and injuring more than 90. More than 400 Fatah supporters were arrested and dozens held for questioning.

Two days later, Abbas publicly called for the overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza. “We have to bring down this gang that forcibly took over the Gaza Strip and is abusing the sufferings and pains of our people,” he said on television.

Hamas does not represent a progressive alternative to Fatah and articulates the interests of sections of the Arab bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. Beholden to Saudi Arabia as well as Iran and Hezbollah in Syria for its finances and armaments, it was clearly shaken by their decision to endorse Annapolis. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the announcement “a great shock for Palestinians because it opened the door for direct normalisation with the occupation amid continued escalation and aggression.”

“We were expecting an Arab consensus to break the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and to save the lives of many Palestinians who are stranded on the borders,” he said. “We didn’t expect to see agreement among the Arabs on meeting with Israel.”

Deposed Palestinian President Ismael Haniyeh said that “Israel is seeking normalisation, especially with key countries like Saudi Arabia. We must avoid giving legitimacy to free normalisation with the Israeli occupation.”

Such expressions of surprise ignore the bitter experience of decades during which the Arab regimes, most infamously Egypt, Jordan and Syria, have carried out monstrous betrayals of the Palestinians that have left them in their present dire straits. Now the Arab states are participating in a yet greater crime—preparations for war against Iran

Hamas has been left with little option other than to rally opposition to Abbas internally, uniting with Islamic Jihad and smaller militant groups in convening an “Anti-Annapolis” conference in the Gaza Strip.

Khaled Abu Hilal, of the breakaway Fatah al-Yasser, will be in attendance, and it is supported by various Palestinian political and civic groups. Abu Mujahed, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, warned that any concessions made by Abbas would trigger a third intifada that would be “fiercer than the previous ones.”

Abbas also faces a challenge on the right, from Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, who has his own small party called Third Way and is said to be working with PA negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo to establish a new party to contest the next Palestinian elections. The infighting has left the Palestinian negotiating team divided into two camps.

Fayyad epitomises the wealthy social layer that is now collaborating with Washington even more clearly than Abbas. He has no connection whatsoever with Fatah’s earlier struggle against Israel.

Described by Haaretz as “Everyone’s favorite Palestinian” and “the ideal partner,” he was seated next to Ariel Sharon at a wedding ceremony and has lectured “Israel’s economic and political elite” about his own political and economic philosophy.

He received a doctorate in economics at the University of Texas in 1987, then worked at the World Bank and the Federal Reserve in Washington. When the PA was established, he served as a representative of the International Monetary Fund and then the West Bank’s manager of the Arab Bank, the largest bank in the Middle East. He was adopted as a favourite by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who en sured that he became PA finance minister. Following the split between Gaza and the West Bank, he was unconstitutionally made prime minister, as well as retaining his position as finance minister.

See Also:
Israel’s power cuts to Gaza: Collective punishment with tacit US approval
[29 October 2007]
US secretary of state seeks to impose Israeli diktats on Palestinians
[22 October 2007]

WSWS source