Particle Beams

"Luminous Quanta of Divine Intelligence…" dispelling the nuclear delusion

Six LANL protestors unite spiritual purpose with political action

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When they learned that Occupy members were going to participate in the Hiroshima Day protests at Ashley Pond last summer, some Los Alamos residents were reportedly so apprehensive that they feared for the safety of the ducks, and urged their removal during the event.

An activist posted a sign at the Pond: “Hell No We Won’t Go.”

The National Laboratory at Los Alamos was also anticipating crowds of unruly demonstrators. On the morning of the protests, 30 security forces (SOC teams: “Securing Our Country“) assigned to the task were sequestered at the parking garage on the campus of the laboratory in full riot gear.

During the rush hour of August 6, 2012, a group of some 30 demonstrators arrived at the gates of the Lab and stood peacefully in the crosswalk of the main road to the entrance, carrying signs. When city police directed them to disperse, all but six remained in the road. After the third order to disperse was given, members of the “SOC” team arrived on the scene to assist with arrests.

Now known as the LANL6, the protestors – one young man and five grey-haired women – were tried in the municipal court of Judge Alan Kirk onImage January 9, 2013 before a packed courtroom. They all stated firmly that their reasons for standing their ground in front of the Lab were spiritual and moral, that they did not wish to be arrested, and that their action was not a crime in comparison with the real crime they protested: the continued production of nuclear weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Pamela Gilchrist, 73, a retired minister of the United Church of Christ, said she believed there was a “higher law” to which she answered.

“I was there so I could make the statement that we should take the resources we consume to manufacture nuclear weapons and use them to address the most critical problem we face, and that is climate change,” she said.

Others referred to human laws that our government has broken, most critically the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Article 6, signed 20 years ago by the United States among 105 other nations, vowing to progressively eliminate all nuclear weapons. Although the U.S. has reduced the arsenal, the proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement  (CMRR) facility is intended to create the capacity to assemble more bombs on short notice.

Other treaties have been broken. The Lab is situated on sacred lands belonging to the local Pueblos; although the federal government signed treaties promising to return these lands after the war, those treaties were never honored.

All international treaties become part of the body of laws that rule the United States, according to the Constitution.

Dr. Catherine Euler, former professor of history and women’s studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson, stated that, “radiation is a form of violence against women and children” because their bodies are more sensitive to it; she referred to scientific studies that confirm the effects of low-level radiation on the human genome. She referred to documents she had read at the LANL Library about the testing of animals trapped in cages close to atomic explosions, which were later incinerated so that their ashes could be examined. “They knew in the 1950s,” she said.

“Your children are at risk from radiation,” she said. “I wanted the security officers to know that. Fathers’ exposure can be critical for the later development of cancers in offspring. There’s an immediate threat to the people of Los Alamos, especially workers who go there every day.” She referred to recent studies in Germany and France confirming the health effects of alpha-emitters when internalized in the body, where they continue to bombard neighboring cells.

Janet Greenwald, who lived for many years in Dixon, “directly downwind from the Lab,” wept when she spoke of information she had seen show in birth defects found in children from Espanola. After the Cerro Grande fire of 2003, she said, local people tested their organic crops and found cesium in broccoli, cobalt in plums, and a high degree of cesium in the Embudo water supply.

All six protestors said they were not there to be arrested, that they did not intend to stop traffic, they just wanted to get their message across. They did not believe that the crosswalk of the road was private property.

“Our nation is on a bad track,” noted Cathie Sullivan, one of the six. “I want to resist the militarization of our country.”

The Judge found all six guilty of failure to obey a police officer and obstructing traffic, and fined them each $342, a much lower fine than had been anticipated; they were not found guilty of trespassing.

The six said that they did not wish to pay the fine and might refuse in favor of serving time in jail.

In these disjointed times, when most public officials fail to support the beliefs to which they give lip service, the deep commitment and moral integrity of the LANL6 is a beacon illuminating a different path into the future, where commitment to the common good over-rides personal gain and comfort.

Their courage is an inspiration.


For more info see Support the LANL 6:

Also see: La Jicarita article on LANL6 



When the Colonizer is Gone

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In New Mexico the wounds of colonialism run deep, despite the delicate balance of the three cultures – Anglo, Hispano and Native American – so often touted as an attraction for tourists.

At a conference held in Northern New Mexico last weekend, the pain of these old grievances was never far below the skin.

Beautiful woodwork on the ceiling of the main lecture hall on the El Rito campus, built in 1907.

Called Historias de Nuevo Mexico and held at the El Rito campusof the Northern New Mexico State College, the purpose of the conference was to present complementary perspectives of the state’s unique history to correct the picture cultivated by mainstream historians celebrating the state’s centennial.

What did it mean to the tribes, for example, when New Mexico was finally admitted to the Union? Precious little, said Glenabah Martinez; “we were already sovereign nations.” Martinez, who grew up in the Taos Pueblo, is Assistant Professor at UNM and author of the book, Native Pride.  She spoke about the new curriculum she has recently completed, incorporating and celebrating the pueblo experience for the K-12 educational system.

One example discussed by Martinez was the response of the Pueblo people to repeated demands by one Charles Burke, Commissioner of the Office of Indian Affairs, that the Indians limit their dancing so that they might give up “evil” behavior and get more work done. The response of the Council of All the New Mexico Pueblos, May 5, 1924, was eloquent: “This is the time of the great question. Shall we peacefully but strongly and deathlessly hold to the religion of our fathers, to our own religion, which binds us together and makes us the brothers and children of God? There is no future for the Race of the Indians if its religion is killed.”

Bronze statue of Onate at El Paso Airport

The right of the pueblos to uphold their native identity had been under siege since the arrival of the Spaniards in 1598, led by the brutal Juan Onate, most infamous for ordering that captives from Acoma Pueblo be punished for an attack on Onate’s cousin with the loss of one foot. Whether this horror was actually carried out has been disputed, historian Thomas Chavez stated in his talk,  but Onate’s ruthless domination of the Pueblos was followed by other conquistadores and the church that accompanied them.

It’s not as if the atrocities ended there. New to me was the practice of capturing and enslaving the children and women, and sometimes the men, from the more aggressive outlying tribes – the Navajos, Pawnees, Apaches, Kiowa Apaches, Utes, and Paiutes – and selling them as slaves.

These children, known as genizaros, grew up without any sense of their original identity. They seldom became members of the Master’s family; they were doomed to be always “other”. Today, many people throughout the southwest may be genizaros without even knowing their origin. Cynthia Gomez spoke about her own discovery of her personal history, and what she has learned about her grandmother’s experience as a genizaro. She showed the trailer of a film she is making called “Without a Tribe.”

Few women came here with the Spanish soldiers who settled here, so it is unsurprising that the men became involved with the beautiful Pueblo women, and some of these couples married. Sadly, native women’s subjective experience of patriarchal marriage was not addressed here; perhaps it would have stirred up too much controversy in this setting. One can surmise that the women became subservient to their Spanish husbands and soon gave up their native ways as Christianity became the family religion; and after some time, the whole family claimed to be Hispanic.

The two cultures became so inter-mingled that it’s often difficult for an outsider to be sure who is Indian and who is not; a person from either group is likely to have a Spanish surname even if living at the pueblo. Thus former enemies who might have fought and killed one other during the two Pueblo Revolts have gradually come to share a new indigenous culture. People of the land, Estevan Arellano pointed out, they share the native diet we know as “New Mexican food” – tortillas, chili, beans, posole, enchiladas, atole, calabacitas. For both peoples, the querencia, the landscape, is as precious as the tie to family. Perhaps the two cultures have become more alike than different, especially after the Santa Fe Trail and the Mexican American war delivered to the shores of the Rio Grande a new colonizer: the Anglo.

With the arrival of white Americans during the 19th century, America’s triumph in the Mexican American War (slyly instigated by President Polk), and the subsequent failure of the United States government to respect the land grants that had been given to the settlers by Spain, both communities became blended into a single underclass in an increasingly white society that both had reason to distrust and resist.

The tenuous balance that remains today is what gives New Mexico its unique flavor, but the underlying grief, and the anger, can still be felt here. If Native Americans and Hispanos have become vecinos, it’s not clear that anglos have been accepted into that mix. The presence of the vast military edifice on this beloved landscape, especially the nuclear laboratory, remains a reminder of where power is held here.

Myrriah Gomez talked about the Lab’s impact during the second day of the conference. Unfortunately I was unable to stay, but I remember an essay she wrote as an undergraduate that was published in the Pojuaque News, “Before the Bomb, There Were Bean Fields.”

This colonial master represents elite and special knowledge, great power, and significant wealth. With the collaboration of local political elites, the nuclear behemoth is a source of money to state agencies; it creates jobs, but by employing Hispano and Native men and women, it effectively silences them. The unions will not support any disarmament efforts that call for closing the lab; their interest is to protect the jobs the lab provides. The nuclear establishment also provides the tribes with an annual stipend that effectively holds tribal governments in check.

This colonization by the lab is nonviolent and subtle; the people’s resistance is stopped with dollars. The lab’s presence here challenges us to relate to one another as human beings, rather than as institutions or races.

Bridging the gap created by color was the intent of the talk by Adrian Bustamente, Professor Emeritus from Ft. Lewis College. Tracing the DNA pathway through the cell mitochondria has revealed that we have all evolved from seven African mothers. Difference of skin color has only to do with climate and exposure to the sun, Bustamente pointed out; so we might as well get over our surface differences.

But it’s a challenge to retain cultural identity and cope with the hatred sown of historic suffering while sharing space with the descendants of the conqueror.

It will take more than the mitochondria, but if our conversations with one another come from a place of heart, instead of from a place of intellectual formality, we may yet find a way to become a free people dressed in many colors that are only skin deep.


The Pits Keep Marching On… Part II

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(Part II of last week’s article)

“The U.S. military is hard at work on a dizzying array of pricey new guided munitions to match its trillion-dollar investment in stealth fighters, bombers and killer drones. Some are super smart. Others, super fast. A few are designed to be tiny. All of them have one purpose: to blow away the target, and only the target.”

“My favorite weapon in this list is the B61-12 GPS guided 50-kiloton mini-nuke bomb. If the idea of a mini-nuke striking somewhere in your country doesn’t make you surrender than [sic] you are probably hellbent on meeting those 72 virgins.” – Steve Gill

Despite official US policy of not making new nuclear weapons, writes Andrew Lichterman, in the new book, Assuring Destruction Forever [], the nuclear complex “is being modernized to provide the capacity to maintain existing nuclear weapons and to build new ones into the middle of the twenty-first century” — like the B61-12 that so inspires Tennessee talk show head Steve Gill.

This bomb is intended for placement on the $300 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter according to William D. Hartung, Director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New American Foundation and author of the recent book, Prophets of War. Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.
“Despite US claims that its modernization programmes will add no new military capabilities, the new B61 bomb, if built, will allow the targeting of a wide range of targets with more accurate, lower yield nuclear weapons,” continues Lichterman [my itals].

Recall that “lower yield” means more useable:

He then quotes Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, who writes that “delivery [of this warhead] from new stealthy F-35 aircraft will provide additional military advantages such as improved penetration and survivability,” adding that the B61 replacement will achieve many of the goals of the low-yield nuclear weapons initiatives that Congress had limited or refused to fund during the Clinton and Bush administrations. It will “reinvigorate a planning culture that sees nuclear weapons as useable, and potentially lower the nuclear threshold in a conflict.” (my italics)

Needless to say, these warheads will require plutonium pits – possibly new plutonium pits designed to fit the model.

Modernization will make use of what has been called Life Extension Programs (LEPs) as a cover for what amounts to new designs; an LEP “for the W78ICBM warhead is in the planning stages,” explains Lichterman, and “The LEP for the W88 SLBM warhead, the most modern nuclear weapon in the active stockpile, is expected to begin in the latter half of this decade. . . The W80 cruise missile warhead is slated to get its LEP in the 2020s . . . .”

More plutonium pits, baby.

All modern nuclear warheads require plutonium pits. Clearly the lab is going to make them come hell or high water, CMRR or no CMRR. This is what it’s all about: producing smaller, more reliable, more useable nuclear weapons. I can’t emphasize this enough. We are talking about enhanced capacity for nuclear attack.

The reason why US nuclear policy has taken this shape despite Obama’s commitment to move toward nuclear disarmament is that Congress has been unwilling to fund new weapons, which cannot be tested, and hence there have been no new weapons for 19 years. A significant cluster of Hawks, mostly Republican, and friendly military contractors like Lockheed Martin, are very worried about this situation, mumbling repeatedly about the deterioration of the arsenal; they ascribe to the view that without new weapons our national security will be jeopardized because other nuclear nations are upgrading their nuclear arsenals.

“Currently, all nations with nuclear weapons are modernizing their arsenals, delivery systems, and related infrastructure. These programs have serious implications for nuclear disarmament. By investing in the extension, upgrading, and reinforcement of their arsenals and capacities… these governments are investing in the future of nuclear weapons, not in the future of disarmament.” – Summary of paper by Ray Acheson, Executive Director of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, “Modernization of nuclear weapons: Aspiring to ‘indefinite retention’?” The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Fear leads to more fear, and weapons lead to weapons. Yes, it’s the arms race all over again, with everyone feeling threatened by other nations’ nuclear weaponry and scurrying to make some of their own. And while the arsenals of countries like Pakistan and North Korea, to say nothing of Iran’s much talked about but nonexistent bomb, pose no threat to the US except in terms of regional dominance, Russia’s does.

Russia is understood to be modernizing its force because of US insistence on placing its weapons missile shield in Europe.

This is the rubric used to justify $850 billion assigned to the modernization of the nuclear complex over the next 10 years, which Republican Congressmen insisted Obama must support or they would not vote to ratify the New START with Russia (Arizona Senator John Kyl, who spearheaded this bargain, didn’t sign the Treaty anyway); and these are the weapons that require new plutonium pits.

Call it Mutually Assured Terror.

Needless to sat, these considerations have not been part of the discussion at LANL’s friendly hearings on the CMRR. Occasional allusions are made to “deterrence” and “national security”, but public discussion of the B61-12 or the W87 or W88 retrofits is not heard. The debate thus far has hinged mainly on earthquake danger and high cost, significant concerns, but not the main concern. Nor is this a subject that receives widespread attention in the media. Hence public awareness of the new arms race is slight. People have other problems, after all, like mortgages and jobs.

Writes William Hartung, in an article posted July8, 2012 at Tom’s Dispatch, “Beyond Nuclear Denial 
How a World-Ending Weapon Disappeared From Our Lives, But Not Our World”:

“. . . the only nuke that Americans regularly hear about is one that doesn’t exist: Iran’s. The nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons on missiles, planes, and submarines possessed by Russia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are barely mentioned in what passes for press coverage of the nuclear issue.”

Right here at the foot of the Hill on which these weapons are designed, there’s a disconnect between making plutonium pits, which most people oppose, and producing new nuclear weapons. That’s just the way the lab would like it to be. In fact, the lab would like things to return to their former secrecy. After the CMRR debacle, when LANL was compelled to listen to activists at hearings held twice a year for 7 years, there are already signs that the lab may be tightening its lips.

During the last of those hearings, held on September 26, Steve Fong, NNSA’s Project Manager, kept responding to questions with the unenlightening news that he “can’t talk about it” now that “the project is closed.”
And on October 1st, the New Mexico Community Foundation revealed that LANL has taken back the management of RACER, the community database which was mandated by a 2007 Settlement Agreement with New Mexico Environment Department to provide the public with information about lab activities that affect the life of the community. Perhaps the lab expects or knows that new staff at the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) appointed by our conservative governor will not press the issue.

After the CMRR debacle, it wouldn’t be surprising if LANL retreated back to its former secrecy. If so, that will make it even tougher for nuclear watchdog groups to bring the information to the public.

For Hartung, as for the rest of us, this is a very dangerous situation:

“The notion that Iran can’t be trusted with such a weapon obscures a larger point: given their power to destroy life on a monumental scale, no individual and no government can ultimately be trusted with the bomb.

“The only way to be safe from nuclear weapons is to get rid of them — not just the Iranian one that doesn’t yet exist, but all of them. It’s a daunting task. It’s also a subject that’s out of the news and off anyone’s agenda at the moment, but if it is ever to be achieved, we at least need to start talking about it. Soon.”

The public needs to evaluate how it wants to spend its tax money. In these belt-tightening times, should we pay for Medicare, education, “entitlement programs” that create a safety net for citizens, or do we prefer to buy more useable nuclear weapons?

I ask you.

CMRR is no more, but the pits go marching on

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Lab is on the Pajarito Plateau, above the Russian River

OVER THE HILL? Above the Rio Grande, Los Alamos Lab makes plutonium pits

In February, the President’s 2013 budget request denied funding for the proposed new Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility (CMRR) at Los Alamos for the next five years.

“We look on it more as a deferment than a cancellation,” said Steve Fong, NNSA Project Manager for CMRR, at a September 26 hearing in Los Alamos.

Meanwhile, the Lab was directed to find a less expensive way to produce plutonium pits to meet the goal of modernizing the nuclear force which, as the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has been insisting, and Hawks have been believing, is deteriorating. Whether or not this is true is arguable. As Willard Hunter, a retired Sandia lab scientist told me, “Every year they take them out and polish them, make sure they still work.” The challenge is to do that without testing them; all nuclear testing has been outlawed since 1992. Hence armaments makers must rely on proven designs.

The day after the budget was released, lab director Charles McMillan distributed a statement to staff at LANL assuring them that the lab would fulfill its mission; and in August, the lab produced an outline of how it proposed to do that, “Plan B.” Much of Plan B is classified, but resourceful activists have been able to piece together the broad outlines. For just under a billion (a bargain when compared to the projected $5.4 billion to build CMRR, but still a lot of dollars when you look at the swelling deficit) the lab proposes to extend the nearly completed radiation lab, RLUOB, built as an adjunct to the CMRR, and build a tunnel to the nearby plutonium facility, PF4, so that pits can be transported safely from their place of construction for certification.

The production of pits is a big deal. It requires the engagement of some 700 employees to produce just one pit, according to an article in a Los Alamos publication entitled, “The Perfect Pit.”

All of this might be impressive as sophisticated technological achievement were it not for its end result — the destruction of an entire city with a single bomb. Pits are the cores of thermonuclear weapons, triggering a reaction be far greater than the one the world witnessed in Hiroshima. The reaction would be so big, in fact, that during the Cold War both the USSR and the US hesitated to use them (amazing grace!), and a theory of deterrence emerged from the Rand Institute that the trillions we each invested in the thousands and thousands of gigantic bombs had the purpose of stopping the other country from using theirs.

Although unverifiable – we don’t know for certain that it was the existence of more and more bombs that actually stopped either nation – deterrence became the mantra of national security wonks for whom bomb production was deemed necessary and unavoidable in a nuclear global environment. In other words, however much we might wish it to be different, there’s no other way.

After 911, George W. Bush made some significant changes to the strategy of deterrence. Since the US had not used a nuclear bomb in its successive wars since Hiroshima, it was beginning to look like we would never dare to use one, and terrorists who made no secret of their intention to acquire – and use — nuclear bombs thought (perhaps) that the Great Satan had become a wuss. Apparently determined to show the world that such was not the case, “Dubya” Bush, in his Nuclear Posture Review, a policy statement each new president is required to produce, made several significant changes in nuclear policy of which the public is generally not aware.

One was to include conventional weapons and nuclear weapons in the same discussion under the same criteria. This had never been done, with nuclear weapons always considered to be so dangerous as to be considered separately.

The second was to propose the production of smaller, “reliable, credible and useable” nuclear warheads. The operative word here is, of course, is useable.

Though lower level managers at nuclear labs may continue to speak of deterrence as the national security policy of the United States, it should be clear that things have changed; the purpose of national policy is not to deter a presumably rational enemy from attacking us, but rather to show any enemy – nuclear or non-nuclear – that we’ve got the stuff to actually use them.

Here is a quote from a policy paper issued in 1995, during the Reagan Administration:

Deterrence can’t be just a theory, a doctrine, a concept, a strategy…[It is] a process that goes beyond the rational… It must affect the emotions, as well as the rational mind, of an adversary…we must communicate in the strongest ways possible the unbreakable link between our vital interests and the potential harm that will be directly attributable to anyone who damages (or even credibly threatens to damage) that which we hold of value…Deterrence is thus a form of bargaining which exploits a capability for inflicting damage at such a level as to truly cause hurt far greater than military defeat…It should ultimately create the fear of extinction…A threat is most compelling when an enemy cannot rationalize away the destruction, pain, suffering, and chaos you are threatening to unleash if deterrence fails. “Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence,” 1995 (emphasis added)

No longer a stance to prevent attack, “deterrence” has become a misnomer that actually means a threat, and it was apparently the intention of the Bush administration to make the threat credible.

What does this have to do with plutonium pit production at LANL? A great deal. As will be seen, “modernization” actually operates as a euphemism for creating those smaller, tactical and therefore useable nuclear weapons – bombs that would still be three times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped on Japan.

Modernization is a sleight-of-hand solution to a tricky problem created by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which we signed in 1970 along with the majority of the world’s nations, both nuclear and non-nuclear. The NPT requires of nuclear powers that they cease to create new weapons and instead make moves to decrease their stockpiles.

It’s possible that we might not have complied with the treaty requirement, but with testing prohibited, it’s double jeopardy. Without testing, new designs might not be reliable.

Hence it has been the official policy of the US that we will not make new ones.

But how can we fulfill the mandates of the Bush nuclear posture for smaller, tactical nuclear weapons without making new ones?

That’s where modernization comes in – and new pits, which are the critical means for producing a credible nuclear force with weapons that are useable.

More in Part II.


Written by stephaniehiller

October 3, 2012 at 6:03 pm

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Trinity Day — a good day to get money from the Fed?

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Batter my heart, three-person’d God.   — John Donne, “Trinity”

Yesterday was the 67th anniversary of the very first atomic bomb test in the New Mexico desert, and alas for us, it was a success.

Across the globe, we still have 20,000 bombs ready to go, many of them on high alert.

Commemorating this event and its consequences were three different developments in New Mexico.

The first and most incongruous was news of a delegation embarking on that very day and heading to Washington, DC, to sell someone (not specified in the Los Alamos Post story) how much it means to the state of New Mexico to have the Labs here.

Nice way to celebrate the anniversary, que no? Drinks afterwards at the Capitol?

The delegation was composed of nearly 20 members of the business community accompanied by a representative from Governor Martinez’ office. We might have expected the head of the Chamber of Commerce, Simon Brackley, to be there, but it was a bit of a surprise to see Lilian Montoya Rael, a Board member from Christus St. Vincent’s Hospital.

But I suppose that the Labs, being so detrimental to health, are an indispensable asset to the Hospital.

Speaking of health, the second event, in marked contrast to the humble fundraising efforts of a few of our respected citizens, addressed the reality — the real impact of the bomb test on the lives of citizens, in this case the citizens of Tularosa, a small village that exists outside the presumed boundary of fallout that was expected from that event. These men, women and children have experienced a disproportionately higher-than-ever rate of cancers and other disabling conditions. July 16 was named Nuclear Disasters Day in Tularosa. They celebrated with luminarias at the town baseball field!

Last but not least, July 16 marks the first day of the Los Alamos Hunger Strike initiated by Alaric Balibreras. Thirty strikers have joined him in his plea to have a conversation with Those in Charge of the Lab’s affairs about coming up with a Plan to actually change the Lab’s Mission, currently the production of a-bombs (as posted on the Lab’s website), to production of Things that are Good for Us. (Remember “Better Living through Chemistry?” Such were the slogans that set off the hippie resistance of the 60s, and I’m told that the planets are aligned in a similar pattern today!!)

And which way will it go? Will the delegation of business people receive more money from Washington to produce more bombs, an activity so lucrative to the state that they can’t bear to let it go… or will this year be the year of The Rise of the Little People demanding an end to this profligacy and waste? Stay tuned. Alaric plans to fast until Nagasaki Day, August 9, anniversary of the day in 1945 when the US used the first plutonium bomb against the residents of that city, killing 130,000 on site and more later.

Enough, he says, and we say with him: Let’s have a Change of Heart, For a World of Beauty! Raise an empty glass with 30 hunger strikers and join them if you wish: you’ll find them on Facebook, at Los Alamos Hunger Strike.

We will be following the strike throughout the 21 days with updates and interviews. Here’s one newsflash from yesterday:

Los Alamos, July 16, 2012

STANDING AT THE GATES OF THE LAB some 20 protestors, most of them from Trinity Abolition, an Albuquerque group which protests at the Lab on a regular basis, as well as members of the hunger strike, joined hands outside the gates of the lab. “Lab people came down and took our pictures and got our names,” reports Ellie Voutselas of Pax Christi, one of the fasters.

Alaric then moved over to Ashley Pond, the original site of the Lab and now a public park, where he was joined by a young striker whose dog set up a howl for the duration. Guess that puppy has a few things to say about nuclear weapons, but the canine may provide an unneeded distraction if this keeps up.

Written by stephaniehiller

July 17, 2012 at 5:10 pm

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Rumors of peace amidst rumblings of war

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Baffling contradictions go marching on, but at least there are a few hopeful sparks of intelligence amidst the tangles of plaque clogging the political process today.
The budget for nuclear weapons for the upcoming fiscal year is higher than ever, but funding for the Super-Walmart sized $6 billion Chemistry and Metallurgy Research and Replacement edifice at Los Alamos has been cut off for the next five years, at least. That’s very good news, and activists here are celebrating quietly, although the work of containing the nuclear octopus and getting it to use its well-endowed arms to clean up the mess it has made over the past seven decades is unlikely to come to an end for 24,500 years, the half life of plutonim-239.
Speaking of plutonium, which is now scattered over the landscape, I read this bit of trivia in Leslie Groves’ history of the Manhattan Project, Now It Can Be Told: “The group headed by Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg …in March of 1941 succeed in creating the first submicroscopic amounts of Plutonium-239.” Submicroscopic amounts. To date, 1600 metric tons of plutonium has been produced in reactors; surprisingly, only 250 tons have resulted from military uses. (Nuclear Control Institute, Such are the ways of progress… Six metric tons of plutonium were to be stored in part of the new CMRR; where they will be stored now? That equals 13,200 pounds of the deadliest substance on earth – not a natural substance, by the way; manmade. There is undoubtedly much more plutonium up at LANL, no one knows how much, but at least 21 million cubic feet of various types of radioactive waste is the figure given by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. The point is, all this radioactive and toxic waste is loosely stored, not only in a region plagued by fires, but an earthquake zone, as geologist Robert Gilkeson meticulously pointed out to officials at the Defense Nuclear Safety Board and elsewhere.
The response of elected representatives in New Mexico to news of the project’s cancellation was to moan about jobs (and money) lost to the state as a result. But there were no permanent jobs to be had from the project; all those jobs the Lab boasted about were temporary construction jobs. New Mexicans need more than that, and many more permanent jobs would be created in performance of a complete clean-up; using figures provided by the Lab, CCNS suggests that 1700 permanent jobs would be required to clean-up just one area, Area G, with its 40,000 cans of mixed waste stored above ground under tents. The threat to the entire region from fire reaching Area G was up front last summer when the fast spreading Las Conchas blaze licked at its edges. We were spared, but unfortunately the fire was diverted toward undeserving Santa Clara Pueblo, where it severely scorched the watershed, perhaps irreparably. Now we know, if we didn’t know before, that proper disposal of these contaminants is mandatory.
Occupy Santa Fe has formed a LANL Working Group which is planning actions to be held this summer to demand the clean-up of all this nasty stuff and steps to transform the Lab to do research for making things that are good for people. What a concept.
Still, slow and steady wins the race, and all of this is PROGRESS on the nuclear front, where a manmade problem born of fascination with technology and fear of conquest has attained monstrous proportions, and, like Frankenstein, has turned against its own Progenitor. That threat still looms; a Plutonian reminder of man’s basest form of stupidity, it will be with us forever. Last night I viewed a film called Into Eternity that documents the construction of an enormous facility deep in the black bedrock of Finland for the permanent storage of waste from that country’s power plants alone. Men now working on the construction of the tunnels at Onkalo (“hiding place” in Finnish) will not live to see it completed in 2100, that is how vast it is. Just look at the cost and effort, to say nothing of the contamination of our lands and wildlife, that will be expended to construct this facility, merely to contain the waste of Finland alone! One hundred years after completion it will be sealed with a hope and a prayer that no future human will find a way to open the heavy gate to the tomb and wander into its dark, radioactive byways…

If the discovery of radioactivity doesn’t force human beings to become conscious of the consequences of what they do, surely nothing will serve to awaken us to the power of our responsibility to steward the creation we have been given.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press discovered, and apparently leaked, information that was not meant to go public just yet, due to the politics of arms policies in an election year, and the story, aired in the Wall Street Journal and a few other places, stopped dead in its tracks but not before Congress people rose up to protest in the usual imbecility of pork politics (your money or your life!)
The story is that President Obama is seriously considering the reduction of nuclear arms to a level considerably below that mandated by the New START, which was signed with Russia less than a year ago. He has asked the Pentagon to present three scenarios, each calling for fewer deployed nuclear weapons. (Keep in mind that there are many more weapons in storage.) This is a huge step forward, confirming that Obama meant what he said in Prague about moving toward the elimination of these dastardly toys of total destruction.
The press went silent on this story, because it was premature and politically untimely to release it. But we’ll be watching for developments. In the meantime, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation jumped in with its support. Nuclear Age immediately a new petition urging reductions of deployed strategic weapons to 300. Hope you will visit the web site to sign this petition.

These are good signs, but rumors of an Israeli attack on Iran continue to rise and fall. It’s nice to see the Great Dominator trying to wiggle out of this one, by which I mean, of course, the American government, hitherto so fond of wars and now, finally, trying to negotiate out of this one, telling Israel to please hold its fire at least until we see whether tougher sanctions work. Perhaps we’ve finally scared ourselves into a cautious pacifism; and indeed, we must. War with Iran is no small matter; in the eaves looms the monster we’ve been fearing ever since we invented this damnable Gadget. Russia and China buy oil from Iran and they are both nuclear powers, to say nothing of Israel, who continues to hold her one or two hundred bombs close to her chest. The line-up is just what the Armageddonists have been predicting with their Gogs and Magogs, their AntiChrist and Satan. It’s a topic for another column, but may all the Santorums and Gingriches be warned: the other side of such a war may or may not bring on the Second Coming, but the scorched earth it threatens will hardly be a welcoming place for the return of the long-awaited Messiah . . .
I hope you’ll sign on to receive updates to this little blog. I will be updating every Monday while working with the Occupy group here to bring international attention to this silent sleeper, the creeping issue of nuclear weapons. Perhaps I should change the name from Particle Beams (of Divine Intelligence) to something more arresting? If you have a suggestion please send it this way.
Divine Intelligence, I should say, is not the province of God alone. It is the Spark with which we have been endowed, though we’ve seen precious little evidence of its existence in the workings of our paralyzed government bodies for lo this many years. But things can change… and are changing, as people continue to wake up to the reality, that we have been entombed in patriarchal ignorance for far too long and the only way to survive is to break out!! It’s a choice of Evolution or Death, to rephrase Patrick Henry. There’s no third option at this crossroads.
Place your comments at the door! And thanks for reading.

Burden of Proof: Women’s Bodies More Sensitive to Radiation

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November 15, 2011

A transformation devoutly to be wished. . . Reactor in Soweto turned into art!

“We are not all exposed to a single agent, a single radiation or a single type of radiation, and we’re not exposed at a single point in time. It’s a cumulative effect…” William Suk

If you have been wondering why women are so susceptible to cancers of delicate reproductive organs like breast, ovary, and uterus, you will find a prescient clue in a new report by Mary Olson, Staff Biologist at the Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS).

After carefully examining the statistics in a report on cancers produced by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Olson saw that women are more susceptible to cancer than men — by 50 percent! The reason, suggests Olson, is that reproductive tissue is more vulnerable to the effects of ionizing radiation — and women have more reproductive tissue.

How unsurprising, that radiation, the deadly invisible spook, should target the very organs that produce life!

The NAS report, entitled “Health Risks from Exposure to Low-Levels of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VII)”, shows the figures, but makes no mention in the text of this stunning fact.  Olson’s careful mathematical analysis shows that the information, like so much that is related to radioactivity, was ignored. Nor has Olson’s paper received the media attention it deserves.

Such is the way of all things when it comes to the effect of radiation on health. The facts, if stated, are understated, or stated in such a way that they become, like the substance itself, invisible. Our fathers in Washington don’t want to upset us with, you know, the truth. And it has been this way since the beginning of the Atomic Age. Like dogs covering up their shit, the military, with its legions of scientists and industrial magnates profiting from the production of sleek instruments of mass destruction, has discovered many new and clever ways to disguise the impact of their activities, with the help of regulatory agencies which are but revolving doors for well-paid lobbyists and executives whose positions are stepping-stones to fatter salaries.

Official statements on background radiation, for example, intended to establish a baseline for  radiation to which we are all naturally exposed from the sun and other sources, has become a sort of sliding scale which makes accurate comparison impossible, for this so-called baseline has already been upgraded twice, from 100 rem to 320 rem in the late 90s, and then again to 620 rems in the beginning of this century. Plus, according to epidemiologist Rosalie Bertell (No Immediate Danger, page 17) “natural background radiation” refers only to sources which are original while “background radiation” may include “those which result from the nuclear fission process,” i.e. are mamade, and “radioactive chemicals released from a nuclear power plant are called ‘background after one year.” Say what? So these levels keep rising as nuclear power plants keep running and nuclear wastes continue to accumulate, while cancer rates rise, and that makes it possible for Los Alamos Lab to say that discharges from their incinerators are “no higher than background” because nobody knows what background actually is. How handy is that?

But the truth will out, despite these sophisticated manipulations designed to provide the public with a false sense of security in the very midst of this widespread attack on our bodies — especially the immune system, our body’s native ability to defend itself from such attacks! Thanks to people like Mary Olson and her predecessors Rosalie Bertell, Janette Sherman, John Gofman, Chris Busby and more, the real link between radiation and disease continues to rear its ugly head.

The Breast Cancer Fund, for example, bravely came forward in its State of the Evidence report of 2005 to boldly state the obvious, that “ionizing radiation is the primary cause of cancer” and such radiation is synergistic with other carcinogenic substances. More recently, in its 2010 report, the authors track the rise in breast cancer incidence since 1930. According to BCF’s Press Release, “In 1973 and 1998 alone, breast cancer incidence rates increased by more than 40 percent . . . paralleling the proliferation of synthetic chemicals.” Yes, indeed. “Today, approximately 85,000 chemicals are registered for use in the United States, more than 90 percent of which have never been tested for their effects on human health.”

Even the Report of the President’s Panel on Cancer agrees that the environmental causes of cancer are significant, noting that “exposure to ionizing radiation related to nuclear weapons testing is an underappreciated issue worldwide,” quietly challenging bland denials by various reports made by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The President’s Report also highlights the greater burden on women, referring to studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which said that, “while all Americans carry many foreign chemicals in their bodies, women have higher levels of many of these chemicals than do men. Some are found in maternal blood, placental tissue, and breast milk samples from pregnant women and mothers who recently gave birth.” And who suffers the consequences of this contamination of women’s bodies?  “The next generation, both prenatally and during breastfeeding.”   And that means, those children, who will grow up imbibing more chemicals, will inevitably pass on higher levels of contamination to THEIR children. We are talking about the slow degradation of the human genome here! Someone had better funnel more money over to Special Education programs, because the number of children disabled by birth defects is rising.

The combined effect of those very small amounts of the 85,000 untested chemicals plus radiation leaking out of power plants and distributed by weapons facilities old and new and scattered all over the country, is not good. Even the President’s report notes ominously, “Some chemicals indirectly increase cancer risk by contributing to immune and endocrine dysfunction that can influence the effect of carcinogens.”

The reality is that this stuff is everywhere — from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to bomb tests on the Marshall Islands, to pollution of rivers like the mighty Columbia and residues from overground and underground bomb tests at the Nevada Test Site and elsewhere, from depleted uranium used all over the Middle East to accidents known and unknown but including, certainly, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now, the excruciating Fukushima, the levels of natural and acceptable radiation exposure have been exceeded many times over, with no end in sight. We don’t need yet another study to recognize that it is so. It’s time to call an end to all this reckless polluting.

Here is the conclusion of the President’s Report:

A precautionary, prevention-oriented approach should replace current reactionary approaches to environmental contaminants in which human harm must be proven before action is taken to reduce or eliminate exposure. Though not applicable in every instance, this approach should be the cornerstone of a new national cancer prevention strategy that emphasizes primary prevention, redirects accordingly both research and policy agendas, and sets tangible goals for reducing or eliminating toxic exposures implicated in cancer causation.

YES!! Because the best way to lower the costs of our bloated health care system would be to eliminate those diseases that contribute so much to its cost.

Let’s make cancer “so yesterday.”