Saturday, January 25, 2014

Activists spray graffiti on Capt. James Cook's home in protest against Australia Day

Official portrait of Captain James Cook
Official portrait of Captain James Cook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 

 MELBOURNE, Australia — Activists have sprayed graffiti on the historic home of the 18th century British explorer Capt. James Cook to protest against Australia's national day.
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Kissinger to Ford: "Smash" Rumsfeld

Henry Kissinger.
Henry Kissinger. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Washington, DC, January 24, 2014 – A recently declassified transcript of a telephone conversation (telcon) between Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Gerald Ford in December 1975 indicates tensions between Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department over the SALT II arms control agreement. Telling Ford that "we have [a] SALT agreement within our grasp," Kissinger said "We can smash our opponents" [See document 6]. Describing elements of the agreement concerning air-launched and ship-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs and SLCMs), Kissinger worried that Rumsfeld was "beginning to dig into his people" and asked Ford to tell him that "you want them to get with it." Kissinger expected that a successful SALT II agreement would lead to a summit with the Soviet leadership putting détente on a firmer footing and embellish Ford's and Kissinger's standing.
While Kissinger was confident that a SALT II agreement would clear the way for a U.S-Soviet summit, Ford was not going to "smash" opposition to SALT. With the Cuban role in the Angolan conflict already complicating relations with Moscow and Ford's presidential campaign for 1976 in progress, he was reluctant to rile the Defense Department over SALT, much less invite criticism from the Republican right. Those concerns stalled any progress on détente; as Ambassador Raymond Garthoff later put it, 1976 was a "turning point in American-Soviet relations" because the Ford White House decided to "shelve" détente until after the elections.
The record of the Ford-Kissinger telephone conversation and other recently declassified telcon transcripts from State Department files show an aggravated Henry Kissinger facing opposition to policies of détente and strategic arms control that were virtually unchallenged during the Nixon years. These telcons show Kissinger losing his authority at the White House, trying to protect U.S.-Soviet détente from conservative attacks while waging Cold War in the Third World, trying to crack down on leaks, and maintaining ties with the disgraced former President Richard Nixon.
A major defeat was over Angola policy. In early January 1976, after the leak of a CIA covert operation which Congress refused to fund, Kissinger became regretful, suggesting to National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft that "maybe we should let Angola go…. Maybe we just should not have started that operation" [See document 9]. Scowcroft declared that it was the "right" thing to do, but he could not argue when Kissinger said "the defeat they are inflicting on us is worse." Kissinger saw U.S. credibility at risk when Washington was powerless to act against a Soviet ally in Southern Africa supported by Cuban troops.
The released telephone conversations also include the following discussions:
  • Running for election in 1976 Ford wanted the disgraced ex-president Richard Nixon to keep his distance. When it became known that Nixon was planning a visit to China, Ford said in an interview that the trip was "probably harmful" to his campaign. This upset Kissinger and Scowcroft, with Kissinger saying "What possessed the President to pop off again" [See document 12]. "It makes him look weak to say Nixon can hurt him." Ford was already under attack from the Republican right and Kissinger worried that Ford's defensiveness would hurt his position: some advisers worried that if Ford "does not get out ahead soon in foreign policy I [Kissinger] will be destroyed."
  • Having lost his post as national security adviser during the 1975 "Halloween Massacre," Kissinger did not like reminders, such as a White House statement that he no longer chaired National Security Council committees (as he had since 1969). "It sure isn't helpful," Kissinger complained to Scowcroft [See document 10].
  • Reflecting a perpetual annoyance with unauthorized disclosures, Kissinger purged several senior staffers from the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs in December 1975, after U.S. aid to opposition groups in Angola leaked to the press. Kissinger told Scowcroft that "It will be at least a new cast of characters that leaks on Angola" [See document 7].
  • Internal political differences over the meaning of détente surfaced during a Scowcroft-Kissinger discussion, in August 1975, over the draft of a speech for White House aide Robert Hartman. According to the draft "détente is a relationship among mortal enemies." Kissinger saw the language as an "outrage"; it was "totally stupid" because it "fans the fire of the anti-détentists." Hartman "has to make up his mind if he is going to be positive or not" [See document 10].
A protracted and wholly unnecessary appeals review process delayed the release of these documents for seven years. In 2007, in response to a FOIA request filed in 2001, the State Department denied over 800 telcons on "executive privilege" and FOIA (b) (5) pre-decisional grounds. The first group of telcons released under appeal, over 100 of them, are of Kissinger's conversations with government and former officials during the Ford Administration, including President Ford, Scowcroft, Rumsfeld, Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, Treasury Secretary William Simon, and former President Richard Nixon, among others. They cover a variety of policy issues, including the SALT process, economic relations with the Soviet Union, and Congressional investigations of the CIA.
As interesting as the telcons are, they contain no information that ought to have been withheld. Unquestionably they include candid discussion of issues and personalities and inter-government decision-making generally, but that provides no excuse for agencies to apply the (b) (5) "pre-decisional" FOIA exemption to federal records produced decades ago. And "executive privilege" has its limits and has never before been applied to historical documents such as these. U.S. government officials made a mistake in denying the telcons in 2007; it would be interesting to know exactly why Bush administration officials reached the conclusion that these documents ought to be exempted altogether.
Today the National Security Archive is publishing a sampling of the 100 plus telcons recently released by the State Department. As the State Department makes the remaining withheld telcons available, they will be published on the Digital National Security Archive, which already includes The Kissinger Telephone Conversations and The Kissinger Transcripts.
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Friday, January 24, 2014

Buried drums near Kadena schools spark pollution fears - Okinawa


            
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The ongoing Japanese recovery of herbicide- and dioxin-tainted barrels just outside Kadena Air Base alarmed hundreds of residents this week who fear for the safety of children at adjacent on-base schools.
After seven months of testing, Japan’s government has found no indication of wider soil or water contamination, and the Air Force has said base drinking water is safe.
But those results were less than reassuring for Kadena residents, whose fears were fueled by dire warnings from an advocate for victims of herbicide contamination. They sought more information, rallied on Facebook and petitioned for a town hall meeting as word spread that drums with dioxin residue are buried within sight of the schools.
Twenty-two empty Dow Chemical drums have been unearthed since June, and another 11 unidentified containers have been detected but remain buried at the Japanese soccer field, which is separated from Kadena’s Amelia Earhart Intermediate School and its playground by a raised expressway. The Bob Hope Primary School and the Kadena middle and high schools are nearby.
The web group of concerned residents ballooned with over 400 new members Thursday. Some reported health problems after moving from the Air Force base. Parents wondered about pulling children out of school or forcing them to drink only bottled water.
“The thought went through my head to home-school but I also did not want to do anything sudden,” said Sheri King, whose 8-year-old daughter goes to Bob Hope Primary School. “I have sent her with bottled water … I am not sure what I’ll do next week. I’ll probably send her with bottled water.”
All three levels of the Japanese government — Okinawa City, the prefecture and the Ministry of Defense — have conducted individual testing on the drum residue as well as soil and water in the area.
The results found potentially dangerous chemical traces inside and immediately around the discarded drums. But soil and water samples collected from across the soccer field were found to be safe.
Okinawa Prefecture also conducted water tests on two wells on Kadena and the base watershed at the ocean and detected no dangerous levels of pollution.
Okinawa City and the Ministry of Defense separated the soccer field into 23 sections and performed independent pollution tests on each one. The city and ministry samples were analyzed by separate labs and both found the soil posed no danger.
The tests appear to be a strong indicator that the chemical pollution has not spread to the rest of the soccer field or surrounding areas. A full survey of the soccer field is not expected to be completed until March, the ministry said.
Still, substances found at the site can pose serious risks to human health.
Samples from inside the barrels contained highly toxic dioxin, which can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, immune system damage and hormone imbalances, according to the World Health Organization. Testing also found the herbicide 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid, which was an ingredient in U.S. defoliants but was discontinued due to health concerns.
Debate flared over whether the drums could be evidence of Agent Orange, an infamous Vietnam-era defoliant contaminated with dioxin that the U.S. claims was never present on Okinawa. Dow Chemical, a producer of the wartime herbicide, said the unearthed 30-gallon drums were never used for Agent Orange; one U.S. expert said they likely contained base garage and hospital waste.
Local concerns over the buried drums were ignited again last month by Agent Orange victims’ advocate Heather Bowser, who warned Kadena residents in a letter to the Japan Times newspaper that dioxin in “nearby water was 840 times safe limits” — quoting from recent reports in that paper. She said base children may be susceptible to “chronic B-cell leukemias, diabetes mellitus type 2, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer and respiratory cancers.”
Bowser, who was born with multiple birth defects and is cofounder and national coordinator of the Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance, told Stars and Stripes that Kadena parents have a right to know about the findings outside of the fence — and whether there is any pollution on the school grounds. The unearthed drums were first reported in Stars and Stripes in June.
“I believe there is a danger of having an openly contaminated area near schools,” she said. “As a parent myself, it is better to be safe than sorry.”
That sentiment echoed across Kadena this week. By Thursday, many fearful parents and residents were groping for more information on pollution risks as the defense school district and the Air Force offered some assurances but few details.
“We are aware of the situation and we are working very closely with the military to gather the facts,” Department of Defense Education Activity-Pacific spokesman Charly Hoff said.
The school district deferred questions to the Air Force, saying it has the environmental expertise to handle any testing and evaluation of pollution risks.
The Air Force has released statements saying its environmental department has found base tap water safe to drink. It did not immediately respond to a Stars and Stripes request for water and soil testing results for the on-base school properties.
The lack of information on the pollution at the soccer field was the biggest frustration for some. Posters on the Facebook page wrote that official statements so far were unconvincing and pointed to the decades of pollution in drinking water at Camp LeJeune, N.C., as proof of the stakes.
“People are starting to panic a little bit because they don’t know what is going on,” said Jennifer Hall, a Marine spouse and member of the group, who said her child is slated to attend a Kadena school in the future. “I don’t know what the effects are of the barrels.”
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The Beginning or the End - The Atomic Bomb - MGM 1947


The Beginning or the End (1947) is a docudrama film about the development of the atomic bomb in World War II, directed by Norman Taurog, starring Brian Donlevy and Hume Cronyn, and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film dramatizes the creation of the atomic bomb in the Manhattan Project and the subsequent bombing of Hiroshima.


The Beginning or the End 1947 poster.jpg
Plot
In 1945, physicist and atomic scientist Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer (Hume Cronyn) praises the discovery of atomic energy, but also warns of its dangers. Earlier, American scientists such as Matt Cochran (Tom Drake ), working under the guidance of Dr. Enrico Fermi (Joseph Calleia) and Dr. Marré (Victor Francen), have split the atom, and essentially beaten the Germans in the race to create an atomic bomb. With the assistance of Albert Einstein (Ludwig Stossel), they inform President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Godfrey Tearle) that a monumental discovery has been made.

In 1941, with the United States at war, Roosevelt authorizes up to two billion dollars in the "Manhattan Project" to develop an atomic bomb. In December 1942, at the University of Chicago, under the watchful eyes of observers such as Colonel Jeff Nixon (Robert Walker) and international experts, scientists create the first chain reaction, under a stadium at the campus.

Nixon is assigned to General Leslie R. Groves (Brian Donlevy), who is placed in charge of the project. Groves has to bring together the scientific, industrial and defense communities to build the atomic bomb. In 1945, following the death of Roosevelt, the new president, Harry S. Truman (Art Baker), continues to support the atomic project, now moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico. When refined uranium-235 is obtained, the first atomic bomb is built and tested successfully in the New Mexico desert. After facing stiff resistance in the Pacific War, in July 1945, Truman orders the use of the atomic bomb against Japan.

Cochran and Nixon are assigned to accompany the crew transporting the bomb to the South Pacific. In assembling the bomb, the scientist comes into contact with radioactive material and dies. The following day, on August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. After the mission, Nixon returns home to break the news to Cochran's wife of her husband's death.[N 1]

Cast

Production

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dropping of "Little Boy", the first operational atomic bomb.
Under the working title of Top Secret, the film underwent a number of revisions, with Ayn Rand being one of the contributors.[3] A number of experts from Oak Ridge and Los Alamos acted as technical advisors: Dr. H. T. Wensel, Dr. Edward R. Tompkins, Dr. David Hawkins and W. Bradford Shank. Military technical advisors included Colonel William A. Considine and Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Sweeney, pilot of Bockscar, the bomber that dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Of particular importance is the role General Groves played: "Groves also played a significant role in the development of the MGM film The Beginning or the End. Indeed, after MGM won White House approval for the project, one of its first moves was to hire Groves as a primary consultant, for the then-unheard-of-fee of $10,000. MGM was authorized to depict Groves' role in the film and Groves agreed to offer his 'best cooperation' in the production of the picture."[4] [N 2]

Principal photography began on April 29, 1946, and continued until July 25, with retakes begun on August 9.[5]

Historical accuracy

The technical details of atomic processes and the bomb's design are wildly inaccurate by intention. In 1947, these details were highly classified and the true nature of the weapon could not even be hinted at. One inaccuracy, independent of necessary military secrecy, is the portrayal of anti-aircraft shells bursting around the aircraft on the bombing run. The historical and political details are also inaccurate, for propaganda purposes.[6]

Reception

Although The Beginning or the End was the first film to depict the story of the atomic bomb, both critics and the public were confused by the attempt to merge real events in a docudrama form. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times commented, "... despite its generally able reenactments, this film is so laced with sentiment of the silliest and most theatrical nature that much of its impressiveness is marred." [7]

The Beginning or the End was an expensive commercial failure; according to MGM records, it earned $1,221,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $721,000 elsewhere resulting in a loss to the studio of $1,596,000
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

USS Pueblo: LBJ Considered Nuclear Weapons, Naval Blockade, Ground Attacks in Response to 1968 North Korean Seizure of Navy Vessel, Documents Show

Commander Lloyd M. Bucher, Commanding Officer ...
Commander Lloyd M. Bucher, Commanding Officer of the Pueblo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 



Washington, DC, January 23, 2014 – Forty-six years ago today - well before Edward Snowden was born - the National Security Agency suffered what may still rank as the most significant compromise ever of its code secrets when the American spy ship USS Pueblo was captured by communist forces off the coast of North Korea on January 23, 1968. The U.S. Navy signals intelligence ship was on a mission to intercept radio and electronic transmissions, and apparently sailing in international waters, when North Korean naval units opened fire, then boarded the vessel and took its crew hostage for almost a year, sparking a major international crisis.
Beyond the dramatic political ramifications of the seizure and hostage-taking for the Lyndon Johnson administration and U.S. world standing, the incident resulted in the capture of a dozen top secret encryption devices, maintenance manuals, and other code materials. Because it involved actual encryption equipment rather than just papers and briefing materials, the Pueblo affair may have produced a much greater loss than the recent disclosures of former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden.
Recently declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive describe tense U.S. internal reactions to the Pueblo seizure, and include previously withheld high-level political and military deliberations over how to respond to the episode in an atmosphere fraught with the dangers of a superpower conflict. Military contingency plans, which President Lyndon Johnson eventually rejected, included a naval blockade, major air strikes and even use of nuclear weapons against North Korea.
Among the main disclosures in these documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and archival research, are the following:
  • The Johnson administration considered several risky courses of action to retaliate for the Pueblo seizure. They included a blockade of North Korean ports, air strikes on military targets, a battalion-size ground assault across the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, a phony intelligence leak to the Soviets that the United States planned to attack North Korea, and a "show of force" by U.S. naval and air units outside the port of Wonsan, where the Pueblo was being held.
  • U.S. intelligence agencies were asked to analyze alternatives that included the mining of Wonsan harbor, air strikes on military targets in North Korea, and a ground attack by a battalion-sized force across the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.
  • Although a number of U.S. code machines aboard the ship fell into communist hands, American military and intelligence officials believed that by switching codes they could keep their secret communications secure. What they did not know was that a U.S. Navy radio specialist, John A. Walker Jr., recently had begun selling codes to the Soviets. Later damage assessments described the ship's capture as an unprecedented intelligence loss - "everyone's worst nightmare," in the words of a National Security Agency historian.
  • In the tense aftermath of the Pueblo seizure, Pentagon war planners weighed using nuclear weapons to stop a possible communist invasion of South Korea, as well as mounting a massive air attack to wipe out North Korea's air force. The nuclear option, eerily codenamed "Freedom Drop," envisioned the use of American aircraft and land-based missiles to incinerate onrushing North Korean troops.
  • The CIA assembled a psychological profile of Pueblo skipper Commander Lloyd M. Bucher as part of a wide-ranging secret investigation of his loyalty and personal life.
  • Within days of the ship's capture, former North Koreans consulted by the CIA accurately predicted the outcome of the crisis, advising the United States on how to negotiate with the communists.
  • A small committee secretly appointed by LBJ to get to the bottom of the Pueblo debacle criticized the planning and organization of the ship's mission. But the committee's blunt report, which was initially to be given to Congress, was instead ordered destroyed by Defense Secretary Clark Clifford.

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