Pulse of Oahu Neighborhoods

SUBHEAD: Elections are underway for Oahu's volunteer advisory neighborhood boards.

By Natanya Friedheim on 28 April 2017 for Civil Beat -

Image above: Representatives of the the Waianae Neighborhood Board during public meeting. From original article.

[IP Publisher's note: Oahu has neighborhood boards that are publicly elected and have significant power, even though they are not a legislative or regulatory body. Their scale and and location are not dissimilar to the traditional ahupuaa of Hawaiian culture. After the disaster of Kauai's recent clueless update of the Kauai General Plan effort by the Planning Department, maybe we should consider neighborhood boards for more local input . Kauai has no village, town, or city level government bodies for local governance. Unfortunately, our county government has shown itself to be a place that has produced incompetent planning for the rest of the island.  It offers opportunities for grifting speculative developers while providing secure jobs with benefits for those centered in Lihue overseeing our "growth". We need the communities of our island to have structured positions in governing. We recommend looking to Oahu's Neighborhood Boards as a possible means.]

Every month, Michael Eli stands up to address military officials at the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board meeting.

When will the United States end its illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Islands? he asks.

“No comment,” Army Maj. Richard Bell always responds.

Downtown-Chinatown Neighborhood Board members have probably never heard that question, but they’re used to disputes about noise, alcohol consumption and street closures from block parties sponsored by Chinatown’s young entrepreneurial class.

For the record, Oahu’s 33 active neighborhood boards (two are proposed and not yet formed) can’t grant liquor licenses, or evict the American military. They are strictly advisory, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have impact.

They can pass resolutions supporting or opposing government action, but they don’t create policy or choose where public funds are spent. Topics discussed at board meetings include trees that need trimming, potholes that need repair and sometimes bigger issues like proposed high rise developments.

And if you think neighborhood board meetings are just platforms for people to gripe, it could be that you’ve never been to one.

“Some people feel that they just go there, bitch and complain, and nothing ever happens,” said Amanda Ybanez, a member of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board. “But if it’s done correctly and you have the right people on the board that are voted in, not only are the politicians being held accountable and doing things, but the board members make sure that there is follow-up.”

Public outcry followed a proposed charter amendment last year that would have done away with the boards. A separate amendment that calls for periodic reviews of all city boards and commissions was approved.

While the measure to end the board system never made it to the ballot, it prompted a discussion over how effective the boards are as platforms for democracy. Sometimes the meetings are sparsely attended, and 18 of the boards have at least one vacancy.

The Neighborhood Commission Office, which oversees the neighborhood boards, is ramping up its public outreach efforts this year in hopes of drawing more people to the meetings and to vote in the upcoming board elections.

The elections, which occur every two years, take place online beginning Friday and continuing until May 19.

You’re really in touch with the pulse of the community going to the neighborhood boards,” said Shawn Hamamoto, executive secretary of the Neighborhood Commission Office.

Image above: Flora Obayashi, chair of the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board urges members of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board to pass a resolution opposing aspects of a master plan for the Koolau Poko moku area. From original article.

‘You Don’t Need To Be An Expert’
Honolulu voters created the neighborhood board system in 1973 to give residents a stronger voice in issues and policies that affect them.

“The best training for a neighborhood board member is simply living in their neighborhood,” said Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, a member of the Neighborhood Commission. “You don’t need to be an expert in all the policy issues.”

The meetings provide a forum for residents to present their concerns to elected officials — if those officials show up. Some politicians send office representatives who may take an initial shot at answering questions, then return the following month with fuller responses.

Some board members say the information they get at meetings is inadequate, and that officials need to be more transparent.

In recent years, “the city has not been responsive,” said Stanford Yuen, who has served on the Downtown-Chinatown Neighborhood Board for 18 years. “They’ll give a halfway answer that’ll raise more questions … a lot of times they’ll just leave it open and walk away.”

Some officials respond to questions with highly technical language. Wilson Koike of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board said that’s a tactic.

“They have substitute, flowery answers which have no yes or no, and that’s the game they play,” Koike said. “We want a simple English answer, not technical, legalese answer.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office referred questions about neighborhood boards to Hamamoto, who said it may take a while for the city to thoroughly respond to inquiries and technical terms are sometimes appropriate.

“I don’t think it’s a case where the mayor’s representatives are trying to deceive,” Hamamoto said.
The boards also provide a forum for business owners, developers, nonprofits and other community organizations.

Dos Santos-Tam would like to see more small businesses get involved with the boards. While some owners might not live in the area where their business is located, he said, they may spend as much of their waking lives in the neighborhoods as residents do.

The boards are places where government agencies, businesses and residents can intersect.
“Government agencies rely heavily on what neighborhood boards say,” Hamamoto said.

The Honolulu Liquor Commission, for example, must notify the local neighborhood board before granting a liquor license.

If residents want a park to close at night, the Department of Parks and Recreation must get the OK from that area’s neighborhood board prior to implementation.

Last month, the Manoa Neighborhood Board meeting drew a crowd because Robert Kroning, the director of the Department of Design and Construction, attended to talk about road conditions in the valley.

While boards can’t create policy, they can wield influence through resolutions.

Over the last few months, Amy Perruso attended one board meeting after another to represent the Hawaii State Teachers Association. At each meeting, she urged board members to pass resolutions supporting Senate Bill 386, which died at the Legislature last week but would have generated more money for schools through a constitutional amendment to raise some property taxes.

Democracy if ‘Real People’ Show Up
Kakaako - Ala Moana Neighborhood Board Chairman Ryan Tam has two categories for the people who attend his board’s meetings: “real people” and “fake people.”

“Real people” are local residents who choose to participate. “Fake people” include contractors, consultants, city and state officials and their representatives, and the occasional reporters who attend because they have to.

Tam has sat through meetings where as few as two “real people” showed up. When the turnout of local residents is low, the meetings become just a conversation between board members, he said.
It can be difficult for people to commit to a meeting that might last two-plus hours on a weeknight.

Location also plays a role in turnout.

Waianae board meetings are held at the district park, a building complex that’s accessible by bus and buzzes with activity after work hours. The April board meeting drew more than 30 people.

Down a windy road with no street lights, the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board meeting at the National Guard Training Auditorium on the grounds of Bellows Air Force Station isn’t easily accessible for those without a car. Less than 10 people showed up for last month’s meeting.

Some boards struggle to retain members and attract young people. Forty percent of board members serving two-year terms in the 2014-2015 period were 64 or older. Only 6 percent were 18 to 30 years old, according to Neighborhood Commission data.

Boards have a minimum of nine members and a maximum of 19. The number is determined by a district’s population and geography.

As the current terms come to a close, some have as few as six members while others have all 19. As the first board ever created, Mililani/Waipiu/Melemanu board has an exception that allows it to have 23 members.

Hamamoto links low participation on neighborhood boards with Hawaii’s record low voter turnout. He and his staff of 13 people have made it their mission to reach out to the nearly 1 million people who live on Oahu.

They’ve visited more than 1,000 establishments islandwide to inform people about the boards, including doctors offices, golf courses, service clubs and cultural festivals.

“We’re boots on the ground,” Hamamoto said.

Elections begin Friday. They are conducted online and are open to all registered voters on Oahu. Mail-in ballots are also available, but require voters to call the ballot request hotline at 768-3763, with more directions at the city’s website.

Political Launching Pad
Sen. Karl Rhoads spent 10 years on the Downtown-Chinatown Neighborhood Board before becoming a state representative. He’s now a state senator.

“It was neat to see him work his way up through the ranks,” said Hamamoto, a former member of the Downtown Neighborhood Board.

Dos Santos-Tam has similar sentiments about Rep. Takashi Ohno and Rep. Kaniela Ing, now a Maui leggislator, both of whom served alongside him on the Liliha Neighborhood Board.

Rhoads, Sen. Laura Theilen, Rep. Tom Brower, and City Councilman Brandon Elefante are among the elected officials who started their political careers on a neighborhood board.

Mayor Caldwell served on both the Kaimuki and Manoa neighborhood boards.

Marcus Paaluhi, now the chair of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board, ran for the state House last year but lost to Rep. Cedric Gates, who also once served as the chair of the board.

“It’s a good way to get your feet wet,” Paaluhi said.

Record Votes for Neighborhood Boards

By Rui Kaneya on 14 May 2015 for Civil Beat

Image above: Map of Oahu Neighborhood Boards. From original article.

A record number of Oahu residents have cast their vote for the 2015 Neighborhood Board election, according to the Honolulu Neighborhood Commission Office.

With a day still left before the ballot closes, nearly 18,500 people have already voted in the all-online election, surpassing the previous record set during the last election in 2013 by nearly 20 percent.

This year, 598 candidates are vying for 437 seats in the biennial, all-online election, which received an innovation award from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government for cutting costs by switching to a digital format.

Any Oahu residents who were registered to vote in the 2014 elections or newly signed up with the Neighborhood Commission can still cast their votes until 11:59 p.m. on Friday.

Oahu’s Neighborhood Boards serve as advisory councils that help decide what happens in their community in terms of development, business and neighborhood laws at all levels of government.


Forgo Wells Fargo

SUBHEAD: Wells Fargo board of directors face wrath for complicity in bank's corruption.

By Lauren McCauley on 25 April 2017 for Common Dreams -

Image above: "Around the country, people are saying that we've had enough of Wells Fargo really doing everything it can to extract as much value out of our communities as possible, and we're fighting back," Saqib Bhatti, director of the ReFund America Project who also is working on the Forgo Wells campaign. From (ForgoWells.org).

The board of directors of Wells Fargo Bank was dealt low-confidence vote, and met with fierce protests in and outside of annual shareholder meeting.

Met by fierce protests both inside and out the annual shareholder meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida on Tuesday, members of the Wells Fargo board of directors refused to step down despite expressions of outrage and no confidence for their handling of a massive consumer banking scam.

The meeting marked the first for shareholders since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) last September exposed the bank for opening millions of unauthorized accounts, which saddled many customers with fees and blemishes on their credit score, all in the name of meeting unrealistic sales quotas.

The massive scandal and fallout led to the resignation of former CEO John Stumpf and Tuesday's meeting was expected to be the moment that the directors would be held to account.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) issued a series of tweets during the three-hour long meeting, advising those voting to demand accountability:
Either @WellsFargo’s board failed to fully investigate the fraud for years or they knew about it and did nothing – either is unacceptable.
Shareholders should vote out every member of the @WellsFargo’s board who was around during this scam. This is about accountability.
Inside the meeting, multiple shareholders stood up to express anger at the directors.

The New York Post reports:
During the first minutes of the meeting, shareholder Bruce Marks of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America spurred mayhem as he demanded that board members to stand up and tell investors what they knew and when they knew it about the scandal [...]

"Let them speak! Let them speak! Or are they just mouthpieces for the executives who allowed these predatory practices to occur?" Marks said.  [Chairman Stephen] Sanger tried to get Marks to sit down and wait until a specific Q&A session, telling him he was "out of order." [...]
"Wells Fargo has been out of order for years, and your response is, 'Well, we're sorry,'" Marks yelled. "Well, that's not good enough!"
Sister Nora Nash, director of corporate responsibility for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, also denounced the board, saying they "failed to set the tone and the culture" that it should have, according to NBC News.

At one point, shareholders introduced a motion to break up the banking giant. Rachel Curley, democracy associate with the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said of the request:
"One of the key arguments for reducing the size of Wells Fargo... is that the bank is too big to manage. The massive cross-selling fraud attests to this problem."
Another proposal which recommended the bank drop its funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was also tabled. "You can drink water. You can't drink oil," Robert Taken Alive, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, said during the meeting. "We're looking for action. We're not looking for policy or paper."

Outside the meeting, campaigners held a day of action to draw attention to the "corrupt and unethical business practices" of the bank—from an overnight anti-pipeline protest at a New York City location to a flyover banner above the Florida meeting, which drew attention to Wells Fargo executive Jeff Grubb's support for an anti-LGBT extremist group. Others took to Twitter to express their outrage with the banking giant, using the hashtag #ForgoWells.

"Around the country, people are saying that we've had enough of Wells Fargo really doing everything it can to extract as much value out of our communities as possible, and we're fighting back," Saqib Bhatti, director of the ReFund America Project who also is working on the Forgo Wells campaign, told CounterSpin recently, explaining that the campaign "is really about getting cities, states, counties, school districts across the country to stop doing business with Wells Fargo."

In addition to the day of action, Forgo Wells is circulating a petition that, Bhatti explained, "calls on the bank to divest from Dakota Access Pipeline, to stop investing in private prisons and immigration detention centers, to stop funding the payday lending industry, to stop its tremendous lobbying that it's doing to try to influence our politics, to stop its predatory foreclosure practices, and a number of other demands that we raise."

Ultimately, "all but three of the directors received less than 81 percent of the shares cast, with risk committee chairman Enrique Hernandez Jr. receiving the lowest tally, 53 percent," reported Deon Roberts and Rick Rothacker with the Charlotte Observer's "Bank Watch," who described the vote as "a strong rebuke."

"It's extremely rare for corporate directors to be voted out or even to have a poor showing in annual shareholder votes," they noted. "Running unopposed, they typically receive voting percentages in the high 90s." Chairman Sanger only received 56 percent. The three directors who fared well were all hired in the wake of the scandal.

The embattled board seemed to hold on with the help of Warren Buffett, whose company Berkshire Hathaway owns about 10 percent of shares.


Permaculture in Hawaii

SUBHEAD: Permaculture works to keep the birds, insects, soil and surrounding nature content and ourselves fed.

By Juan Wilson on 26 April 2017 for Island Breath -

Image above: We at IslandBreath have attempted to do permaculture. Photo from our backyard efforts at that we have named "Akea Aina".  Photo by Juan Wilson.

Akea Aina consists of about 1.5 acres of land - a third of it is our property, a third rented from the Robinson family and another third is on Hawaiian public land.

The photo above show haole koa ("false" koa) trees in foreground. They are early adopters in yards on Hanapepe Valley but few people have let haole koa grow so large as they are usually considered weed trees.

Haole koa are hard and heavy wood good for fires and they are good nitrogen fixers. They provide light shade that sun-delicate plants can grow under. Beneath them are a row of cacao trees with fruit.

To the left and right of this photo are breadfruit trees and cassava. Beyond what you can see are beehives.

In the background, from the left is a starfruit tree, coconut, mango, papaya, avocado and more. That's only a small sample of what can be grown on a small farm.

Below is a brief video survey of permaculture efforts in Hawaii on various islands. By "permaculture" we mean intentional living arrangements on land that produces food and fertile land as a foundation of healthy local flora and fauna. This way of life means living "in nature".

That implies sustainable self sufficiency in food, soil, water and energy.      

Mokupuni o Hawaii
Introduction to the permaculture training programs offered at the  La'akea community on the Big Island, with teacher Tracy Matfin. Get a look at La'akea uses permaculture principles.

Video above: Permaculture Education Programs - La'akea, Hawaii in 2011. From (https://youtu.be/-XgpTaAfb7Q).

Mokupuni o Maui
Fruition Permaculture Design as he gives us a tour of Laulima Farm in lush Kipahulu, Maui, Hawaii. Jesse Krebs discusses the key permaculture design features of this beautiful tropical farm.

Video above: Fruit-based Veganic Permaculture on Maui in 2013. From (https://youtu.be/zG2JuTvq5e8).

Mokupuni o Molokai
SustAINAble Molokai and Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institute of America and of PRI Australia. We now have strategies to heal the land by slowing the course of water.

Video above: Heal the land, Harvest water, Grow food security on Molokai in 2013. From (https://youtu.be/P2Lp8YmJaag).

Mokupuni o Oahu
Growing your own food and being self sufficient is one of the best ways to give power back to the people and live in harmony with nature.

Video above: Permaculture with Paul Izak in Hawaii on Oahu in 2012. From (https://youtu.be/_WHG3NJEq90).

Mokupuni o Kauai
Paul Massey, the Director Regeneration Botanical Gardens gives a concise definition of what Kauai Food Forest is all about.

Video above: Permaculture in Kauai Part 2 in 2013. From (https://youtu.be/5pJrw9QuCB0).

There is no doubt in our minds that these methods of "farming" are the way to go here in Hawaii. It works to keep the birds, insects, soil and surrounding nature content and ourselves fed.


Executive Order pushes pesticides

SUBHEAD: We can’t allow the protections we depend on for clean water, clean air, and safe food to be gutted.

By Staff on 26 April 2017 for Center for Food Safety -

Image above: Photo detail of can of Dow Chemical's chlorpyrifos pesticide distributed by David Gray Co. with warning: "This product is too hazardous for use by householders. Householders must not use this product in or around the home." From (http://www.fertilisersdirect.com.au/pco-chlorpyrifos-1l.html).
The hits to our food, farms, and environment just keep coming.
Just hours ago, President Trump signed a new Executive Order, this time specifically on agriculture, directing the Secretary of Agriculture to undertake a 180-day review to “identify and eliminate" what Trump says are "unnecessary regulations”.1

The Presidential Order also creates a new task force to recommend eliminating food and agriculture legislation, policies, and regulations that might hinder the profit-making of “agribusiness.”

What kind of regulations are they looking at? Well, the details are slim, but what is there doesn’t look good. We know that regulations regarding the oversight, production, and export of genetically engineered crops are high on the list.2

The Executive Order also seems to push for faster and/or easier approvals for pesticides and biotech crops, pushing biotech crops abroad to ease export market access, easing the privatization of scarce public water resources for corporate gain, and opening public lands up to mining, farming, ranching and other activities that don’t belong on our public lands.3

We know that Agribusiness has Trump’s ear. He picked Sonny Perdue, one of Big Ag’s own, for his USDA Secretary.

And this week, the Associated Press dropped a bombshell:
Dow Chemical gave $1,000,000 to Trump’s inauguration fund, and the chemical giant is now urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set aside its findings on chlorpyrifos and three other pesticides that federal scientists from several agencies found were harmful to endangered species and human health.4
Trump’s EPA also just green-lighted Dow’s new “Enlist Duo” genetically engineered crops, resistant to 2,4-D, part of the Vietnam Era Agent Orange pesticide.

In January, then President-elect Trump sat down chemical giant Bayer’s CEO Werner Baumann and Monsanto’s CEO Hugh Grant at Trump Tower and had a “productive meeting” on “the future of the agriculture industry” and the pending merger between the two companies.

Combined, President Trump, EPA Administrator Pruitt, and newly confirmed USDA Secretary Perdue have received millions of dollars from Big Ag and chemical companies.

We can’t allow the protections we depend on for clean water, clean air, and safe food to be gutted by the new administration and the corporations which have purchased great influence over the President and his policies.

Trump needs to hear from you – add your name  to petition

1. http://www.nydailynews.com/newswires/news/national/latest-trump-aims-ease-farming-regulations-article-1.3099884
2. https://www.politicopro.com/tech/whiteboard/2017/04/perdue-to-chair-trumps-task-force-on-rural-america-086691
3. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/04/25/presidential-executive-order-promoting-agriculture-and-rural-prosperity
4. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/a29073ecef9b4841b2e6cca07202bb67/ap-exclusive-pesticide-maker-tries-scrap-risk-study


The New American Despotism

SUBHEAD: The appropriate work to be done by civilization when faced with numbing retrenchment.

By Jeremy Leggett on 24 April 2017 for JeremyLeggett.net -

Image above: Illustration of the Statue of Liberty being submerged. From (http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Fascism-is-looming-over-the-US-and-its-bad-news-for-the-Jews-454411).

1. Climate Action
Trump endeavours to dig a little coal
President Trump moved to dismantle President Obama’s climate legacy with an executive order that seeks to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Within a week, 17 US states filed a legal challenge. China immediately pledged to uphold its Paris climate commitments, including considerable efforts not to use coal, accusing the US of “selfish” behavior.

The EU joined the pushback. Miguel Árias Cañete, the EU’s climate action commissioner, said: “The continued leadership of the EU, China and many other major economies is now more important than ever. When it comes to climate and the global clean energy transition, there cannot be vacuums, there can only be drivers, and we are committed to driving this agenda forward.”

Fine sentiments. But whereas China can point to policies consistent with its rhetoric, unfortunately the same cannot be said of much EU national policymaking, as things stand.

Among EU states, only Sweden, Germany and France are pursuing goals consistent with the Paris target of 40% cuts in carbon emissions by 2030, according to a study by Carbon Market Watch.

As ever, much will depend on industry, and one encouraging development this month was a pledge by Eurelectric, a trade body which represents 3,500 utilities with a combined value of over €200 billion, vowing no new investments in coal plants after 2020. Among the 28 EU countries, only Polish and Greek companies did not join the initiative.

2. Energy Transition
Fast, but not fast enough
Record new renewable power capacity was added in 2016, UNEP figures showed: 138 gigawatts of it, up 9% despite investment falling by a worrying 23%. Renewables now provide 11.3% of global electricity. New global solar capacity outpaced wind, IRENA reported, by 71 to 51 gigawatts.

Solar in California exceeded 50% of supply, for the first time ever, causing a net market oversupply resulting in a short interval of negative wholesale prices.

Costs of renewables keep falling. GTM Research predicts that solar will drop below two cents per kilowatt hour in 2017. Offshore wind is the latest renewable to defy predictions. EnBW and Dong won offshore wind tenders in the North Sea with the first subsidy-free bids.

Moody’s reported that wind is now cheaper to install new than coal is to operate in 58 power plants across 15 Midwestern states, at $20 a megawatt versus $30. Trump told a rally in Kentucky that “the miners are coming back”. But they aren’t. Not even top US coal boss Robert Murray expects that, in the face of real contemporary economics.

As for US renewables companies, they were professing this month that their industries will thrive even without the Clean Power Plan. Their confidence is rooted in record solar installation and above average wind installation in 2016, plus federally agreed tax credits that would be difficult for the Trump administration to dismantle.

The news was also broadly good for EVs this month, with Tesla meeting production targets and its shares soaring to an all time high, for a while making it the most valuable car company in America. Meanwhile Big Oil, facing predictions of significant demand destruction by EVs within just years, is struggling to break even.

Most of the oil majors didn’t even cover their costs in 2016, a Wall Street Journal analysis showed, despite a rising oil price. Some oil companies say American shale will help save them. But of the three main oil-producing shale belts, production has already peaked in two.

The oil industry loves to taunt its critics with the mantra that “peak oil is dead”. For some players, it is clearly not the case. Mexico’s proved oil reserves have declined by more than a third since 2013.

This month its National Hydrocarbons Commission country warned that the country will run out of oil in less than nine years if there are no new discoveries.

What an incentive fast oil depletion like that must be to build a clean-energy economy fast, never mind climate change. (More on this in my keynote to the MIREC renewables congress in Mexico City on 10th May).

And there are many other stand-out non-climate incentives around our troubled world, from air pollution to risk of stranded assets. But new figures showed that clean energy investment dropped 17% in the first quarter of 2017.

3. Tech for Good?
Evidence of effort
Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics outpace even those in clean energy, and continue to be used in many ways for the betterment of society. But evidence that they have profound downsides was everywhere this month.

YouTube and Google’s use of algorithms to automatically match ads with content is the basis for widespread criticism that they fed the spread of fake news in the crucial months running up to both the Brexit vote and Trump’s election, much of it orchestrated by a well organised nationalist-right dark-propaganda network.

The two companies ran into further, related, trouble, with big name advertisers boycotting them for posting ads next to racist and other offensive content. The boycotters included such diverse actors as AT&T, the BBC, the British government, PepsiCo, Starbucks, Verizon, and WalMart.

Google responded quickly, saying it was in a race to ramp up its AI capability to deal with the problem. But that is no easy task. Nobody has pulled off such a feat of megadata sifting before. As part of their effort, they have begun to use outside firms to verify ad standards.

They might want to hurry. The inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, argues that concentration of power over information, such as Goggle and Facebook now possess, is dangerous for society. He is plotting, with others in the Decentralized Information Group at MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (CSAIL), means to decentralise control of data in his creation.

The threat AI and robotics pose to jobs becomes ever clearer. More than 10 million UK workers are at risk of being replaced within 15 years, PwC calculated, some 30% of the workforce. The IPPR estimates a similar figure: robots replacing 1 in 3 UK jobs over the next 20 years.

A report by the US National Bureau of Economic Research goes further, suggesting that large numbers of jobs have already been lost to robotics in America, and are unlikely to come back. Wages have been depressed in the process, they contend.

The question arises, then, as to how much this has been fueling populist rage, on both sides of the Atlantic, making it easier for nationalist demagogues to push their argument that “the other” – immigrants and anyone else who is not in what psychologists call their in-group – is entirely to blame.

Whatever the answer to that question about the past, the additional stress just around the corner will clearly pose a dire threat to social cohesion if nothing is done. The imperative for government and business to act is obvious.

4. Truth
Liars under growing scrutiny
As investigations into the conduct of the Trump election and the Brexit vote continue, it becomes ever clearer that the nationalist right is capable of extraordinary feats of voter manipulation.

A group of UK academics warned this month that dark money is a threat to the integrity of British elections. The Electoral Commission is investigating whether work by Cambridge Analytica, one data firm at the heart of the controversy, constitutes an undeclared donation from an impermissible foreign donor.

Cambridge Analytica is majority owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, a major bankroller of Donald Trump. Steve Bannon, Trump’s head of strategy, has been a major player in the development of the company and its capabilities.

Filings of White House staffers’ interests this month show he has made millions shaping right-wing thought, via Cambridge Analytica and other organs.
The pushback unfolding against this fast-emerging Orwellian narrative is often extraordinary to behold.

The Los Angeles Times published a series of  essays by its editorial board this month. “Our Dishonest President”, the first was entitled. “Why Trump lies”, the second. They read like a science fiction novel of a dystopian future society. But they are about real-life America, today.

New arenas of corporate responsibility are being stimulated, unsurprisingly. Google announced it will begin to display fact-checking labels to show if news it purveys is true or false. Facebook gave a green light to its employees to protest against Trump on May 1st. Dramas build slowly in the courts as truth and lies compete. A judge rejected Trump’s defense against a claim he incited violence at one of his rallies.

5. Equality
Talk of cutting aid as famine rages
Meanwhile, though you would hardly know it from mainstream media coverage, we are in the midst of the gravest humanitarian crisis since 1945 – since the creation of the United Nations. 20 million people face starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria, the UN warns.

Drought has descended on Kenya, triggering violence as displaced peoples migrate.

Amid all this, populist nationalists continue to contend that aid budgets should be cut. The UK government, to its credit, is resisting this so far.

As for the considerable potential role of clean energy in building equality and alleviating poverty, an international gathering of the Sustainable Energy for All organisation in New York this month called for more urgent action on progress towards global energy goals.

In SolarAid, my colleagues and I could not agree more. Our work is based on the fact that if you burn oil in a kerosene lamp in Africa and it will cost you almost $80 a year, yet a solar lamp retailing at around $5 will give clean light for free, for 4 years.

So if you were one of the poorest people in Africa, which would you rather do? Save $70 a year to spend on food and other essentials, in a time of famine, or burn a fistful of ten dollar bills each year, and risk your health breathing the fumes? This should be an obvious starting point for a massive programme to free up local money for the necessities of poverty alleviation, SolarAid contends.

But sales of the most affordable of these lights are actually falling in Africa, and in fact the rest of the world too. In Malawi, for example, we are one of only a few organisations working to help. More on that subject, a microcosm of global challenges and opportunities in energy, in an e-mail in a week or so.

6. Reform of Capitalism
Graphic evidence of the need
The Bank of England has admitted to fearing, in the current febrile financial climate, that it may not be able to spot the next global crisis coming. Few who studied the forensics of the last one, and the response – or mostly lack thereof – can be surprised. There are obvious candidates for a trigger in the inflated stock market, and mountainous debt in car loans, credit cards, and mortgages. The Brexit gamble is also potentially on the list. The IMF professes that its unpredictable outcome poses a risk to global stability.

Given the fact that regulators regard another crisis as inevitable, and see an unreadable multiplicity of potential paths to it, who can realistically contend that the unbridled 21st century version of capitalism is anything close to a satisfactory way to run a global economy today?

Root-to-branch reform might take some mapping, but starting points are not too difficult to find. One involves the jailing of executives guilty of gross corruption. Until this starts happening, how there can be hope for wider reform, or the necessary adjustments of cultures? Shell offered up a perfect example this month.

The company is under investigation for one of the most corrupt deals in the history of the oil industry.  E-mails show that top executives handed a billion dollars to the Nigerian government, knowing it would be passed to a convicted money-launderer,  in return for a giant oilfield.

The CEO of the day, Peter Voser, knew of the deal. The current CEO, Ben van Buerden, described the evidence in e-mails as “really unhelpful”, but “just pub talk.”

One might hope that if the forces of the law cannot sort out behaviour of this kind, then investors might be queuing to punish a company as wide of the ethical mark as this using their money and governance power.

Not on recent evidence from Wall Street. The social media company Snap, owner of a popular photo exchange website, went public in February with investors queuing to pour cash into it.

This despite the twenty-something co-founders specifying that investors would have zero voting rights. Far from failing, in the exodus of financial custodians that this dangerous first-of-a-kind should have been faced with, Snap raised $3.4 billion and achieved a valuation of $19.7 billion.

What a gloomy precedent this now sets for the future. It raises the prospect, in principle, of a small cadre of almost unregulated and unconstrained tech billionaires calling the shots on how the AI and robotics innovations of the next few years are deployed.

We had better all hope, if this is the way investors and regulators allow events to unfold, that said billionaires, and investors in them, are not friends of the the populist nationalist right.

Yet the way financiers were lining up to engage with Marine Le Pen as the French Presidential election neared suggests we can far from rely on this.

7. Common Security
If you elect nationalist demagogues, you will be more likely to experience World War III
Let me be brief on this final point.

In the Trump administration’s handling of Syria and North Korea, where is there any evidence at all of basic statesmanship?

Of rudimentary strategy even?

Of any thought that there might be lessons to be learned in decades of diplomacy?

Ahead of the election, Trump seemed to grasp the inadvisability of poking a hornets nest with a stick, let alone many millions of dollars worth of cruise missiles. “Again, to our very foolish leader”, he tweeted at Obama (all in capital letters), “do not attack Syria – if you do many very bad things will happen.”

Suffice it to say that one particularly bad knee-jerk reaction from Trump and/or those he turns into his adversaries, and all bets are off on the balance of play I endeavour to summarise above.

A message for my senior grandson, if he made it this far in this blog. Sorry fella, I have been trying for a quarter century. But I and all the people like me have pretty much failed, to date. Hopefully there is some comfort in the thought that we are still trying.


Gorillas in our midst

SUBHEAD: Two videos that feature the nature of gorilla and human contact in the jungle.

By Juan Wilson on 24 April 2017 for Island Breath -

Image above: A family of apes spends some moments with a man. Still frame from 2011 video below.

Once and a while I just screw around on YouTube and find something that is for me compelling. By that I don't mean such categories as "Supertanker Disasters" of "World's Biggest Tsunamis"... although I have seen a share of those.

What I did find was friendly contact between wild gorillas and humans. It's not all poaching and hunting and eating them. It seems that a human can have a relationship with our cousins if we are willing to submit to their will.

Below are two examples:

Video above: December 2010 - Man reunites with gorilla he has not seen for five years. From (https://youtu.be/nEUlUfhQbNw).

Video above: July 2015 - a gorilla remembers a girl he had not seen for 12 years. From (https://youtu.be/Xarwk2d5Jm8).


Continuing Fukushima Danger

SUBHEAD: Turkish Radio & Television update report on Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant catastrophe.

By Martin Stanford on 14 April 2017 for TRT World -

Image above: The government has also spent more than $1.5 billion collecting radioactive soil and earth from the Fukushima area, which now sits in thousands of industrial-sized black plastic bags stacked five high on several sites.  Sill frame from Part I video below.

See video below for full report.

TRT World transcript excerpts (government-funded public broadcaster of Turkey), Apr 14, 2017:

Martin Stanford, host of ‘Insight’ Radiation Alert — a nuclear scientist tells us the cleanup at Japan’s Fukushima plant could take 100 years… The decommissioning process has barely begun… A British nuclear scientist who’s just come back from Fukushima has told this program it could take up to 100 years.

1:15 in – Dana Lewis, senior correspondent: In three years Tokyo will host the Summer Olympics, and ironically one of the commercial slogans asks ‘Is Japan cool?’

It would almost be funny if the situation wasn’t so serious. 150 miles from Tokyo is the Fukushima nuclear power station where the situation is not cool — it’s a super-heated atomic catastrophe ever since a powerful earthquake rattled Japan in 2011 a 15-metre tsunami engulfed Fukushima and caused three reactors to melt down and they still are.

1:45 in – Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear: It’s unknown where those cores are at… There is some possibility that it’s burrowed completely through the containment, and is sitting in groundwater.

2:30 in – Lewis: Deep inside Fukushima there is a molten mess… But exactly how deep are those cores? And that is a burning question. These close-up photographs show that it has burned through some of the containment structure and burrowed deep in the foundation of the reactor.

Until those cores can be retrieved, the radiation will keep spewing into groundwater and leaking — no one knows for sure where… Neil Hyatt is a professor of nuclear materials chemistry. [He's] back from touring Fukushima — well at least the storage areas… and he admits the situation will haunt Japan for generations.

3:45 in – Neil Hyatt, nuclear scientist: Somewhere between 40 and 100 years for the Fukushima cleanup and complete decommissioning is probably a reasonable estimate…

4:00 in – Lewis: But while they plan to get to those cores Tokyo Electric is struggling with a lethal radioactive dragon…

4:45 in – Hyatt: One concern is that there could be a resumption of the nuclear chain reaction…

7:00 in – Mark Whitby, engineer: This was an unprecedented accident, it was very close to being much worse than Chernobyl… It wasn’t so much the reactor cores which were melting – there was nothing they could do to to retrieve that situation.

The real problem was that one of the reactors had been recently taken offline, it had a fuel pond which was very hot, stacked with 20 years worth of fuel rods and that was beginning to boil dry… Had that fuel pond boiled, and Prime Minister Kan was very aware of this, this would have been 12 Chernobyls…

Video above: Turkish Radio & Television's "Insight: Fukushima Danger - Part I". From (https://youtu.be/hMr3pBAPgLg).

Video above: Turkish Radio & Television's "Insight: Fukushima Danger - Part II". From (https://youtu.be/ruk3X-4zs5k).

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima worse than ever 2/5/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima radiation on West Coast 1/13/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima cleanup cost to double 12/9/16 
Ea O Ka Aina: Tokyo damaged by nuclear pellet rain 9/24/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Nuclear Power and Climate Failure 8/24/16 
Ea O Ka Aina: High radioactivity in Tokyo  8/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Nuclear Blinders 8/18/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima and Chernobyl 5/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima radiation damages Japan 4/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima's Nuclear Nightmare 3/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fifth Fukushima Anniversary 3/11/16
Green Road Jounral: Balls filled with Uranium, Plutonium 2/19/16 
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima impacts are ongoing 11/8/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Petroleum and Nuclear Coverups 10/21/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radiation Contamination 10/13/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Radioactive floods damage Japan 9/22/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fir trees damaged by Fukushima 8/30/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan restarts a nuclear plant 8/11/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima disaster will continue 7/21/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Too many fish in the sea? 6/22/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima prefecture uninhabitable 6/6/15
Ea O Ka Aina: In case you've forgotten Fukushima 5/27/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Radiation damages top predator bird 4/24/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukshima die-offs occurring 4/17/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Impact Update 4/13/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima - the end of atomic power 3/13/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Where is the Fukushima Data? 2/21/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fuku-Undo 2/4/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima MOX fuel crossed Pacific 2/4/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima worst human disaster 1/26/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan to kill Pacific Ocean 1/23/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan's Environmental Catastrophe 8/25/14

ENE NEws: Nuclear fuel found 15 miles from Tokyo 8/10/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Earthday TPP Fukushima RIMPAC 4/22/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Daiichi hot particles 5/30/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Japanese radiation denial 5/12/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Entomb Fukushima Daiichi now 4/6/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Disaster 3 Years Old 4/3/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Tsunami, Fukushima and Kauai 3/9/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Japanese contamination 2/16/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Bill for Fukushima monitoring 2/9/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Tepco under reporting of radiation 2/9/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Fallout in Alaska 1/25/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima engineer against nukes 1/17/14
Ea O Ka Aina: California to monitor ocean radiation 1/14/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Demystifying Fukushima Reactor #3 1/1/14
Ea O Ka Aina: US & Japan know criticality brewing 12/29/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Forever 12/17/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Brief radiation spike on Kauai 12/27/13
Ea O Ka Aina: USS Ronald Reagan & Fukushima 12/15/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Pacific Impact 12/11/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Berkeley and Fukushima health risks 12/10/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Madness engulfs Japan 12/4/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Edo Japan and Fukushima Recovery 11/30/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Reaction to Fukushima is Fascism 11/30/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Radioisotopes in the Northern Pacific 11/22/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima cleanup in critical phase 11/18/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima fuel removal to start 11/14/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima, What me worry? 11/13/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Remove other Fukushina fuel 10/29/13
Ea O Ka Aina: End to Japanese Nuclear Power? 10/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima & Poisoned Fish 10/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fuel Danger at Fukushima 9/27/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Reactor #4 Spent Fuel Pool 9/16/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima is Not Going Away 9/9/13
Ea O Ka Aina: X-Men like Ice Wall for Fukushima 9/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima House of Horrors 8/21/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Apocalypse 8/21/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radioactive Dust 8/20/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Cocooning Fukushima Daiichi 8/16/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima radiation coverup 8/12/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Leakage at Fukushima an emergency 8/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima burns on and on 7/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: What the Fukashima? 7/24/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Spiking 7/15/13
Ea O Ka Aina: G20 Agenda Item #1 - Fix Fukushima 7/7/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima and hypothyroid in Hawaii 4/9/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan to release radioactive water 2/8/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima as Roshoman 1/14/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushia Radiation Report 10/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Fallout 9/14/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Unit 4 Danger 7/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima denial & extinction ethics 5/14/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima worse than Chernobyl 4/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima dangers continue 4/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima children condemned 3/8/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima fights chain reaction 2/7/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Tepco faking Fukushima fix 12/24/11
Ea O Ka Aina: The Non Battle for Fukushima 11/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Debris nears Midway 10/14/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radiation Danger 7/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Abandoned 9/28/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Deadly Radiation at Fukushima 8/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima poisons Japanese food 7/25/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Black Rain in Japan 7/22/11
Ea O Ka Aina: UK PR downplays Fukushima 7/1/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima #2 & #3 meltdown 5/17/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima sustained chain reaction 5/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Ocean Radioactivity in Fukushima 4/16/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan raises nuclear disaster level 4/12/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima No Go Zone Expanding 4/11/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima to be Decommissioned 4/8/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Poisons Fish 4/6/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Learning from Fukushima 4/4/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Leak goes Unplugged 4/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Stick a fork in it - It's done! 4/2/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima reactors reach criticality 3/31/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Non-Containment 3/30/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Meltdown 3/29/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Water Blessing & Curse 3/28/11


Ready, Set, Splat!

SUBHEAD: If the credit-worthiness of France takes a wrong turn, it will upset the global currency system.

By James Kunstler on 24 April 2017 for Kunstler.com-

Image above: Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron were big winners in first round of French election for presidency. From (https://en.news-front.info/2017/02/05/french-elections-le-pen-and-macron-rally-supporters/).

As I write, the French stock market (the CAC 40), is doing a grand jeté (up 4.5 percent!) in celebration of Emmanuel Macron’s assumed slaying of the dragon Le Pen. But that was just the first round under the interesting French election system.

Consider that two other candidates who were eliminated, Monsieurs Fillon and Mélenchon, got nearly 40 percent of the vote. Are we so sure about where their voters go in the second and final round two weeks from now?

I suspect that most Americans — even the ones who follow Rachel Maddow — are about as interested in French politics as differential calculus.

Macron, 36, is a blank slate.

He was finance minister under current president François Hollande, of the Socialist Party, but declared during the election campaign that he’s not a socialist, he only wanted to be of service to his country, and this time he ran under his own party, En Marche!

He appears to represent the continuation of business-as-usual with the European Union, which seems to put him on the wrong side of history at this crucial moment — if you suppose, as I do, that the EU is so riddled with hopeless financial contradictions and centrifugal political tensions that it is unlikely to persist.

Yet, understandably, people are reluctant to change the system they’re living under. Le Pen wants to blow the EU up, especially the bureaucracy lodged in Brussels that has become a self-serving and self perpetuating monster.

Blowing up the EU would necessarily, it seems, mean the end of the European Central Bank, and with it the scams and Ponzi schemes that have provided an appearance of normality, despite an official 10.5 percent unemployment rate in France and a constant chain of public massacres by resident Jihadistas of one sort or another, some of them perpetrated by radical refugees allowed in under EU policy.

Macron might serve the interests of the American Deep State, which is determined to drive a wedge between Europe and the Chinese-Russian-Iranian “silk road” economic bloc that would consolidate trade in the Eastern Hemisphere.

The US wants “the West” to remain what it had been for seventy years: the dominant posse. Even if the underlying conditions remained the same, this might not be possible.

But those underlying conditions are changing, and in ways that much of the political maneuvering across the West cannot alter, or even comprehend, for instance, the inability of these mature industrial economies to grow anymore. That is largely a function of the end of affordable energy.

Unfortunately, the absence of growth portends not stagnation but collapse as society fails to generate enough new wealth to pay its debts.

Now, we’ve seen a pretty impressive demonstration of advanced nations playing financial games to cover up this corrosive condition. But the dishonesty at work is pretty obvious, and the problem with dishonesty in financial affairs is that it represents unreality.

The accrued momentum in colossal sums of money flowing this way and that way has allowed unreality to reign in international finance for a while. But that is now flying apart. The ultimate reality, politicians and economists will soon discover, is that you can’t create your own reality.

So whatever you think now about the French election, or the fate of the EU, is liable to change as the great debt crack-up our time finally gets underway and suddenly every nation has to scramble desperately to keep its shit together.

That magic moment may be at hand this week as the US congress returns from Easter recess to face its budget and debt ceiling dilemmas.

If the credit-worthiness of this country takes a wrong turn, it will upset the global currency system.

In fact, it will rip a hole in financial time-and-space into which the presumed value of all sorts of things represented on paper and computer drives will disappear, never to be seen again.


Nuke waste with nowhere to go

SOURCE: Katherine Muzik PHD (kmuzik@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: Nevada says "Not in My Back Yard" on Trump revival of Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump.

By Julia Travers on 23 April 2017 for Truth Out -

Image above: Aerial view of rdge line of the geological formation in Yucca Mountain proposed as site for America's nuclear waste storage. There is no current operational site in the country since the WIPP facility experienced a meltdown in 2014 that produced a plume of plutonium waste over New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. From  (http://www.hcn.org/articles/is-yucca-mountain-back-on-the-table).

The underground Exploratory Studies Facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada built by the Department of Energy to determine whether the location was suitable as a deep geological nuclear waste repository. Courtesy of the Department of Energy.

President Trump's preliminary 2018 budget proposal was released in March and along with many cuts to environmental programs, it includes $120 million to restart licensing operations for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository (Yucca Mountain).

This currently unused underground facility in Nevada has been in contention since the 80s and was strongly opposed during the Obama Administration by both the President and then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). While Reid pronounced Yucca Mountain dead in 2016, the new administration has big plans for the abandoned project.

Yucca Mountain consists of a five-mile-long tunnel that was drilled 1,000 feet deep in 1994, into a volcanic structure located 100 miles from Las Vegas.

Theoretically, nuclear waste would be stored inside rooms along the tunnel -- the idea being to isolate it from the surrounding environment for hundreds of thousands of years with the use of titanium shielding.

Nevada officials have put up strong resistance to the nuclear storage facility, dating back to its inception in 1987. The state has filed over 200 contentions against the application, encompassing a wide range of issues from legal concerns to volcanic hazard estimates, corrosion and toxic contamination risks.

In 1982, President Reagan signed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which called for the establishment of nuclear waste disposal dumps.

The Department of Energy (DOE) was tasked with carrying out site assessments but, according to The Atlantic, "politicians didn't want to pay for the expensive and lengthy technical assessments of all the potential sites," and amended the Act to designate Nevada's Yucca Mountain as the one permanent storage location in 1987.

The initial goal was to keep the waste contained at Yucca Mountain for at least 10,000 years.

"Yucca Mountain was never a scientific selection, it was a political one," nuclear industry expert and former nuclear engineer, executive and whistleblower Arnold "Arnie" Gundersen told EnviroNews.

"When the Yucca Mountain bill was passed, it was called the 'Screw Nevada Bill.'

To revive Yucca is to ignore science. We have a nuclear waste problem that needs to be -- in fact must be solved, and if done wrong can contaminate the environment for 250,000 years. Let's have a scientific process that leads us to the best alternative, not a political mandate," Gundersen continued.

In 1997, the US Government began heating and burying metal containers in the rocks at Yucca Mountain in an effort to simulate and study radioactive waste. Gundersen stated Yucca Mountain has been proven to have an underground water and waste seepage issue.

Examples of studies of the rates of seepage at Yucca Mountain and how they are affected by temperature, time, geology and precipitation can be found on the US Department of the Interior and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory websites.

The State of Nevada's Nuclear Waste Project Office states because Yucca Mountain is "geologically and hydrologically active and complex," it is unsafe for the disposal of radioactive substances, which "could leak from the dump and create serious long-term health risks to the citizens of Nevada."

In 2004, the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. ruled the DOE would have to prove it could keep the waste contained for hundreds of thousands of years, not tens of thousands, as originally proposed.

In 2008, the DOE submitted a license application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to store high-level waste at Yucca Mountain. But in 2010, the DOE shut down the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, which had run Yucca Mountain, effectively shelving the project.

In 2014, the NRC ruled Yucca Mountain could safely assure the isolation of nuclear materials over the long-term and was safe to use. Trump now proposes to supply an initial $120 million to restart the licensing process for Yucca Mountain.

The LA Times reports the full establishment of the Yucca Mountain facility has an estimated total cost of $100 billion, rivaling the price tag of the International Space Station.

Much of this lofty budget is attributed to the potential construction of hundreds of miles of railroad tracks to carry the waste from all over the country, protective titanium shields and specialized underground robots that can handle the waste.

"Republican, Democrat, independent -- there is enormous opposition to Yucca Mountain," Robert Halstead, Executive Director of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects, told The Atlantic. The state is currently preparing a new slew of contentions to the project.

"The first thing we're going to do is go back to court and sue them over the radiation protection standard," he added. The article explains that critics of this facility worry the groundwater could corrode storage containers and cause a radioactive leak.

Image above: Diagram of Yucca Mountain tunnel with possible radioactive waste in tunnel on site. From (http://ethangreenapes.weebly.com/yucca-mountain.html).

In late March, DOE Secretary Rick Perry visited Yucca Mountain and met with Nevada's Republican Governor, Brian Sandoval. According to CNBC, Sandoval said, "The storage of high-level waste at Yucca Mountain is not something I am willing to consider."

In a DOE statement, Perry acknowledged Sandoval's opposition and also said, "today's meeting with Gov. Sandoval was the first step in a process that will involve talking with many federal, state, local and commercial stakeholders."

Nevada officials who oppose Yucca Mountain cite concerns over radioactive spills or leaks and the toll that could take on Las Vegas' tourism industry (not to mention public and environmental health). E&E News points out the possible impact on the tourism industry brings up a potential concern and conflict of interest for Trump, who co-owns Trump International Hotel Las Vegas with billionaire businessman Phil Ruffin.

"Clearly if there was a nuclear accident, Trump's hotel would be impacted, as would others along the Strip," said former Sen. Richard Bryan (D-NV), who is now Chairman of the state's Commission on Nuclear Projects.

In contrast, local officials in Nye County, where the facility would be located, are more supportive of Yucca Mountain as a jobs-creator. Dan Schinhofen, Chairman of the county's Board of Commissioners, wrote to Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, a supporter of Yucca Mountain, and characterized the threats to Trump's hotel as "misinformation."

Schinhofen also says Nye County hopes to be considered for an interim storage facility site as well, saying they already have a 1,280-acre location in mind. Developing an interim-storage facility while Yucca Mountain is prepared is another ongoing debated issue.

The DOE explains there are 61 commercially operating nuclear power plants with 99 nuclear reactors in the US, with four more reactors currently being constructed. Current nuclear utilities have 79,000 metric tons of spent fuel in reserve and produce 2,000 more annually, the LA Times reports.

The LA Times also explained the nation's nuclear utilities have long been paying fees for waste storage services that the DOE has not provided. That fund now totals about $36 billion.

Nuclear utilities have won $6.1 billion in settlements to date regarding this failure on behalf of the DOE.

Shimkus states, "Without Yucca Mountain, DOE will not be able to meet its disposal commitments to Colorado, Idaho, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington." Yucca Mountain's current legal waste limit is 70,000 tons.

At present, nuclear waste is most commonly stored in tanks, casks, drums and water-cooled pools. Many facilities and containers in use are not designed for long-term storage. For example, the Hanford site in Washington is well-known for its toxic leaking tanks, the cleanup of which is expected to take another 50 years and cost $110 billion. In 2014, a drum of radioactive waste exploded at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, which serves as a dump for waste from nuclear weapons production.

The LA Times shared in 2016, "Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for [WIPP] are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere," including at the Hanford site.

Cooling pools are not an ideal solution either. In 2011 an earthquake in Japan knocked out power to the cooling pumps at the Fukushima Daiichi power station, which resulted in meltdowns in three nuclear reactors. The environmental effects are far reaching and still evolving today.

Dealing with nuclear waste is a mounting concern and while there have been some isolated useful applications and solutions found, many of them are not viable over the long term or intended for extensive deployment. For example, in 2016, British scientists turned nuclear waste into long-lasting nuclear diamond batteries for potential use in space travel, but this option is costly and not scalable.

Gundersen explained that vitrification, another possibility that has been explored, is "a process that adds chemicals to the waste, which is then heated into a glass like substance." But, he says it shows "no evidence that 100 years from now the material will not break down and leak into groundwater anyway!"

In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council wrote in Disposition of High-Level Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel, "After four decades of study, geological disposal remains the only scientifically and technically credible long-term solution available."

"Deep geologic disposal is the only alternative, in an area proven to be free of water," concludes Gundersen. "Yucca has water seeping in, and has been proven to let waste seep out in a short period of time."

Image above: The underground Exploratory Studies Facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada built by the Department of Energy to determine whether the location was suitable as a deep geological nuclear waste repository. Courtesy of the Department of Energy. From (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yucca_Mountain_tunnel.jpg).

• Julia Travers is a journalist and author. She holds a BA in Literary and Cultural Studies from The College of William and Mary and a BFA in Art Education from Virginia Commonwealth University.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Nuclear Power Zombies 5/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Nuclear Wasteland 8/6/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors 9/25/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Worse than you think 5/21/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The false science of science 9/2/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Ginger Beer Recipe 3/24/14
Ea O Ka Aina: WIPP radiation release timeline 3/3/14