Friday, June 14, 2013

Nothing is safe

The DMP is looking at giving out petroleum leases on the Peninsula –

This could lead to fracking for shale gas in the future with all its attendant problems.


  1. It is way past time BURU and the WA government and all other companies who want to explore these areas admitted a full survey of all impacts on water and health is absolutely essential before any serious work was allowed to take place.
    THIS has to be done NOW.

  2. A few stories from the world of coal.


    Community group unearths coal report tampering

    Posted Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:55pm AEST

    A community campaign group has uncovered evidence of alterations in a draft ARTC coal dust impact report. The modifications suggest health and environmental problems in the local community are being downplayed in favour of heavy industry.

    Quentin Dempster

    Source: 7.30 New South Wales | Duration: 7min 48sec


    Shadows lengthen for Clive Palmer, sunshine billionaire who would be PM

    A LITANY of broken promises, hundreds of lost jobs and odd management decisions linked to entrepreneur Clive Palmer are dogging his ambitious hopes of winning a Sunshine Coast federal seat and being prime minister.

    And former senior insiders express serious concerns over the viability of Mr Palmer's two most prominent businesses - a nickel refinery in Townsville and a former Hyatt resort in beachside Coolum - amid mounting losses.

    While Mr Palmer owns coal and gas deposits, they are stranded in the ground unless he sells, or a joint-venture partner spends billions on their development. Royalties are also some way off from iron ore deposits in Western Australia because of large cost overruns and long delays that have blighted the operation, run by Hong Kong company CITIC Pacific.

    The ageing Townsville nickel refinery, which BHP Billiton sold cheaply to Mr Palmer in 2009, is estimated by sources closely connected to the business to be losing several hundred thousand dollars a day.


    Its most experienced managers have quit or been sacked over issues including Mr Palmer's management and deep cutbacks at the "major hazard facility", which has tailings dams near the coastline that last year threatened a major environmental disaster for the Great Barrier Reef.


    "He is the largest private employer in north Queensland and is still investing in the plant," Mr Crook said. "You may remember he gave away in 2010 Christmas bonuses, 55 Mercedes Benz and 1400 overseas holidays worth $10m."


    Titanic II may follow original to the bottom

    CLIVE Palmer's plan to rebuild the Titanic II was hailed with a lavish dinner replicating the final feast aboard the stricken ship, but development of the project appears to have slowed.

    The Weekend Australian's requests to tour the CSC Jinling shipyard in Nanjing, where the $500 million-plus project will be undertaken, were refused .

    Despite Mr Palmer's claims the ship will be ready to sail in 2016 there are doubts the project is running to schedule.

    The Jinling shipyard's spokesman Li Wenbao said construction work on the Titanic II was yet to start. "It is a big project; it will take a rather long time to finish," Mr Li said.

    "It has been divided into several stages and we are now at a preparation stage."

    Mr Li refused to confirm whether the state-owned shipyard had been paid in full or received a deposit for the Titanic II, or whether it would be finished in time for its maiden voyage planned within three years.


    The ship has been in the "development" stage for at least a year with little progress appearing to have been made.

    Mr Palmer has ordered Jinling to build four bulk container ships and it is understood work has started on those freighters.

    The luxury of the Titanic II, if it is built, will stand in stark contrast to the poor Xiaguan district neighbourhood of the shipyard, with run-down noodle houses and dusty streets.

    A specialised Jinling team will be appointed to run the project, but it is not expected to create new jobs in the Jiangsu province.

    "The contact has not been signed yet and a construction date has yet to be decided," a senior engineer told The Weekend Australian.


    There has been constant suspicion the project will not go ahead but Mr Palmer said in March he was determined to see the ship finished.


  3. The BIG crunch for King Coal is coming.

    Have you done the math?

    The Day of Reckoning is NIGH!


    Future of an Industry and a Tribe Hinges on a Coal Export Battle


    CROW AGENCY, Mont. — Every few hours trains packed with coal pass through the sagebrush-covered landscape here in southern Montana, some on their way north to Canadian ports for shipment to Japan and South Korea. If the mining company Cloud Peak Energy has its way, many more trains will cross the prairie to far larger proposed export terminals in Washington State.


    It’s part of a push by the nation’s coal industry, hobbled by plummeting demand as Americans turn to cleaner natural gas, to vastly expand what it sends to Asia and Europe. But the aggressive effort to rescue the $40 billion industry is running into fierce opposition from environmental groups, who say pollution caused by burning coal should not be exported.

    The two sides have engaged in an increasingly pitched battle, in regulatory arenas and on the airwaves, scaring off some investors and raising concerns about the fate of the industry, which is seen as a key to economic growth in Western states like Montana and Wyoming.

    “The future of the U.S. coal industry is at stake,” said Richard Morse, managing director at SuperCritical Capital, an energy consultancy. “Their future domestically is dim and demand growth internationally is very robust, so it is fair to say that a resuscitation of the industry has to come overseas.”


    The future of the impoverished Crow Nation may also hang in the balance since it owns an enormous deposit of up to 1.4 billion tons of coal — more than the United States produces in a year. But before Cloud Peak can mine the land and send the coal to energy-hungry nations in Asia, it needs more export terminals to be built in the Pacific Northwest, and those have been delayed or, in some cases, scuttled after investors grew weary of the continued opposition from environmental groups.

    Last week, the Sierra Club and other groups opened another phase in the battle, filing suit in a federal court in Seattle against Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway and several coal companies, saying coal dust escaping from trains has polluted rivers and lakes in Washington. The new export terminals, they say, would only bring more trains carrying coal to the ports and increase the amount of dust.

    Coal’s share of electricity generation in the United States has fallen to under 40 percent in the last decade, from 50 percent. Annual production dropped 7 percent in 2012 to just over 1 billion tons, the lowest total in two decades, and the stock prices of many coal companies have been plummeting.

    Cheap, abundant and cleaner natural gas produced in new shale fields has replaced much of the coal that American power plants once burned, and regulatory pressures are mounting to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal combustion. That has left exports as the only sure growth engine for the declining American coal industry.

    Last year, American coal exports set a record of 125 million tons in sales, roughly double the volume in 2009, with most of that going to Europe. Exports fell this spring because of slower Chinese demand for steelmaking coal. But energy experts say the big potential market for American coal remains in Asia, and several proposed Pacific Northwest export terminals would have the capacity to nearly double current exports.


    For the Crow Nation, which is sitting on the reserves here, and many coal companies like Cloud Peak, exports could make the difference between just getting by and prospering.


  4. Future of an Industry and a Tribe Hinges on a Coal Export Battle ...cont...

    While coal mining is the largest private sector provider of jobs, half the adult population is unemployed. Homelessness would be pandemic if it were not customary for three or four families to cram into small trailers so crowded that couples sometimes go to motels for moments of privacy and children struggle to do homework through a blare of television.

    Three bright days a year come when families receive small bonuses from the tribe, thanks to one coal mine that operates on the reservation, to buy presents for Christmas and beads and tepee canvas for the tribe’s annual powwow. The Crow hope more bright days may be coming, although some express concerns about the damage more coal mines could do to archaeological sites.


    Cloud Peak and the Crow signed an initial agreement in January to develop three enormous coal deposits that are both low in sulfur and produce an abundance of heat when burned — exactly what Asian buyers are seeking.


    The Crow stand to earn $10 million over the first five years if the Interior Department approves the agreement, and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars more in royalties and other payments in future years.

    But before any digging can start here, Cloud Peak needs to know that somebody is willing and able to buy the coal...

    To win approval, the Crow are quietly lobbying other tribes in the Pacific Northwest, who say that the terminals will harm their fishing and the environment.

    “We understand the issue of global warming, but at the same time, because of the economy of the tribe, we are dependent on coal,” said Cedric Black Eagle, the former chairman of the Crow Nation, who began contract negotiations with Cloud Peak.


    Environmental groups have made the terminals a central focus in their campaign against the coal industry.

    Investors have dropped out of three of the originally proposed six terminals, including Kinder Morgan, which withdrew from a proposed terminal on Oregon’s Columbia River last month.

    “We are getting close to putting the stake through the heart of the beast of coal exports,” said Cesia Kearns, a Sierra Club “Beyond Coal” campaigner in Oregon.


    “I’m optimistic but I am also realistic that there is very well-organized opposition to the building of terminals,” said Mr. Marshall, Cloud Peak’s chief executive.

    The Powder River basin produces more than 500 million tons of coal a year, nearly half the country’s total, but only about 15 million tons are exported every year, mostly because of the lack of export outlets.


    Coal experts say the basin could export 10 times what it does today if the Pacific Northwest terminals were approved. And industry executives insist that the basin’s low-sulfur coal is far cleaner than much of the coal burned in Chinese and other Asian cities.

    “You can have some of the cleanest coal in the world in the Powder River basin going to fuel electricity in a part of the world that can use clean energy,” said Vic Svec, a senior vice president at Peabody Energy, the largest American coal company.

    Environmentalists want to keep the coal in the ground. More coal on the international market, they say, reduces coal prices and discourages the transition to cleaner energy sources like solar and wind.

    “If we are successful at blocking exports from the United States, we help renewables become more competitive in China,” said Justin Guay, international climate and energy representative of the Sierra Club.

    For the 6,500 or so Crow Indians, the deal is seen as a way out of a life with few economic prospects.

    The Crow Nation chairman, Darrin Old Coyote, insisted that coal was a gift to his community that goes back to the tribe’s creation story. “Coal is life,” he said. “It feeds families and pays the bills.”


  5. ...and nuclear woes...

    Nuclear Plants, Old and Uncompetitive, Are Closing Earlier Than Expected

    Washington — When does a nuclear plant become too old?

    The nuclear industry is wrestling with that question as it tries to determine whether problems at reactors, all designed in the 1960s and 1970s, are middle-aged aches and pains or end-of-life crises.

    This year, utilities have announced the retirement of four reactors, bringing the number remaining in the United States to 100. Three had expensive mechanical problems but one, Kewaunee in Wisconsin, was running well, and its owner, Dominion, had secured permission to run it an additional 20 years. But it was losing money, because of the low wholesale price of electricity.

    “That’s the one that’s probably most ominous,” said Peter A. Bradford, a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a former head of the Public Service Commission in New York. “It’s as much a function of the cost of the alternatives as it is the reactor itself.”


    While the other three, San Onofre 2 and 3 near San Diego and Crystal River 3 in Florida, faced expensive repair bills because of botched maintenance projects...

    This is a turnaround because until recently, the life expectancy of reactors was growing. When the Nuclear Regulatory Commission began routinely authorizing reactors to run 20 years beyond their initial 40-year licenses...

    “They were intended to last for as long as they were commercially feasible,” said Robert E. Curry Jr., who was a member of the New York Public Service Commission from 2006 to 2012. But with low gas prices, additional costs imposed after the Fukushima Daiichi accident of March 2011, and “the general mistrust of nuclear by anyone who saw ‘The China Syndrome,’ ” commercial feasibility now is evidently shorter, he said.


    Even if the economics do not result in retirements, they do mean setbacks. Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear operator, set out a few years ago to invest $2.3 billion in its existing reactors and raise their generating capacity by 1,300 megawatts, a little more than one new reactor would generate. But after completing about a quarter of the plan, it dropped the rest, and said it would pay its suppliers $100 million in penalties...


    Oyster Creek, an Exelon reactor in Forked River, N.J., is the oldest in the country, having opened in 1969. It received a 20-year license extension in 2010, but Exelon promised to shut it by the end of 2019 in exchange for an exemption from some rules governing the discharge of hot water from the plant...

    Two to watch are Vermont Yankee, in Vernon, just north of the Massachusetts border, and Indian Point, in Buchanan, N.Y., 30 miles up the Hudson River from New York City. The states of Vermont and New York are seeking to close them. If they remain profitable, the owner of all three units, Entergy, seems likely to fight tooth and nail to keep them open, but Vermont Yankee’s profitability does not seem certain. It could join plants like Maine Yankee, or Zion, near Chicago, in retirement and decommissioning.

    Such is the fate of all old power plants. As the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s main trade association, pointed out when San Onofre closed, of the power plant retirements since 2010, 41 percent were coal and 33 percent were natural gas. Ten percent were nuclear. Old power plants lead conditional existences; they may not survive new environmental rules or other circumstances that require expensive retrofits.

    The difference is that gas plants continue to be built, and so do a few coal plants. There was a gap of 30 years in new nuclear plant construction, which ended this year, but only four plants, two twin-reactor installations, have broken ground. A fifth, left for dead in the 1980s, is being revived. While utilities in the last few years have announced plans for more than a dozen new reactors, beyond the five now under construction only another four or so seem possible in the next few years.

    And all the others are getting older.

  6. BARNETT"S very shifty and shady Oakajee game...


    Barnett knew Oakajee was off before trip

    West Australian Premier Colin Barnett knew the $6 billion Oakajee port project had been shelved before he visited Asia last week to drum up participation, but still believes in the project.

    Oakajee Port and Rail (OPR), which was managing the project, announced on Friday that proponent Mitsubishi was suspending further work and also putting its Jack Hills mine expansion on ice.

    OPR said the reasons it slowed down work at Oakajee in November - a difficult economic environment and lack of progress with talks for joint venture partners - had worsened.

    The premier said he was advised of the decision before he went to China and Japan.

    "This is a recognition of where the company is up to commercially," he said in an emailed statement.

    "The state government will continue to work on the delivery of a staged development of the port at Oakajee."

    Most of the workers at Oakajee and Jack Hills were laid off in November and the remaining skeleton staff of less than 20 people will leave at the end of this month.

    About six people will remain as the Jack Hills care and maintenance team.

    "It is important to note that the Jack Hills mine and expansion project will be properly maintained so they can be ramped up rapidly when the conditions allow," Mr Langoulant said in a letter to stakeholders, adding that he was standing down.


    Oakajee port and rail project suspended

    The $6 billion Oakajee port and rail project has been officially suspended.

    Fifteen employees will lose their jobs and Oakajee Port and Rail Chief Executive John Langoulant will step down from the company at the end of the month.

    The Jack Hills Iron ore mine is being placed into care and maintenance.


    OPR says it has now decided to stop all work on the project because it has been unable to secure another equity partner.

    Mr Langoulant says the iron ore price was only one factor in the decision to shelve Oakajee.


    The State Opposition Leader Mark McGowan says it is a significant blow to the Mid West region.

    "It's very disappointing news," he said.

    "This is a major project and it would have provided many jobs for WA.

    "It's a great pity that under Mr Barnett we've lost both Browse and Oakajee now."

    Premier Colin Barnett said Mitsubishi had advised him of its decision about a month ago, before he went on his trip to China.

    He denied it meant the project was dead in the water and remained hopeful it would eventually proceed. He said it was never going to be an easy project to get off the ground because of the number of interests involved.


    Miners still optimistic for Oakajee

    The Alliance's CEO Rob Jefferies says the port can wait because miners can still export out of the existing port at Geraldton for about the next four years.

    "I don't think it's really immediately required or certainly the demand from the iron ore miners is not there at this stage to justify that investment right now," he said.

    Mr Jefferies says other companies have already expressed some interest in developing a deepwater port at Oakajee.

    "There's already indications that there's other interests, there are Chinese interest looking at it," he said.

    "I think it's basically open for any major proponent with the capacity to come forward and they would be welcomed.

    "They would be welcomed by the industry and they would be welcomed the State Government I'm sure."

    The Premier Colin Barnett says he is confident Oakajee can still be revived, with the help of Chinese investment.

  7. Drinking water flushes rivers

    Billions of litres of costly and often precious drinking water is being flushed down Perth's rivers and streams in a bid to maintain increasingly degraded environmental conditions.


    Days after it emerged the Canning River is in crisis, figures have shown "treated scheme water" worth millions of dollars is being used to prop up the waterway and other Perth rivers.

    The Department of Water has defended the practice, saying the releases were vital and the most sensible way of safeguarding the ecology of rivers whose flows had been dammed or altered.


    Under longstanding WA policy, water has been released into altered rivers "to maintain or supplement natural flows" for environmental and social purposes. The policy was designed to principally use dam run-off, but dwindling rainfall has forced authorities to turn to scheme water mostly sourced from aquifers and desalination plants.

    This is despite the already-stressed state of Perth's groundwater system, which is under pressure after years of over-use, and the expensive and energy- intensive desalination process.

    It is understood much of the released water has also been mixed with chlorine, which is added to drinking supplies to kill harmful bacteria and make it safe to consume.

    According to the department, at least 2.75 billion litres of scheme and dam supplies are released into Perth's rivers every year, rising to 4.35 billion litres depending on rainfall. It is estimated the discharges would cost the Water Corporation between $3 million and $6 million annually in lost revenue.


    Department spokeswoman Susan Worley said the releases were required under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act, 1914, and the department had a responsibility to protect the environment.

    "As times have changed, the amount of water released has been reduced, but the releases have continued to support remaining riparian (river) users and river ecology in a highly modified system," she said.
    "Using the scheme pipe is the best way to get the water needed to the most required places of the river to maintain stream flow and ecology."


  8. The Colony grinds on - so much for the boom - all the money has gone and we are back to this again.


    Indigenous health initiative in doubt

    The Aboriginal Health Council is calling on the State Government to renew its commitment to an indigenous health initiative, saying lives will be lost if action is not taken.

    The Closing the Gap programme is a joint funding agreement between the state and federal governments, which aims to improve indigenous life expectancy, infant mortality, education and employment.

    The agreement expires in two weeks and the council says the Premier Colin Barnett has refused to say whether he will sign-up again.

    The council's Des Martin says the Premier is being reckless about a serious issue, and stands to undo all the progress the initiative has made.

    "If they don't recommit, all the work that's been undertaken for the past four years, it really means it's been a waste of time," he said.

    Mr Martin says if the funding is not renewed, more than 300 jobs established as part of the initiative will be lost.

    "All the work in terms of the programmes that have been rolled out across the state, and in some cases these are new initiatives, if the State Government decides not to renew the funding for a further four years, there's huge risks," he said.

    The Premier and the Health Minister, Kim Hames, have been contacted for comment.


    Laws that encourage racial profiling.

    Racially Biased Arrests for Pot

    Researchers have long known that African-Americans are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though studies have repeatedly shown that the two groups use the drug at similar rates.

    New federal data, included in a study by the American Civil Liberties Union, now shows that the problem of racially biased arrests... is getting worse. The costly, ill-advised “war on marijuana” might fairly be described as a tool of racial oppression.


    ... Of the more than eight million marijuana arrests made between 2001 and 2010, nearly 90 percent were for possession. There were nearly 900,000 marijuana arrests in 2010 — 300,000 more than for all violent crimes combined.

    Nationally, African-Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites. The disparity is even more pronounced in some states, including Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, where African-Americans are about eight times as likely to be arrested. And in some counties around the country, blacks are 10, 15 or even 30 times as likely to be arrested.

    This nationwide pattern is evident in all kinds of communities — urban and rural, wealthy and low income, in places where the African-American populations are large and in places where they are small.

    As the report notes, police officers who are targeting black citizens and black neighborhoods are turning “a comparatively blind eye to the same conduct occurring at the same rates in many white communities.”


    Paradoxically, this is happening at a time when polls show growing public support for full legalization. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the drug for general use by adults; 18 others and the District of Columbia have legalized it for medical use. The mindless push to make low-level possession arrests distracts the police from serious crime, wastes billions of dollars and alienates minority citizens from the law. It also brings disastrous consequences for young people, as convictions can lead to fines, jail time and temporary loss of federal student financial aid — not to mention criminal records that make it difficult for them to find housing or work...


    Regardless of laws in individual states, federal officials and local police departments need to abandon policies that evaluate officers based on numerical arrest goals, which encourage petty arrests, along with illegal stops that violate the Fourth Amendment.

    ... law enforcement agencies need to put an end to what is obviously a widespread practice of racial profiling.

  9. "Green" profiling of a different nature...

    Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks

    NSA Prism is motivated in part by fears that environmentally-linked disasters could spur anti-government activism

    Top secret US National Security Agency (NSA) documents disclosed by the Guardian have shocked the world with revelations of a comprehensive US-based surveillance system with direct access to Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants. New Zealand court records suggest that data harvested by the NSA's Prism system has been fed into the Five Eyes intelligence alliance whose members also include the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

    But why have Western security agencies developed such an unprecedented capacity to spy on their own domestic populations? Since the 2008 economic crash, security agencies have increasingly spied on political activists, especially environmental groups, on behalf of corporate interests. This activity is linked to the last decade of US defence planning, which has been increasingly concerned by the risk of civil unrest at home triggered by catastrophic events linked to climate change, energy shocks or economic crisis - or all three.

    Just last month, unilateral changes to US military laws formally granted the Pentagon extraordinary powers to intervene in a domestic "emergency" or "civil disturbance":

    "Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances."

    Other documents show that the "extraordinary emergencies" the Pentagon is worried about include a range of environmental and related disasters.

    In 2006, the US National Security Strategy warned that:

    "Environmental destruction, whether caused by human behavior or cataclysmic mega-disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis. Problems of this scope may overwhelm the capacity of local authorities to respond, and may even overtax national militaries, requiring a larger international response."

    Two years later, the Department of Defense's (DoD) Army Modernisation Strategy described the arrival of a new "era of persistent conflict" due to competition for "depleting natural resources and overseas markets" fuelling "future resource wars over water, food and energy." The report predicted a resurgence of:

    "... anti-government and radical ideologies that potentially threaten government stability."

    In the same year, a report by the US Army's Strategic Studies Institute warned that a series of domestic crises could provoke large-scale civil unrest. The path to "disruptive domestic shock" could include traditional threats such as deployment of WMDs, alongside "catastrophic natural and human disasters" or "pervasive public health emergencies" coinciding with "unforeseen economic collapse." Such crises could lead to "loss of functioning political and legal order" leading to "purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency...

    "DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance."

  10. Green profiling cont...

    That year, the Pentagon had begun developing a 20,000 strong troop force who would be on-hand to respond to "domestic catastrophes" and civil unrest - the programme was reportedly based on a 2005 homeland security strategy which emphasised "preparing for multiple, simultaneous mass casualty incidents."

    The following year, a US Army-funded RAND Corp study called for a US force presence specifically to deal with civil unrest.

    Such fears were further solidified in a detailed 2010 study by the US Joint Forces Command - designed to inform "joint concept development and experimentation throughout the Department of Defense" - setting out the US military's definitive vision for future trends and potential global threats. Climate change, the study said, would lead to increased risk of:

    "... tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural catastrophes... Furthermore, if such a catastrophe occurs within the United States itself - particularly when the nation's economy is in a fragile state or where US military bases or key civilian infrastructure are broadly affected - the damage to US security could be considerable."

    The study also warned of a possible shortfall in global oil output by 2015:

    "A severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of production and refining capacity. While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions."

    That year the DoD's Quadrennial Defense Review seconded such concerns, while recognising that "climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked."

    Also in 2010, the Pentagon ran war games to explore the implications of "large scale economic breakdown" in the US impacting on food supplies and other essential services, as well as how to maintain "domestic order amid civil unrest."

    Speaking about the group's conclusions at giant US defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton's conference facility in Virginia, Lt Col. Mark Elfendahl - then chief of the Joint and Army Concepts Division - highlighted homeland operations as a way to legitimise the US military budget:

    "An increased focus on domestic activities might be a way of justifying whatever Army force structure the country can still afford."

    Two months earlier, Elfendahl explained in a DoD roundtable that future planning was needed:

    "Because technology is changing so rapidly, because there's so much uncertainty in the world, both economically and politically, and because the threats are so adaptive and networked, because they live within the populations in many cases."


    NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was a computer systems administrator for Booz Allen Hamilton, where he directly handled the NSA's IT systems, including the Prism surveillance system. According to Booz Allen's 2011 Annual Report, the corporation has overseen Unified Quest "for more than a decade" to help "military and civilian leaders envision the future."


    The latest war games, the report reveals, focused on "detailed, realistic scenarios with hypothetical 'roads to crisis'", including "homeland operations" resulting from "a high-magnitude natural disaster" among other scenarios...


    It is therefore not surprising that the increasing privatisation of intelligence has coincided with the proliferation of domestic surveillance operations against political activists, particularly those linked to environmental and social justice protest groups.


  11. Keep our coal in the ground

    If coal extraction developments are to go ahead in Queensland, we are dooming ourselves to a world no one wants to see

    I'm instantly stuck by the contrast. On one side, the landscape is beautiful. A river winds its way towards the ocean, until it hits a few islands sitting on the coast. Mangroves cling to the water edge. Beyond the initial line of trees, the landscape is bare – dark brown and red soils radiating in the sun.

    The other side is very different. Amongst the beauty, humans have wreaked havoc. We can see factories, gas plants and piles of coal getting ready to be shipped out. On the ocean I can count around 20 ships, sitting, waiting to be loaded up with their cargo. The harbour is being dredged so more ships can enter its waters.

    I have traveled with US climate activist Bill McKibben and Greens senator Larissa Waters to the town of Gladstone to visit the frontline of Australia's coal expansion. We took a charter plane to fly over the developments, and I interviewed McKibben and Waters as part of the trip. McKibben said that he was struck by what he saw: "I thought it was remarkable to see one of the relatively few spots in the world where the great carbon conveyor belt has its beginning."


    The Gladstone and Fitzroy Delta port area already comprises of two ports, with three more proposed/under construction (a fourth was recently dumped by Xstrata). The port area already handles approximately 50 million tonnes of coal each year. The new developments could increase that number by approximately 28.3 million tonnes. McKibben says that is simply too much for the climate to bear:

    "There's just six or seven places around the world that have such great concentrations of carbon. This part of Australia, the tar sands of Canada, the Powder River basin of the US. Unless we can keep that carbon in the ground there is very little chance of arresting climate change."


    "Under the current environment minister, and in fact all previous environment ministers, no coal mine has ever been rejected in Queensland and to my knowledge in Australia. Under our current environmental laws there has never been a refusal of a fossil fuel project in our history. And that's saying an awful lot."


    Al Gore says Obama must veto 'atrocity' of Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

    Former vice-president says oil pipeline is 'really a losing proposition' and demands climate plan promised at inauguration

    Al Gore has called on Barack Obama to veto the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, describing it as "an atrocity".

    The former vice-president said in an interview on Friday that he hoped Obama would follow the example of British Columbia, which last week rejected a similar pipeline project, and shut down the Keystone XL.

    "I certainly hope that he will veto that now that the Canadians have publicly concluded that it is not safe to take a pipeline across British Columbia to ports on the Pacific," he told the Guardian. "I really can't imagine that our country would say: 'Oh well. Take it right over parts of the Ogallala aquifer', our largest and most important source of ground water in the US. It's really a losing proposition."


    "This whole project [Keystone XL] is an atrocity but it is even more important for him to regulate carbon dioxide emissions," Gore said. He urged Obama to use his powers as president to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants – the biggest since source of global warming pollution.

    "He doesn't need Congress to do anything," Gore said. "If it hurts the feelings of people in the carbon polluting industries that's too bad."


    Gore was speaking from Istanbul, where he will soon lead a three-day training session on climate change for a global group of some 600 activists... The gathering in Istanbul