Namibian Mass Graves: ANC should apologise for war crimes on behalf of its National Party alliance partners.

The ANC should apologise for war crimes committed in Namibia on behalf of its National Party alliance partners. This is the only way South Africa can regain its trust and standing with a people that it massacred in defence of the indefensible. Shocking revelations of decomposed bodies, massed graves and war crimes have emerged over the past two weeks, with not a word from our government. Could it be that we have been lulled into forgetfulness and are using the issue of national reconciliation to brush atrocities under the carpet?

Not only am I appalled and dismayed at the lack of response from fellow South Africans, but I am ashamed to call myself a South African. Have we forgotten all those who were forcibly conscripted into the apartheid army and ordered to kill their neighbours, comrades and supposed enemies, for an outmoded ideology? Have we forgotten countless soldiers who died reinforcing prejudice and supremacy on either side? Have we forgotten draft dodgers such as myself, and fellow war resistors who battled the old regime? What about those noble few who stood up and became contientious objectors?

All ignored simply because today’s post-911 world demands that we support arms deals, koeberg nuclear plants and the militarisation of society as a whole.

Earthlife Africa failing to articulate anti-nuclear position in face of greenwash

EARTHLIFE AFRICA are failing to articulate a coherent response to last week’s accident at Koeberg. Despite indications of a potential class 9 nuclear emergency and radioactive accident at the plant, after the system “scrammed”, the group seems to have bought into the Atomic Energy Corporation’s (AEC) spin on the near-disaster. The AEC has downplayed the accident, from an all-out scram, to a minor refueling incident, to problems with an external electrical connection.

If the backup and secondary systems had failed, the reactor would have been unable to switch-off, triggering a meltdown that could have disasterous consequences. Instead of examining the design flaws and possiblity of contamination within the plant structure, Earthlife has focused on the secondary “refueling incident”.

The term – Meltdown – refers to melting of the fuel in the reactor. According to the nucleartourist website, the term has been loosely applied to refer to any case of fuel melting, however minor. The site claims that “only in several events” such as Three Mile Island 2 and Chernobyl, ” has there been significant fuel melting and only in the case of Chernobyl were there significant offsite releases.”

Such understatement and disinformation is to be expected from the nuclear industry. In the interests of informed debate, I republish nuclear tourist’s, description of a meltdown, please bear in mind that it carries the same design-hubris that launched the failed Space Shuttle and created other technology responsible for catastrophic human errors:

Overheating of the fuel typically can be caused only if there is an inability to remove heat from the fuel. Two situations are the only likely causes:

* Loss of coolant in the reactor cooling system followed by a failure of the emergency core cooling systems to operate
* Failure of the reactor protection system to shutdown the reactor down when required for a major fault

Such conditions are considered to be outside the design basis for nuclear plants and are referred to as Class 9 accidents. The design of the plants is intended to assure that such conditions do not occur – due to the redundancy and diversity of the reactor protection, emergency core cooling, and containment isolation systems, as well as the containment structure itself. In spite of this, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is requiring licensees to develop procedures for such cases. The procedures are referred to as Severe Accident Guidelines.

If a meltdown does occur, a release of radioactive materials to the environment can occur ONLY IF there is also a major failure of the containment structure. For this to occur, the following would also have to happen:

* Overpressure of the containment
* Failure of the containment isolation systems, lines, and valves to close.

Potential causes of containment overpressure are:

* Steam explosion in the reactor vessel or a dropping of at least 20% of the fuel mass of a molten core
* Generation of gases either due to hydrogen generated from a chemical reaction between Zircaloy (used in the fuel cladding) and steam at temperatures above 3400F or due to carbon dioxide generated from interaction of molten core material with the concrete structures under the reactor.
* Heating of the containment atmosphere due to a failure of the containment cooling and spray systems.

For there to be a meltdown with releases offsite, the following sequence would have to occur:

1. Failure of the reactor to shutdown when required such that it continues to produce heat at a high rate OR a major amount of coolant is lost from the reactor cooling system,
2. Diverse and redundant high and low pressure emergency cooling systems are unable to provide cooling to the reactor cooling system,
3. Fuel melting starts and blockage of flow channels occurs in the reactor such that cooling cannot be provided,
4. Diverse and redundant containment cooling and spray systems are unable to provide cooling to the containment atmosphere,
5. Redundant Hydrogen recombiners will not operate,
6. Containment isolation system and associated valves do not close as required,
7. Specialized high efficiency particulate, absolute, and charcoal filters do not function as required.

The design of the plant systems is intended to reduce the likelihood of such an event occurring (e.g. once in 250 years for the 400+ reactors with current designs). It is impossible to say, with 100% certainty, that a fuel melting event will not occur. The redundancy and diversity of plant design, NRC regulations, plant Technical Specifications, plant operating procedures and operator training and qualification provide the defense in depth.


Carpal Tunnel, a metaphor for our virtual world?

In the age of global communications, long-distance connectivity, and telepresence, could Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, that mysterious illness from the nineties be a metaphor for our time?

While many doctors swear that the Carpal Tunnel refers to a nerve in the hand, pictured above, I believe the syndrome refers to something a lot more complex than mere nerve pain. Think about it. As the human-machine interface becomes more complex, and technology begins to magnify the power of the computer user, many of us will begin to experience a “virtual hand” that operates deep within the machine, clicking away at windows and carrying out invisible operations that impact and effect the lives of millions.

The result ironically is something akin to nerve pain — the pressure feedback, but not from a physical hand, but a more virtually magnified limb.

Often mistaken for repetative stress, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, significes something a lot more sinister than mere pain. Where exactly is one’s hand when moving a window on a virtual desktop? The mind-body, hand-eye coordination needed to achieve the miracle of modern computing has a high price.

At first there is the simple tap, and click click of the finger. Then there are the feedback loops built into professional programmes that funnel information back along the same neural paths. Virtual Impact. Over years, the brain is educated by the machine into accepting or rejecting various stimuli.

Take the neurosurgeon operating on a patient via remote telepresence. Such an event once considered a science fiction impossiblity is now an everyday occurance. Without telepresence, the force feedback of points and clicks, a wrong snip or click-cut could have both legal and moral ramifications, not to mention signifying physical disaster.

It is in this mysterious area of virtuality where South Africans are increasingly become more hooked in, more connected, or disconnnected, as more of us experience the dreaded Carpel Tunnel, that accidents like Koeberg occur.

Koeberg Reactor Near Meltdown no cause for concern!

YESTERDAY’S near meltdown at Koeberg, South Africa’s only commercial nuclear power station resulted in a “scramble” by employees to shut the reactor down. The ensuing blackout plunged Cape Town’s flatland into darkness and left thousands stranded. Traffic jams and frozen lifts were reported all over the city.

The automatic shutdown caused after a warning system reported a fault inside the reactor was “no cause for concern” according to officials, and was the second time in two years that the reactor had to be shut down.In scenes reminiscent of Three Mile Island, (depicted in movies like The CHINA SYNDROME), the reactor core begun to flare out of control, before tracking rods could be inserted.

Luckily the situation rectified itself after the safety mechanism scrambled allowing a general shutdown of reactor activity. Failure of such mechanisms have been blamed for both the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters. At Chernobyl, engineers running an experiment were unable to shut down the reactor, and the resulting meltdown breached containment areas resulting in the devastation of the surrounding environment,loss of life of hundreds of thousands and an airborne plume of radiactive dust that reached as far as Iceland.

There are currently no workable plans for evacuating Cape Town in the event of a containment breach at Koeberg. Although the Koeberg reactor has already reached the end of its productive cycle,the power station has been allowed by authorities to run for nearly a decade past its specifications. The blackout thus represents both a material and engineering breakdown. Decommissioning of such a plant is however considered too costly, as the core will be “hot” for millenia. The half-life of plutonium for example, is measured in thousands of years — the time it takes for such material to become half as reactive.

Despite warnings from interest groups such as Koeberg Alert and Earthlife Africa, Eskom continues to pursue nuclear energy as a “viable alternative to coal and gas”, and has done virtually nothing to implement renewable and environmentally safe energy. With insurance at a premium, the company is unlikely to get backing from any financial institution for such a project without help from central government. Now is the time to sue Cape Town local government for protection from the threat of future disaster, not after such a disaster has happened!

SUPERSIZED MEDIA: Independent Group in contravention of telecommunications regulations?

THE Independent Group’s interest in Clear Channel and other affiliates could contravene sections of South Africa’s telecommunication regulations laws. The regulations implemented by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the regulator of telecommunications and broadcasting sectors, sets a precedent for the limitation of media ownership and particularly the cross-ownership of media.

Clear Channel is an international radio, television and billboard company and its local affiliate, Clear Channel Independent is 40.3% owned by Independent Media PLC, the holding company of the so-called “Independent Group”. The telecommunications act of 1996 contains some exciting news for would-be media barons. The no-holds barred Regulations in Respect of the Limitation of Ownership and Control of Telecommunication Services in Terms of Section 52, has this to say: “No person who holds an ownership interest or control interest in a licensee in any telecommunications service category in a concentrated market, or an affiliate of such person, shall hold an ownership interest or control interest in another licensee in the same telecommunications service category.”

PARROT MEDIA: Questioning AIDS and BIRD FLU statistics.

JUDGING from reactions to my last posting, its a big crime in this country to question statistics of any kind. Gosh, what happens if those numbers are wrong? Some empiricists could lose their jobs while we all get into a flap about fowls dying of influenza, or mother hens keeling over from the sniffles. Imagine, if we’re wrong, your budgerigar could die.

Aside from not being much of a bird lover (Okay, okay, I do like pelicans and flamingos) I would rather be a dead duck than be forced to believe some bird-brained bullshit I don’t believe in, which is why I am willing to fight to the last penguin standing for my freedom to speak. Call me a common tit but as far as I’m concerned, Independent Group are a bunch of parrots, repeating whatever they find on the wires and unwilling to check the facts.

After being placed under discursive sanctions for questioning AIDS statistics, I was finally banned for my post-911 views on US imperialism and the war on terror. Nobody believes in the War against Terror anymore, but there are sure as hell a lot of people who believe in the Bird Flu Pandemic (50 deaths and counting).

Did I forget to mention AIDS? Used to be a deadly disease until it got downgraded by the Centre for Disease Control after a scientific breakthrough in 1996. Knocked you off your perch, didn’t I?

PS: Aren’t we all terrified about the thought of cows dying from HIV? Did anybody bother to ask them how they feel, or was the last MAD COW EPIDEMIC just another one of those newsroom decisions, one makes on the spur of the moment, and with profits in mind?

PPS: Any guess as to how much is going to be spent on keeping the official death toll from BIRD FLU secret? How much is this story worth to the media in terms of bullshit and spin-doctoring? Public interest organisations that stand to make millions from scare stories about the 1918 flu disaster in a world before antibiotics and vaccines…and the hysteria continues.

Government calls for end to newsroom censorship.

Government calls for an end to newsroom censorship amidst concerns of cartel behaviour

THE South African government has called for an end to newsroom censorship amidst an increasing concentration of media ownership amongst a few large media houses. Despite this, South Africa is still locked into a virtual monopoly that secretes itself behind boardrooms and private clubs. The result– a stifling of competition and debate, and the practice of censorship within the industry at large. Instead of transparency, openness and media diversity, the ungamely suppression of opinion. THE SIZE ISSUE

BIG: We want wealth redistribution now, not poverty alleviation sometime in the future!

OPPOSITION to a basic income grant (BIG) falls into two categories — there are the free marketeers who preach an extreme form of market fascism in which economic losers need to be punished in order for the system to sustain itself, along with the exploitation of labour for profit, and for whom welfare is anathema (since it would mean relief from the punishment “incentive” and dilution of the motive forces behind capitalist competition), then there are the market liberals like Sean Archer (Cape Times Oct 24) who puzzle themselves with theories that merely restate the problem of poverty in terms of pseudo-scientific empiricism.

How much will poverty alleviation cost? How many poor are there in South Africa, and how can we distinguish between the poorest of the poor and the not-so-poor? Questions like these trouble the minds of liberals who have never experienced poverty, or who fear that tackling this issue will erode their status and position in society, effectively overturning the apple-cart as it were. The definition of what it means to be poor, as Archer intimates, must inevitably be rewritten by a form of redistribution that tackles the harshest of economic cruelties and depredations.

MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction of the Jewish People

SECULAR Judaism has failed. Essentially, converting Jews into just another ethnic group that can be displaced by wars and conflicts over land, power and resources. As an ethnic Jew I am forced to recognise the logic of my own displacement, to argue for a place within the greater diaspora of Jewish thought, which of necessity recognises the right of Israel to exist, and Jerusalem to maintain its centre of focus for a religion which is one of the three Abrahamaic offshoots of monotheism.

Although I disagree with many of the fundemental tenats of Jewish teaching and hold out for a more encompassing and expansive wisdom, I see the error of holding to a doctrine that reduces the significance of the state of Israel and merely perpetuates the source of conflict in the Middle East of today.

Secular Judaism has failed to arrive at peaceful coexistance with its neighbours, and however radical this may sound, the only peace that is likely to arise out of an untenable situation in which a perpertual state of war, a war of attrition and siege is being waged on either side, is to examine the illogic of violence and mayhem wrought by friend and foe alike, which must be assuredly gurantee at some point, mutually assured destruction, of the type often talked about during the Cold War era.

For fundementalists, the price of surrendering East Jerusalem is too high, as most religious Jews can tell you, the wailing wall is one of the last vestiges of King Solemon’s temple, and is part of this territory now claimed by Palestinians. To allow a Palestinian authority to guard access over this sacred place is a bit like allowing Jews to control access to St Peters’ square in Rome. Would the descent into complete madness entail and even greater madness? A first-strike against the Kaaba in Mecca? A pre-emptive battle or secondary strike over the ruins of the Vatican? To think like this is to question ones own sanity — why would one want to wage such a war, to utter such thoughts, if only to prove that religious dogma is insatiable and that organised religion is the opiate of the masses?

Instead of accomodating Muslems and Christians and their plans for the partition and seperation of Jerusalem into various parts, what Israelis need to do now, after the withdrawel from Gaza, is to persuade the world of their plans to defend themselves and other holy sites on either side. If this fails, then they must persuade the world of their resolve to insure that nothing holy remains. A demonstration of purpose and resolve to assure that if Israel cannot exist, then destruction must be wrought on both sides, without favour. Surely such a religious war is unwinnable, and not worth fighting?

Where would Moslems be without their Mecca? Where would Roman Catholics be without a Vatican? The disappearance of Jerusalem along with these other places of religious worship would be the tragedy of the human race meted out by madmen in their insatiable thirst for power that can only be met by similar atrocities, as the whole world suffers from its lack of reason, as this conflict has proven time and again.


Stopping the Independent Media Cartel — here’s what you can do.

WHILE individual titles within the Independent stable have every right to exist, the supersized cartel of ownership that colludes to prevent competition and which restricts our freedom of speech, needs to be done away with. Here’s what you can do to prevent the game of monopoly media.

1) Call your local MEC or representative to demand laws against cross-ownership of media. Newspaper owners should be restricted from owning radio and television stations, as well as sports teams and service providers, and vice versa.

2) Form small study groups to discuss alternative media and media cartels; should corporations be allowed to own more than one daily newspaper per metropole? Start a newspaper of your own, or invest in projects that do.

3) Cancel your subscriptions to Independent Newspaper titles and when asked why, let the sales people know that you intend the cancellation as a form of protest against cartel behaviour.

4) If you are an advertisor, find alternative outlets for your advertising, let Independent-CondeNast know what you think of monopolies in the media and they way cartels push up the cost of advertising.

5) Refuse to use Independent Online services — many mobile contracts include prepackaged feed from Independent USSD.

6) Refuse to accept money or sponsorship from Independent. The group has a habit of buying off its opposition, either via way of outright purchases or bribes in the form of lucrative sponsorships, all seemingly in the “interests of press freedom”. This is just one of the many ruses to get you to sell out, or to dilute your rights and freedoms as South Africans.

7) Check to see whether or not your radio and television services are owned by Clear Channel Independent or their affiliates. Demand alternative channels of information and public access to broadcasts that are locally produced and owned.

Submit your own suggestions or create your own Anti-Independent campaigns by posting to The Size Issue…more information soon on prizes and giveaways.