U.S. cagey on depleted uranium weapons

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The CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR has put together an impressive special report on the U.S. military’s use of radioactive ammunition made with depleted uranium. With over 850,000 depleted uranium rounds fired during the Gulf War, many believe it may be the cause of the chronic illness known as Gulf War Syndrome. The CSM reports on contaminated areas in Iraq, the debate over the uranium’s effect on humans, and its use in Kosovo.

Today’s lead story in this multi-part series discusses the inconsistencies in the Pentagon’s position on depleted uranium. Although the military has strict safety regulations for handling radioactive ammo during training, the same caution was not exercised during wartime, even toward our own forces. The MONITOR draws some incriminating information from a military training kit for depleted uranium. According to the CSM, the manual says: “The greatest threat is during open-air, live-fire testing. We can call combat a great big open-air, live-fire test.” An area hit by the stuff “remains contaminated, and will not decontaminate itself.” Nevertheless, the military has called its own safety regulations “overkill.”

The MONITOR argues that the ammunition’s effectiveness in penetrating armored targets, and the cost of cleanup, makes the military extremely reluctant to admit that it is harmful. According to one analyst, “The government is institutionally incapable of telling the truth on this matter.”


Chile: Right wing may have plans for coup

April 29

With their jefe stuck in Britain, Chile’s right-wing groups apparently have too much time on their hands. According to STATFOR, a well-regarded independent intelligence service, one far-right group, going by the snappy name “Anti-Revolutionary Forces – Freedom and Fatherland,” may be planning a summer of assassinations and kidnappings in Chile.

The goal of the group, made up of retired members of the Chilean Secret Service, isn’t hard to figure out. Just check out the name of its plan: Operation “Clean Up and Repatriate.” In other words, stir up a lot of shit in Chile and hope that it somehow results in the return of former Chilean strongman Pinochet (currently being held in Britain on murder charges).

The group desperately needs a naming consultant, and its plans seems very “1980’s,” but it’s being taken seriously. Indeed, one government minister has already resigned because the group has threatened his safety.

One important note: STATFOR points out that the plan may be a hoax, sent out by leftists to bolster their party’s support.


Gay rights under fire in Namibia

April 28

Despite Namibia’s constitutional ban on discrimination against gays and lesbians, government officials there are engaged in a heated national debate over rescinding those protections and making homosexuality illegal.

The most recent maelstrom on the subject was sparked by an impromptu rant by the country’s deputy minister of home affairs, Jeremiah Nambinga, in the middle of budget talks on the floor of Namibia’s National Assembly.

According to PLANETOUT, Nambinga said: “The anti-homosexual voices should not be suffocated in our democratic society. There are those of us that believe that homosexuality is evil, homosexuality is anti-social and should not only be condemned but should also be legislated against.” Calling homosexuality “animal-like,” he continued, “After all, homosexuals are patients of psychological and biological deviations.” He also said, “Our society should not encourage that culture of impunity with regard to the deviant behavior of homosexuality and lesbianism.”


Enviros quit EPA pesticide panel

April 27

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the World Wildlife Fund, Pesticide Education Center, and the Consumers Union were among the seven groups that withdrew from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advisory panel on food safety. According to REUTERS, the groups withdrew from the panel in frustration over the slow pace of pesticide reform in this country.

The panel, which was created by Vice President Gore, is charged with advising the EPA on how to proceed with the elimination of hundreds of pesticides from U.S. farming practices. Many of the pesticides, like widely-used organophosphates, are especially toxic to infants and children. The 1996 Food Quality Protection Act mandated, among other things, that the EPA consider the effects of pesticides on the nation’s youth.

In explaining the groups’ frustrations, Erik Olson of the NRDC told the ASSOCIATED PRESS: “The pesticide industry and agribusiness lobbyists and their allies in Congress have hijacked this process.” The groups also charge the Clinton administration with delays and inaction.


U.S. accidentally bombs Puerto Rico

April 26

A U.S. Navy FA-18 fighter plane, apparently training for duty in Yugoslavia, accidentally dropped two 500-pound bombs on the small town of Vieques, Puerto Rico last week, killing one person and wounding four others, according to VIVA LA NACIÓN, an independent newsletter in Puerto Rico.

Two-thirds of the island on which Vieques is situated has been a U.S. military firing range since it was forcibly taken over by the U.S. Navy in 1941. Activists there have stepped up their efforts to get the military to reduce its presence on the island.

Last week’s bombing is one in a long history of accidental bombings of the island town in the past half-century. In 1994, another 500-pound bomb missed its target by 10 miles and exploded just outside the main village.

In the wake of the bombing, U.S. Congressman José Serrano, who was born in Puerto Rico and represents a district in New York State which is home to many native Puerto Ricans, sent a protest letter to president Bill Clinton and US Secretary of Defense William Cohen.

“This incident makes it imperative that the Department of Defense review their current military operations in Vieques and initiate plans to end their military presence there,” says the letter. “The residents of this island should not have to live in constant fear of another incident occurring, endangering their lives and their homes.”


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