Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter April 2002

Local Activists Head to UN, Nation's Capital to Speak for Peace

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs has been "speaking truth to power" since its inception in 1983. In April, the group will be found speaking the truth about nuclear weapons to the world's diplomats at the United Nations in New York and to U.S. political leaders in Washington, D.C.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting will take place at the UN from April 8 - 19. This conference of the 187 nations who are signatories to the NPT will determine the agenda for its formal review in 2005 and establish criteria by which nations' compliance with the Treaty will be judged.

Tri-Valley CAREs has NGO (non-governmental organization) status at the UN, and our Program Associate, Inga Olson, will spend the first week of the PrepCom discussing U.S. obligations under Article 6 of the Treaty to end the arms race and eliminate its nuclear weapons. Inga will speak on the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review and its incompatibility with disarmament. She will bring Tri-Valley CAREs' report on the Dept. of Energy's fiscal year 2003 budget request for nuclear weapons, articles on new and modified nuclear weapons currently under development at the Livermore and Los Alamos Labs and other relevant materials to her UN meetings.

The following week, a six-member group from Tri-Valley CAREs will visit Washington, DC to discuss issues of pressing concern to communities in the shadows of U.S. nuclear weapons plants with members of Congress and Bush Administration officials.

While in Washington, the Tri-Valley CAREs delegation will meet with California Senators and Representatives, leaders of Congressional committees that oversee nuclear issues and key staffers. We will also meet with senior management at the Dept. of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

"The Bush Administration's budget is fundamentally irresponsible," said Tara Dorabji, who serves as the group's Outreach Coordinator and Organizer. "At the same time it proposes to increase funding for a new 'Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator' and other horrific weapons, it actually aims to cut funds to clean up the radioactive and toxic contamination caused by the nation's past development of nuclear bombs."

Tara continued, "We'll be in Washington on April 15, telling decision-makers it's time to stop handing over our tax dollars for dangerous nuclear weapons projects and spend what is necessary to protect our country's environmental security."

Tri-Valley CAREs will focus attention in our nation's capital on Bush's Nuclear Posture Review (see the March 2002 Citizen's Watch for more on the NPR's contents), said the group's Executive Director, Marylia Kelley. "We will show that there is no consensus for new, more militarily usable nuclear weapons. We will call on our government to re-script our nuclear policy, away from its renewed reliance on an ability to unleash nuclear terror and, instead, toward a world free of the spectre of nuclear war."

Additional members of the Tri-Valley CAREs delegation include Ilene LaLand, Barbara Dyskant and Erek Dyskant. In the capital, we will be working with colleagues from more than a dozen other states who are participating in the fourteenth annual Alliance for Nuclear Accountability "DC Days." In New York, we will be joined by numerous member organizations of the Abolition 2000 global movement to eliminate nuclear weapons and other, allied groups.

Together, we are making our voices heard - locally, nationally and internationally.


Building a Global Peace Movement:
Meeting with Admiral Ramu and Lalita Ramdas

by Ann Seitz and Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

People can change, and certainly retired Admiral Ramu L. Ramdas, whose journey in many ways has only begun, is an example of someone who embraces new knowledge, realization and understanding.

Admiral Ramdas, the former chief of India's Navy, and his wife, Lalita Ramdas, a long-time educator and activist, traveled to the Bay Area last month on the final leg of a nationwide speaking tour on the conflict between India and Pakistan and the prospects for peace.

In events in Livermore and Oakland, the Admiral and his wife shared their considerable knowledge of, and insights into, the history of India-Pakistan relations and the dangers posed by the current military standoff between the two countries. Additionally, the two offered a native Indian analysis of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and its impact on South Asia.

Admiral Ramdas traced the complicated conflict between India and Pakistan. Of the arbitrary division of India's states by the British after World War II he remarked, "the British love drawing lines" in the sand. According to Ramu, it took him many years to realize that military conflict and its standard solutions don't bring about peace or an end to violence. He said, "I entered the tube as a hawk and fell out the other end as a dove."

Admiral Ramdas said the India-Pakistan conflict has been heightened in the post 9/11 atmosphere, and he noted that it is a complex, difficult situation. The fuse could blow at any time and the only way to proceed, according to the Admiral, is through dialogue. He stressed the importance of pressure from the international community to promote negotiation, even if both sides come to the table at first to "just say they don't agree."

Ramdas reminded participants that the U.S. and Pakistani secret services created and nurtured the Taliban and said that he believes the current U.S.-led "war on terrorism" is creating deep conflicts within governments in South Asia. The India-Pakistan conflict has become militarized along a 3,000-km stretch of border land and is operated under an elementary command and control system, he said.

Nuclear weapons add another level of complexity and danger to the conflict, explained Ramdas. Both India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons now, and someone may be tempted to use them in conflict, he noted. According to Ramdas, India has some of its nuclear weapons deployed. A nuclear bomb would only take 3 minutes to reach a neighbor, Ramdas said.

Admiral Ramdas expressed hope that an understanding of the devastating consequence of a nuclear exchange between the countries would cause both nations' leaders to forgo their use. Radioactive fallout won't stop at the border, he pointed out. "We all know that militarily nuclear weapons are useless." Admiral Ramdas said, adding that even the act of developing, testing and producing nuclear weapons causes radioactive pollution. Any nation making nuclear bombs is "killing its own people quietly and silently," he stated.

Lalita Ramdas spoke about the difficulty of organizing on nuclear issues in India. The resources are limited and most of the village population is faced with day-to-day survival. Striking a positive and truth-seeking position she encouraged us to draw connections between the violence and confrontations of today and how that relates to a history of colonization. Where is society failing to address the needs and dreams of young men that then act so violently? "No one is born a terrorist," she said.

Lalita Ramdas emphasized the need for a global peace movement to counter the violence wrought in the name of the international "war on terrorism." She expressed concern that democratic debate and voices of dissent are now shrinking under pressure from nationalistic, "patriotic" propaganda. These are trends mirrored in the mass media of both the U.S. and India, she commented. Lalita concluded that the global initiative to make terrorism the number one enemy has played into the hands of various governments' dangerous "tendency to be completely autocratic."

Admiral Ramdas' career spanned 45 years in the navy. He retired as a military leader in 1993, when he was 60. Lalita spent those same years as an innovator in community-based teaching and as an advocate for women in India. Ramu and Lalita are now spending their "retirement" years building an international movement for peace, disarmament and human rights.

On this trip, Lalita and the Admiral visited big cities and remote towns and saw what they called "extraordinary pockets of people pursuing peace and truth." We can similarly say that we have met two extraordinary people holding high the torch of justice and compassion that illuminates the path of true peace.


Providing for Sick Workers

by Inga Olson
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Executive Order 13179, signed by President Clinton Dec. 7, 2000, sets up a compensation program for nuclear workers, and is excerpted below:

"[Workers] paid a high price for their service, developing disabling or fatal illnesses as a result of exposure to beryllium, ionizing radiation and other hazards unique to nuclear weapons production and testing. Too often, these workers were neither adequately protected from nor informed of the occupational hazards to which they were exposed."

In 2000, Congress passed the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, which went into effect July 31, 2001. The new legislation provides $150,0000 and medical care to atomic workers who are ill with chronic beryllium disease, silicosis, or cancer due to radiation exposure. In certain cases, a surviving family member may be eligible for compensation.

Previously, the standard programs already in place for workers' compensation had failed to provide for the needs of the atomic workers and their families. Many of the workers were excluded from federal compensation programs. Further, because of long latency periods, the uniqueness of the hazards to which they were exposed, and grossly inadequate exposure data, many of these workers were also unable to obtain state compensation benefits.

This problem had been exacerbated by the policy of the Dept. of Energy (DOE) to encourage and assist its contractors in opposing compensation claims filed by sick workers. DOE recently announced that it has reversed this policy.

Over the years, Tri-Valley CAREs has worked with watchdog groups at DOE facilities around the nation advocating for compensation for workers made ill by the nuclear cycle. The Act is historic because, at long last, responsibility for sick weapons workers has been acknowledged -- as well as DOE's past role in hindering workers from obtaining compensation.

At the same time, the Act is still in its infant stages, and Tri-Valley CAREs continues to advocate for improvements. For example, the Act must be expanded to include the full range of health impacts that have resulted from employee exposures, many workers suffer from illnesses not currently covered by the Act. Moreover, employees should not have to pay for their own diagnostics in order to qualify, and illnesses caused by exposure to chemicals need to be included in the Act.

In addition, the contamination does not stop at the fence line of a nuclear weapons facility, and we advocate that neighbors who were made sick due to exposures are covered by the program as well.

Tri-Valley CAREs has had some positive influence on the program. For example, a second workshop on the program was held in L.A. after we and others insisted that one meeting (in Oakland) was insufficient to introduce all of the atomic workers in our very large state to the program. More recently, workshops were also held by the Labor Dept. in Pleasanton.

We have commented on the guidelines for determining the probability of causation, dose reconstruction and other technical aspects of the compensation program. We recently sponsored a coffee and discussion session at our office for employees and survivors to share their stories, resources and support. We will be sponsoring another coffee in 3 months and a workshop on the program with the Government Accountability Project sometime this summer.

If you or someone you know may be eligible for compensation, please contact us for an application form, general information, and/or other assistance.


Award Winning! Marylia Kelley Inducted into the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame

by Ann Seitz
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Alameda County established a permanent Women's Hall of Fame in 1993 to honor outstanding women and recognize their accomplishments. To date, 61 women have been inducted in various categories, including business, community service, education, sports and the environment.

The Alameda County Commission on the Status of Women, the County Health Care Foundation and the Board of Supervisors jointly established the institution. Its stated goal is to act as a springboard to encourage and honor community work while educating people.

This year, Tri-Valley CAREs' Don King nominated the group's Executive Director, Marylia Kelley, for the award. The judges voted, and, on March 2, Marylia was inducted into the Hall of Fame for her service to the environment.

Kelley was recognized for her work with Tri-Valley CAREs to monitor nuclear weapons facilities, particularly the Livermore Lab. "I've seen over the years that our group's 'watchdog' activities have created changes in the way the Lab operates," she said at the ceremony. "I hope that by my receiving this award, the community gets the message that creating change is possible - and that community groups can make a difference - even if the site they're trying to change is a federal nuclear weapons facility," she said.


At the Gates: Good Friday 2002

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

More than 270 people gathered at the northwest corner of Livermore Lab for the annual Good Friday peace demonstration and service. As we stood along the fence line hearing speakers and music, we could see the Lab director's office building and the Defense Programs Research Facility in the background. In the foreground were numerous wells, each tracking the toxic plume of underground water beneath our feet.

We stood on holy ground, on mother Earth. And, simultaneously, we were on ground desecrated and made poison by nuclear weapons activities. Yes, we had come to the right place to listen, pray, meditate, speak, sing, dance and protest together.

Laura Magnani, of American Friends Service Committee, spoke on "Nuclear Weapons, Prisons and the Death Penalty." Andy Lichterman, of Western States Legal Foundation presented on "Nuclear Weapons and Global Dominance," while Wilson Riles, Jr. offered thoughts on "Nuclear Weapons and Local Impact."

Carmen Hartono of the Women's International Peace Imperative presented on "Nuclear Weapons and International Impacts," and Whitney Bauman of the Theological Roundtable on Ethics and Spirituality spoke on "Nuclear Weapons and the Earth."

The program was woven together by musicians Daniel Zwickel and Francisco Herrera and featured dances choreographed by Carla DeSola to underscore many of the day's themes.

Following the program, participants followed the large, beautifully-crafted, black cloth-draped cross to the Lab's West Gate. After everyone performed a giant circle dance in the road, 66 of the participants moved forward to the gate and gave themselves over for arrest. Additionally, about 2 dozen folks came together after the action at Marylia Kelley's house to debrief and share hopes for the future.

We are collecting copies of the different talks. Call us if you would like them.


Calendar Section -- Citizen's Alerts

from Tri-Valley CAREs' April 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Monday, April 15
Public Meeting on Livermore Lab's site 300 cleanup
6:30 PM, Tracy Community Center
300 East 10th St., Tracy
(925) 443-7148 for details

Livermore Lab will host this public meeting on the cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater at site 300, located near Tracy. Site 300 is used for the development and testing of high-explosive materials and bomb components. The Lab will conduct a 20 minute briefing on its cleanup plans, followed by a Q and A session. The evening will wrap up with poster sessions on various contaminated sites. We will have a literature table at the meeting. Come by and say "hello."

Here is one of the issues that concerns us: the main contaminants found in soil and groundwater include volatiles such as TCE (the chemical contaminant of concern in the movie "A Civil Action"), high-explosive compounds, Uranium-238 (whose use in military weapons is hotly debated due to its associations with cancer and other illnesses), and radioactive tritium.

Saturday, April 20
"Protest the Real Axis of Evil: War, Racism, Poverty"
National Marches in SF & DC
11 AM, gather at Dolores Park in SF
11 AM, two choices, gather at White House or Washington Monument, DC
(925) 443-7148 for details

On April 20, many voices and communities will come together in San Francisco and Washington, DC to march against war and racism. These National Marches are a next step in the important work of building a nonviolent social movement. Tri-Valley CAREs plans to have a contingent at both events. Call our office at the number above for more information or to arrange to join us in SF or DC. Support rallies are scheduled in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua, Argentina, Spain and Canada.

Thursday, April 25
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:15 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Please note the change in our meeting date and location. We are meeting on the 4th Thursday in April, after members and staff return from the U.N. and D.C. Come and hear their reports from the Non-Proliferation Treaty PrepCom and the nation's capital. Help us launch a campaign to stop "mini-nukes" and other new and modified nuclear weapons called for in the Bush Administration's Nuclear Posture Review. Together, we are making a difference!

Sunday, April 28
Peace Between India & Pakistan
5:30 PM vigil, Liv. Peace Monument
1000 So. Livermore Ave. (at library)
(925) 443-7148 for details

This will be the last in a series of monthly vigils Tri-Valley CAREs has hosted to promote a nonviolent resolution of the conflict between Pakistan and India. These vigils have been conducted in solidarity with groups in both South Asian nations who have been vigiling for peace on each 4th Sunday of the month. Join us.

May 10 - 12
"Stop Star Wars"
Int'l space conference and protest
Berkeley & Sunnyvale events
(352) 337-9274 & (510) 527-2057

The Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space will hold its 10th anniversary conference in Berkeley. The conference begins May 11 at the UC Berkeley Valley Life Sciences Bldg., room 2050. Rep. Dennis Kucinich is the invited keynote speaker. Marylia Kelley and others will speak on topics ranging from new nukes to U.S. Space Command plans to "control and dominate" (their words!) space and the earth below. Speakers and participants are coming from many countries. The public is invited to attend. On Friday, May 10, the Global Network will sponsor a protest at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale from 2:30 to 5:30 PM. Lockheed Martin is developing several technologies for the new "Star Wars" program.

Monday, May 13
Tri-Valley CAREs board meeting
7:30 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 846-3728 for details

Tri-Valley CAREs Board of Directors meets quarterly and guides the group's organizational development and financial health. If you are interested in joining the board in the fall when elections are held, please call our 2002 Board President, Martha Priebat, at the number above.

Back to Citizen's Watch Index