Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter October 2002


Fifty Years is Enough

by Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

"It's your birthday today," sang Tri-Valley CAREs members at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) Visitors Center as they served cake to Lab workers and community members at the official LLNL 50th anniversary gala on Sept. 18. Atop the large sheet cake was a color photo image of the Tri-Valley CAREs billboard, also visible full-sized at the intersection of Portola and I-580. The cake and billboard both featured the National Ignition Facility target chamber and read: "Nuclear Weapons Science? Your Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste."

As LLNL's invited guests badged in for the celebratory Community Day "mixer", many were surprised to find that Tri-Valley CAREs had a table right next to the check in. Some folks enjoyed a piece of carrot cake, and even more took a handout that urged scientists and engineers to renounce work on nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

"It's important that we're here to show there is no consensus in the community for the development of new and modified nuclear weapons, or for the tools, like NIF, that will be used to create those weapons," explained Tara Dorabji, Tri-Valley CAREs' Outreach Coordinator.

As the Lab's guests went on a NIF tour, Tri-Valley CAREs and Western States Legal Foundation provided fliers that spoke the truth about the mega-laser, which is slated to be used in a wide range of applications -- from training nuclear weapons designers to studying the effects of heat and blast on weapon components, sensors, communication satellites, and underground structures.

Throughout the day, our members distributed leaflets calling on scientists and engineers to examine the ethical implications of their work. Our materials sparked new questions in those who had come only to pay homage to the Lab.

Tri-Valley CAREs members and friends also stood just outside of the gates and held placards for the guests to read on their way in. The signs protested the half-century LLNL has spent designing, developing and testing weapons of mass destruction and terror. "The Lab has such a potential to be a center for civilian sciences. It's time to change the Lab mission to peaceful pursuits," said Tri-Valley CAREs' high school science intern, Erek Dyskant.


Attack Iraq? Listen to Some of the Many Voices That Say "No"

compiled from press reports, email and the web
for Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

SCOTT RITTER, formerly the chief United Nation weapons inspector in Iraq: "It is clear that the U.S. government doesn't want a peaceful resolution to this. It is bent on war. The move for a new Security Council resolution is a deliberate provocation to scuttle inspectors. The Iraqis acceded to the international community's demands on the weapons inspectors. They should be held accountable; they will be held accountable. The inspectors should do their job, Iraq should comply and the UN should ensure that the inspectors are not misused as they have been in the past. Why is the U.S. government rushing for another resolution now? Because it is not interested in compliance and disarmament -- it wants war."
--Institute for Public Accuracy, Sept. 24.

CALIFORNIA FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: "...Whereas, a war with Iraq would require the re-direction of vital resources and funds to a destructive, senseless, and illegal goal while further strengthening an administration that has restricted the civil liberties of its citizens,... Therefore, be it resolved that the California Federation of Teachers goes on record as strenuously opposing the Bush administration's march toward war with Iraq, And be it further resolved that the California Federation of Teachers urge its members and affiliates to get involved with organizations working toward stopping the Bush administration's march toward war with Iraq.
--Passed by the CFT State Council, Sept. 21.

DEMOCRACY NOW, daily news show broadcast over 130 public radio and television stations: "Republican and Democratic Senate offices report 'overwhelming' opposition from their constituents to war with Iraq. This comes as Congress prepares to pass a war resolution granting President Bush sweeping powers to invade Iraq... Of the 26 offices which responded to our inquires, 22 reported an overwhelming majority -- in some cases up to 99 percent -- of constituents opposed war in Iraq; three said the response was split and just one office [supported war]... "
--Press release, Sept. 27.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD, D-W.Va.: "This administration, all of a sudden, wants to go to war with Iraq. The polls are dropping, the domestic situation has problems.... So all of a sudden we have this war talk, war fervor, the bugles of war, drums of war, clouds of war... Nothing would please this president more than having... a blank check handed to him."
--Charleston Gazette, Sept. 21.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, D-Ohio, leader of the congressional progressive caucus: "Unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq is unjustified, unwarranted and illegal ...The administration has failed to make the case that Iraq poses an imminent or immediate threat to the United States."
--Washington Times, Sept. 20.

REP. JIM McDERMOTT, D-Washington: "We have a president who wants to go to war. There is no question about it... That's the point - a regime change. It's not inspectors. They don't care down at the White House about whether we have disarmament or not, they want to go to war."
--Washington Times, Sept. 20.

REP. BARBARA LEE, D-Calif., principle architect of H. Con. Res. 473, an alternative Congressional Resolution on Iraq introduced with 26 co-sponsors: "We do not have to go to war, we have alternatives."
--Washington Times, Sept. 20.

REP. RON PAUL, R-Texas: "Soon we hope to have hearings on the pending war with Iraq. I am concerned there are some questions that won't be asked - and maybe will not even be allowed to be asked. Here are some questions I would like answered by those who are urging us to start this war.
-- Is it not true that those who argue that even with inspections we cannot be sure that Hussein might be hiding weapons, at the same time imply that we can be more sure that weapons exist in the absence of inspections?
-- Is it not true that the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency was able to complete its yearly verification mission to Iraq just this year with Iraqi cooperation?
-- Is it not true that the intelligence community has been unable to develop a case tying Iraq to global terrorism at all, much less the attacks on the United States last year? Does anyone remember that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and that none came from Iraq? ..."
--from 35 questions posted to the web, Sept. 11.

JAMES ABOUREZK, former U.S. Senator, SD: "...The reality is that the people of Iraq have still not recovered from the 1991 war. Few people in the West realize that one in every ten Iraqi children dies before his or her first birthday, the lingering result of infrastructure degradation, unclean water, and communicable disease spread in the wake of the 1991 war. One child in three suffers from chronic malnutrition..."
--Institute for Public Accuracy, Sept. 20.

GREEN PARTY OF THE U.S.: "...The Bush administration claims the invasion of Iraq would improve the security of citizens of the U.S., but it would do just the opposite... An attack on Iraq would be illegal. The U.S. must hold to the highest standards and abide by international law if it expects other nations to do so..."
--Endorsed on Sept. 19.

DAVID KRIEGER, director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation: "A war initiated by the U.S. to oust Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq under the present circumstances, and without U.N. Security Council authorization, would be tantamount to a 'war of aggression,' an international crime for which high-ranking leaders of the Axis countries during World War II were held to account at the International Military Tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo."
--World Editorial & International Law, Sept. 29.

BOB WING, editor, War Times: "This afternoon, at least 350,000 people from all over the United Kingdom descended upon the corridors of power for a massive and peaceful...rally. As I file this report at 4 p.m., less than half the march, which commenced at 12:30 p.m., has arrived at the Hyde Park Rally. The action was the largest of its kind in the UK in 30 years."
--by email, Sept. 28.


Voices Carry...

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

FOR PEACE: On Sept. 19, Rep. Barbara Lee and 26 co-sponsors introduced H. Con. Res. 473. It states: "...be it resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), [t]hat the United States should work through the United Nations to seek to resolve the matter of ensuring Iraq is not developing weapons of mass destruction, through mechanisms such as the resumption of weapons inspections, negotiation, enquiry, mediation, regional arrangements, and other peaceful means." Our Rep., Ellen Tauscher, is not among the co-sponsors. See: http://thomas.loc.gov.

LIFT YOUR VOICE: As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out, silence is complicity. Now is the time to speak up for peace. Here are some ideas: (1) Call your elected officials and tell them how you feel. The congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121. The White House is (202) 456-1111. (2) Attend a rally or demonstration. There will be a national march in Washington, DC on Oct. 26, and there are many local ways and places to plug in. Call our office at (925) 443-7148 for info. (3) Order your "No War With Iraq" bumper sticker at www.commondreams.org. (4) Write a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper. (5) Add your creative idea here!


Help for Sick Workers

featuring an editorial from the Tri-Valley Herald, from Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2002 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

As our readers will recall, Tri-Valley CAREs, Western States Legal Foundation, San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) conducted a seminar on Sept. 12 for Livermore Lab employees and others to discuss the compensation program for atomic workers made ill by on the job exposures. The following day, Tri-Valley CAREs and GAP did two editorial board meetings advocating for improvements to the compensation act. Here is a resulting editorial, published in the Tri-Valley Herald on Friday, Sept. 20, 2002.

"It's Time to do the Right Thing for Atomic Workers"

"In October 2000, Congress and the president rightly approved historic legislation that established a federal compensation program for workers exposed to harmful amounts of radiation. It was the first such program since compensation for black lung disease was established more than three decades ago.

The Federal Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program provides for payment of up to $150,000 and coverage of medical expenses for employees who suffer illnesses caused by specific toxins. Family members of workers who died from exposure to the toxins also are eligible for compensation.

Cancers caused by radiation exposure, and beryllium-related diseases and chronic silicosis are covered in the compensation program. Uranium miners and workers at 130 laboratories and related industrial sites in the U.S. - about 600,000 - are covered. Military veterans who have been exposed to radiation while serving in the military can apply for compensation under a separate act, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

Among the Bay Area facilities that perform or performed nuclear weapons work for the Energy Department: Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore; Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley; the General Electric Vallecitos Nuclear Center in the Sunol area; and California Research Corp. and Stauffer Metals Inc. in Richmond.

Also included: the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Palo Alto, Dow Chemical Co. in Pittsburg, Arthur D. Little Co. in San Francisco, and the Laboratory of Radiobiology and Environmental Health in San Francisco. Other California facilities that performed weapons work are located in Davis, Santa Ana, Pasadena, Canoga Park, La Jolla, Riverside, Los Angeles and Imperial County. About 34,000 claims have been filed, with about 4,500 people being compensated so far... [T]he Department of Labor estimates over a potential 10-year program life, the cost will be $1.7 billion, including payouts, medical payments and administrative costs.

Workers and former workers can receive lump-sum payments of as much as $150,000 and medical coverage if they are suffering from serious illnesses related to their exposure. Family members are in some cases eligible for compensation, and the act also provides $50,000 in lump-sum payments and medical coverage for uranium miners.

Several flaws have become evident since the law was passed, and they need to be corrected. A general problem is that the bureaucracy to handle these cases stretches over several federal departments and state agencies. It needs to be streamlined - perhaps all under the auspices of the Labor Department.

More importantly, while payments for those hurt by beryllium are dealt with in a straightforward manner, other illnesses are treated like a workers' compensation claim, in an adversarial manner.

The goal of this program should be to get compensation to those who are genuinely ill. Every effort to prevent fraud should be made, but people who are suffering should not be made to fight needlessly for help. Part of any reform should include an ombudsman to help cut through the bureaucracy and make decisions.

As early as today, a watchdog group, the Government Accountability Project, is meeting with a bipartisan group from Congress in a reform effort. It would be encouraging to see the Bush administration take a role in promoting this legislation, and for Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, who represents the Livermore lab, to be an original co-sponsor of the reform.

Locally, the weak efforts at outreach by the Livermore lab are in contrast to those of labs in the Midwest. Midwestern labs and atomic facilities supported an extensive effort at worker notification, setting up resource centers on site, sending out notices with employee paychecks, etc. While the Livermore lab did have a mobile van come by to promote the compensation program to employees earlier this year, so far, only three have been given compensation.

Some observers, based on experiences at other sites, estimate 500 workers could have been compensated by now. The funding is already in place to increase outreach to those afflicted. Work at the Midwest labs is already winding down, so those resources could be moved West.

Right now, the question is one of leadership. Leadership at the lab to improve worker outreach, through an on-site resource center. And leadership from the administration and in Congress, to reform the act to reduce bureaucracy, ensure funding and provide an ombudsman. To do any less would be too cruel to those already suffering."

See the update article below for the latest news -- and a simple action you can take to help sick workers!


Atomic Workers -- Alert

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

NEWS FLASH: On Sept.. 27, H.R. 5493 was introduced by Rep. Ted Strickland (D-OH) and 9 co-sponsors, including our Rep. Ellen Tauscher. The bill seeks to ensure that workers whose claims have been accepted will be paid. Further, it would appoint an ombudsman for the ill workers or their surviving family members. See: http://thomas.loc.gov.

ACTION: The Dept. of Labor does not have a resource center for sick workers or their families in Livermore. In fact, there is not one in the State of CA. You can help workers exposed to radiation and toxic chemicals on the job obtain a measure of justice by writing a short letter requesting a resource center be opened in Livermore.

Write to: Shelby Hallmark, Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, Room S3524, U.S. Dept. of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20210. Or, fax him at (202) 693-1378.


Thanks, Members!

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

* 83 of you responded on a few day's notice and sent your comments to the Dept. of Energy (DOE) challenging the draft environmental assessment to build a bio-warfare agent facility at Livermore Lab. We are expecting DOE's response very, very soon. Stay alert, and keep in touch with us!

* More that 250 of you offered verbal or written testimony on the scope of issues DOE must consider when preparing the draft Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement on Livermore Lab. When we called DOE, they told us they were still sorting them, but there were at least 250 comments -- an overwhelming number. Good showing, Tri-Valley CAREs! The draft EIS is expected out in Sept. 2003.

* 2,260 of you have signed and returned Tri-Valley CAREs petition to stop bunker-busters and other new nuclear weapons. The petition can be downloaded from our web site or ordered from our office.

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