Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter September 2004

Hundreds Rally in Livermore

By Tara Dorabji
from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2004 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On Sunday, Aug. 8, Jackson elementary school in Livermore filled with music, speakers, art and a common message -- the demand for "Books Not Bombs." About 500 activists, friends and allied organizations joined Tri-Valley CAREs in marking the 59th anniversary of the horrific atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The event included a rally, a march to Livermore nuclear weapons Lab, a spiral dance and a book drive to benefit local youth. This was followed by a peace camp and nonviolent direct action at the Lab gates the next morning.

The rally commenced amid the summer?s first searing heatwave. Rally organizer Tara Dorabji reminded the crowd, "People say it?s too hot in Livermore, but we say it was hotter in Hiroshima." We rallied to honor those who died and those still dying of the lingering effects of radiation. We rallied to stop new nuclear weapons and to oppose war. During the day, children folded paper peace cranes, ran in the sprinklers and painted a 35-foot "Books Not Bombs" banner to carry in the march.

Rally speakers highlighted the $6.6 billion dollars being requested for nuclear weapons activities while, in Livermore for example, two schools will close. "Here in Livermore, where my child received his education, we are now closing schools because, we are told, there is no funding to keep them open. Yet, at the same time, we see the budget for new nuclear weapons development at Livermore Lab skyrocket. The government wants to give us smart bombs and dumb kids," declared Tri-Valley CAREs' Marylia Kelley.

The rally continued with music by Clan Dyken, Jim Page, and Utah Phillips. Speakers included Lakota Harden, International Treaty Council; Janis Kate Turner, retired Livermore teacher; Cesar Cruz, March4Education; Marsha Feineman, Peace and Freedom Party; Jon Rainwater, CA Peace Action; Bob Gould, Physicians for Social Responsibility; Samina Faheem, American Muslim Voice; Maurice Campbell, Community First Coalition; Andrew Lichterman, Western States Legal Foundation; Jacques Depelchin, Ota Beta Alliance; author Rebecca Solnit, and more!

After braving the sun, exchanging information at literature tables and greeting old and new friends, hundreds assembled and marched up East Ave. chanting "Books Not Bombs." The mile and a half march included colorful banners and a 60-foot inflatable missile. At the gates of Livermore Lab, a symbolic "pyramid of knowledge" was built with the many books donated during the rally. Meanwhile, Clan Dyken gathered everyone around the big drum and brought all the positive energy into a spiral dance, imbuing the Lab with our vision of the abolition of nuclear weapons. While the hundreds that attended the event then dispersed, one group headed to nearby Lake Del Valle for a peace camp. Campers affirmed their hopes and vision for the action, floated in the lake and cooled of from the heat.

Rising early with the sun, about 60 protesters came together to march to Livermore Lab?s West Gate. The Aug. 9 action marked the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing and reminded the hordes of Lab workers streaming in that their so-called "theoretical research" on nuclear weapons can have very real consequences -- deadly consequences. The action was dedicated to the memory of Father Bill O?Donnell, who had been arrested countless times at the Lab. In his honor, a new generation of diverse, young, creative activists marched to the gate where 23 people were cited -- but not until we had all sung "Happy Birthday" to a Livermore woman risking arrest, celebrating both her birth and her "crossing the line" at the West Gate in witness to her hopes for a more peaceful future.


Planning Ahead

By Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2004 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

And the results are in... Our priority areas for the next year include: #1: "Outreach to the community;" #2 "Prevent biowarfare agent research expansion at U.S. nuclear weapons labs;" and #3 "Stop new and modified nuclear weapons." These and other priorities were chosen when 29 of our members, board and staff came together on July 31st at our annual Strategic Planning Retreat to discuss strategies and goals for Tri-Valley CAREs? work in the year ahead. It was a multigenerational group from 17 to 70.

The day was enriched by good food, personal experiences and imagination from every corner of Livermore, other parts of the San Francisco Bay Area and Tracy.

Every year, the retreat functions as a vehicle by which the membership can democratically direct our agenda and share its vision of where Tri-Valley CAREs should focus its collective energy and resources. Last year, two programs tied for our #1 priority: "Shore up Tri-Valley CAREs? infrastructure" and "Stop new and modified nuclear weapons."

We excelled last year in both of these areas. For instance, we acquired a new community organizer, staff attorney, development director, several interns and urgently needed office equipment.

As part of stopping new nuclear weapons, we participated in 80 meetings with Bush Administration officials and Members of Congress, and we attended the Non-Proliferation Treaty meeting at the UN.

Furthermore, we disseminated our analysis of the Department of Energy?s nuclear weapons budget request, along with our recommended cuts, to decision-makers in DC and NY, allied organizations and the public. So far this year, the House has voted to cut the nuclear weapons budget and the Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on it soon. (See the Action Alert in last month?s Citizen?s Watch.)

Early in this year?s planning retreat, it became evident that the membership wants to use the coming year to showcase alternatives to Livermore Lab?s "all weapons - all the time" mission. Program Director Inga Olson summed it up: "First, we need to let people know that the Lab?s budget is overwhelmingly devoted to weapons, even while their glossy public relations brochures tout civilian science. Then, we need to promote genuine positive alternatives."

In the coming months, we will produce new fact sheets and other materials detailing "Green Lab" programs and our vision for Livermore.

Time was set aside at the retreat to discuss the Presidential election and some of the ways in which a Bush win or a Kerry win might affect our work in the coming year. This brainstorm session made it clear that while specific aspects of our work and strategy may change as a result of the election, our overall efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament and a healthy environment must continue unabated in the years ahead.

An afternoon session was dedicated to funding opportunities. Nationwide funding for peace work has decreased significantly in recent years. As a result, we are expanding our individual donor campaigns to keep afloat.

We discussed that everyone has a role to play both in contributing financially and in helping Tri-Valley CAREs locate potential new donors who are interested in our cause. Development Director Will Easton asked the group to expand our donor list by providing new contacts. He is available to assist folks in doing this.


Awakening Abolition in 2005

By Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2004
newsletter, Citizen's Watch

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, join us in a year of awakening, remembrance and nonviolent action spearheaded by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tri-Valley CAREs has joined with grassroots groups and Mayors around the world to support the Mayors for Peace Emergency Campaign to abolish nuclear weapons.

The year of actions will culminate in massive global gatherings on August 6 - 9, 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings. Currently, the Mayors for Peace Emergency Campaign has 611 organizations and municipalities in 109 countries. The goal of the campaign is to abolish nuclear weapons by 2020.

In the city of Hiroshima, 40,000 people gathered on August 6, 2004 to remember the devastation caused by the bombing and demand the elimination of nuclear weapons. In an address to the crowd, Hiroshima?s Mayor Akiba described the dangers of U.S. nuclear policy and the obstacle it creates to nuclear disarmament: "The egocentric worldview of the U.S. government is reaching extremes. Ignoring the United Nations and its foundation of international law, the U.S. has resumed research to make nuclear weapons smaller and more ?usable.? Elsewhere, the chains of violence and retaliation know no end..." These more "usable" nuclear weapons are being designed at Livermore and Los Alamos National Labs.

Despite the escalating funds for U.S. nuclear weapons and an explicitly aggressive nuclear policy, this June the U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing 1,183 U.S. cities, passed a strong resolution demanding the abolition of nuclear weapons. To see the resolution and to get more information on the Mayors? Campaign: www.abolition2000.org/now.

Mayor Akiba's speech reached out to us: "We anticipate that Americans, a people of conscience, will follow the lead of their mayors and form the mainstream of support for the Emergency Campaign as an expression of their love for humanity and desire to discharge their duty as the lone superpower to eliminate nuclear weapons."

In support of the Emergency Campaign, Tri-Valley CAREs and grassroots groups across the country are calling for a national day of action on Saturday, August 6, 2005. There will be major actions at the Nevada Test Site, at Oak Ridge'sY-12 Facility in Tennessee and here at the Livermore nuclear weapons Lab. (In Livermore, we promise the action will be earlier in the day to beat the heat, and shade will be provided.) To volunteer to help plan and publicize the Aug. 6 action, contact tara@trivalleycares.org.


Never Been an Accident? Not True!

By Inga Olson
from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2004 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

We routinely hear officials telling the public that the massively expanding U.S. biodefense program is perfectly safe, and that there have never been any accidents in the U.S. involving anthrax and other potentially deadly biological agents. As regular readers of Citizen?s Watch know, these assertions are simply not true.

There have been numerous accidents, both inside and outside the U.S., involving dangerous bio-warfare agents. Here is the latest in a string of revelations documenting an appalling disregard for safety and security inside the U.S. biodefense establishment.

Last month, the L.A. Times revealed that a major biocontainment breach occurred at one of the premier biodefense institutions in the country. Moreover, the report cited a cavalier attitude toward safety among personnel at the biowarfare research complex. An Army investigation found anthrax contamination outside secure labs at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, Md.

People in nearby Frederick were further alarmed because it was thought that a local laundry contractor may have handled the contaminated garments, but luckily there are no reports of illness due to anthrax in the community to date. The leaks were not revealed by health and safety personnel but by a lab researcher, outside of the chain of command. Bruce Ivins detected an apparent anthrax leak in December 2001 when the lab was investigating the anthrax mailings that killed five people.

He cleaned the area with bleach, but did not verify cultures or keep records because he was afraid the records might be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. (Offering us yet another example of public relations triumphing over the public?s safety and right to know.)

Later, in April 2002, Ivins decided to again check areas for contamination outside of the biocontainment area at Ft. Detrick. His tests again turned up numerous wayward anthrax spores and this finally led to an investigation.

Three different anthrax strains ? two infectious and one a harmless vaccine ? were detected outside biosafety labs. Spores were found in numerous locations in an office and changing room adjacent to a lab.

This could have been extremely serious because office workers were not always vaccinated against anthrax. More significant contamination was found in a corridor and in high-security labs.

The investigator said that multiple episodes of contamination may have occurred over an unknown period because viable anthrax spores can persist for decades. The investigator also indicated that contamination could have come from shipping containers.

Many deficiencies, including probable long-term deficiencies, were found. For instance, there was a failure to routinely monitor or decontaminate "hot labs" where anthrax and other deadly germs were handled. Some personnel were inadequately trained to manage safety supervision.

A lab supervisor commented in the investigation report that researchers are "generally kind of sloppy," and said, "I recommend to my people to always wear [two pair] of gloves and to remove the outer pair of gloves after working with [the] agent, since I can?t be sure the lab isn?t contaminated." The chief of the special pathogens branch compared one secure lab at Ft. Detrick to "a rat?s nest." The countertops were dirty, the floor was dirty and the area was disorganized.

In addition to health risks from slipshod practices at Ft. Detrick, there are proliferation concerns. Anyone who knew of the dirty practices at the lab could deduce the possibility of live anthrax leaking outside of the secure labs. By routinely visiting areas outside the lab, a person bent on conducting a terror attack might be able to obtain spores that could be used to grow a culture for use in an assault. It is ironic that the mission of these labs is to prevent bioterrorism, when in reality all indications point to these labs as a source of trouble.

Furthermore, it is this same Ft. Detrick facility that is believed by authorities to be the source of the spores used in the 2001 anthrax mailings to media and the U.S. Congress.

It was reported that the institute upgraded monitoring and training after its 2002 discovery of widespread anthrax contamination and, in a typical bureaucratic response, is pouring $4 million into the facility for biosafety and security. However, it was also reported that no employees were disciplined for the safety violations and anthrax leaks. Ironically, this appears to be rewarding the institution for its failures. The lack of accountability at Ft. Detrick and throughout the U.S. biodefense establishment does not bode well for our future.

Join us in preventing the operation of a new, advanced biowarfare agent research facility at Livermore Lab without a thorough environmental review or public hearings. For more information, see our website at www.trivalleycares.org or call our staff attorney, Loulena Miles, at (925) 443-7184.


Ebola Biolab Fatality

from Tri-Valley CAREs' September 2004 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On May 21, 2004, Russian officials revealed that a researcher died of Ebola contracted during a study at Vector, the country?s top disease research lab. The scientist stuck herself with a needle on May 5th, while handling guinea pigs infected with the virus.

Ebola virus is designated as a biosafety level four agent, requiring maximum containment. Vector did not report the accident to the World Health Organization until almost two weeks after it occurred.

The Russian lab, which conducted offensive research during the Cold War, is also one of only two repositories of smallpox in the world. The other is at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

The Ebola accident at Vector is similar to one that occurred in February 2004 at a U.S. biowarfare agent research lab located at Ft. Detrick, Md. In that case, a U.S. researcher stuck herself with a needle while handling mice and Ebola. However, she did not contract the disease.

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