Germany: Nuclear plant shutdowns renew debate

Two nuclear plants near Hamburg, Germany, closed down in early July following a short-circuit and fire at the Brunsbuettel plant, Germany’s oldest, and an automatic shutdown at the Kreummel facility. The incidents had state officials demanding that the Swedish company Vattenfall be removed as operator of the plants.

Government leaders and power generating companies recently met to determine the nuclear industry’s potential contribution to a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases ordered by the European Union. Industry leaders are pressuring the government to reverse a 1998 decision by the Social Democratic and Green government to phase out nuclear energy.

In response, environmental and energy groups contend that nuclear plants are inefficient, accident prone, environmentally dangerous and prey to eventual uranium shortages.

Worldwide, minimal reduction of greenhouse gases would require 3,000 new plants, according to radiation expert Wilhelm Koenig, quoted by Inter Press Service. Nuclear energy accounts for 12.5 percent of Germany’s electricity use.

Iraq: Anti-sectarian activist murdered

On July 4, U.S. and Iraqi forces killed Abdel-Hussein Saddam in his home. Saddam was a leader of the Iraqi Freedom Congress, which joins trade unionists, community leaders, and women’s and children’s rights activists in work toward “a democratic, secular and progressive alternative both to the U.S. occupation and political Islam in Iraq,” according to its web site.

The Freedom Congress’ so-called safety force, headed by Saddam and staffed by volunteers, has tried to protect Sunnis and Shiites alike from sectarian violence utilizing mediation, humanitarian support and cooperatives. Its SANA TV inaugurated its first broadcast the day before the killing by reporting on the Iraqi oil law being pushed by Washington. SANA receives funding support from throughout the world, including U.S. Labor Against the War. That group communicated with U.S. Secretaries Robert Gates and Condoleezza Rice: “Words are inadequate to describe our outrage at this heinous criminal assassination at the hands of U.S. and Iraqi military forces.”

India: U.S. military ties criticized

In a July 13 press statement, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) expressed concern about a five-day joint naval exercise in September hosted by India in the Bay of Bengal and joined by the United States, Japan, Australia and Singapore. The CPI(M) suggested that India is on the verge of joining with Japan and Australia as U.S. military allies without public debate.

The exercises will involve 20 warships, including nuclear submarines and three aircraft carriers, plus shore-based Indian aircraft, according to The Chinese government condemned similar maneuvers off Japan in June.

Uganda: UN demands rebels release children

The UN Security Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict last week called on the anti-government Lord’s Resistance Army to unconditionally release children used in its ranks, the UN’s IRIN news agency said.

“The LRA has ignored the repeated calls from the international community for too long, and we hope they will now immediately undertake actions for the sake of these children,” said UN Special Representative Radhika Coomasawamy.

The Working Group also appealed to all parties in Somalia to stop recruiting children and to demobilize those serving as soldiers.

Meanwhile, in the Republic of the Congo, the government, UNICEF and the Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Diocesan Commission agreed at a meeting in Brazzaville to work to end child trafficking in the country. Their joint project will focus on rehabilitation, reintegration and education.

A UNICEF and Congolese government report published earlier this month said child trafficking occurred in neighboring countries as well, with traffickers bringing children into the country with promises of easy visas for Europe or South Africa.

El Salvador: Privatization protest attacked

Public Services International is urging support for its affiliate in El Salvador after the union and community allies were attacked by national police July 2 as they held a public meeting in Suchitoto to protest government plans to privatize the water industry.

The police brutally attacked protesters and passers-by with gunfire and tear gas. Some 16 people were arbitrarily detained and over 50 injured, PSI said. Two people were taken by helicopter and suspended in the air over the River Lempa. The police threatened to drop them into the water unless they stated that the FMLN had planned to organize the protests.

“These acts of persecution, the arbitrary arrests, and the use of helicopters are reminiscent of the grim days of military dictatorship and repression in Central America,” PSI said.

The United Front for a New Country has officially complained to the Legislative Assembly, demanding immediate release of all prisoners and a special commission to investigate the police violence.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit Marilyn Bechtel contributed to this week’s notes.