US plans for dismantling NKorea nukes may face resistance
By MATTHEW PENNINGTON and LOLITA C. BALDOR
Monday, July 2
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has a plan that would lead to the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in a year, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said, although U.S. intelligence reported signs that Pyongyang doesn’t intend to fully give up its arsenal.
John Bolton said top U.S. diplomat Mike Pompeo will be discussing that plan with North Korea in the near future. Bolton added that it would be to the North’s advantage to cooperate to see sanctions lifted quickly and aid from South Korea and Japan start to flow.
Bolton’s remarks Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” presented a very ambitious timeline for North Korea to fulfill the commitment leader Kim Jong Un made at a summit with Trump last month for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters three weeks ago that the U.S. wants North Korea to take “major” nuclear disarmament steps within the next two years — before the end of Trump’s first term in January 2021.
Despite Trump’s rosy post-summit declaration that the North no longer poses a nuclear threat, Washington and Pyongyang have yet to negotiate the terms under which it would relinquish the weapons that it developed over decades to deter the U.S.
Doubts over North Korea’s intentions have deepened amid reports that it is continuing to produce fissile material for weapons.
The Washington Post on Saturday cited unnamed U.S. intelligence officials as concluding that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile. Evidence collected since the June 12 summit in Singapore points to preparations to deceive the U.S. about the number of nuclear warheads in North Korea’s arsenal as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs, according to the report.
It said the findings support a new, previously undisclosed Defense Intelligence Agency estimate that North Korea is unlikely to denuclearize. Some aspects of the new intelligence were reported on Friday by NBC News.
A U.S. official told The Associated Press that the Post’s report was accurate and that the assessment reflected the consistent view across U.S. government agencies for the past several weeks. The official was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.
Bolton on Sunday declined to comment on intelligence matters.
He said the administration was well-aware of North Korea’s track record over the decades in dragging out negotiations with the U.S. to continue weapons development.
“We have developed a program. I’m sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be discussing this with the North Koreans in the near future about really how to dismantle all of their WMD and ballistic missile programs in a year,” Bolton said. “If they have the strategic decision already made to do that, and they’re cooperative, we can move very quickly,” he added.
He said the one-year program the U.S. is proposing would cover all the North’s chemical and biological weapons, nuclear programs and ballistic missiles.
Even if North Korea is willing to cooperate, dismantling its secretive weapons of mass destruction programs, believed to encompass dozens of sites, will be tough. Stanford University academics, including nuclear physicist Siegfried Hecker, a leading expert on the North’s nuclear program, have proposed a 10-year roadmap for that task; others say it could take less time.
Pompeo has already visited Pyongyang twice since April to meet with Kim — the first time when he was still director of the CIA — and there are discussions about a possible third trip to North Korea late next week but such a visit has not yet been confirmed.
Trump reiterated in an interview broadcast Sunday that he thinks Kim is serious about denuclearization.
“I made a deal with him. I shook hands with him. I really believe he means it,” the president said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.”
Trump defended his decision to suspend “war games” with close ally South Korea — a significant concession to North Korea, which so far has suspended nuclear and missile tests and destroyed tunnels at its nuclear test site but not taken further concrete steps to denuclearize.
“Now we’re saving a lot of money,” Trump said of the cancellation of large-scale military drills that involve flights of U.S. bombers from the Pacific U.S. territory of Guam.
“So we gave nothing. What we are going to give is good things in the future. And by the way I really believe North Korea has a tremendous future. I got along really well with Chairman Kim. We had a great chemistry,” Trump added.
Pressure will now be on Pompeo to make progress in negotiations with North Korea to turn the summit declaration into concrete action. He spoke with the foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea in recent days about the situation with the North, according to the State Department, which has declined to comment on any upcoming travel.
Pompeo postponed plans to meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their counterparts from India on July 6, citing unavoidable circumstances, which has fueled speculation he will make a third trip to Pyongyang.
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We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
We should be supporting the small farmers who sell at farmers markets, not the corporate giants that hurt our health and environment.
By Brian Wakamo | Jun 20, 2018
Summer: the season of barbecues, baseball games, and backyard fun. It’s also the time of year when the American farming industry comes into full swing producing the crops we hold near and dear.
The pastoral ideal of golden fields of corn and wheat is what comes to mind for most people, and they’d be on the right track. Corn, soybeans, and wheat are the three biggest crops grown in this country, and — along with cows, pigs, and chicken — make up the bulk of our farming output.
There’s a reason for this: The federal government heavily subsidizes those products. In fact, the bulk of U.S. farming subsidies go to only 4 percent of farms — overwhelmingly large and corporate operations — that grow these few crops.
For the most part, that corn, soy, and wheat doesn’t even go to feed our populace. More of it goes into the production of ethanol — which is also heavily subsidized — and into the mouths of those cows, pigs, and chickens stuffed into feedlots. Those grains purchased by the feedlots are also federally subsidized, allowing producers to buy grains at below market prices.
When we do eat these foods, they’re sold back to us in unhealthy forms, pumped full of high fructose corn syrup and growth hormones. Large corporate farms and feedlots also poison waterways, drain aquifers, and pollute the air.
Meanwhile, small farmers continue to go broke, thanks to the low cost of foods subsidized by the government for corporate buyers. Even the few companies that provide seeds and equipment for farmers receive their own tax breaks from state governments, while farmers are stuck with the bill of goods sold to them from companies like John Deere and Monsanto.
Does this help feed America? Not really: We still buy most of our food from far-flung places. So why is our government subsidizing this production model?
Plain and simple: Corporations buy these subsidies for pennies on the dollar.
In 2011, the agribusiness industry spent around $100 million to lobby and campaign for federal support. They got billions in subsidies in return, making them the biggest recipients of corporate welfare.
This is disgraceful. Why should our government support big businesses that poison us and our environment?
Congress is now considering a new Farm Bill. The recently shot-down first draft cut funding for rural development and conservation programs, while opening up loopholes for corporate farms to access more subsidies. That should open the field for newer, better ideas.
All politicians champion small businesses, especially those in the heartland where most agricultural production takes places. If they’re going to subsidize agriculture, why not give more support to family farms, which often farm more sustainably and grow much healthier foods?
Instead of supporting factory farms and mono-crops, we could provide incentives for crop rotations, reduced usage of pesticides and herbicides, pasture-raised meat, and organic practices. Studies show that practices like organic farming produce only marginally less than conventional farms.
These practices are a part and parcel of a growing segment of the agricultural industry bolstered by health and environmentally conscious consumers. Farmers who sell their products at farmers markets and through community supported agriculture groups should be heralded and paid for their support of the community.
This could also lower the costs of healthier foods, which often are priced prohibitively for the people who need them most. Expanding the market for food farmed sustainably and ethically grown would benefit all consumers — and address the health crisis brought on by the mass consumption of unhealthy foods.
Why should we subsidize things that harm us all when we can help out the farmers who support a better life and environment for us all?
Brian Wakamo is a Next Leader on the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Point: Across the U.S., Cities Are Moving Toward Clean, Renewable Energy
December 09, 2017 by Jodie Van Horn
Over the last year, cities and towns throughout the United States have assumed a new mantle of leadership: establishing bold commitments to move away from dirty fuels and repower their communities with 100 percent clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Community by community, local leaders are demonstrating that a transition away from dirty fuels like coal and fracked gas and toward 100 percent clean energy is already happening.
Today, more than 50 cities and towns in the United States have committed to move to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. From big cities like Atlanta and San Diego to small towns like Abita Springs, La., and Hanover, N.H., cities are switching to 100 percent clean energy because it’s better for them — clean energy creates local jobs, cuts pollution, and saves homes and businesses money. More than 150 mayors, Democrats and Republicans, have also pledged to power their cities entirely with renewable energy.
Cities are not alone in this pursuit. Some states already source significant amounts of energy from clean sources. More than a third of all power in Iowa, for example, comes from wind energy. More than100 companies have also pledged to source 100 percent of their energy from renewables, including Apple, General Motors, Walmart and Johnson & Johnson.
More than 70 percent of the world’s energy experts have agreed that transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy is achievable, according to the Renewable Energy Policy Network. The real question should not be whether clean energy can replace fossil fuels but how can we do so in a way that best serves the public interest.
The transition to 100 percent clean energy is an opportunity to address inequality and environmental injustice in our communities. Today’s extractive energy system disproportionately threatens low-income communities and communities of color with rising costs and pollution. We must ensure that the transition away from fossil fuels improves social equity and benefits everyone, particularly those hit first and worst by dirty fuels.
Local commitments to transition to clean and renewable energy are already helping to shape the future. On the heels of Portland, Ore., and surrounding Multnomah County committing to 100 percent clean energy in June, plans by the local utility to construct two new fracked gas power plants were defeated, and the utility now wants to pursue clean energy investments instead. In St. Louis, the local utility recently cited the city’s commitment to 100 percent clean energy by 2035 when it proposed a new program to expand access to wind power.
Realistically, moving to 100 percent clean energy won’t happen overnight. We cannot simply shut down all of our fossil fuel power plants and switch on the renewables. Clean energy technologies will need to continue to scale and adapt, particularly energy storage and the responsiveness of our electrical grid.
At the same time, though, we know that clean, renewable energy resources are abundant and have the potential to meet all of our energy needs without the risks from fossil fuels. Wind and solar don’t produce the pollutants that contribute to so many human diseases — from asthma to cancer — nor do they contribute to climate change.
The advantages of switching to clean energy are clear. What most people don’t realize, though, is that clean energy is also increasingly affordable compared with both fossil fuels and nuclear energy. In fact, clean, renewable energy is now the least-expensive option, on average, for new electricity capacity around the world, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. For the past several years, more clean energy has come online in the United States from renewable energy than from traditional fossil fuel sources. This trend has an added benefit: The more clean technology we install, the faster prices will drop.
As the transition away from dirty fuels continues to take shape across the country, it’s up to all of us to determine what a true clean energy economy looks like, who benefits from it, and how we will get there in a way that empowers everyone in our communities.
About the Author
Jodie Van Horn is director of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign.
Counterpoint: The Markets Should Determine Our Future Energy Sources
December 09, 2017 by Megan Hansen
Energy policy today is inherently political. From the Obama administration to the Trump administration, government favoritism for specific forms of energy has shifted. What has remained constant, however, is that specific forms of energy are chosen by government officials as winners while others are chosen as losers.
If government officials had access to a crystal ball that could tell them which energy source will be the cheapest, most reliable, and most environmentally friendly 100 years from now, current energy policy might function well. But the future is unknowable, and government officials — just like you and me — are not able to gaze into the future of energy policy (or any other policy for that matter). Government policies betting on specific types of energy are destined to be losing bets.
Thanks to the information-coordinating power of markets, policymakers don’t have to gaze into the future to try to guess which type of energy will provide the most value. Instead they can rely on markets, which allow for the voluntary interactions between individuals and businesses to determine the value of a particular good.
Markets also create incentives for entrepreneurs to dream up new and innovative solutions to our biggest challenges. In a market, good ideas are encouraged by the potential for profits, while bad investments are discouraged by the potential for loss.
The energy sector is no different. The entrepreneurial drive to innovate is what created America’s shale revolution, unlocking America’s vast natural gas resources, lowering energy costs, and leading to significant reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions as we produced more energy from natural gas and less from coal. We need more innovations like these, and markets, with their profit and loss motives, are the most powerful tool we have available for increasing innovation.
Government policies that bet on one technology over another, ironically, reduce innovation for both the winners and losers. Winners — those who receive benefits in the form of tax breaks, incentives and subsidies — like the wind industry of the last 10 or so years, face a decreased incentive to innovate because they have a guarantee that their product will be bought no matter what.
Wind power facilities that began operation in 2017 receive 18 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced for the first 10 years of operation. Guaranteeing payment for existing technologies makes it less likely that those technologies will be improved by reducing the incentive to innovate.
The only thing we get from guaranteeing wind producers a subsidy for an entire decade is a guarantee that some of the electricity we use will come from wind producers, but no certainty that it will come from better technology.
Energy policy losers may have even more effect on our energy future than the winners. Policies that punish certain energy producers with restrictive regulations make it more difficult for new and potentially better technologies to compete.
Small modular nuclear reactors, for example, have huge potential to help provide scalable amounts of electricity with zero carbon emissions. But today’s regulatory regime subjects small nuclear to the same regulatory burdens as large nuclear facilities, making it incredibly expensive and time-intensive to get one of these facilities off the ground.
Likewise, small-scale hydropower could also provide low-cost, environmentally friendly electricity. Potential small hydro projects, however, face stringent regulation that may discourage entrepreneurial project developers from taking action.
Small modular nuclear is just one example of a technology being limited by regulatory restrictions and government support to other sources of energy. This is the visible effect of interventionist energy policy.
What we don’t see are those technologies and ideas that never get off the ground because they face barriers to entry created by government. It’s impossible to know what valuable energy technologies might have been created if we had allowed free markets to encourage their creation.
Leaving energy policy up to markets might seem risky to some, but leaving decisions about our energy future up to government officials is a far riskier bet.
The challenge of providing clean, affordable, reliable electricity is a massive one. The best way to meet this challenge is not by allowing government officials to bet our tax dollars on specific forms of energy. Instead, we must reform energy policy in America to incentivize our best minds to work hard to help us discover which energy sources will provide the electricity we need to run our hospitals, heat our homes, and light our Christmas trees in years to come.
About the Author
Megan Hansen is research director at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University.