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Summer 2013 Desert Voices Newsletter

Dear Readers,

Thank you for checking out the electronic version of Desert Voices. Working for Nevada Desert Experience is a job, but it’s also a labor of love. NDE stands pretty much alone in Nevada, organizing against nuclear weapons and drone warfare. If we hadn’t been here, the trucks with the CEUSP waste would already be on their way here! (See article below.) Sadly, love alone won’t keep us going.

We need your involvement and your financial support. We need to know that other Nevadans care that we’re here. In May we were very much on the edge. Fortunately, our last minute prayers were answered...for the time-being. NDE needs your money now, but we also need to hear from you, especially,...

...if you've been reading these but never contact us, please take a moment to now. If you were sent this newsletter by a friend, send me an e-mail. If you want to stop getting the snail-mail version, thank you. (They're expensive.) If you add Jim@NevadaDesertExperience.org to you address book, this sometimes reduces delivery problems.

If you want to learn about nonviolent political movements, have some skills with a computer, have some interest in research and organizing, and have a little time to spend regularly in our office. There’s too much work for one staffer to manage. So please, say hello. Our phone line is open: 702-646-4814. For peace sake, Jim

[Desert Voices is the newsletter of Nevada Desert Experience. NDE organizes interfaith resistance to nuclear weapons and war. Desert Voices is produced by NDE Coordinator Jim Haber. Thank you to Ming Lai and Laura-Marie Taylor for your help. We need your feedback so our work speaks to you.] DONATE NOW!

August Desert Witness-Nagasaki Day Vigil at Nellis AFB; Next Day Art in Action by NTS

This year's NDE August Desert Witness is bringing some long-overdue focus on Nellis Air Force Base in North Las Vegas. We'll also add to the tunnel art under US-95 just outside the Nevada Test Site near the historic Peace Camp area.

Friday, August 9, 7 to 8:30 am
Outside the main gate to Nellis Air Force Base
Craig and Las Vegas Blvds., N. Las Vegas


We will use the Nellis's Visitor Center parking lot which is outside the main gate. CODEPINK organized a demonstration and used the parking area before. If we're asked to move, we can park at the 7-11 or other nearby businesses, but I don't expect a problem.

Saturday, August 10, 7 am to noon
Art in Action in historic tunnel under freeway just outside the Nevada Test Site followed by pot luck brunch at the Goddess Temple in Cactus Springs.

As you drive past the Goddess Temple en route to the test site you may want to leave your food there and top off your water at the guest house.

Although the government doesn't confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons anywhere, it is widely known that Nellis Air Force Base has bunkers that primarily store nuclear weapons. According to the Federation of American Scientists nuclear weapons expert Hans Kristensen, Nellis's Area 2 bunkers have more nukes than only two or three other places on the entire planet. Most may be awaiting transfer to Pantex, Texas to be dismantled. The B-61 bombs that are there however, may or may not be destined for that relatively positive fate.

The federal budget for nuclear weapon dismantlement has been severely decreased at the same time that funds for life extension enhancements for the B-61 continue to skyrocket. These trends fly in the face of our national obligation to lead the way towards global nuclear disarmament.

NOTE: NDE encouragesa everyone to observe a minute of silence at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, the precise anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima by a U.S. atom bomb in 1945. What is remembered lives.


Megan and Transform Now Plowshares Continue to Work for Nuclear Abolition from Behind Bars!

Greg Boertje-Obed, Michael Walli and Megan Rice are currently in the Irwin County Detention Facility in Ocilla, GA, awaiting their sentencing on September 23, 2013. As described previously in Desert Voices, the three were found guilty by a jury in Tennessee in May on two counts—destruction of government property in excess of $1000 and intent to damage the national defense. Judge Amul Thapar revoked their pre-trial release agreeing with the prosecution that they were technically guilty of a crime of violence and must be held.

Other intermediate dates for post-conviction motions to be filed and heard have been delayed. That's good for us because we need your help! The judge needs to hear from supporters of the Transform Now three. Evidently he is receiving mail telling him to lock them up and throw away the key. Megan, Michael and Greg worked with their legal team to come up with guidelines for writing the judge.The only requests Megan, Michael and Greg have is that you write the judge and that you write them. See below for their suggestions in what to emphasize to Judge Thapar and all of their jail addresses.

Megan, Michael and Greg remain undaunted behind bars. Megan's only complaint, seriously, is that they keep the jail very cold so that even in summer in Georgia, "I wear two long johns up & down--2 socks and get wrapped in a blanket to do my writing!" And if you write her, don't be surprised if you get back stationery that is some xeroxed news item someone else sent her. She's still helping educate her friends and spreading the good news of peacemaking, prayer and activism at the same time that she is making due with limited amounts of stationery.

Keep up with them on the Transform Now blog or OREPA's TNP support page. And if you offer up a prayer for Sr. Megan, remember to pray that people and governments dismantle all the nuclear weapons in the world once and for all. That, after all, was the point of their action.


Write Judge Thapar Before He Rules on Motions and Decides Their Sentence

We want the judge to receive a steady stream of letters to keep this on his mind; we also want to have copies filed with Bill Quigley to be presented at the sentencing hearing. If you want to send a copy of your letter to OREPA, that would be great—their address is also below.

Here is sample text, also available for you to download to print at home (or copy store) on card stock for you to share:

Dear Judge Thapar,

I write to you in concern for the Transform Now Plowshares Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli, who, as you heard at trial, committed an act of nonviolent civil disobedience intended to awaken the conscience of the nation, with no evidence of intent to harm anyone. I am deeply disturbed that the government insists on describing the crimes of which they were convicted as violent “terrorism”. I share your frustration that Congress would write a law which does not allow you to distinguish between peace activists and terrorists.

The three acted with a clear understanding of the illegality and immorality of nuclear weapons, and their citizen responsibilities under the Nuremberg Principles to uphold the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT is constitutionally part of the supreme law of the land, and it requires every nuclear nation to completely dismantle their nuclear arsenals.

I urge you to consider downward departure from the high sentencing guidelines for the charges of which the three were convicted. Please use your judicial discretion to bring more justice to this situation. Recognize the three are NOT violent terrorists. They are nonviolent activists who followed the words of the prophet Isaiah to beat swords into plowshares, and to build a safer, more secure world for us all.


Letters should be sent to the judge directly, with a copy going to Bill Quigley so all of them can be presented en masse at the sentencing hearing too.

The Honorable Amul R. Thapar
United States District Judge
US District Court
35 West Fifth Street
Covington, KY  41011

with a copy to:

US District Judge Amul R Thapar
c/o Professor Bill Quigley
Loyola Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice
7214 St. Charles Avenue
Campus Box 902
New Orleans, LA 70118

If you care to send a copy to OREPA they would appreciate it:

orep@earthlink.net, or
PO Box 5743
Oak Ridge, TN 37831


Addresses and Tips for Writing Megan, Greg and Michael as They Await Sentencing

Here are the addresses for the Transfom Now three:

Megan Rice  22100
Irwin County Detention Center
132 Cotton Drive
Ocilla GA  31774

Gregory Boertje-Obed 22090
Irwin County Detention Center
132 Cotton Drive
Ocilla GA  31774

Michael Walli 4444
Irwin County Detention Center
132 Cotton Drive
Ocilla GA  31774

You must make sure to include your entire return address on the outside of the envelope. No staples or paperclips can be included in your mail; no oversized envelopes. Magazines and books must be sent directly from the publisher or bookstore/Amazon.

Photocopies of brief articles are likely to be permitted (based on our past experience). If you include inappropriate material or fail to comply with these rules, your mail will not get through—it will be returned to you.


Thank and Keep Pressure on Governor Sandoval. He Comes Out Against New Radioactive Waste Stream to Nevada National Security Site Despite Pressure from Energy Secretary

Gov. Sandoval Questions Suspicious Changes in Regulations

NDE has been instrumental in delaying, if not stopping, the Dept. of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE and NNSA respectively) from bringing unusually dangerous radioactive waste to the Nevada Natoinal Security Site (NNSS, formerly the Nevada Test Site). Our efforts, in response to some eye-opening articles in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, put the brakes on the trucks from bringing this hot, hot cargo for shallow burial to the NNSS' Area 5.

Read more about this waste at NevadaDesertExperience.org. We're gratified that the Sierra Club was roustable about the U233. Together, we were able to awaken the governor in time to push back and not just roll over on this issue. Here are some points to make in communications with the governor, other officials, and our friends:

  • This waste needs to be secured where it is until a real long-term solution is created so it isn't transported any more than is absolutely necessary.
  • Recent changes in waste classification regulations seem intended to open the door for more volume, and more types of waste, being shipped to the NNSS.
  • Since U233 waste could be used to make a nuclear weapon, it should be treated as "special nuclear material" rather than being excused from the higher safeguards.

Thank Gov. Sandoval (and other state officials) for prioritizing the safety of the state, its land and all of its people. To send him an e-mail, click here and send him a message via his website. Otherwise, contact one of his offices:

Carson City
State Capitol Building
101 N. Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701
Phone: (775) 684-5670
Fax: (775) 684-5683

Las Vegas
Grant Sawyer State Office Building
555 East Washington Ave, Suite 5100
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Phone: (702) 486-2500
Fax: (702) 486-2505


NDE Letter to Gov. Brian Sandoval Encouraging Him to Oppose U233/CEUSP Waste in Nevada

This letter expresses our grave opposition to the planned shipment of U233 radioactive waste from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, across the United States for burial in shallow trenches at Area 5 of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS).

We are three citizens already hurt by nuclear programs in Nevada, and we speak for the Nevada Desert Experience National Council.  One of us is a Western Shoshone man; one is a downwinder who was exposed to fallout in the 1950’s in St. George, Utah; and one was a child in Las Vegas in the 50’s and taken close to ground zero to witness (and be exposed to) above ground nuclear explosions that were publicly stated as “safe.”

The U233 waste was made in a New York reactor in the 1960s experimenting with Thorium as a fuel for nuclear reactors. Its unique method of generation and radioactive profile mean that it is legally classified as “low level waste (LLW),” despite the high levels of dangerous gamma rays and other radiation it will continue to emit for a long time, and despite its potential use in dirty bombs and rudimentary nuclear weapons if stolen.

As they did in the 50’s, both government and industry representatives try to allay public fears. They tout their safety record trucking nuclear materials around the country, but that doesn't lessen the chance of a future tragedy. Because the consequence of even one accident could be irreparably catastrophic, their promises are not reassuring.

Adding inhibitors to reduce the chance of accidental chain reactions is good. Changing waste into a solid, less volatile form is good. Nonetheless, the casks of waste still require remote controlled cranes to be moved, and can hardly be considered “safe” or “low level” in an honest sense. All this adds to our skepticism that this material will be handled safely or securely.

Why not develop Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS) as a way to reduce the transportation of highly radioactive material. Residents and environmentalists near Nevada and other remote waste dumps like New Mexico's Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) don't want more varieties of waste to be diverted to their sites either.

We must draw a line in the desert! Nevada is not a wasteland! This plan seems like  sidestepping of the fact that the plans for Yucca Mountain have been all but scuttled. As members of communities who have suffered from radioactive contamination, we say, “No!” to more radioactive dumping in Nevada, and we stand in solidarity with the Western Shoshone nation whose historic lands include the NNSS. We say, “No, to the U233!”

Hoping for your serious consideration,
Johnnie Bobb     Janet Chisholm     Claudia Peterson

Johnnie L. Bobb     Austin, NV
Spiritual person and Chief of the Western Shoshone National Council. For 13 years he has led the Western Shoshone Walk/Run, which he originated, to give prayerful witness that the Nuclear Test Site and Yucca Mountain are on Ruby Valley Treaty land.

Janet Chisholm     Albany, CA
Las Vegas native, peace activist & founder of national nonviolence training program. Past Chair Episcopal Peace Fellowship & past Executive Director of Fellowship of Reconciliation. Retired from social services, college teaching and Christian Education.

Claudia Peterson     St. George, UT
Downwinder of nuclear testing having been born and raised in Cedar City, UT. Lost many family members and friends to cancer and illness caused by the testing. Involved in the work for removal of anything nuclear since 1987.


Follow Drones to Keep Them from Following You!

The Clark County District Attorney’s office did not proceed against any of the 8 people arrested for blocking the roadway into Creech Air Force Base during the Sacred Peace Walk last March. This stands in stark contrast to how other jurisdictions seem to be dealing with demonstrators.

Over 50 pending court proceedings for nonviolent civilian resistance at Hancock Air Base, New York continue. Frequent demonstrations there also take place. <upstatedroneaction.org>
Similarly, at Beale AFB, California, vigils, blockades...and court proceedings...continue on a regular basis. <occupybealeafb.org>
NDE friend and Creech-14 member, Brian Terrell served 6 months for barely crossing the line at Whiteman AFB, Missouri and who knows what the feds will do to CODEPINKer Diane Wilson for going over the White House fence!

NDE needs a dedicated volunteer to update our drone webpage. (Any takers?) Keep up to speed at <knowdrones.org> <droneswatch.org> and for actions and legal cases from actions in the UK, <dronewars.net>.


NDE's John Amidon Invites You to Kateri Peace Conference

The 15 Annual Kateri Peace Conference

August 16 and 17, 2013
at the National Kateri Shrine in Fonda, New York

The Moral Imperative of Activism:
What You Need to Know! What You Need to Do!

Our speakers are
Civil Resistance and Civil Disobedience - Ellen Barfield
Iraq 2013 Occupation and its Aftermath - Cathy Breen
War Destroys Law - Stephen F. Downs
Dorothy Day, her life and her work - Martha Hennessy
The Moral Imperative of Activism - Ray McGovern
From Protest to Prison and Back again - Brian Terrell

There is a mini retreat on Friday morning
led by Rev. Chris J. Antal.
Friday evening will have a stage reading of
The Predator by Jack Gilroy.

No one is turned away for lack of funds.
Camping at the Shrine is fine also.

Complete information may be found at
<kateripeaceconference.org> or call:
John Amidon at 518-312-6442.

Thank you and we hope you can attend.


August is Nuclear Free Future Month

Sponsored by the Nuclear Disarmament & Redefining Security Working Group of United for Peace and Justice

NDE is a proud, working member of this vital UFPJ working group. Find (or create) an action near you. It’s a whole month, though of course, a lot of events are organized in remembrance of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Excellent background material available too. Go to <nuclearfreefuture.org>.  Support UFPJ too. Visit <unitedforpeace.org>.


Share a Shadow

All that would remain of our weekly peace vigil if a nuclear weapon struck Las Vegas on a Thursday morning from 9 to 10 am.

ICAN launched a new public outreach initiative, Share Your Shadow. A nuclear bomb explosion vaporizes everything in its path in a matter of moments. Such an explosion sometimes also creates permanent memories of those killed. These nuclear shadows, still visible in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are symbols of the devastating effects of nuclear detonations. To show solidarity with victims of nuclear detonations, take a picture of your own shadow and share it with your friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter and through other channels, encouraging them to do the same.

To upload your own images or videos, click here. You'll have to scroll down, but there's also a wonderful introductory video and a chance to sign ICAN's petition to abolish nuclear weapons.

[IMAGE: All that would remain of our weekly peace vigil if a nuclear weapon struck Las Vegas on a Thursday morning from 9 to 10 am.]


Vandenberg Launches Another ICBM Test as Protest Case Goes to US Supreme Court

Longtime Vandenberg activist and co-founder of the Guadalupe Catholic Worker, Dennis Apel, was told on June 3 by his attorney, constitutional specialist Erwin Chemerinsky, that the Supreme Court decided to hear his case, 12-1038 USA v John Dennis Apel. The case involves the easement and ban and bar issues. Vandenberg Air Force Base officials said anyone with a Ban and Bar cannot be on the easement (the property in front of the Vandenberg sign on Hwy 1). Dennis believes he can.

The Federal magistrate agreed with the Base as did the District Court Judge. However, the 9th Circuit Court agreed with Dennis and overturned his convictions. Now the Government is taking Dennis to the Supreme Court to try to have those convictions re-instated. No date has been set, but Erwin believes it will be in December. We’ll keep you updated, and check out the excellent background article from the Santa Barbara Independent.

In the meantime, the air force fired another (unarmed) missile at Kwajalein Atoll from Vandenberg on May 23, and Fr. Louis Vitale had yet another trial date postponed for one of his many incursions there. Keep up on demonstrations and legal cases at Vandenberg at <vandenbergwitness.org>. Also look at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation site.  A lot of background is on NDE's own webpage devoted to missile tests and the problem of delivery system upgrades.


Assaults on “Island of Peace” Continue in Gangjeong Village

Korean activists continue phenomenal nonviolent campaign despite repression, confiscation of property and jail.

See SaveJejuNow.org or the Facebook group NoNavalBase or the NDE website's page devoted to Jeju Island.

Jeju is one of the natural wonders of the world but its reefs and rocky coast are being destroyed to make way for a navy base. Although it will be a South Korean navy base, its expected use is for U.S. Navy Aegis destroyers to be stationed there turning a presumably defensive weapon (for shooting down incoming targets) into an offensive one. It is offensive for two reasons. 1. Jeju Island is extremely close to China, and the forward position of the Aegis system is actually threatening, not defensive. and 2. the villagers of Gangjeong village and the islanders there lost 30,000 lives to an anti-communist purge which the United States assisted with in the 1950s.

Thanks for reading Desert Voices!