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Thursday
Jul192018

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - "Space Is A War-Fighting Domain"

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

If President Donald Trump gets his way on formation of a Space Force, the heavens would become a war zone. And inevitably there would be military conflict in space. 

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 designates space as a global commons to be used for peaceful purposes.  Russia and China, as well as the United States, are parties to the treaty. If a Space Force becomes a reality, the years of work facilitating the treaty will have been wasted.

 If the U.S. goes up into space with weapons, Russia and China, and then India and Pakistan and other countries, will follow. 

Moreover, space weaponry would be nuclear-powered—as President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” scheme was to be with nuclear reactors and plutonium systems on orbiting battle platforms providing the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons. As General James Abrahamson, director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, put it at a Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion, “without reactors in orbit [there is] going to be a long, long light [extension] cord that goes down to the surface of the Earth” to power space weapons.

I got to writing about and presenting TV programs on space issues more than 30 years ago. It was 1985 and I was reading a U.S. Department of Energy publication, Energy Insider, which told of two space shuttles—one the Challenger—which were to loft plutonium-fueled space probes in 1986. The Challenger’s plutonium mission was to happen in May, the ill-fated shuttle’s next mission. 

From having authored “Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power,” I knew that plutonium is considered the most deadly radioactive substance. I sent requests under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act to NASA and Department of Energy asking for their data on consequences if one of the shuttles underwent a major accident on launch, in the lower or upper atmosphere, or didn’t attain orbit and fell back to Earth.

The weeks dragged on—I had hit a stone wall. I protested this apparent cover-up and, finally, 10 months later, received documents claiming that because of the “high reliability inherent in the space shuttle” the odds of a catastrophic accident on one of these nuclear space shots were one-in-100,000. (After the Challenger disaster, those odds were suddenly changed to one-in-76.)

With the Challenger accident, I broke the story of its nuclear mission ahead and began researching accidents that had happened in the use of nuclear power in space. I connected the interest in using nuclear power in space with “Star Wars” and how it was based on nuclear-powered battle platforms overhead. 

This resulted in my writing two books, “The Wrong Stuff” and “Weapons in Space,” and three TV documentaries, the first “Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens.” Considerable travel and presentations followed—including two presentations before members of the British Parliament and a series of talks at the UN in New York and Geneva. As the years have gone by I’ve continued to pursue the issue especially when there were administrations that pushed space warfare, the two Bush and now the Trump administration.

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council last month, announcing his intention “to establish a Space Force.”

In one of the TV documentaries, “Star Wars Returns,” on the push to revive the “Star Wars” program in the George W. Bush administration, I interviewed Craig Eisendrath who had been a U.S. State Department officer involved in the creation of the Outer Space Treaty. “We sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized…to keep war out of space,” he explained. It has been ratified or signed by 123 nations and provides that nations “undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.”

 The U.S. military has been gung-ho on space warfare. A U.S. Space Command was formed in 1982. “U.S Space Command—dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict,” it declared in its report “Vision for 2020.”

There have been attempts to expand the Outer Space Treaty to bar all weapons from space. This is called the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty and leading in urging its passage have been Canada, Russia and China. There has been virtually universal backing from nations around the world. But U.S. administration after administration have refused to back the PAROS treaty preventing its passage. And now with the Trump administration, there is more than non-support of the PAROS treaty but a new drive to weaponize space. 

That could be seen coming. In a speech in March, Trump asserted: “My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain.”

 

Karl Grossman is a veteran investigative reporter and columnist, the winner of numerous awards for his work and a member of the L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury and the author of six books.  

Thursday
Jul122018

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Interdependence

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

In recent weeks there have been large demonstrations across Long Island and the nation protesting the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from families seeking asylum in the United States—and on the Fourth of July that was the scene in my little village of Sag Harbor.

Heralded as a “Walk for Interdependence: Keep Our Families Together,” it drew a remarkably high number of people—I’d estimate 400. It was sponsored by the Organizacion Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island (OLA), area churches and synagogues and others. It started with speeches and songs at the windmill on Long Wharf and continued with protesters walking up and then down the sidewalks along Main Street.

Many carried signs such as: “Children Should Never Be Caged! This is America!,” “Compassion for Families Seeking Asylum,” “Hate Has No Home Here,” “No One Leaves Home Unless Home Is The Mouth of a Shark,” “ No Human Is Illegal,” “Families Belong Together,” “End Family Detention,” “Make America Humane Again,” “Only Monsters Put Children in Cages,” “Descendants of Immigrants—We Stand With Our Latino Brothers and Sisters,” “Trump and the White House Don’t Belong Together. Families DO,” “Mary and Joseph Fled Violence and Were Turned Away. LOVE” and “We got a call from France. They want their statue back.”

A member of the only group not immigrants to the U.S.—Native American—Nichol Dennis Banks, a former trustee of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, dressed in colorful native clothing, held a sign reading: “30,000 Native American Children Placed in ‘Boarding Schools’ Between 1880-1902. Keep Families Together. Stop the Trauma.”

“We call this interdependence because we all depend on each other,” said Minerva Perez, executive director of OLA, at the windmill. She sang a song with the lines: “You do not walk alone. I will walk with you—and sing your spirit home.” She continued singing the song at the side of the protesters as they walked along Main Street.

A young Latina girl, Isobel, at the microphone at the windmill, said: “The children need to stay with their families because they need the love to get through this hard time.”

To understand what those fleeing to the U.S. at our southern border are running from with their families, it is helpful to visit countries from which they are escaping. Years ago, I wrote a book on conflict in Central America and went to Honduras. Years before, as a student at Antioch College, I participated in its program in Guanajuato, Mexico. In Honduras, my first interview was with Ramon Custodio, president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras. He was a doctor, having gone to medical school in England and receiving training in pathology in the U.S., and was founder and former president of the medical college in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. 

Dr. Custodio used a word I had never heard decades before from my Universidad de Guanajuato professors—desaparecidos. In English it means “disappeared persons.”

In Honduras, there’s been an increase in desaparecidos,” related Dr. Custodio. “It is a disturbing pattern.” Some bodies are found in “clandestine cemeteries.” The judicial system refuses to investigate the disappearances.  Honduran police, he said, will often keep people in custody without a trial for weeks and there have been numerous cases of torture by police.

I asked Dr. Custodio why he put himself at risk leading the 100-member human rights group. “It’s my duty to defend human rights where very few speak out,” he answered. “I know how to say it, write it, maybe I have the guts for it. I have the moral duty. I’d hate to be living in this country and be silent and be in the position of the many German people when Hitler came to power.”

Not all of Central America is in such a situation. Costa Rica and Belize are not.

But trying to survive in Honduras and El Salvador is really dangerous. And in the resulting flight-or-fight calculus, many seek to flee—and the dream is to go to the U.S., long known as a refuge for those escaping tyranny. Indeed, one speaker at the windmill last week said that with the Trump administration “zero-tolerance” program directed at these newest refugees, “The Statue of Liberty has tears in her eyes.”

The use of the word “interdependence” for the walk was meaningful. Like other immigrant groups that have sought refuge in the U.S., Latinos are vital in doing what others here usually won’t do—landscaping, hard restaurant work, etc. We are interdependent.

Perry Gershon, Democratic candidate for Congress in the lst C.D., was at the demonstration last week and told me: “What Trump is doing is not America. Our Congress has a duty to speak up loudly not only to end family separation but to accelerate family reunification.”

Karl Grossman is a veteran investigative reporter and columnist, the winner of numerous awards for his work and a member of the L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury and the author of six books.  

Thursday
Jul052018

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Perry Gershon's Remarkable Commitment

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

The victory of Perry Gershon in the primary last week for the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Lee Zeldin in the lst Congressional District was about an aggressive, well-financed campaign—but it was more than that.

On the afternoon of Primary Day June 26th, there was a knock on our door—and virtually no uninvited person has come down the long private dirt road to our rather isolated cottage in the 44 years we’ve lived there. The nice-looking young man at the door introduced himself as Marshall Gershon and asked for a vote “for my dad.”

One thing is expending large amounts of money on TV commercials and slick brochures, but this sort of thing is way beyond that—it reflects a remarkable commitment.  

(I’m not enrolled in any party—to emphasize being non-partisan as a journalist. I advise my students going into journalism to do the same. My wife, however, is an enrolled Democrat and young Gershon was in search of her primary vote.)

Hours after the results were in, Mr. Zeldin, in the way of President Trump with whom he is politically and personally close and who likes to use epithets to diminish people—“little rocket man,” “crooked Hillary,” etc.—issued a statement referring every several sentences to Mr. Gershon as “Park Avenue Perry.”

It will be a hot contest. Now we’ll see what the extraordinarily high Gershon energy will mean in a Gershon-Zeldin race.

Remarkable, too, the number of rivals in the primary—five. In more than 50 years following Suffolk politics, I know of no primary contest of any party in which there were so many contestants. I believe it to be a record.

From the outset, Mr. Gershon, a political outsider, broke out of the starting gate strong—and continued strong. A successful New York City businessman with a home in East Hampton, the son of two noted doctors, a Yale graduate who initially studied medicine, too, but then decided on a business route, his campaign issued hard-hitting literature—going for the jugular.

“Together We Can Beat Lee Zeldin And Stop Donald Trump,” declared one brochure. “It’s Time To Take Back Our Country.” And there were brochures on specific issues: “Medicare For All Isn’t Just My Fight—It’s Our Fight,” said one. “Perry Gershon Has A Plan To End Gun Violence” and this includes “banning assault weapons,” said another. “Our Environmental Treasures Must Be Protected…Perry Gershon will be protecting our coastline and drinking water. Global Warming Is Real, No Offshore Drilling,” said another. “Standing With Planned Parenthood. Protecting The Right To Choose,” said another.

The campaign literature and the TV commercials described Mr. Gershon as a “bold progressive”—and continued a drumbeat tying Mr. Zeldin, of Shirley, to Mr. Trump.

There was a large primary turn-out—almost double the number of Democrats who turned out for the 2016 primary pitting former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst against David Calone, ex-chair of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, in a race to challenge Mr. Zeldin that year. 

Former Suffolk Legislator Kate Browning of Shirley, who came in second to Mr. Gershon, told supporters this indicated that “Democrats are energized to succeed in November.”

Mr. Gershon spent a great deal of money in the primary contest—a lot his own. Federal Election Commission records show that by June 6th he had raised $2,110,371 and spent $1,660,210. Ms. Browning raised the second-highest amount with $493,850.

Mr. Gerson received 35.5 percent of the vote, Ms. Browning 30 percent. (Mr. Gershon garnered in 7,226 votes, Ms. Browning 6,159.)

Other candidates in the race were former Suffolk Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher of Setauket who received 16 percent of the vote, former New York City Council staffer David Pechefksy, a Patchogue native now of Port Jefferson, who got 12 percent, and former Brookhaven National Laboratory physicist Elaine DiMasi of Ronkonkoma who got 6 percent.

Mr. Zeldin, then a state senator, first won the lst C.D. seat in 2014 defeating Democratic incumbent Tim Bishop of Southampton. The lst C.D. includes all five East End towns, all of Brookhaven, most of Smithtown and a slice of Islip town. Through the decades it has been represented by both Democrats and Republicans and, for a time, a Conservative, William Carney of Hauppauge, who ran with GOP cross-endorsement. 

Thursday
Jun282018

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - LI Emmy Award Winner Is Also A Banker And Immigrant

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

Lupito GadeasJust three years ago, Lupita Gadeas was a student in my Investigative Reporting class at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury. Following an internship she did at Adictivo, a TV program shot at studios in Hauppauge and Long Island City and aired on Telemundo, she got a job with Adictivo as a reporter.

In April, Lupita and two other journalists at Adictivo received an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. 

I was thinking of Lupita in recent days as the horror unfolded of more than 2,000 children being separated from their families who were seeking refuge in the United States, mostly from Central America, with many of the kids put in cages. 

Lupita is from El Salvador in Central America. She left the violence in that country in 2008 for the promise of the United States. She is now, happily, a U.S. citizen.

She told me, proudly, on the phone last week of having just interviewed Nayib Bukele, a candidate for president of El Salvador, on a visit he made to Brentwood, historically a center for Latinos in Suffolk. (Now Latinos are spread through the county.) 

In addition to being an associate producer at Adictivo, Lupita is a banker at Chase Bank. She also worked at Chase while a student at Old Westbury.

Lupita’s energy—as a student and today—is boundless. Since graduation, she told me, she has bought a house and gotten married (to a young man from Guatemala). 

“In the United States, you work hard and you can succeed,” she commented.

For me, Lupita is an example of what immigrants—now and since the founding of the United States—have brought to this country. My late father used to say “hybrid vigor” was a key to how the U.S won World War II against powerful enemies, how it built nearly 3,000 Liberty ships and 300,000 military aircraft (many of these on Long Island at the Grumman and Fairchild plants). We overwhelmed the Nazis and Italian and Japanese fascists. Hybrids have great strength. Consider the mule. The diversity of people in this nation has given it enormous strength.

Lupita doesn’t want to go back to El Salvador “not even to visit.”

It isn’t that she doesn’t love her homeland. She told of interviewing Mr. Bukele, a former mayor of San Salvador, the nation’s capital, and asking about “what his plan is to help the country. He said he wanted to make El Salvador ‘a better place so people would want to stay.’”

Crime in El Salvador is intense, said Lupita. “People are killed every hour, an average of 23 every day.” The root cause: poverty and gangs, and they connect. She told of her aunt who works in a market two days a week and gets $3 a day—“$6 a week! You can’t make ends meet on $6 a week.” Poverty causes people to become gang members and “be pickpockets or get involved in the protection racket.” And if you don’t pay money for protection, “you or your children can get killed.”

“You can get killed in El Salvador for $20,” said Lupita. If you want someone murdered, she said, you can go to a gang member and pay $20. ”It’s a nightmare.”

She got out. And fortunately, she came to the U.S. with a Green Card due to her father having come here earlier and becoming a U.S. citizen. (Typical of Latino newcomers, he has a landscaping business on Long Island “and during the winter does snow removal.”)

Lupita told of watching the children in cages on TV. “Heartbreaking!” she said.

I have many Latino students at SUNY Old Westbury. Indeed, the college in its now more than 50 years has been committed to diversity as a central part of the educational experience, and there is wonderful diversity on the student, faculty and administrative levels.

The story of Lupita isn’t unique.

Newsday this month featured on the cover of its “LIlife” section a story headed: “Best in class. It’s the first time East Hamptons valedictorian and salutatorian are both Latino.”  It was about Nicolas Sigua Pintado, the valedictorian, and Christopher Gomez, the salutatorian, the top students in a class of 215 graduating East Hampton High School this year. 

“Sigua will be the first in his family to obtain a college degree, and both will attend Ivy League institutions come fall—Sigua at Harvard University to major in political science, and Gomez at Cornell University to study astronomy and physics.” The article quoted Adam Fine, the high school’s principal, as saying: “These kids, whether Latino or not, are two of the best young men I’ve encountered in my career.”

And, said the piece, “In addition to excelling academically, Gomez is senior class co-president and goal-keeper on the varsity soccer team. During his junior year, he traveled to Malawi with the BuildOn Club to help construct a school. Sigua is captain of the swim team…and works during the summer as a lifeguard. This year he and students created a debate club.”

“Sigua was born in East Hampton to parents who emigrated from Ecuador.,,,Gomez moved from Guatemala with his single mother when he was 7.”

All these extraordinarily intelligent and highly active young people will bring great credit to the United States. 

Thursday
Jun212018

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Bridge Over Sound Discussion Decades Old

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

Heading off Long Island and being stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway, I daresay most people have thought about why there’s no tunnel or bridge extending north before one reaches New York City and the Throgs Neck and Bronx-Whitestone bridges.

Indeed, following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call in his 2018 State of the State speech for a tunnel north off Long Island, Newsday editorialized: “Unless you have time for a ferry to Bridgeport or New London, there’s only one way out of here—through New York City. That’s life on the giant cul-de-sac that is Long Island….Whether you are visiting a college in Boston or vacationing upstate…chances are at some point you’ve asked yourself the same question that’s vexed generations of Long Islanders: Why do I have to go west to go east? Or to go north.”

The answer to that is despite repeated drives, there’s been strong public opposition on Long Island, the cost has been high, and in the case of the first push exactly 80 years ago, the death of the man behind that scheme.

He was Royal Copeland, a three-term U.S. senator from New York. His plan advanced in 1938 was for an island-hopping span from Orient Point and across Plum, Great Gull and Fishers islands landing in Groton, Connecticut or Watch Hill, Rhode Island. But he died that year and his plan with him—for a while.

Two decades later, in 1957, a former New York State superintendent of public works, Charles Sells, advanced a proposal for two bridges—one from Orient Point in Suffolk to Watch Hill, and a second, from Oyster Bay in Nassau, to Rye in Westchester County.

Suffolk’s first county executive, H. Lee Dennison, was supportive of a Long Island bridge during his term in office from 1961 to 1973. An engineer, he loved bridges—for example, he pushed for the construction of bridges on the north and south sides of Shelter Island but was stopped by the then Suffolk Board of Supervisors. “If Dennison wants to rape Suffolk County, we want him to leave Shelter Island alone,” said Shelter Island Supervisor Evans K. Griffing.

But it was an even bigger fancier of highways, tunnels and bridges, Robert Moses (the person responsible for the LIE and instrumental in insufficient resources going towards a balanced mass transit system for this region) who was central to the biggest battle over a Long Island bridge. That was in the mid-1960s when Mr. Moses, whom that Newsday editorial identified as the “original master builder,” pushed anew for a bridge from Oyster Bay to Rye. 

Intense public and governmental opposition stopped this Moses plan. A leader was former Congressman Lester Wolff of Muttontown. Two weeks ago, Congressman Thomas Suozzi, who represents parts of Nassau and Suffolk, announced he was introducing a bill to rename the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge in honor of Mr. Wolff. Creation of the refuge helped block the bridge. Mr. Wolff, at 99 the oldest living former U.S. congressman, was at a meeting a day later in Locust Valley, at which hundreds gathered to organize against the Cuomo tunnel plan, recommended having Congress designate the Long Island Sound as a marine park to aid in stopping the tunnel. “The Long Island Sound is a national treasure,” he said.

Governor Hugh Carey in 1979 set up a tristate advisory committee that considered bridges from sites at Port Jefferson, Wading River, Riverhead, East Marion and Orient Point. But its report found expanding ferry service as preferable.

Governor Cuomo, whom the Newsday editorial referred to as “New York’s modern master building,” said of a Long Island tunnel in his State of the State speech: “It would be underwater. It would be invisible. It would reduce traffic on the impossibly congested Long Island Expressway and would offer potential significant private investment.”

A study released since by the state, done by WSP of Montreal, determined that a tunnel or bridge, or a bridge-tunnel combination, would cost $31.5 billion to 55.4 billion. It recommended as “feasible” two routes—from Oyster Bay to Rye or Port Chester in Westchester, or from Kings Park to either Bridgeport or Devon in Connecticut. It dismissed a link between Wading River and New Haven or Branford, Connecticut as not fostering economic development and being too expensive.

The Kings Park link would necessitate an extension of Sunken Meadow State Parkway. This, said State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick of St. James, “would destroy Sunken Meadow State Park. That’s not going to go over.” As to other environmental damage, at the gathering in Locust Valley, James Gaughran, chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, warned of damage to the underground water table on which Long Island depends for its potable water from the tunnel and its construction. It would be, he said, “an environmental disaster.”

Karl Grossman is a veteran investigative reporter and columnist, the winner of numerous awards for his work and a member of the L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury and the author of six books.