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Senators and Rep. Lujan double down on pits; new tax law makes 2017 better year for donations for some

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December 26, 2017

Dear friends --

Thank you so much for your support -- of every kind -- this year. We hope you have had (or are having!) a wonderful holiday season.

Our Nobel Peace Prize meetings in Santa Fe and Albuquerque were excellent. We saw old friends, made new friends, and were surprised by visitors from far away.

In our previous letter we wrote to you about plutonium "pit" production (again). I am afraid you will hear a lot more about this from us before, God willing, we send the new bomb factory back to the waste basket beneath the proverbial drawing board.

I (Greg) will be going back to Washington in about 10 days, to meet face-to-face with some of the actors involved in this drama.

Pits are the cores of what are essentially Nagasaki-type atomic bombs. The issues are whether, where, how big, and when to set up an industrial production line for more of them. These are just the detonators for today's huge thermonuclear explosives, just one of which would blast and burn a large city -- and bring the further doom of nuclear winter if used in any quantity.

The first pit was detonated near Alamogordo. The second blew up over Nagasaki, where it ultimately killed roughly 70,000 people (or more). The third pit, the "Demon Core," killed two scientists here in criticality accidents (clip from the excellent "Fat Man, Little Boy") before being melted down and re-cast.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is the only place capable -- in theory -- of making pits right now, and LANL wants to be the place to make a lot more of them.

We have a Bulletin partly written on the latest developments but have prioritized working with newspapers and Congress. Stay tuned; most of the detailed update needs to go into that. Meanwhile you may want to read:

On another subject, the new tax law will take effect in a few days. The standard deduction will rise dramatically for 2018 and afterward. For some people, it is better to make a charitable contribution now, in 2017.

Here again is our year-end appeal. We set great store on peer-to-peer fundraising, so feel free to pass on that letter or to otherwise reach out on behalf of our work. This year was a thin one for us; hopefully 2018 will be better.

Our own organization aside, please recognize that we are really in an emergency period on this planet. There is much more to say about this but I will save it for the Bulletin. Meanwhile you may enjoy these notes (or find them useful), from articles last week:

The threat of war, the immanence of climate change, the burial of the planet in garbage, the sixth great extinction all produce at most a shrug. Journalism junkies natter on about Trump, long for Obama, and argue about whether Trump is worse than Bush. Climate scientists give talks, hold conferences, and bemoan the lack of any meaningful action. Trump edges towards Armageddon and people think about lunch. Everyone looks elsewhere for somebody to do something. The entire population has lost the ability to act. Meanwhile, human extinction approaches like a fire fanned by the Santa Ana winds.  ("Simone Weil, Marx and Revolution," Michael Doliner, 12/21/17)

To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual....Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home. ("World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice," William Ripple et. al. and 15,364 scientists from 184 countries, BioScience 67:12, 1 December 2017, pp 1026–1028)

...Saint Isaac of Syria wrote: “An elder was once asked, ‘What is a compassionate heart?’ He replied: ‘It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons and for all that exists.’” ("The Ecology of Prayer," Fred Bahnson, Orion, December 2017)

Many ask, what can I do?

First, make up your mind to get involved! How and where are secondary decisions. As one of our board members said last week regarding the historic upheaval we are living in, "If you want to be on this planet, you had better participate!"

Here are some suggestions. They may or may not be for you. Everybody is different; everybody has got unique gifts and vantage points. "There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground" (Rumi).

  • Write letters to editors castigating our senators and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan for their support for pit production. Reach out personally to their supporters and start the discussions we need. If you love this state, or this planet, it is time to end the "business as usual" approach to so many issues. And that, dear friends, is who they are. Something has to give, and it will. But what?
  • Ask us to speak to your church or organization. It's amazing to us that this does not happen more. History is being made daily; we do keep up fairly well. Here for example is a recent radio panel discussion on the Administration's new national security policy: ("Trump Announces New Cold War, Sputnik News, Loud & Clear, Dec 18, 2017).
  • Write us and say you want to be involved. Then, if five or ten people say "Yes, we are interested!" more possibilities arise!
  • As we said last time, one of the strange dynamics we face here at the Study Group is that we can draw in -- at least via Skype, because we care about the climate -- stellar national and international figures for events, but we can't do that unless there is sufficient interest! Is Doliner right in the quote above, when he says "Everyone looks elsewhere for somebody to do something. The entire population has lost the ability to act." We need to be the exceptions! The sparks!

Of course funding is limiting for us, but faith and networking and good will are more important than money.

Godspeed in your own projects, and see you in the New Year!

Best wishes,

Greg and Trish


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