Penney Kome

Penney Kome is an award-winning author and journalist who has published six books with major publishers. She is also the Editor of Straight Goods. She is co-editor with Patrick Crean of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (1986, Sierra Club Books). She started marching against the atomic bomb when the placards were taller than she was, and she emigrated from the US to Canada in protest against the war in Vietnam.

Dec 062012
Anti-nuclear-power march

After 70 years, nuclear bombs remain the only real re-use for lethal waste.

by Penney Kome

Along with freak storms, nuclear reactor accidents have moved from being a 100 year event to being regular occurrences.  “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s probabilistic risk analysis claims a meltdown is a once in a 200 year event,” said nuclear engineer Arne Gundersen.  But the facts contradict the predictions. “There have been five meltdowns in 35 years: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and three meltdowns at Fukushima.”

Fukushima! As the people of Japan struggle with the consequences of the 2010 earthquakes and tsunami, the ongoing catastrophe at the Daichi nuclear power plants has turned Japanese public opinion solidly against starting up the remaining plants.

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Dec 032012
Radioactive waste is an urgent issue for many environmental groups.

CNSC lures  Ontario communities with bogus promise of big bucks.

by Penney Kome

From December 3 – 5,  the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is holding hearings in Courtice, Ontario, with an unprecedented three different items on the agenda. The meetings had to be postponed from September because of the number of intervenors. Ninety groups or individuals will present in person; at least as many have submitted written presentations.

NorthWatch researcher Brennain Lloyd talks about issues now before the CNSC.

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In this exclusive SGN video interview, Brennain Lloyd of NorthWatch describes the issues and dynamics involved with these hearings. Intervenors have ten minutes to address:

  • re-licensing the Darlington nuclear reactor;
  • re-licensing a high-level (fuel grade) waste facility; and
  • a proposal to refurbish Darlington.

For many environmental groups, the radioactive waste issue is urgent. Currently, the wastes are “imperfectly stored” at the reactor station, said Lloyd.  She cited a decades-long hunt for the perfect geological formation that would isolate fuel waste in perpetuity. Now the regulators have abandoned that hunt, and “any rock will do.”  One proposal is to bury low and medium level wastes deep below the surface of the Bruce generating station, on the shore of Lake Huron.

As well, the CNSC has invited Ontario small cities and townships to participate in a “National Infrastructure Project” — otherwise known as a nuclear dump — advertised as being worth $16 – 24 billion.  Twenty-one communities have agreed to be studied as potentially the site for high-level nuclear waste — mostly without the local people knowing anything about it.

Lloyd said that the CNSC is trying to reassure municipal councils that the radioactive material decomposes over time, so that eventually there will be no radioactivity left. Two key factors are omitted from presentations, however. The first is that decomposition can take centuries, if not millennia. The second is that decomposition means the radioactivity is leaving the material — and potentially going into the local air and water.

Nov 172012

The Intercultural Dialogue Institute just wants to talk.

by Penney Kome

Ten Alberta politicians spoke at the mid-afternoon launch of the Calgary Intercultural Dialogue Institute’s new office and meeting space. An hour later, two MLAs were still holding court in the rug and tapestry-lined sitting room just off the main office: veteran Conservative MLA Wayne Cao, and a relative newcomer, Manmeet Bhullar, Minister for Service Alberta.    

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Nov 082012

New majority of US voters more perceptive and open-minded.

by Penney Kome

On November 6, US citizens not only voted to re-elect Barack Obama, they also passed progressive measures in several states. According to Avaaz, Americans voted for “6 awesome things”, including:

  • Washington, Maryland and Maine recognized same-sex marriages;
  • Montana and Colorado slapped limits on corporate campaign spending;
  • Montana and Massachusetts approved medical marijuana while
  • Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana and tax it.

In other words, voters rejected many of the Tea Party's hot button issues.

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Oct 262012

Contributor's guidelines, October 2012

Straight Goods is an online news magazine with particular focus on protecting human rights, untangling media spin, and deciphering Canadian politics. We're looking for newsy articles in journalistic style. Studies show that each story has about 14 seconds to capture the attention of an online reader. Please give readers the 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where, and Why) in the first paragraph.

Rather than commentary, we prefer a journalistic approach: fact-heavy, third person, past tense, active voice.  The best articles tell a story fast and clearly. We look for added value such as interviews, research sources, a timely news angle, or a political tie-in. SGN’s website uses WordPress, so if your text includes links, we can post the text and links directly to SGN story pages. Or we can embed the links ourselves. No worries. We also welcome original videos or suggestions about Youtube videos to add to our Video Gallery.

Please avoid whenever possible:

– sweeping generalizations (especially as the lead);
– footnotes;
– polemic – telling people what to do – words like “should” and “ought” are tipoffs;
– rude language;
– academic language or any other kind of jargon;
– hate speech, sexism, racism, homophobia or other forms of prejudice. 

SGN style is to use Canadian spellings. We appreciate manuscripts that arrive that way. We expect writers to be able to substantiate their statements and interview quotes. We celebrate Canada’s diversity and welcome fresh viewpoints and voices to the conversation; we also work with emerging writers.  We try to respond to all queries, but we don’t always succeed.

Please email all unsolicited queries or manuscripts to Penney Kome, Editor at  We prefer to receive stories as text, copied and pasted into the body of the email. Please do NOT send any manuscripts as attachments, as we’re likely not to read them.

You may have noticed that there’s a short biography and a headshot photo of the author at the bottom of most SGN story page. If we use your story, we’ll need that information from you. A good quality digital photo of the author (head and shoulders) is an asset for anyone who works online anyway.

At this point, Straight Goods cannot pay writers for their work, but we can offer subscriptions, promotion, and other incentives. Regarding promotion, we also consider book excerpts and reprints of insightful work that has appeared elsewhere.

Writers retain all rights to their contributions and are free to submit stories published by Straight Goods, elsewhere. Straight Goods will refer all requests for reprints to the writer.

For more information, please contact

Oct 242012

Popular symbols may signal serious economic, environmental problems.

by Penney Kome

With Halloween approaching, I’ve been mulling over the modern infatuation with zombies and vampires. Halloween is supposedly the time when the walls between dimensions thin, and monsters can slip into our world. But I'm wondering why these new monsters are on the ascendant. Okay, adolescents have often pondered death. Goths have a certain slightly menacing charm. Still, today’s youth seem to have a genuine affection for zombies. “If you were a zombie, I’d let you eat my brains,” said one Facebook post. What does this signify?

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Sep 162012

 Andrew Nikiforuk's new book uses a loaded term but others have used it too.

by Penney Kome

Alberta author and environmentalist Andrew Nikiforuk’s new book, The Energy of Slaves, suggests that we measure our energy use in units of what might be called  “slave power”.  He  starts from the premise that machines now do the chores that societies such as the Romans and the US Southern plantations required slaves to do — and dubs those machines, “slaves”.  

The notion that we privileged Westerners are all closet slaveholders is deliberately shocking.

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Sep 072012

By Penney Kome

Something I noticed at the Democratic convention: the Obamas have solved one of the toughest propaganda challenges in opposing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. For years now, "Support our troops" has been the rallying cry for the pro-war faction, even as the Bush administration cut funding for essential battle gear (soldiers had to supply their own flak jackets) and veterans' health care. This administration has replaced that with support for military families and a stated end goal of being able to say "Welcome home, soldier!" Now, that's real support for the troops — ending the conflict and bringing them home. Even if not all the soldiers return at the same time, even if the US retains the illusion of being the world's Supercop — this is an administration that pledges never to enter a conflict without an exit strategy in mind. And IMO, that's a breakthrough.

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Apr 222012
Alberta election up for grabs

Alison Redford's new broom not enough for voters.

by Penney Kome

"It's time for a change," said the woman at the doorstep as she accepted an election brochure. In fact, her neighbour had just said the same thing. After 41 years in power, Alberta's Conservative government has worn out its welcome — ironically, just as the party is returning to its Lougheed-style Red Tory roots, under Premier Alison Redford. The big question is, will Alberta slide backwards and embrace the Danielle Smith's Wildrose Party, with all its Social Credit echoes, or will it find a way to move forward to a more progressive government?

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