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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dead Dolphins; The Dangers of Nukes; US Creating Its "Enemies"; Huge Corporations Don't Pay Taxes; Attack on Workers; Christians More Likely to be Obese; Conservatives Lose in Germany, more

- Health and the Nuclear Gamble
    Fortunately the risk and radiation detected at our shores appears nominal at the present time. However our own National Academy of Sciences has stated that any exposure to radiation increases a person’s risk of cancer. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. The amazing fact is not that the radiation that reaches our shores is described low level at the present time but that it reaches us at all traveling 5000 miles from Japan. This underscores the interconnectedness of our planet and energy decisions made anywhere in the world. With nuclear power and all of its safeguards, it remains imperfect and with the fragility of human technology there always exists the possibility of a nuclear accident with its risk of radioactivity release.
- Level of Iodine-131 in Seawater Off Chart
    The level of radioactive iodine detected in seawater near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was 1,250 times above the maximum level allowable, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Saturday, suggesting contamination from the reactors is spreading.
- More Obstacles Sunday Impede Crews in Japan Nuke Crisis
    The day began with company officials reporting that radiation in leaking water in the Unit 2 reactor was 10 million times above normal, a spike that forced employees to flee the unit. The day ended with officials saying the huge figure had been miscalculated and offering apologies.
    "The number is not credible," said Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Takashi Kurita. "We are very sorry."

    A few hours later, TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto said a new test had found radiation levels 100,000 times above normal - far better than the first results, though still very high.

    But he ruled out having an independent monitor oversee the various checks despite the errors.
- White House Defends Embrace of G.E. CEO Despite Report Company Didn't Owe Taxes in 2010
    In January, President Obama named General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, an economic advisory board focused on job creation....
    Mr. Obama's choice of Immelt came under scrutiny Friday in the wake of a front-page story in the New York Times reporting that despite $14.2 billion in worldwide profits - including more than $5 billion from U.S. operations - GE did not owe taxes in 2010.

    In fact, the story said, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.
- Let Them Eat Picket Signs
    ThinkProgress caught another, particularly sleazy move by the GOP to punish unions: a provision buried in a food stamp funding bill that would cut off benefits to any family if a parent is on strike
- Religion and obesity: Can church make you fat?
    Many religions condemn overeating and gluttony. Yet young adults who frequently attend religious activities are 50 percent more likely to turn into obese middle-agers than those with no religious involvement, according to research from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
- Hundreds of Thousands Protest Against Nuclear Energy Across Germany
    Around 210,000 demonstrators in Cologne, Berlin, Munich and Hamburg vented their anger at the government's nuclear policy on Saturday, supported by Germany's umbrella union body, the DGB, as well as politicians from the opposition Greens and Social Democrats.
- Germany's Merkel Suffers Election Blow Over Nuclear Policy
    Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives appeared set to lose power in a major regional stronghold on Sunday after early results suggested the anti-nuclear Greens were surging to their first ever state premiership.
    In Baden-Wuerttemberg state, where anti-nuclear sentiment has been mobilised by Japan's nuclear crisis, the Greens and Social Democrats (SPD) were set to win 48.3 percent, eclipsing the Christian Democrats who have held power for six decades.
- BP Oil Disaster: Obama Administration Tightens Lid on Dolphin Death Probe
    The U.S. government is keeping a tight lid on its probe into scores of unexplained dolphin deaths along the Gulf Coast, possibly connected to last year's BP oil spill, causing tension with some independent marine scientists.
- BP Oil Disaster: Obama Administration Tightens Lid on Dolphin Death Probe
    The U.S. government is keeping a tight lid on its probe into scores of unexplained dolphin deaths along the Gulf Coast, possibly connected to last year's BP oil spill, causing tension with some independent marine scientists.
- NPR Is Not Left Wing Opposite of Right Wing Media Machine
    Our publicly supported media is not perfect, but we must defend it against this current assault

Our Dance with Arab Dictators
By Haroon Siddiqui
Published on Sunday, March 27, 2011 by Toronto Star

When we allow ourselves to be pushed into thinking about a people and a region as a monolith, sans diversity and differences, we view them only in stark stereotypes. We allow racist notions to become respectable.

Thus “the Arab street,” a contemptuous phrase the media dare not use for public opinion elsewhere. There is no “Canadian street.” No “American street.” No “British street.” No “French street.” But Arab public opinion, emanating in the street — emotional and irrational — is to be dismissed.

Similarly, we are told that all Arabs/Muslims are hard-wired to mistreat women. Like blacks being prone to violence and Catholics to abusing boys.

And in the middle of this glorious Arab spring, we are instructed to keep our enthusiasm in check and ponder instead that democracy may not be part of the Arab DNA.

These crude formulations do serve a purpose. They keep the focus of Arab troubles exclusively on Arabs, as though we have had no part in the mess.

For decades, Arabs have been denied democracy mostly by client regimes of the United States and Europe that financed and trained the dictators’ security set-ups. The mandate of these dreaded outfits has been to keep “the street” quiet, lest it resonate with what we did not want to hear.

Of the 22 members of the Arab League (18 really, if you ignore Comoros, Mauritania, Djibouti and Somalia), eight are monarchies — Jordan, Morocco and the six members of the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council. They are all American/western allies. They are described by our politicians and pundits as “moderate.” But they are tyrannies, in varying degrees. Six of them use torture.

There are eight other autocratic states — Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan and the Palestinian Authority. Six and a half (Mahmoud Abbas being only half the PA) have been western allies. Most maintain torture chambers, which the U.S. has rented for anti-terror interrogations.

All seven have had entrenched dictatorships, five of them western allies at some point or another (Hosni Mubarak, 30 years; Moammar Gadhafi, 42 years; Abdullah Saleh, 33 years; Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, 23 years; Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 12 years). Saddam Hussein also belonged in that club until he invaded Kuwait in 1991.

Our friends are all corrupt. The monarchs treat the state treasury as their own and won’t divulge the dividing line between state and personal funds. Others have found ways to monetize power and amass fortunes (Mubarak $5 billion; Gadhafi $10 billion; Ben Ali $8 billion). We winked and nodded, as though the deal was that we’d enrich them for services rendered.

The West helped deny democracy to the Arabs in order to protect oil and ensure security for Israel.

When George W. Bush decided in 2003 to change that policy — “stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty” — he opted for war to bring democracy to Iraq. He adopted the same model, retroactively, in Afghanistan. And when Israel invaded Lebanon in 2006, Condoleezza Rice called it “the birth pangs of the new Middle East.”

The Arab masses are giving us an alternate model: a non-violent grassroots demand for pluralistic and transparent democracy. They are promoting it with nothing more than raw courage, only to run into the guns, bullets, tanks and tear gas supplied, in most cases, by the West.

These brave reformers are not unaware of our role in their plight. Yet they are not blaming us or Israel. It’s a sign either of their generosity of spirit or their more immediate concerns of surviving another day.

Their uprisings — each shaped by the particular circumstances of their nations and the depth of depravity of their respective rulers — have exposed the moral and even strategic bankruptcy of the western approach. Oil is available to us, yes, but at usurious rates. And Israel does not have long-term security.

A more democratic order would no more restrict the flow of oil than trade is hindered between democracies. Rather, the opposite dictum would apply: that democracy is good for business. Similarly, democracy promotes stability and peace.

Rather than being held hostage by their puppets, the U.S. and its allies must use their clout to back pro-democracy forces. The West clearly cannot military intervene everywhere. However, waging war in the name of humanitarian intervention in Libya but turning a blind eye to Bahrain and Yemen is too self-serving to ignore.

The Arab Awakening is as much about us as it is about them.