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This is the blog for Sean Brennan and London After Midnight. For more information please see the LAM website at londonaftermidnight.com.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dwarfing Chernobyl; Republican Conservatism=Fascism (Maddow video); BP Oil Spill Still Killing; The Fake Black Panther Fox News Scandal ; Libya; Facebook Contributing to Climate Change

- Tell Facebook to Unfriend Coal
    ...what powers Facebook? Coal, the number-one contributor to climate change. At current growth rates, data centers and telecommunication networks—two key components of the “cloud” that Facebook depends on—will consume about 1,963 billion kilowatts hours of electricity in 2020. That’s more than triple their current consumption and more than the current electricity consumption of France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined.
- The Fox Cycle: The New Black Panther Endgame
    Writing on The Plum Line, Adam Serwer says the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility findings make clear that the only reason the New Black Panther controversy exists is because it represented an "opportunity to inflame white resentment by leveling charges that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are racist against white people."
- Goldman Sachs in Japan: Don't Worry, Be Happy
    With radiation levels in Japan soaring, the enlightened executives at Goldman Sachs have made their priorities clear to employees inexplicably worried about nuclear plants exploding around them. Stay put, they say, or it will look bad for business.
- Radiation Rises in Seawater Near Fukushima Plant
    Japanese officials concede they are no closer to resolving nuclear crisis as high level of radiation is detected in ocean.
- BP Gulf Disaster Impact Could Be Much Worse Than Expected
    The death toll from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill goes far beyond the animal corpses washing ashore, says a report that warns that whale and dolphin deaths may be 50 times higher than believed.
- Ohio House Panel OKs Public Worker Union Bill
    The Republican-controlled House Commerce and Labor Committee in Ohio approved a measure Tuesday that would limit collective bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers and delivering a blow to unions...
- Billion-Plus People to Lack Water in 2050
    More than one billion urban residents will face serious water shortages by 2050 as climate change worsens effects of urbanization, with Indian cities among the worst hit, a study said Monday.
- Who are the Libyan Freedom Fighters and Their Patrons?
    he world is facing a very unpredictable and potentially dangerous situation in North Africa and the Middle East. What began as a memorable, promising, relatively nonviolent achievement of New Politics - the Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt - has morphed very swiftly into a recrudescence of old habits: America, already mired in two decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sporadic air attacks in Yemen and Somalia, now bombing yet another Third World Country, in this case Libya.
- Republican Conservatism: Authoritarian or Libertarian? Part One (See Part Two Here)


'Worse Than Chernobyl': When the Fukushima Meltdown Hits Groundwater
by Tom Burnett
Published on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 by Hawaii News Daily

Fukushima is going to dwarf Chenobyl. The Japanese government has had a level 7 nuclear disaster going for almost a week but won’t admit it.

The disaster is occurring the opposite way than Chernobyl, which exploded and stopped the reaction. At Fukushima, the reactions are getting worse. I suspect three nuclear piles are in meltdown and we will probably get some of it.

If reactor 3 is in meltdown, the concrete under the containment looks like lava. But Fukushima is not far off the water table. When that molten mass of self-sustaining nuclear material gets to the water table it won’t simply cool down. It will explode – not a nuclear explosion, but probably enough to involve the rest of the reactors and fuel rods at the facility.

Pouring concrete on a critical reactor makes no sense – it will simply explode and release more radioactive particulate matter. The concrete will melt and the problem will get worse. Chernobyl was different – a critical reactor exploded and stopped the reaction. At Fukushima, the reactor cores are still melting down. The ONLY way to stop that is to detonate a ~10 kiloton fission device inside each reactor containment vessel and hope to vaporize the cores. That’s probably a bad solution.

A nuclear meltdown is a self-sustaining reaction. Nothing can stop it except stopping the reaction. And that would require a nuclear weapon. In fact, it would require one in each containment vessel to merely stop what is going on now. But it will be messy.

Fukushima was waiting to happen because of the placement of the emergency generators. If they had not all failed at once by being inundated by a tsunami, Fukushima would not have happened as it did – although it WOULD still have been a nuclear disaster. Every containment in the world is built to withstand a Magnitude 6.9 earthquake; the Japanese chose to ignore the fact that a similar earthquake had hit that same general area in 1896.

Anyway, here is the information that the US doesn’t seem to want released. And here is a chart that might help with perspective.

Making matters worse is the MOX in reactor 3. MOX is the street name for ‘mixed oxide fuel‘ which uses ~9% plutonium along with a uranium compound to fuel reactors. This is why it can be used.

The problem is that you don’t want to play with this stuff. A nuclear reactor means bring fissile material to a point at which it is hot enough to boil water (in a light-water reactor) and not enough to melt and go supercritical (China syndrome or a Chernobyl incident). You simply cannot let it get away from you because if it does, you can’t stop it.

The Japanese are still talking about days or weeks to clean this up. That’s not true. They cannot clean it up. And no one will live in that area again for dozens or maybe hundreds of years.

Sean

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Radiation is a Real Danger; Obama's Attack on Libya; Republicans Attack on Workers; Fox News Lies

- Japan May Have Lost Race to Save Nuclear Reactor
    The radioactive core in a reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor below, experts say, raising fears of a major release of radiation at the site.
- Japan Encourages a Wider Evacuation From Reactor Area
    New signs emerged Friday that parts of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were so damaged and contaminated that it would be even harder to bring the plant under control soon.
    At the same time, Japanese officials began encouraging people to evacuate a larger band of territory around the complex.
- Why Governor LePage Can't Erase History, and Why We Need a Fighter in the White House
    Maine Governor Paul LePage (republican) has ordered state workers to remove from the state labor department a 36-foot mural depicting the state’s labor history....The Governor’s spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”
- Obama’s Unconvincing Case on Libya
    President Obama failed to make the case for intervention in Libya. He never addressed the issue of his warmaking powers. He failed to distinguish between Libya and other cases like it, such as Syria, Yemen, or Bahrain. And he didn’t adequately address the question of the overextension of our military, and the distraction from the crying needs that face this country.
    Instead, he stressed the humanitarian justification for the action, using the word “massacre” four times and oddly echoing George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice’s phraseology about the “mushroom cloud.”
- Obama Tries, Without Success, to Explain an Undeclared War
    The problem is that presidents are not supposed to start wars, especially wars of whim that are offensive rather than defensive in nature.
- Why Fox News Needs To Fire Bill Sammon
    In an email sent to the network's journalists during global climate talks in 2009, Sammon instructed news staff to cast doubt on established climate science. His directive came fifteen minutes after Fox reporter Wendell Goler had accurately reported on-air that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record." Sammon's directive placed him at odds with the overwhelming majority of climate scientists
- Another major blow to Fox’s credibility
    That’s pretty remarkable. Sammon is conceding that the idea did indeed strike him as far fetched in 2008, even though he and his network aggressively promoted it day in and day out throughout the campaign. And he’s defending this by pointing out that the idea ended up gaining traction, as if this somehow justifies the original act of dishonesty!
    Now, Sammon is also claiming here that Obama’s behavior in office ultimately persuaded him that the original diagnosis of Obama as a socialist turned out to be correct after all. That in itself, of course, is also a ridiculous falsehood. But that aside, the bottom line here is that he doesn’t regret having spread an idea he personally found far-fetched, because so doing helped ensure that the far-fetched idea ultimately gained widespread acceptance. That’s a peculiar attitude for a “news” executive, isn’t it?


"Safe" Radiation is a Lethal Three Mile Island Lie
by Harvey Wasserman
Published on Monday, March 28, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
There is no safe dose of radiation.

We do not x-ray pregnant women.

Any detectable fallout can kill.

With erratic radiation spikes, major air and water emissions and at least three reactors and waste pools in serious danger at Fukushima, we must prepare for the worst.

When you hear the terms "safe" and "insignificant" in reference to radioactive fallout, ask yourself: "Safe for whom?" "Insignificant to which of us?"

Despite the corporate media, what has and will continue to come here from Fukushima is deadly to Americans. At very least it threatens countless embryos and fetuses in utero, the infants, the elderly, the unborn who will come to future mothers now being exposed.

No matter how small the dose, the human egg in waiting, or embryo or fetus in utero, or newborn infant, or weakened elder, has no defense against even the tiniest radioactive assault.

Science has never found such a "safe" threshold, and never will.

In the 1950s Dr. Alice Stewart showed a definitive link between medical x-rays administered to pregnant women and the curse of childhood leukemia among their offspring.

After a fierce 30-year debate, the medical profession agreed. Today, administering an x-ray to a pregnant woman is universally understood to be a serious health hazard.

Those who pioneered the health physics profession---towering greats like Dr. Karl Z. Morgan and Dr. John Gofman---set a definitive, impenetrable standard. A safe dose of radiation does not exist. All doses, "insignificant" or otherwise, can harm the human organism.

That has been repeatedly shown in major studies---done most notably by Dr. Ernest Sternglass, Jay Gould, Joe Mangano, Arnie Gundersen, Dr. Steven Wing and others---showing that among human populations near commercial reactors, infant death rates plummet once the reactors shut down.

In 1979, 32 years ago this March 28, the owners of Three Mile Island said there was no meltdown, no serious radiation release and no need for evacuation.

All were lies.

To this day no one knows how much radiation was released or where it went or who it killed.

TMI's owners ran ads dismissing the emissions as the equivalent of a single chest x-ray given to everyone within a ten mile radius.

But that included all the pregnant women.

Soon infant death rates soared in nearby Harrisburg. Some 2400 central Pennsylvania families sued based on the health impacts.

In 1980 I interviewed dozens of these people. Cancer, leukemia, birth defects, stillbirths, sterility, malformations, open lesions, hair loss, a metallic taste and much more were among the symptoms.

The death and mutation rate among farm and wild animals was also thoroughly documented by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and a team of investigators from the Baltimore News-American.

We were again told there were "no health dangers" from radiation that hit California from Chernobyl ten days after that 1986 explosion. But bird births at the Point Reyes National Seashore quickly dropped 60% from the levels that had been carefully monitored and recorded through the previous decade.

The cloud then crossed the northern tier of the United States. Heightened radiation levels were found in milk in New England---as they were throughout Europe from clouds that had blown from Chernobyl in the other direction.

The doses were neither "insignificant" nor "safe" to those far or near.

In Russia ten years later, I interviewed dozens of downwind victims, and many of the 800,000 "liquidators" who ran into Chernobyl's seething corpse to help clean it up. After TMI, it was déjà vu all over again.

The most recently published findings, from a compendium of more than 5,000 studies, indicate a global Chernobyl death toll in excess of 985,000, and still counting.

Today we are assaulted by yet another radioactive death cloud from yet another "perfectly safe" nuclear plant.

Fukushima's radiation is pouring into the air and water. The operators have reported radiation levels a million times normal, then retracted the estimate. Workers are being exposed to doses that are certain to be lethal. At least three of the reactors, and one or more of the spent fuel pools, hover at the brink of catastrophe.

Fukushima's radiation has now been detected in Los Angeles and Sacramento, and has blown east across North America. It has also been detected in Sweden, which means its blowing across Europe as well.

Radiation is not being released as a single puff. Rather it's a steady stream that could yet turn into a tsunami.

Fukushima's worst may be yet to come. Its collective emissions are virtually certain to exceed Chernobyl's.

And yet we continue to hear smug, misinformed "experts," TV meteorologists and industry talking heads saying these are "safe" doses.

The response of the Obama Administration has been beyond derelict. As the accident began, the President went on national television to assure us there was nothing to worry about, and that he would continue to demand $36 billion in loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants.

Since then, even as the Fukushima crisis mounts, President Obama has remained silent.

Millions of Americans have heard about potassium iodide (KI), which can be used to block the uptake of radioactive iodine and perhaps protect the thyroid.

But KI can have potential medical side-effects for some individuals. And timing can be critical. To say the least, we need to know when the radioactive fallout is present.

Yet the administration has not provided us with a national supply of KI, or guidance for using it.

At very least we need reliable real-time mapping of the radioactive clouds as they cross the nation. Every American should be issued a mask, and sufficient KI pills with directions on how to use them, if necessary.

Above all, we need national leadership that puts the health of our people first and foremost.

Americans who are of reproductive age---and their unborn, our babies, the elderly, those of us who may be specially sensitive---we all deserve better.

As we have learned so tragically from Drs. Stewart, Morgan, Gofman and Sternglass, from Gundersen and Mangano and so many other researchers, from TMI and Chernobyl, and from the on-going operation of nuclear plants where infant death rates continue to be affected---a "perfectly safe" dose of radiation does not exist.

No truly informed or responsible scientist, medical doctor, health researcher, TV weatherman, bloviating "expert" or on-the scene reporter would ever tell you otherwise.

Whenever you hear the term "insignificant" fallout, ask yourself: "insignificant to whom?"

"Acceptable" to which expectant mother. To whose child? To how many mourning parents? For which dying elder?

Nuclear reactors make global warming worse and prolong our addiction to fossil fuels. They stand in the way of our transition to a totally green-powered Earth.

As we continue to learn at such a huge cost, there can never be a "perfectly safe" nuclear reactor, any more than there can be a "perfectly harmless" dose of radiation.

"Impossible" accidents continue to happen, one after the other, each of them successively worse.

What we fear most about TMI, then Chernobyl and now Fukushima, is not what has happened---but what is yet to come, there, and at the next inevitable reactor disaster.

We are a pro-life movement.

Please call the White House, the Congress and your state and local governments and DEMAND they protect the health and safety of our people in the face of this disaster.

Sean

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.


Sean

Monday, March 21, 2011

A New Bogus War (for oil?); Japan Nuke Worries; Nuke Contamination in Food & Water; New Photos of US Army Abuse

- Setbacks Continue at Fukushima as Japanese Battle Nuclear Catastrophe
    An unexpected spike in pressure inside a troubled reactor set back efforts to bring Japan's overheating, leaking nuclear complex under control Sunday as concerns grew that so far minor contamination of food and water is spreading... The pressure increase raised the possibility that plant operators may need to deliberately release radioactive gas, erasing some progress in a nuclear crisis...
- World Health Organization: Radiation in Japan food 'more serious' than thought
    The detection of high levels of radioactivity in certain Japanese foods -- and the nation's subsequent clampdown on their sales -- signals the food safety situation is "more serious" than originally thought, a World Health Organization official said Monday.
- US Army 'Kill Team' in Afghanistan Posed for Photos of Murdered Civilians
    Commanders brace for backlash of anti-US sentiment that could be more damaging than after the Abu Ghraib scandal
- US Army Apology for Photos of Soldiers with Afghan Body
    The US Army has apologised for graphic photographs of US soldiers grinning over the corpses of Afghan civilians they had allegedly killed....Such images are only going to exacerbate tensions between the Afghan government and the people on the one hand and the US-led coalition on the other, says the BBC's Paul Wood in Kabul.
- West’s Strikes on Libya hit Arab League Criticism
    Western forces pounded Libya’s air defences and patrolled its skies on Sunday, but their day-old intervention hit a serious diplomatic setback as the Arab League chief condemned the "bombardment of civilians."
- Liberal Democrats in Uproar over Libya Action
    Kucinich, who wanted to bring impeachment articles against both former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over Iraq — only to be blocked by his own leadership — asked why the U.S. missile strikes aren’t impeachable offenses.
- War in Libya: Barack Obama Gets in Touch With His Inner Neocon
    The administration's purported humanitarian concerns are charming, but curious. The Western powers knew Muammar Gaddafi was a nasty dictator a couple months ago when they were feting him for having reformed and joined the international community. Humanitarianism didn't matter much so long as the Crazy Colonel was serving allied interests.
- Libya says may give oil deals to China, India
    Libya is considering offering oil block contracts directly to China, India and other nations it sees as friends in its month-long conflict with rebels, Libya's top oil official said on Saturday... [ after which, the US started launching one million dollar cruise missiles into Libya. Coincidence?]


Libya: The Wearingly Familiar Odor of Regime Change
First it was Saddam. Then Gaddafi. Now There's a Vacancy for the West's Favorite Crackpot Tyrant
by Robert Fisk
Published on Saturday, March 19, 2011 by The Independent/UK

So we are going to take "all necessary measures" to protect the civilians of Libya, are we? Pity we didn't think of that 42 years ago. Or 41 years ago. Or... well, you know the rest. And let's not be fooled by what the UN resolution really means. Yet again, it's going to be regime-change. And just as in Iraq – to use one of Tom Friedman's only memorable phrases of the time – when the latest dictator goes, who knows what kind of bats will come flying out of the box?

PHOTO: One thing we can do is spot the future Gaddafis and Saddams we are breeding right now - the future torture-chamber sadists. (Getty; EPA)

And after Tunisia, after Egypt, it's got to be Libya, hasn't it? The Arabs of North Africa are demanding freedom, democracy, liberation from oppression. Yes, that's what they have in common. But what these nations also have in common is that it was us, the West, that nurtured their dictatorships decade after decade after decade. The French cuddled up to Ben Ali, the Americans stroked Mubarak, while the Italians groomed Gaddafi until our own glorious leader went to resurrect him from the political dead.

Could this be, I wonder, why we have not heard from Lord Blair of Isfahan recently? Surely he should be up there, clapping his hands with glee at another humanitarian intervention. Perhaps he is just resting between parts. Or maybe, like the dragons in Spenser's Faerie Queen, he is quietly vomiting forth Catholic tracts with all the enthusiasm of a Gaddafi in full flow.

So let's twitch the curtain just a bit and look at the darkness behind it. Yes, Gaddafi is completely bonkers, flaky, a crackpot on the level of Ahmadinejad of Iran and Lieberman of Israel – who once, by the way, drivelled on about how Mubarak could "go to hell" yet quaked with fear when Mubarak was indeed hurtled in that direction. And there is a racist element in all this.

The Middle East seems to produce these ravers – as opposed to Europe, which in the past 100 years has only produced Berlusconi, Mussolini, Stalin and the little chap who used to be a corporal in the 16th List Bavarian reserve infantry, but who went really crackers when he got elected in 1933 – but now we are cleaning up the Middle East again and can forget our own colonial past in this sandpit. And why not, when Gaddafi tells the people of Benghazi that "we will come, 'zenga, zenga' (alley by alley), house by house, room by room." Surely this is a humanitarian intervention that really, really, really is a good idea. After all, there will be no "boots on the ground".

Of course, if this revolution was being violently suppressed in, say, Mauritania, I don't think we would be demanding no-fly zones. Nor in Ivory Coast, come to think of it. Nor anywhere else in Africa that didn't have oil, gas or mineral deposits or wasn't of importance in our protection of Israel, the latter being the real reason we care so much about Egypt.

So here are a few things that could go wrong, a sidelong glance at those bats still nestling in the glistening, dank interior of their box. Suppose Gaddafi clings on in Tripoli and the British and French and Americans shoot down all his aircraft, blow up all his airfields, assault his armour and missile batteries and he simply doesn't fade away. I noticed on Thursday how, just before the UN vote, the Pentagon started briefing journalists on the dangers of the whole affair; that it could take "days" just to set up a no-fly zone.

Then there is the trickery and knavery of Gaddafi himself. We saw it yesterday when his Foreign Minister announced a ceasefire and an end to "military operations" knowing full well, of course, that a Nato force committed to regime-change would not accept it, thus allowing Gaddafi to present himself as a peace-loving Arab leader who is the victim of Western aggression: Omar Mukhtar Lives Again.

And what if we are simply not in time, if Gaddafi's tanks keep on rolling? Do we then send in our mercenaries to help the "rebels". Do we set up temporary shop in Benghazi, with advisers and NGOs and the usual diplomatic flummery? Note how, at this most critical moment, we are no longer talking about the tribes of Libya, those hardy warrior people whom we invoked with such enthusiasm a couple of weeks ago. We talk now about the need to protect "the Libyan people", no longer registering the Senoussi, the most powerful group of tribal families in Benghazi, whose men have been doing much of the fighting.
King Idris, overthrown by Gaddafi in 1969, was a Senoussi. The red, black and green "rebel" flag – the old flag of pre-revolutionary Libya – is in fact the Idris flag, a Senoussi flag. Now let's suppose they get to Tripoli (the point of the whole exercise, is it not?), are they going to be welcomed there? Yes, there were protests in the capital. But many of those brave demonstrators themselves originally came from Benghazi. What will Gaddafi's supporters do? "Melt away"? Suddenly find that they hated Gaddafi after all and join the revolution? Or continue the civil war?

And what if the "rebels" enter Tripoli and decide Gaddafi and his crazed son Saif al-Islam should meet their just rewards, along with their henchmen? Are we going to close our eyes to revenge killings, public hangings, the kind of treatment Gaddafi's criminals have meted out for many a long year? I wonder. Libya is not Egypt. Again, Gaddafi is a fruitcake and, given his weird performance with his Green Book on the balcony of his bombed-out house, he probably does occasionally chew carpets as well.

Then there's the danger of things "going wrong" on our side, the bombs that hit civilians, the Nato aircraft which might be shot down or crash in Gaddafi territory, the sudden suspicion among the "rebels"/"Libyan people"/democracy protesters that the West, after all, has ulterior purposes in its aid. And there's one boring, universal rule about all this: the second you employ your weapons against another government, however righteously, the thing begins to unspool. After all, the same "rebels" who were expressing their fury at French indifference on Thursday morning were waving French flags in Benghazi on Thursday night. Long live America. Until...

I know the old arguments, of course. However bad our behaviour in the past, what should we do now? It's a bit late to be asking that. We loved Gaddafi when he took over in 1969 and then, after he showed he was a chicken-head, we hated him and then we loved him again – I am referring to Lord Blair's laying on of hands – and now we hate him again. Didn't Arafat have a back-to-front but similar track record for the Israelis and Americans? First he was a super-terrorist longing to destroy Israel, then he was a super-statesman shaking hands with Yitzhak Rabin, then he became a super-terrorist again when he realised he'd been tricked over the future of "Palestine".

One thing we can do is spot the future Gaddafis and Saddams whom we are breeding right now, the future crackpot, torture-chamber sadists who are cultivating their young bats with our economic help. In Uzbekistan, for example. And in Turkmenistan. And in Tajikistan and Chechenya and other "stans". But no. These are men we have to deal with, men who will sell us oil, buy our arms and keep Muslim "terrorists" at bay.

It is all wearingly familiar. And now we are back at it again, banging our desks in spiritual unity. We don't have many options, do we, unless we want to see another Srebrenica? But hold on. Didn't that happen long after we had imposed our "no-fly" zone over Bosnia?

Sean

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crisis Worsens in Japan; Inspectors WARNED of Vulnerability of Nuke Plant But Industry Did Nothing; Beck's Insane Ramblings on Japan; Nuke Lobby Primed to Counter Anti-Nuke Sentiment; PBS & NPR Not Progressive; more

- Fire in Fuel Pools 'Would Raise Radiation Exposure'
    Nuclear engineers turn attention to Fukushima plant's fuel pools, where there is more radioactive material in than in reactor core...
- Coolant in Fourth Fukushima Reactor Might Be ‘Boiling Away’
    The stricken nuclear plant at Fukushima in Japan may be on the verge of yet another crisis, after authorities said that ‘spent’ nuclear waste at a fourth reactor at the plant was in danger of overheating.
- Beck On Japan: This Is All God's And Our And Radical Islam's Fault, Or Something
    The increasingly-incoherent Glenn Beck has taken to ranting that the disasters striking Japan are a message from God...
- Nuclear Lobby Primed
    With the disaster in Japan likely to color the ongoing nuclear debate in this country, U.S. advocates of nuclear power are spending more money lobbying more lawmakers than ever before, says the Center for Responsive Politics. The scary if unsurprising part: they also spent way more than opponents.
- PBS-NPR-Leaning Right by Ralph Nader
    The tumultuous managerial shakeup at National Public Radio headquarters for trivial verbal miscues once again has highlighted the ludicrous corporatist right-wing charge that public radio and public TV are replete with left-leaning or leftist programming.
    Ludicrous, that is, unless this criticism’s yardstick is the propaganda regularly exuded by the extreme right-wing Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. These “capitalists” use the public’s airwaves free-of-charge to make big money.

    The truth is that the frightened executives at public TV and radio have long been more hospitable to interviews with right of center or extreme right-wing and corporatist talking heads than liberal or progressive guests.
- Pretty Please, May We Possibly Maybe Have Slightly Fewer Guns?
    Our fearless president has waded...oops...dipped a tentative toe into the gun control debate, with the usual results. In his editorial in an Arizona paper, Obama stressed 79 times that he believes in the right to bear arms and that gun owners are "our friends and neighbors" - with no mention of assault weapons. Less than cowed, the NRA responded the problem isn't guns but the media, courts, mental health system and don't forget gang members - and then promptly declined to join White House meetings on the issue.
- Activists Stand Up for Bradley Manning - and PJ Crowley
    How outrageous that yet another person gets punished for simply telling the truth--Crowley called Manning's treatment "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid"--while the war criminals go free. I can think of a lot stronger words to use for the way the Pentagon is holding Manning in solitary confinement for 10 months now, before he has even had a trial or been convicted of anything.

Japan's Nuclear Crisis: Regulators Warned of Reactor Risks
In 1972, the first warning was issued about the vulnerability of the sort of General Electric reactors used in Fukushima in Japan
by Suzanne Goldenberg
Published on Monday, March 14, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

Government regulators knew of a heightened risk of explosion in the type of nuclear reactors used at the Fukushima plant in Japan from the moment they went into operation.
Smoke rises from the Fukushima nuclear plant after the explosion on 12 March. (Reuters) 

Safety inspectors at America's Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) warned as early as 1972 that the General Electric reactors, which did away with the traditional large containment domes, were more vulnerable to explosion and more vulnerable to the release of radiation if a meltdown occurred.

Michael Mariotte, director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said: "The concern has been there all along that this containment building was not strong enough and the pressure containment system was not robust enough to prevent an explosion."

The ageing GE reactors are regarded as less resilient then newer models. Dr Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environment Research, said: "They are not designed to contain these explosions. They are not designed to contain an aircraft crashing into it. Modern reactors are significantly different. Designs built from the 1980s onwards don't have the vulnerabilities of mark one reactors."

All six of the reactors at the Fukushima Two plant, which has suffered two explosions, are GE-designed boiling water reactors. Five are the original mark one design and went on line from 1971 to 1979.

Mariotte's group has made public a 1972 letter from an AEC inspector, Stephen Hanauer, recommending the design be discontinued.

Environmental campaign groups say that the boiling water reactors are more vulnerable to explosion because human intervention is needed to vent radioactive steam in the event of a core meltdown.

They are also now reaching the end of their operational life.

Mariotte said damage to the containment structures in the explosion raised an additional risk of a radiation leak from the spent fuel pools, a part of the facility where spent fuel rods are stored under liquid. Like the reactor cores, the pools require constant cooling.

Robert Alvarez, a senior policy expert at the institute of Policy Studies, said satellite pictures of the Fukushima plant showed evidence of damage to the spent fuel pool. "There is clear evidence that the fuel cask cranes that haul spent fuels to and from the reactor to the pool both fell. They are gone," he said. "There appears to be copious amounts of steam pouring of the area where the pools is located."

He said there was no evidence of fire but described the situation as "worrisome".
"What we don't know is whether or not explosions or the quake or the tsuanmi or a combination of things might have damaged support structures or compromised the pool," Alvarez said.

He warned that it could take years to repair the damage to the upper decks of the reactor and to move the discharged fuel into a safer area of storage.

The early warning about the reactor design was reinforced in 1986 when Harold Denton, then the top safety official at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), warned of a high risk of failure of the mark one containment system.

"Mark one containment, especially being smaller with lower design pressure, in spite of the suppression pool... you'll find something like a 90% probability of that containment failing," he told an industry trade group at the time.

"Any reactor in this situation would be in a world of hurt. These designs are even more problematic because should you get core melt according to the nuclear regulatory commission the containment is 90% likely to fail," said Jim Riccio, a nuclear expert at Greenpeace. "In essence, the public's last line of defence in case of a meltdown really doesn't exist at all."

Mariotte said damage to the containment structures in the explosion raised an additional risk of a radiation leak from the spent fuel pools, which are sited above each reactor.

There is growing concern about the status of irradiated fuel pools at all of the Fukushima reactors. The pools are located inside the outer containment building above the core and, like the reactor cores, require constant cooling. Pictures from the site show that at least the top third of two containment buildings have been blown off, so the integrity of the fuel pools is unclear.

Japanese campaign groups have also warned of problems at the Fukushima 2 plant including a failure of the generator when the plant lost power in June last year.

In addition to the Fukushima 2 plant, eight reactors of the same design are in use in Japan at nuclear facilities at Tsuruga, Hamaoke and Shimane. Like the Fukushima plants, all three are also on Japan's main Honshu island.

Nuclear reactors of the same design are in widespread use in America.Of the 104 reactors currently in use, 23 are of the same GE mark two design, according to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Twelve more are a modified version of the boiling water reactor.

A number of those reactors are now reaching the end of their original 40-year lifsepan, and campaigners have been fighting attempts by the nuclear industry to extend their operation. One such GE mark one plant in contention is the Vermont Yankee. The NRC renewed the plant's lease for 20 years last week. However, the state government has moved to shut down the plant.

Sean

Monday, March 14, 2011

Republicans "Science Deniers"; Earthquakes and Nukes; Occupations Fuel War; We're Not Broke; Fox News Lies; Air Pollution Causes More Heart Attacks than Coke; more;

- What if we’re not broke?
    [Wisconsin Republican Governor] Walker, of course, used the "we’re broke" rationale to justify his attack on public-worker collective bargaining rights. Yet the state’s supposedly "broke" status did not stop him from approving tax cuts before he began his war on unions and proposed all manner of budget cuts, including deep reductions in aid to public schools.
- Occupations Fuel an Insurgency- Pentagon Wakes Up in Pech, When Will They Wake Up in the Rest of Afghanistan?
    "Today, we read reports that the Pentagon has begun pulling out of the Pech Valley, an area that had previously been considered 'vital' in the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The withdrawal comes with a tacit admission that we never should have been there in the first place. According to a military official quoted in The New York Times, ‘What we figured out is that people in the Pech really aren’t anti-U.S. or anti-anything; they just want to be left alone…our presence is what’s destabilizing this area.’
- 'Baby Gaga' ice cream made of human breast milk; Human Cheese maker talks breast milk taboos
    "Human cheese is initially a pretty shocking concept to most people," she told the Daily News. "I understand the visceral reaction - drinking milk from a woman other than your mother is a pretty big taboo in many cultures.
    Simun analyzed people's reactions and questioned why they found it so distasteful.

    "Why is cow or goat milk not disgusting?  Vegans tend to get this pretty quickly," she said.
- New U.K. guidelines: Eat less red meat
    Scientists think people who eat a lot of meat like lamb, roast beef and ham have a higher risk of bowel cancer. In 2005, a large European study found people who ate about 160 grams (5.6 ounces) of red meat a day bumped up their bowel cancer risk by one third compared to people who ate the least meat. On average, people have about a one in 19 chance of developing bowel cancer in their lifetime.
    Experts suspect that haem, the pigment which gives red meat its color, damages cells in the digestive system, which may lead to cancer. Cooking meat at high temperatures, like on a barbecue, may also produce cancer-causing chemicals.
- Fox News Boss Persuaded Fellow Executive to 'Lie' to Federal Investigators
    Roger Ailes wanted Judith Regan to keep quiet about affair with man shortlisted to head US homeland security department...
- Dirty Air Triggers More Heart Attacks Than Cocaine
    Air pollution triggers more heart attacks than using cocaine and poses as high a risk of sparking a heart attack as alcohol, coffee and physical exertion, scientists said on Thursday.
- Corporate Media Smears WikiLeaks
    Many mainstream media outlets have profited greatly from reporting on WikiLeaks’ scoops. But this hasn’t stopped them from publishing a series of smear pieces against Assange and WikiLeaks.Media coverage about WikiLeaks has become awash with tabloid-style hit pieces and tell-all books. The real news, WikiLeak’s exposure of US "diplomacy", has often been sidelined.
- State Department Spokesman Resigns Over Critique of Manning Treatment
    It shouldn't be much of a surprise that State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has resigned his post in wake of his too-candid assessment of the incarceration conditions of suspected Wikileaker Private First Class Bradley Manning.
    Last Thursday, Crowley told a panel at MIT that the Pentagon's treatment of Manning at the Marine bring at Quantico, Va., was "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."

    The very next day, President Obama told reporters that he felt Manning's confinement conditions were "appropriate."
- White House forces P.J. Crowley to resign for condemning abuse of Manning
    So, in Barack Obama's administration, it's perfectly acceptable to abuse an American citizen in detention who has been convicted of nothing by consigning him to 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement, barring him from exercising in his cell, punitively imposing "suicide watch" restrictions on him against the recommendations of brig psychiatrists, and subjecting him to prolonged, forced nudity designed to humiliate and degrade. But speaking out against that abuse is a firing offense. Good to know.
- Conservatives Still Cannot Show Liberal Bias At NPR
    This is becoming rather comical. The Republican Noise Machine has ginned up a nasty crusade to undermine public radio and get it defunded, but oops! they forgot to form a coherent reason for why the venerable news institution deserves to be undercut.
- Backward, Christian Soldiers
    The Christianizing of the armed forces, Weinstein believes, has implications for national security as well as for civil rights. In addition to ingrained anti-Semitism, his work reveals a simmering Islamophobia in the ranks that, when flushed to the surface by media exposure, has been leveraged by jihadi groups overseas for propaganda purposes.
- A Real Sharia Law Promoter for Peter King to Investigate
    As [Republican] Representative Peter King begins his [McCarthy-like witch] hunt for Islamic radicals in our midst, including infiltrators of the US government and military, I hope that part of his inquiry focuses on those who really advocate Sharia law in the United States. I have a suggestion for a witness for that panel: Joseph Schmitz, the former inspector general of the Department of Defense. Schmitz was among a group of conservative activists and former senior CIA and military officials, led by Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin and Lt. Gen. Edward Soyster, who last September issued a report: "Shariah: The Threat to America."....So, why should Schmitz be called to testify on this? Because Schmitz himself has advocated for the United States to recognize Sharia law.
Wisconsin Republican Lives Outside District With Mistress, Says Wife - Wife Signs Petition Have Him Thrown Out of Office
    Protesters who marched at the home of Wisconsin state senator Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) were met with something of a surprise on Saturday. Mrs. Hopper appeared at the door and informed them that Sen. Hopper was no longer in residence at this address, but now lives in Madison, WI with his 25-year-old mistress.Sen. Hopper has worked closely with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to implement the state's new anti-labor laws and enact policies favorable to the interests of big business.

    Mrs. Hopper intends to sign the recall petition against her husband. The petition has already been signed by the family's maid.
- Nuclear power and earthquake zones overlap in the U.S.
    Let’s take a look at which nuclear power plants sit in the seismically active areas of the United States...
- Happy Birthday, Johnny Cash! Remember the Fighter for Native Rights
    Today (Feb 26), as we celebrate Johnny Cash’s birthday today (he would have been 79), many will focus on Cash as a brash balladeer and rebel. A truer portrait of the music star, however, would extol Cash as an engaged citizen and artist concerned about the human condition.

GOP (Republican Party) the 'Party of Science Deniers'
By Andrew Restuccia
Published 03/07/11 on The Hill

The Republican Party is the "party of science deniers," a top House Democrat said Monday.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), an ardent proponent of climate-change legislation, criticized Republicans for their attempts to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions during a speech at the Center for American Progress Monday.

"I’ve never been in a Congress where there was such an overwhelming disconnect between science and policy," Waxman, the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said.

"Republicans in Congress have become the party of science deniers, and that is profoundly dangerous," he said.
Waxman lamented the growing divide between liberal Democrats and Republicans on climate change, accusing the GOP of ignoring the consensus among scientists that human activity is contributing to warming.

"The gulf between what science tells us and what the governing party in the House believes makes it difficult to find common ground," he said, adding later, "The Republican party is increasingly the anti-environment party."

Waxman’s comments come as Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are preparing to mark up legislation that would permanently eliminate EPA’s climate authority. The legislation, which was officially introduced last week in both the House and the Senate, has won the support of four Democrats.

Waxman acknowledged Monday that House Democrats can do little to stop Republicans, who now have a majority in the chamber, from passing such legislation.

"We will lose a vote in committee. We may even lose a vote on the House floor," he said.

But Waxman nonetheless offered three recommendations for a path forward.
First, lawmakers must work to protect the Obama administration’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Second, he called on policymakers to "educate the public" about the dangers of climate change. Third, he appealed to Republicans to work with Democrats to find a consensus on legislation to address the country’s energy and environmental problems.

"We want to work with them on other approaches," Waxman said, noting he’d be happy to start from scratch on energy legislation.

Sean