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Many of the older nuclear reactors in the United States have the same flawed General Electric design as the Fukushima, Japan, plant that is facing ongoing radiation leakage.

In fact, just in the last few hours, we have learned that one of the core reactors at Fukushima was apparently breached and that radioactive particles are contaminating sea water outside the containment area:

Speculation surrounding the extent to which the radiation may be leaking into the Pacific Ocean was also mounting after tests last weekend found nearby seawater contaminated 1,850 above legal limits.

More recent tests showed that this figure has dropped, although Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Agency said that he suspects radioactive water from the plant is leaking into the ocean.

Yet, there is little active, visible protest in the US to the threat of nuclear power plants designed and run by private corporations for profit.

Contrast that to the 200,000 protesters against nuclear energy who took to the streets this weekend in Germany.

Despite radioactivity reported in the rain as far away as the East Coast of the US , the nuclear issue hasn't reached a critical point of debate here.

But it should, because the nuclear power lobbying industry is hard at work in Washington to make sure federal loan guarantees and subsidies come their way, along with immunity for damage done by a nuclear catastrophe.

It will be too late to save lives after a nuclear plant disaster in the US.


How did it happen so quickly that the news moved from the energizing protests in Wisconsin to the nuclear disaster in Japan and then the US military bombing of Libya?

We barely had a chance to be invigorated by the spontaneous massive crowds in Madison before ominous news swept across our TV and computer screens.

Suddenly, the weighty questions of responsibility for a potential nuclear catastrophe and when America goes to war and under what circumstances intruded into an unexpected moment of progressive unity.

Not that the corporate media covered the Wisconsin rallies extensively. The mainstream media pretty much ignored the Madison story.

But on Truthout, you got a chance to cherish the moment.

The promise of the uprising in Wisconsin shouldn't fade, nor should we let it.

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too!


Will we one day wake up to a completely Walmartized world?

That's a question that is not out of the realm of possibility, considering Walmart's rapid expansion around the globe, including - of course - as a manufacturer and seller in China.

South Africa has given conditional approval to Walmart buying up the nation's third-largest retailer, but is having some second thoughts, according to WalmartWatch.org.

Apparently, some departments in the South African government are now concerned about Walmart's commitment to buying local produce and the issue of local businesses and unions. According to a South African newspaper:

A key condition sought by the three departments is that the merged entity will "at least maintain or increase the percentage of pre-merger local procurement by product category."

The departments' submission suggests that Walmart and Massmart's initial "willingness to co-operate in an attempt to alleviate those concerns" faded significantly last month after the Competition Commission recommended unconditional approval for the proposed merger....

The departments have requested the postponement [of the final approval of the merger] because they now believe that as a result of "the refusal of the merging parties to make any tangible or enforceable commitments, particularly with regard to procurement and small (especially broad-based BEE) businesses," it is necessary for them to intervene more actively in the merger proceedings.

In short, Walmart is saying - as was the mantra in the Bush administration - trust a large corporation to self-regulate itself.

As Ronald Reagan said about the Soviet Union, however, a more appropriate stance in relation to Walmart would be "trust, but verify."

Or better yet, let them show the world that they can be trusted. They've got a lot of work to do there.


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"Utah becomes first in US to have state gun."

In case you are wondering, the winner is a Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol.

So, right up there with other state symbols of Utah - like the state tree (blue spruce) - is a gun, and a semiautomatic one at that.

As Rosie Gray wrote in The Village Voice:

The timing on this is about as bad as it could get, two months after Gabrielle Giffords' shooting and the debate that provoked about gun control.

Not trying to say that this will spur people to violence, but it's an alarmingly casual way to look at guns. It's almost like people in this country have just forgotten what guns do, as if they're simply fun little playthings and not in fact instruments of death.

What's next, a state nuclear power plant?

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

A few days ago, CNBC's Larry Kudlow said what many wealthy Wall Street investors were probably thinking, and it was shocking.

Kudlow, a cable news financial "pundit," reassured the business world about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami: "The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that."

On Twitter, Kudlow apologized, but his words represented the heartlessness at the center of today's casino economy: everything is reduced to a financial win or loss.

There is something ethically debased when the financial impact of a disaster is of more concern than the human toll. What happens to a society when money is valued more than life?

Since Kudlow's remark, at least 150 workers in Japan (in teams of 50 at a time) have been exposing themselves to high levels of radiation in order to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. They are the heroes.

Next to them, Kudlow looks extremely small and selfish.


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Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

Want a confirmation of corporate governance, just look at the Forbes top global corporations for 2010:

1. JPMorgan Chase - United States
2. General Electric - United States
3. Bank of America - United States
4. ExxonMobil - United States
5. ICBC - China

Fortune uses somewhat different criteria and ranks BP as number four and Wal-Mart as number one.

In short, the Forbes and Fortune top US headquartered companies compose sort of the wish list of big contributors to political campaigns. So, if you were running, let's say a re-election campaign for president, you might want to adopt policies that favor these businesses and court key people in their top staffs.

So, would an administration favor Wall Street policies that benefit the likes of JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, keep any top executives from being indicted, and appoint a top JP Morgan Chase honcho as White House chief of staff? Would that administration have some of the key people behind the de-regulation policies that caused a multi-trillion dollar Wall Street collapse serve as the senior economic policy team in the White House?

Would an administration looking to top-level corporate support for a national campaign reassure General Electric (GE) that it was 100% behind nuclear power plants despite their newly proven catastrophic potential (and this one occurring in a poorly designed GE facility)? Would such an administration appoint the head of GE as his jobs czar when GE's main employment activity appears to be exporting jobs from the US?

Would such a White House re-instate deepwater drilling so soon after a disastrous and preventable massive spill by BP in the Gulf of Mexico, and let BP off with a slap on the wrist after it pretty much dictated post-blow out strategy to the US government?

Would the First Lady team up with Wal-Mart - to brandish its image - on an anti-obesity campaign when Wal-Mart is still primarily selling junk consumer food?

Maybe it's just a coincidence that the top US headquartered global corporations appear to be getting their way with policy in the White House, and that the president is great pals with these "masters of the universe" who run these companies.

Maybe it is just all a big coincidence.

But more likely, this is what happens when the audacity of hope turns into the harsh reality of cynicism.


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Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

If you don't remember Karen Silkwood, you should if you value your life and the lives of your loved ones.

Silkwood disclosed the numerous dangers lurking at the nuclear power plant in Oklahoma where she worked. In fact, Silkwood - a member of the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union, it should be noted - cited so many potential dangers to staff at the Kerr-McGee facility, that she was asked to testify before the Atomic Energy Commission in 1974.

Later that year, Silkwood was found to be contaminated with 400 times the legal limit for plutonium. Silkwood contended that she had been exposed to the plutonium as retaliation for her whistleblowing.

Having arranged to turn over papers that would have allegedly showed the culpability of Kerr-McGee for multiple risks at the nuclear plant, she was killed when her car ran off the road while she was en route to meet a New York Times reporter. No documents were found in her car and the circumstances of the accident indicated that Silkwood may have been rammed from behind.

In a civil trial, Kerr-McGee made the rather difficult-to-believe claim that Silkwood intentionally poisoned herself with plutonium. Subsequently, 44 pounds of plutonium were found missing from the plant.

Eventually, Kerr-McGee entered into a settlement with Silkwood's family for just over $1 million.

If you don't remember Karen Silkwood, you should.

She exposed the dark side of the nuclear power industry, and likely died for doing so.

Will we end up in the same grave if our government continues to holding up the nuclear industry to be flawless, almost divinely empowered to prevent accidents?

The nuclear industry is a business that is out to make profits. We've already witnessed what Wall Street did by operating that way. Are we prepared to continue to run that risk with nuclear radiation?


If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too!

Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

Yes, it's the tale of two Americas.

To its no doubt cheering readership, The Wall Street Journal reported today that big CEO bonuses are back - and back big time:

CEO bonuses at 50 major corporations jumped a median of 30.5%, the biggest gain in at least three years, according to a study of the first batch of corporate CEO pay disclosures by consulting firm Hay Group for The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, amid a continued unemployment crisis, indications of financial distress and basic subsistence are also soaring:

From November to December of 2010 487,000 Americans were added to the food stamp program. Keep in mind this all occurred while the stock market continued to soar and has rallied nearly 100 percent from the lows reached in March of 2009.

Working and middle class Americans barely have enough to pay for the monthly bills so speculating in Wall Street is likely the least of their concerns. The data on food stamp usage usually trails the current calendar date by one quarter. The latest data we have is from December of 2010. However, we are adding roughly 300,000 people per month to the food stamp program called SNAP. If that is the case, as of today we now have 45,000,000 Americans participating in the food stamp program....

This is the highest percent of Americans on food assistance since the Great Depression when there was no food assistance early on aside from local charities.

It's a tale of two Americas: one gorging on gluttony, and one barely able to survive. And the safety net for those in need is being cut with a machete knife as the richest among us get richer.


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Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout

It is ironic that the slogan of General Electric (GE) used to be "We Bring Good Things to Life."

Jeffrey Immelt, the multimillionaire and Obama's favorite CEO, changed that brand identity to "Imagination at Work."

Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a more frightening nightmare and bringing bad things to life than the catastrophe that is now occurring in a GE-constructed nuclear power plant in Japan.

Just the other day, The New York Times featured an article entitled, "Experts Had Long Criticized Potential Weakness in Design of Stricken Reactor."

But with the White House giving full backing to subsidize and build new nuclear power plants in the US, Immelt has little to worry about but a PR problem, lawsuits that his pinstripe firms will string out for years, and a lot of people potentially dying.

Immelt symbolizes the new "Master of the Universe" CEO, who takes risks with our money and our lives and ends up "advising" the president on "creating jobs," when he is exporting GE's workforce. It boggles the mind.

Yesterday, BuzzFlash noted that it is lower-level laborers and management who are risking their lives to stave off an utterly devastating nuclear disaster in northern Japan.

In the last few decades, we have seen how successful the war on workers by the right wing has been. Yet, when lives are to be risked for the failures of the "Masters of the Universe," the "valiant" CEOs are hiding behind PR spokespersons and the campaign-contribution-ready hands of the president and other politicians.

In WWII movies, there's the formula script of the general or lieutenant who is first in line, leading his troops into battle. Not today, not in this corporate world of arriving at the top by thinking about profits first and lives and consumers second.

We can speculate that Immelt is having a fine time on the town, with millions and millions to spare.

Meanwhile, workers in Japan are conducting suicide missions to save us from the failures of cost-cutting corporations and governments that failed to perform their regulatory duties.


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Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout 

In the potential catastrophic disaster brewing in Japan, there is a lesson to be learned.

The corporations that determine government policy, here and abroad, put our lives and money on the line, not theirs.

Nuclear plants get subsidies in the US and elsewhere; taxpayers subsidize GE, one of Obama's favorite companies - a business that didn't even pay any US taxes in a recent year.

But when the nuclear sites melt down, don't expect Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, to be running in and exposing himself to likely lethal radiation in a last-ditch effort to prevent a catastrophe with potentially worldwide implications.

Fifty workers are shortening the lease on their lives by trying to get just one of the four Japanese power plants in crisis under control. According to Harvey Wasserman, who has been warning about the lethal dangers of nuclear power on BuzzFlash and Truthout for years:

The workers who do this are incomparably brave. They remind us, tragically, of some 800,000 Chernobyl "Liquidators." These were Soviet draftees who were sent into that seething ruin for 60 or 90 seconds each to quickly perform some menial task and then run out.

When I first read that number - 800,000 - I thought it was a typographical error. But after attending that 1996 conference in Kiev, I spoke in the Russian city of Kaliningrad and met with dozens of these Chernobyl veterans. They tearfully assured me it was accurate. They were angry beyond all measure. They had been promised they would not encounter health problems. But now they were dying in droves.

The CEOs get to run crisis PR for GE, defending an indefensible design. The workers expose themselves to lethal radiation to save Immelt's lifestyle and protect the rest of us. Who deserves the greater pay?

But this is not just about con men who rake in billions, export jobs and pay the least wages possible to workers.

No, this is about letting these people get away with risking our lives, not just our money.

This is about potential negligence leading to the possible deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, as it led to so many fatalities and incidents of cancer at Chernobyl. This is about enabling the entrenched elite playing a monopoly game with death, those of the people of Japan and ours here in the US.

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