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This Week at TheNation.com: Intervention in Libya? Plus: Rethinking Nuclear Power | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

This Week at TheNation.com: Intervention in Libya? Plus: Rethinking Nuclear Power

This week at The Nation and TheNation.com, we bring you breaking developments out of Libya. Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa announced Friday a halt to military operations in response to Thursday’s UN Security Council Resolution “to take all necessary means…to protect civilians…” including the imposition of a no-fly zone. It remains to be seen whether the on-going violence will continue.

As we’ve argued here and in the pages of this week’s issue, the Obama administration was right to resist calls by some policymakers in favor of unilateral action and instead throw its support behind UN sanctions; however, caution remains paramount. As Friday’s editorial points out, with its support for the UN no-fly zone resolution the US risks arousing suspicions of neoimperial adventurism. And it remains to be seen whether a no-fly zone will have the intended results. “The most productive role for America in the Middle East,” Friday’s editorial concludes, “is diplomatic and economic, not military.”

Also this week, we take a look at the nuclear crisis unfolding at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan. The fallout isn’t just the radiation seeping from the damaged nuclear reactors and spent-fuel rods. It has forced our national collective attention on the dangers of nuclear power and the state of nuclear facilities in the United States. As peace and disarmament correspondent Jonathan Schell writes this week in “Hiroshima to Fukushima,” the problems with nuclear power aren’t just about backup generators or lax safety rules; it’s about our own inability to wield such dangerous power. Read Schell’s compelling reminder here, and catch his appearance on Charlie Rose discussing the future of nuclear power in the US and around the world. Watch that here.

And contributing editor Christian Parenti focuses our attention on the US’s existing nuclear facilities. The industry has been pushing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to re-license more than half of America’s decades old, brittle and leaky nuclear reactors. Vermont Yankee, for example, is one plant that is due for re-licensing. Its reactor was built by General Electric (the same company that designed the Fukushima reactor) and houses eight times more radioactive waste than what’s currently housed at Fukushima. What’s worse, the pools that insulate the waste from exposure with the atmosphere are not equipped with back-up water circulation systems! Moreover, Indian Point, a nuclear reactor less than thirty miles outside of New York City sits on a major fault line. It has already been identified as among the most vulnerable nuclear reactors in the US.

If the Fukushima disaster and subsequent radioactive fallout that has displaced hundreds of thousands can teach us anything, it’s that the consequences of disaster are just too great.

Be sure to read Christian’s coverage this week, here, here and here, and catch him on MSNBC’s The Ed Shultz Show discussing how we can avoid a similar catastrophe here in the US.

Also this week…

MAP: Nuclear Reactors in the US

Much attention has been paid to US nuclear industry over the last week. And for good reason. Twenty-three of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States were designed by General Electric, the same company that designed the Fukushima nuclear reactor. Could such a disaster happen here? Be sure to take a look at our map of nuclear plants across the US.

WELCOME: Guest Bloggers Greg Grandin and Allison Kilkenny

This week, we’re proud to welcome two new guest bloggers. Greg Grandin, an award-winning author, historian, and professor of history at NYU, joins us as President Obama sets off for his first visit to Latin America. The author of numerous books on the history of Latin America, Grandin will be closely following Obama’s tour through Brazil, Chile and El Salvador. As Grandin points out, the administration has had mixed record of success toward the region: tenuous alliances, abandoned immigration reform and refusal to lower multibillion-dollar subsidies and tariffs. If Obama’s visit is to be a successful attempt to curry favor in the region, the administration must demonstrate its commitment to a “proactive engagement,” namely Brazil, the largest of its Latin American neighbors. Be sure to read his latest post, “Obama’s Latin America Policy: Renewal or Further Decline?” and stay tuned for his on-going coverage here.

We’re also delighted to welcome journalist and Citizen Radio co-host Allison Kilkenny, who’ll be covering the growing national phenomenon, US Uncut. Modeled after a largely successful social media effort to mobilize protest in the UK against corporate tax-dodgers (such as the wireless provider Vodafone), and inspired by Johann Hari’s Feb. 3, 2011, Nation article, “How to Build a Progressive Tea Party,” US Uncut has taken on a growing resonance with the American people in the midst of draconian cuts to public benefits. Its first national day of action, on February 26, targeted Bank of America, which received $45 billion in government bailout funds while funneling its tax dollars into 115 separate offshore tax havens. As Kilkenny points out, USUncut has now added Verizon and FedEx to its target list, with another “global” day of action scheduled for March 26. Be sure to read her latest post here, and read “A Ten Step Guide to Launching US Uncut” here.

NATION INVESTIGATION: Inside Secret, Mostly Muslim, US Prisons

In 2006 and 2008, the Bush Administration opened secret prison facilities in Marion, Illinois, and Terra Haute, Indiana, created to isolate inmates suspected of having ties to terrorism. As former DOJ Civil Rights Division attorney Alia Malek documents in “Gitmo in the Heartland,” these facilities, called Communications Management Units (CMUs), were established in secret and in complete circumvention of the law. They’re more restrictive than federal Supermax facilities and rife with constitutional due process violations.

On WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show, Malek recounts how “an Iraqi-American physician, who had been sent to jail for violating Iraqi sanctions because he was sending medicine to Iraq,” was able to get a letter out confirming that most inmates are “Arab.” Another prisoner, Daniel, was a “low security” risk who was detained for his involvement in environmental terrorism. He had “exemplary” status in a prison in Minnesota but was suddenly sent to a restrictive unit in Marion with little explanation for the move. Malek says that non-Arab, non-Muslim inmates like Daniel are being sent to the CMUs as “balancers” who add a veneer of legitimacy to these legally-dubious prisons. Listen to the interview here.

VIDEO: John Nichols Interviews Susan Sarandon in Madison

The outpouring of protest in Madison last weekend, which brought over 100,000 people to the Capitol in response to passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union bill was underscored by a visit from Actress Susan Sarandon. She told The Nation’s John Nichols that she came to Wisconsin to thank the protesters and to remind them that the whole nation has a stake in their fight.

“We are the many and they are the few,” Sarandon says, “and even though they have the wealth we have something which is as important, if not more important.” Sarandon, a union member herself, says that Walker has reminded people of the great strength they possess when mobilized. Watch the interview here.
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