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Nation in the News

Nation in the News

TV and radio appearances by Nation writers and editors, big Nation announcements.

Christian Parenti: The Nuclear 'Sacrifice Zone' in Japan

In Japan, fears about nuclear fallout have only been getting worse as disaster cleanup crews struggle with radioactive water leaking out of the Fukushima plant. The Nation’s Christian Parenti, author of Tropic of Chaos, thinks crews will be working to encase the water in sand and concrete, which is what happened in the aftermath of Chernobyl.

Joining Martin Bashir on MSNBC, Parenti argues that “with technology that’s as dangerous as atomic power, people need to be very, very careful about what they don’t know.” A large part of northeast Japan, Parenti concludes, is now going to be a “sacrifice zone,” a contaminated area which will remain inhospitable for thousands of years.

—Kevin Gosztola

US and UK Uncut: 'Austerity' Is Not the Solution

This past Saturday, March 26, nearly half a million people flooded the streets of London to protest austerity measures that will likely lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and will result in huge cuts to vital public services. According to Johann Hari and Allison Kilkenny, both frequent contributors to The Nation, hundreds of those protesters were spurred to action by UK Uncut's demonstrations against tax dodging corporations. In fact, as Hari and Kilkenny reported on Democracy Now! this morning, Saturday also saw a large-scale occupation of Fortnum & Mason, a food store which has skipped out on £14 million in taxes.

Hari says the companies' refusal to pay taxes is part of a larger class war: for just one example, the conservative mayor of London recently said that his policies that will result in 200,000 poor people being forced out of their homes will be a kind of “social cleansing.”

For her part, Kilkenny talks about US Uncut, the group inspired by UK Uncut, which is taking on corporate tax dodging in the US. She reports that US Uncut has been able to shut down a Bank of America branch in Washington, DC and that Bank of America is just one of several corporations that engage in a tax haven scheme that costs the US government around $100 billion every year. As in the UK, Kilkenny says, there are no revenue problems in the US, just corporations stealing from their country.

—Kevin Gosztola

US Uncut: Holding Corporations Accountable

Court cases such as Citizens United have given corporations many of the rights of citizens, including the ability to fund political campaigns. They can also be at the mercy of citizens, which we saw when many of them were bailed out with billions of dollars in taxpayer money. Shouldn't they also have greater accountability to society? 

The organization US Uncut, modeled after UK Uncut, thinks they should. The new group has been staging protests against corporate tax-avoiders and government austerity cuts, with chapters of the movement spreading across the country. The Nation’s Allison Kilkenny and J.A. Myerson, a "tax avoidance consultant,” joined GRITtv to discuss the direct action movement which has so far had great success targeting tax-dodging corporations like Bank of America, Verizon and FedEx.

The movement planted roots in the US after an article about UK Uncut in The Nation inspired Mississippi resident Carl Gibson to launch a chapter in his state.

“Why are average people being asked to sacrifice when massive corporations, that have been receiving bailout money… are not paying their income taxes?” Kilkenny asks.

To find out whether your community has a US Uncut chapter, click here, and read Allison's frequent updates on the movement on The Notion blog.

—Sara Jerving

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The GOP's Extremists Are Using 'Despicable Politics'

The fanatical Republican governors pushing through anti-labor legislation across the country are engaging in what The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel calls especially “despicable politics.” Vanden Heuvel joins MSNBC’s The Ed Show, along with The Nation’s John Nichols, to call on Democrats to cement their allegiance to the working class.

Responding to a newly proposed bill that would deny food stamps to families who have a member on strike, Heuvel says, “these extremists want to take this country back, back to a time when even Charles Dickens couldn’t have imagined such a stealth, cruel bill.”

Their actions, she says, are part of a 30-year, well-funded Republican strategy to destroy the rights of working people on a national scale. Instead of looking for enemies abroad, the US should now “reinvest in a country that is living on the carcass of the industrial base of the New Deal," vanden Heuvel says. "We can do better.”

—Sara Jerving

Jeremy Scahill: Why Has the US Been Silent on Yemen's Uprising?

The uprising in Yemen took a significant turn yesterday following a series of high-level defections against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime. After Yemeni forces opened fire on demonstrators Friday, killing forty-five people and wounding some 350 others, top military leaders decided they could no longer stand by Saleh and chose to ally themselves with the protesters. The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill joined Democracy Now! this morning to discuss the motivations behind the sharp contrast in the Obama administration's response to the rising crisis in Yemen, as opposed to the more forceful condemnations the administration has meted out to the leaders of Libya and other Middle Eastern nations.

Yemen has from the outset played a crucial role in the US war on terror, Scahill says. President Saleh has accepted hundreds of millions of dollars in military and security aid in exchange for US access to Yemeni territories. As part of the covert war inside of Yemen, the US has conducted drone attacks that have killed civilians, all of which were covered up when the Yemeni government claimed the strikes as their own.

“The fact is that the US has been almost entirely silent in the face of Saleh’s forces gunning down their own citizens, which stands in stark contrast to the position that the US has taken on some of the other regimes in the area,” he says. “You can’t help but wonder if the US is hoping that Saleh holds on in Yemen.”

In the same program, Scahill discusses the no-fly zone in Libya, calling it a “recipe for disaster.”

—Sara Jerving

Jonathan Schell: Using Nuclear Energy Is 'Playing With Fire'

As workers struggle to cool the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan's nuclear agency raised the severity level of the crisis to the same level as 1979's Three Mile Island incident. Will the US respond to Japan's disaster by re-examining our own nuclear energy use?

The Nation’s Jonathan Schell, author William Tucker and Michael Levi, director of the program on energy security and climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations, joined Charlie Rose last night to discuss the future of nuclear power in this country and around the world.

With a mix of opinions on the subject—Schell arguing for nuclear abolition, Tucker for expansion and Levi somewhere in the middle—the panel focuses on the crucial question of whether nuclear power even has a place in a world so vulnerable to widespread disaster. According to Schell, the US is “playing with fire” by expanding our nuclear energy use, not only risking an international incident but also opening the spigot for nuclear proliferation.

For more coverage of Japan's disaster, read Schell's "From Hiroshima to Fukushima" and go here to view Schell on last night's Charlie Rose.

—Sara Jerving

Documenting the Obama Administration's 'Gitmo in the Heartland'

In 2006, the Bush administration opened Communications Management Unit prisons in Marion, Illinois, and Terre Haute, Indiana. These unusual units, with their extreme practices and secrecy, make up a kind of "Gitmo in the heartland," as The Nation's Alia Malek reports in a recent issue of the magazine. Originally created to isolate inmates suspected of having ties to terrorism, the units have come under scrutiny for the make-up of the detainee population: the majority of the inmates are Arab, and prison officials have started importing prisoners from the general prison population in an effort to cover up the skewed demographics.

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.

The Obama administration has continued to operate the Bush-era CMUs, Malek says, but the opaque practices at these secret prisons deserve to be rigorously reconsidered.

—Kevin Gosztola

The Nuke Lobby has the US Regulatory Commission in Their Pocket

According to The Nation's Christian Parenti, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "culture" of bowing to industry demands prevents it from keeping plants truly safe. As President Obama once said, the NRC is a "captive" of the industry.

Joining MSNBC's Martin Bashir, Parenti explains that Japan's nuclear crisis should make us think about the dangers lurking in our own nuclear facilities. Decades-old nuclear power plants are currently being relicensed for years of further use, even as they fail to meet today's safety standards, Parenti explains. The plants are also obtaining permission to forgo routine maintenance. This leads to near-disasters such as the Ohio plant that just happened to discover a football-size hole in a containment vessel.

—Kevin Gosztola

Christian Parenti: Fukushima in America?

Japan's nuclear crisis has now reached a critical stage, as radiation from the melting cores of the Fukushima plant is hindering the containment efforts of workers and engineers. Could a disaster of the same magnitude occur in the US? According to The Nation’s Christian Parenti, the nuclear power plants here in America are poorly managed and regulated.

Joining The Ed Show on MSNBC, Parenti explained that there are currently 104 nuclear plants up for re-licensing in the US, most of which are around 40 years old. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not only looking to extend their use beyond their designed lifetimes, but many have been given “power upgrades,” allowing them to run at 120 percent of their designed and intended capacity. Particularly vulnerable to Japan-level crises are US plants built along the San Andreas and associated fault lines, which are still active. It's time all of them were taken out of commission.

—Sara Jerving

After Disaster in Japan, GOP Pushes For Emergency Services Cuts

Without strict building codes and widespread advance warning protocols, millions more could have perished in the earthquake and tsunami that together devastated wide swaths of Japan last week. How does the GOP respond to this tragedy? By defending their drastic cuts to vital emergency services provided by agencies such as the National Weather Service and US Geological Survey.

On The Ed Show last night, The Nation's Chris Hayes explained that even from "a sort of libertarian perspective," advanced warning systems are an indispensable "public good." So what are Republicans thinking? "One of the things we learned during Katrina is that it`s very easy to not pay attention to the aspects of the government that provide emergency services," Hayes says. If the GOP succeeds in cutting back funding for agencies that regulate building standards and facilitate emergency evacuation, how will the US fare in the next unanticipated disaster?

—Kevin Gosztola

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