Weekly Roundup 6/13/2011

Special Report: After Japan, Where’s the Next Weak Nuclear Link?
Nick Carey, Margarita Antidze and John Ruwitch, Reuters, June 9, 2011

Synopsis: U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks reveal worrisome details about plans for nuclear power expansion in developing countries, such as Azerbaijan and Vietnam, according to a team of Reuters reporters. Political corruption, security issues, a lack of independent watchdogs and a spotty record for competent public services could compromise safety at proposed power plants throughout the developing world, where most nuclear plants currently in planning stages would be located.

Takeaway: Today, Vietnam has one small research reactor in operation but plans to open eight nuclear power plants by 2030. Experts question whether the country has the infrastructure and expertise to run the plant and respond to a nuclear accident, especially given how the Japanese, with a highly developed corporate and governmental infrastructure, struggled after the Fukushima accident, Reuters reports. "The safety of a nuclear power plant does not depend on the equipment, the technical aspects or the design, but mostly on the people who are running the plant,” Pham Duy Hien, one of Vietnam's leading nuclear scientists, told the reporters. Of Vietnam’s plans for eight nuclear plants, Hien said: "This is mad. We don't have the manpower, we don't have the knowledge, we don't have the experience.”

For more, see my CQ Researcher report, "Nuclear Power" [subscription required], June 10, 2011.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Under suspicion: American Muslims search for identity after Sept. 11
Marc Fisher, The Washington Post, June 12, 2011

Synopsis: The Post’s award-winning enterprise reporter-editor opens a planned series on Muslims in America with a story weaving together portraits of individuals representing the different ways of combining their Islamic faith with an American identity:

- Fawaz Ismail, a Palestinian immigrant who operates a store selling American flags but dropped his Americanized nickname after 9/11 to emphasize his Muslim identity;
- Yahya Hendi, Georgetown University’s first imam, who bristles at the strictures that are being imposed on young Muslims in the name of the faith;
- Sadaf Iqbal, wife and mother of four children, who religiously wears a head scarf in public – conscious of the stares that she gets for doing so;
- Zehra Fazal, an aspiring writer-actress, whose one-woman show, “Headscarf and the Angry Bitch,” equally mocks prevailing attitudes in America toward Muslims and such tenets of the faith as no-sex-before-marriage.

Takeaway: Of the estimated 2.4 million Muslim Americans, Fisher writes, “Some have reacted to a decade of stares, cutting comments, airport humiliations and disturbing incidents of homegrown terrorism by drifting away from their religion, some by deepening their faith, and a few by turning to the very extremism that sparked the mistrust they encounter.”

For CQ Researcher coverage, see these reports: Sarah Glazer, “Radical Islam in Europe,” CQ Global Researcher, November 2007; Kenneth Jost, “Understanding Islam,” CQ Researcher, Nov. 3, 2006.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


When It Comes to Scandal, Girls Won’t Be Boys
Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times, June 12, 2011

I presume you have been following, or at least are aware of, the sad business of Rep. Anthony Weiner, the newly married Democratic House member from New York who admitted sending salacious photos to young women.

It’s not a joking matter, notwithstanding the (equally salacious) hilarity that comedian and fake newsman Jon Stewart has had with it for several “Daily Show” programs.

So many questions come to mind, perhaps starting with, “What’s wrong with men?” The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg has a good take on that question.

But to me, the nagging question is, “What about his poor wife?” Forget the fact that she is a heck of a beautiful and classy lady who was wooed by George Clooney. What gets me is that she is newly married, pregnant and married to a clearly troubled man. As someone who has been married for nearly 40 years (to the same gal), I can only imagine the pain she is in.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor


The Monster and Monterrey: The Politics and Cartels of Mexico’s Drug Wars,”
Nik Steinberg, The Nation, June 13, 2011

As barbarous violence in northern Mexico (and some other zones) grinds on, news coverage tends to be episodic. The result is that readers and viewers may not get much of an idea of the forces driving the killing, most of it seemingly perpetrated by semi-militarized drug gangs. But The Nation, a longtime left-liberal weekly, gave Steinberg, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, the space to probe that question. He focuses on Monterrey, Mexico’s industrial and corporate center, long considered the dynamo of the country’s modernization efforts. Steinberg reports that the Mexican military’s response to the drug cartels can be just as horrific as the drug syndicates’ rampages. But Steinberg’s report is no apologia for either side. And he reports growing public support for violent reprisal against the drug gangsters. For anyone trying to follow events in Mexico, Steinberg’s piece is a must-read.

--Peter Katel, Staff Writer